... has been brought to you by Covid 19 and it's incredibly distracting side-effects of:
— Sewing medieval presents for friends! — Had the nipple on my book cover CENSORED by Americans! — Planting a medieval herb garden! — Upending my entire stores looking for my St Birgitta's Cap! — Not finding my St Birgitta's Cap! — Zoom talk on Medieval Women & Literacy for the Abbey Museum of Art & Archaeology! — A Virtual Medieval Gathering! — Total update of notes on The Gilbert Collection website! — Facebook! Making medieval Covid memes, obviously! — Instagramming! @rosaliesmedievalwoman @thegilbertcollection — Still Having To Go To Work Anyway!
I'll be catching up with posts and pictures soon!
EDIT: I've gone back and filled the gaps with some of the things I've been doing, rendering this post totally unnecessary and somewhat redundant.
Medieval women were usually tasked with gardening. Most rural places had little patches of land which may or may not have produced food and herbs for cooking and medicine. I've finally stopped wishing that I had a garden instead of concrete from door to fence and decided to plant a garden. Citrus. Herbs. Flowers. Pots just aren't doing it for me. I want more.
The first step was to acquire raised garden beds and fill them. I used mulch to half fill the beds, then potting mix almost to the top, and a further layer of mulch on top to protect the plants roots from the chill of winter and the blistering heat of summer. I needed a screen to protect the beds from the wind and decided on willow. Then it was just down to the plants. Australia is a long way from England, but I was aiming for an English garden as much as practical.
The plants came next. I had four citrus in large pots so they were placed centrally on the beds to shade the plants underneath. Orange, lime, grapefruit and lemon. Although these are definitely not medieval in England, they were needed for shade and I wanted the fruits. Under planted, all the herbs for cooking- parsley, sage, rosemary, thyme, oregano, chives, onions, garlic, coriander, nasturtiums, borage, violets, elder and some medicinals- wormwood, rue, roses, strawberry, catnip, aloe vera, feverfew, comfrey. Some thoroughly modern plants joined them- tomatoes and the mulberry tree- and an array of flowers for the bees: Lady's mantle, gardenias, figs, sweet williams, blue-eyes, salvias, pentas, vincas.
I still wish to find some jasmin polyanthum to climb over the willow screen. But already it's looking wonderful.
A big part of our modern life is research and study of the past to learn. Nothing teaches a person better than looking at old things, if they wish to reproduce copies of them to make new things.
The Gilbert Collection is my personal study collection of medieval artifacts. Many of the pieces are low-grade, a few are museum quality and the rest are somewhere in between. Each piece, no matter how humble, is a fascinating window into the past. Whether it be decoration, a textile fragment which has survived 900 years, or a scrap of gilding- these things are a wealth of information about how these items may have looked when new, and provide much thought into the kind of dress accessories which a re-enactor or history presenter should or shouldn't be wearing in an effort to recreate an accurate picture of the past.
My whole collection is online with notes, comparisons to other similar items from the Portable Antiquities Scheme and books like the very excellent Pritchard & Egan, Dress Accessories in the Museum of London Series, weights and measurements of each piece at thegilbertcollection.com but now also on Instagram at #thegilbertcollection.
An artifact every second day, each of them medieval dress accessories or household items. Details about the items are there, but for further notes, you'll need to visit the website.
If you feel you need more medieval lady pictures and less words in your life, I can make those wishes come true! I'm not an Instagrammer who writes essays and then cross posts those essays to Facebook. Nope. It's just pictures. Medieval sewing, events, highlights, manuscript challenges, encampment, gardening, artifacts and book things.
I do so much love talking about medieval women and especially those myths that keep lingering, even today. Things like, "Medieval women couldn't read or write!" It's such rubbish.
Certainly not all women did, but some did. It helps to remember that literacy today is different to literacy in the middle ages. Women might be able to read a little and not write. The definition of illiterate was also quite specific. A person was illiterate if they could not read and write... in Latin. It's true that visiting monks despaired of some 14th century nuns because they only wrote French and were therefore not literate. Scandalous.
We know, of course, that many upper class ladies did read. We also know what they read. Romance novels! Yes, women sighed over Lancelot and his Lady Love; tittered over the Roman de la Rose, a love story set in prose packed with allegorical characters; and yes, wrote love letters to their very own husbands.
"That's What She Said!" was well received by the viewers of the Abbey Friends talk, which is still online if you'd care to see it.
It's a well-known fact that re-enactors are a hardy bunch and take a lot of slowing down. If they get an idea into their heads, there's not much which will dissuade them for making it happen. Global pandemic? Pah! Certainly it won't stop us from having an Easter camping holiday together! Only, not together. Let me explain.
Obviously, the Covid crisis meant that no real camping could take place over the Easter break, and it's all fine and dandy to have a series of great online talks and presentations... but it's not really the same as camping. Actually camping and sitting around a fire under the stars.
At some point, someone decided that they would camp. Erect a tent. Make the bed. get out all their favourite medieval things and camp anyway. Actually camp at home under the stars. And as the movement grew, more and more people said, "Yeah, I'll join you, only at my house!" Quite frankly, I felt that going to all that effort and still being alone would be even more isolating than not doing it. To be without friends around the fire and think of what we were all missing. A good idea... but... I was feeling too alone and secretly felt that it was probably different for those camping in their family groups. Definitely worth the effort if there was more than one of you. For me?
As twilight fell on Easter Friday, medievalists, re-enactors and living historians raised their tents and lit their fires. On verandahs. On patios. In courtyards. On lawns amongst the shrubbery. People posted their photos to the Virtual Medieval Gathering and sent greetings from household to household and camp to camp. My heart lifted. We weren't camping alone. We shared the same sky and the same stars. We were sharing our passion and it was our way of saying that it takes more than a pandemic to stop us doing what we love.
On Saturday night, the Virtual Tavern kicked up with musicians and performers for those of us camping out. I, too, lit my fire and sent my greetings online to my fellow campers. How could I have thought that I would be alone just because we weren't together? Somehow, knowing that we were all doing it together made it okay.
I had been booked to speak at a luncheon for the Abbey Museum of Art & Archaeology on the subject of Medieval Women and Literacy. Of course, with the current Covid climate, it couldn't be held in person, and it was decided to turn it into a Zoom presentation!
This was to be the first for the museum, so it was a little exciting! I made a background for the talks, and hoped it would all go well! April 20th is our date!
I am beyond excited that my talk which became the soon-to-be-released book, "The Very Secret Sex Lives Of Medieval Women" was so well received with over two thousand views in 48 hours. People were kind enough to leave comments, over 700 at this stage.
I am overwhelmed with responses, messages and giggles from people who now no longer will be asking for Special Sauce with anything they order for the rest of forever, and my neighbour who caught the talk assured me that she blushed a number of times throughout!
I had originally planned to take the talk down after the Virtual Medieval Gathering 2020 was over, but I think I will leave it up for a while longer since there have been a lot of shares and perhaps not everyone who intended is caught up yet. A huge shout out to the Australian Living History Federation President, Louise McNally, who made the whole thing come together and the other weekend presenters who joined me.
If you are curious, my talk is still online and can be seen here:
On the subject of lady writers, one of our medieval favourites has to be the amazing Christine de Pisan, seen here in a detail from an illumination dated 1364 — 1430, Self Portrait, Works Of Christine De Pisan. While Christine, a single mother (widowed) with children to raise, is best known for what we consider to be her feminist writings and her strong messages of morals for women, she was at first not the woman she blossomed into.
It is less known that Christine at first despised herself for being a women. She considered herself loathsome because many men held the view that women were vile creatures, and if that was the view of such a large number of learned men, how could it be wrong?
It is fortunate for women of the time that she had a lightbulb moment and decided that women had a lot to offer in their own unique ways and set about writing her treatises and her very famous "City of Ladies."
Christine is often seen in art in her trademark blue gown, wimple and fashionable horned headdress, but to me, she will always look like she is rocking a set of Easter Bunny ears underneath her veil.
This Easter Saturday, my talk which became my upcoming new release in July, will be a part of a series of presentations at the Virtual Medieval Gathering 2020. Over the course of the weekend, you may enjoy a number of fantastic presentations on a range of medieval topics by Australian and overseas presenters. All are online LIVE and all are free. This is the first time this presentation has been made online and accessible outside of Australia and the broadcast will remain on the event page for the entire weekend to assist catch up viewing.
To watch, simply join the Virtual Medieval Gathering Facebook Group. I will be talking for about 45 minutes commencing at 12 noon AEST.