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A kind word warms a man throughout three winters

 ~ Turkish Proverb ~


In 1347, the Black Death swept across Europe. It would go on to wipe out around a third of the population, although the death toll varied from one place to the next and many communities were completely obliterated.

Everywhere there was a widespread feeling that the apocalypse had come. This is not surprising as on top of the onset of the worst plague man had ever known, the Church during the Black Death years was corrupt, natural disasters were abundant and war was even more commonplace than was usual in the Middle Ages.

The Spread of the Flagellant Movement During the Black Death

The flagellant movement first appeared in Italy and soon spread across the rest of the continent, adding to their number as they went. This new flagellant movement soon developed into a sect with their own specialized doctrine and ceremonies. They were often known as The Brotherhood of the Cross as they dressed in white habits and mantles, each decorated with a red cross.

In order to be allowed to join a procession, a new member was expected to commit for thirty-three days. He needed to have enough money to sustain himself, to have the blessing of his wife and to swear to be obedient to the Master.

The Ceremony of the Flagellants

Although there was some variation, the ceremony was basically the same throughout the continent. Twice a day they would walk, stripped to the waist, to the Public Square or principle church of a town or village. They would form a circle and take up different postures depending on the type of sin they wanted to do penance for; a murderer would lay down on his back, an adulterer face down and a perjurer on one side holding up three fingers.

The Master would then beat them individually before telling them to rise and start beating themselves, chanting that their blood was mingled with the blood of Christ and that their penance would save the whole world as they did so.

The Master would then read from the ‘Heavenly Letter’, a note believed to be written by God which was found at the Church of St Peter in Rome. The letter stated that God was angry at mankind for his sinful ways;


O ye children of men, ye of little faith ….Ye have not repented of your sins nor kept My holy Sunday.... Thus I had thought to exterminate you and all living things from the earth; but for the sake of my Holy Mother, and for that of the Holy Cherubim and Seraphim [angels] who supplicate for you both day and night, I have granted a delay.

Flagellants and the Catholic Church

Although the movement was originally well received by Pope Clement VI and the Catholic Church during the Black Death’s early days, the growing movement soon came up against church officials. It was officially banned on 20th October, 1349 when the Pope sent letters to European bishops prohibiting the processions.

However it was not the act of flagellation in itself that was objected to but the beliefs held by members of the Brotherhood of the Cross. They felt that by whipping themselves they had a second baptism and were also winning favour from God. They hoped that this favour would lead to a delay of the imminent onset of the apocalypse.

Not only did their teachings go against accepted doctrine, the movement had also been very critical of the Church, claiming the clergy neglected their duties in caring for people’s souls and failed to properly observe the rules of fasting.

After its Papal banning, the popularity of the flagellant movement began to diminish and although small scale movements would appear well into the 15th century, larger scale movements that happened independent of the Church virtually vanished.

Further Reading:

The Black Death

The Black Death and its Route to Europe

The Black Death and the Decline of the Influence of the Catholic Church

The Church and the Black Death

The Black Plague




A Pirate Pearl Necklace....;)


There was a time when Japanese Buddhism only catered to the upper classes.
That all changed in the Ninth century when two Japanese monks, Saicho (767-822)
and Kukai (774-835), went to study religion in China. When they went back to Japan,
they had with them new texts, ideas and practices that revolutionized Buddhism and made
it practical and accessible for the common people.


 Holyfield's tactics got to Tyson and in the third round he lost what little composure he had. He spat out his gum shield, pulled his opponent into him and bit a chunk out of his ear, then dramatically spat the flesh onto the canvas. The fight continued after the wound was cleaned up only for Tyson to go straight in a bite the other ear.


Halle Berry

It is said that the image emitted from the high heel shoe is contradictory; on the one hand it gives the appearance of grace, elegance and ease of movement but on the other, it can encumber a woman’s movement and can make her unsteady on her feet. Through the ages, the high heel has been linked to sex and sexuality, especially amongst the nobility and wealthier people of the world.

The High Heel in Egypt – In Egypt there is a mural that is dated to around 3,500 BC and depicts men and women wearing shoes that are much the same as the modern high heel. The people are probably nobility as the lower classes tended to walk around barefoot. The usual footwear of the aristocracy however was a flat leather shoe so the high heels are believed to have been worn mainly for ceremonial events; except that is if you were a butcher who would wear them to keep his feet out of the blood in his slaughter house.

Heels in the Classic World – Greek and Roman actors used to wear Kothorni, shoes with high wooden or cork soles that would get higher or lower depending on the social status of the character they played. In Rome, it was not only actors that wore high heels, they were also used as a signal to people that a lady was willing to sell her body.

The Chopine – The ridiculously oversized Chopine of Renaissance Europe was a fashion accessory and ordained with gold lace, embroidery and decorative leather for the beautification of women of high society in Europe.

Catherine de Medici – Catherine de Medici is credited with starting the fashion craze of high heels in France in the 1500s that would lead to laws being introduced limiting who could wear them. By the 18th century, the red high heel was to be worn by the aristocracy only and nobody could wear them higher than King Louis XIV’s five inch heels.

Witches and the High Heel – In the new Puritan colony known as Massachusetts, it was illegal for a woman to use high heels to seduce a man. So high was the fear of the sexuality of the high heel in the fledgling community, they thought it must be witchcraft and any woman found using her high heel shoes as a tool of seduction would be tried accordingly.

Victorian Lust – It seems that in Victorian times some people developed an appreciation of the instep arch, seeing it as symbolic of a curvy woman. The heel had the effect of making feet seem smaller and daintier which was considered very sexual during the period. However the sexual connotations of the shoe did not go unnoticed by religious houses, many of whom wanted the high heel banned.

Hollywood and the Heel – In the 20th century, Hollywood and its female stars fell in love with the heel, giving it an air of sexuality that is still with us today. Stars like Marilyn Monroe made every woman want to wear them and now, they can be found in almost every woman’s wardrobe in the Western world. They are a fashion accessory that makes a lady feel desired, sexy and in control regardless of her social background and look set to continue to grow in popularity well into the 21st century.

Source: High Heel Shoes as a Symbol of Class, Gender and Sexuality
Image source: Zu Callisto

Love's Secret 


Never seek to tell thy love,
Love that never told can be;
For the gentle wind doth move
Silently, invisibly.

I told my love, I told my love,
I told her all my heart,
Trembling, cold, in ghastly fears.
Ah! she did depart!

Soon after she was gone from me,
A traveller came by,
Silently, invisibly:
He took her with a sigh.

by William Blake

Thomas More was made Lord Chancellor of Britain by King Henry VIII after the downfall of his predecessor, Cardinal Wolsey.

More was famed for his honesty and integrity and was an avid supporter of Papal authority of the church.

It was this belief that would lead to his own downfall as he consistently refused to acknowledge Henry VIII’s claim as supreme head of the Church.

In 1532, the King decided to break away from the Church in order to get a divorce from his first wife, Catherine of Aragon; More retired as Lord Chancellor and two years later he was arrested.

He was tortured in the Tower of London for the next year until on July 1, 1535 he was sentenced to death for treason. On July 5, a day before his execution, he provided us with an important early modern history source when wrote this letter to his daughter Margaret; as his writing implements had been confiscated, he was forced to use a stick of charcoal and a piece of cloth to write it;
"I never liked your manner towards me better than when you kissed me last; for I love when daughterly love and dear charity hath no leisure to look to worldly courtesy. Farewell, my dear child, and pray for me, and I shall for you and all your friends, that we may merrily meet in heaven".
Full letter at englishhistory.net

The Death of Poor Joe (Image source)

A Charles Dickens film was recently discovered that is believed to be the oldest surviving piece of cinematography that features a Character from one of the author’s books.

The film, entitled, The Death of Poor Joe, was made in March 1901, making it around 7 months older than the previous earliest known Charles Dickens Film, Scrooge (also known as ‘Marley’s Ghost’).

Earliest Charles Dickens Film was a Lucky Find

The earliest Dickens film known to exist was a lucky find as it was discovered by accident in February 2012 when curator of the British Film Institute (BFI) Bryony Dixon was researching old Chinese films. She noticed the name The Death of Poor Joe was catalogued and recognised it as the character Jo from the Dickens novel Bleak House.

However the film in question was listed under a different name, Man Meets Ragged Boy though Ms Dixon recognised the character as soon as she saw the footage. In the book, the character Joe is a street-crossing sweeper in the Holborn district. The film lasts just one minute and depicts the character’s demise in a snow filled churchyard. He is then cradled by the local watchman who tried unsuccessfully to help him

Origins of the Earliest Dickens Footage

The BFI came by the footage in 1954 when it was given to them by a collector who was friends with the director of the piece, film pioneer George Albert Smith. Joe was probably played by Smith’s wife Laura Bayley and the watchman was played by Tom Green. British Film Institute officials suggest the film was shot in Brighton but this is uncertain.

Screening

The short film will be screened as a part of the celebrations of the 200th anniversary of the author’s birth on the 9th and 23rd of March at London’s BFI Southbank. The Death of Poor Joe will be released on DVD at a later date but you can view it on the BBC website now.

Source: Earliest Charles Dickens Film Uncovered

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