"minstrel-(mˑnstrӗl)...[a. OF. menestral,- terel, ministral,- terel( F. ménestrel)= pr. menestral officer. person employed, attendant, musician:- late Latin ministeriālem one having an official duty, f ministerium: see MINISTRY.]
1. gen. a servant having a special function. Obs. rare...
2. In early use( ie down to the end of the 16th c.) a general designation for anyone whose profession was to entertain his patrons with singing, music and story telling or with buffoonery or juggling, In modern romantic and historical use with narrowed and elevated application: A mediӕval singer or musician, esp. one who sang or recited...
The use of the word in romantic poetry and fiction has so colored its meaning that the application of mere jester, mountebank or conjuror, originally common, would now seem inappropriate.
¶b. used derisively with pun on minister...
4. chiefly plural and with prefixed defining word, as Christy, negro, nigger minstrels: the designation assumed by certain bands of public entertainers in the U.S. and subsequently also in England, who, with black faces and wearing grotesque costumes, performed interludes representing negro life in the southern states with songs and music [ and, mittens adds, dialogues] ostensibly of negro origin."
"Minnesinger ( mˑnĭsiŋəɹ)[Ger. (also minnesӓnger) f. love +-singer (also sӓnger)] One of the german lyrical poets and singers of the 12th, 13th and 14th centuries, so called because love was the chief theme of their songs."
The Compact Edition of The Oxford English Dictionary- 1971, Vol I.
music/ spoken poetry , like painted, ' graven' images always served the purpose of instruction - religious and moral stories and history for those who could not read. it's an ancient oral tradition that is of the people-the mouthpiece of their social, psychic and spiritual origins- origins encased in goddess worship. the Muses of greek ' myth' were not mere entertainments but goddesses transmitting knowledge to humans. the loves of sufi poetry and european troubador, the ' shes', are a euphemism in what are basically psalms of love and devotion the the goddess. minstrels of the southern french and german style was furthermore distinctly subversive and anti christian church, pro-pagan.
" Poets of the Middle Ages kept alive many druidic and other pre-christian sacred tales... under the guise of "romances". Earlier rhyme- makers were priests of the goddess who gave them the gift of inspiration from her magic cauldron, or Holy Grail. A poet was like a seer..., able to deal with " words of power", to create by the charms of speech, a blessing from the Muse. Medieval poets were worshippers of Art and Woman, founders of the art of courtly love, singers of the mansongr, the " women-songs" beloved by the Goddess; and they were mockers of the church."- barbara walker-' the woman's encyclopedia of myths and secrets', paraphrasing briffault.
"Before the 13th century, poets were denied christian communion and denounced by churchmen as ' ministers of satan'."-briffault
the minstrels were devoted to love of the feminine not what the church represented - the complete polar opposite- vicious and predatory hatred of women. Minne of the minnesӓngers is aphrodite, the goddess of love.
" to church men love was' nothing'.... the expression ' for love or money' began with the distinction between pagan and christian motivations. the troubadours and minniesingers acted for minnedienst, the ' service of love'."-hazlitt/ jung and von franz.
the crusade against the european cathars stands as one of the greatest abominations in quite an outstanding history of greed, murder and blood lust by the holy roman catholic church and its sundry off shoots. modern revisionists of both the islamic and christian kind posits the crusades as only fought against foreign infidels in foreign lands- that is not europe- however the oppression and obliteration of the cathars of provence stands as one of the most frightening incidents of christian hatred and genocide committed on its own people, the subjects of christian count living in christian europe. it is because of the troubadours, in fact because of one poet writing in the language most identified with minstrels and troubadours- langue d'oc( considered the ' mothering tongue' by no less than dante. this part of france is still called languedoc and their are still people who speak the language)- that we have a fairly detailed record of the travails of the cathars and their count raymound rather than just the biased hate fueled assessments of those persecuting them, the church. allegedly the phrase ' kill them all, let god sort them out' stems form the destruction of the cathars. they certainly did kill them all- man , woman and child.
the mass murder of the cathars of southern ' france' is seen by some as the first european genocide and its the minstrels who became the victim's mouthpieces.