A Cross-Dressing Prostitute That Liked Priests!

31 August 2011

I took this picture at the Metropolitan Museum of a priest.

While I was gathering information on my thesis about the enforcement of clerical celibacy in the early church (which I will write more about) I came across this text. It was about a cross-dressing prostitute who liked to sleep with both men and women. I did not think it was that big of a deal since some people do that today, but given the text was composed in 1395 it was significant as that was unheard of and considered wrong. As I continued to read the text, I could not believe the sentence that he accommodated priests more than others as they paid more. Once I read that, I was laughing and shocked at the same time. I was excited for support for my paper, but what he was confessing was amazing.

This cross-dressing prostitute was named John Rykener. He was from England and was caught at night while dressed as a women named Eleanor performing a service for a man. The best part was that the man who approached ‘Eleanor’ asked if he was a woman (John was dressed as one), which he Eleanor replied yes, and then they went to a stall to do their business. How could this guy not tell?!?

They were found by officials patrolling the street and ‘were captured there during these detestable wrongdoings.’ Whenever John stated that he slept with men, the author of this text barely states that John had sex, but instead states things such as ‘that detestable and unmentionable and ignominious vice’ and ‘commit a libidinous act.’ Meaning that people considered it to be vile and disgusting beyond belief and anyone continuing to commit this act was unimaginable.

Then he describes how he became a cross dressing prostitute who worked as an embroiderss and slept with other men. Then he states that he had sex as a man with nuns (which I guess is not too surprising as priests did, why not nuns) and other women and had sex as a woman with men and friars. He slept with all these people for money, but my favorite was when John spoke about priests as ‘they wished to give [him] more than others’ and he liked to accommodate them more than other people.

This text showed that even though the Church abolished clergy from having sex it was difficult to enforce. When they wanted to have sex, some priests and nuns did anyways and paid well for the services that were rendered. This text also shows that people from centuries ago are not so different from today, as people can get themselves in ridiculous situations and others can reap the benefits from it. In this case, to laugh and learn that people have been doing this for centuries.

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Neanderthal Sex Improved Human’s Immune Systems

28 August 2011

Image from Dream Designs on freedigitalphotos.net at http://www.freedigitalphotos.net/images/view_photog.php?photogid=1449

So for years, people have believed that ancient humans migrated from Africa and wiped out all ‘primitive’ human species, which includes the Neanderthal. Until recently however, scientists finally discovered that ancient humans (H. sapiens) and the Neanderthals interbred with one another. Now we know that ancient humans incorporated Neanderthals into their groups while wiping them out. I have always suspected that we interbred with Neanderthals due to specific features that Neanderthals have which are absent in ancient humans, but they still appear in modern humans anyways. These features include brow ridges and wider, barrel shaped chests (I am only stating features which one can see and that I have seen in other people). If you possess these features I am not calling you a Neanderthal, but you might be expressing Neanderthal genes which could be cool as they are over 30,000 years old. Scientists have found more DNA evidence that strongly suggests that we have inherited a stronger immune system from them and another ancient group called the Denisovans.

This discovery was found from studying the HLA (human leucocyte antigen) gene family in the human immune system. HLA is vital for our immune systems to fight infections and defend our bodies against things that do not belong in it. Researchers state that some HLA genes which are present in modern humans are rare in Africa, but found in other ancient human groups. The presence of the HLA gene in Neanderthals and Denisovans proves that our relatives interbred with other ancient human groups. “The HLA genes that the Neanderthals and Denisovans had, had been adapted to life in Europe and Asia for several hundred thousand years, whereas the recent migrants from Africa wouldn’t have had these genes,” said study leader Peter Parham from Stanford University School of Medicine in California. Mating with these other groups would have provided an advantage to ancient humans, which did not possess them.

So what’s the result of our ancestors sexing up other ancient human groups? Well, if you are European, you owe about half of your HLA variants come from these sexual encounters while Asians owe 80% and Papua New Guineans have up to 95% (crazy huh). Even though the study proves that humans slept with Neanderthals and other groups, other scientists are not sure of the impact on the finding of our immune systems. One stated that the diversity in people today in their HLA genes makes it hard to find the ancient genes and to study their effects, but “we can hypothesize that they are related to the disease environment in some way.” Luckily for us these other ancient human groups gave us strong genes to protect us to this very day. Who knows where we would be as a species if our ancestors did not have sex with these groups.

Check out the rest of the article on the BBC to learn more. The link will be posted in Sources as well.

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What? I Don’t Have to Worry About The Plague! Well Maybe You Do.

20 August 2011

The Skeleton symbolizes the plague and taking the child means it died from the plague. Click on the picture to learn more about this picture and the site I got it from.

So everyone knows that the Black Death, also known as the bubonic plague occurred during the 14th century, around the 1340s – 1350s. It is also responsible for wiping out millions of people in Europe, which devastated economies and many cities (in some areas 60% of the population was dead). Researchers believe that the plague originated in Asia, but recent findings may link the disease to ancient Egypt. Regardless of where it came from, travel and trade were the means from which it spread. As the fleas became infected with the bacteria, Yersinia pestis, they infected rats and when the rats died the fleas found new hosts: people. These rats and fleas journeyed on ocean and land trade routes, infecting cities along the way. A person only had to be bitten by an infected flea or living close to infected rats (this was not hard as many European cities were very dirty and sanitation was not so great).

Once the plague came to an area, its spread like wildfire and decimated the population in Europe. The death toll was highest among the clergy, priests, and doctors, those who took care of the sick and dying. Those who were infected were sometimes abandoned and some clergy eventually turned people away, because they did not want to get sick. Medieval people thought one prevented oneself from contracting or curing the plague by doing different things, some of which are just weird. Some thought that if they made loud sounds, they would scare the plague away (I am not kidding). Others thought that smelling nice pleasant scents would also protect themselves from the plague. Then others became flagellants, who self-inflicted pain for ones sins and to suffer as Christ did, also in hopes of a cure or a preventative measure against the plague. Finally, infected people were quarantined (this included abandoning those suffering or boarded up housed with infected people within them). Those who did not have the disease isolated themselves from all contact for fear of getting the plague.

The bubonic plague came in three forms. The first type was the bubonic plague (the most common type), which caused excessive vomiting, high fever, diarrhea, had caused (severely) swollen, black, lymph glands (which are called buboes, hence the name bubonic plague) that were swollen with puss. The puss caused lots of pressure on the blood vessels of the skin and they needed to be cut open to drain. The second type had the similar symptoms but was called pneumonic plague. Pneumonic plague was bubonic plague that infected the lungs and caused severe pneumonia on top of the other symptoms. It spread from person to person when one inhaled droplets from an infected person’s cough. It was almost always fatal. The finale type was septicaemic plague, which infected one’s bloodstream and caused clots throughout the body. One died within 24 hours of being infected with excruciating pain.

Now, wondering how this information links to the title? Well believe it or not, bubonic plague is still around. Modern medicine has helped those who have been infected with the disease, but if it is not caught in time then the person may die. It can be found in rural and unsanitary places. So that does not mean that is found in poor, underdeveloped countries. It is in many rich, developed countries as well, such as the United States. In the U.S., one can get it from rural areas, mostly in the Western U.S. according to the CDC from infected (you guessed it) rats and fleas. Anyone can still get any of these types of plagues, but if someone today contracted the plague, they would probably get the first type, bubonic plague and survive. So if you are in the U.S. and going hiking, check for fleas or else you might fall victim to the nursery rhyme Ring-Around-the Rosie (yes, it was about the plague).

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What? You are Married to Whom?

16 August 2011

King Tut and his Sister Wife, Ankhesenamun from an object in his tomb. Click on the image to learn more about this topic and the site that has the image.

In Ancient Egypt, it was a custom among the royal family to marry within the direct family. So father and daughter, brother and sister would marry one another. Ramses II also known as Ramses the Great, married two of his daughters, but those “marriages” seem to be more symbolic than an actual marriage. What I mean about an actual marriage is that he did not have a child with either one. Many Egyptian kings, including the Ptolemys, did marry their sisters as the women held the right of succession within them and they could not marry anyone below them. There was no chance of a marriage with a prince outside the country. It was forbidden. So they had (I do not know if they had a choice in the matter) to marry their brother, or rare cases their father.

This was used only by the royal family. It was common practice to marry within families such as a first or second cousin (in some cultures this still takes place today). These are called endogamous marriages. These marriages would enable the family to not lose or break up its land or property holdings and to create stronger ties within the family. This practice was widely used by the Romans, Ancient Greeks, and others cultures for many years.

When the Romans took over Egypt in 30 BCE (Before Common Era) they allowed anyone to marry their father, daughter, brother. There are many papyri that state the marriages of brother-sister or their divorce that have been known for decades and studied for many years. However, there is a debate whether the Ancient Egyptians actually married their blood relatives or if the reference to brother/sister as husband/wife is a term of endearment and not their actual sibling. The actual papyri seem to indicate that the Ancient Egyptians did in fact marry their siblings and had children with them. These papyri state that these marriages are between so and so ‘of the same father and mother.’ Not all marriages were between siblings of the same parents. There are many unions that were between half siblings, first cousins, and non-related individuals as well.

Many anthropologists and Egyptologists will continue to discuss this topic for many years as we may never know the full extent of the population that actually married a sibling or parent. Today, few cultures continue this practice (marriage between cousins or other ‘distant’ family members), but most would never consider marriage within a family. It was taboo even then (despite this post, not everyone slept with their family members) to marry or have sex with a sibling/relative. I think it is amazing how we have changed from marrying any type of relative to only marrying outside the family. The practice of marriage among extended family has happened for many centuries as recently as medieval Europe, and not just the ancient world! Good thing we no longer need to marry our siblings to keep our family’s land, money and power.

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Birth of A Nation

1 August 2011

The first of August usually means it is time for school, last month (or days) to go on vacation, and the last few days of summer. However, if you say that the first of August means nothing to a Swiss citizen, oh you will be told how you are wrong. I know, because I have dual citizenship with both the US and Switzerland.

The first of August is a day of celebration for the Swiss as it is the Swiss National day. On August 1, 1291, three cantons banded together and produced an alliance that began the old Swiss Confederacy. This confederacy shaped the slowly emerging Swiss nation. In 1230-1240, the ruling Habsberg king exempted the valleys of Uri and Schwyz from being under control of dukes and counts for their help in wars throughout Europe (oh yes the Swiss had an army in the beginning).  These regions had to report to the king directly.

Before the king declared this, a new trade route was established in the St Gotthard Pass in 1200. Naturally, this pass enabled new goods to pass through the Alps and helped connect countries like German with Italy and other countries in the Mediterranean Sea. The trade route caught the eyes of some dukes and when the king died, many people from Uri, Schwyz, and Unterwalden were afraid of losing their sovereignty. Thus, on August 1, 1291, these three regions came together and created an alliance that declared their independence. They were able to fight off the Habsbergs and keep them at bay until they gave up trying to conqueror the Swiss after 1388.

If you would like to learn more, check out this website: http://history-switzerland.geschichte-schweiz.ch/old-swiss-confederacy-1291.html

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