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Even though there was an unmarried woman on the throne in Elizabethan England, the roles of women in society were very limited. The Elizabethans had very clear expectations of men and women, and in general men were expected to be the breadwinners and women to be housewives and mothers.

On average, a woman gave birth to a child every two years, but as a lot of babies and children died from sickness, families were not always large. Childbearing was considered a great honor to women, as children were seen as blessings from God, and Tudor women took great pride in being mothers. Elizabethan society was patriarchal, meaning that men were considered to be the leaders and women their inferiors. Women were regarded as "the weaker sex", not just in terms of physical strength, but emotionally too.

It was believed that women always needed someone to look after them. If they were married, their husband was expected to look after them. If they were single, then their father, brother or another male relative was expected to take care of them.

Many women in this period were highly educated, like the Queen herself, Mildred Cecil (wife of William Cecil) and Mary Herbert, Countess of Pembroke. Women were not allowed to go to school or to university, but they could be educated at home by private tutors. Elizabeth was tutored by the famous Elizabethan scholar Roger Ascham.

Women were not allowed to enter the professions i.e law, medicine, politics, but they could work in domestic service as cooks, maids etc, and a female painter, Levina Teerlinc, was employed by Henry VIII and later by Mary and Elizabeth respectively. Women were also allowed to write works of literature, providing the subject was suitable for women: mainly translations or religious works.

Women were not allowed to act on the public stage or write for the public stage. Acting was considered dishonorable for women and women did not appear on the stage in England until the seventeenth century. In Shakespeare's plays, the roles of women were often played by young boys....

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Women's History Magazine

Boudicca's Speech Before Her Last Battle.

It is not as a woman descended fromnoble ancestry, 
but as one of the people that I am avenging lost 
freedom, my scourged body,the outraged chastity 
of my daughters. Roman lust has gone so far that 
not our very person, nor even age or virginity, are
left unpolluted.

But heaven is on the side of a righteous vengeance; 
a legion that dared to fight has perished; the rest 
are hiding themselves in their camp, or are thinking 
anxiously of flight. They will not sustain even the 
din and the shout of so many thousands, much less 
our charge and our blows.

If you weigh well the strength of the armies, and 
the causes of the war, you will see that, in this 
battle, you must conquer or die. This is a woman's 
resolve; as for men, they may live and be slaves.

Source -

From the medieval period to the modern, the Samurai sword has evoked fascination amongst warriors and laymen alike and was believed by the Samurai to be joined to his soul. When a child was born to a warrior, a sword was present during delivery and on his death, a Samurai word be buried with his trusted weapon by his side, ready to serve him again in the after life.

According to mythology, the first sword was created by the god Inzanagi who used it to murder his son, the Fire god. This was because he had been such a painful conception for his beloved wife, Izanami, that she ran away to the underworld.

At the beginning of the process of making a new sword, the sword-smith would often be blessed and spiritually purified by a priest. Inazo Nitobe stated in his book, ‘Bushido: The Warrior’s Code’;

“The sword-smith was not a mere artisan but an inspired artist and his workshop a sanctuary. Daily, he commenced his craft with prayer and purification, or, as the phrase was, ‘he committed his soul and spirit into the forging and tempering of the steel’.”

What made the Samurai sword unique was that it overcame an age old problem in sword making. To keep a sharp edge, a sword had to be made of hard steel but this would be very brittle, increasing the chances of the weapon breaking in battle. Alternatively, the sword could be made with softer, more pliable steel but this would lead to blades dulling during prolonged combat.

The Japanese sword-smith overcame this by hammering together layers of steel of varying hardness, then reheating and hammering them out thin again dozens of times. When the right shape was achieved, the top part of the blade was covered in clay and it was re-heated once more.

After a prayer was said, the blade was dipped in water to cool. The top part cooled much slower as a result of the clay, making it soft and flexible while the edge of the blade was hard and very sharp. To test the weapon, rushes bundled around a bamboo core were usually used although it was relatively common to use corpses or even condemned criminals.

To make the swords requires a great amount of technical skill and craftsmanship making them not only weapons of note, but also works of art in their own right. This did not only apply to the blades, the hilt and scabbard were sometimes carved from ivory and depicted a story from Japanese mythology and along with the hand guard, were often embedded with silver or gold.

Master sword-smiths would often sign their names on their work, signifying the quality of the sword. One who usually refrained from this practice was the legendary Musumane, believed by many to be the greatest of them all. Legends sprung up around the sword smiths and their abilities. One of Musumane’s contemporaries, Muramasa, was said to make the blade so well that one of his creations would hold an upright position in a swiftly flowing stream and any dead leaf that the current brought against it would be effortlessly cut in two. However not to be out-done, Musumane’s blade was said to be so sharp that when thrust in the water, leaves would actually avoid it!

A samurai was usually armed with two swords, the Katana, the bigger of the two, and the Wakizashi. The katana was the main fighting sword and the smaller weapon was mostly used for removing the heads of enemies killed on the battlefield. If defeated, the samurai were expected to end their own life rather than face the humiliation of capture and it was the wakizashi that was often used. The warrior would disembowel himself in the ritual known as seppuku, before a second removed his head to relive the excruciating pain.

 Learning to use the sword properly was considered a life time study and a samurai was expected to be a dedicated practitioner of the martial arts, especially Kenjutsu, (the art of sword fighting). A strict code of ethics and rituals surrounded the sword, which had to be handled and maintained correctly at all times.
There were five basic attacks to be mastered in kenjutsu, as in its modern day equivalent kendo: from top to bottom; left to right; right to left; side to side; and a straight-ahead thrust aimed at the throat.

Samurai were trained in the art of war first and foremost but also participated in one-on-one duels with each other. These fights were often over very quickly when masters were involved as both would move almost simultaneously, with one move usually being enough to determine the winner; the loser usually would be killed or wounded.

Sometimes both fighters would be killed in the fight but it was not always necessary for someone to die to determine who won the bout. However with the level of skill involved when two warriors of a high standard fought, more often than not the loser paid with his life.

Although the samurai traditions were officially banned in the mid-nineteenth century, much of it lives on. The modern art of Kendo (Way of the Sword) preserves the techniques used by the samurai for almost a thousand years, along with many of the spiritual aspects of the relationship between the samurai warrior and his sword.

Source: The Samurai Sword @
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Beautiful dreamer, wake unto me,
Starlight and dewdrops are waiting for thee;
Sounds of the rude world heard in the day,
Lull'd by the moonlight have all pass'd away!

Beautiful dreamer, queen of my song,
List while I woo thee with soft melody;
Gone are the cares of life's busy throng.

Beautiful dreamer, awake unto me!
Beautiful dreamer, awake unto me!

Beautiful dreamer, out on the sea,
Mermaids are chaunting the wild lorelie;
Over the streamlet vapors are borne,
Waiting to fade at the bright coming morn.

Beautiful dreamer, beam on my heart,
E'en as the morn on the streamlet and sea;
Then will all clouds of sorrow depart,

Beautiful dreamer, awake unto me!

by Stephen Foster

A few days after he had disposed of his second wife Anne Boleyn, Henry VIII married Jane Seymour. Anne was beheaded for alleged treason, incest, adultery and witchcraft. 

She has been seen, most of the time headless, in the Tower of London and in the castles where she once lived. You’ll find her story here: The Traveling Headless Witch Anne Boleyn. At Hampton Court, she is seen as a lady dressed in blue or black.

Jane Seymour, the third wife of Henry VIII, died in 1537 after giving birth to the child who became Edward VI. Her life was deliberately sacrificed by the performance of a Caesarean operation in order to ensure the safety of the precious male heir. Jane had an uneasy conscience concerning the circumstances in which she supplanted Anne Boleyn, and after her death her worried spirit remained earthbound, seeking contact with the ghost of Anne. 

Jane Seymour haunts the Silver Stick Gallery in Hampton Court every year on the birthday of the baby whose birth had meant her death. On moonlitevenings, dressed in white and carrying a candle, she ascends in a melancholic way the staircase leading to the Gallery, where she glides wreathed in a silvery light.

Maybe the most famous Tudor ghost is that of Catherine Howard, fifth wife of Henry VIII. For only one year, this attractive girl was Henry’s “rose without a thorn”. He forgot all about her youth of fun and games with a variety of young men, from spinet teachers to page boys. Henry wept over her reputation that was the talk of the Court and sent her to the block, together with her lovers, past and present. 

She was arrested at Hampton Court, but she broke away from the guards and ran along a corridor now known as the Haunted Gallery, to the chapel where Henry – “the professional widower” – was praying for her soul. Catherine tried to make a last plea for her life, but the guards dragged her back, shrieking and lamenting, into a barge and then down the Thames to the Tower, where she was beheaded on 13 February, 1542.

You can still hear her chilling shrieks there, in Hampton Court, and her ghost has been seen on many occasions, racing along the gallery, chased by spectral soldiers....

By Patrick Bernauw:  Full Article
Image souce:

In the aftermath of the plague epidemic that swept across
Britain and the rest of Europe in the mid fourteenth century,
the church began to weaken as an institution. People started
to seek a more personal relationship with God and questioned
the need for the clergy more and more.

From 1346-1350, the Bubonic Plague swept across Europe,
wiping out around one-third of the population. The
ineffectiveness of the clergy during the crisis led many to believe
that the clergy carried no special favour with God, especially as
many people assumed that the epidemic was some form of
punishment from above.

During the epidemic, many plague victims were buried without
having their last rites read as a result of a shortage of priests.
In 1349, the Bishop of Bath and Wells wrote to his clergy,

"Priests cannot be found for love or money…. to visit the sick
and administer the last sacraments of the church – perhaps
because the fear they will catch the disease".

He went on to say that sins should be confessed to a layperson
if no clergy can be found and even, “to a woman if no man is

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Empty Your Cup

Nan-in, a Japanese master during the Meiji era (1868-1912), received a university professor who came to inquire about Zen. While the master quietly served tea, the professor talked about Zen.

The master poured the visitor’s cup to the brim, and then kept pouring. The professor watched the overflowing cup until he could no longer restrain himself. "It is overfull. No more will go in!"

"Like this cup," Nan-in said, "you are full of your own opinions and speculations. How can I show you Zen unless you first empty your cup?"

A 60-year-old man has been found guilty of misdemeanor battery and
forced to make a written apology after groping a woman in a Minnie Mouse
costume at Disney World....


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