We leave Arnuad and Arnaud behind for a moment to turn to the world of 11th-ish century Iceland and the medieval ghost story of Thorgunna and Thurida. Normally I’d recap what happened in the previous post before continuing on, but this digression is entirely separate from the main story. So, enjoy Part I, but you don’t need it to understand what follows: except for the blue ghost elephant who’s narrating this particular ghost story. This story comes from the Icelandic Eyrbyggja Saga.
We begin at sea, off the shores of Iceland. A boat awaits the wind to carry them farther on their journey from Dublin to Dogvertharness. On board, one woman is thoroughly done with sailing.
On shore, some soldiers gossip about the passengers now that the boat has docked in the harbor.
Thurida, quite interested in the latest fashions, goes on board to meet this Thorgunna.
Thorgunna, an older woman and quite tall, is very protective of her possessions.
Thorgunna accepts Thurida’s offer of hospitality and sets herself up in the guest room in the village of Froda.
I do wonder why it took so long for them to recognize it is as blood. But maybe that’s just me.
Thorgunna went to change and lay down in bed. She did not emerge again that day.
Skálholt would, in 1056, become one of two episcopal sees in Iceland.
After her death, Thorodd dutifully carried out the dictates of Thorgunna’s will.
And I am getting there too. As you can tell, this ghost story is a long one. Next time, what happens when Thorgunna’s will is ignored.
It’s October and at the pace time has been passing for me, tomorrow will be Halloween. So I figured it’s a good time to tell a ghost story. Don’t worry, there’s still crime involved (heresy, to be precise)! And we’ll be getting to it, just not in today’s installment.
We begin with the priest Arnaud de Monesple speaking with inquisitors. (You know it’s gonna be a good one if inquisitors are involved!) His name suggests he or is family is from Monesple, which makes sense, given he’s the priest of Saint-Antonin in Pamiers, about 15km to the northeast.
Why’s he being questioned by the inquisition? Well, that’s thanks to Arnaud Gélis, who evidently liked his drink so much he earned himself the sobriquet “the Drunkard.”
It’s around 1317 when Arnaud the Drunkard pays Father Arnaud a visit.
Yeah, no, Father Arnaud almost certainly did not wear a cross earing. He’s not nearly that goth, despite living at the tail end of the period of high gothic architecture. But priests’ collars (aka clerical collars) weren’t invented until the 19th century and besides, I wasn’t going to try to draw one onto an elephant.
To the inquisitors, the Drunkard’s willingness to tell the priest a secret is immediately suspicious. They had already determined Arnaud the Drunkard to be a heretic. How much worse if the village priest was also one!
Traveling with the dead… Not a typical heretical belief.
The inquisition is in town to suss out any Cathars who might be lingering in the area. The Cathar heresy came to serious attention by the Church at the beginning of the 13th century. In the 1220s, there was even a whole war to try to try to exterminate the Cathars (known as the Albigensian Crusade). Yet, inquisitors suspected that enclaves persisted even after a hundred years of effort to eradicate them. This is how our two Arnauds and a bunch of other people ended up being brought before a tribunal and questioned.
That said, Catharism is not known for parades of dead people. Keep in mind, we’re still over twenty years away from the Black Death, and even longer from the widespread emergence of the Danse Macabre motif.
In other words, this is weird.
It gets weirder.
Why is Arnaud seeing ghosts? How much exactly did he have to drink before coming to speak with the priest?
We’re getting to all that. Next week, I’ll tell the ghost story of Thorgunna. Not actually part of the trial of Father Arnaud or Arnaud the Drunkard, but:
I have no idea what Arnaud and the ghosts supposedly talked about. Probably the woe of life and trapped spirits, but who knows? Could have been about where to get the best wine, or about buried treasure, or possibly unrequited love. All right, probably it was more spiritual than that, if we’re granting Arnaud the benefit of the doubt that he did speak with ghosts.
Also, why isn’t he more freaked out about talking to ghosts? And why is he traveling with them? Is he a ghost?! I see dead people…
Okay, enough of that. Next week, a ghost story within a ghost story. It also involves crime, or at least a trial. You’ll see.