Friday, April 8, 2016

Phantom Itching

Ever had your skin crawl after seeing a potato bug?
Ever twitched uncontrollably after seeing a spider?
How about scratched your head after contact with someone who looked as though head lice were a distinct possibility?

Having spent a great deal of time lately reading about persons from history whose heads rolled on a scaffold, and in particular Anne Boleyn, the idea of phantom itching pre-execution (right at the point where neck and spine meet) is one I'm currently exploring. 

When the trial was over and the axe of the Yeoman Warder who'd guarded the prisoner was pointed toward that prisoner,

 it meant:*600/Not-Guilty-Gavel.jpg 

JK!!!!! lol!!!

It actually meant:

The jury of one's peers had spoken.
Unanimous? Really? U-effing-nanimous?
In the time between that stomach-dropping moment and the instant the prisoner ate it on the scaffold, he or she had some amount of time to prepare for 'a good death.'
Generally the prisoner changed their undies

clutched their Rosary beads
"Remember oh most gracious Virgin Mary . . oh fuuuuuuuuccccckkkkkkkkkk."
and, once back in their apartment/cell, asked family members to settle accounts they owed.
Then wrote their will.
Also on their to-do list

was getting enough cash to tip the executioner.
The bigger the tip, the better his aim.
"They call me Wall-eyed Joe. What?"
Get it?

And once those pesky details were dealt with, there was time to sit and think and feel the itch right there . . . right at the base of the back of the neck . . . "Is that where the axe will hit me?" and, "How long will I feel it?" and most important of all, "Will he get it in one chop?"

As anyone in Tudor-era England would do, condemned prisoners got very, very right with Jesus before their Big Day.
Still - on those sleepless nights in the Tower of London, with only the sound of the wind and the occasional creak of oars along the Thames - the phantom itch must've been . . . just interminably creepy, and followed by a case of the shudders second to none.

Pity the insomniac-traitors upon whom the king or queen withdrew the mercy of the axe or sword or even just a straight-forward hanging; those who received the 'hung, drawn and quartered' sentence. 

Leonardo Di Caprio biting his fist
"Yeah, that's gonna leave a mark on my $5000.00 suit, for sure."


It's just as disgusting as it sounds.

Hung till near dead.
Drawn (have Big Jim and the Twins cut off and burned in front of you; same with your intestines.)
Quartered - divide by four and send each part to a separate corner of the kingdom (like who wants to look at THAT?)
"Come on. . .  I'll make popcorn! They're only displaying it 'til the week-end!"
It was after the 'drawn' but before the 'quartered' bit that Everard Digby, friend of Guy Fawkes, had his heart yanked partially out.
The executioner declared, "Behold the heart of a traitor!"
"THOU LIEST!" bellowed the supposed-to-be-dead-by-now Mr. Digby in a case of Extreme Last Word.

Now THAT is an unforgettable exit . . .

*"The Tower" by Nigel Jones; pg. 285 :-) Thanks, boss. 

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