Tag Archive | Roman Empire

November New Releases

Good morning!  My apologies for not posting since August. But when you see the results, I’m sure you will forgive me.

Hypatia of Alexandria webOn 1 August I took up a challenge I honestly did not think possible:  write “Hypatia of Alexandria” and release it before the first week of December.  Why did that seem so difficult?  Consider this:  it took nearly a year and a half to research and write “Empress Matilda of England” (LWWH book 7). And while it’s true I wrote Boudicca in less than a month (still my best-seller), Boudicca had ONE appendix in its initial release.  Hypatia has THREE.

And so I put aside the blog and really focused on writing.  In the middle of that I was a guest on the “Condensed History Gems” podcast hosted by Jem Duducu (@historygems) and Greg Chapman (@CondensedHist). Those interested can listen to my guest episode.

Persistence pays off and thanks to a lot of long days and nights, I succeeded in finishing Hypatia in September, allowing me to focus on the editorial and promotional work so essential to a successful book launch.

arban saman webIn the middle of that I had a bit of an attack of life, both personally and spiritually. Rather than blog about it, I decided to express what was in my mind in the form of historical fiction.  “The Arban and the Saman” takes me back to my roots in Chinese/East Asian history. The story begins in the year 1211, just five years after Temujin becomes Chinggis Khan when the Mongols first invaded the nuzhen (Jurchen) homeland. This is roughly the time period I played when I was a re-enactor in the Society for Creative Anachronism when I was known as “Biya.”  Biya means “the moon” in nuzhen/Jurchen/Manchu and it’s one of the few characters from the original nuzhen language used in the Jin dynasty that survived decades of warfare against the Mongols.

“The Arban and the Saman” explores the subject of soul mates and soul family. It’s a deeply spiritual historical romance that takes you far more intimately into my own life experience than really any other book I’ve written to date. In the book I take you into what it was like during some of my “near” death experiences and what I experience when I meditate.  I take you into Asian medicine. And yes, I challenge you intellectually to think about the subject of soul mates, soul family, and reincarnation and our assumptions about them.

It’s a beautiful story and one I hope you will enjoy.  And yes, that model on the cover is me.  The photo was extracted from a musical performance I gave near Philadelphia, Pennsylvania in the winter of 2006.

To my great surprise I finished and published “The Arban and the Saman” on 1 November, 2017 and released it immediately with the promotional blog tour scheduled for February 2018 in celebration of Chinese New Year: the Year of the Dog.

Hypatia of Alexandria launched on 10 November 2017. The promotional blog tour for Hypatia begins on Sunday 19th November, 2017.

Defend the light candle 2Prizes will be given during both blog tours.  For “Hypatia,” three lucky winners will “defend the light” with special votive candles, plus one grand prize winner will receive a signed paperback copy.

rose quartz pendants

To celebrate the magic and mysticism of “The Arban and the Saman” three lucky winners will each receive a beautiful rose quartz pendant. The grand prize winner will receive a selection of Chinese teas from http://www.enjoytea.com.

Happy holidays! Thanks for reading! And don’t remember to always DEFEND THE LIGHT of knowledge and wisdom.

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Roman British Costuming: General Guidelines for “Boudicca: A Play in Three Acts”

roman-woman

A Roman lady wears a tunic (white), stola (blue), and palla (red).

As a historian, history is my passion.  I love few things better than seeing a period-correct drama where the costumes are accurately rendered.  But what do you do if your budget is small or you are playing scenes from “Boudicca: A Play in Three Acts” or Shakespeare’s “Julius Caesar?” What if you don’t have years of expertise researching Roman and Roman-British clothing?

The following is a general guide for productions of “Boudicca: A Play in Three Acts” and for general re-enactment of Roman and Roman-British characters/personae:

 

 

BRITISH CLOTHING

brythonic-brat

The brat is a 2 meter long, 30″ wide heavy wool rectangle that is wrapped or pinned around the body to protect the wearer from the elements. Worn across “Celtic” societies on both the continent and the British islands. The late medieval “kilt” of Scotland evolved from the ancient brat which can be pinned and belted (as above) as desired or simply folded and wrapped around the body in dozens of different ways.

Simple wool tunics.  Men wear shorter tunics with warm, simple-cut trousers. The trousers of upper class warrior men are cropped with hemlines between the knee and an ankle.  Women wear ankle length tunics.  Both sexes wear brats: a heavy and often coarsely woven rectangular shawl folded lengthwise across the body.  The brat may be worn as a shawl, draped and pinned as a cloak, draped and pinned as a surcoat, or simply folded and pinned secure to the upper breast.  Jewellery is abundant and includes decorative broaches.

ROMAN CLOTHING

roman-clothing-1

Men wear knee length tunics called “chitons.”  Over this common men wrap a rectangular cloak similar to a brat that is often pinned securely. High ranking men wear togas over their chitons instead of a cloak.

Women wear a long-sleeved tunic dress covering most of the body.  Over this women wear a stola which is high-waisted and held together at the shoulders by broaches.   The top layer for upper class Roman women is her palla which is wrapped around her in dozens of different ways to cover her head, warm her like a cloak, or even serve as a female version of a toga.

the-roman-palla

The Roman palla and how to wear it.

Roman soldiers wear armour and carry a gladius (a short thrusting sword) at all times.

 

roman-legionaire

Components to a Roman legionnaire’s armour.

Special costuming for “Boudicca: A Play in Three Acts”and for general reenactment of Roman British characters/personae

Act I, Scene I: Prasutagus wears the fine linen/wool that marks him as a member of the upper class with decorative trim along the hem edges of his tunic and brat.  Roman bureaucrat wears a toga marking him as a Roman citizen and aide to the Roman governor.  The broach securing Boudicca’s brat features a raven as a mark of her devotion to Cathubodva.

Act I, Scene II:  Boudicca wears a Roman stola over her Celtic tunic dress.  A palla drapes across her body like a shawl.  Her flaming red hair is now elaborately braided and pinned up matronly.

Act I, Scene III:  Boudicca and Prasutagus wear their finest woollen tunics with embroidered trim along sleeve, hem, and neckline edges. Boudicca’s brat is made of a much finer wool than we saw in Scene I which is soft blue or lavender in colour.  King Prasutagus wears a polished circlet or crown.  Boudicca wears a coronet of spring flowers over her braided hair.  Linet wears a tiara or circlet made of oak leaves and a silver necklace.

Act I, Scene IV: Gaius and Roman Bureaucrat wear togas over their tunics.

Act III, Scene I:  Gaius and Roman Bureaucrat both wear togas over their tunics.

Act III, Scene III:  Gaius wears full battle armour instead of his toga.

 

From Act II, Scene V forward Roman soldiers also carry shields.

Discussion: Is Jesus’ birth worth celebrating?

manger-620x412This morning I found this fascinating article entitled “Is Jesus’ birth worth celebrating?”  In it Valarie Talerico takes us beneath the surface of the Christian celebration of Jesus’ birth and looks at the inherent messages about female sexuality.

“A woman used is a woman soiled. A woman raped is a woman ruined. A girl who explores her body with a boy is a licked lollypop.  A divorced woman shouldn’t get married in white. Only an unbedded and so unsullied female—a virgin—could be pure enough to birth a perfect child, the son of God.”

The article goes into depth into the cultural and religious history behind these ideas that a woman who has never been sexually touched is superior to all other females.

Looking deeper than the article does, I must point out that these same cultures and religions often employ rape as a sort of weapon:  once used by the rapist, a woman is considered wholly unsuitable for marriage.

Though rape is a traumatic experience for the girl or woman, in societies and religious traditions where female conduct reflects on her male owners, the intent of the rapist is revealed to be more an attack on the men in her life, a way of dishonouring them through her.

Boudicca artist concept chariotThat is, in fact, the primary reason why Roman soldiers raped Queen Boudicca’s daughters:  they were sending a terrorist message that just as they ruined and shamed the Iceni (to rape their princesses is to shame the entire tribe), they were perfectly prepared to shame and terrorize any Briton daring to stand up to them.

And so we must examine in our own hearts what our values are and what we really want them to be.  Do we want to continue to measure a woman’s worth based on how many male genitals have touched her body and in what fashion?  Do we want to continue to weigh a person’s worth based on another person’s behaviour or experiences?  Do we still want to confuse service/nurturing with subservience and demand women treat themselves as inferiors to men?

Libby bird iconOr do we want something better for ourselves, our families, and our societies?  Do we truly believe in the equality of all people and the rights of every person to act according to her or his own conscience and convictions or will we persist on judging and condemning others for choices and circumstances that differ from our own?

Will we take the dark road of hate and judgement or will we take the harder road of love, acceptance, and peace?

I cannot answer that question for you; only for myself.  I choose love and peace.  I choose to accept you just the way you are — free of judgement.  You are wonderful just because you are you.

 

Merry Christmas!

–Laurel A. Rockefeller

 

Donald Trump and What “Conservative” Really Means

trump-768x512If you live in the United States you are probably already sick and tired about hearing about the campaign deciding who will be the next president of the United States.  As a matter of fact odds are good you have now heard the name “Trump” even more times than you have heard another name I never want to hear again — KARDASHIAN.  Yes we are over-saturated with reality TV stars — which is exactly what “The Donald” actually is.

Across 2015 we’ve been treated to a renewed and very vocal outcry of white power, anti-immigrant sentiment (let’s include Britain’s UKIP party here).  Trump’s obstinate rudeness in the name of not being “politically correct” has ended all pretenses of civility and human decency as thousands flock to hear and echo his race baiting and misogyny, messages that are designed to put the rest of us in our “proper” place.

Respected journalist Jorge Ramos confronting Trump on his immigration policies on 26 Aug 2015.

Respected journalist Jorge Ramos confronting Trump on his immigration policies on 26 Aug 2015.

Sadly Trump is not alone in his spiteful and scapegoating rhetoric.  As reported this week in The Guardian, other GOP contenders including Ben Carson have joined the racist Trump bandwagon, railing against racial minorities.  Those that have not expressed blazoned racism have joined Trump in their sexist, including many recent remarks by Jeb Bush.  All of this designed to appeal to their conservative vote base.

Which begs the question, “what exactly are they trying to preserve?”

Merriam-Webster’s dictionary defines conservative as

“Believing in the value of established and traditional practices in politics and society : relating to or supporting political conservatism. of or relating to the conservative party in countries like the United Kingdom and Canada: not liking or accepting changes or new ideas.”

What are these ideas then?  What is Trump trying to take us back to in order to “make America great again?”

June Cleaver on Leave It To Beaver was the ideal 1950s woman.

June Cleaver on Leave It To Beaver was the ideal 1950s woman.

Sadly I think what he wants is to bring America back to the 1950s, a time when women were fired from the jobs they held in support of the war effort of the 1940s in order to return to their “proper” place as wives and mothers.  The 1950s were a time when racial segregation and Jim Crowe was the law and racial mixing, especially in the bedroom, was explicitly forbidden.  It was a time when arbitrary laws denied the “wrong people” (meaning racial minorities) their rights to vote.  The few women who worked outside the home were demeaned and paid pennies on the dollar compared to their male counterparts. University education for women was rare and typically focused on home economics and the skills they would need to be successful wives and mothers.

DonDraperMadMenThe 1950s were a time where white, affluent men literally ruled the western world, where the rest of the society was expected to serve their interests without question and without deviation from their desires.  It was a time of de facto slavery and where failure to serve the white male masters was punished viciously.  It was a time where women and minorities were considered too intellectually inept to make decisions about their own bodies and incapable of being educated past the most remedial of vocational skills.  In nearly all respects except technology, it was a time where Plato, Aristotle, Julius Caesar, and dozens of famous and infamous Roman leaders would have felt perfectly at home.

In many ways it is easy to understand why these conservatives want us to live in the 1950s again.  To be conservative is to resist change, change that works against the interests of the same men who are asking for our consent to become the next American emperor.  They intrude into women’s bodies because women are presumed to be incapable of managing them — we are too stupid, too poorly educated to make good choices for ourselves.  They undermine the voting rights of racial minorities, the poor, and the elderly because such votes express opinions different from theirs — utterly intolerable in their mindset.  They demean and dismiss everyone that is not them because they are living in their 1950s paradise and want to keep it forever. And they genuinely think that we are all too stupid and afraid to speak up for ourselves, that we will continue to tolerate them and obey them.  What are we but their slaves, slaves who do not want to be free?

Therefore I ask you all to join with me in standing together.  Their 1950s conservative paradise is built on the enslavement of 99% of the population. Through extreme wealth inequities they have convinced us to fight each other for crumbs, to become moochers killing each other in zero sum scenarios of their creation — much like gladiators fighting each other for their amusement.  They have convinced us that they are our friends and it’s other people who are different from us that are the problem.

Bernie Sanders

That is a lie, folks, classic divide and conquer.  Because they know that when we stand together, they lose their power.  For centuries they’ve convinced us that everything is “win-lose,” that success only comes at the expense of someone else. Except that success actually comes by taking on a “win-win” mindset — something I learned in my months in the Law of Attraction movement.  Cooperation and teamwork is “win-win.”  The more we cooperate and help each other, the stronger we become and the less power they possess.

I for one will not play their economic and social gladiatorial games anymore.  Who’s with me?

What being “Liberal” means to me.

Being a liberal to me (Democrat for USA and Labour for UK) means I believe in fairness and equality for everyone. After learning a great deal about ancient northern Europeans and ancient British (in the larger sense of the group of islands) in particular as part of the research on my books “Boudicca: Britain’s Queen of the Iceni” and “Mary Queen of the Scots” I really came to appreciate how completely different our ancestors’ cultures were from their conquerors.

Boudicca artist concept chariot

An artist concept of what Boudicca might have looked like.

For example, they didn’t believe the land, let alone living beings could be owned. Leaders were usually on the community level and either directly elected or inherited their authority from their parents — but completely impeachable by the druids if they proved incompetent or unethical. The whole of those ancient societies was built on fairness, empathy, and cooperation. And when you consider how difficult life was, especially in Britain, it only makes sense. They were so incredibly individualistic and while scrappy (think what you see at football matches today), they really didn’t organize armies and go war. Most of the time they brawled it out a little or went to the druids or their appointed/elected leaders to sort it all out. And when someone was hungry, they were taken care of.

In my opinion, THAT IS THE WAY SOCIETY NEEDS TO BE. So for me, being a liberal means doing everything I can to bring back the values and the social structures that our ancestors had 2000 years ago. People tell me it’s impossible — you cannot undo the damage done by Roman conquest. And while I confess on a language level, we really might be stuck with that legacy, I do believe that the rest is our birth right. Because it’s the right thing to do. We need to stop being calloused towards the suffering of others and resolve ourselves to work together again rather than letting the fat cats pit us against each other. You are my friend and ally — not my rival.

Prasutagus, Boudicca, age, and equality

This weekend I did what every learning junkie does:  put on a documentary, put my feet up (especially with a newly broken toe motivating me to behave myself), and relaxed.

 

Usually I pick documentaries outside of my area of expertise and specific research; it’s more fun that way and I’m less likely to pause the video to tell the birds where I disagree with the video.

Sunday night I deviated from that by watching a documentary about Boudicca.  Whereas I was mostly happy with the program, what disturbed me most about it was the portrayal of King Prasutagus who seemed overly OLD in comparison to Boudicca herself and was depicted as dying quietly in his bed.

Boudicca audio coverWhat’s wrong with that picture?  Well for one it is very Roman.  As I explore in Boudicca:  Britain’s Queen of the Iceni, British and Roman cultures could not be more different.  Celts, especially British Celts, were fiercely independent and egalitarian, especially between women and men.  Women did not lead Celtic clans and tribes as a measure of last resort (think about it:  would Queen Elizabeth II be queen today if her father had produced sons as well, let alone sons OLDER than her?).  Women led as true equals.

The most equal relationships we possess are those where social standing, wealth, and age especially are closely matched.  A married couple with only two or three years age difference is far more equal from the onset than one where one or the other is much older.  This power difference grows when the elder is male and the younger is female — as any younger sister to a much older brother knows!

The ancient Celts fiercely believed in both individualism and equality.  While it’s been argued to me that perhaps Boudicca was his second or third marriage, I find that very unlikely given that his only children were Boudicca’s daughters.  Assuming (and we simply do not know either way) that older siblings were given precedence over younger siblings in inheritance, the sheer fact that Prasutagus named his two daughters by Boudicca his joint heiresses with Nero tells me that Boudicca was his only wife and his daughters (probably twins) by her were his only children.  In light of the Iceni and British values, I find it much more likely that Boudicca and Prasutagus were both in their late teens or early twenties at the time of their marriage, putting them in their early thirties in 60 or 61 CE when Prasutagus died.

So if Prasutagus was no more than 35 at the time of his death, how did he die?

Boudicca play webUnlike the constantly promoted idea of a quiet death in his bed, I find a violent death much more likely, especially at the hands of Rome, the situation you see presented in Boudicca:  Britain’s Queen of the Iceni and even more poignantly in Boudicca:  A Play in Three Acts.  Once Prasutagus notified the bloodthirsty and ambitious Governor Gaius Suetonius Paullinus of the contents in his last will and testament (giving half his kingdom to Nero), Prasutagus essentially forfeited his value in the eyes of Rome.  He became much more valuable dead than alive, a bounty a man like Suetonius Paullinus would find irresistible.

Therefore I contest what I see others writing about Boudicca and Prasutagus.  Instead of the good Roman patrician taking a wife young enough to be his own daughter, I see Prasutagus as the Briton he was:  an equal partner with his wife, religiously devout to British goddesses and gods like The Morrigan and Camulos, humble before druid judges, teachers, and law givers, and very much a champion to his people.  Prasutagus was, fundamentally, British caught between what he felt he could do in the face of Roman military strength and what he believed in.

His was a struggle we can all related to — and a battle still waiting to be won.

Promo: As Scotland Decides Its Fate Today

Boudicca audio cover

Richard Mann narrates Boudicca:  Britain's Queen of the Iceni for the upcoming audio edition.

Richard Mann narrates Boudicca: Britain’s Queen of the Iceni 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

As Scotland decides its fate today, I invite you to journey back in time to discover how the Caledonii, Brigantes, and Votadini tribes of Scotland and their dealing with the Roman invasions of Britannia two thousand years ago also helped decide the fate of the British islands ever since.

It’s all part of Boudicca: Britain’s Queen of the Iceni, the must-have creative non-fiction history book and audio book of the year!

In the USA in audio edition at http://tinyurl.com/AudibleBoudicca-USA and in the UK at http://tinyurl.com/UKBoudiccaAudible or on iTunes at http://tinyurl.com/itunesBoudicca-RM. Second grade reading level; audio edition suitable for ages 5+. Download the kindle edition http://viewBook.at/Boudiccakindle and get BOTH the audio and kindle edition for less than $7/£5.

Educators: get a FREE audio copy for your class in exchange for your review. Email peersofbeinan@gmail.com to request your free audio copy from audible narrated by Richard Mann.