random notes--the value of the heart

I utilize a lot of different resources when I'm writing a story. As I clean up my notes and arrange my scattered sources into notebooks, I often come across random notes--highlighted passages or notes that I've written to myself--that take on a special meaning within the context of the themes I want to express.

I'll share a few of these from time to time, just to let you in on that "where do you get your ideas" question.

When I create magical systems, I like to fall back on religious texts already in existence. Saves me a lot of work, especially when someone more intelligent than me has gone to the trouble to write all this information down. I came across this particular passage when I was looking into the symbolic value of the heart.

There [the heart] is conceived of as central in the activity of the rsis, those seers who intuitively perceive the divine and express it in hymns. The heart is the secret place of their inspiration, where hymns are prepared to offer the gods, but it is also the critical authority that monitors the hymns' value. The heart thus becomes the place of divine vision, which is only given by grace to those who practice self-renunciation. It is understood that the heart's knowledge is satya, real and true, since it alone can enable one to pass from the unreal and the illusory to the real. Such knowledge is transformative, for it discovers, by means of the heart, the divine immanence within man. In bhakti, the heart is the seat of an aspiration to join the god and the center of a desire that "binds man at the level of his heart." Man should also reject the desire of natural and illusory realities in favor of the enjoyment of bliss and union with brahman. It is necessary to clear this heart by way of renunciation in order to become "a polished mirror" in which the god can be reflected.

Research for Miserere--a bibliography

Several people have asked on different occasions about the research materials that I used for Miserere. If you're interested, you can find these resources under the Research tab at the top of the page. I left journal articles off the list, because they can be difficult to locate; however, most, if not all, of these books are still in print.

Just click Research if you want to see the list.

The Castilian Military

Research is always my favorite part of writing. I thought I'd share some interesting things I've learned about armies and caballeros on the Iberian Peninsula during the fourteenth century. This information came from the article "Castilian Military Reform under the Reign of Alfonso XI (1312-50)" by Nicolas Agrait.

The ranks:

  • Gentes de pie (or peones) were the infantry. The peones were armed with shortened lances or spears, which were used as either missiles or to hold a defensive position by planting the butt of the spear in the ground. The peones wore a loriga (mail shirt) or light leather armor and supplemented their armor with whatever they could afford (helms, shields, etc.). The peones also wielded guisarmes. Guisarmes were "a type of pole with a long curved blade edged on the concave side with a slender spear point opposite, used to either spear opponents, to hook and forcibly dismount knights, or to sever the sinews in horses' legs."
  • Ballesteros. The ballesteros were specialists in the use of the crossbow. The bolts were narrow and designed to penetrate armor. The effective range of the 14th century crossbow was approximately 100 meters. The English longbow never gained a lot of popularity in Castile.
  • The calvary or caballeros. There were two distinctive types of cavalry: 1) the men who rode a la brida and 2) those who rode a la jineta.
    • Caballeros who rode a la brida used heavy plate armor for rider and horse. Their armor consisted of mail lorigas or hauberks reinforced with metal plates. They used straight stirrups and a high saddle.
    • Caballeros who rode a la jineta were heavily influenced by Muslim equestrian practices. These men prized speed and agility over power and protective armor. They wore only a light hauberk without plates and were armed with shorter lances and lighter swords.

More random facts:

  • The adalid. The adalid was not only an expert caballero who had adapted to riding a la jineta. Adalid also referred to specialized military officials, who were considered very valuable due to their expert knowledge of the terrain and their ability to lead their men.
  • The institution of the caballería popular. If townsmen within certain incomes chose to keep a horse and armor, they were obligated to maintain their weaponry and serve when called. In return for this service, these men were given tax exempt status for themselves and their families for so long as the mount and equipment were maintained.
  • In Castile, Alfonso XI in his Ordenamiento de León mandated that vassals were to spend their royal disbursements (known as soldadas) for the recruitment of caballeros and infantry. For every 1,100 maravedíes (roughly 55 florins), the vassal had to recruit one caballero, one lancer or spearman, and one crossbowman.

Agrait, Nicolas, "Castilian Military Reform under the Reign of Alfonso XI (1312-50)," The Journal of Medieval Military History 3 (2005): 88-126.

That concludes today's history lesson. Carry on.