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BREAKING: CEU Needs Your Support



The Hungarian government has proposed amendments to the National Higher Education Law that would make it impossible for Central European University – and possibly other international institutions – to continue operations within the country.

These changes would endanger the academic freedom vital for CEU’s continued operation in Budapest and would strike a blow against the academic freedom that enables all universities to flourish.

It is time for friends, supporters, and educational and academic communities to defend our institution and the independence of higher education institutions around the globe.


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Happy Holidays!

To all our listeners, hailing from many coasts, we wish thee a Merry Christmas. It’s been a good year for our station, and we’re planning some big things for the coming one, including many new interviews with some high profile medievalists. We might even try our hand at a publication. And of course, we’re looking forward to improving the listening experience so you can enjoy your lutes without fear of acrimony!
Well then, happy holidays. And while you’re listening to your lutes and carols, why not reflect on how they did Christmas back in the Middle Ages:

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Anne Boleyn, we long for to see you!

A possible portrait of Anne Boleyn was identified using facial recognition software of all things.  Up until now there is no portrait of her except that on a battered bronze disk.  After her execution, Big Brother Henry made her an unperson so her portraits disappeared pretty quickly.  The medal survived by chance, perhaps because it was so inconspicuous.


If this painted portrait is a true likeness, it certainly reveals a great deal about her:  For one, we can see from it that she was a hominid.  Her clothing is very much that of someone from the early modern period, and we might date it more precisely to the 16th century (the Tudor period).  The portrait reveals that she wore decorative headgear, perhaps to hide some sort of gang tattoo written across her forehead, which in all likelihood she undertook in a spirit of rash, youthful impetus.  From the portrait we can also tell that she resembles many people you might come across today, which makes the claims that she didn’t produce numerous heirs rather hard to swallow.  I see people like her all the time!

So much for the putative portrait of Anne Boleyn.  The medal on the other hand, which we know depicts Anne, shows a more slapdash character, viz. what we might broadly characterize as a ragamuffin.  Her expression seems to say, “devil may care” and she wears her sauna towel on her head, rakishly off kilter.  A real provocateur she appears to be from the medal portrait and a little rough around the edges.  It reminds me a bit of our human tendency to idealize and soften historical personages over time, and make them into a softer, more approachable form.  Which is not to say the real Anne Boleyn was a bad person.  I’m just saying, if someone wears their sauna towel rakishly at an angle, look out.  That person is probably a little bit rowdy.


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Just how Anglo-Saxon are the English? 38%!

Very exciting article published recently:


The topic of just how much the Anglo-Saxon immigration affected modern British genetics has been a hotly contested one, ever since Merlin pegged the Anglo-Saxon ancestry of England at about 90%.

Recent genetic studies looked at the modern population of Britain’s DNA and suggested all kinds of things.  Some researchers argued that basically the Anglo-Saxons were just a little segregated group that didn’t really affect Britain’s genetics at all, while others found just the opposite:  The native Britons were probably wiped out and almost all people in Great Britain descend from the Anglo-Saxon invaders of 1500 years ago.  And the Jutes, of course…  Can’t forget the Jutes….

The problem with all those studies was that they only looked at modern DNA.  This time researchers extracted DNA from ancient British skeletons from different parts of the island.  And the results are in…   (drum roll)

The modern English people are about 38% Anglo-Saxon.  Scottish and Welsh people have less Anglo-Saxon DNA but are still around the 30% mark.

So there you have it, friends.  The Anglo-Saxons wiped out a lot of people but not everyone by a long shot.  It’s not consistent everywhere, but I think you can broadly say that the average British person today has quite a bit of Anglo-Saxon ancestry… but, they are actually more Briton, going by the DNA.  That might explain why they root for King Arthur, when he was (if he existed) a redoubtable foe of the Saxon invaders.

38%, y’all!saxonradiers

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A Scottish Castle Teeters on the Brink of Oblivion

In the words of Percy Bysshe Shelly:  “Look on my works, ye mighty, and despair.”

Abergeldie Castle in Scotland, dating from the 16th century and situated close to the royal residence of Balmoral, is facing destruction after the bank of the Dee river gave way.  Now frantic work is4221396001_4684561963001_4684544154001-vs underway to stop the erosion and prevent the castle from falling into the river.  Check this splendid link to see the how precarious the situation is:


The baron who lived in the castle until very recently has had to move out for the time being.  He views the situation as an unspeakable tragedy, largely because it involves his own place of residence.  But others too, who don’t live in the castle, have noted that if it cannot be saved by engineering work meant to stop the erosion, its loss will represent a loss for all of us.  Our shared cultural heritage, as it were, will be swept away.

Well, let’s hope they can save the castle.  And if it cannot be saved, let us at least hope that it becomes the residence of mermaids and other aquatic creatures such as river nymphs and, yes, selkies.

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Medieval potions help fight dangerous bacteria

People used to laugh at medieval medical practices, and they still do from time to time.  Especially we tend to laugh when we read of medieval doctors bleeding people, or talking about the 4 humours and vital spirits.  We also laugh at the pAAburJXopular idea that witches caused illness, when in fact we know now that witches only cause stress – which CAN lead to illness.

But now some people are starting to take medieval medicine a lot more seriously.

Check this link: http://neurope.eu/article/medieval-medicine-against-modern-antibiotic-resistant-bugs/

It is because of super bugs, created by the widespread use of antibiotics.  Apparently, a company has been trying out medieval remedies to combat some of these super bugs, with great effectiveness.  Medieval remedies for eye infection, found in an old Anglo-Saxon potion book, kill 99% of the superbugs, it is being reported!

That’s great news!  The problem is of course that the surviving 1% of those super bugs must be really, really super….

Still, it’s good to know we have medieval medicine in our corner if antibiotics stop doing what they’re supposed to do.  And this is just another reason to take our medieval ancestors a little more seriously, and to realize that Monty Python and the Holy Grail is not a documentary.

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Travelling – the Medieval Way

Dearest listeners and voyeurs,

CEU Medieval Radio wishes all of you a most salubrious 2016, full of good happenings!

The year ended on a happy note for a former physics teacher, cum medieval pilgrim, Steven Payne who walked the medieval pilgrim’s route from Southampton to Canterbury this month.  He completed the journey, arriving in Canterbury a day or two ago where he was greeted by various dignitaries, such as the mayor of the city and the canon of the cathedral.

Here’s the amazing thing though:  He did it dressed like a medieval pilgrim, and with a medieval pilgrim’s supposed diet, and sleeping on the floor of churches or even outdoors just like the medieval pilgrims would do.  Check the link:


Even his ipad and cell phone wore a shell on their respective collars during the pilgrimage, and word has it that his ipad has since taken the cross.

The Vatican even wrote Steven a letter of encouragement, while no doubt fearing copycats might emerge who will also expect a letter.  Steven says it was a rewarding experience and travelling the medieval way gives one a lot of time to put things in perspective.

Definitely medieval people liked travelling too, and not just in England or Europe.  Yesterday I was reading about a Sufi mystic in Persia who was visited by a fellow who was all excited about going on the hajj pilgrimage, saying he’d saved up 1000 dirhams for the journey.

The Sufi mystic said, “Why are you doing it?  For the fun of adventure and seeing new places, or to please God?”

Dude said, “To please God, of course.”

So the Sufi asked the guy if he would cancel the trip and use the money in his hometown if it would please God even more than going on the hajj.

Dude said, “Yep.”

So then the Sufi said that he should give it all away to his poor neighbors if the real reason for his intended trip was to please God.  Otherwise, he should admit the real reason for going on the trip.  At which point, the guy was cornered and just said, “Fine!  I just want to travel and see other places and that’s what I’m doing this for.”

In short, TRAVELLING WAS AND _87419833_1e03334d-ee26-4f6f-ad4c-ff9673b6c28e.jpgIS FUN!!!!  Hopefully 2016 brings ye all an adventure or two.

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Reconstruction of the Medieval Crown of Bulgarian Monarchs

photo_verybig_172367Good news to all of our listeners who deplore the loss of the medieval crown of Bulgaria’s kings!

Recently the crown of Bulgaria’s medieval kings was reconstructed and is now being exhibited in Sofia’s National History Museum


Check the link!

The crown was created for kings of the second Bulgarian dynasty around 1200.  Bulgaria’s earlier crowns disappeared in wars with the Byzantine Empire.

This crown too disappeared when the Ottomans conquered Bulgaria.  They took it to Istanbul, or Constantinople, and whatever happened to it there is nobody’s business but the Turks’.

Fortunately though the crown was able to be constructed because we have both an image of the crown in a fresco, and details about its weight and materials.  The making of this replica didn’t cut corners either!  They used real jewels and gold, relying on generous donations from a certain, mysterious “Mister Simeon II” and other generous and anonymous donors.  Hopefully Bulgaria will hold onto this one for a long while.

Long live the kings of Bulgaria, and long live historical reconstructions.

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Elves – can we really trust them?

Nowadays everyone has a positive association with elves…  That sounds weird, but what I mean to say is that people like elves.

They think of them as handsome Orlando Bloom types with pointy ears, long flowing hair, and of course they are pretty good with a bow and arrow.

Or, more significantly at this time of year, we think of elves as the nice slave helpers of Santa Claus who happily and without complaint manufacture toys around the clock all year in his dark frozen wasteland lair.


But the above-linked article points out that the old medieval ideas of elves were much more nuanced.  Elves could do nice things like make shoes for old cobblers while they were sleeping.

They could also kidnap babies and replace them with changelings – basically defective elf babies that kind of looked like your own kid but were mute and incapable of doing any useful farm work.  On the other hand, if you dropped a box of matches in front of one of these elf kids, they were remarkably good at telling exactly how many matches had fallen to the floor.  They were also good at memorizing train time tables and such, so there were a lot of perks to getting one of these changelings.

Elves did other horrible things though, like causing your children to go crazy.  They caused livestock diseases too.  So basically, elves were toxoplasma gondii or trichnosis, found in cat poop and uncooked pork, which nobody today would say are good things!

So when you are opening your toys made by Legolas and other elves this Christmas, just remember – those guys weren’t always perceived as being so nice.  They were naughty as H-E-DOUBLE HOCKEY STICKS in the past.devil-stealing


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Statues of wild men: the medieval equivalent of some popular figurine of modern times?

Recently a medieval treasure was unearthed in England.  It’s a figurine of a wild man, brandishing a club and a set of powerful beard hairs.

Check the link:  http://www.bbc.com/news/uk-england-suffolk-35050026

What is strange is that such figurines were common in the Middle Ages if the art historians and archaeologists can be believed.   A very common motiff indeed, so that it was almost an obsession._87112586_2014t413_spoon_knop-2

In a world of increasing law and order, and establishment, and all those things that hippy, long-hair singers periodically rail against…   these wild men images hearkened to some longing in medieval people’s hearts to have an even lower life expectancy and to be crippled even more easily by chronic ailments.

The wild man as an artistic image in the Middle Ages was, in fact, the medieval artist’s way of saying, “I know we’ve got these church bells telling the time now, and tithe barns, and Cistercian pottery factories, and widespread literacy….  but just out there, beyond the tilled fields there is a forest where no law and order prevails.  Moot and lawless are its residents, all dressed up like Hercules-wannabes.  And if this established order ever collapses, we’ll be going that way too.”


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Medieval Writers “Bad sex in fiction” awards

My dear fellow defrocked priests and banished nuns,

Know this!

2015 is almost over and the winner for the “Bad Sex in Fiction” award took place on December 1st.

Apparently 2015, had no shortage of fiction which depicted some of this “funny business” as we at CEU Medieval Radio call it.  So it was very hard to pick a winner….  Ugh…

So anyway, it got David Clark at the Independent thinking about what piece of recorded writing would win such a contest if all the great, gleaming corpus of medieval literature was rifled through until we could finally, triumphantly finger one example of some truly awful “Bad Sex in Medieval Fiction.”

Check the link to his article: http://www.independent.co.uk/arts-entertainment/books/who-would-have-won-the-medieval-bad-sex-in-fiction-award-a6755461.html


He found some pretty funny examples of medieval writings referring to “the deed.”

First, you should know that the church’s recorded recommended penance for having sex with a pig in the Middle Ages was 7 years of fasting!  Seven years???  That’s a little harsh!  We at CEU Medieval Radio would be going hungry if we lived in the Middle Ages, I can tell you that much!

Secondly he found this little gem of a 10th century Anglo-Saxon poem:

Question: What am I?

I am wonderful help to women,
The hope of something to come. I harm
No citizen except my slayer.
Rooted I stand on a high bed.
I am shaggy below. Sometimes the beautiful
Peasant’s daughter, an eager-armed,
Proud woman grabs my body,
Rushes my red skin, holds me hard,
Claims my head. The curly-haired
Woman who catches me fast will feel
Our meeting. Her eye will be wet.

Answer: an onion, of course!

10th century people had their minds in the gutter obviously.  That’s why I don’t read anything to do with the 10th century, and I recommend you, and all your household, do the same.

So you see, whether it is filthy poems, or church recommendations on sexual matters, there is no shortage of bone-chilling, sultry, spine-tinglingly horrible smut to feast your insatiable eyes upon in the body of medieval literature.  If you can find any such thing in your own medieval literature collection, don’t hesitate to post it here on our website, or just on youtube.  Post it somewhere, is the point!

And, uh…  Merry Christmas and happy holidays too.

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Thanks to our fans for supporting CEU Medieval Radio!

This is a special message to just say thanks for all the support from all the medieval music lovers out there.

We’ve seen our Facebook page get over 2000 likes in recent months, and we’ve got a lot of positive comments from the fans out there.  We continue to get visitors to our website and station from all around this big world.  It’s good to feel appreciated, ya know.

In fact, we just want to give a special shout out to one of our fans, Brian Page who visited Budapest last summer.  He and his wife were doing a tour of Budapest, seeing the sights, but they actually took the time out to visit our radio team at Central European University and DONATE SOME MEDIEVAL MUSIC CDs!  We really appreciated the donation, which has done much to enrich our collection, and we in turn provided a few humble gifts.  These photos above testify to this exchange of gifts and witty conversation that occurred that sultry day in the month of June!  I was there!  I’m the guy with the unshaven neck beard and the church smile!  Those are the clues.  See if you can find me!

We at CEU Medieval Radio always appreciate the support of our fans, whether it be in the form of helpful feedback, Facebook likes, word of mouth, or donations like Brian offered.  If you are interested in helping us out, and helping our station to grow and offer an even better program, don’t hesitate to drop us a line and let us know.

Three cheers for the fans of Medieval Radio.  Huzzah!  Huzzah!  Huzzah!