History & Culture

The Gift of Frankincense at Christmas

Mathew, Chapter 2A Gift of Frankincense

One of my favorite times of year is Christmas.  Since becoming a mother this holiday has become even more special to me. Not just because I enjoy seeing the holiday through my children’s eyes, but because I feel intensely drawn to Mary- the mother of Jesus. God gave us his only son as a sacrifice so that we could experience God’s grace and the gift of eternal life in heaven.  Having two sons of my own, I realize even more how great a gift Jesus is to humanity, and what a holy and faithful woman Mary was.  God provided the world with the gift of Frankincense, one of my most beloved essential oils.

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Hildegard’s Essentials: Essential Oil Tips from a Saint

Saintly Tips

Who better to get essential oil tips from than a Saint?  Right? Hildegard’s Essentials are herbal remedies from Saint Hildegard adapted for modern-day essential oil use. Hildegard of Bingen was a 12th century nun, composer, author, herbalist, healer, and visionary.  Her visions from God inspired her to become a herbal healer and to write extensively about the subject throughout her life.  It is for these visions and writings that she was granted Sainthood by the Roman Catholic Church.

In her works she discusses the healing properties of 17 plants that are commercially available today in essential oil form; I’ve highlighted 10 of them here which I’ve named “Hildegard’s Essentials”.  Hildegard didn’t use essential oils.  She used the whole plants (steams, leaves, bark, or resin), which is the traditional way herbal medicine is practiced.  With today’s amazing distillation technology we are blessed to be able to use essential oils in our herbal remedies.  Oils are much more potent than there whole plant counterparts; and less oil is needed to be effective; making oils a natural choice for herbal remedies.  So, I’ve substituted essential oils for her herbs.

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Make Your Own (safe and natural) Essential Oil Bug Spray

Living in Florida is wonderful!  I could make a list as thick as an encyclopedia of things I love about it.  We do have a few things that would not be on that list.  Number one would probably be mosquitoes!  They are everywhere down here.  In fact the county I live in used by called Mosquito County (I think Orange is much better, don’t you.. hehe).  Using bug spray is just something you do, unless you want to get eaten alive.  I’ve always been leery of bug sprays and repellents because of chemicals and toxins.  I’ve found some wonderful essential oils that work wonders repelling mosquitoes and are safe to use on children, pets and of course adults, which I’ll be sharing with you!  Today I’ll share my favorite bug repelling oils and a simple recipe for essential oil bug spray.

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The Evil Eye

In cultures all over the world- but mostly in Asia, Europe and the Middle East- folks believe in (or did) the “evil eye”  It’s the idea that a person can look at you or stare at you in a way that will bestow evil on you.  It’s a jealous or covetous look- it is often unintentional- but not always.  People worried that being successful in business or having a large number of children might bring “evil eye” looks and eventually bad luck or experiences.  In order to counteract the “evil eye” people began would say charms or spells or wear the “evil eye symbol”.  It was common practice in the Jewish faith as well as the Muslim faith to wear the an evil eye amulet to ward off danger associated with “evil eye” looks.

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Ancient Egyptian Makeup and Beauty

Elizabeth Taylor as Cleopatra in the 1963 film

Elizabeth Taylor as Cleopatra in the 1963 film

When I think of ancient Egyptian makeup the first thing that comes to mind is Elizabeth Taylor in Cleopatra.  She’s shown wearing heavy black eyeliner all the way around her eyes, with lines coming out at the corners to create a cat eye.  She’s also wearing heavy blue eye shadow over all of the eye lids all the way up to heavily darkened eye brows.  Her lips are neutral as well as her face makeup.  While some of what Liz’s Cleopatra is wearing is historically accurate- its not totally correct.  Today I’ll show what would have been more standard in ancient Egypt.  Hollywood has to take poetic license to ensure it’s stars still look beautiful according to modern times.  Beauty is a concept that changes with time; what was considered beautiful in ancient Egypt isn’t necessarily the standard today.

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What’s a Kaftan?

Imagine yourself sipping a rum drink out of coconut while relaxing in the shade of a palm tree; you have on stunner shades, a wide brimmed straw hat, and you’re wearing a kaftan…..what a sec…… what’s a kaftan?

Kaftan’s are trending right now and they are the hottest in beach cover up wear this summer.  You know if I’m writing about it on this blog that it has some sort of historical story- so here goes!  According to Encyclopedia Britannica “A kaftan is a man’s full length garment of ancient Mesopotamian origin (which means they’re like 5,000 years old), worn throughout the Middle East.  Usually made of cotton or silk, or a combination of the two.”  Characteristics of one are: wide/long sleeves, can be open at the front and tied with a sash, and loose fitting and breezy.

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Off The Shoulder Style: Then and Now

One of the things I love about fashion is how styles come in, go out, and come back again.  As a historian I love looking for elements of historical style- or details that were stylish in the past now becoming en vogue.   So, when I saw that off the shoulder tops were the it item for the summer I immediately connected this style trend with a popular look in the 19th century.

In the mid 19th century off the shoulder gowns were the dominate style for ladies evening gowns and/or ball gowns.  The off shoulder look was not wore during the day, as it was not conservative enough.  When wearing an off the shoulder gown a woman’s bodice or corset would push her bosom up giving her lots of cleavage!  I know- it seems a little scandalous for that time period- but it was accepted and widely worn.  In addition to being very low cut, the dresses were also very tight and low across the shoulders.  They were so tight in fact that when wearing one a woman couldn’t lift her arms above shoulder height.  From the should down the gown would taper down to the waist tightly, and then balloon out over ample petticoats and a wooden frame hoop skirt.  Can you image wearing a dress like that in August?!?

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Einkorn- The World’s First Wheat

Fertile Crescent Map

Map of the Fertile Crescent

About 12,000 years ago in a place known today as The Fertile Crescent agriculture was born.  We know from the archaeological record that the (likely) first grain to be domesticated and farmed was wheat.  The Fertile Crescent includes parts of the following modern day countries: Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, Jordan, Israel, and Egypt.  It’s is shaped a little like a crescent moon- hence the name.

A particular type of wheat grows wild in the region of the world- it’s einkorn.  Einkorn was the wheat that was first picked from the wild and domesticated all those thousands of years ago.  Over the centuries that have since passed humans have modified and cross bred with other grasses; einkorn and other early forms of wheat (emmer and spelt).  What we are left with today is modern wheat- which is actually very different from ancient einkorn.

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