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A History of Valentine’s Day

A History of Valentine’s Day

‍Love, Legends, and Lupercalia: A Fascinating Journey through the History of Valentine’s Day ‍

Valentine’s Day, a day filled with love, romance, and heartfelt gestures. But have you ever wondered about the origins and true history of this beloved holiday?

Origins of Valentine’s Day: Lupercalia and ancient Roman traditions

To truly understand the history of Valentine’s Day, we must travel back to ancient Rome and explore the festival known as Lupercalia. Celebrated on the ides of February, Lupercalia was a fertility festival dedicated to Faunus, the Roman god of agriculture. It was a raucous affair, filled with feasting, dancing, and even a unique matchmaking ritual. Young men would draw the names of young women from a jar, and the pairings would last for the duration of the festival, often leading to lasting relationships and even marriage.

But where does St. Valentine come into the picture? The connection between Lupercalia and Valentine’s Day is believed to have been established by the early Christian church. To Christianize pagan traditions. Pope Gelasius I declared February 14th as St. Valentine’s Day, commemorating the martyrdom of St. Valentine, a priest who defied Emperor Claudius II’s ban on marriage and continued to perform weddings in secret. Thus, the celebration of love became intertwined with the story of St. Valentine.

The legend of St. Valentine: The real story behind the holiday

The true history of St. Valentine remains shrouded in mystery, with several legends and narratives surrounding his life and martyrdom. One popular story depicts St. Valentine as a compassionate and kind-hearted man who, while imprisoned, healed the blind daughter of his jailer. Before his execution, it is said that he wrote a heartfelt letter signed “Your Valentine” to the young girl, thus giving birth to the tradition of sending love letters on Valentine’s Day.

Interesting fact: Saint Valentine is also the patron saint of Epilepsy. Read more on this through Librarysearch.

However, it is important to note that the true history of St. Valentine is still a subject of debate among historians, and the details of his life may forever remain elusive. Nevertheless, the legend of St. Valentine has played a significant role in shaping the holiday we know and cherish today.

Valentine’s Day cards

Valentine’s Day cards, also known as “valentines,” have become synonymous with the holiday, but their origins can be traced back to the 15th century. It was during this time that handwritten love notes and tokens of affection began to gain popularity in Europe. These early valentines were often intricate and ornate, adorned with lace, ribbons, and even locks of hair. They were exchanged between lovers, friends, and family members as a heartfelt expression of love and admiration.

As the printing press revolutionized the way information was disseminated, the production of valentines became more widespread. In the 19th century, mass-produced Valentine cards became readily available, making it easier for people to express their affection to loved ones. These cards featured elaborate designs, sentimental verses, and whimsical illustrations, capturing the essence of romance and enchantment.

The commercialisation of Valentine’s Day

In the 20th century, Valentine’s Day transformed from a simple celebration of love to a commercialized extravaganza. The rise of the printing industry, advancements in technology, and the growth of consumer culture all contributed to the commercialisation of the holiday. Retailers seized the opportunity to capitalize on the emotions associated with Valentine’s Day, marketing everything from chocolates and flowers to jewellery and extravagant gifts.

As the holiday gained popularity, it became increasingly intertwined with popular culture, with movies, songs, and advertisements promoting the idea of lavish and grand gestures. Today, Valentine’s Day is a multi-billion dollar industry, with couples and singles alike participating in the festivities, whether through romantic dinners, gift exchanges, or simply expressing love and appreciation for those closest to them.

Valentine’s Day traditions around the world: Exploring unique customs and celebrations

While Valentine’s Day is celebrated in many countries, each culture has its own unique traditions and customs associated with the holiday. In Japan, Valentine’s Day is an opportunity for women to express their affection by giving chocolates to men. However, it is not only romantic love that is celebrated. On February 14th in Finland, for example, Valentine’s Day is known as “Friendship Day,” a time to honour and cherish friendships.

In South Korea, Valentine’s Day is not limited to a single day but is celebrated over an entire month. On February 14th, women give chocolates to men, and on March 14th, known as “White Day,” men reciprocate by giving gifts to women. These diverse traditions remind us that love is a universal language, transcending cultural boundaries and bringing people together.

Valentine’s isn’t just for couples! Don’t forget you can share the love with anyone, from family to friends (personally I love to celebrate Galentine’s Day with my friends). Whether you embrace the commercialised aspects of the holiday or opt for a more meaningful celebration, Valentine’s Day serves as a reminder to cherish and appreciate the people we hold dear.

Resources

Want to deep dive into all things romance? Why not check out an entire Journal dedicated to the subject: The Journal of Romance Studies. Alternatively, get comfy on the sofa with a wealth of romantic movies all freely available through Box of Broadcasts.

By Juliet Kinsey

Read about how wonderful your Library is here on the blog with our posts on “love your Library

Image Source: Image by Ylanite Koppens from Pixabay

Lego Day

Celebrating Lego Day

It’s world Lego day today. Lego is one of those toys that is ubiquitous with childhood. Anyone growing up in the West will know immediately what you mean when you mention it. It is the joy of Children everywhere, and the thing that drives most parents mad. Is there anything more painful to stand on!?!

In fact, people who have regularly experienced walking on hot coals and broken glass say Lego is by far the worst thing to walk on (source). Feeling brave? You always have a go at the Lego Firewalk. Personally, I’d rather walk on glass or coals!

History

It was in Denmark, at Ole Kirk Christiansen’s workshop where Lego was firstborn. In 1934 it became called Lego after the Danish phrase leg godt.  They were originally called Automatic Binding Bricks, but less originally they were based on the Kiddicraft Self-Locking Bricks, already patented in the UK.

Over time Lego has grown to become the biggest toy company in the world and is not only used as toys but as movies, artworks and they even made an amusement park you can visit.

Mindfulness and Lego

Lego is no longer just for children; in fact, they have many Lego sets dedicated to adults. There is some fascinating research connected to mindfulness about how doing Lego can help our mental health. We actually keep a Lego set behind each Library Help Desk you can borrow for free. Why not check one out next time you visit…if the library staff aren’t already playing with them that is!

Learn More

We have a fascinating and diverse range of materials for you to read on Lego, from issues with Dentistry (teeth and Lego are a bad mix it seems!) to build your own Lego Robots. Check out Librarysearch.napier.ac.uk.. Just type in the word “Lego” and start reading!

By Juliet Kinsey

Sources: Wikipedia

National Tree Week

National Tree Week

This year National Tree Week . It runs from 25th November until 3rd December and marks the start of the tree planting season. It’s a chance for us to celebrate our trees and, if you can, volunteer to take part in tree-planting activities. These are organized by volunteer groups and conservation bodies. If you can’t manage to do this, you may be able to find a little Tree Time to connect with trees.

Trees are an important part of ecosystems across the planet and provide food, homes and shelter for many species and help stabilize eroding riverbanks. Also, as climate change is an issue of global concern, trees can help mitigate it. By storing carbon in tree tissue and sequestering atmospheric carbon from the key greenhouse gas, carbon dioxide releases oxygen.

Background

Most of Scotland’s native tree and shrub species colonised the landscape after the last Ice Age (which ended roughly 9,000 years ago). Their seeds are dispersed by wind, water, and animals. Scotland’s native Caledonian pine forests used to cover the entire country. The landscape was dominated by ancient oaks and Scots pines, which have all but disappeared. Several events have contributed to the decline in tree numbers over millennia.

Over 4000 years ago the climate changed to become cooler and wetter. Trees were then unable to grow on higher ground. Around the same time, woodlands began to be cleared for agriculture. This has continued for centuries with even more being cleared to accommodate housing and infrastructure such as electricity pylons.

Early in the 20th century many trees were lost as part of the World War 1 war effort. Following the war and with the passing of the Forestry Act in September 1919, the Forestry Commission was founded to restore the nation’s woods and forests. The Commission bought large amounts of agricultural land on behalf of the state, eventually becoming the largest manager of land in Britain. At the time large pine plantations were established, but as time passed it became apparent that these densely planted, single-species plantations were not providing the range of tree species required to provide diverse wildlife habitats. The emphasis is now on a much wider range of species such as broadleaved and open ground specialist species.

In recent years Scotland has been battered by some severe winter storms. In particular Storm Arwen in November 2021. It is estimated about 16 million trees in Scotland were affected. Damage and loss were particularly significant in the north east and south of the country.

Furthermore, diseases such as Dutch Elm disease have wiped out many of Scotland’s trees.

The Future

Following devolution the Scottish government became responsible for forestry and set up Scottish Forestry  with its own strategies and long-term plans. The website has lots of information about our native woodlands and much more!

Here in Scotland many volunteers, conservation groups and private estates are re-planting trees. So as to try to increase tree coverage and biodiversity through the benefits trees provide. Project Laxford is taking place on the Reay Forest Estate in Sutherland. One of the aims of the project is to boost North Atlantic salmon numbers in the River Laxford. Estate workers had noticed a massive decline in numbers and one of the measures suggested by scientists was to re-generate tree coverage which had been lost along riverbanks. Salmon are sensitive to rises in water temperature which may be caused by climate change. It is hoped that tree leaves will provide shade to help the salmon, invertebrates will fall into the river from the trees. This increases food stock and dead trees and branches which fall into the river will provide a habitat for spawning and feeding. In all, one million trees are to be planted across the estate to enhance biodiversity and improve the habitat of the river and surrounding landscape.

Famous trees

Sycamore Gap Tree

It’s not often that a tree makes headline news, but the recent felling of the Sycamore Gap tree at Hadrian’s Wall did just that. Estimated to be around 150 years old the tree has been featured in TV and film productions (Robin Hood- Prince of Thieves and Vera). It was a popular photographic subject and had won England Tree of the Year in 2016. Investigations into the unauthorised felling are ongoing and there has been much anger and sadness following the event. Many people had come to the tree for special events such as milestone birthdays, marriage proposals, and to scatter loved ones’ ashes. It held great sentimental value to them. The tree has now been removed with police investigations carrying on.

The Glen Affric Elm-The Last Ent of Affric

This solitary tree is the only one of its kind in Glen Affric. Sometimes called the Last Ent after the tree creatures in J.R.R. Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings. It is thought that the tree’s remoteness has prevented it from being affected by the spread of Dutch Elm disease which has wiped out many of Scotland’s elms. It’s not known how old the tree is, but it is thought to be the last remnant of an ancient forest and was a worthy winner of Scotland’s tree of the year 2019.

The Fortingall Yew

Thought to be around 5,000 years old this ancient yew stands in the grounds of the churchyard of Fortingall in Perthshire and draws in many tourists to the area. Yew trees are either male or female and the Fortingall Yew is male. The trunk is showing signs of damage which may have been caused by ancient rights being performed around it. It was used in funerals until the 20th century when there was a practice of passing the dead body beneath its arching branches. This passing of the body beneath the arch was a way of guiding the righteous spirit into the Christian afterlife. The yew tree, although poisonous, is also associated with life and resurrection, probably because the branches can take root and regrow as trunks, like a resurrection. The pagan festival of Beltane, held on May 1 used the grounds around the Fortingall Yew as a setting for fertility bonfires. If couples wished to conceive a child, they would leap over the flames of the bonfires hand-in-hand. If they did so successfully, the legend said they would have a child. The fires took their toll on the tree causing considerable damage over the years. Further damage was caused by people taking cuttings from branches for luck. Walls were constructed to try to protect the yew, but in recent years it seems that it is suffering from stress as a branch appears to have become female after sprouting red berries in the autumn of 2015.

This demonstrates how we can have an adverse effect on our trees and makes the work being done by conservationists and volunteers even more important.

Find out more

You can find books and articles about trees and conservation using Library Search.

By Vivienne Hamilton

Image Source: Photo by Arnaud Mesureur on Unsplash

Craiglockhart’s War Poets and the Legacy of Remembrance

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Craiglockhart’s War Poets and the Legacy of Remembrance

The War Poets were a group of writers who emerged during and after World War I, capturing the horrors and emotional turmoil of the battlefield in their poetry. This group, which included iconic figures like Wilfred Owen, Siegfried Sassoon, and Rupert Brooke, played a pivotal role in reshaping the public’s perception of war and its consequences. Craiglockhart War Hospital, (now home to The Business School), served as a crucial sanctuary for many of these poets, offering them a place to heal both physically and mentally, and ultimately influencing the way Remembrance Day is observed.

The poetry of the War Poets is characterized by its poignant and often bleak portrayal of war. These poets, who had experienced the horrors of trench warfare firsthand, sought to convey the grim reality of battle. Wilfred Owen, for example, wrote “Dulce et Decorum Est,” a searing condemnation of the glorification of war. In this powerful poem, he dispels the notion that it is sweet and proper to die for one’s country, instead revealing the agonizing truth of a gas attack on the front lines.

Craiglockhart’s War Poets

Siegfried Sassoon, another prominent War Poet, criticized the war and its leaders in his poetry. His poem “The General” is a scathing indictment of the military leadership responsible for the needless sacrifice of young soldiers. These poets gave voice to the trauma and disillusionment experienced by countless soldiers and conveyed it to the world through their verses.

Craiglockhart War Hospital became a refuge for Officers suffering from “shell shock,” now recognized as a form of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Many experiencing psychological trauma, including Owen and Sassoon, found themselves at Craiglockhart for treatment and convalescence. The hospital provided a supportive environment where they could share their experiences, reflect on the brutality of war, and use writing as a form of therapy. The camaraderie and shared suffering among the patients at Craiglockhart fostered a creative atmosphere that encouraged them to express their anguish through poetry.

Remembrance Day

Remembrance Day, originally known as Armistice Day, was established to commemorate the end of World War I and honour the soldiers who had fallen in battle. However, it wasn’t until the work of the War Poets that the day took on a deeper meaning. The poets’ verses, with their unflinching portrayal of the war’s toll, influenced the way people viewed the sacrifices made by soldiers. Their poetry moved Remembrance Day beyond a mere commemoration of the armistice to a day of reflection on the human cost of war.

The most famous War Poem, “In Flanders Fields” by John McCrae, contains the iconic lines: “In Flanders fields the poppies blow / Between the crosses, row on row.” The image of poppies growing amidst the graves of fallen soldiers became a symbol of Remembrance Day. This poem, along with the works of Owen, Sassoon, and others, helped create a more profound and empathetic understanding of the impact of war on soldiers and society.

Today, Remembrance Day is a time to not only remember the fallen but also to reflect on the experiences of those who served in times of conflict. The War Poets and the atmosphere of healing and creativity at Craiglockhart War Hospital played a crucial role in reshaping this commemorative day, making it a solemn occasion that acknowledges the emotional and psychological scars carried by veterans.

The War Poets, Craiglockhart War Hospital, and Remembrance Day are intrinsically linked through their shared influence on how we perceive and honour the legacy of war. The poignant poetry of the War Poets, the healing environment of Craiglockhart, and the solemnity of Remembrance Day have collectively deepened our understanding of the human cost of conflict, ensuring that the sacrifices of soldiers are never forgotten.

By Ian Sudlow McKay

Read more about the Hertiage Collections

And you can read about previous posts about the WarPoets

Bonfire Night and The Gunpowder Plot

Bonfire Night and The Gunpowder Plot

According to market research Company Mintel, in 2018 UK consumers spent £316m celebrating the event variously called, `Bonfire Night’, ‘Fireworks Night’ or `Guy Fawkes Night’. The majority of that money literally went up in smoke, having been spent on fireworks and bonfires. Fireworks displays were recorded as the most popular way of marking the night, with up to 38% of the population attending some form of event. 

The Gunpowder Plot

This peculiarly British annual entertainment can be traced directly to the aftermath of a 17th Century religious and political event. The Gunpowder Plot was a failed conspiracy by a group of English Catholics. Led by Robert Catesby, they planned to blow up the Protestant King James, and his government, at the State Opening of Parliament on November 6th 1605. (Catesby had been involved in a previously failed rebellion against Queen Elizabeth from which he extricated himself only at the cost in today’s money of £6 million.) 

This was to be the prelude to a revolt that would replace James with a Catholic head of state. Ending the persecution suffered by many Catholics following the split with the Roman Church over half a century previously. 

Guy Fawkes

Though we now principally associate the name of Guy Fawkes with the plot, he was a minor player in the conspiracy. He was, however, literally left holding ‘the baby’ or in this case 36 barrels of gunpowder when, following an anonymous tip-off, the authorities searched the cellars of the Palace of Westminster and discovered the explosive cache. 

This ‘search’ continues today before every State Opening of Parliament, albeit ceremonially, with the searchers, the Yeoman of the Guard, being rewarded with a glass of port.  

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Preserving the Past: My Journey Volunteering with the University Heritage Collections

Preserving the Past: My Journey Volunteering with the University Heritage Collections

Forewords

Delve into the captivating world of heritage preservation through the eyes of one talented high school volunteer. Join Charlie as he unveils his unique experiences and insights gained during his enriching half-term adventure with the Edinburgh Napier University Heritage Collections team. If you would like to consult our Collections please contact us via email

heritage@napier.ac.uk

Introduction

My name is Charlie and I am a student currently studying in my last year at Berwickshire High School. I aim to pursue history as a subject at university. Since an early age when I first began studying in high school, I have been fascinated with history and any surviving items and relics from the past. This passion was only heightened more as I studied History throughout school. This is why when I got the great opportunity to volunteer at the University Heritage Collections, I took it with no hesitation. I found many parts of my experience amazing and fascinating especially when I was working with real preserved books from as far back as the Middle Ages. This really struck my passion for history and made the whole experience worth it as the thought of holding the very same book as someone from the Middle Ages felt so strange and fascinating.

My Experience

My work while volunteering involved working with books from the Edward Clark Collection which illustrates the development of the book from the 15th century, concentrating on the development of typography, the techniques of printing illustrations, and fine bindings. My first task was to check out some of the book’s conditions and how they could be preserved better along with researching them and their origin. I also got the opportunity to spend a day of my volunteering experience doing work at the War poets’ collection which involved me getting to look at and organise real poems from soldiers who had suffered in the war. This really fascinated me as I felt like I was getting a unique chance to investigate the soldiers’ mental struggles and thoughts after their experiences on the front line. As part of my experience, I also got to complete a piece on the history of the poppy that we use for remembrance, which will support the development of a temporary exhibition. This involved looking at each type of poppy and what they mean along with the origins of the remembrance item and how it changed to become a symbol of the First World War. This really excited me as I have always found WWI to be insanely interesting and it was nice being able to research topics directly related to the war. I also got to complete tasks which involved looking at the Mehew collection, this collection is about Robert Louis Stevenson and his works which you may have heard of who’s works including books such as Treasure Island. This involved looking into the History of his works and checking up on the condition and safety of the valuable collection and implementing basic conservation measures to support delicate bindings. I also gained the chance to work with Napier’s expensive new collection scanner which I used to digitise fragile books from hundreds of years ago. Another one of my duties included Installing an exhibition about the history of Merchiston Tower and John Napier himself. Finally, my last task Included processing documentation for collection records. This taught me how to process documents and preserve important collection information for future curators and researchers to learn from.

Photo of Charlie volunteering at the special collections

Summary

I overall gained a lot from this experience which covered a wide range, this spanned from learning how to correctly handle historical records and valuable scanning equipment all the way to learning new information about historical time periods I had less knowledge on such as the Middle Ages and much more. I also was able to see just how fascinating it was to investigate the lives of those who came before us and how they lived their lives.

My experience in this volunteer position has further inspired me to study history at university and reinforced my love of the subject. It has also made me find a new interest in books and how they can be used to study the past.

As a whole, I loved my time volunteering, and it has given me tons of new experiences that will help me as I move forward to university next year.

By Charlie

Check out our Special Collection pages here.

Read more work experiences from other wonderful volunteers on the blog:

Part one Uncovering Hidden Histories: Provenance research internships in the Edward Clark Collection

Part two Uncovering Hidden Histories: Provenance research internships in the Edward Clark Collection

A History of Halloween

A History of Halloween

Origins of Halloween

The origins of Halloween can be traced back to the ancient Celtic festival of Samhain. Celebrated from around 2,000 years ago. Samhain is a festival marking the end of the harvest season and the beginning of winter. It is a time when the boundary between the living and the dead is believed to be at its thinnest. Celts would light bonfires and wear costumes to ward off ghosts and other malevolent spirits that were thought to roam the earth during this time. The festival was an opportunity to honour ancestors and seek their guidance for the coming year.

With the spread of Christianity, the festival of Samhain was gradually incorporated into Christian traditions. In the 8th century, Pope Gregory III designated November 1st as All Saints’ Day, a day to honour saints and martyrs. This was followed by All Souls’ Day on November 2, a day to pray for the souls of the deceased. The Christian influence on Halloween led to the practice of trick-or-treating, which originated from the medieval practice of “souling,”. Where poor people would go door-to-door on All Souls’ Day, offering prayers for the dead in exchange for food.

Despite the Christian influence, many pagan traditions and beliefs associated with Samhain continued to be practised, particularly in Ireland and Scotland. Halloween was brought to the United States by Irish and Scottish immigrants in the 19th century. Today, Halloween is a popular holiday celebrated in many countries around the world, with various customs and traditions that reflect its diverse origins. The holiday has become a time for dressing up in costumes, carving pumpkins, and indulging in sweet treats.

Halloween Traditions

The holiday as it is celebrated in the West today has its own unique traditions that have developed over time. Celebrations often feature bobbing for apples, trick-or-treating, making Jack-o’-Lanterns, wearing spooky costumes  and telling scary stories

While some of these traditions have their roots in ancient practices, others have been adapted and evolved over time. For example, the tradition of bobbing for apples can be traced back to a Roman festival honouring Pomona, the goddess of agriculture and abundance. Similarly, the practice of carving pumpkins into Jack-o’-Lanterns has evolved from the original practice of carving turnips and other root vegetables. Personally, I would avoid trying to carve a turnip as it’s nearly impossible and takes forever!

Halloween Celebrations Around the World

Dia de los Muertos

Dia de los Muertos, or Day of the Dead, is a Mexican holiday that takes place on November 1st and 2nd. This festival is a time for families to remember and celebrate their loved ones who have passed away. It is believed that on these days, the souls of the departed return to the world of the living to be with their families. The holiday is marked by colourful parades, elaborate costumes, and offerings of food and drink for the deceased. While often compared to Halloween, Dia de los Muertos has its own unique traditions and cultural significance.

Guy Fawkes Night

Guy Fawkes Night, also known as Bonfire Night or Fireworks Night, is a British holiday that takes place on November 5th. You can read all about it in our article here. This holiday commemorates the failed attempt by Guy Fawkes and his associates to blow up the Houses of Parliament in 1605. The holiday is marked by bonfires, fireworks displays, and the burning of effigies of Guy Fawkes. While not directly related to Halloween, the holiday shares some similarities in terms of its focus on fire and celebration.

World Festivals

Halloween-like festivals are found in many other countries around the world. Furthermore, each has its own unique traditions and cultural significance. In Romania, for example, the Day of Dracula is celebrated on Halloween. It involves costume parties and reenactments of scenes from Bram Stoker’s Dracula. In Hong Kong, the Hungry Ghost Festival takes place in August and September. It involves offerings of food and drink to appease the spirits of the dead. While these festivals may share some similarities with Halloween, they are distinct celebrations that reflect the unique cultural traditions of their respective countries.

Want to learn more about spooky history? Why not check out our resources on Librarysearch.napier.ac.uk

By Juliet Kinsey

Image: Photo by David Menidrey on Unsplash

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Apple Day: A Brief History of The Apple

Apple Day: A Brief History of The Apple

Okay, it was bad news for Snow White, but for most people, an apple a day keeps the doctor away. It must be because an apple’s high potassium and low sodium content promote heart health. Or maybe it’s because it regulates your blood sugar and provides anti-cancer protection with antioxidants like quercetin. Or maybe it’s because its fibre content helps to keep cholesterol levels low. Or perhaps it’s just the pleasure of biting into that sweet, juicy flesh.

The Brief History Bit

Apples originate in central Asia, probably Kazakhstan, and there are more than 7,000 varieties in the world. Here in Scotland, we can lay claim to around 40 varieties, but sadly you’ll find very few of those in the shops. Industrialisation and cheap imports have led to a steady decline in apple production in the UK since the 19th century.

To counter this decline, Common Ground, a charity based in Dorset, founded Apple Day in 1990.  Every 21st October, they encourage us to celebrate the importance of apples in our landscape, ecology and culture and highlight the dangers of losing our indigenous varieties.

The Orchard Project

The Orchard Project is a national charity dedicated to creating and restoring community orchards. You can find out more about them here:

The Orchard Project – Bringing orchards into the heart of urban communities

Here at Edinburgh Napier, our dedicated team of volunteers work hard on the Lions’ Gate project to enhance the biodiversity of our campuses and contributing to the University’s environmental sustainability strategy. As part of this strategy, they’ve planted an orchard at our Craiglockhart campus.  Why not visit it next time you’re on campus:

Gardens – The Lions’ Gate (napier.ac.uk)

You don’t have to wait until the 21st of October to celebrate apples. We recommend eating one a day. Our challenge to you is to source a different apple variety for every day of the year. Autumn is the perfect time to start. We’d love to hear how you get on.

By Lesley McRobb

Check out our blog post on the Lion’s Gate garden

Unveiling History: Opening Merchiston Tower for Doors Open Days 2023

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Unveiling History: Opening Merchiston Tower for Doors Open Days 2023

Doors Open Days, the annual celebration of Scotland’s rich architectural heritage, is back in 2023 with a remarkable addition to its lineup – the historic Merchiston Tower in Edinburgh. This iconic structure, nestled in the heart of Edinburg Napier University’s Marchiston Campus, will swing its doors wide open to the public, offering a rare opportunity to step back in time and explore its captivating history.

History Of Merchiston Tower

Merchiston Tower, formally part of Merchiston Castle, is a splendid example of Scottish Baronial architecture. Dating back to the 15th century, it stands as a testament to the enduring allure of ancient Scottish castles. The tower was originally constructed as a grand residence for the Napier family, whose most famous member, John Napier, invented logarithms and contributed significantly to the development of modern mathematics.

As you step into Merchiston Tower, you’ll be transported through time to a bygone era. The interior boasts an enchanting blend of historical elements and modern-day conservation efforts. You can marvel at the intricately decorated ceilings, wood-panelled rooms, and original architectural features.

Merchiston Tower 2023

Beyond the historical significance, Merchiston Tower continues to play a vital role in contemporary Edinburgh. It serves as the main building for Napier University, contributing to the education and development of future generations. Doors Open Days 2023 not only invites you to explore the past but also celebrate the present and envision the future.

Visiting Merchiston Tower during Doors Open Days 2023 is an opportunity to connect with Scotland’s history, culture, and architectural heritage. Whether you’re a history enthusiast, an architecture buff, or simply curious about the stories hidden within these ancient walls, this event promises an unforgettable experience.

So, mark your calendars and be prepared to be enchanted by the timeless charm of Merchiston Tower. Doors Open Days 2023 promises to be an unforgettable journey through Scotland’s rich heritage, and Merchiston Tower is undoubtedly one of its crown jewels. Don’t miss your chance to step into the past and discover the magic of this historic landmark.

Read all about Open Day and other events happening in Scotland

And you can read a little more about the history of Merchiston Campus 

By Ian Sudlow-Mackay

Unleashing the Power of Left-Handedness: Exploring the Advantages of Being Left-Handed

Unleashing the Power of Left-Handedness: Exploring the Advantages of Being Left-Handed

Left-handedness, a natural phenomenon that has intrigued scientists and societies for centuries, refers to the preference of using the left hand over the right hand for various activities. Approximately 10% of the global population is left-handed, making it a relatively rare trait. While left-handedness is often seen as a unique and intriguing characteristic, it has also been associated with certain advantages and disadvantages. In this article, we will delve into the advantages of being left-handed, explore its presence in different cultures, examine famous left-handed individuals, discuss its impact on sports, address the challenges and misconceptions surrounding left-handedness, explore the concept of ambidextrousness, and highlight specialized products and tools for left-handed individuals.

The advantages of being left-handed

Being left-handed can provide individuals with various advantages. One significant advantage is enhanced creativity. Studies have shown that left-handed individuals tend to have a more developed right brain hemisphere, which is associated with creativity and artistic abilities. This may explain why a significant number of artists, musicians, and writers are left-handed. Additionally, left-handed individuals often possess increased problem-solving skills and are adept at thinking outside the box, which can be advantageous in many professional fields.

Another advantage of being left-handed is improved spatial reasoning. Left-handed individuals typically have a more developed right parietal cortex, which is responsible for spatial awareness and visualization. This enhanced spatial reasoning can be beneficial in activities such as architecture, engineering, and sports that require precise coordination and understanding of spatial relationships.

Left-handedness has also been linked to better multitasking abilities. Research suggests that left-handed individuals have a higher degree of interhemispheric connectivity, allowing for more efficient communication between the brain’s two hemispheres. This enhanced connectivity enables left-handed individuals to excel in tasks that require simultaneous processing of multiple sources of information, such as driving while talking on the phone or multitasking in a fast-paced work environment.

Left-handedness in different cultures

Throughout history, left-handedness has been viewed differently across various cultures. In some cultures, being left-handed was considered taboo or associated with negative connotations, leading to discrimination and attempts to convert left-handed individuals to right-handedness. However, in other cultures, left-handedness was celebrated and considered a sign of uniqueness and special abilities.

For example, ancient Egyptians believed that left-handedness was a divine characteristic, associating it with the goddess Isis. In certain African cultures, left-handed individuals were believed to possess spiritual powers and were revered as healers or shamans. In contrast, many Western societies historically viewed left-handedness as a sign of evil or witchcraft, leading to societal pressure to convert left-handed individuals to right-handedness.

Fortunately, the perception of left-handedness has evolved over time, with greater acceptance and recognition of its natural occurrence. Today, many cultures celebrate left-handedness and highlight the advantages and unique qualities associated with being left-handed.

Famous left-handed individuals

Left-handedness has been prevalent among numerous famous individuals throughout history. From artists and athletes to politicians and scientists, left-handedness has not hindered the success of these individuals but has often contributed to their achievements. Some notable left-handed actors include Leonardo DiCaprio, Tom Cruise, and Julia Roberts, who have captivated audiences with their exceptional acting skills and charisma.

In the realm of music, left-handed musicians such as Jimi Hendrix, Paul McCartney, and Kurt Cobain have left an indelible mark on the world of music with their innovative styles and groundbreaking compositions. Their left-handedness brought a unique perspective to their craft, contributing to their iconic status in the music industry.

From a scientific standpoint, left-handed individuals such as Albert Einstein and Marie Curie have made significant contributions to their respective fields, showcasing that left-handedness is not a hindrance but rather a characteristic that can coexist with exceptional intelligence and groundbreaking discoveries.

These examples serve as a testament to the fact that left-handedness is not a limitation but rather an asset that can contribute to remarkable achievements in various domains.

Left-handedness in sports

Left-handedness can provide a competitive edge in the world of sports. In many sports, left-handed athletes possess a natural advantage due to their opponents’ relative lack of experience in facing left-handed competitors. This unexpectedness can disrupt the opponent’s usual strategies and provide left-handed athletes with a higher chance of success.

For instance, in tennis, left-handed players often have an advantage over right-handed players due to the difference in spin and angle of the ball when it is struck by a left-handed player’s racket. This can create difficulties for right-handed opponents in adjusting their shots and positioning on the court.

Similarly, in combat sports such as boxing or martial arts, left-handed fighters, known as southpaws, often pose challenges for their right-handed opponents. The reversed stance and different angles of attack can catch right-handed opponents off guard and require additional adaptation and strategy.

Left-handedness can also be advantageous in team sports such as basketball or soccer. Left-handed players can provide a unique playing style and contribute to the team’s tactical diversity. Their left-handedness can create unpredictable situations for the opposing team, as they are accustomed to defending against right-handed players.

Challenges and misconceptions about left-handedness

Despite the advantages associated with being left-handed, there are also challenges and misconceptions that left-handed individuals may encounter. One common misconception is that left-handed individuals are less intelligent or more prone to certain health conditions. However, scientific research has debunked these myths, reaffirming that left-handedness is simply a natural variation in human development with no inherent disadvantages.

One challenge that left-handed individuals may face is the lack of left-handed products and tools in a right-handed dominant world. Many everyday objects, such as scissors, can openers, and desks, are designed for right-handed individuals, which can make certain tasks more challenging or uncomfortable for left-handed individuals. However, with increasing awareness and demand, there has been a growing availability of specialized products and tools designed specifically for left-handed individuals, alleviating these challenges to some extent.

Ambisinistrousness: The ability to use both hands equally well

While left-handedness is often associated with a preference for using the left hand, some individuals possess the unique ability to use both hands equally well. This phenomenon is known as ambisinistrousness. Ambisinistrous individuals are not strictly left-handed or right-handed but have a high degree of ambidexterity.

Ambisinistrousness can be advantageous in various situations. Individuals with this ability can effortlessly switch between hands, allowing them to adapt quickly to different tasks and situations. This flexibility can be particularly beneficial in activities that require fine motor skills or coordinated movements.

Ambisinistrous individuals often excel in musical instruments that require both hands, such as piano or guitar, as they can seamlessly navigate the keys or strings with either hand. Additionally, ambisinistrousness can be advantageous in sports that demand bilateral coordination, such as fencing or archery.

Left-handed products and tools

Recognizing the unique needs of left-handed individuals, there has been a growing market for specialized left-handed products and tools. From left-handed scissors with reversed blades to left-handed keyboards and computer mice, these products are designed to provide comfort and ease of use for left-handed individuals.

Left-handed desks and writing instruments with a slant towards the left are also available, enabling left-handed individuals to write without smudging the ink or experiencing discomfort. Additionally, specialized kitchen utensils, such as left-handed can openers and peelers, have been developed to facilitate food preparation for left-handed individuals.

The availability of these specialized products and tools has significantly improved the overall experience for left-handed individuals, allowing them to navigate a right-handed dominant world with greater comfort and efficiency.

Tips for left-handed individuals

If you are left-handed, here are a few tips to enhance your experience and make daily tasks more manageable:

  1. Embrace your left-handedness: Recognize that being left-handed is a unique and valuable trait that contributes to your individuality. Embrace it with pride and celebrate your differences.
  2. Seek out left-handed products and tools: Invest in specialized left-handed products and tools that cater to your needs. This will make everyday tasks more comfortable and efficient.
  3. Develop ambidexterity: Practice using your non-dominant hand to improve your ambidexterity. This can be done through simple activities such as brushing your teeth or writing short notes.
  4. Be aware of your surroundings: Pay attention to the layout of objects and tools in your environment. Make adjustments, if necessary, to ensure optimal comfort and functionality.
  5. Educate others: Inform friends, family, and coworkers about the challenges that left-handed individuals may face. By raising awareness, you can help create a more inclusive and accommodating environment for all.

Embracing and celebrating left-handedness

Left-handedness is a fascinating characteristic that has both advantages and challenges. It is important to recognize and celebrate the unique qualities that left-handed individuals bring to the world. By understanding the advantages of being left-handed, appreciating its presence in different cultures, acknowledging the accomplishments of famous left-handed individuals, and addressing the challenges and misconceptions surrounding left-handedness, we can create a more inclusive and supportive society for all individuals, regardless of their dominant hand. So, let us embrace and celebrate the power of left-handedness.

Celebrate your left-handedness! Share this article with your friends and family to spread awareness and appreciation for the advantages of being left-handed.

By Juliet Kinsey

Image Source: Photo by Sebastian Dumitru on Unsplash

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