Wednesday 17 April 2013

A Medieval Female Exorcist - Dark Maiden

Yolande, the heroine of my latest medieval historical romance novel, 'Dark Maiden' is an exorcist. Her father, who was born in Ethiopia (a country with very ancient Christian roots) was an exorcist. Her mother was born in York.

As is now being discovered, there were people of African descent living and working in Britain, especially in cities and ports like York. Archaeology discovered a Romano-British grave in York where a woman of black African and mixed race heritage had been buried in a rich tomb with grave goods. Archaeology also uncovered a tomb of a man of north African descent buried at a medieval friary in Suffolk, England, close to the port of Ipswich. According to bone specialists he had a bad back! The thirteenth century statue of Saint Maurice in Magdeburg cathedral in Germany clearly shows him as African.

Half-African, half-English, Yolande is the dark maiden of the title, a spiritual wanderer and warrior, helping those tormented by the restless dead and assisting the restless dead themselves to find final peace. She lives and works in England during the time of the Black Death.

Statue of St. Maurice at Magdeburg
I chose this time period quite carefully. Women during the Middle Ages could not be priests but during the period of the Black Death, when thousands died, including hundreds of priests, the church allowed women to take confessions from dying people. In early 1349 the bishop of Bath and Wells wrote to his priests to encourage all men to confess, before they were taken by the pestilence. He added that if they had no priest they should follow the teaching of the Apostles and confess to each other 'or, if no man is present, even to a woman'.  (From translation in Philip Zeigler, The Black Death, page 125).

Medieval people also believed that in a crisis anyone, priest or lay person, could perform an exorcism because every Christian has the power to command demons and drive them away in the name of Christ.  I took these ideas and developed them, allowing my Yolande to become an exorcist.

In 'Dark Maiden' I have Yolande and Geraint  (a travelling player who becomes her friend, help-mate, lover and finally husband) face several encounters with both restless spirits and also demons. My ideas have always been shaped by the real beliefs of the time. So in 'Dark Maiden' there are evil spirits, restless ghosts called revenants, an incubus and vampires - all paranormal creatures with a medieval slant.

I'll talk about these in other blog articles.

Read Chapter One


Linda Acaster said...

Ooh, very interesting. I hadn't realised revenant was so old a word. Good luck with it.

Lindsay Townsend said...

Thanks, LindaA. I really enjoyed writing and researching this one.

Linda Banche said...

Wow, none of the same-old, same old from you, Lindsay. Which is a good thing. There's way too many me-too books out there.

While I'm not a big fan of paranormal, a little is OK. Sounds like you have the right proportion for me.

Lindsay Townsend said...

Thanks, LindaB. It's paranormal as believed by medieval people, which is a little different.

Lisa J Yarde said...

Lindsay, this sounds wonderful. I'll check it out in June.

Lindsay Townsend said...

Thanks so much, Lisa!

Maureen said...

Lindsay, I read of the discovery in York in an American magazine on history. I am so glad you have taken up the "challenge" to write a historical romance with such a heroine. I look forwad to reading your novel!

Lindsay Townsend said...

Hi Maureen,
It's very exciting in history and archaeology at the moment and the info that's appearing. Thanks for your interest!

Lisabet Sarai said...


What a fascinating premise and setting! I've always felt that the social upheaval caused by the Black Death made great fodder for fiction.

Good luck with the book.


Lisabet Sarai said...

Lindsay! What a great premise and setting for a novel. I've always thought that the social and political upheaval produced by the Black Death was rife with possibilities for exciting fiction.

Good luck with the book!

Unknown said...

This sounds fantastic Lindsay! Best of luck.

Tanya Hanson said...

I am so intrigued by the African-English connection. This sounds like a book full of amazing historical info. Well done. I always get irked at stuff like "even a woman" that comes from the pen and mouths of early church men. What did they think the other half of the population is lol? Best of luck with a terrific-sounding book.

Lindsay Townsend said...

Many thanks, Tanya! I agree!

Lindsay Townsend said...

Thanks, Connie! Much appreciated!