Medieval Death Trip

A Podcast Exploring the Wit and Weirdness of Medieval Texts

MDT Ep. 97: Concerning Three Witches

AI-generated image by DALL-E from the prompt "medieval illustration of a witch covered in hair holding a trident and scaring two monks in a gloomy forest."

This time on Medieval Death Trip, we celebrate Black Friday weekend with some black magic in our belated Halloween anniversary episode. We look at a couple of quite different medieval witches, a Cornish wildwoman from the Life of St. Samson and the famous Witch of Berkeley, as well as a report of a night-hag from the 18th century.

Today’s Texts

  • William of Malmesbury. Chronicle of the Kings of England. Edited by J.A. Giles, translated by John Sharpe and J.A. Giles, George Bell & Sons, 1895. Google Books.
  • The Liber Landavensis, Llyfr Teilo, or the Ancient Register of the Cathedral Church of Llandaff. Edited by W.J. Rees, William Rees, 1840. Google Books.
  • Burnett, George. Specimens of English Prose-Writers from the Earliest Times to the Close of the Seventeenth Century, with Sketches Biographical and Literary, Including an Account of Books as Well as of Their Authors; with Occasional Criticisms, etc. Vol. I, Longman, Hurst, Rees, and Orme, 1807. Google Books.
  • Sprenger, James, and Henry Kramer. Malleus Maleficarum. Originally published 1486. Translated by Montague Summers, 1928. Sacred-Texts.com.

References

  • Bailey, Michael D. “From Sorcery to Witchcraft: Clerical Conceptions of Magic in the Later Middle Ages.” Speculum, vol. 76, no. 4, Oct. 2001, pp. 960-990. JSTOR, www.jstor.org/stable/2903617.
  • Marzella, Francesco. “Hirsuta et cornuta cum lancea trisulcata: Three Stories of Witchcraft and Magic in Twelfth-Century Britain.” Civilizations of the Supernatural: Witchcraft, Ritual, and Religious Experience in Late Antique, Medieval, and Renaissance Traditions, edited by Fabrizio Conti, Trivent Medieval, 2020.
  • Isidore of Seville. The Etymologies of Isidore of Seville. Translated by Stephen A. Barney, W.J. Lewis, J.A. Beach, and Oliver Berghof with Muriel Hall, Cambridge UP, 2006.
  • Gordon, Stephen. Supernatural Encounters: Demons and the Restless Dead in Medieval England, c. 1050-1450. Taylor & Francis, 2019. Google Books.

Audio Clips

  • The Tragedy of Macbeth. Directed by Joel Coen. Apple Studios, 2021.
  • The Witch. Directed by Robert Eggers. A24, 2015.
  • The Witches. Directed by Nicholas Roeg. Warner Bros., 1990.
  • The Blair Witch Project. Directed by Daniel Myrick and Eduardo Sánchez. Artisan Entertainment, 1993.
  • Suspiria. Directed by Dario Argento. Produzioni Atlas Consorziate, 1977.
  • Monty Python and the Holy Grail. Directed by Terry Gilliam and Terry Jones. EMI Films, 1975.
  • The Wizard of Oz. Directed by Victor Fleming. MGM, 1939.
  • Clash of the Titans. Directed by Desmond Davis. United Artists, 1981.
  • Young Frankenstein. Directed by Mel Brooks. 20th Century Fox, 1974.

Additional Music Credit: Ludwig van Beethoven, Coriolan Overture, composed in 1807 (the same year Burnett published his Specimens of English Prose Writers), and performed by the Musopen Symphony (CC-PD).

Image: Images generated by the DALL-E2 AI from the prompts “medieval painting of a hairy witch with a trident scaring a monk in a forest” and “medieval illustration of a witch covered in hair holding a trident and scaring two monks in a gloomy forest.”

You can listen to our MDT Christmas playlist over on Spotify for some medieval-ish carols and tunes to get you in the mood for the season!

AI-generated image by DALL-E from the prompt "medieval painting of a hairy witch with a trident scaring a monk in a forest."

MDT Ep. 96: Concerning the Relics and Grave of King Oswald

This episode we examine the fate of another royal head, that of King Oswald of Northumbria, and the miracles associated with his relics and the dirt from his grave, as reported by the Venerable Bede.

Today’s Text

  • Bede. Beda’s Ecclesiastical History. The Church Historians of England, translated by Joseph Stevenson, 1853. Google Books.

References

  • Fowler, J.T. “On an Examination of the Grave of St. Cuthbert in Durham Cathedral Church, in March, 1899.” Archaeologia, vol. 57, no. 1, Jan. 1900, pp. 11-28. Archive.org.
  • Raine, James. St. Cuthbert, with an Account of the State in Which His Remains Were Found upon the Opening of His Tomb in Durham Cathedral, in the Year MDCCCXXVII. Geo. Andrews, 1828. Google Books.

Featured Music: Extracts from Franz Schubert, Piano Trio in E flat major, D. 929 (composed in 1827, the year Raine opened Cuthbert’s tomb), and  Edward Elgar, Variations on an Original Theme (Enigma), Op. 36 (published in 1899, the year Fowler opened Cuthbert’s tomb) both via CC-PD license at MusOpen.org.

MDT Extra: Letters on the Death of Elizabeth I

"The Allegorical Portrait of Elizabeth I" (Unknown painter, ca. 1610)
“The Allegorical Portrait of Elizabeth I” (Unknown painter, ca. 1610) via Wikimedia Commons.

This extra minisode of Medieval Death Trip offers a bit of historical perspective on the recent death of Queen Elizabeth II by looking back at accounts of the death of Queen Elizabeth I in 1603. Also, a surprisingly relevant but brief account of the Calendar (New Style) Act of 1750.

Text:

  • Birch, Thomas. Memoirs of the reign of Queen Elizabeth, from the year 1581 til her death. In which the secret intrigues of her court, and the conduct of her favourite, Robert earl of Essex, both at home and abroad, are particularly illustrated. From the original papers of … Anthony Bacon, esquire, and other manuscripts never before published. A. Millar, 1754. Google Books.

Audio Credits:

MDT Ep. 95: Concerning Princely Heads and the Bishop’s Monkeys

etail of apes at school, British Library, Stowe MS 17, f. 109r.

This episode we return to the Lanercost Chronicle (and a bit of Capgrave’s Chronicle) to get some serious history concerning the fall of the last native prince of Wales, before getting some a less serious dinner party anecdote about a couple of monkeys. Much hand-wringing is also given to the appropriate pronunciation of the name Llewellyn/Llywelyn.

Today’s Text

  • The Chronicle of Lanercost: 1272–1346. Translated by Herbert Maxwell, James Maclehose and Sons, 1913. (Available at archive.org.)
  • Capgrave, John. The Chronicle of England. Edited by Francis Charles Hingeston, Longman, Brown, Green, Longmans, and Roberts, 1858. Google Books.

References

Audio credit: “The Monkeys.” The Kids in the Hall, season 5, episode 12, Broadway Video International, 8 Feb. 1995. 

Image credit: Detail of apes at school, British Library, Stowe MS 17, f. 109r.

MDT Ep. 94: Helmbrecht v Sheriff: Eve of Justice

Manuscript illustration of crows eating the eyes from a corpse (Bibliothèque Nationale de France, fr. 1951)

This episode we conclude the story of the peasant lad who spurned a humble farming life to go off live the high life with a robber knight and, as we shall see, did not ultimately get the life he expected. Here is the final part of Meier Helmbrecht.

You can get a sense of the landscape surrounding the location identified (by some scholars) as the site of the Helmbrecht Farm through this Google Street View link: https://goo.gl/maps/XrweFAqfGQEAMxxdA

Today’s Text

  • Wernher der Gartenaere. Meier Helmbrecht. In Peasant Life in Old German Epics, translated by Clair Hayden Bell, Columbia UP, 1931.

References

  • Bastow, A. “Peasant Customs and Superstitions in Thirteenth Century Germany.” Folklore, vol. 47, no. 3, Sept. 1936, pp. 313-328. JSTOR, www.jstor.org/stable/1256867.
  • Dobozy, Maria. The Saxon Mirror: A Sachsenspiegel of the Fourteenth Century. U of Pennsylvania P, 1999. Archive.org.
  • Jones, George Fenwick. Honor in German Literature. U of North Carolina P, 1959. JSTORwww.jstor.org/stable/10.5149/9781469657608_jones.9.
  • Lewis, Charlton T. A History of Germany from the Earliest Times. Harper & Brothers, 1874. Google Books.
  • Nordmeyer, George. “The Judge in the Meier Helmbrecht.” Modern Language Notes, vol. 63, no. 2, Feb. 1948, pp. 95-104. JSTOR,www.jstor.org/stable/2909515.
  • Price, Arnold H. “Early Places Ending in -heim as Warrior Club Settlements and the Role of Soc in the Germanic Administration of Justice.” Central European History, vol. 14, no. 3, Sept. 1981, pp. 187-199. JSTOR, www.jstor.org/stable/4545929.

Audio Credit: A Clockwork Orange. Directed by Stanley Kubrick. Warner Bros., 1972.

Image Credit: Manuscript illustration detail of crows eating the eyes of a corpse (Bibliothèque Nationale de France, fr. 1951). From The Medieval Bestiary: https://bestiary.ca/beasts/beastgallery252.htm.

Chapters

  • 00:00:00: Introduction
  • 00:23:04: Text: Meier Helmbrecht, ll. 1463-1934
  • 00:43:06: Commentary
  • 01:05:00: Riddle
  • 01:05:46: Outro

MDT Ep. 93: Helmbrecht Returns, or The Dark Robber Knight

We continue with Part 2 (of 3) of the 13th-century peasant epic Meier Helmbrecht, in which Helmbrecht returns to his family after a year as squire to a robber knight, and cultures clash accordingly.

Today’s Text

  • Wernher der Gartenaere. Meier Helmbrecht. In Peasant Life in Old German Epics, translated by Clair Hayden Bell, Columbia UP, 1931. Archive.org.

References

Image credit: detail of cabbage harvesting from a 15th-century manuscript of Ibn Butlan’s Tacuinum sanitatis, Paris, BnF, Département des manuscrits, Latin 9333 fol. 20.

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