Fair is foul and Foul is Fair when it comes to storytelling

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What do you do if you’re an English playwright working for a new king? You write a play to get on his good side of course. That’s exactly what William Shakespeare did when he wrote his tragic story of Macbeth.

James, who was king of Scotland, added King of England to his title in 1603. So when the Bard wrote his play, he wanted to tailor it to the likes of his new patron. Witchcraft and ancestry were two of the king's special interests, so Shakespeare knew these were two elements he wanted to include in his story. He also knew the king traced his linage back to Banquo. The Bard did some thinking, and by 1606 Macbeth was ready for prime time. But how much of his information was based on fact? …

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A little divination could take this world a long way

I think it’s safe to say many people are wondering what 2021 has in store for us. If only someone could predict the future, we could all prepare for what's coming: good and bad. When people had questions about life’s problems in the ancient world, they knew exactly how to deal with them. They just asked the gods.

Back in the day, seeking advice from the gods was as common a practice as checking the weather is now. Nobody thought anything of consulting a tortoise shell, pebbles, or the wind for answers to pressing questions. …

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Party like it’s 1420

When it came to partying, medieval people were no different from modern men and women. Give them an excuse to throw a feast and they were all over it. Holidays, marriages, church festivals, visits from ambassadors: all were good reasons to enjoy a banquet. Due to the inordinate expense involved, these larger feasts were far beyond the means of the average citizen. Why just look at what the staff at Winchester Castle had to procure for Henry III’s Christmas feast in 1250:

From Portsmouth: 4 brawn hogs
From Andover: 2 brawn hogs, 2000 eggs
From Lym: 40 fat congers (a type of eel)
From Winchelsea: 5000 whitings
From Romsey: 15 fresh hogs, 2000 eggs
From Basingstoke: 2 brawn hogs
From Alton: 2 brawn hogs
From Winchester: 8 brawn hogs, 200 rabbits, 1oo hares, 60000 eggs, 15 gallons of…

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Archaeological Site of Delphi, Greece (Wikipedia)

In Ancient Greece, the mysteries of the future belonged to one woman

The ancient world belonged to men. Men ruled the empires, filled the highest social positions, and made the laws. While philosophers preached on the superiority of men, women were denied the ability to vote, own land, or even inherit. A woman's influence hardly reached beyond the walls of her home. In fact, except for special events, Greek women hardly ever traveled outside their own walls.

However, there was one female powerful enough to bend the will of the greatest men. A woman whose counsel was sought by everyone from the lowest peasant to the emperor himself. A woman whose admirers included Herodotus, Plato, Aristotle, and Plutarch. No seer stood in greater respect; no civil or religious voice carried more weight. In fact, from about 1400 B.C. to A.D. 381, no prominent leader or warrior made a major decision without first consulting her. So across the rugged slopes of Mt. Parnassus, they traveled until they reached a dark and mysterious sanctuary. There they prepared themselves to commune with the divine through the intercession of the priestess of Apollo. …

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Is it possible to separate the facts from the fiction?

Sometimes modern thinking can take the magic out of life. Think about all the great beliefs the ancient cultures held about gods and fantastic creatures, like unicorns and mermaids. Modern logic takes all of that and deflates it, passing it off as myth and fantasy. Take the Amazon women, for example. A group who were said to have the strength and courage to stand up to the best of men. They were even tough enough to oppose the likes of Heracles, Theseus, and Achilles. Aside from a once-a-year meeting to procreate, they had no use for men whatsoever.

They killed their male children, while daughters were taught to ride, hunt, and fight with swords and knives. At an early age, they even burnt off their right breast, so it didn’t impede shooting their bows. Now that’s dedication. …


Where’s Jimi Hendrix when you need him?

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These are the times that try men’s souls. No, I’m not talking about the pandemic or even the Days of Our Lives style election. I’m talking about fruit flies. My house has been invaded by them. Not your average ones, mind you. This is an unusual lot, a group obviously on the fringe of fruit fly society.

Instead of congregating around apple cores or banana peels, these fellows cling to my bathroom mirror like hippies in the fields of Woodstock. Here they waste their hours getting high on the sCent of Chanel #5 and snorting toothpaste.

Every morning when I go to brush my teeth, they swarm around my head in a silent ambush. I’m convinced my bedhead has caused them to mistake me for Joe Cocker. It is their one excusable mistake. …

Brute force was never top of the list

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“If a conflict breaks out in England one or other of the rivals is master in 10 days or less. It is a custom in England that the victors in battle kill nobody, especially none of the ordinary soldiers because everyone wants to please them.” — Memoirs of Philllpe de Commynes, French writer and diplomat (1447–1571)

Can this be right? What about knights — and lances — and melees? Medieval men loved a good fight — didn’t they?

Well, sure they did sometimes. …

How did the English prepare to face an enemy camped in their own front yard?

When William the Conqueror took over England in 1066, there was one thing he knew he was really going to need: Castles. A land without castles was just plain indefensible, especially when you’ve just taken over a country and people don’t really like you. William got busy and by the end of his reign, he had added around 500 castles to the English landscape.

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photo credit

As the number of castles multiplied, the nature of fighting changed. The idea of war without battles was emerging. Instead, importance was placed on how many castles you won or lost. As the 12th century wore on, battlefield actions were reduced. Now when things got hot and the war-cry went out, it took the shape of a siege. …

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photo Lukas Bieri, pixabay

Afterall, a number can’t hurt you — right?

Do you have Paraskevidekatriaphobia? If you have a deep fear of Friday, the 13th, then congratulations, you’ve got it.

You better start your mental preparations, because the second Friday in November is your dreaded day. The number 13 is certainly a stress maker. Studies say between 17 and 21 million Americans have a fear or are uneasy about it.

In fact, according to the Stress Management Center and Phobia Institute in Asheville, North Carolina, around 80 percent of high-rise buildings in the U.S. have elected to go without a 13th floor. Many hotels, hospitals, and airports forgo the use of the number as well. But what makes it so sinister? …

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“Protect me from the spells of women, blacksmiths, and Druids”

Of all the things associated with the Celts, nothing arouses a sense of magic and intrigue more than the Druids. Over the years people have conjured up images of men with long beards and white robes casting mystical spells and reciting cryptic incantations.

However, what we really know about them is pretty limited. Historical facts are few, and tangible evidence scant. Most of our information comes from a small pool of classical writers and medieval Irish literature.

Unfortunately, the quality and accuracy of this information varies. …


Nicol Valentin

Writer. Blogger. History lover who can’t stand boring facts. Ain’t nobody got time for that. Come visit at historyunfettered.com

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