Medieval English Prose for Women: Selections from the Katherine Group and Ancrene Wisse

By Bella Millett; Jocelyn Wogan-Browne | Go to book overview
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Guide for Anchoresses, Part 8

I said earlier, at the beginning, that you should not commit yourselves to keeping any of the outer rules by a vow; I say the same now. And I am not writing them for anyone apart from you. I mention this so that other recluses may not claim that I am presuming to lay down a new Rule for them. I do not ask that they should observe them, and even you may change them for better ones whenever you wish. Compared with the matters dealt with earlier, they are of little importance.

Enough has been said about sight, speech, and the other senses. Now this last part is subdivided, as I promised at the beginning, into seven smaller sections.

People care less about what they have often. For this reason you should take Communion, as our brothers do, only fifteen times a year: (i) Christmas Day (ii) the feast of the Epiphany (iii) Candlemas Day (iv) a Sunday midway between that and Easter, or Lady Day if it is near the Sunday, because of its importance (v) Easter Day (vi) the third Sunday after Easter (vii) the feast of the Ascension (viii) Whit Sunday (ix) the feast of the Nativity of John the Baptist (x) the feast of St Mary Magdalen (xi) the Assumption (xii) the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin (xiii) the feast of St Michael (xiv) the feast of All Saints (xv) the feast of St Andrew. In preparation for all these, make a full confession and receive the discipline -- but never from anyone apart from yourselves -- and go without your pittance for one day. If anything goes wrong, so that you cannot take Communion at these set times, let it be the next Sunday; or if the next time is near, wait until then.

From Easter until the second feast of the Holy Cross, which falls in the autumn, you should eat twice every day except for the Fridays and Ember Days, Rogation Days and vigils. On these days and in Advent you should not eat dairy produce unless you have to. For the remaining half of the year you should fast all the time, Sundays only excepted, when you are healthy and have all your strength; but the rule does not apply to those who are ill or have been let blood.

You should not eat meat or fat except in the case of serious illness, or when someone is very weak. Be willing to eat vegetable dishes, and accustom yourselves to little drink. Nevertheless, dear sisters, your

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