St Apollonia’s Day. A Day to Cure the Toothache February 9th

Saint Apollonia. Woodcut. Wellcome Collection. Public Domain Mark. She is shown with forceps and extracted tooth and the martyr’s palm.

The 9th of February is St Apollonia’s Day. She was martyred at Alexandria in 249 AD during the persecution of Emperor Decius. She was attacked during an anti-Christian riot and struck around the face knocking her teeth out. Then, she was taken to a bonfire and told they would throw her in if she did not renounce her faith. So, without waiting, she spoke a prayer and walked into the fire. This information is recorded in a near-contemporary letter from St Dionysius of Alexandria and so is a rare well documented martyrdom. Because her teeth were knocked out she is, therefore, Saint of Toothache.

I can remember my Grandmother prescribing cloves for me when I had toothache. And this was, and is, a common remedy. In my case, we would keep a clove or two in the mouth close to the site of the pain. According to Natural Ways to Sooth an Toothache cloves contain

‘Eugenol, a natural form of anaesthetic and antiseptic that helps get rid of germs. Eugenol is still used in dental materials today’

Dr John Hall, Shakespeare’s son-in-law, tended to use a pill to soothe sore gums, but also a oil from a wood called ‘Ol. Lig. Heraclei’ which may be oil from the Bay Tree. (‘John Hall and his Patients’ by Joan Lane). Most of his tooth cases seem to be sore gums, which suggests to me Dr John Hall did not generally do dental work.

To get a tooth drawn you could go to a Barber Surgeon, a Blacksmiths or specialist Tooth Drawer. This would be terrifyingly painful and probably only done when the pain was unbearable, but just think what a premium could be demanded by a really competent drawer. The drawers would probably not have any formal training, but the skills would be passed on by the drawer to his apprentice or assistant. So, they were a very important part of the health care system.

A bill of mortality for London 1665, showing 11 deaths caused by 'teeth' (as opposed to 353 for 'feaver'
List of causes of death, London during the plague of 1665. Teeth killed 11 people

‘Teeth’ was a common cause of death – most likely being from infection or an abscess. It is interesting that someone as erudite and educated as the 17th Century writer, John Aubrey tells us in a chapter on Magick of less formal ways of tooth care. He tells us, in places, that the person who told him the story is worthy of belief. So he seems to give some credence to the efficacy of these magickal ‘cures’. But, judge for yourself; this is what he wrote:

To Cure the Tooth-ach.

Take a new Nail, and make the Gum bleed with it, and then drive it into an Oak. This did Cure William Neal, Sir William Neal’s Son, a very stout Gentleman, when he was almost Mad with the Pain, and had a mind to have Pistoll’d himself.

To Cure the Tooth-ach, out of Mr. Ashmole’s Manuscript Writ with his own Hand.

Mars, hur, abursa, aburse.
Iesu Christ for Marys sake,
Take away this Tooth-ach.

Write the words, Three times; and as you say the Words, let the Party burn one Paper, then another, and then the last.

He says, he saw it experimented, and the Party immediately Cured

John Aubrey’s Miscellanies 1695

May, Williams and Bishop at the Old Bailey accused of murder in pursuit of bodysnatching

In 1832, in London Bishop, Williams and May were accused of bodysnatching. After killing the Italian Boy ( wonderful book by Sarah Wise ‘The Italian Boy‘) they jemmied out the teeth and took them to a South London Dentist. They ‘cheapened’ (I cheap, you cheap, we are cheapening: meaning to barter) with the Dentist to get a decent price for the teeth. The dentist wanted to use them for false teeth for his patients. If I remember correctly, he paid £1 for them.

The teeth were evidence in the trial of the murderers, and once two of them had been hanged (the third turned King’s Evidence), the dentist asked for the teeth back! They were released back to the Dentist who promptly put them in the window of his surgery as an advert for his professional skills!

Earlier, one of the Borough Boys Resurrectionist gang (based in Southwark, London) toured the battlefields of the Peninsular Wars and came back with hundreds of teeth extracted from dead soldiers to sell to dentists as false teeth – they became known as Waterloo Teeth.

When I first wrote this in I added ‘How things have changed!’, but recent news that people in parts of Britain, without effective access to Dental care, have begun resorted to doing their own dental work. This often means extracting their own rotten teeth. Effectively, it seems this Conservative Government is allowing dentistry to slip out of the NHS just like it did with eye health. For a study in what has happened to Dentistry in the UK in recent years, please look at this report here.

First writen February 2023, revised February 2024.

Charles I’s Martyrdom & ‘Get Back’ January 30th

Banqueting Hall and Execution of Charles I
Banqueting Hall and Execution of Charles I

January 30th is the anniversary of the day King Charles I was beheaded as a murderer and traitor, or, on the other hand, a martyr to the Church of England.

Samuel Pepys observed the funeral, as did thousands of others. They crowded around the scaffold outside a window of Inigo Jones’s magnificent Banqueting Hall, in Whitehall, London. Whether Charles appreciated the irony of his last walk, which was below the magnificent Peter Paul Reubens’ ceiling depicting the Apotheosis of his father, James I, we can’t say. But it is, perhaps, more likely he thought he was soon on his way to meet his father in heaven in glory as a Martyr to his religion. He walked outside, through the window, into the cold January air. He seems to have been wearing 2 shirts, perhaps to stop him shivering, which would have been misinterpreted by his many enemies. Then, he made a short speech exonerating himself. All the Rooftops around were lined with spectators and, as the executioner axe fell, there was a dull grown from the crowd.

This was on January 30th, 1648. But, if you look at a history book, it will tell you it was in 1649. This was before our conversation to the Gregorian calendar. In those days, the year number changed not as we do on January 1st but on March 25th when the archangel Gabriel revealed to the Virgin Mary that she was pregnant. For more on the importance of March 25th look at my Almanac entry:

On the same day, twelve years later, in 1660 Oliver Cromwell’s and his chief henchmen were dug up from their splendid Westminster Abbey tombs and their bodies abused by official command. Cromwell’s head was stuck on the top of Westminster Hall, where it remained for many years.

The Royalist, John Evelyn, said in his diary:

This day (oh the stupendous, and inscrutable Judgements of God) were the Carkasses of that arch-rebel Cromwel1, Bradshaw, the Judge who condemned his Majestie and Ireton, sonn in law to the usurper, dragged out of their superb Tombs (in Westminster among the Kings) to Tybourne, and hanged on the Gallows there from 9 in the morning till 6 at night, and then buried under that fatal and ignominious Monument in a deep pit. Thousands of people (who had seen them in all their pride and pompous insults) being spectators .

Samuel Pepys records by contrast:

…do trouble me that a man of so great courage as he was should have that dishonour, though otherwise he might deserve it enough…

Pepys served the Parliamentary side before the restoration of Charles II, when he adroitly, swapped over to the Royalist side.

Get Back To Where you Once Belonged.

This is also the anniversary (1969) of the rooftop concert in Saville Row where the Beatles played ‘Get Back’.

YouTube Clip with scenes from the Roof Top Concert

First published in 2023, revised on January 29th 2024

January 23rd Hawthorn and Planting for Hedges

 Photo by Timo C. Dinger on Unsplash
photo of hawthorn flowers
Photo by Timo C. Dinger on Unsplash

Many plants can be used for hedges, but hawthorn is the most common. It can be planted as bare-root from Autumn to Spring, so January is as good a time as any. It can also be grown from the seeds from its red berries. But this takes 18 months to achieve. Interspersed along the hedge should be trees—either trees for timber, or crab-apples or pear-stocks. Trees were also useful as markers. Before modern surveys, property would be delineated by ancient trees. Hedges could be quickly moved, and perhaps not noticed. Trees couldn’t.

Hawthorn is an oasis for insects, mammals and migrating birds (who eat the berries). It is a lovely plant for May, and it is often called May, or the May Flower or May Tree and also whitethorn. The berries are called ‘haws’ hence hawthorn. For more on this, look at https://whisperingearth.co.uk.

Hawthorn produces white flowers in Spring, and it is one of the great pagan fertility plants, its flowers forming the garlands on May Eve. One of the chemicals in the plant is the same as one given out in decay of flesh, so it has been, in folklore, also associated with death. So, is not to be brought into the house.

It was also said to be the thorn in the Crown of Thorns, so sacred. A crown from the helmet of the dead King Richard III was found on a hawthorn at Bosworth Field, and so adopted as a device by the victorious Henry VII. For more on the plant, https://www.woodlandtrust.org.uk

a triangle of stained glass on a black background.
A 'Quarry' of Stained Glass showing the Crown, a hawthorn Bush and initials representing Henry VII and his, Queen, Elizabeth of York.  Possibly from Surrey. Early 16th Century and from the Metropolitan Museum of Art (Public Domain).
A ‘Quarry’ of Stained Glass showing the Crown, a hawthorn Bush and initials representing Henry VII and his, Queen, Elizabeth of York. Possibly from Surrey. Early 16th Century and from the Metropolitan Museum of Art (Public Domain).

John Worlidge, wrote in 1697

‘And first, the White-thorn is esteemed the best for fencing; it is raised either of Seeds or Plants; by Plants is the speediest way, but by Seeds where the place will admit of delay, is less charge, and as succesful, though it require longer time, they being till the Spring come twelvemonth ere they spring out of the Earth; but when they have past two or three years, they flourish to admiration.’

Systema Agriculturae 1697

Hawthorn is an excellent wood for burning, better than oak, having the hottest fire so that its charcoal could melt pig-iron without the need of a blast. It is also good for making small objects such as boxes, combs, and tool-handles. It takes a fine polish, so also used for veneers and cabinets.

This is the time, according to Moon Gardeners, to plant and sow plants that develop below ground. So rhubarb and garlic, fruit trees, bushes, bare-root plants and hedging plants.

Hawthorn has many medicinal benefits according to herbalists. Mrs Grieve suggests it was used as a cardiac tonic, to cure sore throats and as a diuretic. But don’t try any of these ancient remedies without medical advice!

First Published in January 2023, revised in January 2024

Apples & if the frost be very extreame January 9th

Gervase Markham was born in 1568, in Nottinghamshire, and was a prolific writer. Today, prompted by the Perpetual Almanac by Charles Kightly, I am looking through Markham’s eyes at Apples. Apples were an important source of joy as well as nutrition through a cold winter, as fresh produce became unavailable.

Markham wrote detailed books for use by the householders, the Husbands and the Housewives. And with the coming of frost, you would be advised to look at Markham’s books to ensure the survival of food in your food store. When the frosts hit, as they are now doing in the UK, you had to look after your store of apples, which were an important sweet food source over the winter, and Markham is the source of extensive advice on keeping your food deep into winter.

For the women, he wrote the English Housewife, published in 1615. Here is his recipe for Apple Tart (more of an apple purée tart, I think).

How to Make Apple-tart

Take apples and peel them and slice them thin from the core into a pan with white wine, good store of sugar, cinnamon and rosewater, and so boil it all shall it be thick. Then cool it and strain it, and beat it very well together with a spoon, and then put it into your coffin or crust and bake it. It carrieth with the colour red.

Gervais Markham, the English Housewife 1683 version (quoted by Charles Kightly).

For the men, he wrote the English Husbandsman, published in 1613 and ‘Printed by T. S. for Iohn Browne, and are to be sould at his shop in Saint Dunstanes Church-yard.’ This is the St Dunstan’s in Fleet Street, I think. The book is available on Project Gutenberg (Gervase Markham the English Husbandman. Project Gutenberg).

So to the frost – Markham ends his extensive piece on the best way to store apples as follows:

To keepe Fruit in frost. If the frost be very extreame, and you feare the indangering your fruit, it is good to couer them somewhat thicke with fine hay, or else to lay them couered all ouer either in Barley-chaffe, or dry Salte: as for the laying them in chests of Iuniper, or Cipresse, it is but a toy, and not worth the practise: if you hang Apples in nettes within the ayre of the fire it will kéepe them long, but they will be dry and withered, and will loose their best rellish.

I remember my Grandmother would store her excess apples from the tree, wrapped in paper and stored in cupboards in the pantry or outbuilding. I cannot remember which. They were often wrinkled but always delicious, and I think were Russets, which still remain my favourite apple.

At the bottom of the piece, I include the rest of his advice for storing apples. To summarise it, don’t store them near the ground, and put them on shelves ordered by variety based on which variety lasts longest. So at the back will be the long-lived species such as Russets and Pippins, to eat as spring approaches and at the front the ones you need to eat now such as the ‘Costard, Pome-water, Quéene-Apple‘ varieties.

Markham wrote many books, including one on the famous performing horse Marocco which starred in shows at the Bell Savage, just outside Ludgate in the City of London. Marocco would whinny in triumph with the naming of an English King, and snort with derision with the naming of a Pope, and could count and add up. He was rumoured to have been burnt at the stake as a witch in Edinburgh. But this does not appear to be true. Pocahontas also was shown at the Bell Savage, as was a Rhinoceros and other prodigies.

The Storage of Apples

If you want a more modern text on what to do with excess apples from your tree, have a look here, but do read on to get an insight into life in the 17th Century.

The place where you shall lay your fruit must neither be too open, nor too close, yet rather close then open, it must by no meanes be low vpon the ground, nor in any place of moistnesse: for moisture bréedes fustinesse, and such     naughty smells easily enter into the fruit, and taint the rellish thereof, yet if you haue no other place but some low cellar to lay your fruit in, then you shall raise shelues round about, the nearest not within two foote of the ground, and lay your Apples thereupon, hauing them first lyned, either with swéet Rye-straw, Wheate-straw, or dry ferne: as these vndermost roomes are not the best, so are the vppermost, if they be vnséeld, the worst of all other, because both the sunne, winde, and weather, peircing through the tiles, doth annoy and hurt the fruit: the best roome then is a well séeld chamber, whose windowes may be shut and made close at pleasure, euer obseruing with straw to defend the fruit from any moist stone wall, or dusty mudde wall, both which are dangerous annoyances.

The seperating of Fruit. Now for the seperating of your fruit, you shall lay those nearest hand, which are first to be spent, as those which will last but till Alhallontide, as the Cisling, Wibourne, and such like, by themselues: those which will last till Christmas, as the Costard, Pome-water, Quéene-Apple, and such like: those which will last till Candlemas, as the Pome-de-roy, Goose-Apple, and such like, and those which will last all the yéere, as the Pippin, Duzin, Russetting, Peare-maine, and such like, euery one in his seuerall place, & in such order that you may passe from bed to bed to clense or cast forth those which be rotten or putrefied at your pleasure, which with all diligence you must doe, because those which are tainted will soone poyson the other, and therefore it is necessary as soone as you sée any of them tainted, not onely to cull them out, but also to looke vpon all the rest, and deuide them into thrée parts, laying the soundest by themselues, those which are least tainted by themselues, and those which are most tainted by themselues, and so to vse them all to your best benefit.

Now for the turning of your longest lasting fruit, you shall know that about the latter end of December is the best time to beginne, if you haue both got and kept them in such sort as is before sayd, and not mixt fruit of more     earely ripening amongst them: the second time you shall turne them, shall be about the end of February, and so consequently once euery month, till Penticost, for as the yéere time increaseth in heate so fruit growes more apt to rot: after Whitsontide you shall turne them once euery fortnight, alwayes in your turning making your heapes thinner and thinner; but if the weather be frosty then stirre not your fruit at all, neither when the thaw is, for then the fruit being moist may by no meanes be touched: also in wet weather fruit will be a little dankish, so that then it must be forborne also, and therefore when any such moistnesse hapneth, it is good to open your windowes and let the ayre dry your fruit before it be turned: you may open your windowe any time of the yéere in open weather, as long as the sunne is vpon the skye, but not after, except in March onely, at what time the ayre and winde is so sharpe that it tainteth and riuelleth all sorts of fruits whatsoeuer.

Gervase Markham the English Husbandman Project Gutenberg

St Lucy’s Festival of Light December 13th

Saint Lucy, by Francesco del Cossa (c. 1430 – c. 1477) (Wikipedia User:Postdlf)

The name Lucy is from the same Latin origin (Lucidus) as lucent, lux, and lucid. It means to be bright, or to shine. It is similar to the Ancient Greek λευκός (leukós, “white, blank, light, bright, clear”. Luke has the same origins (bright one, bringer of light and light of the sacred flame) and is very appropriate for the most literate of the evangelists. At this time of the year, we are in need of a festival with bright lights to cheer us up!

And St Lucy’s Day is the beginning of the winter festival that culminates with the Solstice, where the old sun dies, and the new one is born. December the 13th was the Solstice until Pope Gregory reformed the Calendar in the 16th Century, as nine days were lopped off the year of transition.

The festival of Sankta Lucia is particularly popular in Sweden, where Dec 13th is thought to be the darkest night. Every year, the Swedish community in the UK has a service to Lucia in St Pauls. I have several times tried to get tickets, but so far, have failed miserably. But if you look lower down, you will see a link to the beautiful procession and service at St Pauls.

I found out about Sankta Lucia from a Swedish choir who hired me to do a tour of the City of London some years ago. I took them into Christopher Wren’s marvellous St Stephen’s Church and, under the magnificent Dome, they fancied the acoustics and spontaneously sang. I recorded a snatch of it.

Swedish Choir singing in St Stephen’s London

Sankta Lucia at St Paul’s Cathedral (2011)

Recent medical research has shown the importance of light, not only to our mental health but to our sleep health, and recommends that work places need to have a decent light level with ‘blue light’ as a component of the lighting. It is also an excellent idea to help your circadian rhymes by going for a morning walk, or morning sun bathing, even on cloudy days.

St Lucy is from Syracuse in Sicily, said to be a victim of the Diocletian Persecution of Christians in the early 4th Century. She is an authentic early martyr, although details of her story cannot be relied upon as true. She was said to be a virgin, who was denounced as a Christian by her rejected suitor, miraculously saved from serving in a brothel, then, destruction by fire, but did not escape having her eyes gouged out. Finally, her throat was cut with a sword. Her connection to light (and the eye gouging) makes her the protectress against eye disease, and she is often shown holding two eyes in a dish.

St. Aldhelm (English, died in 709) puts St Lucy in the list of the main venerated saints of the early English Church, confirmed by the Venerable Bede (English, died in 735). Her festival was an important one in England ‘as a holy day of the second rank in which no work but tillage or the like was allowed’.[1]

Roman Hoodie ~Part two – the Sequani

Roman tombstone to Philus from Cirencester.

Yesterday I made a long digression which began with a discussion of Roman Winter clothing. Our picture of the hoodie from a tombstone in Cirencester, said it was of

Philus, son of Cassavus, a Sequanian, aged 45, lies buried here.

Roman Inscriptions of Britain.org

One of our readers from France alerted me to the Wikipedia page on the Sequani which explains that the name comes from the Goddess Sequana who is a water goddess. The centre of the territory is Besançon which is on the Doubs River part of the Haute Saône Doubs and near to the springs that are the source of the Seine (west of Dijon). Here, the Fontes Sequanae (“The Springs of Sequana”) gave her name to the River Seine, and a healing spring was established in the 2nd/1st BC. Enlarged by the Romans, it became a significant health centre. as Wikipedia explains in the clip below:

Image of Sequana in a duck boat by Wikipedia FULBERT • CC BY-SA 4.0

‘Many dedications were made to Sequana at her temple, including a large pot inscribed with her name and filled with bronze and silver models of parts of human bodies to be cured by her. Wooden and stone images of limbs, internal organs, heads, and complete bodies were offered to her in the hope of a cure, as well as numerous coins and items of jewellery. Respiratory illnesses and eye diseases were common. Pilgrims were frequently depicted as carrying offerings to the goddess, including money, fruit, or a favourite pet dog or bird.’

https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sequana

First Posted on December 13th, 2022, updated on December 13th 2023

Snails & Cider December 5th

Photo by Mats Hagwall on Unsplash

Worlidge ‘s ‘Systema Agriculturae’ 1697 says this is the time to destroy snails. He suggests that, at Michaelmas, you create a shelter for snails against a wall using bricks or boards. In Early December the plantsman can get his revenge on the little blighters, unsuspected and snuggled up in their cosy den. (First spotted in Charles Knightly’s Perpetual Almanac)

The RHS has some more modern advice, but generally takes a negative opinion of snails. The Birmingham and Black Country Wildlife Trust take a much more positive view of snails and slugs and proposes their contribution to nature should be rewarded by learning to love and live with the little critters.

Improving the cider before Christmas

A man shakes an apple tree laden with fruit, which a woman gathers in her apron.
The caption reads in the original French: Abondance de biens ne nuit pas (You can never have too much of a good thing)

If your cider is a bit off add half a peck of wheat to restart the fermentation to make it more mild and gentle. Use Mustard or two or three rotten apples to clear the cider.

Although it’s all a little Thomas Hardy, Cider expert Gabe Cook provides instruction in how to make cider from your own cider tree without investing in a huge fruit press.

First Published on December 5th 2022, revised and republished on December 5th 2023

How to Take Eels in Winter, Eel Pies and Islands 28th November

 Photo by Natalia Gusakova on Unsplash
Photo by Natalia Gusakova on Unsplash

Gervase Markham in his ‘The English Husbandman’ of 1635 provides instructions on how:

To take Eels in Winter, Make a long bottle or tube of Hay, wrapped about Willow boughs, and having guts or garbage in the middles. Which being soaked in the deep water by the river side, after two or three days the eels will be in it and you may tread them out with your feet.

And here is a fascinating article on Eel fishing.

Eel traps at Bray, on the River Thames (Henry Taught 1885)

Aristotle, Freud and the Deep Sargasso Sea

Eels have been eaten for thousands of years, but no one knew where they came from or how they reproduced. Aristotle thought they spontaneously emerged from the mud. Sigmund Freud dissected hundreds of Eels, hoping to find male sex organs. It was only last year, on 19th October 2022 that an article in the science journal Nature entitled ‘First direct evidence of adult European eels migrating to their breeding place in the Sargasso Sea’ was published, proving beyond doubt that the theory that Eels go to the sea near Bermuda to spawn was, incredibly, true.

Eel Pie Island

Eel Pie Island . Ordnance Survey In 1871 to 1882 map series (OS, 1st series at 1:10560: Surrey (Wikipedia)

Eel Pie island is on the Thames, near Twickenham, famous for its Eels, was home to an iconic music venue that hosted most of the great English Bands of the 50s. 60s, and 70s. The roll call of bands here is awesome. The Stones, Cream, Rod Stewart, Pink Floyd, you name it, they were here:

David Bowie, Jeff Beck, Howlin’ Wolf, John Lee Hooker, Memphis Slim, Champion Jack Dupree, Buddy Guy, Geno Washington, Long John Baldry, Julie Driscoll and Brian Auger, John Mayall’s Bluesbreakers, Ten Years After, Chicken Shack, and one of my all-time favourite bands. the Savoy Brown Blues Band. The Nice, The Crazy World of Arthur Brown, Joe Cocker, and the Who. And many more!

Here is a recipe for Baked Eel pie from Richmond, near the famous Eel Pie Island.

Jellied Eels and the East End

By JanesDaddy (Ensglish User) - English Wikipedia - [1], CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=1663124
By JanesDaddy (Ensglish User) – English Wikipedia – [1], CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=1663124

Jellied Eels have been a staple of East End diets since the 18th Century. They were to be found in many stalls dotted around the East End, from vendors venturing into pubs and in Pie and Mash shops. Tubby Isaacs is perhaps, the most famous and jellied eels are still sold in a diminishing number of places in the East End.

My mum loved them. It took me until I was over 60 before I could bring myself to try them and have not wanted to repeat, what for me, was a revolting experience. On the River Lee Navigation is another piece of Eel history which is the excellent Fish and Eel Pub at Dobbs Weir.

Pie and Mash Shop. Established 1862, closed down 2021. Broadway Market, Hackney (photo, copyright the author)

This was first published as part of another post in 2022, and revised and republished on 28th November 2023

Thanksgiving Day in the USA (4th Thursday in November)

Plate 1 of The Birds of America by John James Audubon, depicting a wild turkey (Wikipedia)

Thanksgiving is a festival given over to celebrating God’s Bounty. There are unanswerable debates about which was the ‘First’ Thanksgiving but the date of the 4th Thursday in November was set by Abraham Lincoln. It is basically a harvest festival, but was adopted by Lincoln as one method to unite a divided nation during the Civil War.

Thanksgiving today is mostly roast turkey with stuffing, cranberry sauce, mashed potatoes and pumpkin pie, with many other variants and additions such as a first course of soup, and vegetables like brussel sprouts and broccoli. Very like an English Christmas dinner, but replacing the Christmas Pudding with pumpkin pie.

As to what the first Pilgrims would have eaten is not known, but their chronicler Edward Winslow noted:

“Our harvest being gotten in, our governor sent four men on fowling, that so we might after a special manner rejoice together, after we had gathered the fruits of our labours; they four in one day killed as much fowl, as with a little help beside, served the Company almost a week.”

https://www.history.com/topics/thanksgiving/first-thanksgiving-meal

So the birds shot by 4 marksmen would have been wild turkey but also other birds such as ducks, geese, and swans. Seafood; Mussels, lobster, and eel were also available.

As to ‘gathering the fruits of our labors’. This might have included onions, beans, lettuce, spinach, cabbage, carrots, and peas. Stuffing might be seasoned with sage, thyme, parsley, marjoram, fennel, anise or dill, The Pilgrims had plenty of Corn from their first harvest which would have been turned into cornmeal, and eaten as a mush if savoury or sweetened with molasses as a porridge, or made into cornbread, or for stuffing.

Indigenous Wampanoag Americans might have been present, but only to investigate the shooting of canons in celebration by the Pilgrims. Relationships were tense between the natives and the immigrants. Some Indigenous Americans consider it a day of mourning; others use it as a day of gathering for the family, but generally, consider images of the Pilgrims and Indigenous Americans sitting down peacefully celebrating together to be ‘a lie’. (Native Americans and the First Thanksgiving.)

First Published on 24th November 2022, Republished on 23rd November 2023

St Clements Day, the Blacksmith’s Holiday, the Early Church, Lydia and Wickham Day November 23rd

Clemens I, the Pope of Rome. Mosaic from St. Sophia of Kyiv, 11th c. In places of loss (lower part of the composition) — oil painting of the 18th c. (Wikipedia)

St Clement was a very early Bishop of Rome, shortly after St Peter. Although thought to be a historical and therefore a very important peron in the history of Christianity, his mode of martyrdom is a matter of legend. He is supposed to have been tied to an anchor and thrown in the Black Sea in around AD 99. He is, therefore, particularly venerated by Blacksmiths and Sailors. Others argue that he is earlier than this and place his letter as early as AD60.

Towards the bottom of this post you will find out more about St Clements place in Christian History, but first, lets find out his associations with London.

London & St Clements

The maritime connection may explain the three St Clements connections in London. Trinity House On Tower Hill has been working to keep shipping safe since being founded in Deptford in the 16th Century as:

The Master, Wardens and Assistants of the Guild Fraternity or Brotherhood of the most glorious and undivided Trinity and of St Clement in the Parish of Deptford Strond in the County of Kent.

They look after light ships, lighthouses, navigation buoys and licence Deep Sea Pilots. The HQ moved to Tower Hill in 1796.

London has two churches dedicated to St Clements. Both are by early London waterfronts and rebuilt by Christopher Wren and his team.

St Clement’s Eastcheap is on the terrace above the Roman port of London, near London Bridge (which leads to Wikipedia speculation that it might have been an early Roman foundation). And St Clements Danes is where the Strand meets Fleet Street on the terrace above the Lundenwic Saxon waterfront.

Lydia and Wickham get married

St Clements is where Lydia and Wickham finally get married in Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice. But which of the two St Clements? Wickham had lodgings in the area. East Cheap area, and the Gardiners, who were the only people at the wedding except Darcy, lived in nearby Gracechurch Street. But perhaps St Clements Dane was more fashionable and might be more the raffish Mr Wickham’s cup of tea? (Jane Austen bought her family’s tea from Twinings, just off Fleet Street, where you can still buy it in their shop? )

Oranges & Lemons

St Clements appears in the nursery rhyme/game Oranges and Lemons and both churches claim it refers to them, but as both are by the waterfront, either will do.

Oranges and lemons,
Say the bells of St. Clement’s.

You owe me five farthings,
Say the bells of St. Martin’s.

When will you pay me?
Say the bells at Old Bailey.

When I grow rich,
Say the bells at Shoreditch.

When will that be?
Say the bells of Stepney.

I do not know,
Says the great bell at Bow.

Here comes a candle to light you to bed,
And here comes a chopper to chop off your head!
  Chip chop chip chop the last man is dead

I remember playing this as a child. Two children form an arch with their hands and the other children go through the arch reciting the rhyme until the chopper comes down when the hands forming the arch traps one of the children. The trapped child then whispers which side they want to be one, and they leave the procession to stand behind one or other of the arch-makers. I seem to remember we ended it off by having a tug of war between the two teams.

Alternatively, the trapped/chopped children make an additional arch and the remaining kids have to rush through a large space, fearing the chop.

St Clements and the Early Church

A letter of St Clements survives and is addressed to the Christians of Corinth. This letter is of fundamental importance, as it appears to have been written when the martyrdoms of St Peter and St Paul were relatively recent memories. The letter is also important as a counterargument to the Protestant view that there is no evidence that Peter was ‘Pope’. In this letter, St Clement is giving advice to the Church of Corinth as a Pope would. This can be used as early proof of Papal supervision of the early Church.

The letter is therefore worth reading, and you can read a version of it if you follow the link below. I have chosen two extracts from a long letter. (You can read the whole letter here). The first letter illustrates how close to the deaths of Peter and Paul it was. The second extract gives a great view of an early Christian World View. I think there is also very little here that a Pagan would object to? The main message of the letter is to follow the example of Jesus and adopt humility.

Chapter 5. No Less Evils Have Arisen from the Same Source in the Most Recent Times. The Martyrdom of Peter and Paul.

But not to dwell upon ancient examples, let us come to the most recent spiritual heroes. Let us take the noble examples furnished in our own generation. Through envy and jealousy the greatest and most righteous pillars [of the church] have been persecuted and put to death. Let us set before our eyes the illustrious apostles. Peter, through unrighteous envy, endured not one or two, but numerous labours; and when he had at length suffered martyrdom, departed to the place of glory due to him. Owing to envy, Paul also obtained the reward of patient endurance, after being seven times thrown into captivity, compelled to flee, and stoned. After preaching both in the east and west, he gained the illustrious reputation due to his faith, having taught righteousness to the whole world, and come to the extreme limit of the west, and suffered martyrdom under the prefects. Thus was he removed from the world, and went into the holy place, having proved himself a striking example of patience.

Chapter 20. The Peace and Harmony of the Universe.

The heavens, revolving under His government, are subject to Him in peace. Day and night run the course appointed by Him, in no wise hindering each other. The sun and moon, with the companies of the stars, roll on in harmony according to His command, within their prescribed limits, and without any deviation. The fruitful earth, according to His will, brings forth food in abundance, at the proper seasons, for man and beast and all the living beings upon it, never hesitating, nor changing any of the ordinances which He has fixed. The unsearchable places of abysses, and the indescribable arrangements of the lower world, are restrained by the same laws. The vast unmeasurable sea, gathered together by His working into various basins, never passes beyond the bounds placed around it, but does as He has commanded. For He said, Thus far shall you come, and your waves shall be broken within you. Job 38:11 The ocean, impassable to man and the worlds beyond it, are regulated by the same enactments of the Lord. The seasons of spring, summer, autumn, and winter, peacefully give place to one another. The winds in their several quarters fulfil, at the proper time, their service without hindrance. The ever-flowing fountains, formed both for enjoyment and health, furnish without fail their breasts for the life of men. The very smallest of living beings meet together in peace and concord. All these the great Creator and Lord of all has appointed to exist in peace and harmony; while He does good to all, but most abundantly to us who have fled for refuge to His compassions through Jesus Christ our Lord, to whom be glory and majesty for ever and ever. Amen.

https://www.newadvent.org/fathers/1010.htm (Translated by John Keith. From Ante-Nicene Fathers, Vol. 9. Edited by Allan Menzies. Revised and edited for New Advent by Kevin Knight. )

Originally published Nov 23rd 2022. Revised & Rewritten on Nov 23rd 2023

Night Fowling November 19th

Gervase Markham Hungers Prevention: or, the Whole Art of Fowling by Water and Land. (Printed, London: for Francis Grove, 1655).

This was the period of the year for ‘Night-fowling’ Gervase Markham wrote a whole book about it in the 17th Century. It was called Hungers Prevention: or, the Whole Art of Fowling by Water and Land. (Printed London: for Francis Grove, 1655).

In it, he tells the reader to go to a stubble field in November when the air is mild and the moon not shining. There take a dolorous low bell, and net. Spread the net over the stubble where there may be fowl, ring the bell, light fires of dry straw, and the fowl will fly and become entangled in the net.

Title illustration from Gervase Markham Hungers Prevention: or, the Whole Art of Fowling by Water and Land. (Printed London: for Francis Grove, 1655).

November 19th is also World Toilet Day, which is a significant development target for the world as it impacts badly on women in those areas where decent hygiene cannot be guaranteed.

First published Nov 19th 2022. Republished Nov 19th 2023