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Subscribe to this list via RSS Blog posts tagged in medieval

Posted by on in Culture Blogs
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[Today, we sit down for a quick interview with Australian author, Warwick Hill. A follower of Fjorn Sid, Hill discusses how his spirituality influences his writing; his medieval novel, Pagan Child; and his upcoming projects.]  
 

BookMusings: How would you describe your personal spiritual path? Are you eclectic or part of a particular tradition?

 

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Posted by on in Studies Blogs
Mumming for the New Year

Mumming was long a popular entertainment for the dark time of the year. The Christmas and New Years or Hogmanay plays offered adventures, dragons and Saint George and other wild characters -- Turkish Knights or Kings became popular after the Crusades. They offered an opportunity for hijinks, costumes and ritual of course. But they had another important theme, too.

At heart the plays were about healing.

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Posted by on in Studies Blogs
Nature of the Four Elements

When you say 'medieval drama' people generally think of mystery and morality plays. Mystery plays, after all, are how many people in the later Middle Ages knew their bible stories. In addition to the colourful paintings on church walls, they were probably the most vivid information they had about what Christianity was meant to be all about. The comic approaches may surprise you if you've not encountered them before. Noah's wife has to be dragged onto the arc because she didn't want to leave her friends. Then there's the thief who tried to disguise a hidden lamb as a newborn babe; the suspicious shepherds think it's an ugly baby but they don't catch on at first that it's the lost sheep they're looking for. The morality plays are more generalised but have characters that embody good and bad qualities like Mercy. Mischief and Mankind. 

But between the Middle Ages and Shakespeare's time there are many other kinds of plays, from adventurous episodes in Robin Hood's life (all probably more entertaining than the new film) to seasonal mummings to more philosophical works. One of these is John Rastell's Nature of the Four Elements which may well appeal to folks here. The play is dated to about 1517-18. The one surviving copy is imperfect, but it gives an interesting insight into how people conceived of the four elements and their effects on the natural world.

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Posted by on in Studies Blogs
Charms A-Plenty

There's a wonderful new book out that I have just barely had time to crack open, but if you're interested in the history of magic you will doubtless want to look into it as well:

Traditional Magic Spells for Protection and Healing
By Claude Lecouteux. 2016. Rochester: Inner Traditions. 328 pages.
ISBN: 978-1-62055-621-4 

There's a comprehensive review over at the Journal of Folklore Research, which is why I picked it up at once. Yelena Francis points out the strengths of Lecouteax's background and the accessibility of the format. There are also some great additional and often rare resources in the appendices. And because it's from Inner Traditions rather than a big academic press, it's actually an affordable volume (though you should be able to get it via interlibrary loan as well). 

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Posted by on in Studies Blogs
John Barleycorn & the Ale Wives

There's an Old English riddle from the Exeter Book that is part of a long tradition about the abuses of alcohol through the ages. While there is much to celebrate in the joy of drinking, there is a dark side, too, that many have fallen prey to over the years. The poem goes like this:

Biþ foldan dæl     fægre gegierwed
mid þy heardestan      mid þy scearpestan
 mid þy grymmestan     gumena ge streona ·
corfen sworfen     cyrred þyrred
bunden wunden     blæced wæced
frætwed geatwed     feorran læded
to durum dryhta     dream bið iinnan
cwicra wihta     clengeð lengeð
þara þe ær lifgende     longe hwile
wilna bruceð      no wið spriceð
 þōn æfter deaþe     deman onginneð
meldan mislice     micel is to hycganne
wisfæstum menn     hwæt seo wiht sy.

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  • Tyger
    Tyger says #
    Very interesting. Thank you!
Walking the Labyrinth—A Path of Grace to the Inner Self

At Grace Cathedral on California Street in San Francisco, scholar Lauren Artress oversaw the installation of not one but two labyrinths. Sue Patton Thoele, author of The Woman’s Book of Soul, invited me to go there one fine day a few years ago. I remember squeezing it into my schedule, feeling hurried, and hoping it would not take more than half an hour or so. I am a bit embarrassed to admit this, but I know I am not the only busy life-juggler who has found herself surprised by the Sacred. When we got there, a magnificent stillness presided over the entire cathedral. We chose the indoor labyrinth instead of the outdoor one, as there was a distinct chill in the foggy air that day. We read the simple instructions and, as told, removed our shoes to tread the path in bare or stocking feet. For my part, I had already begun to calm down, thanks to the peaceful atmosphere. As I walked in the light of the stained glass shadows, my schedule started to seem petty. Suddenly it seemed as if I could give this just a little more time.

 

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Posted by on in Studies Blogs
The Magic of the Quill

Ic seah wrætlice     wuhte feower
samed siþian     swearte · wæran lastas
swaþu swiþe blacu     swift wæs on fore
fulgum framra     fleotgan lyfte
deaf under yþe     dreag unstille
winnende wiga     se him wægas tæcneþ
ofer fæted gold     feower eallū


The riddles of the Exeter Book give us oblique snapshots of everyday life for the monks in the Middle Ages. You can easily imagine the scribes fixing on something within site and coming up with a poetic and misleading description where metaphor can throw a reader off the track. But the metaphors reveal power, too. Riddle 40 (51 in the Krapp-Dobbie edition) refers to one of the ubiquitous items in their lives: the pen or quill.

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