Not in the Christmas Spirit

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The conversion of a savage people to Christianity was not an overnight process. We can see this in the reactions of some Scandinavian leaders to the new behaviours required of believers at Christmas time. Consider the case of King Sigurd of Norway who had some difficulty with Christian strictures on eating meat in Advent and consorting with concubines on Christmas Eve.

So befell on a time on Yule-eve, as the king sat in the hall and the boards were set, that the King said: “Fetch me fleshmeat.” “Lord,” said they, “it is not wont in Norway to eat flesh-meat on Yule-eve.” He answered : “If it be not the wont, then will I have it the wont.” So they came and had in porpoise. The king stuck his knife into it, but took not thereof. Then said the king : “Fetch me a woman into the hall.” They came thither and had a woman with them, and she was coifed wide and side. The king laid his hand to her head, and looked on her, and said : “An ill-favoured woman is this, yet not so that one may not endure her.” Then he looked at her hand and said : “An ungoodly hand and ill-waxen, yet one must endure it.’ Then he bade her reach forth her foot he looked thereon, and said “A foot monstrous and mickle much ; but one may give no heed thereto ; such must be put up with.” Then he bade them lift up the kirtle, and now he saw the leg, and said : “Fie on thy leg; it is both blue and thick, and a mere whore must thou be.” And he bade them take her out, “for I will not have her.”

I do wonder what it was liked to be “coifed wide and side”.

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