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Showing posts from February, 2014

Interview with Michael Hirst, creator of Vikings

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This month's issue of DUJOUR has a feature interview with Michael Hirst, the creator and writer of the hit TV series Vikings, by Nancy Bilyeau:

If you walk outside your office for three blocks, you’ll pass at least 70 Vikings.” That was the pitch that award-winning writer Michael Hirst made to the History Channel—and it worked. Executives took the chance that a dramatic series on the lives of people who fought and loved more than 1,000 years ago would hook us today. Vikings, back for Season Two on February 27, became the No. 1 new cable series of the year in its first season, averaging 4.3 million viewers. The fan base proved rabid about the series’ stars Travis Fimmel, Katheryn Winnick, Clive Standen, Jessalyn Gilsig and George Blagden. What makes Vikings stand out in the throng of historical films and television series is the simple yet compelling storytelling of Hirst, its creator and sole writer. This is far from his first foray into the past. Hirst wrote the screenplays for El…

It's Ragnarok this Saturday! Try not to worry too much

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The Jorvik Viking Festival in York, England is billing this Saturday as Ragnarok, the Norse-version of the apocalypse. They calculate that February 22nd will be the date when the Norse gods - Odin, Thor, Loki et al.- fight an epic battle that will leave the world destroyed.

The festival organizers are apparently not too serious about the events. The York Press reports that during the day they will be hosting combat training sessions for the younger kids, and the "finale will see about 300 warriors gather in Dean’s Park for a march through the city from 1.30pm, before massing at the Eye of York at 6.45pm for the climactic battle."

NPR has sent this radio report back on what to expect:



If you are still worried, check out Judith Jesch's article on the University of Nottingham's website, where she talks about the meaning of Ragnarok, which may be more peaceful than is seen in popular imagination.  By looking at the meaning of the term ragnarok, the events foretold can be se…

Is this a Viking Magic Wand?

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For decades the experts at the British Museum believed that this item, discovered at a woman's grave from Norway was just a hook used in fishing. However, new research suggests that it was her 'magic wand' and that it was deliberately bent to destroy its power.

The Times newspaper reported that this item, a 90 cm long iron rod, was first brought to the British Museum in 1894. British Museum curator Sue Branning believes that it was probably a magical staff used to perform 'seithr', a form of Viking sorcery predominantly practiced by women.

She told The Times: "These are magical practices, which we don't fully understand. It involves divination, prophecy, communication with the dead and making people do things. Our rod fits, in terms of its form, with a number of these rods that turn up in the 9th and 10th century in female burials. They normally take the form of these long iron rods with knobs attached to them."

The rod would have been 'ritually'…

New Minor in Medieval Studies programs offered at U.S. universities

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The University of Arizona and the University of Connecticut have both added a Minor in Medieval Studies to their program offerings for undergraduate students. The Daily Wildcat that the University of Arizona approved of the minor last December, after it was proposed by professors Fabian Alfie and Albrecht Classen. They were inspired by the creation of a minor in Hip-Hop Studies at the university to go ahead with their own.

Professor Classen tells the newspaper, "“[The minor is] trying to give students a sense of a certain cultural period. [This] allows [students] to combine — in a unique way ­— philosophy, religion, art history, literature and economics. There is a lot of flexibility, yet with a concrete focus on a cultural period.”

Click here to read the article from the Daily Wildcat

Meanwhile, the University of Connecticut will offer their students to gain a minor in Medieval Studies by taking courses from over 11 departments. The Daily Campus reports that the program is designed…

Sea Monsters, Bones, and Textbooks: Medieval News Roundup

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The Bones of CharlemagneSwiss researchers believe they have confirmed that the 94 bones and bone fragments kept at Aachen Cathedral belong to the first Holy Roman Emperor. Professor Frank Rühli of the University of Zurich explains, "Thanks to the results from 1988 up until today, we can say with great likelihood that we are dealing with the skeleton of Charlemagne."

The remains of Charlemagne were taken out of his grave in the 12th century and put into various reliquaries. The researchers took various measurements of the remaining bones, and conclude that he was about six feet tall and thinly built.

You can read more details from Medieval Histories

Medieval Sea MonstersThe Public Domain Review website has a posted an article about the drawings of the sea creatures made by the 16th century writer Olaus Magnus and his influence on sea lore. They note:

The northern seas of the marine and terrestrial map teem with fantastic sea monsters either drawn or approved by Olaus. The most dr…

Answering the questions 'May a Man Marry a Man?' and 'Who am I?' in the Middle Ages

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May a Man Marry a Man? A Medieval Debate Charles J. Reid, a Professor at the University of St.Thomas and writer on religious issues for the Huffington Post, recently posted May a Man Marry a Man? A Medieval Debate, which takes look at how medieval writers approached the issue of same-sex marriage. The surprising thing, notes Professor Reid, is that they actually talked about this issue. He begins by referencing the work of Henry of Segusio, better known as Hostiensis, a 13th century canon law expert, who penned the question: "May a man marry a man?"

The answer was an emphatic no, and would remain so throughout the Middle Ages. Reid does it find interesting that many of the arguments against same-sex marriage that were first written over 800 years ago remain prominent today.

Click here to read his article.

Thomas Aquinas – Toward a Deeper Sense of Self Therese Scarpelli Cory has written a very insightful piece on the Cambridge University Press blog on Thomas Aquinas – Toward a …