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Category Archives: Life – but not as we know it Jim.

Earth warming – some thoughts

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Signs of a Changing Climate – ‘Science has spoken’

FAQ2.2 figure2

The aims of the IPCC are to assess scientific information relevant to:

  1. Human-induced climate change,
  2. The impacts of human-induced climate change,
  3. Options for adaptation and mitigation.

See: http://encyclopedia.thefreedictionary.com/Intergovernmental+Panel+on+Climate+Change

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Pishogues; CROSS DRESSING + A WILD HARE

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Original article; http://farmette.ie/tag/pishogue/

Yes, you read that correctly. That is indeed the correct title of this blog post. Now, imagine my surprise to learn that our little parish has been historically known to have women morphing into hares by night and kids dressing up as their opposite sex counterparts on occasion.  Strange, but I must admit it made me feel a little more “at home”…I mean what’s more American than Playboy bunnies and cross dressing…very urban…very cosmopolitan, no?

On a closer examination, I learned that this countryside cross dressing/hare morphing was of a different ilk, which was initially disappointing, but became far more interesting as I listened to the cacophony of stories about “May Eve” and all of the beliefs attached to it. Pishoguery, coaxioriums, changelings, faeries and perhaps the most fabulous and sensational: real women who transform into hares and run around wildly about the land. {without a doubt, a talent I would most certainly love to have}

Now, we all know that Ireland has it’s fair share of lore and such, but I had no idea that many of these teachings still have a valid place in modern countryside society and that furthermore many traditions around those beliefs are still practiced in our tiny village. In fact, I was only just informed yesterday that our entire farm is sprinkled with holy water each year on “May Eve” to ward off Pishoguery and other spirits.

Allow me to explain. May Eve is the evening before May Day (April 30th) and on this evening it is said that a certain type of sorcery transpires in which female evil-doers called “pishogues” come round and do their best to make people’s lives miserable in one way or another.  The pishogues would do things such as lay eggs, bread, meats and other consumable items on another’s land and it is believed that by doing so it would somehow rob the riches from that farm and be transferred onto the pishogue’s estate. Now, let me be clear-these pishogues were real people; neighbours, churchgoers and everyone knew who they were. Real people who were known to be sort of possessed by the devil and forced into doing these dreadful acts.  This pishoguery basically put the fear of God in people and villagers began sprinkling holy water on their homes, livestock, farmyards, machinery….everything and anything to ward off this evil on May Eve. (I hate to say it, but it kinda sorta reminds me of what seemed to happen whenever the Avon lady would come calling in the neighborhood where I lived as a child.)

It doesn’t end with the Pishogues, May Eve offers still more unusual events and characters. There would be faeries flitting about who were known to capture the little boys from farms and change them into their own offspring, i.e. “changelings”. In order to prevent their children from being taken, families dressed up their boys as girls to fool the faeries. Apparently, girls were no good to them.  This meant that it wouldn’t be uncommon to see little boys dressed as girls walking about the village or going to church on the first of May; and nobody would give them a second look. Oh, how times have changed.…

Of course, no May Eve would be complete without a story involving the ubiquitous “love potion”.  Yes, coaxioriums were popular on this evening as well {LOVE the word coaxiorium-despite the fact that I can’t say it out loud}. Allegedly, if a woman made an advance on a man and was rejected she would slip him a potion and he’d come around. After this act, the people in the community would comment that she must have gave him the coaxiorium. Nowadays, it seems it’s the men who need their own secret little potion of one type or another…..

My absolute favourite is the whole business of women who had the power to turn into hares. They would morph into wild rabbit hares and go out during that day or evening and get into all kinds of mischief and then return home and have a cup of tea as if nothing had happened. Often times, a person would come across a lady’s dress and shoes lying near a hedge and they would take no notice, assuming that she had likely changed into a hare and was just out galavanting in the field.  Forgive me, but I would take great pleasure in that type of behaviour…imagine, if you will, gathering all of your best girlfriends, changing yourselves into hares and having a mad little tea party in the Irish countryside with all of the hedgehogs and red foxes.

So there you have it, May Eve, cross dressing and wild women hares in the country. While this all seems a bit Twilight Zone-y to me, many of these accounts have credible witnesses and are steeped in traditions that have stood the test of time. So now I know that in Kilcolman, we sprinkle our holy water to be safe and all I can say is:what’s good for the gander…

Slan Abhaile,

Imen

Some interesting radio shows on science subjects.

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          Some interesting radio shows on science subjects.

 

Player Image

Click on:  I have a WHAT?

 

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How do you know you are dreaming.

An interesting discussion on the facts, act, benefit of cognitive-dreaming.

http://www.newstalk.ie/player/podcasts/Futureproof/Highlights_from_Futureproof_with_Jonathan_McCrea/56023/1/how_do_you_know_you_arent_dreaming/cp_2

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Player Image

I have a what now?!

Show: Futureproof

In this week’s ‘I have a what now’ it’s the ‘Suprachiasmatic nucleus’ which controls circadin rhythms. In partnership with the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland.

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I have what? – coccyx – via the skull.
 
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Leave a lighter footprint: green funeral and burial tips

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Leave a lighter footprint: green funeral and burial tips

Worldwide, more than 50,000,000 people pass away each year. Traditional burial and cremation practices can have significant negative environmental impact, but green funerals and eco-burials are one way to lessen the impact. While death can be a difficult subject, keeping ethical beliefs and environmental convictions in mind while tending to end-of-life arrangements can create a meaningful send-off–not to mention a lower-impact one. After all, if you gotta go, why not go green?

Top Green Funeral Tips

  1. Seek Good Advice
    Not long ago, the idea of green burial was unheard of by most funeral directors, and today, for a variety of practical and emotional reasons, many people still resist the idea. However, there are signs that the industry is awakening to the concept, especially since many people with environmental sympathies wish to leave the world as they have tried to live in it. A growing number of products and services can help them do just that. Key points to think about include: 

     

    • Funeral Director: Ask your funeral director about more sustainable options, or seek out a funeral home that offer green practices (more on this below).
    • Green Burial: Likewise, green burial specialists can help you explore greening your final resting options.
    • Literature on Green Funerals: Read one of the books that can guide you through the process. (See our “Where to Get this Stuff” section below for suggestions.)
  2. State Your Intentions If you are reading this guide with an eye to what happens to your remains when you are gone, it would make sense to talk to your loved ones about it or make arrangements ahead of time. Death can be a difficult process and, unless prompted, those left behind may not think to consider the environment in making arrangements. Even if they do, they may not have a grasp of the best and greenest courses of action to take. 

     

    • Define Your Wishes: Add a clause in your will or create an advanced funeral wishes document that stipulates your green funeral concerns. Consider including a copy of this guide with your instructions.
  3. Cremate Your Remains On the face of it, cremation doesn’t seem like a particularly green idea. Burning anything creates pollution, especially if there are toxic substances present (via embalming, for example), and returning nutrients to the ecosystem via decomposing matter is a core tenet of environmental thinking. That said, modern crematoriums have made significant reductions in emissions. Plus, as many cemeteries, particularly in the U.S., have rules and regulations stipulating the use of concrete vaults, coffins, and other such requirements that use significant resources and space, becoming one with nature isn’t as straightforward and simple (or quick) as it may seem. Cremation, therefore, may make more sense from a green perspective, after all. If it seems like the right choice to you, you can ask the crematorium about what they are doing to reduce emissions. A previous TreeHugger post also discusses more about efficient and green cremation. Another option that has been explored in Sweden involves freezing the body with liquid nitrogen, which breaks the remains down more rapidly. This method has been very controversial.
  4. Bury Your Remains Ultimately, our remains are part of the food chain. Unfortunately, many of the trappings of modern burial–such as embalming, hardwood coffins, and concrete vaults–are designed to delay the natural process of decomposition. Though these ideas have become modern standards, the truth is that anything we can do to return to the earth more easily will lessen our impact on the environment. See our previous article, The Green Goodbye, which explores new trends in eco-burials. Key ecological points include: 

     

    • Preservation: Embalming slows the decomposition process. For those whose tradition does not designate embalming as part of the burial practice, consider skipping this step, and opt for a closed casket and rapid burial.
    • Coffins: Cardboard, bamboo, or jute coffins, shrouds, or biodegradable urns are all dignified ways to unite with nature more rapidly.
    • Green Burial Grounds: The Green Burial Council and other organizations are taking strides to develop and identify sustainable burial and cremation practices, locations and companies.
  5. Leave a Living Marker It can be important for mourners to have somewhere to go to remember their loved ones long after the funeral is over. Natural or living memorials can be wonderful alternatives to quarried headstones or marble mausoleums. Consider planting a tree or a bush that will carry on in honor of the deceased. Online memorials are also becoming increasingly popular. For inspiration, New York’s New School and the The U.S. Forest Service have explored visions of the living memorial through their project, Land-markings: 12 Journeys through 9/11 Living Memorials.
  6. Give Gifts of Sympathy Cut flowers have a short shelf-life; besides, flower-farming can be a resource-intensive endeavor. It’s already common practice to ask for donations to charity in lieu of flowers; after all, what better way to remember the dead than to create a better world for the living? From organizations that provide solar power to the developing world to others that provide bicycles for AIDS caregivers, charity-giving is a magnificent way to honor the passions of deceased friends or relatives.
  7. Deliver a Just Tribute So much of what we hold dear about a person includes their ideals and convictions. It is fitting, then, to commemorate the life of a departed fellow TreeHugger with a memorial ceremony that touches on the subject of the environment. We are not suggesting a 10-hour lecture on Gaia Theory, but a joyful remembrance of a passionate green life well-lived. With more and more faiths and denominations fromCatholicism to Judaism and beyond embracing stewardship of the environment, it shouldn’t be hard to find a minister with sympathies for your cause. Green funeral providers and any funeral director will also be able to offer advice on how to create a unique, personalized ceremony.
  8. Green Your Funeral Service As with any event, much of the environmental impact is in the details. Even if you don’t opt for any of the ideas above, you can still make a funeral greener by incorporating the following practices into the gathering. 

     

    • Programs: Use recycled paper for programs or hymn sheets.
    • Flowers: Source any flowers from organic, local growers.
    • Procession: Make arrangements for carpooling from location to location during the funeral.
    • Refreshments: If the deceased was an environmentalist, the chances are they enjoyed local, organic food. If refreshments are being served, it makes sense then to look closely at where they come from. TreeHugger’s How to Green Your Meals provides helpful tips and guidelines for selecting the refreshments of your choice.
  9. The Ultimate Recycling We’ve already suggested that using biodegradable coffins or urns, and avoiding concrete vaults, can help reduce our impact by returning our remains to the earth. However, some folks are taking this even further by finding safe ways to literally compost human remains.
  10. Return to the Woods The woodland burial movement, which started in the UK, is widely credited with the birth of interest in natural funerals in general. Not only do woodland burials involve low impact ceremonies, they also aid in the return of a piece of land to a natural forest. Trees and native wildflowers are often planted above a grave, and because the location becomes dear to the families of the deceased, chances are good that the site will remain protected for years to come.

 

Cremation ceremonies in Varanasi, India || Dennis Jarvis/Flickr/CC BY 2.0

 

Green Funerals: By the Numbers

    • 56.5 million: The approximate number of people that die each year around the globe.
    • 50 million: Trees that are cut down in India each year for funeral pyres. This releases 8 million tons of carbon dioxide.
    • 270: The number of green and woodland burial sites in the U.K.
    • Up to 16 percent: Mercury emissions in the U.K. that come from crematoria because of the fillings in teeth. This percentage is expected to increase to 25 percent by 2020.
    • 1.6 million: Tons of reinforced concrete buried in the U.S. each year in the construction of vaults.

Sources: Yahoo!TreeHuggerDepartment for Environment, Food and Rural AffairsGreen Burial Council

Green Funerals: Getting Techie

Embalming became popular in the United States during the Civil War and is still a significant source of groundwater pollution today. Arsenic gave way to the less toxic formaldehyde as the favored embalming solution around the turn of the last century. However, formaldehyde poisoning can still be fatal and it is classified as a human carcinogen by the US Environmental Protection Agency. Some estimates say that one million gallons of formaldehyde are buried in embalmed bodies each year in the United States. Almost all of this will eventually make its way into our water supplies. Efforts are underway to gradually replace formaldehyde with glutaraldehyde, which is considered less toxic.

 

Cremation causes nitrogen oxides, carbon monoxide, sulfur dioxide, heavy metals and particulates to be released into the atmosphere when a body is cremated. If a body has mercury-amalgam fillings, the mercury will almost certainly become air pollution unless the fillings are removed first. Burning a body inside a coffin also creates significantly more pollution than burning the body by itself. Modern crematoriums often have ‘clean smokestacks’ that ameliorate the associated emissions, at least to some degree, and the cremation industry has claimed that reports of pollution have been greatly exaggerated.

Books
Caring for the Dead: Your Final Act of Love
Exit Strategy: Thinking Outside the Box
Grave Matters: A Journey Through the Modern Funeral Industry to a Natural Way of Burial
The Natural Death Handbook

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Deep-Frozen Woman ‘Denied’ Eco-Burial

 A.K. Streeter (@april2462) Living / Health March 2, 2012

Promessa AB/Screen capture
“Think About Death” the inscription at the Gothenburg cemetary reads.

Remember the story a few years back about an environmentally-friendly form of burial that sifted the toxic and valuable metals from corpses and put resulting nutrient-rich dust into biodegradable caskets to replenish the earth as compost?

OK, maybe you haven’t heard. But this type of eco-burial was the passion of researcher and business owner Susanne Wiigh-Mäsak, who formed a company, Promessa Organic AB, to help dead people that wish to quickly return to the earth. According to Wiigh-Mäsak, her method is much more sustainable than our current embalming in caskets, or cremation. Traditional casket-buried bodies are deeply buried, rot slowly and release methane as they do so, Wiigh-Mäsak has said. With Promessa’s process, powdered bodies will be shallowly buried and break down much more quickly.

Except that in Sweden, the freeze-drying and shallow burial of corpses has no precedent, so this new form of eco-burial has yet to go forward.

Thus the body of Jane Günther, who had herself frozen upon her death in 2009, is still waiting (thus far in vain) for the Swedish state to comply with her last wishes. Recently, the Swedish Tax Authority threatened to force conventional burial of Günther’s body against those wishes, as it seems there’s a legal limit for how long corpses can remain unburied.

Gunther is one of 12 Swedes to undergo the deep-freeze in anticipation of a Promessa-style eco-burial, while Wiigh-Mäsak waits for approval of her technique.

The main problem is that Swedish law only allows for two forms of burial – cremation, or burial in a casket. At Promessa, a body is first chilled down to -18C. Once she’s obtained permission for her process, Wiigh-Masäk’s clients will be dunked in liquid nitrogen (obtained as a byproduct of the medical industry) which freezes them to -196C. Wiigh-Mäsak says this makes a body very brittle, and subsequent agitation causes the body to break apart and eventually disintegrate. Heavy metals are then filtered out by means of magnets, and the remains put into a biodegradable corn casket and buried in a shallow grave. Wiigh-Mäsak says in 6 – 12 months the body will be rich compost.

“Whether we burn our body or bury it six feet under, we neglect the possibility of bringing our organic remains back to nature, thereby becoming part of a balanced process.” – Susanne Wiigh-Mäsak

Researcher Bengt Johansson isn’t convinced that the method will work. Wiigh-Mäsak has said she’s tested the method on hundreds of pigs, but she hasn’t publicly shared her research findings.

Johanssom, a professor of anatomy at Sweden’s Sahlgrenska Academy who has worked with freezing technology, told a Swedish newspaper he doesn’t believe bodies will react in the way Wiigh-Mäsak says they will, and wants further scientific, peer-reviewed proof.

So it’s a fight to the death, or beyond.

Wiigh-Mäsak is planning to build a Promessa facility this year to handle more burials with her method, which she calls promession.

 

Further proof of global warming – Irish Times.

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Don’t be fooled by the spring snows, they are further proof of global warming

Action must be taken now to have any hope of limiting the damage

http://www.irishtimes.com/news/environment/don-t-be-fooled-by-the-spring-snows-they-are-further-proof-of-global-warming-1.1343500?utm_source=morning-digest&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=digests

Farmer Donald O'Reilly rescues a sheep trapped in a snow drift in the Aughafatten area of Co Antrim last week. Photograph:  Cathal McNaughton/Reuters Farmer Donald O’Reilly rescues a sheep trapped in a snow drift in the Aughafatten area of Co Antrim last week. Photograph: Cathal McNaughton/Reuters

David Robert Grimes

First published:Mon, Apr 1, 2013, 06:00   

What a difference a year makes; a year ago Europe was basking in some of the warmest spring temperatures recorded. Last week all that seemed a very distant memory as we shivered through a prolonged freeze, with snow encroaching into what was once the height of spring.The reason for this worrying; Arctic ice melted at record rates last year, releasing heat energy. This altered the fast-flowing air currents above our planet, known as the Jet stream, allowing cold Arctic air to travel much further south than usual.While it may seem paradoxical that Arctic warming can freeze us so much, it is exactly what climate scientists have long predicted. And it will get worse. Prof Jennifer Francisof the Institute of Marine and Coastal Sciences at Rutgers University in the US notes soberingly that “sea ice is… 80 per cent less than it was just 30 years ago… This is a symptom of global warming.”

The scientific consensus is unequivocal: climate change is happening right now, at a rate unprecedented in Earth’s history.

Earth’s climate is sensitive to change, and temperature swings are only the tip of the rapidly-melting iceberg. Despite the gravity of this threat, reaction has been somewhat muted, hovering somewhere between apathy and denial.

Understandably, climate science can be confusing, perhaps explaining some of our inertia; “global warming” refers to the increase in average global temperature. Counter-intuitively, this can lead to regions of cooling. The mechanism behind this is the greenhouse effect, which arises because certain gases have the ability to absorb thermal radiation from the Earth’s surface.

These gases then re-radiate it in all directions, including back towards Earth and essentially act as a heat trap, warming up the planet. This is long since understood — it was hypothesised by Joseph Fourier in 1824 and experimentally verified by Irish physicist John Tyndall in 1859. The fact that humans can thus affect climate is no surprise, what is surprising is just how fast we’re doing it.

Some question whether this effect is anthropogenic; perhaps this is all just a natural cycle? Sadly, no — ancient ice cores yield a record of temperature and atmosphere over hundreds of millennia, and shows our current rate of warming is hundreds of times beyond anything that has gone before, coinciding with the dawn of industrialisation.

More alarming is that while at no point during any previous glacial or interglacial period has the carbon dioxide (CO2) concentration level reached as high as 300 ppm (parts per million), current levels are 390 ppm and rising, with predictions of up to 600 ppm in coming decades. This is most distinctly not natural variation.

Nor can we evade responsibly by postulating that this level is unrelated to human activities — CO2 released from fossil fuels has a distinct chemical signature, and points to our guilt as readily as fingerprints at a crime scene. This leaves only the inescapable conclusion that we are driving the destruction of our own environment.

The discussion is no longer about avoidance, but limitation. The most optimistic prediction is that in order to have a chance of limiting temperature rises to “only” 2 degree Celsius, we would need a global “carbon budget” of less than 886 gigatons between 2000 and 2050. By only 2006, we had already produced 234 gigatons. Coal is without a doubt the worst offender, both in terms of CO2 output and health, killing 1.3 million annually. Yet despite this, 2011 saw an ominous 5 per cent global rise in consumption of coal.

Since 1992, global CO2 emissions have risen 48 per cent, with power generation making up the bulk of this. To mitigate this, low carbon energy is imperative. Renewables are part of the solution, but they simply do not have the required yield or reliability.

Nuclear energy does, but still provokes an emotional rather than a rational reaction, and is all too frequently ignored for the sake of political expediency. Two years on, it bears repeating that the Fukushima accident of 2011 has killed nobody and likely never will. The 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami, by contrast, killed more than 18,000. If nothing substantial is done, such disasters will increase in both frequency and intensity

It is also vital we reduce our personal energy expenditure. Home insulatation and reducing car usage can substantially reduce one’s carbon foot print. Perhaps the most powerful thing we can do collectively is insist our elected leaders take action, imposing carbon levies, rewarding energy efficiency, and most crucially, moving away from fossil fuels towards renewable and nuclear energy.

Climate change is not someone else’s problem — it affects all of us. To have any hope of limiting the damage we have already wrought, action must be taken now. The writing has been on the wall for some time. Whether we heed it remains to be seen.

Dr David Robert Grimes is a physicist and cancer researcher at Oxford University.davidrobertgrimes.com @drg1985

6 Ridiculous Myths About the Middle Ages Everyone Believes

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6 Ridiculous Myths About the Middle Ages Everyone Believes

By:Steve Kolenberg January 13, 2013 888,443 views

With grateful thanks to  https://www.facebook.com/MontagueHeritageServices?ref=stream

When you think of the Middle Ages, chances are you picture gallant knights sitting astride brilliant destriers galloping through a sea of plagues, ignorance, and filth. And you can hardly be blamed for that, when everything from the movies you watch to your high school history teacher (who was mainly the football coach) has told you that …

#6. Scientific Progress Was Dead

Getty

The Myth:

They call it the Dark Ages for a reason. Any scientist who dared to actually study the universe would be shut down by the Catholic church, which thought all that bullshit was immoral and that the Bible was all the learnin’ anybody could possibly need. They even thought the Earth was flat, for crying out loud.

Getty
“No, we can’t cross the ocean there, don’t you see that sea monster in the way?”

The Reality:

Aside from the fact that, as we’ve already explained, most people in the Middle Ages did not think the Earth was flat, the church wasn’t responsible for killing science — to the contrary, it was largely responsible for saving it.

After the barbarians invaded Europe and Rome went the way of the dinosaurs, the Catholic church was the last remaining aspect of Roman culture in Western Europe. The church went about setting up monasteries across Europe, and along with the monks came the monks’ massive libraries. Monks were just about the only educated people in the early Middle Ages, and pretty much everything we know about this entire time period was written by them.

Getty
“Look, the monks’ scroll clearly says that all monks had 12-inch dongs, so it must be true.”

As time went on, the church stepped it up a notch and started establishing universities to foster the preservation of knowledge. You may have heard of a few of them: Oxford, Cambridge, and the University of Paris (not to mention pretty much every other top school in Europe). At these universities, students studied more than most college kids do today, with an average bachelor’s degree taking up to seven years to earn, and a master’s or doctorate taking several more. The universities were also big on translation, having successfully translated into Latin guys like Aristotle and Plato, which effectively made the Renaissance possible. All of this despite the fact that beer bong technology was still in its infancy.

Around the same time as universities were popping up all over Europe, the Crusades were bringing Europeans into contact with advanced Muslim ideas of science and technology. Ideas like the compass and the astrolabe came to the West via Muslim Spain and came in handy during the later Age of Exploration. Italian merchants came back from trading in North Africa and gave us another innovation: Arabic numerals.

Sju
Pfft, like people are going to want to learn a whole other set of characters.

Medicine also made massive advances thanks to the university system. Contrary to popular belief, dissection of corpses was actually fine and dandy with the church, and medieval universities often did it in the basement (OK, so maybe it wasn’t totally fine and dandy). By the 14th century, there were functional hospitals, and doctors had learned how to use antiseptic when lopping off people’s body parts.

And that’s a good thing, because everybody was encrusted in filth back then, right? Well, about that …

#5. Everyone Smelled Like Complete Shit

Getty

The Myth:

Even if we know nothing else about the Middle Ages, we know that everyone was absolutely filthy. Medieval peasants looked like something straight out of Monty Python and the Holy Grail …

 Getty
But not nearly as whimsical.

… and the upper classes were hardly any cleaner. People back then took baths with about the same frequency as we go to the dentist — a couple of times a year for the obsessive ones. Just getting to a person’s genitals required a stiff wire brush and a chisel.

The Reality:

They were way into bathing for much of the Middle Ages. Maybe too into it — they continued the Roman practice where a bunch of strangers got naked together for communal bathing, and most towns and even villages in medieval Germany had a communal bath where craftsmen would hang out and bathe together after a hard day’s work. Just sitting there, probably washing each other’s dongs while having loud conversations about how incredibly not gay they were.

 Getty
“You see my new pickup wagon with a bunch of tools in the back?”

Meanwhile, not only was it common for medieval folk to wash their hands before and after eating, it was also customary to offer to bathe with guests when they entered your home, something The Man has repeatedly reminded us is no longer acceptable in modern society. Medieval demand for soap (usually made from animal fats, with a variety of oils and salts added) was so great that by the 13th century, soap was being made on an almost industrial scale in Britain, Italy, Spain, and France.

So why do we picture everyone as wallowing in their own filth back then? Well, things changed all at once. If only an act of God could change Europe’s epic bathing culture, they got one — in the mid-14th century, the Black Death strolled up and kicked Europe right in the teeth with its pestilence boot. Suddenly, smart people were telling the previously washed masses that bathing was a surefire way to open your body’s pores and invite in all the bad spirits or gremlins or whatever (they weren’t too savvy on what caused illness back then).

 Getty
“The academy is divided down the middle, between Jews and forest pixies.”

As a result, by the early modern period of history, bathing had become obsolete. So it’s entirely possible that George Washington rated higher than Richard the Lionheart on the smell-like-shit-o-meter.

#4. Knights Were Honorable, Chivalrous Warriors

 Getty

The Myth:

Knights were gallant and brave warriors, charging into battle to slay the dragon and rescue the fair maiden.

The Reality:

Knights often had less in common with this:

 Wikimedia Commons
“We shall die for the glory of our randomly assigned piece of land!”

And more in common with this:

 Johan Ordonez/NBC News
Wessex side.

Remember, knights were professional warriors, and when there wasn’t a war to fight, they had to findsomething to do with their war-boners. Most of these guys were relatively young and didn’t have Call of Duty to satisfy their violent urges, so they tended to take it out on the local population. Toward the 11th century, many of the local lords started bickering over who would get a slice of the Holy Roman pie that Charlemagne baked, and the knights were at the forefront of these petty wars. These “wars” were less Braveheart-style epic battles and more knights rolling up into villages and slaughtering everybody.

The church tried to curb these conflicts, because frankly, they were nasty and threatened the stability of everything. First they tried to gather up all the knights and shake various body parts of dead saints at them, but when that didn’t work, the Pope called the First Crusade and exported all these assholes to the Middle East, where they chivalrously ate babies and massacred the entire population of Jerusalem.

 Wikimedia Commons
“Hey, the Pope said we wouldn’t go to hell! No backsies!”

Later attempts were made to get these young ‘uns under control, one being the chivalric code that was adopted around the 13th century. Examples like Sir Lancelot and Edward the Black Prince were raised to show knights how to behave in battle and in peace. Knights were encouraged to “defend the weak,” but “the weak” was commonly interpreted as noble women and children, not peasants. So noble-on-noble violence may have decreased, but it was still totally cool for knights to kill and rape peasants, since, like those beers you had for breakfast, they didn’t really count.

#3. Everyone Was a Prude

 Getty

The Myth:

Casual sex, and even knowledge of how sex works, is a modern invention. During the heavily religious Dark Ages, sex was strictly forbidden outside of marriage, and every single person of consenting age (a term that was very loosely defined back then) led a life that was a never-ending squelch through a pool of their own sexual repression.

The Reality:

You know those really goofy-looking shoes that men wore back then? The extra pointy ones, like something an elf would wear?

 Ziko
We’d still wear those over Heelys.

Well, those points are called poulaines, and apparently they were meant to directly represent the wearer’s dong. And in a revelation that will come as absolutely no surprise to anyone even remotely familiar with the intricate relationship between a man and his wang, these points were sometimes so big that dudes couldn’t walk up stairs. Good thing they were all wearing those elaborate codpieces to protect their actual dongs when their shoe-dongs tripped them up.

And the sexy didn’t stop with their fashion. Prostitution was a big friggin’ deal back then. Although technically against the teachings of the church, everyone collectively agreed that if there were no hookers around, men would be out raping, just, everyone, because some of what you’ve heard about the Middle Ages wasn’t a myth. In most medieval cities, prostitution was completely legal yet confined to certain districts and licensed by a town’s mayor. The church even got in on this deal andlicensed some holy brothels of its very own.

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“She’ll tickle your schmeckel for only a shekel!”

But let’s not leave out the married folk. Since most upper-class marriages were political arrangements and the people getting married didn’t necessarily like each other all that much, extramarital affairs were where it was at. And man, did these people get down — if you’ve ever watched a show like The Tudors and thought it was all sexed up for a modern audience, you were wrong.

One of the reasons that Eleanor of Aquitaine usurped her husband Henry II was because Henry II apparently had more mistresses than Tiger Woods. Seeing that getting in bed with the king was a good way to get ahead in life, daughters of lower nobility basically became escorts and tried to become the king’s favorite mistress, which worked out pretty well for Anne Boleyn when she married Henry VIII and became Queen of England. Worked out pretty well, that is, until she was beheaded for allegedly banging too many people who weren’t Henry VIII.

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The Bible is very clear that you’re only allowed three affairs at a time.

But the whole situation was still bad news for women, right? Because women were basically property back then? Well …

#2. Women Were Treated as Cattle

  Nino Mascardi/Getty Images

The Myth:

Europe during the Middle Ages is right up there with Taliban-ruled Afghanistan in the Top 5 Places It Would Suck to Have a Vagina. Women were horribly oppressed and were treated as second-class citizens — their only responsibilities were to cook, clean, and squeeze out (male) babies on demand.

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“Sweetie? You get that new male heir I asked for? It’s been like an hour …”

The Reality:

Up until about 200 years ago, Europe was a largely agricultural society. And the funny thing about back-breaking and often dehumanizing labor is that it has a weird way of equalizing people — when literally every member of the family is out busting his or her ass every morning just to fend off the very real threat of starvation, gender roles and sexism suddenly don’t seem all that important. Thus, when it came to household responsibilities, women and men were equals by default, since the women had to do all the same bullshit their husbands had to do. So should time travel ever become a thing, never tell a medieval peasant woman to go make her husband a sandwich, because she’ll probably cackle her plague-breath all up in your face before snapping you in half like a twig.

And the story wasn’t much different in the cities. If dad owned a shop or a tavern, his daughters were the ones helping out. Sometimes a daughter would actually take over the family business and run it herself if her father became unable to, something that wouldn’t really happen until much later in modern society. Women also generally ran the taverns in the Middle Ages — in fact, women once ran England’s entire beer industry. It’s not quite clear when that changed, but we have to assume that at some point men realized they had allowed women to become all powerful by letting them be in charge of both beer and vaginas.

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“Well, at least we still have sports … Oh Christ!”

Women who weren’t busy running taverns or growing crops to survive could join a convent, which may not sound all that impressive until you realize that this gave them access to education in a time when that was extremely rare — nuns could read and write in an age when the most powerful kings couldn’t. And if they stuck with it long enough to become the abbess of a convent, they were in a position of power very similar to a male lord — only, you know, maybe even a little higher, seeing as how they technically reported directly to the King of Kings and all.

#1. Life Was Horrible and Everyone Died Young

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The Myth:

Life in the Middle Ages has famously been described as “nasty, brutish, and short.” The food sucked, the housing sucked, the work sucked, everything sucked. Luckily, people didn’t have to endure all the perpetual suck for long, since they only lived to see 35, tops. Today, if you see a character older than 60 in a movie set in the Middle Ages, he’s also a wizard.

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“A wizard dies precisely when he means to. Or when the giant eagles show up late.”

The Reality:

As for lives being short, while it may be true that the average life expectancy was 35 years, we tend to overlook one very important word there: average. Infant mortality was brutal, since vaccinations against childhood diseases didn’t exist yet and medicine was still in its “Here, chew on this root and stick some leeches on your junk” stage. So that skews the average way down. But if a male living in 1500 managed to see his 21st birthday, he was expected to live around 50 more years from that point.

The typical perception of the medieval peasant is someone breaking his back doing nonstop labor for lords who gaveth not a single fuck as to his well-being, but your typical peasant actually workedaround eight hours a day, with long breaks for meals and naps. And did you know that peasants got more time off than you do? Sunday was an automatic day off, and when you factor in long vacations at Christmas, Easter, and midsummer, plus all the saints’ days (considering the fact that the Catholic church has even more saints than it does scandals), and medieval peasants were on holiday for a goodone-third of the year. And since much of that time was accompanied by epic festivals, they spent it getting shitfaced on various varieties of medieval ale. So not only did they work less than you, they also partied harder.

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“Hey, you guys coming to the after-orgy?”

And it turns out they weren’t exactly living lives of “bare bones subsistence,” either. By the late Middle Ages, your average English worker was making around $1,000 a year — significantly better than people in some of today’s poorer nations. And while no one will argue that that level of income would provide lifestyles that would inspire rap song lyrics, it did allow them to afford varied diets, the occasional luxury item, and plenty of ale to cover all the partying they were virtually required to do. Hell, you could get a rap song out of that, right? Quick, what rhymes with “dick shoes”?


For more things you’re totally wrong about, check out 6 Things from History Everyone Pictures Incorrectly and The 5 Most Overrated Jobs of All Time.

Glenribbeen Eco Lodge

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Pig on a Spit at the Towers

August 19, 2012 all day – The Towers, Ballysaggertmór, Lismore Co Waterford Pig on a Spit – a fund-raiser for the KMD-V Waterford. A new community group to help promote the Southside of the Knockmealdowns for sustainable tourism and citizen health. Organized by Peter O’Connor | Type: bbq, nature, walks, ‘n’, talks, and, medieval, fancy-dress.

See Heritage Week for more details.

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Glenribbeen (S)chic

t’Ante Beth settles with newborn. Renamed Kippie.

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I got into a ‘discussion’ with someone who insists that the Irish are a Celtic nation – which flies in the face of language and DNA tests. In fact I seem to be arguing a lot about it recently even with my fellow Irish who have swallowed the British spin without question. In fairness so did Pearce, Yeats and many more. However modern science has now proved the Celtic-family crowd to be a rabble – literally.

There’s a great radio-interview with Bob Quinn the first person to direct a feature-length Irish language film on the subject. Very interesting and very clear – without hyperbole and with very few figures to worry about.

Celts never settled in Ireland in any numbers. There is simply NO evidence of Celtic art or workmanship on the Island of Ireland except what was brought in by way of trade. Recent DNA finding’s of Trinity College’s microbiology dept. and a book by Oxford scholarship (Celtic from the West. edited by Barry Cunliffe and John T. Koch)  have proven beyond any doubt that our common Y chromosome comes from Spain & Portugal and before that North Africa. Celts were mid-European peoples and not as dark as the Irish. We would have traded just as much with Spain/Portugal as with France or Britain. Most of our dance may come from flamenco and our early art has far more in common with Arabic than anywhere else. Our music particularly Sean Nós is readily acknowledged as ‘theirs’ by people in W Turkey and countries such as Iran and Iraq.
The whole interview and some great examples of Sean Nós. He brings in art, music, dance, sailing boats (pucáns) and more
http://mpegmedia.abc.net.au/rn/podcast/2012/03/bay_20120316_1021.mp3

Shows how the Irish language is closer to Berber, Arabic and Hebrew as evidenced by the fact that in Irish (and English as we use it) the verb comes first. e.g. I’m after being to the doctor ! When I sailed on the Nile in a traditional boat I did so as if it were a hooker (using my back and leg muscles to steer) and was rewarded with a knowing grin from the captain. It’s another link. According to Bob Quinn “When North African universities develop their genetic analysis I think we’ll find a lot of distant cousins down there”.

We Irish were ‘brought into the Celtic family’ by a Welsh spin-doctor Edward Ward Lhuyd (lloyd) 1660 – 1709  that ‘invented’ the term.  (Wikipedia;  In 1707, having been assisted in his research by fellow Welsh scholar Moses Williams, he published the first volume of Archaeologia Britannica: an Account of the Languages, Histories and Customs of Great Britain, from Travels through Wales, Cornwall, Bas-Bretagne, Ireland and Scotland. Lhuyd noted the similarity between the two Celtic language families: Brythonic or P–Celtic (Breton, Cornish and Welsh); and Goidelic or Q–Celtic (Irish, Manx and Scottish Gaelic). He argued that the Brythonic languages originated in Gaul (France), and that the Goidelic languages originated in the Iberian Peninsula. Lhuyd concluded that as the languages had been of Celtic origin, the people who spoke those languages were Celts. From the 18th century, the peoples of Brittany, Cornwall, Ireland, Isle of Man, Scotland and Wales were known increasingly as Celts, and are regarded as the modern Celtic nations today).

“Celtic Nations” arose again in a Queen Victoria government attempt in late 1870’s to try fuse Britain and Ireland as a whole. The term Gael/Gaelic was frowned upon as it resembled Gaul (French) too much. It was at a time when the English were really trying to show a more cohesive face to the world – as they by then straddled it. Ironically it argues diametrically against the writings of Edmund Spenser who wrote (when not penning The Faery Queen) that all (clan) heads of Irish families should be killed and the O and Mc/Mac be denied to any Irish name. Spencer lived in Lismore Castle at the time . He married Lady Cork and became the ancestor of Dianne Spenser mother of the two current English princes .

Lhuyd. Edward; http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Edward_Lhuyd

WHO ARE THE IRISH? :   “The Atlantean Irish”
(NOW REVISED AND REPRINTED)

THE Atlantean Irish book and films show that the island of Ireland was never a remote outpost on the fringes of Europe. From the hunters and fishermen of the megalithic age to the crooked investors, carpetbaggers and drug smugglers of the modern age, from Eastern monks fleeing persecution to 19th century prosletysers, from the Mediterranean to the Baltic, the island has always been regarded as a lucrative trading post and a desirable residence.

(Supported by the Irish Heritage Council – NEWLY REVISED AND REPRINTED 2011)

Available from Lilliput Press, Brandon Books and bookshops.

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Available from Lilliput Press, Brandon Books and bookshops.