Category Archives: religion

Above the Salt: a Medieval History of a Vital Spice

During the Middle Ages, spices were often a marker of wealth.  Not everyone could afford them, and the idea of making a spice freely available on the table was purely extravagant–hence our term “above the salt,” meaning those people so … Continue reading

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Jubilee! The Theoretical Papal Homecoming of 1350

Pope Francis recently declared a Jubilee Year, which officially began on Tuesday, with the timely theme of Mercy.  In doing so, he follows a tradition nearly a millennium old of encouraging pilgrimage to Rome.  For the Catholic who is able … Continue reading

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A Brief History of the Inquisition: The Original Thought Police

When I was playing more actively with the Society for Creative Anachronism, I had a Jewish friend with a Spanish persona, circa 1492.  He used to joke that, contrary to Monty Python’s claims, he *did*, expect the Spanish Inquisition. . … Continue reading

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Skulls and Cross Bones: the Medieval Ossuary at Hythe

I’d like to introduce you to the beautiful Norman-era church of Saint Leonard’s at Hythe.  This small, seaside town is about midway between Hastings and Dover, just enough off the beaten track to get few visitors.  The church is also … Continue reading

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Goodreads review: Medieval Ghost Stories by Andrew Joynes

I discovered this book on the recommendation of a scholar who presented a paper about revenants (roaming dead) in Medieval England at this year’s Kalamazoo Medieval Congress. Since this is a topic near to my heart, in more ways than … Continue reading

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Defense Against the Dark Arts: Warding off Witchcraft

This month’s Archaeology magazine has some photos from Knole House in Kent showing a series of hatch marks carved into the floor beneath where the protestant King James I would have slept in the early 1600’s.  The marks are intended … Continue reading

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The Bones of the Magi

In my Dark Apostle series about medieval medicine and magic, my secret society of witches refers to themselves as “Magi,” (singular:  magus)  from the Persian word for one with knowledge of Oriental magic and astrology (according to my OED).  Interestingly, … Continue reading

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