Thursday, 27 October 2016

So my children asked: 'Was there Halloween in the Middle Ages'?

So I finally have some time to breathe, relax, and get some blogging in. I apologize for the long bit of silence, but grad school and unexpected life difficulties! 

So it’s that time of year, harvest time, Halloween and all that craziness. My girls have been asking, was there Halloween in the Middle Ages? My answer was I am not totally sure. But let's look it up. Halloween according to some such as The New York Carver (2012) mentions, 'The festival of Samahain marked the Celtic New Year when dead souls were believed to walk the earth.’ That being said roots the tradition of Halloween deeply within Celtic culture and society.
Research indicates that the name 'Halloween' stemming from All Hollow’s even is purely a Christian tradition that began in the early Middle Ages. Reasons behind the survival of this strongly pagan holiday and its inner-connectedness with the Medieval Church, is something that bewilders many scholars and researchers today. But nonetheless, it aided its preservation.
Furthermore, the tradition behind Halloween or even it’s connotation with harvest time, ‘is a descendent of the Celtic festival of Samhain (pronounced sah-een) or 'summer's end' in the original Scots Gaelic’ Carver (2012).
Traditionally, the celebration held on 1 November began the Celtic New Year when dead souls were believed to walk the earth. What we deem as treats once then called ‘Soul cakes’ were left out for good spirits and lanterns, and then they were turnips, was customarily lit. Today our lanterns a solely American tradition, now everywhere, is in the form of a carved pumpkin. The purpose of this lantern, as well as the lights of which we all love to carry, was ‘to ward off stray evil spirits that also happened to pierce the thin veil of the underworld during this time of year’. This necessity rooted in the medieval theory and thought of the unknown, resulted in these deep and also imbedded traditions such as the Samhain tradition, in the psyche of man that resulted in it’s survival for centuries, Carver (2012).
In the eighth century, the Church branded 1 November All Hallows Day (or the day of the holy ones) in honour of the saints. It was not until two centuries later, the Church followed the Samhain festival more closely by naming November 2 All Souls Day in honour of the dead.
Additionally, the medieval custom of beginning observances the night before, All Hallows Evening, or Halloween became a popular name for the 31 October, thus resulting in our modern term of Halloween. Collectively this holiday is still celebrated today.
So in terms of the questions my children asked, yes, there was Halloween in the Middle Ages.

Wednesday, 8 June 2016

Those cute critters called sheep

So a lot has changed since my last post. I am half way across the world now and in grad school awaiting the start if my first year towards my PhD. Yes! Surreal it is, and I have missed my blog...and my horse.. whom is still stateside.. but that will change soon.

So besides doing things that I shouldn't... like breaking bones while climbing down walls... Whoops, I have been doing tons of research. My dissertation, which has been very very interesting, and also a gold mine as far as information of all sorts. Low and behold while working on my dissertation something well .... I should have expected is all over my research... Sheep 🐑
And I am quite impressed with the impact they had on fifteenth century English economy.

After a week of tracing and analyzing financial records of the fifteenth century in the records of the Calendar of Patent Records, and other valuable sources, making some lengthily databases; the trend of sheep and wool production likes to land in mass quantities where the money seems to drop. This also applies to the seemingly overly excessive amount of licences, chantry building etc., granted in the area as well. Meaning certain towns and areas, much more than say, some random little village in Norfolk. According to documentation, some of the receivers of large charitable gifts, managements of grants called frankalmoin and Mortmain, and others, the diocese and or parishes of these areas have a huge industry of both wool and sheep raising. Some areas such as Lincoln, and Wiltshire counties were hot spots for this form of economy. Some regions benefited from not only the export of wool but had cloth and textile centres. Now add the fact that some of the folks who sent off gifts to these areas was quite common and frequent  and for example the bishop of Salisbury had one of the most prolific bunch of sheep, this industry became a excellent source of income for the crown. This is very apparent during Edward IV's reign according to statistics discussed by Charles Ross, historian. Wool production and export increased by 72% during his second reign, according to figures.

So before I start rambling more numbers, it's apparent England had a very large love for the fluffy critters that more than dot the landscape today. And in the end if you follow the financial activity, and busy-ness of the area, via records, the likelihood that you will find a bishop with a very large herd of sheep and a nice production line to boot. More to come.