Call me crazy but I’m not a huge fan of spring. Lolloping lambs and brilliant blooms are all well and good, but I’m more of a woodsmoke and glühwein girl myself. However, whether I like it or not, spring is in the process of springing and Easter is soon to be upon us (and sorry if you are a friend or family member reading this and expecting an egg off me as I have yet to purchase a single one…).
One of my favourite things about writing a historical novel is all of the RESEARCH I get to do, and because I am writing a book set in two time periods, I get to do twice as much. This type of research is far more my style than the politics, dates and multinational agreements that seemed to form the core of the history I learned at school. Now I get to find out all about Victorian burlesque dancers and Amazonian clifftop tombs.
In celebration of all things March, and because I am sad that my research phase is mostly over, I have decided to post about springtime traditions relating to the two periods featured in my book. For the Victorian era that means Easter, and for the Inca Empire that means the festival of the moon (although being in the southern hemisphere, spring in Peru is September to November).
Many of the elements of a 21st century Easter, e.g. eggs, bonnets and parades, originated from Victorian times or before, but some of the more unusual Victorian Easter traditions were:
- Giving gloves as a gift – it was customary for men to give gloves to their intended during springtime as a sort of circumspect marriage proposal. Should the lady choose to wear the gloves for the Easter Sunday parade, the offer was assumed to have been accepted (so be careful who you buy gloves for at this time of year!)
- Hot cross buns – these are obviously still eaten today by those with a penchant for hot, buttery, currant-studded dough, but during and before Queen Victoria’s reign, hot cross buns held a more superstitious importance. It was believed that foodstuffs baked on Good Friday would not go mouldy for the coming year, and could ward off bad luck and illness, even going so far as to prevent kitchen fires should they be hung from the rafters above your stove.
- Egg rolling – exactly what it sounds like. Rolling eggs down hills for fun is a traditional Victorian Easter activity that takes place even to this day. Another egg-related pursuit (more Elizabethan than Victorian but it sounded so fun I couldn’t resist including it) was egg dancing, whereby the lucky participant twirled and swirled around a dance floor strewn with eggs, trying to break as few as possible. Probably not one to try unless you have a spring clean coming up…
Inca festival of the moon
The Inca festival of the moon was equally jubilant in nature (even moreso if my research is to be believed) but slightly more bloodthirsty. The Incas were predominantly a sun-worshipping culture, but the moon also held an important place in the pantheon of the gods. Should you decide to hold your own festival of the moon this Easter weekend, along with singing, dancing, food and friends, you will need the following:
- A few llamas to slaughter. You could then pour their blood by the gallon through a channel carved into the rocks. If the blood goes one way, the gods are happy. If it goes the other way, watch out. Human sacrifice was less common than the animal variety, but was carried out in times of great need or disaster.
- A large quantity of chicha (corn beer). If you would like to prepare it in the traditional manner, you will need to chew corn kernels until they turn suitably mushy, spit them into a vat and wait for the whole to ferment. See here for a recipe (with or without the saliva).
- Some mummified, deceased royal ancestors to oversee proceedings from the safety of their ornate litters (and a couple of devoted female attendants to make sure they are kept happy and well-fed). Ancestor worship was one of the central tenets of the Inca religion, and there was a strong belief that the soul could only reach the afterlife if the body was kept intact after death.
On that note, I am off to write a bit more (and probably buy some Easter eggs). Whether to you Easter means church, chocolate or Chinese takeaway, I wish you a good one.