Elder is sometimes called THE herbal remedy… all of its parts can be used for a huge variety of ailments, from cold and flu to provoking the flow of urine (and lady fluids), good with inflamed skin, soothes eyes, purgeth the tunicles of the brain, and even cures mad dog bites.

Elder flowers from my garden

Elder flowers from my garden

Culpeper had the following to say about Elder…


The elder-tree groweth in hedges, being planted there to strengthen the fences and partitions of ground, and to hold the banks by ditches and water-courses.

Government and virtues.

Both the elder and dwarf tree are under the dominion of Venus. The first shoots of the common elder boiled like asparagus, and the young leaves and stalks boiled in fat broth, doth mightily carry forth phlegm and choler.

The middle or inward bark boiled in water, and given in drink, worketh much more violently; and the berries, either green or dry expel the same humour, and are often given with good success to help the dropsy; the bark of the root boiled in wine, or the juice thereof drank, worketh the same effects, but more powerfully than either the leaves or fruit.

The juice of the root taken, doth mightily procure vomitings, and purgeth the watery humours of the dropsy. The decoction of the root taken, cureth the biting of an adder, and biting of mad dogs.

It mollifieth the hardness of the mother, if women sit thereon, and openeth their veins, and bringeth down their courses: The berries boiled in wine performeth the same effect; and the hair of the head washed therewith is made black.

The juice of the green leaves applied to the hot inflammations of the eyes assuageth them; the juice of the leaves snuffed up into the nostrils, purgeth the tunicles of the brain; the juice of the berries boiled with honey, and dropped into the ears, helpeth the pains of them; the decoction of the berries in wine being drank provoketh urine: the distilled water, of the flowers is of much use to clean the skin from sun-burning, freckles, morphew, or the like; and taketh away the head-ach, coming of a cold cause, the head being bathed therewith.

The leaves or flowers distilled in the month of May, and the legs often washed with the said distilled water, it taketh away the ulcers and sores of them. The eyes washed therewith, it taketh away the redness and bloodshot; and the hands washed morning and evening therewith, helpeth the palsy, and shaking of them.

A good list of Elder references from other herbals here : https://www.rjwhelan.co.nz/herbs%20A-Z/elder.html

Did being a nun suck in the Early Modern Period?

Basically yes.

In France a convent was considered a viable alternative to prison.

St Catherine with the Lily by Sister Plautilla Nelli (1524–1588)

St Catherine with the Lily by Sister Plautilla Nelli (1524–1588)

While its safe to assume that Jesus and God featured in the lives of the hundreds of thousands of women incarcerated in nunneries, it is highly unlikely that all of them (most aged 13 or 14) were panting to spend their entire lives devoted to religious introspection.

Their plight becomes all the more poignant when you consider

  • If the child was illegitimate - ie the father was not married to the mother, then she was deemed unmarriagable and the convent was her only option

  • A daughter’s dowry was so expensive that most families could only afford one. The other girls in the family (usually the less beautiful, more troublesome ones) were sent to convents.

  • A single woman would tarnish a family's reputation

  • Convents were a dumping ground for women who were disfigured in some way (birth defect, accident in later life and whatnot).

  • Those with mental illnesses or behavioural issues ended up there

  • Unwanted children

Naturally a lot of women wanted out, so most convents were almost impossible to escape from.

However, there were those who took the imprisonment, isolation and indoctrination in their stride and did carve out a life. A convent would often have a dispensary, and the nuns would make & sell medicine. There were opportunities to study and write treatises, illustrate manuscripts, paint, sing and make music.

But overall, it sucked.

Plague Water

The bubonic plague is still a thing.

It occurs naturally on all continents except Australia, and there have been 50,000 human cases during the last 20 years, causing the World Health Organization to classify it as a re-emerging disease. Lucky for those cases, antibiotics are now also a thing. This means the fatality rate is between 1 - 15% (depending on the quality of care you get, and how quickly you get it), which is down from an alarming 50 - 100% in the pre-antibiotic era.


Dr. Burges’s recipe for plague water, found in Mary Granville’s book of recipes (1641)   From Folger V.a. 430, Granville Family Receipt book

Dr. Burges’s recipe for plague water, found in Mary Granville’s book of recipes (1641)

From Folger V.a. 430, Granville Family Receipt book

Not that our ancestor’s didn’t do their damndest to avoid catching it and/or dying from it. And, given that I’m here and you’re reading this, hurrah for our ancestors… they survived it.

Plague water was a concoction which people drank to ward off the plague. There were quite a few recipes floating around during the Baroque period. The most popular and enduring of which was that by a Dr John Burgess (the 1641 recipe below).

Generally it was an alcoholic concoction of various herbs and roots that people thought might help. Angelica root, gentian, rue and sage were used. Apothecaries would steeped them in white wine and brandy and then distill a tonic.

Some Recipes contained up to 22 herbal products, including the leaves and roots of plants.

Popular Plague Water Recipes Over Time

Poisonous Ingredients

Somewhat unfortunately, many of the herbs used in plague water turned out to be toxic. In this 1677 recipe, Rue, Agrimony and Wormwood (the basis for Absinthe) can all be poisonous (depending on how you prepare them and how much you consume).

Modern Plague Water


As the plague is still around, it makes sense that plague water would be readily available on supermarket shelves… No?

Well no.

However, some plucky mixologists have had a red-hot-go at recreating it (sans the toxic bits).

Tattersall Distilling in Minneapolis, in collaboration with the University of Minnesota and the Minneapolis Institute of Art have recreated plague water. They describe it as having “a pleasantly earthy, herbal flavor.“

How To Bow

Back in Baroque days there was a lot of bowing, and it wasn’t even called bowing, it was called ‘a reverence.’

How to Reverence

In “Rules for Dancing” (or Nobilta di Dame) written by Fabritio Caroso in 1600, we are rather charmingly instructed on how to Reverence…

D: Wence comes this term “Reverence”?

M: This term derives from ‘to revere,’ since by humbling your body a bit, drawing back your left foot [and] bending your knees a little, you revere that person towards whom you make a Reverence...

D: In doffing your bonnet, you must use your right hand since it is nobler than your left… [therefore] Which foot should it be done - with your right foot, or with your left?

M: You should make a reverence with your left foot for the following reasons. First your right foot provides strength and stability for your body… The second is that you honor that individual who is close to your heart and toward whom you wish to make a Reverence, and since your left foot is the limb corresponding to the side wherein your heart lies, you should always make it with your left foot.

How to Bow

Workshop of Peter Paul Rubens (Flemish, 1577 - 1640)  David Meeting Abigail , about 1620s, Oil on canvas 123.2 × 228 cm (48 1/2 × 89 3/4 in.), 73.PA.68 The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles

Workshop of Peter Paul Rubens (Flemish, 1577 - 1640)
David Meeting Abigail, about 1620s, Oil on canvas
123.2 × 228 cm (48 1/2 × 89 3/4 in.), 73.PA.68
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles

These days there’s not so much call for a good bow (or a curtsey) in Western culture (although in Japanese culture there’s loads of it). However, should you find yourself in the recent shoes of our Prime Minister (ScoMo in case he’s gone by next week) and be meeting a royal, Debrett’s have been advising humankind on etiquette since 1796. Their sage advice for the modern curtsy and bow is as follows…


To curtsey, a woman should briefly bend the knees with one foot forward. The move should create a distinct bobbing movement, with the upper body kept straight and should be repeated when the member of the Royal family leaves.


For men, greeting a Royal requires the same deference, but less movement. A bow should be made by bending from the neck or shoulders but not the waist. Men should also briefly lower their eyes during their greeting, and bow again when the Royal family member leaves.


Fumaria officinalis

Illustration Fumaria officinalis0.jpg
Public Domain, Link

I’ve got fumitory growing in the disgraceful thicket which is my lawn… apparently it’s great for leprosy, scabs, and the juice dropped into the eyes clears the sight and takes away redness and other defects, although, not surprisingly, it hurts a lot and makes you cry.

According to Nicholas Culpeper (born in 1616 , he was an English pharmacist, physician and astrologer and wrote The Complete Herbal and English Physician in 1653), Fumitory can be used for the following…

“…it opens and cleanses by urine, helps such as are itchy, and scabbed, clears the skin, opens stoppings of the liver and spleen, helps rickets, hypochondriac melancholy, madness, frenzies, quartan agues, loosens the belly, gently purgeth melancholy, and addust choler: boil it in white wine, and take this one general rule. All things of a cleansing or opening nature may be most commodiously boiled in white wine. Remember but this, and then I need not repeat it.”


Also according to Culpeper…



Our common Fumitory is a tender sappy herb, sends forth from one square, a slender weak stalk, and leaning downwards on all sides, many branches[81] two or three feet long, with finely cut and jagged leaves of a whitish or rather blueish sea green colour; At the tops of the branches stand many small flowers, as it were in a long spike one above another, made like little birds, of a reddish purple colour, whith whitish bellies, after which come small round husks, containing small black seeds. The root is yellow, small, and not very long, full of juice while it is green, but quickly perishes with the ripe seed. In the corn fields in Cornwall, it bears white flowers.


It grows in corn fields almost every where, as well as in gardens.


It flowers in May, for the most part, and the seed ripens shortly after.

Government and virtues.

Saturn owns the herb, and presents it to the world as a cure for his own disease, and a strengthener of the parts of the body he rules. If by my astrological judgment of diseases, from the decumbiture, you find Saturn author of the disease, or if by direction from a nativity you fear a saturnine disease approaching, you may by this herb prevent it in the one, and cure it in the other, and therefore it is fit you keep a syrup of it always by you. The juice or syrup made thereof, or the decoction made in whey by itself, with some other purging or opening herbs and roots to cause it to work the better (itself being but weak) is very effectual for the liver and spleen, opening the obstructions thereof, and clarifying the blood from saltish, choleric, and adust humours, which cause leprosy, scabs, tetters, and itches, and such like breakings-out of the skin, and after the purgings doth strengthen all the inwards parts. It is also good against the yellow-jaundice, and spends it by urine, which it procures in abundance. The powder of the dried herb given for some time together, cures melancholy, but the seed is strongest in operation for all the former diseases. The distilled water of the herb is also of good effect in the former diseases, and conduces much against the plague and pestilence, being taken with good treacle. The distilled water also, with a little water and honey of roses, helps all sores of the mouth or throat, being gargled often therewith. The juice dropped into the eyes, clears the sight and takes away redness and other defects in them, although it procure some pain for the present, and cause tears. Dioscorides saith it hinders any fresh springing of hairs on the eye-lids (after they are pulled away) if the eye-lids be anointed with the juice hereof, with Gum Arabic dissolved therein. The juice of the Fumitory and Docks mingled with vinegar, and the places gently washed therewith, cures all sorts of scabs, pimples, blotches, wheals, and pushes which arise on the face or hands or any other parts of the body.

Happy Birthday Archduchess Eleanor of Austria (1582-1620)

ARCHDUCHESS ELEONORE (1582-1620) AT THE AGE OF 5, HALF FIGURE  Dated 1587, attributed to: Ottavio Zanuoli (?)   https://www.khm.at/objektdb/detail/2370/?offset=0&lv=list


Dated 1587, attributed to: Ottavio Zanuoli (?)


Eleanor of Austria was born today in 1582… she had FOURTEEN brothers and sisters, and her parents were uncle and niece.

There are quite a few famous Eleanors of Austria. This one was Granddaughter of Emperor Ferdinand I. During her lifetime her brother became Holy Roman Emperor (ruler of huge territories in western and central Europe), King of Hungary AND King of Bohemia.

Being connected af did not help Eleanor overcome her Habsburg jaw (a heavy undershot jaw which arose from all her ancestors marrying each other), her ill-health or moody temper to procure a husband. She gave up on marriage in 1607 (after being rejected by Philip of Spain and several Italian princes) and became a nun.

She died in Austria on 28 January 1620 at the age of 37

What is The Baroque?

What is The Baroque?

Well its a period, in history… a cultural period.

J. VERMEER - El astrónomo (Museo del Louvre, 1688).jpg
By Johannes Vermeer - See below., Public Domain, Link

Simply put, it comes after the Renaissance.

Rubens, Rembrandt and Vermeer were a thing in the art world, as was Vivaldi in the music realm. The gorgeous gardens at Versailles came into being, ballet began to develop in the French courts, and the harpsichord quietly evolved into the Piano.

1300 - 1600 The Renaissance

1600 - 1750 The Baroque

1700 - 1800 The Rococo

Rembrandt Christ in the Storm on the Lake of Galilee.jpg
By Rembrandt - www.gardnermuseum.org : Home : Info : Pic, Public Domain, Link

The Baroque (UK: /bəˈrɒk/, US: /bəˈrk/) is a highly ornate and often extravagant style of architecture, music, dance, painting, sculpture and other arts that flourished in Europe from the early 17th until the mid-18th century. It followed Renaissance art and Mannerism and preceded the Rococo (in the past often referred to as "late Baroque") and Neoclassical styles. It was encouraged by the Catholic Church as a means to counter the simplicity and austerity of Protestant architecture, art and music, though Lutheran Baroque art developed in parts of Europe as well.[1]

The Baroque style used contrast, movement, exuberant detail, deep colour, grandeur and surprise to achieve a sense of awe. The style began at the start of the 17th century in Rome, then spread rapidly to France, northern Italy, Spain and Portugal, then to Austria and southern Germany. By the 1730s, it had evolved into an even more flamboyant style, called rocaille or Rococo, which appeared in France and Central Europe until the mid to late 18th century.

A Worldwide view of the Baroque Period

Explore historical events and artistic styles of this period in music history. ETSU Online Programs - http://www.etsu.edu/online 05 30 2013 07 NEW

What, then, is the Early Modern Period?

This is a cultural period which encompasses the Baroque period.

476 - 1500 Middle Ages

1500–1800 Early Modern

In the history of Europe, the early modern period follows the Medieval period. It begins around the Fall of Constantinople in 1453, and includes the Renaissance period, the Baroque period and the Rococo period.

1800 - 1945 Late Modern

1945 - Now Contemporary History

And the Age of Discovery?

It refers to a period from 1400 - 1700 when a lot of ‘new’ (from a European perspective) places were discovered.