Some Handy Cures for those who Ail

Mistress Agnes decided that she would share a few receipts from goodwives of her acquaintance in case any do be ailing.

Ground IvyDr Wadenfield’s Remedy for Lunacy, as penned by the inestimable Mrs Kettilby. Take of ground-ivy three large handfuls shred small, boil it in two quarts of white wine, till two parts in three be consumed. Strain and add to it six ounces of the best sallad oil, boil it up to an ointment; let the patient’s head be shaved, rub and chafe it with the ointment made warm. Then take fresh herbs, bruised and applied plaisterwise, tying it on the top of the head very hard. Repeat this every other day, ten or twelve times, give the patient three spoonfuls of the juice of ground-ivy every morning fasting, in a glass of beer for the first ten days.

Mrs Kettliby’s own receipt for an ointment for the back of a ricketty child. Pick snails clean out of the shells and prick them full of holes, hang them up in a cloth and put a bason to catch what drops from them; which you must boil up with speracity and blades of mace, of each one ounce. Rub this ointment along the back-bone, round the neck, wrists and ancles. Use this constantly night and morning and chase it in by the fire. This with the drink that follows has recovered many weak children from sickness, lameness and deformity.

To make the Ricketty Drink: Put an ounce of rhubarb, three hundred live wood-lice, sassafras, china and eringo roots of each three ounces; roots of Ismond-royal, two ounces, raisins of the sun ston’d two ounces; Hart’s Tongue, two handfuls. Put these into six quarts of small ale and drink spring and fall, no other drink; tis almost infallible for weak children.

Mistress Agnes be gathering wood-lice this very minute.

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Halberds in the Hall

Halberd.JPGThe summer is a time for polishing armour and honing our swords. Actually we don’t do a lot of honing. True, we have Master Christopher to re-attach severed appendages but it plays havoc with the public liability insurance premiums and doesn’t go down too well with our audiences. Our latest acquisition for our armoury is a halberd, acquired by armourer in chief Master Christopher (multi-tasking you see) at a local farm auction. Allegedly ’tis a garden tool but what do farm auctioneers know? Fortunately Master Christopher was the only one in the crowd who recognised its true purpose, or indeed had a use for it, so very few groats changed hands. The many talented Master Arthur fashioned a new haft for it and Sir Francis, as the officer within our ranks, will be wielding it to good purpose.

Of Frogs and Foreign Parts

Mistress Agnes has not put quill to keyboard lately but rest assured we have not been idle. Armour is being polished, shifts are being darned, herb gardens are being tended, research is being done. The diary is looking very full for 2018, those who are responsible for the education of young folks are advised to book early to be assured of enjoying the ministrations of our wonderous characters in the forthcoming school year. Our presence amongst older folks has also been requested in places near and far.

DSCF3080In preparation for next year’s voyaging to continents unknown, Mistress Agnes has been looking out some new cures. We need to be in good health to be travelling hither and yon. We will therefore be concocting a mouthwash by boiling frogs in vinegar. Should we become jaundiced we will be eating the fresh dung of a grass-fed goose or cutting open a live trout and laying it on our stomachs. Other ailments will be suitably ‘cured’ by the deployment of items in Master Christopher’s surgeon’s kit.

* With grateful thanks to Evans, Jennifer and Read, Sara Maladies and Medicine: exploring health and healing 1540-1740 (Pen and Sword 2017)

Swords and Spindles in the land of the New Zeas

!cid_8BB0B30A-7501-4E5C-B486-E2FCAD3D036B@lanWell, the news is out. In June next year Mistress Agnes and Master Christopher will be wending their way to the land of the New Zeas. They do have a problem with this because in their time, this land is unknown to the folk of Darkest Devon. The old Zea Land be far enough and wet and flat they hear. How will they find their way to this mysterious New Zea Land? How long will it take the horses to traverse mountain and moor? There’s a rumour that they need to cross the high seas. Mistress Agnes is searching her herbal for a cure for seasickness. Master Christopher is preparing to accost excise men in the interests of getting clyster and head saw into this strange land. As barber surgeon on a voyage or two he at least is used to a life on the waves. Do we believe these new fangled scientists who tell us that the earth be round – ’tis a strange notion. If the world be flat, will our intrepid pair fall off the edge? ’Tis a pity they cannot fly like the birds of the air. Folk flying, what a ridiculous concept.

Tripping the Light Fantastic Sixteenth Century Style: advice for dancers

Rumour has it thaimage0013t certain members of the Swords and Spindles entourage may be going to tread a measure at Poundstock Gildhouse next week. Mistress Agnes has sought out some advice for Master Christopher. Will he heed the words of wisdom one wonders?

“You must always be garbed to perfection and your codpiece must be well tied. We sometimes see codpieces slip to the ground during the basse dance so you must tie them well. Furthermore never fart when you are dancing; grit your teeth and compel your arse to hold back the fart. Do not have a dripping nose and do not dribble at the mouth.

No woman desires a man with rabies. And refrain from spitting before the maidens, because that makes one sick and even revolts the stomach. If you spit or blow your nose or sneeze, remember to turn your head away after the spasm; and remember not to wipe your nose with your fingers; do it properly with a white handkerchief. Do not eat either leeks or onions because they leave an unpleasant odour in the mouth.”

Antonius Arena, Leges Dansandi (1530).

 

 

Shooting Children and a Chance to Save Groats

Wadebridge 2017Well the Swords and Spindles folk managed to escape from Cornwall, though their route home was a somewhat tortuous one. Given the title of this post, mayhap we should point out that no children were harmed in the course of our visit. ’Tis possible they even felt better as a result of one of Master Christopher’s ‘cures’.

The good folk of Devon Rural Archive treated us right royally as usual, even though they be of a Parliamentary persuasion down that way.

Now we be gearing up for the busiest time of year. For some reason many good masters and mistresses seem to want us to entertain their pupils in the summer term. Loins girded, packhorses saddled and armour polished; we are ready for almost anything, including the delights of engaging with teenagers.

Hard though it is to believe, it is five years this week since Mistress Agnes’ tome Coffers, Clysters, Comfrey and Coifs: the lives of our seventeenth century ancestors first reached the booksellers. It is the May choice as ‘book of the month’ by the Institute of Heraldic and Genealogical Studies and can therefore be purchased for fewer groats than normal. Even the carrier pigeon to deliver it to your UK home is free. A wonderous opportunity not to be missed.

Swords and Spindles Venture South

Truth be told they be venturing west as well – fording the Tamar no less to spend two days in a school in (whisper it quietly) Cornwall! Will they be let back across the border one is moved to wonder?

DSCF2355Assuming they escape the clutches of the pesky Cornish, on Thursday 4 May Mistress Agnes and Master Christopher will be found addressing all comers on the topic of The Civil War in the South West at Devon Rural Archive. Take a look, come along. It may not be quite what you are expecting – seldom is when the good folk of Swords and Spindles are about. Rumour has it that Master Christopher will be amassing an army for the king. He will not be gainsaid and will have swords and guns to aid him in his cause. Let us just say, if you require long tales of battles fought, stay at home and read a book. If you want a flavour of what it was really like for the ordinary folk down here in the bottom left hand corner of England in the 1640s, Devon Rural Archive is the place to be on the evening of 4 May.

Swords and Spindles provide presentations for audiences of all ages on life and conflict in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. We use replica artefacts to enhance the experience. Once seen, never forgotten.