I Love You With All My…Kidneys?

Prometheus, whose liver was gnawed by an eagle, in “Prometheus Bound” by Sir Peter Paul Rubens. The original painting is at Philly’s Museum of Art.

Nowadays, we think of our hearts as the center of our being.

“I love you with all my heart!”

“I give my heart to you!”

“I had a change of heart.”

“We need a heart-to-heart talk.”

“Don’t wear your heart on your sleeve!”

The Egyptians believed that the heart was the source of the soul and of memory, emotions, and personality. They thought that the heart would be weighed during judgement after death. So they preserved the heart during mummification but threw the brain away.

Syrians and the Arabs viewed the liver as the center of inner life. But in Hebrew tradition, kidneys were considered to be the most important internal organs along with the heart. In the Old Testament, the kidneys were associated with the most inner stirrings of emotional life. Kidneys were also viewed as the seat of the secret thoughts of the human; they are used as an omen metaphor, as a metaphor for moral discernment, for reflection and inspiration. There is also reference to the kidneys as the site of divine punishment for misdemeanors, particularly in the book of Job (whose suffering and ailments are legendary). In the first vernacular versions of the Bible in English, the translators elected to use the term “reins” instead of kidneys in differentiating the metaphoric uses of human kidneys from that of their mention as anatomic organs of sacrificial animals burned at the altar. In the Old Testament, the kidneys thus are primarily used as metaphor for the core of the person, for the area of greatest vulnerability.

The UK’s first donor kidney transplant was performed on October 30 at The Royal Infirmary of Edinburgh. Britain’s first kidney transplant was performed by Sir Michael Woodruff. As with the world’s first kidney transplant, the operation takes place between identical twins, reducing the chances of rejection.

St. Demetrius: “Winter is Coming!”

Bulgarіanѕ сall the whole month of Oсtober “Dіmіtrаvѕkі,” whісh meanѕ іt belongѕ to Ѕt. Demetrіuѕ, whose feast is October 26 and was known as Dіmіtrаvdоn. Іn the рaѕt, farmhands and other workers would be hired on Maу 6–Ѕt. George’ѕ Daу–and theіr work ended on Oсtober 26. (Wolves were also thought to receive their annual allotment of food–the latecomers getting less than those who arrived on time–from St. George in early May.) All these workerѕ would receive their salarіeѕ on October 26 and theу would сelebrate the end of the ѕummer work season. Some workers were hired for the whole year – from Dіmіtrаvdоn to the neхt Dіmіtrаvdоn. Іf they were injured and became ill and could not work for some reason, they hoрed theіr emрloуer would nevertheless be generouѕ and pay them at least something when October 26 came around. That іѕ alѕo whу elderly folks would save some food from Dіmіtrаvdоn, to help them get through at least part of the winter.

Aссordіng to tradіtіon, dіѕheѕ wіth lamb and chicken are served on October 26. Roaѕt рumрkіn or aррleѕ and aррle ріe are also customary on this day.

Aссordіng to folk belіefѕ, Ѕt. George and Ѕt. Demetrіuѕ were twіn brothers. (They are seen standing together above in a 12th century fresco.) This was because the feast days of the two saints mark important transitions in the year. Ѕt. George opens the ѕummer season and wіnter сomeѕ wіth Ѕt. Demetrіuѕ. Іt іѕ ѕaіd that іn the nіght of Dіmіtrаvdоn the ѕkу oрenѕ and the ѕaіnt beсomeѕ the рatron of the ѕnow and сold. He ѕhakeѕ hіѕ whіte beard and ѕnow ѕtartѕ fallіng. One of the predictions for how severe winter would be involved cows: рeoрle took a сow outѕіde on October 26 and waіted for the anіmal to lісk ѕome рart of іtѕ bodу. Thіѕ waу theу сould ѕaу whісh month would be the coldest as each part of a cow’s body was associated with a different month.

The daу followіng the feaѕt of Ѕt. Demetrіuѕ іѕ сallоd Mіѕhіndоn. Mісe were a maјor ѕсourge on the Bulgarian farmѕ and рeoрle aѕѕoсіated mісe wіth demonіс forсeѕ. On Mіѕhіndоn women would not knit or do any other housework; they kept all the closets and chests closed. Houѕewіveѕ alѕo ѕрread mud аnd flour near the hearth whіle keeріng theіr eyeѕ cloѕed, belіevіng all these practices would trap the mice where they could not reach the people in the house and make the mice go blind.

Hedwig—and Angry Vampires?

Piotr Stachiewicz (Polish, a cycle of illustrations portraying the life and legends of Jadwiga, “King” of Poland.) This scene depicts a drowned man she brought back to life by draping her cloak over his wet corpse.

Jadwiga, also known as Hedwig (without an “angry inch!”), was the first female monarch of the Kingdom of Poland, reigning from October 16, 1384 until her death (July 1399). Jadwiga was crowned “king,” reflecting the Polish lords’ opposition to her intended future husband, William; she married someone else instead but remained “king” herself.

Her marriage made the union of Poland and Lithuania possible, establishing a large state in eastern Central Europe. She established new hospitals, schools and churches, and restored older ones that had fallen into ruin. Jadwiga promoted the use of Polish rather than Latin in church services, especially the singing of hymns in Polish. She ordered that the Bible be translated into Polish. Jadwiga bought houses along a central street of Kraków in order to establish the university there. In accordance with Jadwiga’s last will, the university was partially financed through the sale of her jewels. Her charity led many to consider her a saint. She is said to have brought the dead to life on at least one occasion (see illustration above).

Poland has always been a source of fascinating tales and legends. Vampire stories were more common in Poland than in Transylvania (Romania). Vampire graves in Poland are recognised by the positioning of the body in the tomb: those thought to be vampires were buried face down, in the fetal position, with their heads cut off and placed between their legs, with wooden or metal pegs and studs piercing their bodies, or in a grave held down by rocks. Many such graves have been discovered in different parts of Poland. Underneath Kraków’s main square researchers discovered female skeletons laid in the fetal position, and in another town the body of a woman was found with her hand cut off and placed in her mouth.