Holly is one of my very favorite plants. No only is it easy to take care of, evergreen, and provides food and shelter for wildlife, it's gorgeous in winter. We have a postage stamp sized lot filled with oak trees, yet I've added five holly trees to our landscape. Frankly, I've been a bit upset because our new lawn service guys trimmed them ruthlessly a few weeks ago. I had not asked them to do so. Now the birds and I have far less holly branches and berries to make use of. But I expect we'll get through it and can only hope that in typical holly fashion they will respond by growing stronger and fuller than ever.
I doubt that many medieval citizens worried about someone over-trimming holly trees and bushes. If on a grand estate, the gardeners would have known it would be used for decoration. Rural peasants could find it growing abundantly in the wild -- free holiday decor.
But why decorate at all and why use holly? Looking over my research, it seems that to many cultures -- Romans, Celts, Norse -- it was a symbol of fertility and eternal life. It's evergreen, after all. The Romans also associated it with Saturn, the god of agriculture, harvest, and fertility and used it to decorate their homes for the Saturnalia celebration. It was such a popular holiday that rather than attempt to abolish it completely, Pope Gregory the Great changed it to the Christian celebration of Christmas. Holly was still abundant and evergreen and the berries still red and so it continued to be used for decking the halls. Over time, the spiky green leaves were to be compared to Christ's Crown of Thorns and the red of the berries as a symbol of His blood.
The holly tree was as sacred to the Druids as the oak. It was said that the oak controlled the light (daylight) in summer while the holly controlled it in winter. Druids held that holly had protective powers. While they considered it sacrilege to cut down the trees, folks were allowed to cut boughs and branches to set inside their homes for protection.
Since holly is apparently lightening-resistant, both the Celts and the Norse associated it with their thunder gods, Taranis and Thor respectively. They planted the trees near their dwellings for added protection against lightening and evil.
I don't know why I'm surprised that holly has been used in and around homes for over a millennium. I love it. Why wouldn't anyone else?
Be sure to visit medieval ladies Mary Morgan and Barbara Bettis for more medieval fun!
Happy Medieval Monday!
Happy Medieval Monday! Happy Thanksgiving Week!
I can hardly believe that the holidays are upon us! I am grateful for so many things and look forward to celebrating with loved ones.
Preparations, of course, can be really hectic, and sometimes they don't go as planned. Check out this scene from Tremors Through Time.
Lachlann stood with Deidre and Jackson beside the hospital bed and stared down at his friend and landlord, fighting panic. The doctor had assured them that he would be all right.
A kitchen fire…Joe had been trying to cook too many things at once, preparing for Thanksgiving dinner, plus cooking up a big batch of fried chicken for lunch. Somehow, he’d hit the handle of the frying pan, catapulting boiling oil all over his shirt and, if that wasn’t bad enough, he had been close enough to the gas stove for his shirt to catch fire. He had first and second degree burns on his stomach, chest, right arm, and right hand.
“I’ve ruined Thanksgiving,” he groaned as the three of them stood there.
“Nonsense, Joe,” Deidre said briskly. “As long as you’re all right, we’ll have plenty to be thankful for.”
“I’m going home for Thanksgiving. Ain’t none of us going to spend it here in this hospital. But what are we going to eat?”
“Don’t worry, Joe. We’ll manage,” Lachlann assured him. His voice sounded shaky, even to himself.
“We’ll be fine,” Jackson agreed.
“It’s a holiday,” Joe persisted.
“I’ll cook,” Deidre said, “using your recipes. Rest now, cher, because I’ll be bothering you tomorrow.”
Jackson agreed to go home and clean while Lachlann and Deidre stayed with Joe through the night.
Lachlann was more grateful than he could express for her calming presence.
Fire. Just thinking about it made his insides coil. He pulled a chair close to the bed while Deidre sat nearby on the sofa.
“Lachlann, Joe’s going to be all right,” she said quietly. “He has some bad burns. He’ll be in pain for a while. But it could’ve been much worse. Joe’s tough. He’ll be okay.”
“What about infection?”
She shook her head. “They’ve given him antibiotics, and his burns have been cleaned and covered with antibacterial cream. When he goes home, we’ll make sure they stay that way until his skin is healed.”
He nodded, silently reminding himself that it was the twenty-first century. Deidre rubbed his arm soothingly. He covered her hand with his own.
“Until you…” His voice shook and he stopped. “Joe is family to me. He gave me work, a home, food, advice when I needed it.”
“None of us are going anywhere,” she said firmly.
It was a long, miserable night. He dozed in a chair, his feet propped on another.
Suddenly, Allasan was in front of him, angry. “Lachlann, go to Inbhir Nis! I want the dye! You’ll only be in my way here!”
Her face loomed close to his. As he stared at her, it Anastasia Abboud 104 became covered with boils.
“Och,” he murmured. “I’m sorry. I’m sorry, Allasan.”
She didn’t answer, only looked at him accusingly. Fire lit her hair and began searing her face.
A soothing voice, a calming touch dispelled the image. He shifted uncomfortably and kept dreaming.
For more Medieval Monday, be sure to visit medieval ladies Mary Morgan and Barbara Bettis.
Wishing you a wonderful Thanksgiving and happy holiday season ahead!
image credit: Christopher Rynn, University of Dundee
Happy Medieval Monday!
In 2017, Professor Susan Black of the University of Dundee, Scotland, was on an archaeological dig on Black Isle, Ross-shire, Scotland with Dr. Christopher Rynn and three PhD students when they discovered the remains of a man buried in a cave.
According to Professor Black, he had been brutally beaten to death, but buried carefully, laid in an unusual position, and in a protected location in the back of the cave.
Despite his battered skull, researchers at the University of Dundee were able to reconstruct his face using digital imaging. To me, the man looks strikingly modern. Why do I feel a bit surprised? What else should I expect of anyone without worldly trappings affecting their appearance?
It's so easy to dehumanize others -- whether in the past or, worse, even in the present. He might have been a bad guy. He might have been cruel. He might have been a great leader, betrayed. We will probably never who he was. But from now on, when I think of the Picts, his face will come to mind.
There've been a lot of archaeological discoveries all over Scotland the past few centuries. One very impressive site is the hillfort at Burghead. Radiocarbon dating shows that the fort's construction began as early as the 3rd century, and it's presumed to have flourished between the 4th and 9th centuries. Over 12 acres, it's the largest pictish settlement ever discovered and surely a main center of power for the Picts. Findings at the site show it was a center of both commerce and religion.
I owe it to the Picts to write at least one more post about them -- about their writings, their art, their body-paint. But it will be a few weeks. I'll be away and mostly offline for a little while. I can hardly wait to tell you all about it!
Be sure to visit the marvelous, medieval ladies Mary Morgan and Barbara Bettis!
Wishing you a happy, wonderfully medieval Monday!
"The True Picture of a Woman Picte", engraving by Theodor de Brys, 1588
Happy Medieval Monday!
It's been a fascinating time, learning, un-learning, and repeating the process several times over as I've made the acquaintance of the ancient people called the Picts. I have to say, I absolutely love them.
No one seems to have a really firm grasp as to who they were, where they were from, or how their language sounded. Possibly the biggest mystery of all -- since they were a known people during recorded history -- is what happened to them?
It would seem that someone should know something. Right? Yes, I'm a bit cranky about it. To be fair, it's only because the Picts didn't leave a lot for us to work with -- at least, not a lot has been uncovered yet. But archaeologists continue to make amazing discoveries.
They lived in northern and eastern Scotland. Growing evidence shows they were there in the Iron Age which, in Britain, was from roughly 750 BC to when the Romans invaded in the first century AD.
It's hard to even know which question to address first! I've decided to go with their name. After all, that is usually first in order when getting to know someone. Then, since it sort of ties in, I will add a few words about where they came from.
It's worth pointing out that no one is even sure what they called themselves. I've found a few resources that suggest they might have referred to themselves as the albidosi, as in of the Kingdom of Alba (Scotland). I like that.
So where does the name "pict" come in? The most popular theory is that the Romans gave them the name. “Pict” or “Picti” in Latin means “painted people”. It is assumed that this would have been the Romans' way of painting them (no pun intended, but HA) as savages, referring to their blue war paint.
But there’s another theory out there that I personally prefer -- that "pict" might be a word of proto-Celtic origin. Cruithni (Irish), prydyn (Welsh), and pretani all mean "ancestors". It's been suggested that pict or pecht (Scottish Gaelic) comes from these old, indigenous words.
That brings me to where they came from. Some sources suggest that they came from Scythia. Others, from Ireland. These are the most popular theories, but not the only ones.
There's one theory gaining steam that I personally feel is the obvious right choice. Of course, all the work has been done for me. Moreover, what do I know? I'm just getting to know these folks. But I appreciate the suggestion that the picts were indigenous to the land -- indigenous to what is now Scotland. To me, that makes the most sense.
Ancestors. Right. To say nothing of Iron Age evidence... I'm going with it.
But that's just me.
Before I go, I thought to share this astonishing, digital image (University of Dundee) created from the well-preserved remains of a Pictish man. He was handsome and died a violent death. I'll tell you more about him next week.
For more medieval fun, be sure to visit these medieval ladies, Barbara Bettis and Mary Morgan.
Wishing you a great week ahead!
The digitally recreated face of the Pictish man. (Image credit: Christopher Rynn/University of Dundee)
tapestry of King Arthur that hangs in The Cloisters, New York
Nope! King Arthur was not a bard. At least, not to the best of my knowledge. But we know of him because of bards. Their oral traditions kept his legend alive until that time when they were written down.
And so it was with all the lore and history handed down by word of mouth for generations upon generations before writing.
Happy Medieval Monday! When I began researching this topic -- bards -- I realized it might be vast. But I had not an inkling...
The term “bard” comes from the Proto-Celtic word bardos, which referenced a poet-singer or minstrel. But bards were known by other names in other places, and they were not all singers or musicians.
While their responsibilities obviously varied from place to place and in different times, their responsibilities were multifold, serious, and often took courage.
They were the ones who made the rounds and shared good news and bad with their king/patron/chief as well as the people. They went into battle with their lords to both provide stress relief for the warriors and to witness their deeds.
They were storytellers of the highest degree, teachers, historians, and genealogists. So much from religion and prehistory would have been lost without the bards.
The Scottish bárds passed down clan history. In Ireland, there were different classes of bards. There were also Druid bards who were honor-bound to keep Druid lore alive but secret.
Welsh bardds kept King Arthur’s legends alive. French troubadours romanticized it.
Norse skalds told the sagas.
To say nothing of the world of religious traditions, creation stories, and ancient myths, etc., etc.
It gladdens my heart to know that there is a resurgence in the bardic tradition. Many, many storytellers honor their mission and take it seriously.
Bards are not prophets. They’re more historians. Aren’t they? In viewing time as more fluid -- ebbing and flowing -- perhaps they’re both?
Be sure to visit Barbara Bettis and Mary's Tavern for more Medieval Monday!
Now available at all major online bookstores.
So much delicious romance, so little time! Happy Medieval Monday!
The Medieval era was long and varied -- from approximately 500 CE to 1500. Although popular fiction might have us believe otherwise, it does refer to the whole world, not just Europe. I point this out because there was a lot more travel than we generally consider. Vikings were all over the place, as were missionaries, explorers, merchants, and pirates.
To write a solid historical novel, a writer has to do a surprising amount of research. One thing leads to the next and the next... There is a lot of fiction written by PhDs and I can understand why. History is fascinating and demands to be remembered and shared. In my opinion, medieval history calls to be revealed in all of its richness and glory and gore. They don't all have to be in one story. Personally, I do very well without the gore. That's just me, of course. I love the beauty and mystery of it all.
There are so many wonderful writers who craft magnificent, medieval tales of adventure and romance. Some amazing authors -- just to get you started: Mary Morgan, Barbara Bettis, Judith Sterling, Ruth A. Casie, Mary Gillgannon, Amy Jarecki, Sherry Ewing, Cathy and DD MacRae, Jenna Jaxon, Sophia Nye, Madeline Martin, Eliza Knight, Tanya Anne Crosby, Julie Garwood, Vonda Sinclair, Shelly Thacker, Mairi Norris, Ashley York, and a new favorite, Virginie Marconato. Some write in a variety of romance subgenres and some write strictly medieval romance. Some add fantasy to the history, some do not. They all write beautifully.
Care to disappear for a while into a world of magic and mystery, chivalry and romance? Try one of these authors. Oh, and you might want to check out my time travel romance, Tremors Through Time. :)
Be sure to visit Mary Morgan and Barbara Bettis (beloved authors of mine) for more medieval romance!
Available at your favorite online bookseller.
August, Limbourg Brothers, Les Très Riches Heures
Happy August, Happy Medieval Monday!
Hard as it is for me to imagine here in the heat of a Texas summer, the first of August marks the beginning of harvest time in many countries. For ancient Gaels, August 1 meant the festival, Lughnasadh/Lughnasa. Those are the ancient words. Called Lùnasta in modern Irish and Lùnastal in Scottish Gaelic, it's one of the four seasonal Gaelic celebrations (along with Samhain), Imbolc, and Beltane). It was in celebration of the beginning of the harvest season.
In Tremors Through Time, it was this festival which took Lachlann away from his family for a short time, only to return to devastation.
Scottish Highlands, 1351
Shrouded in mist, Loch Nis loomed, dark and foreboding, in the distance. Lachlann pulled the packhorse along swiftly, anxious to be home before nightfall. He needed to see his family, to hold his son. He checked his sporan. The wee leather ball and wooden horse figurine were there, safe. He could hardly wait to watch Iain’s little face light up when he gave him the toys.
Allasan should be pleased that he’d found everything on her list. He grinned. They had their differences, but if there was one thing about his wife, she knew what she wanted. She was the most stubborn Gael alive. Despite fever, nausea, and a sick three-year-old to care for, she’d almost pushed him out of the door.
You have to go,” she’d urged, her brown eyes unnaturally bright. “I want the dye and you’ll find it in Inbhir Nis. You promised! I didn’t work day and night all summer to be disappointed because of a paltry ailment. I have my family and yours all around me if I need anything. Go! You’ll only be in my way here!”
He had to admit, she’d been right. The Lùnastal festival in Inbhir Nis was much larger than their local fairs, with a wider variety of merchants in attendance. Not only had he found her purple dye and wax candles, but all sorts of vegetable seeds as well, even Norse Anastasia Abboud 8 favorites such as horseradish and mustard.
Thanks to a bountiful harvest and the cloth that Allasan wove so skillfully, he’d had plenty with which to barter. He’d even been able to choose gifts—Iain’s toys, silk ribbons for his wife and sisters-in-law, and iron gall ink for the bard.
He only wished that Allasan and Iain had been able to go with him as planned. He’d worried about them the whole week. What’s wrong with the horse? He tugged lightly on the rope. The beast stalled, its ears flat back. He tugged harder, then smelled it, the foul stench of smoke
Available in ebook and paperback from your favorite online bookstore.
Wishing you a wonderful beginning to both the new week and new month!
XLII. PASTA (TRIJ)
Nature: Warm and moist in second degree.
Optimum: That which is prepared with great care.
Usefulness: It is good for the chest and for the throat.
Dangers: It is harmful to weak intestines and to the stomach.
Neutralization of the Dangers: With sweet barley.
Effects: Very nourishing. It is good for hot stomach, for the young, in Winter, and in all regions.
(Vienna, f. 45v)
Do you love pasta? I'd like to dedicate today's Medieval Monday post to our grandchildren, Colette and Oliver, who are vacationing with their parents in Italy right now. Like their beautiful mommy Julia, they are pasta-lovers.
I'm sharing this color plate from the Vienna Tacuinum because along with its notation, it made me smile. It seems that like all foods, even pasta should be prepared with loving care for optimum nourishment. I would not have guessed that it's good for chest and throat, but for Julia's and the babies' sakes, I'll accept.
But barley? Could it possibly reduce that full feeling after enjoying a healthy portion of one's favorite pasta? Has anyone tried it lately? In any case, the particular medieval physician clearly believed in his carbs!
In my handbook's collection, grapes are showcased on the facing page. A wonderfully Italian display, don't you agree?
It doesn't have to be in a health manual to know that a little fun and relaxation is good for you -- but there it is! So why not enjoy a little pasta, some vino, and la dolce vita?
Happy Medieval Monday! Obsessing on my garden these days and I thought to share a little of this little handbook that I love.
I'm so proud of it that anyone might be surprised it's not an original edition! It's just that it's the sort of health handbook I appreciate, all about herbs and human temperament and natural elements. And the illustrations are beautiful!
Tacuinam Sanitatis was first published in Italy in 1976. Author Luisa Cogliati Arano chose colored plates from several different medieval manuscripts. Those manuscripts, in turn, had been translated into Latin from Ibn Butlan's eleventh century handbook Taqwim al-Sihhaa.
Isn't that amazing?
My version of the handbook is in English. It was translated in 1976 by Oscar Ratti and Adele Westbrook and published in New York. While I would love to know Italian, I am grateful for this translation.
The Physican Speaks:
The Tacuinum Sanitatis is about the six things that are necessary for every man in the daily preservation of his health, about their correct uses and their effects. The first is the treatment of air, which concerns the heart. The second is the right use of foods and drinks. The third is the correct use of movement and rest. The fourth is the problem of prohibition of the body from sleep, or excessive wakefulness. The fifth is the correct use of elimination and retention of humors. The sixth is the regulating of the person by moderating joy, anger, fear, and distress. The secret of the preservation of health, in fact, will be in the proper balance of the elements, since it is the disturbance of this balance that causes the illnesses which the glorious and most exalted God permits.
--Rouen, f. 1
The medieval illustrations/illuminations are accompanied by recommendations. For example, according to the The Taquinum of Paris, watermelon and cucumbers "cool hot fevers and purify the urine", but they might also "cause pain in the loins and stomach."
There's also advice as to how to minimize the danger, "with honey and oil". I'm not sure if that means to ingest honey and oil along with the cucurbits or only if they cause discomfort. But I have a feeling it would work.
I'll share more about the book next week. After all, while my hero Lachlann probably would not have been aware of its existence, his contemporaries in medieval Scotland might have shared some of the same lore.
Don't miss great posts from these magnificent medieval ladies!
Medieval Monday: "BY THE SAINTS"-FASCINATING FEAST DAYS - Barbara Bettis - Historical Romance Author
Medieval Monday | A Shift in Realms on a Journey to the Orkney Islands (marymorganauthor.com)
Wishing you a wonderful week ahead!
Happy Medieval Monday! I always have a wonderful time exploring the Middle Ages. Recently, I've become fascinated by some of the inventions. Continuing with last week's "timely" theme, did you know that the mechanical clock was a medieval invention? That surprised me. I'm not sure when I thought it had been invented, but certainly not as far back as the late thirteenth or early fourteenth century.
As I've mentioned before, when I think of the medieval era, I tend to think of an agrarian society, not an urban one. For the medieval farmer, the sun moving from dawn to dusk was sufficient for calculating time. Certainly, in Tremors Through Time, it was all Lachlann needed during his medieval work day.
The sun hung midway between heaven and earth, the great loch silver beneath it, as Lachlann An Damh plowed his field.
But life in the cities ran on an altogether different schedule. So, too, did the monasteries that were popping up all over Europe. Monastic life centered around the Divine Office or Liturgy of the Hours. Moreover, wasting time was frowned upon. Knowing the exact time or hour became increasingly important. Churches and monasteries began developing and installing clocks. As church bells rang, merchants took note. Setting regular business hours suited them, too, as well as the variety of other establishments and venues found in urban areas.
The mechanical clock (gears, weights, and pulleys) was not the first clock used to tell time. Since ancient times, sundials, obelisks, water clocks, hour glasses, and a variety of other ingenious methods had been used.
But while surely better than nothing, they were not as dependable as the mechanical clock would be.
The mechanical clocks were well-made. One of the oldest -- arguably, the oldest -- mechanical clocks in the world that still works is in Salisbury Cathedral, It was built around 1382 and originally placed in the cathedral's bell tower. When that tower was demolished, the clock was moved to the Cathedral, then eventually set aside to be replaced. It was rediscovered in 1928, ultimately restored, and now on display.
These clocks changed the way time was ordered and therefore, often to no small degree, the way people lived. They remain one of the most impressive inventions of medieval times.
Personally, I still favor the sun-up, sundown approach. But that's mostly because I detest alarm clocks.
For more medieval fun, be sure to visit these medieval ladies' websites:
For a delightfully medieval man, be sure to check out Tremors Through Time. It's set to launch July 6 and available for pre-order now.
It's no secret that I prefer fat HEAs. Where better than in a beautiful romance?
From me to you with a smile.
You have successfully joined our subscriber list.