Have A Cup Of Torture Tea


(Originally posted 1/3/17 on Read With The Gringa)

Why were people being tortured in England during the 12th century? In Chillingham, a small village in Northumberland, England, there is a castle of horrors. Have you heard of Earl Grey tea? Yeah, you are drinking tea named after a famous family with ancestral roots as torturers of the locals, the Scots and their own kin. Now, the gringa is sure that the Grey and Bennet families would prefer folks remember them for the tea and famous Chillingham Wild Cattle. But that’s just boring so the gringa will discuss the dark past of their ancestral home’s macabre history.

Scotland was the staunch enemy of England during the 1200’s. The Scots attacked the castle many times throughout this medieval century. Do you remember the movie “Braveheart” about legendary William Wallace? This leader of the Scots attacked the castle, burned it to the ground, and even the women and children of the Grey family were killed in this brutal act.

However, bloodletting was not solely reserved for hated Scotsmen enemies. During the 1300s the War of the Roses was raging. This was a bitter family feud for the possession of England’s throne. The Grey family had to decide whether to support the Lancastrian family who threw in with Henry IV or back the Yorks who were behind Edward IV. The Lancastrians, with the support of those in Chillingham Castle, eventually won the crown but not after executing eight of their own kin.

Their sentence for treason was to be hanged, then drawn and quartered. This was by order of Sir Ralph Grey. One of the victims was his own son. If you think being drawn and quartered doesn’t sound so bad after a lynching, um, the gringa would like to remind you of one gruesome detail. The victims were cut down from the rope while still alive. They were ALIVE when they were disemboweled then chopped into four pieces. Usually their heads were also chopped off and hung in public as a warning to others. And Sir Grey ordered this torturous death for his own son.

The gringa has to wonder what kind of upbringing he must have had on the family estate that allowed a father to commit such an act. He was, after all, raised in a castle featuring dungeons filled with torture devices. Dungeons that, for a price, can be toured today in hopes of seeing one of the many ghosts reported to inhabit the dark corners of these subterranean death chambers.

A few favorite ghosts are known as Blue Boy, Lady Mary Berkeley, and, the Torturer. How appropriate. The gringa believes torturers should find no rest upon their death. And what kind of grisly acts would drive a person mad to the point of remaining at the site of their suffering in order to exact revenge by inflicting suffering upon others? Get a load of some of the ingenius ways humans invented for torturing their fellow humans during the 12th century in rooms specially designed with sloping floors to efficiently drain the pints of blood spilled upon them:

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Chair of nails.

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Rack to stretch you to stringy, dislocated bits.

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Mangle, like an old-fashioned laundry wringer, to cripple the hands. Probably saw a lot of action with neighborhood thieves.

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Boots with nails. The gringa supposes they were good to kick in the seat of the pants anyone who didn’t work fast enough or was just downright pesky and troublesome.

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The barrel of nails that victims would get tossed in then rolled down a hill, coming out leaking like a sieve at the bottom.

When folks start pointing the finger at Muslims as the sole source of murder and mayhem today, the gringa wonders how people can be so forgetful. There is not a single religion on Earth that has cornered the market on righteousness or cruelty. Every religion is comprised of the same elements: inspirational teachings of love, tolerance and compassion that also include a few perverse verses that could be exploited by unsavory people to justify violence. In every religion the masses are relatively decent people who choose to practice religion for the right reasons. However, there is always a handful of rotten power-mongers exploiting religion for nefarious purposes that makes everyone else look bad and the religion itself gets the blame. So, if you get caught up in populist fervor and feel tempted to shake a finger at the Muslim community, go have a cuppa Earl Grey and think on that.

Sources: chillinghamwildcattle.com

The Vintage News

Photo Credits: Great Castles

The Vintage News

Fairy Rings & Tree Councils


Ever since the gringa was a little girl, she has loved fairy tales. Stories of magic and elves rate right alongside stories of spaceships and far-and-away star colonies. Of course, whenever the gringa imagined the fairyland setting of a wooded glen with magical sprites and naughty gnomes, the picture in my mind was of emerald green meadows filled with colorful flowers and dark forests with friendly woodland animals. A picturesque image to be found in places like Ireland or jolly aulde England. Never in a kazillion years would the gringa have linked fairy tales with southern Africa or western Australia. Now scientists have gone and turned my childhood fantasy world upside down.

You see, fairy rings have always been a standard feature in tales of deep magic in old forests:

  • “Meraugis de Portlesguez” by Raoul de Houdenc
  • “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” by William Shakespeare
  • “The Impossible Dowry” (Amyntas) by Thomas Randolph
  • “Nymphidia: The Court of Fairy” by Michael Drayton
  • “History of the Goths” by Olaus Magnus

Even unwritten works, like folklore, preceded great literature with tales of fairy rings:

  • Sorcerers’ rings of France
  • Witches’ rings of Germany
  • Devil’s milk churn rings of the Dutch
  • Remnants of fiery dragon tails of Tyrol
  • Dance rings of elves and fairies of England, Wales, Scandinavia and Ireland
  • Dinner tables of fairies from Scotland

The gringa loves the old tales and fantasies of midnight revelries rising up to the surface of the earth as the magical middle Earth creatures enjoy the moonlight and starlight while humans sleep. I am sorely disappointed that scientists had to go and destroy this little piece of illogical, creative, mental space in my mind by announcing they have solved the mystery of fairy rings. And they even went and renamed the phenomena, calling them “fairy circles”. I suppose scientists prefer a geometric term to a more poetic counterpart. Doggone them all.

South of Angola toward South Africa’s Northwestern Cape province is a vast, barren region of land that is mostly uninhabited. It is dotted with reddish and golden earth circles within the grassland. The fairy circles vary in size from about 7 feet in diameter to almost 50 feet in diameter. This strange geographical feature has been romanticized in literature and local myths. The bushmen of this area claim the fairy circles belong to divine gods and possess magical powers.  Some say they are the footprints of the gods themselves.

Recently, these same types of circles were discovered in Australia’s Pilbara region. Much to the gringa’s dismay, the mystery has now been solved. This year an environmental research group published their official findings of what exactly causes fairy circles. However, if the gringa so chooses, she could put her own spin on their determinations. A fairy circle would no longer be the work of fairies, elves and sprites, but of the living forest itself.

What scientists have concluded is that the fairy circles are definitely not the work of termites or ants. It is more probable that they are the work of plants organizing themselves in certain patterns as they compete for scarce water resources. The gringa sees literary and poetic potential in this theory.

Imagine, if you will, councils of shrubs, trees and flowers getting together and discussing just how much water they need to survive. Envision them arguing their case for who needs shade and who has a root system that is just robbing the entire community and being selfish. I can hear the sound of a gavel-shaped root coming down on the top of  a flat stone, a centuries-old tree declaring, “Hear, hear. It has been determined that the crocuses will relocate to the shade of the old growth elms tree line and the blackberry bushes will separate their thorny selves from the fern bed, moving eastward toward the river.”

Although such a tale lacks the mischievous fun of fairies and nymphs, it would still contain delightful magical potential. So, all is not bad news.

 

Source:  www.mic.com & Wikipedia

Image Credits: www.cnn.com & www.fairyroom.com

 

 

 

Pardon Me, Is That An Asteroid On Your Finger?


The oldest rocks on Earth are zircon crystals. These highly refractive gemstones are often used to imitate diamonds or cubic zirconias in jewelry. Geologists have now announced the results of a study that has determined that zircons are quite possibly remnants of an ancient asteroid collision with Earth.

Other than simply having the pleasure of knowing you may have a bit of outer space asteroid glittering on your finger or about your ears, neck or wrist, what good is this information? Well, for one thing it dispels the previous theory that zircons were created by tectonic plate upheavals. But, more importantly, it helps scientists understand climate change. Yes, you heard the gringa right, climate change. A rock’s origins can often indicate what was going on with water on the planet at the time the rock was formed. Since zircon’s are produced by asteroids, Earthlings can also learn about the part of the cosmos that it originated from.

Researchers from Trinity College Dublin (Ireland) collected crystals from an impact crater that is considered “young”. Scientists wanted to compare the “young” crystals with older crystals from the Sudbury crater in Ontario, Canada. Sudbury is the best preserved impact crater on Earth and is about two billion years old.

The samples were taken to Stockholm’s “Swedish Museum of Natural History”.  Comparisons  concluded that the older crystals were the same as the younger ones. This then disproved the argument that the ancient zircon crystals could not have formed at the time the impact occurred. So, now we know that they could and probably did, making zircons the oldest rocks on Earth, as old as four billion years old which is the age of the oldest impact crater on our planet. The researchers also believe this supports the narrative that early Earth saw many more asteroid impacts than in its later life.

So, what this new determination tells mankind is that about four billion years ago an asteroid slammed into Earth. The crystals were able to form because water was present. Best estimates place the Earth’s age at four and a half billion years old so logic would assume then that it has always been a watery planet.  And what’s the big deal about an old, watery Earth?

Well, for one thing, water was required for life as we know it today to have evolved. But, the new discoveries about the crystals still does not solve the mystery of how life originated on planet Earth in the first place. And there are many theories on this subject that argue their own merits. Here are a few:

Electrified Primordial Soup – This school of thought believes that in the beginning of Earth’s life as a planet there was a life-giving electrical shock to the planet, such as lightning, that interacted with the ammonia, hydrogen and water on the planet. Lightning would deliver more than just a jolting electrical shock. The atmosphere, being filled with ammonia, hydrogen and water, would react with the electricity and create amino acids and sugars. These are the building blocks of microbial life.

Clay – A Scottish chemist has offered the theory that mineral crystals in clay is where all life began. He believes it is possible that clay, possibly at the bottom of the sea, was the perfect surface for molecules to organize themselves into patterns of amino acids and proteins which would later become DNA. Once the DNA evolved independently it no longer needed the clay medium but could organize itself on its own.

Hydrothermal Vents – Even now ocean biologists discover ecosystems surrounding hydrothermal vents deep within the Earth’s oceans that are teeming with life. Concentrations of molecules and minerals exist with the rocks surrounding these vents interacting with the hydrogen rich molecules provided by the vents action.

Panspermia – The hitchhiking life surviving the impact of an asteroid with Earth is yet one more possibility. If this theory is true, then the puzzle of the origins of life is not really to be worked out here on Earth, but to be solved by traveling the cosmos to find where it came from out there.

Although the many theories of how life originate on Earth are quite varied in their ideas, they all have one common thread… water. That would mean if the original microbes that evolved into humans over billions of years originally came from somewhere in outer space, to discover or “home planet”, Earthlings have to study planets that either have water now or had it at some time in their own history. By understanding this, a person then can understand the inspiration behind every space mission and why the space agencies of the world want to travel ever farther. They are not looking for little green men. They are looking for little molecules of water or ice. And one day, we may all call home a rock that exists in another galaxy or solar system.

 

Sources:  www.redorbit.com

www.geology.gsapubs.org

www.livescience.com

Image credits:  www.en.wikipedia.org

www.alluregems.blogspot.com