12 July, 2015

An Evil Spirit In 1294

It's amazing what gems you find in medieval chronicles sometimes.  Recently I was looking through the Chronicle of Lanercost 1272-1346 (ed. Herbert Maxwell, 1913), and found this gem in its narrative of April 1294, just before Edward of Caernarfon's tenth birthday, which is given exactly as cited here without further explanation:

"Verily, on that day [10 April 1294], when crowds in the town of Haddington [in Lothian, Scotland] from various districts to attend the market, a young fellow with an equally young wife came thither with his neighbours from a distance of six miles to buy some necessaries.  But there occurred such a dense fog and driving snow as struck with dismay the countenances of all who beheld it.  Having done their business, the couple were returning home about midday, and the wife, who was a hale and hearty young woman, riding on the horse behind her husband's saddle.  On arriving at a rivulet about half a mile from their house in the town of Lazenby, she persuaded her husband to let her alight from the horse and follow on foot, while he went forward to the house and ordered a fire to be kindled against the cold.  He consented, out of love for his wife; and no sooner was she left alone than suddenly she encountered by the side of the stream an evil spirit; of a pale countenance, but presenting the appearance of a girl scarce seven years old.  This creature, seizing the woman by the left hand with a hand like a horse's hood, tore the flesh off her arm and flung her, terrified, into the water; then, as she struggled to rise, dealt her such a gash between the shoulders that a man's fist might easily be thrust into the wound, and as it cruelly handled the woman, who resisted with all her might, it made some parts of her body black and blue, and other parts deadly pale, tearing off the flesh, as was said, and as those who saw and touched her have testified to me.

The husband, wondering why she tarried, galloped back to her, and finding his wife almost in a swoon, placed her on his horse and took her home.  Strengthened through confession and by extreme unction, she showed to all who visited her the humour and extravasated blood, and departed this life on the second week day following."

What the heck is that all about?!


Sami Parkkonen said...

Domestic violence, perhaps? Just guessing.

Anerje said...

I was thinking 'domestic' as well - but maybe too many at the local tavern or an argument with a neighbour? Extraordinary!

Sami Parkkonen said...

weird anyways