The Middle Ages: Maid of Norway, Health Superstitions, & More

While Margaret , the “Maid of Norway” was declared Queen of Scotland in 1286; it wasn’t until 1290 that the girl (who was seven years old at the time) would make the journey to the country by water. However, she would never make it, as she succumbed to seasickness while traveling across the North Sea and passed away in the Orkneys. She died never even reaching the kingdom she was supposed to rule.

During certain occasions and special ceremonies, the Middle Ages saw people drinking out of vessels made out of the skulls of saints.

During the Middle Ages, the body was seen as a part of the universe, which originated in Greek and Roman culture. There were four humors (or body fluids) associated with the four elements. They included fire (yellow bile), water (phlegm), earth (black bile), and air (blood). With these four humors, it was understood that balance was necessary. If you possessed too much of one, then a change in personality could take place. For instance, a person with too much black bile may seem down and out.

Europe and the Japanese possess historical ties, as they were part of a feudal society that was much like the one that thrived in Japan during the 1100s. Members of the Japanese equestrian class were dubbed “samurais.” Just like the knights found in Europe, they entered combat while on a horse.

Did you know that all practicing Jews were sent out of England and France during the 1290’s? In England, it would take a couple of centuries before this law was abolished.

When it came to health, plenty of superstitions and myths ruled the way people in the Middle Ages approached their issues of hygiene and health. At the time, some thought that bad odors carried disease. Other believed that a disease of the body came as a consequence of souls that have sinned. A lot of the cures and treatments of this time came through prayer, meditation, pilgrimages, and other methods that had nothing to do with medicine.

In 1209, bloodshed fell upon the town of Beziers, which was situated close to the Mediterranean coast. A French army took over the town and in an attempt to sort out who they believed were worthy Christians and those that were heretics, Simon IV de Montfort exclaimed to kill all of the inhabitants, as “the Lord will know his own.” Thousands upon thousands of women, children, and men were slaughtered as a result.

The churches of this time sometimes used instruments like organs and bells. Churches were known to possess items called hurdy gurdys. It took two people to play this stringed instrument, which took one individual to turn the crank and the other to play the keys.

The majority of the holy orders dressed in long woolen habits that took after Roman clothing. The color of the habit was most revealing, as the Benedictines wore black and undyed wool or white garments were associated with Cistercians. It was St. Benedict that believed that the clothing of monks should show simplicity yet offer comfort. Their heads were kept warm with the use of linen coifs. In those days, a petition to the Pope by the Poor Clare Sisters (an order of Franciscan nuns) was submitted because they wanted to receive permission to wear wool socks.