Above painting: Louis Jean Francois - Mars and Venus an Allegory of Peace


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Thursday, November 8, 2012

Weird & Interesting Things About Medieval Times by Lana Williams

Today I'd like to welcome Lana Williams to History Undressed! She's written a fun post on the weird and interesting! Enjoy!

Thank you so much, Eliza, for having me at History Undressed!  The second book in my medieval romance trilogy, Trust In Me, is now available on Amazon. To celebrate this, I thought I’d share some of the weird and interesting things about medieval times that I like to sprinkle in my stories.  I find these tidbits fascinating as they help reveal what life was like on a daily basis.

I’m giving away a free Kindle e-book of Trust In Me, so please leave a comment!

Here are some weird and wonderful things you might find interesting:

  • Cattle and sheep horn served as the plastic of the Middle Ages. It was light and strong, doesn’t absorb flavors like leather or wood, and wasn’t hard to manipulate into the shape needed. The horn would be soaked in water for up to three months to soften it, then unwound and flattened.  Items such as spoons and musical pipes were made from horn.  The center of the horn could be split and polished and used as a substitute for glass in windows. While you can’t see through it, it does allow light in. Horns could also be hollowed out to use as a container for herbal remedies and other items.
  • Spices were expensive but used heavily especially during a feast to show wealth.  An ounce of pepper could cost a laborer as much as a day's wages or more.
  • Herbs played a big part in both medical treatment and in daily household uses and I noted some uses in both books of my medieval romance trilogy, A Vow To Keep and Trust In Me.  Lavender was scattered on straw mattresses to improve the smell and to keep fleas away.  Rushes (tall, grass-like plant) were spread about the floor of the great hall and gave off a pleasant fragrance when stepped on and sometimes herbs were added to these. Marjoram might be used in a healing poultice to place on bumps and bruises. Lemon balm was thought to cure many serious illnesses. Many medicinal journals suggested the healing herbs be picked on particular days thought to be magical, such as Midsummer’s Eve. 
  • Spinning thread was done by women using hand-held spindles similar to the picture displayed. Often, single women made a living spinning thread, which is where the term “spinster” came from. Medieval sheep produced only one-third of the wool that modern day sheep do. 
  • Livestock vs. deadstock. Livestock, as most of us know, refers to cows, sheep and the like. Deadstock refers to tools, carts, and most other things not “live”. 
  • Animal fat had a multitude of uses from making tallow candles to preventing armor from rusting to greasing cart axles.
  • Bloodletting, used since ancient times, was considered a cure for nearly any ailment. Just as it sounds, a physician cut open a vein and allowed the blood to run out. When the treatment was done and which vein was used could depend on the color of the patient’s urine or what phase the moon was in. Unfortunately, the practice was rarely successful.
  • At meal times, tables were often set with the spoons facing down to keep evil spirits from lingering there. Most everyone brought their own knives to use, but spoons were usually provided. Forks were not yet invented, but using your fingers was perfectly acceptable.
  • Early halls and peasant cottages had a hearth in the middle of the room, which meant people’s clothes smelled of smoke. Since people’s outer garments were rarely washed, the smoke scent acted like a deodorizer.  Wall fireplaces eventually become popular as they had a flue to carry away the smoke.
These sorts of details make understanding daily life all the more vivid, don’t you think?

Trust In Me is set in England in 1268. It’s the second story in The Vengeance Trilogy - three books that show how a quest for revenge can change in a heartbeat. 

When his brother is abandoned near death at the gate of his keep, Lord Nicholas de Bremont seeks revenge against those he believes guilty: Lord Crefton and his treacherous daughter, Elizabeth. But the old lord is too feeble for Nicholas to fight. Desperate to protect her father, Lady Elizabeth offers to take his place, but as Nicholas’s wife.

Nicholas vowed never to have a family and risk passing his cursed second sight on to a child, yet how else can he make Crefton suffer but to take away his only daughter? Determined to make Elizabeth pay for her part in his brother’s injuries, he adds a punishing stipulation to her offer--he refuses to bed her, dashing her dream of a family.

As they feign a true marriage, Elizabeth tries to guard her heart from the angry lord who appears to despise her, yet his small acts of kindness crumble her defenses. Nicholas attempts to keep his distance from the beautiful lady, terrified Elizabeth will unveil his dark secret, but is tempted every moment he's with her. When his visions divulge a villain who intends her harm, Nicholas must choose whether to accept her trust and love, or keep his secret and claim vengeance.

Don’t forget to leave a comment to get a chance to win a Kindle e-book of Trust In Me!  Thank you so much, Eliza, and History Undressed!

Trust In Me (The Vengeance Trilogy-Book II) http://amzn.to/PB1td7

A Vow To Keep (The Vengeance Trilogy-Book I) http://amzn.to/Vzf0Vi

FB:  Lana Williams Books  http://on.fb.me/QkYcQs        Twitter: LanaWilliams28

Author Bio:

Lana Williams writes historical romance filled with mystery, adventure, and a pinch of paranormal to stir things up. Her medieval romances begin with A Vow To Keep, the first in The Vengeance Trilogy, followed by Trust In Me, the second.

Filled with a love of books from an early age, Lana put pen to paper and decided happy endings were a must in any story she created. She writes in the Rocky Mountains with her husband, two growing sons, and two dogs.


M. Banks said...

I'll never just willy-nilly sprinkle my pepper again! And the origination of spinster is interesting--I never knew. Thanks, Lana. Good stuff.

Anonymous said...

I love historical facts. Good post.

Lana Williams said...

M. Banks - thanks for stopping by. Kind of funny what we take for granted, isn't it? Pepper is so inexpensive these days!

Lana Williams said...

Hey Ella! Thanks so much!

Michelle said...

I was amazed by the pepper value, too. Who knew? Great info on how they used herbs in healing, etc. Lavender is one of my favorite scents! The book looks great - I'm a big fan of Beauty and the Beast stories.

Cynthia said...

Great information. It is interesting to learn about daily life during Medieval times and other eras.

Lana Williams said...

Michelle - thanks for coming by! Lavender is one of my favorites too - have some planted by my front door.

Lana Williams said...

Cynthia - love, love history! :)

Anonymous said...

Hi, Lana! I have to agree with everyone that this is such a great article! What lovely historical facts! I like lavender too, and it does in today's scientific terms, have many anticeptic properties in it. I love reading about all the herbs that would warn off evil spirits and the like!

Again, wonderful article, and your book sounds great too!

Handy Man, Crafty Woman said...

How interesting! I've learned so much from reading historical romances. I love the sound of your book, too!

Unknown said...

I know who I'm coming to when I have history questions :) Fun post!

Lana Williams said...

Lani, Handy Man/Craft Woman, and Cindi - thank you all so much! Appreciate you dropping by! :)

Lauren Gilbert said...

Interesting post, and the book sounds instriguing.

Lana Williams said...

Thanks, Lauren! There are so many things about this time period that I find interesting. It was hard to narrow it down! :)

My life in London said...

Thank you for this. I'm studying in London to become an actor/play writer and right now I'm in a play from the medieval time so all information I can get is helpful. So thank you for taking your time and write this. Very much appreciated.

Lana Williams said...

Ronja, that is awesome! Best of luck with your career! Glad to hear I helped in some way. :)

Eliza Knight said...

Congrats to Cindi Madsen! You've won a copy of Lana's book. Please contact me with your email address so that I can forward it on to the author: authorelizaknight @ gmail.com (minus the spaces)

Thank you all for visiting!