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Gram-Letter8-art - 7/19/15


"Last Minute Advice" by Lady Shara of Starwood, OVO, CMC, AoA. A series of articles on various crafts and medieval life written in first-person style. This is number 8 of 11 articles in this series.


NOTE: See also the files: pilgrimages-msg, p-agriculture-bib, nettles-msg, herbs-msg, herb-uses-msg, taverns-msg, spoons-msg, p-herbals-msg.





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                              Thank you,

                                   Mark S. Harris

                                   AKA:  Stefan li Rous

                                        stefan at florilegium.org



This article was originally published in the "Tal-Mere Tidings", the newsletter of the Shire of Tal-Mere, Kingdom of Meridies.


"Last Minute Advice"

by Lady Shara of Starwood, OVO, CMC, AoA


Dearest Girl,


      Today I am writing you from a bench in the midst of my garden, where I am clothed in warm sunshine, and just the mere lightest of robes.   This is surely the most beautiful Spring day there ever was, and I would not waste a sun-ray of it but being indoors.


      Your uncle Robert is just finishing up some last tasks before leaving us, in a few days, to join you and your traveling companions, on this your very first Pilgrimage to the South of Spain.  I hope the day remains lovely long enough for me to finish this missive, as finished or no, he will deliver it to you well enough in time for you to heed my last bits of advice.


      As this is surely to be the last chance I may write you before your departure I would have it filled with what-ever I may think of that may be of aid to you. (I will occasionally stay in touch with your mother while you're gone, but as she's a poor writer, and much prefers her conversations to have immediate response, as in a visit, my missives to her will be of a different nature, and no doubt shorter)


     My first advice regards your scrip bag.

In to it, there is a list of things you must not try and do without:


     Some Yarrow for cuts or burns.  It will staunch the flow of smaller cuts and help the skin to heal faster in cuts of any degree and help prevent putrification.  And it will soothe burns such as you may receive at a fireside.


   Some Comfrey, in the event of some mishap which, God forbid, should break a bone. For well-known is it by the name of 'knitbone' that I have never been without it in my garden, and even now, my own is up in new leaf, a full handspan high,already, so I know that the plants in your mother's garden fair even better.


   Some Willow bark, for any pain such as one may have about the head or sore muscles.


   Some Cherry bark for soreness of the throat or Great Mullein for a cough.


   For the bite or sting of insects there is no need to carry what you'll need, for so has Our Good Lord seen to it that the wayside of most paths to be trod on pilgrimage is well greened with the herb of the Plantain also known as 'Waybrod'. To use it in time of need, you must only pick some leaves and crush them between your palms, and apply the wetness of them to the sting or itch to soon get cool welcome relief from the nuisance they produce.


   Remember also, that in an emergency dry dust from the road will help staunch the heavy flow of blood, but sometime there will later be pain and swelling and bad humors in the wound, though I know not why, perhaps it is the nature of the dust that it be too hot or too cold or the wrong color for healing, as it only seems to happen sometimes and not others, so it is surely one of those reasons...something that rarely. if ever, happens when you use Comfrey or Yarrow...but I think, that with Comfrey, that mayhaps the wound heals so quickly, that it captures the bad humors beneath the healing, for if the wound is a little re-opened, and washed well with clear water, and more Comfrey applied to it, it then seems to heal as it should.  For the burns of fire or sun, a packing on it of cooling wet mud gives the most blessed of relief, as it draws away the heat, but must be freshened as the mud dries and heat returns to the skin from within.


For eating.


   Have a small grater of metal for the making of crumbs from dry bread. A flask of oil, to mix a bit with the crumbs and to coat the griddle so the dough does not stick.    A measure of salt and any other spice as your mother may have to spare, such as Cloves and Pepper. Cloves of Garlic, dried onions and fruit, honey if you have it, nuts, barley, cheeze and dried fish.


   You'll need a simple long-handled griddle to cook your bread upon, and to warm such other foods as you may acquire to eat while on the road.  To make Journey Bread you should grate any dry bread as you may have (dry bread is lighter than fresh and does not readily spoil), mix with it a few drops of oil, and a bit of water from you gourd, and seasoning such as you have or prefer and dry fruit and nuts if you wish.  Be sure the dough is sturdy and not too thin.  Shape it into a small cake and bake it on your griddle over the warm coals of a fire until dry and evenly browned.  It is best eatten warm, but you may make extra, to eat cold for the following day...if you can make purchase of some milk, the bread crumbled in it, makes a nourishing pottage..(of course this is all simple fare, if you stop the night at a hospice or an inn you may hope for meat pies and stew, such as they have, and perhaps ale or wine).


   You'll need to add a spoon to your scrip, as in most places along the road they do not provide them as there is concern as to them being stolen. So if you have your own, you need not drink from the bowl. There is a tradition, that on the return trip, that you eat with the scallop shell you'll be bringing home.   Spring leaves serve well enough as plates, but a shallow bowl of gourd is wise to take and lighter in weight than wood. You'll need flint and a striker for your fire and a small knife for other needs.


   If a pot is carried, you may have soup made from salt and such dried vegetables as you are wont to have the ass carry and any game that may be easily and quickly had by bow or hook. You can fry fish upon your griddle with nought to be done to it but to gut it and season it and lay it upon your griddle, and that over hot coals but a few minutes for a savory feast of white meat, to give relief from the dried that you carry.  Or else you may cover it's scales with thick mud, and bake it in the warm embers and ash of some of your fire, and when it is cooked well within the hard dry shell of clay, break it upon a stone and the skin and scales will come away with the clay, and you may pick out the delicate steamy flesh...in this same way may you prepare other things like fresh root vegetables and small birds, squirrel and hare and even eggs. Watch carefully along the way as there may be wild onions and sorrel and such flowers as may be eaten such as violets and elder-flowers and and mayhaps marigolds as you get deeper into warm Spain.  


   And it goes without saying that you'll need a reasonable amount of coin, for the ferry men will need be paid, as will the inn-keepers, and such as you'll need for food.  These days there are hospices frequent enough along the way to reach in a day's travel, but should the weather turn too foul, you will be most greatful to see even a modest inn ahead on the road, and sleep six to a crude bed, but be alert, for there are footpads about and some of your coin is best kept close about you and sleep well wrapped within your cloak, especially in such places for the thieves are often in league with unsavory inn-keepers.  So try not to stay these places unless you must.  On the good side, you are not traveling alone, but rather in large company, so any risk will be small.  In the early days of my own youth, the hospices were not so numerous as now and we were oft to sleep as well as we could, often near the road or in crude shelter such as we could find or improvise and we were much more vulnerable to the likes of dark souls apt to prey upon us, with no regard for the sacredness of the journey we were set upon in Our Lord's name.


     With all this said, I could not send this without speaking of the new life in my wonderful garden. I will tell you of what's to be seen and had in it, on this fine day of rare sun and warmth...... I can see the comfrey of which I have already spoken, although of my 9 plants only 5 have survived the winter...I always regret any losses, of any kind, but at least I had more than one to rely upon.  My Hyacinths are blooming as are the Yellow Bells and the Narsissus.  The Sweet Woodruff has at last awakened from it's winter slumber and will be lushly full in time for the making of Spring Wine.  The Almond tree that makes not the sweet nut of the East, but rather the bitter one used for the making of the sweet thick Italian drink called Amaretto, has blossoms full to near bursting as are the pear trees. But the plum would not wait for them and are laughing their blossoms open to the sun and had need to be the first to invite the honey bees from their winter sleep, though I have not yet seen any. I have walked about the garden, taking careful inventory of the new year.  The oregano and sage your uncle, my brother, brought me from Italy did well over the winter...I was not so sure they would survive our cold dreary climate.  The lilacs he brought me from Persia, years ago, have opened first leaves, but have never bloomed, and stubbornly refuse to even grow at all, but the Jasmine (which has not yet made it's appearance) likes it well enough here, as do the Italian grape vines from which I cannot stop from vigorous growth and ample production for the wine that graces our Winter table.  My Damascan rose which I'd wanted so badly, grows with such wild joy that it is as though it but waited to become a part of my garden so it could sing it's loudest song.  And yet I would try to check it's enthusiasm, for other roses would like to be seen also. This is alas, a problem, for never have I ever seen so many thorns upon a rose cane as this one is wont to wear, and it is worse than a cat to try to do with it what it will not...as it scratches and catches at my veil and hair.  My Orris root, Iris and Fig  still survive but my Pomagranite has failed to.  In this, I live and learn as much as I wish to grow all I desire, some would refuse me, desiring warmer winters and much more sunshine.


     I have just seen my first butterfly!!  I would have missed it had I not chosen that very moment to tilt my head back in the warm breeze and look toward the cloud dappled sky beyond the bare Maple branches...and there it was ....mostly yellow with black-veined wings, fluttering along perhaps 20 feet above me ....for sure, Spring has arrived!   The Elder is coming up, as are the hops, so your grandfather will be pleased.  The Lily-of-the-Valley, Gilly flowers, Valarian, Blue Flag and one Foxglove have valiantly come forth with new greenery so I shall have their colors and scent soon.  As well as that of the Sweet Violets, which are just now popping up here and there, but by this time next month will seem to be blooming everywhere at once.  Of the Valarian, I had heard complaint by others that it's scent was most offensive, but to my old nose, which works so badly to all but breathe, the valarian's scent is the sweetest of all, and I can smell it when I can catch the scent of no other, except maybe the Hyacinths, which even now are erupting in rich pink and purple.  The Tansy has a spray of leaves as does the Arnica and Bedstraw for the wool dying.  The French Sorrel for the soup and salat, Betony, Costmary, Rue, Speedwell, Lambs Ears, Mugwort, are all in new greening.  The soapwort is showing signs of vigorous delight in it's new location just in time for the spring shearings and my silks to be washed.


     Your grandfather is soon to sow the barley seed and has been feeding the cows parsnip tops to sweeten the milk and cream.


     From where I sit, I can hear the ring of your grandfather's anvil and the sound of young Adams eager voice asking questions.  As I may have told you, Adam came here from your grandfather's younger sister's child (so he is a cousin to you, in some round-a-bout way).  He was the eldest of her lot at 10 or 11, but she, a new widow, could not feed them all on the money she made as a seamstress and taking in such laundry as she could find to do.  Her husband gone, she wished her son to learn a trade which would find him regular work, and in this way might he one day come home again, and help her with the younger children, and ease some of her burden.  He is a good-hearted lad, having been with us these 3 years past has seen him grow several inches and he's finally gotten some meat on his bones, both from regular meals and the hard work he never hesitates to apply himself to. (I can only hope that Sarah would learn something from his example.).  He speaks kindly to her, but she seems too simple to even appreciate his attempts to become friends, since they are much of a like age. Even so, I have never seen him utter a harsh word to anyone, and he seems always in a sweet humor, ever eager and ready to do anything I ask and more besides...I will be truely sad when the day comes when he must leave us, to return home.


     I can hear a small brown wren chirping excitedly, just past the stone bench where the kitten I named for my missing Alex, lies curled, pretending to sleep. He is shy, and runs from me always, not in fear I hope, but more like a game....I should have cuddled him more as a new fuzz-ball, and then he would be more like the others, a purring pest in the middle of my lap, wanting their ears scratched and looking at me adoringly, while I'm trying to do other tasks.


   On this note, I must close, as a cold wind has suddenly come up from the West and has pushed dark clouds ahead of it and I'm sure I smell rain in the air.


   Have a safe journey and say a prayer for me, when you get to the shrine of St. James.....God willing, I will see you here in a few months and you can tell me in person about your travels, as I understand that you plan to come back with Robert.


I Love you, my princess



p.s. There is something I should like to share with you from the Bible:(Jeremiah 6:16)

   Thus saith the Lord, Stand ye in the ways, and see, and ask for the old paths, where IS the good way, and walk therein, and ye shall find rest for your souls.


   I think, mayhaps, that this applies more to your life, as a whole, than to the small part of it that you give to this journey path of the  of the Pilgrim ...even so, the path you shall soon walk will find God walking with you and my prayers helping to make the journey light and the road smooth...oh, that I only wish for young feet of mine own, that I might join you in more than spirit. Gram



Copyright 2001 by R.D. Wertz. <windsingersmoon at yahoo.com>. Permission is granted for republication in SCA-related publications, provided the author is credited and receives a copy.


If this article is reprinted in a publication, I would appreciate a notice in

the publication that you found this article in the Florilegium. I would also

appreciate an email to myself, so that I can track which articles are being

reprinted. Thanks. -Stefan.


<the end>

Formatting copyright © Mark S. Harris (THLord Stefan li Rous).
All other copyrights are property of the original article and message authors.

Comments to the Editor: stefan at florilegium.org