Currently Reading

Currently Reading, blog post by Aspasia S. Bissas. Gods Behaving Badly by Marie Phillips. Greek Gods, Greek mythology.

The last book I read was purportedly a retelling of Faust, but seemed far more interested in Greek mythology (and conflating Hell with Hades, which is personally infuriating). So I thought I’d follow that up with a book that doesn’t pretend to be about anything other than Greek mythology. I read this several years ago and liked it at the time. I hope I’ll still like it.

What are you reading these days? Share in the comments…

Cheers,

Aspasía S. Bissas

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Vampire’s Garden: Hawthorn

Vampire's Garden: Vampire-Repelling Plants, blog post by Aspasia S. Bissas, aspasiasbissas.com
Photo by Ylanite Koppens on Pexels.com

Love Lies Bleeding‘s readers know that main character Mara is both a vampire and a botanist. Trained when she was still human, she continues to study plants and have a garden. This post is eleventh in a series exploring Mara’s plants. Are you interested in botany, gardening, or plant lore? So are some vampires…

Please note: Medicinal uses are given for informational purposes only. Always consult a medical professional before diagnosing or treating yourself or anyone else.

Botanical Name: Crataegus monogyna (and other species of Crataegus)

Common Names: thornapple, May tree, whitethorn, hawberry, mayhaw, fairy thorn, quickthorn, Bread and Cheese Tree

History: Native to temperate areas around the world, hawthorn is part of the Rosaceae (Rose) family (you can see the resemblance in the berries, which are similar looking to rosehips). Folklore about Hawthorn abounds, and these are only a few examples: In Ancient Greece, branches decorated altars of Hymenaios (God of marriage), and were carried during wedding processions. It is believed that Jesus’ crown of thorns was made of hawthorn (in parts of France it was claimed that the plant would groan and cry on Good Friday). The Celts thought it could heal a broken heart. Before the calendar was changed from the Julian to the Gregorian system, hawthorn bloomed on 1 May, and May Day/Beltane celebrations included gathering the flowering branches (the only time it was allowed). In Great Britain and Ireland it was believed that uprooting or cutting down a hawthorn brought bad luck (with some attributing the failure of the DeLorean Motor Company to their cutting down a hawthorn in order to build a factory). Hawthorns have strong associations with fairies, and lone trees were thought to be especially powerful and most beloved of the fair folk.

Vampires: Starting in Serbia and spreading throughout the Balkan region, it was believed that only stakes made of hawthorn or ash could kill a vampire. In Bosnia, people would wear hawthorn twigs to funerals, dropping them as they left the cemetery; if the deceased rose as a vampire, they would have to stop to pick up the twigs, allowing the living to return home safely. The thorns were also placed in a recently deceased person’s clothing to “pin” them to the coffin and keep them from rising.

Language of Flowers Meaning: Hope

Cultivation: There’s a hawthorn for almost any hardiness zone, from Zones 4 to 11 according to the USDA, and as far north as Zone 1 (just below the tundra) in Canada. Hawthorn will grow in full sun or part shade. They’ll tolerate most types of soil, although they prefer rich, well-drained soil. They’re also drought tolerant. Growing hawthorn from seed is difficult and time-consuming– it’s easier to transplant a sucker or seedling. It’s possible to graft one type of hawthorn onto the seedling of another type. You can also use hawthorn as rootstock to graft other plants, mainly medlar and pear. Flowers generally bloom from May to June. Hawthorn is used as a hedge plant and as ornamentals– just be mindful of the thorns. Once established, hawthorns need little attention, other than fertilizer in spring, and some water during prolonged dry periods. It is also resistant to road salt and air pollution, making it ideal for urban areas.

Uses:

Medicinal: The flowers, leaves, and berries of Crataegus laevigata and other species have been used since the first century CE to treat heart disease. Science is starting to back up hawthorn’s use for treating a variety of cardiovascular issues, although more studies need to be done to confirm results and determine things like dosage. The dried fruits of Chinese (C. pinnatifida, shān zhā in Chinese) and Japanese (C. cuneata, called sanzashi in Japanese) hawthorn species are used in traditional medicine as a digestive aid.

Caution: Taking too much hawthorn can cause cardiac arrhythmia and low blood pressure. Some people may also experience headache, a racing heart, and nausea. Do not use if you are taking digoxin. It’s best to be safe and avoid hawthorn if pregnant or breast feeding.

Culinary: The “haws” (berries) can be used to make jam, jelly, sauces, or wine (although since they’re an important winter food for wildlife, you might prefer to leave them on the plants. The young spring leaves and flower buds can also be eaten cooked or raw. In Mexico, the fruit of a local hawthorn species is made into candy called rielitos.

Wildlife: Hawthorn is a source of food and shelter (especially in winter) for birds and mammals, as well as an important source of nectar for insects. It also provides food for the larvae of many butterflies and moths.

Bonsai: Many species of hawthorn can be used for bonsai, including common hawthorn (C. monogyna), Japanese hawthorn (C. cuneata), thornless hawthorn (C. nitida), and ornamental varieties like Crataegus lavigata ‘Paul’s scarlet’.

Other Uses: First Nations people of Western Canada used the thorns as fish hooks and for minor surgeries.

Mara’s Uses: Although Mara would likely use hawthorn in tonics for her clients, its traditional use against vampires might leave her a little reluctant.

Further Reading:

Aspasia S. Bissas books: Love Lies Bleeding, Blood Magic, Tooth & Claw, book, books, free book, free books, freebies, freebie, free ebook, free ebooks, vampire, vampires, dark fantasy, dark romance, historical fiction, gothic fiction, gothic fantasy, urban fantasy, paranormal, supernatural, horror, dark reads, indie author, indie fiction, strong female protagonist, aspasiasbissas.com

Love Lies Bleeding: Smashwords, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, Apple Books
FREE Blood Magic: Smashwords, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, Apple Books
FREE Tooth & Claw: Smashwords, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, Apple Books

If you prefer paperback, use this link to order Love Lies Bleeding from Bookshop – a portion of each sale goes directly to independent bookstores, as well as to myself. Thank you for supporting indie! ♥

Wikipedia: Crataegus

Vampires: Hawthorn

Six Ways to Stop a Vampire

WebMD

Mt. Sinai

How to Grow Hawthorns

Hardy Fruit Tree- Hawthorn

Gardening 101: Hawthorn

Hawthorn- a Foraging Guide

Hawthorn- bride of the hedgerow

Hawthorn- Tree of the Wee Folk

Hawthorn as Bonsai

Cheers,

Aspasía S. Bissas

Happy World Poetry Day

Happy World Poetry Day, blog post by Aspasia S. Bissas, featuring poem "To Kore," aspasiasbissas.com
Photo by Pham Khoai on Pexels.com

It’s World Poetry Day today! Coming on the heels of the Spring Equinox, I was inspired by the myth of Persephone/Kore’s yearly return after her sojourn in the Underworld.

To Kore by Aspasía S. Bissas

Daughter, rise;

leave cold melancholy behind.

Reclaim your place in the sun.

Daffodils grow where you walk, and ivy.

And a crown of asphodel wheat, to remind you.

Daughter, rise;

leave cruel longing aside.

Ignore the echoes and run.

It smells of honey here, and daisies,

and a faint tang of pomegranate to remind you.

Have you been inspired to write any poetry lately? Share in the comments…

Poetry not your thing? I’ve got you covered– download my novel and short stories:

Aspasia S. Bissas books: Love Lies Bleeding, Blood Magic, Tooth & Claw, book, books, free book, free books, freebies, freebie, free ebook, free ebooks, vampire, vampires, dark fantasy, dark romance, historical fiction, gothic fiction, gothic fantasy, urban fantasy, paranormal, supernatural, horror, dark reads, indie author, indie fiction, strong female protagonist, aspasiasbissas.com

Love Lies Bleeding: Smashwords, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, Apple Books
FREE Blood Magic: Smashwords, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, Apple Books
FREE Tooth & Claw: Smashwords, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, Apple Books

If you prefer paperback, use this link to order Love Lies Bleeding from Bookshop – a portion of each sale goes directly to independent bookstores, as well as to myself. Thank you for supporting indie! ♥

Cheers,

Aspasía S. Bissas

Another 5 Bittersweet Real-Life Love Stories

Another 5 Bittersweet Real-Life Love Stories, blog post by Aspasia S. Bissas, aspasiasbissas.com
Photo by freestocks.org on Pexels.com

Valentine’s Day, the romantic holiday with pagan roots is tomorrow. While it’s a sweet day for some, it can also be a painful reminder of loneliness and heartbreak. But then, love itself isn’t always sunshine and roses (there’s a reason Cupid uses a bow and arrow instead of blowing kisses). Whether you think romance is a pleasure or a pain, here are 5 real-life love stories that might convince you otherwise…

Shah Jahan and Mumtaz Mahal

Another 5 Bittersweet Real-Life Love Stories, blog post by Aspasia S. Bissas, aspasiasbissas.com
Photo by Nav Photography on Pexels.com

Prince Kurram (the future Shah Jahan), son of the Mughal Emperor, and Arjumand Banu Begum, daughter of a Persian noble and niece of Empress Nur Jahan, fell in love in 1607 and married a few years later. He had other wives, but Arjumand was the only love match and his enduring favourite. He nicknamed her “Mumtaz Mahal,” or “the jewel (or exalted one) of the palace.” He relied on her political advice and she was his constant companion and confidant. Unfortunately, Mumtaz Mahal died at age 38, due to complications from giving birth to her 14th child. Heartbroken, her husband spent the next two decades building her a beautiful mausoleum, and nearly 400 years later, people are still awed by the Taj Mahal.

Infante Pedro and Ines de Castro

Another 5 Bittersweet Real Life Love Stories, blog post by Aspasia S. Bissas, aspasiasbissas.com

When the heir to the Portuguese throne fell in love with his wife’s older, widowed Lady-in-Waiting, the couple wasn’t exactly embraced by the family. Pedro’s father, King Alfonso IV, had Ines banished to Spain in an attempt to dissuade his son, but Pedro found a way to send letters and visit her as often as he could. After his wife died, Pedro brought Ines back and lived with her openly, even having three children together. When he asked his father to accept Ines as his new wife, the King had her brutally executed instead. In retaliation Pedro started a Civil War in an attempt to overthrow his father. The war ended after two years when the Queen, Pedro’s mother, arranged a truce, but he never forgave his father. When he eventually became King, he had Ines’s assassins executed by tearing their hearts out. It’s also rumoured that he had Ines’s body exhumed and placed on the throne, where he forced the court to swear allegiance to the new Queen.

Elizabeth Barrett and Robert Browning

Another 5 Bittersweet Real Life Love Stories, blog post by Aspasia S. Bissas, aspasiasbissas.com

Elizabeth Barrett was an accomplished poet in 1844 when Robert Browning wrote an admiring letter, telling her “I love your verses with all my heart, dear Miss Barrett.” Perhaps unsurprisingly they continued writing each other, and eventually met and fell in love. Knowing her father would disapprove, Elizabeth kept the relationship secret and she and Robert eloped (her father refused to reconcile with her and eventually disinherited her). The Brownings lived mainly in Italy, and spent their time among writers and artists. One of Elizabeth’s most well-known and beloved works, “Sonnets from the Portuguese,”  consists of love poems she wrote for Robert, which he insisted she had to publish because they were “the finest sonnets written in any language since Shakespeare’s.” Their hundreds of letters to each other also attest to the incredible love between them. Unfortunately, Elizabeth’s lifelong poor health, which had improved for a while, started to deteriorate after only a few years together. She died in her husband’s arms in 1861, at age 55. Browning returned to England and never remarried.

Henry II and Rosamund Clifford

Another 5 Bittersweet Real Life Love Stories, blog post by Aspasia S. Bissas, aspasiasbissas.com

Legend has it that King Henry II of England built a complicated maze, at the centre of which he hid his lover Rosamund, in order to keep the affair hidden from his wife, Eleanor of Aquitaine. The Queen, however, solved the maze and found Rosamund, giving her the option of death by dagger or poison. Rosamund supposedly chose the latter. Another version has Eleanor stabbing Rosamund while she bathed. Although these stories are false, there is, according to historian Mike Ibeji, ” … no doubt that the great love of his [Henry’s] life was Rosamund Clifford.” It’s unknown when Henry and Rosamund’s relationship started, but it became common knowledge in 1174, after his relationship with the Queen soured due to her rebelling against him, along with their sons. While Queen Eleanor was imprisoned, Rosamund moved into the royal palace of Woodstock. It’s said that Henry was so enamoured of Rosamund that he lost interest in all his other mistresses (of which there were many). Although it’s unknown if Rosamund returned Henry’s feelings (you don’t say no to the King), she was blamed for being a temptress and an adulteress, and her character was attacked long after her death. This may be why she ended the affair with the King in 1175 or 1176, withdrawing to Godstow Abbey, where she died shortly afterwards. Henry paid for a lavish tomb for Rosamund, arranging for nuns to leave daily floral tributes to her, as well as paying to keep the site maintained. Although the tomb was eventually destroyed, the story of “Fair Rosamund” has inspired countless poets and artists through the centuries, giving immortality to Henry and Rosamund’s brief time together.

Margaret Mead and Ruth Benedict

Another 5 Bittersweet Real Life Love Stories, blog post by Aspasia S. Bissas, aspasiasbissas.com

Although married three times to men, Margaret Mead’s “most intense and enduring relationship” was with her mentor Ruth Benedict. Mead’s letters, spanning a quarter of a century until Benedict’s sudden death in 1948, are filled with terms of endearment and plaintive longing. Margaret claims that Ruth’s love gives her strength and laments that they can’t be together. The two, worried about how a public relationship would affect their careers (already difficult for women at the time), worked hard to keep their feelings secret, and even made sure never to be photographed together. It’s only relatively recently that Margaret’s daughter has hinted at the sexual nature of Mead and Benedict’s relationship, and that Mead’s letters have been released for publication. Had it not been for the hostile social climate and legal system that existed back then, Margaret and Ruth could have had a life together. Instead they squeezed in moments with each other around marriages, family life, and work. Margaret and Ruth loved each other as fully as they could, while being deprived of what could have been.

No matter what your plans are, or who you’re spending it with, I hope you have a happy Valentine’s Day ♥ What’s your favourite bittersweet love story? Share in the comments.

Looking for a good fictional story instead? Get my books!

Love Lies Bleeding by Aspasia S. Bissas, Blood Magic by Aspasia S. Bissas, Tooth & Claw by Aspasia S. Bissas, books, free books, vampire, vampires, dark fantasy, gothic, urban fantasy, paranormal, supernatural, strong female protagonist, aspasiasbissas.com

Love Lies Bleeding: Smashwords, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, Apple Books
FREE Blood Magic: Smashwords, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, Apple Books
FREE Tooth & Claw: Smashwords, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, Apple Books

If you prefer a paperback to an ebook, use this link to order Love Lies Bleeding from Bookshop – a portion of each sale goes directly to independent bookstores, as well as to myself. Thank you for supporting indie! ♥

Further Reading

The 6 Most Tragic Love Stories in the History of the World

The 20 Greatest Real Life Love Stories from History

Mumtaz Mahal

A Portuguese Love Story

The Tale of Peter and Ines

Love and the Brownings

The Character and Legacy of Henry II

Fair Rosamund

Pioneering Anthropologist Margaret Mead’s Beautiful Love Letters to Her Soul Mate

Cheers,

Aspasía S. Bissas