And if you love hops, you can thank St. Hildegard of Bingen, who documented their first use as an additive. Although Hildegard wasn’t a fan – declaring hops weigh down your innards and make you sad – they prevailed in the end.
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.”
Reims cathedral as we know it today (and French people) can thank Clovis I for its inception. Also known as Chlodovech, Clovis is the guy responsible for uniting the Frankish tribes of yesteryear and founding the Merovingian Dynasty and, by extension, France.
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.
One such character is Judith, a virtuous and dutiful Northumbrian princess. She weds Aethelwulf, son of King Ecbert and prince of Wessex, in an arranged marriage. While there isn’t smoldering chemistry between the two, they seem more or less accepting of the arrangement. Until Athelstan enters the picture.
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.
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.
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.
In ancient Greece, some mystics used mirrors as a form of fortune telling and divination, a practice called catoptromancy. These “mirror seers” would dip a looking glass into water before having a sickly person look into it. If the image was distorted, they were done for. If clear, all would be well.