Dragons (4)

Welcome to the fourth post in the medieval England series, this is the dragons section. If you have followed the series so far you will recount Alchemy(1), Knights(2) and Wizards(3) for the previous posts. Hopefully you enjoy reading and you can of course listen to the audio version via Spotify. Thanks you and enjoy this episode.


Dragons! The most feared creatures within the land during the medieval ages. A knight or group of knights known were known as Orders of Chivalry, like the knight Templar. Those orders were sometimes called upon to slay a dragon. We have legends like St George who slayed a dragon.

The story of St George is well known to England. He successfully tamed and slayed a dragon which had both demanded and consumed human sacrifices. The dragon would extort villages of livestock and trinkets, like gold. Eventually they turned to offering humans once a year, because they simple didn’t have the livestock or jewels to give the dragon. This horrific practice continued until eventually a beloved princess was chosen as the next offering. St George rescued the princess from the dragon.

St George and the Dragon! (source-wikipedia)

Lesser known is the slaying of the dragon by St Margaret of Antioch, who was swallowed alive by a dragon. Whilst inside she made the sign of the cross – which could have been using her sword – which caused the dragons belly and stomach to burst open! She used to be quite the revered saint in England during the medieval ages, and was associated with protecting women in childbirth. This destroying of the dragon using the sign of the cross ties into a religious idea about dragons, which is talked about further down. The story though was disputed by Jacobus de Voragine, who had written the Golden Legend which St George was a part of.

Enter another legend, Beowulf. Based on the epic poem. Not quite English and around the 6th century, a Scandinavian legend, but a brutal final attack about a dragon slaying. 50 years after defeating Grendel’s mother Beowulf slays a dragon, but is mortally wounded in battle and dies! A final courageous battle for a fearless man, one man alone who chose to fight the dragon solo. The people were fearful after his death, because they believed without him that they would be defenseless. It’s a great story and you can even watch the movie which was released in 2007 (I still remember watching this with my dad and brothers, it was a good time).

Beowulf slays the dragon, before dying from wounds.

Dragons still play a significant role today in society through the various multitudes of artwork, sculptures on public display and movies. Due to the dragon being associated with religion, particularly the devil, it was said during medieval times that to see a dragon was a reminder to not sin and to be a good person, particularly when saw in church. Said to have been the tempter of Eve in the garden of Eden.

All this mythology is great, but what about something close to real? Meet the Wyverns, a common dragon in medieval heraldry. Commonly depicted in artwork. Not that these are any more real, but certainly the more common types that were known in England and Wales.

Wyvern

Wormhill dragons, around 700AD named by the Anglo-Saxons. The hill at Knotlow in Derbyshire (I used to live in Derbyshire) was the base or lair of the dragon. Couple them with legends like the Longwitton dragon, of Northumbrian legend. Each dragon brought bad things. No medieval village or settlement was safe with them around.

What makes dragons so scary? Well, for one they fly with their huge wings. This gives them an automatic advantage when attacking villages or castles. In order to hide from a dragon people would have had to be inside a stone building or underground. They have extremely strong scales which are akin to armour, and a lot of knights could not kill them with their swords and stronger weapons were needed like catapults or cross bows. Fire they breathe… yes the fire is death and destruction and it could rip through a village and kill everyone very quickly. Unless you had some way to appease it, and most people didn’t, then you’d be killed. They can use their huge mouths and teeth to just simply chew you up. In the Hobbit movie, Smaug is unstoppable and has been for many years, and can only really be stopped with courage and powerful weapons.

Before we end let’s look for a final time at what a dragon symbolises, among other things: psychic abilities, honesty, fearlessness, passion, magic abilities, medieval times, uncertainty, faith. The story of St George is significant to understanding exactly what a dragon was that they all saw. Below are depictions of the dragon he is supposed to have slayed, and they all resembled jurassic creatures. Could dragons of medieval times simply have been ancient dinosaurs which so happened to fly? It is not far fetched at all, it is also possible that dragons might actually be real, or were at some point in history.

Undoubtedly the biggest threat in the medieval ages after the black death, hunger and the inquisition. Although we don’t have pictures of them from the medieval ages, you can watch many films with dragons. Dragonheart – highly recommend it to see a proper dragon. Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, the film is dragon from start to finish. Game of Thrones of course has dragons and so many more.


Thank you for reading episode 4 – dragons – in the medieval England history series. If you liked then please like, comment, reblog and follow and as usual, have a lovely day.

Wizards (3)

Welcome to the third post in the medieval England series. This post will cover Wizards of the medieval period and talk a little about what they were and how they were viewed, covering well known real and mythological wizards and more. Please keep checking the blog daily for new posts in the series and if you enjoy reading them, then please like, comment and follow me for more!


Wizards of the medieval land. In order to come onto wizards it is probably best to start with sorcery, which has its evolved roots in ancient times, from things like the Egyptians, who used their knowledge of amulets, spells and formulas to bend cosmic powers to their purpose. Anglo-Saxon magic involved spells and simple mechanical remedies.

Around the 5th Century AD, Christian St. Augustine of Hippo stated that all pagan magic and religion were invented by the devil to lure humanity away from the Christian truth. He further claimed that ‘witches’ could not have any real supernatural powers or be capable of invoking any kind of magic. In the 8th and 9th Century the King of the Franks, Charlemagne, declared that burning witches was itself a pagan practice which should itself be punishable by death. The church began to create anti-witchcraft laws, and the word ‘maleficium’ came to mean malevolent magic. The church had effectively declared civil war on the practices, making it a crime.

Medieval lore refers to the Tempestarii, a magi. And by the 13th and 14th century had arrived witchcraft had come to mean beliefs and practices including healing through spells, messing with the supernatural and using divination and clairvoyance. England had a type of curative magic which was the job of the ‘witch doctor’ – white witch or Wiseman. The Wisemen had a place in society and were considered valuable, some people even paid them to curse others.

By the year 1208, Pope Innocent III had declared an attack on the group of heretics known as Cathars. Christian theologian St. Thomas Aquinas debated that the world was full of evil and dangerous demons that try to lead people into temptation, leading to the long, drawn out association between sex and witchcraft. This was about the time that the catholic church initiated the Inquisition, to find and punish these individuals. There were four main eras: Papal Inquisition 1230s, Spanish Inquisition 1478-1834, Portuguese Inquisition 1536-1821 and the Roman Inquisition 1542-1860.


There is a clear history which still has relevance today. We can see that the dark ages must have been quite terrifying. Some of the more famous medieval wizards are: Abraham Abulafia, the founder of the school of Prophetic Kabbalah and born in Spain in 1240. Nicolas Flamel, although an alchemist, is too a wizard. Roger Bacon, born in the UK and known to modern era as a wizard remembered for his mechanical or necromantic brazen head. Theoprastus Paracelsus was an ancient alchemist and medieval physician responsible for huge leaps in medicine in the 16th century. He was born in 1493 in Switzerland, excelling in medicine and the occult. His main work ‘Opus paramirum’ was the definite work on magic and medicinal usage of herbs and drugs.

Don’t forget Merlin, a most powerful wizard with a variety of magical powers, including the ability to shapeshift. His presence in mythology is infamous, the tutor and mentor of King Arthur, who ultimately guided the young man to the throne and to become the King of Camelot. Geoffrey of Monmouth is said to have created Merlin in his 1136 AD works, ‘Historia Regum Britanniae’, The History of Kings of Britain. Merlin was included as a fictional character and was a paradox, supposedly the son of the devil and a follower of God.

Merlin Ambrosius

Hew Draper, the inn keeper in the town of Dristol, was imprisoned in 1561 at the tower of London in the well known Salt Tower for committing the crime of sorcery. During the stay at the Salt Tower he carved a large zodiac sign (Below) into the stone wall along with other esoteric symbols. There was no record of what happened to him…

the symbols of Hew Draper

It was a rough time in the medieval ages, with the black death, the inquisition, persecution of heretics and a one world view of that of the church, lack of education, torture, poor food… it really casts light on how good we have it in the 21st century. Even with such awful things happening, wizards remained hidden away, mostly for their own protection at some point. Sorcery and witchcraft still exist today and are now somewhat widely accepted practices, there is further divide, with white magic or black magic and terms such as left hand path or right hand path. One thing wizards through time have had in common seems to be the ability to judge their own actions as potentially dangerous and should not be used for malicious intent. John Dee is supposed to have gone too deep with Edward Kelley after discovering the ability to communicate with angels, the Enochian language and black magic.


Thank you for reading this post on Wizards. If you enjoyed reading the third part in the medieval England history series then please check the blog regularly for more posts. The next in the series will be dragons!