Strange beings: translating some Exeter Riddles

I saw four strange beings travel together: black were their tracks, very dark traces.  Fast on its journey, bolder than birds, it flew in the air, dived beneath the waves.  The labouring fighter suffered restlessly, he who shows all four of them the paths over ornamented gold. The four strange beings, if you were wondering,…

Anglian-era York at the York Festival of Ideas

The 2017 York Festival of Ideas will be running from 6-18 June, with the title The Story of Things. With a number of the events relating to York’s Anglian era, I was asked to translate a small number of Anglo-Saxon riddles to decorate the promotional bookmarks for this strand of the festival. The three riddles,…

A medieval astronomy lesson

If you drilled a hole through the centre of the earth, and dropped a stone down it, what would happen?  How big are the Sun, Moon and stars?  And, hardest to answer of all, are there any people on the other side of the globe?  I’ve been reading up on medieval science.  In particular, I’ve…

Keep fit with medieval Pilates

Good morning, everyone!  Feeling energised today?  I’ve been trying to wake myself up in the mornings by doing a little bit of Pilates first thing.  Years of sitting at a computer poring over medieval prayers have left me horribly unbendy, so I’ve been taking classes for over a year now in order to get a…

An Old English Alphabet (part 2)

In my previous post, I took a journey through the Old English language, exploring a single word beginning with the letters from A to L, using each one to explain a particular characteristic of the language.  Here, I will carry on from M until the end of the alphabet … M is for Micel Micel…

Let your works be dead: the haunting House of Fame

In the summer of 2002, in preparation for my final-year university module on the works of Geoffrey Chaucer, I started reading a rather odd sort of poem.  The House of Fame made little immediate impact on me, other than the image of a magnificent (and truculent) eagle bearing the poet up to the heavens and…

Solutions for snakes

I recently wrote a blogpost about fruit in Anglo-Saxon England, including the fruit in the Garden of Eden, and that got me thinking: whose idea was it to eat the fruit in the first place?  Snakes are abundant in medieval manuscripts if you know where to look – tempting Eve, biting people, generally causing a…

Comparing æppla and oranges: Anglo-Saxon fruit

It’s summer, the season of strawberries and cream.  But what about strawberries and pepper?  We eat fruit for pleasure, or for the sake of eating a healthy diet; in the Middle Ages, certain fruits were also believed to be useful for keeping the body in health, or for use in medicine.  And, in a time…