The Blood Countess We Should Remember

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AUGUST 21st 1614 the assumed last breath of Erzsebet (aka Elizabeth) Bathory 1560 -1614.
Countess Erzsébet Báthory was considered the most beautiful, intelligent and politically savvy woman in Europe. She was born at an estate near the Carpathian Mountains, Transylvania, into one of the most powerful families in Europe. She grew up living the privileged life of nobility. Her uncle Stephan was crowned king of Poland in 1575, and his brother Christopher was the prince of Transylvania. Another cousin was the Prime Minister of Hungary. She even had an ancestor that helped Vlad Dracula when he claimed the throne. Her ancestors and relatives included several cases of insanity and general cruel behaviors. It is clear that her “family” had been genetically polluted by incest, alcoholism, murderers, sadists, politicians, and Satanists. Erzsebet seems to have learned from them all.
Erzsébet was a difficult child, and there were reports that she may have suffered from “fits,” or seizures. She definitely had uncontrolled rages and a serious case of impulse control. She was referred to as promiscuous, maybe because her first baby was born when she was just 14. After the birth, The family immediately betrothed her to Count Ferencz Nadasdy de Nadasd of Fogarasfold, a great soldier, and politician known as the“Black Hero of Hungary.” It seems this was a match made in politics-both families had certified histories of madness and the bride and groom were both known for their cruelty. Erz had shown signs of her inclinations since childhood, and The Count’s influence seems to have fine-tuned the propensity. He movedhis bride to Castle Csejthe, in Hungary, where portions of the castle still stand. Ferencz was often gone for extended periods of war, leaving Erz to run the place.
After fathering four children with Erzsebet, the Count fell ill in 1601 and died in 1604, leaving her a widow at the age of 44. There is some suggestion that she poisoned him (poisoned, murdered, stabbed, put him in a dumpster, as gossip becomes history.) Of her children, some were “shipped off,” and one son was lucky enough to hang around the castle with mom. No assumptions can be made here, we haven’t found his memoir.
There is a story about a young servant girl brushing Erzebet’s hair, and in some disciplinary action by Erz the chambermaid began to bleed from her nose. When the blood landed on Erzsebet, she believed that it made her own skin look fresh, almost as peachy as the young bleeder. Her trusted employees were called, and they bled the young wench to death, filling a tub with her blood for Erz. This is what seems to have kicked off her full-blown perversion, and she developed a torture toolbox containing: needles, pins, branding irons, whips, pokers, scissors, freezing temperatures, starvation, water and cooperative employees to assist her. The surrounding community feared what could happen if they complained, but when she started bringing in the lower nobility, they gathered up rakes and torches. The King arranged for an intervention, lead by her cousin Count Thurso on Christmas in 1610.
The group of men crept into her castle to investigate the complaints about missing young women and children. It is hard to tell exactly what they found, as it was deemed too monstrous to be put on her permanent record. Wemust all remember that Erzsebet was part of the ruling family and personally very powerful. It is certain, however, that they found over fifty young women dead and dying, apparently tortured and drained of blood.
After further investigation, it was clear that this bloodlust had been going on for some time, maybe as long as 10 years. There was no report on how Erzsebet looked. The records of the court proceedings indicate she was charged with killing 80 people, but her own diary outlines around 650. The members of her staff practically knocked each other over to testify hoping for a plea agreement. They told tales of degradation and horror and made suggestions of devil worship, sorcery, and a rigorous beauty regime.
The servants alleged that she bathed in the blood of virgins to make her skin more beautiful. She had actually eliminated almost all of the “common” girls who had no rights, but when she overstepped into the young nobility promising etiquette lessons but no graduations, that forced the scales of justice. There was a trial, but Erz was never convicted of any crime. She was placed under house arrest and sealed into her suite in the castle. She was passed food through a small slot in the door, and when she quit taking it, they sealed the slot and called it good. Her employees did not fare as well, they were burned at the stake for the murders. If you have ever questioned if privilege had its benefits, remember this terrifying “lady,” – one of the few documented women of history to be associated with such monstrous actions. Her story changes the Dracula shadow on the drapes into something curvier and twice as scary.

Lost Story and a Fresh Start

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The most significant trip Diana had ever taken before was a two-hour bus ride to the Museum of Science and Industry in the sixth grade. Today, she gazes out of a bus window mesmerized by the mountain and the stunning familiarity of Italy. Once they park, all of her Senior classmates stand to exit, and Diana had a driving need to push them aside to rush home. An old man greets the group and escorts them to the Pompeii amphitheater. The guide starts a memorized speech, but Diana doesn’t listen. She inches her way to the back of the group, and then quietly slips away.
As soon as she steps on the stone walkway, her feet feel at home, and stories creep up her legs and finally reach her center. Diana follows her feet and becomes wholly immersed in a living, vibrant city that was Pompeii. She passes businesses and temples, but after what seems like centuries she stops and enters a room with broken walls and no roof. Where she stands, there is a design on a tiled floor. Diana knows the design well, it is the pattern she has doodled as long as she has memory. Turning to the view of the volcano, Diana remembers the shape that has changed, and she searches for the smoke. A father’s words whisper into her ear, “Vesuvius wants us to leave.” The message was in a language she didn’t know. Diana mouths a question, “Pater, Vesuvius semper loquitur. Quid relinquo?”
Diana slid to the floor, and tears flow from her eyes. She is home, but it would never be home again. She remembers hauling belongings on a cart and a heavy load strapped to her back. The further they fled the mountain seemed angrier. Her family walks with other citizens and neighbors, the group spreading out as they pass through Herculaneum. Pater decides we need to hurry to Neapoli, and there will be safety. The family walks on, and Diana could feel an indescribable fear and a desperate need to run.
She hears the remembered explosion with a shudder and turns to face the mountain. No longer smoke, but fire and rocks were visible showering all around where she lays. She sees the refugees stop and stare at the eruption. An icy shudder and then tears coat her face millenniums later. Diana is still on the ancient tile when her teacher comes in and sits beside her. “I know, this is an amazing sight and can evoke emotion, but I need you to rejoin the tour.”
Diana sighs, and nods her head. Words have not returned to her exhausted body. Slowly, rising the girl realizes that her memories are private and she must stay silent. Once back on her feet, a resolve embraces her, and Diana feels a new freedom and undefined resolve. All doubts have left her, Diana will go to college, and gather the skills to discover and share the lost stories buried in history. She makes a silent vow to return so she can tell Pater’s story first.

INSPIRATION?

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Inspiration, where does it come from? I have no idea.

This past two weeks, I searched for ideas for a clever cute little fiction full of questions suggesting possibilities based on our prompt. One night to go, and I struggled to sleep the entire night looking for the elusive inspiration. I have already written about sleepless nights, so that angle was redundant. Searching for the one word to spark my mind and sets my keyboard on fire.

Zip, Nada, nothing.

I shouldn’t complain, I published a book last week, I worked on another and helped Celena with research and voice on her big project. I posted for a writing cooperative and marketed my books on multiple groups. I posted three reviews on Amazon, one book and two other purchases. A political meeting, three social interactions, marketing gathering and visited five book stores and 7 grocery stores in an attempt to advertise an upcoming author event. (I’ll hand out invites now). I need to get a regular job, just to have a 15 minute break during the day.

Yet, I complain that inspiration has abandoned me. What is inspiration and where the hell is she? In a fit of desperation, I looked it up. Inspiration comes from the Latin, to take in air, breathe, maybe Wednesday. I literally need the figurative meaning. The spark, magic, the stimulating idea that moves to action, I’d be pleased with a trite revelation.

Pondering, and walking about, I’m stuck. Inspiration has played with me before but she seems to have left me tossing and turning, utterly alone. I don’t have the vision without the magic. Reduced to begging I don’t know what else to do.

Sweet inspiration, illuminate my mind, share a vision and I will honor you with a page, maybe ten, and an interpretive dance if that pleases you.
Please!

What Were You Wearing

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I was listening to an NPR program about the art exhibit inspired by What Was I Wearing a poem by Mary Simmerling. I’m sharing the poem here, as well as the link for the art exhibit.

http://www.wbur.org/hereandnow/2018/04/26/sexual-assault-art-exhibit-clothing

Olivia the First

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by Patrick Roos

Life was predetermined for Olivia with very few options and no freedom. Being a princess wasn’t all scones and pony rides. There were countless expectations and obligations attached to the tiara. Even her friends were chosen by the chancellor. As the eldest girl of a family in desperate want of sons, she strove for approval under the pretext of her gender. Olivia never had the luxury of being the golden-haired darling of the ultimate power couple.
Every moment of every day she was surrounded by sycophants and wannabes. The only real choice allowed to her was between the blue and yellow gowns. Groomed and educated as the pawn to unite kingdoms of greedy old men she was the flaxen-haired advertisement for inbreeding. In her scarce private thoughts, she understood she was a supporting character in someone else’s legend.
One sunny day, she slipped away for a solitary walk deep into the forest. Olivia ached for the magnificent smell of nature. In a small clearing, she rested, just for a moment. When she awoke, she stood alone and dirty, deep in a cave, not able to remember how she arrived in this tenuous position. Shivering in fear the odiferous breath scorches her dress and singes her hair. Restricted by costume and custom, she is programmed to wait for some unknown “hero” to save her from this mythical creature. Surely doomed she noticed the glint of a blade just peeking through a pile of bones a few feet from where she hid. The realization struck Olivia that the Dragon was merely a metaphor for her own life. She realized there was only one that could defeat the beast.
Quickly the options were weighed and she knew to wait was to remain a bit player, which was its own death. The resolution was whispered quieter than a breath, “I choose to live and die as my own champion”, and she silently edged to the weapon.
The dainty hand wrapped around the silver hilt and the skeletal claw released it willingly. The cold metal confirmed the decision lending strength to her arm. Olivia sucked in what might be her last deep breath, kicked off her jeweled slippers and stood tall on her own two feet. In absolute determination, she turned and faced the dragon eye to eye. “It’s show time!”

Anonymous No More

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For most of history anonymous was a woman – Virginia Wolfe.

History has been remiss in honoring women. If men were changing history, it is guaranteed the delicate sex was also there. So many names and triumphs have vanished to the Mrs.

Sofonisba Anguissola was one of the first women, to be allowed art lessons, only because her father was an artist. A 16th-century portraitist, she was praised for her detail, warm colors, and expressive eyes. Michelangelo sent his drawings to her for critique and copying. She was artistically anonymous.

Right after the Mayflower dropped anchor in the Chesapeake Bay, Susanna White bore a child. Her husband, William White died in the first year. Susanna was alone with a toddler and a newborn at the Plymouth colony. She wed Edward Winslow months later and was one of only four adult women who survived to the first Thanksgiving. Her early history has been lost, and her personal story of survival absorbed into myth. History knows of her husbands, but not of Susanna. She was nuptially anonymous.

In 1647, Margaret Brent of Maryland colony was able to vote as a property owner. She voted twice, the second time for Cecil Calvert, Lord Baltimore. Shortly after that, the governor decided it was an oversight and women would not regain the privilege until 128years later. Disenfranchised anonymous.

Sybil Ludington rode the same night as Paul Revere. She was 15, traveled twice as far, fought off bandits and didn’t fall from her horse. She was able to muster the troops in time to face the British. Since her name didn’t rhyme, Revere is singularly credited. Independently anonymous.

Women and wives were never strangers to the battlefield. Mary Ludwig Hays was at the Battle of Monmouth; she carried pitchers of water to the soldiers. When her husband collapsed, she took over the cannon. She was one of the many women who became Molly Pitcher. Even Martha Washington traveled with the Revolutionary army. Every battle George was in, she was there. Washing clothes and preparing food. Would we know her name if she wasn’t our original – first lady? Anonymous under fire.

Catherine Littlefield Greene did the initial design and with the help of a plantation slave, whose name has disappeared, and a handyman, Eli Whitney, they developed the cotton gin. She financed the production and registration but because women weren’t allowed to hold patents, Eli is honored in classrooms today, and no one discusses Catherine’s involvement. Innovatively anonymous.

Annie Jump Cannon was the curator of astronomical photographs at Harvard Observatory. She was astoundingly efficient and was able to classify up to three stars a minute, and Cannon cataloged several hundred thousand stars to the 11th magnitude. She discovered 300 variable stars, in addition to 5 novae. Astronomically anonymous.

Born in Warsaw on November 7, 1867, the daughter of a secondary-school teacher. She received a general education in local schools and some scientific training from her father. Would we remember Marie Curie if Pierre had not complained when her name was left off of the first Nobel Prize nomination? She received a half prize for physics in 1903 with Pierre, and 1911 a solo prize in Chemistry. Impossible to ignore but radio-active.

The first US Congress met in 1789. One hundred and twenty-eight years later, Janette Rankin was the first woman to represent over half of the US population. She was elected 3 years before she could vote. Women still have not reached parity, but they are working on it. Unequally anonymous, but changing the rules.

Margaret Knight was one of the most prolific inventors of the 20th century. She started at 12 with a stop action device for industrial looms. One of the machinists Margaret hired to complete her prototype for the flat bottom paper bag machine submitted her design for a patent. After a bitter court battle, she was able to recover her first patent, followed by 87 more. She improved shoe manufacturing, window frames, the spit for skewering meat, and improvement of the rotary engine. Fought to no longer be Anonymissed.

The moral of the story-ladies all together-“Anonymous no more!” 

November – NATIVE AMERICAN HISTORY MONTH

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Lozen
circa 1840-1898

Lozen was born into the Chihenne, Warm Springs Apache band, during the 1840’s. She was the sister of Chief Victorio and a she was a skillful warrior, strategist, prophet, and medicine woman. Victorio is quoted as saying, “Lozen is my right hand . . . strong as a man, braver than most, and cunning in strategy, Lozen is a shield to her people.” She never married knowing early in life that she had no interest in women’s work. At the age of 8 she started physically training, and at her Puberty ritual she was given the power to find enemies.

She began fighting the Mexican soldiers and scalp hunters when she was a child. By time she came of age the Americans arrived in her homeland and she fought in the campaigns to save her people for of the rest of her life. She showed incredible military knowledge and instincts; many believed that the spirits spoke to her and protected her. She fought in more campaigns against the Mexicans and her homeland and tried to confine her tribe to the Arizona San Carlos Reservation, she fought on.

She not only inspired warriors but also the women and children. James Kaywaykla, a child at the time, reported seeing a magnificent woman on a beautiful horse – Lozen, sister of Victorio- Lozen the woman warrior! He remembered she held her rifle high above her head as she lead the frightened women and children a crossed the ragging Rio Grande saving them from the US Military. She then told his grandmother to take charge, and she returned to help the warriors as they battled on.

Another time she left a campaign to escort a mother and her newborn infant across the Chihuahuan Desert. With limited supplies and a rifle she set out through Mexican and US Calvary strong holds. Fearing a gunshot would betray their location, she killed a longhorn with a knife and butchered it for the meat they needed to survive. She also stole two cavalry horses for them to ride, escaping through a hail of bullets. She not only got away with two horses, but also was able to snag a saddle, rifle, ammunition, blanket, canteen and even the soldier’s shirt.

Upon delivering her wards, she learned that her brother had been ambushed by the Mexican and Tarahumara Indian forces on 10/15/81. The Apaches had almost fought to the last man, and Victorio, holding to Apache tradition, fell on his own knife rather than be taken by the Mexicans. Many of the Apache women and elderly were killed in this battle and around one hundred young women and children were taken as slaves.

Knowing that the survivors needed her, she rode out alone. Lozen rejoined the decimated band now being led by the 74- year old patriarch Nana. She fought with this handful of warriors in a two-month campaign of vengeance across New Mexico. Nana said “Though she is a woman there is no warrior more worthy than the sister of Victorio.”

In 1885 in the last campaign of the Apache wars, she joined with Geronimo after he broke out of the San Carlos reservation. It is reported that she used her powers to locate enemies. According to Alexander Adams in his book “Geronimo” she would stand with her arms outstretched, chant a prayer and turn around. She would then feel the location of the enemies, even their number. She was photographed with Geronimo several times, and you would never know that she was a woman. She had no concern for appearance and the ways of women, she not only dressed but lived like a man. Lozen devoted her life to the service of her people. She was the only Apache woman allowed to ride in a war as a warrior without a husband at her side

She had eluded capture until she finally surrendered with Geronimo and this last group of free Apaches in 1886. She died of tuberculosis at the Mount Vernon Barracks in Mobile, Alabama as a prisoner of war. Now that life is bigger than a movie!

I have been celebrating Native American History all month. for other posts and celebrations check out . https://www.facebook.com/tonikief8author/