Monday, December 17, 2007


I thought that since the festive season is well upon us, I would include a 12 days of Christmas hotch potch of extremely random but less well known Medieval facts surrounding the celebration. At the end I've also enclosed a 'Marshal' Christmas moment from my Akashic Record notes. Watch out for a 'Bigod' Christmas gathering in the next few days too!

Above to start is a cartoon illustrating the detail that it was the shepherd's right to twelve nights of dung at the time of the winter feast. Makes a change to a sack of coal I suppose.

2. Every Christmas, Roland le Petteur (12th century) had to perform a 'leap, whistle and fart' before the court as a stipulation of holding his lands.

3. William The Conqueror was crowned in Westminster Cathedral on Christmas Day 1066.

4. In the Middle Ages, three masses were celebrated on Christmas Day. The first was at midnight (the Angel's Mass). The second was at dawn (The Shepherd's Mass) and the third was during the day. (The Mass of the Divine Word.)

5. In 1209, King John was at Windsor for Christmas.

6. When portraying the Three Kings in the Medieval period, Baltasar was frequently portrayed as a black man and gave the gift of Myrhh to the infant Jesus.

7. St Nicholas was a popular medieval saint, but his feast was on the 6th December and it wasn't until after the Reformation that he began to morph into Santa Claus.

8. There was a belief in the early middle ages that if it was windy on the eleventh of the twelve days of Christmas, it meant that 'all cattle shall perish.' Oh dear.

9. The ceremony of passing the wassail cup at this time of year was first recorded by Peter de Langtoft in the 1320's. The apparent custom was for the leader of a gathering to raise a cup and cry 'Wassail!' (old English for 'Your health). The company would answer 'Drinkhail!' and the leader would drink and pass it on to the next person of the company with a kiss and so on.

10. In 1171, Henry II spent the Christmas feast in Dublin and remained there until March of the following year.

11. It was the custom at Christmas for the lord and lady to give their retainers and dependents new clothes. Seven ells was the amount of cloth adjudged to provide enough for a tunic in the thirteeth century. How much was an ell? How long is a piece of string! This website has a little bit more of an explanation.

12.Here are the Medieval Baebes singing a version of the Medieval English Carole 'Adam lay y-bounden.'

A Marshal Family Christmas Gathering in Normandy, Christmas 1198

Alison (Akashic consultant):

William’s mindset.

Very peaceful. It’s a time to relax and spread out with nothing pressing, no duties. He is sitting with Isabelle before a big fire and is all floppy and relaxed. They are sitting on what looks like a sofa covered with skins or furs. It’s low to the floor and I can’t tell what’s under the furs. It’s cushioned though. It’s as if the back rest is made of sacks filled with fleece – very comfortable and warm. The feeling is mellow.

I can feel the children at the sides and that feeling of contentment encompasses them too, although they’re not actually sitting with their parents. It’s just a quiet family time. I can see they (parents) have got some sort of fork with two prongs, curved at the ends. They are toasting something in the fire – just bread. Now they’re dunking it into spiced wine, or some sort of drink with spices in. Not sure if it’s wine or mead. Whatever it is it’s rich and nice and warm. The children want some ‘Me, me, me!’ I can see a little girl with a cap on (Medieval bonnet style). She looks darling, like a little doll or angel, lovely. She’s got dark colouring, pale skin, very sweet. I can see two older boys dancing around and one trying to get something off the other. It’s to do with food. Ah, something in the mead – fruit? It’s like we have cocktail cherries in our drinks today – something like that.

William’s reaction to his children

He has got a lot of experience of people. He can size the children up very well and understand them. He’s very fond of them but also has a professional detachment as well as love. He has made a conscious effort not to categorise them too early on in life. He wants to give them time to grown before they are channeled into a particular thing. He’s a good father, always looking for things that need to be pinned down before they get out of hand. He knows where to set the boundaries, what needs to be pruned. He’s not a touchy feely sort of father except where it feels proper i.e. arm round a son’s shoulder in a back slapping man to man fashion. He’s not cuddly. He’s very tender with his small daughter; he’s aware of his own great strength and doesn’t want to hurt her. Smaller infants and babies are best left to his wife’s women because they are trained to look after them.

Isabelle’s impressions

She is very happy and contented and is currently pregnant.

Above the fireplace is an arrangement on the wall – Big evergreen arrangement with berries with more leaves spreading out – rather like lime leaves but pointed at the tip and glossy and dark. I don’t know what they are. Isabelle’s wearing a light coloured dress in a cosy, flexible fabric – looks a bit like what we’d call fleece these days (probably thickly napped wool?) It’s pink in colour with a bluey tinge with a neutral coloured under tunic. She’s got a pale coloured head covering on. She would only expose her hair to go to bed or in the bedroom.

She has had William’s tunic made for him for Christmas, for his homecoming. It’s of wool, a rusty dark-red in colour with embroidery round the top of the sleeves and braiding at neck. Quite plain otherwise, or most of what I can see is plain. He has taken his belt off to be more comfortable.

They want to hold this feeling of peace and don’t want any pressure so they’re not holding a big celebration. I’m getting conflicting feelings. There is a celebration in the hall but all they are going to do is go through the motions i.e. raise a glass and then retire to the private chamber. They shower coins on the occupants of the hall and then go. They’re happier now. There are people in the private chamber who want to talk to them. Looks as if they’re not having a sit down meal, more of a buffet. Pies, roast chestnuts, food prepared at the fire. There are people warming themselves at the fire too. The whole aim and ambience is low key. The lighting comes from brackets in the walls. I can’t see clearly what’s in the brackets, it keeps changing. It looks a bit like a bundle of sticks. The flame is bigger than the circumference of the sticks.

They’re going for a look outside…doesn’t look that dark, but could be moonlight. It’s just a relief to them both to be peaceful and calm.


Carla said...

What a lovely scene of William Marshal's Christmas.

Anonymous said...

Wonderful entry! I've heard of #6 and of #12, myself.

Enjoyed the Medieval Babes clip too. "Adam Lay Ibounden" is one of my favorite songs they do, I missed seeing them here in the States when they were playing a few dates.

I look forward to your upcoming entries. : )

Merry Christmas to you and your family!


Satima Flavell said...

That's beautiful, Elizabeth! I love William and Isobel. They are my 22x great-grandparents and although they were "of their time" they do strike me as having been inherently decent people. I am proud of them. It's hard to feel pride in some of our medieval ancestors because even making allowances for "autres temps autres mores" they did some utterly horrible things to each other. I look at some of their doings and realise it's little wonder the world is in a mess. Humans have always been greedy and sometimes our greed makes us cruel.

But reading a little scene like that helps us to see our ancestors as humans in a kinder, gentler setting. Thank you, Elizabeth and thank you, Alison.

I haven't heard the Medieval Babes before. Will go a-googling.

topalite said...

Thank you so much, I just KNEW there was more to your writing than just a gift with words. Your stories truly take me back and are very precious to me as they allow me the most human glimpse into the lives of many of my ancestors... William Marshall is my 25th great grandfather, I am also descended from his contemporaries - the Kings of England and of France at the time... in fact, basically all of the central characters in The Greatest Knight are my ancestors and even though I know I'd still love your books without that connection - the added dimension of the Akashic records definitely gives me a far more three dimensional snapshot of my roots.

~ jojo