Moor was Often Used to Describe Someone of African Descent who was Black who was Believed to have Come From Ethiopia or Mauritania

Source: The sultana and her sisters: black women in the British Isles before 1530 (Women’s History Review) 2006 A.D.

From the source, “Black women exerted a cultural presence through their recognition in
Middle English and late medieval Scottish vernaculars. Although Old
English offers us little more than the word blacche (with its variant regional
spellings) for a black person [15], by the thirteenth century, Middle English
had acquired two key terms with which to signal non-white skin colour;
More and Saracen
. Each has variant regional spellings and neither is
gender-specific, as both were applied equally to men and women. A third and
rarer word was Sowdonesse (in Modern English, Sultana), the female form
of Sowdon or Sultan, which was understood to mean the female ruler of a
Muslim country
. In late medieval Scottish, the variant Moir is that which is
used to describe someone of African descent
More was a term derived from Latin and signalled both skin colour
and geographical origin. It was used to describe men and women from ‘hot
lands’ and/or, more specifically, those from the inner part of Ethiopia or
. John of Trevisa explains in his 1398 translation of an
encyclopaedia of natural science, that ‘in hote lands comeþ forþ blake men
& browne, as among þe moores (Latin mauros)’.[16] Saracen is used most
frequently to describe Muslims or followers of Mohammed whom Middle
English calls Mahond
.[17] Like More, this term also could be applied to
both men and women and it too has a skin colour signification. In the
Sultan of Babylon, written c. 1400, the three hundred thousand Saracens
who fell in battle are described as, ‘some bloo, some yolowe, some as blak as
more’.[18] Saracens are presented as comprising peoples of different colour:
blue (blue-black), yellow (very light skin) and black as moors
. In the British
Isles, Saracen and Moor were used interchangeably with little regard for
racial and cultural difference
, as is illustrated in a case in the Calendar of
Patent Rolls of Henry III, dated 21 June 1259, where a runaway ‘Saracen
slave [servus]’ is referred to as ‘the said Ethiopian
in the same the belief that Saracens could be as black-skinned as Moors gives rise in the Middle Ages to a confusion regarding who was designated by the term Moor,…Women labelled More thus signalled
dark skin and a geographical origin from that part of Ethiopia called
; a land inhabited by beings who were physiologically ‘other’ than
Europeans. Women labelled Saracen were understood to be Muslim and if a
Sowdanesse, to be the mother or wise of a ruler of a Muslim territory and
also to have a non-white skin colour; blue-black, yellow or as black as Moors
…Many aspects of medieval life were informed and regulated by spirituality,
and this included responses to black skin
. Two black women feature in that
aspect of medieval Christianity known as the exegetical tradition. From the
early Church Fathers, the exact meaning of the Bible had been subject to
interpretation. The Christian tradition of exegesis, or interpretation of
Biblical passages, down to the Middle Ages was informed by the
commentator Origen (c. 185-254). One black woman subject to exegetical
analysis is the Bride in the Song of Songs (The Song of Solomon)
. In
Jerome’s (c. 342-420) Latin Vulgate translation of the Bible, the Bride says,
‘Nigra sum sed formosa’, that is, ‘I am black but beautiful’
Origen’s interpretation of this verse is complex. He argues that the black
Bride represents the Church of the Gentiles (Christians), which is black
because of, firstly, its obscure origins (thus differing from the welldocumented origins of Synagogue or Judaism) and, secondly, its prefiguring in Moses’s marriage to an Ethiopian woman (Numbers 12) which itself
signified the union of the spiritual law or Judaism (Moses) with the Gentile
nations (the Ethiopian woman) and out of which the Universal Church or
Christianity arose
. According to Origen’s interpretation, the Bride is
beautiful not because of her colour but because of the internal ordering of
the members of the Christian Church which she represents. Here the black
female body is granted beauty solely on an allegorical plane: because of
what she represents, which transforms and militates against what she
actually is. The Bride/black body will be transformed for the better through
Christian belief and salvation.[32]…Like the Bride, the Queen of Sheba was subject to a wealth of
allegorical interpretation. Origen presents her as the image of the lovely
pagan whose faith could be her salvation, a reading echoed by Jerome, who
believed that Ethiopians were black because they were born of the Devil and
because of their ignorance of God – once metaphorically ‘slain’ by the word
of God, they will become, again metaphorically, white and pure – and later
by Isidore of Seville (c. 570-636), who saw the Queen as representative of
those who came from paganism to Christianity by their own volition…the attempt in 1481 by English merchants to enter the African slave trade demonstrate a construction of racism founded upon a sense of
white, Christian superiority over and separateness from those with black skin and who could be Muslim in faith
…Recognition of the difference between white European and black
extended to the social realm of sexual intercourse and marriage.
Marriage between Christians and Saracens and other non-Christians, whilst
disapproved of from very early on in the history of the Church, was opposed
with renewed vigour in twelfth-century ecclesiastical law in those countries
such as Spain (with its history of invasion and rule by Muslims) and the
Latin Kingdom of Jerusalem where such unions were a probability
…Medical treatises related also
how black women in particular were highly sexed because of their colour.
Albertus Magnus (d. 1280) argues that ‘since Black women are hotter and
more swarthy, … [they] are the sweetest for mounting, as the pimps say
’. The description of the Moor’s skin indicates that she shines not like the sun but like black soap, then used chiefly for washing clothes rather
than persons.[80] Even when richly apparelled, she gleams only like a tarbarrel
(l. 12), perhaps suggesting also that she is round, which, in turn, recalls her gluttony signalled by her comparison with the toad. Black skin
and dark complexions signified sullenness, perversity (in the sense of being
unreasonable) and duplicity; as John Metham writes, ‘Blak coloure, the
qwyche comyth off complexcion [that which comes from dark complexions],
sygnyffyith onmyghtynes [sullenness], frowardnes [perversity], and
doubylnes [duplicity]’…Examples of medieval cultural production
demonstrate that the body of the black woman was the site of a developing
definition of gendered racial otherness long before the slave trade of
Elizabethan and Jacobean England.”

This source confirms much of what we already know, but also brought some clarification as to when and where Moor and Saracen were used and when they were and where they were used interchanbeably.

By Black History In The Bible

"And because I tell you the truth, ye believe me not. Which of you convinceth me of sin? And if I say the truth, why do ye not believe me? He that is of God heareth God's words: ye therefore hear them not, because ye are not of God." - John 8:45-47

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