Dark Origins: African myths and legends – The Zulus Part 3 #Zulucreationmyth #sausagetree

The Zulu Creation Myth

The Zulu myth on the creation of mankind and the world is as follows:

The Ancient One, known as Unkulunkulu, came from the reeds and from them he created the people and the cattle. Unkulunkula created the mountains, streams, and all creatures, both wild and domesticated.

He taught the Zulu’s how to hunt, how to make fire, and how to grow food.

You can listen to me read the Zulu myth: The Story of Creation here:

The Sausage Tree and Zulu mythology

When I visited Ghost Mountain in Kwa-Zulu Natal in March 2021, I learned about the iconic Sausage Tree which grows in this area.

This is a picture of Ghost Mountain, doesn’t it look just like a screaming head?

This tree’s incredible sausage-shaped fruit weighs between 5 and 10 kilograms and can get to 3 feet in length. The unripe fruit is poisonous, especially to humans, but the skin is ground to a pulp and used externally for medicine. It is used to cure skin ailments especially skin cancers. The fruit is also burned to ashes and pounded using a mortar with oil and water to make a paste to apply to the skin. The rind of the fruit is also used to aid the fermentation of local brews.

The sausage tree has beautiful blood-red to maroon flowers with an unpleasant (to humans) smell. It’s scent attracts its main pollinator, the Dwarf Epauletted Fruitbat.

Many animals feed on the flowers when they drop, including impala, duiker, bush pigs, and lovebirds.

Zulu myth about the sausage tree

During our stay at Ghost Mountain Lodge, we went on a game drive to a nearby private game park. The ranger told us that the sausage tree is the subject of an age-old myth that it has the power to enhance libido and sexual prowess in both humans and animals. The sausage tree is also believed to hold the answer to impotence. These ‘cures’ are prepared by traditional doctors and are shrouded in mystery.

Did you know?

Did you know that I have two short stories in the WordCrafter Press anthology, Spirits of the West, that are based on South African history?

If you would like to read and review a copy, please email me at sirchoc[at]outlook[dot]com.

Here is a short extract from my story, The Ghost in the Mound:

“Grasping the baby tightly, Sara clambers out from under the wagon and sits back on her heels next to the wheel. After passing her the baby, Susanna crawls out, followed by Clara. They both kneel beside her.
In front of them, through the smoky haze, the blurred and agitated forms of the adults move frantically; fire, reload, fire, reload. The noise is immense.

Pointing to the huge baobab tree which stands directly in front of them, Sara whispers to the two younger girls.

“You need to run straight past Mama and get behind that tree. Run as fast as you can, I’ll be right behind you. Are you ready? One, two, go!”

The three girls lunge forward and begin to run, their faces drawn and tight with stress and their eyes fixed on the prominent tree. Their swiftly moving feet are accompanied by the crashing of the guns and the shrieks and yells of the enemy.

As the tree draws closer, Sara can see the detail of every leaf and the smooth shininess of its bottle-shaped trunk. The threesome circle behind the great trunk, gasping for breath. Sara drops to her knees;
Kobus is heavy and her chest throbs.

The tree’s heavy, white flowers are already starting to fade, and a few have already turned brown and fallen to the ground. Their sweet fragrance has a cloying smell of decay. Sara looks around, considering their options.

Where can we hide?

Her eyes settle on the termite mound, standing proud and tall, surrounded by veld. The yellowy green grass between their position under the tree and the mound is tall and thick, offering protection from
searching eyes.”

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 two 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 ten 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 seven 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 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 – 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

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 – Peter Pan, Lost Boys who are murdered and mermaids who are Sirens.

Most of us know the Disney version of Peter Pan featuring Captain Hook, Mr Smee, Wendy, John, Michael, and the Lost Boys. Oh, and Tinkerbell, of course.

I am not sure how many people have read the original play called Peter Pan or the boy who wouldn’t grow up, written by J.M. Barrie in 1904, but it is a far cry from the innocent tale presented by Walt Disney.

We know from the Disney film that Peter Pan doesn’t want to grow up, but no mention is made of the extreme lengths Peter Pan is prepared to go to fight it.

Consider this extract: “The boys on the island vary, of course, in numbers, according as they get killed and so on; and when they seem to be growing up, which is against the rules, Peter thins them out; but at this time there were six of them, counting the twins as two.

To put it bluntly, Peter Pan kills the lost boys to keep them from aging. While the film presents the view that Peter Pan is seeking eternal youth, he is, in fact, obsessed with death. This characteristic is believed to come from J.M. Barrie’s own childhood experience of losing his brother, David.

According to an article in The Herald, six-year old Jamie Barrie was hugely impacted by the death of his older brother, David, at the age of fourteen. David was said to have died the day before his birthday when he was accidently knocked over by a friend while skating, and fractured his skull on the ice. The article speculates that the ‘friend’ was in fact, young Jamie and that he was rejected by his mother as a result of the accident. You can read more about it here: https://www.heraldscotland.com/default_content/12469608.tragedy-behind-neverland-jm-barrie-cause-brothers-death/

And then there are the mermaids…

In the original Peter Pan story, the mermaids who inhabit Neverland all live in the lagoon. They enjoy the company of Peter Pan but are malevolent to everyone else. The are extraordinarily beautiful and have amazing singing voices, but they are vain and unfriendly.

The mermaids spend their days playing in the rock pools and ocean around Marooners’ Rock and they retire to their coral cave homes beneath the waves at night and during high tide.

The mermaids change when the moon is out and transform into darker creatures. They utter and wail strange calls in the moonlight. Captain Hook is terrified of the mermaids, calling them the ‘loreleis’ and saying that the lagoon is the most treacherous place in Neverland. A lorelei is a siren of Germanic legend whose singing lures Rhine River boatmen to destruction on a reef.

Picture credit: https://www.wikidata.org/wiki/Q5397781

If you are interested in the true story behind Peter Pan and the life of J.M. Barrie, you can read more here: https://www.refinery29.com/en-us/2014/12/78880/peter-pan-jm-barrie-true-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 – Bluebeard

The fairytale of Bluebeard was the most scary one I can recall hearing or reading as a child. This story is featured in Grimm’s Fairy Tale Classics.

It this version of the story, Bluebeard’s bride is a teenage peasant girl named Josephine. She has been raised by her brothers who are woodworkers. In this version, Bluebeard, a wealthy widower with a blue beard, choses Josephine as his wife because she is beautiful, naïve and desires to marry a prince. The character design for Bluebeard strongly resembles that of the English King, Henry VIII, who had six wives, two of whom he beheaded. After the wedding, Bluebeard gives Josephine a key ring with all the keys to all the doors of his castle. He tells her that she must never use the golden key to open one of the doors.

Of course, Josephine’s curiosity gets the better of her and one day when Bluebeard leaves the castle on business, she opens the forbidden door. Behind the door she discovers the blood splattered remains of the former wives of Bluebeard, all of whom he’s murdered. Josephine is saved by her brothers before she can suffer the same fate as Bluebeards previous wives.

Blue Beard in Tales of Mother Goose (Welsh).png
Picture from Wikipedia

There are two possible sources for the story of Bluebeard.

The first theory is that the story of Bluebeard was based on the life of 15th-century convicted Breton serial killer, Gilles de Rais.

Gilles de Rais was a knight and lord from Brittany, Anjou and Poitou. From 1427 to 1435, he was a commander of the French army and fought alongside Joan of Arc against the English and their Burgundian allies during the Hundred Years’ War.

In 1434 or 1435, Gilles retired from military life and became a spendthrift, staging extravagant theatrical productions of his own composition. In June 1435 his family persuaded King Charles VII to proclaim a royal edit preventing him from selling his property and from entering into contracts with any French subject.

In 1438, Gilles became involved in alchemy and demon summoning.

According to his confession at his trial in October 1440, de Rais said he committed his first child assaults in 1432 and 1433. The first murders occurred at de Rais’ castle in Champtocé-sur-Loire. Murders of an unknown number of children took place after de Rais moved to Machecoul. de Rais was believed to have sexually assaulted the children before killing them. The bodies were burned in the fireplace in de Rais’ room. The number of de Rais’ victims is believed to be between 100 and 200 children aged between 6 to 18 years old and predominately male.

He was executed by hanging and burning on Wednesday, 26 October 1440 along with his two accomplices, Poitou and Henriet.

Picture of the execution of Gilles de Rais from Wikipedia

Another possible source for the story of Bluebeard is early Breton king, Conomor the Accursed, who was notorious for his cruelty. According to the biography of St Gildas, a 6th century British monk, Tréphine married Conomor after he threatened to invade her father’s lands and kill his people.

While Conomor was away, Tréphine found a secret room containing relics of his deceased wives. She prayed for their souls and their ghosts appeared and warned her that Conomor will kill her if she becomes pregnant due to a prophecy that states he will be killed by his own son.

According to legend, Tréphine fled when she discovered she was pregnant and gave birth to her son, Trémeur, in the forest. She hides her son but Conomor finds her and beheads her. St Gildas restores her to life and she and her son live lives of saintly retirement until Tréphine dies. After her death, Conomor finds Trémeur and kills him.

Both Tréphine and Trémeur are deemed saints in Brittany and there are many churches dedicated to them.

Copy of St Tréphine from Wikipedia

Based on these two stories, I was quite right to be scared of Bluebeard when I was a child.

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 – Here We Go Round the Mulberry Bush

Do you know the nursery rhyme Here We Go Round the Mulberry Bush?

I remember it from when I was a girl. The girls used to hold hands and dance in a circle singing the lyrics and doing the actions.

These are the first two stanzas of the most modern version:

Here we go round the mulberry bush,
The mulberry bush,
The mulberry bush.
Here we go round the mulberry bush
On a cold and frosty morning.

This is the way we wash our face,
Wash our face,
Wash our face.
This is the way we wash our face
On a cold and frosty morning.

The rhyme was first recorded by James Orchard Halliwell, an English Shakespearean scholar, antiquarian, and a collection of English nursery rhymes and fairy tales, as an English children’s game in the mid-nineteenth century.

The song and associated game are traditional in England and different versions are found in Scandinavia and the Netherlands.

R.S. Duncan, a prison governor at HM Prison Wakefield in Wakefield, West Yorkshire, England suggested that the nursery rhyme was about female Victorian prisoners exercising in the yard at Wakefield. A mulberry tree grew in the yard and women inmates would dance around the tree with their children and sing the song. The tree died in May 2019.

About the Victorian prison system

The Victorian prison system was created by men for men. Accommodation for women was usually an after thought and the penal system designed for them as generally a modified version of the men’s prison.

Women convicts were considered to need saving twice, firstly from their criminality and secondly from their deviance from expected female behaviour.

To this end, instead of being subjected to hard labour, women progressed through several disciplinary stages intended to put them on the path to reform. The stages were separate confinement for four months (men had to endure nine months of separate confinement), associated labour and, finally, a transfer to a female-only institution.

Prison authorities had to deal with pregnant and postpartum women. Lying-in wards and nurseries had to be created and the regulations relating to exercise, communication, and dietary provision had to be modified for such women.

 The rhyme refers to Victorian female prisoners at HMP Wakefield who would exercise around a mulberry tree
Picture credit: https://www.thesun.co.uk/fabulous/8356830/historic-stories-behind-nursery-rhymes/

Another possible interpretation of the rhyme is that it references Britain’s struggle to produce silk. Silkworms eat mulberry leaves and during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, Britain tried to emulate the success of the Chinese silk production industry. Britain’s cold winters with frost proved to be to harsh for the mulberry trees to thrive and this hampered the development of a successful silk production industry.

The lyrics: “Here we go round the mulberry bush / On a cold and frosty morning” are thought to be a joke about the difficulties experienced by the industry.

About Roberta Eaton Cheadle

I am a South African writer specialising in historical, paranormal and horror novels and short stories. I am an avid reader in these genres and my writing has been influenced by famous authors including Bram Stoker, the Bronte sisters, Amor Towles, Stephen Crane, Enrich Maria Remarque, George Orwell, Stephen King, and Colleen McCullough. 

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

I have worked in corporate finance from 2001 until the present date and have written seven publications relating to investing in Africa. I have won several awards over my twenty year career in the category of Transactional Support Services.

I have been published a number of anthologies and have two published YA books, While the Bombs Fell and Through the Nethergate. I have recently published my first adult novel called A Ghost and His Gold which is partly set in South Africa during the Second Anglo Boer War.

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.