Latin in origin, the word Medieval means middle. Thus Medieval times refers to the Middles Ages or the period of time sandwiched in between ancient times and modern times. Historians cannot agree to either the starting date or the ending date. For the purposes of this article let us say fifth century to seventeenth century were the Middle Ages.
There was a frantic rush in the months before the year 2000. Rumors about computer systems crashing due to not being able to recognize the new century on their inner clocks. People stocked up on groceries and water being advised that a crisis was going to force people to stay in their homes. Everyone held their breath but the banks didn't lose their computer records and no one's account caused them to lose money. It was simply Saturday, January 1, 2000.
Before the millennium in 1000 A.D. the only people who would have pondered the issue were theologians and the few others who were highly educated. For them it was Monday, January 1, 1000. A thousand years would not mean anything to most of the population. It was simply another day beginning with a sunrise and ending with a sunset.
Between the fifth and eleventh century England was an island undergoing much change. It was influenced by many cultures and the accuracy of recorded history of the times is nebulous. Each culture recorded it in a way complimentary to their own point of view. The romantic Legend of King Arthur was written by men who lived five centuries after his time. Historians like to name things hoping to create order. Thus, this early Medieval time was referred to as the Dark Ages. From this mysterious era came stories of King Arthur and his court. We either do or don't believe in God without actual proof. We can choose to believe or disbelieve the wonderful tales of those "Knights of the Round Table." It seems that the stories are at least based on truth because there is a multiplicity of them and they have endured over time.
With the Middle Ages came Christianity. It had become firmly entrenched in England. Clear historic records were kept by the monks. The Legend of King Arthur is written from their perspective. At that time the Feudal System was in full force. Kings were all powerful and the knights were the police who enforced their rules. Their loyal subjects had no rights except those bestowed upon them by the King. On a whim he could allow them a comparatively pleasant life farming his lands and serving in his castle or throw them into the castle dungeons. The unfortunate peasant rarely came out of those dungeons alive.
Three educated personages give us the little we know of the Dark Ages. In the sixth century a monk named Gildas kept track of events. Bede was an eighth century historian. Events of the times in England were written down by him and another historian, Nennius who lived in the ninth century. Gildas' point of view was contemptuous of England. Bede's writings of England were biased by his disdain for the Roman Christianity that was the predominant religion in England at the time. Nennius was also criticized for his prejudicial attitudes.
The legendary King Arthur was actively campaigning for England to become a land of loyal knights believing in justice and peace. At the same time they would fight for him valiantly. His queen and knight betrayed him, his son would defeat him but he continued to set the high standards he is known for. The idea that King Arthur was a real King was promoted by the writing of Geoffrey of Monmouth. He identified King Arthur as a high king from England's past. In his book "The History of the Kings of Britain" details of the life of King Arthur are posited. He describes in detail Arthur's birth, childhood and ascension to the throne. In written word he moves through Arthur's military life, relationships with other rulers and death. He documents King Arthur's existence from late fifth century to 542 when he was killed in battle. Geoffrey's book was finished in the 1130's. His facts allegedly came from an ancient book, never named, never seen by anyone but him. Was King Arthur factual or fantasy. It's likely he was a combination of both.
A part of the folklore of Medieval Times in England are the stories relating to witchcraft. The rumors began at the turn of the fifteenth century. It was posited that with regularity witches gathered to feast and plan future evils against others. The population thought that Jewish people were Satan worshipers and the gatherings were called synagogues or Sabbaths. Witchcraft wasn't considered a major problem in England with only six recorded incidents in historical reference materials. There were three rumored to have taken place in Lancashire and one in Yorkshire. The other two were attributed to Devon and Northumberland. All took place in the seventeenth century and two of them were allegedly held on Good Friday. As with all legends from long ago the truth remains ethereal.
Mary of Guise (Mary Queen of Scots) was on the throne in Scotland and when she died her daughter who was also named Mary (wife of the Dauphin of France) inherited the throne. In her opinion witchcraft and heresy were equal. Her "Witchcraft Act" of 1563 required the burning of witches. Traitors and heretics were also put to death by burning. The horrific tale of the cave cannibal Sauney Bean has been made into a horror movie several times. It was said that Sauney Bean was a cannibal and head of an incestuous tribe who lived in caves in Scotland near Edinburgh. He and his clan waylaid travelers, murdered them by slitting their throats and then ate their flesh. They were captured, convicted of being witches and put to death as punishment. We cannot be a hundred per cent sure that this legend of horror is true but after the sun goes down there are few people who care (or dare) to pass those caves...