Mel Gibson and the Making of Woad — Renee Yancy
Today I’m happy to welcome author Renee Yancy as she shares some history behind her book, The Fury of Dragons.
What do Mel Gibson, blue paint, and woad have in common? Read on!
Who could forget Mel’s gorgeous blue eyes in Braveheart?
Or the battle scenes with the warriors and their blue-painted faces? Historically, that blue paint would have come from woad, a plant used for 2000 years to make a highly coveted blue dye.
My recent historical, The Fury of Dragons, features a woadmaker named Gethin. It was fascinating to research the history of woad. The process is a complicated and laborious one to turn the green, strap-like woad leaves into the actual dye.
Because of the odors produced in its manufacture, woad makers were forced to live far from towns and villages.
You see, the rank odor of cat urine and rotten cabbage mixed with feces made people nauseous. So nauseating, in fact, that Queen Elizabeth I issued a proclamation in 1585 that forbade the production of woad within four miles of a market town and five miles from any of the Queen’s residences!
Woad dye produced a gorgeous blue color. Quite a contrast to the drab and washed-out reds, browns, greens, and yellows usually worn. Only the wealthy could afford garments dyed with woad.
The Picts and Celts also used woad to paint their faces for battle.
You can bet the makeup people on the set of Braveheart took pains to get an exact match to go with Mel Gibson’s blue eyes.
It’s also possible that men and women used woad to tattoo themselves. The research is inconclusive. I also have a Pict character, Nectu, in The Fury of Dragons, and I chose to write that his tattoos were permanent.
The Picts used animals and fish in interlaced designs for their tattoos.
The tattoos may have looked something like those on the young woman above. The beginning of the end for woad making and other natural dyes began in 1856, when an enterprising chemistry student named William Henry Perkin accidentally discovered aniline dyes.
In the last few years, there has been a resurgence in woad and natural dyes and you can find lots of interesting articles about making woad today.
And that is what Mel Gibson, blue paint, and woad have in common!
About the book:
Eleri is abducted on the day of her baptism by pirates on a slaving raid and taken across the sea to Britannia. About to be auctioned off to the highest bidder for the second time in her young life, she is taken off the block at the last moment by Coroticus, the fearsome British chieftain who led the raid.
Coroticus doesn’t understand why this skinny girl-child has bedeviled him from the moment he laid eyes on her. But when, on the deck of his ship, she speaks to him the identical words carved into his mother’s tomb, all he knows is he cannot let her go.
The premise of The Fury of Dragons is based on St. Patrick’s fifth-century text, Letter to the Soldiers of Coroticus, in which he condemns the British chieftain who stole his converts and “gave girls away like prizes.”
Renee has reduced the Kindle price of the book to .99 for three weeks in December. (Normally, $3.99)
Amazon link to The Fury of Dragons: https://www.amazon.com/Fury-Dragons-Roman-Britain-Spirit-ebook/dp/B074XGPGWQ/
What genre(s) do you write in and why?
I became fascinated with archaeology and history when my dad brought home a full cover coffee table book on Tutankhamun in the 60’s. I only wish I had started writing earlier!
What is your least favorite part of writing?
The dreaded first draft. For some reason, I struggle to get it down. Once I do, however, away I go.
Tell me about your ideal reader.
My ideal reader is someone like me, who loves history and archaeology, and wants a story that immerses you in the time period with details from clothing, food, medicine, language, artifacts, and more.
Renee Yancy is a long time history and archaeology nut who has been living vicariously through historical fiction since she was a young girl. Now she writes the kind of books she loves to read—stories filled with historical and archaeological detail on every aspect of living in a different time period, interwoven with strong characters and a tale full of pathos and conflict. She wants to take you on a journey into the past so fascinating that you can’t put the story down.