Sorry I have been a bit quiet recently. I am in the process of emigrating from the United Kingdom to the rather large and eccentric country somewhat to the west, whose national anthem is based on a British boozing song called ‘To Anacreon in Heaven’. One of the purposes of this tune in the 1760s was as a sobriety test. If you could sing a stanza of the notoriously difficult melody and stay on key, you were sober enough for another round. They must have been made of sterner stuff in those days because no-one seems to be able to sing the medley at baseball matches; or remember what is in the other 3 verses, the ‘foe's haughty host in dread silence’ reposing and so on and so forth.
On this blog we pride ourselves in playing up the more modern and rational aspects of the Middle Ages, something of a pity really because the details I find most interesting are often the more macabre; talking heads for example. One such incident appears in the pages of ‘Medicine in the English Middle Ages’ by Fay Marie Getz:
‘In 1371 John Crok was instructed by the king’s justices to produce a bag with a dead man’s head in it. John produced the bag. He said that the head was that of a Saracen and he had bought it in Toledo, Spain in order to house a spirit in it so that the said spirit would answer questions. The book also contained in the bag had experiments (experimentis) written on it. John clamed that he had not done anything with the head or the book yet, and the bag and its content were burned before the king at Westminster. John was ordered to swear on the gospel not to do anything else contrary to faith’
If I could choose a Saracen's head to bring back to life I think it would have to be that of Edward Said, if only to find out why his books were such a load of crok.
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