Okehampton Castle October 2022 Part 1

Now that I’m doing my masters in Medieval Studies, I’ve been a bit too busy to do much writing for this blog. However, I visited Okehampton Castle last October. Here are some photos!

Okehampton Castle in the distance. October 2022. Photo by Viktor Athelstan.

Here is the first photo I took of the castle. I was pretty far away at the time, but very excited to see it! Even as ruins, Okehampton Castle is really impressive. It makes me wonder what medieval people thought when they saw it for the first time in its glory days. (This photo doesn’t really do justice to how high up on the hill it is.)

Okehampton Castle in the distance. October 2022. Photo by Viktor Athelstan.

Maybe this photo will give a better idea of the hill? (No. It doesn’t really. The hill is REALLY big.)

Okehampton Castle. October 2022. Photo by Viktor Athelstan.

There we go! This gives a better idea of Okehampton Castle’s scale. The gatehouse’s ruins are on the left.

Okehampton Castle’s gatehouse. October 2022. Photo by Viktor Athelstan.

It was a foggy morning that day. By the time I got to the castle the fog had almost (but not entirely!) lifted. This made for some really cool photographs.

Okehampton Castle. October 2022. Photo by Viktor Athelstan.

Here’s a hole.

Okehampton Castle. October 2022. Photo by Viktor Athelstan.

Another hole.

Surrounding landscape and a piece of Okehampton Castle. October 2022. Photo by Viktor Athelstan.

There’s some castle. The sunbeams through the fog was magical!

Okehampton Castle. October 2022. Photo by Viktor Athelstan.

After going through the gatehouse, I went through a corridor (I don’t know the technical term for it). The corridor leads to the rest of the castle. On each side you can see small stone walls. In the Middle Ages they were much higher!

Trees near Okehampton Castle. October 2022. Photo by Viktor Athelstan.

Aren’t these trees lovely?

Okehampton Castle. October 2022. Photo by Viktor Athelstan.

The fact that the ruins are on a hill makes for some great photographs and shows how intimidating the castle would have been in its glory days.

Okehampton Castle. October 2022. Photo by Viktor Athelstan.

Okehampton Castle. October 2022. Photo by Viktor Athelstan.
Okehampton Castle. October 2022. Photo by Viktor Athelstan.

Okehampton Castle. October 2022. Photo by Viktor Athelstan.

Okehampton Castle. October 2022. Photo by Viktor Athelstan.

You can see some autumn leaves here.

Okehampton Castle. October 2022. Photo by Viktor Athelstan.

Okehampton Castle. October 2022. Photo by Viktor Athelstan.

I love that I could see the hills through the remaining windows.

Okehampton Castle. October 2022. Photo by Viktor Athelstan.

Okehampton Castle. October 2022. Photo by Viktor Athelstan.

One of my favorite photos from this trip!

Okehampton Castle. October 2022. Photo by Viktor Athelstan.

If I recall correctly, this was part of the kitchen?

Because I took so many photos, I’ll post more in a part two!


Exeter Cathedral Fall 2022

I recently visited Exeter Cathedral so I figured I would post some photos I took! These photos are in no particular order. They feature multiple different aspects of the cathedral.

Outside of Exeter Cathedral—Autumn 2022
Inside the Exeter Cathedral—Autumn 2022
Outside Exeter Cathedral—Autumn 2022
Some stonework by Exeter Cathedral’s front doors—Autumn 2022
Outside Exeter Cathedral, including the Cathedral Green—Autumn 2022
A side door of Exeter Cathedral, featuring a statue of Saint George killing a dragon (and some other saints)—Autumn 2022
Part of Exeter Cathedral’s organ and the top of the choir stalls—Autumn 2022
Exeter Cathedral’s wooden medieval bishop’s chair (note how it almost touches the ceiling!)—Autumn 2022
Part of a chapel and a stained glass window in Exeter Cathedral—Autumn 2022
Exeter Cathedral’s tomb of Walter Stapeldon, a medieval bishop of Exeter—Autumn 2022
More stained glass in the Exeter Cathedral—Autumn 2022
One example of carved graffiti in Exeter Cathedral—Autumn 2022
Part of a tomb (I can’t remember whose) in Exeter Cathedral—Autumn 2022

Update 10/9/2022

As you can tell, I have not been incredibly active in the year 2022 compared to other years. A lot of stuff has happened, but I’m finally in grad school where I am doing my masters in Medieval Studies. Whoo!

This means that while I have less time to do stuff, I am finally being taught by professional medievalists instead of doing research on my own. This means I have A LOT more access to resources that are not available to anyone outside of academia. While I like to include sources on my blog that anyone can access, I will be including the more academic sources for blog posts in the future.

My plan for the upcoming months is to write what I will call “Summary Posts.”

A summary post will basically be me compiling things I’ve learned in classes without too much detail and explanation. These posts are mostly for me so I can engage with the texts more, thus giving me another opportunity to better remember what I learned. However, I think people will find them interesting. As always, I will include the sources of where I got the information.

I’m optimistic for the future of this blog!

Queer Saints: Aelred of Rievaulx

My plan for June 2022 was to write several articles about medieval queerness. However, life was very busy and I did not get around to doing that. So instead I’m posting a mini article that was originally a caption on one of my Instagram posts.

Aelred of Rievaulx sitting in an initial with a scroll | Douai, Bibliothèque municipale, MS 392 f.3

Aelred of Rievaulx was a 12th century Cistercian abbot. One of the many topics Aelred of Rievaulx wrote about was the love he felt for other men and love between men. 

While I don’t know if Aelred would call himself gay or bisexual or something else, there is a lot of homoerotic language in his work “Spiritual Friendship.” Throughout the work he discusses in detail how to love and what true friendship is. 

For my modern audience, it’s important to note that passionate love doesn’t have to include lust/intimate relations. You can love without sex just like you can have sex without love.

Here are some sections that particularly stood out to me:

In Book 2, sections 21-27 of Spiritual Friendship, Aelred describes all the different types of kissing people can do. Some of the kissing he means literally but others are metaphors for spiritual connections between people and God. 

In Book 3, section 82, Aelred discusses how much he loves the monks in his care. 

In Book 3, sections 85-87 the monks Aelred talks to describes their passionate friendship with each other and Aelred warns them they have a carnal friendship but it could grow into a spiritual one. 

In Book 3, sections 119-130 Aelred describes in detail two of his most intimate relationships, including one where his friend warns him that their “love should not be measured according to the comfort of the flesh, lest this be attributed more to [Aelred’s] carnal affection.”


Frick, Peter, and of Rievaulx Staff Aelred. Aelred of Rievaulx : Spiritual Friendship, edited by Marsha L. Dutton, Liturgical Press, 2010. ProQuest Ebook Central.

Medieval Queerness

It’s June! If you’re part of the LGBTQ+ community (and maybe even if you aren’t), you know what that means: it’s pride month! 

Seeing as 2022 has been a terrible year for trans rights (and will almost certainly get worse), I’ve decided that this month (and perhaps longer) I will write about aspects of medieval queer culture. I will cover primarily European medieval queer history as that is what I am most knowledgeable about. (If you know good sources for other areas of the world, please let me know! I want to broaden my knowledge.) 

Before I go further, if you aren’t familiar with terms like “cisgender” or why I choose to use the word “queer,” I recommend that you read my article “Queer Saints: An Important Preface.” I wrote it back in 2020, so there’s some statements I’ve changed my mind on, but it’s still a good little introduction to anyone new to queer history. 

And if you are new to history, it may surprise you to discover queerness was prevalent in European medieval culture. Contrary to popular belief, being not straight/gender non-conforming was not invented in the 1960s. 

While the words heterosexual and homosexual were invented in the 1890s, and the word transgender was invented in the 1970s, that doesn’t mean everyone was straight or subscribed to traditional gender roles. They either didn’t have the words we do now, or called themselves something different.

I’ve complied a list of the queer medieval things I know about. Obviously as I learn more, I will add on to this list. Certain topics I will write about further in the future (or have already written about). Today’s list will simply name the item and provide a very brief description of it. The depictions vary from positive to negative. 

The items are divided into categories to make it easier for readers to find specifically what they are interested in. The categories are art, anecdotes, literature, people, poetry, and theology. Each category will include a brief explanation about it. 

Queer Medieval Anecdotes

Anecdotes include miracle stories, exempla, excerpts from chronicles, letters, memoirs, etc. Basically, any sort of story medieval audiences were told really happened or they were supposed to pretend it really happened. Some anecdotes here may seem fantastical to my modern audience, but I’m not going to argue the validity of each story. 

Dialogue on Miracles

Caesarius of Heisterbach’s two volume collection of miracle stories, Dialogus miraculorum, (AKA The Dialogue on Miracles) is filled with tales about people who do not conform to traditional gender roles and sexualities. The depictions vary from somewhat positive to negative. 

There are over 700 stories in the work, so I will list a few notable examples for brevity’s sake. More will be added in the future.

Gender Non-Conforming Demons

The Dialogue on Miracles is filled with stories about demons who switch between masculine and feminine forms to seduce and tempt humans. There are so many examples in the text it would take too long to list them all. 

Brother Joseph: Volume I, Book I, Chapter 40

After being orphaned on the way home from a Jerusalem pilgrimage, a young trans man experiences many shenanigans and near death experiences before finally becoming a monk. The shenanigans and near death experiences include transporting secret messages, accidentally helping a thief, being hanged and saved by an angel, and dealing with a bunch of horny monks. 

Queer Medieval Art 

Art is pretty explainable. Any motifs/subjects in medieval visual mediums. This does have some overlap with theology.  

Jesus Christ’s Side Wound

It’s not a vagina. It’s a side wound, I swear.

MPreg Jesus

Yes, you read that right. There are depictions of Jesus giving birth. It’s from His side wound and He’s giving birth to the Church, but it’s still a depiction of childbirth nonetheless. 

Satan Birthing Sinners

Yup, Mpreg Satan is also a thing. However, in the artistic depictions of this, he’s also eating the sinners before birthing them. (Arguably you could interpret it as Satan defecating the sinners but the way it’s portrayed looks more like childbirth.)

Queer Medieval Literature

In contrast to the previous category, Queer Medieval Anecdotes, Literature lists stories that are intended to be fictional/have an over arching narrative tale to tell. Some of these items are technically poetry, but they tell a narrative story with fictional characters, so I’ve put them here.

Le Roman de Saint Fanuel

Saint Fanuel, a cis gender man, accidentally gets pregnant from a magic apple. He gives birth to Saint Anne. (The Virgin Mary’s mother.) It’s not biblically canon, but someone wrote it.

The Monk’s Ordeal

A German story about a naive cis gender monk who thinks he’s pregnant after misinterpreting how sex works. 

Yde and Olive

A poem about a princess who turns into a man.

Queer Medieval Miscellaneous

This category includes things like social norms, words, laws, etc. They all go in miscellaneous as I don’t want this list to get too overly complicated. Plus a lot of concepts here have a lot of overlap.


An Old Norse slur for being the passive partner during sex between two men. Quite literally fighting words as if you called someone else this, they were in their legal right to fight/kill you. And if the person called this didn’t do anything about it, they could be outlawed.


Hares symbolized sodomy in the Middle Ages. (At least, it was one thing hares symbolized.) But why were hares associated with sodomy? Well, animal folklore was a popular genre in medieval European literature. However, folklore was misconstrued as scientific fact. And a crucial piece of hares’ folklore was that each year they were alive they grew, well, another bottom (to put it politely). Comparing someone to a hare meant that you were implying they participated in sodomy.

Queer Medieval People

Personally, I don’t like giving real historical people labels as I don’t know exactly what they would call themselves if they were alive today. However, based on observable behaviors, we can safely guess that some people certainly would not call themselves straight or cisgender. Depending on the historical figure and primary sources available, they may have already told us how they identify. 

Aelred of Rievaulx

A Cistercian abbot who wrote about the love he felt for other men. Lots of homoerotic language in his work “Spiritual Friendship.”

Eleanor Rykener

A 14th century trans woman who worked as an embroideress and sex worker in southern England. Unlike others on this list, the only reason she wasn’t lost to time is because of the surviving court records regarding her arrest for sodomy. 

Joan of Arc

While she did refer to herself as “Joan the Maid” she’s on this list as she is famous for her gender non-conforming style of dress. 

Marinos the Monk

A trans man who became a monk with his father. He was known to perform miracles and was accused of fathering a child with a local woman. I’ve written about him in detail as part of my Queer Saints series

Queer Medieval Poetry

While some of the queer medieval literature is in a poetical form, they are fictional stories with characters. Here, I have put poems that don’t necessarily have a fictional narrative, per se. Rather, they are poems that discuss the author’s personal thoughts. There is some overlap with Literature. 

Monastic Love Poetry

Monks wrote a lot of love poetry to other men, including their fellow monks. Some poems are rather tame and arguably are for a best friend. Other poems not so much.

Prayer for Transformation, an Excerpt from “Evan Bohan” by Rabbi Kalonymus ben Kalonymus ben Meir

This section is part of a larger poem by the Jewish philosopher Kalonymus ben Kalonymus. In it, Kalonymus laments being born a man instead of a woman. In the past, this excerpt was interpreted to be satire and “humorous.” 

However, as any trans person could tell you, the poem is a heart wrenching depiction of extreme gender dysphoria. Prayer for Transformation is distressingly relatable for anyone gender non-conforming. 

Queer Medieval Theology 

I’ll mostly be discussing Christianity as that is what I am most familiar with culturally. I don’t know enough about other faiths to speak with any sort of confidence about their religious practices or beliefs. 

However, if you aren’t Christian and there’s queerness in your faith dating back to the medieval era, feel free to reach out!

Jesus as Mother

This relates back to Jesus’s side wound and giving birth. 


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