Medieval Cursing

Contrary to what how we curse today, bodily functions were not the worst of the worst for medieval people when it came to swearing. Here is what Melissa Mohr, author of “Holy Sh*t: A Brief History of Swearing,” has to say: “generally, people of medieval England did not share our modern concept of obscenity, in which words for taboo functions possess a power in excess of their literal meaning and must be fenced off from polite conversation…Medieval people were, to us, strikingly unconcerned with the Shit.” People back then “did not have much of an issue with describing bodily functions in ways that we might find less appropriate. Going into a city you might find a street called ‘Shitwell Way’ or ‘Pissing Alley’. Open a school textbook for teaching children how to read and you might find the words arse, shit Read more…

St Derfel and the Stag

In a nutshell, St. Derfel was a Welsh saint who started out as a warrior in King Arthur’s court (right there we have a problem in the assumption that King Arthur was real, but moving on …). Late in life, he took up his vocation as an itinerant preacher, spreading the Word throughout Wales and  establishing churches and ultimately being buried beside his fellow saints, to the incredible number of 20,000 (again, that can’t be right). I started out thinking that the carving of the stag, his totem, essentially, and all that remains of his mission, was one of the most obscure pieces of Welsh history possible to find, but after reading some more, there’s a lot more to this story. “For most of Europe, the really important thing was to have a bit of the saint’s actual body. But Read more…

Medieval Days of the week 1100-1500 AD

I just discoverd a web page (http://www.medievalgenealogy.org.uk/cal/medcal.shtml) where some hearty soul has calculated the dates/days of the week from 1100-1500 AD. Thus, for the book I’m writing now, I discovered that 11 December 1282 was a Friday. It was also the 3rd day before the Ides, which was a Roman way of figuring the days. The Roman calendar was originally based on the first three phases of the moon, with days counted backwards from lunar phases. The new moon was the day of the Kalends, the moon’s first quarter was the day of the Nones, and the Ides fell on the day of the full moon.  (Thus, Julius Caesar was murdered on the Ides of March, or March 15) December 11th was the Feast day St. Damasus, who commissioned the translation of the Bible from Greek to Latin in 366 AD. Read more…