No, this is not a post about angst in academic places, or the latest museum display fight (I’m sure there is one going on, somewhere.) It is about how culture affects how people react to stresses. Sort of, since I’m not a psychiatrist, or psychologist, and I don’t play one on TV.
What brought this to mind was Peter Grant’s post about the upcoming Robin Hood movie. https://bayourenaissanceman.blogspot.com/2018/01/political-correctness-strikes-again-in.html
I freely admit, I laughed at Robin Hood: Men in Tights because the Costner version was just too, too much. Give me Errol Flynn, please, or Disney. Foxes are cool. BBC’s Robin of Sherwood had an intriguing take, and yes, I love, love the soundtrack.
But in the new movie Robin has PTSD that apparently manifests in ways that Hollywood thinks modern military and others show the effects of PTS and PTSD.
Screech CRASH! Huh?
What caught my attention was a little niggle of memory, about an article I read last year. So I went hunting through my back issues of Medieval Warfare and indeed, there was an article about the Teutonic Knights and their apparent problems with what today we might call Post-Traumatic Stress.
Huge caveat here: medieval minds, any pre-modern mind is different from ours, in ways historians are just barely starting to sort out, if we ever can. The past is a different country, they do things differently there, and while people are people are people, how they understand and explain the world can be really, really strange to out modern take on things. With that in mind, here’s a thought-provoking take on the mental world of the Teutonic Order.
To distill a great deal of writing and hypotheses, the author wondered if the appearances of the Virgin Mary to particular knights and brothers not long after major battles and enemy encounters might be a manifestation of post-trauma stress. The men lived in a culture where religion was all-encompassing, in a region that had been dedicated to the Virgin by the crusaders, in a time when veneration of the Virgin Mary was one of the most popular forms of devotion and strongly encouraged. What would be more comforting or encouraging than an appearance of Our Lady? What greater confirmation of the rightness of the knights’ and brothers’ actions than their heavenly patron herself appearing, even briefly and in private, to reassure or comfort? The knights and their superiors treated the visions as genuine and took encouragement and comfort from them in times of crisis and stress.
To me, that would have been a far more culturally-logical result of Robert of Loxley’s difficulties during the Crusade, if he had them. But that would require Hollywood to 1) know of the article several years before it came out, 2) take the idea seriously and 3) take the Crusaders’ faith seriously enough to use that, which would make the story Hollywood had in mind… not work so well.
The other thing that came to mind was a post the psych-blogger Dr. Sanity had about schizophrenia, psychoses and culture. She observed that people from different cultures saw different things when they hallucinated. In the US, it might be the CIA out to get someone, or little green men. A gent from India saw rakshasas, the Hindu spirits, and knew they were plotting against him. It made perfect sense to me at the time reading it, because that was what the man grew up with, probably hearing stories and seeing pictures of the creatures, and that was what his mind turned to when things started going off-kilter.
So why would medieval knights not see Christian saints or demons? Why would they not find assistance (or condemnation, if they knew something they’d done or their leaders had done was wrong) in the culture that immersed them, medieval Christianity?
That would be more interesting to me than “medieval warrior with post Vietnam PTSD-as-imagined-by-Hollywood.” And harder to write.
(Which may be why the muse keeps poking me with the Livonian and Teutonic orders. What if there really had been something nasty up in that part of the world, something that needed more than just a little holy water to be discouraged or banished?)
Welcome, Instapunderati! Thank you for visiting. If you are interested in a character who copes with pretty horrible PTS and manages to claw her way through, the Cat Among Dragon books might be something for you to consider. Alexi, of Alexi’s Tales, is another, lighter, take.