Grainne Irish Pirate
Europe

Marauding and Misbehaving: Gráinne Mhaol, Pirate Queen

When the English stripped Richard of the family lands he was set to inherit, Gráinne could have either A) started a rebellion or B) negotiated with the Crown. Surprisingly, Gráinne chose plan B. She parlayed with English representative Lord Deputy Henry Sidney in 1576, going so far as to offer him three galleys and two hundred fighting men. He didn’t take her up on the offer, but he did sail with her to inspect her coastal defenses of Galway. Gráinne made sure to bill him for her troubles. Sidney walked away with the impression that “This was a notorious woman in all the coasts of Ireland.”

Snowflakes: a Chapter from the Book of Nature Public Domain Review
Europe The Americas To The East

The Long Night: Ancient Winter Solstice Celebrations

No matter who you were in the ancient world, the seasons were of vital importance. You marked the ebb and flow of time by your harvests, which ensured your survival or demise. While the typical ancient person went through life believing gladiator blood cured epilepsy or that tiny demons lived in cabbage, they were at least on top of seasonal changes. And it didn’t escape their attention that after the longest night, daylight began to creep back into their lives.

middle ages christmas
Europe

Fasts, Feasts, Ale, and Meats: A Medieval Christmas

Just like now, drinking alcohol was a favorite pastime of many a medieval person, but especially so during the Christmas period. As a rule, the average citizen quaffed large quantities of weak ale instead of water. Despite this tolerance, people somehow still managed to get rowdy. So much so that it was commonplace for wealthy lords to employ watchmen to guard their estates against rioters. Outside of warmth and some bread, watchmen could expect to a reward of, you guessed it — a gallon of ale.

Green children
Europe

Up From Below: The Mysterious Green Children of Woolpit

In the early Middle Ages Woolpit was amid the most agriculturally and densely populated part of rural England. It wasn’t impossible that strangers might pass through, and in those days many villages were self-contained with their own customs, clothes, and dialects. You could enter a place a few miles away and have trouble understanding the locals.

The Beast of Gévaudan
Europe

The Beast of Gévaudan: A Monstrous Murder Mystery

Gévaudan was exactly the type of place where you’d expect the supernatural to occur. Nestled in the south of France, it had a reputation for being isolated and remote. It was a region where people mainly kept to themselves, shrouded in a self-contained bubble and surrounded by forests and hillsides that may still have been enchanted.

princess olga of kiev
Europe

Wrath, Revenge, and Religion: Olga of Kiev

This, one would think, would be enough revenge for one queen. But not Olga of Kiev. Now, with her position made clear, the real destruction could begin. A war between the two nations broke out, with Olga’s side too formidable to defeat in battle. After the initial conflict, her army drove the survivors back into their cities and marched on Iskorosten to lay siege to the city. After a year passed with no success, Olga hatched a plan that was as creative as it was devious.