Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Flowery Language...the secret code of flowers

"Tanacetum vulgare - harilik soolikarohi Keilas2" by Ivar Leidus
 Own work. Licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 
President Theodore Roosevelt once famously proclaimed, “Speak softly and carry a big stick.” But if Teddy knew the language of flowers he might have said, “Speak softly and carry a big Tansy!” Tansy flowers may look fairly delicate and innocuous but for those in the know, they mean, “I declare war against you!” It seems there’s a whole vocabulary of all things floral that reached its height in Queen Victoria’s reign (1837-1901.) There is even a name for the study of flower-speak: Florography.

In my research I found many lists with contradictory meanings for the same flowers so if you decide to send a message with your bouquet, you might consider including a translation. Wouldn’t want to give the wrong impression! For example, some lists claim a Peony means “Happy Marriage” while others say it’s crying “Anger!” I must say, I found an inordinate amount of hostility associated with yellow flowers. Occasionally yellow-colored flowers are said to represent joy or chivalry but more often they’ve been associated with less pleasant qualities such as jealousy or falseness. Being a fan of that sunny hue I think it’s gotten a bum rap! The list I compiled, below, is taken mostly from meanings during the Victorian era. Have fun (and think twice before you send those flowers!)

 (c)2007 Derek Ramsey (Ram-Man). Co-attribution
 must be given to the Chanticleer Garden.  via Wikimedia Commons
Amaryllis: Pride
Azalea: First love 
Begonia: Caution (Red: Dark thoughts)
Bluebell: Constancy
Camellia: My destiny is in your hands 
Carnation (Pink): I’ll never forget you
Carnation (Yellow): Disdain
Dahlia (Red): Dignity and elegance
Daisy: Innocence
Edelweiss: Noble courage
Evening Primrose: Inconstancy
Forget-me-not: Forget me not (well, duh)
Freesia: Lasting friendship 
Gardenia: Refinement
Geranium (Scarlet): Comforting
Honeysuckle: Sweetness of disposition
Hyacinth (Purple): Please forgive me
Iris: Message
Ivy: Fidelity
Jasmine (Madagascar): Happiness in marriage
Jonquil: Desire
"Pansy Viola tricolor Flower 2448px"
 (c)2007 Derek Ramsey (Ram-Man)  Licensed under Creative Commons 
Lilac: First emotions of love
Lily-of-the-valley: Return of happiness
Magnolia: Magnificence 
Myrtle: Home and Love
Narcissus: Self-love
Nasturtium: Patriotic
Orange Blossom: Your purity equals your loveliness
Orchid: Refined beauty
Pansy: Think of me
Petunia: Do not despair
Queen Anne’s Lace: Safe Haven
Quince: Temptation
Rose (Red): Love
Roses (Red and White Together): Unity
Stephanotis: Happiness in marriage
Sweet William: Gallantry
Tansy: I declare war against you
Tulip: Declaration of love
Verbena (White): Sensitivity
"Tulip - floriade canberra" by John O'Neill -
Licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike
3.0 via Wikimedia Commons - 
Violet: Modesty
Water Lily: Purity of heart
Wisteria: Welcome
Yarrow: Cure for a broken heart
Zinnia: I mourn your absence

Have a good week, dear Reader. Thanks for stopping by...Y'all come back now! (and send flowers!)


Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Moonstruck...Native American names for each full moon

"Bluemoon (1)" by Craig Deakin from Newcastle Upon Tyne, United Kingdom
 - Licensed under Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons - 
I’m back! Completed my first draft of Through the Hourglass and on to the editing phase. (Because of my intense writing schedule, I will be posting new blog posts every two weeks for the foreseeable future.)

We’ve just experienced our third and final Super Moon of 2014 this past Monday, September 8th. Granted, in my part of the world, rainy skies precluded viewing the Super Harvest Moon, however, there is some argument in the astronomical community over whether or not the full moon on October 8th could also be considered a Super Moon. If it were, it would be a Super Hunter’s Moon. (Also known as a Super Blood Moon and, this year, coincides with a full lunar eclipse as seen in North America!) Whew! A whole lot of lunar action going on. It’s a wonder we’re not all moonstruck lunatics! To learn more about the eclipse, see this website: 
"Supermoon" by Peter2006son - File:Supermoon - Howrah 2011-03-19 1881.JPG.
 Licensed under Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons -
A Super Moon is one in which it comes to its fullest phase on the same night it swings closest to the earth, at its perigee. (As opposed to when it’s at its most distant, apogee.)  All that’s fine scientific information to know but I’m in love with the names Native Americans gave each full moon, names adopted by our Colonial American ancestors. Each full moon was named to represent something important going on in the natural world, a world in which our ancestors (Native American and otherwise) lived in much more direct contact than do most of us today.
 So, here is a list of those full moon names, some of their alternatives, and an explanation of each (Thanks to the National Geographic website for this fascinating information.) 
January: Wolf Moon
Native Americans and medieval Europeans named January's full moon after the howling of hungry wolves lamenting the midwinter paucity of food. Other names for this month's full moon include old moon and ice moon.
"Blue Canyon Moon (5020077179)" by John Fowler from Placitas, NM, USA -
Licensed under Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons - 
February: Snow Moon
The typically cold, snowy weather of February in North America earned its full moon the name snow moon. Other common names include storm moon and hunger moon.
March: Worm Moon
Native Americans called this last full moon of winter the worm moon after the worm trails that would appear in the newly thawed ground. Other names include chaste moon, death moon, crust moon (a reference to snow that would become crusty as it thawed during the day and froze at night), and sap moon, after the tapping of the maple trees.
By Hahn Family Wines (Flickr: Harvest Moon8.JPG)
 (], via Wikimedia Commons
April: Pink Moon
Northern Native Americans call April's full moon the pink moon after a species of early blooming wildflower. In other cultures, this moon is called the sprouting grass moon, the egg moon, and the fish moon.
May: Flower Moon
May's abundant blooms give its full moon the name flower moon in many cultures. Other names include the hare moon, the corn planting moon, and the milk moon.
June: Strawberry Moon
In North America, the harvesting of strawberries in June gives that month's full moon its name. Europeans have dubbed it the rose moon, while other cultures named it the hot moon for the beginning of the summer heat.
July: Buck Moon
Male deer, which shed their antlers every year, begin to regrow them in July, hence the Native American name for July's full moon. Other names include thunder moon, for the month's many summer storms, and hay moon, after the July hay harvest.
"Harvest Moon" by Original uploader, Roadcrusher at en.wikipedia - 
August: Sturgeon Moon
North American fishing tribes called August's full moon the sturgeon moon since the species was abundant during this month. It's also been called the green corn moon, the grain moon, and the red moon for the reddish hue it often takes on in the summer haze.
September: Harvest Moon
The most familiar named moon, September's harvest moon refers to the time of year after the autumn equinox when crops are gathered. It also refers to the moon's particularly bright appearance and early rise, which lets farmers continue harvesting into the night. Other names include the corn moon and the barley moon.
October: Hunter's Moon
The first moon after the harvest moon is the hunter's moon, so named as the preferred month to hunt summer-fattened deer and fox unable to hide in now bare fields. Like the harvest moon, the hunter's moon is also particularly bright and long in the sky, giving hunters the opportunity to stalk prey at night. Other names include the travel moon and the dying grass moon.
"Hard to focus on! (4317424759)" by Bernal Saborio from Costa Rica
- licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike
November: Beaver Moon
There is disagreement over the origin of November's beaver moon name. Some say it comes from Native Americans setting beaver traps during this month, while others say the name comes from the heavy activity of beavers building their winter dams. Another name is the frost moon.
December: Cold Moon
The coming of winter earned December's full moon the name cold moon. Other names include the long night moon and the oak moon.
The Blue Moon
Each year, the moon completes its final cycle about 11 days before the Earth finishes its orbit around the sun. These days add up, and every two and a half years or so, there is an extra full moon, called a blue moon. The origin of the term is uncertain, and its precise definition has changed over the years. The term is commonly used today to describe the second full moon of a calendar month, but it was originally the name given to the third full moon of a season containing four full moons.
*And on a less scientific but very romantic note dear Reader, in the 1920’s while on a trip from New York City to Miami, lyricist Benny Davis, pining for his sweetheart and seeing a beautiful moon reflected in the Perquimans River as he crossed the bridge in Hertford, North Carolina (just up the road from my Edenton,) penned the words to the famous song “Carolina Moon”. …Carolina Moon, keep shining, Shining on the one who waits for me…*
Have a good couple weeks dear Reader. Thanks for stopping by...Y'all come back now!


Wednesday, August 27, 2014

A Word Nerd's Delight...everyday phrases and their surprising nautical origins

Captain Lord George Graham in his Cabin, 1745, by William Hogarth
Working Cover of my novel-in-progress, Through the Hourglass
I guess I’m just a word-nerd (which, I suppose, most writers are) but I love to learn the origins of some of our commonly used terms and phrases, especially the more colorful ones. In researching for my current novel-in-progress, I ran across several glossaries of nautical terminology and was tickled to see how many we’ve transposed into our everyday land-lubbery speech. Below is a sampling for you to enjoy and to hold you over for a couple weeks or so as I near the finish line of the first draft of my Young Adult  novel, Through the Hour Glass (the first installment in my series, Time Shadow.)

So, not to cut and run but since the completion of the all-important first draft is in the offing and I must ensure its ending is first rate I shall bid you adieu for just a little while as I focus my attention on it. Thanks for your kind understanding and your interest in this, my fifty-second blog post, marking my first year anniversary as a blogger! Woo Hoo!
The West Indiaman Britania 1838, by Joseph Walter

Between the Devil and the deep blue sea -  The Devil Seam is the curved seam in the deck planking closest to the side of the ship, next to the scuppers. A sailor slipping on the deck would be "between the Devil and the deep blue sea". This also relates to the phrase, Devil to pay since  ‘Paying' the Devil is sealing the devil seam. It is a difficult and unpleasant job (with no resources) because of the shape of the seam (closest to the hull).
Bitter end - The anchor cable is tied to the bitts, when the cable is fully paid out, the bitter end has been reached. The last part of a rope or cable.
Booby - A type of bird that has little fear and therefore is particularly easy to catch, hence Booby prize.
By and large - "By" means into the wind, while "large" means with the wind. By and large is used to indicate all possible situations "the ship handles well both by and large".
Chock-a-block- Rigging blocks that are so tight against one another  they cannot be further tightened.
Clean bill of health- A certificate issued by a port indicating that the ship carries no infectious diseases.
Clean slate - At the helm, the watch keeper would record details of speed, distances, headings, etc. on a slate. At the beginning of a new watch the slate would be wiped clean.
As the crow flies - A direct line between two points (which might cross land) which is the way crows travel rather than ships which must go around land.
Cut and run- When wanting to make a quick escape, a ship might cut lashings to sails or cables for anchors, causing damage to the rigging, or losing an anchor, but shortening the time needed to make ready by bypassing the proper procedures.
First rate- The classification for the largest sailing warships of the 17th through 19th centuries. They had 3 masts, 850+ crew and 100+ guns.
Fly-by-night- A large sail used only for sailing downwind, requiring little attention.
Footloose - If the foot of a sail is not secured properly, it is footloose, blowing around in the wind.
Groggy - Drunk from having consumed a lot of grog.
Hand over fist - To climb steadily upwards, from the motion of a sailor climbing shrouds on a sailing ship (originally "hand over hand.")
In the offing - In the water visible from on board a ship, now used to mean something imminent.
Know the ropes - A sailor who 'knows the ropes' is familiar with the miles of cordage and ropes involved in running a ship.
Leeway - The amount that a ship is blown leeward (away from) the wind.
A British Man of War before the Rock of Gibraltar, late 18th cent, by Thomas Whitcombe
Let the cat out of the bag - To break bad news (the "cat o' nine tails" being taken out of the bag by the bosun was bad news, announcing a flogging).
No room to swing a cat - The entire ship's company was expected to witness floggings, assembled on deck. If it was very crowded, the bosun might not have room to swing the 'cat o' nine tails' (the whip).
Over the barrel - Adult sailors were flogged on the back or shoulders while tied to a grating, but boys were beaten instead on the posterior (often bared), with a cane or cat, while bending, often tied down, over the barrel of a gun, known as (kissing) the gunner's daughter.
Overwhelmed - Capsized or foundered.
Pipe down - A signal on the bosun's pipe to signal the end of the day, requiring lights (and smoking pipes) to be extinguished and silence from the crew
Pooped - 1. Swamped by a high, following sea. 2. Exhausted. (Poop deck - A high deck on the aft superstructure of a ship from French for stern: la poupe.)
Rummage sale - A sale of damaged cargo (from French for stowage: arrimage).
Shakes - Pieces of barrels or casks broken down to save space. They are worth very little, leading to the phrase No great shakes.
Skyscraper - A small, triangular sail, above the skysail. Used in light winds on a few ships.
Slush fund - The money obtained by the cook selling slush ashore. Used for the benefit of the crew (or the cook). Slush - Greasy substance obtained by boiling or scraping the fat from empty salted meat storage barrels, or the floating fat residue after boiling the crew's meal. In the Royal Navy the perquisite of the cook who could sell it or exchange it (usually for alcohol) with other members of the crew. Used for greasing parts of the running rigging of the ship and therefore valuable to the master and bosun.
Son of a gun - The space between the guns was used as a semi-private place for trysts with prostitutes and wives, which sometimes led to pregnancies. Other thoughts on this are that the gun deck afforded the necessary amount of space for a woman to give birth aboard ship and that sometimes shooting off a canon would give a woman’s labor a kick start.
Taken aback - An inattentive helmsmen might allow the dangerous situation to arise where the wind is blowing into the sails 'backwards', causing a sudden (and possibly dangerous) shift in the position of the sails.
Taking the wind out of his sails - To sail in a way that steals the wind from another ship. To overbear.
A Seaman of The Pallas Leaning on a Bowchaser ,
 1776 by Gabriel Bray
Three sheets to the wind - On a three-masted ship, having the sheets of the three lower courses loose will result in the ship meandering aimlessly downwind. Also, a sailor who has drunk strong spirits beyond his capacity.
Touch and go - The bottom of the ship touching the bottom, but not grounding.
Under the weather - Serving a watch on the weather side of the ship, exposed to wind and spray.
Wide berth - To leave room between two ships moored (berthed) to allow space for maneuver (To give a wide berth.)

Have a good (couple) weeks (or so,) dear Reader. (There's lots to read or re-read over the last 52 posts. Probably enough to keep you busy till I return!) Thanks for stopping by...Y'all come back now!

(Although my research sent me far and wide, the bulk of the information for today’s post is thanks to

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Time is Priceless...unless you wish to buy an 18th century pocket watch

Maker: Joseph Green, London, 1725
£1950 ($3255.23)
In perusing the Internet for images of 18th century timepieces, I ran across a few sites which had the genuine articles for sale. Many of the clocks and watches are truly incredible in their beauty and ingeniousness of design and these sites prove that, contrary to popular belief, you really can buy time...if you have enough money that is. Check these out for yourself and see how some of our ancestors kept time. You will see from the photographs that often the interior workings of the pocket watches are even more elaborate and decorative than the more utilitarian faces. These appear to me as little secret gardens for the private pleasure of their owners. Perhaps you will see one you can't resist and will buy a little time of your own! You may find the following pocket watches for sale at:   (I've included the current US dollar exchange.) 

Green Interior

Maker:  Dufour, London, 1720
£2250 ($3756.04)

Dufour Interior

Maker: John Welldon, 1728
£3000 ($5008.05)

Welldon Outer Case

Welldon Inner Case

Welldon Interior

Maker: Spencer & Perkins, London, 1773
£3250 ($5425.39)

Spencer & Perkins Outer Case

Spencer & Perkins Interior

Maker: Wakelin & Taylor, London, 1790
£2950 ($4924.58)

Wakelin & Taylor Outer Case

Wakelin & Taylor Interior
(and, yes, that is a diamond!)

Well, time to go!
Have a good week, dear Reader. Thanks for stopping by...Y'all come back now!


Wednesday, August 13, 2014

That's a Good One!...18th century humor

While perusing a book of 18th and early 19th century jokes, Joe Miller’s Complete Jest Book, I ran across an alarming number of Irish jokes in the same vein as our more recent Polish jokes. Not  being Irish, myself, I am hesitant to repeat them here. I have no compunction, however, in reproducing several of the many Lawyer jokes! Yeah, I know, so sue me. Apparently this occupation, although graced with many honest and hard-working attorneys, has been the bane and butt of many a joke over the years. Below, I have “cut” and “pasted”a few jokes directly from Joe Miller’s Complete Jest Book to give you a look at the humor of an earlier age. I've included a couple not directly related to lawyers but I couldn't pass them up: one pokes fun at an alderman (an elected municipal official) and the other regards the will of a man in which he hopes to have the last laugh.

Have a good week, dear Reader. Thanks for stopping by...Y'all come back now!


Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Digging the 18th Century...uncovering Edenton's past

1767 Chowan County Courthouse and the Green on which the
original 1718 Courthouse stood (photo by the author)
It may not be Indiana Jones territory, no Ark of the Covenant, no Holy Grail, no marauding Nazis, no slithering snakes (well maybe the odd snake or two,) but my town of Edenton, North Carolina was the scene last week of an archaeological dig, nonetheless. The quiet streets and pathways, dripping with crape myrtles and history, are inroads into the early years of American life. The casual tourist, reading the many historical markers and admiring the dozens of beautiful homes and buildings in continual use since the 18th and 19th centuries, is unaware of what might be hiding beneath the surface. It could be the surface of a tiny, inconsequential-looking cottage, covered over by asbestos shingles or it could be the surface of the lush, green expanse on which they tread between the majestic brick Courthouse, constructed in 1767, and the water’s edge where two 18th century cannon stand guard over Edenton Bay, a bay that merges into the Albemarle Sound which, itself, leads all the way to the Outer Banks and to the seas of the Atlantic Ocean. Edenton is in an area known as the Inner Banks and was, once, an important port of entry for merchants sailing from the Old World to customers in the New.

Lane House, 1718, (photo by Harvey Harrison -
 Own work. Licensed under Creative Commons Attribution Wikimedia Commons)
The little, old (very old, indeed) cottage of which I refer, resides on the eastside of town, used for years as a rental house. Its tin-roofed, asbestos-shingled exterior belied a historical treasure unknown to all until its owners, Steve and Linda Lane, ordered some renovation work be done to improve it for the next potential renter. My friend and neighbor Wayne Griffin, owner of Old Edenton Co., was the first to discover the modest home’s hidden secret. Pulling away cheap cherry paneling, he found hand-hewn wooden beams pegged together in ways not seen since the early centuries of this country. He knew, immediately, there was more to the house than met the eye. Experts were brought in and the upshot of it was the house was thought to be built around 1718 making it not only the oldest standing structure in the town, but in all of the state of North Carolina. Ironically, it was built in the same timeframe as Edenton’s original courthouse building.

The beautiful, 1767 Chowan County Courthouse, with its commanding view of Edenton Bay, is still in use and open for visitors. What many do not know is, although it is very old, it is not the county’s first courthouse. The first, built in 1718 and in use for fifty years, sat on the green just across the street from its newer version. The original building was in no way similar to the grand structure that replaced it. Covered in clapboards, its windows not glazed with glass for some time, it was rather ignobly described in 1729 by visiting William Byrd II: “Justice herself is but indifferently Lodged, the Court-House having much the Air of a Common Tobacco-House.”
Old Postcard of "New," 1767 Courthouse, bricks painted white

Beginning July 28, 2014, a group of archaeologists from New South Associates armed with a GPR (Ground Penetrating Radar,) surveyed the green and discovered a likely area for the foundation of that original building. For several days, they meticulously dug up the sod and set it aside, retrieving brick fragments as well as 18th century glass and nails that point to the probable site of Edenton’s first house of justice. Their initial work completed, the archaeologists replaced the sod, returning the green to normal, a place on which people walk, every day, unaware of the history beneath their feet.
The author's granddaughters on 18th century cannon, Edenton
(photo by their dad, John Sutton)

Who knows what historical treasures might be sleeping just below the surface of the ground on which we walk or, for that matter, beneath the façade of another little, shingled rental house?

Have a good week, dear Reader. Thanks for stopping by...Y'all come back now!


Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Onion Pie and Sippet like it's the 1700's!

Still Life, 1660, by Christoff Paudiss
Today I thought it might be fun to share a couple delicious eighteenth century recipes (or "receipts" as they were called in the 1700s.) The first, "Onion Pie," (made with onions, of course, but also with potatoes and apples) is from The Art of Cookery Made Plain and Easy by Hannah Glasse (1708-1770) and the second, "Sippet Pudding," (a kind of bread pudding made with raisins or currants with a wine sauce) is from The Virginia House-wife by Mary Randolph (1762-1828.) Beneath each, is a twenty-first century interpretation which keeps the spirit and flavor of the originals but with modern kitchens in mind. Enjoy!

Onion Pie
As written in Hannah Glasse's cookbook:
Wash and pare some potatoes and cut them in slices, peel some onions, cut them in slices, pare some apples and slice them, make a good crust, cover your dish, lay a quarter of a pound of butter all over, take a quarter of an ounce of mace beat fine, a nutmeg grated, a tea-spoonful of beaten pepper, three tea-spoonfuls of salt; mix all together, strew some over the butter, lay a layer of potatoes, a layer of onions, a layer of apples, and a layer of eggs, and so on till you have filled your pie, strewing a little of the seasoning between each layer, and a quarter of a pound of butter in bits, and six spoonfuls of water; close your pie, and bake it an hour and a half. A pound of potatoes, a pound of onions, a pound of apples, and twelve eggs will do.
21st Century version:
The Art of Cookery Made Plain and Easy, by Harriet Glasse
  • 4 small Yukon Gold potatoes
  • 2 large Granny Smith apples
  • 2 medium yellow onions
  • 8 large eggs
  • 3 tsp. Kosher salt
  • 1 tsp. freshly cracked pepper
  • ½ to 1 grated nutmeg
  • ½ to 1 tsp. mace
  • 4 oz. butter
  • frozen puff pastry or homemade pie crust
  1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.
  2. Boil and slice the eggs.
  3. Pare and slice the potatoes, apples and onions. Slice everything ¼ inch thick. Place the apples and potatoes in a bowl of water to prevent oxidation.
  4. Roll out the bottom crust and set it into the pie pan.
  5. Mix the salt, pepper, nutmeg and mace to together in a single bowl.
  6. Drain and dry the apples and potatoes with a towel.
  7. Begin the layers from the bottom up with potatoes, then eggs, then apples and then onions. Sprinkle each layer with a little of the seasoning and little bits of butter. Continue filling and seasoning the pie until you are out of ingredients.
  8. Put a top crust on the pie and crimp the edges. Cut 4 or 5 slashes on top crust to allow steam to vent out.
  9. Bake for 45-50 minutes or until the crust is a nice golden brown.
Sippet Pudding
A Still Life of Cherries and Currants and a Parrot, ca. 1700,
by Jan Frans von Son 

As written in Mary Randolph's cookbook: 
Cut a loaf of bread as thin as possible, put a layer of it on the bottom of a deep dish, strew on some slices of marrow or butter, with a handful of currant or stoned raisins; do this until the dish is full; let the currants or raisins be on top; beat four eggs, mix them with a quart of milk that has been boiled a little and become cold, a quarter of a pound of sugar, and a grated nutmeg – pour it in, and bake in a moderate oven – eat it with wine sauce.
21st Century version: 

  • A large round loaf of French or Italian bread
  • ¼ pound of butter
  • ½ cup of dried currants or raisins (currants are sweeter)
  • 3 eggs
  • 2 cups of milk
  • ½ cup sugar
  • 1 tsp grated nutmeg
  • For Sauce: ½ stick butter, ¼ cup white wine, ¼ cup sugar
    Mary Randolph, artist unknown
  1. This can best be described as a layered bread pudding with a hard sauce.
  2. Grease a 9” pie plate or layer cake pan.
  3. Slice the bread rather thin with a serrated edge knife. ¼ inch thick is nice.
  4. In the bottom of the plate/pan make one layer of bread slices, then put some butter pats on top, then strew some currants or raisins over that. Repeat that process until your plate/pan is full.
  5. In a bowl whip the eggs and blend in the warm milk, sugar and nutmeg until sugar is dissolved.
  6. Carefully pour this over the bread mixture in the plate/pan until it soaks into the bread without overflowing.
  7. Bake in a 375°F oven for 25 to 35 minutes or until the bread is browned and you can touch the top and it springs back.
  8. For the sauce combine the sugar, wine and butter in a saucepan and stir it over medium/high heat until thick and drizzle over the finished pudding.     

Have a good week, dear Reader. Thanks for stopping by...Y'all come back now! 

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Ducking the Witch...Grace Sherwood's trial by water

Statue of Grace Sherwood by Robert Cunningham
(photo courtesy of Wikipedia)
Having spent my formative years in the City of Virginia Beach, Virginia, the words “witch duck” were ubiquitous and, pretty much, taken for granted: Witchduck Road, Witchduck Point, Witchduck Post Office, etc. You might wonder if Virginia Beach is the home of some kind of spell-casting duck or if it is a city where witches frequently duck in or are in danger of bumping their hats against low hanging branches. In fact, Virginia Beach was the scene of the eighteenth century witch trial of one Grace White Sherwood and a ducking into the river was part of the proceedings .

Grace White Sherwood was born in 1660, in what was then called Princess Anne County and is now called the Pungo area of Virginia Beach, to John and Susan White. When Grace married respectable, small-time farmer James Sherwood in 1680, Grace’s father gave them fifty acres of land and when he died a year later, the remainder of his one hundred forty-five acres. Grace became a widow in 1701 and never remarried. Contemporary accounts described Grace as tall, attractive, and with a good sense of humor. It was also noted she often wore men’s trousers when working on her farm. She was a mid-wife and a grower of medicinal herbs that she used in the healing of both people and animals.

Such a combination of qualities, which sound quite benign and positive to our twenty-first
Magic Scene, 1741, by Andrea Locatelli
century eyes, may have been the core of jealousy and ill-will which assailed Mrs. Sherwood and sent her to court a dozen times between 1697 and 1706. Some of these court cases were for accusations of Grace’s witchcraft and others were her own suits for slander against her accusers. The cries of witchcraft blamed her for actions such as bewitching farm animals and crops to die and for bewitching a woman to miscarry her baby. One woman, Elizabeth Barnes, accused Grace of entering her bedroom one night in the form of a black cat, scratching and attacking her then departing through a keyhole. 

Although these varied accusations were dismissed or declared inconclusive, the courts of Virginia apparently grew tired of it all and considered Grace Sherwood a nuisance. In 1706 they allowed her to be tried for witchcraft by means of being examined by a jury of “ancient and wise women” to determine if she had marks on her body indicative of the Devil’s brand. These women, led by Elizabeth Barnes herself, did indeed decide Grace had two markings unlike any found on themselves or any other woman they knew. This opened the door for the final trial by water.

The Three Witches from Shakespeare's Macbeth, 1775, by Daniel Gardner
Illustration from A Popular History of the United States by William Cullen Bryant
On July 10, 1706, Grace Sherwood was taken to 
Lynnhaven Parish Church, set upon a stool, and ordered to ask forgiveness for her witchcraft. Her reply was, “I be not a witch, I be a healer.” The unrepentant “witch” was taken down a road (now called Witchduck Road) to the shores of the Lynnhaven River where five women searched her naked body for any devices she may have had to free herself, then covered her with a sack. Her right thumb was bound to her left big toe and her left thumb was bound to her right big toe. Thus bound, six justices rowed the bound woman out two-hundred yards into the river and threw her overboard. The idea was not to drown her but just to test her. The thought was, if she floated she was considered a witch and if she sank, she was innocent. Grace was apparently quite buoyant and floated on the surface. Then to give her the benefit of the doubt, the Sheriff of Princess Anne County tested her a second time by tying a thirteen-pound Bible around her neck and casting her overboard once more. This time she did sink but was able to free herself and swim to the surface. Aha! Proof-positive: Guilty!

Intersection of Witchduck RD and Sherwood LA
(Photo courtesy of WikiMedia Commons)
Grace was sentenced to about seven years in prison and served out her time in a jail adjacent to Lynnhaven Parish Church. In 1714, she paid back-taxes on her land which Lieutenant Governor Alexander Spotswood then helped her secure back from the County of Princess Anne. Grace Sherwood lived out the rest of her days in relative peace and quiet before dying at the age of eighty. 

Tales cropped up after her death including a story that the Devil came down the chimney and claimed Grace’s body before her sons could bury her. There were also claims of unnatural storms and lingering black cats. Soon, men were killing any cat they ran across in the county. This may have led to the
"Black cat (2901924188)" by mwanasimba from La Réunion (WikiMedia commons) 
infestation of rats and mice recorded in Princess Anne County in 1743. Grace’s body (assuming the Devil didn’t actually carry it away) is buried in an unmarked grave beneath a group of trees in a field near the intersection of present-day Pungo Ferry Road and Princess Anne Road. Local residents of present-day Virginia Beach say a strange moving light can be seen each July over the water where Grace was tried.

July 10, 2006, on the three-hundredth anniversary of Grace’s infamous trial by ducking,
Official Congressional Portrait of Tim Kaine
 (Governor, Senator, and Witch Pardoner)
Virginia Governor Tim Kaine granted her an official pardon. A statue of her holding a basket of rosemary and a raccoon by her side is visible from Independence Boulevard near the current Sentara Bayside Hospital and not too distant from her place of trial. This commemorative statue by sculptor Robert Cunningham was unveiled on April 21, 2007.

So…next time you happen to be in Virginia Beach, riding down Witchduck Road or visiting a friend living on Witchduck Point, give a nod to the lady who endured so much during one of Virginia’s less gracious moments.

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