I don’t live in the past—I only visit—and so can you!

Archive for March, 2016

MEETING AT THE MARKET VI

At the 2015 Market at the Square in Urbana, Illinois, Micel Folcland manned a table once a month. We released a new installment every month, at our appearance at the Market, in this continuing serial set in the Danelaw of the early eleventh century. We tried to keep the installments as related to common everyday life in the Anglo-Scandinavian culture of the, and we tried to deal with matters of history and culture that were largely unknown and that would provoke question and thought. We were glad to answer any questions that might be posed, and we still are!

WHAT HAS GONE BEFORE—Sixteen-year-old Beornræd’s family has a stall at the market, selling grain and textiles, and they are doing brisk work. Business has been good, and Beornræd encountered a young girl who is still in his thoughts. The family has also encountered a Norseman, who buys fabric to trade, but when a thievery is discovered several booths away, the Norseman disappears. When the victim of the thievery, Rædwulf the smith, declares the Norseman is the villain and sends out a men to find him. As the search begins, Beornræd goes to visit the minster.

The minster was close to the market, but that was not to say that Beornræd could reach it easily or quickly. Not merely because of the market or even the crowd of people in it, but because there were so many things to see. Beornræd was not often allowed to wander, and he too advantage of his freedom from the family stall to look at the merchandise, to stop and handle it, to exchange greetings with people whom he knew but seldom saw. Some were from farms and even villages some distance away, and others were kept as busy on their farms as he was on his father’s.

Vegetables and grains did not interest him. Breads were boring, and his mother made better fabric than anything he saw in the stalls. But the handicrafts, the carved spoons of wood and horn, the turned bowls and the ceramic cups. They all interested him, and he took his time handling and examining them. But at last, he reached the edge of the market and walked on to the minster.

Few buildings in the village were made of stone, but the church was one of them. It was not as if Beornræd had never seen it before, but the sight of the tall stony bell tower always caused him to pause reverently. He had run through the market, but as he got close to the minster, he slowed and stood motionless before the building.

Then he went inside. The building was deserted. Even Father Særic, the paroche preost, was not around. But for what he needed to do, a priest was not necessary. Beornræd walked up the center aisle and knelt before the altar, a slab of Roman stone, inscribed now with crosses, and covered with a pure white altar cloth, with a triptych set up at the rear, in front of chalice and pyx. Within, a relic was secreted, a bone of St. Mark, in whose name the minster was named. In front of the altar, Beornræd crossed himself and looked up at the cross which rose before the arched window behind the altar. Then realizing that his father expected him back soon, he knelt on the steps before the altar.

Aloud, he prayed. “And to us sinners who are your servants, grant confidence in the multitude of your mercies, and some lot and part with your holy apostles and martyrs…”

There was a noise to one side of the chapel that interrupted him. Beornræd looked and saw a flash of blue. Not Father Særic or someone else from the church. Curiosity forced him to stand and to move. The blue figure, hiding in the shadows, moved out, and Beornræd caught the figure by the wrist.

And the face of the young girl who had so haunted his mind looked at him, eyes wide in fear. Not letting go of her wrist, he grinned and said, “Hold. What are you afraid of…”

And the seax dropped onto the floor. Beornræd stooped and picked it up. He immediately saw the maker’s mark.

R.

—to be continued

 

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MEETING AT THE MARKET V

At the 2015 Market at the Square in Urbana, Illinois, Micel Folcland manned a table once a month. We released a new installment every month, at our appearance at the Market, in this continuing serial set in the Danelaw of the early eleventh century. We tried to keep the installments as related to common everyday life in the Anglo-Scandinavian culture of the, and we tried to deal with matters of history and culture that were largely unknown and that would provoke question and thought. We were glad to answer any questions that might be posed, and we still are!

WHAT HAS GONE BEFORE—Sixteen-year-old Beornræd’s family has a stall at the market, selling grain and textiles, and they are doing brisk work. Business has been good, and Beornræd encountered a young girl who is still in his thoughts. The family has also encountered a Norseman, who buys fabric to trade, but when a thievery is discovered several booths away, the Norseman disappears.

Beornræd was kept away by the crowd about Rædwulf’s stall. It was not that Rædwulf was so popular, but he was the only smith hereabouts, and his neighbors were more concerned with his happiness than if he was just another smith, and they are important enough!

He asked the man to his left, “What is missing? What was stolen?”

The man glanced at him. “A seax I hear.”

Another said, “It is terrible that one cannot trust his neighbors.”

“Aye. Everyone at the market is known and…”

Beornhelm said, “There was a Norseman.”

They looked at him. “What?”

“There was a Norseman, a stranger, going through the market. He stopped at…”

And Rædwulf was suddenly by him. “I recall him.”

“He was a trader, trying to find goods he could buy for Birka.”

“So said he,” said Rædwulf. “Where is he now?”

Beornræd said, “I know not, but he could not have gone far.” He paused. “Why, do you think…”

Rædwulf said, “He is a stranger.” He turned to the crowd of people. “Hwæt! Spread out and find the Norseman. Ælfwig, go fetch Eadmund. If we find this Norseman, I want a fine levied against him and have him exiled from this land!” He folded his arms and breathed heavily, saying almost under his breath, “I will deal with him…” Then he caught sight of Beornræd standing there, and he stared at him as if he had never seen him before and said angrily, “Get out of my sight, boy! Run down that lawless Norseman and bring him to me!”

Beornræd nodded and, saying, “Yes, sir,” turned and walked away very rapidly. He shook his head and smiled to himself. When Beornræd returned to the stall, his father was busy with a customer. When the customer was gone, Beornhelm looked at his son and asked, “What was stolen?”

“A seax. Rædwulf now has people out searching for Ármóðr. Since Ármóðr is a stranger, we feel that he is the thief.”

Beornhelm sighed. “Rædwulf might be a decent smith but he is sometimes a real wanhoga. An honest trader who will spend good silver on a cartload of fabric but will steal one small seax? I rather doubt it.” He shook his head.

Another customer came by, and Beornhelm smiled his merchant smile and turned to help him.

It was by then about mid-day, and the bells of the minster rang sext. Beornhelm waited for his father to stop talking with the customer, then said, “Da, may I go to the minster and say a prayer for Grand-da’s soul?” Wærburh’s father had died last winter.

Beornhelm nodded. “Business is slowing down, so certainly. Just be back as soon as you can, because I expect business to speed back up this afternoon.”

With a nod, Beornræd smiled and ran off toward the church.

—to be continued

 


MEETING AT THE MARKET IIII

At the 2015 Market at the Square in Urbana, Illinois, Micel Folcland manned a table once a month. We released a new installment every month, at our appearance at the Market, in this continuing serial set in the Danelaw of the early eleventh century. We tried to keep the installments as related to common everyday life in the Anglo-Scandinavian culture of the, and we tried to deal with matters of history and culture that were largely unknown and that would provoke question and thought. We were glad to answer any questions that might be posed, and we still are!

WHAT HAS GONE BEFORE—The family of sixteen-year-old Beornræd has set up their stall at the market, where they will sell grain and textiles. Beornræd has encountered a young girl, but she has moved on. They are doing a brisk business, talked when they notice a Norseman approaching.

Brunstan saw the Norseman first, and he urgently said, “Da,” and pointed. His tone was not of fear but of fascination. Beornhelm followed his son’s outstretched arm. Although they lived in the Danelaw, most Norsemen in the area by this time have been assimilated into the Englisc culture. The Norseman walking toward them, however, obviously had not.

He was tall, muscular, with long brown hair ane carefully trimmed beard. What he wore was close to what they wore—tunic, trousers, boots—but there were small differences. The tunic was not as long as what they wore. The trousers were not as fitting. And he was alone, not one of the here that were causing trouble with their invasions to the south.

As the family watched, he walked straight toward their stall in rolling steps that had been borne of an experience from ships. He stopped in front of the stall and bowed slightly, saying in an accented English, “Beornhelm?” Beornhelm nodded. “I am Ármóðr Halfdansson. I have been told of your wife’s weaving?”

Beornhelm led the Norseman to where te fabric was folded and stacked. Ármóðr stooped to examine it more closely, keenly looking at it and holding it carefully in his fingers, and he rubbed. “Good, good,” he said. He straightened up and said to Beornhelm, “I am a trader, from the ship Glærfreki, newly arrived from Jótland. Several mates and I have been looking for goods we can take back to Jótland. I think I have found some!” He smiled, and Wærburh said, “It is my weaving, sir.”

“How much do you have?” Wærburh named an amount and then a price. Ármóðr gave a smaller sum, and so they debated back and forth for a time, until they agreed. Then they shook hands, and Ármóðr brought forth his pouch. He counted out several coins.

Beornhelm took the coins and looked at them. They were old dirhams, brought at some point from Arab lands and once the purest silver available. He brought out a small iron scale and carefully balanced the coin with his weights. “Too much,” he said.

“You are honest,” said Ármóðr. He took a coin and, pulling out his seax, cut it in two, handing one half back to Beornhelm. Beornhelm added it to the scale and, with a smile, nodded. “That will do it.”

“Good.” He looked back and saw a mate pushing a small cart. “Fróði! Here!”

Fróði pushed the cart up, and Ármóðr snapped an order. Fróði started to pile the fabric that Beornræd and Brunstan brought forward onto the cart.

Beornhelm and Ármóðr stood together, watching, and Ármóðr said, “We will be back. If those in Birka or Hedeby like this fabric as much as we think they will, we will be in the market for more. Can you supply it?”

“We can, indeed. We…”

There was a cry from Rædwulf’s booth. He cried, “Someone has stolen some goods!”

Beornhelm frowned. A bad incident at a market that was known to be friendly and honest. “See what is gone,” he snapped at Beornræd. Then he turned to Ármóðr and Fróði, but the Norsemen were gone.

—to be continued