SPIRITED THINKING SINCE 1888
Eleanor Parker

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December 07, 2020
The liturgical season of Advent has given rise to many great traditions, from the election of the Boy Bishop, to St Nicholas, to Carolling.
September 29, 2020
October falls between two high points of the festival year: the great feast of Michaelmas at the end of September and the solemn season of Hallowtide, which begins on October’s last night. Many of the customs associated with Michaelmas, such as fairs and eating goose, once lasted well into October, and after the calendar change
August 14, 2020
August is the month of the harvest, and most customs of this month involve harvest in one way or another. August 1 is Lammas, a festival of the wheat harvest first celebrated in Anglo-Saxon England. Its name means “loaf-mass”, and it may originally have been a day when loaves of bread made from the first
June 12, 2020
Traditional customs for June centre on the summer solstice – midsummer, as it has been known in English since the Anglo-Saxon period. The precise date of the solstice falls between June 20 and 22, but in Christian tradition it became fixed at an early date to the feast of the Nativity of John the Baptist,
May 15, 2020
Most traditional May customs have two key elements, fortunately both still available to enjoy even in lockdown: walks and flowers. Not only the summer festival of May Day, but also the celebration of church feasts which often fall in this month – Rogationtide, Ascension Day, and Whitsun – have historically involved some form of going
April 23, 2020
The saint’s romantic story and his association with royalty meant that he was not as easily forgotten as some of his medieval rivals
December 19, 2019
A young woman is singing her baby to sleep, crooning words of tenderness: “Lullay mine liking, my dear son, my sweeting; lullay my dear heart, mine own dear darling.” It’s a scene familiar from a thousand Christmas cards, but this lullaby comes from a 15th-century English carol, I saw a Fair Maiden, which imagines the
December 20, 2018
“Good day, Sir Christmas, our king!” proclaims an English carol of the 15th century, welcoming the beginning of the Christmas season, and telling Christmas that everyone, “both old and young, is glad and blithe at your coming”. Another carol says about Christmas that “in mirth and games he has no peer”, and it’s certainly true
September 14, 2017
Textbooks are distorting medieval history and ignoring the era's rich Catholic culture
September 14, 2017
There’s something about the word “medieval” which makes some people behave very strangely. As Professor David Paton recently noted on the Catholic Herald website, GCSE textbooks are still repeating depressingly common misconceptions about the Middle Ages, painting it as a time of darkness, ignorance and superstition. The BBC Bitesize website, for instance, informs students that
March 09, 2017
William Herebert was one of the first people to turn Latin hymns into English poetry
March 09, 2017
In early 14th-century Oxford, surrounded by some of the foremost theologians of medieval Europe, a Franciscan friar named William Herebert was writing a precious little collection of poems. Herebert’s name is not well known today, but his poems, beautiful and distinctive in their own right, also represent an important milestone for English Catholicism: he was