Mystery, Magic, and Faith

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In Journey to Aviad, Elowyn carries a little satchel with her initial on it that Morganne had made for her—it’s full of herbs meant to ward off evil. This was a common thing to do in the Middle Ages, as certain plants were thought to fend off everything from demons and witches, to just plain bad luck. Medieval people lived in a world full of danger and mystery, which was very often explained with superstitions.

The pervasive thought was that there were two kinds of magic. Black magic was demonic, and therefore harmful. Magic of this sort was feared and avoided, and was used to explain accidents, unknown illnesses, and other tragedies. White magic was supposedly based on the power of nature (God’s Creation). Using charms, talismans, and spells, performing sunrise rituals while sowing crops, or reciting incantations while weaving fabric, are just a few examples of white magic. The study of astrology and alchemy fell into this category as well.

The Church disapproved of them all, but pre-Christian paganism was still very much embedded in Medieval culture and had intertwined itself with Christianity. Folk-beliefs, like the belief in fairies for example, was everyday common sense in places like the British Isles—and had been for hundreds of years. Local priests could not convince people otherwise and eventually gave up trying, despite sharp pressure from the Catholic Church.

It’s easy to see how the medieval period lends itself so well to fantasy literature, which often relies on various forms of magic to add intrigue and to move the story. I have included some of these elements in my series for the sake of flavor and authenticity, like Elowyn’s little bag of herbs and the superstitions held by the people of Minhaven. But since I am writing Christian fiction, I have been very careful about the way I handle magic so that there is a true distinction between what is demonic, what is divine, and what is merely misguided belief. Hopefully my readers noticed that when Elowyn gave away her little bag of herbs, she did not seek to replace it with another. It was a small milestone on her journey to spiritual maturity, as she replaced her belief in the empty “magic” it contained, with a much stronger faith in Aviad and His ability to protect her.

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Elowyn was convinced that by removing the coin so soon after the man’s brutal death, she had somehow interfered with his ascension into the afterlife, causing his spirit to appear before her in the night. How else could she explain it? He had sought her out from beyond the dead, and pointed directly at the pouch that held the coin. It was quite obviously an object not meant for her to keep, and it had to be returned at the proper time of day.

Elowyn knew very little about the workings of magic, but it was common knowledge that the rites of good magic were most effective at sunrise. That was usually when cures were tried, when newly planted crops were blessed, and when pilgrims to the shrines petitioned their most desperate prayers. Nearly any ritual of importance, even the harvesting of garden herbs, was best performed at sunrise. If she did not make it before then, she would have to wait another day, and perhaps risk another terrifying vision in the night.

~ from Chapter 2, Journey to Aviad

Tools of Medieval Wisdom Unearthed Beneath England’s Ancient Academic Hub

Archaeologists in England have unearthed in excess of 10,000 medieval artifacts in central Oxford and every single one of them is providing a clearer picture of day to day life at Oxford University, as it was seven centuries ago.

Oxford University has become England’s academic pulsing heart, but it began as part of a friary established by Franciscan friars in 1224, known as Greyfriars. The massive archaeological dig is being directed by archaeologist, Ben Ford of the heritage consultancy, Oxford Archaeology, who told reporters at The Independent, among the smaller finds were “writing equipment, refectory cutlery and even ceramic beer mugs used by students and teachers back in the 13th, 14th and 15th centuries.” They also recovered “Ultra-rare octagonal oak columns, possibly from the friary’s 13th century timber church,” and a “beautiful mediaeval tiled pavement from the friary… discovered very near the new Westgate shopping center in central Oxford, archaeologists told reporters.”

According to the archeological report the dig has unearthed the iron knives and spoons, for consuming potage and broth. The recent finds tell archaeologists that Oxford’s medieval scholars ate a very wide range of terrestrial sourced foods including “meat, eggs, cereals, mutton, lamb, pork, beef, chicken and geese.” Sea fish included cod, whiting, haddock, herring, eel, gurnard, conger, grey mullet, thornback ray, salmon and sea trout, and archaeologists reported that among the freshwater fish eaten were roach and dace. A microscopic examination of all the food remains and radiocarbon dating will begin shortly.

Read the rest of this interesting article on the Ancient Origins website.

Keeping the Goliardic Spark Alive #amwriting #NaNoWriMo by Connie J. Jasperson

Medieval Monday will be back next week! Like Connie, I am also making a last push for my NaNoWriMo word count, so today I’m sharing a post instead of writing one. (Thanks to Chris the Story Reading Ape.)


This week has been a struggle, what with cooking a Thanksgiving feast for my extended family and trying to keep my wordcount output up for #NaNoWriMo, so today I am reprising an essay written in 2015, on irreverent humor, the Carmina Burana, and medieval frat boys. Enjoy!

Crazy humor at the expense of the establishment is nothing new. It’s part of the Human Condition. And to that end, I love goliardic poetry.

Carl Orff and his amazing cantata, Carmina Burana, catapulted me into the poetry of the Goliards. But who and what were the goliards?

During what we call the Middle Ages, noble and wealthy middle-class families had a tradition that the eldest son inherited everything, the second son went into the church, and the younger sons went to the crusades.

The old-fashioned practice of “primogeniture” or bestowing the rights of inheritance upon the eldest son, often leaving younger sons penniless, is responsible for some of the most ribald and hilarious poetry of the middle ages…

Keep reading at the source: Keeping the Goliardic Spark Alive #amwriting #NaNoWriMo

Medieval Monday: Labors of February

B.11.4, ff.i verso-ii rectoFebruary’s labors varied depending on where in Europe one lived. In the northernmost regions, where the ground was still frozen and additional snow and frost was anticipated, tasks continued to focus basic necessities like chopping wood and anything that could be done indoors. A common image in medieval art for February showed people warming themselves by the fire, or spending time in church.

feb-labors-spreading-manureHowever, in European regions further south, it was already time to start field work. Manure and marl (a soil mixture of clay and lime) could be spread on fields, and furrowing and planting would begin for early growing grains like barley. Larger fields would be turned and furrowed with plows pulled by horses or oxen. Households with smaller fields and gardens did the same back-breaking work by hand with spades. These were made of wood, with just the tip of the spade fitted with an iron piece referred to as a “shoe”. Spade handles varied in length, from short to long.

Willow was also planted at this time of year, and once grown was used to make wattle for fences and housing, or anything else that required wicker. For those keeping animals, February was the time when calves and lambs were born and needed to be cared for through the remaining cold weather. By the time they were weaned (usually 4-6 weeks later) the meadows would be green again and ready for grazing.


Use the Medieval Monday Index to discover more topics relating to daily life in the Middle Ages.