Grab bag!

Like any lawcode, whose power of course is at its greatest when most arbitrary, medieval lawcodes are full of what looks like stuff and nonsense:
* The Diplomatarium Islandicum, as Anna Irene Riisøy points out, forbids people from eating with trolls. A convivium with trolls (a face slick with goatfat is a dead giveaway) will cost you 40 marks (payable to king or bishop). You’d be better off in Nobu.
* The Norwegian Frostathinglaw forbids humans to scootch under cows to suck on their udders.
* The Gulathing law forbids people from telling impossible tales about one another: its examples include accusations of werewolfery or periodic gender switching.
* Bartholomew of Exeter lends his support to those who forbid foolish talk (balationes: bleating?!) and cross-dressing before church doors.
* Scab-eating is almost universally condemned.

Alternately, you might want to comment on this odd sentence in a NYTimes article on the recently discovered skeleton of an Australopithecus toddler: “An analysis of the skeleton revealed evidence of a species in transition.” Am I wrong to suspect the thoughtcrime of preDarwinian teleology? – See more at: http://www.inthemedievalmiddle.com/2006/09/white-elephants-free-box-packrats.html#sthash.BbCsoO4q.dpuf

Evagrius the Scholastic, Ecclesiastical History,: “There are men and women who were almost naked when they began their life in the desert and who are disdainful of the seasons, of the bitter cold and the sweltering heat alike. They despise the kind of food eaten by other humans and are content to graze like cattle. They have even much of the outer appearance of animals, for as soon as they see a man, they run away and, if they are pursued they make off with incredible speed and hide in inaccessible places” (qtd Jacques Lacarrières. Men Possessed by God: The Story of the Desert Monks of Ancient Christendom, 156-7).

Another favorite bit: the description of jousting sports from William FitzStephan’s description of 12th-century London. At Easter, the young people would joust in the Thames:

“For a shield being strongly bound to a stout pole in mid stream, a small vessel, swiftly driven on by many an oar and by the river’s flow, carries a youth standing at the prow, who is to strike the shield with his lance. If he break the lance by striking the shield and keep his feet unshaken, he has achieved his purpose and fulfilled his desire”

When rivers freeze, the youths would joust on ice skates. –

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