Monday, April 11, 2016

Pentecost in 16th Century's Scandinavia

An ancient tradition says that if you go out of your house and sweep towards the door on Pentecost morning , then you'll gather happiness for the rest of the year. 

feast in Sweden
Pentecost was in its natural form a feast of gladness with not very special customs, but since the Pentecost-period arrived in connection to the coming of summer it was born to absorb parts of the traditional spring and summer celebrations. The Catholic church had from the beginning favored this and the consequence was that no May-feast in the North in the 16th century was in its original form. The old traditions had been given up one by one. 

shooting birds
The second and * third day of Pentecost - where people had to rest -  were suitable for the traditional May-ride, the feast of the May-count or Parrot-shooting. 

If people had no old traditions the Pentecost days were celebrated with a special Pentecost drink.

* Until 1770 a third Pentecost day was celebrated, but it was abolished by the reform, which was carried through by Struensee.

Pentecost was an ecclesial spring feast, marked by numerous feast     customs, borrowed from many places - and they fitted perfectly well in the North, where no one asked from where they came. On Pentecost morning the sun was dancing like on Easter Saturday. The morning dew of Pentecost inherited the miracolous power of the May-day. At the high mass the church was decorated like in the homes on Valpurgis day. The May-countess and the street lamb became a Pentecost bride. In the Catholic period the church had observed in a tolerant way that the parrot king or the May-count on Pentecost day came to the church to be sprinkled with holy water or bring a sacrifice.

Fanefjord church, island Møn, DK.
Pentecost Sunday was named Hvide Søndag (White Sunday), and the whole week  was named Den Hvide Uge (The White Week). It was a natural thing to have a baby baptized at this feast, but there was however a strong counterweight, people did not like to let several days pass between birth and baptismal.

In a later period of Pentecost it was a custom in the town Odense and possibly also in other Danish towns that the blacksmiths on the third Pentecost day moved their guild sign.

The Pentecost Wolf in Norway

The belief in the blessing power of Pentecost caused a strange custom in Norway. It was assumed that the most dangerous of all Norse predators, the wolf, on Pentecost night had to obey the higher powers and give themselves up to human power. It is told in 1599:  "the night before Pentecost Sunday the peasants are out in the woods where they know the wolf lies with her cubs, and the peasants howl like wolves, and when the mother wolf hear people howl then her nature forces her to give an answer, she will howl and they will find her cubs, and so it happened that the peasants got both the mother wolf and her cubs because she would not leave them ". The hunters told that since the mother wolf knows that the human howling means that she cannot help answering, she will put her nose down into the ground to pretend that her howling comes from far away in order to mislead the humans, and then they cannot find her. 

Both the hunters and the peasants had a very solid opinion about this - if it was a natural thing or why it happened like this ? Everyone must judge for himself. They claimed that many wolf cubs were found and caught in that way.

source: Runeberg, Dagligt liv i Norden i det sekstende Århundrede. 
photo: wikipedia  
photo Fanefjord: gb

Sunday, March 20, 2016

Rosemary /Rosmarin

Spice Herb

Rosmarinus officinalis.

There's rosemary, that's for remembrance. Pray you, love, remember.” 

William Shakespeare, Hamlet 

Rosmarinus officinalis is an evergreen halfbush which is often sold and cultivated as if it was a perennial. It is cultivated for its aromatic leaves, used in various Mediterranean inspired dishes. The plant contains a strongly fragrant tacky rresin. The leaves are narrow and grey-greenish and the little flowers are pale blue to dark blue . tTe flowers arrive early spring (in Denmark often in March-April). The fruits are nuts, each with an Elaiosome. The roots go very deep with many fine side roots. It is a member of the mint family Lamiaceae, which includes many other herbs. The name "rosemary" derives from the Latin  "dew" (ros) and "sea" (marinus), or "dew of the sea" The plant is also sometimes called anthos, from ancient Greek, meaning "flower". Rosemary's natural habitat is in southern Europe, North Africa and the Middle East, where it prefers light-open, dry places with a calcareous and nutrient-poor soil. Rosemary is used as a decorative plant in gardens where it may have pest-control effects.

Rosemary in Denmark.
In Denmark rosemary is one of the oldest houseplants, it was cultivated around 1500s and maybe even earlier. In 1559 the king's gardener had to provide rosemary plants for the king's herb garden, and in 1618 were 60 rosemary plants provided for the royal garden at Rosenborg slot. It is told about one of Chr. 4's daughters that she did not tolerate the scent of rosemary since it reminded her of the death of her childhood friend. Rosemary is mentioned in the first Danish garden book from 1647. It was said that it should be planted and cultivated in "posh gardens" . The plant was also a part of the verse in some Danish psalms. Rosemary was used as a houseplant outside in summer and inside in winter, but the cultivation ceased almost completely around 1850, and in 1880 Rosemary was referred to as a rare plant.  

Medicine/Folk Medicine
Christiern Pedersen 1533: wine decoction to drink against various diseases; to smoke the crushed plant into the nostrils against headache and sneezing; a water- or beer decoction of rosemary and 
rue (herb-of-grace) -  or a wine decoction of rosemary against epilepsy. The leaves were eaten as an appetizer. The dry leaves to take with a drink against stomach pain. Crushed rosemary upon haemorroids. Rub black teeth with a powder of burnt twigs.
Henrik Smid 1546: wine decoction of flowers to drive out jaundice, to counteract shortness of breath, stimulate the digestion , this decoction was an antidote, it was cleansing the blood and it was diuretic.  Destilled water from the plant in order to regain a lost voice. Rosemary sugar strengthens the brain and heart and counteracts poison.
Simon Paulli 1648 said:  " this herb is one of the very best for the weaknesses of the head and extremely good to use against strokes, epilepsy, catarrh, weak eyes, dizziness, toothache, pain in the tongue and in the whole body, stitches in the chest, shortness of breath , vomitting, jaundice, colic, flatulence, diarrhea ". Malaria patients were cured with Rosemary oil. The pharmacy had a Rosemary balm, which was rubbed under the nose in times of the plague . 

The rosemary leaves and flowers were written into the Pharmacopoeia in 1772  and in a medical book in 1807.

In the 1700s and 1800s:  rub rosemary oil on the forehead against frenzy. Wine and rosemary for a weak heart ; rosemary as a component in snaps against gout. Tea of rosemary and lemon balm against various diseases; rosemary tea was a good help for the whooping cough. Old peope should bathe their weak eyes with rosemary in snaps; a decoction of rosemary against toothache and against hair loss.

Live stock: horses were smoked with rosemary for various horse-diseases. A decotoion of rosemary drove out lice, mange and scab of livestock.

Other use: Rosemary is used in the kitchen for both food and drink. The leaves are used to flavor various foods, such as stuffings and roast meats. The dry leaves in vinegar and for giving a steak a taste of game .Rosemary oil is used for purposes of fragrant bodily perfumes or to emit an aroma into a room. It is also burnt as incense, and used in shampoos and cleaning products.

According to legend, it was draped around the Greek goddess Aphrodite when she rose from the sea, born of Uranus' semen.  The Virgin Mary is said to have spread her blue cloak over a white-blossomed rosemary bush when she was resting, and the flowers turned blue. The shrub then became known as the "Rose of Mary"

In the Middle Ages, rosemary was associated with wedding ceremonies. The bride would wear a rosemary headpiece and the groom and wedding guests would all wear a sprig of rosemary. From this association with weddings, rosemary was thought to be a love charm.

In myths, rosemary has a reputation for improving memory and has been used as a symbol for remembrance during war commemorations and funerals in Europe and Australia. Mourners would throw it into graves as a symbol of remembrance for the dead.

In Shakespeare's Hamlet, Ophelia says, "There's rosemary, that's for remembrance." (Hamlet, iv. 5.) In Australia, sprigs of rosemary are worn on ANZAC Day and sometimes Remembrance Day  to signify remembrance; the herb grows wild on the Gallipoli Peninsula. Hungary water was first prepared for the Queen of Hungary Elizabeth of Poland to " ... renovate vitality of paralyzed limbs ... " and to treat gout. It was used externally and prepared by mixing fresh rosemary tops into spirits of wine. Don Quixote, (Part One, Chapter XVII) mixes it in his recipe of the miraculous balm of Fierabras.

Music/ TV 
The song "Scarborough Fair " (popularised by Simon and Garfunkel) has the refrain "Parsley, Sage, Rosemary and Thyme" which is also the title of their third studio album.

Rosemary and Thyme is the name of a British TV detective series, starring Felicity Kendal and Pam Ferrim.
Rosemary song by Suzanne Vega, first published 1998 on her album Tried and True. 

Source: Brøndegaard, Dansk Etnobotanik, folk og flora, bd. 4. / Dansk wikipedia /British Wikipedia
photo: wikipedia
sketch: gb

Friday, March 18, 2016

What Children say.....................

The shortest distance between two people is a smile.
Victor Borge

Sweet and funny quotes from children:

"And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us some email." -- 4 year old girl, misquoting the Lord's Prayer

A boy calls his granny to wish her Happy Birthday. He asks her how old she is and she tells him: "62". The boy is quiet for a moment, then he asked. "Did you start at 1?"

A Sunday school teacher was discussing the Ten Commandments with her five and six year olds. After explaining the commandment to "honor" thy Father and thy Mother, she asked, "Is there a commandment that teaches us how to treat our brothers and sisters?" Without missing a beat, one little boy answered, "Thou shall not kill."

A father was reading Bible stories to his young son. He read, "The man named Lot was warned to take his wife and flee out of the city, but his wife looked back and was turned to salt." His son asked, "What happened to the flea?"

Kids about Love and Marriage : 
 "It gives me a headache to think about that stuff. I'm just a kid. I don't need that kind of trouble." -- Kenny, age 7

"I'm in favor of love as long as it doesn't happen when Dinosaurs is on television." -- Jill, age 6

"Love is the most important thing in the world, but baseball is pretty good too." -- Greg, age 8

 "If falling in love is anything like learning how to spell, I don't want to do it. It takes too long." -- Glenn, age 7

 "When a person gets kissed for the first time, they fall down, and they don't get up for at least an hour." -- Wendy, age 8

"One way is to take the girl out to eat. Make sure it's something she likes to eat. French fries usually works for me." -- Bart, age 9

"Don't forget your wife's name. That will mess up the love." -- Erin, age 8

And here's Erin again.  
 "Be a good kisser. It might make your wife forget that you never take out the trash." -- Erin, age 8

Kids about Science:
"South America has cold summers and hot winters, but somehow they still manage."

"Water freezes at 32 degrees and boils at 212 degrees. There are 180 degrees between freezing and boiling because there are 180 degrees between north and south."

"There are 26 vitamins in all, but some of the letters are yet to be discovered. Finding them all means living forever."

"There is a tremendous weight pushing down on the center of the Earth because of so much population stomping around up there these days."

"Many dead animals in the past changed to fossils, while others preferred to be oil."

"Genetics explain why you look like your father, and if you don't why you should."

 Exam and papers of young students:
 "The Magna Carta provided that no free men should be hanged twice for the same offense."
 "Sir Walter Raleigh is a historical figure because he invented cigarettes."

"Milton wrote 'Paradise Lost.' Then his wife dies, and he wrote 'Paradise Regained.

"Under the Constitution the people enjoyed the right to keep bare arms."

 "Queen Victoria's reclining years and finally the end of her life were exemplatory of a great personality."

"Without Greeks, we wouldn't have history."

"One myth says that the mother of Achilles dipped him in the River Stynx until he became intollerable."

 "In the Olympics Games, Greeks ran races jumped, hurled the biscuits, and threw the java."

Have fun!

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

The Danish Kitchen in the Middle Ages

.A Brief Summary 


The medieval food in Denmark is first of all known from cookbooks handed over from the 1200s and forward. They tell us about what was used in the upper class kitchen,  and since the information is supplied with archaeological examinations and accounts, it can bring us a broader picture, which reveals that the medieval Danish kitchen had a surprisingly international mark. The commodities used were mostly locally produced, but the cooking was similar to the French, English and German sources and the spicing was strong and Middle east.


P.Bruegel: Fight between Carnival and Lent
An important element in the medieval food culture were the numerous Lent days. The Catholic church of the Middle Ages dictated common Lent each Wednesday and Friday, a stronger diet in the 40 days before Easter and in shorter periods up till other ceremonials. All in all it gave 180 Lent days a year. There were special rules about the food in over half the year. The Lent before Easter demanded to renounce all animal food -  but butter, egg and cheese were allowed on the weekly Lent days. Lent food was first of all renouncing meat. Instead people had fish.


The basic food was for the main part of the population mostly bread and butter, made by rye and barley, and to this in lesser amount came oat, wheat, buckwheat and millet. The daily bread was baked on rye, while the broad population had wheat bread only on festival occasions. The barley was used for beer brewing and for porridge. Corn could be stored and used all year, but the food was in general much dependent on the season.

Cattle and swine were usually slaughtered in November and December, and most of the meat were conserved by salting. Poultry like hens, chicken and geese gave fresh meat all year. Cows and sheep gave milch in summer, but not in winter where the fodder was too bad. The milch was not drunk, but conserved as butter and cheese. Meat came also from wild-living animals, but game-hunting was mostly reserved for king and aristocracy.
Plucking cabbage in the garden.
Food like fish played an important role during the numerous Lent days -  and fish were eaten both  fresh salted and dried  Vegetables are almost never mentioned in the written sources, but they must also have been a big part of the food. Even in the cities many people had their own cabbage garden,  where they cultivated green cabbage, peas, beans, onions, red beets and spice herbs.


The meat - which had been salted down - had to be  watered out in several changes of water hefore it could be used as food. Therefore it was often spiced heavily while cooking. One of the myths of medieval food is that the strong spicing had to drown the taste of rotten commodities, but this was not the truth . The price on spices was very high and it must have been cheaper to get hold of some good meat instead.
Medieval dinner at a prince's house
Royal accounts show that Middle east and Indian spices like saffron, cinnamon, pepper, ginger, nutmeg and cumin were bought in large quantities. It was probably mostly the upper class who could afford the exotic spices on a daily basis, while the less fortunate impersonated the fine food as much as possible at their festivals. An example of the medieval taste for spices is delivered in todays Christmas food where the composition of cinnamon, ginger, cardamom and clove dates from the fine food of the Middle Ages.
Spice herbs like parsley, marjoram and thyme plus garlic, horse radish and mustard recur in the recipes and must have been available to everyone, since they can be cultivated in Denmark. Sugar must also be included with the spices. Sugar was bought in the shape of cane-sugar, imported from the Middle East and therefore very costy. The dishes were instead sweetened with honey and raisins.

Brewery 16th century

Another myth about the Middle Ages is that everyone drank beer all the time - which is not quite wrong. In return most beer was very thin and with a low alcohol procent. The quality of water was extremely bad, especially in the cities - and this is one of the explanations why people preferred beer. The water was boiled during the brewing process, and even though people knew nothing about bacterias they might have experienced that beer gave lesser problems about sickness than the drinking water. Beer was brewed in most large households for their own use for both adults and children. A stronger beer was brewed for festivals, and if people could afford it they bought the strong German beer which was of a good quality. Wine was imported too, and sweet wine was preferred, eventually sweetened with honey and spices.

source: Danmarkhistorie, Mad og drikke i Middelalderen, Aarhus Universitet, Kultur og Samfund.
photo: wikipedia

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Common Snowdrop / Almindelig Vintergæk

Galanthus nivalis

Snowdrop, (Danish Vintergæk), was named the Morning Star among winter flowers. It arrives early, trickeling up through the snow already in February or even before if the winter is mild. But it is a flower of the cold winter months, it has gone before spring takes a serious hold.

Snowdrop is a low bulp-plant, ab. 10-20 cm high. The yellow-green shoots are the first showing above the soil. In the shoot are both two leaves and one flower. The white bell-shaped flowers last about one month, but there might be flowers from February till April dependent on the course of winter and the placement of the bulbs in the garden.

Snowdrop thrives best in moist, nutrient-rich humus, where it comes back year after year. If the bulbs are in the lawn, it is important that they are allowed to die down, before the lawn is mowed the first time or else the bulb cannot gather enough nourishment till next year. The fastest way to grow new snowdrops is to have a lump of bulbs from friends or family. It is easy to move the lump with flowers, if they are moved in a whole lump and plant in the same depth. Or of course buy bulbs and put them in the soil in 5-10 cm's depth during autumn.

Snowdrop is propagated from seed or sidebulbs. That's why a group of snowdrops grow bigger each year. After they have ceased to flower they can be increased in numbers when dividing the bulbs carefully, and since they do not endure drying they have to be plant the same day. If sidebulbs are placed in the garden in various places it takes two years before they are big enough to flower. A snowdrop can also be propagated by the seeds, it takes ab. 4 years before there is a bulb able to set flowers. The seed-propagating is done by nature itself, but if snowdrops emerge in strange places, then it might be the ants or mice who move seeds and bulbs.

There are ab. 14 various snowdrops. The most common sorts are all Galanthus nivalis. They look alike but have various green markings upon the white flower-head. A few are different like Galanthus nivalis Plenus with filled flowers, Galanthus nivalis ssp Reginaeolgae, which flowers in autumn. The last mentioned looks like the common snowdrop but has shorter petals, and the flowerbells have a green horseshoe-shaped marking.

Very different are Maximus with larger flowers, Lutescus with yellow markings on the petals and Pictur with green spots upon outer and inner petals. These relatives come especially from Turkey. Most of them are delicate towards hard winters.

Snowdrop is closely connected to a Danish tradition about writing gækkebreve. A snowdrop, fresh or dried, is put together with a finely cut letter. The sender writes his/her name with dots and adds a small verse, and then it's up to the receiver to guess from whom the letter comes. If this is not solved the receiver has to give the sender an Easter egg.

Snowdrops kan be put indoors for earlier flowering -  dig up a lump when the shoot is traceable, plant it in a pot and place it as cool as possible. As soon as the flowers have withered they can be plant in the garden again.

For the fun of it can coloured ink be added to the water in a vase with snowdrops, and in a few hours the petals will be red, green or blue etc. In a vase or pot with full-blown snowdrops their heads will close if they are put in a cool place.

It is important to let the green leaves stay on the withered flowers. The green gathers nourishment for the next years' blooming. This goes for both snowdrops and other bulb-plants.

The plant was also used in folk medicine. It contains an active substance called galanthamine, which can be helpful in the treatment of Alzheimer's disease, though it is not a cure.

It is useful as a bee-plant because of its early flowering and it gives much nectare but only a little pollen.

The generic name tagalanthus from the Greek gala (milk) and anthos (flower), was given to the genus by Carl Linnaeus in 1735. He described Galanthus nivalis in his Species Plantarum published in 1753. The epithet "nivalis" means "of the snow", referring either to the snow-like flower or the plant's early flowering. The common name snowdrop first appeared in the 1633 edition of John Gerard's Great Herbal . Other British traditional common names include February Fairmaids, Dingle-Dangle, Candlemas bells, Mary's tapers and in parts of Yorkshire Snow Pierces (like the French name perce-neige).

Source: Anemette Olesen, Idényt.

photo Forsthaven: grethe bachmann

Monday, March 14, 2016

A Poem to a Snowdrop

Galanthus nivalis

To a Snowdrop

Lone Flower, hemmed in with snows and white as they
But hardier far, once more I see thee bend
Thy forehead, as if fearful to offend,
Like an unbidden guest. Though day by day,
Storms, sallying from the mountain-tops, waylay
The rising sun, and on the plains descend;
Yet art thou welcome, welcome as a friend
Whose zeal outruns his promise!Blue-eyed May
Shall soon behold this border thickly set
With bright jonquils, their odours lavishing
On the soft west-wind and his frolic peers;
Nor will I then thy modest grace forget,
Chaste Snowdrop, venturous harbinger of Spring,
And pensive monitor of fleeting years!

William Wordsworth

Thursday, March 10, 2016

The famous cat Maru and his Easter bed

The famous cat Maru has got a yellow bed  - for Easter?
After having showed his calm behavior Maru and Hanna watches
a funny game...etc.

Have fun!. 

 Yellow cat bed - Maru and Hanna