Medieval Monday: The Monk

 

It’s the beginning of the month, so here’s another episode of Medieval Lives with Terry Jones of Monty Python fame. Lots of interesting information about the role of monks in medieval society, some of the different orders and how they got started. Lots of beautiful architecture in this one! Definitely worth watching.


Learn more about the daily life in Middle Ages by browsing previous posts in the Medieval Monday Index.

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Fantasy Art Friday

Get inspired with this week’s Fantasy Art Friday, where fun fantasy artwork is combined with a writing prompt to get your creative juices flowing.


It is said that deep beneath the ocean waves lies a ship, once made of wood, and rope, and sail…but now only a ghostly vision. It lights the waves before it like fire, leaving dread and darkness in its wake. The rumors say it is cursed; forced to re-trace its doomed voyage for all eternity. Maybe you’ve heard what transgression committed by its captain and crew brought on such a curse. None of the stories seem to agree. Only take care not to go chasing after it, for those who do are doomed to share its fate, sinking down into the inky depths of the sea.

Title and Artist Unknown


Want to see more Fantasy Art posts? Find them here.

 

 

Medieval Monday: Pigeons and Dovecotes

Doves and pigeons were an important resource in the Middle Ages,  valued primarily for their meat, eggs, and feathers. Falconries used them as quarry, and their guano was a highly sought-after fertilizer. In southern Europe, it was spread on hemp fields and vineyards. In Northern Europe, it was said that pigeon guano was worth ten loads of any other type of fertilizer.

Until the 1600s, strict laws forbid anyone other than the nobility or monasteries from keeping doves and pigeons. Though some castles and manors had built-in nesting boxes, for the most part these birds were housed in freestanding structures called dovecotes. They were round, stone buildings with either a domed or conical-shaped roof. The round shape made it easier for people to collect young doves or pigeons (squabs) from the nesting boxes. Squabs were considered a delicacy.

The inside of the building had a large open space, with ledges or cubicles jutting out from the walls. Pigeons would enter and exit from openings just beneath the roof. The nests could be accessed with a ladder attached to a revolving pole called a potence.

There is some evidence that pigeons were also used for communication, but only after exposure to Middle Eastern practices during the crusades. For the most part Western Europeans had no concept of how birds migrated. (They thought that Swallows hibernated during the winter in the mud beneath ponds.) The use of homing pigeons to communicate over long distances didn’t become common throughout all of Europe until after the medieval era. However, those regions that continued to trade and communicate with the Arab world during and after the crusades began to build networks of homing pigeons. The Republic of Genoa was the most notable of these, and built towers for that purpose along the Mediterranean Sea.

Pigeons were able to deliver messages relatively reliably and quickly over hundreds of miles from their home. By feeding them in one location, and nesting them in another, they could be trained to fly back and forth between two locations. But more often, once they were released and delivered their messages, pigeons had to be transported back and forth by cart. This method of communication was not without its limitations, however. Any message sent by pigeon had to be very short, and the receiver on the other end would have to be literate enough to read it. Such messages could also be intercepted by trained falcons and hawks, or by archers.


Learn more about daily life in the Middle Ages by browsing previous posts in the Medieval Monday Index.

Medieval Monday: The Peasant (part 2)

In my last post I talked about peasants in medieval society. This week I am expanding on that, as their roles went far beyond the basic categories of serfs, villeins, and freemen.

While many peasants provided manual labor in the crop fields, not all of them were farmers. Peasants were craftspeople as well, whether working in a castle or manor directly for the nobility, or serving villages and towns. Peasant trades would have included millers, carpenters, blacksmiths, goldsmiths, shoemakers, cobblers, chandlers (candle makers), coopers (barrel makers), tanners, tinkers, potters, weavers, bakers, fletchers (arrow-makers), book-binders, masons, and many others. Some of these trades were tightly regulated by powerful guilds, particularly in the later Middle Ages.

Work, family, and home were integrated together. Peasants working a craft usually lived and worked in the same building. If they had a shop, it would occupy the first floor where the front of the building might be able to open into a vendor stall. The second floor would be living space for the family. Parents typically taught their children the trades they worked; father to son, mother to daughter. If a child did not learn a parent’s trade, they could be apprenticed to someone else to learn a different one.

We tend to think that women’s responsibilities were purely domestic, such as tending the home, children, animals, garden, and sometimes helping in the fields during the height of the harvest. However, there were also certain crafts that were commonly done by women, such as baking, brewing, midwifery, and every aspect of textile manufacture. Women were also known to help their husbands with their crafts, including but not limited to leather and metal working, or helping to run mills, taverns, and inns. Positions in convents were typically reserved for noblewomen, but some peasant women were able to enter as “lay sisters.” They would be given the most menial jobs that needed to be taken care of.

Some peasants actually held prominent, even powerful roles that brought them wealth.

A bailiff was hired to help run a lord’s estate. His job would be to delegate jobs to other peasants and hire the appropriate tradesmen as needed for different projects. He was also responsible for taking care of livestock and building maintenance.

A reeve was an assistant to a bailiff; an enforcer who was usually strong and intimidating. His job was to act as a go-between. He made sure that the peasant workers were doing their jobs and not stealing from the lord.

Stewards (or seneschals) were also extremely important, and well paid for their work. They were in charge of managing a lord’s affairs when he was away—taking care of both his property and his finances. A steward by necessity was someone that the lord could trust.


Learn more about daily life in the Middle Ages by browsing previous posts in the Medieval Monday Index.

Fantasy Art Friday

Get inspired with this week’s Fantasy Art Friday, where fun fantasy artwork is combined with a writing prompt to get your creative juices flowing.


Few have been to this pristine valley, its vibrant greens hemmed in by cold, white mountains that are nearly impossible to scale. Animals graze here, taking leisurely drinks from the streams. They’ve not had to learn the fear of hunters.

There are plenty of legends about this place–the kind told over frothy mugs in smoky taverns. How many of those tales are inspired more by ale than truth no one really knows. But on one thing all of the stories seem to agree; that this beautiful country is not as empty as it would seem, nor is it friendly to strangers. Any who attempt to settle here come to an unpleasant end, for the tall mountains conceal the homes of those who have lived beneath them for thousands of years…and they want to keep them concealed for thousands more. With their own hands they set the round stones in the stream. Giant hands, placing stepping stones for giant feet to cross from one side to the other. 

Are you content to swap tales in the safety of the tavern, mug of ale in hand? Or are you the adventurous type who can’t rest until you find out for yourself if the legends are true? Do you dare to venture across the giant stepping stones?

 

Title Unknown, by Roberto Nieto


Want to see more Fantasy Art posts? Find them here.

 

 

Seven Ways to Market Your Self-Published Novel…

Congratulations! You’ve published your first novel (or maybe your second or your third) and now you’re ready to market it.

This can be a daunting moment. I think all of us secretly hope that our novel will be miraculously discovered and recognised as the masterpiece it truly is … but we know that isn’t going to happen without some sort of marketing.

The good news – especially if the very idea of marketing makes you shudder – is that there’s no single “right” way to let the world know about your book.  There are lots of different techniques you might try, depending on the type of book you’ve written, and the type of author you are.

I’m focusing on self-published novelists in this post. Many of these suggestions will work just fine for traditionally published authors too, but as a self-publisher, you have full control over things like the price of your book – and carte blanche to market in any way you see fit.

I’ve also kept this list short: seven ideas rather than the 50+ you might find on some sites.  I’ve come across some huge lists of marketing ideas for novelists … but often I end up feeling that most of the ideas aren’t necessarily all that workable or impactful.

While there are an almost unlimited number of things you could do to promote your novel, in this post, I’m going to focus on seven very common ones:

Read the rest of the post: http://www.aliventures.com/seven-ways-market-novel/

Shared thanks to Chris the Story Readin’g Ape’s Blog: Seven Ways to Market Your Self-Published Novel…

Medieval Monday: The Peasant

Now that I’ve gone through all the labors of the months, my first-of-the-month posts will shift focus to something new–social status and occupations. We’ll start with peasants, who were at the bottom of the social scale. They had limited to no voices in feudal society, might not be allowed to own property, and led rather difficult lives.

While we tend to lump “peasants” all into the same category, there were really 3 basic types of peasants, with important differences that distinguish them from one another.

Serfs were just a step above slaves, bound to the land on which they provided manual labor for a lord. In addition to working in the fields, they might also do things like work in the mines, forests, or maintain roads. Serfs were not permitted to leave the lord’s land (or purchase their own) and might be sold with it like property. Marriages between serfs had to be approved by the lord.

Villeins were similar to serfs in status, but they were semi-free tenants. They paid for the use of the lord’s land with either dues or services. While villeins were not personally sold with the land, their labors might be, and they would be required to work for whomever held it. Both villeins and serfs were usually poor, and worked extremely hard for what little they had. Unrest among serfs and villeins was common, though it rarely resulted in any substantial societal change.

Freemen were peasants who were free to go where they wanted and do what they pleased (within their limited means, of course). They were not required to work on the lord’s land, though they might choose to. Most of them were simply laborers, but a few were fortunate enough to own their own land or business. Some freemen could be rather well off and comfortable–for peasants, at least.

Despite their poor status, all peasants had to pay taxes, both to the lord to whom they swore their fealty, and to the Church. The Church required a 10% tithe, either in cash, or in crops. Peasants dreaded this tax, as it could leave them with not enough of what they’d grown to survive through the year.

Check out this informative, and humorous, video from the BBC on medieval peasants. It is hosted by Terry Jones from Monty Python. It is quite interesting and entertaining as well.

 


Read Peasants (part 2). Learn more about the daily life in Middle Ages by browsing previous posts in the Medieval Monday Index.