Friday Fun Facts - 8/17/2012

Here are this week's Friday Fun Facts about Diana Gabaldon's books.

1) Oenomancy (also spelled oinomancy) is divination by wine. Here is a site that explains how it was done in Ancient Greece.  There were a number of different methods of divination:
  • by the patterns left by spilled wine in a cloth or paper.
  • by the appearance of cloth or paper that had been soaked and/or boiled in wine.
  • by the appearance of wine poured in libation.
  • by the sediment in a glass or bottle of wine.
  • by the sediment in the lees, dregs and casks of wine.
  • by the color and peculiarities of wine.
  • by the wine's taste.
It sounds a lot like reading tea leaves, or some sort of primitive Rorschach test, doesn't it? <g>

"Oenomancy" was one of my favorite new words from AN ECHO IN THE BONE. I like the use of the word in this context very much: the Murrays all gathered around the table at Lallybroch, sharing a bottle of Michael's wine, and Claire telling them what she knows of the future.
“They’ll build a machine called the guillotine--perhaps it already exists, I don’t know. It was originally made as a humane method of execution, I think, but it will be used so often that it will be a symbol of the Terror, and of the revolution in general. You don’t want to be in France when that happens.”

“I--how do ye know this?” Michael demanded. He looked pale and half belligerent. Well, here was the rub. I took a firm grip of Jamie’s hand under the table and told them how I knew.

(From AN ECHO IN THE BONE by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 80, "Oenomancy". Copyright© 2009 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)
I gasped when I read that the first time. The idea that Claire would tell them the truth about the time-traveling took me completely by surprise. But I agree that she had good reason to tell them.

2) I love it when Jamie and Claire run into real historical figures. Here's one of my favorite examples:
"Well, Godspeed to ye, Mayer Red-Shield,” he said, smiling.

“Jamie,” I said, suddenly thinking of something, “do you speak German?”

“Eh? Oh, aye,” he said vaguely, his attention still fixed on the window and the noises outside.

“What is ‘red shield’ in German?” I asked.

He looked blank for a moment, then his eyes cleared as his brain made the proper connection.

“Rothschild, Sassenach,” he said. “Why?”

“Just a thought,” I said. I looked toward the window, where the clatter of wooden shoes was long since lost in the noises of the street. “I suppose everyone has to start somewhere."

(From VOYAGER by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 40, "I Shall Go Down To The Sea". Copyright© 1994 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)
Mayer Amschel Rothschild (1744-1812) was the founder of the Rothschild banking family. He would have been in his early twenties when Jamie and Claire met him.

3) Here's a traditional Scottish ballad called "Twa Corbies", performed by Hamish Imlach.  This is the song Roger was thinking of in THE FIERY CROSS:
There was a raucous croaking from the chestnut overhead. The crows, black blotches in the yellow leaves, voicing their displeasure at the robbery of their feast.

"Whaur...shall we gang and...dine the day?” he murmured under his breath, looking up at them. “Not bastards. Get along!” Seized by revulsion, he scooped a stone from the bank and hurled it into the tree with all his might. The crows erupted into shrieking flight, and he turned back to the field, grimly satisfied.

But his belly was still knotted, and the words of the corbies’ mocking song echoed in his ears: “Ye’ll sit on his white hause-bane/and I’ll pick oot his bonny blue e’en. Wi’ ae lock o’ his golden hair/we’ll theek oor nest when it grows bare."

(From THE FIERY CROSS by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 87, "There's a Hole in the Bottom of the Sea". Copyright© 2001 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)
Here are the full lyrics (from Wikipedia):
As I was walking all alane,
I heard twa corbies making a mane;
The tane unto the t'other say,
‘Where sall we gang and dine to-day?’

‘In behint yon auld fail dyke,
I wot there lies a new slain knight;
And naebody kens that he lies there,
But his hawk, his hound, and lady fair.

‘His hound is to the hunting gane,
His hawk to fetch the wild-fowl hame,
His lady's ta'en another mate,
So we may mak our dinner sweet.

‘Ye'll sit on his white hause-bane,
And I'll pike out his bonny blue een;
Wi ae lock o his gowden hair
We'll theek our nest when it grows bare.

‘Mony a one for him makes mane,
But nane sall ken where he is gane;
Oer his white banes, when they are bare,
The wind sall blaw for evermair.’
If the Scots dialect is too difficult for you to follow, try this English translation.

Church Ruins

4) The photos above show several of the ancient stone buildings that make up the monastery of Inchcleraun, Ireland, which Jamie visited in THE SCOTTISH PRISONER:
The monastery of Inchcleraun stood on the edge of a small lake, a cluster of small stone buildings surrounding the church. There had once been a surrounding wall and a tall, circular tower, but these had crumbled—or been knocked down—and the stones lay tumbled, half sunk in the soft soil and mottled with lichens and moss.

(From THE SCOTTISH PRISONER by Diana Gabaldon, Chapter 19, "Quagmire". Copyright© 2011 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)
Inchcleraun was founded in the 6th century by St. Diarmuid. Here's more information about Inchcleraun.

5) The fugu fish (pictured above, from Wikipedia) is apparently an essential ingredient in the creation of zombies, as we learned in this conversation between Lord John and Geillis Abernathy:
"Poison. That would be the afile powder? What sort of poison is it, do you know?”

Seeing the spark in her eye, he thanked the impulse that had led him to add, “Do you know?” to that question--for if not for pride, he thought she might not have told him. As it was, she shrugged and answered offhand.

“Oh...herbs. Ground bones--bits o’ other things. But the main thing, the one thing ye must have, is the liver of a fugu fish.”

He shook his head, not recognizing the name. “Describe it, if you please.” She did; from her description, he thought it must be one of the odd puffer fish that blew themselves up like bladders if disturbed. He made a silent resolve never to eat one.

(From "Lord John and the Plague of Zombies" by Diana Gabaldon, in DOWN THESE STRANGE STREETS. Copyright© 2011 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)
Fugu fish is a delicacy in Japan, but it's dangerous!  According to Wikipedia, the fugu or pufferfish contains a deadly toxin called tetrodotoxin or TTX:
TTX is roughly 100 times more poisonous than potassium cyanide. Fish poisoning by consumption of members of the order Tetraodontiformes is extremely serious. The organs (e.g. liver) of the pufferfish can contain levels of tetrodotoxin sufficient to produce paralysis of the diaphragm and, through this mechanism, death due to respiratory failure. Toxicity varies between species and at different seasons and geographic localities, and the flesh of many pufferfish may not be dangerously toxic. It is not always fatal; but at near-lethal doses, it can leave a person in a state of near-death for several days, while the person remains conscious.
Here's an article with more information about the effects of fugu poisoning, including some discussion of why anyone would ingest this stuff deliberately.

If you're interested in learning more about this phenomenon, check out THE SERPENT AND THE RAINBOW by Wade Davis (or the movie of the same name). Diana told me that she used that book in her research for "Plague of Zombies". I haven't read it myself. Are any of you familiar with it?

I hope you enjoyed these Friday Fun Facts! Look here to see all of my Friday Fun Facts blog posts. And please stop by next week for more!


Hardys on the Road said...

Thanks, as always, for great fun and a wonderful reminder of the depth of DG's research. I enjoyed the Corbie lyrics, but wou ld rather have heard Roger's melodious vocals 😁

Karen Henry said...

Glad you enjoyed it! I had not heard the "Twa Corbies" song before this week.


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