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Time Traveler’s guide to Christmas: Pre-Christian roots

Music to accompany your holiday time travel journey: https://timeslipsblog.wordpress.com/2014/12/16/musical-inspiration-christmas-music/

 

 History of Christmas in early England

Previous post: https://timeslipsblog.wordpress.com/2014/12/12/time-travelers-guide-to-christmas-part-one/

yule3

As I mentioned in the previous post, this next discussion will focus on earlier forms of celebrating Christmas. As we work through the history, you will find that many of the customs and traditions you follow now as Christmas celebrations are passed on from much earlier pre-Christian winter Solstice celebrations.  Some of them are remnants of Roman traditions but the majority of them that we are most familiar with stem from ancient Germanic and Nordic beliefs and customs. As we saw in the previous post, the earliest Norse migration into northern Scotland and the later Saxon and Viking migrations into the southern portions of the British Isles infused the cultures there with those Germanic and Norse traditions.  The earliest Romans also left their mark in some ways, but towards the end of their occupation of the land, they had become Christians and would eventually bring Christianity to the land.

 

 Roman traditions and beliefs

The druids, the Celtic priestly caste who were believed to originate in Britain,  were outlawed by Claudius,  and in 61 they vainly defended their sacred groves from destruction by the Romans on the island of Mona (Anglesey).  However, under Roman rule the Britons continued to worship native Celtic deities, such as Ancasta, but often conflated with their Roman equivalents, like Mars Rigonemetos at Nettleham.

The degree to which earlier native beliefs survived is difficult to gauge precisely. Certain European ritual traits such as the significance of the number 3, the importance of the head and of water sources such as springs remain in the archaeological record, but the differences in the votive offerings made at the baths at Bath, Somerset, before and after the Roman conquest suggest that continuity was only partial. Worship of the Roman emperor is widely recorded, especially at military sites. The founding of a Roman temple to Claudius at Camulodunum was one of the impositions that led to the revolt of Boudica. By the 3rd century, Pagans Hill Roman Temple in Somerset was able to exist peaceably and it did so into the 5th century.

Eastern cults such as Mithraism also grew in popularity towards the end of the occupation. The Temple of Mithras is one example of the popularity of mystery religions amongst the rich urban classes and temples to Mithras also exist in military contexts at Vindobala on Hadrian’s Wall (the Rudchester Mithraeum) and at Segontium in Roman Wales (the Caernarfon Mithraeum).

 

Fourth century Chi-Rho fresco from Lullingstone Roman Villa, Kent, which contains the only known Christian paintings from the Roman era in Britain.

It is not clear when or how Christianity came to Britain. A 2nd-century “word square” has been discovered in Mamucium, the Roman settlement of Manchester.  It consists of an anagram of PATER NOSTER carved on a piece of amphora. There has been discussion by academics whether the “word square” is actually a Christian artefact, but if it is, it is one of the earliest examples of early Christianity in Britain.  The earliest confirmed written evidence for Christianity in Britain is a statement by Tertullian, c. 200 AD, in which he described “all the limits of the Spains, and the diverse nations of the Gauls, and the haunts of the Britons, inaccessible to the Romans, but subjugated to Christ”.  Archaeological evidence for Christian communities begins to appear in the 3rd and 4th centuries. Small timber churches are suggested at Lincoln and Silchester and baptismal fonts have been found at Icklingham and the Saxon Shore Fort at Richborough. The Icklingham font is made of lead, and visible in the British Museum. A Roman Christian graveyard exists at the same site in Icklingham. A possible Roman 4th century church and associated burial ground was also discovered at Butt Road on the south-west outskirts of Colchester during the construction of the new police station there, overlying an earlier pagan cemetery. The Water Newton Treasure is a hoard of Christian silver church plate from the early 4th century and the Roman villas at Lullingstone and Hinton St Mary contained Christian wall paintings and mosaics respectively. A large 4th century cemetery at Poundbury with its east-west oriented burials and lack of grave goods has been interpreted as an early Christian burial ground, although such burial rites were also becoming increasingly common in pagan contexts during the period.

The Church in Britain seems to have developed the customary diocesan system, as evidenced from the records of the Council of Arles in Gaul in 314: represented at the Council were bishops from thirty-five sees from Europe and North Africa, including three bishops from Britain, Eborius of York, Restitutus of London, and Adelphius, possibly a bishop of Lincoln. No other early sees are documented, and the material remains of early church structures are far to seek.  The existence of a church in the forum courtyard of Lincoln and the martyrium of Saint Alban on the outskirts of Roman Verulamium are exceptional.  Alban, the first British Christian martyr and by far the most prominent, is believed to have died in the early 4th century (although some date him in the middle 3rd century), followed by Saints Julius and Aaron of Isca Augusta. Christianity was legalised in the Roman Empire by Constantine I in 313. Theodosius I made Christianity the state religion of the empire in 391, and by the 5th century it was well established. One belief labelled a heresy by the church authorities — Pelagianism — was originated by a British monk teaching in Rome: Pelagius lived c. 354 to c. 420/440.

A letter found on a lead tablet in Bath, Somerset, datable to c. 363, had been widely publicised as documentary evidence regarding the state of Christianity in Britain during Roman times. According to its first translator, it was written in Wroxeter by a Christian man called Vinisius to a Christian woman called Nigra, and was claimed as the first epigraphic record of Christianity in Britain. However, this translation of the letter was apparently based on grave paleographical errors, and the text, in fact, has nothing to do with Christianity, and in fact relates to pagan rituals.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Roman_Britain#Religion_2

While this may not seem related to our discussion of early Christmas traditions, it is important to know some of the early history of the land in order to better understand how the various beliefs and traditions came to merge together and become what we observe and practice today. It is of course, extremely important to any time traveler who might find themselves in such an earlier time period either by choice… or as the result of any miscalculation or error in the time travel mechanism! While Crag na dun Time Travel has perfected it’s travel, there is always the slight chance of malfunction resulting in a misplacement in time. In these rare cases, Crag na dun Travel will offer full refund and reimbursement upon your return. Please keep some receipt of travel to the time period as your proof of error on their part! Now, back to our discussion…

During the Roman occupation of the British Isles, they most likely left traces of their own midwinter celebrations. Their occupation of the area lasted for some time, from about 45Ad to the late 5th century.  Over those centuries, they made the transition from paganism to Christianity but many still practices and observed their Pagan festivals even after turning to Christianity. One such festival was that of Saturnalia.

Saturnalia

Saturnalia was an ancient Roman festival in honor of the deity Saturn, held on the 17th of December of the Julian calendar and later expanded with festivities through to the 23rd of December. The holiday was celebrated with a sacrifice at the Temple of Saturn, in the Roman Forum, and a public banquet, followed by private gift-giving, continual partying, and a carnival atmosphere that overturned Roman social norms: gambling was permitted, and masters provided table service for their slaves. The poet Catullus called it “the best of days.”

In Roman mythology, Saturn was an agricultural deity who was said to have reigned over the world in the Golden Age, when humans enjoyed the spontaneous bounty of the earth without labor in a state of social egalitarianism. The revelries of Saturnalia were supposed to reflect the conditions of the lost mythical age, not all of them desirable. The Greek equivalent was the Kronia.

Although probably the best-known Roman holiday, Saturnalia as a whole is not described from beginning to end in any single ancient source. Modern understanding of the festival is pieced together from several accounts dealing with various aspects.  The Saturnalia was the dramatic setting of the multivolume work of that name by Macrobius, a Latin writer from late antiquity who is the major source for information about the holiday. In one of the interpretations in Macrobius’s work, Saturnalia is a festival of light leading to the winter solstice, with the abundant presence of candles symbolizing the quest for knowledge and truth.  The renewal of light and the coming of the new year was celebrated in the later Roman Empire at the Dies Natalis of Sol Invictus, the “Birthday of the Unconquerable Sun,” on December 25.

The popularity of Saturnalia continued into the third and fourth centuries AD, and as the Roman Empire came under Christian rule, some of its customs have influenced the seasonal celebrations surrounding Christmas and the New Year.

The poet Catullus describes Saturnalia as the best of days. It was a time of celebration, visits to friends, and gift-giving, particularly of wax candles (cerei), and earthenware figurines (sigillaria). The best part of the Saturnalia (for slaves) was the temporary reversal of roles. Masters served meals to their slaves who were permitted the unaccustomed luxuries of leisure and gambling. Clothing was relaxed and included the peaked woollen cap that symbolized the freed slave, which looks an awful lot like Santa Claus’s peaked red hat . A member of the familia (family plus slaves) was appointed Saturnalicius princeps, roughly, Lord of Misrule.

So, the tradition of Saturnalia left us with gift giving, candles, Santa’s red hat… and the Lord of Misrule!

 

Lord of Misrule

In England, the Lord of Misrule — known in Scotland as the Abbot of Unreason and in France as the Prince des Sots — was an officer appointed by lot at Christmas to preside over the Feast of Fools. The Lord of Misrule was generally a peasant or sub-deacon appointed to be in charge of Christmas revelries, which often included drunkenness and wild partying, in the pagan tradition of Saturnalia.

The Church held a similar festival involving a Boy Bishop. This custom was abolished by Henry VIII in 1541, restored by the Catholic Queen Mary I and again abolished by Protestant Elizabeth I, though here and there it lingered on for some time longer.[1] On the Continent it was suppressed by the Council of Basle in 1431, but was revived in some places from time to time, even as late as the eighteenth century.

 

In the spirit of misrule, identified by the grinning masks in the corners, medieval floor tiles from the Derby Black Friary show a triumphant hunting hare mounted on a dog.

While mostly known as a British holiday custom, the appointment of a Lord of Misrule comes from antiquity. In ancient Rome, from the 17th to the 23rd of December, a Lord of Misrule was appointed for the feast of Saturnalia, in the guise of the good god Saturn. During this time the ordinary rules of life were subverted as masters served their slaves, and the offices of state were held by slaves. The Lord of Misrule presided over all of this, and had the power to command anyone to do anything during the holiday period. This holiday seems to be the precursor to the more modern holiday, and it carried over into the Christian era.

In the Tudor period the Lord of Misrule is mentioned a number of times by contemporary documents referring to both revels at court and among the ordinary people.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lord_of_Misrule

 

Boxing Day

In addition to the already listed contributions, the Romans were also responsible for the eventual tradition and holiday of Boxing Day, which is celebrated throughout the British Isles.

The exact etymology of the term “boxing day” is unclear. There are several competing theories, none of which is definitive.  The European tradition, which has long included giving money and other gifts to those who were needy and in service positions, has been dated to the Middle Ages, but the exact origin is unknown. It is believed to be in reference to the Alms Box placed in places of worship to collect donations to the poor. Also, it may come from a custom in the late Roman/early Christian era, wherein metal boxes placed outside churches were used to collect special offerings tied to the Feast of Saint Stephen, which in the Western Church falls on the same day as Boxing Day.

In Britain, it was a custom for tradespeople to collect “Christmas boxes” of money or presents on the first weekday after Christmas as thanks for good service throughout the year.This is mentioned in Samuel Pepys‘ diary entry for 19 December 1663.  This custom is linked to an older English tradition: since they would have to wait on their masters on Christmas Day, the servants of the wealthy were allowed the next day to visit their families. The employers would give each servant a box to take home containing gifts and bonuses, and maybe sometimes leftover food.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Boxing_Day

 

Anglo-saxon  period, traditions and beliefs

The Romans left the British Isles around the end of the 5th century and were replaced by the Angles/ Saxon invasion and migration into the area. They arrived during the 5th century and remained a dominant force until 1066 and William the Conqueror took over the land.

The Anglo-Saxons were a people who inhabited Great Britain from the 5th century. They included people from Germanic tribes who migrated to the island from continental Europe, and their descendants; as well as indigenous British groups who adopted some aspects of Anglo-Saxon culture and language. The Anglo-Saxon period denotes the period of British history between about 450 and 1066, after their initial settlement, and up until the Norman conquest.

The Anglo-Saxon period includes the creation of an English nation, with many of the aspects that survive today including regional government of shires and hundreds; the re-establishment of Christianity; a flowering in literature and language; and the establishment of charters and law. The term Anglo-Saxon is also popularly used for the language, in scholarly use more usually called Old English, that was spoken and written by the Anglo-Saxons in England and eastern Scotland between at least the mid-5th century and the mid-12th century.

The history of the Anglo-Saxons is the history of a cultural identity, and how this developed from divergent groups, grew with the adoption of Christianity, was used in the establishment of various kingdoms, and, in the face of a threat from Danish settlers, re-established itself as one identity until after the Norman Conquest.  The outward appearance of Anglo-Saxon culture can be seen in the material culture of buildings, dress styles, illuminated texts and grave goods. Behind the symbolic nature of these cultural emblems there are strong elements of tribal and lordship ties, and an elite that became kings who developed burhs, and saw themselves and their people in Biblical terms. Above all, as Helena Hamerow has observed, “local and extended kin groups remained…the essential unit of production throughout the Anglo-Saxon period”.

Use of the term Anglo-Saxon assumes that the words Angles, Saxons or Anglo-Saxon have the same meaning in all the sources. Assigning ethnic labels such as “Anglo-Saxon” is fraught with difficulties, and the term itself only began to be used in the 8th century to distinguish “Germanic” groups in Britain from those on the continent.  Catherine Hills summarised the views of many modern scholars that attitudes towards Anglo-Saxon and hence the interpretation of their culture and history has been “more contingent on contemporary political and religious theology as on any kind of evidence.”

The history of the Saxons is far too in depth and extensive to delve into here and does not pertain all that much to our discussion of early Christmas traditions and beliefs. The most important thing to keep in mind and consider is that they were made of a variety of northern Germanic tribes. While some of these tribes were early converts to Christianity, many of them were not and brought with them their more Norse beliefs.

800px-Anglo_Saxon_migration_5th_cen

Many of the early Saxons had similar beliefs to the later Viking invaders, though as time passed they became the minority and were eventually over taken by those who had converted to Christianity.

For a more detailed and in depth look at these early Saxons, their struggle to hold on to their old ways and their eventual demise under the Christian influence, I would highly suggest you read this series of books by Octavia Randolph. I suggest here mainly because she deals with the early Saxon beliefs and how closely they were connected to the Norse/Vikings beliefs of the time. She also has excellent descriptions of some of their traditions and celebrations! It is a series of four books that tell a young woman’s journey through the Viking conquests of early England and then her life in the northern lands of  Danemark, and Gotland.

circle of ceridwen1

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/23123223-the-circle-of-ceridwen

In Circle of Ceridwen, Octavia Randolph discusses in great detail, the Saxon belief in Woden and  it’s close connection to the Viking belief in Odin.

 

 

Woden in Anglo-Saxon England

“If a West Saxon farmer in pagan times had walked out of his bury or ton above the Vale of Pewsey some autumn day, and looking up to the hills had caught sight of a bearded stranger seeming in long cloak larger than life as he stalked the skyline through the low cloud; and if they had met at the gallows by the cross-roads where a body still dangled; and if the farmer had noticed the old wanderer glancing up from under a shadowy hood or floppy brimmed hat with a gleam of recognition out of his one piercing eye as though acclaimed a more than ordinary interest, a positive interest, in the corpse;… and if all this had induced in the beholder a feeling of awe; then he would have been justified in believing that he was in the presence of Woden tramping the world of men over his own Wansdyke.”

Anglo-Saxon polytheism reached Great Britain during the 5th and 6th centuries with the Anglo-Saxon migration, and persisted until the completion of the Christianization of England by the 8th or 9th century.

For the Anglo-Saxons, Woden was the psychopomp or carrier of the dead,  but not necessarily with the same attributes as the Norse Odin. There has been some doubt as to whether the early English shared the Norse concepts of Valkyries and Valhalla. The Sermo Lupi ad Anglos refers to the wælcyrian “valkyries”, but the term appears to have been a loan from Old Norse; in the text, it is used to mean “(human) sorceress”.

The Christian writer of the Maxims found in the Exeter Book (341, 28) records the verse Wôden worhte weos, wuldor alwealda rûme roderas (“Woden wrought the (heathen) altars / the almighty Lord the wide heavens”). The name of such Wôdenes weohas (Saxon Wôdanes with, Norse Oðins ve) or sanctuaries to Woden survives in toponymy as Odinsvi, Wodeneswegs.

Royal genealogy

Woden listed as an ancestor of Ælfwald of East Anglia in the Textus Roffensis (12th century).

As the Christianisation of England took place, Woden was euhemerised as an important historical king  and was believed to be the progenitor of numerous Anglo-Saxon royal houses.

Discussing the Anglo-Saxon settlement of Britain, Bede, in his Ecclesiastical History of the English People (completed in or before 731) writes that:

The two first commanders are said to have been Hengist and Horsa … They were the sons of Victgilsus, whose father was Vecta, son of Woden; from whose stock the royal race of many provinces deduce their original.

The Historia Brittonum, composed around 830,  presents a similar genealogy and additionally lists Woden as a descendent of Godwulf,  who likewise in Snorri Sturluson’s Prose Edda is said to be an ancestor of “Vóden, whom we call Odin“.

According to the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, composed during the reign of Alfred the Great,  Woden was the father of Wecta, Beldeg, Wihtgils and Wihtlaeg  and was therefore an ancestor of the Kings of Wessex, Northumbria, Mercia and East Anglia. As in Bede’s Ecclesiastical History, a history of early Anglo-Saxon migration to Britain incorporating Woden as an ancestor of Hengist and Horsa is given:

These men came from three tribes of Germany: from the Old Saxons, from the Angles, and from the Jutes … their commanders were two brothers, Hengest and Horsa, that were the sons of Wihtgils. Wihtgils was Witta’s offspring, Witta Wecta’s offspring, Wecta Woden’s offspring. From that Woden originated all our royal family …

Descent from Woden appears to have been an important concept in Early Medieval England. According to N. J. Higham, claiming Woden as an ancestor had by the 8th century become an essential way to establish royal authority. Richard North (1997) similarly believes that “no king by the late seventh century could do without the status that descent from Woden entailed.”

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/W%C5%8Dden

Pre-cursor to Santa Claus

The reason that Woden and Odin become important in our discussion of Christmas is that they are both considered pre-cursors to Father Christmas and Santa Claus!

Throughout the Middle Ages and into the modern period, Woden persisted as a figure in folklore and folk religion, notably as the leader of the Wild Hunt found in English, German, Swiss, and Scandinavian traditions.

Woden is thought to be the precursor of the English Father Christmas, or Father Winter, and the American Santa Claus.

A celebrated late attestation of invocation of Wodan in Germany dates to 1593, in Mecklenburg, where the formula Wode, Hale dynem Rosse nun Voder “Wodan, fetch now food for your horse” was spoken over the last sheaf of the harvest.  David Franck adds, that at the squires’ mansions, when the rye is all cut, there is Wodel-beer served out to the mowers; no one weeds flax on a Wodenstag, lest Woden’s horse should trample the seeds; from Christmas to Twelfth-day they will not spin, nor leave any flax on the distaff, and to the question why? they answer, Wode is galloping across. We are expressly told, this wild hunter Wode rides a white horse.

A custom in Schaumburg is reported by Jacob Grimm: the people go out to mow in parties of twelve, sixteen, or twenty scythes, but it is managed in such a manner that, on the last day of harvest, they are all finished at the same time, or some leave a strip that they can cut down at a stroke, or they merely pass their scythes over the stubble, pretending that there is still some left to mow. At the last strokes of their scythes, they raise their implements aloft, plant them upright, and beat the blades three times with their strops. Each spills on the field a little of his drink—whether beer, brandy, or milk—then drinks it himself, while they wave their hats, beat their scythes three times, and cry aloud Wôld, Wôld, Wôld!. The women knock all of the crumbs out of their baskets onto the stubble. They march home shouting and singing. If the ceremony was omitted, the hay and corn crops would be bad in the following year. The first verse of the song is quoted by Grimm,

„Wôld, Wôld, Wôld!
Hävens wei wat schüt,
jümm hei dal van Häven süt.
Vulle Kruken un Sangen hät hei,
upen Holte wässt manigerlei:
hei is nig barn un wert nig old.
Wôld, Wôld, Wôld! “

“Wôld, Wôld, Wôld”!
Heaven’s giant knows what happens,
He, looking down from heaven,
Providing full jugs and sheaves.
Many a plant grows in the woods.
He is not born and grows not old.

“Wôld, Wôld, Wôld”!

 

Wodan_heilt_Balders_Pferd_by_Emil_Doepler wodin saxon god wodin

 

As the Saxons became Christians, their beliefs in the old Gods and old ways were considered Pagan by the Church. It was a constant struggle  for the Church to eliminate the Pagan beliefs and traditions so they began to incorporate the Pagan beliefs into their preaching as a way to draw the people in. This took place from the beginnings of the Church as an organized powerful and political force. No matter how they tried though, they were unable to get people to give up many of their long held traditions and celebrations of the mid-winter Solstice.  Their earliest means of  incorporating the mid-winter Solstice was to set the birth of Jesus at the same time, referring to him and the event as the “Sun of Righteousness”.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Christmas

The Saxons became Christians and the lower portions of the British Isles were  settled into small separate  kingdoms and territories ruled by newly Christian overlords who fought amongst themselves for power and control but  generally followed the laws of the Church, which held most of the power at the time. If they still practiced or observed Pagan traditions, they did it privately.

The arrival of the Norse Vikings brought back old ways, beliefs and traditions.

It is important to note here that the Saxon migration, as well as the later Viking migration only applies to the lower portion of the British Isles. Scotland was not really involved in this restructuring of the land and was dealing with it’s own changing dynamics. As I have previously mentioned, there was already a Norse migration and influence on the Northern portions of Scotland, the Church was also making it’s way into converting the Scottish lands, and there was what might be considered as a form of genocide of the remaining Druids and Picts of the areas. Little remains of either culture to determine what their traditions or beliefs might have entailed.  what we can note here is that the inhabitants of the Highland areas had a clan or tribal system that might be similar to those of Germanic or Norse tribal or clan systems.

For a better feel and sense of what was taking place in the northern areas of Scotland during these early times, I would suggest reading

 

For our purposes, we are focusing on the beliefs and traditions that we can more easily trace back to their original roots.

 Maggie Griggs makes the trip back in time in Veil of Time  by Claire R. McDougall.

Veil of Time

A compelling tale of two Scotlands-one modern, one ancient-and the woman who parts the veil between them.

The medication that treats Maggie’s seizures leaves her in a haze, but it can’t dull her grief at losing her daughter to the same condition. With her marriage dissolved and her son away at school, Maggie retreats to a cottage below the ruins of Dunadd, once the royal seat of Scotland. But is it fantasy or reality when she awakens in a bustling village within the massive walls of eighth-century Dunadd? In a time and place so strange yet somehow familiar, Maggie is drawn to the striking, somber Fergus, brother of the king and father of Illa, who bears a keen resemblance to Maggie’s late daughter. With each dreamlike journey to the past, Maggie grows closer to Fergus and embraces the possibility of staying in this Dunadd. But with present-day demands calling her back, can Maggie leave behind the Scottish prince who dubs her mo chridhe, my heart?

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/18144050-veil-of-time

Now, while the area of Dunnad and Kilmartin are filled with ancient Stone circles and Standing Stones, Maggie did not make use of them for her trip through time. They were an integral part or mechanism for her travel though as she had not experienced the time travel previously to her visit to Dunadd as an adult.  Also, the Druidess priestess and others she met in the past seemed to feel that the Stones were responsible for her travel as well as for any number of other events. Maggie was suffering from a number of traumatic events in life and decided to spend some time by herself in an isolated cottage at the base of the Dunnad hill fort.  She is working on her doctoral thesis- on the history of Witchcraft in Scotland and trying to finish it before facing a life altering and possible mind altering major operation to cure her of her epileptic seizures. It seems that the combination of the seizures and what ever mystical properties might be at this area are initially the trigger to send her back through time to the year 735 when Dunnad was at the height of it’s importance in history.

The book gives a very good description and visualization of  Mid-winter solstice celebrations as they might have taken place during that time! It also references the Druidic influences and Pict representation in that area and time.

https://timeslipsblog.wordpress.com/?s=veil+of+time

 

In our next segment, we will explore what happens when the Saxons of England face their past and their future with the arrival of the Norse Vikings who bring with them the old beliefs and traditions once more.

 

Settled Christian Saxons face their past and their future with arrival of Vikings

King Ecgbert of Wessex

King Ecgbert of Wessex

 

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Beyond Crag na Dun: Crag na dun Time Tour options!

 

 

Achhhhh, alright, Mrs. Graham has requested that we post this advertisement here along with additional information on her business?

 

 

 

craigh_na_dun_time tours

Mrs. Graham is of course the housekeeper for Reverend Wakefield of Inverness, but she has a number of other small business interests as well. She is the leader of the local chapter of Druidic Dancers and Callers, runs a part time business of fortune telling- for more information on personalized tea leaf readings contact her at her private residence in Inverness, and it seems that she is the owner of a small but thriving tour business that specializes in very specialized and unique travel packages. She was quite upset with our initial insistence that Crag na dun does not exist. She has went so far as to threaten us with a libel suit and states that our information could damage her business as well as her professional reputation.

Because of this pending litigation, we feel obligated to give Mrs. Graham equal space in which to defend her claims and thereby promote her business…

Mrs Graham tries to tell Frank

Mrs. Graham insists that Yes, indeed Crag na dun does exist but that it’s secret location is a crucial key to the success of her business. She compares the secrecy of location to that of secret recipes and formulas used by Chefs, food, beverage and pharmaceutical manufacturers. For some time, Mrs. Graham has run a small tour agency that specializes in a very unique type of travel package. Recently, her business has become so popular that she had to take on a number of affiliates and partners to keep up with the enormous demand for these tours.  She is happy to announce that the business has become a huge success, so much so in fact, that even with the addition of these affiliates, they are unable to fulfill some of the requests.

Crag na dun Time Tours would like to apologize for the delays and backlogs in meeting some of their customers’ inquiries and requests. If you are having difficulty contacting them, please be patient and understand that they are making every attempt to expand their business to meet your needs. They would also like to advise that at this time, due to an extremely high volume of travel requests to 1700’s Scotland, they are unable to accept any more reservations for that time period. The waiting list is already quite lengthy and the company has temporarily put a hold on any further travel to that time frame. An added advisement concerning this time frame, and the trips in general: Please read your pre-travel package and contract thoroughly before traveling. Crag na dun Time Tours does not promise or guarantee in any way that you will meet or encounter specific individuals… namely one James Malcom Mackenzie Fraser or any of his various relatives. It seems that a few customers have returned from their trips rather disgruntled and demanding their money back… Crag na dun time Tours has a no refund policy which is spelled out very clearly in the contract!

The company would like to take a moment here to inform travelers that they have refined their travel techniques over the years and successfully managed to break the 200 year time constraint that has plagued travelers for years. They are now able to send you as far back as any stone’s original building. They would like to advise however, that there is a great deal of risk the further back one goes, and they can not make any safety guarantees should you choose to go all the way back to the very beginnings.

The company does regret that it can not provide more 1700’s trips right now but is offering discounts on some other packages that might be of  just as much interest to travelers. While they can not send you to the mid or later 1700s, they do have some limited packages available for late 1600s-early 1700s…this time frame would put you in the era of the first Jacobite Risings and one other somewhat famous rebel… Rob Roy MacGregor?

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rob_Roy_MacGregor

rob-roy rob roy 2 Rob roy2 rob_roy_13

They are running a special on early 1300’s packages right now which include the time period of  some other famous Scots, Robert the Bruce and of course, William Wallace.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Robert_the_Bruce

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/William_Wallace

Robert_The_Bruce_Crowned_King_of_Scots Robert_I_and_Isabella_of_Mar Robert the Bruce

braveheart

In addition to these packages, the company is running some special promotions in honor of their newest affiliate, Castlerigg Stone Circles near Keswick, England! The Castlerigg circle and nearby town of Keswick have a long and rich history dating back to 3000 BC. Their varied history includes pre-history Druidic times, Roman occupations, Picts, Angles and Saxon invasions, Viking conquests and early Christian monks and monasteries as well as William the Conquerer’s son, William II.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Keswick,_Cumbria

lakes castlerigg cumbria

king arthur movie king arthur movie2 King-Arthur-2004-king-arthur-875459_1000_674 king-arthur-sagaci-sassoni saxons

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Now hopefully this blatant plug for Crag na dun Time Tours will satisy Mrs. Graham and she will drop her pending litigation against us… Please take note, Mrs. Graham that we have even changed the title of the article to include a plug for your company!

 

 

 

First of all before we embark on this journey, we all need to be very clear on one important point. Crag na dun is a fictional Stone Circle created by Diana Gabaldon specifically for the Outlander series! It does not exist anywhere other than in her very creative imagination and the pages of the book. If you are planning to book a tour which includes a visit to “crag na dun”, please be advised in advance that the “crag na dun” you will be visiting will only be a representation of that place.

excerpt from Outlandish Companion regarding whether craigh na dun is a real location.

excerpt from Outlandish Companion regarding whether craigh na dun is a real location.

 

The Stones depicted in the show are Styrofoam and built as part of set design for location shooting.

craigh na dun in show3 Outlander 2014 OUT-101_20131011_EM-0630.jpg

What we are going to explore is some of the many real Stone Circles and ancient sites throughout Scotland and Britain. We will also delve into some other options for time travel… yes, there a great many of them out there! It is speculated an rumored that one could make the trip using various different methods? We’ll touch on a few of them later.  Lastly, we will look at some other time periods that one might end up in when traveling… since that is a truly massive endeavor, we will limit the travel to time frames within the vicinity of Standing Stones or circles in more ancient Britain.

 

Let’s start our journey with the places that Diana mentioned in her references to Craigh na dun.  She mentions Castlerigg, the Clava Cairns near Inverness, and Tomanhurich hill. Now, we are all aware that the mythical craigh na dun is located in the highlands of Scotland somewhere near Inverness? The first circle mentioned is not in this area, but well worth looking into.

 

Castlerigg Stone Circle

 

Castlerigg stone circle is located  in Keswick in  Cumbria  North west England. One of  around 1,300  stone  circles  in  the  British  Isles  and  Brittany, it  was constructed as a part of a  megalithic  tradition that  lasted from 300  to 900 BCE, during  the Late Neolithic and  Early Bronze Ages.

Aside from the more famous Stonehenge, Castlerigg is a site that most of us would immediately identify with when we think of Stone Circles.

You can find more information on it here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Castlerigg_stone_circle

 

CastleriggStoneCircle(SimonLedingham)Jul2005 Castlerigg_A_Outlier Castlerigg The_Wonders_of_the_World_in_Nature,_Art_and_Mind_Robert_Sears_1843

It is located near Keswick, Cumbria northwest England, so it would not be a plausible location for Craigh na dun. You can see it’s location on the map below, with the Keswick area starred.

Cumbria on map kenswick marked with star

castlerigg-stone-circle2 Druidical_Circle_near_Keswick_in_Cumberland

As I mentioned, while it is not a location for Craigh na dun, it is an excellent representation of a Stone Circle. You might want to keep this site in mind if you prefer to travel back in time to England rather than the highlands of Scotland! It is still well formed with many of the Stones remaining, if that has any bearing on accuracy in determining one’s destination to the past? In fact, it is said that the number of stones is constantly changing. There is a tradition that it is impossible to count the number of stones within Castlerigg; every attempt will result in a different answer. This tradition, however, may not be far from the truth. Due to erosion of the soil around the stones, caused by the large number of visitors to the monument, several smaller stones have ‘appeared’ next to some of the larger stones. Because these stones are so small, they are likely to have been packing stones used to support the larger stones when the circle was constructed and would originally have been buried. Differences in opinion as to the exact number of stones within Castlerigg are usually down to whether the observer counts these small packing stones, or not; some count 38 and others, 42. The ‘official’ number of stones, as represented on the National Trust  information board at the monument, is 40. 

If you could put this site in some context to places and events within the Outlander series, it would be of interest in that is lies in the Lakes district where Jamie Fraser resided as a groom after his release from Ardsmuir Prison. Helwater Estate is located within the Lakes district. It’s location is also in a reasonable vicinity to Northumbria and Hadrian’s Wall, where Roger Wakefield’s Father, Jerry MacKenzie disappeared during World War II while testing a plane for Frank Randall and MI5, the British Intelligence force. 

If one wanted to think about it’s other possible time travel connections to the more ancient past, it is considered much like Stonehenge, a most ancient Druidic worship site. If we look at the nearby village of Keswick and it’s history we can piece together the area’s history from those ancient and unknown druids to it’s strategic importance during Roman occupation with Hadrian’s Wall being in the western part of the county. There are Roman road passing by the present day town.  Several Christian saints preached the Gospel in the north of England in the late 6th and early 7th centuries AD; in Keswick and the surrounding area the most important figures were  St Herbert of Derwentwater and his contemporary St Kentigern.  The former, the pupil and friend of St Cuthbert of Lindisfarne, lived as a hermit on an island in Derwentwater, now named after him.  Kentigern, who lived and preached in the area before moving to Wales, is traditionally held to have founded Crosthwaite Church,  which was the parish church of Keswick until the 19th century. 

Keswick’s recorded history starts in the Middle Ages. The area was conquered by the Anglo-Saxon Kingdom of Northumbria in the seventh century, but Northumbria was destroyed by the Vikings in the late ninth. In the early tenth century the British Kingdom of Strathclyde seized the area, and it remained part of Strathclyde until about 1050, when Siward, Earl of  Northumbria, conquered Cumbria. In 1092 William II, son of William the Conqueror, marched north and established the great baronies of Allerdale-below-Derwent, Allerdale-above-Derwent, and Greystoke, the borders of which met at Keswick.   In 1181 Jocelyn of Furness wrote of a new church at Crosthwaite, Keswick, founded by Alice de Romilly, the Lady of Allerdale, a direct descendant of William II’s original barons. In 1189, Richard I granted the rectory of Crosthwaite to the Cistercian order of Fountains Abbey.

During the 13th century, agricultural land around the town was acquired by Fountains and Furness Abbeys. The latter, already prosperous from the wool trade, wished to expand its sheep farming, and in 1208 bought large tracts of land from Alice de Romilly. She also negotiated with Fountains Abbey, to which she sold Derwent Island in Derwentwater, land at Watendlath, the mill at Crosthwaite and other land in Borrowdale. Keswick was at the hub of the monastic farms in the area, and Fountains based a steward in the town, where tenants paid their rents.  Furness also enjoyed profitable rights to the extraction of iron ore.

Now, knowing some of it’s history, you will be a bit better prepared should you decide to use Castlerigg as your time travel portal. If it is extremely powerful, and you are well versed and equipped in the navigation of travel, this portal could land you in the time of Druids, put you close to a Roman Outpost along Hadrian’s Wall, deliver you into the hands of Viking conquerors, or place you in close proximity to early Normans or Christian Monks… take your pick but choose wisely because all of those times could be quite dangerous for an unknown traveler.

 

The second place mentioned by Diana Gabaldon is Clava Cairns near Inverness. This the one more familiar to Outlander fans and followers. 

Clava Cairns near Inverness

The Clava cairn is a type of Bronze Age circular chamber tomb cairn, named after the group of 3 cairns at Balnuaran of Clava, to the east of Inverness in Scotland. There are about 50 cairns of this type in an area round about Inverness. They fall into two sub-types, one typically consisting of a corbelled passage grave  with a single burial chamber linked to the entrance by a short passage and covered with a cairn of stones, with the entrances oriented south west towards midwinter sunset. In the other sub-type an annular ring cairn encloses an apparently unroofed area with no formal means of access from the outside. In both sub-types a stone circle surrounds the whole tomb and a kerb often runs around the cairn. The heights of the standing stones vary in height so that the tallest fringe the entrance (oriented south west) and the shortest are directly opposite it.

Where Clava-type tombs have still contained burial remains, only one or two bodies appear to have been buried in each, and the lack of access to the second sub-type suggests that there was no intention of re-visiting the dead or communally adding future burials as had been the case with Neolithic cairn tombs.

These Stone sites around Inverness would be the most plausible locations for Craigh na dun as they are also located close to Culloden.

Culloden battlefield, a few miles to the east of Inverness attracts a huge number of visitors every each year. But only a few of those visitors realise that only a mile to the south east lies a very different link with the past, every bit as evocative as Culloden and in many ways more tangible, despite dating back to around 2000BC.

The Clava Cairns lie not much more than a cannon shot away from Culloden, and Jacobites fleeing the carnage of the battle may well have passed this way. Yet it is worth remembering that the seemingly huge distance in time back to the very different world of Culloden, some 250 years, is just one sixteenth of the distance we’d have to travel back in time to meet the builders of these cairns.

http://www.undiscoveredscotland.co.uk/inverness/clavacairns/index.html

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Clava_cairn

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The third site mentioned by Diana is Tomnahurich Hill.

Tomnahurich   Hill


Tomnahurich Hill – which  means hill  of the  yews -is a rounded tree covered hillock on the outskirts of Inverness, the hill has a wealth of traditions associated  with it, and it is famed as an abode of  the fairies. A modern cemetery now  covers the  hill.

The most enduring tradition connected with the hill is that fiddlers (or a fiddler) were lured into playing at fairy revelry, and emerged after one night beneath the hill to find that hundreds of years had passed in their own world. The story has two basic forms, in one a solitary fiddler falls asleep on the hill and wakes up in an underworld palace. He is made to play all night for the entertainment of the fairy queen, and finally awakes on the shores of the River Ness, later to discover that a hundred years have passed. The other story features two fiddlers and is outlined below:

The Fiddlers of Tomnahurich
Two travelling fiddlers were visiting Inverness looking for places where they could play, while searching for a suitable venue they met an old man in strange clothes, who asked them if they would perform for him. They agreed and followed the old man to the wooden hill of Tomnahurich, just as the sun slipped out of view over the Western horizon. There was an opening in the side of the hill through which they followed the old man into a brightly lit cavern hall, where a great feast was underway. The feast was attended by a host of people, all dressed in colourful finery, and each seeming to have an air of enchantment and beauty about them. They sat down at one of the many tables and preceded to enjoy the fine wine and the rich food served before them.

Tomnahurich HillTomnahurich Hill When it came the time for dancing they played their fiddles and the party got into full swing, each fiddler playing better than they had ever played before. Finally, in what seemed like no time at all, the feast was over and it was time for the fiddlers to leave. Their noble company thanked them, and the old man who had led them into the hillside paid them with a bag of silver and gold coins. The fiddlers left the hill in a fine mood, and walked back towards the centre of Inverness. As they neared the town they saw that everything had changed, where there was once dense woodland buildings now stood, as if they had appeared overnight. All the people they met along the way were dressed in strange looking clothes, and poked fun at the fiddlers ‘old fashioned’ clothing.

The fiddlers decided that they had been enchanted in some strange way and made the return journey to their town. When they arrived they were dismayed to find that everything they knew here had also changed; their homes were no longer occupied and they recognised no one. In despair they ran into the local church where the local priest was in the midst of delivering a sermon. As soon as the priest spoke the word of God both fiddlers crumbled to dust in front of the eyes of the horrified congregation.

The difference in time between this world and the world of the fairy races is an important folklore motif found in many tales about the otherworld. The way the unfortunate fiddlers crumbled to dust after returning to their own world is also often found in folk tales such as that of King Herla.

There are many more traditions associated with the hill, Thomas the Rhymer is said to be buried beneath it, or to live within it, ready to lead an army of men and white steeds to rally Scotland in its hour of need. In Celtic myth Fion trained his dog to lead two of every species of animal around the hill in pairs to unravel enchantment by an Irish enemy.

Directions: The hill is just off the A82, to the West of the River Ness.

http://www.mysteriousbritain.co.uk/scotland/invernesshire/featured-sites/tomnahurich-hill.html

https://graveyardsofscotland.wordpress.com/2014/01/20/fairy-hill/

Besides Thomas the Rhymer’s supposed connection, the Brahan Seer is also connected to this Fairy hill, now cemetery. So, while there are no Stone Circles to be found here, you may still be able to travel through time at this site due it’s Fairy connections… I would be hesitant about using this one however, as the Fairy connection might even more risky than just time travel? I do suppose though if one was brave enough to try it, it might be an enlightening experience. 

305BrahanSeer

tomnahurich-graveyard-inverness-83 tomnahurich-graveyard-inverness-11 tomnahurich-graveyard-inverness-19 Tomnahurich Hill

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thomas_the_Rhymer

Of course we can not bring up Thomas the rhymer without mention of the fairy realm!

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fairy

Thomas the rhymer be Katherine Cameron

Thomas the rhymer be Katherine Cameron

The Eildon Hills where Thomas the rhymer supposedly met the past

The Eildon Hills where Thomas the rhymer supposedly met the past

In some legends, Guinivere is referred to as a fairy

In some legends, Guinivere is referred to as a fairy

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The next site on our journey keeps coming up in any search for Craigh na dun or Standing Stones so I am going to include here as well. If you search the internet for Craigh na dun, one of the first sites listed is a link to Megalithic Portal and Callinish4.  The link is a bit of a let down as it is just one quick picture and an answer to the query of what Craigh na dun looks like?

Callinish  Standing Stones

 

http://www.megalithic.co.uk/article.php?sid=1146411369

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The photo posted on Megalithic Portal was impressive and led us to visit the Callinish Stones directly!

The Callinish Standing Stones are located on the Isle of Lewis and are one of several stone sites on that island. The Isle of Lewis is located in the Outer Hebrides of Scotland.

The Outer Hebrides (Scottish Gaelic: Na h-Eileanan Siar, IPA: [nə ˈhelanən ˈʃiəɾ]) also known as the Western Isles and the Long Island, and as Innse Gall in Gaelic is an island chain off the west coast of mainland Scotland.   The islands are geographically coextensive with Comhairle nan Eilean Siar, one of the 32 unitary council areas of Scotland. They form part of the Hebrides, separated from the Scottish mainland and from the Inner Hebrides by the waters of the Minch, the Little Minch and the Sea of the Hebrides. Scottish Gaelic is the predominant spoken language, although in a few areas English speakers form a majority.

Most of the islands have a bedrock formed from ancient metamorphic rocks and the climate is mild and oceanic. The 15 inhabited islands have a total population of 27,400  and there are more than 50 substantial uninhabited islands. From Barra Head to the Butt of Lewis is roughly 210 kilometres (130 mi).

There are various important prehistoric structures, many of which pre-date the first written references to the islands by Roman and Greek authors. The Western Isles became part of the Norse kingdom of the Suðreyjar, which lasted for over 400 years until sovereignty was transferred to Scotland by the Treaty of Perth in 1266. Control of the islands was then held by clan chiefs, principal of whom were the MacLeods, MacDonalds, Mackenzies and MacNeils. The Highland Clearances of the 19th century had a devastating effect on many communities and it is only in recent years that population levels have ceased to decline. Much of the land is now under local control and commercial activity is based on tourism, crofting, fishing, and weaving.

Sea transport is crucial and a variety of ferry services operate between the islands and to mainland Scotland. Modern navigation systems now minimise the dangers but in the past the stormy seas have claimed many ships. Religion, music and sport are important aspects of local culture, and there are numerous designated conservation areas to protect the natural environment.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Outer_Hebrides

hebrides-map callinish stones

map isle of lewis2 map isle of lewis lewis mapka callinish stones

The Callinish Stones are one of the most famous Stone sites in Scotland and closely comparable to Stonehenge in England.  They date back as far as 3000 BC. 

There were limited excavations in 1980-1 which provided some information on the development of the site. The first traces of human activity are indicated by a broad ditch (no longer visible above ground) which appears to have belonged to some structure or enclosure.  This may have been ritual, but could instead have been domestic.  In the centuries around 3000 BC, however, the site was turned over to agriculture which obliterated most of the earlier traces.   After this, the site was allowed to grass over for a time.

The stone circle was set up between 2900 and 2600 BC.   It is not clear whether the stone alignments were constructed at the same time as the circle, or later.  Some time after the erection of the stones, a small chambered tomb was inserted into the eastern part of the stone circle.   The many pottery fragments found indicate that the tomb was used for several centuries.  These pottery fragments included not only the local Hebridean pots, but numerous sherds of beaker vessels (dating to around 2000-1700 BC) and sherds of grooved ware.

Around 1500-1000 BC the complex fell out of use and was despoiled by the later Bronze Age farmers.  Fragments of pots appear to have been cast out of the chamber.  This may have been just ordinary agriculture, but it may conceivably have been ritual cleansing.  There appears to have been a later rebuilding of the tomb, but this may have been for domestic use as there is no evidence for any later ritual use of the monument.  Between 1000 BC and 500 BC the stones were covered by a thick layer of turf. It is estimated that the place was abandoned around 800 BC.  Only in 1857 was the overlying 1.5 metres of peat removed.

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The Callanish Stones consist of a stone circle of thirteen stones with a monolith near the middle. Five rows of standing stones connect to this circle. Two long rows of stones running almost parallel to each other from the stone circle to the north-northeast form a kind of avenue. In addition, there are shorter rows of stones to the west-southwest, south and east-northeast. The stones are all of the same rock type, namely the local Lewisian gneiss. Within the stone circle is a chambered tomb to the east of the central stone.

Centre stone

The central monolith stands 0.8 metres west of the true centre of the stone circle. The stone is 4.8 metres high, 1.5 metres wide and 0.3 metres thick.  The largest sides of the stone are almost perfectly oriented to the north and south. The monolith has the shape of a ship’s rudder and probably weighs about seven tonnes.

Stone circle

The stone circle consists of thirteen stones and has a diameter of 11.4 metres. The stone circle is not a perfect circle, but is a ring with a flattened east side (13.4 metres north-south by 12 metres east-west). The stones have an average height of three metres. The ring covers an area of 124 square metres. This is quite small compared to similar circles, including the nearby Callanish II which is 2.5 times as large.

Northern avenue

The avenue connects to the stone circle from the north-northeast. The avenue is 83.2 metres long.  The avenue has 19 stones remaining: nine stones are on the eastern side, ten on the western side.  The largest stone is 3.5 metres high and stands on the western end of the row. The two rows are not exactly parallel to each other but fan out: at the north end the rows are 6.7 metres apart, while the distance between the rows is 6 metres at the south end.  From the circle the height of the stones decreases towards the middle of the avenue; from there the height increases again. The stones of the eastern side of the avenue have only three-quarters of the height of the stones on the western side.

Stone rows

As well as the two stone rows of the avenue, there are three stone rows connecting to the circle. One comes from the east-northeast, one from the south, and one from the west-southwest. The east-northeast row today consists of five stones and is 23.2 metres long.  The southern row consists of five stones and is 27.2 metres long.  The west-southwest row consists of four stones and is 13 metres long.

None of the stone rows is aimed at the centre of the stone circle. The east-northeast row is aligned to a point 2 metres south of the centre; the south row points to 1 metre west of the centre and the west-southwest row points to 1 metre south of the centre.

Chambered tomb

 Chambered tomb

Between the central and the eastern monolith of the stone circle is a chambered tomb 6.4 metres long.  This was built later than the stone circle and is squashed in between the eastern stones and the central monolith.

There is another stone cairn just on the northeast side of the stone circle.  It has been reduced to ground-level and the outline can barely be traced.  It is not necessarily an original part of the site.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Callanish_Stones

Callanish I is just one of over twenty megalithic sites on Lewis.

The stones are intricately connected to the landscape, as with many megalithic ceremonial complexes.  in the case of Callanish I, the stones share  an intimate relationship with both the range of hills known as the ‘sleeping beauty’ or the ‘old woman of the moors’. When the moon reaches it’s southern extreme each 18.6 years it is seen to rise from behind the sacred hill range and skim the horizon for four hours till it gently sets again behind the Harris hills. This range of hills are as much a part of the monuments as the stones themselves.

http://ancient-wisdom.co.uk/scotlandcallanish.htm

The Callenish Stones, their history and their location make them an excellent candidate for any type of  ancient time travel. A few things to consider about traveling through at this site… They are probably quite powerful and would most likely take you very back in history.  There is most likely a Druidic connection to them, as with many of the circles? If you are choosing this site, you should prepare for the travel by brushing up on your most ancient Gaelic languages along with your Gaelic and Celtic history. A study of ancient Norse traditions and their migration to this area would be highly advised as well. When I talk about ancient Norse, I am not referring to the Viking migration… I am referring to the Norse migrations that took place even earlier than that!

https://timeslipsblog.wordpress.com/?s=Norse+migration+to+Scotland

 

Now, obviously with over 1300 ancient Stone site throughout the British Isles and Brittany, there is no possible way that we can touch on all of them here! I am going to present two more sites that I feel are important and worth considering as possible transport points for any time travel destinations that you might have. I am not going to touch on Stonehenge here because it is so obvious and famous that it really needs no further detailed exploration by us!  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stonehenge

As you can see on the maps, Stonehenge is located in southern England and if you are a well experienced and trained time traveler, you could probably use this portal to get to any time period in England that you are interested in traveling to!

stonehenge Stonehenge-Map-United-Kingdom-2la3ar5 StonehengeMap

 

If you are looking for another spot that might be connected to Outlander, I would highly suggest that you head to the isle of Orkney. There is much mystery surrounding this isle in the books. It is speculated that Geillis Duncan was involved in archaeology research there along with Rob Cameron.

Rob Cameron and the Orkneys Echo in the bone

Excerpt from Echo in the bone regarding Rob Cameron’s connection to the Orkneys

 

There are rumors that Master Raymond may have some connection to the isle as well! Diana Gabaldon has given clues to Master Raymond’s past in sharing some of her writings on her facebook page. She also commented on her interest in Orkney Isles in an interview with National Geographic.

http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2014/08/140808-outlander-scotland-orkney-islands-stonehenge-neolithic/

 

Orkney Islands

 The Orkney Islands have a long and colourful history. It is no exaggeration to say that the isles are a place where this history remains a part of everyday life.

Every corner of the islands has its ancient monuments, most of them in a remarkable state of repair.

For thousands of years, people have lived and worked in Orkney.

From the stone age Orcadians, who left a legacy of monuments that continue to inspire today, through to the Vikings, who took the islands in the ninth century and made them the centre of a powerful Earldom and part of the kingdom of Norway, and beyond.

The Orkney islands are covered with monuments that stand as constant reminders of the events and people that have gone before.

Houses and tombs dating back 5,000 years share the landscape with Bronze Age cemeteries, standing stones, 2,000 year old brochs, viking ruins, medieval churches and Renaissance palaces.

Our history is therefore not something that exists only in schoolbooks, or in the thoughts of academics.

Orkney’s history and heritage is everywhere – an intricate tapestry of events stitched into the very fabric of the islands themselves. Orcadians have a connection with this history – events that were witnessed by their ancestors many generations ago.  The past is alive and remains part of everyday life, albeit unconsciously.

http://www.orkneyjar.com/history/

Skara bra orkney Orkney island skara brae map Skara bra orkney orkney_1 Orkney standing stones

The entirety of Orkney is filled with ancient sites which deserve much mention but for right now, we will concern ourselves with Standing Stones and Stone Circles. On the main island you will find the Ring of Brodgar.

Ring_of_Brodgar,_Orkney

The Ring of Brodgar (or Brogar, or Ring o’ Brodgar) is a Neolithic henge and stone circle in Orkney, Scotland. Most henges do not contain stone circles; Brodgar is a striking exception, ranking with Avebury (and to a lesser extent Stonehenge) among the greatest of such sites.  The ring of stones stands on a small isthmus between the Lochs of Stenness and Harray. These are the northernmost examples of circle henges in Britain.  Unlike similar structures such as Avebury, there are no obvious stones inside the circle,  but since the interior of the circle has never been excavated by archaeologists, the possibility remains that wooden structures, for example, may be present. The site has resisted attempts at scientific dating and the monument’s age remains uncertain. It is generally thought to have been erected between 2500 BC and 2000 BC, and was, therefore, the last of the great Neolithic monuments built on the Ness.  A project called The Ring of Brodgar Excavation 2008 was undertaken in the summer of that year in an attempt to settle the age issue and help answer other questions about a site that remains relatively poorly understood.  The results of the excavation are still preliminary.

The stone circle is 104 metres (341 ft) in diameter, and the third largest in the British Isles.  The ring originally comprised up to 60 stones, of which only 27 remained standing at the end of the 20th century. The tallest stones stand at the south and west of the ring, including the so-called “Comet Stone” to the south-east.  The stones are set within a circular ditch up to 3 metres (9.8 ft) deep, 9 metres (30 ft) wide and 380 metres (1,250 ft) in circumference that was carved out of the solid sandstone bedrock by the ancient residents.[7] Technically, this ditch does not constitute a true henge as there is no sign of an encircling bank of earth and rock. Many archaeologists continue to refer to this structure as a henge; for example, Aubrey Burl classifies the ditch as a Class II henge; one that has two opposing entrances, in this case on the north-west and south-east.

The ditch appears to have been created in sections, possibly by workforces from different parts of Orkney. The stones may have been a later addition, maybe erected over a long period of time.

Examination of the immediate environs reveals a concentration of ancient sites, making a significant ritual landscape. Within 2 square miles (5.2 km2) there are the two circle-henges, four chambered tombs, groups of standing stones, single stones, barrows, cairns, and mounds.[9] The immediate area has also yielded a number of flint arrowheads and broken stone mace-heads that seem to date from the Bronze Age.  Although its exact purpose is not known, the proximity of the Standing Stones of Stenness and its Maeshowe tomb make the Ring of Brodgar a site of major importance. The site is a scheduled ancient monument and has been recognized as part of the “Heart of Neolithic OrkneyWorld Heritage Site in 1999.

The Orkney Isles are connected to the Norse migration and are mentioned in more ancient texts by the Romans as well.

Nordic rites

 Invaders from Scandinavia reached Orkney by the 9th century, bringing a complex theology that they imposed on the preexisting Orcadian monuments; at least according to local legend. For example, the Ring of Brodgar and the Standing Stones of Stenness were allegedly known as the Temple of the Sun and Moon respectively.  Young people supposedly made their vows and prayed to Wōden at these “temples” and at the so-called “Odin Stone” that lay between the stone circles until it was destroyed by a farmer in 1814.  Others view these fanciful names with scepticism; Sigurd Towrie suggests that “they were simply erroneous terms applied by the antiquarians of the 18th or 19th centuries – romantic additions, in the same vein as the infamous “Druid’s Circle” and “Sacrificial Altar”.”  At the very least, several of the stones at Brodgar contain runic carvings that were left by Nordic peoples.  These include the name “Bjorn” and a small cross as well as an anvil.
One other important site to mention in regards to the Orkney Isles is Skara Brae. While it is not a Stone circle, it is one of the most ancient sites on the isle and probably one of the most intriguing and fascinating sites for any historian!
Orkney island skara brae mapSkara bra orkney
skara brae5 skara brae4 skara brae3 Skara bra orkney
The history and research of Skara Brae are so interesting and there are so many unknown facts surrounding that even I would love to travel through time to see it’s past!
Further excavations followed and, between 1928 and 1930, the dwellings we see today were released from their protective cocoons. At the time, the village was thought to be an Iron Age settlement, dating from around 500BC — but this was no Pictish village.

Radiocarbon dating in the early 1970s confirmed that the settlement dated from the late Neolithic — inhabited for around 600 years, between 3200BC and 2200BC.

There is no way that I can cover all of the history and research going on at Skara Brae here but it is so important that you really should check it out!

You may have noticed that all of these sites have connections to a far more distant past than Claire or other travelers in Outlander were able to go to… other than possibly, Master Raymond or Comte St. Germain. References were made in the Novella, The Space Between, of both of them having traveled further into the past- though just how far, we are not sure of as yet? Or, it could be a case of them traveling back and forth between more ancient pasts and futures. The standard ability within Outlander was cited as about 200 years, though it was thought that perhaps the use of stones, fire or other such tools might take one further? There was also a thought that one could travel easier if they had a particular person set in mind when making the trip. That could be confusing and not so reliable though either. Roger Wakefield had the thought of his son, Jemmy- Jeremiah MacKenzie when he set out on one of his travels… he inadvertently ended up in the far long past where his Father, Jeremiah MacKenzie was!

I believe that we need to consider the thought that it would be possible to travel all the way back to any time that the specific Stone site was already there. Most of the sites are truly ancient so that includes a vast amount of time to choose from. In planning one’s trip back to the past, it is important to be well versed in the various stones and or other tools that might refine one’s destination time. I would not advise a casual trip yet at this time as most of us do not know enough about those tools so it would be difficult at best to precisely determine when we would land?  The majority of us also do not have the time travel genetic trait that those in Outlander are endowed with, so travel through the Stones might not be our best option at this point.

In the beginning of this journey, I did mention that we would touch on a few other options that might be available as far as time travel. Let’s discuss one of those theories now, since it does involve ancient sites in Scotland and it also makes reference to some of the Standing Stones and circles.  for this exploration, you will need to set aside your Outlander frame of reference and belief system because we are going to look at from a completely different focus. While this exploration of time travel approaches it from a different perspective, the results are still the same in that you land back into a long ago past.

This journey involves another of ancient sites in Scotland- one that perhaps does not get quite so much famed attention as others- but should! We are going to visit Dunadd Castle and Earthworks. Dunadd, (Scottish Gaelic Dún Add, ‘fort on the [River] Add’), is an Iron Age and later hillfort near Kilmartin in Argyll and Bute, Scotland and believed to be the capital of the ancient kingdom of Dál Riata.

Originally occupied in the Iron Age, the site later became a seat of the kings of Dál Riata. It is known for its unique stone carvings below the upper enclosure, including a footprint and basin thought to have formed part of Dál Riata’s coronation ritual. On the same flat outcrop of rock is an incised boar in Pictish style, and an inscription in the ogham script. The inscription is read as referring to a Finn Manach and is dated to the late 8th century or after.

Dunadd is mentioned twice in early sources. In 683 the Annals of Ulster record: ‘The siege of Dún At and the siege of Dún Duirn‘ without further comment on the outcome or participants. In the same chronicle the entry for 736 states:  ‘Aengus son of Fergus, king of the  Picts,  laid waste the territory of Dál Riata and seized Dún At and burned Creic and bound in chains two sons of Selbach, i.e. Donngal and Feradach.

The site was occupied after 736, at least into the 9th century. It is mentioned twice in later sources, suggesting that it retained some importance. In 1436, it is recorded that “Alan son of John Riabhach MacLachlan of Dunadd” was made seneschal of the lands of Glassary; the chief place of residence of the MacLachlans of Dunadd lay below the fort. In June 1506, commissioners appointed by James IV, including the earl and bishop of Argyll, met at Dunadd to collect rents and resolve feuds.

The site is an Ancient Monument, under the care of Historic Scotland, and is open to the public.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dunadd

http://www.undiscoveredscotland.co.uk/kilmartin/dunadd/index.html

argyl 1024px-Dunadd-Hillfort-DescriptiveAndMap 1024px-Dunadd-Hillfort-CarvedPathway 800px-Scotland_Dunadd

The area of Kilmartin and Dunnad are rich in Celtic history and have connections with the Norse migration, the Picts early residence in the area, the migration from Ireland/Erin to Scotland, as well as Druidic history. If one wanted to learn more about how all of those events interconnected and shaped the future of Scotland, one would certainly want to explore the history of this area!

We are able to do this with the assistance of another time traveler who made the trip back to Dunnad’s highpoint shortly before it’s destruction and takeover by the Picts.  Maggie Griggs makes the trip back in time in Veil of Time  by Claire R. McDougall.

Veil of Time

A compelling tale of two Scotlands-one modern, one ancient-and the woman who parts the veil between them.

The medication that treats Maggie’s seizures leaves her in a haze, but it can’t dull her grief at losing her daughter to the same condition. With her marriage dissolved and her son away at school, Maggie retreats to a cottage below the ruins of Dunadd, once the royal seat of Scotland. But is it fantasy or reality when she awakens in a bustling village within the massive walls of eighth-century Dunadd? In a time and place so strange yet somehow familiar, Maggie is drawn to the striking, somber Fergus, brother of the king and father of Illa, who bears a keen resemblance to Maggie’s late daughter. With each dreamlike journey to the past, Maggie grows closer to Fergus and embraces the possibility of staying in this Dunadd. But with present-day demands calling her back, can Maggie leave behind the Scottish prince who dubs her mo chridhe, my heart?

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/18144050-veil-of-time

Now, while the area of Dunnad and Kilmartin are filled with ancient Stone circles and Standing Stones, Maggie did not make use of them for her trip through time. They were an integral part or mechanism for her travel though as she had not experienced the time travel previously to her visit to Dunadd as an adult.  Also, the Druidess priestess and others she met in the past seemed to feel that the Stones were responsible for her travel as well as for any number of other events. Maggie was suffering from a number of traumatic events in life and decided to spend some time by herself in an isolated cottage at the base of the Dunnad hill fort.  She is working on her doctoral thesis- on the history of Witchcraft in Scotland and trying to finish it before facing a life altering and possible mind altering major operation to cure her of her epileptic seizures. It seems that the combination of the seizures and what ever mystical properties might be at this area are initially the trigger to send her back through time to the year 735 when Dunnad was at the height of it’s importance in history.

Maggie’s account of her travel through time- whether in her mind, or in actual travel- is an excellent in depth account of  early history that includes Druids, Picts, Norse, Scots, Irish and also the early Christian Monks as they all fought to maintain their long histories and gain control of this area. It provides a well thought out and highly detailed description of  the epileptic seizures and their affects on one’s brain. The book also brings up the controversial thoughts on the idea of time itself and whether it would even be possible to travel through time. It leaves one with thoughts of whether she had actually traveled or whether she was experiencing it all in her mind and fabricating it. She came back from each trip though knowing far too many little known facts about the history of the area to have simply imagined it all as she first thought.  One possible explanation- in my mind- is that in some ways it felt as though she was experiencing a form of past life regression or dreams. While many would argue that the past life regression theory would not constitute time travel, my personal thought is that it is indeed a form of time travel, in the most personal of ways.  Many people scoff at the notion of reincarnation or past lives, but as far as this discussion goes… it is no more impossible, improbable or implausible than the entire notion of time travel!  As far as this form of travel goes, it would be limited to those times and places which we have already experienced at some point and there would be no opportunities to truly change the outcome of that history? Unless of course, we went as Maggie did, and retained some of our present time consciousness.

What ever your personal thoughts on all of it are, I would still recommend that you make the journey with Maggie back to the pre-history days of Dunnad. The historical information within the book is well documented and researched, and it provides us with a highly detailed picture of the place. As to her work on her thesis in the present day, I was just as fascinated with that research as with the history of Dunnad!

site record for dunadd fort

standing stone sites near Dunnad

standing stone sites near Dunnad

Kilmartin pre-history tour

Kilmartin pre-history tour

Kilmartin ancient grave slabs

Kilmartin ancient grave slabs

ancient footprint at Dunnad

ancient footprint at Dunnad

Standing Stone at Dunnad

Standing Stone at Dunnad

carved rocks at Dunnad hill fort

carved rocks at Dunnad hill fort

dunadd-fort4 Dunadd_Seat_of_Dalriatic_Kings_by_younghappy

dunadd fort water well dunadd boar carving

Dunnad artifacts

Dunnad artifacts

Dunnad artifacts

Dunnad artifacts

Dunnad artifacts

Dunnad artifacts

artifacts from dunadd excavations 1024px-Dunadd_Fort_Pictish_type_boar_carving

 

stone with cup and ring marks near by Dunnad

stone with cup and ring marks near by Dunnad

 

Now you have some idea of  places  that you could feasibly travel through the Stones on the British Isles, if using the Stones is your preferred method of travel. Maggie Oliver provided us with another possibility for travel options… I am of the opinion that you would not necessarily need to be afflicted with Epilepsy to experience this method? Possibly, you just need to go deep into your mind dig through what’s there hiding and then place yourself in some area that calls to you for the subconscious reason that you should answer that call? It would be a matter of placing yourself at the right place and then letting your mind focus on where and when it wants to go.  There are so many numerous other options mentioned out there that it would be impossible to list them all! Some options require being involved in a traumatic event that places your current life in danger, thereby reeling you into some past, “safer” life… though from everything I have read, that “safer” past is always debatable and highly questionable! Other methods of travel depend on natural phenomenon or disasters as a trigger mechanism, once again rather dangerous and with little means of control over when you leave, and no control over where and when your destination is! There are theoretical methods which involve the use of machines for transport… if you happen to find one of these, please let the rest of us know! And, of course, some methods involve spells, magic and the help of fairies… again, if you find those, please let us know so we can sign up!  So, it would seem that as far as plausibility goes, the Stones or the mind travel connections might actually be your safest chance!

 

Once you have made your decision to go, you need to think about your destination… both the when and the where would be highly advisable! As I’ve mentioned before, Various time periods around any given site could land you in vastly different circumstances. You should do as much research as possible  into the history of what ever site you choose.  This way, if your timing is not quite as accurate as you expected, you will at least have some idea what you are facing in the area.  This guide is specific to the British Isles, so you should prepare yourself by knowing as much as possible about the history of the British Isles- from the earliest pre-history of when the Stones were presumably created, through the various time periods significant to a Stone site’s general area. You could theoretically encounter anything from early stone age, to Druids, Picts, early Norse inhabitants, Roman conquerors,  Angles and Saxons in conquest, later Viking conquests, on to  Norman invasions, any number of upheavals and unrest as later rules sought control over the Isle… It is a vast array of historical events that you could mistakenly arrive in and you should be somewhat prepared!

My observations have led me to the thought that it always the unprepared ones who have the most difficulty and at times cause the most calamity or chaos… One other thought to remember? Do not go with assumptions or ideas that you are going to change the course of history! That idea seldom works has the most potential for harm to yourself or your future… you do plan to eventually return to the future, don’t you? Well, then again, maybe not… maybe this is going to a permanent move for you. If it is going to be permanent though, that does not mean that you should have no regard for the future of everyone else!

 

This concludes our guide to Stone Sites and travel options. For those of you still debating on an era to travel to, I will be providing an additional information session on some early time periods that you might be interested in viewing. In our next upcoming guide to the early history, we will be exploring the Norse migration into England…. No, not the earliest Norse migration into outlying Scottish Islands, but the later migration of the Vkings. There is a difference, and we will focus on the Viking experience! The best way to experience it is to immerse yourself in it from their point of view!

http://www.history.com/shows/vikings

vikings_ragnar_4-P vikings_gallery9_1-P vikings_gallery8_3-P vikings_gallery_1_4-P rollo vikings__infographicvikings_season1infographic_final

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Reflections, wishes and suggestions for the new year!

I just want to take a quick bit of time today to catch up and catch my breath from the busiest weeks of the Holiday season! I hope everyone is enjoying what ever winter holiday you observe or celebrate. My wish is that it is filled with joy, with love, with faith and blessings for the new year! May the coming year be filled with light and goodness for all of you!

After celebrating Yul with all of you here, Christmas with my family, and working, I am going to take a few days to relax and recover from all of it! As I do this, I am reminded of how holidays used to be as compared to what they are now? At one time, really not so many years ago… well, okay a lot of years ago if you are one of the young ones for whom time is still flashing by so quickly that you don’t realize it’s leaving you.  I’m showing my age here, so please be patient and understanding!  When I was growing up all of those years ago, certain days were considered and observed as National Holidays for almost everyone. Businesses were closed, entertainment venues, restaurants- all but essential services were closed so that people could take those few days to celebrate and enjoy the occasion with their families. Little of that remains anymore. Now these Holidays have become much like any other day, with people attempting to carve out some precious time to make it feel like a holiday and capture some thread of what was once so special about the event.  Families were much closer back then, in distance as well as heart. It was easier to come together, share the special time, reconnect with loved ones and build memories that would carry on to the future generations.

Now days, many of us struggle with trying to keep those traditions, those memories and yet adjust them to fit into a world that so quickly changing and evolving around us. With such change always comes compromise. We must give up some beliefs, traditions and sense of our past in order to adapt to a new world, new beginning. What we do not need to give though, are the memories, the stories and the lessons that we learned from the past! We are not the only society that has undergone great change so quickly and profoundly that it wiped out some traces of previous cultures and beliefs. As we look at history, we can find many examples of societies and civilizations that either survived, adapted or faded away as their worlds changed around them. The expression of “If we do not learn from history, we are destined to repeat it” holds as much truth and value today as it did when George Santayana first commented on it.

George_Santayana

Santayana is known for famous sayings, such as “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it”,  or “Only the dead have seen the end of war.” Santayana, like many philosophers since the late nineteenth century, was a naturalist (that is, he denied the existence of supernatural beings, like gods and ghosts), but he found profound meaning in literary writings and in religious ideas and texts (which he regarded as fundamentally akin to literature). Santayana was a broad ranging cultural critic whose observations spanned many disciplines. He said that he stood in philosophy “exactly where [he stood] in daily life.”

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/George_Santayana

 

It is my personal belief that we assume too often that history is not important, that it has no bearing or affect on what we are experiencing in such a new and different time. We assume that our current life struggles and issues are so vastly different from those of the past, that we are so much more intelligent, more evolved, and somehow better than those long dead ancient beings. Of what use or importance could any of their experiences be to us? In reality, they struggled with the same universal life issues that we do today. Some of them survived and flourished, some of them did not. It was all about choices that they made with their hearts, their consciences, and their desire to create a better world for the future. We all make those exact same choices each and every day.

My hope and wish for this coming year is simply that by coming here, reading through my thoughts and my impressions of the past, some of you might find that history speaks as much to you in some way as it does to me? I am reminded of what I have learned through years of teaching and helping others… If you make a difference in one person’s life, then you have succeeded in a purpose of your life. You may not be able to change the world, but if you change one person’s life, then you have made a start on that greater change.

 

Okay, enough my reflections and philosophy… As you take your own time to wind down from Holiday stress and prepare for the coming year, I just want to leave you with a few suggestions for reading and viewing!

 

Movies and Television Viewing Suggestions

For the many Outlander fans here, I have a viewing suggestion that may or may not interest you, but might help some of you get through the later books that involve so much detailed history of the American Revolution? The AHC- American Heroes Channel- has a three part mini series on the American Revolution. I have not watched it yet, but have it recorded and plan to watch it all later this evening!

http://www.ahctv.com/tv-shows/the-american-revolution

American revolution2 american-revolution-ahc-2

 

If you prefer some much earlier history, along with some blood letting and a look at the earliest beginnings of Britain, I have two suggestions for you.  I am not normally a fan of blood and heavy handed action movies that don’t necessarily portray history all that realistically but I did watch these two movies and stayed interested all the way through them!

First is The Eagle (2011 film)

The_Eagle_Poster

The Eagle is a 2011 historical adventure film set in Roman Britain directed by Kevin Macdonald, and starring Channing Tatum, Jamie Bell and Donald Sutherland. Adapted by Jeremy Brock from Rosemary Sutcliff‘s historical adventure novel The Eagle of the Ninth (1954), the film tells the story of a young Roman officer searching to recover the lost Roman eagle standard of his father’s legion in the northern part of Great Britain. The story is based on the Ninth Spanish Legion‘s supposed disappearance in Britain.

The film, an AngloAmerican co-production, was released in the U.S. and Canada on 11 February 2011, and was released in the United Kingdom and Ireland on 25 March 2011.

In the year AD 140, twenty years after the Ninth Legion disappeared in the north of Britain, Marcus Flavius Aquila, a young Roman centurion, arrives in Britain to serve at his first post as a garrison commander. Marcus’s father disappeared with the eagle standard of the ill-fated legion, and Marcus hopes to redeem his family’s honour by bravely serving in Britain. Shortly afterwards, only Marcus’s alertness and decisiveness save the garrison from being overrun by Celtic tribesmen. He is decorated for his bravery but honourably discharged due to a severe leg injury.

Living at his uncle’s estate near Calleva (modern Silchester) in southern Britain, Marcus has to cope with his military career having been cut short and his father’s name still being held in disrepute. Hearing rumours that the eagle standard has been seen in the north of Britain, Aquila decides to recover it. Despite the warnings of his uncle and his fellow Romans, who believe that no Roman can survive north of Hadrian’s Wall, he travels north into the territory of the Picts, accompanied only by his slave, Esca. The son of a deceased chieftain of the Brigantes, Esca detests Rome and what it stands for, but considers himself bound to Marcus, who saved his life during an amphitheatre show.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Eagle_(2011_film)

I enjoyed the movie for it’s look at the pre-history, and the history of the Roman involvement in Britain. It deals with the real mystery of the Ninth Legion, and you can find more information on that here:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Legio_IX_Hispana

the-eagle-movie the-eagle-movie2 the-eagle-movie-tatum-3

One other excellent film dealing with early Britain and legends is, King Arthur.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/King_Arthur_(film)

Movie_poster_king_arthur

This is not your typical King Arthur legend type of film! This movie presents the legend in a much more realistic portrayal. As many of my long time followers know, I have a deep fascination and interest in all things King Arthur related so this movie was perfect in every way for me! for more information on the history and legends about King Arthur, you can search through my archives on the subject!

https://timeslipsblog.wordpress.com/2014/06/24/from-the-creator-ancient-history-connects-the-norse-with-romans-and-king-arthur/

King Arthur is a 2004 film directed by Antoine Fuqua and written by David Franzoni. It stars Clive Owen as the title character, Ioan Gruffudd as Lancelot, and Keira Knightley as Guinevere.

The film is unusual in reinterpreting Arthur as a Roman officer rather than a medieval knight. Despite these departures from the source material, the Welsh Mabinogion, the producers of the film attempted to market it as a more historically accurate version of the Arthurian legends, supposedly inspired by new archaeological findings. The film was shot in England, Ireland, and Wales.

Arthur, also known as Artorius Castus (Clive Owen), is portrayed as a Roman cavalry officer, the son of a Roman father and a Celtic mother, who commands a unit of Sarmatian auxiliary cavalry in Britain at the close of the Roman occupation in 467 A.D. He and his men guard Hadrian’s Wall against the Woads, a group of native Britons who are rebels against Roman rule, led by the mysterious Merlin (Stephen Dillane).

As the film begins, Arthur and his remaining knights Lancelot (Ioan Gruffudd), Bors (Ray Winstone), Tristan (Mads Mikkelsen), Gawain (Joel Edgerton), Galahad (Hugh Dancy) and Dagonet (Ray Stevenson) expect to be discharged from their service to the Empire after faithfully fulfilling a fifteen-year commitment.

However, on the night they are to receive their freedom, Bishop Germanus (Ivano Marescotti) sends them on a final and possibly suicidal mission to rescue an important Roman family. Marius Honorius (Ken Stott) faces impending capture by the invading Saxons, led by their chief Cerdic (Stellan Skarsgård) and his son Cynric (Til Schweiger). According to Germanus, Marius’ son, Alecto, is the Pope‘s favorite godson and may be “destined to be Pope one day”.

At the remote estate, Arthur discovers Marius has immured pagans: a Woad named Guinevere (Keira Knightley), and a small boy, Lucan. Arthur frees them and decides to take everyone, along with Marius’ family, back to Hadrian’s Wall.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/King_Arthur_(film)

Saxons

king-arthur-sagaci-sassoni saxons

Arthur and his Knights

King-Arthur-2004-king-arthur-875459_1000_674

A truly original and unique version of Guinivere!

king arthur movie2 king arthur movie

 

Of course, there are a number of television series that will entertain you and possibly, hopefully provide you some historical lessons as well. If you have Starz, or any number of online services, you might want to catch up on Outlander- if you have seen it already, or not enough times in the case of many fans out there! We’ve already discussed all of it in great depth through out the blog.  Just start searching through the archives for it and that could keep you busy until the show starts again in April!

http://www.starz.com/originals/outlander

OUT-101_20131011_EM-0630.jpg Outlanderday

 

Another show that we’ve made extensive reference to here is Vikings on the History Channel!

http://www.history.com/shows/Vikings

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vikings_(TV_series)

ragnar viking long boat Lindisfarne-ep2

The Vikings will return for season three on February 19! We will be exploring more of their history and the show in upcoming posts!

Vikings is an Emmy Award nominated  historical drama television series written and created by Michael Hirst for the television channel History. It premiered on 3 March 2013 in the United States and Canada.  Filmed in Ireland, it is an official Ireland/Canada co-production.

Vikings is inspired by the sagas of Viking Ragnar Lothbrok, one of the best-known mythological Norse heroes and notorious as the scourge of England and France. It portrays Ragnar as a former farmer who rises to fame by successful raids into England with the support of his family and fellow warriors: his brother Rollo, his son Bjorn, and his wives—the shieldmaiden Lagertha and the princess Aslaug.

On 5 April 2013, History renewed Vikings for a ten-episode second season, which premiered on 27 February 2014.  On 25 March 2014, History renewed Vikings for a ten-episode third season, which is scheduled to air on February 19, 2015.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vikings_(TV_series)

 

Book suggestions!

If the viewing suggestions are not enough, and you prefer reading about history, I do have a few suggestions for that as well.  Contrary to recent posts and public opinion, I do read a great deal besides Outlander! In fact, I spend much of my free time reading… I have a long commute to and from work each day, which provides me with plenty of time to indulge in one of my favorite pass times- reading. While I do occasionally venture into the time travel realm for reading enjoyment… I know, I know, it would seem and appear that time travel would be my main priority/focus, but actually it is not. Most of my reading focus is on early medieval history from the early Viking Ages through William the Conqueror and on through to about the 1500s.

I have been quite lax and remiss about updating my book reviews page since Outlander appeared but, please rest assured that I have indeed kept up with my other reading! I am providing a quick guide here for those of you who are interested in reading material aside from Outlander! You can also always check out my reviews and books on my Goodreads page.  I have better luck keeping those reviews updated than the ones here!  https://www.goodreads.com/user/show/22404301-judywork

For now, I will just update you with a few that I’ve read lately and may have referenced in earlier posts!

 

 Veil of Time  by Claire R. McDougall.  This was a one of the time travel exceptions I’ve made and it well worth the read as it is so much more than just time travel or a romance novel!

Veil of Time

A compelling tale of two Scotlands-one modern, one ancient-and the woman who parts the veil between them.

The medication that treats Maggie’s seizures leaves her in a haze, but it can’t dull her grief at losing her daughter to the same condition. With her marriage dissolved and her son away at school, Maggie retreats to a cottage below the ruins of Dunadd, once the royal seat of Scotland. But is it fantasy or reality when she awakens in a bustling village within the massive walls of eighth-century Dunadd? In a time and place so strange yet somehow familiar, Maggie is drawn to the striking, somber Fergus, brother of the king and father of Illa, who bears a keen resemblance to Maggie’s late daughter. With each dreamlike journey to the past, Maggie grows closer to Fergus and embraces the possibility of staying in this Dunadd. But with present-day demands calling her back, can Maggie leave behind the Scottish prince who dubs her mo chridhe, my heart?

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/18144050-veil-of-time

Now, while the area of Dunnad and Kilmartin are filled with ancient Stone circles and Standing Stones, Maggie did not make use of them for her trip through time. They were an integral part or mechanism for her travel though as she had not experienced the time travel previously to her visit to Dunadd as an adult.  Also, the Druidess priestess and others she met in the past seemed to feel that the Stones were responsible for her travel as well as for any number of other events. Maggie was suffering from a number of traumatic events in life and decided to spend some time by herself in an isolated cottage at the base of the Dunnad hill fort.  She is working on her doctoral thesis- on the history of Witchcraft in Scotland and trying to finish it before facing a life altering and possible mind altering major operation to cure her of her epileptic seizures. It seems that the combination of the seizures and what ever mystical properties might be at this area are initially the trigger to send her back through time to the year 735 when Dunnad was at the height of it’s importance in history.

The book gives a very good description and visualization of  Mid-winter solstice celebrations as they might have taken place during that time! It also references the Druidic influences and Pict representation in that area and time.

https://timeslipsblog.wordpress.com/?s=veil+of+time

 

 

Circle of Ceridwen Series by Octavia Randolph

If you are interested in early Saxon and Viking history in Britain, I highly recommend this series!

For a more detailed and in depth look at these early Saxons, their struggle to hold on to their old ways and their eventual demise under the Christian influence, I would highly suggest you read this series of books by Octavia Randolph. I suggest here mainly because she deals with the early Saxon beliefs and how closely they were connected to the Norse/Vikings beliefs of the time. She also has excellent descriptions of some of their traditions and celebrations! It is a series of four books that tell a young woman’s journey through the Viking conquests of early England and then her life in the northern lands of  Danemark, and Gotland.

circle of ceridwen1

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/23123223-the-circle-of-ceridwen

In Circle of Ceridwen, Octavia Randolph discusses in great detail, the Saxon belief in Woden and  it’s close connection to the Viking belief in Odin.

Young women with courage. Swords with names. Vikings with tattoos. Danger. Passion. Survival. Warfare. Sheep. And Other Good Things…

The year 871, when England was Angle-Land. Of seven Anglo-Saxon kingdoms, five have fallen to the invading Vikings. Across this war-torn landscape travels fifteen year old Ceridwen, now thrust into the lives of the conquerors. But living with the enemy affords Ceridwen unusual freedoms – and unlooked-for conflicts. Amongst them she explores again her own heathen past, and learns to judge each man on his own merits. Her divided loyalties spur her to summon all her courage – a courage which will be sorely tested as she defies both Saxon and Dane and undertakes an extraordinary adventure to save a man she has never met.

The first book of The Circle of Ceridwen Trilogy, the historical adventure saga enjoyed by thousands of readers in over 125 nations.

 

There are four books in the series… and I am keeping my fingers crossed that there will eventually be more. The series covers the life and journey of Ceridwen from her early years as a somewhat naïve teen through her years living with the Viking conquerors of  Britain, to her journey to the Viking homelands of Gotland. It is an excellent well documented and detailed look at the changes in lives and cultures during that time period, with a focus on how one young woman deals with all of those sudden changes in her life.  I would definitely recommend you read all of them and check out Octavia Randolph!

https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/1365292.Octavia_Randolph

Ceridwen of Kilton the claiming Hall of Tyr

After reading the last one, Hall of Tyr, there was also a nice bonus of a medieval cookery booklet included. She includes early medieval Britain fare as well as medieval Scandinavian dishes!

For a sample of her cookery details, you should read this article!

http://englishhistoryauthors.blogspot.com/2014/08/venison-pie-and-honey-cakes.html

3harts

 

For slightly later medieval history, try The Handfasted wife  and the Swan daughter by Carol McGrath.

the handfasted wife by Carol McGrath The Swan daughter by Carol McGrath

These two books are about history during the time of William the Conqueror. They are well written historical biography types more than romances.

The first one, Handfasted wife tells the story  of the Norman Conquest from the perspective of Edith (Elditha) Swanneck, Harold’s common-law wife. She is set aside for a political marriage when Harold becomes king in 1066. Determined to protect her children’s destinies and control her economic future, she is taken to William’s camp when her estate is sacked on the eve of the Battle of Hastings. She later identifies Harold’s body on the battlefield and her youngest son becomes a Norman hostage. Elditha avoids an arranged marriage with a Breton knight by which her son might or might not be given into his care. She makes her own choice and sets out through strife-torn England to seek help from her sons in Dublin. However, events again overtake her. Harold’s mother, Gytha, holds up in her city of Exeter with other aristocratic women, including Elditha’s eldest daughter. The girl is at risk, drawing Elditha back to Exeter and resistance. Initially supported by Exeter’s burghers the women withstand William’s siege. However, after three horrific weeks they negotiate exile and the removal of their treasure. Elditha takes sanctuary in a convent where eventually she is reunited with her hostage son. This is an adventure story of love, loss, survival and reconciliation.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Harold_Godwinson

1024px-Bayeux_Tapestry_scene23_Harold_sacramentum_fecit_Willelmo_duci

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Edith_the_Fair

Edith_discovering_the_body_of_Harold

 

The second book is about Edith and Harold’s daughter, Gunnhild.  The Swan Daughter is a true 11th C tale of elopement and a love triangle by best-selling author of The Handfasted Wife, Carol McGrath. A marriage made in Heaven or Hell.  It is 1075 and Dowager Queen Edith has died. Gunnhild longs to leave Wilton Abbey but is her suitor Breton knight Count Alan of Richmond interested in her inheritance as the daughter of King Harold and Edith Swan-Neck or does he love her for herself? And is her own love for Count Alain an enduring love or has she made a mistake? 

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alan_Rufus

Alan_Rufus

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gunhild_of_Wessex

 

For a better and even more detailed perspective the events of this time period, I would suggest and encourage you to read  two other books about this era by Helen Hollick!

I have already previously mentioned her work, The Forever Queen (The Saxon Series #1)  on my book reviews page but am going repeat here for easier reference. This book is a great depiction and detail of  Emma of Normandy, whom little is known about but who is so important in history. It is the first of two books on Emma and her offspring, with the second book being, I am the Chosen King.

What kind of woman becomes the wife of two kings, and the mother of two more?

Saxon England, 1002. Not only is Æthelred a failure as King, but his young bride, Emma of Normandy, soon discovers he is even worse as a husband. When the Danish Vikings, led by Swein Forkbeard and his son, Cnut, cause a maelstrom of chaos, Emma, as Queen, must take control if the Kingdom-and her crown-are to be salvaged. Smarter than history remembers, and stronger than the foreign invaders who threaten England’s shores, Emma risks everything on a gamble that could either fulfill her ambitions and dreams or destroy her completely.

Emma, the Queen of Saxon England, comes to life through the exquisite writing of Helen Hollick, who shows in this epic tale how one of the most compelling and vivid heroines in English history stood tall through a turbulent fifty-year reign of proud determination, tragic despair, and triumph over treachery.

The Forever Queen (The Saxon Series, #1)The Forever Queen by Helen Hollick
My rating:
5 of 5 stars

Fantastic! I was quite impressed with all of this book. I appreciate that it was not so much a gushy over done, made up romance novel but more of a historical docu-drama of her life. Helen Hollick took the limited details surrounding this somewhat forgotten queen that we hear so little about and wove those details into an excellent story!

I wrote the above short review a while ago but wanted to add to it because I am still so impressed with the storytelling of Helen Hollick. I have not read the second book of the series yet, but will get to it soon! After spending an immense amount of time reading quite serious histories, I needed to take a break and read some less intense ones!

This was most definitely one of the more serious and intense ones! It is not a feel good, happily ever after love story by any means. If you are looking for that, you will be quite disappointed. What you will find is a story about the grim and gritty realities of a woman’s life in those early medieval times. Just because a woman was of noble blood and ended up with a crown- more than one, it did not mean her life was any easier. In fact, in so many ways it was even more difficult.

Emma was married first to Æthelred who failed as both a King and a husband, but Emma did do her duty in providing him with not one, but two legitimate heirs. That should have given her some security in those times but unfortunately luck was not with her… or maybe it was? The kingdom is overtaken by Cnut who claims her along with the kingdom. She finally finds love with him only to have him die leaving the kingdom in another battle of who should rule.

The story of her life was well documented in this book with more than enough factual information woven into the story to give what I felt it was an excellent representation of the constant hurdles she endured throughout her life that colored and shaped how she viewed her role and her destiny as well as that of her sons.

 

I am the Chosen King

In this beautifully crafted tale, Harold Godwinesson, the last Saxon King of England, is a respected, quick-witted man both vulnerable and strong, honorable and loving-and yet, in the end, only human. After the political turmoil and battles leading up to 1066, we all know William the Conquerer takes England. But Helen Hollick will have readers at the edge of their seats, hoping that just this once, for Harold, the story will have a different ending.

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/9223563-i-am-the-chosen-king

I am in the process of reading I am the Chosen King right now and am just as impressed with it as I was with the first book! What is interesting for me now is the comparison between this work and the information I previously read in Carol McGrath’s books about the same people. Where as Carol’s books deal more with Edith’s and her daughter’s lives and their possible perspectives of the time and events, this work goes into more depth concerning all of the key figures of the time. By reading all of them, I think you could gain a better insight and picture of  what was happening and how those involved might have come to the choices they made.

 

 

Now for one last thought of interest.  You might be wondering just how all of this extensive and in depth history ties into  my interest in the Vikings Saga on the history channel and it’s related actual history? Well, I will leave you with a few clues…

Vikings is inspired by the sagas of Viking Ragnar Lothbrok, one of the best-known mythological Norse heroes and notorious as the scourge of England and France. It portrays Ragnar as a former farmer who rises to fame by successful raids into England with the support of his family and fellow warriors: his brother Rollo, his son Bjorn, and his wives—the shieldmaiden Lagertha and the princess Aslaug.

As the above paragraph states, the show and it’s various main characters are based on what is known about actual history. Ragnar Lothbrok is based on

Ragnar Lodbrok or Lothbrok (Old Norse: Ragnarr Loðbrók, “Ragnar Hairy Breeches“) was a legendary Norse ruler and hero from the Viking Age described in Old Norse poetry and several sagas. In this tradition, Ragnar was the scourge of France and England and the father of many renowned sons, including Ivar the Boneless, Björn Ironside, Halfdan Ragnarsson, Sigurd Snake-in-the-Eye, and Ubba. While these men are historical figures, it is uncertain whether Ragnar himself existed or really fathered them. Many of the tales about him appear to originate with the deeds of several historical Viking heroes and rulers.

According to legend, Ragnar was thrice married: to the shieldmaiden Lagertha, to the noblewoman Þóra Borgarhjǫrtr, and to Aslaug. Said to have been a relative of the Danish king Gudfred and son of the Swedish king Sigurd Hring, he became king himself and distinguished himself by many raids and conquests until he was eventually seized by his foe, King Ælla of Northumbria, and killed by being thrown into a pit of snakes. His sons bloodily avenged him by invading England with the Great Heathen Army.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ragnar_Lodbrok

vikings_ragnar_3-P

In reality, Ragnar ultimately comes to a bad end and probably was not such a likeable fellow as he is portrayed in the show.

His brother, Rollo is inspired and based on another historical Viking.

A character based on the historical Rollo, played by Clive Standen, is Ragnar Lodbrok‘s brother in the 2013 television series Vikings

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rollo

vikings_gallery7_2-P rollo

 

In actual history, Rollo comes out far better than Ragnar ever could have hoped for!

600px-Cronological_tree_william_I_svg

If you look at his family tree, you will see how he ties in to medieval history. He was the ancestor of William the Conqueror- and if you look into William’s activities, you might see that his Viking heritage of conquering came out quite boldly in his genes!

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/William_the_Conqueror

 

Rollo is the great-great-great-grandfather of William the Conqueror. Through William, he is an ancestor of the present-day British royal family, as well as an ancestor of all current European monarchs and a great many pretenders to abolished European thrones. A genetic investigation into the remains of Rollo’s grandson Richard I and great-grandson Richard II has been announced, with the intention of discerning the origins of the famous Viking warrior.

The “Clameur de Haro” in the Channel Islands is, supposedly, an appeal to Rollo.

Rollo’s grave at the cathedral of Rouen

1024px-Grave_of_Rollo_of_Normandy

So, as my last thought and conclusion for the day…. Which brother would you prefer to take your chances with? Personally, I am going with team Rollo!

Rollo-vikings-tv-series-34189423-500-300 vikings_episode6_gallery_1-P

Follow our Viking journey in coming new year!

Ragnar and Rollo legacy

Books and Reviews!

3/6/2016

A Year of Ravens

The book is a unique collaborative project by seven authors with seven separate yet connected stories of the events leading up to the final battle and aftermath. It addresses the issues that I touched on in the pre-history discussion including reasons for a Client Ruler’s acceptance and alliance of Roman governance. It also gives us an understanding of various Roman perspectives. Not every Roman was stereotypical bad nor did they all agree with what was taking place. In that same line, not every Briton was good or a true believer in the rebellion. 

A year of Ravens

by Ruth Downie, Kate Quinn,Stephanie Dray, Vicky Alvear Shecter, S.J.A. Turney , Russell Whitfield, E. Knight

Britannia: land of mist and magic clinging to the western edge of the Roman Empire. A red-haired queen named Boudica led her people in a desperate rebellion against the might of Rome, an epic struggle destined to consume heroes and cowards, young and old, Roman and Celt . . . and these are their stories.

A calculating queen sees the sparks of revolt in a king’s death.

A neglected slave girl seizes her own courage as Boudica calls for war.

An idealistic tribune finds manhood in a brutal baptism of blood and slaughter.

A conflicted warrior hovers between loyalty to tribe and loyalty to Rome.

A death-haunted Druid challenges the gods themselves to ensure victory for his people.

An old champion struggles for everlasting glory in the final battle against the legions.

A fiery princess fights to salvage the pieces of her mother’s dream as the ravens circle.

 

A novel in seven parts, overlapping stories of warriors and peacemakers, queens and slaves, Romans and Celts who cross paths during Boudica’s epic rebellion. But who will survive to see the dawn of a new Britannia, and who will fall to feed the ravens?

These separate stories come together so well to tell a larger story of Briton and of Rome, of  mistakes on both sides that brought about the rebellion. In telling their separate stories of one particular point in time and one event that had such an impact on the history of Britain, these seven authors have created a vivid and realistic picture to show us all of the sides. It is grim, harsh and gritty, and fault is laid on all of those sides for the decisions and actions that led to the battles of Boudica. Yet, despite all of the fault and harsh reality, there is an underlying message of  understanding, forgiveness and hope amid such a dark future that lies ahead for so many. Boudicca’s rebellion has failed but her legend will live on to inspire others in the future. 

One of the most interesting and compelling stories for me was not that of Boudicca herself, but of another Queen for the most part forgotten in history. The story of Cartimandua, Queen of the Brigantes in northern Britain at the time. Cartimandua or Cartismandua (reigned c. ad 43 – c. 69) was a 1st-century queen of the Brigantes, a Celtic people living in what is now northern England. She came to power around the time of the Roman conquest of Britain, and formed a large tribal agglomeration that became loyal to Rome. Our only knowledge of her is through the Roman historian Tacitus, though she appears to have been widely influential in early Roman Britain.

Perhaps we know little about her because her story is one of loyalty to Rome. Author Stephanie Dray’s interpretation of this little known Queen provided such a detailed look at this woman who would have been considered a traitor to the Briton’s cause. It presented an understanding of some of those reasons why a ruler would choose alliance and loyalty to Rome to ensure the future of their people- even if the people did not appreciate it, resented the decision and would choose to spit on said ruler’s grave… As Cartimandua points out in this story, “At least my people will be left alive to spit upon my grave!”  She may have been hated by her people but she was able to look beyond that hatred and be at peace with the decisions she made in order to buy her people time and life in an uncertain future.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cartimandua

Another of the stories that caught me up was the story of Duro the Iceni warrior and Valeria the Roman wife turned slave. Both of these characters were fictional but came truly alive and believable through Kate Quinn’s story telling. This is the story of an aging battle hardened and weary warrior who is Boudicca’s most ardent supporter and leader of her army- second only to her and the council… Duro is the old warrior set in his ways and beliefs, struggling with changes that he can not accept. Valeria at first appears as the stereotypical Roman wife also set in her Roman ways and beliefs. On the surface their relationship is one of detest for each other and the other’s ways. They are on opposite sides in every way possible but underneath all of the opposition and hatred, there is a level of understanding between them. They both know that should the other side win, their own personal life and future will cease or change forever. Duro continues to look to the past he remembers before the Romans but Valeria reminds him that it is wishful thinking and that past will never be again. Valeria reaches within herself to find a person, a warrior that she never knew existed… she will fight for life and survival no matter what, and she can appreciate that Duro has taught her that. Valeria is young enough and strong enough to change her ways of thinking in some ways and to understand that her world has changed. She is on the verge of some new life while Duro is at the end of his and know it. He can not change as his world is changing but Valeria gives him the one thing that matters most to him in the end… a renewed relationship with a son that he spent years pushing away. This story leaves an open ending with Valeria embarking on a new journey, a renewed life forever changed by her experience and her relationship with Duro.  This is about as close to a romance as any of the stories get and it is one that left me wondering about the what ifs… and the future for Valeria on her return to husband. My personal what if was this… what if Boudicca’s army had listened to advice and won the battle? Where would that have left Duro and Valeria?  I could actually see some of that version that Duro dreamed of!

All of the stories were excellent. I have only chosen to highlight the two that touched me the most!

This overall story is balanced with more than enough historical research to enrich the fiction that is woven around the often limited facts. I found myself completely swept up in the individual stories and not wanting them to end. I was left with an overwhelming appreciation of the writing and the history, an almost obsessive need to know more about all of the people whether real or fictional and the events that were taking place during this time. While it began as an effort by the various authors to tell Boudicca’s story, what it did was tell the story of so many others involved in the history taking place during her life time. 

 

2/6/2015

I just recently discovered Bernard Cornwell and his series, The Warrior Chronicles/Saxon Stories. Do not ask me why it took so long, I have no answer or excuse! All I can say is that I have now found them and have been swept into this version of history from the very beginnings of the first book! If you are a fan of early Saxon history or Viking history, this series involves both. I am working my way through the first story in a series of eight books that chronicle the battles between early Saxon kingdoms and Danish Vikings for control of the future of England.

The Last Kingdom by Bernard Cornwell

The Last Kingdom by Bernard Cornwell

This first book begins the story and history as observed from a young boy, Uhtred’s perspective.  A young boy, he is captured by the Danish, befriended by them and treated as family.

‘I had been given a perfect childhood, perfect, at least, to the ideas of a boy. I was raised among men, I was free, I ran wild, was encumbered by no laws, was troubled by no priests and was encouraged to violence.’ Uhtred is an English boy, born into the aristocracy of 9th Century Northumbria, but orphaned at ten, adopted by a Dane and taught the Viking ways. Yet Uhtred’s fate is indissolubly bound up with Alfred, King of Wessex, who rules over the last English kingdom when the Danes have overrun Northumbria, Mercia and East Anglia.

That war, with its massacres, defeats and betrayals, is the background to Uhtred’s childhood, a childhood which leaves him uncertain of his loyalties, but a slaughter in a winter dawn propels him to the English side and he will become a man just as the Danes launch their fiercest attack yet on Alfred’s kingdom. Marriage ties him further to the West Saxon cause, but when his wife and child vanish in the chaos of a Danish invasion, Uhtred is driven to face the greatest of the Viking chieftains in a battle beside the sea, and there, in the horror of a shield-wall, he discovers his true allegiance.

As an avid fan of this early history, both sides of it- I am totally engrossed and involved in Uhtred’s story, his constant struggle with where his loyalties should be, and his inner battle with the beliefs of  the Christians as opposed to those of the Vikings. In the telling of the story, Uhtred is an old man sharing his memories of his youth and the events that surrounded his life. He looks back on those events and recalls how he felt back then compared to what he knows or understands as one who has survived the years of war. 

The book tells the story from both sides as Uhtred lived it as young Saxon heir betrayed by his family, then as youth taken in by a Dane who cares about him. What I find interesting, though a bit confusing right now- and the confusion is my own doing, nothing to do with the book! The slight confusion is caused only by my not always knowing all of the many added details, facts and legend behind the story- or by knowing some of them but not always being able to keep them straight in my over stuffed mind of late! The story includes many references to historical figures such as Ivor the boneless and his brothers, and on the Saxon side- Alfred who will become eventually, Alfred the Great. If you are a fan of the Vikings saga on the history channel, and yes I do know that many of you are despite your criticisms of it and all of it’s inaccuracies! Anyway, for those fans, of course the names of Ivar the Boneless and his brothers will be familiar as they are the sons of Ragnar Lodbrok. Alfred the Great is a descendant of another familiar character, Aethelwulf.  Now, in reading these books, please set aside history as the Vikings Saga presents it because yes, we are all aware that there are historical inaccuracies in the show- we need no further reminders of that fact! Just keep in mind that many of those characters such Ragnar’s sons are based on actual people and you will enjoy the references to the future generations of them. Bernard Cornwell’s version of the history is fiction as well and he does much the same things, weaving these actual people and events into the story! That is what I find interesting, is being able to take another look at these people and the history from a different perspective! Everyone’s perception and accounting of any event will vary according to how they were involved in it, which side they were on and their emotions at that particular time in history. 

The books were written long before the Vikings Saga arrived on our viewing screens and are probably a far better and more accurate portrayal of the historical events that took place during that time. For that alone you should consider reading them if you have watched the series and are basing your historical knowledge on what you see there? I do have to add that if you are basing your view of history strictly on the show, please, please do some further research on all of it! That said, the show is a decent enough starting point and has sparked people’s interest in history… I will not get into another long drawn out explanation or debate on the criticisms of historical fiction verses historical fact! I am just presenting my views on all of it and making the suggestion that you seek out more knowledge in any way that keeps your attention!

In all of my discussions of the show, I try hard to present real historical facts as added information and reference. This series of books, while they are historical fiction, are part of that added information and reference. I think they will hold your attention, present you with an entertaining and still educational experience!

For more information on the series and on Bernard Cornwell’s writing, you can and should visit his website!

http://www.bernardcornwell.net/

And, even better news about this series? It is being made into a television series!

http://www.carnivalfilms.co.uk/news/filming-begins-last-kingdom

http://www.bbc.co.uk/mediacentre/latestnews/2014/the-last-kingdom

 

1/13/2015

The FoxOk, a break from our Viking adventure to quickly post my most recent book review! This book is nothing to do with the Viking Era, it goes much further back in time than that! It covers the pre-history of Scotland, deals with the early Roman invasions and take overs of the land, and gives a very good representation of the Picts and the Druids during that time. It is also not time travel but does tell two stories, one of the present day and one of the ancient pre-history.  Arlene Radasky does an excellent job of weaving the two stories together and connecting them in a very personal way through archeology digs, research and a woman’s dreams/visions of the past. It is well documented, researched and put together, drawing you into the  history, the ancient culture and the mysteries of that long ago little known about time in history. She also provides some wonderful lyrics from music by Steve MacDonald to accompany and open the chapters! And, for me, the very best part and hardest part was the end… She leads us towards the Isle of Skye, and Skara Brae- two of my favorite places in historical Scotland. The bad part was that it ended, and as yet there is no second book! She is working on the next book though, so I will anxiously await the continuation of this series!

The Fox by Arlene Radasky

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Just finished this book and was left wishing for more! What a great story, both of them! It was two intertwined stories about the present and the ancient past. I was so fascinated with how she wove both stories together through the archeology digs and research. As some others have mentioned, I was more invested and attached to the ancient story than the present one. The present time portion seemed less thought out and somewhat forced but it was still a good story to use as a vehicle to tell the ancient story of Scottish pre-history. I loved her referrals and use of lyrics to music by Steve MacDonald to open the chapters. I gave it the 4 stars because of the lesser present time story and because, well… I want the next book now!

View all my reviews

1/06/2015

Lost Dreams: The Story of Eadburg, Queen of Wessex

Lost dreams by jayne stone Kwenthrith1

Eadburh Saxon serial killer?

Eadburh Saxon serial killer?

I am almost finished with the book. I have just a few pages left but I can’t quite bring myself to say farewell yet!

first of all, I need to point out that I am totally and completely obsessed with Saxon history and with those little known women who played such a part in the events of that time. For this reason, my review is probably a bit biased in favor of any work that sheds more light on these women. Eadburg is definitely one of those women.

I had read some brief history on Queen Eadburg before and then my interest in her came forward when I watched my favorite show, The Vikings on the history channel. Last season they introduced Princess Kwenthrith, and her back story sounded vaguely familiar? Of course, I had to dig deeper into who she might be based on in history and my search led me back to Queen Eadburg! 

I do have to say Thank You to Jayne Stone for this provocative and thoughtful rendition of the woman behind the rumors… Ohhh, and thank you too, Jayne for not leaving her die in the Church yard alone. I really thought that was going to be the sad and most pathetic end to her life right there! I do also have to amend my previous comment on this being a fun read? It was not a fun read as in light and amusing by any stretch of imagination. It was a fun read in the sense of how she approached Eadburh’s depressing, often tragic circumstances and balanced it with enough lighter moments of her life so that we still always hold out some hope for her even in the end. Jayne Stone took this much unknown woman with an at best sketchy reputation- at worst, an outright murderer- she made her come alive and made me care about her. Jeeeesh, she even made me care about the little dog, Poot! I think I felt as bad for him as I did for some others who met a horrible end!

For a comparison between the Vikings Saga Princess Kwenthrith, the real history of Eadburg, and Jayne Stone’s presentation of the woman you can view this blog post:

https://timeslipsblog.wordpress.com/2015/01/05/vikings-trivia-who-is-princess-kwenthrith/

 

 

 

12/26/2014

Contrary to recent posts and public opinion, I do read a great deal besides Outlander! In fact, I spend much of my free time reading… I have a long commute to and from work each day, which provides me with plenty of time to indulge in one of my favorite pass times- reading. While I do occasionally venture into the time travel realm for reading enjoyment… I know, I know, it would seem and appear that time travel would be my main priority/focus, but actually it is not. Most of my reading focus is on early medieval history from the early Viking Ages through William the Conqueror and on through to about the 1500s.

I have been quite lax and remiss about updating my book reviews page since Outlander appeared but, please rest assured that I have indeed kept up with my other reading! I am providing a quick guide here for those of you who are interested in reading material aside from Outlander! You can also always check out my reviews and books on my Goodreads page.  I have better luck keeping those reviews updated than the ones here!  https://www.goodreads.com/user/show/22404301-judywork

For now, I will just update you with a few that I’ve read lately and may have referenced in earlier posts!

 

 Veil of Time  by Claire R. McDougall.  This was a one of the time travel exceptions I’ve made and it well worth the read as it is so much more than just time travel or a romance novel!

Veil of Time

A compelling tale of two Scotlands-one modern, one ancient-and the woman who parts the veil between them.

The medication that treats Maggie’s seizures leaves her in a haze, but it can’t dull her grief at losing her daughter to the same condition. With her marriage dissolved and her son away at school, Maggie retreats to a cottage below the ruins of Dunadd, once the royal seat of Scotland. But is it fantasy or reality when she awakens in a bustling village within the massive walls of eighth-century Dunadd? In a time and place so strange yet somehow familiar, Maggie is drawn to the striking, somber Fergus, brother of the king and father of Illa, who bears a keen resemblance to Maggie’s late daughter. With each dreamlike journey to the past, Maggie grows closer to Fergus and embraces the possibility of staying in this Dunadd. But with present-day demands calling her back, can Maggie leave behind the Scottish prince who dubs her mo chridhe, my heart?

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/18144050-veil-of-time

Now, while the area of Dunnad and Kilmartin are filled with ancient Stone circles and Standing Stones, Maggie did not make use of them for her trip through time. They were an integral part or mechanism for her travel though as she had not experienced the time travel previously to her visit to Dunadd as an adult.  Also, the Druidess priestess and others she met in the past seemed to feel that the Stones were responsible for her travel as well as for any number of other events. Maggie was suffering from a number of traumatic events in life and decided to spend some time by herself in an isolated cottage at the base of the Dunnad hill fort.  She is working on her doctoral thesis- on the history of Witchcraft in Scotland and trying to finish it before facing a life altering and possible mind altering major operation to cure her of her epileptic seizures. It seems that the combination of the seizures and what ever mystical properties might be at this area are initially the trigger to send her back through time to the year 735 when Dunnad was at the height of it’s importance in history.

The book gives a very good description and visualization of  Mid-winter solstice celebrations as they might have taken place during that time! It also references the Druidic influences and Pict representation in that area and time.

https://timeslipsblog.wordpress.com/?s=veil+of+time

 

 

Circle of Ceridwen Series by Octavia Randolph

If you are interested in early Saxon and Viking history in Britain, I highly recommend this series!

For a more detailed and in depth look at these early Saxons, their struggle to hold on to their old ways and their eventual demise under the Christian influence, I would highly suggest you read this series of books by Octavia Randolph. I suggest here mainly because she deals with the early Saxon beliefs and how closely they were connected to the Norse/Vikings beliefs of the time. She also has excellent descriptions of some of their traditions and celebrations! It is a series of four books that tell a young woman’s journey through the Viking conquests of early England and then her life in the northern lands of  Danemark, and Gotland.

circle of ceridwen1

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/23123223-the-circle-of-ceridwen

In Circle of Ceridwen, Octavia Randolph discusses in great detail, the Saxon belief in Woden and  it’s close connection to the Viking belief in Odin.

Young women with courage. Swords with names. Vikings with tattoos. Danger. Passion. Survival. Warfare. Sheep. And Other Good Things…

The year 871, when England was Angle-Land. Of seven Anglo-Saxon kingdoms, five have fallen to the invading Vikings. Across this war-torn landscape travels fifteen year old Ceridwen, now thrust into the lives of the conquerors. But living with the enemy affords Ceridwen unusual freedoms – and unlooked-for conflicts. Amongst them she explores again her own heathen past, and learns to judge each man on his own merits. Her divided loyalties spur her to summon all her courage – a courage which will be sorely tested as she defies both Saxon and Dane and undertakes an extraordinary adventure to save a man she has never met.

The first book of The Circle of Ceridwen Trilogy, the historical adventure saga enjoyed by thousands of readers in over 125 nations.

 

There are four books in the series… and I am keeping my fingers crossed that there will eventually be more. The series covers the life and journey of Ceridwen from her early years as a somewhat naïve teen through her years living with the Viking conquerors of  Britain, to her journey to the Viking homelands of Gotland. It is an excellent well documented and detailed look at the changes in lives and cultures during that time period, with a focus on how one young woman deals with all of those sudden changes in her life.  I would definitely recommend you read all of them and check out Octavia Randolph!

https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/1365292.Octavia_Randolph

Ceridwen of Kilton the claiming Hall of Tyr

After reading the last one, Hall of Tyr, there was also a nice bonus of a medieval cookery booklet included. She includes early medieval Britain fare as well as medieval Scandinavian dishes!

For a sample of her cookery details, you should read this article!

http://englishhistoryauthors.blogspot.com/2014/08/venison-pie-and-honey-cakes.html

3harts

 

For slightly later medieval history, try The Handfasted wife  and the Swan daughter by Carol McGrath.

the handfasted wife by Carol McGrath The Swan daughter by Carol McGrath

These two books are about history during the time of William the Conqueror. They are well written historical biography types more than romances.

The first one, Handfasted wife tells the story  of the Norman Conquest from the perspective of Edith (Elditha) Swanneck, Harold’s common-law wife. She is set aside for a political marriage when Harold becomes king in 1066. Determined to protect her children’s destinies and control her economic future, she is taken to William’s camp when her estate is sacked on the eve of the Battle of Hastings. She later identifies Harold’s body on the battlefield and her youngest son becomes a Norman hostage. Elditha avoids an arranged marriage with a Breton knight by which her son might or might not be given into his care. She makes her own choice and sets out through strife-torn England to seek help from her sons in Dublin. However, events again overtake her. Harold’s mother, Gytha, holds up in her city of Exeter with other aristocratic women, including Elditha’s eldest daughter. The girl is at risk, drawing Elditha back to Exeter and resistance. Initially supported by Exeter’s burghers the women withstand William’s siege. However, after three horrific weeks they negotiate exile and the removal of their treasure. Elditha takes sanctuary in a convent where eventually she is reunited with her hostage son. This is an adventure story of love, loss, survival and reconciliation.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Harold_Godwinson

1024px-Bayeux_Tapestry_scene23_Harold_sacramentum_fecit_Willelmo_duci

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Edith_the_Fair

Edith_discovering_the_body_of_Harold

 

The second book is about Edith and Harold’s daughter, Gunnhild.  The Swan Daughter is a true 11th C tale of elopement and a love triangle by best-selling author of The Handfasted Wife, Carol McGrath. A marriage made in Heaven or Hell.  It is 1075 and Dowager Queen Edith has died. Gunnhild longs to leave Wilton Abbey but is her suitor Breton knight Count Alan of Richmond interested in her inheritance as the daughter of King Harold and Edith Swan-Neck or does he love her for herself? And is her own love for Count Alain an enduring love or has she made a mistake? 

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alan_Rufus

Alan_Rufus

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gunhild_of_Wessex

 

For a better and even more detailed perspective the events of this time period, I would suggest and encourage you to read  two other books about this era by Helen Hollick!

I have already previously mentioned her work, The Forever Queen (The Saxon Series #1)  on my book reviews page but am going repeat here for easier reference. This book is a great depiction and detail of  Emma of Normandy, whom little is known about but who is so important in history. It is the first of two books on Emma and her offspring, with the second book being, I am the Chosen King.

What kind of woman becomes the wife of two kings, and the mother of two more?

Saxon England, 1002. Not only is Æthelred a failure as King, but his young bride, Emma of Normandy, soon discovers he is even worse as a husband. When the Danish Vikings, led by Swein Forkbeard and his son, Cnut, cause a maelstrom of chaos, Emma, as Queen, must take control if the Kingdom-and her crown-are to be salvaged. Smarter than history remembers, and stronger than the foreign invaders who threaten England’s shores, Emma risks everything on a gamble that could either fulfill her ambitions and dreams or destroy her completely.

Emma, the Queen of Saxon England, comes to life through the exquisite writing of Helen Hollick, who shows in this epic tale how one of the most compelling and vivid heroines in English history stood tall through a turbulent fifty-year reign of proud determination, tragic despair, and triumph over treachery.

The Forever Queen (The Saxon Series, #1)The Forever Queen by Helen Hollick
My rating:
5 of 5 stars

Fantastic! I was quite impressed with all of this book. I appreciate that it was not so much a gushy over done, made up romance novel but more of a historical docu-drama of her life. Helen Hollick took the limited details surrounding this somewhat forgotten queen that we hear so little about and wove those details into an excellent story!

I wrote the above short review a while ago but wanted to add to it because I am still so impressed with the storytelling of Helen Hollick. I have not read the second book of the series yet, but will get to it soon! After spending an immense amount of time reading quite serious histories, I needed to take a break and read some less intense ones!

This was most definitely one of the more serious and intense ones! It is not a feel good, happily ever after love story by any means. If you are looking for that, you will be quite disappointed. What you will find is a story about the grim and gritty realities of a woman’s life in those early medieval times. Just because a woman was of noble blood and ended up with a crown- more than one, it did not mean her life was any easier. In fact, in so many ways it was even more difficult.

Emma was married first to Æthelred who failed as both a King and a husband, but Emma did do her duty in providing him with not one, but two legitimate heirs. That should have given her some security in those times but unfortunately luck was not with her… or maybe it was? The kingdom is overtaken by Cnut who claims her along with the kingdom. She finally finds love with him only to have him die leaving the kingdom in another battle of who should rule.

The story of her life was well documented in this book with more than enough factual information woven into the story to give what I felt it was an excellent representation of the constant hurdles she endured throughout her life that colored and shaped how she viewed her role and her destiny as well as that of her sons.

 

I am the Chosen King

In this beautifully crafted tale, Harold Godwinesson, the last Saxon King of England, is a respected, quick-witted man both vulnerable and strong, honorable and loving-and yet, in the end, only human. After the political turmoil and battles leading up to 1066, we all know William the Conquerer takes England. But Helen Hollick will have readers at the edge of their seats, hoping that just this once, for Harold, the story will have a different ending.

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/9223563-i-am-the-chosen-king

I am in the process of reading I am the Chosen King right now and am just as impressed with it as I was with the first book! What is interesting for me now is the comparison between this work and the information I previously read in Carol McGrath’s books about the same people. Where as Carol’s books deal more with Edith’s and her daughter’s lives and their possible perspectives of the time and events, this work goes into more depth concerning all of the key figures of the time. By reading all of them, I think you could gain a better insight and picture of  what was happening and how those involved might have come to the choices they made.

 

6/21/2014

Outlander (Outlander, #1)Outlander by Diana Gabaldon
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Ok, before any review… I am asking myself, How on earth did I manage to miss this entire series in the first place!

I just came across this series recently when reading so many other people’s references and comments about it on other blogs and fb pages that I keep track of. Those comments sparked my curiosity and I naturally had to check it out. I am so happy I did! So far, I have only completed the first book, but was impressed enough to continue on with the rest of it.

Word of warning- the book is quite long and at times, a bit lagging to get through. It also does not fit into any one specific category as far as genres go. That is a plus for it! There was more than enough historical detail and fact to satisfy those interested in history. While it could probably be labeled under the category of historical romance, it involves so much more than just a romance that I feel the Romance label does not do it justice! The one thing that I felt could have been detailed a bit more was the premise and the basis for the actual story. Claire Randall, the main character, is visiting Scotland with her husband and ends up being swept through time in some sort of time displacement caused by ancient standing stones. There is some limited mention of them and of their history along with some references to Druids. Diana Gabaldon seemed to use these stones as a launching point for the story but did not delve into them much more other than Claire’s few attempts to get back to them. I can only assume that they will be explained more in future books. I certainly hope so because the stones, as I mentioned, set the whole story up and play such an important part in the time travel aspect. I would have liked a bit more detail on history or myths surrounding the Standing Stones.

The story also touches on some witchcraft and references to Fairy circles and such, but it is more about the actual history of Scotland and Claire’s adjustment to that time. There is some ongoing mystery which will most likely play out in the future books of the series.

Overall, it was an excellent read that covered a variety of interests so I was well satisfied with it. I’m looking forward to the many more books included in the series and the upcoming mini-series from Starz based on the books! It will play starting in August!
http://www.starz.com/originals/outlander

 

Ahhhh, I have just read all three books in the Blue Bells of Scotland Series by Laura Vosika!

Ahhh Yes, I have been absent this week, but for such an excellent reason! I have just spent all week on the most incredible journey through time and through Scotland! My own writing was on hold while I immersed myself in this voyage. My only disappointment is that it’s over for the time being… at least until the next book in the series comes out!

One rather strange coincidence worth mentioning… because I am always fascinated with those odd coincidences and moments of Déjà vu? Before reading the last book in the series, The Water is Wide, I experienced a couple of those odd little moments. I randomly heard the song played twice?! The first time was at a music presentation for our residents at work. At the time, I did not think anything of it but was entranced with the song, which I could not remember ever hearing before. The next time I heard it was when I put an old video one evening for the residents to enjoy… An Evening with The Irish Tenors. Fortunately, my residents didn’t even complain when I rewound it and played the song a couple of times!

I was moved by the song, then quite happily surprised when I picked up the book and made the connection!

So, before I head off into my own fantasy realm, I leave you with some versions I’ve found of the song, the lyrics, and then my book review!

The Water is Wide
The water is wide, I cannot get oer
Neither have I wings to fly
Give me a boat that can carry two
And both shall row, my love and I

A ship there is and she sails the sea
She’s loaded deep as deep can be
But not so deep as the love I’m in
I know not if I sink or swim

I leaned my back against an oak
Thinking it was a trusty tree
But first it bent and then it broke
So did my love prove false to me

I reached my finger into some soft bush
Thinking the fairest flower to find
I pricked my finger to the bone
And left the fairest flower behind

Oh love be handsome and love be kind
Gay as a jewel when first it is new
But love grows old and waxes cold
And fades away like the morning dew

Must I go bound while you go free
Must I love a man who doesn’t love me
Must I be born with so little art
As to love a man who’ll break my heart

When cockle shells turn silver bells
Then will my love come back to me
When roses bloom in winter’s gloom
Then will my love return to me

The Water is Wide (Blue Bells Trilogy, #3)The Water is Wide by Laura Vosika
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I have just finished traveling through time and Scotland with Shawn, Niall, Amy and Angus. It was an incredible journey and I have to say that I am a little sad that it’s over for now… at least until the next book in the series comes out. Yes, there were times when the trip was a little slow going. We got side tracked and delayed quite often having to stop and deal with Amy’s overwhelming and sometimes annoying bouts of guilt, betrayal and grief. I cut her some slack and decided that it was justified under her circumstances- having left Shawn in the tower after breaking up with him, being pregnant, realizing that he’s wandering around medieval Scotland totally unprepared.

I am including all three books together in this review because you really do need to read them all to get a clear picture and understanding of everything going on. When I read the first one, Blue Bells of Scotland, I interested and intrigued with the concept but not necessarily all that emotionally attached to some of the characters- such as Amy. With the second book, Minstrel Boy, I was able to understand and empathize with her more. Also, in the first book, Shawn was definitely struggling with some likeability issues for a lot of reader… yes, including me at times! By the third book, I am now so emotionally attached to all of them that I am somewhat disappointed in the ending and having to wait for the next book. I was really hoping for some little preview or hint of what comes next as there is another book coming.

There were a few parts that seemed confusing to me and I am hoping those niggling little questions left in my mind will get answered in future books. Knowing that there were books planned when I got to those somewhat confusing parts, I could only assume that they might be small clues or references to future story lines. Had I not been aware of the future installments coming, I would have been more frustrated and annoyed with these little bits that seemed to be left hanging in the air for us.

Over all, the three books are excellent and I can’t wait to continue this journey!

View all my reviews

I blogged this earlier as a individual post, but I have decided to give the Books and Reviews their own page!

Ok, I have to break from the current story line here just to put out my thoughts on my most recent reading! It has left me so puzzled and astounded that I must make some comment about here. I have read so much about strange, cruel and highly bizarre punishments throughout history that I normally am not overly disturbed about it any more. This most recent account, though has left me with a serious case of “What???” I think I am most bothered by the fact that it’s one of those events that has been much left out of most histories that you would read.

I am currently reading ‘Sisters of the Bruce’ by J.M. Harvey.
http://www.sistersofthebruce.com/books/4575481746

http://sistersofthebruce.wordpress.com/

Sisters of The Bruce

In the book she mentions the punishment that two of the women received for their roles in the Bruce battle for Scotland. I am not sure which astounds me more… the punishment of being locked in hanging outdoor cages open to all the elements of weather and abuses from the public viewing them, or the fact that they survived it for up to four years and at least one of them- Mary Bruce lived on for some years after the imprisonment.

That is our history lesson for the night. Much thanks to J.M. Harvey for her contribution to our history!

Ahhhh, I got so side tracked and involved in that story that our episode will be delayed a bit!

Sisters of the Bruce, 1292-1314Sisters of the Bruce, 1292-1314 by J.M. Harvey
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Ok, I have finished the book and revised my earlier in progress rating of it! I have given it 4 stars because I did find the first half of the book extremely difficult to get through. The book is presented in such a way that much of it is in the form of letters written back and forth between the family, especially true for the first half of the book. To me, those letters in the first half felt forced and did not flow so well as in the second half of the book. It’s my thought that too much factual information and details were forced into those first letters. I didn’t feel as connected or involved with the characters initially because of wading through those details. I know they were important to the overall story but I just didn’t feel like they fit into the letter writings between sisters so well.

I decided to stick with it and am so glad that I did! The second half of the book was so much better and I became thoroughly involved with the characters, the story and the actual history! By the end, it more than met my standard for rating. It made me want to know more, it made me cry, and it gave me pause to think about some things I didn’t know previous to the book!

View all my reviews

While you’re waiting for our update, you can also check out this excellent website for a trilogy of stories by Laura Vosika, Blue Bells of Scotland. I have not read the books yet, as I just happened to stumble across them in my search for more information on the Bruce family. After visiting the site, I have decided that they are high on my list of “To Reads!”
http://bluebellstrilogy.com/blog/
http://www.bluebellstrilogy.com/

Blue Bells of Scotland

I have now read Blue Bells of Scotland and am looking forward to reading the rest of the books in the series! I have just read on Laura Vosika’s FB page that what started out to be a trilogy is being expanded to include 5 books!

Here is my review of the first book: Blue Bells of Scotland by Laura Vosika

Blue Bells of Scotland (Blue Bells Trilogy, #1)Blue Bells of Scotland by Laura Vosika
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I initially went into this book with some hesitation, not really expecting too much. I read the various reviews on it which range from awful to excellent and everything in between so I wasn’t quite sure about taking a chance on it. Yes, the beginning was a little iffy and I was doubtful about whether it could redeem itself. For those who might be slogging through those first pages with the same thought, I can only say… Please do hang in there and give it a chance!

By the time I got towards the end, I could not put it down! I liked the way she took a different route on presenting the what if scenario and the historical facts. I also appreciated the way she gave us two initially opposing facets of what constitutes a “hero”. No, in the beginning, Shawn was not likeable in any way. As the story progressed, she showed his flaws, his demons and his inner struggles in a believable fashion. By the end of the book, I think I was more drawn to him than to the always noble Niall.

Her research on the history and the events was sound and I even enjoyed the battle portions. I admit that, normally I have a tendency to skim over those parts but she managed to keep me interested through all of it!

I will definitely be reading the other books in the series!

View all my reviews

Another book, not so much about time travel… You assume in the beginning that is what is but not really.
In the Time of KingsIn the Time of Kings by N. Gemini Sasson
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

It took me a while to get through this book. The first portion of it was rather slow going and didn’t quite grab my interest or attention. Professor Ross Sinclair is living a mostly happy life in the present day. He’s just married his childhood sweetheart and they’re on their honeymoon in Scotland where his wife becomes ill and he takes a fall that lands him in the past.

I think the first part could have used some additional details to spark a little more interest. I know it was Ross’ story but it did eventually involve his wife as well, and I would have liked a bit more information on her in the beginning.

As others have mentioned, once it got to the past, it got much more interesting. The research and description of the battle was excellent and held my attention.

I was a little disappointed by the ending as well. I just felt like there was so much more to the story. She seemed to rush through the ending and in a way it felt like she just tacked it on because she needed to wrap it up in some allotted amount of pages. Because of the weak beginning and end, I left it with the three stars. The middle was great! She brought out some interesting pieces of history with her mention of the Cathars but I would have liked to know more about that aspect in relation to her character, Roslin Sinclair. It leaves me with that question stuck in my head… Was he or wasn’t he?
May 23, 2014 01:12PM · delete

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The Stolen Crown: The Secret Marriage that Forever Changed the Fate of EnglandThe Stolen Crown: The Secret Marriage that Forever Changed the Fate of England by Susan Higginbotham
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

After reading a number of other books about the Woodville family, Richard III, and the events of this time period, I was quite pleasantly surprised by this book! Susan Higginbotham presented this story in a way that showed some other sides to the people and the events. She told the story from the views of younger sister Catherine Woodville and her eventual husband, Henry Stafford, Duke of Buckingham. I liked the fact that they were portrayed with such depth of personality, including both their good points as well as their human flaws that would have shaped how they dealt with the events taking place at that time. I especially appreciated her portrayal of Henry, his family’s past history and how all of that would have lead him to make the decisions he did.

The book does an excellent job of delving more into the depth and character of those surrounding Richard III at that time. It caused me to rethink some of my previous opinions and assumptions about many of those people. It also inspired me to do more research on some of them. I generally use that as my standard for rating and enjoying a book. If it gives me pause to think, and sends me off to search for more, then it’s definitely a keeper! This one did both!

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The Winter MantleThe Winter Mantle by Elizabeth Chadwick
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I am happy to say that the second half of the book was well worth the struggle I had in getting through the first half! The book is divided into two stories, the first one being of Waltheof of Huntington and his ill fated marriage to William the Conqueror’s niece, Judith. It was definitely not a romance/love story in any expected fashion? I struggled with it, but it did cause me to go do my own research on them!

The second half of the book was about their daughter Matilda and her marriage to Waltheof’s Norman acquaintance Simon de Senlis. This story kept my attention and did explain the underlying issues of Waltheof and Judith!

I gave it 4 stars…because of my difficulties with the first half. In the end, I was surprised and satisfied with the overall story! As usual, Elizabeth Chadwick did an excellent job of weaving history and fiction together even though I am sure that there was limited actual history for her to go on as she started this story! She inspires me to go on my own quests to find out more about the history that she presents in each book!

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The Scarlet Lion (William Marshal, #3)The Scarlet Lion by Elizabeth Chadwick
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I just finished The Scarlet Lion and am still shedding my share of tears for the ending of William Marshall’s life. Elizabeth Chadwick did such an excellent job of telling his story and that of his family that I am looking forward to learning so much more about their legacy!

I did not know too much about him prior to reading The Greatest Knight, but now am compelled to do my own research into this part of history. Thank You Elizabeth Chadwick!

View all my reviews

Harold! The Bloody Normans Have Landed.Harold! The Bloody Normans Have Landed. by B Redfern
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Haaaaa I read this a while ago and still laugh thinking about it! A unique and highly original look at the historical facts blended with current day social media. It was a quick easy read, provided some actual facts that I had to go Google, which made me laugh even more at the slight irony of having to Google information texted by Harold and other bumbling Royal historical figures!

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Cold Case Reopened: The Princes in the TowerCold Case Reopened: The Princes in the Tower by Mark Garber
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

An easy informative read from a non- historian’s perspective of the disappearance of the boys in the tower. He brought up some interesting alternative scenarios and provided some added details that I was not aware of. I appreciated the fact that he did not weigh us down with massive amounts of historical reference but gave us enough to continue to research it on our own.

 

The Red Queen (The Cousins' War, #2)The Red Queen by Philippa Gregory
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I read this book quite a while ago but am just starting to catch up on some reviews. When I first read it, I gave it three stars and now as I think back on the story, I am going to leave it at three. Yes, it did have some problems but I don’t see Margaret as not be such a likeable person as one of them. It was more the repetition of some things… a lot of things, that I found irritating.

I actually liked the way Margaret was portrayed. Her life was difficult from it’s beginnings and she was a survivor. She used her religious fervor and faith as her shield in a battle for some control of her life. I liked the fact that it was written in first person from her point of view and I can see her saying in this time something like, “I don’t care if you like me or not, I have a duty and a purpose here and I am going to keep fighting for it one way or another.”

The main character not being likeable is not a detriment to a story. what is a distraction is Margaret’s repeating her speeches and her vows over and over, and over. It does seem to serve a purpose though, had I been around her for any length of time, I may have been tempted to reach out, shake her and yell, “Enough Already!” I could definitely empathize and sympathize with her relatives and her husbands in their frustration with her. And, I am reasonably sure that this sort of behavior would have had an affect on her son, the future King even if she didn’t have much role in raising him.

I do agree with others on some of the improbable things such as the messages being passed back and forth, and never being discovered. Her obsession with Joan of Arc could have been limited, it was another thing that did not need continuous repeating.

Overall, it was good, not great but not awful either. It did give some interesting history about Margaret Beaufort, a woman not often mentioned or given credit for at least fighting a good fight and in her own way winning it by finally seeing her son on the throne!

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Shadow of Night (All Souls Trilogy, #2)Shadow of Night by Deborah Harkness
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This is strange… I was sure I reviewed this book already! I can’t believe that I forgot to add my review here since I was so impressed with it. I did not read the first book in the series but found this story excellent even without the back information from the first one.

It weaves the witches and vampires into history along with time travel-all of my favorite things wrapped up in one book! I appreciate the fact that Deborah Harkness leaves some things to the imagination. I do not need to have every single detail of a love story spelled out for me, I have enough imagination and creativity to add my own details to those scenes!

I think what I liked most was how she weaves the witch and vampire history into real history and incorporates some of the Medieval scientific knowledge and their research. For some reason people seem to forget just how much was being discovered and explored in those past ages. She addressed it and brought it fully into the story.

I could go on and on in my praise of her work but I will stop now and just say, I am still waiting ohhh so impatiently for the next book!

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The King's Deception (Cotton Malone, #8)The King’s Deception by Steve Berry
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I picked up this book knowing nothing about Steve Berry’s work and being drawn in merely by the mention of Tudor history. It sucked me in from the very beginning! A fantastic suspense novel with layers of mysteries and details from history so well researched.

I am not normally a fan of the suspense and spy or military type books, but this book went so far beyond that level. I found myself not wanting it to end! It was full of conspiracies from the Tudor dynasty all the way up to the present time that were so well laid out they were believable and left me wondering… What if?

I would definitely recommend it to other history fans!

 

Queen Hereafter: A Novel of Margaret of ScotlandQueen Hereafter: A Novel of Margaret of Scotland by Susan Fraser King
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I knew nothing about Margaret of Scotland before reading this book. The historical facts surrounding her life were well told and woven into the story. It held my interest throughout all of it for all of those facts if nothing else!

My one issue with the story was the side story of Eva. Her story was excellent but I think at times it over stepped the main one of Margaret. I feel like Eva’s story could have been a separate one in itself. Because there was so much factual information throughout the book, I initially thought that Eva might actually have been a real person? I was so much more interested in her life and story that I went so far as to go off and do research on whether she might have existed! I was slightly disappointed when, of course, I found nothing related to her and realized that she was indeed a made up fictional addition to the story.

The author stated herself that there was such a vast amount of information on Margaret’s life that she had a hard time condensing it into the book. I think she could have used more of that information to build her story and merely used Eva as a more minor character. Perhaps she could have mentioned and introduced us to this character and then created a separate book devoted to the fictional Eva!

I enjoyed the book and both stories contained in it. That is how I felt when reading it, like they should have been two separate stories rather than being merged together into Margaret’s already full and interesting life. Because I felt like Eva’s story was a bit of distraction, even though I really did like her story, I am giving a final rating of three stars. If Susan Fraser King would ever decide to tell us more about Eva, I would certainly be happy to read it!

 

Lady of the EnglishLady of the English by Elizabeth Chadwick
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

first of all, I need to clarify that I am a great fan of Elizabeth Chadwick’s books on the medieval time period. I do not however, take her historical representations as gospel truth. She is after all a story teller and uses the historical facts that she finds as a basis for her fictional works. If you want a true and completely factual documentation of the history then you should probably be reading and researching the historical documents. What I do appreciate is that she introduces me to historical events and people with her stories. After reading one of her stories, I usually find myself interested enough to go out and do my own research regarding the story she presents.

She did not fail me in this regard with her story of Empress Matilda and Queen Adeliza! She presented me with an interesting story of both of these women. I did feel at times that she glossed over some portions of Matilda’s life, such as the later relationship of her and husband, Geoffrey. I can understand though how, in their years apart, it would have become less important to her.

I thought that she did an excellent job in capturing and representing the difficult choices, or lack of them that women were faced with during those times. Yes, Matilda had every right to the crown, but ultimately had to face the fact that the men in power were not going to allow it, whether they believed in her right or not. Once she realized that, her next option was to fight for the right of her son to wear the crown.

I found the story of Adeliza as interesting, possibly even more so than Matilda’s. She was a woman who could not give the King the one thing he needed, a male heir but he did not set her aside- which he could probably done easily enough back then. In reading her story and doing my own added research on her, I am left with a feeling that she would have been more happy with a life devoted to God but could not quite bring herself to commit completely to that route. First of all as Queen, she felt it her duty to produce an heir and be a faithful and honorable servant of God to her country. Without producing an heir, she tried to live up to the role of good wife and Queen. When Henry died, she did retire to the Benedictine convent of Wilton Abbey. She founded the leper hospital dedicated to Saint Giles at Fugglestone St Peter, Wiltshire.

At first I thought perhaps Elizabeth Chadwick added to her story with a fictional presentation of a second marriage. I, of course had to go look it up! She did marry and have a number of children but left them to return to life at a monastery. Whether she left because of illness as Elizabeth suggested, or because of a deeper and higher calling to her God is unknown as little else is documented or known about those later years of her life.

As I mentioned in the beginning, it’s a story, not complete and total accurate facts! I feel she wove them together well!

 

The Forever Queen (The Saxon Series, #1)The Forever Queen by Helen Hollick
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Fantastic! I was quite impressed with all of this book. I appreciate that it was not so much a gushy over done, made up romance novel but more of a historical docu-drama of her life. Helen Hollick took the limited details surrounding this somewhat forgotten queen that we hear so little about and wove those details into an excellent story!

I wrote the above short review a while ago but wanted to add to it because I am still so impressed with the storytelling of Helen Hollick. I have not read the second book of the series yet, but will get to it soon! After spending an immense amount of time reading quite serious histories, I needed to take a break and read some less intense ones!

This was most definitely one of the more serious and intense ones! It is not a feel good, happily ever after love story by any means. If you are looking for that, you will be quite disappointed. What you will find is a story about the grim and gritty realities of a woman’s life in those early medieval times. Just because a woman was of noble blood and ended up with a crown- more than one, it did not mean her life was any easier. In fact, in so many ways it was even more difficult.

Emma was married first to Æthelred who failed as both a King and a husband, but Emma did do her duty in providing him with not one, but two legitimate heirs. That should have given her some security in those times but unfortunately luck was not with her… or maybe it was? The kingdom is overtaken by Cnut who claims her along with the kingdom. She finally finds love with him only to have him die leaving the kingdom in another battle of who should rule.

The story of her life was well documented in this book with more than enough factual information woven into the story to give what I felt it was an excellent representation of the constant hurdles she endured throughout her life that colored and shaped how she viewed her role and her destiny as well as that of her sons.

 

This entry was posted on May 25, 2014, in . 4 Comments

Today’s ancestry and history lesson sponsored by the Gaunt family!

Ok, today’s ancestry and history lesson has nothing to do with the Viking era or the early Anglo-Saxons. No, today we are going to move forward a few centuries to some equally interesting family members. I have to admit that finding these ancestors has made me more appreciative of my more boring, average and mundane life! This week’s ancestry research has connected me to some families that I am not really sure I necessarily want to be descended from? I am beginning to realize why so many of my ancestors tried to stay on the edge of Royal and Nobility politics, why their fortunes may have took a down turn eventually and why they might have jumped at the chance to head for the wilds of America first chance they got!  I have found myself caught up in the web of Nobility and Royalty of the 1300s- a web of scheming, plotting and feuding families that would equal to anything earlier generations could have thought of!  After trying to sort through some of it, I will no longer complain about sifting through generation after generation of plain ordinary families who left little trace of their history.  

This family history update is brought to you by the Gaunt family… John of Gaunt and his rather illustrious family that includes some royalty, some nobility, some rather famous friends, plus assorted wives, and a  professional mistress who made good. 

blanche of lancaster and katherine swynford

I am not going to share the entire book that it would require to document events of this family. I just want to share the beginning of this family saga that will eventually drag us through the War of the Roses with ancestors on both sides of the long drawn out battle for the crown and the power of the English monarchy. A family saga that will come to include the Gaunt descendants, the Beaufort, Nevilles and the Percy families.

John of Gaunt is my 17x great grandfather by way of his daughter Joan Beaufort with Mistress turned wife, Katherine Swynford.

joan beaufort

Many people who have some interest in medieval history may be familiar with Katherine Swynford, one of the more famous or infamous mistresses who made good and managed to retire comfortably to wifedom… You may not realize that she was also a pre-cursor to the now somewhat familiar and infamous idea of the not so trusted Nanny idea.  She is also some proof that occasionally the role or career of long term mistress does pay off if one is willing to stick it out and ignore the bad press and scandal associated with the career. 

Let’s look at John of Gaunt first… he was no stranger to bad press and rumors himself! John of Gaunt, 1st Duke of Lancaster, (6 March 1340 – 3 February 1399) was a member of the House of Plantagenet, the third surviving son of KingEdward III of England and Philippa of Hainault. He was called “John of Gaunt” because he was born in Ghent, then rendered in English as Gaunt. When he became unpopular later in life, scurrilous rumours and lampoons circulated that he was actually the son of a Ghent butcher, perhaps because Edward III was not present at the birth. This story always drove him to fury. 

As a younger brother of Edward, Prince of Wales (Edward, the Black Prince), John exercised great influence over the English throne during the minority of Edward’s son, who became King Richard II, and the ensuing periods of political strife. Due to some generous land grants, John was one of the richest men in his era. He made an abortive attempt to enforce a claim to the Crown of Castile that came courtesy of his second wife Constance, who was an heir to the Castillian Kingdom, and for a time styled himself as such. So, let’s just say that John was a pretty catch even if he wasn’t in line for a crown! John of Gaunt’s legitimate male heirs, the Lancasters, include Kings Henry IV, Henry V, and Henry VI. His other legitimate descendants include his daughtersQueen Philippa of Portugal and Elizabeth, Duchess of Exeter (by his first wife Blanche of Lancaster), and Queen Catherine of Castile (by his second wifeConstance of Castile). John fathered five children outside marriage, one early in life by a lady-in-waiting to his mother, and four by Katherine Swynford, Gaunt’s long-term mistress and third wife.

john.gaunt.4

John was the fourth son of King Edward III of England. His first wife, Blanche of Lancaster, was also his third cousin, both as great-great-grandchildren of King Henry III. They married in 1359 at Reading Abbey as a part of the efforts of Edward III to arrange matches for his sons with wealthy heiresses. Upon the death of his father-in-law, the 1st Duke of Lancaster, in 1361, John received half his lands, the title “Earl of Lancaster”, and distinction as the greatest landowner in the north of England as heir of the Palatinate of Lancaster. He also became the 14th Baron of Halton and 11th Lord of Bowland. John inherited the rest of the Lancaster property when Blanche’s sister Maud, Countess of Leicester (married to William V, Count of Hainaut), died without issue on 10 April 1362.

John received the title “Duke of Lancaster” from his father on 13 November 1362. By then well established, he owned at least thirty castles and estates across England and France and maintained a household comparable in scale and organisation to that of a monarch. He owned land in almost every county in England, a patrimony that produced a net income of between £8,000 and £10,000 a year.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_of_Gaunt

Since we are looking more at his personal life here, I am not going to go into great detail about his professional life as in his politics, or his battle accomplishments-or lack of them. Despite any other faults or errors he may have made, he was loyal to his King. When Edward III died in 1377 and John’s ten-year-old nephew succeeded as Richard II of England, John’s influence strengthened. However, mistrust remained, and some suspected him of wanting to seize the throne himself. John took pains to ensure that he never became associated with the opposition to Richard’s kingship.

blanche of lancaster

As I mentioned, we are looking more at his personal life here- his marriages, and affairs of the heart so to speak.  On 19 May 1359 at Reading Abbey, John married his third cousin, Blanche of Lancaster, daughter of Henry of Grosmont, 1st Duke of Lancaster. The wealth she brought to the marriage was the foundation of John’s fortune. Blanche died on 12 September 1368 at Tutbury Castle, while her husband was overseas. Their son Henry Bolingbroke became Henry IV of England, after the duchy of Lancaster was taken by Richard II upon John’s death while Henry was in exile. Their daughter Philippa became Queen of Portugal by marrying King John I of Portugal in 1387. All subsequent kings of Portugal were thus descended from John of Gaunt.

marriage_of_blanche_of_lancster_and_john_of_gaunt_1359

Jean Froissart described Blanche (following her death) as “jone et jolie” (“young and pretty”). Geoffrey Chaucer described “White” (the central figure in hisBook of the Duchess, believed to have been inspired by Blanche: see below) in such terms as “rody, fresh, and lyvely hewed”, her neck as “whyt, smothe, streght, and flat”, and her throat as “a round tour of yvoire”: she was “bothe fair and bright”, and Nature’s “cheef patron [pattern] of beautee”. Of course she was young and probably pretty… she was born in  March 1345, although the year 1347 has also been suggested. So, given that birth date she was all of 13 or 14 at the time! 

Gaunt and Blanche’s marriage is widely believed to have been happy, although there is little solid evidence for this. The assumption seems to be based on the fact that Gaunt chose to be buried with Blanche, despite his two subsequent marriages, and on the themes of love, devotion and grief expressed in Chaucer’s poem (see below) – a rather circular argument, as it is partly on the basis of these themes that the couple’s relationship is identified as the inspiration for the poem. Blanche and Gaunt had seven children, three of whom survived infancy.

Tomb_of_John_of_Gaunt_and_Blanche_of_Lancaster

Tomb_of_John_of_Gaunt_and_Blanche_of_Lancaster

Blanche died at Tutbury Castle, Staffordshire, on 12 September 1368 while her husband was overseas.  She was 23 years of age at the time of her death, although Froissart reported that she died aged about 22. It is believed that she may have died after contracting the Black Death which was rife in Europe at that time. Her funeral at St. Paul’s Cathedral in London was preceded by a magnificent cortege attended by most of the upper nobility and clergy. John of Gaunt held annual commemorations of her death for the rest of his life and established a joint chantry foundation on his own death. 

It may have been for one of the anniversary commemorations of Blanche’s death that Geoffrey Chaucer, then a young squire and mostly unknown writer of court poetry, was commissioned to write what became The Book of the Duchess in her honour. Though Chaucer’s intentions can never be defined with absolute certainty, many believe that at least one of the aims of the poem was to make John of Gaunt see that his grief for his late wife had become excessive, and to prompt him to try to overcome it.

In 1374, six years after her death, John of Gaunt commissioned a double tomb for himself and Blanche from the mason Henry Yevele. The magnificent monument in the choir of St Paul’s was completed by Yevele in 1380, with the assistance of Thomas Wrek, having cost a total of £592. Gaunt himself died in 1399, and was laid to rest beside Blanche. The two effigies were notable for having their right hands joined. An adjacent chantry chapel was added between 1399 and 1403.

While John probably did love Blanche, and possibly grieved excessively for her, I have to think that he was not grieving too excessively for her… we have only to look at the appearance of Katherine Swynford in his household to give some proof of this. That is aside from the fact that he also married again in 1371 to Constance of Castile. 

Katherine was the daughter of Paon de Roet, a herald, and later knight, who was “probably christened as Gilles”. She had two sisters, Philippa and Isabel (also called Elizabeth) de Roet, and a brother, Walter. Isabel later became Canoness of the convent of St. Waudru’s, Mons, c. 1366. Katherine is generally held to have been his youngest child. However, Alison Weir argues that Philippa was the junior and that both were children of a second marriage. Katherine’s sister Philippa, a lady of Queen Philippa’s household, married the poet Geoffrey Chaucer

In about 1366, at St Clement Danes Church, Westminster, Katherine, aged sixteen or seventeen, contracted an advantageous marriage with “Hugh” Ottes Swynford, a Knight from the manor of Kettlethorpe in Lincolnshire, the son of Thomas Swynford by his marriage to Nicole Druel. She had the following children by him: Blanche (born 1 May 1367), Thomas (21 September 1368 – 1432), and possibly Margaret Swynford (born about 1369), later recorded as a nun of the prestigious Barking Abbey nominated by command of King Richard II.

Katherine became attached to the household of John of Gaunt as governess to his daughters Philippa of Lancaster and Elizabeth of Lancaster. The ailing duchess Blanche had Katherine’s daughter Blanche (her namesake) placed within her own daughters’ chambers and afforded the same luxuries as her daughters; additionally, John of Gaunt stood as godfather to the child.

Some time after Blanche’s death in 1368 and the birth of their first son in 1373, Katherine and John of Gaunt entered into a love affair that would produce four children for the couple, born out of wedlock but legitimized upon their parents’ eventual marriage; the adulterous relationship endured until 1381 when it was truncated out of political necessity and ruined Katherine’s reputation. On 13 January 1396, two years after the death of the Duke’s second wife, Infanta Constance of Castile, Katherine and John of Gaunt married in Lincoln Cathedral. Records of their marriage kept in the Tower and elsewhere list: ‘John of Ghaunt, Duke of Lancaster, married Katharine daughter of Guyon King of Armes in the time of K. Edward the 3, and Geffrey Chaucer her sister’.

On John of Gaunt’s death, Katherine became known as dowager Duchess of Lancaster. She outlived him by four years, dying on 10 May 1403, in her early fifties.

Coat of arms of Katherine Swynford as Duchess of Lancaster, after her marriage to John of Gaunt : three gold Catherine wheels (“roet” means “little wheel” in Old French) on a red field. The wheel emblem shows Katherine’s devotion to her patron saint, Catherine of Alexandria, also known as Saint Catherine of the Wheel,although there was once extant a copy of her seal’s impression, ca. 1377, showing her arms of three Catherine wheels of gold on a field Gules, a molet in fess point empaling the arms of Swynford (Birch’s Catalogue of Seals.
Children of Katherine and John of Gaunt:

The descendants of Katherine Swynford and John of Gaunt are significant in English and Scottish history. Their four children had been given the surname “Beaufort” and with the approval of King Richard II and the Pope were legitimated as adults by their parents’ marriage in 1396. Despite this, the Beauforts were barred from inheriting the throne of England by a clause in the legitimation act inserted by their half-brother, Henry IV, although modern scholarship disputes the authority of a monarch to alter an existing parliamentary statute on his own authority, without the further approval of Parliament. This provision was later revoked by Edward VI, placing Katherine’s descendants (including himself) back within the legitimate line of inheritance; the Tudor dynasty was directly descended from John and Katherine’s eldest child, John Beaufort, great-grandfather of Henry VII, who based his claim to the throne on his mother’s descent from John of Gaunt, a son of Edward III. John Beaufort also had a daughter named Joan Beaufort, who married James I of Scotland and thus was an ancestress of the House of Stuart.  John and Katherine’s daughter, Joan Beaufort, was grandmother of the English kings Edward IV and Richard III, the latter of whom Henry Tudor (thus becoming by conquest Henry VII) defeated at the Battle of Bosworth Field; Henry’s claim was strengthened by marrying Elizabeth of York, eldest daughter of Edward IV. It was also through Joan Beaufort, Countess of Westmoreland that the sixth queen of Henry VIII, Catherine Parr, descended.  John of Gaunt’s son — Katherine’s stepson Henry of Bolingbroke — became Henry IV after deposing Richard II (who was imprisoned and died in Pontefract Castle, where Katherine’s son, Thomas Swynford, was constable and is said to have starved Richard to death for his step-brother). John of Gaunt’s daughter by his first marriage to Blanche of Lancaster, Philippa of Lancaster, was great-great-grandmother to Catherine of Aragon, first wife of Henry VIII and mother of Mary I of England. John of Gaunt’s child by his second wife Constance, Catherine (or Catalina), was great-grandmother of Catherine of Aragon as well.

We could just leave the story here and conclude that in this instance, the mistress wins… but does she win by default and longevity or is she truly the love of his life who waited patiently on the side lines until he could marry her? Was Blanche the one he truly loved as Chaucer would suggest in some of his works, and Katherine won by the fact that she survived and stuck it out for that ultimate final pay out of marriage and legitimacy for their children. At the time of their marriage in 1396, all of the children were adults and were legitimized by the Pope- which while they were already set upon high standing positions- would greatly benefit the rest of their futures. 

To put his relationships with both women in some perspective and reasoning, we can probably look at John’s character, his ideals and his friendship with one other person of importance, Geoffrey Chaucer.

One account and description of his appearance and character gives some clues to his mindset. 

John was dark-haired, with piercing eyes and a narrow, angular face. He was almost two metres tall (as his suit of armour at the Tower of London, “the Giant”, bears out). He was a superb judge of character, which attributed for his political finesse. And he was also an extremely proficient political negotiator. He did not enjoy battle, so was generally not successful in the field.

He had very strict ideas about chivalry, which he also expected from his knights. The pastimes he enjoyed were gaming (dice and chess) and hunting. He loved splendour but not pomp, was richer than the King (to quote R. Gablé: “as rich as a heathen caliph”), which was probably why he was in charge of the exchequer during Richard II’s reign. Those who disliked him would probably not have believed it, but he was a strongly loyal person. His far-sightedness and political expertise were held in great esteem abroad; but in England his true character was not appreciated, particularly by the people and the Church. It was one reason why he became very unhappy in later years, in spite of the fact that he was able to conceal his feelings in this (and many other respects). According to Candace Robb, he enjoyed a laugh but was quick to hold a grudge.

Blanche was the perfect lady. She was blonde, with an angelic appearance and had had an excellent upbringing. John loved and, above all, admired her greatly. He never really recovered from her death, although they could be said to have been companions rather than lovers. In an arranged marriage, one could probably consider a relationship of this kind a happy one.

Constanza was dark-haired and small. John evidently married her in a fit of euphoria (the throne of Castile) and under his father’s instructions. He was quick to see that he and Constanza would never see eye to eye, as they differed too greatly. She had a penchant for the Church, was fairly prude and, to John’s mind, too austere.

Katherine was a redhead and tall. She was, so to speak, the sunshine of his life. His mood brightened whenever she entered the room. When she was near him, or merely at the thought of her, his “troubled lot” became half as bad. Lists still exist of the many gifts he gave her (wine, money, estates etc.), which were intended to make her life easier and in consideration of what she had done for him. The fact that he could not marry her and love her officially troubled him greatly. In his view, their marriage was all too short. 

To put his relationships with both women in some perspective and reasoning, we can probably look at John’s character, his ideals and his friendship with one other person of importance, Geoffrey Chaucer. I have not made reference to John’s relationship or marriage to second wife Constance or Constanza because I think in all probability it was not any love, or lust match at all. It was an arranged marriage for political and economical reasons and did not play any part in his romantic notions or feelings for dead Blanche or living Katherine. It probably was more of a hindrance as he grew older and wanted to legitimize his relationship with Katherine for her benefit and for the benefit of their children. 

John believed in the idea of chivalry, honor and most probably that ideal of romantic courtly love. His marriage to Blanche was arranged but obviously there was some attraction and care for each other. After all, apparently she spent much of the short lived marriage pregnant. They were married for ten years and she bore seven children although only three survived. Their marriage was cut short by her untimely death at the fairly young age of 22. Added to the tragedy of her death was the fact that she died while he was away. Being the chivalrous man that he was and also given that he held some ideal or notion of that romantic love, he most likely would have indulged or dwelt on that idea of eternal love ever after.  As often happens with the death of someone close, the relationship takes on a more positive or glowing light than it may have actually been in reality. While they might have been relatively happy or at least not entirely miserable together, he may have put more outward mourning and grief over her death because of some feelings of guilt in not being there for her. Thus in death, she became that epitome, that idol of romantic love that the living could not compete with. Having went through a similar experience myself, I completely understand the adage that you can not compete with a dead lover.  No matter how he felt about Katherine, there would probably always have been a shadow or presence of  “perfection” Blanche

This could be what Chaucer was referencing and referring to when he suggested to John that he was over doing the grief stricken husband role and it was time to move on. He had already moved on partially but he needed to finally put closure to it all and give everyone a chance to go on as well. 

Geoffrey Chaucer was a life long friend of John Gaunt and most probably influenced him a great deal.  

Geoffrey_Chaucer_(17th_century portrait

Geoffrey Chaucer ( c. 1343 – 25 October 1400), known as the Father of English literature, is widely considered the greatest English poet of theMiddle Ages and was the first poet to be buried in Poets’ Corner of Westminster Abbey.

While he achieved fame during his lifetime as an author, philosopher, and astronomer, composing a scientific treatise on the astrolabe for his ten-year-old son Lewis, Chaucer also maintained an active career in the civil service as a bureaucrat, courtier and diplomat. Among his many works, which include The Book of the Duchess, the House of Fame, the Legend of Good Women and Troilus and Criseyde. He is best known today for The Canterbury Tales. Chaucer was a crucial figure in developing the legitimacy of the vernacular, Middle English, at a time when the dominant literary languages in England were French and Latin.

Chaucer was a close friend of and served under the patronage of John of Gaunt, the wealthy Duke of Lancaster (and father of the future King of England). Near the end of their lives Lancaster and Chaucer became brothers-in-law. Chaucer married Philippa (Pan) de Roet in 1366, and Lancaster took his mistress of nearly 30 years, Katherine Swynford (de Roet), who was Philippa Chaucer’s sister, as his third wife in 1396. Although Philippa died c.1387, the men were bound as brothers and Lancaster’s children by Katherine—John, Henry, Thomas and Joan Beaufort—were Chaucer’s nephews and niece.

Chaucer_Duchess blanche of lancaster

Chaucer_Duchess blanche of lancaster

Chaucer’s Book of the Duchess, also known as the Deeth of Blaunche the Duchesse, was written in commemoration of Blanche of Lancaster, John of Gaunt’s first wife. The poem refers to John and Blanche in allegory as the narrator relates the tale of “A long castel with walles white/Be Seynt Johan, on a ryche hil” (1318–1319) who is mourning grievously after the death of his love, “And goode faire White she het/That was my lady name ryght” (948–949). The phrase “long castel” is a reference to Lancaster (also called “Loncastel” and “Longcastell”), “walles white” is thought to likely be an oblique reference to Blanche, “Seynt Johan” was John of Gaunt’s name-saint, and “ryche hil” is a reference to Richmond; these thinly veiled references reveal the identity of the grieving black knight of the poem as John of Gaunt, Duke of Lancaster and Earl of Richmond. “White” is the English translation of the French word “blanche”, implying that the white lady was Blanche of Lancaster.

Believed to have been written in the 1390s, Chaucer’s short poem Fortune, is also inferred to directly reference Lancaster. “Chaucer as narrator” openly defies Fortune, proclaiming he has learned who his enemies are through her tyranny and deceit, and declares “my suffisaunce” (15) and that “over himself hath the maystrye” (14). Fortune, in turn, does not understand Chaucer’s harsh words to her for she believes she has been kind to him, claims that he does not know what she has in store for him in the future, but most importantly, “And eek thou hast thy beste frend alyve” (32, 40, 48). Chaucer retorts that “My frend maystow nat reven, blind goddesse” (50) and orders her to take away those who merely pretend to be his friends. Fortune turns her attention to three princes whom she implores to relieve Chaucer of his pain and “Preyeth his beste frend of his noblesse/That to som beter estat he may atteyne” (78–79). The three princes are believed to represent the dukes of Lancaster, York, andGloucester, and a portion of line 76, “as three of you or tweyne,” to refer to the ordinance of 1390 which specified that no royal gift could be authorised without the consent of at least two of the three dukes.  Most conspicuous in this short poem is the number of references to Chaucer’s “beste frend”. Fortune states three times in her response to the plaintiff, “And also, you still have your best friend alive” (32, 40, 48); she also references his “beste frend” in the envoy when appealing to his “noblesse” to help Chaucer to a higher estate. A fifth reference is made by “Chaucer as narrator” who rails atFortune that she shall not take his friend from him. While the envoy playfully hints to Lancaster that Chaucer would certainly appreciate a boost to his status or income, the poem Fortune distinctively shows his deep appreciation and affection for John of Gaunt.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Geoffrey_Chaucer

 

On a final note, there are a few books related to Katherine Swynford and John of Gaunt that you might find interesting. I have not read them as yet, but am suggesting them because I trust the author! I do plan to read more about her now. 

mistress of the monarchy by alison weir

Acclaimed author Alison Weir brings to life the extraordinary tale of Katherine Swynford, a royal mistress who became one of the most crucial figures in the history of Great Britain. Born in the mid-fourteenth century, Katherine de Roët was only twelve when she married Hugh Swynford, an impoverished knight. But her story had truly begun two years earlier, when she was appointed governess to the household of John of Gaunt, Duke of Lancaster and fourth son of King Edward III. Widowed at twenty-one, Katherine became John’s mistress and then, after many twists of fortune, his bride in a scandalous marriage. Mistress of the Monarchy reveals a woman ahead of her time—making her own choices, flouting convention, and taking control of her own destiny. Indeed, without Katherine Swynford, the course of English history, perhaps even the world, would have been very different.

history of royal marriages and the monarchy by alison wier

George III is alleged to have married secretly, on 17th April, 1759, a Quakeress called Hannah Lightfoot, daughter of a Wapping shoemaker, who is said to have borne him three children. Documents relating to the alleged marriage, bearing the Prince’s signature, were impounded and examined in 1866 by the Attorney General. Learned opinion at the time leaned to the view that these documents were genuine. They were then placed in the Royal Archives at Windsor; in 1910, permission was refused a would-be author who asked to see them. If George III did make such a marriage when he was Prince of Wales, before the passing of the Royal Marriages Act in 1772, then his subsequent marriage to Queen Charlotte was bigamous, and every monarch of Britain since has been a usurper, the rightful heirs of George III being his children by Hannah Lightfoot, if they ever existed.’ From Britain’s Royal Families

Britain’s Royal Families is a unique reference book. It provides, for the first time in one volume, complete genealogical details of all members of the royal houses of England, Scotland and Great Britain – from 800AD to the present. Here is the vital biographical information relating not only to each monarch, but also to every member of their immediate family, from parents to grandchildren. Drawing on countless authorities, both ancient and modern, Alison Weir explores the royal family tree in unprecedented depth and provides a comprehensive guide to the heritage of today’s royal family.

 

 

 

 

Saxony and Roland: Part 2 of Ancestor search

This is part two of my search for ancestors in Pre-Germany Prussia. If you read part one, you will know that my search led me to the city of Trier where one family line resided before making the trip to America in 1845. You can read that story here:

https://timeslipsblog.wordpress.com/2015/08/26/search-for-ancestors-led-to-prussia-saxony-and-to-roland-part-1/

Because this has turned into another very lengthy and involved journey, I have once again broke it into sections with subheadings for your ease and convenience. Should you be pressed for time and not have a few hours to devote to this book, you can scroll down through the centered headings for the topics that most interest you!

Pfeiffer Family history and connection to Saxony Anhalt

Saxony Anhalt history and the appearance of Roland throughout that area

History and Legends of Roland

Roland in Saxony Anhalt area

History of Saxony Anhalt in relation to Old Saxony

Charlamagne and the Saxon Wars

 

 

I mentioned in the previous discussion that we would have to visit another area of the country to find the other half of the story of my roots in Germany.  This is the story of that other half and their roots in Saxony Anhalt, Germany.  First, I will give what we know of the family and their migration from Germany to St. Louis Missouri and eventually St. Mathias township, Minnesota. In the second half of this article, we will look at the history of Saxony Anhalt and the mystery of legendary Roland’s connection to the area.

Pfeiffer Family history and connection to Saxony Anhalt

On September 11, 1868, Catherine Mayer Mueller gave birth to daughter Susanna Mueller in Owatonna, Minnesota. She was the oldest daughter of Catherine and John Henry. On November 19,  1891 she married Wilhelm Frederick Pfeiffer in St. Mathias township.

 

william_and_susanna_pfeiffer

William and Susanna Pfeiffer wedding photo

William and Susana Pfeiffer older years

William and Susanna Pfeiffer in later years

When I started the search, I knew only slightly more about the Pfeiffer family than I did about the Mayers! My luck with the Pfeiffer side came in that they were a much smaller family and seemed to keep a closer connection to each other at least in the beginning. Sadly as time went on, their ties to the past faded and disappeared too. This could be due to the fact they were a small family and didn’t have as many relatives to pass the heritage on to. It could also be due to some serious family problems that came along later and in some ways split the family apart. Those problems are not really a part of this discussion so I will save them for some other time.  For this discussion, I will do as I did with the Mayer family and just share their basic history while trying to trace them back to their homeland in Germany.

Wilhelm Frederick Pfeiffer was one of three children born to Ernst and Henrietta (Borchert) Pfeiffer. When I first started my research on the family, I found the same general birth place of Prussia listed. Luckily for me, I also had a few documents and hand written accounts that would help me once I finally managed to get some of them translated! Because this was a small family, there weren’t quite so many relatives to pass things down to and after many years of distance between families, we have come together and shared what little we have. So, before anything else, I just want to say Thank you to all of the Pfeiffer relatives who have worked so hard to piece together our history!

After the translations of documents and some further searching, I have a somewhat better picture of the Pfeiffer family and where they came from.

Ernst Pfeiffer was born in March of 1831, most likely in or near Calbe, Saxony Anhalt Germany. His wife Henrietta was born in 1830, probably in that same area. They were married in 1862 in the area of Baden.  As far was we know, they had three children: Wilhelm, Anna and Harry. We know much about Wilhelm or William as he later went by, and Anna but we know next to nothing about brother Harry. Harry is our missing link right now and I would love to find him! But, for now Let us look at what we do know about the others and their immigration from that place called Saxony Anhalt.

The Pfeiffer family made their move much later than the Mayers who left during the revolts of the 1840s. We will look at their possible reasons a bit later when we look closer at that area of Saxony Anhalt.  Ernst, Henrietta and two of the children left Germany in October of 1881 on a ship named Ohio, bound for Baltimore with a plan to go on to St. Louis Missouri.

ernst pfieffer

Ernst Pfeiffer

henrietta borchart Pfeiffer

henrietta borchart Pfeiffer

We are extremely fortunate to have a copy of a letter that Ernst wrote to his sister about the trip! It is one of the documents that we had for years but had to have translated for us as it was originally in German. It is only a portion of the letter and leaves us with the question of what happened to the rest of it. It also leaves the thought of it being written to his sister… Who was his sister, was she also in America, and how did his family once again have possession of it? Was it a letter he wrote but never got a chance to finish or send?

Saying Goodbye and wishing Bon Voyage, for the 23rd at 6 am we went to the railroad station. At 7:30 our train left for Bremerhafen. On our arrival, everything was overcrowded because everyone wanted to be first. Not even the police was able to help the ones that were trying to board. first came the passengers already booked, then the relatives and friends of the departing passengers.

Leaving Bremerhafen was exciting and also frightening hours started. Dear sister, there we saw the mighty ships lined up next to each other, also our ship, the Ohio, the one that we started our horrible voyage across the ocean, nobody had expected.  A large gangway was attatched to the ship. You should have seen the excitement going on, when we had to pass through the police line. The crying of the relatives who had accompanied the departing passenters up to that point was heartbreaking. Dear sister, it was not quite as hard on us, since we already done our crying saying good byes earlier.

But seeing the rough water and the turbulence in the sky, I got a scary feeling that tried to tell me, a horrible journey lay ahead. But kept my cool, not frighten my wife, yet it proofed to be right. Getting aboard our sleeping area were assigned to us. Each family got their own. Since our friend Mueller traveled with us, he was able to stay with us dear sister. We were stacked up like sardines 2 feet wide by 3 feet high and 6 feet long one place right next to each other.

At 2 o clock our ship left the harbor going into the river Weser. We kept moving till dark. Arriving at the dangerous point where the river Weser flows into the North Sea, we dropped anchor. We were all ordered to the upper deck. The captain knew that the sea sickness was going to start now.I remained always on the upper deck and watched the ship bounce around. My wife and Anna stayed with me and I held on to them. You should have seen how everybody started throwing up! My wife, Anna, and everyone else on board got sea sick. Myself, Wilhelm and our travel companion, Mueller were not affected, because we had brought a bottle along and just kept drinking. If someone had known, or the ship would have turned back, they gladly would have said goodbye to their money, but it was too late.  Travelling through the North Sea, the suffering began dear sister. You would not believe when I say waves as high as houses. Our ship had a 700 hp engine.

All the time we had to hold on in order not to get thrown over board.Dear sister you have probably seen pictures of a ship bouncing from side to side. We were thrown up as high as 40 or 50 feet. By storm and rain we continued our journey until December 5th. The following day we will never forget in all our lives. Despite the rain, the next morning all sails swere set and our joy was great because we were on the move again. But, during the day the winds changed and the sails had to be taken down. It got pitch dark, and the officer on the Captain’s announced a dangerous storm and ordered everyone below deck. All of the Mothers and Anna went below but the two of us could not make it since we were standing too far from the entrance leading down. Dear sister, suddenly the water was above my head, and I lost my breath. Being so close to death, I wished I was with my wife and children to die at their side but could not get there. With two other guys we had to hold on for a long time before we were able to see our ship again, because it had gone down. finely the storm seized and our ship was brough up. We were still hanging on but did not know our whereabouts.

Then the ship’s carpenter came up on deck to lock everything up. He found us and took us below, we were totally exhausted. There the “Oh Heavens” the screaming of the women and the water had reached the room where we were staying. 
This is all that we have of the letter so we do not know what happened later, or who the letter was written to or sent to originally? 

We do have records of the family’s voyage from Bremerhaven to Baltimore on the ship, SS OHIO. Ernst, Henrietta, Wilhelm and Anna Pfeiffer show up in the ships arrival documents. Ernst lists on that record the city of St. Louis in the portion asking for country claiming allegiance. If you look at that category closely, you will see that many people listed what seemed to be their destination cities there so there was probably some language confusion for them as to what that category was referring to. We do know that the family traveled directly from Baltimore to St. Louis Missouri so St. Louis was their planned destination from the beginning of the trip.

ss ohio2

SS Ohio

You can find much more information about the ship, SS Ohio here:

http://markprokosch.com/ss-ohio/

All of our family stories and photos state that Ernst and Henrietta had three children; Wilhelm, Harry and Anna. We have so far found no documentation or records for Harry though. He did not travel with them so perhaps he was already in St. Louis and they were going to join him there. We also need to consider the idea that Harry may have been his nickname and this is why we have not been able to find him yet. Poor Harry is a missing link in this family history even though they seem to have been close to him and visited him over the years. He is shown in family photos that label him as brother Harry. The following photo is one that lists the siblings on the back of it.

pfeiffers Harry William and anna

Anna, William and Harry Pfeiffer in later years

We do have one other mystery photo in our collection that could possibly be a clue to brother Harry or his family. This photo is one from our box of treasures that we have never have been able to accurately identify.  The year was 1911 and obviously, the family was visiting Spokane Washington at the time. The interesting connection to Spokane is that a later point, Anna Pfeiffer’s son Claude would relocate to Spokane so possibly there was some family connection there. That is all still an ongoing part of the search for this family.

Spokane, Washington Names on back of card Gustav William Pfeiffer, Marie and Ellen Pfeiffer, Harry William and Robert Pfeiffer.

Spokane, Washington
Names on back of card Gustav William Pfeiffer, Marie and Ellen Pfeiffer, Harry William and Robert Pfeiffer.

Our current discussion is about their past regarding Germany so I am just going to leave this mystery where it is for now… If anyone reading this thinks this family looks or sounds at all familiar, by all means please let me know!  Now, back to our topic of the family’s links to Germany!

We have some family biographies that gives us rather vague clues to their life in Prussia. Thanks to an excellent program from during the depression era many families gave histories to biographers who would visit homes and record those stories as part of a WPA sponsored project.

The WPA was The Works Progress Administration (renamed in 1939 as the Work Projects Administration; WPA) was the largest and most ambitious American New Deal agency, employing millions of unemployed people (mostly unskilled men) to carry out public works projects,including the construction of public buildings and roads. In a much smaller but more famous project, the Federal Project Number One, the WPA employed musicians, artists, writers, actors and directors in large arts, drama, media, and literacy projects.

 At its peak in 1938, it provided paid jobs for three million unemployed men and women, as well as youth in a separate division, the National Youth Administration. Headed by Harry Hopkins, the WPA provided jobs and income to the unemployed during the Great Depression in the United States. Between 1935 and 1943, the WPA provided almost eight million jobs. Full employment, which was reached in 1942 and emerged as a long-term national goal around 1944, was not the WPA’s goal. It tried to provide one paid job for all families in which the breadwinner suffered long-term unemployment.  Robert D. Leighninger asserts that “The stated goal of public building programs was to end the depression or, at least, alleviate its worst effects. Millions of people needed subsistence incomes. Work relief was preferred over public assistance (the dole) because it maintained self-respect, reinforced the work ethic, and kept skills sharp.

The WPA was a national program that operated its own projects in cooperation with state and local governments, which provided 10–30% of the costs. Usually the local sponsor provided land and often trucks and supplies, with the WPA responsible for wages (and for the salaries of supervisors, who were not on relief). WPA sometimes took over state and local relief programs that had originated in the Reconstruction Finance Corporation (RFC) or Federal Emergency Relief Administration (FERA) programs.

The family histories were part of the Federal Writer’s project directed by Henry Alsberg and employed 6,686 writers at its peak in 1936.  By January 1939, more than 275 major books and booklets had been published by the FWP.   Most famously, the FWP created the American Guide Series, which produced thorough guidebooks for every state that include descriptions of towns, waterways, historic sites, oral histories, photographs, and artwork.  An association or group that put up the cost of publication sponsored each book, the cost was anywhere from $5,000 to $10,000. In almost all cases, the book sales were able to reimburse their sponsors. Additionally, another important part of this project was to record oral histories to create archives such as the Slave Narratives and collections of folklore. These writers also participated in research and editorial services to other government agencies.

These histories are an invaluable source of information for anyone researching their family history as they often give a first or second hand account of your family’s rich history. Many people have no idea that these accounts are even available. If you go to almost any historical society, they will be able to help you locate these lost stories within their archives.  When I began my search, I had no clue that such stories existed and remained stored away within the dusty files of the historical societies. If you know where your family was living during those depression year, I would highly suggest you visit one of the nearby historical societies and do a search of your family names there! You may be happily surprised at the stories your relatives told to those traveling biographers! Consider this information as my Family History tip. One additional note on these stories- you will probably not see them widely available on genealogy sites any time soon as they are not records which would be at all easy to transfer to digital format. These are handwritten/typed transcriptions of sometimes lengthy stories generally contained in individual files for each person of family interviewed.

I was fortunate in that many of my relatives were happy to share their stories. Anna Pfeiffer Shannon and Susanna Pfeiffer Driver both shared stories of the Pfeiffer family in Germany along with their own stories.  One word of warning in regards to these transcribed stories- they often contain misspellings of names or locations because just as with census records, the interviewer just wrote what they thought they heard. An example of this is the fact that Anna Pfeiffer stated in her story that they came from “Table”  Prussia. I can not tell you how long I searched for the village of Table in vain, only to realize much later that the village was Calbe!

Besides the handwritten letter from Ernst Pfeiffer written in German, we had one other very important document that held the key to the family’s origins. We had an official certificate for Wilhelm Pfeiffer but it was also all in German so of course we had no idea what it was for many years. A few years ago, we were able to have it translated and discovered that it was a certificate of vaccination which included Wilhelm’s place of birth!

William Pfeiffer vaccination document

vaccination certificate for Wilhelm Pfeifer, born in Calbe, district Magdeburg June 30, 1863, son of Ernst Pfeifer, “Ziegler” (“Ziegelmeister”) in Calbe.

This document was translated to the following information: vaccination certificate for Wilhelm Pfeifer, born in Calbe, district Magdeburg June 30, 1863, son of Ernst Pfeifer, “Ziegler” (“Ziegelmeister”) in Calbe.   My search for Calbe in the Magdeburg district has led to Saxony Anhalt province and it’s history. Much as in the case of my Meyer ancestors, I can currently find out little about the specific family history but I can provide a history of the area the family lived in!

 

Saxony Anhalt history and the appearance of Roland throughout that area

I decided to find out more about this village of Calbe and the Magdeburg district in hopes that it might at least give me a better picture of the place Ernst Pfeiffer and his family came from and perhaps some general idea why they too may have chose to immigrate at the time they did. As with the Meyer family, I do not know a great deal about their family or financial circumstances during that time. Ernst was a bricklayer or tiler according to his occupation status. His daughter in law, Susanna mentioned that in Germany he had worked on fruit farms. Daughter Anna mentioned that she and her family had been or were German Lutherans.  That is about all we know of the family life in Prussia or Germany.

As I said, I began my search in the village of Calbe and quickly found a fascinating history of the area that includes the legendary Roland! My initial search for Calbe Germany immediately rewarded me with the interesting and rather odd mention that one of their village’s historical monuments is a statue of Roland.   Calbe is a town in the district of Salzlandkreis, in Saxony-Anhalt, Germany.

It is situated on the Saale River, approx. 12 kilometers (7.5 mi) north of Bernburg, and 25 kilometers (16 mi) southeast of Magdeburg. It is known as Calbe an der Saale, to distinguish it from the smaller town of Kalbe on the Milde in the same state. Pop. (1905) 12,281.  It is a railway junction, and among its industries are wool-weaving and the manufacture of cloth, paper, stoves, sugar and bricks. Cucumbers and onions are cultivated, and soft coal is mined in the neighborhood.

The town has a statue of Roland outside its city hall. Roland is a symbol who represents many small and medium sized towns in Saxony-Anhalt, symbolising free trade and prosperity. The town also has a very old church, and a tower known as the “Hexenturm” (“Witchtower”), in which the townspeople imprisoned accused witches and tortured them in the Middle Ages.

calbe and magdeburg Germany Calbe_(Saale)_in_SLK calbe statue of roland3 calbe germany calbe2

This very brief description of the village and it’s history caused me to be even more curious about this area. First of all of course, it is in the province of Saxony Anhalt… and I am always interested in knowing more about the history of anyplace related to the history of Saxony. Second, naturally I was sucked in by this area’s connection and loyalty to that legend of Roland. The Witch Tower held no added curiosity for me- they are in any number of medieval villages throughout Europe! My most nagging question was, “What is Roland doing in these villages, when and why did he show up there as such a revered and important symbol for them?” For that, I needed to do more research on the entire area and on the legend of Roland to see where the connection might come in.

 

History and Legends of Roland

For the many fans and followers of  Michael Hirst’s Vikings Saga as well as anyone interested in medieval history or history of Charlamagne, the character of Roland is  somewhat familiar. In the Vikings Saga, we have a rather mysterious Roland as a Frankish soldier of high standing- Count Odo’s first in command. As yet, we know very little about him other than that he maintains an important status within the court and household of Charles. He is a well trusted member of their regime and that is about all I can tell you so far. His character is played by Huw Parmenter and he will be returning in season 4 so hopefully his story and history will be better explained.  At this point is mere speculation on what route Hirst has taken with this character- whether he has created him based on some type of historical reference or symbolism, or whether he just liked the name and this is a totally fictional creation. Many who are familiar with the legends of Roland and his connections to Charlamagne and the Frankish Empire are of the thought that this character would be some symbolic representation or nod to the more famous Roland.  To the best of my knowledge, Hirst has not commented on this character interpretation yet.  The introduction of his character with his high standing in the Frankish court leads me to personally think, or at least hope- that there is some odd connection. Hirst has made so many references to Charlamagne and his dynasty that it seems reasonable to me that he would include some reference to Roland. He has already played so much with timelines that it is not unreasonable or implausible that he would consider bringing Roland into the picture even though his original history involved that timeline of Charlamagne. One might compare it to King Ecbert, who’s true history also falls into the timeline of Charlamagne.  If Hirst easily maneuvered Egbert up the timeline, why would he have any reservations about doing the same for Roland.  What ever the case, we now have a rather mysterious and illusive Roland as second in command of the Frankish army and most of us want to know more about him, and or his possible real history.

Roland's story yes here comes roland yet again

roland, a man to keep an eye on in the future

roland, a man to keep an eye on in the future

odo and roland visit the camp to find out why they have not left yet and.... here comes roland once again

In history, Roland was ) was a Frankish military leader under Charlemagne who became one of the principal figures in the literary cycle known as the Matter of France. The historical Roland was military governor of the Breton March, responsible for defending Francia‘s frontier against the Bretons. His only historical attestation is in Einhard‘s Vita Karoli Magni, which notes he was part of the Frankish rearguard killed by rebellious Basques in Iberia at the Battle of Roncevaux Pass.

The only historical mention of the actual Roland is in the Vita Karoli Magni by Charlemagne‘s courtier and biographer Einhard. Einhard refers to him as Hruodlandus Brittannici limitis praefectus (“Roland, prefect of the borders of Brittany”), indicating he presided over the Breton March, Francia‘s border territory against the Bretons.  The passage, which appears in Chapter 9, mentions that Hroudlandus (a Latinization of the Frankish Hruodland) was among those killed in the battle:

While he was vigorously pursuing the Saxon war, almost without a break, and after he had placed garrisons at selected points along the border, [Charles] marched into Spain [in 778] with as large a force as he could mount. His army passed through the Pyrenees and [Charles] received the surrender of all the towns and fortified places he encountered. He was returning [to Francia] with his army safe and intact, but high in the Pyrenees on that return trip he briefly experienced the Basques. That place is so thoroughly covered with thick forest that it is the perfect spot for an ambush. [Charles’s] army was forced by the narrow terrain to proceed in a long line and [it was at that spot], high on the mountain, that the Basques set their ambush. […] The Basques had the advantage in this skirmish because of the lightness of their weapons and the nature of the terrain, whereas the Franks were disadvantaged by the heaviness of their arms and the unevenness of the land. Eggihard, the overseer of the king’s table, Anselm, the count of the palace, and Roland, the lord of the Breton March, along with many others died in that skirmish. But this deed could not be avenged at that time, because the enemy had so dispersed after the attack that there was no indication as to where they could be found.

Roland was evidently the first official appointed to direct Frankish policy in Breton affairs, as local Franks under the Merovingian dynasty had not previously pursued any specific relationship with the Bretons. Their frontier castle districts such as Vitré, Ille-et-Vilaine, south of Mont Saint-Michel, are now divided between Normandy and Brittany. The distinctive culture of this region preserves the present-day Gallo language and legends of local heroes such as Roland. Roland’s successor in Brittania Nova was Guy of Nantes, who like Roland, was unable to exert Frankish expansion over Brittany and merely sustained a Breton presence in the Carolingian Empire.

According to legend, Roland was laid to rest in the basilica at Blaye, near Bordeaux, on the site of the citadel.

If you look at Roland in this very limited extent of his actual historical contributions to Charlamagne and the Frankish Empire, it’s rather difficult to explain or reason how he came to be such a legendary figure of such acclaim. He would  be so romanticized and revered that tales of his supposed feats would be told and sung about in the eventually conquered land of Saxony and even in Norse legends.  Put in terms of actual historical accounts, Roland was not necessarily all that important- he was most likely one of many Frankish military leader involved in the various battles and conquests of  Charlamagne’s empire. He was a part of the wars against Saxony but died before victory over Saxony was ever achieved so he really had no significant contribution in that area. As far as his role in controlling the Bretons, he was not successful there either. And, quite obviously, his march into Spain against the Basques ended badly as well.   One would have to reasonably question how this soldier went from such seemingly mediocracy to the level of praised and esteemed Folk hero?  The answer to that could be blamed on one very creative Poet/Story teller in the 11th century!

The Song of Roland  is an epic poem based on the Battle of Roncevaux in 778, during the reign of Charlemagne. It is the oldest surviving major work of French literature and exists in various manuscript versions, which testify to its enormous and enduring popularity in the 12th to 14th centuries.  The date of composition is put in the period between 1040 and 1115: an early version beginning around 1040 with additions and alterations made up until about 1115. The final text has about 4,000 lines of poetry. The epic poem is the first  and with The Poem of the Cid one of the most outstanding examples of the chanson de geste, a literary form that flourished between the 11th and 15th centuries and celebrated legendary deeds. 

The earliest known source for Roland’s rise to fame and glory are attributed to a poet named Turold, between approximately 1040 and 1115, and most of the alterations were performed by about 1098. Some favor an earlier dating, because it allows one to say that the poem was inspired by the Castilian campaigns of the 1030s, and that the poem went on to be a major influence in the First Crusade. Those who prefer a later dating do so on grounds of what they interpret as brief references made in the poem to events of the First Crusade. One of the main reasons for the poem’s initial popularity was most probably it’s references to Charlamagne fighting off the Muslims in Spain. Possibly Turold’s intention or premise for telling the story was based on that from the beginning. His work would have been looked on by those who paid him as an excellent motivator in the upcoming Crusades that began around the same time. What better story to encourage people to join in the march of Christians to defeat the Infidels and Heathens of the most holy of lands. They had already for the most part done away with the Heathen influence in Europe. And, by this time even the Heathens of the Northern areas- those Saxons, Danes and Norse had all been converted so the next step was to conquer those Eastern lands. While the laypeople saw it as their sworn duty and purpose to defend Christianity and spread God’s word to the world, in reality the Church saw it as good business that brought more wealth, power and control to the Church leaders. In a sense, war and crusades were good business for the church and they made the most of the opportunities such events presented. So, Turold was most likely well rewarded for his story of Charlamagne and Roland fighting to bring Christianity to those infidel Muslims in Spain.

The tale of Roland’s death is retold in the eleventh-century poem The Song of Roland, where he is equipped with the olifant (a signalling horn) and an unbreakable sword, enchanted by various Christian relics, named Durendal. The Song contains a highly romanticized and embellished account of the Battle of Roncevaux Pass and Roland’s death, setting the tone for later fantastical depiction of Charlemagne’s court.

chroniques of Roland

chroniques of Roland

The plot of this earliest known tale of  Roland and his epic march into Spain is as follows:

Charlemagne‘s army is fighting the Muslims in Spain. They have been there for seven years, and the last city standing is Saragossa, held by the Muslim king Marsilla. Threatened by the might of Charlemagne’s army of Franks, Marsilla seeks advice and his wise man, Blancandrin, councils him to conciliate the Emperor, offering to surrender and giving hostages. Accordingly, Marsilla sends out messengers to Charlemagne, promising treasure and Marsilla’s conversion to Christianity if the Franks will go back to France.

Charlemagne and his men, tired of fighting, accept his peace offer and select a messenger to Marsilla’s court. Protagonist Roland nominates his stepfather Ganelon as messenger. Ganelon, who fears to be murdered by the enemy and accuses Roland of intending this, takes revenge by informing the Saracens of a way to ambush the rear guard of Charlemagne’s army, led by Roland, as the Franks re-enter Spain through the mountain passes.

As Ganelon predicted, Roland leads the rear guard, with the wise and moderate Oliver and the fierce Archbishop Turpin. The Muslims ambush them at Roncesvalles, and the Christians are overwhelmed. Oliver asks Roland to blow his olifant to call for help from the Frankish army; but Roland proudly refuses to do so.

The Franks fight well, but are outnumbered, until almost all Roland’s men are dead and he knows that Charlemagne’s army can no longer save them. Despite this, he blows his olifant to summon revenge, until his temples burst and he dies a martyr’s death. Angels take his soul to Paradise.

When Charlemagne and his men reach the battlefield, they find the dead bodies of Roland’s men, who have been utterly annihilated, and pursue the Muslims into the river Ebro, where they drown. Meanwhile, Baligant, the powerful emir of Babylon, has arrived in Spain to help Marsilla, and his army encounters that of Charlemagne at Roncesvalles, where the Christians are burying and mourning their dead. Both sides fight valiantly – when Charlemagne kills Baligant, the Muslim army scatters and flees, and the Franks conquer Saragossa. With Marsilla’s wife Bramimonde, Charlemagne and his men ride back to Aix, their capital in France.

The Franks discover Ganelon’s betrayal and keep him in chains until his trial, where Ganelon argues that his action was legitimate revenge, not treason. While the council of barons assembled to decide the traitor’s fate is initially swayed by this claim, one man, Thierry, argues that, because Roland was serving Charlemagne when Ganelon delivered his revenge on him, Ganelon’s action constitutes a betrayal.  Ganelon’s friend Pinabel challenges Thierry to trial by combat, in which, by divine intervention, Thierry kills Pinabel. The Franks are convinced by this of Ganelon’s villainy; thus, he is torn apart by having four galloping horses tied one to each limb, and thirty of his relatives are hanged.

As a result of Turold’s highly imaginative telling of  Charlamagne’s battles in Spain, Roland became a grand hero of epic and monumental proportions. The story was so well liked that it was constantly repeated and added to over the centuries. By the 14th century Roland had battled a Saracen giant named Ferracutus who is only vulnerable at his navel (the story was later adapted in the anonymous Franco-Venetian epic L’Entrée d’Espagne (c.1320) and in the 14th-century Italian epic La Spagna (attributed to the Florentine Sostegno di Zanobi and likely composed between 1350–1360).  Other accounts expanded on Roland’s life-  His friendship with Olivier and his engagement with Olivier’s sister Aude are told in Girart de Vienne by Bertrand de Bar-sur-Aube. Roland’s youth and the acquisition of his horse Veillantif and sword are described in Aspremont. Roland also appears in Quatre Fils Aymon where he is contrasted with Renaud de Montauban against whom he occasionally fights.

In various legends of Roland, he takes on a persona similar to Arthur and his knights of the roundtable. In Roland’s version, the Knights are rather represented by or referred to as his Paladins.  All Carolingian paladin stories feature paladins named Roland and Oliver; other recurring characters are Archbishop Turpin, Ogier the Dane, Huon of Bordeaux, Fierabras, Renaud de Montauban and Ganelon. Tales of the paladins once rivaled the stories of King Arthur and the knights of the Round Table in popularity.

Roland and his Palidans

Roland and his Paladins

Roland and his Paladins appear in the The Karlamagnús saga (“saga of Charlemagne“),  a late 13th century Norse prose compilation and adaptation, made for Haakon V of Norway, of the Old French chansons de geste of the Matter of France dealing with Charlemagne and his paladins. In some cases, the Karlamagnús saga remains the only source for otherwise-lost Old French epic.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Karlamagn%C3%BAs_saga

The following is a beautiful rendition of the Norwegian ballad of Roland with lyrics included.

So, now we know that Roland achieved his epic fame and glory not because of any actual accomplished feats in his lifetime, but more because a gifted story teller turned him into that legendary hero a few centuries later. During the years in which he lived and those even some years after his death, Roland was just another Frankish soldier involved in wars against the Saxons and any number of other groups or territories that Charlamagne felt were in need of Christianizing and conquering, probably including such Heathens as the Vikings!

As the various lands were conquered over the next centuries, the legends of Roland also made their way into those places and took on slightly different meanings and symbolisms for the people of each area. An example would be how he came to be viewed in areas of Catalonia. In Catalonia Roland (or Rotllà, as it is rendered in Catalan) became a legendary giant. Numerous places in Catalonia (both North and South) have a name related to Rotllà. In step with the trace left by the character in the whole Pyrenean area, Basque Errolan turns up in numerous legends and place-names associated with a mighty giant, usually a heathen, capable of launching huge stones. The Basque word erraldoi (giant) stems from Errol(d)an, as pointed by the linguist Koldo Mitxelena.

Roland in Saxony Anhalt area

These differences in the legend may play a part in how he came to be represented and symbolized in the Saxony Anhalt area of what is now Germany.  The history of his monuments in the area refer to him being a representation and symbol of independence. In Germany, Roland gradually became a symbol of the independence of the growing cities from the local nobility. In the late Middle Ages many cities featured defiant statues of Roland in their marketplaces. The Roland in Wedel was erected in 1450 as symbol of market justice, and the Roland statue in front of Bremen City Hall (1404) has been listed together with the city hall itself on the UNESCO list of World Heritage Sites since 2004.

Normally one would question why this legendary crusader and soldier of Charlamagne would be any way connected with a fight against Nobility. If you look at the legend in the context of it being a basis and a variant of Arthur and his noble knights fighting for justice and honor for all though, it makes much more sense why the medieval residents of this area might have taken him on as their own personal defender of their cause.  By the time his legends made their appearance in their area, the people had long previously been already conquered by Charlamagne and the Frankish Empire and well Christianized, as was Charlamagne’s ulterior intent. During those medieval years when the legends of Roland showed up, they were mired deep within the feudal systems and overlords controlling them. These people would have had no clue that Roland had originally been one of the “bad guy” conquering armies of their people. No, these people were looking for a Knight in Shining Armor, like Arthur of legend, to believe in. They found that supposed Knight or Paladin in Roland!

 

Statues of Roland can be found throughout  northern and eastern Germany, where they are often placed on the market square or in front of the city hall. Examples are also known from Central Europe, Croatia and Latvia, and there are copies in Brazil and the United States.  Statues of the mythological Roland, who enjoyed the status as a popular hero, were erected in cities during the Middle Ages as an emblem of the freedom and city rights of a town. In Germany, such a town is sometimes known as a Roland town (German: Rolandstadt). Roland statues are known mainly from cities that used Saxon Law which is interesting considering the fact that we’ve already established the fact that historically he was involved in the conquering of Saxons and old Saxony. And, in order to better reinforce  the idea of Charlamagne and his conquerors being the heroes, a later Holy Roman Emperor would go even further in encouraging the legend of Roland.  The first Roland statues began to appear in the 12th century, placed outside churches. During the 14th and 15th centuries, Roland statues became more common. Especially during the reign of the Holy Roman Emperor Charles IV, such statues became more common, a fact that may be explained by the emperor’s ambition to portray himself as the heir to Charlemagne‘s reign.  The earliest Roland statues were made of wood, while later examples are more often made of stone.

Roland_auf_dem_Marktplatz_in_Bremen__IMG_6882WI

Statue of Roland erected in city of Bremen 1404

The statues and the symbolism are also connected to medieval feudal laws that at times seem to contradict each other and become quite complex in explanations as well as understanding. I will attempt some additional clarification but please don’t be too concerned or worried if you end up even more confused by all of it… at least then I will not feel like I am the only one who doesn’t quite understand all of it!

The statues of Roland were generally designed to show Roland as protector of the city his legendary sword (known in chivalric legend as Durendal) is unsheathed, and his shield is emblazoned with the two-headed Imperial eagle.  It was usually placed as to confront the main church as a representation of city rights opposed to the territorial claims of the prince-archbishop. The earliest known statue was the one in Bremen and was built as a symbol of civil liberty and freedom. According to legend, Bremen will remain free and independent for as long as Roland stands watch over the city. For this reason, it is alleged that a second Roland statue is kept hidden in the town hall’s underground vaults, which can be quickly installed as a substitute, should the original fall.

The principle of civil liberty and freedom are based on the German phrase of Stadtluft macht frei nach Jahr und Tag (“city air makes you free after a year and a day”).  It describes a principle of law in the Middle Ages. The period of a year and a day was a conventional period widely employed in Europe to represent a significant amount of time. From the 11th century onwards, liberated serfs and other members of the Third Estate founded settlements alongside the old Roman or Germanic. It was customary law that a city resident was free after one year and one day. After this he could no longer be reclaimed by his employer and thus became bound to the city. Serfs could flee the feudal lands and gain freedom in this way, making cities a territory outside the feudal system to a certain extent. This created the conditions for the revolts such as the Münster Rebellion.  With the Statutum in favorem principum (“Statute in Favor of the Princes”), this regulation of customary law was officially abolished for the Holy Roman Empire in 1231/32. According to the statute, cities under royal jurisdiction were forbidden to protect serfs originally owned by the regional princes or their vassals. The statute is an example of power devolving from Imperial authority to that of territorial magnates during the drawn-out contest between the Hohenstaufen emperors and the Papacy.

Adding to the confusion over Roland’s symbolism and representation are the conflicting ideals or beliefs in regards to Charlamagne and the church as opposed to the ideal of  Roland representing the civil rights.

 

History of Saxony Anhalt in relation to Old Saxony

Now  we know the history and legend of Roland along with some reasons he may have become such a symbol for certain areas of medieval Germany that include Saxony Anhalt and the village of Calbe. What we need to do next is look briefly at the history of  Calbe, Magdeburg, and Saxony Anhalt in relation to what was once called Old Saxony. My reason for doing this is to better understand the histories of these areas and how they connect to the original land of Saxony.  There is a great deal of confusion surrounding the numerous variations of “Saxony” Over the centuries until rather recently, there have been areas, territories and Duches with labels of Upper Saxony, Lower Saxony, Saxony Anhalt, Saxony, and Old Saxony. This proves a bit of a nightmare in terms of knowing where a town or village is as compared to where it might have been at some other earlier point in Germany’s, Prussia’s or Saxony’s long history!  With the appearance of Roland in some areas, I was interested in seeing the medieval or even earlier histories of Calbe and it’s surrounding cities.

Calbe_(Saale)_in_SLK calbe and magdeburg Germany

Calbe’s history dates back to at least the 10th century when the original Church of St. Stephani was built there. Their former Monastery Gottesgnaden dates back to the 11th century and their representation as Free City protection by Roland originated in the 1380s. This early appearance of Roland would signify that their monument to him is for earlier reason and meaning based on the Free city ideal rather than a later public relations model by Charles.

 

Calbe is located near Magdeburg. If we look at Magdeburg’s history we get a much better picture of the area and it’s connection to Charlamagne and the Saxon Wars. The city of Magdeburg or Magadoburg was founded by Charlamagne in the year 805. The meaning of the name was from Old High German magado for big, mighty and burga for fortress. If you look at early maps, you will see that Magdeburg was shown as being a part of “Old Saxony”. This is crucial in determining just what part of those many areas labeled Saxony the city was in as far as placing it within the realm of original Saxon held lands. It is also important when trying to figure out Charlamagne’s conquests of the Saxons!

old saxony

Old Saxony is the original homeland of the Saxons in the northwest corner of modern Germany and roughly corresponds today to the modern German state of Lower Saxony, the eastern half of North Rhine-Westphalia and western Saxony-Anhalt.  It included the entire territory between the lower Elbe and Saale rivers almost to the Rhine. Between the mouths of the Elbe and the Weser it bordered the North Sea. The only parts of the territory which lay across the Elbe were the counties of Holstein and Ditmarsch. The tribal lands were roughly divided into four kindred groups: the Angrians, along the right bank of the Weser; the Westphalians, along the Ems and the Lippe; the Eastphalians, on the left bank of the Weser; and the Nordalbingians, in modern Holstein. But not even with these four tribal groups was the term of tribal division reached. For the Saxon “nation” was really a loose collection of clans of kindred stock. For example, the Nordalbingians alone were divided into lesser groups: Holsteiners, Sturmarii, Bardi, and the men of Ditmarsch.

Old Saxony is the place from which most of the raids and later colonisations of Britain were mounted. The region was called “Old Saxony” by the later descendants of Anglo-Saxon migrants to Britain, their new colonies in Wessex and elsewhere were the “New Saxony” or Seaxna. In Germany the Saxon lands were known simply as “Saxony” (Modern German:Sachsen) and only later came to be called Lower Saxony, to differentiate those original Saxon tribal territories from what became the Kingdom of Saxony or Upper Saxony in territories far to the south-east of the original Saxon homeland. The Anglo-Saxon writer Bede claimed in his work Historia ecclesiastica gentis Anglorum (731) that Old Saxony was the area between the Elbe, the Weser and the Eider in the north and north west of modern Germany and was a territory beyond the borders of the Roman Empire.

Magdeburg is located on the Elbe River so the area would have been part of Bede referred to as Old Saxony.  Ptolemy‘s Geographia, written in the 2nd century, is sometimes considered to contain the first mentioning of the Saxons. Some copies of this text mention a tribe called Saxones in the area to the north of the lower River Elbe, thought to derive from the word Sax or stone knife.[5] However, other copies call the same tribe Axones, and it is considered likely that it is a misspelling of the tribe that Tacitus in his Germania called Aviones. These earliest known tribal Saxons inhabited “Northern Albingia“, a region bordering the northern bank of the mouth of River Elbe in what is now Western Holstein. As land became scarce, the Saxon population began to expand southward where it absorbed indigenous populations such as Cherusci, Chamavi and Chatti, also remaining portions of Langobardi (Lombards) and Suebi. This broader domain is called “Old Saxony”. The Chauci, according to Tacitus, also lived in the general area later known as Old Saxony and were highly respected among Germanic tribes. He describes them as peaceful, calm, and levelheaded. At some point they may have merged with, or were perhaps synonymous to, the Saxons.

For the most part, the Saxon lands were a broad plain, save on the south, where it rose into hills and the low mountainous country of the Harz and Hesse. This low divide was all that separated the country of the Saxons from their ancient enemies and ultimate conquerors, the Franks. The lack of clear physical definition along this border, from time immemorial, had been the cause of incessant tribal conflict between them. Saxons as inhabitants of present-day Northern Germany are mentioned in 555, when Theudebald, the Frankish king, died and the Saxons used this opportunity for war. The Saxons were defeated by Chlothar I, Theudebald’s successor. Some of their Frankish successors fought against the Saxons, others were allied with them; Chlothar II won a decisive victory against the Saxons.

In 690, two priests called Ewald the Black and Ewald the Fair set out from Northumbria to convert the Old Saxons to Christianity. It is recorded that at this time Old Saxony was divided into the ancient dioceses of Münster, Osnabrück, and Paderborn. However, by 695 the pagan Saxons had become extremely hostile to the Christian priests and missionaries in their midst and began to realize that their aim was to convert their over-lord and destroy their temples and religion. Ewald the Fair was quickly murdered, but Ewald the Black they subjected to torture, and he was torn limb from limb. Afterwards the two bodies were cast into the Rhine. This is understood to have happened on 3 October 695 at a place called Aplerbeck, near Dortmund, where a chapel still stands. The two Ewalds are now celebrated in Westphalia as saints.   Their reluctance to accept the new Christian religion and propensity to mount destructive raids on their neighbours would eventually bring them into direct conflict with Charlemagne, the powerful king of the Franks and later emperor. After a bloody and highly attritious thirty-year campaign between 772–804 the Old Saxons led by Widukind were eventually subdued by Charlemagne and ultimately forced to convert to Christianity.

The primitive bonds of kindred and clan were particularly strong among the Saxons, and in spite of many divisions the Saxons were an unusually homogeneous nation living as late as the 8th century as the early Germans described by Tacitus in Germania had lived. The long warfare with the Franks largely reduced but did not wholly obliterate their distinct cultural identity.

 

Charlamagne and the Saxon Wars

By the time Charlamagne decided to put an end to Saxon paganism and raiding of Frankish territories, the Saxon lands consisted of  4 regions,   Nearest to Austrasia was Westphalia and furthest away was Eastphalia. In between these two kingdoms was that of Engria and north of these three, at the base of the Jutland peninsula, was Nordalbingia. The Magdeburg area was in the Eastphalia region.

Charlamagne's Saxony map-oldsaxon

It took him almost 30 years but Charlamagne did succeed at conquering the Saxons completely. He began his campaigns in 772 and it was not until 804 that the last rebellious tribesmen were finally crushed. In all, eighteen battles were fought in what is now northwestern Germany. They resulted in the incorporation of Saxony into the Frankish realm and their conversion from Germanic paganism to Germanic Christianity.

Despite repeated setbacks, the Saxons resisted steadfastly, returning to raid Charlemagne’s domains as soon as he turned his attention elsewhere. Their main leader, Widukind, was a resilient and resourceful opponent and accepted a peace offering from Charlemagne in a perilous situation, not losing his face and preventing Charlemagne from continuing a bothersome war. This agreement saved the Saxons’ leaders’ exceptional rights in their homeland. Widukind (ahd Waldkind, “Child of forest”) was baptized in 785 and buried in the only German church without a spire.

It was a long bloody and drawn out war that Charlamagne might have won sooner had he not left so often to take care of other battles. After his initial attack in 772-74, he negotiated with some of the Saxon Nobles, took hostages and left to attend to to his war against the Lombards in northern Italy; but Saxon free peasants, led by Widukind, continued to resist and raided Frankish lands in the Rhine region. Armed confrontations continued unabated for years.

In 775 Charlamagne returned to march successfully  through Westphalia and Eastphalia. By the end of this campaign he assumed that all of Saxony except for the North was in his control and left again for Italy. In 776, the Saxons were already rebelling and destroying his fortresses. He returned in time to put down the rebellion but Saxon Leader Widukind conveniently escaped to Denmark.  In 777, Charlamagne convened a meeting at Paderborn supposedly to  integrate Saxony fully into the Frankish kingdom. Many Saxons were baptized. The main purpose was more to force the Saxons into Christianity.  Charlemagne issued a number of decrees designed to break Saxon resistance and to inflict capital punishment on anyone observing heathen practices or disrespecting the king’s peace. His severe and uncompromising position, which earned him the title “butcher of Saxons”, caused his close adviser Alcuin of York, later abbot of Saint Martin’s Abbey at Tours, to urge leniency, as God‘s word should be spread not by the sword but by persuasion; but the wars continued.

By 778 he left once again, this time to take care of those matters in Spain with the assistance of  Roland….we all know how that campaign turned out! He probably should have just remained in Saxony and focused on defeating them once and for all. Instead, he let the war drag on for years before he achieved success beginning in 785 when Widukind finally admitted defeat, offered to have himself baptized and swore fealty to Charlamagne.

The city of Magdaburg that Charlamagne founded was part of the Eastphalia region and was built in 805 after one of the few later attempts at rebellion by the Saxons. As it was built on the River Elbe, it was most probably designed to put off any future strikes the Saxons might attempt using that waterway that went all the way up to then North Sea.  Magdaburg became an important city during the next centuries.  In 929 the city would be given to Alfred the Great’s grand daughter, Edith upon her marriage to Otto I Holy Roman Emperor. The city was her Morgengabe or Dower gift. Edith loved the town and often lived there; at her death she was buried in the crypt of the Benedictine abbey of Saint Maurice, later rebuilt as the cathedral. In 937, Magdeburg was the seat of a royal assembly. Otto I repeatedly visited Magdeburg and was also buried in the cathedral. He granted the abbey the right to income from various tithes and to corvée labour from the surrounding countryside.

In 1035 Magdeburg received a patent giving the city the right to hold trade exhibitions and conventions, which form the basis of the later family of city laws known as the Magdeburg rights. These laws were adopted and modified throughout Central and Eastern Europe. Visitors from many countries began to trade with Magdeburg.

In the 13th century, Magdeburg became a member of the Hanseatic League. With more than 20,000 inhabitants Magdeburg was one of the largest cities in the Holy Roman Empire. The town had an active maritime commerce on the west (towards Flanders), with the countries of the North Sea, and maintained traffic and communication with the interior (for example Brunswick). The citizens constantly struggled against the archbishop, becoming nearly independent from him by the end of the 15th century.

In about Easter 1497, the then twelve-year-old Martin Luther attended school in Magdeburg, where he was exposed to the teachings of the Brethren of the Common Life. In 1524, he was called to Magdeburg, where he preached and caused the city’s defection from Catholicism. The Protestant Reformation had quickly found adherents in the city, where Luther had been a schoolboy. Emperor Charles V repeatedly outlawed the unruly town, which had joined the Alliance of Torgau and the Schmalkaldic League. Because it had not accepted the Augsburg Interim (1548), the city, by the emperor’s commands, was besieged (1550–1551) by Maurice, Elector of Saxony, but it retained its independence. The rule of the archbishop was replaced by that of various administrators belonging to Protestant dynasties. In the following years Magdeburg gained a reputation as a stronghold of Protestantism and became the first major city to publish the writings of Luther. In Magdeburg, Matthias Flacius and his companions wrote their anti-Catholic pamphlets and the Magdeburg Centuries, in which they argued that the Roman Catholic Church had become the kingdom of the Antichrist.

In 1631, during the Thirty Years’ War, imperial troops under Johann Tserclaes, Count of Tilly, stormed the city and committed a massacre, killing about 20,000 inhabitants and burning the town in the sack of Magdeburg. The city had withstood a first siege in 1629 by Albrecht von Wallenstein. After the war, a population of only 4000 remained. According to the Peace of Westphalia (1648), Magdeburg was assigned to Brandenburg-Prussia after the death of the current administrator, August of Saxe-Weissenfels, as the semi-autonomous Duchy of Magdeburg; this occurred in 1680.

 

Otto I in Magdeburg

Otto I in Magdeburg

Magdeburg Klasztor

Magdeburg Klasztor

Magdeburg vista

Magdeburg vista

So, after this extremely long involved look at my ancestors, their homeland of Calbe Saxony Anhalt Germany, the history of Roland, Charlamagne and the Saxon Wars; what have I learned other than that I’m still somewhat confused and exhausted by all of it? Well, I have learned a great deal more about my roots in Calbe and it turns out that yes, I probably do have truly Saxon roots! We’ve discovered that those legends about Roland were just that… in reality he was not all that famous or even such a great hero but merely a rather unlucky soldier who some later story teller turned into a hero for the cause of a different war. I am kind of disappointed on that one, I was really hoping that something in his life other than just his untimely death would have warranted the legends… But, perhaps once again, some story teller as in Michael Hirst will add to his fanciful and completely fabricated accomplishments! We also now know more than we probably wanted to know about Charlamagne and his Saxon Wars. Never the less, I hope you managed to stay with the journey and enjoyed it!

 

 

 

Geillis Duncan: The Beginnings of Madness

 

Warning! If you have not read all of the books including the novella, The Space Between, this article will contain numerous spoilers!

gillian and the stones3

Before we start our visit with Geillis Duncan and get to know her better…that is if you are brave enough to want to know her better? As scary as she is though, she is a very important part of the ongoing legend of Outlander. There are still a number of secrets and mysteries about this woman and her life. For those of you who are not familiar with her, I will try to give you a bit of background information on her.

In trying to wrap one’s mind around Geillis Duncan, and the number of other aliases she assumes over the years, I think it’s important to start with who she was originally and the time she started out in?  We know very little about her early years growing up and what might have caused her to become the obsessed and crazed woman that she ended up as. When one is investigating and profiling someone such as Geillis, it is important to attempt to fill in those blanks as much as possible? She is one of those cases where we have to ask ourselves, Was she born with some emotional or mental instability or did something in her past cause her to snap? Now, very few people are actually born with a mental instability that would cause such behaviors and actions as Geillis exhibits, so we might normally rule that possibility out? In the case of Geillis, however, we will leave that possibility open because we know nothing of her ancestral lineage at this time other than one very important fact. She is capable of travelling through the stones, so something in her blood line and her genes has produced that ability…Could there be some mutation along those lines that would also pre-dispose her for madness?

first let us look at who she started life as and when she lived…Geillis Duncan is simply an alias that one troubled (yes, that’s putting it nicely and mildly) young woman, Gillian Edgars assumed when she decided to escape her life in 1960’s Scotland. Gillian Edgars was not having such a great life during that time!  She was a highly intelligent and strong willed woman. Gillian was driven, determined, passionate and focused on her studies and on the current events surrounding her in the 1960’s. Unfortunately, she was also stuck in what she must have assumed was a dead end marriage to a lazy and worthless drunk who did not understand or care about the things she thought were so important. Now, we do not know whether her husband, Greg Edgars was always that way, or whether the times, the general turbulence and living with Gillian drove him to it? We’ll probably never know that because Gillian took care of the situation in what was the beginning of her madness.

Gillian Edgars was passionate, intense and obsessed with the things she believed in and studied. Those things included history-mainly that of the Scottish Jacobite risings and Bonnie Prince Charlie, archeology-namely standing stones and circles, and of  course, Witchcraft! Her husband, Greg also mentioned her involvement with the Scottish Nationalists and the Society of the White Rose, two organizations working toward Scottish independence. He tells Roger that Gillian is obsessed with Bonnie Prince Charlie and often has others around to talk about what if his rebellion had succeeded.

http://www.scotland.org.uk/history/devolution 

Claire eventually came to believe that Geillis/Gillian was suffering from insanity caused by syphilis? My personal take on her is that she was already bordering on insanity as a young woman when she took her first trip through the stones. What else would explain her doing away with her first husband, and future ones even before Arthur Duncan in the ways that she did. Gillian Edgars firmly believed in the cause of the Scottish National Party and Society of White Rose and was obsessed enough with it to go to any length in order to see it succeed. She also believed so fully in the powers of Witchcraft that she assumed those powers could guide her through time, through the Stones in order to change history. In her all consuming determination towards that end, she obviously felt that her husband was expendable? Why wouldn’t he be… at the time, she didn’t plan on coming back so no one could place any blame on her for the action. It would be the ultimate unsolvable murder!  There were a few things that Gillian did not get quite right in her research and her subsequent travels. Her research of the Stones, and the “spells” led her to the belief that she must have a human/blood sacrifice? In that requirement, she used her unsuspecting husband?  In reality, if she were one of the  “Auld” Ones but didn’t know it, she would have been able to travel back anyway, no “witchcraft” involved! She also, of course did not count on any witnesses to her crime or her travel. 

Gillian did do a great deal of in depth research on the Stones and the rituals that pertained to traveling through them. She kept a notebook filled with her research notes, which Claire eventually found and kept to show Roger and Bree.

gillian's notebook1 gillian's notebook2

Claire steals Gillian’s notebook from the institute and learns Gillian’s plans. The three of them go to Craigh na Dun on Beltaine eve to stop her, but by the time they reach the stones, Gillian has set her husband on fire as a sacrifice. They watch as Geillis, dressed in 18th century clothing, disappears into the cleft in the stones. Roger is nearly pulled into the stones and Claire is knocked unconscious. Even Brianna hears the stones and realizes that her mother’s story was true.

 

standing stones gillian goes through the stones

 

It’s obvious that Gillian had been planning her trip for some time.  What is not so clear is why she chose to leave when she did? Of course, she did plan the trip according to when she assumed the Stones would be open, but she could have gone at some earlier or later point in the year? According to the legends, the time passages through the Stones would be most open to travel at specific times of the year that coincided with ancient Pagan holidays relating to sun and moon phases, solstices and equinoxes.

http://www.catanna.com/paganholidays.htm

 

Yule/Winter Solstice around December 21st / Winter Solstice on or near December 21st Yule / Winter Solstice on or near December 21st
Here in the northern hemisphere, nights get longer and days get shorter until the day of the Winter Solstice when the cycle reverses. The word Yule comes from the Norse Jul meaning wheel. On this darkest of nights, the Goddess becomes the Great Mother and once again gives birth to the Sun God. This is a fire festival so celebrate with a Yule log in the fireplace, candles on the table and lights on the tree. Evergreens, holly, ivy and mistletoe, symbols of fertility and everlasting life, remind us that the cold darkness of winter will eventually give way to the warmth & new growth of spring.

Imbolc / Imbolg / Candlemas – February 2nd
Imbolc means, literally, ‘in the belly’ (of the Mother) and in the womb of Mother Earth new life is truly stirring. The young Sun God is growing and his strength is beginning to be noticeable. If you look closely, you may notice a snowdrop or a crocus pushing its way out of the still-cold earth. This is traditionally a day of purification, of sweeping out the old to make room for the new… both physically and emotionally. Celebrate by lighting LOTS of candles to encourage the young Sun; if you like to make them yourself, this is an auspicious day to do it. As nuts and seeds symbolize new beginnings, enjoy some sesame cookies or nutbread while visualizing yourself co-creating a loving, joyous & prosperous future.

Ostara – Spring Equinox – on or near March 21st
Named for Eostre the Teutonic Goddess of New Life, Ostara is the first day of Spring. Light and darkness are in balance, but the light is growing stronger as days continue to grow longer. The Young Sun God continues to mature and grow; small tender leaves appear on the trees, young buds are swelling and, here in New York, cheerful white and yellow daffodils are already in full bloom. The Life Energies are building quickly now and the very air seems to vibrate with promise. Celebrate by coloring eggs, an ancient symbol of fertility.

Beltaine / Beltane / May Day – May 1
From the Irish Gaelic Bealtaine meaning Bel-fire (the fire of Bel, Celtic God of light) Beltaine is primarily a fertility festival; the Land represented by the Goddess is now ripe and fertile and the Sun God expresses His Love for Her. Celebrate by establishing a woodland or garden shrine and gathering flowers to adorn your living space… and yourself!

Midsummer / Summer Solstice – on or near June 21st
Midsummer is the longest day of the year. It’s not harvest time yet, but Mother Nature is impressively lush. The veil between the Faerie realm and our world is thin so don’t be surprised if you catch a glimpse of an otherworldly someone on Midsummer’s Eve! Celebrate with a bonfire and if you’re into herb magick, any plants gathered at this time are particularly powerful. Or just stroll through a park or woodland area and bask in the glory of our natural world.

Lughnasadh / Lammas – August 1
Even though Lughnasadh occurs at the warmest time of the year, it marks the time at which days become noticeably shorter and so is considered the starting point of the autumn quarter of the year. The autumn season contains three harvests, and Lughnasadh is the first of these, the time when the first corn harvest is cut. The name is derived from Lugh (pronounced ‘loo’), a Celtic deity of light and wisdom. At Lughnasadh, bread from the first harvest was eaten in thanks. Baking, sharing& eating bread is a wonderful way to celebrate this holiday and if you can, attend a Renaissance Faire, Medieval Festival or Highland Games competition. The jousting matches and caber & sheaf tosses were no doubt inspired by that aggressive war god Lugh.

 

MMabon/Autumn Equinox around September 21st – or near September 21
Mabon is the time of the second harvest, when fruits are ready for collection. The land is showing clear signs of the journey towards winter – leaves are beginning to turn and birds are gathering for migration. Mabon is a time to consider which aspects of your life you wish to preserve and which you would prefer to discard. This is the Pagan Thanksgiving, a time to appreciate and enjoy the fruits of your labors. Commemmorate Mabon by making wine, feasting with friends, planting bulbs to bloom in the spring and put out feeders to help those brave birds who don’t migrate get through the long winter ahead.

Samhain, All Hallow’s Eve, Hallowe’en – October 31
This is the Last Harvest and New Year’s Eve to the ancient Celts. Being “between years,” it is considered a very magical time, a day when the veil separating the the physical plane and spiritual realms is most permeable. This is a good day to practice divination: scrying, Tarot readings and Rune casting are all particularly effective. The practice of donning costumes… especially scary ones… grew out of the ancient fear of evil spirits passing through the veil along with the benevolent ones and pumpkin carving evolved from the practice of painting hideous faces on gourds to keep “gouls and goblins” away from the home. Samhain is also a day for honoring our ancestors and one of my favorite rituals is the Dumb Supper… laying an extra place at the dinner table for those who have passed over to the Summerlands.

witches calander wheel1

Gillian made her trip at Beltane, May 1st. Had her intent always been to go on this particular date, or did she rush into her trip for some other reason? We know that she was asking questions about the Stones. Fiona, Mrs. Graham’s grand daughter and Roger’s housekeeper mentioned that other young woman who reminded her of someone… Roger with his green eyes that so resembled Gillian’s, asking for information. Was Gillian aware that someone, such as Claire, was suspicious of her? Did she rush her preparations because of this? Or was there some other reason that she left in a bit of a rush as she seemed to? And, why did she feel the need to use her husband Greg as a sacrifice in such a horrific way? We know little of their relationship other than Greg was a drunk and didn’t agree much with her radical ideas and friends.  Yes, possibly she just chose him out of convenience at the time. Perhaps she came home to find him drunk and passed out as usual, and decided with no care, concern or remorse to use him as her needed sacrifice? Or was there something deeper within their relationship that caused her to use him and destroy him in such a vengeful way? Was he abusive towards her, did he pose a threat to her in some way? Did he know something of her activities or plans with her revolutionary radical group of  friends, did he at some point threaten to tell of  what ever plans they might have been coming up with? Of course, we’ll probably never know those answers but they are plausible explanations or theories which we can not really rule out? If she was cold, calculating and unconcerned enough as to casually use him as her torch, then she was certainly already well on her way to the rather depraved and insane soul that she became later.  Gillian was generally a thorough researcher and planner, and it just seems to me that while she was somewhat prepared for the trip, her leaving when and how she did felt somewhat rushed?

 

Now, as to why she chose the place she did, after having researched any number of other places… It is speculated at some much later time that she was part of an archeological project at one of the most ancient of all and perhaps most powerful circles, on Orkney Isle. It was there that she might have met one of the other Scottish Nationalists and revolutionaries, Rob Cameron?  One would think that she would have preferred to use those Stones as her portal instead? I believe she might have if she were not stuck where she was at the time? So, she chose the closest, most convenient sight that she could find and hoped for success.

http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2014/08/140808-outlander-scotland-orkney-islands-stonehenge-neolithic/

Standing Stones of Stennes on mainland of Orkney, Scotland

 

There are two other puzzles concerning Gillian’s planned trip to the past via the Standing Stones at Crag na dun? The first, of course is the time frame? According to the legends and her research, Gillian would have known that in general the timing was given as about 200 years. She wanted to go back far enough in time ensure the success of the Jacobites and change the future of Scotland. It was 1968 when she decided to go back, so theoretically she should have landed somewhere around 1768. This time frame would have put her too late, so she had to have been hoping that she could guide herself further back than that with the added stones and what ever other spells or such she assumed would help her… most likely she was counting on the added benefit of poor Greg’s sacrifice to aid in this matter? We can not be sure of exactly how far back she did land, but she was there as early as about 1738 when Roger and her son, William Buccliegh MacKenzie meet her?  She has already been there for some time,  enough time to have killed another unfortunate husband and be on her way to doing away with husband number 3…there could have been more, these are just ones we know about! So, her thoughts and theories of being able to exert some control over the time landed in seemed to be partially correct. She would have wanted to go far enough back to give herself time to prepare for the rebellion of 1745 and she managed to accomplish that much, though it probably was not as close or as accurate as she would have wanted. But, better to be too early than too late!

The other puzzle surrounds where she was shortly after her arrival, or at least when Roger and William find her and piece together the story? She left through the Stones at Crag na dun near Inverness, so she should have been well placed in or around Inverness at that point in the past. Why then, did Roger and William find her at Cranesmuir, near Castle Leoch and the MacKenzies?

Outlander locations

Logically thinking, she would have been in a far better position to prepare and plan from Inverness than from the more remote location of Cranesmuir? If she wanted to make a difference,  influence the outcome and success at Culloden, why then did she make her way to Cranesmuir instead? Was it some lack of pre-planning on her part? Was it that she thought she could more easily find a way to fit in a more out of the way place and find a gullible next husband?  We don’t know those answers either, but we do know that her descendants, Roger and William ended up paving the way for her introduction to her future victim, Dougal MacKenzie!

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Now we at least know how Gillian Edgars came to be one Geillis Duncan in the past! Ohhh, before we go on, we should add one last bit of interesting coincidence? When Gillian traveled to the past, she changed her name to Geillis, and we know that she married a fairly important man in the town of Cranesmuir. Arthur Duncan was the procurator fiscal, which really had nothing to do with finances as it would seem by the term.

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The office most likely originates in the Roman-Dutch and French manorial or seignorial administrator (Dutch procurator-fiscaal, French procureur fiscal), who, as the fiscal in the title suggests, was originally an officer of the sheriff (the local law enforcement officer and judge) with financial (fiscal) responsibilities: the procurator fiscal collected debts, fines, and taxes. However, such responsibilities had been eclipsed in the course of the 18th century by their duty as prosecutor in the sheriff court with the passage of the Criminal Procedure (Scotland) Act 1701. In this capacity they gave concurrence in private prosecutions and prosecuted on behalf of the Crown. The Sheriff Courts (Scotland) Act 1867 gave procurators fiscal full responsibility in law for prosecution of all criminal acts in Scotland.  Originally the fiscal was the sheriff’s official and tenure of the office was at the pleasure of the sheriff. With the decline of private prosecution the fiscal came to be regarded more and more as under the control of the Lord Advocate. In 1776 the government  started to pay procurators fiscal to take precognitions and in 1907 the right of appointing procurators fiscal was transferred to the Lord Advocate.

So, she was a “witch” married to the law enforcement/judge in town and covered her personal practices by operating an herbal remedy shop. Very clever and calculating on her part? The interesting part though is that when she married Arthur, she became Geillis Duncan. By some sheer coincidence, there was another Scottish  witch by the name of Geillis Duncane in history?  Now, the thought pondering question is this… Gillian Edgars being the historian and obsessed person that she was, would probably have researched any number of witch references and stories and would most surely have come across this one. She was also one who would have seen the coincidence and probably would have looked at it as some sign in her decision to put efforts towards becoming another Geillis Duncan? Perhaps she might have looked at it as a way to honor a former fallen and persecuted Witch… but, really she should have taken it as an omen of her own future in becoming another Geillis Duncan!

https://timeslipsblog.wordpress.com/the-real-geillis-duncane-persecuted-witch-of-scotland/

 

It should be quite apparent by now  that Gillian Edgars aka Geillis Duncan was highly mentally unstable long before Claire showed up at Castle Leoch and made her acquaintance! Claire was far too trusting and gullible in the matter of Geillis Duncan. Of course, it was understandable that Claire was not thinking quite rationally at the time, having just survived her own ordeal with the Stones. She was terrified, and alone in a strange time and place… When she encountered the seemingly innocent and friendly Geillis, she was desperate for a friend, any friend with whom she could at least have some sort of conversation and let her guard down just a bit. In Claire’s frazzled mind, Geillis was harmless, another healer of sorts who she could learn something from? Geillis, however had other things on her own mind, and became increasingly interested and probably suspicious of Claire’s language and behaviors. Something was not quite right about this new woman in her town, her chosen territory and she needed to know more about Claire. Namely, she needed to know how much Claire knew, and what kind of a threat Claire was to her plans! So, being the devious one that she was, Geillis set about befriending the unsuspecting Claire.

outlander Geillie and Claire

 

 

It should be noted that Geillis was most likely desperate for some half way normal conversation and casual friendship as well.  She was not the most well liked person in the village and a number of people did already suspect her of some sort of Witchcraft and or evil doings! Jamie warned Claire to stay away from that Geillis Duncan, she was a wicked one. Murtagh warned her as well that no good would come from meeting with Geillis, and the nightmare that Claire had about Mrs. Fitz calling her a Witch could more appropriately have been Mrs. Fitz’s reaction to her association with Geillis!

 

Before we move on the rest of our in depth investigation of  the one now known as Geillis Duncan… you may be wondering what is going on with the back up support person that I hired to accompany me on this journey?  His initial impressions of the woman known as Gillian/Geillis were along the lines of Wow… She is one hot Witch!

lottie verbeek now lotte verbeek3 Jack_Nicholson_em_Melhor_Impossvel

 

However, after reading her background information, he appeared to have some misgivings and second thoughts on his agreement to help me in this assignment?

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He started muttering and ranting on about some previous experience with good looking Witches that turned out rather badly for him in the end?

witches of eastwick4 jack nicholson witches of eastwick1 jack witches of eastwick7 jack witches of eastwick2

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I really thought he would be able to handle this, but now I am just not sure if he will be able to pull himself together enough to be of any help to me!

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A Blessed and Happy Samhain to all of the Witches and other Pagans!

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Please join us later if you dare, to find out more about Gillian/Geillis’  continued journey into madness!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Eleanor’s Journal 75: A Warrior’s training

           previous episode:  https://timeslipsblog.wordpress.com/2014/06/29/eleanors-journal-the-depths-of-erics-past-from-norseland-to-vampyres-and-romans/

watching the fire

               Eric had sat there that night staring at the low burning fire, fists clenched in his lap, his face tightly held against showing his rage while Artorius spoke in a quiet and equally controlled tone. The two had become unlikely friends over the past few months of Eric’s confinement. There was a shared respect between them even if they were on opposing sides in some ways.

             This night, Artorius had much to share with the young man besides the grim details of his family. He knew that Eric must know of what he faced on his return to that highland place he called home and he knew too that Eric would feel compelled to seek out his own vengeance, a feat that could well cost him and those he cared about, their lives.

             Artorius had to convince the young man not go this route alone, and not to fill his soul with bitter hatred that would eat at him for eternity. “Your uncle is filled now with the blind rage of bloodlust against all he deems his enemies. Rather than seek honorable justice and vengeance, he will seek bloody revenge against all who come near him. In the state he is in now, he will destroy even his own in that blinding rage. Your lands will run red with the blood of your own by the time he is finished because he can see the difference any longer.” Artorius shook his head sadly and stared at Eric waiting for his nod of painful understanding before going on. “You must return to your lands and see those survivors safely away from him and your home for now. Your uncle must be left to his own until he can face this and see more clearly through the pain and the blood running over his eyes who the true enemy is.”

              Artorius stood and paced the small dimly lit room. He was filled with his own rage and grief over the current situation. Rage at his so called countrymen and comrades, grief over what was happening to so many who only sought to defend their lands and their lives. The Romans were growing desperate in their attempts to conquer new territories and hold on to their claims of power over all of the lands. When men grew desperate, they forgot about honor and justice. He stopped his pacing and stood behind Eric, who had said nothing as yet, just continued to stare into the fire. Artorius watched him closely and saw his body tremble in the attempt to control his emotions. As Eric stared, the fire grew brighter, fed by the deepest of the rage that he tried to dismiss from his mind.

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             It became a balancing act for Artorius, his mind wrapping around those flames to contain the fire within the pit and within Eric’s soul. There was an electric silence as he allowed Eric’s release into the fire while keeping the inferno to a limit that would not consume them. He knew that this was the only release available to Eric right now and he must use it, but as Eric was as yet unskilled in this release.  It  was  up  to  Artorius to guide him through it.

              Finally, after some time, the fire returned to a manageable slower burn of it’s own making and Eric sat now with his head buried in his hands. Artorius touched his shoulders from behind as he spoke. “I will send a well skilled legion of Vampyres with you who will know of how to contain Svein and reach his soul to heal him. You will not interfere with it… it will not be pleasant for anyone and it could take some length of time. You will gather those left and move them away to safer ground away from the place for now. The ghosts and the pain must be cleared away first before it is livable again.”

            He paused for some moments, feeling the tremors of Eric’s body as the man still struggled with the depths of pain in his soul. “I will see to finding your sisters and your cousin. I will seek the retribution and the vengeance for you my friend, for I know better how to accomplish it than you within this system of snakes. You will leave this to me, as a payment of debt owed to your family for actions of those Romans who have no honor.” Artorius shook his head and uttered oaths of disgust at what their legions had become.

           He sat again close to Eric with a hand firmly placed on his shoulder. “We must speak of something else this night as well. This is of grave importance to all of your people.” He had then shared with Eric the plans of the Roman command to retreat fully from this land of Barbarians as they termed it. The Romans would soon leave this soil the chaos of tribes and clans who would fight amongst themselves for control of it. Artorius explained that the Romans were feeling the strains of having pushed their limits and their reaches too far. They were coming under attack from numerous fronts by any number of what they considered Barbarian attacks and they could not defend themselves against all of those fronts. Artorius shared another thought about the Roman retreat. There were many of the Romans who feared this place, said it was beyond Barbarian and it reeked of some untold and unknown mysterious magic that could not be won against.

              Artorius laughed somewhat bitterly at that… The Romans were leaving in fear of the mysteries, of the powers and the ancients who were even more powerful  than in some ways than any Roman Legion. The Romans feared the Fairie Realm! They feared not the Vampyres or even the witches, but for some reason, they feared the quiet, ancient Fairies and the lands they came from. Eric had looked up at Artorius in some shock and disbelief at this admission. It made little sense to him, the greatest of powers retreating in fear of one of the most peacable and un-warlike groups there ever was? His waves of rage and grief were for a time set aside by the ironic humor he saw in this event. The bloodiest army there was, beaten by the merest thought of Fairies! He started to laugh and could not stop at this astonishing, rather ridiculous idea!

                    Artorius had joined with him in the laughing for some time until they both wiped tears from their eyes. He had to catch his breath before returning to the more serious matters at hand. He told Eric that it would not necessarily be a peaceful or graceful exit by any means. Just because they were retreating did not mean that they would not show their strength upon that leaving. There would be a great deal more bloodshed and they were determined to deplete  and destroy as much of the land and the peoples on their way out, to ensure that there would be no chance of anyone rising up against them from this front.

                 Artorius’ plan was to stay in this land. He had decided to remain here rather than continue with the Romans. There were others like him, of the same thought and mind. They would rather risk their lives in this new place than return to what they knew was a losing cause and battle with the Roman Empire. He and some of his men would make their new lives here and offer their abilities to those clans and tribes in this land.

          

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               As Artorius spoke of his plans, he paced the room with his sword in hand. He found some peace and comfort in having it in his hand. It was as much a part of him as a limb, having learned to use it from the earliest childhood that he could remember.

The dragon sword

                Eric watched his every move with the long sword. Occasionally, he would shift his glance and his thoughts to the Sword that hung on the wall over the fire as well as the one that laid upon the table in front of him. He knew not how to handle these weapons, had never seen them before the battles with the Romans. His one thought was of the Romans had so easily conquered his Clan, left them slain on the field with these weapons. Eric’s army, such as it was, had been armed with short knives, heavy axes, clubs, or whatever else they had been able to find to defend themselves with. It was with such as the swords, the horses, the disciplined training, that battles would be won and Eric well understood that.

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                  He watched Artorius and listened intently to his plans. Artorius was offering this training, and these weapons to Eric and his people, what was left of them anyway. Should the Romans decide to return, or when the next invaders arrived, and Arturius assured him that yes, there would be others who would make the journey and the attempts to conquer, his people needed to be ready and prepared to better defend themselves and their lands.

                 It was on that long night that Eric stepped away from his Clan temporarily to become a willing student and later, a comrade in arms to Artorius. He returned to his home on the isle of Skuy only shortly, to gather those survivors and see them safe for the time being from Romans and from Svein’s blood rage. His small group of people took refuge in the forested Fairie lands, protected by rings and veils of deceptive mists and rock formations filled with the most ancient magic of the Fairies. They would return to Dunvegan when the Vampyre guards pronounced it was safe for them to do so. Eric had visited the place and what remained of his Uncle Svein… Svein at that time was so filled with the blood rage that he recognized no one, not even Eric. He saw every living thing as enemy to be set upon and destroyed. The guards placed with him were of the strongest and the fiercest rank of Vampyre and even they felt the need to chain Svein to the wall in the deepest part of the underground until such a time as they could control him. There was nothing left of his reasoning or his mind. The guards had advised Eric that possibly, those parts of him might never return. Should that be the case, they would have to take measures to put him out of his tortured existence. Eric sadly agreed with them and left the place with directions to keep him advised of the situation.

       

          There was little else that Eric could do. He could do nothing for Svein, and he could not protect his people or his family, should they be found, without what Artorius could offer to him. So, he cleared his mind and his thoughts to start a new life as a Roman Guard. He knew that he would not be one for long, so he did not look on it too greviously. No, he focused his thoughts on the future afterwards… and he tried not to think of his sisters, or his cousin who were Gods knew where, in those Roman hands. With the aid of Artorius, Eric managed to control his own blood rage and put it towards other uses, such as learning to fight with those swords.

Eric's decision

Sword lessons3 Sword lessons2 Sword lessons

                  Artorius was doubtful at first that Eric, or any of the other men would succeed much less excell in the lessons of Sword and horse fighting combat. They were skills that most men learned from the cradle. But, these men, and even some of the women had something that many well trained warriors lacked… they had reason, and a inner burning rage that carried them on. These earliest of Celtic Warriors had an inborn courage and pride that he did not often see even in the most well trained Roman Legions. They were survivors and what they lacked in skill, they made up for in sheer spirit and determination. As Artorius trained Eric, he thought it well wise of the Romans to retreat as they were planning to, for once these people came together as one, they would be a force not easily stopped. His other deeper thought for the future was what would happen when they turned on each other, as societies so often did. Who would survive that and what then would become of this land? He could not answer that, he did not know but he prayed to the Gods that the one he followed would make a difference.

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Eleanor’s Journal 74: The depths of Eric’s past… from Norseland, to Vampyres and Romans

Before you start on this episode, you may want to get your drinks and your munchies… it is a quite lengthy post! Also, there are limited illustrations in this episode. The far ancient past was a bit too difficult to attempt with any good quality so I chose to leave it as is with just the text to carry it. You may also want to refresh yourself with the details of some previous posts to aid in some understanding of Eric’s deepest past!

https://timeslipsblog.wordpress.com/2014/06/24/from-the-creator-ancient-history-connects-the-norse-with-romans-and-king-arthur/

https://timeslipsblog.wordpress.com/2014/06/21/from-the-creator-some-history-of-clans-in-scotland/

https://timeslipsblog.wordpress.com/2014/06/20/eleanors-journal72-erics-memories-a-time-before-vampyres-and-a-life-of-contradictions/

 

Now on to the story!

Screenshot-4 Judith Self

Eric shook the thoughts of Judith out of his head for the moment. In his mind, she was his future and he would have no need to sit in the dark and relive his moments with her. He was determined that he would find her safe, and that things would work out with her. What he needed to do for now was clear his head of the other memories that made up his past. If he were to have a future worth living with Judith, he must sort through the mess of his long and turbulent life, put it all into perspective, truly learn from the mistakes and not be guided by the emotions that always had a way of attaching to memories. Eric reminded himself that those events of his past were neither good nor bad, they were all merely lessons that everyone must learn. Some such as mortal humans learned them over a series of lives and deaths, while others such him now, learned them all in one long life time.

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Eric had spent an evening with Brennie and Svein, honoring their most ancient traditions and beliefs. Even though he had never been such a profound or firm believer in those things, he still held on to the traditions and the rituals for the peace it gave him. The Summer Solstice was one of those most sacred and spiritual times for many beliefs. It was one of those time when many believed that magic and miracles were at their strongest. When the veils between time and worlds were at their thinnest, and when those on other sides- whether it be Gods or simply those in other dimensions could hear and feel each other more intensely. It was often said that if one offered prayers, blessings or beseechings at these times, they would be heard and answered from beyond. He wasn’t sure of that but was well willing to take the chance if someone could hear their requests and help them on their mission to find Judith.

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Later after it was over, he had went to his own place of private prayer and offered his thoughts and his blessings to the one whom he missed so much. He had built this small memorial to her on the place where she had died so many centuries ago, and added one here at Dunvegan as well. While he had built with the outward appearance of honoring the Dunvegan legend of the Fairies, in his heart, he knew that it was in tribute to that one he had called a true friend. He often spent time alone with her in these places. Many times he could feel her presence with him, reaching out to him from that other place where she dwelled now. For a long time after her death, he had felt nothing but raw and grating pain, he had heard moans of terror and grief, keenings of hurt and wandering through darkness. At some point it had settled to a fog of uncertainty and not caring… But, lately it had become more intense again in it’s searching. It felt as if she were re-awakening on some level and trying to find her bearings. This night, he felt her reaching out desperately, and he heard in some faint tunnel of whirling sounds and waves, her voice calling. He thought he heard his own name, as well as others. He could not trust that it wasn’t just his wishful thinking and his own desperation that played tricks on his mind though because he thought he felt Judith and someone else in that mist as well?

Guinivere1   guinivere's arrival

Usually after some time spent here, he was more at peace with the world. Tonight, though he left with his heart and his soul in even more turmoil than it was when he began the evening. He wandered back up to the Castle and locked himself in the upstairs private library and museum that held so many of their most valued artifacts from the ancient past. Surrounded by these material remains of history, he poured himself a highly prized, very rare Whiskey and settled in front of the fire to recall his life in detail. He kept the bottle close at hand, knew well that it would take some long time and much of this strong fortifier to get through it.

The deepest depths of Eric’s memories

He took his thoughts back to the very beginnings… he intended to work his way straight through and come out on this end with a firmer grasp on his emotions. His intent was to work through it, honor it, grieve it, forgive himself and others for the wrongdoings, and then say Good Bye to much of it. His own private wake for his life was how he looked at this, and a celebration of a new journey upon which he would then embark.

           His earliest memories were few. He remembered little of the time spent in that other North land of his earliest ancestors, other than the leaving of it on that earliest voyage across the sea. His Father, a large and loud hulk of a man with wild blonde hair and the palest, faded blue eyes-possibly from staring out at the skies and the sun from his ships much of the time. His Mother, almost as tall as his Father, yet slimmer and a bit more refined in her looks but no less imposing. She was quieter, more thoughtful than his Father equally as strong and determined. She had a regal and royal bearing to her which never left. It had been his Mother’s line from whence their status came and she quite often took pains to remind her husband of it. While his Father was the brute force and strength that people looked at and feared immediately, his Mother was the one who held the calm, and if need be cold reserve that would hold one’s fear and respect even longer after a punishment meated out by her husband.

           She was a queen in her own right and never should any forget that, she vowed to her husband as they embarked on this journey to a new settlement in a far away place. His Father, Eirkr, whom he was named after, being the eldest son, was a great warrior and Chieftan in that North land but was choosing instead to follow his brother, Svein to this new place of peace and plenty. His Mother, Asdis, an honored and well revered Queen of one of those North places had made choice to align her tribe with that of Eirkr’s in a treaty of peace. She had gifted herself to Eirkr as wife and thereby stopped much of the warring, at least between their two lands. The rest of the wars continued however and there were constant battles for land and power among the various tribes of those lands. As their populations increased, the land became less able to sustain them all equally. The wars for limited resources became more violent and deadly.

            Eric remembered little of that, save what others told him in stories, and in their move this new land, those stories became of less importance or value. Eirkr’s brother Svein was a younger brother who must seek out his own destiny and he had chosen to seek it on the seas, traveling to far distant realms and returning with stories of vast oceans full of fish, of lands plentiful for those who would dare to claim it, and of places filled with magic and mysteries. He told of other peoples there who held secrets of the world and of life. On those visits, he would sit with them in the fire lit lodge and fill them with stories, some meant to scare and others meant to provide a smile and a dream or two of those far off places.  Eric’s Mother, Asdis, was a healer and mystical woman herself and she would badger Svein for more details of these places until he would wave his arms in defeat, “Ach, I’ve no more to tell ya, unless ya want to be makin it up, or ya want to get on a boat and join me there!”

             Asdis and Eirkr were adventurers and sea goers. They were also practical ones who knew that they could not hold off invasions of their lands indefinitely. They had discussed it long and hard for months, swaying back and forth on their options. Finally, they had come to a decision. They would leave their lands of that North place in search of a new destiny with Svein. The choice had been left to their people whether to go or stay put. Asdis had turned her power and her crown over to her younger brother. She would step down as leader of that group and then swore her fielty and allegiance  to her husband and his people. Previous to this, they had managed to rule together but separately their two groups. In accordance with their traditions, she had retained her role as ruler and Queen of her people while her marriage was looked at in a separate fashion. Now, she gave the role of Queen and stepped into the role of wife to a King. In their culture this was a very different thing… there was no such role at that time as Queen consort. One was either a Queen in her own right and ruler of her people, or one was a mate of a King, with much less standing, influence or power. Twas a difficult choice she made, and oft ground her teeth over in later times. She did however, adapt to the role in as much as she was able… and while no longer a Queen in that sense, she did wield power as the Mother of future rulers… which Eric was destined to be.

            Eirkr and Svein agreed to be co-rulers of their group in the new land. Months of preparations had finally found them all setting forth on that voyage across the North Sea to the place which Svein called Hjaltland.  Eventually, they had migrated farther south to the place they referred to as the Isle of Skuy and made their settlement there.

map of Scotland with Shetland islands and Isle of Skye

             Those earliest years had been a struggle for survival as they learned to carve out a new life in this much different place. It was indeed a place of strangeness and mystery but one thing it was not in that beginning time, was a place of such violent battles for land. There were already peoples living there, but like the Norse settlers, they were struggling to survive. It was not a land for the weak willed in any way. Here the battles were not so much with each other over limited territories, but with the sheer forces of an untamed wilderness and the rages of the natural environment. They learned together, the Norse settlers and those earliest of inhabitant of the area, the Picts. There were others there too, ones who had been there fighting just as long, or longer… the small groups of Fairie peoples deep within the forests and those other wanderers, Vampyres. Those two groups mostly kept to themselves in their own small communities but it was more due to a matter of comfort in residing with those of one’s own kind than anything else back then. There was no resentment or fear of others, unless they should bring it upon themselves by some action or behavior on their own part.

Old Celtic tribes of southern scotland and north east England

             No, back in that earliest time, they had all eeked out an existance together in that land. Eric’s family Clan had settled this piece of land near the sea and had been there ever since. He had grown to his young manhood there, working along side his Father, his uncle, his younger brothers and cousins to build a life for themselves. They had done well in that respect, traveling the seas, trading with the Picts, the Fairies and the few Vampyres there to forge a well knit community. Their peoples had mated to each other, new ties and new bloodlines. Eric remembered fondly his uncle Svein’s uniting with the young Vampyre, Gisella. It had been an arranged mating, as so many often were back in those ages, but they had been happy with it. Svein had come to love her most dearly and eventually turned to the Vampyre bloodline himself. He had done it willingly out of his love for that woman. Svein’s mating and turning had more sealed their bonds with that small Vampyre Clan and eventually they had easily blended into one larger clan rather than two separate ones. Other matings had blended them with the Fairies of that land, of the Picts as well. Their life had been hard but well satisfying and over all peaceful other than small skirmishes between clan members. Those small battles and disagreements were to be expected among any groups living in close proximity to each other. The disagreements were usually solved quickly and with limited violence, despite what history might attribute to those times. Eric laughed to himself… what did historians truly know of that time before such detailed and supposedly accurate documented accounts from questionable sources?

             No, life had been good then… until the arrival of the others upon their borders and their soil. The Romans had discovered the lands and the valuable resources of the British isles and set about claiming that land and those resources for their ever expanding empire. What the Romans had not counted on was such resistance from ones that they deemed primitive Barbarians. In those lower regions of the isle, they were more successful in their conquering of the local peoples already there. Despite their best efforts however, they never succeeded in conquering the upper regions of the land. What they did manage for some time though, was to form a tight circle around that area, controlling much of the land and the sea around it. They also brought something else with them on their arrival to those lands, which although unintended and not purposeful, did much to decimate the numbers remaining in the upper lands. Their secret, unknown- even to themselves- weapon was disease. As in the case for many conquerors, diseases and illness, which those conquerors may have built up some resistance to, often did a more thorough job of controlling an opposing force or army than the men themselves could accomplish.

probable Roman defenses

probable Roman defenses

             The inhabitants of that northern region were generally much isolated to themselves and not exposed to the deadly plagues of other populations. As the Romans ventured farther and farther north into their settlements and territories, they brought with them those plagues that swept through their new victims with alarming speed. Many of the Northern clans were wiped out in entirity by an illness or ailment which the Romans may have easily fought off with their increased immunities due to having been exposed to such an illness previously. Along with the threats of illness, there were also climate and weather changes that none could control. In addition, if that were not all bad enough, the increasing population brought by the Romans upon the land caused the lands themselves to be over used and ravaged. So, as the Romans advanced, the land became unusable, people became hungry and desperate.

               It was during those darkest times that history does seldom speak of… for much of the history was documented by the Romans who would not want for themselves to looked on as the blame for any of it, nor did they want to admit that they were often defeated by such small ragged bands of Barbarians who would fight to their death and their extinction before they gave in so willing to the Roman forces. So, the Romans made excuses for their retreating to back behind the walls they created for their defense against such savages that they could not manage to control. In truth, the Roman empire was at that time, beginning to fail as a whole and would soon be defeated by many such numbers of so called savages.

             During some of those bleakest of times before the next dark ages approached, Eric’s family and Clan had faced much of the demise as others. They had joined together with the Picts to fight the legions of Roman Warriors and lost many of their members to those wars. Ones not lost to the horrors of battle were lost to other horrors of plague and starvation.

             Towards the end, there had been little Clan left to lead or to rule. Eric along with most of the other men, and many of the women too had went into battle for their lands, their freedom and their very lives. Most of them lost the battle. He had watched his Father and his younger brothers die in one such battle, still on occasion, would wake to their battle cries and then screams of agony. Eric himself had been gravely wounded in the battle and prayed for death to come to him. Unfortunately, it had not been death to come, but a Roman Warrior wandering the field in search of survivors to take away as prisoners, captives and eventual slaves to the Empire. It was then that Eric had opened his eyes and saw a blurry vague vision of that Warrior kneeling over him. He had prayed even harder for death to come quickly. His Norse and Celtic Gods had not been listening at the time, or so he thought anyway… but perhaps some other God was. That Roman Warrior had been a man by the name of Artorius. Lucius Artorius Castus had been his name back then. He wore on his shield the emblem of a red dragon and he carried such a sword as Eric had never seen before. 

               In his delirium, Eric thought hopefully that the man meant to slay him right then and there. There was no such luck to be with him. The man had though, gently and carefully reached down to touch his face, then his neck and chest, to check for signs of any fading life. Eric had felt the man’s touch, just barely… but it brought to his foggy mind, the touch of his uncle and other Vampyres, who felt so much colder than humans at first touch. Eric had fought to open his eyes once more and look into the man’s eyes. He saw it there, the faintest glimmer of that other blood flowing through him. Eric then fought to leave his life as quickly as possible. He did not want this man claiming his life in any way. If he were going to die, it would be on his own terms, a warrior’s death. He silently battled within his mind to die as that warrior, and not owe his life to any other, especially on such terms as a Vampyre would demand. He knew enough of their ways that they would not touch or revive one already dead and he willed his heart to stop.

              The man sensed his inner battle, his fears and his silent pleadings for death. He had knelt closer and held a steady hand upon Eric’s chest while whispering to him in some voice that reached in to touch his mind. “Do not fear, my warrior. You shall have an honorable death, or not… that is not up to any of us. If your death comes here upon the field then I will give you honor in burial. You have fought with courage and if you should die now, you will go on to your peace and your joy as a warrior to that place you call Valhalla. If death does not take you, I shall determine to save you and give you honor in life.”

             The man, Artorius, had stayed there with him for some time, waited for his death to come. After a few hours, that death had not arrived and the agonies of continued life began to invade Eric’s mind and body. He shook with tremors of pain, and his faintest moans of a life leaving turned to screams of a live remaining. Artorius had leaned over him and shared his thoughts once more. “Enough, now… You have not won your battle with life and death as you desired. If I do not intervene now, you will most likely survive, but not in any manner of which would give you further peace or comfort. If I do not step in, you will surely lose a leg, and a part of your being which I do suspect you are even more fond of than the legs you walk on. You are seriously and greviuosly  injured in a most sensitive part… Our physicians could most likely put you back together, but you should not appreciate the results.” He did not wait for Eric’s answer of approval or agreement, but instead immediately took the necessary steps to turn Eric.

              Even with the turning of him, it still took many weeks for his body and his mind to come close to recovering from all of that which had taken place. He remembered little of it other than being carried back to one of the forts on Hadrian’s wall upon the back of the man’s enormous black war horse. He had been cared for by the man’s personal servants and physicians. Lingering for much of that time in a state of half sleep induced by many potions forced down him by those physicians , he had still wished for death to over take him. Artorius had visited often and calmy entered his troubled mind to still those thoughts. “It was not your destiny to die then, or now. You are a fine and honorable warrior and man. The Gods have some other destiny in store for you and you must accept it and go on with your life such as it is now.”

              Artorius had addressed his other thoughts as well. “You are not a slave, You will never be one to anyone, to the Roman Empire nor to me either. For one thing, you would be worthless any sort of slave…It would take more energy, effort and will power than I or anyone else for that matter has to make it worth while to even attempt such a feat! On a second note, I did not save your life for the reason of binding you to me or my kind.” He continued to delve into Eric’s most private thoughts. “I know that you are well familiar with the Vampyre blood and of their rules and traditions. I will settle some this fear for you now.”

              The man had left for a time and returned with a few others. They were dressed richly in Roman wear with fine robes trimmed in fur covering them. Two of them stepped forward, close to him and stood silent with their hands clasped together. They were older, a man and a woman, obviously of some very high status in Roman, or any other terms. They wered adorned with jeweled neckplates, arm bracelets and rings. They stood there regally and their bearing reminded Eric of his Mother when she took on her Queen stance. He also noticed dimly  that they were both of Vampyre blood.

              Artorius spoke softly to them, they nodded and motioned to a younger man, some sort of scribe, he must be… to step forward with them. He held a scroll and some sort of quill, and knelt to make himself comfortable as he prepared to write upon the scroll. Artorius returned his attentions to Eric and spoke in formal tone. “Eric of the Northland, I hereby to release you from any blood bound ties that may connect you now to my line. Your life and your blood are yours to do with on your own as you see fit in this the remainder of your now eternal life. You owe me nothing in return for the lifeblood I gave you, save respect and honor for that doing. I make it known to all that I gave you life in honor as I would have given you burial in honor. What I expect in return from you is only honor in all things you continue on with in your life. I will provide you with sustinance and guidance in this new life and expect nothing other than honor in return for that. You fought with honor and bravery in battle and met your demise with the same honor.” He went for some time longer outlining the details of his vow and his agreements for Eric’s future but Eric by then, lost some conciousness again and could not well follow the remainder of it. What he did realize was that this man was officially releasing him from any Vampyre blood ties along with any servitude ties to the Roman Empire.

              This man, Artorius was releasing him from any servitude to the Roman empire and giving him his freedom to return to his people and his home with one final condition, though. Should he caught in any future battle with the Romans, there was no gaurantee on what should happen to him. He would not receive help or assistance from Artorius and his Vampyre bloodline, where by if he had been bound to them by blood, they might have been able to make some sort of agreement. Should he return to his home and then decide to make some other choice, he was free to return to Artorius as a free man and pledge his alliances and alliegance to the man personally, if not the entire Roman Empire. He thought this rather odd that the man should make this offer to him but in his weakened state, he had not dwelled on it.

              His weeks of recovery had turned to some long months of training and guidance from Artorius, who took his vows quite seriously. He had vowed to train Eric in the Vampyre ways in order for him to survive on his own if that would be the need or the choice in his future. The training was long, involved and ensured that he would be a honorable warrior not just as in the human sense, but in the Vampyre way as well. During this time, Artorius had sent out his scouts into those highlands and outer isles in search of Eric’s family and clan, or what ever was left of them. The news was grim. Few of his clan remained, save Svein and a few others. Svein and a few of the other Vampyre bloods had most likely survived due to their Vampyre blood, but even that had not been a certainty. There were plagues that affected even the Vampyres and the Fairies.

              On one evening after the return of his scouts, Artorius felt compelled to sit down with Eric and share the gruesome details with him. There was nothing much to return there for it seemed but he was quite sure that the young man would feel honor bound to return to what ever was left up there. He needed to know ahead of time what he would face upon that return.

              Eric’s Father and brothers had died in the battle, he was well aware of that much. What he did not know of was what Svein had found on his return to their home in the north, nor of course, the current condition that Svein was in up there. Svein had lead the few survivors of the battle who managed to escape back to their home. He had found it ravaged and burnt to the ground with everything in a near vicinity to it destroyed and turned to a wasteland… They had lived near the sea on a well placed, or so they thought, piece of land that gave them easy access to that sea. The Roman legions that swept over those seas surrounding the northern places had come down so far as their safe place and decimated everything within their reach. There had been few left in that place they assumed safe do any real battle with the Romans. The ones who attempted it were quickly taken down. Others, such as young children and women had been taken as captives bound for a life of Roman slavery or death. Yet others, who they deemed unfit for servitude were not killed outright, they were simply left to die there on their own, or live as testimony to what the Romans were capable of. Eric held his head in his hand so as not to show such grief and tears in front of Artorius.

              Svein was there now, and had been so consumed by his rage and grief that he seemed to live in some violent world of his own creation. His beloved wife, Gisella had not followed them into battle because at the time she was great with child. Eric’s Mother, Asdis and a few other women had remained behind with her to assist her, along with the younger children, and some of the elders too weak for battle. The sickness had come to them and taken many, among them his Mother, who had been caring for those who were ill. Gisella had taken ill as well, but with her Vampyre blood, she had survived longer. In the end, she most likely wished that she had died earlier with others. As the Romans arrived, she was close to her time and could do little to defend others or herself. She was gravely ill as well as being so near to delivering her child and she was one whom the Romans had determined was little use to them, other than as a form depraved entertainment to some of the warriors. Uncaring of her illness, her advanced state of pregnancy, or for that matter her more sensitive to daylight Vampyre blood, they had used her viciously, repeatedly, and laughed at her dying screams in the brightest of daylight. The last man to use her dropped her casually in the dirt when the life finally left her body, and that of the unborn son within her.

              On returning to the wreckage of their home, Svein had found her skin burnt body, with what was left of her features still seeming to be wracked in some stone like eternal cry of such pain that it could still be felt by any who might come near. His ears were filled with those screams, along with the echoes and traces of so many others. The few others who survived had only managed to do so by fleeing to the wilds of the forested areas and they were too frightened to return to the place they had once called home. Svein had held on to his sanity long enough to bury his wife’s body and those of others who had been slain. He had carried on long enough to put the place to some sort of livable rights for a time and search for the remaining survivors in order to determine what had happened. He could not convince any of them to remain there, he did not expect them to… but he remained, refused to leave the place and then went much mad with his grief and his rage at all Romans.

              Eric’s younger sisters and some of his female cousins had been taken away with the Romans to parts unknown. The only thing that held Svein in any sane mind at times was the thought of his own daughter and his nieces out there somewhere in the hands of the Romans. On hearing of his sisters’ plight, Eric’s grief too, turned to rage and to a determination to find them all, to bring them home.

 

Eleanor’s Journal70: Present begins to meet past

The present begins to meet the past

Screenshot-19

With Eric’s decision made, Brennie went about making arrangements for their trip to Dragon Valley. Over the centuries, Brennie had become quite adept as an organizer and planner. It was Brennie who generally kept things running smoothly for all of them now days. Even with her own hectic music career, she somehow managed to keep track of all of their varied schedules, their whereabouts and their personal matters as well. It was no easy task and they often wondered how she accomplished it. She had just laughed at the men and teased them that perhaps they would do well to take a few more computer classes. In truth, while the advent of the computer and internet did help out, it was more a matter of how Brennie’s mind had been trained in her earliest years. She had been trained in those more ancient times to memorize everything. In her early years as a Bard in training, she had learned to commit facts, stories, and music to memory in order to pass them down in that oral tradition. Now, after centuries of practice and the enhanced abilities of her vampyre blood, her mind worked much like a computer. Not that she always appreciated this ability… there were often times when she dearly wished for a delete key. Of course, she admitted and acknowledged that most of her fellow vampyres wished the same things after living so many life times. Even after all of this time, she still had trouble accepting some of the aspects of this vampyre life. Other than her music, she lived a much solitary life with few real friends and no romantic notions or interests. She considered Eric and Svein her family, and her one true friend was the one they were off to search for. She had met Judith a few years earlier and for some reason, they had been drawn to each other. Judith was a human, but a human with an open heart, and an ever curious and open mind. On some level, they thought much the same. Judith was a kindred spirit.

Judith Self

Screenshot-83

The only time that Brennie’s and Judith’s friendship had ever slightly wavered was when Judith met Eric. Brennie had been with Eric for centuries and though she had come to the acceptance of him as family, there were still those lingering feelings of something more. She knew full well that it would never be for them, but could not help the occasional snaps of jealousy when he would be involved with some one- even casually. He had understood that and usually took great care not to flaunt his relationships in her face. His affairs had always been short lived and not of much consequence… until Judith. The attraction between them had been immediate and intense. It was as Eric described, a meeting of souls. When he had put it that way, Brennie knew that there was much more between these two than just a casual affair on both their parts. She had been heart broken for a time over it. Her hurt had been more due to having to finally admit to herself that fact that she already knew rationally. She had always held a faint shred of silent whispered, wishful thinking that perhaps one day something would change in their circumstances and Eric would look upon her again as he once had all those centuries ago.

Brenda Blonde Screenshot-18 (2)

For a while, she had kept her distance from both of them, pretended to be too busy to see either, pretended not to care. She threw herself into her work, into a public party lifestyle- which had never been her way before. Eric knew what was going on, but did not confront her with it, rather left her to work it out on her own.

Eric and friends9

Svein, for all of his gruffness and old world ways had seen her hurt and went out of his way to comfort her. He looked on her as a daughter and could not bear to see her hurting. Svein had been the one to take her aside and lecture her, as any Father might have done in the past ages. His words had been stern but his feelings shown through as he harshly reminded her of their ancient ways and of those things she should know by now. “Ya knew from the start that he was not for you, Lass. All of your pining through the years will naught change that. It only hurts you and him more when ye do it.” He reprimanded her on her behaviors of that time. “So, ye think that ignoring such a fine friend as Judith has been to ye is going to change anything? Or ye think that getting blind, stupid drunk with the likes of those scum who hang on to your coat tails just for the money and their name in a rag paper is goin to make it better, make ye forget? Well, ya know Damn well it’s not. All it’s doin is makin ye feel worse and bringin down yer fine name!”

     

     Svein had sat and hugged her close as he admonished her and then whispered to her, “Yer a fine girl, Brennie, yer just not the one for him. Someday, ye will find your own soul mate.” He whiped a tear from her face and added, “But, in order to find him, ye have to quit yer pining over one ye can naught have and quit hiding yerself away. Ye did it once before, it dinna work then and it will naught work now. Go on then have yer cry and get it all out, then go to yer friends and wish them well on their journey through this life.” As she had struggled to agree with him, he added softly, “They be needin all the well wishes they can get cause it will naught be an easy journey for them.”

      After that she had went to Judith to apologize and to explain her difficulties in accepting the relationship. Judith had her own apologies to make. She admitted that Eric had told her of his past with Brennie and she felt her own pangs of resentment and jealousy. Judith explained to Brennie that she felt guilty for feeling such resentment and insecurity over the relationship that Brennie and Eric had shared for so long. They spent a long night together with a few bottles of wine working through this odd sort of triangle between themselves. Judith shared some her deepest thoughts on the situation with Brennie. She was scared to death of this relationship, these feelings she had for Eric and she wondered if it could truly work, if it was really as he insisted, a destiny of souls. Although she was human and didn’t seem to have any traces of ancient blood or abilities, Judith did have one slight gift. She had strange dreams, some were of distant and vague pasts, some occasionally were of premonitions or like deja vue…

      Judith shared with Brennie her dreams of some pasts where Eric had been in her life in some way. Those dreams had come even before she knew Eric. She had experienced them from her early childhood and often wondered who that strange man was that always showed up in her dreams. When Eric had come into the public eye, she thought that she was just transferring her dream images on to him out of some pathetic sort of fan crush. Now, of course she was not so sure. She was bewildered and little frightened of admitting to herself that this was truly real. Judith was a believer in reincarnation, of souls meeting and uniting over and over again. While she firmly believed in it as a concept and a theory, it was another thing entirely to experience it first hand. It was much like the whole reality of the ancient bloodlines such as witches, fairies and vampyres. When faced with the actual facts and the reality of them, it shook people’s beliefs to their very cores. With the reappearance of these ancient ones and the coming acceptance of them, the world was changing quickly and it was often difficult to adjust to those changes on a global level, or on a highly personal level. Judith was experiencing all of this and while she was excited about it, it also left her uneasy and fearful of another unknown future.

      When Judith shared all of this with her friend, Brennie understood well what she was talking about. The world was changing quickly and she was not sure she was ready for it either. They had resolved to somehow stick together through all of it and their friendship had deepened because of it.

       Now, Judith was quite possibly in grave danger and Brennie was determined to go to any lengths to find her. Brennie, like Svein, had not so sure or positive about this assignment which Judith had volunteered for. For the most important reason of it being in Dragon Valley at Haunts Castle… that should have been reason enough. That place was unstable as it was. It had always been a strange place of unnatural and strange shifts in the atmosphere. Some said it had to do with electrical and magnetic fields running through it. She knew that had something to do with the oddities of the area. But, she also knew that there were other factors there as well. There were places there that the mists and fogs acted like blankets or curtains through time and space. The Fairies had made much use of them so many centuries ago to cloak themselves into an entirely separate world. When people spoke of the Fairies disappearing and going to ground, they were right in some way. Until quite recently, the Fairies had chosen to remain hidden behind those veils in certain areas where they could be controlled. In fact, until just the most recent months, much of Dragon Valley had remained within those veils. Parts of the Valley such as Haunts Castle would seem to appear and disappear randomly from the fogs that surrounded the Valley. It was getting more and more unstable and no one was completely sure what was causing it.

Haunts Castle1

      It was now also shrouded in secracy by the Higher Council. They had deemed it off limits to anyone not directly involved in the ongoing research of the area. There were rumors of other Castles and such now appearing where there had been none before. Many speculated that it all had something to do with the Global warming and Climate Changes going on. The changes were affecting numerous places. Changes in sea levels and ongoing droughts were causing a great many ancient discoveries to appear. Brennie knew that Eric knew far more about what was going on in Dragon Valley than he would share with her. When she tried to press him for answers, he always avoided it and said it did not involve them and he would like to keep it that way. She could not read his thoughts on it, he kept them well locked away from her prying much to her annoyance and frustration. Even Svein seemed to know more than he would share. At one point she had went so far as to cloak herself and stand in the hall to eavesdrop on conversation between the two men. To her disgust, it hadn’t worked well and they sensed her quickly. She had heard a short bit of the discussion though. Svein was angry and accusing Eric of dragging them all back into a battle that was none of their concern. They were done with those dealings of the Council and should be well glad of it. Eric had replied that they could not just walk away that easily. They were still part of it and must answer to them when called upon to do so. It was then that they had sensed her presance and quickly shut off their thoughts from her.

Eric and friends at Dunvegan1

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