Friday, April 7, 2017

Medieval Myths PLUS Giveaway!

by Debbie Lynne Costello

Post humus painting of Columbus
By Sebastiano del Piombo - This file was donated to Wikimedia Commons as part of a project by the Metropolitan Museum of Art. See the Image and Data Resources Open Access Policy, Public Domain,
Today I thought I'd share a handful of the many misconceptions about medieval times. I'm sure most of you reading this post have heard that Christopher Columbus sailed to prove that the earth was not flat, leading us to believe it was Columbus that proved the earth was round. But in Columbus's era celestial navigation techniques such as using the position of the sun and stars in navigating the oceans were beginning to be used. These techniques would work only if they believed the earth to be a sphere. So as we look back before Christopher Columbus we discover that even before Christ walked the shores of Galilee there were philosophers who believed the earth a sphere. 

The shadow of Earth on the moon during a lunar eclipse
By Graham.beverley - Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, round.

We've all heard of the Greek philosopher Aristotle born 384 BC. Aristotle, not the first to believe the earth to be a sphere. He first came to this conclusion when he observed the lunar eclipse. When the earth came between the sun and the moon the earth's shadow was round. If the earth were flat it would give a different appearance. He also noted that the North Starr seemed to move toward the middle of the sky the more north a person went. And then there was that ever nagging issues with the ships sailing off into the 

By Anton - Own work, CC BY-SA 2.5,

He noted that as they disappeared first hull of the ship would disappear then the masts and sails last, much like something disappearing over a hill.

Some of the great scientist of the time even attempted to measure the circumference of the earth. Plato determined the circumference of Earth to be 400,000 stadia which equals out to between 46,250 and 39,250 miles and Archimedes estimated the circumference to be about 300,000 stadia or 30,000 miles.  The correct number is 24,901 miles.

An illustration in a 12th century book showing a spherical world and its four seasons.
The belief of a flat world had long been questioned and found lacking by the time of the medieval era.

Another misconception of the medieval time period is the gray world. Contrary to what we so often hear and read, the medieval people loved vibrant colors. Though very little in clothes as survived the years we know from writings that the medieval people did not live in a dark and drab world but enjoyed the colors that dyes afforded them. Besides bright clothes, they sported colorful jewelry, hung beautiful tapestry on the walls, decorated their horses, and even stunning stained glass windows. Trading routes were used to bring back not only unique spices but also beautiful fabrics at premium prices. Stained glass windows reached it peak during the medieval time period. 
When you think of the medieval times do you think of the peasants, the lord or nobility, and the knights? 


By Jan Matejko -, Public Domain,

There were many more jobs than what we see depicted on the television or read in books. Not everyone was a lowly peasant. Some of the jobs below were well respected jobs and held in high esteem. 

Here are just a handful of the jobs some of which more respected than others. 

An Apothecary learned about herbs, roots, and plants to use as remedies for the sick. An Apothecary was used by the peasants who couldn't afford physicians. 

15th Century Apothecary
By Warja Lavater - 2300 years of medical costume : distinctive garb of the medical and related professions from the time of Hippocrates to the Napoleonic era. North Chicago, IL : Abbott Laboratories, [1962?] ; OCLC number 5734427, Public Domain,

The Bailiff managed the castle estate.

A Blacksmith held an important job as he would forge weapons as well as repair them. 

1606 Blacksmith
By Anonymous - Hausbuch der Mendelschen Zwölfbrüderstiftung, Band 2. Nürnberg 1550–1791. Stadtbibliothek Nürnberg, Amb. 317b.2°, via, Public Domain,

There was the Candlemaker. An important job in a time when the only other light was from torches.

The Carpenter was an elite tradesman who skillfully made furniture out of wood as well as other things out of wood.

A Chancellor was a secretary to a nobleman.

The Fletcher crafted bows and arrows.

A Messenger wasn't always a good job when delivering bad or unwelcome news. Thus a law was passed protecting them from the receiver's wrath. 

Moneylenders guessed it the bankers of their day.

Physicians as today were a well-respected position of employment. And like our doctors today they preformed surgeries, but also performed bloodletting which they believed helped kept the 'humors' in balance for health.

A Reeve was a type of a supervisor who worked for his lord. He made sure people were doing their work, arrived, and quit on time. 

A Spinster was a woman who spun yarn for a living.

The Steward held the important job of seeing to the administrations of the castle household as well as the castle estate.

The Watchman was the medieval form of ADT home security. They were an official at the castle and saw to its security.


The belief that medieval people didn't bathe has been debated over and over. But the truth of the matter is bathing was not a once-year occasion. If you want to read more on it, check out one of my previous posts on medieval bathing here.

Thanks for coming by and visiting with us here at HHH. 

GIVEAWAY INFO: I'm giving away choice of my books and choice of format (my medieval, Sword of Forgiveness in paperback, ebook, and audio, or Shattered Memories 19th century Charleston story in paperback or ebook). Leave a comment and tell me which medieval myth surprised you the most or tell me a medieval myth that you'd like to set straight to be entered in the giveaway. Giveaway ends April 11th.

Sword of Forgiveness
After the death of her cruel father, Brithwin is determined never again to live under the harsh rule of any man. But she soon discovers a woman has few choices when the king decrees she is to marry Royce, the Lord of Rosencraig. As if the unwelcome marriage isn’t enough, her new husband accuses her of murdering his family, and she is faced with a challenge of either proving her innocence or facing possible execution.
Shattered Memories Olivia Macqueen wakes in a makeshift hospital, recovering from a head injury. With amnesia stealing a year of her memories, she has trouble discerning between lies and truth. When her memories start returning in bits and pieces, she must keep up the charade of amnesia until she can find out the truth behind the embezzlement of her family’s business while evading the danger lurking around her.  

Debbie Lynne has enjoyed writing stories since she was eight years old. She raised her family and then embarked on her own career of writing the stories that had been begging to be told. She and her husband have four children and live in upstate South Carolina. She has worked in many capacities in her church and is currently the Children’s director. Debbie Lynne has shown and raised Shetland sheepdogs for eighteen years and still enjoys litters now and then. In their spare time, she and her husband enjoy camping and riding their Arabian and Tennessee Walking horses. 
Visit Debbie Lynne at

Thank you Wiki for use of today's pictures.


  1. Fascinating. I knew not everyone during Medievel Times believed the world was flat. I loved hearing how Aristotle drew his conclusions. The research you did on various occupations would certainly pepper a book with interesting characters. I was encouraged to know people bathed more than once a year. Many years ago I was given a book from the Middle ages I found fascinating. The author was on older man giving wifely instruction to his much younger wife. His goal was to train her to be a proper wife to her next husband. It wasn't uncommon for a 13 year old to be betrothal to a much older man and then marry for love as a widow. I'd love to win the Sword of Forgiveness.

    1. Hello Jubilee. Medieval life is so interesting. I am always running across tidbits that I didn't know. I did know that young girls were given to older men. They were giving them so young that they even had to make a law that they couldn't be given in marriage until 13! The book you read sounds fascinating. Do you happen to remember the title? Would love to read it. Good luck in the giveaway and thanks so much for coming by!

  2. Thanks for the informative post!!! I was surprised that the term "spinster" was for someone who actually spun yarn, because of course now the word is associated with an aging, usually single woman. Whoever wins one of your books is in for a treat, that's for sure.

    1. Thank you Connie! I did have to smile when I read that about spinster. Funny how words change meanings through the ages isn't it? Thanks for coming by and saying hello!

  3. What great information! Thank you for sharing. What surprised me the most was a Spinster being a spinner of thread.

    1. Hey Robin, Yes, that made me smile! Goodness can you imagine sitting a medieval person down with a 19th century person? What misunderstandings they would have!

  4. I really enjoyed reading about the medieval jobs. You're right that we tend to forgot about the middle class when thinking of back to that time. I wonder why that it. Maybe it's just that we don't know as much about those skilled laborers as we do the middle class of later times periods. It's sad that a father would allow his 13 year old girl would be married off. My grand-daughter is 11, and I can't imagine such a thing. Children must have had to grow up faster back then.

    1. Vickie, I wonder if part of the reason they married so young was many didn't live to be that old. It was common to lose a child. If we think about our children when they were young, how many illnesses could have been fatal if we didn't have antibiotics. And then sanitation wasn't good in that many of the castles let their waste go straight into the river

  5. I had to laugh at the "spinster" bit. When I first saw it several years ago when I was looking for the origin of the word, my first thought was "how weird" and then that became "how logical." Thanks for an interesting post. I took philosophy in college as a required course. Aristotle had a scientific mind as well as being a philosopher. Although he and other scientists believed the earth to a sphere, they had a difficult time convincing the ordinary people. Thus the need for Columbus' voyage. World history and the study of the different eras can be absolutely fascinating. Thanks for an informative post.

  6. Thanks for the great post. I read a few years ago about an Anglo-Saxon remedy for eye sties that worked better against MRSA than antibiotics. Like teenagers with their parents, we're too apt to think ourselves so much smarter and wiser than older than us (or who came a few generations before us).

    1. That is so true. I have remedies that my great-grandmother used and they work great! That's really interesting about the eye remedy working better for MRSA than antibiotics. I have a book for medieval medicine and and some of those things really do work. It wasn't all crazy stuff. They had to make plants work for them.

  7. Debbie, what an amazing and informative post about medieval myths. The various names in regards to occupations was interesting and most of them I knew except about the spinster being woman who spun yarn for a living.
    Thank you so much for sharing and researching.

    1. Thank you for coming by, Marilyn. I'm so glad you enjoyed the post. I love doing the research and its nice to share because so many hours go in to it!

  8. So interesting! I wondered how the term spinster evolved into the term for a never married woman! I can definitely see the original term. If I win I would like Shattered Memories in paperback. Thanks for the chance!

    1. Hey Paula, I wondered the same thing. Maybe they saw a lot of spinsters remain single. LOL. Now see that part of history drives me crazy! The whys and hows that we can't find the answers to! Good luck in the giveaway!

  9. Thank you so much Debbie Lynne for this post and giveaway! What surprised me most is the love of colors they had ! If you believe the films of today you'd think they only knew about gray and brown.So glad to know they liked brilliant colors,too!

    1. Hey Lynne,

      They really did like colors. If you ever get a chance to go to Rome and see the churches there, oh my goodness! So beautiful with the colorful paintings. Thank you for coming by and good luck!

  10. Knew most of it already, but its a great post. My favourite authority to quote on the matter of hte round earth is the Venerable Bede, the eighth century Northumbrian monk hailed as 'the Father of English History'. He also wrote of the earth being 'round like a ball', and the effect of the moon upon the tides.

    Interesting point about clothing as well. Its funny how many movies portray everyone wearing black, drab grey or leather. I read once that Black was actually one of the most expensive colours. Whearas a deep blue could be derived from Woad (the same plant the ancient Britons used to use for thier war paint) and Red from the madder plant. Of course, of you combined the two together, you could make Purple, relatively cheaply.

    As far as occupations and social organization was involved, I think we often don't take account of the Free Peasants, who were not serfs and held lands or property by rent, or the majority of commoners who were not noble or peasants and held many of the occupations you refer to. I believe Chaucer was of that class, the son of a Wine Merchant.

    In Britain, the minister in charge of finance is still called Chancellor of the Exchequer.

    1. Hey English Lady,

      Thanks for the additional information. So much information of medieval times is misrepresented. I have Bede's book but haven't read it. That was interesting about Woad. I was not aware of that.

    2. That's OK. I'm reading a great book at the moment called The Middle Ages Unlocked which was written by two Eastern European ladies who studied Medieval History in Britain. It has useful insights on everything from Religion, Law and Taxation to social customs.

      You won't find that remark about the shape of the earth in Bede's main book 'The Ecclesiastical History of the English People'. They are in one of his other less known books.

  11. Lynne Feuerstein won choice of my books in choice format! Congratulations Lynne!