Foreign ways

Valentine_barbies       From Loretta:
      Dipping into the Questions Compendium again…
      
      Kim asked:
      "Are there odd or bizarre traditions that you’ve come across while doing research for a book?"
      I could write a book about the Albanians alone.  Luckily for me, others did.  In researching THE LION’S DAUGHTER, one of my most useful resources was Edith Durham’s HIGH ALBANIA.  She focuses on northern Albania, which at the time included parts of what is now Serbia.  The book remains in print, a testimony both to its quality and the scarcity of material on the subject.  It’s also online:
      http://digital.library.upenn.edu/women/durham/albania/albania.html
      Edith Durham was one of those intrepid Victorian women travelers who really knew how to write–like Lucie Duff Gordon and (yes, surprise!) Florence Nightingale and, of course, Amelia Edwards, three of many sources for Egypt when I was writing MR. IMPOSSIBLE. 
      Though all of these women lived in the Victorian/Edwardian era, their accounts remain useful because the places they visited had not changed in centuries, at least as far as culture and social life was concerned.  In Egypt, for instance, the monuments they would have seen and what they understood about them would have depended upon the time they visited.  But the locals these visitors encountered and the customs they describe were the essentially the same as in the first quarter of the 19th C.  In Albania in particular, because it was so isolated a country, the customs remained in place well into the 20th C, and in some areas, are still in place.  The Sworn Virgins, for instance.
     High_albania_1 At the time Durham visited, 1908 (and for a time afterward), Albanians in many parts of the country were betrothed at birth, and the marriage happened when the girl was about sixteen, though she might be younger (as I believe was the case with my paternal grandmother).  “The husband is bound to take her, no matter what she is like, or fall into blood with her family.”  (By “blood” Durham means blood feud, part of an elaborate code not unlike the Norse codes of justice one encounters in, for instance, the old Icelandic sagas.)  The girl may–but it requires much courage on her part–refuse to marry the man.  In that case she must swear before witnesses to remain virgin all her life.”
      These Sworn Virgins were the only women who had the same rights as men.  They dressed in men’s clothes, had their own homes and land.  “He knew one who was forty now.  Her only brother had been shot when she was ten….I asked if the men ate with her. (Men and women ate separately.)  He slapped his thigh and said:  ‘Of course!  She has breeches on just like mine and a revolver.”  And these women are usually referred to using the masculine pronoun.
      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sworn_virgin
      http://www.jolique.com/gender/crossing_boundaries.htm
      They still exist, by the way.
      Alice Munro wrote a short story, “The Albanian Virgin,” that originally appeared in the New Yorker.
      Shkodra_old_bridgesm Here’s another interesting tidbit:  “To be without a moustache, both in Montenegro and Albania, is held to be peculiarly disgraceful….When I mentioned…that my brother was clean shaven, I was told not to repeat such disgraceful facts about him.”  (The photo is of a very old bridge in Shkodra, in northern Albania.)
      I noticed a similar prejudice against men without beards in early 19th C Egypt.
      One interesting practice was mentioned in another book by someone else.  I think I know which book it was but am not positive–and the notes are buried somewhere deep in the basement archives, because twenty minutes’ searching didn’t turn them up.  Nonetheless, the detail remains vividly imprinted on my brain, and you won’t have any trouble understanding why.
      According to the author, at some point shortly before the wedding night, one of the senior men would take the groom aside and draw a picture in the dirt, explaining how to consummate the marriage.  So far, nothing unusual.  But, interestingly, they didn’t leave it all to the young man.  To make sure the groom got things right, one of the married women would mark with rouge the appropriate area of the bride’s anatomy.
     Modern_egyptianslane  On to the Egyptians, and a classic source, Edward Lane’s AN ACCOUNT OF THE MANNERS AND CUSTOMS OF THE MODERN EGYPTIANS.  “The libidinous character of the generality of the women in Egypt, and the licentious conduct of a great number of them, may be attributed to many causes…”  But most of the blame, according to Lane, lies with the husbands, who keep the women locked up but let them listen behind their screened windows “to immoral songs and tales sung or related in the streets by men whom they pay for this entertainment.”  Furthermore, “ghawaz
ee, who are professed prostitutes, are not unfrequently introduced into the harems of the wealthy, not merely to entertain the ladies with their dances, but to teach them their voluptuous arts; and even indecent puppets are sometimes brought into such hareems for the amusement of the inmates.”
     Dancing_girl I am not sure that qualifies as odd or bizarre but it certainly was news to me.
      This happens all the time when one does research.  I found out, for instance, that Carnivale in Venice, in Byron’s time, started shortly after Christmas and went on until Lent.  That’s some party.
      I’m sure everyone’s come across curious traditions/customs in the course of reading. 

Have you a favorite–or at least some you found particularly surprising or interesting?
      

60 thoughts on “Foreign ways”

  1. Oh, Loretta, my head is full of these kinds of fascinating scraps of history & knowledge — what my family darkly refers to as “Mom’s Fun Facts to Know and Tell,” nor do they mean that in a good way, either. *g*
    But as you know well, this is the kind of detail that can inspire a scene, if not an entire book. It really is the fun part of writing historically based fiction, or, as I read somewhere once: “Remembering again what has been forgotten.”
    So what can I add to your blog today? How about an alternative version of that all-American holiday, Groundhog Day?
    During the time in which most of us set our books, Candlemas Day (February 1) was still being celebrated, marking the purification of the mother of Christ in the temple forty days after giving birth on Christmas. Candles were lit to mark the beginning of a month of general purification.
    But it also became a day to determine an early or late spring: “If Candlemas is bright and clear, there’ll be two winters in the year.” Or: “If it neither rains nor snows on Candlemas Day, you may straddle your horse and go to buy hay.”
    Sounds an awful lot like the groundhog seeing his shadow (or not) on February 2 to me. And while Punxatawny Phil (the official Pennsylvania groundhog, he of he old Bill Murray movie) predicted an early spring last week, I can report that here in Pennsylvania, it hasn’t gotten out of the ‘teens yet.
    Hmmmm….maybe we need an Albanian version of the groundhog!

    Reply
  2. Oh, Loretta, my head is full of these kinds of fascinating scraps of history & knowledge — what my family darkly refers to as “Mom’s Fun Facts to Know and Tell,” nor do they mean that in a good way, either. *g*
    But as you know well, this is the kind of detail that can inspire a scene, if not an entire book. It really is the fun part of writing historically based fiction, or, as I read somewhere once: “Remembering again what has been forgotten.”
    So what can I add to your blog today? How about an alternative version of that all-American holiday, Groundhog Day?
    During the time in which most of us set our books, Candlemas Day (February 1) was still being celebrated, marking the purification of the mother of Christ in the temple forty days after giving birth on Christmas. Candles were lit to mark the beginning of a month of general purification.
    But it also became a day to determine an early or late spring: “If Candlemas is bright and clear, there’ll be two winters in the year.” Or: “If it neither rains nor snows on Candlemas Day, you may straddle your horse and go to buy hay.”
    Sounds an awful lot like the groundhog seeing his shadow (or not) on February 2 to me. And while Punxatawny Phil (the official Pennsylvania groundhog, he of he old Bill Murray movie) predicted an early spring last week, I can report that here in Pennsylvania, it hasn’t gotten out of the ‘teens yet.
    Hmmmm….maybe we need an Albanian version of the groundhog!

    Reply
  3. Oh, Loretta, my head is full of these kinds of fascinating scraps of history & knowledge — what my family darkly refers to as “Mom’s Fun Facts to Know and Tell,” nor do they mean that in a good way, either. *g*
    But as you know well, this is the kind of detail that can inspire a scene, if not an entire book. It really is the fun part of writing historically based fiction, or, as I read somewhere once: “Remembering again what has been forgotten.”
    So what can I add to your blog today? How about an alternative version of that all-American holiday, Groundhog Day?
    During the time in which most of us set our books, Candlemas Day (February 1) was still being celebrated, marking the purification of the mother of Christ in the temple forty days after giving birth on Christmas. Candles were lit to mark the beginning of a month of general purification.
    But it also became a day to determine an early or late spring: “If Candlemas is bright and clear, there’ll be two winters in the year.” Or: “If it neither rains nor snows on Candlemas Day, you may straddle your horse and go to buy hay.”
    Sounds an awful lot like the groundhog seeing his shadow (or not) on February 2 to me. And while Punxatawny Phil (the official Pennsylvania groundhog, he of he old Bill Murray movie) predicted an early spring last week, I can report that here in Pennsylvania, it hasn’t gotten out of the ‘teens yet.
    Hmmmm….maybe we need an Albanian version of the groundhog!

    Reply
  4. Oh, Loretta, my head is full of these kinds of fascinating scraps of history & knowledge — what my family darkly refers to as “Mom’s Fun Facts to Know and Tell,” nor do they mean that in a good way, either. *g*
    But as you know well, this is the kind of detail that can inspire a scene, if not an entire book. It really is the fun part of writing historically based fiction, or, as I read somewhere once: “Remembering again what has been forgotten.”
    So what can I add to your blog today? How about an alternative version of that all-American holiday, Groundhog Day?
    During the time in which most of us set our books, Candlemas Day (February 1) was still being celebrated, marking the purification of the mother of Christ in the temple forty days after giving birth on Christmas. Candles were lit to mark the beginning of a month of general purification.
    But it also became a day to determine an early or late spring: “If Candlemas is bright and clear, there’ll be two winters in the year.” Or: “If it neither rains nor snows on Candlemas Day, you may straddle your horse and go to buy hay.”
    Sounds an awful lot like the groundhog seeing his shadow (or not) on February 2 to me. And while Punxatawny Phil (the official Pennsylvania groundhog, he of he old Bill Murray movie) predicted an early spring last week, I can report that here in Pennsylvania, it hasn’t gotten out of the ‘teens yet.
    Hmmmm….maybe we need an Albanian version of the groundhog!

    Reply
  5. Loretta, first let me say that I am overwhelmed with delight at your having found two – count them – two erudite Ediths to research with!
    Huzzah!
    As for the “Sworn Virgins” – hmm. All I want to know is who is going to check on their keeping to that vow for the rest of their lives? And with them carrying revolvers?
    There’s a book and a half in that.

    Reply
  6. Loretta, first let me say that I am overwhelmed with delight at your having found two – count them – two erudite Ediths to research with!
    Huzzah!
    As for the “Sworn Virgins” – hmm. All I want to know is who is going to check on their keeping to that vow for the rest of their lives? And with them carrying revolvers?
    There’s a book and a half in that.

    Reply
  7. Loretta, first let me say that I am overwhelmed with delight at your having found two – count them – two erudite Ediths to research with!
    Huzzah!
    As for the “Sworn Virgins” – hmm. All I want to know is who is going to check on their keeping to that vow for the rest of their lives? And with them carrying revolvers?
    There’s a book and a half in that.

    Reply
  8. Loretta, first let me say that I am overwhelmed with delight at your having found two – count them – two erudite Ediths to research with!
    Huzzah!
    As for the “Sworn Virgins” – hmm. All I want to know is who is going to check on their keeping to that vow for the rest of their lives? And with them carrying revolvers?
    There’s a book and a half in that.

    Reply
  9. This isn’t an old reference, but an odd (to me) custom nonetheless – eating the human placenta. I have an old article (I’d give the reference, but it’s at home and I’m not) about a group of friends who were gathering to eat the cooked placenta from a recent birth among the group. Their reasoning had more to do with connecting to the child, mother and process in general, kind of a “sharing the intimacy”. My response was “ew”.
    I looked up more info on it, and it appears that some encourage vegetarians to eat it because it is the “only unkilled meat”. Wikipedia says some claim it helps postpartum depression. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Placentophagy) Tom Cruise threatened to do it. (http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/magazine/4918290.stm) There’s even a recipe page on it. (http://www.mothers35plus.co.uk/placenta-recipes.htm) Didn’t Jo Beverley work as a midwife at some point? She probably knows all about this.
    Me, I still say “ew”.

    Reply
  10. This isn’t an old reference, but an odd (to me) custom nonetheless – eating the human placenta. I have an old article (I’d give the reference, but it’s at home and I’m not) about a group of friends who were gathering to eat the cooked placenta from a recent birth among the group. Their reasoning had more to do with connecting to the child, mother and process in general, kind of a “sharing the intimacy”. My response was “ew”.
    I looked up more info on it, and it appears that some encourage vegetarians to eat it because it is the “only unkilled meat”. Wikipedia says some claim it helps postpartum depression. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Placentophagy) Tom Cruise threatened to do it. (http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/magazine/4918290.stm) There’s even a recipe page on it. (http://www.mothers35plus.co.uk/placenta-recipes.htm) Didn’t Jo Beverley work as a midwife at some point? She probably knows all about this.
    Me, I still say “ew”.

    Reply
  11. This isn’t an old reference, but an odd (to me) custom nonetheless – eating the human placenta. I have an old article (I’d give the reference, but it’s at home and I’m not) about a group of friends who were gathering to eat the cooked placenta from a recent birth among the group. Their reasoning had more to do with connecting to the child, mother and process in general, kind of a “sharing the intimacy”. My response was “ew”.
    I looked up more info on it, and it appears that some encourage vegetarians to eat it because it is the “only unkilled meat”. Wikipedia says some claim it helps postpartum depression. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Placentophagy) Tom Cruise threatened to do it. (http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/magazine/4918290.stm) There’s even a recipe page on it. (http://www.mothers35plus.co.uk/placenta-recipes.htm) Didn’t Jo Beverley work as a midwife at some point? She probably knows all about this.
    Me, I still say “ew”.

    Reply
  12. This isn’t an old reference, but an odd (to me) custom nonetheless – eating the human placenta. I have an old article (I’d give the reference, but it’s at home and I’m not) about a group of friends who were gathering to eat the cooked placenta from a recent birth among the group. Their reasoning had more to do with connecting to the child, mother and process in general, kind of a “sharing the intimacy”. My response was “ew”.
    I looked up more info on it, and it appears that some encourage vegetarians to eat it because it is the “only unkilled meat”. Wikipedia says some claim it helps postpartum depression. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Placentophagy) Tom Cruise threatened to do it. (http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/magazine/4918290.stm) There’s even a recipe page on it. (http://www.mothers35plus.co.uk/placenta-recipes.htm) Didn’t Jo Beverley work as a midwife at some point? She probably knows all about this.
    Me, I still say “ew”.

    Reply
  13. My favorite foreign way—much tamer than those you relate—came from my Viennese mother. In Austria you open all your presents Christmas Eve, or at least my mother’s family did. I felt rather smug, knowing all my friends had to spend a sleepless night waiting for Santa while I slept with my new doll. But I never could convince my husband to pick up that tradition, so we all wait now until at least dawn to rip and tear.
    My Austrian grandmother, by the way, gave herself communion every morning around ten o’clock…a little bread and wine…and lived to be 99!

    Reply
  14. My favorite foreign way—much tamer than those you relate—came from my Viennese mother. In Austria you open all your presents Christmas Eve, or at least my mother’s family did. I felt rather smug, knowing all my friends had to spend a sleepless night waiting for Santa while I slept with my new doll. But I never could convince my husband to pick up that tradition, so we all wait now until at least dawn to rip and tear.
    My Austrian grandmother, by the way, gave herself communion every morning around ten o’clock…a little bread and wine…and lived to be 99!

    Reply
  15. My favorite foreign way—much tamer than those you relate—came from my Viennese mother. In Austria you open all your presents Christmas Eve, or at least my mother’s family did. I felt rather smug, knowing all my friends had to spend a sleepless night waiting for Santa while I slept with my new doll. But I never could convince my husband to pick up that tradition, so we all wait now until at least dawn to rip and tear.
    My Austrian grandmother, by the way, gave herself communion every morning around ten o’clock…a little bread and wine…and lived to be 99!

    Reply
  16. My favorite foreign way—much tamer than those you relate—came from my Viennese mother. In Austria you open all your presents Christmas Eve, or at least my mother’s family did. I felt rather smug, knowing all my friends had to spend a sleepless night waiting for Santa while I slept with my new doll. But I never could convince my husband to pick up that tradition, so we all wait now until at least dawn to rip and tear.
    My Austrian grandmother, by the way, gave herself communion every morning around ten o’clock…a little bread and wine…and lived to be 99!

    Reply
  17. No, I’ve never been a midwife, but I taught childbirth classes and did a lot of research on the history of the subject.
    The placenta is a lot like the liver, so simply on a “ew” basis, I suppose it depends how you feel about liver. *G*
    I don’t think eating it has ever been common, but many people feel it should be disposed of respectfully, not thrown into the garbage. Some people bury it.
    Great post, Loretta. I wonder if the moustache thing is an attempt to prevent women masquerading as men. The fashion for and against facial hair on men is strange in itself. Even today I’m surprised at how few men don’t just let it all grow, given the hassle of shaving, but in days gone by, when it was a much bigger deal — let’s say the 11th century — why on earth would they bother. Unless getting the beard grabbed in battle was a hazard.
    But through the middle ages, the fashion comes and goes. Long hair, short hair. Beard and moustache. Just moustache. Then we have Victorian mutton-chops, which I think very ugly.
    But who says men don’t get finicky about their appearance?
    Jo 🙂

    Reply
  18. No, I’ve never been a midwife, but I taught childbirth classes and did a lot of research on the history of the subject.
    The placenta is a lot like the liver, so simply on a “ew” basis, I suppose it depends how you feel about liver. *G*
    I don’t think eating it has ever been common, but many people feel it should be disposed of respectfully, not thrown into the garbage. Some people bury it.
    Great post, Loretta. I wonder if the moustache thing is an attempt to prevent women masquerading as men. The fashion for and against facial hair on men is strange in itself. Even today I’m surprised at how few men don’t just let it all grow, given the hassle of shaving, but in days gone by, when it was a much bigger deal — let’s say the 11th century — why on earth would they bother. Unless getting the beard grabbed in battle was a hazard.
    But through the middle ages, the fashion comes and goes. Long hair, short hair. Beard and moustache. Just moustache. Then we have Victorian mutton-chops, which I think very ugly.
    But who says men don’t get finicky about their appearance?
    Jo 🙂

    Reply
  19. No, I’ve never been a midwife, but I taught childbirth classes and did a lot of research on the history of the subject.
    The placenta is a lot like the liver, so simply on a “ew” basis, I suppose it depends how you feel about liver. *G*
    I don’t think eating it has ever been common, but many people feel it should be disposed of respectfully, not thrown into the garbage. Some people bury it.
    Great post, Loretta. I wonder if the moustache thing is an attempt to prevent women masquerading as men. The fashion for and against facial hair on men is strange in itself. Even today I’m surprised at how few men don’t just let it all grow, given the hassle of shaving, but in days gone by, when it was a much bigger deal — let’s say the 11th century — why on earth would they bother. Unless getting the beard grabbed in battle was a hazard.
    But through the middle ages, the fashion comes and goes. Long hair, short hair. Beard and moustache. Just moustache. Then we have Victorian mutton-chops, which I think very ugly.
    But who says men don’t get finicky about their appearance?
    Jo 🙂

    Reply
  20. No, I’ve never been a midwife, but I taught childbirth classes and did a lot of research on the history of the subject.
    The placenta is a lot like the liver, so simply on a “ew” basis, I suppose it depends how you feel about liver. *G*
    I don’t think eating it has ever been common, but many people feel it should be disposed of respectfully, not thrown into the garbage. Some people bury it.
    Great post, Loretta. I wonder if the moustache thing is an attempt to prevent women masquerading as men. The fashion for and against facial hair on men is strange in itself. Even today I’m surprised at how few men don’t just let it all grow, given the hassle of shaving, but in days gone by, when it was a much bigger deal — let’s say the 11th century — why on earth would they bother. Unless getting the beard grabbed in battle was a hazard.
    But through the middle ages, the fashion comes and goes. Long hair, short hair. Beard and moustache. Just moustache. Then we have Victorian mutton-chops, which I think very ugly.
    But who says men don’t get finicky about their appearance?
    Jo 🙂

    Reply
  21. Thanks for answering, Loretta! I love the one about the groom. Oh, and the Albanian story. I wonder how many woman refused and wonder if faced with the same situation, what I’d do if I didn’t like the choice. lol

    Reply
  22. Thanks for answering, Loretta! I love the one about the groom. Oh, and the Albanian story. I wonder how many woman refused and wonder if faced with the same situation, what I’d do if I didn’t like the choice. lol

    Reply
  23. Thanks for answering, Loretta! I love the one about the groom. Oh, and the Albanian story. I wonder how many woman refused and wonder if faced with the same situation, what I’d do if I didn’t like the choice. lol

    Reply
  24. Thanks for answering, Loretta! I love the one about the groom. Oh, and the Albanian story. I wonder how many woman refused and wonder if faced with the same situation, what I’d do if I didn’t like the choice. lol

    Reply
  25. I came across an interesting custon in a book of letters written in 1802-3 by a young Irishwoman.
    She gave an account of a village in Savoy, in the European alps, where most of the villagers had terrible goitres (she spelled it guatars) on their throats “of which they must be perfectly insensible as a defect, for they decorate them with gold trinkets, and look so stupid, that one is sometimes at a loss to find which is the guatar, the face, or the throat.”
    Seemed pretty bizarre to me.

    Reply
  26. I came across an interesting custon in a book of letters written in 1802-3 by a young Irishwoman.
    She gave an account of a village in Savoy, in the European alps, where most of the villagers had terrible goitres (she spelled it guatars) on their throats “of which they must be perfectly insensible as a defect, for they decorate them with gold trinkets, and look so stupid, that one is sometimes at a loss to find which is the guatar, the face, or the throat.”
    Seemed pretty bizarre to me.

    Reply
  27. I came across an interesting custon in a book of letters written in 1802-3 by a young Irishwoman.
    She gave an account of a village in Savoy, in the European alps, where most of the villagers had terrible goitres (she spelled it guatars) on their throats “of which they must be perfectly insensible as a defect, for they decorate them with gold trinkets, and look so stupid, that one is sometimes at a loss to find which is the guatar, the face, or the throat.”
    Seemed pretty bizarre to me.

    Reply
  28. I came across an interesting custon in a book of letters written in 1802-3 by a young Irishwoman.
    She gave an account of a village in Savoy, in the European alps, where most of the villagers had terrible goitres (she spelled it guatars) on their throats “of which they must be perfectly insensible as a defect, for they decorate them with gold trinkets, and look so stupid, that one is sometimes at a loss to find which is the guatar, the face, or the throat.”
    Seemed pretty bizarre to me.

    Reply
  29. Loretta,
    What a wonderful post today! Before I started reading your books I hardly knew Albania existed. It has been so interesting to discover Albania through your writing– Now it seems like a Romantic Destination (you could lead a tour to “Loretta Chase’s Albania” someday). The Sworn Virgins do sound like they deserve a novel of their own, too.
    I don’t have anything particularly outlandish to share (unless you count my mom’s tuna salad which includes apples and hard-boiled eggs)–but (slightly off topic) I’ve often thought that Portland (my current home town) could form an interesting backdrop for a book.
    There are underground tunnels leading from the river to various sites under the city–originally for moving freight from ships to downtown. These tunnels became known as the “Shanghai Tunnels” because unsuspecting country boys would come into town, get lured into certain bars for a drink, and then get dropped through a trap door in the bar floor into the tunnels. From that point they were trussed up and taken by force onto ships (“shanghai’d”) and made to work their way across the Pacific and back.
    Not as romantic as Albania but still kind of rough and ready and wild.
    Melinda

    Reply
  30. Loretta,
    What a wonderful post today! Before I started reading your books I hardly knew Albania existed. It has been so interesting to discover Albania through your writing– Now it seems like a Romantic Destination (you could lead a tour to “Loretta Chase’s Albania” someday). The Sworn Virgins do sound like they deserve a novel of their own, too.
    I don’t have anything particularly outlandish to share (unless you count my mom’s tuna salad which includes apples and hard-boiled eggs)–but (slightly off topic) I’ve often thought that Portland (my current home town) could form an interesting backdrop for a book.
    There are underground tunnels leading from the river to various sites under the city–originally for moving freight from ships to downtown. These tunnels became known as the “Shanghai Tunnels” because unsuspecting country boys would come into town, get lured into certain bars for a drink, and then get dropped through a trap door in the bar floor into the tunnels. From that point they were trussed up and taken by force onto ships (“shanghai’d”) and made to work their way across the Pacific and back.
    Not as romantic as Albania but still kind of rough and ready and wild.
    Melinda

    Reply
  31. Loretta,
    What a wonderful post today! Before I started reading your books I hardly knew Albania existed. It has been so interesting to discover Albania through your writing– Now it seems like a Romantic Destination (you could lead a tour to “Loretta Chase’s Albania” someday). The Sworn Virgins do sound like they deserve a novel of their own, too.
    I don’t have anything particularly outlandish to share (unless you count my mom’s tuna salad which includes apples and hard-boiled eggs)–but (slightly off topic) I’ve often thought that Portland (my current home town) could form an interesting backdrop for a book.
    There are underground tunnels leading from the river to various sites under the city–originally for moving freight from ships to downtown. These tunnels became known as the “Shanghai Tunnels” because unsuspecting country boys would come into town, get lured into certain bars for a drink, and then get dropped through a trap door in the bar floor into the tunnels. From that point they were trussed up and taken by force onto ships (“shanghai’d”) and made to work their way across the Pacific and back.
    Not as romantic as Albania but still kind of rough and ready and wild.
    Melinda

    Reply
  32. Loretta,
    What a wonderful post today! Before I started reading your books I hardly knew Albania existed. It has been so interesting to discover Albania through your writing– Now it seems like a Romantic Destination (you could lead a tour to “Loretta Chase’s Albania” someday). The Sworn Virgins do sound like they deserve a novel of their own, too.
    I don’t have anything particularly outlandish to share (unless you count my mom’s tuna salad which includes apples and hard-boiled eggs)–but (slightly off topic) I’ve often thought that Portland (my current home town) could form an interesting backdrop for a book.
    There are underground tunnels leading from the river to various sites under the city–originally for moving freight from ships to downtown. These tunnels became known as the “Shanghai Tunnels” because unsuspecting country boys would come into town, get lured into certain bars for a drink, and then get dropped through a trap door in the bar floor into the tunnels. From that point they were trussed up and taken by force onto ships (“shanghai’d”) and made to work their way across the Pacific and back.
    Not as romantic as Albania but still kind of rough and ready and wild.
    Melinda

    Reply
  33. I’ve always found the sworn virgins particularly fascinating. In other cultures, marriages were arranged at birth–or at an early age–but no one offers a way out for the woman. Interestingly, though, some of these cultures allowed for divorce–more easily, say, than in England at the time.
    From what I’ve read, very few women became sworn virgins: it really did take courage. Most simply did what everyone else did–what their mothers and grandmothers did before them–and accepted the rules of their culture. I’m not sure I would have had the courage.

    Reply
  34. I’ve always found the sworn virgins particularly fascinating. In other cultures, marriages were arranged at birth–or at an early age–but no one offers a way out for the woman. Interestingly, though, some of these cultures allowed for divorce–more easily, say, than in England at the time.
    From what I’ve read, very few women became sworn virgins: it really did take courage. Most simply did what everyone else did–what their mothers and grandmothers did before them–and accepted the rules of their culture. I’m not sure I would have had the courage.

    Reply
  35. I’ve always found the sworn virgins particularly fascinating. In other cultures, marriages were arranged at birth–or at an early age–but no one offers a way out for the woman. Interestingly, though, some of these cultures allowed for divorce–more easily, say, than in England at the time.
    From what I’ve read, very few women became sworn virgins: it really did take courage. Most simply did what everyone else did–what their mothers and grandmothers did before them–and accepted the rules of their culture. I’m not sure I would have had the courage.

    Reply
  36. I’ve always found the sworn virgins particularly fascinating. In other cultures, marriages were arranged at birth–or at an early age–but no one offers a way out for the woman. Interestingly, though, some of these cultures allowed for divorce–more easily, say, than in England at the time.
    From what I’ve read, very few women became sworn virgins: it really did take courage. Most simply did what everyone else did–what their mothers and grandmothers did before them–and accepted the rules of their culture. I’m not sure I would have had the courage.

    Reply
  37. The Hmong are from mountains of Cambodia.They bury theplacenta but if the baby was a girl when a boy was desired, the placenta is turned inside out and sewn shut before being buried to make sure that it doesn’t happen again.
    Speaking of odd traditions, I am interested in duels. I suspected that they really only existed in romance novels but it turns out that I have an ancestor who got himself killed in a duel in 1815.

    Reply
  38. The Hmong are from mountains of Cambodia.They bury theplacenta but if the baby was a girl when a boy was desired, the placenta is turned inside out and sewn shut before being buried to make sure that it doesn’t happen again.
    Speaking of odd traditions, I am interested in duels. I suspected that they really only existed in romance novels but it turns out that I have an ancestor who got himself killed in a duel in 1815.

    Reply
  39. The Hmong are from mountains of Cambodia.They bury theplacenta but if the baby was a girl when a boy was desired, the placenta is turned inside out and sewn shut before being buried to make sure that it doesn’t happen again.
    Speaking of odd traditions, I am interested in duels. I suspected that they really only existed in romance novels but it turns out that I have an ancestor who got himself killed in a duel in 1815.

    Reply
  40. The Hmong are from mountains of Cambodia.They bury theplacenta but if the baby was a girl when a boy was desired, the placenta is turned inside out and sewn shut before being buried to make sure that it doesn’t happen again.
    Speaking of odd traditions, I am interested in duels. I suspected that they really only existed in romance novels but it turns out that I have an ancestor who got himself killed in a duel in 1815.

    Reply
  41. Susan/Miranda, I’m not sure Albania has groundhogs. Several months ago, someone looking out of my mother’s kitchen window said, “What’s that?” We all crowded to the window. No one had a clue. My husband, a country boy, said, in his usually-suppressed southern accents, “That’s a groundhog. Them’s good eatin.'”
    I’m an adventurous eater, though not up to Anthony Bourdain’s level–but I’m with the EEEEW contingent on the placenta.
    Helen, duels unfortunately did exist, and occurred far more frequently, and for the most ridiculous reasons, than they do in romance novels. “A sword was more than a weapon; it was the visible representation of the essential self. On it depended one’s life and, more important, one’s honor,” says Sarah Holland, in GENTLEMEN’S BLOOD. She refers to 306 Irish duels fought between 1771-1790. Politicians duelled over ideology. Physicians duelled over diagnoses. Duels were outlawed in the U.S. and England, yet continued, secretly. It is not hard for me to draw an analogy between this and the Albanians Code of Honor.

    Reply
  42. Susan/Miranda, I’m not sure Albania has groundhogs. Several months ago, someone looking out of my mother’s kitchen window said, “What’s that?” We all crowded to the window. No one had a clue. My husband, a country boy, said, in his usually-suppressed southern accents, “That’s a groundhog. Them’s good eatin.'”
    I’m an adventurous eater, though not up to Anthony Bourdain’s level–but I’m with the EEEEW contingent on the placenta.
    Helen, duels unfortunately did exist, and occurred far more frequently, and for the most ridiculous reasons, than they do in romance novels. “A sword was more than a weapon; it was the visible representation of the essential self. On it depended one’s life and, more important, one’s honor,” says Sarah Holland, in GENTLEMEN’S BLOOD. She refers to 306 Irish duels fought between 1771-1790. Politicians duelled over ideology. Physicians duelled over diagnoses. Duels were outlawed in the U.S. and England, yet continued, secretly. It is not hard for me to draw an analogy between this and the Albanians Code of Honor.

    Reply
  43. Susan/Miranda, I’m not sure Albania has groundhogs. Several months ago, someone looking out of my mother’s kitchen window said, “What’s that?” We all crowded to the window. No one had a clue. My husband, a country boy, said, in his usually-suppressed southern accents, “That’s a groundhog. Them’s good eatin.'”
    I’m an adventurous eater, though not up to Anthony Bourdain’s level–but I’m with the EEEEW contingent on the placenta.
    Helen, duels unfortunately did exist, and occurred far more frequently, and for the most ridiculous reasons, than they do in romance novels. “A sword was more than a weapon; it was the visible representation of the essential self. On it depended one’s life and, more important, one’s honor,” says Sarah Holland, in GENTLEMEN’S BLOOD. She refers to 306 Irish duels fought between 1771-1790. Politicians duelled over ideology. Physicians duelled over diagnoses. Duels were outlawed in the U.S. and England, yet continued, secretly. It is not hard for me to draw an analogy between this and the Albanians Code of Honor.

    Reply
  44. Susan/Miranda, I’m not sure Albania has groundhogs. Several months ago, someone looking out of my mother’s kitchen window said, “What’s that?” We all crowded to the window. No one had a clue. My husband, a country boy, said, in his usually-suppressed southern accents, “That’s a groundhog. Them’s good eatin.'”
    I’m an adventurous eater, though not up to Anthony Bourdain’s level–but I’m with the EEEEW contingent on the placenta.
    Helen, duels unfortunately did exist, and occurred far more frequently, and for the most ridiculous reasons, than they do in romance novels. “A sword was more than a weapon; it was the visible representation of the essential self. On it depended one’s life and, more important, one’s honor,” says Sarah Holland, in GENTLEMEN’S BLOOD. She refers to 306 Irish duels fought between 1771-1790. Politicians duelled over ideology. Physicians duelled over diagnoses. Duels were outlawed in the U.S. and England, yet continued, secretly. It is not hard for me to draw an analogy between this and the Albanians Code of Honor.

    Reply
  45. Jo, you make a good point about the mustaches: It’s a clear sign of manliness. So maybe the clean-shaven face was simply considered effeminate. In a culture in which women are chattel (Yoko Ono once used a stronger, apter word regarding women’s status in much of the world) appearing effeminate would indeed be disgraceful, disgusting, even.
    RevMelinda, some of the fun of researching is discovering these wilder elements of the past, especially the stuff that hid under a veneer of civilization.

    Reply
  46. Jo, you make a good point about the mustaches: It’s a clear sign of manliness. So maybe the clean-shaven face was simply considered effeminate. In a culture in which women are chattel (Yoko Ono once used a stronger, apter word regarding women’s status in much of the world) appearing effeminate would indeed be disgraceful, disgusting, even.
    RevMelinda, some of the fun of researching is discovering these wilder elements of the past, especially the stuff that hid under a veneer of civilization.

    Reply
  47. Jo, you make a good point about the mustaches: It’s a clear sign of manliness. So maybe the clean-shaven face was simply considered effeminate. In a culture in which women are chattel (Yoko Ono once used a stronger, apter word regarding women’s status in much of the world) appearing effeminate would indeed be disgraceful, disgusting, even.
    RevMelinda, some of the fun of researching is discovering these wilder elements of the past, especially the stuff that hid under a veneer of civilization.

    Reply
  48. Jo, you make a good point about the mustaches: It’s a clear sign of manliness. So maybe the clean-shaven face was simply considered effeminate. In a culture in which women are chattel (Yoko Ono once used a stronger, apter word regarding women’s status in much of the world) appearing effeminate would indeed be disgraceful, disgusting, even.
    RevMelinda, some of the fun of researching is discovering these wilder elements of the past, especially the stuff that hid under a veneer of civilization.

    Reply
  49. I can confirm the Austrian Christmas customs. We do indeed open all our presents on the 24th, in fact the main celebration is on Christmas Eve. There is mass at midnight and the 25th and 26th are mainly for eating and visiting relatives. And the presents aren’t given by Santa Claus, the are gifts from the Chrsit Child. We do have St. Nikolaus, who happens on the 6th of December and who gives nuts, sweets and the likes to the good children. In my part of Austria, Nikolaus is accompanied by the “Krampus”, a kind of Devil who punishes the bad children. In the evening of the 5th and 6th, many men dress up as Krampuses and go out in the streets, wearing huge bells around their bodies. You’d better run if you hear them coming, as they will hit you with their switches. Foreigners are always surprised about this but the wise Tyrolean stays at home during those evenings!
    here are a few pictures:
    http://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Krampus

    Reply
  50. I can confirm the Austrian Christmas customs. We do indeed open all our presents on the 24th, in fact the main celebration is on Christmas Eve. There is mass at midnight and the 25th and 26th are mainly for eating and visiting relatives. And the presents aren’t given by Santa Claus, the are gifts from the Chrsit Child. We do have St. Nikolaus, who happens on the 6th of December and who gives nuts, sweets and the likes to the good children. In my part of Austria, Nikolaus is accompanied by the “Krampus”, a kind of Devil who punishes the bad children. In the evening of the 5th and 6th, many men dress up as Krampuses and go out in the streets, wearing huge bells around their bodies. You’d better run if you hear them coming, as they will hit you with their switches. Foreigners are always surprised about this but the wise Tyrolean stays at home during those evenings!
    here are a few pictures:
    http://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Krampus

    Reply
  51. I can confirm the Austrian Christmas customs. We do indeed open all our presents on the 24th, in fact the main celebration is on Christmas Eve. There is mass at midnight and the 25th and 26th are mainly for eating and visiting relatives. And the presents aren’t given by Santa Claus, the are gifts from the Chrsit Child. We do have St. Nikolaus, who happens on the 6th of December and who gives nuts, sweets and the likes to the good children. In my part of Austria, Nikolaus is accompanied by the “Krampus”, a kind of Devil who punishes the bad children. In the evening of the 5th and 6th, many men dress up as Krampuses and go out in the streets, wearing huge bells around their bodies. You’d better run if you hear them coming, as they will hit you with their switches. Foreigners are always surprised about this but the wise Tyrolean stays at home during those evenings!
    here are a few pictures:
    http://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Krampus

    Reply
  52. I can confirm the Austrian Christmas customs. We do indeed open all our presents on the 24th, in fact the main celebration is on Christmas Eve. There is mass at midnight and the 25th and 26th are mainly for eating and visiting relatives. And the presents aren’t given by Santa Claus, the are gifts from the Chrsit Child. We do have St. Nikolaus, who happens on the 6th of December and who gives nuts, sweets and the likes to the good children. In my part of Austria, Nikolaus is accompanied by the “Krampus”, a kind of Devil who punishes the bad children. In the evening of the 5th and 6th, many men dress up as Krampuses and go out in the streets, wearing huge bells around their bodies. You’d better run if you hear them coming, as they will hit you with their switches. Foreigners are always surprised about this but the wise Tyrolean stays at home during those evenings!
    here are a few pictures:
    http://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Krampus

    Reply
  53. Interesting..re: Placenta. I’ve heard from an old family friend of a neighbour who ate it. This was in Northern China more than 50 years ago. The man was physically unwell and took that for certain nutritious value (arrghh…). It apparently contained certain hormones that is good for the skin as well.
    Yaz

    Reply
  54. Interesting..re: Placenta. I’ve heard from an old family friend of a neighbour who ate it. This was in Northern China more than 50 years ago. The man was physically unwell and took that for certain nutritious value (arrghh…). It apparently contained certain hormones that is good for the skin as well.
    Yaz

    Reply
  55. Interesting..re: Placenta. I’ve heard from an old family friend of a neighbour who ate it. This was in Northern China more than 50 years ago. The man was physically unwell and took that for certain nutritious value (arrghh…). It apparently contained certain hormones that is good for the skin as well.
    Yaz

    Reply
  56. Interesting..re: Placenta. I’ve heard from an old family friend of a neighbour who ate it. This was in Northern China more than 50 years ago. The man was physically unwell and took that for certain nutritious value (arrghh…). It apparently contained certain hormones that is good for the skin as well.
    Yaz

    Reply

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