Wednesday, 20 January 2016

Did #Nostradamus find a cure for #Black Plague?

The rose-petal tonic that Héloïse, my heroine of Blood Rose Angel (novel about the 14th century Black Plague in France) concocts to try and stop the plague spread is based on that of Michel de Nostradame, two centuries after the first outbreak.

Better known by his pseudonym, Nostradamus was one of the most fascinating personalities of 16th century France.

On completion of his medical studies at the University of Montpellier, Nostradamus took to the countryside with his medical and astrological books and assisted in the care of Bubonic Plague victims. He prescribed fresh, unpolluted air and water and clean bedding, removal of the corpses and orders to clean the streets. Each morning before sunrise, he oversaw the harvest of rose petals which he then dried and crushed into fine powder, and made his “rose pills”. Patients were advised to keep under their tongues at all times without swallowing them.

Nostradamus believed the plague was spread by contaminated air and that clean air protected people, but perhaps his success lay in the fact that fleas, which transmit the disease from rats to humans, were repelled by the rose pills’ strong smell, so at least the healthy didn’t catch it. 

Whatever the reasons, Nostradamus was reputed to have saved thousands from plague in Narbonne, Carcassonne, Toulouse and Bordeaux. 

Nostradamus' Rose-pill Recipe... (good luck finding all these ingredients in your local store, ha!)

Take one ounce of the sawdust or shavings of cypress-wood, as green as you can find, six ounces of Florentine violet-root, three ounces of cloves, three drams of sweet calamus, and six drams of aloes-wood.

Reduce the whole to powder before it spoils.

Next, take three or four hundred in-folded red roses, fresh and perfectly clean, and gathered before dewfall.

Pound them vigorously in a marble mortar with a wooden pestle.

When you are half through pounding them, add to them the above mentioned powder and immediately pound it all vigorously, while sprinkling on it a little rose-juice.

When everything is well mixed together, form it into little flat lozenges, as you would pills, and let them dry in the shade, for they will smell good…

And in order to make the mixture even more excellent, add as much musk and ambergris as you either can or wish.

If these two are added I do not doubt that you will produce a superbly pleasant perfume.

Pulverise the said musk and ambergris, dissolving it with rose-juice, then mix it in and dry in the shade.

Quite apart from the goodness and scent that this mixture lends to the items and mixtures mentioned above, you only have to keep it in the mouth a little to make your breath smell wonderful all day…

EXTRACT from Blood Rose Angel (third in The Bone Angel Trilogy: 3 standalone stories exploring different generations of a French village family against backdrops of the 1348 Black Plague, the French Revolution and WW2 Nazi-occupied France).

'The pestilence has taken many others in the ten days you’ve been gone. Everyone is afraid it’ll get as bad as in the south. They say that in Bordeaux, bodies are piling in the streets, and in Avignon four hundred are dying daily, the graveyards so full they’re throwing corpses into the Rhône River. At the monastery, all the monks are dead.’ She let out a crazy kind of cackle. ‘Perhaps this truly is the end of the world.’
‘The end of the world … could that really be?’ I kept shaking my head at that impossible thought. ‘No, Isa, after all this suffering, we can’t let it end here! I’ve had idle time to think about what we spoke of before––treating the pestilence as a garden weed––and I hope I’ve found a way to stop it spreading.’
‘Stop the pestilence spreading? You must be mad, Héloïse. You know there’s no cure and––’
‘Not a cure … listen to me. When I think about the people who’ve died in Lucie, none have been silverhairs like you. Why is that, do you think?’
‘Because the old ones, such as Poppa and me, must be good fighters of sickness; experienced soldiers in the battle against disease. Or we’d already be in the ground.’
‘So I say we arm the children and the young … give them weapons to fight off sickness,’ I said. ‘What if we mixed strength-building rose petals with other such plants into a fortifying tonic?’ I took a quick breath. ‘We know that where there’s more filth and vermin the pestilence flourishes, so we should also insist on frequent scrubbing with the farmers’ sheep-washing soap. People should wash their hands in rose-water, or vinegar, and we must tell them all to wear masks not only when treating the sick but always while this pestilence rages.’

Blood Rose Angel print and e-book is available at the following retailers:

Wednesday, 13 January 2016

#Readers do you read every #book you purchase?

On my husband's way out to work this morning, I checked the letterbox, as usual. Another book I'd ordered had arrived. As usual.

I held it up to him as he drove off, and he just smiled and shook his head. Another book?

Yes, just the next one in a near-continuous stream of books I purchase.

But do I read them all?

No, not even half of them. Perhaps not even a third.

In my old age, having always been a voracious reader, and with so little leisure time these days, I've become super picky about my reading matter. If it doesn't hook me in the first few pages, I'll not bother finishing it. Too many typos or grammatical errors? More reasons to chuck it aside.

What about you? Do you read every book you buy ... doggedly slogging on to The End, even if you hate the story, in the hope it might pick up?

Or do you give up, like me, early on in the piece?

I'd love to hear your thoughts on this, if you'd like to leave a comment.

Thursday, 7 January 2016

#Wolfsangel #France #histfic on 2015 top SELF-e Top eBooks List: @libraryself_e books @Fiction_Books @TriskeleBooks

Based on a tragic war crime that occurred in a small village during Nazi-occupied France, #Wolfsangel #WW2 novel has been listed in the Top SELF-e eBooks of 2015.

To read about the tragedy behind the novel, click here.

Church of Oradour-sur-Glane

Main street of Oradour-sur-Glane

Wednesday, 6 January 2016

#SaintMargaret. Patron saint of #childbirth

During a recent trip to London I was excited to come across an incredible altarpiece in the Victoria & Albert Museum, one of London's most magnificent museums. This intricately carved altarpiece tells the story of Saint Margaret, martyred for refusing to renounce Christianity.

Famous for her imprisonments, and subject to tortures for her Christian commitment before finally being beheaded, Saint Margaret's most remarkable imprisonment was within the belly of a dragon. The wooden cross she held so tickled the dragon’s insides that he belched her forth. She is thus often depicted subduing a dragon and is the patron saint of childbirth.

In the enigma of the bone-sculpted angel that links the generations of women throughout The Bone Angel trilogy, Saint Margaret and her story feature in Blood Rose Angel, 3rd novel in the trilogy.

Extract from Blood Rose Angel...
Our hoods pulled snug around our faces, extra blankets shrouding our cloaks, Morgane and I sat on a snow-shrouded log in the misty garden.
‘I’ve told you of Saint Margaret,’ I began.
Morgane nodded. ‘The one we pray to for a safe birth.’
‘That’s right, my sweet. Well, it’s said Saint Margaret was the daughter of a pagan priest of Antioch.’
‘A place in Pisidia … a far-off land across the sea, where Margaret turned into a Christian, which made her father drive her from their home. She became a shepherdess and there was a Roman prefect called Olybrius who found her very beautiful.’
‘What’s a prefect, Maman?’
‘A very important person in the times of the mighty Romans. Remember the people Papa told you about, who made camp here in Lucie-sur-Vionne? Those who built the road that leads to our pool on the Vionne, the crumbling fountain on la place de l’Eglise and the great aqueducts to take water from the hills all the way down to Lyon? The same people who mined for gold in our cave?’
‘Yes, I heard the tale at the Midsummer Eve feast yesteryear. The storyteller told us the Roman slaves cut those caves from the mountains and worked inside the tunnels, searching for gold. They made shrines and vases and jewellery. And used it for coins, too. And that’s how Lucie-sur-Vionne was named,’ she went on. ‘After the Roman soldier, Lucius. Like the villages of Julien-sur-Vionne and Valeria-sur-Vionne too.’
‘Clever girl, you remember everything. So, when Margaret would have nothing to do with Olybrius, he charged her with being a Christian and had her tortured and imprisoned.’
‘A real barbarian, that Olybrius … like horrible Captain Drogan and le Comte, who wanted to burn you at the stake.’
I nodded, trying to block all memory of that dank gaol cell; the terrible burning sentence, from my mind. Our lives since the Spring Fair, in fact. ‘While she was imprisoned, Margaret met the Devil in the form of a dragon, and it swallowed her. But, with the cross she was carrying, Margaret tickled the dragon’s throat and he spewed her out, alive.’
‘Alive?’ Morgane frowned. ‘That sounds impossible.’
‘Well, poppet, it is a legend. But because she was delivered safely from the dragon’s stomach, she’s known as the patron saint of women in childbirth—to deliver babies safely from their mother’s womb. And, to finish the story, after many attempts to kill her, Margaret was finally beheaded.’
‘Poor Margaret.’

Blood Rose Angel is available here.

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#saintmargaret patron saint of childbirth  #14th century #midwife #atimeandaplace