Inventing Deities? Or Just Trying Too Hard?

The book about Baba Yaga and the lore associated with her was very useful. But looking at some of the material in the bibliography . . . I almost get the feeling that some ethnographers and anthropologists tried desperately to find something that’s just not there. Maybe. I suspect that there were indeed female deities in the Slavic and other pantheons, and that some lingered as folk lore or monsters. It’s the details that have me shaking my head.

Part of my wariness is from seeing one too many nods to Marija Gimbutas. Yes, she was right about some things, including the importance of the culture of the pre-Proto-Indo-European Balkans and Danube Basin (“Old Europe.”) That part of her work has been confirmed and expanded on, and has led to some major shifts in the chronology of technology and cultures in that part of the world. However, her fascination with a primordial Great Goddess and peaceful, egalitarian matriarchy that worshiped the Female . . . Has major flaws. A number of ethnographers, anthropologists, and others took the idea and ran with it. And are still running with it.

The idea resonates with some people, for different reasons. In some cases, they truly think that the problems of the modern world were caused by getting too far from recognizing the importance of women as mothers and from the natural world. They want to find a pattern in the past that worked, and that can be returned to or recreated in a way that brings society and the non-built environment back into harmony as they understand it. Ecofeminism is part of it, or was. It’s a version of the Fall from Grace that appeals to some hard-core environmentalists, some people who conflate Christian theology with the Industrial Revolution and it’s “dark, Satanic mills.” Pagan must be better than Christianity, and female-dominated paganism must be even better than male-dominated paganism, so worshiping a Great Goddess means that women and Nature will also be venerated.

If you sense a lot of 1960s-70s hippie woo in that, you’re right. There are also women who blame Christianity and the modern world for abuse they’ve suffered. In those cases, especially when the abuse was justified or defended using twisted Christian or Jewish teachings, I understand why people would go that way. I disagree with their ideas, but I understand the appeal of a world of loving, caring, peaceful matriarchs who were honored and worshiped by kind, strong, gentle men. There’s a strain of Ecofeminism that tracks that way, where Nature is as badly abused as Women and so both need to get away from the Male. For women like that to seek out and dream of a society of goddess followers, or to try very hard to find traces of goddesses and a Great Goddess in Slavic folklore and other traditions makes a sort of sense.

Some people desperately need to find something new for a thesis or dissertation. Been there, was fortunate in that. Again, my sympathies even when I vehemently disagree.

However, I really have trouble accepting that we can reconstruct a full, tribal-centered religious pantheon and belief system from the existing folklore and a few references in the surviving documents from the time of the conversion of the Russian Slavs. Our sources include official documents like The Primary Chronicle of Kiev, some accounts of the deities venerated by Baltic pagans, some church documents condemning the practices of human sacrifice, animal sacrifice, and idol worship, and hints in folklore. The things I’ve seen lean on the folk-lore, in part because the Slavic paganism as described in official texts was strongly influenced by the Indo-Europeans. Going back farther when we don’t have archaeological materials for much of the region being discussed . . . is hard. So you are left with hints, comparative linguistics, and folk-lore.

In one of the stories, the hero must win the aid of three sisters, all of whom are called Baba Yaga. Ah ha! say the researchers. Here we have evidence of a survival of the three-part Great Goddess as maiden, mother, and crone. Except . . . all three are old women in the story. There are stories where Baba Yaga is a tester and rewards the brave. Ah ha! say the researchers. Here we have evidence of a good goddess who was brutally suppressed by the Christians and patriarchs. Except magical characters, especially tricksters, often serve as testers and as bad guys.

Baba Yaga is just one of the figures I’ve seen people try to turn into a lingering nod to a primordial Great Goddess. The trouble is that so many faiths came from animism, starting with local spirits and deities that became tribal spirits and deities and then expanded into dynastic deities. In some cases, a new philosophic system also gets tagged in, so you have Buddhism, Confucianism (not popular but the official versions), philosophic Hinduism, some of the Greek-influenced groups we lump together as Gnostics, and the three monotheisms. All of those either pair male and female deities with a patriarchal society, or honor a goddess who gives kingship to her chosen male, who rules as a patriarch (Babylonian, Irish, others).

I read Gimbutas, and Graves, and a lot of When-God-Was-A-Woman type stuff back in my teens and 20s. It didn’t stick, obviously. In many cases, I admire the effort and work the archaeologists and anthropologists and other put into their research and translation work. There’s some fascinating straight science out there. But trying to excavate the ghost of a goddess that might once have existed . . . I don’t think we can find that.


Book Review—Göbekli Tepe: Genesis of the Gods

Collins, Andrew. Göbekli Tepe: Genesis of the Gods. The Temple of the Watchers and the Discovery of Eden. (Bear and Co. 2014) Kindle Edition

The book wasn’t quite what I expected, but the first half or so is a great description of fascinating archaeology. Then the book gets Odd. The introduction by Graham Hancock gives readers a large hint that this is not a standard academic or even popular archaeology book. Which was a bit disappointing, but I still learned a great deal, even if I did a lot of eye-rolling toward the end.

The author, Andrew Collins, became intrigued by Neolithic and Paleolithic sites that don’t seem to fit what most archaeologists accept as the standard progression of society and culture in terms of technology and organization. The overall idea is that over time, small groups of hunter-gatherers coalesced on occasion into larger groups for rituals and socializing, then scattered out again, but that they never really built major structures (with a tiny handful of exceptions, including the complex at Salisbury Plain in England, and Göbekli Tepe, and Catalhuyuk in Anatolia.) At some point, agriculture began to complement, then slowly replace the hunter-gatherer lifestyle in much of Eurasia. These developments happened locally, to meet local needs, and agriculture also spread relatively slowly. That’s the standard.

The first part of the book is a study of the site of Göbekli Tepe. It is a collection of megaliths (carved standing stones in this case) that seem to be part of a larger complex of structures. Some of the stones and the buildings were aligned with particular stars and constellations back when the complex was built. There’s not an obvious local development pattern at Göbekli Tepe that archaeologists have found yet, unlike Salisbury in England. I emphasize yet, because Anatolia – modern Turkey – is a comparatively understudied area. This chunk of the book is great, and the author is careful to note what we can 100% confirm, what archaeologists are mostly certain about, and what is speculation or is based on computer modeling.

Then the book launches into speculation based partly on the Apocryphal book of 1st Enoch, Genesis, and some other texts, plus theoretical archaeology, and some other things. Collins believes that the remnant survivors of a superior culture (not necessary alien, but certainly odd-looking) were forced from their homeland in the north by a terrible disaster. They spread, and taught the people of Anatolia and elsewhere metalworking, construction, and to remember a terrible flood, among other things. These people remained semi-separate, and were priests and leaders until they finally died out. The Book of Enoch preserves some of this in the description of the fallen angels who had relations with men, and of the skills they taught mankind. Collins then combines this with Genesis to find the Rivers of Eden and perhaps the Garden of Eden itself in the mountains near Göbekli Tepe.

Collins writes well, and the story is intriguing. If you are interested in lost civilizations, prehistory, and what-ifs, it’s a great book. As I said above, the first half or so had solid archaeology and was quite clear what’s known vs. theorized vs. private speculation. The second half I read as an interesting fiction. My difficulty with Hancock, Collins, and others is that they have to pull too many stray bits and pieces together. Francis Pryor’s understanding of the Salisbury Plain complex, for example, is simpler and fits the evidence without requiring a super-civilization in the past. The photos and diagrams are very good, and the book has decent maps.

FTC Disclaimer: I purchased this book for my own use and received no remuneration or consideration from the author or publisher for this review.

Trying a Little Too Hard to Rehabilitate Baba Yaga

So, I’ve been reading a compendium of various tales and discussions about Baba Yaga and figures like her in Slavic mythology and folklore. Some of it is very interesting, and cautious about reading too much into things. Other parts . . . When the quote begins with a paean to Marija Gimbutas, you know where it’s going to go. Baba Yaga is the misunderstood mother goddess, the Matriarch, the creatrix, the mother-of-creatures, and so on. She was vilified by the mean, nasty, unwashed* Christian priests and turned into an evil monster, but the real Baba Yaga is the Great Goddess who terrified the would-be patriarchs and so—

Sigh. It gets boring and predictable after a while. “If it was before Christianity, it must have been good! Otherwise the churchians wouldn’t say that it’s bad and try to chase people away from it, and women ran the place and everyone lived in harmony with nature and was kind and vegan and loved trees and—” Everything was better either before Christianity, or before the Proto-Indo-European speakers arrived with horses and patriarchy. Which one you choose depends on your starting point and which sort of paganism you assume predominated in the place and time under discussion. I’m still waiting to hear someone talk about how China was so wonderful before the terrible Confucians arrived. (No one seems to beat up on the Xia and Shang Dynasties, even though they were patriarchies that encouraged large scale human sacrifice. And horse sacrifice, once they had horses.) The “prehistory was better” wail has a long history with a lot of predictable variations. Like the Slavic neo-pagan who wants to rehabilitate Chernobog. I stopped reading at that point, because I did not care to know how he thought modern neo-pagans should venerate that particular deity in their family religious observances.

Anyone who has read more than one Baba Yaga story knows that she’s both good and bad. She punishes the arrogant, rewards the faithful (Vasilia the Wise), tests the noble, and can be a force of evil. It depends on the story. That means that she’s old, very old, very complicated, and there are probably a number of other stories and traditions that get lumped in under the name of Baba Yaga. The little house on chicken feet might have one foot, or four feet. It may whirl around constantly, it might peck and scratch around the yard like a “normal” chicken, or it might even be up in a tree (only a few stories). The fence may be a standard fence, it might be made of bones topped by human skulls that glow at night. Baba Yaga might travel in a wooden or iron mortar, driven with the pestle, while sweeping away her tracks with a broom. Or she might ride on the mortar (think something more like an American-style upright churn than the short, squat mortar and pestle mostly used today) like riding a horse.

Oh, and her cat is really a folk-memory of the lions who accompany the Great Goddess. Really.

Sure, she might be a “demoted”deity. Or she might be one of the many characters in human archetypes who shifts her nature depending on the person seeking her power or her possessions. Coyote, Anansi, Frau Pechta, some of the unofficial saint stories, the good ruler in some folk-tales, they can all be good or evil, or be seen as good or evil.

Although I think the “Baba Yaga is a folk memory of aliens” and “Baba Yaga and a male partner were Vedic yogis who brought wisdom to the pre-Slavic peoples of Russia” may be my favorites.

*OK, in some cases the unwashed part wasn’t wrong. Some Russian Orthodox clergy gave up bathing, or stopped bathing in winter and then took a rinse before Easter.

Leaky People: Patch, Wrap, Wait, or Yes?

It all depends on where, what else, and what else is leaking. One of the first things that any First Aid or bleeding control instructor, or other emergency situation instructor, will tell you is that you need to take a deep breath and evaluate the site. Slow down. It’s like firearms – slow is smooth, smooth is fast. If you go rushing into a situation and become a second victim, no one gets helped. Is there a live power line? Is the shooting still in progress? Is there green (or reddish orange brown) air in the room? Don’t do it! Look for Plan B, or observe and call for help and give calm information to the dispatcher.

If you don’t have training, and/or you don’t know what else to do, see about moving bystanders to a safer, quieter place. Call for help, relay what you see as best you can, and get others well clear. If bad people set up the initial problem, they may have delay-action nasty stuff waiting. Move people away, because you might prevent even more people from getting hurt. Ditto if you see green/red/brown/black air coming from where the initial problem started.

Then comes the evaluation of the leaky person. Where are they leaking from? No, you cannot use a tourniquet on someone’s neck, no matter how tempting it might be. Arms and legs, yes. Torso? Good luck finding a place where you can clamp the punctured blood vessel against a bone to stop blood flow. So you can use a tourniquet on an arm or leg, pack and/or apply pressure on the shoulder, hip, or other area like that, and use a chest seal on the torso. The class or instructor goes through how do to those with either a “real” tourniquet like a CAT-5 or other brand, or a pressure band like a SWAT-T. If you are dealing with a child, you’re not going to find a tourniquet small enough in most first-aid kits or field emergency kits. That also applies to small or frail older people.

It’s going to be messy, no matter what’s going on. If there’s a bullet entry point (or shrapnel from an explosion of some kind), there might be an exit would. You have to deal with both. There’s going to be blood, messy clothes, possibly other stuff to deal with. You might have people losing their cool, or trying to take pictures, or just freezing. You night need a second set of hands, or several really big people to hold down someone while you try to slow or stop the leaks.

And you need to act quickly, if you can. The class started with a video of a 20-something guy in Pakistan who “fooled around” and tried to start a monkey dance with some cops or paramilitary guys (there’s a lot of overlap in that part of the world.). He “found out” the hard way and got shot in the leg, femoral artery. One minute and a few seconds later, he was close to dead. He had a large leak from a relatively small bullet (7.62 the instructor said.) Time really is of the essence when people leak profusely.

I learned a great deal, and it confirmed the importance of mindset, at least for me. I tend to game through things in my head. I’ve added “messy and chaotic” to my mental run-through. How will I deal with people who are losing their cool as I’m trying to keep mine while dealing with problems? Who in my daily round could I call on for a second set of hands, if needed? If other people have the scene, how would I move a group away, calmly, and try to keep them from having breakdowns all over the place?

I suspect a lot of it comes down to me being calm and organized. Sort of like horses. A horse thinks, “Oh, the predator on my back is tense. I need to freak the heck out right now!” And does so. If the adult-types stay calm and start dealing with matters, then other people will stay calmer. Because no group of people will all stay mellow if there is blood and stuff all over the floor. (If they do, I should probably worry about something else, because that’s NOT normal behavior for most ordinary teens and adults.)

A Little Too Clear a Comparison

For reasons unknown to any but my hind-brain, I started thinking about metaphors and similes that rural people used to use, and that urban folks might not understand. And a few that need no translation like “We call him Blister because he only shows up after the work’s done.” You might not do manual labor, but you’ve probably crossed paths with that person.

One that stuck in my memory was the phrase, “as cute as a cancer-eyed cow.” Right away you know the speaker is not paying the subject a compliment. Hereford and Hereford-cross cattle are more prone to skin cancer of the face than are darker-colored breeds, so the phrase is used more often when you have a goodly number of white faced cattle. I’d never seen an afflicted cow when I first heard the term. A few years later, I was on the I-40 East frontage road in Amarillo, at a stoplight. A pickup with a livestock trailer pulled up beside me. I glanced over and beheld a Hereford (red and white cow) with a very large and ugly tumor around the left eye. No, not cute at all. There was a large-animal vet nearby, so I presume that’s where the rancher was going.

Another that is very regional is “He lives at 8th and Plum.” Meaning he’s at least eight miles from pave and plumb in the middle of nowhere. I’m not sure anyone now days in the cities says, “I work from can’t see to can’t see,” given how well lit many urban areas are. “Rainin’ like a cow peeing on a flat rock” is another that needs a leeeeetle familiarity with livestock and their habits to make sense of, if you’ve never seen that kind of rain or that kind of, ah, output.

Well, Yes, I Should Think it Would

I’m taking a short course on “how to stop/slow leaks in humans until EMS arrives.” Sort of “penetration wounds 101” with some other traumas also covered. I shook my head at the warning on the class. “Due to the nature of the topic, graphic images may be used.”

How are you supposed to show what sucking chest wounds, knife stabs, vehicular punctures, and other things look like if you don’t use graphic images? Say, “Here’s a human chest. Pretend there’s blood and a hole here?” Anyone who signs up for the class should already bloody well know what they’ll see, pun intended! Especially since training in CPR and basic First Aid are strongly encouraged (but not mandatory).

Good grief. [kitty eyeroll here]

Apropos of nothing save that I’ve been there, and it’s true:


I need to get a tee-shirt that says, “Caution: Fluent in Footnote.”

Ian Tyson: In Memorium

This is starting off to be a bad winter for musicians. Granted, Jeff Beck and Ian Tyson were both high mileage as well as mature, but still. Sheesh! I grew up listening to Ian and Sylvia, Gordon Lightfoot, Odetta, the New Christy Minstrels, and others, along with classical and some old country and bluegrass. Then somehow, years later, MomRed discovered that Ian Tyson was still recording, now western music.

His father wanted him to have a career at sea, or to do normal, respectable jobs. Ian devoured westerns, books by Will James, and turned his back on the sea. Worse. He became a musician (among other things.)

It was love at first hear. I could sing along with Tyson’s music, since he was a baritone. His songs, love ’em or not love ’em, were melodic and made sense. He told stories, songs about horses and ranches, about love and revenge, about places and the people in them. I have my favorites, but there’s no Ian Tyson song that makes me go, “Ugh!” and race for the shower, ear-bleach, or yes.

So, one of his oldest, and a favorite of many Of a Certain Age: Four Strong Winds.

I also liked this one, a canoing song done at at least four times the original tempo:

“Summer Wages” is the fan favorite among SmallDeadAnimals blog readers. It’s not one that I like as much, but I can see why people (especially guys) appreciate it:

Some days, “Timberline (Fifty Years Ago)” strikes a very strong chord: “Did I hold Juanita yesterday, or was it fifty years ago?” Since the late 1980s seem like yesterday . . .

“Claude Dallas,” “Old House on the Hill,” “Banks of the Mussel Shell” are all ballads or half-ballads, eerie and atmospheric. I can never hear “Claude Dallas” without remembering a day out in Utah when my family and I were looking out over Cathedral Valley in Capital Reef National Park and feeling cold chills from the music. It had nothing to do with the beautiful, empty, landscape below us, and everything to do with the solitude.

“Jaquima to Freno” is about a vaquero, and refers to the tack used in training horses in the old Spanish style. “La Primera, and “Steel Dust Line” are also horse songs*, one about mustangs and one about cutting horses and driving from Canada to Las Vegas in winter. Ian Tyson ranched, and it showed in his music.

He badly damaged his voice in 2006 while trying to finish a concert after the sound equipment failed, and his last three albums reflect that. He was still a heck of writer and poet, and a good singer. He died December 29, 2022, on his ranch in Alberta at age 89.

(I am amused that The Guardian needed to explain that cutting horses “are like sheepdogs” in how they separate cattle from the herd. But then I’m a westerner, and have watched cutting horse contests.)

*Steel Dust is one of the foundation sires of cutting horses. Other lineages are mentioned in the song.

Random Stuff

Behold, mushy peas. Yes, they come in a tin, or you can make them at home. (Marrowfat peas can be used instead of green peas.)

I’m getting the edits and comments back for what is going to be titled “Lord Adrescu’s Sword.” It is a short story, around 20K words or so, and I hope to have it out by the end of the month.

I’m also working on several short stories for a Familiar Generations story set. Protagonists will include Mike, Nikolai, Jude, Imré Farkas and Csilla (the Hungarian piano-restorer mage and his Familiar), Art, and maybe Deborah.

I will be returning to work on the non-series Scotland book shortly.

Research has begun on a Merchant book about an herb healer. I will be staying in town this summer, so I should be able to release the book in the fall.

It has been so warm that the roses are budding out, and daffodil shoots are appearing. MomRed wants dad and I to go out and dump ice cubes on the flower beds to try and calm the plants down. Even with the ice maker now working again, that probably won’t accomplish much.

The Shen Yun dance company and orchestra were in town last week. I wasn’t sure what to expect, but I was quite pleased. (No, I”m not going to do a review, because I do not care to be overwhelmed by attacks or spam from those who would prefer that the group disappear or at least stop performing.)

The long-range forecast has February and March being very cold in my part of the country. If they are also wet (but no ice, please oh please. BTDT, had a tee-shirt) I won’t mind as much. Unless snow pulls down the power lines. Then I might get a touch irked.

I wish certain people in public life would grow up, get real lives, and disappear from my news feeds. I also want a legal source of tax-free income guaranteeing sixty-thousand a year, and low-cal chocolate that tastes good and won’t upset my insides, and a computer that does what I want, not what I typed. Waking up and discovering that I’ve lost 12 pounds of fat overnight would also be good while the Universe is at it.

Most of what I’ve been reading has been reviewing material for Day Job. However, I recommend Cedar Sanderson’s new short-story collection if you have not gotten it yet. She has a nice mix of story types and “flavors.”

I put out suet and woodpeckers appeared. I think they were keeping the house under observation.

Goth Possum, an Abandoned Pie, and a Snowman Pat

Monday was odd. Or at least, on Monday morning I observed three odd things. Makes me wonder what would have happened if I’d gotten up earlier and gone wren hunting* . . . I might not want to know.

I finished a story, then went to the gym. On the way, I saw something lying in the road. Dark, furry, a dead animal lay in the road. As I slowed and detoured around it, it proved to be a melenistic possum. The late critter had a black coat shading to dark brown at the bottom of the flanks. The head looked normal grey possum color, but the tail seemed darker than standard. How odd. I’ve never seen one like that before, but it explains why it got hit in the wee hours of the morning.

The parking lot at the gym was full. Apparently I wasn’t the only one who wanted to get in a little exercise. I ended up parking in the unofficial overflow lot across the way. Technically, the lot belongs to a church, but they don’t mind us taking up some space, since we are well away from the office and the school door. Something round sat in a parking space beside a smaller car. I shrugged and parked, then hurried over and did my thing. The weight section was crowded with young men, all college age or so. A few older men and women worked out as well, but the average age had dropped by easily 20 years. I found an empty bench and lifted. I cut my workout short because of all the people coming and going. Many were not paying much attention to their surroundings, and I’ve almost gotten hurt before when a careless person distracted me during a big lift.**

I did cardio after my weights, then went back to the truck. The round thing proved to be an intact pumpkin pie. Someone had left a perfectly good pumpkin pie in the parking space. It looked store bought. That, or the baker is much better with crimping crusts than I am. Had it been dropped and abandoned? Had it been a spare that someone set down after a church function, got distracted, and left? No idea. Something would eat it, so I didn’t try moving it to one of the distant dumpsters.

Back home, I hopped out of the truck and noticed a disk of ice, like a cowpat, beside the truck in the garden. It sat right above one of the soaker heads for the irrigation system. Oh no. Had Dad and I forgotten to turn off both parts of the system? Oh dear. Not good. I looked for others, but didn’t find evidence of hose activation or other frozen material. What could have done it? As I turned toward the house, I saw that the bowl of water for the outdoor critters had been emptied of ice. Mystery solved!

Some Mondays are just strange.

*In Ireland and parts of England, it is traditional to hunt the wren on St. Stephen’s Day. According to legend, the wren betrayed Jesus. The wren is sometimes also associated with the darker side of magic and winter.

**As in almost brushed me as I lifted the weights over my head in a shoulder press. Please don’t be that person.

(I set new personal best weights in all categories this year – 85 lb bench, 50 lb shoulder press, 60 lb deadlift. Given my chronological maturity and mileage, this is a Good Thing. Also keep in mind I don’t have a spotter or trainer, so I progress very slowly and carefully.)

Arches and Beams

There are several ways to keep the outdoors out of buildings. Flat roofs (which are not really 100% flat in most cases), thick layers of brush and small branches to make a dense layer, mats of woven stuff under turf, wooden beams with sod on top (and cloth or newspaper to slow the leaks and divert falling critters), stone, metal over wood and stone . . .

Heavy wood beams on top of heavy structure, covered in thin pieces of wood. That’s what you do when wood is available and needs to last a long time. I’d guess that the core of this Polish shed went back to the late 1800s. The reforestation of the 1800s had made wood more available than it was between 1600-1820.

When wood is in short supply, you build with imported wood, then cover it with plaster and thatch. The thatch weighs less than a tile or slate or wooden roof of the same quality, allows better air flow but retains heat, and lasts for 30-40 years when done properly. A good thatch roof in northern Germany (Schleswig-Holstein in this case) is up to 24″ thick. In the case above, the materials are reeds brought in from the Low Countries and England, since the local reeds are not numerous enough, or grow in protected areas and can’t be harvested in the needed quantities. A wooden frame supports the thatch. Fire isn’t as much of a hazard as you’d think, at least in that part of Germany, because it tends to be wet.

However, since fire was one of the greatest hazards of urban areas in the Middle Ages, those places that could required slate or tile roofs. In the north, in the German lands, Low Countries, and Poland, brick replaced the non-existent stone and very expensive imported wood.

Slate, lead, and copper over wood and brick, with some stone. This is Lübeck, the center of the Hansa trade network, and very wealthy. Fire-resistant roofs replaced thatch at a relatively early date. Brick also took the place of both wood and stone. The large holes in the “spine” of the building on the left are to allow the wind through. The stepped roof lines serve a similar purpose – North Sea winds are fierce when they get going, and there’s not many hills or other things to break the flow of air over the land. Ground floors often served as floodways. You didn’t store or build anything on the ground floor that you weren’t willing to either sacrifice or have get wet. The water came at you from both directions up in this part of Europe.

I mentioned timbers?

Mind your head when you get up, or when you stand quickly near the washroom. This is from an old hotel in Olomutz, Moravia, Czechia. Wonderful place, but not for the tall or forgetful. It had a tile roof, probably synthetic tile because of the weight and because of hail. I was on the top floor because, well, I’m small, can carry my luggage up medieval staircases, and don’t mind hiking up steep and narrow medieval staircases. (The porter meant well, but I was in a hurry and other people needed his help a lot more than I did.)

When you have more wood than you need, so to speak, you can do this:

This is down almost on the Polish/Slovak border, in the mountains. Wooden roof because fire is not a danger, wooden building because wood was cheap in terms of labor and supply both. Cheap being relative, however. Parts of Eastern Europe, like western Europe, had occasional shortages of the desired types of wood, even if wood in general was plentiful to “not scarce”. I couldn’t get into this church because a service was in progress. The interior is plastered and painted.

When we think of wood and timber shortages, most of us think about England and Britain in general, because that was one reason given for sending people to the Americas – find wood. Also, the traditional history of the Industrial Revolution centers on a lack of wood for fuel, so coal came into use, which along with the pump led to the use of steam and mechanizing factories and . . . As always, the story is more complicated, but good building timbers tended to be relatively scarce going back to, oh, the Roman Era. When you build things like:

Another, older church is below. It goes back to the 1100s, although I suspect the roof joists are not that old. It was the the first church in England built to honor St. Olaf, and is in York. It was a parish church, and is still active. The oldest surviving beams below date to the 1400s.

If you can’t afford any of those, or your trees are all too short?

Thatch and turf on turf. It works.