Princess Helen

Besides her reputation as a great beauty, Helen was a princess and a very wealthy one at that. Because property and wealth went down through the woman, Helen was the heir to Laconia and the surrounding area. So, as in common in myths and fairy tales, there was a great contest for Helen’s hand in marriage. After a full year of stick fighting and boxing and so on, there were still a number of contestants standing. After another contestant is chose and screws up his chance by getting drunk, Menelaus, the richest man in town, takes home the prize.

Helen would have been, at most, in her teens. Maybe even early teens. Menelaus was already a man. Remember that when you think of Paris. By all repute, he had the body of a God and a dewy beauty. The consensus back then that he was weak and effeminate – not a warrior. His own brother (Hector) says this: “Our prince of beauty – mad for women, you lure them all to ruin.” In my mind I picture him as a member of a boy band – catnip to an adolescent girl. So disaster was all but ensured.

And here’s a question that puzzled me until I began doing research. Helen spent more than ten years with Paris and by all accounts was not a reluctant participant. Why did Menelaus take her back? She fades from history when she returns to him.

Because this was a matrilineal society, the land, the position and the resources went from mother to daughter. Not father to son. So Menelaus had to take Helen back if he wanted to continue as king of Laconia.

Am I being too cynical to suspect the whole furor – the war and all – was not over Helen because of her great beauty but because without her Menelaus lost his kingship?

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Of Bulls and Horses

As I’ve been discussing in previous posts, The Bull is sacred to the Bronze Age Cretans. They have many symbols of the Goddess: pillars, doves, the double axe, but by far the most important is the Bull. (And it is always the bull, the masculine principle, never a cow.) The symbol for the Bull is the Horns of Consecration, which abounds through out. What are the horns of consecration? The carving looks like an oval cut in half with the points (the horns) rising to the sky. The Bull was the key to all magic and were sacrificed for a variety of ritual purposes.

At about the same time, in the Balkans and eastward, another animal was revered. The horse. Like the Bull, the horse had a direct pipeline to the Gods. And, like the Bull, the horse was ritually slain. Slit open to remove the internal organs, the meat was eaten in a feast. The hide and some of the bones were slung over a pole stuck in the ground or placed on a roof.

The horse did not reach Crete until approximately 1500 B.C. There is actually a carved picture of a man in the typical Cretan ship with a single sail ferrying a horse across the water. We don’t know if this actually happened – and it makes a good story – or is simply a myth associated with the horse.

Shaker Herbs Part Four – Culinary Herbs

The Shakers served plain food but it was nourishing and, from the recipes I’ve tried, flavorful. There was some overlap of course. Basil, for example, was used as a tea and an aromatic to prevent excessive vomiting. Rosemary was also used as a tea and its oil was made into a liniment.

Some of the other herbs are not so unsurprising. One of my favorites is for a Dandelion salad. (Seriously!) The mixture includes dandelion leaves, simmered until tender and drained, then put into a saucepan with egg yolks, cream, butter and other herbs such as mint, lemon thyme and so on. The mixture is put on slices of stale bread and fried and then seasoned with oil and vinegar and parsley.

Fish was poached with chamomile leaves or covered with chamomile sauce. (Make a roux with butter and flour (2 Tablespoons each), add a Cup of chicken stock, parsley, the chamomile leaves and add salt and pepper to taste,) Marjoram, basil, parsley and basil went into meatloaf, tarragon, summer savory, marjoram, chervil and thyme into chicken fricasee.

Hancock Village served an herb soup made up of chopped sorrel, chopped shallots, chervil, mint and parsley boiled in milk. Butter and salt and pepper are added to taste and the whole mixture poured over squares of toasted bread.

I want to add a note about the Shaker’s recipe for bread which I found in a James Beard bread book. It is so delicious I could eat an entire loaf. But I digress.

Another soup is apple soup, so tasty on a cool fall day. A quartered apple, cored but unpeeled, a quartered onion and a herb mix of marjoram, basil, summer savory and more combined with cinnamon is cooked in the top of a double boiler. The apple is removed when soft and the soup is strained. Cider and cream is added when ready to serve.

Some of these herbs and herb mixes can be purchased in the gift shops of the various museum communities and at Sabbathday Lake. Hancock Village had a mix that includes basil, parsley, marjoram, oregano, tarragon, thyme and more. It has been several years since I purchased my supply so I am not sure it is still available.

Speaking Engagements

I had a great talk at the Newburgh Library last Wednesday. I have two more coming up. On Sunday, October 23, I will be talking at the Orangeburg Library – in Rockland County, New York. The talk begins at 2.

The following Sunday, I will be speaking about witchcraft at my own library – the Goshen Public Library in Goshen, New York. Hard to believe but I have never spoken there. I felt shy pushing myself into a slot where I work.

Come and ask questions.

Bouchercon 47

As I have mentioned before, I love attending Bouchercon. Not just because it is fun, although it is, but because it is so inspiring. This time I was put on a panel with other authors I have read, except for the one whose book has just come out. And one of my favorites as well: Laura Joh Rowland. I attended the interview of Harlen Coben by Michael Connolly – two heavy hitters. And the panel on social media. Well, I don’t need to continue. The point is that listening to other writers talk, about problems I struggle with – and sometimes they even have solutions – reenergizes me.

And the opening ceremonies with the faux Mardi Gras parade! Words cannot express. I wish I had taken some pictures but I was so caught up in the moment I never thought of it – even for the dragon float.

Holding the conference in New Orleans was wonderful as well. The people are so friendly and the food is great. We also took a few tours. My two favorites: the Mardi Gras World and the Whitney plantation.

I saw the two pretty plantations: Oak Alley and Laura.

oak-alley

laura-plantation

The Whitney Plantation focuses on the lives of the enslaved.

antioch-baptist-church

wall-detail

This is detail from the wall listing all the enslaved at Whitney. I did not take many pictures; it was so sad and horrifying.

If you go to New Orleans try to stop by Mardi Gras World

mardi-gras-float

 

fluffy

 

 

 

Goodreads giveaway ends tomorrow

The Giveaway ends tomorrow at midnight; two days left to add your name for the Giveaway.

Will and Lydia travel to New York just outside of Albany after a frantic plea for help from Shaker friend Mouse. There they find Mouse had been accused of kidnapping – and she admits it. Shortly after, the mother of the children is found dead and Mouse is the the primary suspect.