“She too will court the man who is uncircumcised in the flesh and lie against his breast with great passion, for he thrusts inside her a long time because of the foreskin, which is a barrier against ejaculation in intercourse. Thus she feels pleasure and reaches an orgasm first. When an uncircumcised man sleeps with her and then resolves to return to his home, she brazenly grasp him, holding on to his genitals, and says to him, “Come back, make love to me.” This is because of the pleasure that she finds in intercourse with him, from the sinews of his testicles – sinews of iron – and from his ejaculation – that of a horse – which he shoots like an arrow into her womb. They are united without separating, and he makes love twice and three times in one night, yet the appetite is not filled.”—
Most of the [eschatological] legends created around historical figures arose out of the myth of the ‘sleeping emperor’, an echo of the eastern myth of the ‘hidden emir’. Barbarossa, Baldwin and Frederick II were not dead to the masses, who were avid for millenarian myths. They were sleeping in a cavern or living disguised as beggars, waiting for the moment to wake up or reveal themselves and lead mankind to happiness. Some revolutionary leaders shone with this aura, for example Tanchelm in Zealand and Brabant, around 1110. He began preaching in the open fields dressed as a monk.
[The medieval period] was a time of hope, for the myth of the millennium became more precise and took on revolutionary dreams. As we have seen it inspired ephemeral popular movements. At the start of the thirteenth century a Calabrian monk, Joachim of Flore, gave it an explosive content which was to move a section of the regular clergy and the lay masses for the whole century. The teaching of Joachim was bound up with a religious division of history which was in competition with the more orthodox division into six ages. It meant a division into three ages: ante legem, sub lege, post legem, the ages of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, of the Old Testament which is accomplished, of the New Testament which is in the process of being fulfilled, and of the ‘Eternal Gospel’ announced by Revelation, which was on the eve of being fulfilled. Joachim of Flore even gave the date when it would arrive – the middle ages were keen on dates – 1260. The main point was that the content of Joachim’s teaching was profoundly subversive. Indeed, in the eyes of Joachim and his disciples the Church was rotten and damned with the existing world. She would have to make way for a new Church, the Church of the saints, which would repudiate wealth and would make equality and purity reign. What is significant here is that a mob of disciples, clergy, and laity, neglected a host of theological subtleties and a basically very conservative mysticism, and retained from Joachimite teaching only this anticlerical, antifeudal, and egalitarian prophecy.
Thus millenarianism, which expected the return of the Golden Age, was the medieval form of the belief in the coming of a society without classes where the State would have withered away completely and there would no longer be any kings, or princes, or lords. To make heaven descent on earth, to bring heavenly Jerusalem here below, was the dream of many in the medieval west. If I have spent some time in evoking this myth (although in an oversimplified way), it is because, although it was masked and combated by the official Church, it bowled over minds and hearts. It reveals to us in their depths the popular masses of the middle ages, and their economic and physiological anxieties in the face of the permanent conditions of their existence: their subjugation to the changeability of nature, to famines and epidemics; their revolts against a social order which crushed the weak and against a Church which benefited and guaranteed that order; their dreams – a religious dream which drew heaven down to earth and only caught sight of hope at the end of unutterable terrors. The piercing desire which it reveals of going ‘to the end of the unknown to find the new’ (ecce fecit omnia nova) did not succeed in picturing a truly new world. The Golden Age of the men of the middle ages was only a return to their origins. Their future was behind them. They walked on with their heads turned backwards.
“Marc Bloch coined a memorable phrase to sum up the attitude supposedly held by medieval men towards time: ‘a vast indifference to time’. Chroniclers, who were sparing with dates, supposedly expressed this indifference in vague terms: ‘at the time then’, ‘meanwhile’, and ‘a little after’. Above all, at the level of the collective mentality, past, present, and future were mixed together in a fundamental confusion. This confusion was particularly obvious in the persistence of collective responsibilities, which were a clear expression of primitivism. All living men bore equal responsibility with Adam and Eve for the Fall, all contemporary Jews bore equal responsibility for the Passion of Christ, and all the Muslims bore equal responsibility for Mahomet’s heresy. As has been observed, the crusaders at the end of the eleventh century did not think that they were going to punish the descendants of Christ’s executioners, but the executioners themselves.”—Jacques Le Goff - Medieval Civilization
“At that time the LORD said to Joshua, “Make you flint knives and again circumcise the Israelites a second time.” And Joshua made flint knives and he circumcised the Israelites at the Hill of Foreskins. And this is the reason Joshua circumcised them: all the people who had come out of Egypt, all the males, the men of war, had died out on the way in the Wilderness when they came out of Egypt. For all the people who came out were circumcised, but al the people who were born in the Wilderness on the way when they came out of Egypt were not circumcised.”—Joshua 5:2-5
“The forest…formed the disquieting horizon of the medieval world. The forest encircled the medieval world, isolated it, and restricted it. It was a frontier, the no man’s land par excellence between countries and lordships. Hungry wolves, brigands, and robber-knights could suddenly spring out of its notorious dark depths…It was easy for the medieval imagination, drawing on an immemorial folklore, to turn these devouring wolves into monsters. In how many hagiographies do we encounter the miracle of the wolf tamed by the saint, such as Francis of Assisi subjugating the savage beast of Gubbio. From every forest emerged wolfmen or werewolves in which the beast and the half-wild man were merged by the savagery of the middle ages. Sometimes the forest harbored even more bloodthirsty monsters, which had been bequeathed to the middle ages by paganism, such as the Provençal tarasque subdued by St. Martha. Thus, because they harbored terrors that were only too real, the forests became a world of marvelous and frightening legends.”—Jacques Le Goff - Medieval Civilization
“The Irish spirit had no trace of Benedictine moderation. Encouraged in its excesses by northern rigors, it easily equaled the extravagance of eastern asceticism…those which most impressed the men of this period were the crosfigill, or prolonged prayer with the arms stretched out in a cross (St. Kevin of Glendalough is supposed to have stayed for seven years leaning against a plank in this position, without shutting his eyes day or night, and so immobile that the birds built their nests in his hands), immersion in an almost frozen river or pond while reciting psalms, and going without food. The same eccentricity and tortured harshness occur in the penitentials, which, according to Gabriel Le Bras, ‘testify to the social and moral state of a people as yet half-pagan and for whom the missionary monks envisaged an ascetic ideal’. They made the biblical taboos, close to old Celtic prohibitions, come to life again in all their strength. In the same way, before it was adulterated, Irish art, with its stone crosses and miniatures, displayed what Francoise Henry has called ‘a prehistoric taste for covering the surface, a rejection of all realism, and a rigorously abstract treatment of the human or animal form’.”—Jacques Le Goff - Medieval Civilization