Sunday, December 2, 2012

7 "Merry" Christmas Statistics

It's December! Let's see some statistics about Christmas:

1 – Alcohol consumption in Britain increases by 40% in December, more than any other country in the world, with Germany, Canada and France following. Fortunately, the drink-driving also decreases in UK, which means that people will also walk more to the pub, so this whole drinking during December actually promotes health and fitness. Well, I know I will be drinking this Christmas, in my room, alone.

2 – On the same happy note, it seems that people’s tendency to take their own life will also decrease during Christmas(contrary to popular belief), but murder rates will rise significantly in Germany (6.4%), the US, France and Italy (5.7%). It must be all those carols.

3 –Heart related deaths increase with 5% during the holidays, according to this study. 

4 – Each year, during the holiday season, fires kill more than 400 Americans and injure 1,650 more.

5 – You are more likely to die during the Holidays. A study analyzing 57.5 million death certificates shows the chance of dying during holiday period increases between 3% and 9%. Here is the study. 

6 - Around 40 million Christmas trees are cut every year in North America.  You won’t really save a tree if you choose to buy a plastic one, but you can save a small pine tree that is growing on a rocky part of the forest and might die (take it, bring it home, put it in a pot and plant it during March).

7 - More than 80,000 people a year need hospital treatment for injuries such as falls, cuts and burns during the festive period.

Also this:

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Gilles De Rais - Children Murderer or Another Victim Of The Inquisition?

Gilles de Rais was a Breton baron, marshal of France, and possibly one of the most interesting murderers in history. His fascination for Satanism and murder led him to commit atrocious acts that would remain in history as some of the vilest murders. Officially, Gilles de Rais is known to have murdered 150 children, but there are some authors who report a much bigger number of about 800 children.

Gilles de Rais was born in 1404 and he was also known for being a brave soldier and fighting beside Joan of Arc. He was a very ambitious man who became one of the richest men in France, with power only few managed to have.

Early Life

From a very early age Gilles de Rais was considered to be extremely ambitious and he grew up with his grandfather after his father died in Machecoul, near the border of Brittany. His first two marriage attempts ended up with the brides being killed, which makes some authors link him to Bluebeard. However, he managed to marry the wealthy Catherine de Thouars of Brittany, after kidnaping her.

Military Career

He served as a commander in the Royal Army between 1427 and 1435, and also fought along with Joan of Arc. He obtained the title of Marechal with a trio of commanders that were subordinated directly to the Royal Connetable. He continued to serve in Joan of Arc’s special guard and fought next to her when Paris was attacked. Even if he was considered to be a murder, his military career was exemplary and he was recognized as an excellent soldier.

Life in Retirement

Since he was extremely rich already, he retired in 1435 from military to promote various theatrical performances to his lands in Brittany. He lost some of his fortune and when meeting Francesco Prelati, who promised him that he will help him regain his lost riches with the help of magic, he started his risky practices. He inherited a lot of domains from both his father and maternal grandfather, but also due to his good marriage. He was known to live an extremely luxurious life by maintaining many servants and spending money on extravagant decorations. Unfortunately, in 1435, he was restrained, through decree from the king, to sell or mortgage his lands, which ultimately was one of the factors that made kept him from continuing with his decadent style.

The Murders

He developed an interest in Satanism with the hope of regaining his wealth, but also to gain more knowledge and power. Some say that the murders might have first began in 1426, but nothing is certain. However, when he did them, he used servants to get his victims.

Most victims were unaccompanied children in the countryside or nearby villages that were taken to the castle, treated like royalty and killed in the end. Murder was actually a blessing for victims since most were tortured. He later described how he “inflicted various types and manners of torment; sometimes they severed the head from the body with dirks, daggers, and knives, sometimes they struck them violently on the head with a cudgel or other blunt instruments, sometimes they suspended them with cords from a peg or small hook in his room and strangled them; and when they were languishing he committed the sodomitic vice on them”. Sexual encounter occurred before or after death and it seemed that he preferred boys; however, when they weren't available, girls were the victims, but he still preferred sodomy in their case. It seems that Gilles De Rais also kept his favorite victims' limbs and heads after the murders and kissed them. He was absolutely fascinated with the act of death and watched closely how his victims died, often masturbating in the process. Some confessions show even more gruesome images, as he described how he loved the elastic warmth of the victims’ intestines. He also liked to rip their hearts through wounds that he slowly enlarged and he had a preference for children with blonde hair and blue eyes with ages between 6 to 18.

In The Encyclopedia of Occultism and Parapsychology there is a story on how his wife discovered his murders:

Madame de Rais communicated her fears and anxieties to her sister. The two women wondered what went on in the castle. Why was her lord so gloomy? What signified his repeated absences? What became of the children who disappeared day by day? What were those nocturnal lights in the walled-up tower? These and other questions caused both women to burn with curiosity. But what could they do?

The marshal had expressly forbidden them even to approach the tower, and before leaving he had repeated this injunction. It must surely have a secret entrance, Madame de Rais and her sister Anne agreed, and they proceeded to search through the lower rooms of the castle, corner by corner, stone after stone. At last, in the chapel, behind the altar, they came upon a copper button hidden in a mass of sculpture. It yielded under pressure, a stone slid back, and the trembling curiosity seekers distinguished the lowermost steps of a staircase, which led them to the condemned tower.

At the top of the first flight there was a kind of chapel, with an inverted cross and black candles; on the altar stood a hideous figure, no doubt representing the devil. On the second floor they came upon furnaces, retorts, alembics, charcoal—all the apparatuses of alchemy. The third flight led to a dark chamber where the heavy and fetid atmosphere compelled the young women to retreat. Madame de Rais bumped into a vase, which fell over. She then became aware that her robe and feet were soaked by some thick liquid. On returning to the light at the head of the stairs, she found that she was bathed in blood. Anne would have fled from the place, but Madame de Rais's curiosity was stronger than her disgust and fear. She descended the stairs, took a lamp from the infernal chapel, and returned to the third floor, where a frightful spectacle awaited her. Copper vessels filled with blood lined the whole length of the walls, bearing labels with a date on each. In the middle of the room was a black marble table on which lay the body of a child, obviously murdered recently. It was one of the gory basins that had fallen, and black blood spread over the grimy and worm-eaten wooden floor.

The two women were horrified. Madame de Rais endeavored at all costs to destroy the evidence of her indiscretion. She used a sponge and water to wash the boards, but she only extended the stain, and that which at first seemed black became all scarlet.[...]

Terrible rumors spread through all the countryside. Many young girls and boys had disappeared; some had been traced to the castle of Champtocé and not beyond. The public accused de Rais of murder and of crimes even worse than murder. It was true that no one dared openly accuse a baron so powerful as the lord of Rais. Whenever the disappearance of so many children was mentioned in his presence, he reacted with the greatest astonishment. Suspicions aroused are not easily allayed, however, and the castle of Champtocéand its lord had acquired a fearful reputation and were shrouded in mystery.

The continued disappearance of young boys and girls had caused so bitter a feeling in the neighborhood that the church felt compelled to intervene. At the urging of the bishop of Nantes, the duke of Brittany ordered de Rais and his accomplices arrested.
("Gilles de Rais (1404-1440)." Encyclopedia of Occultism and Parapsychology. 2001. Retrieved November 11, 2012 from )
This went for a few years with many children being kidnapped, tortured and killed. Unfortunately, his wealth started to fade and he turned once again to Satanism, hoping to improve his condition. However, this didn't work, even though he was sending the devil human sacrifices.

The Arrest, Trial, and Execution

The first error that he did was to kidnap a clergyman after a dispute with him. He was arrested with all his servants in September 1440 and brought to trial in Nantes. He refused to plead to the charges but eventually he declared himself not guilty. Eventually he admitted to have murdered the children, under torture or not. Gilles testified that “when the said children were dead, he kissed them and those who had the most handsome limbs and heads he held up to admire them, and had their bodies cruelly cut open and took delight at the sight of their inner organs; and very often when the children were dying he sat on their stomachs and took pleasure in seeing them die and laughed” He was condemned for heresy and sentenced to execution by hanging and burning for murder. As requested, he was the first to die and his body was cut down before being completely burn.

Some authors argue that he was merely a victim of the Inquisition in that time and he may have been tortured to testify for the gruesome acts. Whether that is true, we don’t know; what we do know is that he insulted Geoffroi de Ferron in 1440, the powerful treasurer of the neighboring province in Brittany by having his brother beaten and imprisoned. Because of that, he was summoned and trialed, and later the murder accusations were brought upon him.

Further reading and resources:

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Jiří Trnka - The Father of Czech Animated Film

This year is the 100th anniversary of his birth 
On February 24th, 1912, Jiří Trnka is born, the son of a dressmaker and a plumber, a middle class family in Bohemia. What his parents didn’t know was the fact that he was about to be a famous painter, puppeteer, illustrator and most importantly, the founding father of Czech animated film. He was a sort of renaissance man, just as Jan Svankmajer, with work that transcended one medium, from painting and puppet making to sculptor and costume designer. He was also a great inspiration for Svankmajer and Brothers Quay, but also
Ladislas Starevich or Jiří Barta.

Often considered to be the Disney of the East, this title has been seen as offensive by critics, as Trnka has nothing in common with Walt Disney, except for the fact that they both did animations. However, Trnka’s audience was formed of adults and his messages were more serious and sometimes even political, in a world where expression was often censored.

As a child, Trnka helped his mother and grandmother with sewing, but was also a self-taught wood carver and loved drawing. At 11, he was already working at the theatre and later he enrolled in the popular School of Applied Arts in Prague. After he graduated, he did various illustrations for newspapers and directed a few theatrical plays, but also had success as a painter. Some of the assistant animators that worked with him recall his extraordinary dexterity as he was able to paint with both hands at the same time, but also made puppets from scratch as a child.

After graduating from Prague School of Arts and Crafts, Trnka created a puppet theater in 1936 which was shut down during the WW2. However, after the war, he founded a real animation studio where he began his activity by making some short animations such as: Zasadil dědek řepu (Grandfather planted a beet, 1945) or Zvířátka a Petrovští (Animals and Bandits, 1946), both awarded at the Cannes Film Festival, but also many others including an anti-Nazi film. But Trnka didn’t felt like traditional animation was his call, he believed that it required too many intermediaries and he wanted to freely express his creativity. So he started to experiment with puppet animation films and as a result some of his first films were very well received. The first feature film was called Špalíček ("The Czech years", 1947), and consisted of six short films that put on stage legends and customs of his country. The film received many awards, including international awards such as the Venice Film Festival. The next film he made was Cisaruv Slavik ("The Emperor's Nightingale", 1949),based on the story written by Hans Christian Andersen which also included two real live actors in the first part. This is considered to be one of his most beautiful films, took two years to be made, and also won international awards.

He illustrated 130 books during his lifetime, and his puppets were very much like his illustrated art, unique figures with beautiful features. Although Trnka’s work was mostly around stories and legends, his last short film called The Hand (Ruka, 1965),was something completely different. It told the story of a happy potter artist who loved creating pots for his flowers until The Hand comes and requests hand statues. He is initially persuaded with money or fame, but ultimately when The Hand sees that the artist will not comply, it uses force. He ultimately dies from a heart attack and its funeral is celebrated by The Hand. In that era The Hand was nothing else but the state trying to censor an artist’s work. The same happened with Trnka and his art which was often limited by the state and even banned. Ironically, he was praised as a national artist when he died by the same state that had abused him and his art.

Trnka didn't like dialogue in his animation and often used the music of his friend, the Czech composer Vaclav Trojan as a way to help its characters express. It seems that sometimes he even changed some scenes so that they would fit the music of his friend.

There isn’t much information regarding Jiří Trnka life as he wasn't an outgoing artist and neither one that was obsessed with himself. He did art for his own pleasure and loved being immersed in the worlds he created, and perhaps that’s why he didn't care much about the outside world or writing an autobiography. His daughter remembers that when he worked only children were allowed in his studio and he always wanted to hear their criticism on his scenes. He loved what he was doing and he was a workaholic, sometimes working for a few days straight just to get a scene right.

The artist died in 1969, at a young age of 57 after a few years of isolation when he stopped making animations and returned to painting and illustrations. His early death was caused by the artist’s hectic lifestyle and also because he was a heavy smoker.

During his life he received international recognition and won numerous awards, despite the fact that he was working within a country that had a communist regime.

The last Trnka short film, The Hand:

You can buy his work here:

The Puppet Film Of Jiri Tranka / Story Of The Bass Cello / The Song Of The Prairie / The Merry Circus / A Drop Too Much / The Hand / Starring: Helena Patockova, Jaromir Sobotoa, Detsky pevecky sbor Jana Kuhna, Boris Karloff / Directors: Jirí Trnka, Milos Makovec

Further reading and sources:

Sunday, September 9, 2012

History of Fashion Series - Fashion From Prehistoric Times

Fashion has been a great part of our history as humans even from prehistoric times. Besides being a way to protect our bodies from the environment, it has also been a method that influenced how people were seen in society, either a way to attract potential mates or scare their enemies. 

The Homo sapiens sapiens began to appear around forty thousand years ago in various parts of the world. At the early history of Homo sapiens sapiens, he was similar to the Neanderthal man when it came to the use of tools, hunting, gathering and even creation of clothing. But there were physical differences like a larger brain, the fully upright pose, and a different skeletal structure which helped the later developments in their history.

Their population was low as they had to travel from region to region and due the fact that the Earth’s climate was colder they had to find ways to keep warm and dry so they used animal skins. These were the first forms of clothing and footwear. They used different tools made from rock and bones to cut the flesh from animals and create clothing. Later, there was some development in the visual department as they managed to decorate their bodies with various body paints and tattoos.


The evidence we have for prehistoric clothing is mostly indirect, either from cave paintings or from the tools that archeologists discovered. At first, they used big pieces of skin and created holes for the head and arms but later they managed to improve their method by using thin strips of hide to tie the furs about themselves, just like belts are used today.
With the discovery of fire soon came the development of finer and more efficient tools. Sharper tools were used to make small holes in animal skin and then laced together. The first type of clothing was a sort of tunic, which was made from two pieces of rectangular animal hide that were bound together on a side with a hole for the head. This was placed over the head and stitched on the shoulders. The garment was closed either with a belt or more ties.

Development of Tools

What made things even better was the invention of the needles. The needle was made from sharpened animal bone. With the help of the needle, the prehistoric man managed to create shawls, hoods and even longer boots to protect him from cold. It seems that the clothes were very stiff at first because the leather was not tanned, but with repetitive wearing it became softer. It seems that some authors and historians believe that their clothes were similar to those of the modern Eskimos.
The body of a man who died 5,300 years ago in the mountains of Austria helped archeologists discover what seemed to be a complex outfit. It seemed that the iceman had leggings that were sewn, some sort of loincloth over his genitals, a long sleeved fur coat on his body that extended to his knees made from many pieces of fur that extended on the outside and was held with a sort of belt. The boots he wore were stitched and stuffed with grass and on his head he wore a cap of fur. Although the man came from an later period, it sketched a good image on how earlier clothes were made.


When it came to hair it seems that the different hair types were as variable as they are today but people wore their hair long as there were no tools for cutting hair. Caps of fur were worn to keep the head warm, and some jewelry that was intended to hold long hair. Men obviously wore their facial hair long and when hair was cut it was probably done with the same tools they used to chop wood or cut animals.

Body Decorations

There is some evidence of body decorations on Neanderthal humans from 75,000 B.C.E. so it seems that humans had a need for fashion even from the earliest times. They draw red designs on the body which was either trying to attract the opposite sex or frighten their enemies. Indirect evidence of the human body decorations comes from rock paintings of the Sahara desert. It seems that the oldest date from 7000 B.C.E while the earliest are from 1500 B.C.E. Paintings found in Algeria show a woman with parallel rows of dots running down her legs, arms and torso. The figurines from Ain Ghazal, Jordan, dating back to 8000 B.C.E. feature indented patterns around the buttocks and belly. There are also figurines from 5000 B.C.E. Mesopotamia and 3000 B.C.E. Romania that show evidence of similar markings on legs, arms and breasts. These markings were meant to make women more appealing to the opposite sex as they signified fertility. It was sort of a way to draw attention to the women’s qualities and probably the primary function of fashion throughout history.
Body decorations were used by men as camouflage while hunting or for different ritual or social occasions. They also used tattooing or scarification but besides these methods the Neanderthals also like wearing decorative items. They had various bracelets and necklaces that consisted of animal hide, beads, shells, teeth, bones or other small objects.


When it came to footwear the archeologists found the oldest shoes 10,000 years old, but the existence of 20,000 years old clothing suggests that footwear may be older than we know.
Once the first settlements appeared(Mesopotamia, centered in present-day Iraq near the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers), around 7000 B.C.E., people started to domesticate animals, grow their own food and completely change their appearance. In Mesopotamia was where clothing began to be made from something else than animal skin.

It seems that people placed their feet on the animal skin just after they killed it, while the skin was still subtle and fresh they made cuts that would have fitted their feet shape. Anasazi shoes were made from Yucca plant as it was quite a durable material. There were 8000 year old shoes discovered in Missouri made from a plant called rattlesnake master.

Whether their clothes and shoes were made of fibers or animal skin, one thing is for sure, it had to withstand a lot of work as people did a lot of hard labor. 

Further Reading and Sources:
History of Footwear in Norway, Sweden and Finland: Prehistory to 1950 Encyclopedia of Clothing and Fashion (Scribner Library of Daily Life) (3 Volumes Set)

Sunday, September 2, 2012

3 Cool Games From 1982 (III)

With Prisoner 2 and Ultima 2 the year 1982 really had it going with video games and despite of all the bad publicity video games like Custer’s revenge or E.T. got, this new industry was definitely growing. Companies like E.A. Games or Lucasarts Games were born so it seemed to be a bright future for video games. There were some first releases that remain in the history of gaming and everybody who was a kid or a video game fan back then surely remembers them.

1. Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back

Ah, the first Star Wars video game, one of the classics, one of those games that kept the kids of its generation wide awake.

How do you play it ?
The game is pretty simple, you have to control a snowspeeder to battle against the Imperial AT-AT walkers on the planet Hoth. There were many difficulty levels depending on their speed and their power. They are destroyed by aiming the torso or the head while shots in the legs are ineffective. There were also flashing spots that would have destroyed them if the player shot there but these were hard to spot and to aim as they randomly appeared on the map.

How do you win?
You will have to manage to hold them off as long as possible before they blow up the power generator at the RebelsEcho Base. The game ends when five speeders are destroyed or when the lead walker reaches Echo Base, destroying it.  

Why was it so popular?
Well. I guess it’s pretty obvious why this game was so popular back then, it was a Star Wars game....

Can I still play it?

2. Zaxxon

Isometric view, flying a fighter craft and shooting up enemies is what this game was about and it was extremely popular. It seems that it was ported to almost all home computer and video game consoles between  1982 and 1985.

How do you play it?
You fly a craft through a fortress while shooting at enemy entities. That’s it. When you run out of fuel, you shoot fuel tanks and you magically get fuel.

How do you win?
The  whole purpose is to shoot as many targets as possible before being shot down or running out of fuel.

Why was it popular?
Well, this game was pretty cool for its age. First, it was the first game to employ axonometric proection, which means isometric view.  It also displayed shadows, which was a pretty cool thing back then and they were flexible enough to show the distance from the surface. It also gained a lot of popularity because it was widely advertised on television....with this interesting commercial.
Oh, and the game was cool, it was fun and definitely more versatile than other games of its age.

Can I still play it?

3. Utopia (video game)

The first of the sim games, Utopia was definitely a game that changed the world of games. Utopia was a new concept that gained popularity in a very short time. Utopia is a real time strategy or a sim game or even a god game.

How do you play it?
The cool thing about Utopia was the fact that it allowed two players to play it. When you started the game, you chose how much the turn lasts and how many turns you have to do until the game ended. Each player has to build fishing boats, PT boats or fund rebel activity on their enemy island. They also have to feed the population and keep them happy, otherwise their score is decreased.

How do you win?
The goal of the game is to have the biggest score at the end of all the turns. You can focus on growing or you can focus on making things harder for the other player.

Why was it popular?
 Well, should I say again that it was the first sim game ever? And it had various elements: feeding your population, maintaining a good income and even jeopardizing the other player’s game. You also had rain, hurricane and random fish pool occurrences.

Can I still play it?
I couldn’t find it but here’s a gameplay video.

Monday, August 6, 2012

Arranged Marriages and Divorce Laws in 18th-19th Century

The purpose of marriage was not only raising and protecting children, but a way to form family alliances and for families to make sure that somebody worthy was the heir.

The fact that love and marriage need to be connected was never unanimous and in most societies love marriages were considered a foolish choice and frowned upon. Usually, families would have denied their children a marriage that wasn’t convenient for both parties. Before the 18th century, most societies thought that love came after people got married. The medieval societies were accustomed with the idea of love from poems and the troubadours’ songs, but most people considered this an aristocratic way to excuse adultery.

From Tradition to Romance

Romeo and Juliet (Ford Madox Brown)
In most communities where marriages are arranged, the family makes a transaction with another family Especially in high rank families, this has been and still is a way to promote economic and politic interests. Parents have the right to marry their children, especially their girls, with whoever they want. Arranged marriages imply money transfers that constrained both parts legally to follow certain conditions, especially related to inheritance.

Although poets like Shakespeare showed that not giving your children’s permission to marry whom they want could have tragic consequences, there are few who opposed the marriage arranged by their family. It actually depended on many factors like personal hope, tradition and social status. Men looked for women who were able to take care of a home while women hoped for men who were able to support them. Men usually didn’t get married until they had financial stability, which usually was around the age of 30 and marrying during adolescence was uncommon. The same structure is found in other cultures, like Japan where the average age for marriage rose after the XVI century from 21 years old to 24 years old.

Once philosophies that praised individualism grew in the last 300 years, marriage for love became a popular concept. Even in aristocratic families parents stopped imposing their children whom to marry. Books like Tom Jones, Jane Eyre and Jane’s Austen books showed that marrying for love was an important thing and women who didn’t marry at all were seen as a sad case of society, which became another problem.

Being an Old Unmarried Woman

The fact that marriage started to be done out of love and young people were more and more stubborn to do so ultimately lead to a lot of your middle class citizens to remain unmarried and the case of Jane Austen and her sister Cassandra proves that. Actually the problem of older unmarried women was one of the things that started the women's rights movement during Victorian times. 

The church, although promoted celibacy, was reluctant when it came to real cases of celibacy because it  was thought that a person would actually have a lot of lust which was worse. The main purpose of marriage was to procreate but it was also a way to keep people from sinning. Premarital and extramarital relationships were completely forbidden and bastards were frowned upon. However, starting with the XVIII century it started to be a normal behavior among people who dated. If a pregnancy occurred, they got married. Because people started to get married chaotically, starting with the XVIII century strict laws regarding marriage appeared.

Marriage and Divorce

Due to the fact that marriage out of love became more and more popular and it was more seen as “match made in Heaven”, divorce was definitely frowned upon. It was really hard to obtain a divorce and once a person got divorced, it was rarely followed by another marriage. In England before the XIX century to get a divorce a person had to obtain an acceptance from the Parliament, which was extremely costly. The legal divorce procedures were slowly introduced. During Victorian times, men were allowed to get a divorce if they thought that their wives had cheated on them but women were unable to do so, since the rules changed when it came to obtain a divorce as a woman. A woman needed to show that besides adultery her husband committed other terrible acts such as cruelty. However, cruelty was also tricky to prove since it was not considered cruelty if a man beat his wife with a cane that was thinner than his thumb.

Once the regulations for divorce became clear getting one became easier. Unfortunately the romantic love ideas were also fueling a lot of disappointment and a lot of couples were divorcing. Once there was no more stigma for things like contraception, co-habitation without getting married and having children outside marriage but also women’s independence, the pressure for couple to stay together diminished.
It’s safe to say that married women had been at a disadvantage. Before Victorian times English women were not allowed to own properties on their names. Men however were allowed to have cheat on their wives, but the society scolded, stigmatized and isolated women for doing so. However, in Mediterranean societies a woman was able to take a lover once she gave her husband an heir.

Interracial Marriages

Othello and Desdemona  (Théodore Chassériau)
In the Western world there has been banning regarding interracial marriage in countries like Germany during the Nazi period, South Africa under apartheid and some states in USA.

Nowadays, there are some laws in certain Arab nations that revoke the civil rights for women to marry men that are not native to the woman’s country of birth or men who are non-Muslim. Women who marry outside these rules risk being subjected to honor killings by male family members.

In Britain there interracial marriages occurred since the 17th century when more Indian scholars started coming in the country. However these marriages were not accepted easily by the society but there were also no legal restrictions. Bu the 19th century this became a normal practice.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Absence, relationship styles of our generation and improving your grades

This is another personal post and I'm going to try not to excuse myself too much for my absence. So I've been reading fewer and fewer blogs lately, my Google Reader is full and I'm afraid to start reading because it will probably take days. However, someday I'm going to do it.

I've read two articles today that made me say "wow". This one is related to patients that seem to stay in therapy a lot longer than it's required. Actually, it seems that it takes a long time for therapists before realizing their defeat. The other article is related to our capacity of making ourselves smarter through practice and it's quite an interesting read. 

I've also read this nice article about relationships styles of our generation. Well, I'm not going to tell you which one I am, probably a crossbreed between some of those styles.  Also, I want to remind you guys that bringing water to your exam may help you improve your grades. 

You need to read this fascinating article. It seems that thinking and solving problems in another language will reduce your cognitive biases.

I also want to share a cool interview with the author of the book 50 Great Myths of Popular Psychology , Dr. Scott Lilienfeld, a psychology professor and researcher at Emory University. I couldn't embed the interview on my page but you can find it here. 

Hopefully I'm going to write more often now that I'm not that busy and also check out the blogs of my friends here....

Monday, July 16, 2012

Sada Abe - Killing Out Of Love?

The story of Sada Abe and her lover Kichizo Ishida is not one of those love stories that make you feel warm inside. It’s a story about passion, obsession and a bit of insanity that comes with strong love, perhaps.

Early Life

Sada Abe was the seventh children of Shigeyoshi and Katsu Abe, and although not with a questionable behavior like her brothers, she had her fair share of adventures through life. As she grew up, being one of the youngest children, Sada was allowed by her mother to do whatever she wanted. She took singing and shamisen lessons, possibly because she and her mother longed for a life of geisha. Despite having a good life, she soon became a difficult adolescent and after an incident where she was raped, her behavior became unbearable for her parents who sold her to a Geisha house. Some say it was her father punishing her for her promiscuous behavior, others believe that she wanted to become a geisha herself because of the fame and financial benefit that life had.

Becoming a prostitute

To become a good geisha and a well-known person in that community, one must serve as an apprentice since childhood, but also study and train hard. Abe didn’t train and had no experience in that direction so she soon ended up becoming a low-rank geisha, which usually meant that she had to provide sex for clients and take care of the high rank geishas. She contacted syphilis and decided that she would work as a legally licensed prostitute since the received regular physical examinations and it was better for her safety in the long term.

She began working as a prostitute in Tobita brothel district in Osaka, but her bad behavior seemed to be following her; she got into trouble for stealing money from clients, having fights with various people and attempting to leave the brothel several times. She managed to escape prostitution after only two years and began working as a waitress; however, the wage was not satisfying so she came back to work as a prostitute, this time, an unlicensed prostitute. After a raid in 1934, she was arrested but soon became the mistress of Kinnosuke Kasahara, who arranged a house for her and gave her an income. When he refused to leave his wife for her and also refused her to take another lover, she broke up with him and left for Nagoya where she began working as a maid at a restaurant.

Meeting Ishida

In Nagoya, she met Goro Omiya, who decided he would help her become financially independent. He suggested that she should start working as an apprentice and open a small restaurant, which she started doing in February, 1936. The owner of the restaurant where she worked as an apprentice was Kichizo Ishida, the man who was to become the love of her life.

Ishida was known to be a womanizer, despite being married. The restaurant was actually managed by his wife, while he engaged in multiple affairs with women. When seeing him for the first time Sada declared that she never met such a sexy man and soon he started letting her know that he was attracted to her. Even if they were both in committed relationship, Sada with Omiya and Ishida married, that didn’t stop them having a pre-arranged sexual encounter. It started in mid-April when Ishida and Abe initiated their sexual relationship while listening to a romantic ballad sung by one of the geishas there. It has been known that their first sexual encounter lasted for four days, until they moved to another teahouse where they continued to drink and have sex.

Ishida returned to the restaurant in the morning of May 8th, after 2 weeks that counted as a “date” with Sada Abe. It seems that after this encounter she became agitated and couldn’t bear the thought of him with another woman. She also attended a play where a geisha was attacking her lover with a knife, which probably fueled her imagination as she threatened him later with a knife. She later described the scene: "I pulled the kitchen knife out of my bag and threatened him as had been done in the play I had seen, saying, 'Kichi, you wore that kimono just to please one of your favorite customers. You bastard, I'll kill you for that.' Ishida was startled and drew away a little, but he seemed delighted with it all..."

The Murder

During their lovemaking sessions, she often threatened him to cut off his penis if he was going to play with another woman. They soon started practicing mutual erotic asphyxiation but she did it to him multiple times as he considered that it increased his pleasure. On 16th of May she used her obi sash to strangle him during orgasm and he enjoyed it. This continued for two hours more and pain started appearing, for which he took about 30 tablets of Calmotin. As he started to doze, she declared that he told her to put the cord around his neck and continue squeezing while he’s asleep and don’t stop because it was painful afterwards. At first she asked herself whether he wanted her to kill him, considering the amount of pills he had taken and this unusual request. However, she wanted to make her lover happy so at 2 a.m. when he was asleep, she wrapped her obi sash around his neck and kept on doing it until he died. She declared to the police later that after doing that she felt totally at ease, like a heavy burden had been lifted from her shoulders and she gained clarity.

After staying next to his body for hours she decided she wanted a piece of him with her; she severed his penis with a kitchen knife, wrapped it ina magazine cover and wrote with blood on his thigh Sada, Kichi Futari-kiri ("Sada, Kichi together"). She also carved 定 ("Sada", the character for her name) into his left arm. She left the inn and told the staff not to disturb her lover and was arrested three days later.

While having her lover’s penis on her she went shopping, saw a movie and stayed at an in in Shinagawa considering that she would later commit suicide. She also practiced necrophilia as she would later declare to the police: I felt attached to Ishida's penis and thought that only after taking leave from it quietly could I then die. I unwrapped the paper holding them and gazed at his penis and scrotum. I put his penis in my mouth and even tried to insert it inside me... It didn't work however though I kept trying and trying. Then, I decided that I would flee to Osaka, staying with Ishida's penis all the while. In the end, I would jump from a cliff on Mount Ikoma while holding on to his penis."

Her Arrest

When the police arrested her and asked her why she killed her lover she declared: "I loved him so much, I wanted him all to myself. But since we were not husband and wife, as long as he lived he could be embraced by other women. I knew that if I killed him no other woman could ever touch him again, so I killed him...”

On December 21, 1936 Abe was convicted of murder in the second degree and mutilation of a corpse. Though the prosecution demanded ten years, and Abe claimed that she desired the death penalty, she was in fact sentenced to just six years in prison.

There were several other cases in Japan and throughout Asia, but the Sada Abe incident was considered to be special. William Johnston suggests that "She had killed not out of jealousy but out of love.” making her story one of the most interesting love stories.


Further Reading:

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Ghost Marriage - Death Won't Do Us Part

Ghost marriage is the name of a Chinese tradition where the wedding is performed for two dead people or a dead person and their alive spouse.

Figurines that symbolize the dead groom and bride in China
The same tradition is practiced in Sudan, India and even France, for various reasons. There are still reports of it being practiced today in Asia and some Romanian communities (in Transylvania, as far as the article author knows). According to the Romanian folklore, a person has to go through three important stages in life: birth, marriage and death. If a person dies without having undergone a marriage ritual, they are married posthumously with another unmarried person. According to anthropologists who study Asian culture, the destiny of a man and a woman is incomplete if they don't marry, perhaps influenced by Confucianism, where the idea complete family appears.

In Chinese tradition the marriage is performed when one or both parties are dead and it’s called “minghun”, meaning spirit marriage. This used to be a common tradition in the past but it’s still done nowadays.

If a bride’s fiancé died before the marriage, she had to option to marry him and move in with his family. She also had to vow to remain loyal to him. The reason behind this practice is probably the fact that there was a sort of social pressure when it came to marrying in the Chinese culture. If the bride chose to go through with the marriage despite her husband being dead, he was represented by a white cockerel at the ceremony. After the marriage was performed she was allowed to adopt a son to continue the lineage of her husband.

Ghost marriages were also performed for two dead soon-to-be married couples. It seems that the relatives took it upon themselves to carry out their wishes. This was also done to create a social bond between two families, a common practice in Asian tradition. Other reasons for ghost marriage were: integrating an unmarried daughter into a patrilineage so that the family line was continued or to maintain that no younger brother was married before an elder brother.

Overview On Social Reasons Behind Ghost Marriage

An unmarried woman has no descendants to worship her or care for her as a part of a lineage and since in every household an altar is displayed with spirits tablets of the paternal ancestors, the married woman’s tablet is kept at the altar of her husband’s family. But if a woman dies unmarried, her family is not allowed to place her tablet on the altar of her natal home and she will be given a temporary paper tablet near the door. This is why ghost marriage seemed to be a viable solution for parents who wanted to see their daughters married so that they had an affiliation to a male descent line. Another fact that is significant when it comes to the stigma unmarried women had to bear is the prohibition of unmarried women to die in their natal home. The tradition involved taking the woman to a shed, an empty house or an outlying building so that she could die. As we can see, unmarried women were a great embarrassment for the family and they still are in Chinese society. Often, they weren’t even allowed to live at home with their families.

The Ghost Marriage Ceremony In Asia and Romania

Ghost marriages are supposed to be set up after the deceased spirit’s request. There are many typical marriage rituals that are performed during the ceremony: the wedding feast, the whole arrangement that is used during weddings (paper effigies of products that would be used in the future married couple’s home like a dressing table, a table with six stools, a money safe, a refrigerator, etc.) When one of the partners is alive, they usually get dressed in the typical ceremonial outfit and the ghost groom or bride is treated as they were alive (being fed at the wedding, people are announced of their arrival, etc.).

Romanian Bride waiting to be wed with a dead unmarried man
According to anthropologist H. Stahl the death of a person who hasn’t been married is very dangerous in Romanian tradition as they haven’t fulfilled the most important aspect of their life. In Romania, the dead person that is about to be buried is dressed for wedding – the bride is dressed in white and she even has bridesmaids dressed according to the event. However, the interesting fact is that the “wedding” participants are not dressed as they would be for a wedding, but dressed for a funeral, which adds to the dramatic image. There’s even a color bearer that is held during the wedding, which is composed of colorful scarves; however, during a posthumous wedding, the color bearer contains black scarves. So, this wedding performed for the dead is in contrast with a normal wedding through different symbols and metaphors that are used in songs. However, the whole tradition is seen differently in Romania than Asia. Women who choose to marry a dead man are allowed to marry again and the families don’t bond. Because the marriage hasn’t been consumed, they don’t have to vow celibacy. If the person who died had a girlfriend, she has to take the role to be his posthumous bride.

Sources and further reading: 

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Psychoanalysis Part I – Transference and Countertransference


Psychoanalysis can be described as a curative method based on complete verbalization of thoughts and free associations method in a context that will allow patients to overcome their repressed memories or thoughts.

We can say that psychoanalysis is a specific technique to investigate the mind. The novelty of Freud’s discoveries came with the acknowledgement of how important the unconscious processes were. He stated that they behave differently than conscious processes as the influence of this part of our mind can make us reach conflicting mental states.  
Some of the characteristics of psychoanalysis are:
  •      it is a long term therapy method, even today despite the vast amount of short term therapies.    Psychoanalysts believe that there is a need for a long term therapy as their method will modify the      patient’s personality to be able to eliminate the symptoms completely;
  •  Psychoanalysis searches for the cause and it is not based on eliminating just the symptom;
  •   it is a non-directive type of psychotherapy;
  •   it uses specific methods;
  •   it explores transfer and counter-transfer;

Transference and Countertransference in Psychoanalysis

Psychoanalysis is not just a strictly intellectual process where the patient talks and the therapist analyses, it is a relationship where affectivity plays an important role. This is why transfer is so important.  At first Freud considered that transference can be an impediment during therapy but he later discovered that it is actually essential.

The patient transfers feelings towards the therapist, feelings that they may have for their brothers, sisters, mothers, etc.; it is considered to be a reenactment of a childhood relationship. Defined shortly, transference is unconscious redirection of feelings from one person to another. For example, a person could despise somebody who resembles in some way their ex-lover. During psychoanalytical therapy transference is explored, a method that is not used in other therapies. As transference often appears when there is an emotional connection, it can be an important concept in finding the cause for mental distress, so transfer is also stimulated during psychoanalysis.

This relationship is important for two reasons: it helps the therapist search for childhood models and identify particularities that define the patient’s relationships with the ones around them. This bond between the patient and therapist will help the patient overcome their resistances as the patient will feel the need to please the therapist, as they feel protected and supported.

Countertransference is also important, although it is quite a controversial term. It wasn’t discovered at the beginning of psychoanalysis. It can be defined as an unconscious affective reaction of the therapist in relation to their patient. During the 60’s countertransference started playing a big role during therapy.
Resistance is another concept used in this therapeutic approach and can be defined as a phenomenon when the patient completely disagrees with their therapist and fights back any type of interpretation. However, this is just a type of resistance that can be easily seen during therapy but it can manifest itself in other ways such as: being late or not coming at all to the therapy sessions, developing new symptoms, falling asleep during the psychotherapy session, or eventually, leaving the therapy process completely.  Psychoanalysts believe that patients develop resistances because they cannot face what lies in their unconscious.
Also, there’s another approach on transference and countertransference that is offered in Adlerian psychotherapy. The patient’s transference is pointed out and explained as an obstacle to cooperation and improvement. On the other hand, experimenting countertransference would suggest that the therapist needs to continue their personal therapy and training to overcome such tendencies in the future.

The Psychoanalytical Space

The place and atmosphere where the therapy is conducted also plays an important role during psychoanalysis; those who still practice classic psychoanalysis choose to have a simple space with a couch, no paintings or decorative items, an armchair and a small table. Obviously, this is not the exact description as everybody chooses to decorate and design their office the way they want but it should give you some perspective on how a psychoanalyst’s office should look like.
The therapy is usually done with the patient lying on the couch and the therapist behind him; this helps the patient with their projections and verbalize things easier.  

Monday, May 7, 2012

The Tragic Love Story Between Abelard and Heloise

"You know, beloved, as the whole world knows, how much I have lost in you, how at one wretched stroke of fortune that supreme act of flagrant treachery robbed me of my very self in robbing me of you; and how my sorrow for my loss is nothing compared with what I feel for the manner in which I lost you."
The Love Letters of Abelard and Heloise

Pierre Abelard was a medieval French scholastic philosopher, theologian and preeminent logician. The love story he had with his pupil Héloïse d’Argenteuil is very beautiful but like all beautiful love stories, it is tragic. He was born in the village Le Pallet and was encouraged by his father to study liberal arts; he was very good at dialectic which was based on Aristotle’s logic. He became a teacher and traveled the country debating and learning but eventually stopped in Notre Dame where he became canon.

The romance that was about to change his life started when he was most famous; he was 40 years old and was teaching in Notre Dame when he started tutoring Héloïse d’Argenteuil, who was only 17 years old. She was living with her uncle, the canon Flubert and she had a brilliant mind as she spoke lating, greek and hebrew. He seduced Héloïse who ultimately became pregnant and gave birth to their son Astrolabe. What interfered with his career was the fact that he started boasting his conquest among different people. Flubert learned about this affair and prohibited Héloïse to meet her lover; but this didn’t keep them from seeing each other in secret.

"My tears, which I could not refrain, have blotted half your letter; I wish they had effaced the whole, and that I had returned it to you in that condition; I should then have been satisfied with the little time I kept it; but it was demanded of me too soon. " Source

After giving birth to their son in Brittany, she came back to Paris and married her lover in secret. Obviously, the members of her family opposed marriage with him and when they found out about this they attacked and castrated him while he was sleeping.

Héloïse had to become a nun while Abelard became a monk at St.Dennis Monastery. There is a great collection of letters between them, 113 anonymous love letters from an early phase of their love and another bunch that was written between them fifteen years after their romance ended. They are not just an expression of love but also thought provoking writings between two extremely intelligent people.

Monday, April 30, 2012

Carl Von Cosel and Elena Hoyos - Undying Love or Morbid Obsession ?

There are many types of stories about love, some about unrequited love, others about mutual but tragic love. This is none of those stories, or maybe it is a bit of both. However, one thing is certain, it’s definitely a story about obsession, an obsession that defies death: Karl Tanzler obsession for Elena Hoyos.

Karl Tanzler becomes Carl Von Cosel 

Karl Tanzler left his wife and children in 1927 and moved in Florida. There, he changed his name to Carl Von Cosel and started working in a hospital where patients with tuberculosis were treated. He also claimed that during his childhood he had visions of his dead ancestor Countess Anna Constantina Von Cosel (one of the reasons why he changed his name) who told him that his true love will be a dark haired exotic woman. Whether that claim is true, we do not know, but he did meet his exotic love.

Meeting Elena Hoyos

It all started when Elena Hoyos was committed to the hospital, suffering from tuberculosis; she was known to be a great beauty and Von Cosel was one of those who fell in love with her. This was the beginning of his struggle to keep her next to him, no matter what the consequences were. He tried all the treatments possible to save her, even unorthodox treatments like herbal medicine, X-Ray treatment, and other types of treatment that involved electrical equipment. One of his most unusual treatments involved a potion that contained gold flakes but he also administered electric shocks to her. On a more personal level, he did his best to please her and make her happy, showered her with gifts, but it seems that she didn’t return his affection. However, he hoped that if he managed to cure her terrible illness she would eventual come to love him.

The death of Elena Hoyos

In 1931, just before Halloween, Elena died and was buried in an above-ground mausoleum ordered by the doctor, because he thought that groundwater would have contaminated her body. He would regularly go to her grave and take care of it, which didn’t alarm her family since they trusted him and knew his special connection with her. Little did they know that he was trying to take Elena’s corpse from the grave as his connection with her was more than anyone could possibly imagine. During his visits to Elena’s grave he had long conversations with her and he even installed a telephone so that he would feel close to her even when he was away. Apparently, he also had seen her ghost telling him that he needed to take the corpse and he was also trying to preserve her body with formaldehyde.

When obsession becomes pathological

In 1933, he stole her body from her tomb and brought it home after losing his job from the hospital. He attempted to preserve her body the best way he could using big amounts of preservatives; this proved difficult since she was already dead for two years but he used a lot of perfume to conceal the smell of her rotting flesh. Piano wires were used to string her bones together and keep her skeleton intact somehow, her eyes were replaced with glass replicas because they had also gone rotten, he also created a type of skin for her made from a mixture of silk with wax and plaster, and used rags when her insides became so putrefied she had lost her shape. He continued this process to preserve what was left of his dead obsession, including making a wig for her when her hair was almost gone. All this led to the creation of a macabre doll with some remains of her that was meant to give him some comfort through the illusion that she was still somehow with him.  He spent his days talking to her while she was placed on a large bed and wrapped in cloth veil, acting like they were together and playing music for her on the organ, adding to the creepy scenery. What’s even most shocking is the fact that after the discovery of her body, the doctors also discovered during the autopsy that he had created a tube that somehow resembled a vagina, so he also had sexual intercourse with Elena’s dead body. After his arrest one of the doctors who performed the autopsy declared:

I made the examination in the funeral home. The breasts really felt real. In the vaginal area, I found a tube wide enough to permit sexual intercourse. At the bottom of the tube was cotton, and in an examination of the cotton, I found there was sperm. Then I knew we were dealing with a sexual pervert.

The discovery and arrest

Elena’s sister wasn't seeing doctor Von Cosel at the tomb anymore and there were also some rumors that he was behaving bizarre, so she began to believe that something might have happened, especially since he showed a morbid obsession since the beginning. She asked the authorities to open the tomb and was surprised to see that the body of her sister wasn’t there anymore. When confronted Von Cosel, he invited her inside and she was obviously shocked at the sight of the sinister image created by him. He was soon arrested and found mentally capable to stand trial on the charge of "wantonly and maliciously destroying a grave and removing a body without authorization." However, the case was dropped and he was released. Elena's body was showed to the public, almost 6,800 people, before her last burial.

Later life and death

He moved in Pasco County, Florida in 1944 where he apparently used a death mask to create a life-sized effigy of Elena. It has been speculated that he had taken the body of Elena even after his arrest but there was no evidence that the effigy he created contained any human material. However, his morbid obsession continued until his death in 1952 as he lived the rest of his life with the second doll that resembled Elena.



Undying Love: The True Story Of A Passion That Defied Death

Skullduggery: 45 True Tales of Disturbing the Dead

A short documentary about this case: 

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Abortion History II - Abortion In Medieval Times

During the medieval period the perspective on abortion and contraception in general was greatly influenced by theological writings. But there were many methods still used since antiquity and many late antique authors had a great influence on how abortion was performed. Authors like Celsus, Pliny, Galen, Oribasius, Marcellus Empiricus and Aeitius prescribed different drinks, suppositories, lotions and physical manipulations that were meant to help women get rid of their unwanted pregnancy. There were also some chirurgical methods and some superstitions that were also used whenever a woman wanted to have an abortion.  

Theodorus Priscianus created quite a stir with his book on medicine, especially the part that was related to different gynecological issues. He was influenced by Hippocrates and although he believed that helping women lose their pregnancy was in a way profane to medicine, he saw some exceptions that were meant to be taken into consideration by practitioners. Some of the exceptions mentioned were cases when there was a certain uterine disease or an inappropriate age that could endanger a woman’s life. So there was this new problem: should a doctor get rid of a fetus to save a woman’s life or, as some religious people believed, they shouldn’t act and let God decide. Opinions were different and while some believed that they shouldn’t interfere with God’s work, others proceeded in prescribing different methods for abortion when it was needed.  

One of the most extreme methods of abortion during the medieval period was, of course, a chirurgical practice called embryotomy. Simply put, this was the removing of a dead or alive fetus from the mother’s womb due to some complications that could endanger her life. It seems that this was a fairly common practice whenever complications appeared and there are some archeological discoveries that point in this direction. For example, a decapitated infant with other multiple mutilations that has been found at a gravesite in Poundbury Dorset buried without the mother shows that she probably survived after undergoing an embryotomy. When talking about surgical methods we cannot forget about the caesarian section; but this was used to save the fetus and not the mother. Both these operations were performed by doctors, surgeons and probably midwives. The 2nd and 3rd century theologian Tertullian describes embryotomy as a cruel necessity and it seems to be a difference between this emergency procedure and other invasive methods of abortion. For example, some practitioners used knitting needles or coat-hangers to puncture the amniotic sack or pierce the fetus in order to provoke a premature labor.

Tertullian described some surgical procedures that were similar to what now is known as dilation and evacuation. The tools used in this procedure were described as a "nicely-adjusted flexible frame" used for dilation, an "annular blade" used to curette, a "blunted or covered hook" used for extraction and a "copper needle or spike". He considers that this practice dated back to ancient practitioners such as Hippocrates and Soranus. But his view on abortion was definitely one that rejected it even when the pregnancy was in an early stage; he considered that we cannot kill what has been conceived in the womb. Other theologians such as Clement of Alexandria and Methodius of Olympus went so far as imagining how the apocalypse would be for aborting mothers. It seems that the children ”born due out of time” were saved by God; their mothers, however, had a cruel eternal life – their breast milk would leak and it would congeal thus giving them extreme pain.  

Pope Callistus was criticized due to his complicity in abortion as he allowed noblewomen to take up partners without legal marriage. A common practice was to corset themselves to be unable to carry a pregnancy to full term, because they did not wish to have a child with a commoner or, worse, a slave. But the methods of abortion were scarcely described by theologians; Ambrose of Milan, Jerome and Augustine mention some potions used in abortion.  

Some of the abortificent potions that were prescribed during medieval times contained emmenagogues, plants that will increase blood flow in the pelvic area. There were many recipes that were passed since antiquity and became quite popular during medieval times, being often quoted in medical texts.

These potions were called aborti venena (abortive potions) or sterilitatis venena (potions for sterility), which usually contained some poisonous substances. Pessaries, suppositories and infusions were also used to induce abortion by inserting them into the vagina. Pessaries were actually tampons made of wool, soaked in a mixture of herbs that were either used as a contraceptive method or a way to provoke miscarriage. Pills were taken orally but contained mixtures of herbs as well; there were also cataplasms, poultices or compresses that were applied externally. Some abortions also included a sort of massage to relax the body during the procedure with the help of different ointments. It is interesting to see that nowadays almost the same methods are used to induce labor in the first weeks of pregnancy; the famous mifepristone and misoprostol are synthetic versions of the potions used in medieval times.  Some mixtures contained belladonna, honeysuckle, cedar oil, cabbage leaves or mandrake. In Germanic folklore the prostitute root is mentioned, which is the root of worm fern, another contraceptive herb.

Fumigations were also popular and they can be described as a method of steam vaporization that involved introducing different substances internally by making a woman seat over the steam produced by a fumigation pot. Sponge baths and bathing in general are also connected to abortions during antiquity and early medieval times. For example, Priscianus mentions having two baths as a part of an abortion treatment. However, baths were also often used for a difficult or long birth process.

Bloodletting was a common practice for most medical problems and obviously it was a cure for pregnancy too. It is pretty obvious why women who underwent phlebotomy had an increased risk of miscarriage.

Hebrew books such as The Book of Women’s love contain passages on abortion and some birth control methods. Most Hebrew medical texts have been often interpreted that they permit abortion and contraception in some exceptional cases. Abortions were allowed when a woman’s life was in danger and contraception measures were supposed to be used by minors and breastfeeding women.

The religious view upon this matter was simple in theory but really hard to put in practice. It seemed that the responsibility fell on the woman who needed to coerce her husband to a life of chastity – as it was the only allowed way to avoid pregnancy. However, the law stated that married women had no legal right to refuse sex with their husbands, not to mention the fact that masters often raped their slaves. Women who used contraceptive herbs as well as herbs that would help them get pregnant were considered to practice occult arts and were punished. But when it came to men, religious officials felt overwhelmed by the number of men who needed to be punished and often considered that they couldn’t excommunicate them since they were simply too many and probably important members of society.  


Further reading: