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Tidbits 01/19/97


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Quaint title…eh wot? Anyway…that’s what this week is all
about… Tidbits of culled randomly and thrown out as
curious seeds of ready to germinate in your young
minds and grow full blown in the spring of your maturity
to…what?..I have no idea. So here goes.

Dear old Elizabeth, Queen of England, died in 1603 with all her
clothes on, and her jewelry to boot. The possibility exists that
perhaps one day another queen, or even a lesser person than
that, might die carrying a greater load of gold and diamonds and
pearls and stuff upon her bod than did that Queen of England, but
for now, Lizzy is still champ.

Then…sometime around the seventeenth century, a new fad arose.
It was the funeral ring. Here’s how that worked. Instructions,
before death, were given by those with enough foresight and money
to plan ahead, to purchase, with monies set aside, a
pre-determined amount of funeral rings to be given as mementos to
friends and family, and who knows, maybe even to foe, as
reminders that Kilroy was once here. Well, not Kilroy, but you
get the picture. The shank of the ring, appropriately, was carved
in the shape of a skeleton holding a crystal in the shape of a
casket which rested on its shoulders. Is there no end, I ask, to
the quest for immortality?

I’ve got another ring for you. It’s called the Tobacco-stopper
ring. That’s right folks. For all you pipe smokers out there,
step right up and get your tobacco-stopper ring. You’ll entrance
the devil out of your ladies as you puff on your pipe and shoot
smoke out of your nostrils. Charming…no? At first it looks like
a normal ring. A shank and a flat bezel on top with an engraving
of your choice. Ah, but on the bottom of the ring there protrudes
downwards a small stump, maybe a half an inch long, with a flat
bottom with which to tamp the tobacco snugly into the pipe. Psst.
Hey you. Yeah, you missy. Want to watch me blow smoke through my
nose? Because that’s how they did it in those days. It was
considered gauche to expel the smoke through the mouth.

Then there was the compass ring, and the puzzle ring, and the
pugilist’s ring–a ring designed in such a manner as to inflict
as much harm as possible on the receiver of a murderous blow. The
latter has been converted in modern days to cover more than one
finger, and has undergone a name change. Now we call the set
brass knuckles. Ah yes… the more things change, the more they
remain the same.

The middle ages started a fad called the Posy Ring…or…Poesy
Ring. Poesie…being the french word for poetry…was probably
the basis for the name of this friendship ring which often
symbolized the emotional bond between two lovers. What made the
Posy Ring a Posy Ring was not so much the style as the engraving.
Here are some of the inscriptions of days of yore…for those of
you who want inspiration before Valentine’s day. And for those
very few of you out there who might suspect, in a moment of rash
thinking, that this is a plug…let me say here and
now…what…moi? Okay…the inscriptions. “Thy friend am I, and
so will dye” “If I think my wife is fair, what need other people
care?” “This and the giver, are thine forever.” Well, you all get
the idea.

In an ecclesiastical example, there was the Papal Ring which was
found in various countries, also during the middle ages. These
rings were quite large and massive, and probably not intended for
wear. It is thought that these rings, often engraved with the
combined arms of the Pope and the king and usually made of a base
metal and worn on a string around a messenger’s neck, acted as
credentials for a runner bearing news. The very lack of intrinsic
value of these rings ensured safe journey and reduced attack from
bandits who had no interest in a valueless piece of jewelry.

And last but not least…for you ladies…we have the Cramp
Ring. Ta- dummm. This ring rose to the heights of popularity
during the Renaissance. Yessiree folks…this rings was an
invaluable asset once a month…for midol was not yet even in its
early developmental stages. Originally, these rings were made
from gold coins given by kings at the offertory at Westminster
Abbey on Good Friday. However, during the sixteenth century, when
the ring’s fame–obviously it worked–spread from England to
Europe, the ever increasing demand was met by rings being made of
lesser metals, like copper, and even lead. Then the drug
companies came along and ruined the whole thing. Bah, I say.
Humbug. What makes those drug companies think that their
medicines are any better than the cramp rings of yesteryear?

And there ya have it.
And that’s it for this week folks.
Catch you all next week.

Take care,
Benjamin Mark

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