Happy Birthday, Bram!

Bram Stoker, an Irish author-actor-playwright, is best known for his novel Dracula.

Bram Stoker, an Irish author-actor-playwright, is best known for his novel Dracula.

Abraham “Bram” Stoker (born November 8, 1847 – died April 20, 1912) was an Irish novelist and short story writer, best known today for his 1897 novel Dracula. During his lifetime, he was better known as personal assistant of actor Henry Irving and business manager of the Lyceum Theatre in London, which Irving owned. (Stoker’s residence and parish church can still be visited in Dublin.)

Although Stoker himself never visited Romania or the Carpathian Mountains, he spent several years researching European folklore and mythological stories of vampires. He also met Ármin Vámbéry, a Hungarian writer and traveler, whose dark stories of the Carpathians may have also contributed to Stoker’s inspiration.

Stoker’s most infamous character, the vampire Dracula, has gone on to appear in many “incarnations” or guises. In the Dresden Files series, Stoker’s novel is said to be a hunter’s manual for the Black Court vampires, now all but extinct as a result. Bela Lugosi played the vampire in both stage and film versions of the story. The new Something in the Blood by David Skal was reviewed in the New York Times at the end of October; it is an examination of where all the sexual energy and tension in the book comes from. One study, Who was Dracula? explores and uncovers the wide range of source material – from folklore and history, to personas including Oscar Wilde and Walt Whitman. There are many versions of The Annotated Dracula and each opens new windows into the world of Stoker and his famous, bloody creation.

Charles IV birthday

Charles IV is best known today for the Charles Bridge that unites Prague across the Vltava River.

Charles IV is best known today for the Charles Bridge that unites Prague across the Vltava River.

Charles IV, king of Bohemia and Holy Roman Emperor, celebrates his 700th birthday on Saturday, May 14! He made Prague the cultural and political capital of Europe and the Beautiful Style that he championed made Prague the artistic center of Europe for nearly 100 years. There are several events in Prague to celebrate Charles’ 700th birthday!

Charles IV wanted his stone bridge, built in 1357, to be a masterpiece of occult workmanship to protect his beloved city of Prague.

Charles IV wanted his stone bridge, built in 1357, to be a masterpiece of occult workmanship to protect his beloved city of Prague.

He is best known today, however, for the magnificent stone Charles Bridge which he had built to span the Vltava River in 1357 to replace the original wooden Judith Bridge which had been washed away by a flood in 1342. In order to protect the city, Charles ordered massive amounts of magical reinforcements to be incorporated into the bridge as it served as the principal means of crossing the Vltava for several hundred miles in either direction and helped make Prague one of the most important business centers in central Europe.

Construction began on Charles Bridge at 5:31am on 9 July 1357 and Charles IV himself laid the first stone. This exact time was very important to the Holy Roman Emperor because he was a strong believer of numerology and this specific time, which formed a numerical bridge or palindrome (135797531), reinforced the bridge’s strength. He had eggs used in mixing the mortar, partly because their chemical composition made the mortar stronger and partly because eggs were so important in alchemy. Charles had a brief poem, each line a palindrome, inscribed on a watchtower on the Old Town side of the bridge in order to confuse any devils that might be lurking in the shadows and waiting to cross the bridge:

SIGNATESIGNATEMEREMETENGISETAUGIS
ROMATIBISUBITOMOTIBUSIBITAMOR

“Reveal yourself as a sign in the sky though in vain you reach for me,
your desire.
Rome, the motion of the stars suddenly brings you love.”

Prague has escaped the ravages of time and history nearly unscathed: no major fires or epidemics, no with hunts, no battles or bombings. The magic of the Charles Bridge seems to have worked!

Click here for events in Prague this year to mark the 700th birthday of Charles IV.

July birthstone: Ruby

Rubies are the birthstone of July and are said to guarantee health, wisdom, wealth and success in love.

Rubies are the birthstone of July and are said to guarantee health, wisdom, wealth and success in love.

Rubies are associated with the sun and were thought to preserve mental and physical health. In the middle ages, rubies were viewed as a stone of prophecy. It was thought the stone darkened when danger was near. Ivan the Terrible of Russia stated that rubies were good for the heart, brain and memory. A 13th century prescription to cure liver problems called for powdered ruby. In the 15th-16th centuries, rubies were thought to counteract poison. When rubbed on the skin, they were also thought to restore youth and vitality.

If a ruby were cast into water it would cause it to boil, and if carved and pressed into wax, would melt the wax.

Although the most well-known magical rubies in modern society are the ruby slippers Dorothy wore in the Wizard of Oz movie, the slippers were silver inthe book. The silver shoes, however, did not show well against the yellow brick road inthe film and so the silver shoes were replaced with ruby slippers, which coukld be more clearly seen.

Take a look at my previous post about the ruby slippers in the Wizard of Oz, “I’ll get you, my pretty… and your little dog too!”