Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Pilgrim clothing and Gear

The belongings of the pilgrim were carried in the script. The scrip was merely a pouch or wallet, in which were carried articles of absolute necessity, and it ought to have constituted the whole of the pilgrim's baggage. These scrips were originally of untanned leather, and of the coarsest and most humble construction ; but those whom too much humility, even in garments, did not suit, indulged in scrips of gold.1 They were attached to a scarf which passed over the shoulder, and were generally worn hanging down in front, though the Anglo-Saxon wore his at the side.2

In addition to the scrip, the pilgrim always carried what was called under the Normans a bourdon or staff. At first this was merely an alpen-stock, or plain staff, about six or seven feet long, with a nail at one end as an assistance in climbing, and a knob at the other, possibly for defensive purposes ; and a little above the middle was a second knob, which afforded a convenient purchase to the hand in holding or flourishing the staff. After a certain period, the bourdon appears to have been made of two pieces of wood joined together and fastened near the middle by a thick band or ring ; and one of these pieces was occasionally hollowed out at the end so as to serve the purpose of a pipe for pitching the key-note when the pilgrims sang psalms.

This simple instrument was destined to gradual improvement and to an honoured life. After a short time it was used by the pilgrims to sustain the " drone base," or " bourdon," under the voice-part of their songs, the continuity of which renders the noise of bagpipes so detestable, but which the Anglo-Saxons then, as the Highlanders now, found peculiarly agreeable. As from their numbers the majority of Anglo-Saxon singers could do nothing but join in chorus, and as they naturally attached supreme importance to their own share in the performance, the name of bourdon was eventually bestowed on the chorus, which was then a constant iteration of a leading sentiment, and has descended to us slightly corrupted in the common phrase, " the burden of the song."1 The " bourdon" was improved until it became a species of flute, known as " the pilgrim's staff," by which name it is mentioned as late as the reign of king Henry VIII.

-The Anglo-Saxon Home By John Thrupp

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