I think I’m a pretty big history buff, BUT I have to admit that I know pretty much nothing about the Medieval period.
I think the era is really interesting, I just don’t know a whole lot about it…but that’s about to change right now!
Because a whole bunch of people talked about what would have been normal during Medieval times but would definitely be weird these days.
Let’s check out some history lessons from folks on AskReddit.
1. Different standards.
“Cleaning your dishes with grass and ash.
Sounds nasty by todays standards, but actually worked really well!”
“I read a book from the 1930’s about life in Medieval England, one of the thing that really stuck out was the level of animal cruelty, and I don’t just mean beasts of burden and what not.
In one section on the types of games played at fairs there was one for example which involved tying a Rooster to a peg and then the contestants took turns throwing stones at it, whoever killed it was the winner.
Bear baiting, bull baiting and baiting just about any kind of animal, usually ending in it being killed was the height of wholesome fun.”
3. Those are mine now!
“Inheriting clothes being a big deal.
Things weren’t really disposable back then – people wore, turned, refreshed, re-sewed, cut down and re-sewed, stripped into trimming and then into rags every piece of clothing they owned. There was a thriving second hand market, and a lot of money in carefully re-using good bits of cloth, cutting off worn out buttonholes and re-sewing garments, re-using trim, etc.
Even the upperclass did this to an extent, you had to get to ridiculously wealthy Royalty level for clothing to be abundant and completely new all the time. You rarely find whole garments in archeological digs, but you find all sorts of bits and pieces that were cut off an otherwise whole garment.
This was because making cloth was insanely time consuming, especially in the earlier periods when the primary looms were upright and sheep weren’t yet fully modernized and produced smaller amounts of wool, of various qualities. Linen was even more time consuming, cotton wasn’t a thing yet (and cotton is seriously annoying to process by hand), and silk was out of reach for most people.
So, people willed cloth to relatives when they died, as well as specific garments. These days you sell off all Grandma’s old WalMart clothes, or sometimes get some cool vintage stuff you wear occasionally, but back then getting a few ells of worsted wool cloth was a huge score.
There are garments that were passed down several times, because they were just that valuable – and clothes show up in the wills of people from many different classes. It was entirely normal for your daughter to be wearing a dress made from her great-grandmother’s old overgown that had been willed down through the family and the good cloth re-purposed until it was only fit for rags. There were whole industries devoted to re-finishing cloth that had gotten a bit worn so new garments could be sewn from it.
Imagine today getting excited because your Aunt died and left you four pairs of jeans. But, in the Medieval period, that would have been a truly great score of an inheritence.”
4. Bath time!
Not on the same scale as they were in Rome, but it was still pretty common to have a bathhouse in medieval Germany and surrounding places to bathe in a group in a large tub of hot, fragrant water, called a “Zuberbad” in German.
Now everyone’s all hung up nudity. even among friends, so it’s way less common (although you can still enjoy a public Zuber bath at medieval markets and renaissance fairs in Germanic countries).”
5. All kinds of weird stuff.
“Salt being extremely expensive.
Barbers also being doctors and performing surgery.
Marrying second cousins. When nobody travels and villages are small… it’s pretty much unavoidable.
Huge age disparities between husband and wife, both of whom are getting married for the first time.
Paying different taxes based on religion.”
6. Everybody up!
“The whole family waking up at midnight to drink and bullsh*t for an hour or two before going back to bed.”
7. Look out below!
“Pouring the chamber pots out of the window into the street.”
8. Work is life?
“From an American context (and possibly other places too idk), the amount of time off work in Medieval times would be utterly bizarre compared to now. The idea that the peasantry toiled dawn to dusk in the fields before dying of exhaustion and plague at age 45 is incorrect.
Farmers worked the land when it needed work, and the calendar dictates that schedule. Festivals, harvest, Religious holidays, and every day life took up more time than work did. We’ve disillusioned ourselves into thinking that our ancestors lived to work so we should too.”
9. I’ll take some of that.
Basically a large pot would always be simmering and food would be tossed in before spoiling. So it was just a large vat of everything simmering nonstop.”
10. Bottoms up.
“Drinking in the morning and throughout the day. This was typically very low percentage ale and was mostly a way to purify water and be able to drink it safely. Likewise this was before tea and coffee existed so acted as a pep to start your day.
Pubs were actually worried when coffee started being introduced as it was cutting into customers who would come in to drink in the morning.”
11. Bad move.
“Stopping on a road way or camping within a certain distance of a roadway was illegal and was enough justification to kill them on sight.”
12. Bring it back.
Cloaks are so freakin cool but they went out of style. I wish they weren’t weird today and so rare.
Cloaks are so freakin amazing.”
“Women would be walled-up in a church.
They would literally be bricked in to a wall with small slots to receive food, communion, remove waste, and because they were considered holy, dispense advice.”
14. Gonna get ugly.
“Duels over a bride at a wedding.”
15. Get them!
“The hue and cry.
Literally shouting that someone stole something and having the whole village chase after them.”
16. That would be weird.
“Having rules about what colors and what type of clothing and hats you could wear, based on your occupation or social level.”
17. How do you plead?
By far the most serial offenders were pigs, accused and convicted of chewing off body parts and even eating children. Most were found guilty and sentenced to death by hanging or being burned at the stake.
In 1386, a convicted pig was dressed in a waistcoat, gloves, drawers and a human mask for its execution.”
“Outlawry, which stripped a person of all legal rights and allowed anyone to kill them with impunity.”
19. Bring it back!
“Wearing a codpiece.
Ahhhh, when Syphilis inspired fashion.”
20. He’s still there…
“Seeing someone in stocks on a stage in public.”
“In Rome, once a year Jews were made to run through the streets naked.”
22. Not a lot of privacy.
“Sleeping with your entire family in one bed.
Or if you are a king, sleeping in the same bed with a rival king to cement your friendship and respect for each other, as brothers.
Privacy was just not really a thing in the middle ages!”
“Gruesome executions that took a while to actually kill someone.
Seriously medieval people WTF is it with sentencing people to be burned at the stake or crucified or drawn-and-quartered?
A swift beheading was the most benevolent way to kill someone in the old days but not widely practiced as it turns out.”
24. You have a nice forehead.
“Women plucking their hairline to make their forehead bigger.
In the 13th century, there was this whole European aesthetic about women’s s*xy, s*xy foreheads. So women would pluck their hair to make the forehead bigger and s*xier.
Whenever I tell my classes about this they go “ew” but they are all manscaping and waxing other body parts.”
“For most of history, for the average person, getting married was as simple as agreeing to be married. The ceremony, witnesses, and engagement were only really important for people who were afraid of being deceived.
A wealthy person, with a lot to lose, would typically announce their upcoming wedding to allow time for any issues to be discovered, like a previous marriage, financial ruin, or an affair that could call into question legitimacy of any heirs.
Witnesses were useful because a marriage by agreement is truly and he said/she said set up until the marriage becomes common knowledge. If party A claimed to be married to party B and party B denied it, they would call on witnesses to confirm or deny each scenario. The more witnesses or the higher their status, the more reliable the testimony would be.
So, say a local noble denied that he married a lower class girl, and it’s him and his family against her and her family. The girl’s family would likely lose. But if a priest married them, his word would be final. Having people sign a church register was a natural extension that occurred more frequently over time.
Similarly though, they could go to a local public place and tell people together that they were married and the marriage would become common knowledge, which is hard to deny.
Basically all the wedding layers that we enjoy as romance and tradition are just levels of security.”
26. Fight it out.
“Fight instead of divorce
Why waste time on courts and child support? In medieval Germany, if a husband and wife reached a dead end on some important issue, they entered the ring.
The rules, of course, equalized the forces of men and women. In the ring, the man was in a hole, one hand was tied behind his back, so that he could strike with only one hand. And the wife was given a bag of coal, with which she struck.
Whoever wins the fight (inflicts serious injury or the defeated one asks for mercy) is, therefore, right in the dispute.”
27. Love potion.
“This was a love potion recipe from the 10th century:
A woman will lay a cloth on the ground and cover it in grain. She will then strip her clothing off and cover her body in honey. After that, she will roll around on the cloth and try to get covered in grain.
Afterwards, she will get up and take the grain stuck to her body over to the mill and ground that into flour. She will then use that flour to bake bread and give it to her husband to eat.
There was also another love potion that involves a wife presenting her naked b*tt to her husband who then rolls bread dough on it that will be turned into bread.”
How about you?
What do you think would be normal during Medieval times but not in the present day?
Share your thoughts with us in the comments. Thanks!