Archive for the ‘Caitlin’s journal’ Category

Journal entry: York

The capital of Northumbria is York. Many crafts are represented there: leather-working including a large tannery, the working of jet, amber, iron, lead, copper alloy, gold and silver; also of glass, bone and antler; and turning wooden bowls and cups. It is also a center of clothmaking and dyeing. Our looms at Fairhall weave cloth for household use in autumn and winter, but once a year in late spring we make the five-day journey to sell and buy in York. We sell our finest wool to their clothmakers and also to the merchants who sail to wool markets in Flanders. We buy pottery at York for the household. I could buy buy salted herring too for it is plentiful in York, but I cannot stomach them so it is not worth their buying. York also offers belts from girdlers and bucklers, embroiderers, tailors, and jewelry makers.

I also arm my fighting men from York weaponsmiths since troops and raiders from Scotland commonly travel Dere Street through the hills. This is an old Roman road still in use that passes not far from Fairhall. We are a fortified farm but our fields and hills are unwalled, and the raiders would gladly take our sheep and cattle back to Scotland with them if we did not guard them well.

Journal entry: Kings

I was married to Erik of Fairhall, whose mother was a Dane and whose father was English. He died 10 years ago.

Three days before we were wed, which is to say Easter of 1095, many stars were seen to fall from heaven. Not just one or two, but so many that no one could count. We thought the world would end but it did not, so we judged it good to marry anyway.

We found out later that King William II, called William Rufus, at Easter held court in Winchester, and Earl Robert of Northumberland – who did not trust the king — refused to come to court.  The king was very angry and bid him stay where he was at his peril. The earl still would not come, perhaps he saw the fall of stars and in them predicted his own fall? The Earl was at Tinemouth castle and the king took it, but Robert escaped to Bamborough. When the king could not take that castle by siege, he built another castle within its sight! He called that castle “Malveisin” or “Evil Neighbor”. Robert tried to escape from Bamborough but was captured, and King William threatened to put out his eyes unless his wife and steward who held the castle would forfeit it. And so they did. Robert’s family, friends and allies all surrendered as well, including both laity and clergy. William warned them all to come to him when he said to come, or forfeit their land grants even as Robert had done. Robert was held in Windsor.

We were too far north to be impacted much by these events, but we were always leery of a new lord over Northumberland. I hold to the saying “Better the devil you know then the devil you do not.” Indeed, after currying the favor of our local Norman lords, if they replaced by a new master then it all starts over again!

Our southern counties did not fare nearly as well as the far north. In 1097, William’s court and their retainers did great and terrible damage to the surrounding counties while waiting for fair weather to take them to Normandy. Many also died in work upon walls and halls in London, built for the king. So praise be to God, in 1100 a well was said to flow free with blood, and but a few days later the king was pierced by an accidental arrow fired by his own men while hunting, and he was laid to rest. Or rather went to hell. This man, this king, was the bane of the common folk, and of the nobles, and of the churchmen all alike! Even his bloody father was not as bloody as the son!

And so William’s brother Henry took the throne. He wed Maud who may have been Malcolm of Scotland’s daughter (they are a bloody crew!) but was also daughter to our own great lady Queen Margaret, of the old English nobility and blessed King Edward’s own sister. Archbishop Anselm returned from his self-imposed exile across the sea now that William was dead, and so did our own Earl Robert. He stayed in enmity with the royal castles that had been set to check him, but his own people accepted him well enough. Norman though he was, we remembered that he had protected our lands from Malcolm of Scotland’s attack in 1093.

Journal Entry: Tale of Glam

1089. December 30. I have heard a tale, and such a tale it was! I will write a poor song from it but I must finish it later for I have neglected my duties long enough. Here is its beginning but not its end.

Wealthy was Thorhall    when winter struck
fast the fruitful glades    of fertile Shady-vale.
Thane feared not though    thick twined the mists
through rock and rill.    Rich was Thorhall,
sky-wailed shrieks    shattered not his lands.
Cattle and kine    clustered in herds
forest-thick. Fearless    his fief against all harm.

Happened one hour     that a Hell-pit
groaned and disgorged    a ghost most foul.
Death-walked the wight    in wretched Shady-vale
lashed at the living     with lonely death,
gore-soaked gullies    grim in the glooming.
Shepherdless the sheep    for no shepherd dared
to wander the wild    wraith-rode ruin…*

* I wrote this poem in the Norse style from a period prose piece “The Gretis Saga.” Caitlin lives just north of what was the Danelaw, and her deceased husband was Anglo-Dane. And since the Beowulf poem also came from England, I felt confident that she would have been familiar with this style of writing. You can read the complete poem here.

Journal Entry: Elves in the Wheatfield

1098. October 12. My steward Erik has brought back a leechbook* for me from Yorvik that he says he got by way of a priest. I am glad of it for the aelfcynne [elves] that dwell under the wheat field are making a misery to the harvesters and so I told him. Here is one that I will try tonight for Alfred is sick since the harvest This works against the aelf arrows for he suffers them in his fingers, they are puffed up like my sausages.

Take a handful of each of  bishopwort, fennel, lupin, the lower part of aelfthone, incense, and lichen from the stone cross of Christ where it stands in the yard. Put all these together and bind them in a cloth. Do the same again but with smaller pinches of all and bind them in another cloth. Dip both cloths in holy water three times. Sing three masses over them and the masses must be Omnibus Sanctis, Contra Tribulationem, and Pro Infirmis.

Erik must go to the friar and see if he knows these masses and if not to find someone who does, for we gave a full tenth of our harvest to the church this year. Then put coals into a coal pan and put the larger of the herbs on it. Bring Alfred into the house before nine o’clock in the morning and let him be wreathed with the smoke and smell of it. Do it again at night. While he stands in the smoke then sing a litany, the Creed, and the Paternoster. These I know and may say. Also write Christ’s mark on each limb, I will have Erik do that. And then take the smaller bag and boil it in milk and drip the holy water in it three times to give to Alfred to drink slowly before his meal. He will soon be well.

This is good and we will do it but how will we rid ourselves of the aelfcynne in the wheat field? I cannot help it that they will build their hall underneath our good land!

*I am indebted to Dr. Karen Louise Jolly’s Popular Religion in Late Saxon England for the anti-elf rituals.