Those familiar with the history of rosaries might accuse me of something every historical novelist dreads: an anachronism. In this except from The Ashes of Heaven’s Pillar, my heroine’s teenage son has decided to accumulate trade goods in order to free his mother and sister:
As they approached the table, Deorlaf patted a pouch at his belt that he had fashioned from scraps of cloth. Nodding at the woman, Deorlaf lifted a beaded object upon which hung a small wooden cross. It smelled of roses. Perhaps, Gerhilda would like this enough to include it in the trade for Mother and Sunwynn.
“My good woman, what is this?” Deorlaf asked in unaccented Roman, the result of weeks of toil.
“Beads to help you keep count of prayers to Our Lady and Our Father,” the woman answered. “Rub them.”
When Deorlaf did, the rose scent became stronger. The woman gave Deorlaf a gap-tooth smile. “I made those beads from roses. They always sell quickly, and this is the last one.”
The history police would point out that there is no evidence of medieval prayer beads made from roses. But who is to say they didn’t exist? Medieval folk would have had the materials and tools to make them. Rose petals can be ground into a paste, shaped into beads, and strung on a thread. It is possible an enterprising woman would see the flowers as an opportunity to make something to sell to pilgrims and other visitors to her city. So the prayer beads made from roses stay.
By the way, I never used the word “rosary” in Ashes nor do my characters “pray the Rosary”—those would be anachronisms. For why, see my post on English Historical Fiction Authors.
“Use of Beads at Prayers” by John Volz, The Catholic Encyclopedia
“The Rosary” by Herbert Thurston and Andrew Shipman, The Catholic Encyclopedia
Rodale’s Illustrated Encyclopedia of Herbs