Laughing at History

Yesterday the website The Mary Sue published a post of mine, a short, lighthearted little thing about the malady known as green sickness. After it was published, I committed the cardinal internet sin of reading the comments. Normally I don’t do that, but The Mary Sue’s readers are savvy and smart, and I was curiousContinue reading “Laughing at History”

The Spitting Image

I came across this image while browsing in the online collection of the Wellcome Library (heaven only knows what my search terms were). Even in the often-bizarre world of the Wellcome’s collection, with wood engravings of eyes swollen shut by a witch’s curse and pictures of possessed men spitting up nails, this image stood out. Regurgitating,Continue reading “The Spitting Image”

Scratching “The Itch Infalable” at The Recipes Project

I wrote this blog post for The Recipes Project: Food, Magic, Art, Science, and Medicine about a 17th-century anti-itching recipe: Scratching “The Itch Infalable”: Johanna St. John’s Anti-Itch Cure On the downside, you may get psychosomatic itching after reading it, much like in 5th grade when you watched all those educational movies about lice. OnContinue reading “Scratching “The Itch Infalable” at The Recipes Project”

Hog-Faced Woman ISO Single Male for Love, Marriage, Transformation

Human culture is a strange and wonderful thing. I’ve been reading about a genre of folk stories that have as a central character a “hog-faced woman,” and I’m left shaking my head at the uncanniness of human imagination. These tales seem to have arisen in the early 17th century concurrently in England, The Netherlands, andContinue reading “Hog-Faced Woman ISO Single Male for Love, Marriage, Transformation”

Great Globs of Glowing Urine

Many fields define themselves by specialties. Doctors are not just doctors—they are podiatrists or pediatricians or surgeons. Restaurant workers are baristas or pastry chefs or sommeliers. Writers are novelists or poets or “content providers.” So it is for academics, as well. When I’m wearing that hat, I define myself as an early modernist. But evenContinue reading “Great Globs of Glowing Urine”

Feeling crabby

Happy birth-month to me! My birthday was last week, and, as per usual, I was out of sorts. I’ve never really enjoyed my birthday, to be honest. It’s not that I mind getting older. Heck, I have Gratiano’s line from The Merchant of Venice–“with mirth and laughter let old wrinkles come”–etched onto a mirror inContinue reading “Feeling crabby”

Of Sloths, Demons, and Palindromic Numbers

When I hear the word “sloth,” I generally have a Kriston Bell moment. And I’m not alone. Sloths are enjoying a cultural surge, with sloth memes, sloth fan clubs, and even sloth socks (yes, I own a pair). Culturally, though, we pay more attention to the cute little critter than we do to the otherContinue reading “Of Sloths, Demons, and Palindromic Numbers”

In the Image of Dog He Created Them…

We’ve all heard the theory that people look like their pets (or is it vice versa?), and we’ve all seen the uncanny photos, like these featured in the popular listicle website, Buzzfeed (oh dear, number 23…) (As an aside: I joke that it’s because of this resemblance theory that I adopted a greyhound—it was a weight-lossContinue reading “In the Image of Dog He Created Them…”

Matthew Hopkins, Witchfinder General and Vile-Hearted Renaissance Peckerhead of the Month

Lately, I’ve been a little obsessed with early modern witchcraft. Perhaps it’s because of the poppet in my hedge. Or perhaps it’s because I took the BBC’s online quiz “Would You Have Been Accused of Witchcraft” (short answer: yes). Probably it’s a combination of the two: a realization that, had I lived in 17th-century England,Continue reading “Matthew Hopkins, Witchfinder General and Vile-Hearted Renaissance Peckerhead of the Month”

The Poppet in the Hedge

Last week, my neighbor cut back our shared hedge considerably—about three feet.  We didn’t think much about it until our family walk, when we were startled to discover this: It’s a fuzzy picture, but if you enlarge it you can see it’s a baby doll head impaled on a stick–caked in mud, with one eyeContinue reading “The Poppet in the Hedge”