5 Medieval Facts of Hair I

1.  When the Roman Empire fell in 476 A.D., it was by invasion of Germanic peoples. Hair held great significance to these conquerors.

germanic-man

To the Germanics, hair length determined hierarchy in both military & societal arenas. In the military, long hair would be tied up in high knots on top of the head in order to make soldiers appear taller & more fearsome.

Within society, women wore their hair extremely long & freely flowing. They used these long tresses in a variety of ways to signify virginity, marital status, or availability.

medieval-woman-with-long-hair

2.  For the Germanics, hair signified power, authority, beauty, acceptance.

Continue reading

Harem Habibati: Queen Mama III

valide-sultan1You, devetlu, are queen of the harem.

You are the Valide Sultan.

As the absolute sovereign of the harem, everything is regulated by you and implemented according to your design.

Since harem women cannot interact with the public, all contact with the outside world shall be conducted by harem eunuchs.

However, within the harem, your enormous staff is made up of women.

Your kethuda usta (head of administrative affairs) carries out your orders related to state, and your haznedar usta (personal assistant) sees that your orders are carried out within the harem household. Beneath these two women are at least a hundred other workers of varied capacity.

You wonder if that will be enough…?

Your resources are bountiful, now.

In fact, dear ippetlu (‘she of highest dignity‘), your salary as Valide surpasses that of the Sultan’s — an indication of the reverence your son holds for you, as well as a sign of the importance of your position.

Moreover, after the Sultan’s war conquests, he showers you with new lands and castles, making sure you always receive the most valuable real estate before gifting less choice real estate to the men in his administration.

You, in turn, parcel off this real estate to these very men for favors, information, and whatever other needs you and the harem may have.

Such are the means of power over men for a Valide, and her harem. Continue reading

Harem Habibati: Queen Mama II

You have a new home.

It’s a palace, really.

Topkapi palace.

topkopi-palace-istanbul-turkey

Topkapi Palace / Istanbul, Turkey

This is where you live now, in grand splendor.

And, as mother of the new ruling Sultan, you shall be his confidant, his supreme advisor, his personal herald and protector. Because you, ippetlu, are the most treasured object of his unconditional love & devotion.

You are the Valide Sultan.

Your now-royal son escorts you ceremoniously through gilded palace doors into your new harem home.

It is resplendent.

Continue reading

5 Medieval Facts of Bathing II

1.  Bath houses were adopted from Middle Eastern bathing practices, and became very popular throughout the West until the late-1200’s.

medieval-bath-house

But water was heated by wood fires & wood became more expensive as forests were diminished. Over time, it became too expensive to maintain bath houses, and they began to go out of business. Attempts at replacing wood fuel with coal failed due to deaths from the unhealthy fumes.

2.  From the 1300’s on, only the very rich were able to afford firewood to heat their bath water in winter. The rest of medieval society remained unbathed for the most part, bathing an average of 3 to 4 times per year, usually around important occasions. On these rare bathing occasions, entire families would share the same bath water.

Oftentimes, during low rains, extended family would be invited to share the immediate family’s bathwater, as well!

Continue reading

5 Medieval Facts of Bathing I

1.  During medieval times, there were different views about bathing. These views changed often throughout the era, in accordance with the Church, the kings, medical beliefs, and common superstitions.

rose-petal-bath

While Middle Eastern cultures enjoyed daily baths – often twice a day – many medieval Europeans feared bathing. European doctors believed that allowing water to touch, enter, swirl around the naked flesh caused disease, sickness, and eventual death. Water was believed to seep into the system through the skin’s pores, flooding the bather with impurities.

Even the drinking of water was considered a dangerous practice to most medievals, who drank ale instead.

Aliens in Antiquity: The Nuremberg Incident

medieval-ufos

Medieval painting depicting a king pointing to a UFO, which were seen so often in medieval times that they came to be called “hat ships” because of the way they “sailed” across the sky.

Look!

Up in the sky!

It’s a bird!

It’s a plane!

😯

Plane?

What’s a plane?

 

Medievals would not have known the answer to that question. But they did know flying objects when they saw them. Especially brightly lit, metallic objects engaged in battle across the skies over a major city.

Think we’re the only ones who see UFO’s?

The only difference between our sightings and theirs, is that medievals didn’t scoff at it.

They detailed their sightings, and saw no reason to ridicule those who did so. Documents from the Middle Ages show more recorded UFO sightings than in all of NASA’s top secret files. Continue reading

Harem Habibati: Queen Mama I

valide-sultan 

You hold the most honored female position in Ottoman family structure.

You are addressed by all – men and women alike – as ‘ippetlu‘ (she of highest dignity), ‘devetlu‘ (she of supreme authority), and of course, ‘valide‘ (mother).

 

These monikers belong, not exclusively to you, but to every mother in every Ottoman family. In fact, ‘Mother‘ may well be synonymous with ‘Goddess,’ for it is the most exalted position for a woman in the Ottoman family.

However, you, ippetlu, are even more exalted.

Your dignity and authority exceed that of every mother throughout the vast Ottoman territories. Indeed, your ‘mother’ card trumps all. For you, devetlu, have borne the son who now rules the Empire. You are the mother of the new Sultan.

You are the Valide Sultan.

In all the land, there exists no other woman of your status.

Continue reading

5 Medieval Facts of the Middle East

Yet the fact remains that no one knows where the Middle East is, although many claim to know. Scholars and governments have produced reasoned definitions that are in hopeless disagreement. There is no accepted formula, and serious efforts to define the area vary by as much as three to four thousand miles east and west. There is not even an accepted core for the Middle East.

The Council on Foreign Relations

middle_east-map

1. There is no ‘Middle East.’

The ‘Middle East’ is actually a term imposed by British colonialists who defined the area from their European perspective, viewing the geographical area as being ‘East‘ of London, and in the ‘Middle‘ of the United Kingdom and India.

Today, the American perspective lumps the region into a generic geographical and cultural monolith, giving further weight to the historically erroneous term ‘Middle East.’

Those living in the ‘Middle East‘ do not define their area of the world by this term. Upon hearing the term, they’ll ask: “East of where?” or “Middle of what?”

huh?

Continue reading

Harem Habibati: Hierarchy of the Imperial Harem

We must keep in mind that equality for women has been struggled for and won to a more advanced degree only by women in the richer countries of America and Europe. But even in the U.S., a woman has yet to be elected President…

– G. Goodwin, “The Private World of Ottoman Women

harem-scene

In ancient Turkish, Persian, Indian and other Asian societies, monogamy was the norm within the lower classes. But among the upper crust and royalty, harems were the rule. Most magnificent of all harems were those of the Ottoman Sultans. Renowned for its immensity and grandeur, the harem of a Sultan was called the Harem-i-Hümayun.

The Imperial Harem.

The harem itself was an institution governed by a strict hierarchy – a hierarchy so extensive and intricately layered, it would take no less than 99 Medieval Monday posts to detail. So, for the sake of brevity, I’ll be presenting the cliff notes!

But before we begin our journey into the fascinating details of harem life – and into the minds and hearts of harem girls – it’s important to understand the labyrinthine arrangement in which these ladies lived.

Those at the top of the hierarchy would not think, feel or have the same experience living in a harem as those at the bottom. And though the Western myth of harems sees undistinguished groups of women lazing nakedly around palace pools, we shall see that in the real harem world, nothing could be further from the truth.

Let’s check out why…

Continue reading

Medieval Misconceptions: Harem Harlots

You are a sibyl.

A seer.

vision-of-the-future

What you divine now, as you gaze into the future, is the trumpeting of false history. 

A fallacious history of your own nation, written by those of another with an imperialist agenda to perpetuate. It is an ignorant history constructed by aristocrats who impose the values of their own nation onto every nation, and judge all according to one.

Far into the future, you watch as Western history transforms the women of your nation into willing whores, sexualized sylphs – a purposeful construction which sells their smut to entertain their men – while canonizing their women, who feel superior by comparison. The caricatures created by this history entertain their children – who grow up to pass the historical sludge on to to their children.

disney-aladdin

And the twisted image of your nation lives on in perpetuity…

harem

Continue reading