Fantasy, mystery, thrillers, horror, historical. . .I write it all, and review it too!

Oct 17, 2011

Could clerics shed blood? The example of Bishop Odo

Anyone who played D&D in their youth knows that clerics aren't allowed to shed blood, and thus have to carry maces instead of swords. I always thought that was a ridiculous rule first because it wouldn't work--brain someone with a mace and see just how much blood you get--and second because I failed to see the historical connection. Medieval priests often fought, although technically they were not supposed to take up arms of any kind. So I always wondered where Gygax and Company got this idea.

Perhaps they got it from Bishop Odo, William the Conqueror's half brother. The Bayeux Tapestry, which Odo probably commissioned, shows him riding into battle flourishing a club with the caption, "Hic Odo Eps (Episcopus) Baculu(m) Tenens Confortat Pueros", in English "Here Odo the Bishop holding a club strengthens the boys".

So he may not even have used his club as a weapon, but rather as sort of a command staff like the later swagger stick. But another part of the tapestry shows William the Conqueror with a club. Also, in the age of chainmail a club wasn't such a bad weapon. Not as good as a flail (my personal favorite) and certainly not as good as the later medieval handgonnes, but not a bad choice for someone who has sworn never to take up a sword. Odo led troops in battle on numerous occasions, so he might have discovered how effective a club is firsthand.

The goblinkin in my fantasy novel Roots Run Deep are also saddled with primitive weapons. The ruling humans treat them as second-class citizens and, like any group of oppressors, fear those they oppress. Thus they ban goblins and hobgoblins from using metal weapons. Instead our green friends use mauls, quarterstaves, flint knives, clubs like good old Bishop Odo, and a special fighting stick called a tfaa.

Oct 14, 2011

Three great blogs you should follow

Today is the Pay it Forward Blogfest, where a bunch of us bloggers are naming three fellow bloggers who we think should have more followers, even if they have lots already! Here are my three picks:

Mithril Wisdom: a great source for fantasy book reviews, some funky art, and news and views from the world of fantasy. While there are lots of fantasy review blogs out there, this one stands out because Jamie puts much thought into each review and mixes it up with non-review posts. Jamie is getting a degree in Egyptology and was a guest blogger here writing about Egyptian vampires.

Civil War Horror: Sean McLachlan has written a heap of books on military history, the Old West, and the Middle Ages. He's been a guest blogger on this post a couple of times, including a cool piece on medieval handgonnes, and he's about to come out with a Civil War novel. His blog covers such diverse topics as Civil War weaponry, the exploits of Jesse James, and writing horror fiction.

Grognardia: For those not in the know, a grognard is a term for an old veteran of Napoleon's army. It also means an old-school roleplaying gamer. Not too many of Napoleon's veterans are still around except in zombie form, and they don't read the blogs, so this blog is dedicated to gamers. You'll get plenty of nostalgia from the Seventies and Eighties, when pretending to be an elven wizard was still new and a bit cutting edge. If you're too young to remember those days, check it out anyway and see how gaming was done in the era before home computers took it over.

So check out these blogs and leave a comment, and tell them I sent you!

The photo of the jousting knights is from Wikimedia Commons. It has nothing to do with anything, I just like the picture.

Oct 10, 2011

Charm to ward off evils spirits found in castle ruins

Archaeologists digging in the ruins of Nevern Castle in Wales have found a dozen pieces of slate with scratched markings of stars and other designs.

The slates were found at a 12th century doorway, hinting that they were put there to ward off evil spirits trying to get into the entrance. I wrote about this practice on a previous Medieval Mondays, in which hidden clothing is used to ward off witches. Dead cats work too!

The archaeologists say they were installed around 1170-1190 when the castle was rebuilt in stone. The castle was originally built by the Normans as a motte-and-bailey castle in 1108. The BBC has a nice photo of one of the Nevern slates. Recent excavations have unearthed a lot of interesting finds from this site, including a game of Nine Men's Morris shown below. Thanks to Wikimedia Commons for this photo.

Oct 3, 2011

Five best medieval history twitter feeds

This Medieval Monday I've decided to do something a little different. I'm going to tell you about my favorite medievalists on Twitter! If you like the Middle Ages, check out these great feeds.

@CryForByzantium Byzantine emperors tweet about the intrigues in Constantinople and battles on the frontier. Currently we're in the year 1143 and Emperor John II Komnenos is dying. He had been hunting and accidentally got cut by a poison arrow. Who will succeed him?

@King_Henry_VIII  Similar to Cry for Byzantium but the tweets of Henry VIII. Yes, he's Renaissance and not Medieval. Sue me. "Ladies, I won't even look at you if your cup size is smaller than mine. Just a warning." With tweets like this, how can't I include him?

@medievalbook Links to reviews of books on the Middle Ages. Some popular, some quite esoteric.

@MedievalWall This tweeter from Croatia links to interesting articles on a variety of medieval subjects. Many articles are from his own site, such as this one on the Templars in Croatia.

@medievalist More in line with many Twitter feeds, this medievalist mixes interesting medieval news with personal tidbits.

Photo of John II Komnenos courtesy Wikipedia.