Wednesday, 31 August 2016

Do what?

Daily Draw: Golden Tarot, Two of Coins

No surprise I got the juggle card today. This chap has a wry look of 'really' 'do what?' on his face. Do the balancing act but as the pointing finger suggests 'don't forget your shoes'.  

The characters in this deck are pretty stylish. According to the fashion press velvet is a look for AW 2016 as is brocade. Red boots are in (if not tights). Not sure about the funny hat. Although it could have functional value in hiding my roots or keeping my brains in place. 

The waves and the ships remind me to turn the other way. Easy to take the body on holiday while the mind stays at work. 

Out of clutter, find simplicity.

Albert Einstein, 1879-1955. 

Tuesday, 30 August 2016

First step

Daily Draw: Golden Tarot, Two of Swords

The crossed swords point to a rock and hard place with the woman in between.  As the new term approaches, this reminds me that my responses to over work are really unhealthy. Over eating, over caffeine, over smoking, over shopping, over anxious.  

The ripples in the card suggest the possibility of a third more healthy space of mindfulness. Each ripple offering a subtly different perspective until the mind is still. 

I've been putting off meditation class because I'm not very good at it. Or rather the voice of my inner Gremlin doesn't want me to be good at it. 

Working with a fine art deck tells me to go easier on myself. Who on earth could paint like an old master after one art lesson? So it is with meditation. It takes practice. With that thought in mind I'm going tonight...

Half an hour's meditation each day is essential, except when you are busy. Then a full hour is needed. 

Saint Francis de Sales, 1567-1622. 

Monday, 29 August 2016


Daily Draw: Golden Tarot, Six of Swords

I used to view this six as a forced journey or exile and a card of great sadness. Now I see it as 'enough and moving on'. I have made a few such journeys in my life and there may be a tinge of regret but it is commingled with immense relief. Knowing that I've done all I can and there is nothing more that can be done brings great peace. 

While this card speaks of journey into the unknown when I look back at my 'leavings' they have mostly led to better things. Where major new departures are concerned push factors may be more important than pull.

I am still reaping the rewards of last week's 'hound search'. The image below by the wonderful illustrator Dorothy Lathrop reminds me of the six and my whippet fellow travellers. 

Not I, nor anyone else can travel that road for you.
You must travel it by yourself.
It is not far. It is within reach.

Perhaps you have been on it since you were born, and did not know. 
Perhaps it is everywhere - on water and land

Walt Whitman, 1819-1892

Some of Lathrop's illustrations are quite tarotesque. In this image search strength and the tower jump out at me 

Sunday, 28 August 2016

No performance without effort

Daily Draw, Golden Tarot, The Chariot

These swans gliding along while
paddling furiously below the water remind me that an 'effortless performance' is usually anything but. Years ago I worked in one of the national galleries. Very glamorous front of house. But backstage? Oh man was that hard work! 

Those that are most slow in making a promise are the most faithful in the performance of it.

Jean-Jacques Rousseau, 1712-1778

Saturday, 27 August 2016

Coining words

Daily Draw: Golden Tarot, King Of Coins

I don't remember seeing this King depicted as a writer before. But here he his holding his coin with one hand and gesturing towards his writing tools with the other. 

The verb 'to coin' originally referred to the process of making money. Later it began to denote anything that was made into something new. 

By the sixteenth century, as coining new words became popular, the literary critic George Puttenham grumbled 'Young schollers not halfe well studied… will seeme to coigne fine wordes out of the Latin' 

Good job Shakespeare took no notice...

So shall my Lungs Coine words till their decay

William Shakespeare, 1564-1616


Daily Draw: The Llewellyn Tarot, Eight of Wands

This week I have twice drawn the Seven of Pentacles (decide on your direction) and the Chariot (get moving). Today I have the ‘hurry card’. I get it.
Two things long overdue. My new blog site and my research career. The former a short cut to what I want to do and the latter the hoop jumping for academic respectability. Pathological perfectionism getting in the way. More so in the case of the latter.
Perfectionism is the voice of the oppressor, the enemy of the people. It will keep you cramped and insane your whole life, and it is the main obstacle between you and a shitty first draft.
Anne Lamott, 1954-

Silly is necessary not just nice

Daily Draw: The Llewellyn Tarot, The Chariot
Down the rabbit hole yesterday researching hounds in cards and much fun it was it was too. A very kind inquiry into such pressing matters at AT has given me a whole new research project (or tarot wish list). I’ve done an image search of every suggested deck and this yielded some lovely historic hound art. Bonus! So when I got the chariot today I knew what to go with. A rabbit riding a hound in the Macclesfield Psalter…
rabbit riding whippetThe focus of the Macclesfield Psalter is the bible book of Psalms, a foremost liturgical and devotional text in the Middle Ages. The Psalms received sumptuous decoration in manuscripts indicating the wealth, status and piety of their owners. But illustrations in the margins tell another story of medieval humour.
Marginal humour and uninhibited fantasy are described by the Fitzwilliam Museum as the ‘most charming and provocative aspects of the Macclesfield Psalter’. To quote in full ‘Hybrid creatures merge human and animal shapes into nightmarish visions. A fox grabs a credulous cockerell or runs away with the farmer’s wife’s duck. An ape-doctor tricks a bear-patient with a mock diagnosis. An enormous skate fish frightens a man out of his wits. Wielding a sword against a giant snail seems pointless. Rabbits joust, play organs or ride the hounds that are supposed to hunt them’
The sources of these parodies and absurdities were verbal and visual. They range from the anecdotes used by preachers to spice up their sermons, to religious plays, secular romances, and fabliaux that entertained aristocrats and peasants alike.
So why include such images in a prayer book? According to the Fitzwilliam their role was not ‘marginal’, despite their position on the page. Laughter was not frowned upon in the Middle Ages. It was part of the warp and weft of day to day life, including religious experience. This wholesome attitude to life, encompassing the saints and the sinners, and embracing the world in all its glorious technicolour, bubbles up from the pages of the Macclesfield Psalter without any false modesty.
The strict distinction between sacred and profane, high and low, serious and funny, was alien to the medieval mentality. However these marginal absurdities and obscenities, quite acceptable to the medieval patron of the Macclesfield Psalter, outraged the puritanical mindset of its post-medieval owners. They defaced both horned devils and bare bottoms, equating evil with laughter. So who was the sillier?
The medieval view of  laughter as a defence against evil seems healthier to me. These images taught about sin in an engaging rather than ‘fire and brimstone’ way. Moral norms and the social order could be reinforced by by exposing and mocking their violation. Most importantly these amusements could defeat boredom, distraction and sloth by keeping the reader alert through the long hours of reading and prayer.
“Owl,” said Rabbit shortly, “you and I have brains. The others have fluff. If there is any thinking to be done in this Forest–and when I say thinking I mean thinking–you and I must do it.”

A. A. Milne, 1882-1956

Wanted: Magic Horse - must be fast enough to overtake missed boat

Daily Draw: The Chinese Tarot, Knight of SwordsIMG_0828
Dash and dare, the antithesis of procrastination and perfectionism. Notice how the words take less time to say.  What’s better something finished and good enough or something approaching excellent which never sees the light of day? I know it’s the former, why do I fight it?
Mediocrity is always in a rush; but whatever is worth doing at all is worth doing with consideration. For genius is nothing more nor less than doing well what anyone can do badly.
Amelia E. Barr, 1831-1919.

If you want something done properly

This King has troubles on his mind. The adoption of Christianity was far more problematic for medieval men than women. ‘Dark age’ kings struggled to reconKing of swordscile Christian ethics with Barbarian behavioural codes. How to meet the demands of a faith that expects them to give generous alms to the poor instead of booty to their followers? How to love one’s enemies? How to square the ideal of poverty with the dignity expected of high office?
These paradoxes don’t seem to worry women at all. They pragmatically embrace the challenges and often with great success. They become saints exercising power in life as abbesses and in death through their miraculous shrines.
This life is not for any old Thomasina, Richenda or Harriet. Royal blood is part of the job description for Anglo-Saxon kingdoms of any status couldn’t afford to do without these women saints. The special status of the nun benefited her family in a tangible way. Her holiness added to the honour of male kin and family lineage. Kingdoms acquired through treachery and bloodshed could be redeemed by her prayers. A female relation in convent gave legitimacy and even sanctity to lordships acquired through the most execrable means. Funny how it always falls to women to sort these things out…
Source for this post Leyser, H. (1995) Medieval Women: A Social History of Women 450-1500. 
So great was her [Hilda, Abbess of Whitby] prudence that not only ordinary folk, but kings and princes used to come and ask her advice in their difficulties, and take it…
Bede, 673-735.

Tears of a clown

Is it stronger to be ‘in touch’ with one’s emotions or to be able to control them?
Following her divine ‘call’ Margery Kempe (born c.1373) begins to experience strengthuncontrollable fits of crying. The extravagance of her piety expressed in these noisy outbursts variously bemuse, impress, or annoy everyone she meets. Crowds gather to hear her, others want her to shut up. She both follows and competes with St Bride. Apparently Jesus comes to her in a vision tells her ‘Bridget never saw me the way you do’…
The most mundane sights bring forth Margery’s tears – baby boys and handsome young men among other things. She makes friends and enemies in equal measure and relishes the hostility of the latter as evidence of her martyrdom. In her autobiography The Book of Margery Kempe we hear nothing of her fourteen children and she appears to see her husband as a nuisance rather than a companion.
Her book eventually found favour with the Carthusian monks of Mount Grace in Yorkshire. They were not willing to countenance Margery’s account of making the Virgin Mary some hot soup following the crucifixion and duly crossed out that passage. Yet the somewhat ‘romantic’ language with which Kempe expressed her relationship with Christ (apparently he told her ‘when you are in bed’ ‘you may take me as your wedded husband…take me boldly into the arms of your soul’) appeared not to trouble them. Or maybe it was too embarrassing to comment on…
So which camp would I fall into? Not a fan but I hope I would avoid giving more attention through open disapproval. Balance hot air with cool indifference. There’s a modern day Margery in my family whose emotional expressions are so large and loud there’s no room for anyone else’s. I find it selfish and I resent being forced to counter-balance. But hot plus hot equals boiling which is unbearable for everyone.
Sentimentality is the emotional promiscuity of those who have no sentiment
Norman Mailer, 1923-2007

Lady Justice

Daily Draw: Dreaming Way Tarot, Justice.
justiceIt is only since the 15th century, that Lady Justice has been commonly depicted wearing a blindfold. The blindfold signifies objectivity, the idea that justice should be doled out without fear or favour, regardless of wealth, fame, power, or identity.
King Aethelbert of Kent’s code of laws are the earliest set of written laws of any of the new Germanic kingdoms of post-Roman Europe. On first reading they appear to be concerned not with upholding moral norms but with providing a tariff of compensations. The code sets out the cost of reparations in instances of wounded honour and physical injury setting out a price for homicide but also to grievous bodily harm ranging from seizing your enemy by his hair, to gouging out his eyes or extracting the nail from his big toe.
In contrast to modern ideals of justice seventh century Kent was a society that believed in unequal rights. Thus the king’s fatted calf might be deemed more valuable than a man’s life depending on his class, whether he was free or half free or a slave. Compensation for injuries was calculated strictly according to a man’s worth or ‘wergeld’.
The clauses relating to women apply the same principles. Women could be abducted forcibly or to escape an arranged marriage but either way cash payments are required in settlement. If she was a slave 50 shillings should be paid to her owner in compensation, if betrothed ‘at a price’ to another man 20 shillings would be payable. If the woman is returned the abductor would be fined 35 shillings with another 15 shillings payable to the King. A different tariff applied to abducted widows.
Clause 31 has been criticised as regulating the practice of ‘wife-purchase’. However there are alternative interpretations. For instance, the argument that getting married was expensive because it was in the interests of women for this to be so. Grooms were required to make a morning gift ‘morgengifu’ of money or land and this was not a way of buying a woman but endowing her. The morgengifu was hers to keep and to dispose of as she chose, affording her a degree of security. If she were to leave her husband for another it was reasonable to expect that the new lover should ensure that the first husband could afford to take another bride.
Actually in marriage and divorce there appears to have been equality between men and women. In Aethelbert’s code the woman who chose to end her marriage faced no legal obstacles. She was free to do so without grounds and take half the goods and all the children with her.
The Welsh laws of Hywel Dda (a tenth century king) pay more detailed attention to equity in divorce settlements. If a marriage breaks up within seven years without good reason (good reason includes leprosy, impotence and smelly breath) the woman receives a fixed sum.
After seven years it is deemed right for the pair to share everything in ‘two halves’. The man keeps the pigs, the woman the sheep. The eldest and youngest son stay with the father and the middle son goes to the mother. All milking vessels but one pail go to the women. The drinking vessels go to the man. The man gets the hens and one cat and the woman gets the wool, flax and linseed and any opened vessels of butter and cheese. She is free to take as much flour as she can bodily carry. The bedclothes which were ‘over them’ belong to the woman and those ‘under them’ belong to the man until he takes another wife. Thenceforth they belong to the woman and if the new wife sleeps on them she must pay the first wife her ‘wynebwerth’ which translates literally as face-shame.
Source; Leyser, H. (1995) Medieval Women: A social history of women in England, 450-1500. 
If changing judges changes law, then it is not clear what law is.
Richard Allen Posner, 1939-

A gift with no strings?

Daily Draw, The Green Witch Tarot, Five of Chalices/Cups
According to Ann Moura this card can signify family squabbles over an inheritance.
five chalicesUnder new rules women of the Anglo-Norman world could be heiresses. What they could not expect to do was marry whom they pleased. Family expectations limited the freedoms of both men and women to choose their spouses. In one case a tenant of the Earl of Winchester specified in his will that his two daughter should inherit his land only if they married two brothers. The elder daughter married the elder son. However the younger son was offered a church living and decided not to marry. The result of this was that the younger daughter was sent to a nunnery.
Unwilling to accept this fate she managed to get a message to a boyfriend who arrived promptly marrying her in the convent. He then lay in wait and, just as she was being led away to a more secure institution by her furious brother-in-law, ‘abducted’ her. Cue a long process of litigation…
History is hereditary only in this way: we, all of us, inherit everything, and then we choose what to cherish, what to disavow, and what do do next, which is why it’s worth trying to know where things come from.
Jill Lepore, 1966-

Practical Wisdom

Daily Draw: The Green Witch Tarot, Two of Wandstwowands
Every good deck has a specific special quality. For me in this one it’s the botanical references. Allspice the herb of career and creative energy. Who knew?
When university medical faculties were first set up in in the mid thirteenth century women were excluded but they continued to practice medicine. It wasn’t long before ‘qualified’ medics begin to disparage lay men and women healers. John of Mirfield (d.1407), a doctor at St Bartholomew’s Hospital London, complains of ‘worthless and presumptious women who usurp this profession to themselves and abuse it; who possessing neither natural ability nor professional knowledge, make the greatest possible mistakes’
It seems that this kind of criticism  was less about the practices of lay healers and more about professional jealousy. University trained physicians resented the esteem shown to those who had not been through the system and feared they would take away their business by offering treatment at lower prices.
Arguments in favour of ‘professionalisation’ always refer to standards but now as in the medieval era the rationale is partly to restrict access and thereby protect the incomes of the ‘qualified’.
There are some tremendous teachers who have never been formally employed in a university or school; counsellors who dispense practical wisdom over a cup of tea rather than in the consulting room and healers who know that the larder is one of the best ever medicine cabinets. Unsung heroes who should be applauded.
Source: Leyser, H. (1995) Medieval Women: a social history of women in England 450-1500.

In his cups

Daily Draw: The Green Witch Tarot, King of Chalices/Cups
In medieval Europe food was a prime economic and religious concern. Medieval people regarded gluttony askingchalices the major form of lust, fasting as the hardest renunciation and eating as the most basic way of communing with God. Peter Brown observes that ‘in the straightened Mediterranean, the kingdom of heaven had to have something to do with food and drink’
In the later thirteenth and fourteenth famine was on the rise. Unpleasant stories of hoarding merchants, cannibalism and infanticide in the sources suggest hunger and even starvation were not uncommon. The capacity to over-eat or give away food to the less fortunate was a mark of privilege or aristocratic status. What we now call conspicuous consumption medieval people called magnanimity or largesse.
In the folk literature gorging until one was sick became an image of unbridled sensual pleasure. Magic vessels overbrimming with food and drink were a standard feature in European fairy tales as were skies raining cheeses in medieval myth. One of the most common charities required of religious orders was to feed the poor and ill, pilgrims and wanderers. Sharing one’s meagre food with a stranger (who may turn out to be an angel, a fairy, God or even Jesus) was in folk tale and hagiography a signifier of heroic or saintly generosity.
The renunciation of food and drink seemed to medieval people the most fundamental asceticism which would control the body in a discipline far more basic than would the giving up of the less frequent gratifications of sex or money. Gunther of Pairis, a Cistercian historian and poet said in a treatise on prayer and fasting ‘Fasting is useful for expelling demons, excluding evil thoughts, remitting sins, mortifying vices, giving certain hope of future goods and a foretaste (perceptio) of celestial joys’
Catherine of Sweden’s hagiographer attributed to her the view that ‘abstinence prolongs life, preserves chastity, pleases God, repulses demons, illuminates the intellect, strengthens the mind, overcomes vices, overpowers the flesh and stirs and inflames the heart with the love of God.’ An anonymous satyr on the hypocrisy of monks is clear that food and drink are more difficult to give up than sex: ‘Many who are not lured by more serious faults are cast down by overindulgence in food and drink…Indeed thinned by fasting or vigils and repeated prayers, the stomach thinks not of a woman but of food; it meditates not on lust but on sleep’
It seems that food figured more strongly in lay women’s piety than in lay men’s. Women throughout Europe served Christ by feeding others and donating to the poor food that husbands and fathers were proud to be able to provide, save and consume. What would King Cups here think of that?
Source for this post Walker Bynum, C (1987) Holy Feast and Holy Fast: The religious significance of food to medieval women
Amendment. I found this You Tube of Caroline Walker Bynum speaking on Christian Materiality: Miracles in the Later Middle Ages. Fascinating.

It's complicated

Daily Draw: The Green Witch Tarot, Nine of Chalices/Cups
9chaliceIn 1566 one of the earliest witch trials in Lemgo, (now part of Northern Rhine-Westphalia) was conducted against Johan Büchsenschüz, a male sorcerer. Büchsenschüz was accused of using a crystal ball, blessing sorcery books and selling spells and talismans. Despite being tortured the accused denied that his magic was diabolical claiming it was ‘under the appearance of the Word of God’. This very Lutheran appeal to God’s Word in a Lutheran city within a Catholic county may have saved his bacon. The magistrates elected to burn his books but not his person.
Büchsenschüz was one of the ‘lucky’ ones. Lyndal Roper argues that for early modern Europeans witches ‘represented an existential threat, so profound, that unless witches were eliminated, their very physical and emotional survival was at risk’. For Lyndal Roper a key question is why did witchcraft have such a hold on fantasy? Why was the idea of witchcraft so compelling and why did it drive people to send their neighbours to the stake?
There is a thesis that the grounds for accusations of witchcraft were fairly mundane rooted in everyday tensions and squabbles between fellow villagers aggravated by broader social and economic forces. In a typical scenario an elderly woman or widow might approach a neighbour for alms. Refused, she utters a few cross words. The next day the householder awakes to finds that his pig is dead and concludes that he has been cursed. It’s a short distance from there to a witchcraft trial. But is this really about the pig? Could it be about Christian shame and guilt at not providing alms to vulnerable and wanting to eradicate the person who is a reminder of one’s meanness? There’s no straightforward answer, mentalities are complicated.
Whereas being poor was not shameful in the middle ages, the early modern period, and the seventeenth century especially witnessed a hardening of attitudes and increasing animosity towards the poor. Punitive legislation passed in England in 1572 categorised people as vagabonds if they worked as pedlars, tinkers, bearwardes (bear keepers), minstrels or fortune tellers. Writers begin to refer to ‘counterfeit Egyptians’ (from which the term gypsy is derived) as vagrants and highlight their association with palm reading.
Sources for today’s post:
CASS briefings (2014) Language surrounding poverty in early modern England: constructing seventeenth century beggars and vagrants, The ESRC Centre for Corpus Approaches to Social Science (CASS), Lancaster University, UK
Roper, L. (2012) The Witch in the western imagination, London: University of Virginia Press
Waite, G. K. (2003) Heresy, magic and witchcraft in early modern Europe, Basingtoke: Palgrave Macmillan.

More or less?

Daily Draw: The Green Witch Tarot, Ten of Chalices/Cups
In Centuries of Childhood Philippe Ariès presents the thesis that the ‘concten challiceept of childhood’ is modern: a creation of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. He argues that alongside the concept of childhood, childhood itself is subject to change in different historical circumstances.
In earlier times, according to Ariès, children were perceived as participants in adult society. He points to evidence that children shared the same amusements as adults and were dressed as mini-adults. Most controversially Ariès claimed that sentimental relations between parents and children were weakened by the frequency of child death.
Lawrence Stone’s enormous Family, Sex, and Marriage in England, 1500–1800 (1977) selling in huge numbers affirmed this thesis – high infant and child death rates and maternal mortality caused parents to love their children less. Only it wasn’t true…Stone made sweeping generalisations based on limited, anecdotal evidence.
Clarissa Atkinson’s and Barbara Hanawalt’s painstaking studies of of medieval motherhood, and children in fourteenth-century London respectively, revealed the complexity of past family relationships contradicting the notion of  premodern ‘indifference’. Linda Pollock examined hundreds of seventeenth diaries to support her claim that parents relations with their children were characterised by ‘modern’ qualities of profound sentiment.
The dairy of Ralph Josselin, vicar of Earls Colne, Essex, from 1641 until his death in 1683 provides the most wonderful insight into seventeenth century family life. Far from being numbed by sickness and death Josselin cared deeply for his wife and ‘babes’ frequently recording his anxieties about their state of health. The diary is a wonderful source of information on lay medicine. Over the years Josselin records his ailments large and small and their cures often in loving detail. He writes, ‘Stung I was with a bee on my nose, I presently pluckt out y sting and layd on honey, so that my face swelled not: thus divine providence reaches to the lowest things’.
There’s increasing support for the view that honey possesses antiseptic and antibacterial properties. Modern science has found useful applications of honey in chronic wound management. I have first hand experience of its healing effects. This makes me curious as to what other gems of family medical lore Josselin might have to offer us…His diary is referenced below. For those with more curiosity than cash I believe there is a freely available full text version available on the internet…
Thoughts on today’s post most welcome. Is this all a bit blah blah? More academic stuff? Or more stories using original sources?
Source for today’s post:
Josselin, R. Macfarlane, A. (1976) The diary of Ralph Josselin, 1616-1683, London : Oxford University Press for the British Academy.

No blank canvas

Daily Draw: The Green Witch Tarot, Page of Chalices/Cupspagechalice
Every card but one this week has been a chalice. Among other things chalices suggest fulfilment and I’ve certainly been experiencing more of that these past days.
The Page of Chalices tells us artistic or literary abilities need an outlet. Ann Moura writes we that we may be focusing on these skills with the possibility of later making a career change. This week I’ve learned that the career change I would like is not a radical change of direction, more like a gradual returning and I’m closer to it than I thought.
We can only gauge where we are in relation to our goals when we stop pondering and begin. Wherever, however it doesn’t matter. Like the beaver, symbol of creativity with available resources, I’ll be working upriver…
If history were taught in the form of stories, it would never be forgotten.
Rudyard Kipling, 1865-1936.

Shoulda, Coulda, Whatever

Daily Draw: The Wildwood Tarot, Two of Stones/twostonesPentacles
‘You should’. Together two of the most unhelpful words in the English language. How often do we ask of ourselves and each-other ‘what would you like to do?’
When I first started with the cards I signed up for emails from a ‘directive’ internet taroist. Today an interpretation of the two of pentacles dropped into my inbox – you should keep to deadlines, pay bills, maintain your diary, meet commitments and blah blah blah…
I’ve ignored the advice and got on with what I wanted to do which was clear up the house. It felt good.
The hares remind me that I can box away the externally imposed ‘shoulds’ at least for a day. And I’m unsubscribing from that site – I don’t need it anymore.
The function of freedom is to free someone else.
Toni Morrison, 1931-

The wrong sort of water

Daily Draw: The Wildwood Tarot, Ace of Vessels
As an islander I live surrounded by water. A stream runs along the end of my garden. A canal runs through the village up to the next settlement where there’s a lake, a dam and underground water channels. The historic docks are a bus ride away.
And yet in my grumpiest grinchiest moments I’m not satisfied. It’s the wrong sort of water. Doesn’t move fast enough. Too man made. I need rivers, waterfalls and oceans. In this rainy part of the country we even complain about water (a lot) which would seem odd in some parts of the world.
I’m resisting writing something trite about being blessed to have enough of the stuff to live. We take it for granted and it’s disingenuous to say otherwise.
In case my life sounds too idyllic I should say that the stream at the back of the garden used to be a sewage channel. It’s that kind of history that keeps us northerners grounded.
The sea has never been friendly to man. At most it has been the accomplice of human restlessness.
Joseph Conrad, 1857-1924.

Cure of Souls

Daily Draw: The Wild Wood Tarot, Seven of Vessels/Cups, Mourning
seven of vesselsIn medieval England the deceased were considered part of the community and care of the dead shaped popular piety and church organisation. On the feast of All Souls families left gifts of food and drink and lit fires beside graves so that their dead loved ones might warm their bones. As the middle ages wore on the Church increasingly frowned upon such practices viewing them as superstitious rather than pious.
The fear that one’s relatives were suffering in purgatory was a considerable psychological burden in a society in which kinship was the major social bond. The living often sought to ease the sufferings of the departed and accelerate their journey to heaven. A living person might recite the psalms, fast, go on pilgrimage or give alms on behalf of a dead person. By the high middle ages the mass was increasingly promoted as the best way to help those in purgatory.
The living could never be certain how much prayer would be sufficient to transport their relatives into heaven. Hence, in the later middle ages, there was an inflation in the number of masses for the dead.  Some wealthy people arranged for hundreds and even thousands of masses.
The will of John Ferriby made in 1470 was not unusual. He paid his chaplain twelve and one-half marks to sing mass daily for a year. He gave the priests at Beverly forty shillings and a silver salt cellar and the vicars and Beverly the same amount to recite after supper forevermore the psalm 130 for his soul, his parents’ souls and all Christian souls. Ten shillings was promised to every friar at Beverly and Hull who would sing mass for thirty days. He also put in a request for a hundred masses at Beverly Minster.
The demand for masses led to serious unanticipated consequences. The cumulative effect of hundreds of thousands of fees had quite an impact on the clergy. Whereas previously monks prayed at certain hours and earned part of their living through manual labour, they were to find themselves increasingly occupied in offering masses and prayer. Later the sale of indulgences (providing a short cut into heaven) for money were to rouse Luther’s ire altering the history of the entire Church.
Sources for this post:
Bossy, J (1985) Christianity in the West 1400-1700, Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Lynch, J. H. (2013) The Medieval Church: A Brief History, London: Routledge.

Lord of Misrule

Daily Draw: The Linestrider Tarot, The Fool
foolThe Feast of Fools was a feast day celebrated by the clergy in Medieval Europe. Similar to Carnival the central theme was a brief social ‘revolution’ or inversion of social norms in which power, dignity (and impunity) is briefly enjoyed by those in a subordinate position.
A mock bishop or pope was elected (often the youngest or most subordinate choirboy in the church) ecclesiastical ritual was parodied, and low and high officials changed places.
Current opinion is that far from turning the world ‘upside down’ the feast maintained the social order. By the allowing the lower orders to let off steam in buffoonery and parody tensions between them and their ‘superiors’ were diffused.
The ‘abuses’ and ‘extravagances’ of the Feast of Fools (mock sermons, drunken processions and lewd blessings) were frequently roundly condemned by the medieval Church but these customs proved remarkably durable. At Notre Dame in the twelfth century the celebration was not completely banned, but the part of the ‘Lord of Misrule’ (or Boy Bishop) was restrained.
The Feast of Fools was finally outlawed on pain of severe penalties by the Council of Basel in 1431 and a strongly worded document issued by the theological faculty of the University of Paris. Still occurrences of similar festivals are recorded in France as late as 1644.

Funny weird

Daily Draw: The Linestrider Tarot, King of Pentacles
What a surprise. Today I fully expected one of those ‘it could be this,KP it could be that cards’, the High Priestess or the Moon. I do wonder why and when they became a standard part of the tarot. If the cards are there to answer questions for what reason would a person insert two mute(inous)  majors? Seems a bit of a cop out. Farting around complaining about cards I haven’t even drawn…
Back to Kingeth owl de pentacularism. In this deck his ‘queen’ is woman besotted with her rabbit. The Page wanders round nude with a monkey. Knight Pents is pretty conventional (although he lives in a coin) but a funny family all the same. Is there any other sort?

Marriage making

Daily Draw: The Linestrider Tarot, King of Cups
KCUPSManagement of impulses. In the middle ages marriage was serious matter for church and people. A shift towards the sacred was often at odds with the eternal profanities of sexuality and inheritance. Since 1215 the Church had adopted the barrier of four degrees in consanguinity and a comparable barrier with regard to affinity (relationship created by sexual relation marital or otherwise). The doctrines were mostly accepted by the people of Europe from the thirteenth to the sixteenth century.
This was not because they reflected instinctive or primitive taboos. People still complained that marriage to one’s kin was both more desirable in itself and more effectively preserved inheritances than exogamy. The notion of affinity conflicted with numerous historic matrimonial systems.
However the Church ruling was accepted as godly on grounds expressed by St Augustine centuries before. According to St Augustine the law of charity (from the latin root caritas meaning love) obligated Christians to pursue through marriage an alliance with those to whom they were not already bound by the  natural ties of consanguinity. The idea being that the bonds of relationship and affection might thus be extended throughout the community of Christians.
Hence the sexual relation was legitimated by the social relations created. The marriage alliance became the prime means of bringing peace and reconciliation to feuding families, warring princes and litigious peasants.
The source for todays post is an all time favourite history text and one of the most memorable. It arrived from Amazon last week but even without it I can recall entire passages that I read some 20 years ago.
Bossy, J. (1985) Christianity in the West 1400-1700, Oxford: Oxford University Press


My friend has a cat just like this, goes by the name of Rufus. From Rufus to Lis to our shared love of fashion. Its hard to see but the host is hanging from a superfine thread or chain. We were thinking of taking jewellery making classes…
Anyhow I read the creative meaning of this card as fashion. Been looking at blogs, something I’ve thought of doing but the market is pretty saturated and then there’s the fact that I’m completely camera shy, blogging in disguise? Sounds familiar.
Reminds me that I set myself the task of moving this blog out of camouflage into the open. First things first and all that. No more online time left today.


Daily Draw: The Llewellyn Tarot, Ace of Pentaclesfoundation
First reaction not feeling ace in the pentacles department today. Unexpected vet bills, lawyers fees and (to be honest) excess everyday expenditure adds up to zero savings this month. So I’m taking comfort from Chesca Potter’s interpretation of this card as ‘foundation stone’. It starts here. For the next few months I’m going to ‘shop my wardrobe’ not the store. Less wine = less tummy = more outfit options.
I’ve looked at regular outgoings and found ways to make small savings. Look after the pennies and the pounds will look after themselves as my mum used to say. Extraneous stuff to eBay – I can hear the house exhaling with relief.
Frugality is one of the most beautiful and joyful words in the English language, and yet one that we are culturally cut off from understanding and enjoying. The consumption society has made us feel that happiness lies in having things, and has failed to teach us the happiness of not having things.
Elise Boulding, 1920-2010

Prune and Sow

Daily Draw: The Llewellyn Tarot, Seven of Pentaclesseven pent
What to grow? Certainly not my teaching hours which have been expanding like Japanese Knotweed intruding in to areas of life where they have no business being like research time, holidays, family life and sometimes sleep.
Modern academia operates  a simple and ruthless formula. More teaching = less research time = less research output = less status = more teaching and so on…
Time to prune and sow. The blog is non negotiable.
The prevailing pragmatism forced upon the academic group is that one must write something and get it into print. Situational imperatives dictate a ‘publish or perish’ credo within the ranks
Logan Wilson, 1907-1990