By Arwen Lynch-Poe

Tonya Harding Dreaming Of How To Get Her Olympic Gold
Uh Oh! Tonya H Wants a Smashy Thing!                                                        Lynch-Poe, Arwen. Photograph of Tonya Harding used as a meme. 30 Oct. 2022. Author’s personal creation.


Blunt-force weapons caused massive trauma when they connected. In this area, flails, cudgels, and maces will take center stage. From the Battle of Branunburh to the Elizabethan era, these weapons have been in use. And, it can be argued, right up to today. Remember the gal above?

Let’s have a funny meme first that echoes the time periods we are heading into.

Two fighters use articulated maces in a practice session. Art from Arte de Athletica

I smash your head! No, I smash your waist!

De Arte Athletica II - BSB Cod.Icon. 393(2. EBSCOhost, Accessed 30 Oct. 2022.

The above image is from the Arte de Athletica. These were illustrations of practice and fighting in training. Take a look at this video “Why were FLAILS used in medieval war?” Yet another valiant YouTuber takes on flails in “Military Flails Didn’t Exist? Lets Take A Closer Look” [sic] You should also note that Shadversity, the channel that posted the first video, did upload another video that admitted he could not prove flails were not not used.

A mace shown in close-up from a medieval manuscript found in Special Collections ??/?) at the University of New Mexico. Photo by Arwen Lynch-Poe
Lynch-Poe, Arwen. Photograph of mace as seen during a visit to the Special Collections of UNM Zimmerman Library. 19 Oct. 2022. Author’s personal collection.

I invite you to turn your attention to a date in history that many of us memorized in the ninth grade or so. 1066. Ring any bells?  The Battle of Hastings is right. I heard those of you in the back row. Good job! This was an Anglo-Saxon battle.

DEFINITION TIME! Anglo-Saxon: This is consider to be the time-period of 410 CE up until about 1066 CE. We have three Teutonic tribes, the Angles, the Saxons, and the Jutes, invade what is now the United Kingdom. This group used their might against the indigenous people who we know as the Celtic tribes. These natives had to retreat to the far west (Wales) and to the north (Scotland.) The Teutonic tribal names are where we get Anglo-Saxon (Angles and Saxons) from as well as England (Angle-Land.)


But what weapons were used in this battle? We actually can be very sure about which weapons were used thanks to a tapestry called the Bayeux Tapestry.

SOURCE: Wikipedia contributors. (2022, October 16). Bayeux Tapestry.

We can see a club in use above from the Bayeaux Tapestry. This tapestry was created to depict the entire Hastings conflict in woven imagery. Perhaps this is an early graphic comic book? You can see the entire 70-metre piece at the Bayeux Museum in northwestern France in Normandie. 70 metres is 229.659 feet. If you take into consideration that a typical football field is 120 yards, this 76.553 yard tapestry is over half-a-football field in length. That’s a lot of thread and needle time. In the full tapestry, you will see the armor worn by both horse and man as well as the diverse array of weapons.

The man rallying the troops in the above image is an ecclesiastical person using a club.

DEFINITION TIME! Ecclesiastical: relating to the Christian Church or its clergy.

The church at this time typically meant the Roman Catholic church situated in Rome. Do you think it is strange that a bishop should be on foot and without a sword?

During these medieval times, the church was very concerned about its image. Oh wait, that still holds true. Back to the topic! In Daniel E. Thiery’s article “Plowshares and Swords: Clerical Involvement in Acts of Violence and Peacemaking in Late Medieval England, c. 1400-1536″, we learn that the injunction against priests having swords comes from the scene in the Bible where Christ tells Peter to put his sword away.  The Holy Roman Empire sought to present itself as a softer, kinder church than it had been before. This is where the injunction against armed clerical figures begins.

Screenshot of Thierry’s article by Arwen Lynch-Poe
Daniel E. Thiery. “Plowshares and Swords: Clerical Involvement in Acts of 
Violence and Peacemaking in Late Medieval England, c. 1400-1536.” 
Albion: A Quarterly Journal Concerned with British Studies, vol. 36, 
no. 2, 2004, pp. 201–22. 
JSTOR, Accessed 30 Oct. 2022.

The poorly highlighted image above is to bring that particular sentence to your attention. This “being like Christ” is a type of Imitatio Christi. Clergy were being pushed towards emulating Christ in the garden of Gethsemene. This is why you will see clergy using blunt-force trauma weapons and not stabby, killy ones. Their boss did not approve.

DEFINITION TIME! Imitatio Chisti – When someone is trying to emulate or imitate Christ, there are many ways of doing it. Mostly it is seen through means of enduring pain, suffering, and in extreme cases, a manifestation of stigmata occurs. The use above is a looser definition, but still in keeping with trying to be like Christ.

Heroes. Iron Man. Any Questions?

Medieval Fantasy Novel.

Now let’s look at some weapons from the Arthurian myths. It is my personal choice to use myth here as there is little historical evidence to the actual personage of King Arthur. Some speculations exists that he might have been a warrior in the 6th century. Rather than argue for either side, I will use Arthur as an example of as the epic hero in a heroic epic. It could be said that the tales of Arthur are myths. In the scholarly use of myth, we have a tale of cultural significance to people.

DEFINITION TIME: Myth – While common English usage often equates “myth” with “falsehood,” scholars use the term slightly differently. A myth is a traditional tale of deep cultural significance to a people in terms of etiology, eschatology, ritual practice, or models of appropriate and inappropriate behavior. The myth often (but not always) deals with gods, supernatural beings, or ancestral heroes. The culture creating or retelling the myth may or may not believe that the myth refers to literal or factual events, but it values the mythic narrative regardless of its historical authenticity for its (conscious or unconscious) insights into the human condition or the model it provides for cultural behavior. 

EPIC PROSE: An epic in its most specific sense is a genre of classical poetry. Instead of the traditional poetic verse, this epic is written in prose. Like classical epic, It is a poem that is (a) a long narrative about a serious subject, (b) told in an elevated style of language, (c) focused on the exploits of a hero or demi-god who represents the cultural values of a race, nation, or religious group (d) in which the hero’s success or failure will determine the fate of that people or nation.

EPIC HERO: The main character in an epic prose or poem–typically one who embodies the values of his or her culture.

In the Alliterative Morte Arthure , a 4346-line Middle English alliterative poem, we can read an epic poem that shows Arthur in his epic hero presentation. That is, he is battling and traveling alone to save England from all the monsters therein.

Spence, Lewis, 1874-1955. Legends and Romances of Brittany. London, G. G. Harrap and company, 1917. EBSCOhost,
Illustrated plate from The Story of King Arthur and His Knights Of the Round Table by
King Arthur in his crest and circlet facing the Giant of St. Michel

“And quickly clutches a club of all full solid iron
He would have killed the King with his keen weapon,
But, by Christ’s might, in the end the clod failed.
The crest and the circlet, the clasps all of silver
At one clip with his club he struck clean to the ground”
(Krishna Valerie. <The Alliterative Morte Arthure : A New Verse Translation. University Press of America 1983. LNS 1105-1109. Accessed 30 Oct. 2022.)

That club clutching is being done by the giant who has been described as five fathoms tall. (Ibid., LN 103) Those five fathoms equal 30 feet or, for the rest of the world who uses meters, just over 9 meters. The crest and the circlet are those of Arthur. They are being used to show what an amazing man Arthur is because he is fighting with his items of kingship. His largesse is seen in that these items are silver. Then the next line details what a beast he is fighting. This giant has just knocked down our hero! But don’t worry. He gets knocked down but he gets up again.

You also see why this is called the Alliterative version. In those four lines, there are at least thirteen instances of the hard “c” sound. I am including “quickly,” “killed,” ‘King,” and “keen” in that count. Alliteration is about the sound rather than the actual letter.

DEFINITIONTIME! Alliteration is the occurrence of the same letter or sound at the beginning of adjacent or closely connected words.

We get the picture of a David and Goliath with King Arthur being a better dressed David.  But this is an epic hero. When he is struck down, he does not stay down.

The King throws up his shield and shelters him nimbly,
And with his stout blade he strikes him a blow:
Pointblank in the forehead the savage he smites,
So the bright blade sank into the brain.

(Ibid., LN 1110-1113)

The King is shown as that epic hero who can take a blow from a club, but not be knocked senseless. Instead he uses his sword (Have you seen the Stabby things page that my teammate Gareth did?) to hit the giant in the head.

Of course, this doesn’t kill said large man. A battle royale ensues. To read Krishna’s translations in full, you would need the book which can be found on Amazon.

In conclusion, I think it is important to note that weapons of blunt force have existed, and most likely will continue to exist, from the dawn of time. We can definitely date blunt force back to the time of Cain and Abel.

Flail use from Arte de Athletica

De Arte Athletica II - BSB Cod.Icon. 393(2. EBSCOhost, Accessed 30 Oct. 2022.

The nobility were not the wielders of these weapons. The peasants who may have volunteered or been “voluntold” as they say in the military were the ones who had blunt force weapons for the most part. Flails and maces were unwieldy on horseback so a knight would dismount in order to use those weapons. But peasants used flails in the harvesting of grains so they were quite adept with those types of weapons.

Fists, stones, clubs, and more all are blunt force weapons when used as such. It is up to each society to progress. We have not reached the progress which takes us away from weapons. These blunt-force weapons need to be laid to rest. Perhaps we can move forward with that thought in mind. Let our weapons be those of the tongue and pen, instead.

Now that you have read this page, please visit Gareth’s Stabby Things and Wes’ Killy Things.