I am the owner of four black cats. Or do they own me? I’m never quite sure. Pictured here are Indy and Tye, two brothers we adopted three years ago. In A Temptress In Tartan
, a black cat is mistaken as a witch’s familiar. In the sixteenth century, it was largely believed that black cats were affiliated with evil because they are nocturnal and roam at night. They were thought to be supernatural servants of witches, or even witches themselves.
In celebration of my release, I wanted to share a little of the folklore surrounding black cats. Depending on the location and century in which one lived, black cats either symbolized good or bad luck.
In 16th-century Italy, people believed that if someone was sick, he or she would die if a black cat lay on the bed. Today, in Asia and the United Kingdom, a black cat is considered lucky. In Yorkshire, England, it may be lucky to own a black cat, but it’s unlucky to have one cross your path. Completely opposite of that in North America, it’s considered bad luck if a black cat crosses your path, and good luck if a white cat crosses your path.
Other beliefs about black cats that exist around the world today are:
- To dream of a black cat is lucky.
- Finding a white hair on a black cat brings good luck.
- A strange black cat on a porch brings prosperity to the owner.
- A black cat seen from behind portrays a bad omen.
- If a black cat walks towards you, it brings good fortune.
- If a black cat walks away from you, it takes the good luck with it.
Black cats have played a major role in folklore, superstition, and mythology for centuries. Today they are most closely associated with Halloween and used in costuming, decor, and as a party theme.
What do you believe? Lucky or unlucky?
In Romancing the Laird, my warrior-hero, Reid Douglas, enjoys a cup or two of chamomile tea every day to help him relax and recover from physical fatigue,. Which got me wondering about the history of chamomile tea. Here’s what I discovered.
The name chamomile comes from the Greek word meaning “ground apple.” Records of its use date back to the ancient Roman, Greeks and Egyptians who believed the flowers contained both magical and healing properties.
The ancient Romans battled many plagues, respiratory and other infectious diseases without the aid of modern medicine. This naturally led to using herbs as remedies for disease and to ease the symptoms of skin infections and respiratory diseases. Pliny, the noted physician of the time, is known to have used chamomile to ward off headaches and ease the liver and kidney inflammation. It is likely that chamomile was used for skin conditions and digestive disorders, too. Chamomile flowers were also scattered on the floors at banquets to perfume to the air or burned as incense during sacred rituals.
Like the Romans, the Greeks thought of chamomile as a medicinal herb with healing properties. The Greek physician and botanist Dioscorides used chamomile to heal intestinal, nervous, and liver disorders, and prescribed it for women’s ailments. The ancient Greeks also made garlands from chamomile to fragrance the air.
The ancient Egyptians so revered the chamomile plant that they associated it with their sun god Ra. Egyptians also used chamomile on the skin and probably used it in cosmetics and hair care products as well. It was used in rituals and ceremonies.
Chamomile was considered one of the nine sacred herbs of the Anglo-Saxon and was used ritually to ward off diseases and to promote health.
If you are like me, every spring I get a little congested from the extra pollen in the air. Sounds like I need to make myself a cup of chamomile tea. Will you join me in a cup?
I always think it’s fun to find out where writers get ideas for their books . . . that one thing that makes them pause and ask the question, “What if . . .?” That’s what happened to me while passing through Edinburgh Castle’s esplanade. I came upon a bronze plaque and a fountain featuring two women’s faces—one old, one young—a foxglove plant in the center, and a snake coiled around it all.
The Witches’ Well was placed there in 1894 to commemorate all the women who were burned at the stake between the 15th and 18th centuries. Above the fountain a plaque read: This fountain designed by John Duncan RSA is near the site on which many witches were burned at the stake. The wicked head and serene head signify that some used their exceptional knowledge for evil purposes while other were misunderstood and wished their kind nothing but good. The serpent has the dual significance of evil and of wisdom. The foxglove spray further emphasizes the dual purpose of many common objects. (Foxglove can be used medicinally but it can also be poisonous depending on the dosage.)
Even though I was surrounded by the magnificence of Edinburgh Castle, I spent the rest of the day thinking about the men and women who were accused of witchcraft, and I had to know more. Many hours of research later, the All the King’s Men series was born. There are seven books in the series. The first three books are scheduled for release as follows:
Seven Nights with a Scot, February 21st, 2019
Romancing the Laird, April 30th, 2019
A Temptress in Tartan, August 13th, 2019