Throughout history, fear and superstition have ravaged the hearts and minds of peoples of Europe. Witches, werewolves and vampires were blamed for all manner of atrocities and trivialities. Tied to religious fervor, anti-Semitic sentiment and social control, an estimated 110,000 witch trials took place across Europe; 48% of these ending in execution. (Brian Levack, The Witch-Hunt in Early Modern Europe, 1995.) Today, our fascination with witches, werewolves and vampires is seen in popular literature and film.
This week I continue research 18th century medicines and herbal remedies. It’s fascinating actually – gruesome and bizarre! Given the protagonist of my historical fiction, Annabella, is a healer, I need to develop a working knowledge of herbs to build accuracy and authenticity. Annabella is treating a princess (historical figure who died of a ‘mystery’ illness). Of course today, doctors could diagnose the princess’ illness; at the time however, her symptoms had the villagers gossiping – pale skin, an aversion to sunlight, reddened urine…not surprising then that the villagers thought her a vampire. And you know how gossip grows and spreads.
As I write, I come across many things that I am unsure about, that I don’t know, that I am interested to find out, or that I think will enrich and add depth to the story. Rather than get caught up with these things during the initial writing stages, I create a list of questions and research points. These are the things I will need to resolve by the final draft, but that, at the moment, I don’t want to hold up the writing process.
Much has been written about witches, witch hunters and witch trials. These will be recurring ideas in my novel. Here is some history of the witch trails in Bohemia that informs my novel.