When Matthew came into the Selden End, without warning or sound, no icy patches announced his arrival. Instead there were touches of snowflakes all along my hair, shoulders, and back, as if he were checking quickly to make sure I was all in one piece.
When Matthew returns to Oxford, he finds Diana and Miriam in the Bodleian, holding an assortment of creatures at bay. Matthew takes Diana for another yoga class so that they can talk about all that’s happening around them.
“Miriam said you were hunting.”
He exhaled softly, his fingers rising to the bump under his sweater. “She shouldn’t have.”
“Because some things shouldn’t be discussed in mixed company,” he said with a touch of impatience. “Do witches tell creatures who aren’t witches that they’ve just returned from four days of casting spells and boiling bats?”
Matthew’s reference to “boiling bats” seems to come from Macbeth, Act IV, Scene I. You can find a reading of the Witches’ Chant here. In that scene, the witches prepare their enchantments before Macbeth arrives. Jen and I are theater nerds, so we’re pretty familiar with the curse of the Scottish play – but you might not be. In theatrical tradition, speaking the name “Macbeth” inside a theater is very, very, very bad luck. By speaking the name of the play when you are not rehearsing and/or performing it, you invite a curse upon the theater and all involved with the current production. To cleanse yourself, you must go outside, turn around three times, spit over your left shoulder, and say the foulest word you can think of at the time. Then, you must be invited back in. I know theater folk who take this Quite Seriously Indeed.
“Is that a pilgrim’s badge?” The shape reminded me of one in the British museum. It looked ancient.
According to Wikipedia, the production of pilgrim’s badges flourished in the Middle Ages in Europe, particularly in the 14th and 15th centuries. Pilgrim’s badges typically displayed the symbols of the saint honored by the shrine or town that produced them. The medieval church encouraged pilgrimages and pilgrims returned with badges in order to benefit from the power of the saints. Should you care to have your own replica, Lionheart Replicas would be happy to help you out. If you’d like one directly inspired by ADOW, then Trilogie Jewelry makes a Lazarus coffin ampulla for your collection. Deb writes extensively about Matthew and his badge for her 30 September post.
The text describes Matthew’s badge as an ampulla, a traditional vessel for holding liquid dating back to ancient Rome. In medieval times, ampullae were used to
carry holy water from sacred sites. The ampullae from the Crusades typically carried holy water or oil from shrines near Alexandria.
I’ll see you tomorrow for dinner at Diana’s.