Monthly Archives: August 2010


Sunrise and Sunset in Wales

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For those who live in a far northern or southern region of the planet, this will not be news, but for the vast majority of people who do not, the idea that the sun will not set in the summer until what is traditionally viewed as ‘night’ and will rise far too early in the morning is very foreign.  Look at the chart below, showing sunrise and sunset times for Cardiff (which is in southern Wales) for June 2010.  Note that for the entire month, the sun rise varies by 7 minutes:  rising at 5:02 am, reaching 4:55 am in the middle of the month, and by the end of the month is again at 4:59 am.  Sunset varies by 13 minutes, peaking at a 16 hour, 38 minute ‘day’.

1-Jun-10 5:02 AM 9:20 PM 16h 18m 32s
2-Jun-10 5:01 AM 9:21 PM 16h 20m 23s
3-Jun-10 5:00 AM 9:22 PM 16h 22m 08s
4-Jun-10 4:59 AM 9:23 PM 16h 23m 49s
5-Jun-10 4:59 AM 9:24 PM 16h 25m 23s
6-Jun-10 4:58 AM 9:25 PM 16h 26m 54s
7-Jun-10 4:58 AM 9:26 PM 16h 28m 19s
8-Jun-10 4:57 AM 9:27 PM 16h 29m 38s
9-Jun-10 4:57 AM 9:28 PM 16h 30m 51s
10-Jun-10 4:56 AM 9:28 PM 16h 31m 59s
11-Jun-10 4:56 AM 9:29 PM 16h 33m 01s
12-Jun-10 4:56 AM 9:30 PM 16h 33m 58s
13-Jun-10 4:56 AM 9:30 PM 16h 34m 49s
14-Jun-10 4:55 AM 9:31 PM 16h 35m 33s
15-Jun-10 4:55 AM 9:31 PM 16h 36m 12s
16-Jun-10 4:55 AM 9:32 PM 16h 36m 45s
17-Jun-10 4:55 AM 9:32 PM 16h 37m 12s
18-Jun-10 4:55 AM 9:33 PM 16h 37m 33s
19-Jun-10 4:55 AM 9:33 PM 16h 37m 48s
20-Jun-10 4:55 AM 9:33 PM 16h 37m 57s
21-Jun-10 4:56 AM 9:34 PM 16h 38m 00s
22-Jun-10 4:56 AM 9:34 PM 16h 37m 57s
23-Jun-10 4:56 AM 9:34 PM 16h 37m 47s
24-Jun-10 4:56 AM 9:34 PM 16h 37m 32s
25-Jun-10 4:57 AM 9:34 PM 16h 37m 11s
26-Jun-10 4:57 AM 9:34 PM 16h 36m 44s
27-Jun-10 4:58 AM 9:34 PM 16h 36m 10s
28-Jun-10 4:58 AM 9:34 PM 16h 35m 31s
29-Jun-10 4:59 AM 9:33 PM 16h 34m 46s
30-Jun-10 4:59 AM 9:33 PM 16h 33m 55s

In contrast, this is the sunrise/sunset table for December, indicating fewer than eight hours of daylight for most of the month:

1-Dec-10 7:56 AM 4:07 PM 8h 11m 47s
2-Dec-10 7:57 AM 4:07 PM 8h 09m 47s
3-Dec-10 7:58 AM 4:06 PM 8h 07m 53s
4-Dec-10 8:00 AM 4:06 PM 8h 06m 04s
5-Dec-10 8:01 AM 4:05 PM 8h 04m 20s
6-Dec-10 8:02 AM 4:05 PM 8h 02m 42s
7-Dec-10 8:03 AM 4:05 PM 8h 01m 09s
8-Dec-10 8:05 AM 4:04 PM 7h 59m 42s
9-Dec-10 8:06 AM 4:04 PM 7h 58m 20s
10-Dec-10 8:07 AM 4:04 PM 7h 57m 05s
11-Dec-10 8:08 AM 4:04 PM 7h 55m 55s
12-Dec-10 8:09 AM 4:04 PM 7h 54m 52s
13-Dec-10 8:10 AM 4:04 PM 7h 53m 54s
14-Dec-10 8:11 AM 4:04 PM 7h 53m 03s
15-Dec-10 8:12 AM 4:04 PM 7h 52m 18s
16-Dec-10 8:12 AM 4:04 PM 7h 51m 39s
17-Dec-10 8:13 AM 4:04 PM 7h 51m 07s
18-Dec-10 8:14 AM 4:05 PM 7h 50m 41s
19-Dec-10 8:15 AM 4:05 PM 7h 50m 22s
20-Dec-10 8:15 AM 4:05 PM 7h 50m 09s
21-Dec-10 8:16 AM 4:06 PM 7h 50m 03s
22-Dec-10 8:16 AM 4:06 PM 7h 50m 03s
23-Dec-10 8:17 AM 4:07 PM 7h 50m 10s
24-Dec-10 8:17 AM 4:07 PM 7h 50m 23s
25-Dec-10 8:17 AM 4:08 PM 7h 50m 43s
26-Dec-10 8:18 AM 4:09 PM 7h 51m 09s
27-Dec-10 8:18 AM 4:10 PM 7h 51m 41s
28-Dec-10 8:18 AM 4:10 PM 7h 52m 20s
29-Dec-10 8:18 AM 4:11 PM 7h 53m 06s
30-Dec-10 8:18 AM 4:12 PM 7h 53m 57s
31-Dec-10 8:18 AM 4:13 PM 7h 54m 55s

Remember this when you write about winter in Wales!


Women in Celtic Society

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It is a stereotype that women in the Dark Ages (and the Middle Ages for that matter) had two career options:  mother or holy woman, with prostitute or chattel filling in the gaps between those two.  Unfortunately, for the most part this stereotype is accurate.  The status and role of women in any era prior to the modern one revolves around these categories.

This is one reason that when fiction is set in this time, it is difficult to write a self-actualized female character who has any kind of autonomy or authority over her own life.  Thus, it is common practice to make fictional characters either healers of some sort (thus opening up a whole array of narrative possibilities for travel and interaction with interesting people) or to focus on high status women, who may or may  not have had more autonomy, but their lives did not consist of drudgery and child care from morning until night.

This is not to say that men in the Dark Ages weren’t equally restricted in their ‘careers’.  A serf is a serf after all, of whatever gender.  Men as a whole, however, did have control of women, of finances, of government, and of the Church, and thus organized and ruled the world.  Literally.

There are obvious exceptions (Eleanor of Aquitaine, anyone?).

But that is one woman out of thousands upon thousands who were born, worked, and died within 5 miles of their home.

At the same time, within Celtic cultures, women had the possibility of higher autonomy and place.  In Ireland, as one example, the Roman Church had less influence.  Women had a viable place both within the Druid religion and within the Celtic/Irish Church.

“Both men and women were included in the pagan Druid priesthood, having equal status, and this equality was kept in the Irish Christian Church.  Besides the priesthood, the pagan Druid religion also had an order of wandering poets and prophets, called filid, who taught their religion to the common people. The Celtic Christian Church enthusiastically adopted this ministry. Ordained to the office of “bard,” men and women had the duty of proclaiming the messages of the Catholic gospel in songs and ballads.  In pagan Ireland, as Elaine Gill describes, Beltane celebrated the balance of female and male energy in sexual, spiritual, and emotional ways. This idea was embodied in the dual monasteries, where men and women had separate accommodations, but shared a common concern for the well-being of the entire community. The acceptance by the Catholic Church at the time of the idea of equality in Ireland also probably contributed to the swift embrace of Catholic beliefs, in that the two ways of life, pagan and Catholic, were very similar. In that sense, the Catholic way of life was not completely foreign to the pagan Celts, but was adapted by them to their own customs and traditions.  (Robert Van de Weyer, Celtic Fire: the Passionate Religious Vision of Ancient Britain and Ireland (New York, Double Day, 1991)

Peter Tremayne, of the Sister Fidelma series, has an extensive essay on his treatment of women in his books–as of equal status to men in many, many ways:

In this way, the Dark Ages and the Middle Ages were not a seemless period of time.  Before the Middle Ages, Wales too was less subject to the restrictions of the Roman Church (see Myth and Religion in the Dark Ages:; the Pelagian Heresy and Religious Non-Conformity in Wales  As in Ireland, women had a higher status in Wales than in Christendom as a whole, including the right to divorce her husband and societal acceptance of illegitimate children.

The Laws of Women (part of the Laws of Hywel Dda) in Wales which framed the status of women in the Dark Ages included:

“Rules governing marriage and the division of property if a married couple should separate. The position of women under Welsh law differed significantly to that of their Norman-English contemporaries. A marriage could be established in two basic ways. The normal way was that the woman would be given to a man by her kindred; the abnormal way was that the woman could elope with a man without the consent of her kindred. In this case her kindred could compel her to return if she was still a virgin, but if she was not she could not be compelled to return. If the relationship lasted for seven years she had the same entitlements as if she had been given by her kin.[7]

A number of payments are connected with marriage. Amobr was a fee payable to the woman’s lord on the loss of her virginity, whether on marriage or otherwise. Cowyll was a payment due to the woman from her husband on the morning after the marriage, marking her transition from virgin to married woman. Agweddi was the amount of the common pool of property owned by the couple which was due to the woman if the couple separated before the end of seven years. The total of the agweddi depended on the woman’s status by birth, regardless of the actual size of the common pool of property. If the marriage broke up after the end of seven years, the woman was entitled to half the common pool.[8]

If a woman found her husband with another woman, she was entitled to a payment of six score pence the first time and a pound the second time; on the third occasion she was entitled to divorce him. If the husband had a concubine, the wife was allowed to strike her without having to pay any compensation, even if it resulted in the concubine’s death.[9] A woman could only be beaten by her husband for three things: for giving away something which she was not entitled to give away, for being found with another man or for wishing a blemish on her husband’s beard. If he beat her for any other cause, she was entitled to the payment of sarhad. If the husband found her with another man and beat her, he was not entitled to any further compensation. According to the law, women were not allowed to inherit land. However there were exceptions, even at an early date. A poem dated to the first half of the 11th century is an elegy for Aeddon, a landowner on Anglesey. The poet says that after his death his estate was inherited by four women who had originally been brought to Aeddon’s court as captives after a raid and had found favour with him.[10] The rule for the division of moveable property when one of a married couple died was the same for both sexes. The property was divided into two equal halves, with the surviving partner keeping one half and the dying partner being free to give bequests from the other half.”


Update on King Arthur’s ’round table’ in Chester

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Yes–slacking off today.  But I did find this interesting piece on King Arthur’s round table by Keith Fitzpatrick-Mathews.  It is a much more lengthy rebuttal than mine (, but makes many of the same points (also see,  Fitzpatrick-Mathews also takes to task Christopher Gildow’s article entitled “Top Ten Clues to the Real King Arthur”.  What’s particularly great is the exchange between the two in the comments at the end.   Worth a read for anyone who thinks King Arthur might have really existed.’s-round-table-discovered-in-chester/