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Lady Day

340px-Dante_Gabriel_Rossetti_-_Ecce_Ancilla_Domini!_-_Google_Art_Project

The Annunciation Dante_Gabriel_Rossetti

Lady Day is March 25th. From 1155 to 1752, Lady Day, not January 1, was the start of the year. In England today the tax year still runs according to this old timetable. So if your January New Year’s Resolutions have gone awry, it’s a great time to make some more!

This ancient festival celebrates the feast of the Annunciation, when the angel Gabriel announced the forthcoming birth of Jesus to Mary, known in the Catholic faith as ‘Our Lady’.  Lady Day is also a quarter day in the wheel of the year. It falls near the Spring Equinox and is connected to pagan celebrations of the earth’s rebirth. The ancient Celts honoured Eostre, the Goddess of spring around this time. She was traditionally accompanied by a hare. We still know her name in the feast name ‘Easter’ – while the hare has become the Easter bunny.

The word ‘lady’ itself is rich in heritage. In an academic paper I wrote for Women and Language journal I analysed its history and meaning. The word lady invokes the imagination.  While woman captures our biology, our physicality, or femaleness, lady evokes the more elusive quality – muse, magic, spirit – of the feminine. I wrote it a few years ago, but I still get contacted about it – by chance (in 2017) I did this morning!

nakedA famous Lady of Legend, Godiva, has long intrigued me and my version of her tale, with a twist, can be found in NAKED: A Novel of Lady Godiva (St Martin’s Press). In some ancient stories Godiva is accompanied by a hare – connecting her to the Celtic goddess of spring, Eostre. You can find the book on Amazon. There are more Ladies of Legend in store, so stay tuned.

This year, 2016, Lady Day falls on Good Friday. I don’t know how often that happens, but it must be rare. Perhaps the feminine and the masculine are entering a new phase of balance. In that spirit, the image I’ve used here of The Annunciation is by Dante Gabriel Rossetti (1849) and the model is his sister, the poet Christina Rossetti.

(Now in 2017 it is interesting to reflect on the shifts that have taken place, isn’t it?)

Best wishes for the year,

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Lady pic This photo was taken a while back when I was researching the word lady and felt rather determined about it.

 

 

 

 

Out in MARCH 2017

Published by Skyhorse Press, New York. Available at Amazon and all good book stores.

The Morning Gift: A True Love Custom

The Kiss by Klimt  A beautiful old custom I discovered while writing NAKED: A Novel of Lady Godiva was the Anglo-Saxon custom of the morgengifu or ‘morning gift’.

The morning gift was given to a bride by her husband the morning after their wedding. It could be land, money, goods or jewels. More than a mere dowry, it defined the power relations in a marriage and between the two families of the bride and groom joined in wedlock.  Negotiations could be heated and many alliances (and misalliances) were built.

“Silently he rolled away and reached over to where his belt laid cast aside on the floor. My eagle gold beside it.A small leather pouch. He held it out it to me.

“The morgengifu. Your morning gift.”

My brow furrowed. “But we’ve set our terms.” Was he revoking our agreement?

He shrugged and pressed the package into my palm.

Slowly I untied the long cord.

A ring. A dull gleam of gold. Carved swirls. A large smooth gem in the centre, egg shaped. I held it up to the light.

The gem glowed red as a wood berry. “It’s beautiful.”

“A ruby.”

I’d not expected such a courtesy of him, just as I hadn’t expected the pleasure he’d given me.

I slipped the ring onto my finger.  “Thank you,” I said, made shy. “Where did it come from?”

            “It was my mother’s. It’s Mercian made.”

So he’d brought it with him to Coventry. The eagle belt too he must have had with him. He must carry them with him always, a family keepsake.

“And now you give it to me.”

 Quote from NAKED: A Novel of Lady Godiva

http://amzn.to/1DXROqX

In NAKED, Godiva’s morgengifu is more than the ring she receives by surprise from her new husband. Historical documents from the 11th century show Godiva’s name as a female landowner. Her status as a landowner indicates that she inherited her own estate. Godiva had a lot to offer … and a lot to lose.

Marriage was a risk for Anglo-Saxon noblewomen like Lady Godiva. As Lord Leofric puts it in NAKED:  “There’s something you have forgotten.”  Moving nearer still, he closed the gap I’d stretched between us. His breath warmed my cheek. “The morgengifu is given to a woman by her husband the morning after their wedding night. Not before. To wed is to gamble. In our language even the words have the same meaning.”

Godiva vows to protect her land and her people, whatever the cost. As you’ll discover, her marriage gamble could cost her virtue, her heart … or her life.

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This post first appeared on Susanna’s Morning Room. Thanks Susanna!

Find out more about my heroine Lady Godiva! Available at Amazon and all good bookstores.

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Candlemas for Writers

 

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Rosetti ‘Sibylla Palmifera’

February 2 is the feast of Candlemas. It’s a special day for writers. Traditionally, on this day, bees wax candles were blessed in churches before being taken home for use throughout the year. Candlemas was also a time when many women would make candles and re-stock their home supplies.  Candlemas coincides with Imbolc – the great fire and flame festival that rejoiced at the signs of winter ending and hastened the return of spring with its light filled days. This feast day is also sacred to Brigid, Celtic Goddess and saint.  Candlemas, or Imbolc, celebrates Brigid and the promise of the light and warmth.
Brigid is the patroness of all crafts. Metal work or smith craft was especially connected to Brigid. In some legends Brigid forged the great cauldron, the cup of life blessings, herself.
Smith craft has given shape to some of our earliest artefacts. Gold, silver, copper, iron, tin, lead and even mercury, once called quicksilver, have all been forged in the furnaces of time. Metal’s form can be altered through heat, known as annealing, and reshaped while red hot, before setting and cooling down. Metal can be worked in its pure state, or its strength and hardness altered by making it into an alloy, by mixing it with another metal. From metal, smiths have wrought horseshoes, swords, gates, and of course, candle sticks.
The word metal itself comes from the meaning to search after. Alchemists searched for the philosopher’s stone, the ability to transform base metals into gold. “The alchemists said that their prima materia (their prime material) could be found anywhere, rejected as useless by common man, but capable of being distilled and transformed into purest gold,” explains Gareth Knight in his book Magic and the Western Mind.  “So it is with the imagination. It is there for any to use, free to all, yet few realize its true potential or try to distil it to a precious quintessence.”
“‘But what gold? How will I know the gold?’ You will know the gold,” writes the author of The Artist’s Way and creativity coach Julia Cameron in her book The Vein of Gold. Creativity is an alchemical process that can transform the metal of your daily life. You can distil your dreams into gold, with the craft of your hands.

The ringing of its busy bent anvils, The sound of songs from poet’s tongues, The heat of men at clean contest, The beauty of its women at high assembly, Blessings on the forge!                                ~ Irish, traditional

Craftspeople of long ago would clean and prepare their tools on Brigid’s feast day to bring good fortune for the year ahead. It’s a lovely custom for writers:
•       Clean and organize your writing space.  Clear your desk. Order shelves and drawers. Empty the waste paper basket. Dust and tidy. Establish harmony and order.
•       Bring as much natural light and air as you can into your workspace.
•       Clear out clutter on your computer or tablet. Delete excess files and emails.
•       Clean your writing tools. Treat them with care.
•       Re-stock on stationery and office supplies.
•       Evaluate your writing hopes, goals and dreams for the year.
•       Light a candle.
•       Forge ahead.

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Godiva – Saint or Goddess?

 

St Agnes, The Cloisters NY

St Agnes, The Cloisters New York

 “My father dreamed of building in stone,” I said. “He dreamed of a castle. And my mother used to say, Better to have castles made of wood than made of air, Radulf.”

Leofric smiled; the unexpected boyish smile that seemed to go straight to my core.  “And what did your father say to that?”

“He said dreams must come first.”

“Dreams must come first. And what would you build?”

“My mother believed we should build a church before we rebuilt the hall. She always wanted to have a stone church for Coventry. A church should be the first stone building, she said, for a church is for everyone. She and Brother Aefic long planned it. One day I hope to build it in her memory. I would make it so fine that all the townsfolk would want to come. I would build it with glass windows as they do in the great cities.”

“So buildings made of dreams do last,” he murmured. “The dreams of your parents have become yours. Perhaps dreams are passed down along with lands.”

Quote from NAKED: A Novel of Lady Godiva

http://amzn.to/1DXROqX

How old is the legend of Lady Godiva? A thousand years, or more?  Was she a real life woman, or does her story reach back even further in time? Let’s follow the golden thread and find out.

Lady Godiva has a secret past. There was a real, philanthropic woman called Countess Godgyfu who founded the monastery on which the first cathedral of Coventry was built. She gave valuable gifts to the city, including bequeathing a silver necklace, which was believed to once adorn the neck of the Cathedral’s statue of the Virgin Mary. Further back in history, Godiva’s legend was linked to saints and goddesses.

In their book Virtuous Magic: Women Saints and their Meanings, authors Sara Maitland and Wendy Mumford include Godiva of Coventry. Godiva’s story, like that of many saints, includes elements of folk story, local tradition and memory of her exceptional goodness and philanthropy and had similarities to stories of many saints from the same or earlier periods. In particular, Godiva’s legend has been linked to the earlier tale of St Agnes, the third century virgin martyr.

In The Golden Legend complied by Jacobus de Voragine in the 13th century, the beautiful Agnes was forced to walk naked through the town as a punishment for refusing to give up her faith. Agnes’s hair miraculously grew long enough to cover her, and such a bright angelic light surrounded her that no man could see her.

The story of St Agnes and Godiva are clearly of the same family: the long (golden) hair and the piety that overcame debauchment and even being seen – just as in the folk tale the townsfolk of Coventry could not/would not see their liege lady (except for peeping Tom).

Let’s go back even further in time. Godiva’s tale is connected to Greek and Celtic myths and sacred, semi-clad female processions.  The Teutonic goddess Hertha made a procession through the woods after her ritual bath, while in Greek legend it was at a man’s peril to witness the woodland bathing of the goddess of the hunt, Diana.  Godiva’s ride may well have descended from one of these parades.

In another version, Godiva’s ride is not a procession, but a love-chase. In this story, Leofric sets his wife a riddle to test her. She must come to him neither being clothed or unclothed, without a foot touching the ground. Cleverly, Godiva rides rather than walks and covers her naked body with a golden net of her hair. In some tellings of this love chase, Godiva is accompanied by a hare – connecting her to the Celtic goddess of Spring, Eostre. She has also been connected to another spring goddess who took a May-Day procession to summon the new season. Her name? The goddess Goda.

Like many pagan myths, such stories were absorbed into Christianity. It was in the Middle Ages that Goda’s tale became connected with the real and genuinely philanthropic Countess Godgyfu and the old pagan love-chase became a Christian procession celebrating her piety.

Godiva’s story has come down to us through the ages in a mix of fact, folk-lore and legend. Some call her a goddess, some call her a saint. All we know for certain is that Godiva’s extraordinary story continues to catch us in the net of her long, golden hair.

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Godiva: Saint or Goddess first appeared as a guest post on jorielovesastory.com

You can also read about Godiva’s Ancient History on my guest post at Bibliotica.com

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Available from all good bookstores. Coming soon in audio on Amazon

Orana! Seasonal Wishes to You

Thank you to all the wonderful readers who have been in touch with me about my books. It’s been a real privilege and one I’ll reflect on over the festive season with gratitude.

cover43491-smallReaders of my Australian contemporary romance Hide and Seek know how much I love birds so here’s a link to the little known Australian Christmas carol: The Carol of the Birds written by William Garnet James & John Wheeler. (Orana is an Australian Aboriginal word meaning welcome.)

Season’s greetings!

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Cameo Portrait: Enticing Benedict Cole

CAMEO newsletter

An artist, a lady, a secret passion… 

When Benedict Cole shuns her request for painting lessons, Lady “Cameo” Catherine Mary St. Clair takes matters into her own hands. She arrives at Benedict’s studio, only to be mistaken for a model! It’s an opportunity she just can’t turn down…

Benedict knows better than to let intimacy interfere with his work, yet he can’t quell his fascination for the mysterious Cameo. And after one daring night together, everything changes. Will Cameo still be his muse when Benedict discovers who she really is?’

The heroine of Enticing Benedict Cole is Cameo. It really is a girl’s name. A cameo is a small carving in relief of a semi-precious stone. The lighter-coloured layer is chipped away to reveal a darker background. In the 19th century, when this story is set, cameo jewellery was popularised by Queen Victoria. At that time small cameo portraits were often painted of well-to-do young women to adorn jewellery, for a keepsake, or to give to a lover. The word cameo has an original Greek meaning of ‘shadow portrait’ – which became part of the story.

Enticing Benedict Cole cover

I collected quite a few cameos while writing the book, as you’ll see on my ‘Cameo Appearance’ Pinterest board. Any excuse will do – right?

Visit Eliza Redgold at Harlequin Mills and Boon for a free extract of Enticing Benedict Cole.

Best wishes,

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Lady Godiva’s Ride into New York

Eliza Redgold at the Flatiron Building New York

Eliza Redgold (Dr Elizabeth Reid Boyd) at the Flatiron Building New York

 

Of late I’ve been writing about Lady Godiva’s ride back into popular culture. I’m so excited to have the chance to present on NAKED at the Popular/American Culture Association in the US in 2015. Here’s the abstract for my academic paper:

‘The legend of Lady Godiva, who famously rode naked through the streets of Coventry covered only by her long, flowing hair, has lasted for centuries. Her tale has been revived and romanticized time and time again, especially during periods of change and liberation in women’s lives. This is one such time. Drawing upon the recently published NAKED: A Novel of Lady Godiva (St Martin’s Press) written by Eliza Redgold (the pseudonym of Dr Elizabeth Reid Boyd) this paper explores the stories surrounding Godiva. It reveals her history, her myth and how far back in time her legend goes, to Christian saints and pagan goddesses. Whether fact or fiction, Godiva of Coventry was a unique woman and a heroine in more ways than one: as sexual symbol, spiritual icon and political activist. In a single leap, she jumps the hurdle of the double-standard that divided women into saints or sinners. Her return to popular culture today heralds a new kind of (post)feminist freedom. Her courage continues to inspire, her tale to be told, even after a thousand years.  Godiva is more than a naked lady. She is an evocation of the divine.’

My paper will be accompanied by a slide show of images of Godiva through time. If you’d like to share some of these images, you can check them out at my guest post (thanks so much!) at A Bookish Affair or on my Lady Godiva Pinterest board.

I’ll also be in New York and will have a chance to thank the wonderful people at St Martin’s Press in the Flatiron Building who made publishing Godiva so magical.

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best wishes,

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A Grace for Books: Mindful Reading

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Why have we no grace for books, those spiritual repasts – a grace before Milton – a grace before Shakespeare – a devotional exercise proper to be said before reading the Faeire Queen?‘ ~ Charles Lamb

Of late I’ve been thinking about how we read. It has changed so much in the last decade, with e-books and reading on line. We still read (maybe even more than before) but we read differently (though many noblewomen in the past read romance and books on spirituality and self-development just like we do today!)

Historically, noblewomen used Books of Hours, beautiful books of prayers, to mark their time. Richly illuminated with pictures of saints, Bible stories, and even signs of the Zodiac, they were sometimes encrusted with jewels. Some called girdle books were small enough to be hung from the waist. Books of Hours contained a calendar, gospel lessons, psalms and special prayers to be said at certain hours of the day: Prime (6am, or upon waking) Terce (9am) Sext (midday) None (3pm) Vespers (6pm) and Compline (9pm, or upon retiring).

The illustration above is taken from a fifteenth century Book of Hours. She is Virgo (my star sign).  I’m going to try the custom of marking my time with a Book of Hours by doing some daily devotional reading.

If you want to join me, here’s how:

Select your own Book of Hours: a prayer book, a hymnal, a spiritual text, a day book, or even a book of poetry. From this book, choose a short quotation, text or excerpt to use as a daily devotional reading (it only needs to be a few lines long). Or you can simply open your chosen book by chance and read the first section you see. Read your quotation in the morning and again at night. Try this for about a month for the most benefit. If you skip a day, just go back to it the next.

Alternatively, try the traditional marking of hours, reading a short text or quotation from your chosen Book of Hours, on the hour, every hour, for a whole day. (We check our phones that often, so why not try this instead!) It might sound arduous, but is found to be relaxing. Build this into a regular practice, or use it as a meditative technique to slow you down when you are feeling particularly rushed or overwhelmed.

Marking time with a devotional reading only takes a moment as the clock strikes, but it creates an entirely different sense of time and increases our mindfulness. Our days will feel very different when we mark the golden hours.

Wishing you blessed reading,

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In Love with the Pre-Raphaelites

'Marigolds' or The Gardener's Daughter Rosetti

‘Marigolds’ or The Gardener’s Daughter by Dante Gabriel Rosetti was an inspiration for my Harlequin Historical romance ‘Enticing Benedict Cole’.

The beautiful, romantic Pre-Raphaelite paintings are some of the most familiar artworks in the world. During the 19th century, the art and love lives of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood, a group of brilliant, free thinking young men, were considered scandalous. Their artistic milieu was in complete contrast with the strict conventions of the Victorian upper classes who lived in a controlled, stifling world, and they were often trapped and unhappy. It would have been considered unthinkable for an aristocratic young lady to want to pursue art seriously, and even more unthinkable to be an artist’s model. That’s the dream of Lady Cameo St Clair, the heroine of my Victorian romance Enticing Benedict Cole. Her story celebrates every woman who ever challenged convention for the sake of art, and for the sake of love. It is published by Harlequin Historical.

Another Lady who is capturing the imagination of readers is Lady Godiva! THANK YOU to all the readers who have read and reviewed Naked: A Novel of Lady Godiva.  Her story deserved to be written – and I’m so glad it is being read!

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The famous image used for the cover of NAKED: A Novel of Lady Godiva was painted by John Collier in the Pre-Raphaelite style (1898).

If you’d enjoy more Pre-Raphaelite Beauty visit my Pinterest page

Best wishes,

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Eliza Redgold Romances

UK Cover Enticing Benedict Cole

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Lady Liberty

Lady Liberty

‘Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame,
With conquering limbs astride from land to land;
Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand
A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame
Is the imprisoned lightning, and her name
Mother of Exiles. From her beacon-hand
Glows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes command
The air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame.

“Keep, ancient lands, your storied pomp!” cries she
With silent lips. “Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!’

~ Emma Lazarus: ‘The New Colossus’ (1883)

Of late I’ve been thinking about Lady Liberty.

While I wrote Naked: A Novel of Lady Godiva I kept a postcard of the Statue of Liberty in the drawer of my bedside table. Telling Godiva’s story took many years and if I ever lost heart, Lady Liberty would always spur me on.

You can imagine my joy at NAKED being published by St Martin’s Press in New York and the official release day being 14 July 2015. 14 July is Bastille Day, commemorating the beginning of the French Revolution. It was, of course, the French people who gave the beautiful statue to the people of New York to celebrate American Independence.

As a symbol of sovereignty, Lady Liberty continues to inspire me. I’ve always been passionate about the American dream and I’m so grateful to be sharing it too.

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NAKED: A Novel of Lady Godiva can be found at all good bookstores and online. May Lady Godiva inspire you to a life of love and freedom.

Wishing you ‘Liberte, Egalite and Fraternite’,

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