Yuletide is just around the corner

As Christmas approaches, so too comes Yule, or the Solstice. It was celebrated around December 21st by medieval people, and many people today still celebrate elements of the old world. 

Model: Lauren Ball. Photo: Rosalie Gilbert
Model: Lauren Ball. Photo: Rosalie Gilbert

Yule is when the dark half of the year gives way to the light half. Known as Solstice Night, or the longest night of the year, much celebration was had as people awaited the rebirth of the Oak King, the Sun King, the Giver of Life that warmed the earth.

Bonfires were lit in the fields in celebration, and crops and trees were wassailed with toasts of spiced cider.  

Children were escorted from house to house with gifts of clove-spiked apples and oranges which were laid in baskets of evergreen boughs and wheat stalks dusted with flour. The apples and oranges represented the sun, the boughs were symbolic of immortality, the wheat stalks represented the harvest, and the flour represented light, and life.  

Our Christmas favourites, holly, mistletoe and ivy decorated the outside and inside of homes. A sprig of holly was kept near the door all year for good fortune.  

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It's Medieval Bingo Time! Good Girls V Bad Girls! Which one are you?

We know that our intimate lives today are complicated, but there is significantly less stigma attached to sexual orientation and bedroom practices than in the Middle Ages.

The rules which governed what a good medieval woman should do and should not do was clearly and frequently mentioned to her- from family, friends, society and the pulpit. There was a long list of protocol and etiquette to observe if a woman wished to keep her virtue and reputation, and unlike today, these things were paramount.

Naming and shaming was quite definitely not something which could be easily shrugged off. It hurts today, but it could literally ruin your life back then.

For a little light entertainment, I've compiled a helpful pair of Medieval Sex Bingo Cards for the modern woman to avail herself, so she might learn whether, by medieval standards, she is a Good Woman or a Bad Woman, sexually speaking.

Good women, you should do well here, although some of these may seem a little unusual. The one about the hair, especially.

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Medieval Aphrodisiacs to Not Try At Home

Arnica is, apparently, quite lust-inducing.
Arnica is, apparently, quite lust-inducing.

The world of medieval herbals sometimes seems like it has valid grounds for use. Many tonics are things we use today. Lavender to promote good sleep and restfulness, chamomile to calm nerves. Often medieval herbal medicine has a lot going for it, but at other times, like this one, we are left wondering how this kind of rumour got started in the first place, let alone carefully written down and recommended for others to try.

Just touch a person's skin  with fresh arnica and get results in the love department? One assumes one needs to be close enough to touch them in the first place, so a certain degree of familiarity is required. At this point, with the target in range, introductions made, and chit chat out of the way, the technique of the skin touching might be the key to the level of success attained.

Flailing a fist full of uprooted plant around may seem slightly more a flagellant than a turn on which is unlikely to arouse any passions (unless that's your thing,) but slowing tracing a sprig of scented blossom down bare skin following a hot, scented, candle-lit bath may well get the results as promised.

Mind you, if that's the modus operandi, it's fairly certain that any sprig of flowers would do the trick, not just specifically arnica. Just saying.


Secret Santa things!

Want to win at Secret Santa this year? Down to drop an unusual present on your BFF? Hanging out to horrify your Mother-in-Law with a gift she sure didn't see coming? All of those things? Excellent!

The Very Secret Sex Lives of Medieval Women is a gift they won't expect!
The Very Secret Sex Lives of Medieval Women is a gift they won't expect!

Shopping is hard. Finding that perfect thing for that person who's hard to shop for or that person who likes quirky things but has all of them already, is hard. I mean, there's only so many pairs of novelty socks you can wear at a time and quite frankly, most of us should be laying off the Covid snacks, so chocolate is out this year.

Secret Santa is a whole other minefield. Gift-giving in the workplace can be fraught with peril. Striking the right balance between funny, unusual and (sometimes) naughty can be hard.  

It's only 6 weeks until Xmas and a lot less until Xmas work parties, and with shipping the way it's been this year, if you're contemplating a gift which is a brand new release and don't want to miss out, this is your prompt! Six. Weeks. Left.

Curious to see what readers have said about The Very Secret Sex Lives of Medieval Women so far? Check out these Good Reads book reviews here.


A taste of medieval

Elderflower pancakes
Elderflower pancakes

Elderflowers in batter may not be a medieval recipe, but elderflower cheesecake, known as Sambucade, most definitely was! As the modern world keeps us on our toes, a quick and wonderfully fragrant breakfast treat which easy to make. Topped with elderflower syrup (available from you local supermarket) and fresh seasonal berries. Here's how.

Everyone has a favourite pancake recipe, so use that. Call your Mum or your Grannie for hers. Make friends with your neighbour and ask them. No joy? Ask your phone to find you one.

If you're too time-poor to face measuring out ingredients and washing up bowls afterwards, (and let's be honest, lady Sunday mornings aren't meant for washing a mountain of breakfast dishes!) skip the whole process by grabbing a pre-mix shake-and-pour from the supermarket. I use milk rather than water for a creamier shake-and-bake pancake. Feel free to try almond milk for a sweeter pancake.

After you've poured the batter into the pan, snip your fresh elderflower heads right onto the batter. Cook as usual and serve with the syrup or cordial and a dash of cream for a delectable treat.

Mmmmmmm. Pancakes!


Medieval confessions

When you think about it, if it works, 40 days is a pretty great payback.

You'll find more delightfully wtf medieval confessional moments, in the Very Secret Sex Lives of Medieval Women which is out now through your local book shop, Amazon, Book Depository, Booktopia and all your favourite book shopping places now. 


Elderflower cordial recipe

Elderflower grows prolifically and it's sweet, fragrant flowers are both beautiful and delicious!
Elderflower grows prolifically and it's sweet, fragrant flowers are both beautiful and delicious!

While the seasons change from Summer to Fall in America and Europe, over in Australia the seasons turn from Spring into Summer! Our Northern friends are reaching for their cosy knits, while we Southerners are putting ours away and spending more time in the summer breezes sipping our favourite beverages on ice.

To the casual onlooker, Summer might not seem like the perfect time to get medieval. It's too hot for armour and layers of woolen clothing and the blistering sun makes jousting and tournaments exhausting. It feels like only the truly dedicated medievalist can indulge his or her passion year round.

Not so.

Summer is the perfect time to become familiar with herbal cordials which are steeped in history. Elderflower cordial is my pick of the bunch every time.

Elder, which is a native plant to Britain and can be found growing enthusiastically in hedgerows, has long been used in herbal medicine but also to make cordial, wines, juices and jams. The flowers and the berries can both be used, and even today elderflower cordials can be bought in supermarkets.

For a delightful Summer treat, you can make some with only a little effort at home. Don't have an elder plant? Time to make friends with someone who has one and ask nicely for a cutting. They grow and sucker prolifically and you'll be doing them a favour by taking some. Trust me on this.

This wonderful and easy recipe for saft, elderflower cordial, comes from who also have some great serving suggestions and recipe substitutions.

40   large elderflower heads in full bloom   
3   lemons, preferably unwaxed   
2 litres (8 cups) water   
2 kg (8 cups) granulated sugar   
50 g (4 tbsp) citric acid, optional    


  • Cut the elderflower heads directly into a non-reactive container that is large enough to accommodate 4 litres.
  • Pick over the flowers removing any insects and leaves, but try and avoid removing the flowers from the container or wiping up the pollen at the bottom of the container.
  • Slice the lemons and add them on top of the flowers.
  • Bring 2 litres of water and 2 kg of sugar to a boil in a  large pot, stirring periodically to dissolve the sugar. 
  • Remove from the heat and stir in the citric acid until it dissolves. Carefully pour the hot liquid over the lemon slices and elderflowers. 
  • Stir everything well and cover the container with a lid or a towel and let it sit in a cool,  dark place for 3-5 days. Stir daily, more often if you can.
  • After 3-5 days, strain the mixture through a piece of muslin into a clean bowl. Discard the flowers and lemon slices.

    If necessary, strain a second time through good quality kitchen towel or coffee filter paper and transfer to sterilised bottles or plastic containers if you are freezing it. Store the cordial/syrup in  the refrigerator or freezer.

The best serving suggestion is to dip more fresh flower heads in batter and cook like a fritter or pancake and unwind with a good book on the verandah with your home-made elderflower cordial on ice.

Summer in Australia is hotting up and this is the perfect chill down!


Plucking Roses: The Newest Living History Challenge

Plucking roses? Medieval art is often surprising, to say the least!
Plucking roses? Medieval art is often surprising, to say the least!

Anyone involved with living history and re-enactment is aware that over the Covid-19 lockdown, a number of amazing challenge projects have been undertaken on a global scale where history people have recreated and interpreted themes together while apart.

The very newest Challenge is #pluckingroses, where participants are challenged to recreate an item regarding to aspects of the sex life of medieval women. It might be an item of clothing from Sumptuary Laws for prostitutes, it might be making carnival badges (those crowned vaginas and winged penises are huge medieval favourites) or it might be recreating recipes (to to use) for contraception or for women's health.

I read the initial Challenge post and guidelines on this wonderful blog here and if you're into history and have an enquiring mind, you might like to check them out as well before participating.

The group, “Wienische Hantwërcliute 1350” are a German Re-enactment and Living History Group who depict Viennese, citizens, simple folk and craftsmen around 1350 A.D., just after the first large wave of the  black death has left Austria again, a time of great change in society  and when financially strengthened citizens rise to influence in the  medieval city. A big thank you to them for kicking this one off!

Of course, hash-tagging your results will make sure your adventures, misadventures, successes and creations are found and shared! I know I'll be playing along, but at the time of writing, I'm not sure which will be my first project! There's just so much to choose from!


Tic Toc goes the medieval clock!

Tic Toc!
Tic Toc!

I was super excited to see my book featuring in a Tic Toc clip this week, and a huge thanks to Serena who made it and shared it!

Super cute!

If you'd like to see my book arrive and transform the reader, click here to view!


Things that make you go EEK!

The Very Secret Sex Lives of Medieval Women.
The Very Secret Sex Lives of Medieval Women.

It's not all giggles and helpful health advice. There are parts of this book which are sad and parts which are just horrifying. There's infanticide, murder and rape. These awful parts of a woman's sex life come to us from court cases and they give us a glimpse into their worlds.