Category: Ancient

Ash Wednesday

Ash Wednesday

Following Shrove Tuesday yesterday, today is Ash Wednesday, the official first day of Lent during the Christian year and the prelude to Easter.  Lent represents the 40 days that Jesus Christ spent in the wilderness, fasting and contemplating his mission on earth. Known as the ‘Day of Ashes’ because of the practice of having ash rubbed &  drawn on the forehead in the shape of a cross (representing Christ’s crucifixion), by a priest at the  dedicated Ash Wednesday church service. The priest and participants from the church congregation intone the phrase either the words:-

“Repent, and believe in the Gospel” or  the dictum “Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return.”       

Anglican,Catholic and most Protestant and Christians hold Ash Wednesday services around the world. Following the service, participants observe some sort of fasting,abstinence and spiritual contemplation for 40 Days, ending on Maundy Thursday in 2018.

The practice of using  ash comes from the 11th Century and is taken from the Biblical Book of Daniel, where ashes are regarded as a sign of Penance & fasting. The ashes are normally made by the burning of palm crosses. These palm crosses were  handed out to  church congregations during the previous year’s Palm Sunday service (commemorating Christ’s entry into Jerusalem to crowds waving palm leaves in celebration) and given back to the priest shortly before Ash Wednesday. The priest will then burn the crosses and mix the ash normally with Holy Oil to sanctify and make a ‘paste’ with which to rub on the participant’s forehead.

What’s Bilao in English?

Bilao, photo by JMorton

What’s Bilao in English?

Bilao in Tagalog, bigao in Ilocano, is called a winnowing basket in English.

This basket is very versatile.  Its usefulness was first used in ancient times by agricultural folks to separate the grains from the chaffs at harvest or milling time.

This process is called agtaep in Ilocano which means to winnow. To winnow is tossing the grains using the bilao. The tossing blows a current of air through the grains, thereby removing the chaffs.

Bilao has surpassed its usefulness as a farming implement. It has proved popular amongst street vendors, who wanted their products, usually cooked rice cakes/pudding, to be more accessible to their buyers.

Mint Milk Bath Recipe



Don’t you just want to be in Cleopatra’s shoes or rather in her bath tub, and bathe in her legendary milk wash?

Apparently Cleopatra, the last Pharaoh of  Ancient Egypt had soft, silky and clear skin because of her daily milk bath ritual.

You would think that the milk came from some palace pampered bovine. Actually it came from 700 lactating donkeys.

As much as we would like to emulate the beautiful Cleopatra’s bathing regimen to the letter, it would be rather stressful to go looking for donkeys’ milk.

So let us improvise and make use of what is readily available – Cow’s milk.
Below is our recipe:

Mint Milk Bath Recipe


1 cup cornstarch
2 cups dried milk powder
3 tbsp crushed, bruised mint leaves
1 cup sea salt

Put the cornstarch, dried milk powder, mint leaves and sea salt in a large enough lidded jar.

Give it a long thorough mix to blend all the ingredients.

Now, just add a cup of this mixture to your running bath water. The rest can be kept in the jar for your next bathing time.

Now put on some music in the background, lie comfortably in your bath water and let all the stress from your daily grind to seep away, leaving you luscious soft skin. Let your inner Cleopatra reign!

Boudicca – Warrior Queen


Boudicca, Photo by PH Morton


Jean paying homage to Boadicea, Photo by PH Morton

England and Great Britain have had some amazing historical famous female characters  being brave, indomitable and  true leaders in their own right.
Queen Elizabeth 1, Queen Victoria, Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher.  One such powerful Queen, going back over 1400 years further in our history, is Boudicca of the Iceni people.

Boudica, Boudicca (also spelled Boudicea)e was a true warrior queen. In AD 60-61, she inspired and led the largest revolt against Roman rule in Britain

What we mainly know of her life derives from two Roman writers, Publius Cornelius Tacitus (A.D. 56-117) and Cassius Dio (A.D. 150-235)
Boudicca is still celebrated as someone who stood up against foreign oppression, she took on the might of the Roman empire

From around 65 BC, the Iceni people of East Anglia had grown prosperous by trading with Romans on the Continent. When the forces of Emperor Claudius conquered Britain in AD 43, the Iceni were able to negotiate for themselves an arrangement that allowed them to exist as a client kingdom loyal to Rome. But trouble was on the way. When the Iceni King, Prasutagas, died, he bequeathed his kingdom jointly to his two teenage daughters and the Roman Emperor Nero. This was perceived as an insult by Rome, which believed it had a right to inherit and subjugate the entire Iceni kingdom. A brutal crackdown on the Iceni began.

Queen Boudicca was the widow of Prasutagus. In an attempt to quash the Iceni, Roman officials had her publicly flogged and allowed the empire’s soldiers to rape her daughters. But Rome had misjudged Boudicca and the Iceni. Instead of submitting humbly, Boudicca raised a huge army and led them against Rome’s forces in Britain. The Roman historian, Cassius Dio, writes that Boudicca was “most tall, in appearance most terrifying, in the glance of her eye most fierce, and her voice was harsh.” She was an effective, brutal commander and her Celtic fighters soon overran the capital of Roman Britain, Camulodunum (modern-day Colchester).

Boudicca’s timing was good. The majority of Rome’s legions were tied up in Wales, fighting the Druids. There was little effective opposition as Boudicca and her army swept into the commercial centre of Londinium (London) on the Thames. The Iceni were merciless as they tore through the town, razing most of it to the ground and butchering any civilians left behind by Rome’s retreating forces. Inspired by the crushing victory at Londinium, Boudicca turned north and headed for Verulamium, known today as St Albans. Another vicious sacking followed.

The Roman military governor, Suetonius Paulinus, had refused to commit his forces to the defence of Londiunium or Verulamium. Instead, he lured Boudicca and her warriors north of Verulanium to a site somewhere in the Midlands. Contemporary historians never identified where the crucial battle between Rome and the Iceni was fought but the outcome was decisive. Paulinus had just 10,000 men. Estimates of the Iceni strength vary between 100,000 and 250,000 but they were no match for the disciplined troops of Paulinus. Rome routed the Britons in one of the ancient world’s most bloody massacres.

The attacking hordes of spear-wielding Britons, many daubed with blue war paint derived from the woad plant, must have been a terrifying sight as they charged at the Roman lines but Paulinus had chosen his battleground carefully. The Roman historian, Tacitus, describes it as an area with a narrow approach, backed by woodland. This meant that the Britons could not use their superior numbers to outflank Paulinus and encircle him. Instead, they were forced to hurl themselves at the Roman front lines, in wave after desperate wave. The well-trained Roman soldiers advanced with their large shields, stabbing at the Britons with their easily manoeuvrable short swords. Boudicca’s best warriors had no room to swing their long swords and were trapped between the deadly Roman advance and their own advancing hordes. Around 80,000 Britons died as Paulinus took his revenge. Roman casualties were around 400 dead and a similar number of wounded. Boudicca and her daughters survived the battle but are believed to have taken poison to avoid capture and ritual humiliation at the hands of the Romans.

An interesting local London legend has it that Boudicca is buried beneath Track 10 at King’s Cross Station (Kings Cross is famous from the Harry Potter stories). Her final battle is believed to have taken place in the area.

Pyramid Building 101 For Beginners

Ancient Egypt has been a keen interest of mine for many years. From 3000BC to 672–332 BC This magnificent civilisation flourished and influenced many other civilisations such as the Greeks and Romans. The ancient Egyptians build some incredible monuments and temples. Their greatest achievement was the construction of the Pyramids which were elaborate tombs for their Kings/Pharaohs ensuring transit to the afterlife which the pharaohs people could hopefully share in after helping construct these majestic monuments.
It was so see the pyramids up close and personal.
Below is an interesting  article  from  Ben Gilland  @ Metro Newspaper on the latest theories of how the pyramids may have been built.

Walking With the Ancestors at the Natural History Museum

This is something for the diary of 2014.  I have always been fascinated with the history of the Neanderthals.  Apparently their lack of language  made them an easy target for the slightly more sophisticated Cro-Magnons.

Love this!



Walking With the Ancestors at the Natural History Museum

Unusual visitors spotted in the Museum

18 November 2013

Homo-sapiens-modelThe grizzled face of a model of a Homo sapiens, seen briefly in the Central Hall.

Models that will take pride of place in the Britain: One Million Years of the Human Story exhibition made their entrance last week.

Two eerily lifelike models of a Neanderthal and a Homo sapiens were delivered to the Museum on Friday, before being whisked off into hiding until early next year.

The specially commissioned models were created by the Kennis brothers, twin artists who specialise in scientifically accurate sculptures of ancient humans and animals.

Models of ancient humansAncient visitors: the Neanderthal, left, is modelled on a Neanderthal who was in his 20s. The artists were surprised by scientific evidence of his anatomy, particularly his flat bottom. The Homo sapiens  is based on a man in his 50s.

The naked models, both with tattoo-like markings, are wizened and look disturbingly similar to modern men. The Neanderthal is lighter-skinned than the Homo Sapiens, based on evidence from recent and ancient DNA.

The Neanderthal figure is modelled on a skeleton found in a cave in Belgium and is short and stocky, whereas the modern human, whose ancestors came from Africa, is much taller.

Drawing on scientific data, the Kennis brothers rebuilt the skeletons of these ancient humans in their studio in Arnhem in the Netherlands built up clay muscle and tendon and took a cast of each body. These were then filled with silicon to create the models.

They coloured and specked the silicon from the inside out to recreate accurate skin tone. Both Neanderthals and modern humans probably used pigment to mark their skin.

Getting it right

Museum palaeontologist Prof Chris Stringer, Director of the Ancient Human Occupation of Britain project (AHOB) that inspired the exhibition, provided replica bones and advised the artists on skin pigmentation, markings and hair style.

The AHOB project is a 13-year multidisciplinary collaboration between the Museum and Royal Holloway, Oxford and Cambridge Universities, the British Museum and Queen Mary University.

The exhibition itself has taken three years to create.

Neanderthal DNA

Neanderthals are our closest extinct relatives, and although our species, Homo sapiens, did not evolve from them directly, many of us have a small percentage of Neanderthal DNA as a result of ancient interbreeding.

Neanderthals were skilled toolmakers and hunters, great survivors who colonised Britain many times between 400,000 and 50,000 years ago, at times coping with ever-changing environments, and at other times disappearing.

Ancient artists

Modern humans first arrived in Britain from Africa around 40,000 years ago. Homo sapiens were the first human species to sculpt objects not just for survival but to interpret the world around them, through artistic expression.

The models will take pride of place in the exhibition, Britain: One Million Years of the Human Story, which opens 13 February 2014.


I think the internet is in the top 10 of best inventions of all times.

Thanks to Tim Bernes-Lee, inventor of the worldwide web, almost any information is just a click of a button away.

This morning I suddenly got to thinking of Hippocrates.

Having watched many hospital drama, I am more or less aware of the Hippocratic oath where you have to be respectful of the patient’s life above all else whether he is a friend or a foe, irrespective of what he has done, of his religion or politics etc.

Below is a witty article about the Hippocratic Oath


A guide to the Hippocratic Oath

By Dr Daniel Sokol
Medical ethicist


Hippocrates: the father of modern medicine?

When I asked my medical students to name famous doctors in the history of medicine, their first answer was Harold Shipman, the GP who murdered hundreds of patients.

I nearly swallowed my tongue.

Their second answer was House, the fictional doctor from the American TV series.

Tears of frustration welled up in my eyes.

Their third answer was Hippocrates, presumed author of the Hippocratic Oath – I breathed a sigh of relief.

Written nearly 2,500 years ago, the Oath is the most famous text in Western medicine, yet most people (including doctors) know precious little about it.

One GP recounted the story of an elderly patient who believed the Oath instructed doctors never to tell patients the truth. It contains no such advice.

Here is a brief guide to the Oath.

The Oath starts: “I swear by Apollo the physician and by Asclepius and Hygieia and Panacea… to bring the following oath to fulfilment.”

Apollo, the god of healing, fell in love with a human, Coronis.

I will use treatments for the benefit of the ill in accordance with my ability and my judgment, but from what is to their harm and injustice I will keep them
Hippocratic Oath

In his absence, Apollo sent a white crow to look after her.

When the crow informed Apollo that Coronis loved another man, Apollo’s rage turned the crow black.

To avenge her brother, Apollo’s sister shot Coronis with an arrow and, as she lay dying, Coronis told Apollo that she was bearing his child.

Although Apollo could not save Coronis, he rescued the unborn child, Asclepius.

Hygieia, the goddess of health, and Panacea, the goddess of cures, are the daughters of Asclepius.

According to legend, Hippocrates was a descendant of one of Asclepius’ sons.


Doctors taking the Oath would doubtless have been inspired by this illustrious lineage of healers.

The next section instructs the doctor to treat his teachers as his parents, and to pass on the art of medicine to the next generation of healers.

In a pure and holy way, I will guard my life and my art and science
Hippocratic Oath

The Oath continues: “And I will use treatments for the benefit of the ill in accordance with my ability and my judgment, but from what is to their harm and injustice I will keep them.”

In other words, doctors should act in the best interests of their patients, and when unjust circumstances arise – for instance, a certain life-prolonging drug may not be available on the NHS – they should strive to correct the injustice harming their patients.

The next part seemingly concerns euthanasia or physician-assisted suicide, saying: “And I will not give a drug that is deadly to anyone if asked, nor will I suggest the way to such a counsel.”

Two leading scholars of the Oath, Littre and Miles, have however suggested that this passage alludes to the then common practice of using doctors as skilled political assassins.

Steven Miles notes: “Fear of the physician-poisoner may be traced very close to the time of the Oath.”

The word “euthanasia” (meaning “easeful death”) was only coined a century after the writing of the Oath.


The text continues: “And likewise I will not give a woman a destructive pessary.”

This passage is often interpreted as a rejection of abortion.

However, abortion was legal at the time and the text only mentions pessaries (a soaked piece of wool inserted in the vagina to induce abortion), not the oral methods of abortion also used in ancient Greece.

As pessaries could cause lethal infections, the author of the Oath may have had a clinical objection to the method, rather than a moral objection to abortion itself.

The next sentence – “In a pure and holy way, I will guard my life and my art and science” – is a call for professional integrity.

Doctors should refrain from immoral behaviour and resist the temptations that accompany their privileged position (today, from drug companies offering generous gifts, for example).


The Oath continues: “I will not cut, and certainly not those suffering from stone, but I will cede this to men who are practitioners of this activity.”

Another common misconception is that the Oath forbids surgery.

About whatever I may see or hear in treatment, or even without treatment, in the life of human beings, I will remain silent, holding such things to be unutterable
Hippocratic Oath

In fact, it instructs doctors to acknowledge the limits of their competence and to refer cases to more specialised practitioners.

Next, the doctor enters the patient’s house: “Into as many houses as I may enter, I will go for the benefit of the ill, while being far from all voluntary and destructive injustice, especially from sexual acts both upon women’s bodies and upon men’s.”

The need for such a statement reflects the wide distrust in healers at the time.

In a competitive marketplace where quacks abounded, it was necessary to reassure the public that doctors would not exploit patients.


The penultimate section deals with confidentiality and reads: “And about whatever I may see or hear in treatment, or even without treatment, in the life of human beings, I will remain silent, holding such things to be unutterable.”

As today, patients in ancient times shared deeply personal information with doctors on the assumption that their details would not be revealed to others.

Without this trust, patients may withhold facts that would help the doctor make an accurate diagnosis.

The text ends with the rewards that await those who respect the Oath (“the benefits both of life and of art and science, being held in good repute among all human beings for time eternal”) and the punishment of those who do not (“if, however, I transgress and swear falsely, the opposite of these”).

This whistle-stop tour of the Oath gives some idea of the content and spirit of this ancient text.

In an age of technological developments, cosmetic surgery, complementary medicine, drug companies, and many other temptations for patients and doctors alike, the spirit of the Oath is as relevant as ever.

• Dr Daniel Sokol is a medical ethicist at St George’s, University of London, and Director of the Applied Clinical Ethics (ACE) programme at Imperial College, London.




I swear by Apollo the Physician and Asclepius and Hygeia and Panaceia and all the gods and goddesses, making them my witnesses, that I will fulfill according to my ability and judgment this oath and this covenant:

To hold him who has taught me this art as equal to my parent and to live my life in partnership with him, and if he is in need of money to give him a share of mine, and to regard his offspring as equal to my brothers in male lineage and to teach them this art—if they desire to learn it—without fee and covenant; to give share of precepts and oral instruction and all other learning to my sons and to the sons of him who has instructed me and to pupils who have signed the covenant and have taken an oath according to the medical law, but to no one else.

I will apply dietetic measure for the benefit of the sick according to my ability and judgment; I will keep them from harm and injustice. I will neither give a deadly drug to anybody if asked for it, nor will I make a suggestion to this effect. Similarly I will not give a woman an abortive remedy. In purity and in holiness I will guard my life and my art.
I will not use the knife, not even on sufferers from stone, but will withdraw in favor of such men as are engaged in this work.

Whatever houses I may visit, I will come for the benefit of the sick, remaining free of all intentional injustice, of all mischief and in particular of sexual relations with both female and male persons, be they free or slaves.

What I may see or hear in the course of the treatment or even outside of the treatment in regard to the life of men, which on no account one must spread abroad, I will keep to myself holding such things shameful to be spoken about.

If I fulfill this oath and do not violate it, may it be granted to me to enjoy life and art, being honored with fame among all men for all time to come; if I transgress it and swear falsely, may the opposite be my lot.

—Translated by Ludwig Edelstein
Extreme remedies are very appropriate for extreme diseases.
To do nothing is sometimes a good remedy.

Matsuo Basho

tabi ni yande
yume wa kareno wo
kake meguru
falling sick on a journey
my dream goes wandering
over a field of dried grass [1694]

downloadfuru ike ya
kawazu tobikomu
 mizu no oto

an ancient pond
 a frog jumps in 
the splash of water [1686]


imagestako tsubo ya
hakanaki yume wo
natsu no tsuki
The octopus’ fleeting dream
in the trap
the summer moon



Do not seek to follow in the footsteps of the wise.  Seek what they sought.
~Matsuo Basho

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