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Happy St. David’s Day!

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Ashes St. David is the patron saint of Wales and his feast day (and possibly the date of his death) is March 1.  The Welsh spelling of his name is ‘Dafydd’.

St. David “died in the year 589. His mother was called Non, and his father, Sant, was the son of Ceredig, King of Ceredigion. After being educated in Cardiganshire, he went on pilgrimage through south Wales and the west of England, where it is said that he founded religious centres such as Glastonbury and Croyland. He even went on a pilgrimage to Jerusalem, where he was made archbishop.

He eventually settled at Glyn Rhosyn (St David’s), in south-west Wales, where he established a very strict ascetic religious community. Many miracles have been attributed to him, the most incredible of which was performed when he was preaching at the Synod of Llanddewibrefi – he caused the ground to rise underneath him so that he could be seen and heard by all. How much truth is in this account of his life by Rhigyfarch is hard to tell. It must be considered that Rhigyfarch was the son of the Bishop of St David’s, and that the Life was written as propaganda to establish Dewi’s superiority and defend the bishopric from being taken over by Canterbury and the Normans.”  http://www.museumwales.ac.uk/en/275/

“By the 9th century he had gained the name Aquaticus because he and the monks of his establishments were supposed to have drunk only water. His earliest Life* appeared around 1090 and was composed by a son of Sulien, bishop of St. David’s. The aim of this work was to promote the independence of the Welsh church. The Life tells us that St. David founded ten monasteries (including Glastonbury) and that the monks were vegetarian. Their regime included manual labour, study and worship.”  http://www.data-wales.co.uk/st_david.htm

“March 1, the date given by Rhygyfarch for the death of Dewi Sant (St. David), was celebrated as a religious festival up until the Protestant Reformation of the 16th century. In the 18th century it became a national festival among the Welsh, and continues as such to this day. The celebration usually entails singing and eating, which may mean a meal followed by singing, or much singing followed by a Te Bach, tea with teisen bach and bara brith. Y Ddraig Goch, the Red Dragon, is flown as a flag or worn as a pin or pendant, and leeks are worn, and sometimes eaten. In schools in Wales the boys take leeks to school, status being given to those who bring the biggest leeks, and eat them earliest in the day.”  http://www.davidmorgan.com/stdavid.html

“Many Welsh people wear one or both of the national emblems of Wales on their lapel to celebrate St. David: the daffodil (a generic Welsh symbol which is in season during March) or the leek (Saint David’s personal symbol) on this day. The leek arises from an occasion when a troop of Welsh were able to distinguish each other from a troop of English enemy dressed in similar fashion by wearing leeks.[15] The association between leeks and daffodils is strengthened by the fact that they have similar names in Welsh, Cenhinen (leek) and Cenhinen Pedr (daffodil, literally “Peter’s leek”).”  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Saint_David’s_Day

One year, the Google search engine acquired a castle, a flag, and a dragon.  Let’s see what they have in store for us this year :)

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St. David’s Bishops Palace

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Categories: Research

The Bishop’s palace at St. David’s was built in the 13th century. Ornate and elaborate, it showcased the bishop’s power and wealth. Before the Norman conquest of Wales, the Welsh church tried to get the bishopric promoted to an archbishopric, which would free it from the jurisdiction of Canterbury, but those efforts were not successful. I visited in May 2014.

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Christmas and the Winter Solstice

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Categories: Research, Tags: , , ,

Stonehenge_Winter_Solstice_2007December 21st is the winter solstice in 2014. This is Stonehenge at the Winter Solstice in 2007. I’m pretty sure a whole bunch of those people have no idea why they’re there :)

Cultures throughout the world and throughout history have celebrated the winter solstice, carefully calculating it’s date and time for sunrise and sunset, and aligning standing stones, worship sites, and burials in coordination with the sky.  Wikipedia has an excellent catalog of these events:  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Winter_solstice

“The December solstice occurs when the sun reaches its most southerly declination of -23.5 degrees. In other words, it is when the North Pole is tilted 23.5 degrees away from the sun. Depending on the Gregorian calendar, the December solstice occurs annually on a day between December 20 and December 23. On this date, all places above a latitude of 66.5 degrees north are now in darkness, while locations below a latitude of 66.5 degrees south receive 24 hours of daylight.”  http://www.timeanddate.com/calendar/december-solstice.html

The Romans first linked Christmas with the solstice.  They pegged the event to December 25th because, since 43 BC, this date was the winter solstice in the Julian calendar.  It was only in 1582 that Pope Gregory XIII reconciled the calendar with the actual astronomical solstice, moving the solstice to December 21 (and keeping Christmas on the 25th).

From http://www.essortment.com/christmas-pagan-origins-42543.html:  “In ancient Babylon, the feast of the Son of Isis (Goddess of Nature) was celebrated on December 25. Raucous partying, gluttonous eating and drinking, and gift-giving were traditions of this feast.

In Rome, the Winter Solstice was celebrated many years before the birth of Christ. The Romans called their winter holiday Saturnalia, honoring Saturn, the God of Agriculture. In January, they observed the Kalends of January, which represented the triumph of life over death. This whole season was called Dies Natalis Invicti Solis, the Birthday of the Unconquered Sun. The festival season was marked by much merrymaking. It is in ancient Rome that the tradition of the Mummers was born. The Mummers were groups of costumed singers and dancers who traveled from house to house entertaining their neighbors. From this, the Christmas tradition of caroling was born.

In northern Europe, many other traditions that we now consider part of Christian worship were begun long before the participants had ever heard of Christ. The pagans of northern Europe celebrated the their own winter solstice, known as Yule. Yule was symbolic of the pagan Sun God, Mithras, being born, and was observed on the shortest day of the year. As the Sun God grew and matured, the days became longer and warmer. It was customary to light a candle to encourage Mithras, and the sun, to reappear next year.

According to my go-to online etymological dictionary, Yule: yule (n.) Look up yule at Dictionary.comOld English geol, geola “Christmas Day, Christmastide,” from Old Norse jol (plural), a heathen feast, later taken over by Christianity, of unknown origin.

The Old English (Anglian) cognate giuli was the Anglo-Saxons’ name for a two-month midwinter season corresponding to Roman December and January, a time of important feasts but not itself a festival. After conversion to Christianity it narrowed to mean “the 12-day feast of the Nativity” (which began Dec. 25), but was replaced by Christmas by 11c., except in the northeast (areas of Danish settlement), where it remained the usual word.

Revived 19c. by writers to mean “the Christmas of ‘Merrie England.’ ” First direct reference to the Yule log is 17c. Old Norse jol seems to have been borrowed in Old French as jolif, hence Modern French joli “pretty, nice,” originally “festive” (see jolly).

The tree is the one symbol that unites almost all the northern European winter solstices. Live evergreen trees were often brought into homes during the harsh winters as a reminder to inhabitants that soon their crops would grow again. Evergreen boughs were sometimes carried as totems of good luck and were often present at weddings, representing fertility. The Druids used the tree as a religious symbol, holding their sacred ceremonies while surrounding and worshipping huge trees.

In 350, Pope Julius I declared that Christ’s birth would be celebrated on December 25. There is little doubt that he was trying to make it as painless as possible for pagan Romans (who remained a majority at that time) to convert to Christianity. The new religion went down a bit easier, knowing that their feasts would not be taken away from them.” http://www.essortment.com/christmas-pagan-origins-42543.html

 

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11 December 1282

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Today is the 732th anniversary the death of Llywelyn ap Gruffydd, the last native Welsh Prince of Wales.  He was ambushed and cut down by Englishmen, somewhere in the vicinity of Builth Wells (Buellt in Welsh), Wales, late on the afternoon on 11 December 1282.  It was a Friday.

And then Llywelyn ap Gruffudd left Dafydd, his brother, guarding Gwynedd; and he himself and his host went to gain possession of Powys and Buellt. And he gained possession as far as Llanganten. And thereupon he sent his men and his steward to receive the homage of the men of Brycheiniog, and the prince was left with but a few men with him. And then Edmund Mortimer and Gruffudd ap Gwenwynwyn, and with them the king’s host, came upon them without warning; and then Llywelyn and his foremost men were slain on the day of Damasus the Pope, a fortnight to the day from Christmas day; and that was a Friday.
—-Brut y Tywysogyon, Peniarth manuscript 20  (The Chronicle of the Princes)

His head was carried to King Edward I, who ordered that it be displayed on a pike, in London.  Apparently, it stayed on display for over 20 years.  The rest of his body is purportedly buried at Abbey Cwmhir, northeast of Rhayader in Powys.

I wrote Footsteps in Time because there seemed to me to be few events in history where the fate of a nation hinged so profoundly upon the death of one man and I couldn’t stand that it ended the way it did. So I changed it :). At the time, historians said that if Llywelyn had lived only a few more weeks, all of Wales would have flocked to his banner. We’ll never know the truth of that, but his star was in the ascendancy and King Edward was within weeks of running out of both patience and money.

Llywelyn’s brother, Dafydd, was eventually captured and hanged, drawn, and quartered, the first man of significance to experience that particular death.  His death was practice for what Edward did to William Wallace, two dozen years later.  Gwenlllian, Llywelyn’s daughter and only child, was kidnapped from Aber and sent to a convent in England, where she remained a prisoner her entire life.

At Llywelyn’s death, Wales fell under English rule, and Edward declared his own son, Edward II, the new Prince of Wales.

That this happened, and that it is little remarked in historial records, should not come as a surprise.  History is written by the victors, as this comment from an English travel writer, William Camden, dating to 1610, makes clear:  “following rather his owne and his brothers stubberne wilfulnesse than any good hope to prevaile, would needes put all once againe to the hazard of warre, he was slaine, and so both ended his owne life, and withall the British [meaning, not English] government in Wales.”

I visited the site in May at Cilmeri where Llywelyn’s death is commemorated by a lone stone marker.

For more on Llywelyn ap Gruffydd, see:

Arwystli

The Battle of the Menai Straits

Betrayal in the Belfry of Bangor

Biography of Llywelyn ap Gruffydd

The Brothers Gwynedd

Cymerau

Dafydd ap Gruffydd

Dafydd ap Llywelyn, Prince of Wales (d. 1246)

The Death of Llywelyn ap Gruffydd

Eleanor (Elinor) de Montfort

Family Tree of the Royal House of Wales

Gwynedd after 1282

Historiography of the Welsh Conquest

King Edward I of England

Medieval Planned Communities

Memo to Llywelyn ap Gruffydd’s Staff

The Rising of 1256

Senana, Mother of Llywelyn ap Gruffydd

Simon de Montfort

The Statute of Wales (Rhuddlan)

Surprise Holy Day Attack!

Things Fall Apart

Welsh Heraldry

Welsh Independence

Welsh Independence (again)

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Aberffraw Castle

Categories: Research, Tags: , , , , , , ,

Aberffraw Castle was the seat of Rhodri Mawr, one of the great kings of Wales, in the early Middle Ages.   Nothing of it remains–it seems to have shared a similar fate with Aber Garth Celyn upon the death of Llywelyn ap Gruffydd.  We do have information that some of it lasted until 1316 when the last remaining timbers were stripped to repair Beaumaris (or Caerfarnon) Castle, both part of Edward’s ring of iron castles that he built after the conquest of Wales.

My favorite Castles of Wales site doesn’t even have Aberffraw in its database because, quite literally, nothing of it remains.  The book by Paul Davies, ‘Castles of the Welsh Princes’, states only:  ” . . . a modern village sits on top of Aberffraw; the occasional discovery of richly-carved stones hints at the vanished splendour of the great court.”  (p. 19)

‘Aber’ means ‘estuary’ in Welsh, thus the large number of place-names that begin with it.  Aberffraw (which thus means, ‘estuary of the Ffraw River’) Castle was built in the 6th century by Maelgwyn, the King of Gwynedd.  http://www.britainexpress.com/countryside/coast/aberffraw.htm

In archaeolog-ese:  http://homepage.mac.com/philipdavis/Welshsites/966.html

“The probable site of a medieval llys, a princely court partly dismantled in 1317. Excavation, 1973-4 (White 1979) & 1979, with further work 1987-8 (White & Longley 1995), recorded part of a rectilinear enclosure with at least one rounded corner. Its ditch had been recut on at least one occasion. It was traced for 70m north-north-east to south-south-west. Intially thought to represent a Roman military work, refurnished in the early medieval period. The apparently curving corner has suggested the presence of a castle mound (see NPRN 400058). This overall interpretation is supported by a radio-carbon determination of about 27-387AD, however scarsity of Roman material, limited to a single scrap of samian and some uncertain sherds, counts against the presence of a fort. It is possible that this was the site of a later Prehistoric style settlement occupied in the Roman period. The site of the llys is otherwise uncertain (see Johnstone 1997, 63; Longley 1997, 45). Two possibly thirteenth century sculptured heads are known from the village (White 1978). Excavations at the traditional site of the llys, about 650m to the west-south-west recorded only C18 remains (see NPRN 15012/401125). (Coflein–John Wiles 12.07.07)”

The Royal House of Aberffraw is something else entirely, though it derives from the establishment of the royal court there.  Llywelyn Fawr spoke of himself as from the Royal House of Aberffraw as a justification for his rule of Wales in the 13th century.  He could trace his line back to Rhodri Mawr, as the founder of that house in the 10th century.  http://house-of-aberffraw.co.tv/

 

 

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Medieval Monday with Mary Morgan!

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Categories: Research

Today is Medieval Monday! Welcome to Mary Morgan, author of DRAGON KNIGHT’S SWORD.

Here’s hoping that you’ll find someone new to add to your TBR list!

DragonKnightsSword_w7485_300 (2)

Duncan Mackay will do anything to lift the curse from his family – even forfeit his own life. But his plans change when he encounters the woman from his dreams, literally. She is from the future, somehow has his lost sword, and can talk to the Dragon that is able to lift his family’s curse.

Brigid O’Neill has spent her life listening to the mythological legends from Ireland and Scotland. So, when an ancient sword lands at her doorstep and she starts dreaming of a rugged Highlander, she drops everything and takes on a quest that will alter everything she believes.

Before their journey ends, not only will Duncan and Brigid battle an ancient curse, they must also find the courage to believe in the destiny that brought them together.

Excerpt:

He stood next to the waterfall. Beads of water glistened from his dark locks.

Brigid watched as they trailed down his chiseled torso, traveling down to where his tartan was wrapped low on his waist. The wind whipped at the folds of his plaid, the power coiling within and around him, as mystical as the land he stood on.

“Ancient warrior,” she uttered softly.

When she looked up into his eyes, they smoldered with desire, and it startled her. A sensual shiver ran through her, wanting to be crushed within his embrace. The raw desire to be in this man’s arms, touching and tasting him, was so potent, she could feel her heart hammering inside her chest.

He tilted his head to the side, as if studying his prey.

Brigid didn’t know if she should run or step into his massive arms.

He took a step toward her, and her pulse quickened. The very air around her seemed electrified. He then took another…and another, until he stood
merely inches in front of her.

Her breathing became labored, as he bent his head leaning close to her ear. She was engulfed in a sensual haze wanting his lips to touch her anywhere and put an end to her torture. His mouth was so close, she could feel a dark lock of his hair against her cheek, and she shuddered.

“Bring me back my sword,” he growled into her ear.

Brigid’s eyes flew open, clutching the sheets as the last fragments of her dream faded.

Buy Links:

Amazon, Barnes & Noble, TWRP – The Wild Rose Press

Follow me via:

http://www.facebook.com/mary.morgan.564

http://www.twitter.com/m_morganauthor

http://www.pinterest.com/marymorgan50

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Stupid Movie Blog Tour: Timeline (2003)

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Categories: Research

Just to be completely upfront about this movie, it has a staggeringly low 12% rating on Rotten Tomatoes: http://www.rottentomatoes.com/m/timeline/ so you know going into it that nobody liked it but me.

Timeline-gerard-butler-11139466-1280-1024Truthfully, my whole family thinks it’s WAY better than that. Of course,  most of us are suckers for anything medieval. This movie derives from the book Timeline, by Michael Crichton (of Jurassic Park fame). While it’s been a long time since I actually read the book, I enjoyed the movie more, mostly because the plot is actually a bit less intricate, and the motivations of the various characters are clearer than in the movie. In a nutshell, the movie is about a bunch of archaeologists who are excavating a site in France–funded by an American corporation they don’t know much about–who end up being effectively faxed to the middle ages by that same corporation. Seriously, what could be better?

Okay, to the review:

The Good:

First off: Gerard Butler. This is one of his first movies, and he is adorable in it. He is the main ‘hero’ character, who does the right thing for the right reasons and ends up getting the most out of the time traveling back to medieval France.

Secondly: David Thewlis. He plays the overzealous and slightly evil owner of the company that has been experimenting with time travel. Unfortunately, as the body count rises, he falls apart–and does it very well.

The plot: It hangs together! This isn’t one of those movies (Star Trek: Into Darkness) where you walk out having been taken on a fantastic ride only to realize afterwards that none of it makes any sense. At all.

The Bad:

So, having explained how the plot hangs together, there’s a bunch here that makes no sense, beginning with Gerard Butler falling in love with this woman basically sight unseen. He’s a romantic, we get that, and was in love with her BEFORE he met her, but … Fortunately, we do get that he’s so in love with the Middle Ages that he’s willing to give up the 21st century for it. And die young. That’s Michael Crichton, not the movie writers, so you can’t blame this movie for his ending. One part of the book that worked better.

The archaeology/science is really bad. To start, you’re not going to get good dating on a pair of 21st century glasses, no matter how long they’ve been sitting in a unopened medieval chamber. For carbon dating you need … carbon, amazingly enough. And you’re certainly not going to do it in a 1/2 hour in a makeshift lab. The acting in that scene is really bad too.

And the faxing … it’s basically the transporter platform in Star Trek but with the element of time thrown in. Yeah, you have to suspend disbelief. Again, Michael Crichton’s fault.

The Ugly:

“Oh my God” “Oh my God” “Oh my God”. Once you hear the main characters say this once, and then twice, and then for the thirty-sixth time, you know that the script needs a major overhaul. The fact that the actors are able to deliver their lines with anything resembling aplomb is a credit to them.

But hey–I’d watch the movie again. Gerard Butler. Enough said.

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Medieval Monday with Ashley York!

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Categories: Research

MedMon

Historical Romance writer Ashley York loves history and intrigue. Her latest book, The Saxon Bride, is the first in her Norman Conquest Series. Here is a little about the book:

In war torn England the battle lines between Saxon and Norman are clearly drawn. The Saxons must fight for everything they have in the hopes of winning their country back from the Normans who are determined to break their resistance.

Rowena Godwinson, the sole remaining member of the defeated royal family, stands proudly against the Normans that would trample them underfoot but her nobility and grace make her an ideal pawn in the Norman King William’s play for power with the Saxon people. When he decrees she marry a powerful Norman knight, her subjugation appears to be complete. The handsome soldier with the kind brown eyes and gentle touch is a threat to her determination to defy the interlopers. Can she hold firm to her Saxon heritage and refuse to give in to his advances?

John of Normandy wants only to prove himself worthy of the king’s trust. He is rewarded for his service and loyalty with land, titles and a Saxon beauty for a bride. John balks at the marriage, driven by the secret guilt of knowing Rowena’s father died at his sword. However, John’s reluctance is soon replaced by a burning desire to please this woman and win her over as well as her people.

As their people look to them for guidance and peace, can John and Rowena find a love that unites all of England?

TheSaxonBride2_300-1.jpg

Excerpt from The Saxon Bride:

Pacing the small area like a confined animal, she finally paused to look out the window. The dreary day reflected her feelings, rain threatening at any moment. “Do you know when my husband will be returning?”

“I am back now.”

John stood in the doorway handsomely dressed as befit the new Lord of Essex. Rowena’s breath caught in her throat. She looked away before the immense pleasure she felt at his return showed on her face.

Joan quickly gathered her sewing and removed herself from the room, closing the door behind her.

“Will you attend me, my lady?”

Rowena went to him and helped him remove his surcoat before seeing to the heavier chainmail. He smelled of horses and leather. Manly. Rowena tried not to close her eyes as she drank in the intoxicating smell of him. Why would a dirty, sweaty man make her feel so light headed? She stepped away when she realized why, the chainmail slipping forward off his arms. His hooded eyes told her that he knew what she was feeling.

“Is there a problem?” His deep voice seemed to reverberate through her body.

Quickly putting the heavy material down, she headed to the door. “I will order a bath for you.”

“Wait.”

Rowena froze with her hand on the latch and heard him coming toward her. He stood close behind, his breath soft against her cheek.

“Yes?” Be done with this. Her body yearned for his arms to pull her against him, to feel his kiss again. She licked her lips.

“Why are you leaving in such a hurry?” His hand lightly touched the side of her head as he spoke, pushing her hair away from her face. He leaned in closer to her exposed ear. A responding shiver ran down her body. “Are you afraid of me?”

She backed up to the door with a thud and faced him. Her pulse was racing as she lied. “No, my lord. Methinks you have a rather strong odor about you and I would have you take a bath before the evening meal.”

John backed away quickly, his eyes flying open. “I am sorry if I offend you. Please see to the bath.”

Rowena felt only slightly guilty when he turned away from her, standing like a lost little boy in the middle of the room.

Buy link:  The Saxon Bride  available now.

Ashley York loves to hear from her fans. Visit her at ashleyyorkauthor@gmail.com, Facebook, Twitter, and her website www.ashleyyorkauthor.com

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Calan Gaeaf

Categories: Research

fallen princess front v2November 1 is known today to the Catholic Church as All Saint’s Day, but within Celtic tradition, it was always celebrated as the first day of winter. The Church took this pagan tradition (as it did with many others) and made it a holy day. During the medieval period, Calan Gaeaf was a harvest festival. The night before, Nos Galan Gaeaf, was a moment when the veil between the human world and the world of the spirits thinned. Nos Galan Gaeaf has become the modern Halloween.

“The harvest had been gathered in, excess livestock had been culled or killed off and put into storage for the coming year. It was very much a communal festivity, a time for celebration and enjoyment. Everyone, from the farmer to the lowest cow hand, had participated in growing crops and keeping the animals and now they would celebrate together.

Often this manifested itself in the traditions such as the harvest mare. Corn would be fashioned into the shape of a horse and hung above the hearth. But getting the harvest mare into the house was a cause of much horseplay – the origin of the term – when women tried to prevent it coming inside, soaking it with water, and the men attempted to keep it dry.

In Wales 1 November, the first day of winter, was called Calan Gaeaf. The night before – the eve of the day – was referred to as Nos Galan Gaeaf or, occasionally Spirit Night. And many traditions gradually grew up around the festival. Almost inevitably, they were connected with all things frightening or disconcerting.”  http://www.bbc.co.uk/blogs/wales/posts/halloween_nos_galan_gaeaf

As a side note for my American readers, ‘corn’ is a New World food and was not available in Europe until after 1492. However, in the UK ‘corn’ is a generic word which refers to all grains used to produce flour (barley, wheat, as well as ‘maize’ in modern times). http://dictionary.cambridge.org/dictionary/british/corn_1

Customs

  • Coelcerth – Families build a fire and place stones with their names on it. The person whose stone is missing the next morning would die within the year.
  • Yr Hwch Ddu Gwta – Legend has it that a fearsome spirit called Yr Hwch Ddu Gwta took the form of a tail-less black sow and roamed the countryside with a headless woman. Children would rush home early.
  • Eiddiorwg Dalen – A few leaves of ground ivy is thought to give you the power to see hags. For prophetic dreams a boy should cut ten ivy leaves, throw away one and put the rest under his head before he sleeps. A girl should take a wild rose grown into a hoop, creep through it three times, cut it in silence, and go to bed with it under her pillow.

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Offa’s Dyke

Categories: Research, Tags: , , , , , , , , , , ,

In 780 AD, King Offa of Mercia was at the height of his authority.  Prior to his rule, in 750 AD, King Eliseg (immortalized by Eliseg’s Pillar near Llangollen) had swept the Saxons out of the plains of Powys.  Offa, in turn, attacked Powys in 778 and 784, and tradition states that he built the dyke, sometime (or throughout) his reign.  Prior to this, Aelthelbald, King of Mercia, had built ‘Wat’s Dyke’, which extends from the Severn Valley northwards towards the estuary of the Dee (A History of Wales, John Davies p. 62).

There is a quote from George Borrow, from Wild Wales, that “it was customary for the English to cut off the ears of every Welshman who was found to the east of the dyke, and for the Welsh to hang every Englishman whom they found to the west of it”.  This is potentially apocryphal, but indicates the significance of this man-made border between the two countries.

One of the biggest mysteries about Offa’s Dyke, in addition to when it was built, is why?  It was a huge undertaking to construct the earthwork, 150 miles in length, up to 65 feet wide and 8 feet high in places, along the entire length of the border between what is now England and Wales.  It clearly wasn’t made to keep the Welsh out of England, or to protect the Saxons in Mercia–since it was never defended.  Both English and Welsh kingdoms appeared to have a hand in determining where to build it, since it runs to the east of Wat’s Dyke when they are parallel, and in Gwent in particular, leaves lowlands to Wales to the east of natural features it might normally have followed.  It was dug, however, “with the displaced soil piled into a bank on the Mercian (eastern) side. Where the earthwork encounters hills, it goes to the west of them, constantly providing an open view from Mercia into Wales.”  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Offa’s_Dyke  The prevailing opinion to date was that Offa built it as a sign of authority and power–as a means of saying, to a certain extent, ‘after this wall, here be dragons.’

I, personally, like the theory that Offa’s Dyke is a Roman construction:

The Roman historian Eutropius in his book, Historiae Romanae Breviarium, written around 369, mentions the Wall of Severus, a structure built by Septimius Severus who was Roman Emperor between 193 and 211:

Novissimum bellum in Britannia habuit, utque receptas provincias omni securitate muniret, vallum per CXXXIII passuum milia a mari ad mare deduxit. Decessit Eboraci admodum senex, imperii anno sexto decimo, mense tertio. Historiae Romanae Breviarium, viii 19.1

He had his most recent war in Britain, and to fortify the conquered provinces with all security, he built a wall for 133 miles from sea to sea. He died at York, a reasonably old man, in the sixteenth year and third month of his reign.

However, this site, http://www.cpat.org.uk/news/oldnews/offaro.htm explains why this is unlikely. “The evident dislocation of Offa’s Dyke from the currently recognised pattern of early 3rd century military sites in the Welsh borders. This includes the legionary fortresses at Chester in the north and Caerleon in the south, other forts such as those at Leintwardine, Caersws and Forden Gaer, and a road system of which some elements are still in use today as parts of the modern, A5, A39 and A41 routes. The alignment of Offa’s Dyke shows no tangible geographical association or functional integration with this network. Indeed, it is in any case very hard to see what possible purpose such an undertaking could have served in Roman occupied western Britain, especially when the surviving Dyke is actually not a 130 mile complete frontier but is only spread discontinuously over that approximate length with extensive unexplained gaps (80 miles of earthwork are known).”

Furthermore, Ian Bapty, Offa’s Dyke Archaeological Management Officer with CPAT states:  “the attribution of the Dyke to Offa by Asser in his late 9th century ‘Life of Alfred’, echoed by the tradition of the ‘Offa’s Dyke’ name itself which can be documented back as far as the 13th century, has been accepted as correct by Anglo-Saxon scholars. ‘Offa’s Dyke is an extraordinary survival from our Anglo-Saxon past’ says Ian Bapty ‘and extraordinary exactly because it is Anglo-Saxon and as such sheds crucial light on a key period of our history when the modern political geography of Britain was beginning to appear. While we can perhaps associate descriptions of the ‘missing’ wall of Severus with somewhat confused and secondarily derived later accounts of Hadrian’s Wall – which was much rebuilt in the time of Severus – we surely cannot backdate Offa’s Dyke to Roman times, and to do so would be to miss the real significance and historical impact of this amazing earthwork’.

‘Ultimately I’d be ready to wager my granny on the fact that Offa’s Dyke is Anglo-Saxon and not Roman!’ says Ian ‘although I’d also have to be say that I’d be keeping granny firmly out of the stakes when it comes to betting on most other aspects of our understanding of the Dyke, including key issues such as exactly why it was built, how it was built, and what it’s original appearance and total extent was. I think it is the process of trying to answer these questions which may throw up some real and lasting revelations concerning not just Offa’s Dyke itself, but the very origins of Welsh and English culture and society’.”  http://www.cpat.org.uk/news/oldnews/offaro.htm

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Medieval Monday with Cathy MacRae

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Categories: Research

MedMon

Every Monday, I’ve been co-hosting Medieval Mondays with other Medieval romance authors.  This means you can get a peek at new authors and find out about upcoming books from authors you already love.

Be sure to check in each Monday!

The lastest author is Cathy MacRae, author of The Highlander’s Reluctant Bride.

PictureThe setting is 1377 and King Robert II is on the throne of Scotland. Though relatively quiet at this point in his reign, the time is still fraught with peril from pirates roaming the western coastline and the English control of much of the Lothians and the border lands to the south. In the first book of the series, The Highlander’s Accidental Bride, King Robert demands the end of a feud between two Highland clans. Though he allows his southern earls to engage in activities to regain their lands from the English, he has less tolerance for Highland clan feuds- especially when they are continually brought to his notice. In The Highlander’s Reluctant Bride, the king responds to a plea for help against the pirates.

Book cover blurb, The Highlander’s Reluctant Bride:

Determined to keep the Macrory clan’s holdings out of the clutches of marauding pirates, King Robert II sends his man, Lord Ranald Scott, to hold Scaurness Castle. There, Laird Macrory lays dying, awaiting word from his son who is missing on the battlefields of France. If the son is not found before the old laird dies, Ranald will take over as laird—and marry Laird Macrory’s headstrong daughter.

Lady Caitriona sees no reason she cannot rule the clan in her brother’s stead, and is bitterly disappointed with the king’s decision to send a man to oversee the castle and people. Not only is Ranald Scott only distantly related to the Macrory clan, but he was her childhood nemesis. She has little trust or like for him.

Her disappointment turns to panic when the king’s plan is completely revealed and she realizes she must wed Ranald. Pirates, treachery, and a 4-year-old girl stand between her and Ranald’s chance at happiness. What will it take for them to learn to trust each other and find the love they both deserve?
* * *
Excerpt:

“So, the king forced Eaden to wed,” she murmured. Her gaze caught Ranald’s. “What will he do to me?”

Ranald noted Riona’s sudden pallor, her gray eyes widening until they were naught but huge silver orbs glowing against her skin. Now was as good a time as any to tell her what King Robert intended for her, but he could not force the words.

“Ye are a laird’s daughter,” he reminded her. “And an heiress. Yer mother’s dower lands north of here are of great value to the king.”

“And I am of little worth, aye?” Riona flared.

“Nae. Ye are of great worth.”

“But a pawn to the king.”

Ranald sighed. This was not going as he planned. “We are all pawns in one way or another, Ree. The king willnae let ye stay on yer own. Ye are a ward of the crown, now.”

“So, he’ll marry me off to some rebellious laird he wants to drag over to his side, using me and my lands to hold him?”

“Nae. No’ so bad as all that.”

“Mayhap to a wealthy laird who’s all but doddering in his cups, hoping I’ll no’ breed an heir before he dies, giving title of the land to the king and my next husband?”

Ranald lifted an eyebrow. The lass was getting worked up over nothing. “Marriage, yes. Doddering auld man, no.”

Riona snapped her head to one side, a glower on her face. “Then, who?”

Ranald swallowed and offered a crooked smile.

“Me.”
* * *

Amazon Buy Link: www.amzn.com/B00J1PNPPC/

Please visit with me on my website: www.cathymacraeauthor.com
or on facebook_ Cathy MacRae or Cathy MacRae Author
cathymacrae@cathymacraeauthor.com

I love to hear from readers!

Thanks for checking out this new series of posts! What is your favorite Medieval place/time?

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Medieval Monday with Mageela Troche!

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Categories: Research

Welcome to Mageela Troche, my guest for this week’s Medieval Monday!

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Mageela Troche loves Scotland. Claiming the Highlander is her latest novel set in those rugged, misty lands and revisits characters from her other two novels. Here a little about the book:

Caelen MacKenzie married heiress Lady Brenna Grant in his youth for a large parcel of land and an earldom. Years later, Scotland trembles from the tales of the Viking Highlander yet Caelen must face his most challenging battled—returning home and to the past he ran from.

Lady Brenna loves her husband. As her loyalties are tested, the life she was reared to live is in jeopardy. She know no other life as the Countess and wife to Caelen. Snagged in the power plays of men, she will do anything to save that life and the man she loves.

From the rugged western highlands to the glittering Scottish court, they must battle the machinations of powerful men scheming against them.

ClaimingtheHighlander_MEDExcerpt from Claiming the Highlander:

1244, Scotland

 

His bride didn’t want to marry.

The King of Scotland wanted this wedding. Her holdings couldn’t fall into the hands of the Islemen, so they could not encroach into Scotland. His father, Laird MacKenzie, wanted this marriage to increase his holdings and bring an earldom to the family, raising their standing from barons. Laird Grant wanted this marriage to increase his ties to the powerful MacKenzies.

His bride wanted a berry tart.

The king, Alexander II, ambled to the aisle and stared at the little girl, tugging to free her arm from her nursemaid’s grip. Behind the king, lords and ladies scooted closer, stretching their necks for a glimpse of the wailing bride.

“After the ceremony, ye may have one.” Her nursemaid tugged on her arm to drag the wee lass to the altar.

“Nay.” Brenna Grant plopped down on her behind, falling in a mess of plaid that flopped her about and a lot of chestnut hair that covered her face.

Caelen wagered she wore a pout to match her crossed arms. The nursemaid lowered herself and wagged a finger at his bride. “Ye will be a proper lady and marry or ye shall not have any treats and shall be locked in the chamber.”

His bride pushed aside her nursemaid’s outstretched hand and ran toward the altar and beyond it. “I am running away!” She ducked under the altar.

The bishop sputtered. Spit flew from the corners. He goggled at the king. The nursemaid stomped her way to the altar and flipped up the frontal. “Get yeself out from under there. I na spare the rod, child.”

“Nay,” she screamed. She kicked the altar. The whole thing shook. Even the gold cross wavered, then righted.

“Ye wicked girl. Ye not be going to heaven and seeing yer mama.”

“Liar!”

Caelen snatched a tart from the table. He nudged aside the nursemaid and knelt down. “Here’s the treat if you come do this.”

Baby fine brown hair brushed her forehead. Her groomed brows furrowed over her narrowed eyes. Those brown eyes dominated her soft, full-cheeked face. Her lips were pressed into a stubborn line.

“She’ll get her dress dirty.”

“Enough. Take it and let’s wed.” He held out the treat. She stretched her neck out and chomped her teeth into the dough.

She climbed out on her hands and knees. Caelen took her dimpled hand. Caelen curled his hand carefully around hers. She held it so trustingly. He almost pulled away. This wedding would be done this day and two days hence, he would return to his foster home at Clan MacLean and return to training. He had to be a feared warrior like his grandfather and father so he could lead the clan one day.

He halted before the bishop and inclined his head. The bishop cleared his throat and watched Brenna eat her treat. She smacked her lips after each bite. Her nursemaid stretched out her neck and bore her black eyes into his happily eating bride. Brenna raised her nose high in the air and smacked her lips louder, even spitting out a chewed morsel. On her last bite, with fruit on the corners of her mouth, she was now his wife—the future Lairdess of the Clan MacKenzie and Countess of Wester Ross. She wiped her mouth with her sleeve, leaving a smeared red trail across the fine silk of her heather-hued gown.

“That was the easiest way to get a lass to the altar.” Laird MacKenzie laughed. The boom traveled through the great hall. Brenna threw back her head and let out some gruff ha-ha.

“He shall never have it that easy again,” the King added.

Caelen took her sticky hand and led her to the dais. He picked her up and set her in the chair. She climbed to her knees. “Thank you,” she said, her tongue peeking out from between the gap in her teeth. She rubbed her eyes and then sat back on her heels.

She squirmed to free her legs from under her. She tapped Caelen on his forearm. “I lost my shoe.” She lifted her foot and wiggled her toes at him. Caelen ducked under the table and spotted a crumpled fluff that must be her slipper. It was the softest, most girlish material he had ever seen. He hooked his thumb on the back and lifted it out. The thing barely filled his palm. Brenna propped her foot on the chair’s arm. Her little plump toes wiggled. He cupped her heel in his palm, sure he would break her. He stared at her foot, left and then right. How did he put it on without ripping the thing or crushing her toes? He slipped her toes in and then the rest of her foot.

She smiled before sitting back on her legs. She propped her chin on her dimpled hand. “What does a husband do?”

Caelen shrugged.

“My da tells my new mama what to do but you can’t do that. I don’t like that. You have to protect me and love me.” Her high-pitched voice held a thread of authority. “We can play but you can’t scare me. I don’t like that.”

“And a wife?” He threw out as she drew in air.

“Same thing.” She shrugged. “Don’t forget. You’re my husband and I love you.”

Laird Grant lifted his cup. “To the bond of MacKenzie and Grant. May we cut down our enemies and love our women.”

The revelry swirled around them. As the French wine flowed, the toasts from their future children to the great battles Caelen would fight bounced off the great hall’s beams. Only the feast of pheasant, deer, swan, and every sea creature in Scottish waters ceased their shouts. Halfway through the procession of delights, Brenna curled up in her chair and dozed off.

She was nothing more than brown hair, wide, brown eyes, and the pinkest lips he had ever seen. She was funny looking.

She was his wife.

He didn’t even have chest hair.

Buy Claiming the Highlander at http://store.secretcravingspublishing.com/index.php?main_page=book_info&cPath=10&products_id=937or http://www.amazon.com/Claiming-Highlander-Mageela-Troche-ebook/dp/B00N70RHWO/ref=sr_1_3?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1410414322&sr=1-3&keywords=mageela+troche

Mageela Troche loves to make new friends. You can find her athttps://www.facebook.com/mageela.troche  at her http://mageelatroche.com/or https://twitter.com/MageelaTroche

Mageela Troche is currently writing her next novel in the cramped corner of her Big Apple apartment.

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