Monday, December 8, 2008

The Custom of Handfasting

Adapting A Medieval Wedding Ceremony

Handfasting in
the Ring of
Brodgar at
sunset on the
Summer Solstice.

This is an interesting Pagan custom that pre-dates the Christian church’s involvement with marriage. Reverend Helen J. Carol Thompson in “The History of Handfasting” states that, “In the British Isles, handfasting was the old pagan ritual of marriage and it remained legal in Scotland all the way up to 1939.” In a typical church marriage ceremony, the couple pledge themselves to each other as a life-long commitment. Handfasting, however, is somewhat different.
In this case, a couple may choose to be to be “married” for a certain period of time, which is agreed on between one another before the ceremony. For example, a couple may agree to be wed for a year and a day (a popular choice at the time), and once the year is up, they may choose to renew their commitment to one another—or go their separate ways.
The Ceremony
The ceremony itself was historically a very personal ritual for each individual. The location choosen for the ceremony was usually outdoors in a wooded area, near a glen or a lake, or in a field… so long as it was close to nature.
Joe and Tamsyn jumping the broom
A family member, close friend or High Priestess would preside over the ceremony. The entire proceedings would begin with the bride and groom thanking their guests for coming. The person officiating the wedding would then say a few words of welcome to the guests and, if it were a Wiccan ceremony, start off by calling upon the elements of nature, along with the particular deities that the couple worshipped asking them to come and bear witness to the proceedings of the union.
The couple then each presented a hand to the officiate so that he/she may bind them together with one or more cords or ribbons. This was to signify that they were joining together through love and free will.
Once tied, the couple would turn to face one other and each would speak their vows directly to the other. They would also ask for the blessing of the union, and finish by stating how long they have agreed to be bound to one another.

Often times the couple would further seal their bond to one another by passing their joined hands through each of the elements—fire, earth, water, and air (incense smoke was usually used to symbolize “air”.)
Variations to go with the ceremonial ritual.
Jumping the Broom—Most people believe that jumping the broom is a tradition only practiced by enslaved people in America when they were not allowed to marry in public. But according to Amy Hicks in her article “Jumping the Broom” "Another view of this tradition is that it began in West Africa...The person who jumped the highest (usually the man) became the head of the household...Other cultures that have or had jumping the broom ceremonies include Wiccans, Roma, the Welsh, and gypsies." Guests would hold a broom close to the ground and the couple would jump over it. This was to symbolize their jumping from an old life to a new life and to ensure fertility for future children.

A two-handled Scottish Quaich.

Loving Cup—Sometimes the person officiating the ceremony presents the couple with a single cup to drink from. This symbolized their unity together as one. Larry James writes, “The use of the wine cup or Loving Cup at a wedding is an ancient tradition. By the 15th century it was common for the Celtic people to toast each other with a ceremonial Loving Cup. In Scotland this cup is known as a quaich, which comes from the Celtic word cuach, meaning cup.” Read more about loving cups in his article, “Loving Cup Ceremony.

About the Author
Most of the above article is an excerpt from the ebook: How to Create a Beautiful Medieval Wedding by Rose Smith. Her website, is an excellent resource for couples looking for unique ideas when planning a themed wedding.
Edited by Gael Stirler. See more photos of Tamsyn and Joe's wedding in Barnsdale and more photos of Brad Sprauer's wedding in Scotland.

Originally published in May 2008 by Gael Stirler

Not-so Sexy History of Undies: From Loincloths to Lycra

Amanda Cotterill

Today, sexy panties range from bikinis to boy shorts to thongs and g-strings. Most women own a collection of sexy panties as a part of their basic wardrobes. However, today's panties are a relatively modern invention. Provided here is a guide to sexy undies through the ages.
Roman bather in apodesm and zona.–Pompeii

The loincloth is believed to have been the earliest form of clothing. In warmer climates, the loincloth was often worn as the only garment. In colder temperatures, however, the loincloth was generally worn as a protective under layer beneath heavier clothing. Both men and women wore loincloths, and the sole purpose is believed to have been comfort and protection, not sex appeal. Sexy panties had not yet been conceived.

Classical Period

The Greeks and Romans wore a loose t-tunic style garment under their peplos or chitons that was called the tunica intima. This tunic was often sleeveless. Underneath the tunic, women wore a bandeux of wool called a apodesm to secure their breasts and a girdle or zona of wool that was used to tuck and tie another sash between her legs. Until she was married the zona was tied in way that symbolized her chastity, and thus the first concept of a chastity belt arose.

A 14th C. field worker has tucked up his tunic. You can see his braise and turned down hosen. –the Rich Hours of the Duke du Berry


In the Middle Ages, both men and women wore a type of short pants called braies with leggings known as chausses or hosen. Again, the purpose was functional, not sexual. These leggings covered the feet and were made of woven, not knitted, fabric cut on the bias. They were held up with garters tied around the small of the leg just under the knee. In hot weather the chausses could be worn rolled down over the garters exposing the legs from knee to thigh. The rest of the time they were worn pulled over the thighs and tied to a waist cord.
14th C. woman in chemise and kirtle
The most common medieval women's undergarment was the chemise, a long gown usually made of linen or wool with long loose-fitting sleeves. During the Gothic age when dresses had very narrow sleeves, the chemise was made without sleeves. Over the chemise a tight, front-laced vest called a "pair of bodies" or bodice secured the breasts and provided a foundation for the fashionable outer garments. When the bodice had an attached skirt, it was called a kirtle. The bodice was the forerunner of the corset and the modern girdle. In the Middle Ages "girdle" simply meant belt.

Chastity belts are often associated with the Crusades, but this appears to be largely a mythological connection. Chastity belts appeared during the Renaissance, but were often worn by women trying to guard themselves against sexual assault rather than being imposed on them by jealous husbands.

Marie AntonietteThe Age of Corsetry

During the Renaissance, the straight, boyish look of the medieval period gave way to styles that enhanced the woman's figure. During this time, women wore layers of clothing, but underpants were generally not part of the ensemble.

The Elizabethan styles gave way to more elaborate fashion in the French court of Louis the 16th and Marie Antoinette. The bodice of the corset was still basically conical but the hips flared out to the sides so much that the doorways in the palace had to be widened. Willow structures called panniers were worn under the skirts to give them shape and to show off the marvelous skirt decoration.

The Regency

During the Regency period fashion reflected the desire of the people to be free from excess and ostentaion. The simplicity of ancient Rome was imitated with sheer draped fabrics and classic lines. Corsets were minimized, panniers were bannished, and hose were knitted of light beige wool or silk so that they the women appeared to be wearing nothing underneath.

The 19th century

The corset came back into fashion durning the Victorian Age and was crueler than ever. Since a curvasious figure was in fashion, the waist had to be cinched tightly in a boned corset, and women often swooned from lack of oxygen to the brain! Corsets were worn from childhood in order to keep the waist as slim as a little girl's and the hips and buttocks were exaggerated with crinolines and bustles. The size of the bustled skirts got so big that to balance the sillouette women wore hats often as large as unbrellas. Pantaloons and the shorter pantalettes, which were long breeches made of white linen with a frill at the cuff, became popular during the 19th century to protect against chafing under crinolines and provide modesty. The crotch was not sewn together and each leg was put on separately and buttoned together at the waist. Although pantaloons were not designed to be sexy panties, some sex appeal was inherent.
Fashionable 19th C. lady in bloomers.

In many ways, bloomers could be considered the precursor to modern sexy panties. Popularized by young athletic women in the early 1900s, bloomers were available in both underwear and outerwear versions. They generally fastened just below the knee like knickers or at the ankles and were an evolution of earlier pantaloons. At first they were called Turkish pants but eventually were dubbed "bloomers" after the feminist author Amelia Bloomer who was a great advocate of this fashion.

Flapper of the 1920s.The 1920s

The 1920s ushered in the age of the sex, alcohol, and jazz music. Flapper, which was English slang for teenage girl, described the generation of liberated young women who were outspoken, liberal, and bucked societal norms. The modern age of lingerie can be traced to the flappers of the 1920s. It was at this time that sexy panties were truly born. The flappers tossed out the stiff Victorian corset in favor of bras that were first made of a bit of ribbon and two pocket handkerchiefs and sheer silk stocking, worn with sexy silk underwear. Well, sexy by the standard of the day, they were waist high and covered the top of the thigh and had to buttoned or closed with a drawstring. Elastic was not available until after World War II!

The 1930s to Today

Styles have, of course, changed over the years. Along with changing fashions, the idea of what is sexy has also changed dramatically. Through the 1930s and 1940s, practicality was still highly emphasized. In the '50s, a playful sexuality emerged. The invention of Lycra and Spandex revolutionized the girdle industry, and inexpensive nylon stockings replaced silk stockings.

The sexual revolution of the 1960s and 1970s allowed women to wholeheartedly embrace their sexuality. During and after the sexual revolution, sexy panties became available in a wide range of styles. Today, bikinis, tap pants, thongs and g-strings come in every color imaginable with matching bras, and teddies.

Whatever your shape or size you will always be able to find sexy panties to suit. Just choose something that you are comfortable in and you will be fine.

Originally published in May 2008 by Gael Stirler

Pirates Invade Baltimore for Annual Pirate Pub Crawl

Here is how it all began...
by Vicki Bokhari (Blender Wench)
In January 2005 two pirate enthusiasts (aka garb-a-holics, rennies, razies, rogue and wench, etc...) were getting the *itch* to dust off their best pirate garb and go out to a public place that was not the norm for the modern-day pirate. It was decided what better place than Fells Point, Baltimore? Well, one friend told another and so on and so on....(isn't that always how it goes?)
In trying to pick a date and set up a few basic details, these two scallywags learned that Fells Point is rich with privateer history, and those bawdy blokes contributed to our country's independence from Britain. (pretty amazing stuff, eh?) We didn't remember learning about THAT in school.
After visiting Fells Point and speaking to a local innkeeper (One Eyed Mikes), we started to receive a very warm response and realized that this notion of getting a few pirates together for a night of revelry could turn into something much, much larger. In April 2005 the first Baltimore Pyrate Invasion was born. Approximately 150 of our closest pirate friends were out in all their finery...
Fast forward to January 2006... This time, more than just two pirate enthusiasts were getting the itch to get together and celebrate all things piratical. Inquiries were rushing in, asking to organize a second invasion. The second time around was even bigger and better. Clipper City Brewing Company got involved and pushed it to an even more sucessful event. In March 2006 about 300 pirates were invading the bawdiest port of Baltimore.
In the midst of all this invasion planning we learned that a non-profit organization, the Fells Point Development Corporation, also hosts an event later in the year.
The wheels started a'turnin and the party started a'growin... What better way to expand on the Baltimore Pyrate Invasion than to combine events with the Privateer Day so that we have one enormous piratey-filled day of adventure? So the combined event, creating an all-day celebration of all things piratical commenced in April 2007. The turn-out was amazing, with an estimate of over 3,000 attendees!
For April 19, 2008, there are 18 participating pubs offering discounts on drinks and appetizers all night. Due to the high participation we are not moving around in a single group. Instead, there will be multiple groups invading all the the pubs all night long! Get your tickets online to qualify for discounts, prizes, treasure hunts and more. Arggghh, ye must be 21 to party-cipate, matey!

Originally published -in April 2008 by Gael Stirler

assembly in front of pub priate lassies assembly in front of pub

Friday, March 21, 2008

The Tudors returns to Showtime on Sunday night

by Gael Stirler

This Sunday March 30th the hit series, the Tudors with Johnathan Rhys-Meyers will air the premier episode of Season 2.

This is not your typical retelling of the story of King Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn. It is a lusty, sexy, dangerous version filled with passion. The characters are young and impetuous. The King in season 1 was barely out of his teens and beginning to feel his power. He is played brilliantly by Rhys-Meyers as proud and arrogant but ultimately insecure monarch. His wealth, power and privilege eventually allow him to pit his will against the Pope and God as he pursues his desire in the form of his mistress Anne Boleyn. She herself is a willing pawn in the hands of her father who first sends her sister to seduce the King in order to advance his career.

In Season 2, Henry weds Anne and makes her Queen, now he must convert his ministers and subjects to the new faith and force them to accept Anne as their Queen. This leads to a crisis between the King and his closest and most trusted advisor, Sir Thomas Moore.

The writers take some liberties with history and make outright mistakes from time to time in their effort to keep the storyline charged with dramatic tension. The costumes are stunning but often comically incorrect in order to make them "sexier" for modern audiences. I am referring mainly to the Tudor dresses being worn without chemises or sleeves in some scenes. While I can argue that sometimes women wore incomplete garments in private, I can't believe that they would ever wear brocade dresses without a soft silk or linen under gown to prevent their sweat from soiling the fabric. Not only that but it would be too uncomfortable to wear wool and other rough fabric directly against their skin while horseback riding as Anne was doing in one scene.

If you don't subscribe to Showtime you can see complete episodes each week online at You can also order the entire first season on DVD or download individual episodes or the entire season through our Amazon store using the link below Widgets