Tag Archives: ANCIENT HISTORY

Eleanor of Aquitaine – and the Mystery of Love and Incest

Eleanor of Aquitane
Eleanor of Aquitaine

Eleanor of Aquitaine, the most sought after daughter in medieval Europe, became the most wealthy and powerful woman during the 12th and 13th centuries. At 12-13 years of age, Eleanor inherited the Duchy of Aquitaine when her father, William X, died. Orphaned, Eleanor came under the guardianship of King Louis VI of France. Three months later, she married the King’s son, Louis VII. Shortly after the two teenagers wed, the King, known as Louis the Fat, died of dysentery leaving Louis the Younger and Eleanor the Kingdom.

As with most women of power, many of Eleanor’s critics claim she came by that power, and possibly held onto that power, through dubious and immoral methods–meaning, she used her feminine wiles and uncontrolled sexual passion to gain the upper hand. One of the most popular rumors about Eleanor is her alleged incestuous affair with her uncle, Raymond of Poitiers.

Historians agree that Eleanor, reputed to be beautiful, intelligent, and wise beyond her years, enchanted her husband Louis with her wit and charm. Despite his intense love for her, the couple’s 8-year relationship slowly disintegrated as they could produce no male heir. Of course, as with most infertile royal couples of the time, the fault lay with Eleanor, despite the fact she gave birth to a daughter, Marie in 1145.

When Pope Eugene III requested Louis lead a second crusade to the Middle East to rescue the Frankish Kingdoms from the Muslims, Eleanor encouraged her husband to rise to the occasion. She also requested to accompany him. It is debated whether Louis agreed to allow his beautiful, flirtatious bride to join him to keep her under close watch, or he simply desired her company. Eleanor, along with her royal ladies-in-waiting and 300 of her courtiers boarded the ships to Antioch for the campaign.

When the royal couple arrived, they accepted the hospitality of Eleanor’s handsome uncle Raymond, Prince of Antioch. Raymond and Eleanor spent constant time in each others company. It didn’t take long for rumors to spread that the two engaged in an incestuous affair. Louis, appalled and affronted with the rumors, pulled up stakes left after only two weeks in Antioch.

Louis VII
Louis VII
(Biography.com)

Eleanor implored her husband to let her stay under the protection of her uncle, but he refused her plea, and bade she accompany him on the rest of the crusade. When they returned to France, the rumors of Eleanor’s infidelity with her uncle further alienated her from Louis, and she asked Pope Eugene for an annulment. She claimed to want the annulment on the grounds of consanguinity—the close familial relation to her husband, her fourth cousin. The Pope refused and tried to reconcile the royal couple.

In 1150, Eleanor gave birth to another daughter—another disappointment that further alienated Eleanor from her husband. The Pope finally relented, and in 1152 gave Eleanor the annulment on grounds of consanguinity, but gave custody of her daughters to Louis.

The second famous rumor about Eleanor concerns the mystery of her Court of Love. After her annulment, noblemen and Kings lined up to win Eleanor’s hand. Still the most powerful woman in Europe, she again became a most sought-after bride. Even if it meant kidnapping her. Eleanor got wind of at least two of these plots, and sent word to Henry, her third cousin, the Duke of Normandy and future King of England, imploring him to marry her. He didn’t refuse.

Eight weeks after her annulment to Louis, Henry and Eleanor married. Although they had 8 children together over 15 years of marriage, the two often bickered and fought. Henry spent much time away from England, and also with other women. During this time, Eleanor returned to her castle in Poitiers, France, where she is said to have started the Court of Love.

Eleanor
Eleanor
(www.telegraph.co.uk)

Discouraged by her own two marriages, Eleanor set out to educate men in the areas of romance, love, and chivalry. Noblemen brought their relationship problems to a jury of nearly 60 women, (the Court of Love) including Eleanor and her daughter Marie, Countess of Champagne, in search of answers. The women directed the love-lorn men how to dress, speak, and act with their women, including writing poetry, playing music, and taking an interest in the arts–a far cry from manly behavior of the middle ages.

Many historians deny the existence of Eleanor’s Court of Love, but others say it contributed to the literature, music, and  arts of the time, and into the future. The art of courtly love also grew in popularity from this period on.

Henry and Eleanor’s marriage would see greater decline when their son, Henry the Younger, led a revolt against his father for the crown of England. Eleanor sided with her son, and for this, Henry imprisoned her for the next 16 years. At the death of her husband, her third son, Richard, became King. One of his first acts as King of England? To free his mother from prison.

Though her critics, and her husbands, tried to discredit her time and time again, Eleanor proved to be a woman empowered, and a woman who found a way to survive and prevail. She lived into her early eighties. The mere fact that she obtained an annulment from a King who still ruled, is unfathomable—considering that a woman in the 12th Century, even a ruling woman, only existed as a means to an end—to better the lives of men.

We may never solve the mystery of Eleanor’s relationship with her uncle, or her reported infidelities in the French court, or whether or not she developed a “Court of Love” in Poitiers. We can only go by the records that exist in history, and no one knows whether all the records are true or not. Sometimes, it is up to us to decide. Despite the claims of her critics, Eleanor still remains one of the most beloved, and most empowered women in history.

For more information on Raymond of Antioch, read this blog post by Elizabeth Chadwick.

Photo found in French Quarter Magazine

A Brief History of Essential Oils

dreamstime_m_79528864This time of year makes me want to hunker down in my office with my essential oils diffuser, a delicious pot of loose-leaf herbal tea, my cats, and my latest writing project. Some of my favorite oils to use while writing are frankincense, lavender, and a blend from Young Living Oils called Envision that really helps me to focus.

I got into essential oils about a year ago. I learned about them through some of my equestrian friends who use them with their horses, their other animals, and on themselves. I started using the oils on my own horses and was so impressed with their reactions both emotionally and physically that I decided to take this new wave of essential oil popularity seriously, and of course, started to research the history behind the oils.

First, I wanted to know exactly what essential oils are and where they come from. The oils come from the liquid extracted from flowers, seeds, leaves, stems, bark and/or roots of trees, herbs, bushes and shrubbery that is also referred to as the “essence” or “life blood” of the plant. The liquid is steam extracted or cold pressed and then distilled to produce the oil.

dreamstime_m_18598290Pure essential oils are highly concentrated and very little is needed to reap the benefits. To produce 1 lbs. of rose oil–one of my absolute favorites–5000lbs. of rose petals are needed. It is no surprise that a 5 ml. bottle of pure rose oil can cost up to $200. In my research I have found that for inhalation, ingestion, and absorption of the oils into the skin, it is extremely important to use products that are 100% pure therapeutic grade. According to Cynthia Foster, MD (drfostersessentials.com) many of the oils sold in grocery stores and health stores today are useful for aromatic purposes and perfume, but are commonly adulterated with solvents such as propylene glycol, acetate or alcohol. Only therapeutic grade oils are the purest and can help with physical, mental and emotional ailments, without harmful side effects.

Essential oils have been used for medicinal purposes for centuries. Hieroglyphics and manuscripts found from the Egyptian, Roman, Greek, and Chinese cultures indicate that essential oils were used to heal the sick and promote health. When the Egyptian Tutankhamen’s tomb (carbon dated 1500 B.C.) was opened in 1922, 50 alabaster oil jars were found. The oils had been emptied from the jars some time ago, thought to have been stolen. The fact that gold jewelry and artifacts had been left behind and only the oils stolen indicates the extremely high value of oils at that time.

dreamstime_m_70847963Oils have also been used for spiritual purposes throughout the centuries. As a practicing Catholic for all of my life, I’ve always enjoyed the aroma of incense during certain spiritual celebrations, and have participated in sacraments where oils were used, but never really understood why they were used or where the tradition came from. After researching I’ve learned there are over 150 references to essential oils and anointing oils in the bible. “Anointing” which means “to smear with oil” was to make a person sacred and elevate them to a higher spiritual purpose. Many religions use frankincense in its resin form and burn it to release its aroma to encourage deeper spiritual contemplation and liberation. Many cultures use oils for meditation to promote emotional and mental calmness and to reach heightened states of enlightenment.

In Christianity, the Bible tells a story of preparing a sacred temple with aromatic oils to help stop a plague that was infesting a city. In the New Testament the story is told of the three kings coming to visit the Christ child with gifts of frankincense and myrrh—both oils—and gold. “Gold” in this case, according to some historians, was actually balsam oil and was referred to as “liquid gold” during that time period.

In my own experimentation I have found that many of the oils are wonderful for physical ailments such as pain, allergies, sore muscles and skin irritation. I have also incorporated essential oils into my skin care regimen and diet. A few months ago I became a certified practitioner of the Aroma Freedom Technique (AFT), a new energy technique that utilizes the aromatic properties of essential oils to release inner blocks and resistance we have built in our minds that prevent us from moving forward and realizing our goals and dreams. Since I have been using essential oils and practicing AFT on a regular basis, I notice that I approach life with a little more calm, a little more joy, and a lot more confidence. I’ve gained clarity in how I want to proceed in my career and with my relationships.

Essential oils and AFT will not cure all your ills or magically give you everything you want in life, but they can have an effect on how you see things, and can help you to be more proactive in your own health, career, and quality of life. If you haven’t already gotten on the band-wagon of using essential oils, you might give them a try. You never know what goodness life might offer you!

dreamstime_s_79374916

If you are interested in learning more about the Aroma Freedom Technique or essential oils, please feel free to contact me. Happy oiling!

Hawaii’s Haunted Past – A Look Into Hawaii’s Ghosts

Last week I wrote about some of Hawaii’s ancient legends and the ghosts that haunt them in an article called “October and the Ghosts of Hawaii’s past.”  (https://karibovee.com/2016/10/04/october-and-the-ghosts-of-hawaiis-past/) . The stories highlighted take place in village of Kailua-Kona, but this week I want to write about some of the ghosts a few miles south along the craggy shoreline.

Ancient heiau on the Kona coast
Ancient heiau on the Kona coast

The Big Island of Hawaii is an archaeologist’s treasure trove. Its past is filled with legendary battles, death penalties for crimes, and human sacrifice. Bones litter the Island in sacred heiaus and burial grounds. Human habitation of the Big Island is said to have dated back as early as 400 CE when Polynesians traveled there, over 2000 miles from their homeland of the Marquesas Islands (http://www.smithsonianmag.com/travel/hawaii-history-and-heritage-4164590/?no-ist). None of Hawaii’s ancient dead were buried at sea, and the ground, all lava rock, made it difficult for deep underground burial without modern machinery. Generations of bones scatter the island.

There are so many bones littering the island that buying and building real estate can be challenging because so much of the land is protected. Archaeologists are continuously called in to assess properties for possible burials. No surprise that many island hauntings have been sited and documented by locals and tourists. The island is also a highly spiritual place and its people have strong traditions in folklore, mythical legends and old religions. In my book Bones of the Redeemed, soon to be completed, my protagonist, Annie Delgado, a doctoral student of Archaeology in New Mexico, must also deal with strong spiritual and superstitious beliefs when she encounters a secret religious society in an ancient land also infused with a mystical and magical past.

The site of the Sheraton Kona Hotel, formerly the Keauhou Bay Resort, and once called the Kona Surf (torn down 2004), juts out onto the jagged lava cliffs of the Kona Lagoon. A tranquil spot, it is no wonder the ancient Alii, or Hawaiian royalty came to this place to rest and play. Guests and employees of the old Kona Surf Hotel told stories of hearing two little girls running and playing in the hallways in the middle of the night. When security was called to investigate, no one could be found. There is an ancient Hawaiian legend that says that site was the dwelling place of twin sisters, ancient supernatural beings, who took the form of lizards.

Others have seen a ghost standing on the cliff in front of the hotel who disappears into thin air. The area is also the site of two ancient heiaues – platforms made of volcanic rock for spiritual rites and human sacrifice. When the Kona Surf Hotel was torn down in 2004, the heiaues were resurrected in hopes of appeasing the gods, and now, still stand. Walking upon the ground of these and all heiaues is greatly frowned upon, and the trespasser might well fall into unfortunate circumstances.

Hillside of Lekeleke where ancient bodies rest in peace
Hillside of Lekeleke where ancient bodies rest in peace

Nearby, at Lekeleke, also situated on the lagoon, is the site of the famous final battle fought on the island of Hawaii. The Great Kamehameha ruled the Islands under the Kapu system – an ancient, sacred code of laws that directed religious practices and a way of life for the Hawaiians.

Influenced by the Christian missionaries who landed on the island in 1820, Liholiho (King Kamehameha II), the Great Kamehameha’s heir, abandoned the Kapu system. To show his power, he committed the bold act of eating a meal with his mother, Queen Ka’ahumanu. Kamehameha I’s nephew, Kekuaokalani was outraged at the abolishment of the ancient way of life, and demanded that the Kapu system be reinforced. Liholio refused and the great final battle of Kuamo’o began. Three hundred Hawaiian warriors, including Kekuaokalni and his wife, died at the site, along with the ancient Kapu system. Today, terraces built into the lava cliffside still hold the bones of those warriors.

 

City of Refuge, Hawaii http://www.explore-the-big-island.com/puuhonua-o-honaunau.html

One of the most magical places on the Island, in my opinion, is Puuhonua O Honaunau, or the City of Refuge, a tranquil spot on the coast in Captain Cook, HI, about 15 miles from Kailua-Kona.

The laws under the ancient Kapu system were strict. Standing too close to the chief, walking across his shadow, touching his possessions, or walking in his footsteps were some of the offenses worthy of death. Violating these kapus, among others like men and women eating together, were said to incur the wrath of the gods. If unfortunate enough to break the kapu for any reason, one would be hunted down and killed—unless they reached Puuhonua, the place of refuge. There a priest, or kahuna, could absolve the offender of his or her transgression, purify them and send them home. Puuhonua was also a place for defeated warriors or innocents in war time to take refuge during times of battle. Those who did not make it there in time are said to be spirits wandering the site in need of purification or rescue.

City of Refuge. View out to sea
City of Refuge. View out to sea.

I have visited three places in the world that have spoken to me in a deeply profound and spiritual way. Puuhonua, the City of Refuge is one of them. Whenever I visit the island, which is about three times a year, I always make time for that magical place. As I walk around the ancient ruins of the Alii palace, built behind a wall of the refuge, and look toward the tranquil bay on one side, and out into the sea on the other, I can feel the presence of lost souls searching for peace. I may not have seen the ghosts, but I have felt them. There is a tranquility and comfort at Puuhonua that I find hard to put into words. Not all ghosts are scary.

History is full of ghosts, and like the archaeologist in my book, I love to delve into the past of magical and mystical worlds. When I return home to the Land of Enchantment, I would like to share some of its past history and ghosts with you—for October is the time of year for ghost stories.

Famous Horse Partners in History – Alexander and Bucephalus

Sometimes people are lucky enough to have that “once in a lifetime” horse. I am one of those fortunate people. I’ve had many horses over the years, and still have several, but one of them I hold especially dear, and our relationship has surpassed any other relationship I’ve ever had with my equine friends. He is an Arabian/Quarter Horse Palmomino named Handsome and he has forever changed my life.

Photo found on Wikipedia Alexander and Bucephalus
Photo found on Wikipedia Alexander and Bucephalus

This, as well as my love of history, has prompted me to research famous horses and their partners. For the first pair in this series, I will go way back to 433 BC to Alexander the Great and his mighty steed Bucephalus.

Alexander, a boy of 13 happened to be present when a horse dealer by the name of Philonicus the Thessalian, offered a horse of the finest Thessalian stock to King Phillip II of Greece for 13 talents. A talent is an ancient unit of mass, possibly in gold, roughly the mass of the amount of water required to fill an amphora–a unit for measuring liquids or bulk goods. In Greece at that time, that amount was 26 kilograms. Those attempting to handle the horse could not control him as he thrashed about, rearing, kicking and biting anyone who came near. Seeing the behavior of this wild animal, King Phillip would not make an offer. Alexander, seeing at once the potential greatness of this amazing horse, told his father that if he could not tame the horse, he would offer the sum himself.

Alexander’s keen eye and natural horse sense allowed him to immediately recognize the cause of the horse’s distress; the sight of his own shadow. Approaching the horse cautiously, Alexander spoke to him in soothing tones, stroked his neck, and grabbing onto the bridle, turned the horse’s face to the sun, thus obliterating the offending shadow. Sensing that no harm would come to him, the horse immediately bonded with the boy and allowed Alexander to mount. The two were inseparable for the next few decades leading men into legendary battles that would result in Alexander’s conquering of the western world.

Photo found on Wikipedia The Akhal Teke
Photo found on Wikipedia
The Akhal Teke

Bucephalus breeding was “of the best Thessalian strain’ and historians believe that his breed was Akhal Teke, still in existence today. The exotic desert breed is known for its elegance, power, and athleticism as well as hardiness and endurance. They are noted for their shimmering, metallic coats, long, narrow heads and necks, with most of the length from their eyes to their muzzle, long forward set ears and hooded eyes. They come in a variety of colors but the most coveted are the Palominos and Buckskins because their coats resemble spun gold. Bucephalus was gleaming black with a white mark on his forehead and one blue eye. I found the description of the Akhal Teke conformation interesting because it is also said that Alexander named his horse Bucephalus because he was monsterous in size with a forehead that was”wide as a bull’s.” Sometimes in history, things get lost in translation, or perhaps as breeding continued throughout the ages, characteristics of the breed adapted to new uses, environments, etc. and the breed became more refined.

The Alexander Romance legends that came about after his death, presented a different story of the relationship between Bucephalus and Alexander. It was said the two were born on the same day and that Bucephalus was a mythical creature more powerful than Pegasus. The Delphic Oracle told Phillip II that whoever could tame and ride the horse would be king. Furthermore, even in his lifetime, Alexander was seen as a god.

In Alexander’s last battle, the Battle of Hydaspes, now known as Pakistan, Bucephalus was mortally wounded. Shortly after, Alexander founded a city and named it Bucephala in honor of his beloved horse.

Have you heard of the story of Alexander and Bucephalus? Do you have a “once in a lifetime horse?” I’d love to hear your comments.

Stayed tuned for more Great Horse Partners in History!