January 2011

Cuchullain carrying Ferdia's body after their battle. Sculpture.

Sculpture in Ardee, County Lough, of Cuchullain carrying Ferdia's body.

Celtic culture was ever a warrior culture, no matter where and when they resided, and as such were part of the virtually global tradition of warrior lovers.

Celtic language, culture and traditions once spanned most of the continent of Europe, bringing it into contact with the classical societies of Greece and Rome for hundreds of years.  Celts at their widest expansion, that is, by 275 BC, ranged from the Ukraine west to Spain, France and, of course, the British Isles.  Rome sought to incorporate these peoples as they conquered their lands, but Germanic migration forced the contraction of Celtic language and cultures until they occupied only parts of the British Isles and Brittany.

Celts themselves relied entirely on oral tradition for perpetuating their way of life; so Classical scholars and military leaders recorded much of what we know about these peoples.  It is remarkable that coming from a culture that recognized and honored same sex relationships, the Greek teacher Aristotle comments in his Politics (II 1269b) on the greater enshrinement of warrior lovers among the Celts.  Coincidental with this was a sometimes-disputed tradition of warlike women, or at least greater liberty for women in and out of matrimony.  Brehon law, which governed Irish tribes, for example, permitted divorce initiated by wives.

In ancient Irish mythology, male warriors paired off much as the great male lovers of ancient Greece, such as Achilles and Patroclus and Alexander and Hephaestion.  They shared a bed and fought as a team.   Perhaps best known of these couples is Cuchullain and Ferdia.  Cuchullain was semi-divine, almost invincible and able to turn into a ravening beast in battle.    In the legend, the two lovers are forced to meet in battle to the death.  At the end of each day of hand to hand combat, they met in the middle of a ford to embrace and kiss three times.  When Cuchullain finally kills his friend, he mourns, singing over his body,

Dear to me thy noble blush,
Dear thy comely, perfect form;
Dear thine eye, blue-grey and clear,
Dear thy wisdom and thy speech.

(Quoted in “A Coming Out Ritua“l)

Even after the Christianization of Ireland the record in regards to acceptance of same sex relationships is ambiguous.  According to Brian Lacey’s new history of homosexuality in Ireland, Terrible Queer Creatures: A History of Homosexuality in Ireland,  St. Patrick traveled with a lifelong companion his that he is recorded as having great affection for and sleeping with.  In the famous illuminated gospel, The Book of Kells, there are numerous illustrations of men embracing.  In typical Christian revisionist manner, the Church has interpreted these illustrations as calling for the eradication of sodomy. 

One person in a chieftain’s household, the poet/bard called the ollamh was afforded great access to his lord physically, sharing his bed and demonstrating affection with him in public.  In songs or poems the ollamh  often referred to the chieftain as a beloved or even a spouse.  It is interesting in Dorothy Dunnett’s sexually ambiguous Lymond Chronicles the protagonist in the second volume, Queen’s Play, masquerades not as any other sort of bard but as an ollamh.  The tradition continued well into the Middle Ages. 

Ireland’s homophobia is now being confronted in its courts where it is likely the prohibition against same sex marriage will go the way of the ban on contraception.

Links, pure and simple.

The Journal of Universal Rejection   – Get rejected, no waiting!

WriteJobs – Gay/Lesbian press seeks articles, $100 per article – including historical.

The Industrial Revolution and the Standard of Living, published in the Journal of Economics and Liberty

Authentic Ancient Egyptian Names – “No Hollywood Egyptian spoken here”.

Hieroglyph Games – and other hieroglyph activities


Surely not?  Does anyone know?

It is remarkable just how much actual intelligence there is out there on the Internet.. and, of course, I mean information, though smarts might not be as widespread.  The next remarkable thing is how much of this can be useful for a novelist, particularly a historical novelist.  Check out this selection for excellent examples.

The History of Foods

Researching for my stories of life in everyday Anglo Saxon Winchester — to be published as “Alehouse Tales” — I ran across this site and the fascinating article “Anglo Saxon Foods”  It pretty much answered every question I could have, and my main character runs an inn!    Gleaned from record as well as archaeological finds, this material covers everything from the foods available in a region in a period of time, how the chroniclers regarded food, particularly as a way to demonstrate social standing, and what influences other cultures had on a cuisine.  In the case of my research I found that while malnutrition was apparent in the bones of Anglo Saxons, especially children, certain diseases like rickets and scurvy were not, signifying that while the diet as a whole were insufficient, they did have fruit and dairy products.

eCard showing Dorothy meeting the mice.
Classy eCards from Dover Publications

Tired of cheesy ecards that just bombard the recipient with ads or even malware?  Dover Publications, which publishes lots and lots of illustration and clipart books, has free, no commitment ecards in a lot of categories, from the usual landscapes and flowers to Marilyn Monroe, motorcycles, Civil War generals, old advertising posters, New York City history, and many more.  And none that will embarrass you or make your friends mad at you!

Canadian English

If you plan to set your gay romance novel in Labrador or Manitoba, you might want to follow this link so you don’t just finish every sentence with “eh?”, eh?


I fondly remember an ad where a computer tells a woman that it has done the research she asked for and is ready to filter and deliver the results.  I have longed for such a tool, and though they have had them as long ago as Compuserve, I hadn’t found one I could use recently.  I posted on a blind computer users listserv and learned about several… when you are blind, efficiency is uppermost in your priorities… and was told by this product by Blue Squirrel Software.  This one, Webseeker, goes out onto the search engines and in a matter of seconds finds all sorts of stuff.  I downloaded the free trial version and can see that I will need to learn how to filter the results, but so far I am impressed.  I plan to use it to do research for novels, since websites are mostly  accessible to my screen reading software.  If it is useful for me, it will be doubly useful for you.

What sorts of sites and information are you looking for?  Let me know.

Nan Hawthorne  — hawthorne at nanhawthorne dot com

Alex Beecroft accepted my offer to take over this weekly feature.  Please bear with me as this Blogger veteran navigates the — for her — uncharted seas of WordPress.  Thanks to those who offered links for my first effort.   Please do contact me with corrections, suggestions, affectionate slaps on the wrist, etc.

From Alex:

I will have to tell Elisabeth, my cross dressing Crusader, about this one  –  Christian Tattoos

Check out this beta with some bugs – Scrivener for PC

From Erastes:

Historical lube

 royalty-free music

And from me:

medieval-novels.com – over 1300 books and movies so far.

Burning Issues in Historical Fiction – Women’s Roles