In the peasant culture Walpurgis Night, Vappu in Finnish, wasn’t a celebration of work, but a celebration of free-time, the traditions
included banishing the beasts, the interaction between youth and the protective, magical force that came from between
the legs of the lady of the house.
John Björkman, a folklorist from Turku works in a museum in Varsinais-Suomi as a researcher of the cultural traditions of
the nation. He knows the celebration of Vappu amongst the peasants from centuries back.
In folklore Björkman is interested in “basically every period”, but his expertiece lie in the customs and traditions
dating back 100-400 years.
The peasant culture of farming and living in villages is very old in Finland, especially West- and South-Finland. The
peasant culture was thriving up until the beginning on 20th century.
” I was just at an archaeological seminar, that strongly raised the fact, that the coming of Christianity…
Artemisia Gentileschi’s 17th-century painting, Self Portrait As Saint Catherine Of Alexandria, became only the 21st work by a female artist to enter the London National Gallery’s collections in July this year.
In a collection totalling 2,300 works, this speaks volumes about Gentileschi’s exceptionality – both now and in her own day.
The painting depicts St Catherine of Alexandria, an early Christian martyr whose theological skills were said to have been so great that she was able to beat 50 of the Roman emperor’s shrewdest philosophers in a debate on the merits of Christianity versus Paganism.
Raphael’s celebrated painting, from a century earlier, shows St Catherine looking upwards towards Heaven.
Gentileschi’s saint, by contrast, gazes directly out at the viewer while gripping the wheel of her martyrdom – an image of astonishing confidence and resoluteness that makes other treatments of the subject seem to pale in comparison.
Even more startling is the fact that the likeness is a self-portrait of the artist assuming the identity of St Catherine – making this an early form of role playing self-imagery that predates by centuries the preoccupations of contemporary artists like Cindy Sherman.
Born into the patriarchal oppression of late-16th century Papal Rome, Gentileschi transcended the path of utter obscurity that was the lot of her female peers to become, instead, one of the most famous painters of the day.
This achievement came at a cost. At the age of 17 she was entrusted by her father – also an artist – into the specialist care of a fellow painter who returned the favour by sexually harassing and abusing her to the extent that her father brought a charge of rape against him in the Papal courts.
The ensuing trial – with its salacious details and airing of the seamy side of the Baroque artworld – became the talk of the town and tarnished her reputation with a sexual frisson from then on.
The trial also played out – it should be remembered – within the context of an unremittingly hostile male culture that was many worlds removed from the empowering possibilities of the current #MeToo movement.
At the trial’s conclusion, Gentileschi’s only recourse to redress from this undeniably crushing experience was to seek a fresh start in a new city and agree to an arranged marriage engineered by her father – a marriage of convenience that did not last. Within a few years, Gentileschi had become a fully independent artist – both personally as well as financially.
Gentileschi’s paintings continue to attract intense scholarship and admiration, tinged with occasional controversy and debate. Perhaps most famous is her signature depiction of Judith and Holofernes, painted in the immediate aftermath of the by now infamous rape trial.
It depicts the Old Testament heroine, Judith, decapitating the Assyrian general Holofernes, the villainous leader of an invading army that was at that stage poised to capture the Jewish city of Bethulia. The general lies spreadeagled on the bed on which he had hoped to seduce Judith.
But Judith and her maidservant have got him drunk so that they are now able to bear down upon him from above, holding him still while cleaving his head from his body with the cool precision of a butcher slicing prosciutto. As Holofernes’ eyes glaze over and his defensive grip on the servant’s neck starts to weaken, the bed receives rivers of his blood and his half severed head begins to slide off from his torso.
You don’t have to be a psychotherapist to be able to read this painting as an obvious declaration of psychic revenge and empowerment against the injustice and humiliation perpetrated on female victims by would-be sexual predators.
It also constitutes one of the most unflinching depictions of extreme physical violence in the history of art and still retains its power to shock – even in today’s era of constant mass media horror.
A disputed legacy
But Gentileschi’s status as the triumphant heroine of Italian Baroque art has come under fire recently as our understanding of her output has deepened. A group of late paintings have come to light that appear to cast a shadow over her earlier works. One example is a large canvas of Susanna and the Elders now in the Pinacoteca Nazionale, Bologna.
This painting is signed by Artemisia Gentileschi and dated 1652. But it has been associated with a recently discovered document that records Gentileschi’s collaboration with a younger and totally obscure (male) artist named Onofrio Palumbo.
The recent suggestion that Palumbo may have contributed to the Bologna Susanna – a painting nonetheless signed as being by Gentileschi’s hand alone – raises a host of unresolved questions about the nature of the latter’s late career and workshop arrangements.
Palumbo’s contribution to Gentileschi’s later works might go some way to explaining differences between her earlier and later paintings. Gentileschi’s late paintings seem stylistically inconsistent both as a group and in terms of the diversity of approaches occasionally detected within single compositions. To some writers, this has suggested a significant lack of quality control in her late output.
Others have argued the need to reconsider Gentileschi’s late works in light of her attempts to advance herself during the latter stages of her career. Gentileschi evidently considered her rate of pay during this period to be an important factor contributing to the quality of a painting. She wrote to a patron:
But I can tell you for certain that the higher the price, the harder I will strive to make a painting that will please Your Most Illustrious Lordship.
‘The spirit of Caesar’
This frank admission of the importance of financial considerations for her art was evidently not something Gentileschi felt ashamed of.
It was part and parcel of the strategies she used to promote herself as an independent female artist who maintained a successful artistic enterprise during the latter stages of a career in a cut-throat, competitive art world otherwise dominated entirely by men.
Elsewhere in the same letter, Gentileschi wrote:
Your Most Illustrious Lordship will not lose out with me … you will find [in me] the spirit of Caesar in this soul of a woman.
Strong words that have much to tell us about the complex, real-life concerns underpinning this artist’s extraordinary life and career.
It’s been a while since I’ve done an update so I’ll try not to make it too long.
The reason I’ve been so quiet on the blog and social media is that I’m under the pump to get a book finished and edited by November. It’s a part of the Secret Project series that I can’t talk about just yet (announcement will be soon I swear), so I’m up to my eye balls in research and drafts and generally trying to pull it together. For those who are like WTF I thought you working on a Aramis and Soren/ Firebird Fairytales World spin off book… Yes, I am. I’m about 40k words into it but its had to take a back seat while I finalise the other book. I’ve been able to write two books at once before, but the new series is different. It requires more space in my brain and more research to get right so I’ve put other books and uni on hiatus for a few months. It’ll be worth it I swear!
If you follow my Facebook you would have seen that I’m currently at the Cover Design phase of KINGDOM, the third Blood Lake Chronicles book, and if all goes to plan it should be out in October/November. I’ll make a more official announcement once I have a pre-order page up and passed the final edit/stressing stage. I’m really happy and excited how its come together!
I’ve managed to be dragged out of my writer cave and have been to two great exhibits in passed month; Wonderland at the ACMI and Vikings: Beyond the Legend. Both were fantastic and seeing how I’m obsessed with Alice (omg the costumes from Burton’s movies were there and I almost died) and Vikings I was in heaven.
Also, check my freaking awesome Loki statue I got from the Vikings Exhibit as well as Rune Swag!
I highly recommend both exhibits if you happen to be in the Melbourne area.
Apart from working on the book, I’ve been taking the time (ie forcing myself) to self care and refill the creative well. A looming deadline can really throw out my creative process, work my anxiety into a frenzy and generally stir me up to a point where I can’t focus on actual writing. This particular series is research heavy so I’ve spent some delightful hours on JSTOR, reading articles, following leads and making connections I never would have thought of without taking the time to immerse and enjoy myself.
In the reading department I finally finished my Sarah J Maas pile! I was actually really surprised how much I enjoyed Tower of Dawn. The world building was great and I really enjoyed the fantasy twist on the Huns that Maas created. Also yes, I AM in love Dothraki- Bae of the Skys a.k.a. Sartaq The Winged Prince. Hell, I even stopped hating Chaol in this one which surprised me. Catwoman has just come out and I’m already about half way through and enjoying Maas’s take on Gotham.
The other series I’m obsessed with at the moment is Thea Harrison’s Moonshadow series. If you like my Blood Lake Chronicles, and you are after more Celtic paranormal with an Arthurian twist I really recommend you check them out. To be honest you could go for any series of Thea Harrison and it would be worth it. I’m working my way through her whole catelogue at the moment and have loved everything (though Moonshadow and Dragon Bound have been my favourite).
OH. And I feel like I should mention here that I demolished ‘Spinning Silver’ by Naomi Novik. I have FEELINGS about this book. Like any book of hers, she just slays me. Her new takes on Russian mythology with this book and ‘Uprooted’ continues to leave me in awe and with serious impostor syndrome. I am shamelessly in love with the Staryk King, but seriously, a Winter Elf King who can do magic…its like it was made just for me to obsess over. I could write essays about this book but I wont. Please read it, and ‘Uprooted’ if you haven’t already.
Okay guys that’s about all I’ve got for you. I’m all head in the books at the moment and very unexciting. Fingers crossed I can break some awesome writing news to you all soon and then you get full enthusisatic Amy about the new series I’m so obsessed over that I’m literally incapable of thinking about anything else at the moment.
What did the earliest Roman wines taste like? Were the highly appraised wines of the first century really worth their legendary status? Will we ever know?
List of suggested wines at bottom
Mastroberardino Vineyard in Pompeii
When Vesuvius blew in August of 79 AD, ash covered the entire area of Pompeii and Herculaneum. The thriving seaport towns, once bustling with activity, became graveyards of civilizations frozen in time. There it lay undisturbed for eighteen centuries until it was excavated by Giuseppe Fiorelli, director of excavations from 1860 to 1875. Under twelve feet of solid ash, he discovered the decayed bodies of thirteen men, women, and children huddled together next to a stone wall inside their garden, where they suffocated in the swirling volcanic air.
Orchard of the Fugitives
Today the garden has been named the Orchard of the Fugitives. But instead of death, it is filled with green grass, robust…
Anne Thériault | Longreads | April 2018 | 16 minutes (4,246 words)
From the notorious to the half-forgotten, Queens of Infamy, a Longreads series by Anne Thériault, focuses on badass world-historical women of centuries past.
* * *
I’ve been fascinated by Eleanor of Aquitaine for as long as I can remember.
That sounds like it might be hyperbole or bragging, but it’s genuinely not. For most of that time I didn’t even know her name. To me, she was the royal mother in Disney’s Robin Hood, a woman whose maternal love — or lack thereof — shapes the entire story. Her eternal disappointment in her (admittedly very disappointing) youngest son, Prince John, is cited both by his allies and his enemies; John himself obsesses over her approval, at one point sucking his thumb in the middle of a muddy high street and wailing for mommy. Somehow, Eleanor…
A quick heads up that both The Firebird Fairytales Boxsetand The Western Wars Boxsetwill be Free on Amazon this weekend so its a perfect time to check them out and leave a review! They are also on Kindle Unlimited if you are a part of the program…Check out descriptions below x
The Firebird Fairytales is a fresh Nordic Paranormal Fantasy series that breathes new life into Ancient myth
Cry of the Firebird
Born on the crossroads between worlds Anya’s Gate Keeper magic is buried under grief and rage until one fateful night a firebird hatches on her farm who is sharing its body with the fabled Prince Yvan. With Yvan’s dark magician brother Vasilli and other powerful enemies closing in around them, Anya has no choice but to sober up, follow Yvan into Skazki and hope that she can learn how to control her awakening magic before it destroys her and any hope of keeping the gates to both world’s safe.
Ashes of the Firebird
Branded as Rogues and hunted by the supernatural world Anya and her companions flee to Budapest, a place of new allies where they will be safe. They begin the search for Yanka, Anya’s ancestor and the only person in history with enough power to change the tide of the brewing war. Her relationship with the Thanatos Trajan is made complicated when he accidently feeds off her and trouble finds them when Aleksandra saves mysterious demon hunter Mychal from an attack, bringing new monsters and threats to Anya’s door.
Rise of the Firebird
Travelling from the battlefields of Skazki to the Underworld of Tuonela, Anya and her companions encounter the vicious dark goddess Louhi and gain two magician’s, the mad hero Kullervo and Eldon Blaise – apprentice of Merlin himself. As devastating secrets of history and the heart are revealed, Anya must fight the darkness within her and rise up to be a symbol for the Neutral rebel army that rallies under the banner of the firebird. Ready to restore the balance at any price, the final battle of the three armies will shape the worlds forever.
The Western Wars is an epic fantasy series with loads of adventure, magic and romance
Eastern Gods – Book One
‘Come to me and I’ll whisper secrets that will shake the worlds. ‘
When a spy from the mysterious Eastlands is caught in his kingdom, Haldirian is sent to the only reliable scholar of the East left on the continent of Elindor. With her help, he’s determined to stop the fear of war spreading, but as the first female heir in history, highly intelligent and carrying a warrior swagger Aláenor isn’t what Haldirian has learned to expect from royal princesses. But Aláenor isn’t as confident as she appears as she’s haunted by the memory of her dead mother and plagued by a man whispering in her nightmares.
The spy claims that Mordecai, dark magician and Emperor of the East sent him to scout their kingdoms for an invasion, but it’s the threat of unknown magic that forces them to act. The West turned their back on magic hundreds of years ago, and they will have no way to stand against it if the mysterious Emperor decides to make war.
Together, Aláenor and Haldirian will journey to the other side of the world to learn the truth, but nothing is as it seems, and the East will reveal secrets to Aláenor that will shatter her world, question her loyalties, and forge her into the queen she must become.
The Golden Queen – Book Two
Scholar. Warrior. Lover. Queen.
Still recovering from her imprisonment in the Red Fortress, Aláenor travels to the northern city of Anan in search of new allies in her war against the Emperor Mordecai.
Anan has more than one surprise for Aláenor, and as she comes to terms with the magic awakening inside of her she will need Haldirian’s support to make it back to the West.
Aláenor has been raised to believe that Mordecai’s family line were traitors, but history is written by the winners and she will discover she has more in common with the enemy than she thinks.
Do you guys have months that are always out of control no matter how well you plan them? Every year it seems to my May. I had it all perfectly planned then it exploded and I’m running about like a head with its chicken cut off.
First things first…KINGDOM is DONE. Well, the first draft is anyway. Hurray! I’m currently reading through it, making lots of notes where I seem to have forgotten to write needed scenes and adding in descriptions that I left behind. Every book I write is different and KINGDOM has had its own set of challenges including an ending that wouldn’t stop changing. Its on track to still be released at some point this year but I’m not committing to any date until I have a draft I’m happy with.
Speaking of releases, Eastern Gods will be out on the 30th of May. I’m not doing heaps of promo around it because it is a re-launch but the date is set, pre-order pages are up. The Golden Queen (book 2) is getting its final proofread completed and I should have a pre-order page up for it shortly. Ideally I’d like to release them both on the 30th but I’ll see how I’m tracking. Before I forget…the paperback is not being released for another little while but I’ll keep you updated on it. In their first draft format, these books were written before The Firebird Fairytales series (10+ years ago). This is why the discerning reader will pick up references to a particular magical wood mentioned in Rise of the Firebird that are the same trees in Eastern Gods. Its taken me forever to get to a point that I’m comfortable sharing them but I feel like its time. It’s a BIG world with lots of characters and potential for more stories in the future. It wraps up neatly but I’ve purposely left space for more books because it’s such a fun world to play in. It is aimed at a young adult/ new adult audience but I’ve had lots of adult beta readers enjoy the series so check it out if you like adventurous, epic fantasy with a fun bit of romance thrown in.
I’ve tentatively started writing book 2 of SECRET PROJECT which hopefully won’t need to remain a secret much longer. I’m trying to clear my editing plate before I really sink my teeth into it because this particular series always takes longer to write due to the research involved. Expect announcements in this space soon. Trust me, as soon as I get the green light I seriously won’t be able to stop talking about it.
Stuff I’m Reading:
If you follow my social media you would’ve seen that I’m FINALLY catching up on my Sarah J Maas TBR pile. I love both of her series and I’ve been about four books behind for a while now. I’ve smashed out the Court of Thorns and Roses series and now about to start the last two Throne of Glass. I’ve said it before but I really wish these books were around when I was a teenager. I got so sick of only reading fantasy books with male protagonists that I decided to write my own series…and The Western Wars series was born. I can’t wait to get stuck into Throne of Glass…Aelin is my fave!
My obsession with L.H.Cosway is continuing this month as I get stuck into this beauty. I’m not a huge contemporary romance fan but I seriously love her books. Not only are they hot (so hot) they are HILARIOUS and all of the characters seem like people you could hang out with that have relatable problems. I’m a sucker for a man with a stringed instrument so I’m enjoying the hell out this one.
Thats all from me for the moment, but I’ll put up another update if I get any newsworthy news.