If I’m ever in trouble, I want this guy to defend me.

The ANZAMEMS conference has been awesome. I have attended some fantastic papers on lots of interesting topics.  It turns out that we are not going to be getting access to the conference papers at the end and they’re not being published anywhere… which is a bit disappointing given it’s impossible to get to all the sessions.  I imagine the big conferences like Leeds would be even worse for trying to picking and choosing which panels to attend.  Oh well, thems the breaks. I went to panels on –

Thinking Through Animals

  • Robert Henryson’s fabulous ‘Maner of translatioun”: ‘perfite studie” getting “science”.
  • Anthropomorphism: Animal versus Human Nature in William Baldwin’s ‘Beware the Cat’ and William Caxton’s ‘The History of Reynard the Fox’
  • Prosecuting Animals as Criminals in Late Medieval Europe*

Heresy, Witchcraft and Deviance

  • The Cultural Work of Witchcraft – Salem 1692
  • The Cultural Translation of Demonic Possession from England to Bermuda: “A True Narrative of the Grevious Afflicition of Roger Sterrop in Somer Islands”
  • “Arnalda de la Motta: The Ministry of a Female Perfect

Gendered Practices

  • Til Death Do Us Part – Practice of Divorce during the Merovingian period.
  • English Cistercian Nuns and their Interactions with Cistercian Commissioners and the Cistercian General Chapter in the 15th-16th Centuries.
  • Grandmothers and Granddaughters: Four Generations of Medici Women at the Grand Ducal Court

I learned lots of cool stuff yesterday including but not limited to the fact that the Christian Church during the Merovingian period would absolutely not tolerate bigamous relations in amy form amongst royal families at the time, however incestuous ones, so long as they were formed before the Church knew anything about them were pretty much in the clear.

The Eleanora of Aragon was a lot tougher and smarter chicky then I knew her to be and she really doesn’t get enough credit for running the entire kingdom while her husband was off gallivanting about at war.  Same of the Medici broads, generations of them effected royal houses for centuries and they ranged from being the most forebearing and hard done by, to being powerfully manipulative and sympathy worthy political pawns!

*The most interesting talk I heard though was on ‘Prosecuting Animals as Criminals in Late Medieval Europe.  In 1522, in Autun France, the local townspeople sued the town’s rats for having eaten and created great damage to the town’s granaries.  The rats were duly given a lawyer, one Bartolome Chaussime (who would later become the Chief Justice of the Supreme Cout in Provence) and the trial was conducted exactly like any other.  The day of trail arrives and unfortunately the Defendants failed to appear in court.  Chaussime, clever lawyer that he is, claimed his clients refused to attend court due to the prejudicial language in the summons which called them ‘dirty, grey, scoundrelous thieves’.  The judge was forced to agree and held the trial date over saying the Claimants  would have to moderate the language in the summons in order to reflect the not yet proven guilty status of the Defendants… and a new trial date was set.

On the next trial date, there was once again, a notable absence of Defendants in the courtroom.  At this point the townspeople were outraged, but the lawyer for the Defence calmly stated that his clients were confused, that the writ of summons was too vague that among themselves, they did not know which of them needed to appear in court, that they thought others of their community would be in attendance and that the net result is that none attended!  The judge agreed and instructed the Claimants to be more specific in identifying their wrong-doers so that a proper summons might be drafted and a new court date set.

The next court date duly arrived (you can really tell the court appointed lawyer is being paid by the hour!) and still there was no Defendants.  On this occasion Chaussime argued that his clients being largely illiterate had not been able to read if the summons applied to them as individual rats of the town of Autun and therefore had not been able to understand if they were required.  The judge, in his wisdom, agreed that this of course was a conundrum and decreed that the summons should be read from every pulpit in every church throughout the town for two weeks before the next court date could be set.  Thus the trial was further delayed.

Finally, yet another court date occurred, and by now it was turning into quite the public spectacle.  And yet, on this occasion, again the Defendants failed to appear!  Their clever lawyer however said that his Clients, the rats, could not appear in court due to fear for their lives from the cats belonging to the good townspeople of Autun, and it was fear of capture and/or persecution that kept the rats from attending the court.  At which time also, the clever Chaussime applied to the court for a guaranteed right of safe passage and a protection order to enable the rats to attend court – this would involve the townspeople restraining, binding or otherwise keeping in their cats for the duration.

Well, this the townspeople thought was ridiculous!  (LOL) And they flatly refused to bind their cats in order that the rats might be able to attend court and rightly be brought to justice for their heinous crimes committed in the granary and against the townspeople of Autun… therefore the judge was forced to dismiss the case!

The whole thing is so exquisitely absurd that you couldn’t make it up if you tried.  There were also lots of other examples of animal trials in the Medieval period, including a tragic and slightly alarming story about a sow.  But there have been awesome little gems of information in every presentation like this… so I am having a ball!   If I can find the time I am considering doing some research into animal trials myself and may perhaps do a research collegium at Festival if people are interested.  🙂

medieval animals on trial crime punishment


Roman d’Alexandre, Tournai, 1338-1344. (Bodleian Library, MS. Bodl. 264, fol. 94v)

Couldn’t find a manuscript image of rats in the granary on short notice, so I’ve given you monkeys into the wine instead!  🙂

Medieval people everywhere!

What a huge day.  I love this medieval conference stuff… it’s like going to an SCA collegium weekend but run by crazy people (well even more crazy than usual) who spend their entire lives dedicated to research the most out of left field, bizarre niche shit you can imagine!

Today I attended seminars on these topics:

Emotions of Crime and Death in Medieval and Early Modern Europe…

  • Benefit of Clergy: Complexities of Mercy and Emotion
  • Pro Timore: Criminal Suicide in the Middle Ages
  • “Because I loved that husband of mine”: Early Modern Witchcraft Trials for Sources of the History of Emotion.

Translating Medieval Thought…

  • From Aristotle to the Heaven of the Moon: Dante on Acting against Conscience
  • Translating of the Spirit: The Birth of Religious Orders and the High Medieval Rationalization of Spiritual Identity
  • Nature Law and Reason : Models of Moral Action between XII and XIII century

Courtly Cultures in Translation…

  • Not Lost In Translation: Aragonese Court Culture on Tour
  • Eleanor of Aragon and her Spanish interpretation of the Role of the Princely Consort.
  • The Representation of Female Power and Co-Rulership in Fifteenth Century Ferrara.
  • Instructing the Next Generation: Eleanora of Aragon and her Daughters

And a keynote address by internationally renown art historian, Anne Dunlop…
European Art and the Mongol Middle Ages: Two Exercises in Translation

And I hate to think that each each session had seven panels running at the same time so I have only managed to see the tip of the iceberg.  It’s so hard to choose which panels to go and see.  For anyone interested in Medieval and Early Modern studies in the Australia/New Zealand, I highly recommend joining this organisation – ANZAMEMS. You will get on their mailing list, gain access to the back catalogue of the Parergon journal that they publish and keep an eye out for info on next years’ conference which I believe is being hosted in Brisbane, Queensland… and it’s totally open to independent scholars (ie: people not officially currently associated with an education institution).

It’s been a huge day and I can’t believe I get to see more amazing research papers presented tomorrow.   So yay, more Medieval fun tomorrow, but for now… I am le tired.

book of hours (‘The Maastricht Hours’), Liège 14th century.

Voracious Monkey Puts a Fish in the Arse
Book of Hours (‘The Maastricht Hours’), Liège 14th century.
British Library, Stowe 17, fol. 83v

Rare Coptic Textile in UQ’s Antiquities collection

I’ve been attending a conference at the University of Queensland for the last couple of days run by the Australian Early Medieval Association themed on “Land and Sea in the Early Middle Ages”.  The program has been quite diverse and an unexpected session of the conference was a personal tour through the small antiquities collection that was accumulated by UQ’s Emeritus Professor Bob Milne over the last 40 years.  It’s a very small collection but contains some surprisingly important pieces.  Not the least of which is this unusual coptic textile (my apologies for the quality of the phone images – had I known I was going to see this I might have taken a real camera!)

7th century 12th century woven embroidery According to the staff there, the textile fragments are from a funerary garment and have been unable to be adequately dated, with best estimates somewhere between the 7th century to 12th century.  C-14 dating is slated to be completed this year some time which they hope will yield a more accurate age of the piece.  Apparently there are only two other similar coptic funerary stoles in existence, one located in a museum in Alexandria, Egypt and the other in Dresden, Germany.  The piece is an exquisite woven work with embroidered detail, and some inserted roundels. It is not currently on display for the public so I’m told we are the only group of people likely to see it for a few years until they have a proper display housing for it.  I took a number of pictures, but given I only had my phone with me they’re not great. 7th century 12th century embroidery woven piece  Detail:

7th century to 12th century woven embroidery

Bird and fish figures in woven band with lighter (white) detail embroidered over the woven ground:

7th to 12th century embroidery woven stole

Detail of roundels, probably located at ‘shoulder’ of garment –

7th to 12th century textile funerary garment

Closer up –

7th to 12th century funerary garment

Hopefully the testing on the item that is planned to be carried out this year will yield more info on this amazing piece. It will be interesting what information will be ascertained about the age of the textile, the origins of the work and even the dyes that have been used.  I can’t believe I got to see this yesterday, it was a most unexpected pleasure and such a wonderful experience to see it without glass in the way!

My 14th Festival… but not in a row.

Another year, another Festival

Had very low expectations of the weather and conditions this year so came equipped with woolen clothes, rubber boots, crocs (urgh) and even a Drizabone poncho big enough for two! And wouldn’t you know it… only one short lived period of rain for the entire duration! WIN!!!  It’s like the time half a dozen of us went out to buy umbrellas to take to my brother-in-law’s wedding and then we didn’t get a single drop… feels like the weather gods know when you’re all prepared and just go, ‘Meh, what’s the fuckin’ point?’.

Painted Medieval Pavilion Sabine du Bourbonnais

Festival 2012 has been fantastic. We had a smaller campsite than usual, but it still felt like it was overflowing with fabulous friends, food, fun and frivolity.  And of course, Festival was as informative this year as it always is. With so many avid medievalists and historical research buffs in one place you can’t help but learn and absorb new and interesting tidbits. This year I learned:

  • that contrary to popular belief, swans do not in fact mate for life
  • that attempting to blow out an oil burner after it has been doused in water is an efficient facial hair removal technique
  • that physics is gay because the balls are touching
  • that ‘Que? Que? En el cisne!’ is ‘What? What? In the swan!’ in Espanyol
  • that ‘C’ is for cookie or ‘C’ is for Corny depending on the fickle affiliations of the audience
  • that nine out of ten people enjoy gang rape
  • that ‘Ding Dong Merrily on High’ is one helluva ear worm
  • that the Gekko isn’t something to try at home kiddies (refer Urban Dictionary, I’m sooo not explaining that here)
  • that pretty girls can get away with nearly anything if they say to a man ‘open your mouth and try this!’
  • that you can have a smack of jellyfish, and a fupa of gunts.
  • that one shouldn’t stick an arse banner down one’s cleavage
  • that prostitutes, call girls and sex workers are all ‘hookers’ once deceased
  • that a bluish-green contact lens is not likely to be locatable in deep grass at night no matter how many people search for it
  • that an Angry Pirates is a concept that evokes visual imagery requiring brain bleach
  • that power spewing is only endearing the first time
  • that the Artist Formerly Known as Gui is likely to remain so for a while as his new name, King You Die Buy A Tool (?) is hard to remember
  • that facts are gender specific but that taints ain’t
  • that poetry is not a lost art because ‘Roses are red, violets are blue. I’ve got a gun. Get in the van.’ speaks to all of us on some level … and…
  •  that one must not, under any circumstances touch Niall’s precarious pole!!!

So many pearls of wisdom to carry with us… until next year’s fun and informative festival facts are formed.

I hate pleats!

Sewing for festival… again!  This is my fourteenth or fifteenth festival?  I’ve lost count.  But with so many years experience at doing the whole medieval camping thing, you’d think I wouldn’t be spending the weeks leading up to the event slaving over the sewing machine.  Yet… each year there always seems to be something that needs making.  If it’s not banners that need painting, or tabards that need applique work or tents that need decorating (well it probably didn’t need it but it looks fucking speccy!) then it’s people who’ve never done festival before that need outfitting!

medieval tent painted

And OMG, what a trial that is.  Building an entire wardrobe to see someone through a four day medieval camping event, allowing for a few extras in case of rain, and you’ve quite a task at hand.   And it’s always (always!) boy garb.  ‘Tis a rare man who can handle a sewing machine with any expertise and that, ladies, is ever such a shame. Because it means I have well and truly made more men’s medieval garments than I have made women’s garments!

In the past three weeks I’ve made three anglo-saxon tunics, five early period under tunics, two 15thC Burgundian jackets, three late period shirts, one matching hood and a bright red wool 15thC chaperon hat!  I was trying to work out how many of those damn 15thC Burgundian mens jackets I have made, and I believe I have quite literally lost count of how many I have created for my husband, my son, my once consort and a few friends.  So many jackets.  So many simply horrid pleats!