Dark Origins: African Myths and Legends – The Zulus Part 2 #Beadwork #Traditionalstory

Last month for Dark Origins, African Myths and Legends, I shared an introduction to the Zulu people of South Africa, the Great Zulu King Shaka and the legend of the Buffalo Thorn tree. If you missed it, you can read it here: https://writingtoberead.com/2022/04/27/dark-origins-african-myths-and-legends-the-zulus-part-1/

This month, I will be sharing information about Zulu beadwork and the messages contained therein as well as a traditional story.

Zulu beadwork

The Zulu people of South Africa have a rich tradition of beadwork. Originally, bone, small horns, shells and small pieces of polished wood and stone were pierced to make beads that were strung together as necklaces and belts.

When the Zulus started trading with the Europeans at the end of the 18th century, glass and ceramic beads were introduced into their beadwork.

Traditionally, both men and women wore beaded belts called umutsha to which a piece of cloth was attached to cover the pubic area. The belts have conical brass buttons that fasten the belt at both ends.

The colours and designs incorporated into Zulu beadwork hold specific meanings. Red beads, for example, signifies intense and jealous passion or eyes that are red from watching for a loved one to return. Yellow signifies contentment, pink or green for poverty or coolness, white for faithfulness and purity and black to indicate a desire to be married.

The main shape used in traditional Zulu beadwork is the triangle where the three corners represent Father, Mother, and Child. The triangle is also used to indicate gender and marital status, for example, if the tip points upwards it represents an unmarried girl. If the tip points downwards, it means an unmarried boy.

Zulu beadwork is used to make traditional dolls and jewelry as well as beaded ostrich eggs and bead coasters.

In summary, beads are an integral part of African history and culture. The serve as a form of money, indicate wealth, are spiritual talismans and form coded messages for the recipient.

Traditional Zulu music:

The South African pre-battle Haka:

Reading of a traditional Zulu story

My reading of The Chief’s Daughter and the Cannibal, a traditional Zulu story from Myths and Legends of Southern Africa by Penny Miller:

About Roberta Eaton Cheadle

Roberta Eaton Cheadle is a South African writer and poet specialising in historical, paranormal, and horror novels and short stories. She is an avid reader in these genres and her writing has been influenced by famous authors including Bram Stoker, Edgar Allan Poe, Amor Towles, Stephen Crane, Enrich Maria Remarque, George Orwell, Stephen King, and Colleen McCullough.

Roberta has short stories and poems in several anthologies and has 2 published novels, Through the Nethergate, a historical supernatural fantasy, and A Ghost and His Gold, a historical paranormal novel set in South Africa.

Roberta has 9 children’s books published under the name Robbie Cheadle.

Roberta was educated at the University of South Africa where she achieved a Bachelor of Accounting Science in 1996 and a Honours Bachelor of Accounting Science in 1997. She was admitted as a member of The South African Institute of Chartered Accountants in 2000.

Roberta has worked in corporate finance from 2001 until the present date and has written 7 publications relating to investing in Africa. She has won several awards over her 20-year career in the category of Transactional Support Services.

Find Roberta Eaton Cheadle

Blog: https://wordpress.com/view/robertawrites235681907.wordpress.com

Twitter: https://twitter.com/RobertaEaton17

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/robertawrites

Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Roberta-Eaton-Cheadle/e/B08RSNJQZ5

_____________________________________________________________________________________________

Want to be sure not to miss any of Robbie’s “Dark Origins” segments? Subscribe to Writing to be Read for e-mail notifications whenever new content is posted or follow WtbR on WordPress. If you found it interesting or entertaining, please share.


Dark Origins: African myths and legends, The Zulus – Part 1

The Zulu are the largest ethnic group in South Africa, with a population of between 10 and 12 million people living mainly in the province of KwaZulu-Natal. The Zulu tribe originated from the Ngunis who inhabited central and eastern Africa. They migrated to Southern Africa as part of the ‘Bantu Migration’ which occurred centuries ago.

One of the most famous Zulu chief was Shaka (1816 to 1828) who founded the Zulu empire. He is credited with uniting more than one hundred independent Nguni chiefdoms into a formidable fighting force. Shaka armed his warriors with short-handled stabbing spears for close-contact fighting and trained them to move up to their opponents in close formation with the body-length cowhide shields forming an almost impenetrable barrier to long-handled assegai thrown by enemy forces.

This is the theme song from the Shaka Zulu TV show called We are Growing:

The first interesting Zulu cultural belief I want to share is about the Buffalo Thorn tree.

Like many other cultures, the Zulu people believe that a person’s life continues in the spirit world after death. Every person who dies within the Zulu tribe must be buried traditionally or the deceased may become a wandering spirit. An animal is slaughtered as a ritual and the deceased person’s personal belongings are buried with them to help them on their next journey.

Ancestors, known as amadlozi and abaphansi, are believed to live in the spirit world, unKulunkulu, and are regarded as intermediaries between the spirit world and the world of the living. Ancestors make their presence known through dreams, sickness, and snakes. At opportune times like birth, puberty, marriage, and death, the ancestors are asked for blessings, good luck, fortune, guidance and other assistance. Sacrifices of animals are made to appease the ancestors and offerings of home-made beer and other things are given as offerings.

The buffalo thorn blooms in southern Africa from October to Zulu. It is a deciduous tree and sheds its silvery-grey leaves annually. It is unusual in that its thorns grow in pairs with one thorn being straight and the other hooked. This makes this tree an effective perimeter barrier.

In Zulu culture, a twig from the Buffalo Thorn is used to collect the spirit of a deceased person from their place of death, and taken to their final resting place. If the transporter of the spirit travels, the branch will have its own seat in the vehicle.

This is a branch of a Buffalo Thorn. You can clearly see the two types of thorns from each node.

In a traditional Zulu kraal, the beehive hut on the highest point, furthest from the entrance, is occupied by the chief’s mother and is also home to the family’s ancestors. Modern Zulu settlements all have a beehive shaped traditional spirit hut.

This is a random picture of a Zulu home near Fugitive’s Drift Guest Farm. You can see the ancestor hut at the back with the conical thatched roof

It is also common for the Zulu people to plant a Buffalo Thorn tree at the site of a graveyard or mass burial site.

This Buffalo Thorn tree was planted at the burial site of the warriors who fell during the Battle of Isandlwana. You can read my post about this battle here: https://robertawrites235681907.wordpress.com/2021/01/22/thursdaydoors-isandlwana/
This Buffalo Thorn tree was planted as the site of the warriors who fell at the Battle of Rorke’s Drift. You can read my post about this battle here: https://robertawrites235681907.wordpress.com/2021/01/30/thursdaydoors-the-battle-of-rorkes-drift/

About Roberta Eaton Cheadle

Roberta Eaton Cheadle is a South African writer and poet specialising in historical, paranormal, and horror novels and short stories. She is an avid reader in these genres and her writing has been influenced by famous authors including Bram Stoker, Edgar Allan Poe, Amor Towles, Stephen Crane, Enrich Maria Remarque, George Orwell, Stephen King, and Colleen McCullough.

Roberta has short stories and poems in several anthologies and has 2 published novels, Through the Nethergate, a historical supernatural fantasy, and A Ghost and His Gold, a historical paranormal novel set in South Africa.

Roberta has 9 children’s books published under the name Robbie Cheadle.

Roberta was educated at the University of South Africa where she achieved a Bachelor of Accounting Science in 1996 and a Honours Bachelor of Accounting Science in 1997. She was admitted as a member of The South African Institute of Chartered Accountants in 2000.

Roberta has worked in corporate finance from 2001 until the present date and has written 7 publications relating to investing in Africa. She has won several awards over her 20-year career in the category of Transactional Support Services.

Find Roberta Eaton Cheadle

Blog: https://wordpress.com/view/robertawrites235681907.wordpress.com

Twitter: https://twitter.com/RobertaEaton17

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/robertawrites

Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Roberta-Eaton-Cheadle/e/B08RSNJQZ5

_____________________________________________________________________________________________

Want to be sure not to miss any of Robbie’s “Dark Origins” segments? Subscribe to Writing to be Read for e-mail notifications whenever new content is posted or follow WtbR on WordPress. If you found it interesting or entertaining, please share.


Dark Origins – African myths and legends: The San (previously Bushmen) Part 3

In January and February, I introduced you to the San or Bushmen of Southern African and shared some of their cultural ways and traditional stories.

Part 1 provided an introduction to the San and some information about a specific rock art form of the human hand. You can read it here: https://writingtoberead.com/2022/01/26/dark-origins-african-myths-and-legends-the-san-previously-bushmen-part-1/

Part 2 provided an overview of the San hunting methods and I shared another traditional story. I also introduced you to the Bushman Heritage Museum in Nieu Bethesda. You can read it here: https://writingtoberead.com/2022/02/23/dark-origins-african-myths-and-legends-the-san-previously-bushmen-part-2/

Today, I am sharing a bit about the traditional religious beliefs of the San.

God and the afterlife

The bushmen traditionally believe in a greater and a lesser Supreme Being or God.

The greater God first created himself and then the land and the food it produces, the air and water. He is generally a positive power and protects, wards off disease and teaches skills to people. When angered, however, he can send bad fortune.

The lesser god is seen to be bad or evil, a destroyer rather than builder, and a bearer of bad luck and disease. The bushmen believed that bad luck and disease was caused by the spirits of the dead, because they want to bring the living to the same place they are.

Cagn is the name the bushmen gave their god. They attributed human characteristics to him as well as many charms and magical powers.

The bushmen believed in the afterlife and a dead man’s weapons were buried with him. They turned the face of the dead towards the rising sun, as they believed that if he was faced to the west the sun would take longer to rise the next day.

Witchcraft

The bushmen heritage includes a deep belief in witchcraft and charms. They have a dread of violating them and bringing bad luck upon themselves. The hunters believe that if their shadows fall on dying game it will bring disaster upon them. No matter how thirsty a bushman is, he will not dig a hole in the bed of a dried-up stream until he has made an offering to appease the spirit of the stream. The spirit is thought to take the form of an enormous man with either red or green skin and white hair. The spirit can make himself visible or invisible at will.

San rock art

San rock art found in Namibia date back at least 25,000 years. The Bushmen continued with their rock art painting right up until the time of the European settlers. We know this because some of their more recent artworks depict wagons. Archaeologists believe that the San artworks were a way for the entire community to share mental images while in a group trance state.

The San artwork depicts non-human beings, hunters, and half-human half-animal hybrids. The half-human hybrids are believed to be medicine men or healers who performed healing dances.

Here are a few examples of San rock art we saw on our recent road trip to Nieu Bethesda:

San Bushman Moon Dance in the Kalahari Desert

About Roberta Eaton Cheadle

Roberta Eaton Cheadle is a South African writer and poet specialising in historical, paranormal, and horror novels and short stories. She is an avid reader in these genres and her writing has been influenced by famous authors including Bram Stoker, Edgar Allan Poe, Amor Towles, Stephen Crane, Enrich Maria Remarque, George Orwell, Stephen King, and Colleen McCullough.

Roberta has short stories and poems in several anthologies and has 2 published novels, Through the Nethergate, a historical supernatural fantasy, and A Ghost and His Gold, a historical paranormal novel set in South Africa.

Roberta has 9 children’s books published under the name Robbie Cheadle.

Roberta was educated at the University of South Africa where she achieved a Bachelor of Accounting Science in 1996 and a Honours Bachelor of Accounting Science in 1997. She was admitted as a member of The South African Institute of Chartered Accountants in 2000.

Roberta has worked in corporate finance from 2001 until the present date and has written 7 publications relating to investing in Africa. She has won several awards over her 20-year career in the category of Transactional Support Services.

Find Roberta Eaton Cheadle

Blog: https://wordpress.com/view/robertawrites235681907.wordpress.com

Twitter: https://twitter.com/RobertaEaton17

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/robertawrites

Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Roberta-Eaton-Cheadle/e/B08RSNJQZ5

_____________________________________________________________________________________________

Want to be sure not to miss any of Robbie’s “Dark Origins” segments? Subscribe to Writing to be Read for e-mail notifications whenever new content is posted or follow WtbR on WordPress. If you found it interesting or entertaining, please share.


Dark Origins – African myths and legends: The San (previously Bushmen) Part 2

Last month, I introduced you to the San (previously Bushmen) of southern Africa and shared about their rock art. You can read the post here: https://writingtoberead.com/2022/01/26/dark-origins-african-myths-and-legends-the-san-previously-bushmen-part-1/.

Today, I am going to share a poem from the extinct IXam tribe and a little more about the San.

San hunting methods

The San are excellent hunters. They do some trapping of animals but hunting with a bow and arrows is their preferred method. The San arrows are smeared with a deadly poison that kills the animal slowly. As the animal takes a long time to die, the hunters have to track it sometimes for a few days.

The San make their poison from a caterpillar called ka or ngwa or from the larvae of a small beetle. Sometimes they use poison made from plants or snake venom. San poisons are highly toxic. In order to prevent accidental contamination, they reverse their arrow points and keep them inside the reed collar of their arrows. They also smear the arrows with the poison just below the tips.

The San use every part of the animals they hunt. Hides are tanned for blankets and the bones are cracked and the marrow eaten.

Water is scarce in the areas inhabited by the bushmen. During the dry season, moisture is collected by scraping and squeezing roots. They also dig holes in the sand to find water and also carry water in the shells of ostrich eggs.

Myths of the IXam

One of the myths of the IXam is about how the Milky Way was formed. They have a poem/story called The Girl Who Made Stars which tells this story.

You can listen to me reading this story here:

This story demonstrates the San belief that feminine energy is dominant in the creation of the cosmos.

In this story, a girl who is menstruating for the first time throws wood ash and edible roots into the sky. The ashes and roots become stars and light the people’s path as they walk by at night. This myth depicts the creator of the Milky Way and all the stars in the dawning womanhood of a pubescent girl.

The girl in this story is confined to a small hut during this time. She may not eat the young men’s game as her doing so would destroy their abilities as hunters. A look from her can turn a springbok wild. She is a fragile girl but she is powerful and to be feared at this time. She is also kind and benevolent, creating the stars so that people can see at night.

The Bushman Heritage Museum in Nieu Bethesda

During our road trip earlier this year, we were fortunate enough to visit The Bushmen Heritage Museum in Nieu Bethesda and see the beautiful wall hangings that have been created by the descendants of the now extinct IXam tribe to celebrate their mythology and to help remember it.

This short video shares a bit about the creation of this museum and what it stands for. The story of the bushmen is a tragic one and this video will give you gooseflesh.

The picture above is of the restaurant at the museum which also has some wonderful local art made by the descendants of the IXam tribe available for purchase.

If you would like to learn more about the Bushman Heritage Museum, you can do so here: https://bushmanheritagemuseum.org/

Next month, I will share the last post in this short series about the San or Bushmen of southern Africa.

About Roberta Eaton Cheadle

Roberta Eaton Cheadle is a South African writer and poet specialising in historical, paranormal, and horror novels and short stories. She is an avid reader in these genres and her writing has been influenced by famous authors including Bram Stoker, Edgar Allan Poe, Amor Towles, Stephen Crane, Enrich Maria Remarque, George Orwell, Stephen King, and Colleen McCullough.

Roberta has short stories and poems in several anthologies and has 2 published novels, Through the Nethergate, a historical supernatural fantasy, and A Ghost and His Gold, a historical paranormal novel set in South Africa.

Roberta has 9 children’s books published under the name Robbie Cheadle.

Roberta was educated at the University of South Africa where she achieved a Bachelor of Accounting Science in 1996 and a Honours Bachelor of Accounting Science in 1997. She was admitted as a member of The South African Institute of Chartered Accountants in 2000.

Roberta has worked in corporate finance from 2001 until the present date and has written 7 publications relating to investing in Africa. She has won several awards over her 20-year career in the category of Transactional Support Services.

Find Roberta Eaton Cheadle

Blog: https://wordpress.com/view/robertawrites235681907.wordpress.com

Twitter: https://twitter.com/RobertaEaton17

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/robertawrites

Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Roberta-Eaton-Cheadle/e/B08RSNJQZ5

_____________________________________________________________________________________________

Want to be sure not to miss any of Robbie’s “Dark Origins” segments? Subscribe to Writing to be Read for e-mail notifications whenever new content is posted or follow WtbR on WordPress. If you found it interesting or entertaining, please share.


Dark Origins – African myths and legends: The San (previously Bushmen) Part 1

Introduction

Replica of a San family living in the Cango Caves in Oudtshoorn in the Klein (Small) Karoo. Picture by Robbie Cheadle

The San peoples, previously know as Bushmen, are members of the various Khoe, Tuu, or Kx’a-speaking indigenous hunter-gather cultures which are also the first cultures of southern Africa. The territories of the San peoples include Botswana, Namibia, Angola, Zambia, Zimbabwe, Lesotho, and South Africa.

The hunter-gatherer San peoples are one of the oldest cultures on Earth and are believed to be descended from the first inhabitants of what is now Botswana and South Africa. The San were traditionally semi-nomadic as they moved seasonally within certain defined areas based on the availability of water, game, and edible plants. The areas occupied by the San were semi-desert or desert areas, including the Kalahari Desert.

During the colonial period, much of the land occupied by the San peoples was conquered. The pattern of lost land and reduced access by the San to natural resources has continued and is a primary contributor to the current displaced position of the San and the destruction of their ancient traditional lifestyles.

Rock art – human hand

The San are well known for their rock art which is found in caves and rocky overhangs where the San lived. These rock paintings comprise mainly of animals and human figures. On a recent trip to Nieu Bethesda in the Eastern Cape of South Africa, I saw a reddish handprint of a San Shaman. It is believed that the San didn’t view rock as a solid surface and these handprints indicate so-called energy points, where the San believed a person could travel through a cave wall’s illusory solidity.

Rock art – human handprint. Picture by Robbie Cheadle

IXam mythology

IXam, formerly spoken by the IXam-ka peoples of South Africa, is considered an extinct language. Fortunately, some of the IXam stories were recorded by linguists Wilhelm Bleek and Lucy Lloyd in Cape Town in the 19th Century.

This is the IXam story of the sun’s origins:

“The sun was an old man of the Early Race who lived in a hut on earth. The light of the sun shone out of his armpit and only lit up the space around his house. The earth was dark and cold and the mothers couldn’t dry the ant or termite larvae that they collected to eat. Everybody was hungry and cold because there was no warmth from the sun who refused to share his light.

The mothers gathered the children together and told them to pick up the old man and throw him into the sky. They did this and now he sheds light over all the earth.”

I hope you enjoyed this introduction to the San peoples and IXam story. Next month, I’ll be sharing more about the culture and traditions of the San and another traditional story.

About Roberta Eaton Cheadle

Roberta Eaton Cheadle is a South African writer and poet specialising in historical, paranormal, and horror novels and short stories. She is an avid reader in these genres and her writing has been influenced by famous authors including Bram Stoker, Edgar Allan Poe, Amor Towles, Stephen Crane, Enrich Maria Remarque, George Orwell, Stephen King, and Colleen McCullough.

Roberta has short stories and poems in several anthologies and has 2 published novels, Through the Nethergate, a historical supernatural fantasy, and A Ghost and His Gold, a historical paranormal novel set in South Africa.

Roberta has 9 children’s books published under the name Robbie Cheadle.

Roberta was educated at the University of South Africa where she achieved a Bachelor of Accounting Science in 1996 and a Honours Bachelor of Accounting Science in 1997. She was admitted as a member of The South African Institute of Chartered Accountants in 2000.

Roberta has worked in corporate finance from 2001 until the present date and has written 7 publications relating to investing in Africa. She has won several awards over her 20-year career in the category of Transactional Support Services.

Find Roberta Eaton Cheadle

Blog: https://wordpress.com/view/robertawrites235681907.wordpress.com

Twitter: https://twitter.com/RobertaEaton17

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/robertawrites

Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Roberta-Eaton-Cheadle/e/B08RSNJQZ5

_____________________________________________________________________________________________

Want to be sure not to miss any of Robbie’s “Dark Origins” segments? Subscribe to Writing to be Read for e-mail notifications whenever new content is posted or follow WtbR on WordPress. If you found it interesting or entertaining, please share.


Dark Origins – A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens

In the spring of 1843, Charles Dickens read a government report on child labour in the United Kingdom. The report, compiled by a journalist friend of Charles Dickens, comprised of a series of interviews with working children. It detailed the long hours, crushing work, and poor conditions suffered by these children.

The new and heartless attitude towards child labour was a result of three things:

  • an increase in the population by 64% in 30 years;
  • workers leaving the countryside and crowding to the cities in search of work; and
  • the demise of cottage industries and there replacement with mundane and menial labour in factories.

Employers thought of the workers as commodities whose labour was measured purely on output and productivity.

There was a lot of controversy among the wealthy classes and the clergy as to whether assistance should be extended to the poor. A lot of people were of the opinion that people were poor due to their own laziness and malingering and that giving help would exacerbate these tendencies.

The work houses of the day split up families, provided minimal food, and extracted hard labour from its occupants, including children, in an effort to discourage the poor from seeking help.

I am reminded at this point of the song Food, Glorious Food from the musical Oliver based on the book by Charles Dickens:

Rev. Thomas Malthus advocated letting the poor go hungry to decrease the population. His view was that it was better to let the poor starve to “decrease the surplus population”.

Charles Dickens’ response was to write the novella, A Christmas Carol, which eloquently expressed his views on employer responsibilities towards workers.

If you don’t know the story of A Christmas Carol, this is a very brief overview:

The story opens with Ebenezer Scrooge sitting in his counting house on Christmas Eve. His clerk, Bob Cratchit, is sitting shivering in the anteroom because Scrooge won’t spend any money on heating. He turns down his nephew, Fred’s, invitation to a Christmas party and chases away two men collecting money for charity. At the end of the day, he returns to his cold, dark home.

After Scrooge has retired for the night, he is visited by the ghost of his dead partner, Jacob Marley. Marley is weighed down by heavy chains and is destined to make his way through the afterlife dragging them after him because of his mean-spirited and selfish life.

Picture caption: https://www.charlesdickenspage.com/illustrations-carol.html

Marley tells Scrooge that he will be visited by three ghosts that night, the ghosts of Christmas Past, Present, and Future. The ghosts show Scrooge where he made mistakes in his past life due to choosing money over love and life, how his clerk and the Cratchit family are suffering because of his present day meanness, and show him a lonely future death. Scrooge is offered, and takes, an opportunity to change his ways and find redemption.

If you are interested in listening to A Christmas Carol beautifully read by Stephen Humphreys, you will find the links on Rebecca Budd’s blog: Clanmother: https://clanmother.com/2021/12/07/stephen-humphreys-reads-a-christmas-carol/

Wishing you all a Merry Christmas if you celebrate or Happy Holidays.

Although I cannot compare my take on Victorian child labour to Charles Dickens’ brilliant works, I have written several times about this and I thought I would share this short extract from my book, Through the Nethergate, about a serving girl in a tavern in Bungay in 1589.

“The rich, amber fluid flowed into the waiting tankard, in striking contrast to the damp, darkness of the barrel filled cellar.

The small, frail girl stood with the tankard in her trembling hand. She was hungry, thirsty and cold. She hadn’t had anything to eat or drink since last night’s frugal supper of leftovers in the Inn’s kitchen. A wave of dizziness washed over her as she contemplated the drink. Its golden depths seemed to entrance her as she lifted it to her lips.

At least the kitchen was warm, she thought, remembering the delicious heat of the enormous, roaring fireplace. The kitchen was a much better place to steal a moment of rest than this freezing cold
cellar, in the bowels of the building.

The strong, rich taste of the ale brought a smile to the girl’s pale face. She greedily drained the tankard, closing her eyes and allowing a feeling of well-being to permeate through her skinny, undernourished body. The girl, called Lizzie, worked as a servant at the pub and she was twelve years old.

She knew she should be grateful for the job, but it was hard to forgive the heavy-handed punishments metered out to her by Will, the owner of the establishment.

A rough hand grasped her shoulder, its thick fingers digging viciously into her flesh.

“What have you done?” the loud, grating voice of Will blasted through her euphoria.

Lizzie jerked with fear and the tankard fell from her fingers, clattering to the stone floor before rolling away.

She looked up into piggy eyes staring out of a fat and well-fed face. Will’s usually florid complexion looked even ruddier and coarser than usual.

“Why, you little thief,” continued Will. “You know what we do with thieves in this Inn.”

A short while later, Lizzie found herself chained to the wall of the cellar. Her pleas and cries for mercy had fallen on deaf ears as Will, filled with righteousness and piety at her ungodly action, attached the manacles to her wrists and ankles.”

__________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Want to be sure not to miss any of Robbie’s “Dark Origins” segments? Subscribe to Writing to be Read for e-mail notifications whenever new content is posted or follow WtbR on WordPress. If you found it interesting or entertaining, please share.


Dark Origins – Old Mother Hubbard

Old Mother Hubbard is a popular nursery rhyme but the words are not very child friendly. It is rather long so I am only sharing the first three verses here:

Old Mother Hubbard
Went to the cupboard,
To give the poor dog a bone:
When she came there,
The cupboard was bare,
And so the poor dog had none.

She went to the baker’s
To buy him some bread;
When she came back
The dog was dead!

She went to the undertaker’s
To buy him a coffin;
When she came back
The dog was laughing.

As with most nursery rhymes, it is not possible to peg down its exact origins but I am going to share with you two quite different proposed origins, one being much darker than the other.

Old Mother Hubbard is purported to refer to Cardinal Thomas Wolsey and his failure to obtain an annulment from the Pope of King Henry VIII of England’s first marriage to Catherine of Aragon. The cupboard represents the Catholic Church, the dog represents King Henry VIII, and the bone, the coveted annulment.

Thomas Wolsey (1475 to 1530) was a cardinal and a statesman, Henry VIII’s lord chancellor and one of the last clergymen to play a dominant role in English political life.

Henry was desperate for a male heir and Catherine produced a daughter, Mary. He argued that his marriage to Catherine was not lawful and requested that Wolsey use his influence in Rome to get a papal annulment so that he could remarry.

However, Catherine’s nephew, the Holy Roman Emperor Charles V, dominated the Pope at the time and Wolsey failed in his mission. This failure led to him being arrested in November 1530 and accused of treason. He died on 29 November 1530 on his way south to face trial.

Thomas Wolsey at Tudor court
Thomas Wolsey significantly enhanced Henry’s already strong sense of his sovereignty. (Photo by Hulton Archive/Getty Images)

The other popular belief is that Old Mother Hubbard from the nursery rhyme was a retired housekeeper called Miss Sarah Catherine Martin. Miss Martin wrote and illustrated the poem in 1804, but whether or not it was about her own life is unknown. She worked as a housekeeper at Kitley House, the estate of Sir Henry Bastard in Yealmpton, and when she retired she occupied a lovely thatched stone and cob cottage nearby. The area abounds with legends about Sarah and Prince William Henry, a friend of Sir Bastard and a visitor to his estate.

Old Mother Hubbard's Cottage in Yealmpton, Devon
Picture Credit: Old Mother Hubbard’s Cottage which is now a Chinese restaurant in Yealmpton. https://www.picturesofengland.com/England/Devon/Yealmpton/Old_Mother_Hubbard’s_Cottage

About Roberta Eaton Cheadle

Roberta Eaton Cheadle is a South African writer and poet specialising in historical, paranormal, and horror novels and short stories. She is an avid reader in these genres and her writing has been influenced by famous authors including Bram Stoker, Edgar Allan Poe, Amor Towles, Stephen Crane, Enrich Maria Remarque, George Orwell, Stephen King, and Colleen McCullough.

Roberta has short stories and poems in several anthologies and has 2 published novels, Through the Nethergate, a historical supernatural fantasy, and A Ghost and His Gold, a historical paranormal novel set in South Africa.

Roberta has 9 children’s books published under the name Robbie Cheadle.

Roberta was educated at the University of South Africa where she achieved a Bachelor of Accounting Science in 1996 and a Honours Bachelor of Accounting Science in 1997. She was admitted as a member of The South African Institute of Chartered Accountants in 2000.

Roberta has worked in corporate finance from 2001 until the present date and has written 7 publications relating to investing in Africa. She has won several awards over her 20-year career in the category of Transactional Support Services.

Find Roberta Eaton Cheadle

Blog: https://wordpress.com/view/robertawrites235681907.wordpress.com

Twitter: https://twitter.com/RobertaEaton17

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/robertawrites

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Dark Origins – The Red Shoes by Hans Christian Anderson

Have you read the story of the red shoes? This is the one fairy tale by Hans Christian Anderson’s that I had a lot of trouble understanding as a young girl.

Overview

The Red Shoes - Hans Christian Andersen
Picture credit: https://www.voyaprenderingles.com/readings/stories/red-shoes

Karen is a little girl whose family is so poor, she has to wear thick wooden shoes during the winter that chaff her feet and make them red and raw. During the summer months, she goes barefooted. A kindly shoemaker makes Karen a pair of shoes from old scraps of red cloth. The first time Karen wears these shoes is on the day of her mother’s burial. An elderly woman driving past sees the little girl walking after the coffin and takes pity on her. She offers to take Karen into her own home and raise her.

Karen believes her good luck is attributable to the red shoes and develops a passion for shoes in this colour. The elderly lady, whose eyesight is failing, takes Karen to buy a new pair of shoes to wear for her confirmation. The shoemaker and Karen collude so that she can acquire a lovely pair of red dancing shoes. The shoes take over Karen’s thoughts and she wears them to her confirmation, dwelling on her beautiful shoes the entire time. When she comes out of the church, still wearing the red shoes that are the talk of the congregation, an old soldier puts a curse on her shoes.

The elderly lady starts to ail and is dying and relies on Karen for her care. One evening Karen abandons her and goes to a ball wearing the red shoes. Once she starts to dance, she cannot stop and on and on she dances for days and days. Eventually, in desperation, she begs the village executioner to cut off her feet. He obliges and makes a pair of wooden feet for her and a pair of crutches. Karen returns to the church but the red shoes appear and bar her from entry.

In the end, Karen dies and goes to Heaven where no-one cares about her red shoes.

My thoughts

This is a strange and scary story. When I was a girl I attended a convent and went to mass every Sunday. This story often used to plague my mind when it came to confession and I confessed all sorts of strange ‘sins’ to the Father because I was so worried that I’d been vain and made to much of my dresses. I was very fond of pretty dresses.

As I grew older, I wondered why Hans Christian Anderson wrote such a condemning story about a young girl who liked pretty shoes. Research has subsequently led me to understand that the author grew up in a stern and conservative society which condemned dancing, drinking, playing cards, and the wearing of bright colours that drew attention to the wearer. Karen’s sin is not just her vanity about the red shoes, it is also her succumbing to the sin and allowing it to undermine her ethics and morality. Karen choses to dance and ignore her responsibilities towards her benefactor thereby overruling her understanding of what is right and wrong. Having given in to sin, there is no turning back and returning to the way things were before, and her only redemption is in death.

Quite a heavy topic for a fairy story, but then most of the fairy stories are based on dark realities.

Origin

The origin of this story is not as dark as the theme of the story itself. Anderson named the little girl after his own half-sister, Karen Marie Anderson, who he despised. His half-sister was the illegitimated daughter of his mother. She was not raised with Hans but boarded out. It is believed that at one point Karen became a prostitute and Anderson feared throughout his life that she would re-appear and embarrass him in his new wealthier position in life.

The story was based on an incident the author witnessed as a young lad. His father, a shoemaker, was sent a piece of red silk by a wealthy woman to make a pair of dancing slippers for her daughter. His father used some of his own valuable red leather along with the red silk to make a lovely pair of shoes. The woman rejected them, saying they were awful and he’d spoiled her silk. Anderson’s father replied “In that case, I may as well spoil my leather too,” and he cut up the shoes in front of her.

Original Painting, Book Artwork for the story "The Red Shoes" from Hans  Christian Andersen's Fairy Tales by Hans Christian Andersen: Good | Andrew  Cox PBFA
Picture credit: https://www.abebooks.com/Original-Painting-Book-Artwork-story-Red/22561631855/bd

About Roberta Eaton Cheadle

Roberta Eaton Cheadle is a South African writer and poet specialising in historical, paranormal, and horror novels and short stories. She is an avid reader in these genres and her writing has been influenced by famous authors including Bram Stoker, Edgar Allan Poe, Amor Towles, Stephen Crane, Enrich Maria Remarque, George Orwell, Stephen King, and Colleen McCullough.

Roberta has short stories and poems in several anthologies and has 2 published novels, Through the Nethergate, a historical supernatural fantasy, and A Ghost and His Gold, a historical paranormal novel set in South Africa.

Roberta has 9 children’s books published under the name Robbie Cheadle.

Roberta was educated at the University of South Africa where she achieved a Bachelor of Accounting Science in 1996 and a Honours Bachelor of Accounting Science in 1997. She was admitted as a member of The South African Institute of Chartered Accountants in 2000.

Roberta has worked in corporate finance from 2001 until the present date and has written 7 publications relating to investing in Africa. She has won several awards over her 20-year career in the category of Transactional Support Services.

Find Roberta Eaton Cheadle

Blog: https://wordpress.com/view/robertawrites235681907.wordpress.com

Twitter: https://twitter.com/RobertaEaton17

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/robertawrites

Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Roberta-Eaton-Cheadle/e/B08RSNJQZ5

_____________________________________________________________________________________________

Want to be sure not to miss any of Robbie’s “Dark Origins” segments? Subscribe to Writing to be Read for e-mail notifications whenever new content is posted or follow WtbR on WordPress. If you found it interesting or entertaining, please share.


Dark Origins – London Bridge is Falling Down

Picture credit: https://speak-and-play-english.com/london-bridge-is-falling-down-lyrics-activities

I grew up playing a children’s game to the tune and lyrics of London Bridge is Falling Down. The game I played was similar to the actions for Oranges and Lemons which involves two players holding hands and making an arch with their arms for a single file line of players to walk under. At the end of the song the arch is lowered to ‘catch’ a player.

There are two dark hypothesis for the origins of this nursery rhyme.

The first hypothesis is that the rhyme relates to the supposed destruction of London Bridge in 1014 by the Olaf II Haraldsson, later known as Saint Olaf, who was the King of Norway from 1015 to 1028.

This supposition is derived from the translation of the Norse saga, the Heimskringla, by Samuel Laing in 1844 which includes a verse which is reminiscent of the common version of the London Bridge is Falling Down nursery rhyme as follows:

London Bridge is broken down. —
Gold is won, and bright renown.
Shields resounding,
War-horns sounding,
Hild is shouting in the din!
Arrows singing,
Mail-coats ringing —
Odin makes our Olaf win!

However, this one verse is not corroborated by any other information or accounts.

The single surviving page known as the Kringla leaf (Kringlublaðið) is kept in the National and University Library of Iceland in Reykjavík. Picture credit: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Heimskringla

The second hypothesis relates to the practice of entombing someone within a structure due to the ancient belief that a human blood sacrifice would ensure the stability of the structure. This centuries-old practice is called immurement.

In the context of this nursery rhyme, the immurement is believed to be about starving children who were ‘buried alive’ as the Old London Bridge was built in the 1200s.

 It is thought children were 'buried alive' in the foundations of the Old London Bridge
It is thought children were ‘buried alive’ in the foundations of the Old London BridgeCredit: HULTON ARCHIVE – GETTY

A final option, is that the nursery rhyme alludes to the pair of fires that London Bridge suffered in 1633 and 1666. The first fire, significantly damaged the structure and weakened it. The Great Fire of London was different in that the bridge acted more like a fire break and stopped the fire from travelling into the south of London. With its 19 narrow arches, the bridge impeded river traffic and flow and structural changes were undertaken to upgrade it. These changes were not that successful and the bridge needed continuous and expensive repairs. In 1831 the New London Bridge was open and survived until it was replaced in 1972. The bridge was transported and reconstructed in Lake Havasu City, Arizona.

Extract from Through the Nethergate

One of the ghosts in my supernatural fantasy novel, Through the Nethergate, is immured. Katherine ran away from her life as a novice in Bungay Priory in 1376. When she was recaptured, she was immured in the walls of the Abbey of Coldingham. This is the relevant extract:

“What happened to you after you escaped? You must have died badly if you are a ghost?”

“I was caught,” Katharine said simply. She didn’t seem surprised by the question.

“My escape became the subject of a denunciation by the Bishop of Norwich, Henry le Despenser, and a consequent order from King Henry II for my capture. Once caught, I was to be forcibly returned to the priory.”

“That didn’t happen, did it?” said Margaret.

“No, I was caught and, when it was discovered that I was with child, I was immured.”

Margaret didn’t recognise the word “immured” and stared at Katharine blankly.

“A small niche was carved out of the wall in the Abbey of Coldingham, where I had been taken. I was given some food and water and then my grave was sealed.”

“If you died in Coldingham, why is your ghost attached to the ruins of Bungay Priory?”

Katharine’s pretty mouth drooped at the corners and her eyes dimmed as if a veil had descended over them. “At the time of my death, I was visited by a great black dog with fiery red eyes. He encouraged me to turn away from the White Light that was waiting for me and remain here on earth. I didn’t know that by choosing to remain, I would become trapped in the Overworld, between Heaven and the Underworld, for all eternity. My choice to walk the path of promised revenge resulted in my becoming enslaved to the black dog of Bungay. The black dog is excellent at
recruiting ghosts who die elsewhere but have a link to Bungay, and placing them in his power. He likes us all to stay near to his home, Bungay Castle.

“I have told you enough about me,” said Katharine, changing the subject. “This meeting has a purpose other than me telling you my life story. “The priory was founded by Countess Gundreda, in honour of the Blessed Virgin and the Holy Cross, for nuns of the Benedictine order. It was built on land granted to the countess on her marriage to Hugh Bigod, First Earl of Norfolk. After Hugh’s death, the land was confirmed to her, and her second husband, Roger de Glanville,
by King Henry II.”

Here it is. The link between Hugh Bigod and the priory. But what does it matter if his descendants established the priory?

About Roberta Eaton Cheadle

Roberta Eaton Cheadle is a South African writer and poet specialising in historical, paranormal, and horror novels and short stories. She is an avid reader in these genres and her writing has been influenced by famous authors including Bram Stoker, Edgar Allan Poe, Amor Towles, Stephen Crane, Enrich Maria Remarque, George Orwell, Stephen King, and Colleen McCullough.

Roberta has short stories and poems in several anthologies and has 2 published novels, Through the Nethergate, a historical supernatural fantasy, and A Ghost and His Gold, a historical paranormal novel set in South Africa.

Roberta has 9 children’s books published under the name Robbie Cheadle.

Roberta was educated at the University of South Africa where she achieved a Bachelor of Accounting Science in 1996 and a Honours Bachelor of Accounting Science in 1997. She was admitted as a member of The South African Institute of Chartered Accountants in 2000.

Roberta has worked in corporate finance from 2001 until the present date and has written 7 publications relating to investing in Africa. She has won several awards over her 20-year career in the category of Transactional Support Services.

Find Roberta Eaton Cheadle

Blog: https://wordpress.com/view/robertawrites235681907.wordpress.com

Twitter: https://twitter.com/RobertaEaton17

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/robertawrites

Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Roberta-Eaton-Cheadle/e/B08RSNJQZ5

_____________________________________________________________________________________________

Want to be sure not to miss any of Robbie’s “Dark Origins” segments? Subscribe to Writing to be Read for e-mail notifications whenever new content is posted or follow WtbR on WordPress. If you found it interesting or entertaining, please share.