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Sources:
medievalisterrant.wordpress.co…
merryfarmer.wordpress.com/tag/…
en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pentecos…


'May Day in the Middle Ages

May Day is one of those holidays that seems medieval, even ancient; the customs of flowers and fertility rites definitely feel like they go back a long time (...)

The ancient world:
The Roman festival of Floralia took place for six days beginning the 28th of April, and this seems to be the origin of some of the things we associate with May Day began: wearing bright colours, drinking a lot, and a certain sexual permissiveness are mentioned by Ovid and Juvenal. This celebration was dedicated to Flora, the goddess of flowers, which was an idea that appealed to the Renaissance humanists when trying to recreate some good Classical festivals.

This coincided with the Gaelic festival of Beltaine. The word itself, in Q-Celtic languages, comes from a Proto-Celtic word for ‘bright fire’, which seems to have been the chief attraction. (The Welsh word, meanwhile, is Calen Mai, which comes directly from the Roman calendar and the Latin for the first of May.) It started the night before, as do all ancient Celtic festivals since they figured time in nights rather than days. The ninth-century Irish glossary Sanas Cormaic says the druids made the fires while casting ‘great incantations,’ and that they were supposed to ward off disease; people may also have danced ‘sunwise’ around them. There is, at least, archaeological evidence of large fires at quite a few places in Ireland. It seems cattle would be driven between two fires, which seems fitting for two reasons: that ancient Ireland counted wealth in cattle, and that Beltaine, like Samhain six months before, was a liminal border-day when the fairies, whose world overlaid the mortal one, were even closer then usual.

There seems to have also been an old Germanic festival that also involved bonfires, which was later merged with the feast of the 8th-century German saint Walpurga to become Walpurgisnacht. In the early modern era this was expanded even more as local anxiety over witches turned it into a “witches’ sabbat”, and by now has mostly been replaced by Easter fires.

Basically, early agrarian societies all liked the part of the year when enough plants started to grow that you got new food to eat, and you could let the cattle out of your house and send them off to grazing land.

The middle ages:

Along with the new food to eat and the cattle grazing, a useful thing about spring festivals was that if you were a villager, rather than a noble with a great hall, you couldn’t really have huge communal feasts during the winter. The only building in a village likely to be big enough was the church, and along with being hard to heat, people tended to shy away from using those for secular celebrations. When the weather started turning warmer, they could all meet outside on the village green (...)

By the middle ages, some of what had once been Floralia, Beltaine, and other early-spring festivals had been pulled into the liturgical calendar and applied to the Christian celebration of Whitsun, or Pentecost. This was one of three weeks of holiday for the medieval worker, and was marked by feasting, dancing, and parties. The Welsh tale of Geraint (and various other versions of the same story) opens with a description of Arthur’s Whitsun feasting, and all the churches necessary to fit everyone in the court so they can all hear Mass. It was also one of the three times of the year, along with Christmas and Easter, when vassals were given new clothes (...).

Various churchmen complained about the festivities from 1220 onward, but not-very-mysteriously stopped in the fifteenth century when someone worked out that if the church actually sponsored these things, they could keep an eye on everything and make some money at it. Like the Hocktide kidnapping game, the paris ale used local custom to bring in some money to the local church.

Bringing in the May:
So what exactly did this ‘bringing in the May’ business entail? In most places, people gathered flowers and branches to make garlands or wreaths. Chaucer mentions woodbine and hawthorn in the Knight’s Tale, while sycamore was more common in Cornwall and birch in Wales. The flowers were then awarded as prizes or given as gifts to friends and neighbours. Washing one’s face in the morning May Day dew was supposed to bring youth and radiance to the complexion.

The most enduring image of a May Day celebration is the Maypole, painted and beribboned and standing on the village reen. While the earliest recorded evidence of it is from a Welsh poem by Gryffydd ap Adda ap Dafydd in the mid-fourteenth century describing a maypole in Llanidloes, it seems otherwise to be English, rather than Celtic, in origin and to have migrated to the marches from English settlers. A number of theories exist as to their original significance, some less likely and more outlandish than others, but no definitive explanation has presented itself. From the early 1400s there are records of a number of English villages paying for platforms and ribbons to display and decorate maypoles.

The crowning of a May Queen (or later more commonly a May King), seems to have really taken off in the early modern period, but there is evidence of it earlier. The Bishop of Worcester complained about a May beauty contest that sounds suspiciously like such a ceremony in 1240, and there are other, slightly less disapproving references in manuscripts in 1303 and 1306. After about 1450, summer kings seem to have been more common than summer queens, and there are only a few instances of there being one of each. (...)'

Whit Sunday

'Pentecost (...) took place 7 weeks after Easter to mark the Holy Spirit descending on Jesus’ disciples.  It was also known as Whit Sunday and was important to the liturgical calendar.In the Middle Ages, cathedrals and great churches throughout Western Europe were fitted with a peculiar architectural feature known as a Holy Ghost hole; a small circular opening in the roof that symbolized the entrance of Holy Spirit into the midst of the assembled worshippers. At Pentecost, these Holy Ghost holes would be decorated with flowers, and sometimes a dove figure lowered through into the church while the story of the Pentecost was read. Holy Ghost holes can still be seen today in European churches such as Canterbury Cathedral.

Similarly, a large two dimensional dove figure would be, and in some places still are, cut out of wood, painted and decorated with flowers, to be lowered over the people, particularly during the singing of the sequence hymn, or Veni Creator Spiritus. In other places, particularly Sicily and the Italian peninsula, rose petals were and are thrown from the galleries over the congregation calling to mind the tongues of fire. In modern times, this practice has been revived, and interestingly adapted as well, to include the strewing of origami doves from above, or suspending them – sometimes by the hundreds – from the ceiling.

In some cases, red fans, or red handkerchiefs are distributed to the assembled worshippers to be waved during the procession, etc. Other congregations have incorporated the use of red balloons, signifying the "Church's Birthday" into their festivities. These may be carried by worshippers, used to decorate the sanctuary, or released all at once.'
Officeholders, nominated by the king and directly responsible to the crown, were the forest wardens whose office sign was a hunting horn. They took care of the trespassers at the king s castle and nominated foresters to represent them in different parts of England. The foresters, whose sign of office was a bow, were to patrol a given forest, officiate at the various forest courts and supervise the lawing of dogs.

Another official, who had an axe in his office sign, was the verderer. These were the knights elected to administer an office without any salary. Their task was to officiate at inquests and to supervise the foresters. Those, who actually executed the forest law were the two chief
justices, of the North and South Trent, and the dread justices in eyre (circuit court).

Sheriffs prepared preparatory hearings at the eyre courts and bishops, earls, barons, knights of free tenure and other important personas within the forest region were summoned to attend the hearing. After the hearing and examining of evidence a verdict was passed. If a person failed to appear in the court he had later on no right to defend himself and could only count on the mercy of the monarch. Whereas William I extended more and more the areas of the royal forests, during the reign of Richard I and John disafforestation took place, as both of these kings needed urgently money and opened these territories to the local lords in return for certain payments.

The forest law was again enforced by the Forest Charter imposed by Henry III. It stated that local courts were to meet every six weeks, special forest inquisitions were issued to take care of serious trespasses and that the circuit courts had ultimate jurisdiction. It also stated that royal forest will be gradually disafforestated so that everyone could freely hunt everywhere, however, this promise was fulfilled very reluctantly by the Crown.

In the 13th century, whenever there was a need for the king and barons to reach an agreement, hunting rights were exchanged between the Crown and bishops, earls and nobles. The royal forest were reduced and expensive royal charters were distributed which allowed the holder of the charter to use the forest land as fully as the king had which included the right to hunt for the deer, wild boar and other animals which were previously reserved only for the royal hunting party.
According to the Anglo-Saxon Chronicles, William was especially interested in hunting laws concerning harts and boars and wanted to protect and preserve these animals from poachers. The Chronicles state that William set aside a vast deer preserve and imposed laws concerning it, so that whoever slew a hart or hind was to be blinded . He forbade hunting for harts and boars and created royal forests and game preserves where only the king or those who had his permission could kill quarry like the wild boar, red deer, roe and fallow deer. This process of naming land as royal forest was known as afforestation whereas the incorporated land did not have to be woodland at all.William realized, that if the number and quality of the game was to be stable he needed to protect not only the animals but also the woodland they were living in. The habitat of the deer needed special protection, especially during the breeding season, so that the new generation could replace those animals which were previously hunted.
By the year 1118, the restrictions concerned not only animals but also matters as cutting wood, harvesting honey or carrying weapons in the forest. According to William Marvin, an Associate Professor of English at Colorado State University, in the 12th century, the forest laws stated that:

( ) It was a trespass to clear land; to cut or burn wood; to hunt or even to carry a bow or spear through the forest; to defy the obligation to assist in the royal deer hunt; to let livestock roam freely through the forest; to build structures; to fail to obey summonses to forest courts; to go with dogs into the forest; to resist the lawing of the dogs; or to take hides or the flesh of beasts of the forest that were found dead.

The forest law, which was outside the common law when it came to the matter of royal forests, subjected the land and those who lived there, under the direct and personal power of the king. In these circumstances, a knight, hunting with his men and greyhounds in a forest could be forced to pay a fine up to 20 pounds just for roaming through the woodland and not killing or wounding a single prey. According to
William s chroniclers, at some point the king increased the penalties and for shooting a deer the trespasser would have both of his hands cut off. Moreover, those who would distribute the deer s meat would be blinded. In the 13th century, poachers killing a roadeer could be punished with a fine of 5 pounds and it was up to the forest officers to capture such trespassers and to execute the forest laws.
Happy New Year everyone! :)  

Some Medieval New Year facts for you from classroom.synonym.com/new-year… ;)
Enjoy

'In most of Europe during the Middle Ages, New Year's Day was celebrated on March 25. This date marked both the beginning of spring and the Feast of the Annunciation, a special day dedicated to Mary. Consequently, the holiday in Medieval Europe was a springtime celebration that was a mix of nature-based worship and the celebration of the divine feminine. Although the church officially changed the date of the new year to January 1 in the 16th century, in some places these older traditions are still followed.

Time of Renewal
Many ancient societies, including the Aztecs and the Egyptians, celebrated the new year in the springtime. For agriculturally based societies, spring represented the return of flowering plants and sunshine. It was the time of year to begin sowing the seeds that would be harvested later in the year. Although the Romans actually changed New Year's Day to January 1 in the early empire, most Medieval Europeans had reverted back to the earlier practice of celebrating the with the beginning of Spring.

The Feast of the Annunciation
Commemorating the day when Mary was visited by the angel Gabriel and advised that she would be the Mother of God, the Feast of the Annunciation was not only the most important Christian holiday of the Middle Ages, it was New Year's Day itself. Massive processions filled the streets, and offerings were made to shrines of Mary. These celebrations paid homage to the woman who -- like the earth itself -- received the seed in the springtime that would bear fruit as the birth of Jesus nine months later, at Christmas.

The Feast of Fools
In the later Middle Ages, a very controversial festival was celebrated by many on January 1. The Feast of Fools featured heavy drinking, gambling and even cross dressing. This celebration was also tied to nature-based activities, in this case the winter solstice and the Saturnalia, where leaders were mocked and society turned upside down. During the festival, slaves and servants openly criticized their masters, often dressing up like them in parody. The Feast of Fools disappeared in the 15th century after heavy suppression by the church.

Modern Celebrations
Pope Gregory officially changed New Year's Day back to January 1 in 1582, but that did not mean that everyone in Europe gave up their traditional practices. Many modern European towns and villages still celebrate or have revived Medieval New Year's Day practices. In Florence, Italy, where live concerts and a huge procession to the Basilica of the Annunciation take place on March 25. Locals and tourists alike take part in these springtime festivities, which honor the feminine mother of God who gives birth to divinity year after year, just as nature renews itself and offers up its earthly abundance again and again.'
William the Conqueror, while he took over the power in England, already in 1066 made more severe restrictions concerning the rights to hunt.  In fact, it was during the Norman rule that the right to hunt was controlled on such scale that it became an activity reserved mainly for the elites. Though, when it came to the matter of hawking, almost everyone, except those who did not own any land, were allowed to keep hawks for the purpose of obtaining food .

In general, the Normans are said to have brought the forest law , the main aim of which was to prevent further deforestation. The forest law had probably its origins in the 9th century when Charlemagne used to grant land to the subjects of his realm but still would reserve the right over vert and venison for himself.  The law was extremely strict and sometimes, if it was necessary, thousands of peasants could be displaced and their homes destroyed so that the ruler could control his hunting ground. Nonetheless, according to Emma Griffin, such drastic actions were very rare and it was more common that the inhabitants would stay on their land if they agreed to obey the newly imposed law which placed the animals and timber, which they would normally obtain from the forest, out of their reach.  

Additionally, William changed the law and reclassified wild animals as royal property.  This evoked a lot of controversy, since according to the contemporary belief on the Isles, no one could own a wild animal. There was only the principle of free capture which stated that only domestic animals could be defined as the property of someone. Wild animals could become a person s property only through the act of capturing either by wounding it or killing. The villagers could not kill even those wild animals that destroyed their crops or killed their domestic animals, with the exception of wolves, which were considered as a threat to human lives. The red deer, wild boar, fallow deer and roedeer were classified
by the forest law as the beasts of the forest and hunting for these animals was reserved.

Later on, laws of warren protected also the hunt upon hare, foxes, rabbits, partridge and pheasant. However, since the smaller quarry, like foxes, wild cats and hares, was thought to be harmful to the boar and to the deer, the so called rights of warren were frequently granted to hunt these animals. The rights of warren , also named the grants of warren were charters which gave their holder the right to hunt for animals listed in the grant. A penalty of 10 pounds was foreseen for those who hunted in somebody else's warren.
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