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Year 1000

In: Historical Events

Submitted By raambarton
Words 1056
Pages 5
Having the Faith to Survive

The life of an English peasant around the year 1,000 proved to be quite laborious. Thanks to Sir Robert Cotton, authors Danziger and Lacey were able to tell us how the drawings of the Julius Work Calendar portrayed these individuals. The world was a quaint and quiet place in that time, with a total population of only one million people. “The year 1,000 was an empty world, with much more room to stretch out and breath.” There were three groups of citizens that were spread over the country side. These included workers, fighters and those that prayed for everyone. It seemed somewhat harmonious. The peasants worked for their Lords who took care of them. It was a mundane, but give and take society.

“Life was short”. The expected life span was no more than fifty years. A boy of twelve was old enough to give allegiance to the King and a girl often married in her early teenage years. Through excavation, they have found their bones and surprisingly they did not differ much from us. They were the same height and their brains were the same size as ours. It seems to me that they were probably much stronger and smarter because everything had to be learned and preservation of sanity and health had to come from themselves.

The Julius Work Calendar shows us that they were very much like us in that they lived by a schedule and got caught up in juggling time. It was a bit more structured for them though. They did not have the ability to preserve food and their existence depended on the seasons and how well their crops produced. There was the occasional escape from reality through the drinking of their favorite beverage, Mead or the hallucinogenic properties of the moldy rye in the barn. Life was plain and hard, but it is all that they knew.
The saints were basically just the spirits of some really good people. The Anglo-Saxon people were morally conscious people who looked to these saints daily for guidance through their difficult lives. The Julius Work Calendar’s main purpose was to serve as a spiritual planner with these important spirits in mind. “England itself was a network of magical sites. The altar of every church contained the physical relics of at least one saint.” The monks would read the stories of that day’s assigned saint. It would serve as a lesson and would offer a glimmer of hope for these peasants.

The peasants believed that the saints had direct access to God. The saints earned this by living and dying for Jesus. They felt relieved to know that these saints had God’s ear and would assist them in getting help in hard times. In some instances, just having these remnants of the saints brought healing. Whether it was a placebo effect or not, the English people felt this supernatural power from the saints. An important figure of the community such as a local abbot once deceased could eventually be seen as a gateway to God. After the English mourned over them and something miraculous sporadically happened, then they must have been a saint. “Mass outpourings of grief like that which attended the death of Diana, Princess of Wales, in 1997 were the first step to sainthood.” She is a good example of what a modern day saint might be.

The early English peasant’s faith had to be strong in areas of health also. “The sign of the cross was the antiseptic of the year 1000. The person who dropped his food on the floor knew that he was taking some sort of risk when he picked it up and put it in his mouth, but he trusted in his faith.” The same is true today, except we have antibiotics if the five second rule fails. Hygiene was not as important for them either. The monk was allotted only five baths in a year. That was considered to be more than the norm when it came to the common Anglo-Saxon citizen.

There was no running water and the emptying of latrines was done right outside the front door. The connection between the constant intestinal problems and uncleanliness was not comprehended yet. They dealt with the same pest such as fleas as we do today. The extermination processes had not been perfected though. The swarming of flies that carried the diseases from house to house, along with the aroma of poo filled the air. “If the late twentieth century is scented with gasoline vapour and exhaust fumes, the year 1000 was perfumed with shit.”

Medicine was not well developed as today either. Remains of a woman and her unborn child show that us that caesarean section had not perfected yet. The use of leeches and pagan charms for healing also tells me that their health was a game of chance. That would explain the short life expectancy as mentioned on page two. It was a hard, short life that the peasant led.

It is odd to me that no women were depicted in the Julius Work Calendars. Considering that is was the women folk that were expected to bear good sons for farming and manage the daily routines. Women were the homemakers of that day. Even the word wife is derived from the word meaning weaving. How much more domesticated could you get?

The women were protected by the laws of the day also. Anglo-Saxon women could divorce if needed and a woman could walk out of the marriage if she desired. She would have to take the children and care for them but, was also given half the property. The authors also discuss the will of Aelfflaed. Her will shows us evidence of female equality. She was able to supervise men that farmed her land and was successful in doing so.

Among some of the women mentioned, I recall Abbess Hilda. Although most churches were filled with nunneries after the year 1000, Hilda developed double monasteries with women and men. “It was under Hilda’s encouragement that the Whitby cowherd Caedmon produced the first Christian poems and songs in English, and Hilda got her monks to learn and propagate the poet’s evangelizing songs.” All pretty impressive given the male dominated society that she lived in.

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