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Festive Tidbits from Karen Maitland

Posted on: 05/12/2017 with tags: boxing day, christmas, Holly, karen maitland, The Plague Charmer, tidbit, Yule Log, Christmas, Medieval, Middle Ages

Feast of Fools In the Middle Ages, on the eve of the Feast of Circumcision (31 December) when the Magnificat was read out in cathedrals and abbeys – He has put down the mighty – all the junior clergy would start chanting Deposuit! (Put down!). They’d drag senior clergy from their seats and take their places, appointing a fool precentor. For the next few days the ‘humble’ ruled. On 1 January, a donkey carrying a woman and baby was led into the church. At the end of the Mass, the priest brayed thr…

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Tuesday Tidbits from Karen Maitland

Posted on: 28/11/2017 with tags: karen maitland, Medieval facts, The Plague Charmer, Tuesday Tidbits, Medieval, Middle Ages

Rock-a-bye Baby To prevent babies being abandoned in unsafe places, some religious houses in the Middle Ages, introduced Foundling Wheels. These were swivelling barrels built into their walls that had a hole cut into one side. A mother would creep up to the outside wall, pop the baby in the barrel, ring the bell to alert the monks or nuns, then hurry away. The barrel would be turned around by those inside and the baby safely removed to be cared for in the monastery. Some Orders would only take i…

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‘Take the Skull of a Hanged Man …’ – Karen Maitland

Posted on: 27/09/2017 with tags: karen maitland, Medieval, Skulls, the raven's head, Medieval, Middle Ages

The Medieval period was an age of contradictions and none more so than the curious attitude towards the skulls of the dead. Skulls were thought to be where the human soul or spirit resided in life, and after death the skull retained the consciousness of the deceased. This belief is so ingrained in our imagination that, even to this day, if ancient skulls are discovered in houses and removed, some people fear misfortune will follow. The skull of Theophilus Brome was reported to have screamed in f…

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West Country Links to the Medieval Plagues by Karen Maitland

Posted on: 06/04/2017 with tags: Cornwall, Devon, Dorset, karen maitland, Somerset, the plague, The Plague Charmer, West Country, Medieval, Middle Ages

Karen Maitland explores medieval plague links in the West Country – the setting of her latest novel, The Plague Charmer.   DORSET Melcombe (now part of Weymouth) – Dorset Several medieval chroniclers claimed that this town is where the plague first entered Britain in 1348 via two ships from the Channel Islands or Calais. This town is said to be the first in England to be infected. (I wrote a scene of this event in Company of Liars). Others chroniclers claim it was a ship from Bristol which…

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