Tag Archive | Vikings

Vikings: Early days, The Trial

It all happened so long ago that there are times when my memory fades and I forget those early events that put us all where we are now. From that first raid that brought a young and frightened Athelstan to us, to Earl Haraldson’s resentments, fears and retributions, Rollo’s mistakes and struggles with his conscience, a second raid that went so wrong… and on to wars between our own people. I speak of our own people because that is how I do feel now even though there are oft times when I struggle as much as Athelstan and Rollo with my divided feelings of loyalties and beliefs.

I feel I must tell of these earliest days so that you may better understand how and why my friends made the choices they did as years went on, our lives changed and we became different people than we were in the beginning. Life has a way of changing us, all of us- sometimes for the better, sometimes for the worse as we try to deal with what has happened to us in each our own way.

I have made much mention of why I am loyal to Siggy and to Rollo even though I do not always trust either of them. I do not always trust them, but I have come to understand them over the years and I accept them for who they are as they accept me and place no expectations or threats upon me. Perhaps if you know more about their beginnings, their pasts as I know them, you will not judge them quite so harshly either.

Let me share some of their early stories with you now…

I will start with that second voyage to England that went wrong in ways that would affect the future?

Season 1 episode 4: Trial

first view of english village

What began as a simple plan, an easy raid or so Ragnar assumed… ended up going very badly for some and resulted in deaths and the making of an enemy. Ragnar did attempt in the raid to abide by some rules of conscience. He wanted the treasures, not dead bodies and tried to assure the villagers that if they would but hand over the riches, they would live unharmed.

raiding the church floki tastes the wine

floki at the alter while everyone watches

Ragnar and most of his group stuck to this promise.  In fact, Rollo showed heart and compassion for the old man he came across. He offered him comfort and a drink instead of killing him.

rollo finds an old man Rollo offers drink to dying old saxon man The early days of Rollo

One man of the group did not abide though and his action would end up affecting everyone’s future. Cnut, who was the brother of Haraldson- the one he sent to keep an eye on things…Cnut chose instead to rape as well as pillage.

knot's prey knut shows his colors

Lagertha did make but one mistake that day… though to her credit, and to the relief of the Saxon woman, it was a good thing she did make her one unwise choice. Ragnar had warned her earlier to be sure to stay with the group and not go off on her own? She disregarded that advice and found Cnut raping the woman. Lagertha could not stand by and allow this woman, Saxon or not, to be so used and violated!

lagertha interrupts

She tried to stop Cnut, and was then brutally attacked by him.

lagertha tries to stop cnut

Being the warrior that she was, she would not go down without a fight and ended up killing him.

lagertha will not go down without a fight lagertha attacks cnut

The men have finished their plundering and catch up with Lagertha. Ragnar asks the crucial question of, “Where is Cnut?”

where is cnut

where is cnut?

Lagertha knows there will be repercussions for her action but is stoic, blunt and honest in her simple answer, “I killed him”

i killed him

I killed him

Ragnar is not amused or happy and demands an explanation from her.

You what?

It is important here to know what Ragnar’s first reaction to her explanation was. He turned his anger on his brother Rollo, who had nothing to do with the event at all!

ragnar blames rollo Where were you

Ragnar blames and accuses Rollo of being at fault for the event, “Where were you?”

Ragnar walked away from the group in his frustrated, ill place anger leaving resentments and bitterness behind.

 

anger and resentment start here

anger and resentment start here

I am reasonably sure that such accusations and blame had been placed upon Rollo before by his brother but this one left much bitterness in Rollo’s heart because he cared much for Lagertha and to be blamed for something happening to her was not something he could take lightly or easily forget! This whole event would not be quickly forgotten or forgiven by any of those involved. It put a dark note to this raid and the group wanted to quickly return home from it…

Their ill luck continued though as they arrived at the beach to find their visit had not gone as secretly as they had assumed.

returning to the beach they realize they have been taken by surprise Ragnar is not having a good day

A battle on the beach ensued and they lost good men in the fight.

the viking dead

They buried their dead, sent them on to Valhalla and vowed vengeance for kin.

Don't grieve him don't pity him he will go to valhalla

Don’t grieve him don’t pity him he will go to valhalla

Yes he's happier than we are

Yes he’s happier than we are

he was my kinsman we must avenge his death

he was my kinsman we must avenge his death

They had made a fierce enemy in King Aelle and would eventually face him again in battle. But, before that time, battles would come at home!

Aille is furious King Aellie berates his men for losing to a bunch of pagans

As they made their voyage home, Athelstan was attempting to care for the children as best he could. He was realizing that child rearing was not such an easy task, especially when charged with the care of one such as stubborn and often resentful Bjorn!

meanwhile back at the farm Athelstan tries to look after the children

Athelstan’s patience as well as his faith was sorely tested in his arguments with the boy. One such argument over a visit to Kattegat resulted in Bjorn’s insistence of making a sacrifice to Thor for the safe return of his parents… When Athelstan reasonably questioned, “What would you sacrifice?”

what will you sacrifice

what will you sacrifice

Bjorn answers spitefully, “You!”

you

you

Athelstan turned later to God in anger and frustration, “Why? Why me? Do you even listen to me… why do you not send a sign?”

For the first time in my life I am angry with you, God!

For the first time in my life I am angry with you, God!

Where are you why don't you give me a sign

Where are you why don’t you give me a sign

a sign from God...

a sign from God…

Athelstan took the sight of the owl as his sign from God… woke Bjorn up in the middle of the night and pledged they would all go to Kattegat the next day.

Bjorn wake up  we'll all go to kattegat tomorrow

Bjorn wake up we’ll all go to kattegat tomorrow

Ragnar’s group returned home to great praises that did not long last.

Ragnar tells of the saxon attack and their defeat of them returning home with their treasure

Haraldson, of course wanted to know where Cnut was, what had happened to him?

dead how did this happen

dead? how did this happen?

Ragnar stepped forward and place the blame upon himself for Cnut’s death. He gave the explanation that he had come upon Cnut raping his wife.

rollo looks on as ragnar takes blame for lagertha's action

rollo looks on as ragnar takes blame for lagertha’s action

Haraldson refused to believe his story, finding it all too convenient that his brother should be accused and killed with no witnesses…

facing arrest ragnar says for your wife siggy would you not have done the same

facing arrest ragnar, says for your wife siggy would you not have done the same

Ragnar would stand trial for Cnut’s murder… and Haraldson would see to it that he was found guilty even if he had to come up with his own false witnesses to the event.

He found in Rollo, what he thought to be a willing betrayer? Haraldson questioned how Ragnar had treated Rollo and whether his loyalty to Ragnar was really so well placed?

is your brother a fair man does he treat you well and equally

is your brother a fair man does he treat you well and equally

I think he likes to rule you and what ever he says he considers himself to be first amoung equals.

I think he likes to rule you and what ever he says he considers himself to be first amoung equals.

Haraldson then went so far as to make Rollo an offer of more than riches or land? He made an offer of family ties…

 

haraldson makes his offer to rollo

haraldson makes his offer to rollo

The Seer and Siggy both watched from the shadows as Haraldson offered up his daughter, Thyri as payment for ultimate betrayal.

the Seer attends this meeting

siggy watches from shadows as haraldson offers rollo his daughter

siggy watches from shadows as haraldson offers rollo his daughter

This is my daughter thyri

This is my daughter thyri

 

It was during this time that I first became aware of some other involvement or knowing of each other between Siggy and Rollo?  Ohhh, I am sure that as Haraldson’s wife, she knew well of who he was, but was there more to it than just that? I do not know, have never asked- for I was better off in the not knowing, and it was not of my business, was it?  All that I know is that it was at this time that Rollo came more closely into our lives and has remained in our lives since!

haraldson introduces his wife siggy to rollo

After this meeting, came the trial- which Haraldson was sure would go his way no matter what happened? Of course he did not plan on Lagertha’s desperate attempt to save her husband by confessing to the murder herself.  Lagertha could not stand by and see her husband killed for her action.

ragnar's trial

May Thor strike you dead

May Thor strike you dead

My husband did not kill anyone  I did!

My husband did not kill anyone I did!

Siggy is moved by this confession

Siggy is moved by this confession

Her confession disrupted the trial for a bit but Haraldson dismissed her confession with his statement that he had a witness to the action?

we have proof  we have a witness

we have proof we have a witness

The hall was silent and breaths gasped when Rollo stepped forward as that witness.

rollo steps forward

rollo steps forward

You say you are a witness  Yes

You say you are a witness? Yes

Who killed my brother

Who killed my brother?

Knowing what had been offered to Rollo, and knowing what light Ragnar had been place in within Rollo’s mind…. I held my breath as well wondering what he would say?  Would he go so far as to betray his brother, and thereby Lagertha and the children as well in return for what Haraldson promised?  No, he would not betray them, his family. He stated that he had seen Cnut raping Lagertha and then seen Ragnar kill the man for it.

Ragnar lodbrok killed him

Ragnar lodbrok killed him because the man was raping his wife!

your half brother was caught raping his wife!

your half brother was caught raping his wife!

Later when Lagertha attempted to thank him for what he had done for his brother, Rollo’s feelings were clear. “I did not do it for him, I did it for you!”

I didn't do it for him I did it for you

Ragnar was a free man… but not truly, nor were any of them now.

Now you may remove my chains. Who has the keys?

Now you may remove my chains. Who has the keys?

Earl Haraldson had no choice to let the matter go for the moment but he did not forget, he did not forgive and he would have his final say on this. Ragnar knew the matter was not over either and that there would be a battle with Haraldson in the future.

unable to control his anger and rage at another friend's death ragnar leaves ragnar meets with his gods and prepares for battle with Haraldson

Ragnar’s battle with Earl Haraldson would affect us all, none would be immune from it. Rollo’s loyalty to family would cost him dearly as well. He had betrayed Earl Haraldson and would suffer the consequences of it. He would also learn not to be so trusting of those who made him promises… or would he?

          

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Preview of my upcoming Viking Adventure!

Just a quick preview of my upcoming Vikings Adventure! The new season starts Feb. 19th- until then we will be spending some time getting caught up on the saga!

vikings_gallery8_1-P Lagertha-and-Ragnar-ep2 Vikings-Princess-Aslaug-Alyssa-Sutherland-Ragnar-Lothbrok-Travis-Fimmel-and-Lagertha-Katheryn-Winnick viking long boat vikings-linus-roache-history vikings_gallery7_2-P

 

 

We will be following the Lodbrok brothers from their humble beginnings, through their exploring and raids, their struggles with life’s changes and their journey to changing the future. Please join us as we explore their stories, their legacies in the show and in history!

 

Just a forewarning!  while Ragnor Lodbrok seems to get most of the credit, acclaim and praise….

 

Ragnar Lodbrok

Travis Fimmel as Ragnar Lodbrok

 

Personally, I am more a fan of his brother Rollo!

Clive Standen as Rollo!

Clive Standen as Rollo!

during our adventure, I will be focusing much of my observations and investigations on Rollo’s journey both on the show and in history.

 

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

 

Veterans Day

In honor of Veteran’s Day, I just want to share this post made by Diana Gabaldon on her face book page. It is an excerpt from Written in my own heart’s blood that deals with Jamie going to war again and Claire’s feelings on it.

http://www.dianagabaldon.com/books/outlander-series/written_in_my_own_hearts_blood/

He’d come up to the loft and pulled the ladder up behind him, to prevent the children coming up. I was dressing quickly—or trying to—as he told me about Dan Morgan, about Washington and the other Continental generals. About the coming battle.

“Sassenach, I _had_ to,” he said again, softly. “I’m that sorry.”

“I know,” I said. “I know you did.” My lips were stiff. “I—you—I’m sorry, too.”

I was trying to fasten the dozen tiny buttons that closed the bodice of my gown, but my hands shook so badly that I couldn’t even grasp them. I stopped trying and dug my hairbrush out of the bag he’d brought me from the Chestnut Street house.

He made a small sound in his throat and took it out of my hand. He threw it onto our makeshift couch and put his arms around me, holding me tight with my face buried in his chest. The cloth of his new uniform smelled of fresh indigo, walnut hulls, and fuller’s earth; it felt strange and stiff against my face. I couldn’t stop shaking.

“Talk to me, _a nighean_,” he whispered into my tangled hair. “I’m afraid, and I dinna want to feel so verra much alone just now. Speak to me.”

“Why has it always got to be _you_?” I blurted into his chest.

That made him laugh, a little shakily, and I realized that all the trembling wasn’t coming from me.

“It’s no just me,” he said, and stroked my hair. “There are a thousand other men readying themselves today—more—who dinna want to do it, either.”

“I know,” I said again. My breathing was a little steadier. “I know.” I turned my face to the side in order to breathe, and all of a sudden began to cry, quite without warning.

“I’m sorry,” I gasped. “I don’t mean—I don’t want t-to make it h-harder for you. I—I—oh, Jamie, when I knew you were alive—I wanted so much to go home. To go home with you.”

His arms tightened hard round me. He didn’t speak, and I knew it was because he couldn’t.

“So did I,” he whispered at last. “And we will, _a nighean_. I promise ye.”

The sounds from below floated up around us: the sounds of children running back and forth between the shop and the kitchen, Marsali singing to herself in Gaelic as she made fresh ink for the press. The door opened, and cool, rainy air blew in with Fergus and Germain, adding their voices to the cheerful confusion.

We stood wrapped in each other’s arms, taking comfort from our family below, yearning for the others we might never see again, at once at home and homeless, balanced on a knife edge of danger and uncertainty. But together.

“You’re not going off to war without me,” I said firmly, straightening up and sniffing. “Don’t even _think_ about it.”

 

Wars and battles have existed from the beginning of time and women have been there for all of it. 

Whether they were on the battle field or left behind to survive on their own while fearing the outcome and picking up the pieces afterwards, they have always been a part of it.

vikings_episode8_gallery_3-P

 

There have always been those women who refused to be left behind.

104,_Lagertha_et_al

 

They have been caught in the middle, been innocent victims, used as pawns, made their own sacrifices and fought their own courageous battles through out time…

Claire captured Jenny at lallybroch

 

They have witnessed the carnage, the bloodshed, the loss of lives and held their loved ones in grief over the tragedies of war.

12_lady_lallybroch_00001

 

 

They have shed their tears, worried about those they sent off, those who never returned…

Jamie and Claire after a rough day Claire and Culloden

Through all of it, they have remained strong in their hearts and their own convictions...

 

 

claire and frank4female pilots during WWII

 

So many women like Claire have made the choice not to be one who is left behind, but to take their stand and fight beside the men.

Nurse Military%20Women%20alt veteransDayWomen miltary woman women-veteran

As a veteran myself, I can relate well to Claire’s thoughts and feelings. My personal belief on it is: If it is a matter worthy enough for men to fight and die for, then it is a matter worthy enough for women make the same such sacrifices for. I appreciate your thanks and your appreciation for what ever my contributions may have been but even if you did not choose to be grateful, I would still know in my heart that I did the right thing. I took a stand for what I believed in and will carry that with me forever.

To all of the Veterans, to the other women who have fought all of the battles both at home and in the trenches of combat, I salute you. I give you my thanks and my appreciation and I say, “You have fought a good fight, You have made a difference, You are not forgotten and You will always be remembered!

women_veterans slideshow_1493580_203151_HBO_Veterans_DCCO111 thCAPBG2W9

 

 

I am a woman
I served in the Military
I am a veteran
I am proud of it

veterans day2