Gaye Mack’s Blog

WHOOOO ARE YOU?… MEDIEVAL MORTUARY CHESTS HOLD THE ANSWERS

Posted on by Gaye Mack in Ancient Legends of Great Britain, Gaye's England, Scotland & Wales, Writer's Work Leave a comment

On my recent trip to the UK as noted in my last post, I spent the better part of a day in Winchester Cathedral.  Although I’ve visited this magnificent structure many times in the past, I’ve learned there’s always something new for me to discover and this visit was no exception.

 Back in Chicago in preparation for writing my next book, A Watch of Nightingales,’ I’d been grappling with making sense of historical reporting versus practicality surrounding the tomb of Henry II’s ‘fair Rosamund’ at Godstow Nunnery.  From past research and experience I was aware of and have seen the many elaborate tombs created for persons of prominence as the United Kingdom’s churches and family chapels are full of them.  For Arthurian enthusiasts, there even exists a detailed description of the massive black marble tomb created for the April 1279 reburial ceremony of Arthur and Guinevere at Glastonbury during the state visit by King Edward I and Eleanor of Castile.

 However, in researching the ‘facts’ surrounding Rosamund’s placement in Godstow’s church and subsequent demand to have her remains moved by Bishop Hugh of Lincoln some 11 years later after her death, something wasn’t making any sense…until I discovered the mortuary chests at Winchester.   My timing couldn’t have been more perfect due to the preparations for an extensive research project underway for the purpose of matching preserved bones to the early monarchs and bishops of the kingdom of Wessex, i.e, early Winchester. 

 To backtrack briefly here, one of the curators with whom I met, explained that when significant people died, their bodies were often left ‘open’ to natural decomposition.  Once the process finished and the bones were the only remains, they were cleaned and then placed in ‘small mortuary chests’.  Considering the non-existence of mortuary science as we know it today, such an approach was a very efficient means of preserving and honoring those who had passed. As to Winchester, this was the custom until Oliver Cromwell and his troops arrived.  As we know from history, Cromwell and his men were ruthless when it came to destroying England’s history.  Priceless artifacts were smashed, destroyed and scattered everywhere…the sacred bones of Wessex’s early leaders were no exception.  In an effort to save what could be saved, the bones were gathered up and basically ‘dumped’ into various chests with frankly, no idea who belonged to what.

 The goal of the current research project is to identify which bones belonged to which monarch and bishop; a formidable task but with the technology available today, perhaps not impossible.  In any case this brings me back to the subject of mortuary chests; discovering their existence and how they were used solves my ‘technical’ dilemma regarding the conflict between Rosamund’s original tomb placement and the outrage of Lincoln’s very pious Hugh of Avalon.  Stay tuned.

                                       

Photography©Gaye f. Mack, inc.


A RARE FACE TO FACE MEETING WITH 12TH CENTURY ECCLESIASTICAL TRAPPINGS

Posted on by Gaye Mack in Ancient Legends of Great Britain, Gaye's England, Scotland & Wales, Writer's Work 6 Comments

As I write this post, I’m currently ensconced in one of my favorite English cities, Oxford, where tomorrow I’ll be tramping around what remains of Godstow Nunnery just outside of the city and the setting for book #3 in my ‘Flight Through Time’ historical mystery series.  While I’m looking forward to this, two days ago I had an extraordinary experience at Winchester Cathedral.

 Through connections to the Cathedral, an old friend of mine was able to arrange an opportunity for me to spend some time with one of the Cathedral’s curators who allowed me to privately view the 12th century ‘Sparsholt Chalice and Paten’, on loan to the Cathedral, but not on display.  

We tend to fantasize that such ecclesiastical trappings were always very ornate, made from the most valuable of metals such gold or silver, decorated with priceless gems.  The reality is that in fact, often they were not. 

During a Victorian renovation of Sparsholt’s church which is located about three miles from Winchester and believed to be a site of worship since Saxon times, the chalk grave of a 12th century priest was discovered near the pulpit;  buried with him were a ceremonial pewter chalice and paten.

What surprised me the most was not only its lack of ornamentation and utter simplicity, but the size!  A visual guess puts the chalice at roughly four inches tall with the bowl perhaps six inches in diameter.  The paten is perhaps four inches in diameter.  With the exception of the medieval Christian cross embossed in the center of the paten, both pieces are totally devoid of decoration and although Pewter was considered a valuable metal, it certainly wasn’t in the category of gold and silver.  During a recent conservation restoration, the decision was made not to attempt to repair the crack in the bowl.  Nevertheless, to contemplate something so old in front of you, wondering who might have used it 900 years ago, staggers the mind.

We also forget that the average height of the medieval body was much shorter than modern physical characteristics, so one wonders; even though the pieces were ceremonial, were they proportionally fashioned?

Unfortunately, but understandably, I wasn’t allowed to hold them, but nevertheless it was an extraordinary experience, knowing that characters in my books have been taking the sacraments from items such as these.

 

 

Photography©Gaye F. Mack, Inc.


EARLY GRAFFITI ARTISTS~BORED MEDIEVAL MONKS AND NUNS!

Posted on by Gaye Mack in Ancient Legends of Great Britain, Gaye's England, Scotland & Wales, Writer's Work 1 Comment

Not every young medieval man (or woman for that matter) was thrilled to be packed off to the monastery or nunnery.  Aside from those who ‘felt the call’ of dedicating their lives to the glory of God, more often than not religious houses served as an answer to a family’s dilemma; what to do with Romauldus or Matilda if the family was poor with no long term means of supporting them (as well as younger siblings), or in the case of the more affluent, the oldest son got the inheritance, leaving everyone else to a life of religious duty…or perhaps a less honorable means of living.

And these weren’t the only reasons.  Say for example at the old age of 18, a woman had no suitors on the horizon, she was packed up along with a nice dowry to ensure her admittance by Mother Abbess.  Even less honorable, if a WOMAN was the eldest child in a family of wealth, she could be sent away so that her brother next in line, would inherit.  Can you imagine?  In any case,  these young people were relegated to spend their lives within the cloister, their days and seasons marked by the ‘Hours of Office’, work in the fields, orchards, stables, brewery, infirmary and…the Scriptorium where their days were more than uncomfortable, long and BORING.

 In researching material for my  historical mystery series, Flight Through Time, I came across this amusing piece showing us that not much has changed through the centuries when young men and women are bored with their studies.  Actually I’ve seen this posted in various formats more than once, but have never seen the source cited; perhaps you have.     Later today I’ll be leaving Chicago for England’s 12th Century land and hope to be posting while ‘on the road’.  In the meantime, I’m sharing these medieval margin notes as some of the notations are quite funny. Now that I read this again…I think these can readily apply to any modern writer  who has hopes of producing the next ‘best seller!’

…I have my favorite; which one is yours??


12TH CENTURY REVENGE-MAGIC AND IMPOTENCE!

Posted on by Gaye Mack in Writer's Work Leave a comment

In researching various sites and references for historical gems to authentically flavor my 12th century historical mysteries, I sometimes discover things that I (and probably few others) would ever have thought of.   Such was the case recently when I stumbled upon a footnote reference to the 2009 dissertation of a PhD candidate at the University of London.  It wasn’t the fact that the resource was a dissertation but rather it was the title of the work that caught my eye; Magic and Impotence in the Middle Ages by Catherine Rider

Now who would have thought this subject would qualify for such a lofty piece of work?  Nevertheless intrigued, I couldn’t resist… and although the end product was published by Oxford’s University Press, I discovered that I could obtain a copy from inter-library loan (Really? Another surprise!).  Admittedly, the thought did cross my mind that when the copy arrived, the cover title might have raised a few circulation department eyebrows at my local village library (did staff delve into the pages for a peek, I wondered?)  In any case, I couldn’t wait to see how the subject was dealt with through an academic lens with no Pfizer Pharmaca on the immediate horizon!

 At first glance, the format was predictable as these things are if one is familiar with such projects, but when I scanned the table of contents my eyes zeroed in on Chapter Five:  How to Bind a Man or Woman: Impotence in the Magical Texts”.  Ah! This clearly was not going to be about cures, but rather payback!  Well, I wouldn’t say the content was exactly riveting, but it did provide some very interesting…recipes (to say the least) should one find need of retribution for whatever reason.

For example, “When you wish to bind a man or woman, make an image of a man whose feet are raised to the heavens and whose head is in the ground.” [Somehow directions for a deserving woman escaped along the way]… “This [image] should be made of wax, saying ‘I have bound N. son of such-and-such a woman [notice it’s the woman’s fault, not the father] and all his veins, until he does not have a man’s desire.’  After that, bury the image in his path, and he will not use a woman for as long as the image lasts.  And it is said by some that this image is made under the second decan of Aries.”  (Nothing like a little astrology thrown in for good measure!)   So there, Septimus…serves you right! 

However, if more drastic means are needed, this ‘recipe’ might do the trick…“So that a man does not desire a woman.  When you want to do this, take half a drachm each of the brain of a black cat and mandrake seed.  Mix these two together and blend them very well.  Afterwards make an image of wax, and make a hole in the top of the head, through which you force the above mentioned mixture.  Then take an iron needle and push that needle into the image, in the place where he enjoys a woman…”  there is more to this particular methodology, but I think I’ll leave it to your imagination…I wouldn’t want to give too much away !

So thank you, Dr.Rider…no doubt your research will prove very colorful fodder for my stories as they materialize.

My 12th c historical mystery series, ‘Flight of Time’ is in production and represented by Peter Miller, Global Lion Intellectual Property Management, Inc.


LEO’S NEW MOON-TIME TO WORK FROM THE HEART WITH HELP FROM DR. BACH’S WILLOW AND WALNUT FLOWER REMEDIES

Posted on by Gaye Mack in Balance Leave a comment

Friday, August 17th calls in the new LEO moon, the roaring lion of the zodiac.  Inside of a month, we’ve now traveled from the opposite, expansive full moon in Aquarius, that urged us toward courageous, revolutionary thinking with regard to our creativity and perceptions. Now we have come half way around the circle to the spot where Leo’s moon and sun sit together on the launch pad of new possibilities and mindset.

 As I wrote in the full moon blog post, Leo works from the heart when the lion is in his/her glorious fullness, shinning like the sun to which this sign is astrologically connected.  However, for each of us this life is anchored in one or more Karmic Contracts grounded in relationships, reconciliations and life missions, interconnected more often than not, with the purpose of impacting soul growth and evolution for our and this planet’s, greater good.

 But because we are human, none of us escapes from our metaphorical hearts being hurt.  Losses, shattered dreams, unrealistic expectations, compromised skills of discernment…these ‘matters of the heart’ all bear grief…such life experiences impact each and every one of us.  For some, these experiences are repetitive bearing deep pain. When this happens self-pity, bitterness and resentment wait in the shadows making it difficult to pick oneself up, dust off and carry on.

During 1934-35 Dr. Edward Bach discovered the ‘final 19’  of his famous 38 Bach Flower Remedies, declaring that these ‘19’ functioned at a ‘higher vibration’ (and therefore deeper) than the earlier discovered 19; the remedy Willow was among these discoveries.   Willow  comes from the ‘weeping willow’ tree with its boughs that bend so sadly over water.  If one is a student of the Doctrine of Signatures’ philosophy, it’s easy to see why this is the remedy for positively shifting the perceptions of self-pity, resentment and bitterness.  Several years ago I had a female client who through various circumstances of life had worked herself into all three of these mood states.  After adjusting her remedy formula several times I decided to add Willow; the outcome was dramatic within days, which sometimes but not typically, happens so quickly.  She called me crying, saying “I realize I’ve been sabotaging myself and that I have a piece in my outcome.”  This self-realization and accountability was most definitely the action of the Willow, giving her a new lens that allowed her to move forward in a positive manner.

 So now we have this wonderful new moon of Leo’s energy encouraging us to take charge of who we really are at the HEART of our being.  As I blogged nearly a year ago (see the 9/24/11 posting) on Dr. Bach’s remedy Walnut, I won’t belabor it here again other than to say that Walnut is THE remedy for making such changes, as in Dr. Bach’s own words, Walnut is “the Remedy for those who have decided to take a great step forward in life, to break old conventions, to leave old limits and restrictions and start on a new way,”

 What perfect remedies for this Roaring new Leo moon!

WILLOW

WALNUT

Photography©Dr. Edward Bach Foundation