Welcome to the discussion forum of Ða Engliscan Gesiðas for all matters relating to the history, language and culture of Anglo-Saxon England. I hope it will provide a useful source of information, stimulate research, and be of real help. Ða Engliscan Gesiðas (The English Companions) maintains a strictly neutral line on all modern and current political and religious matters and it does not follow any particular interpretation of history. Transgression of this Rule will not be tolerated. Any posts which are perceived as breaking this Rule will be deleted with immediate effect without explanation.

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« Last post by Phyllis on Today at 08:45:42 AM »
let me know if you need dates still for a particular month and I can send you my full set. I have more dates than I have articles, so could send you those?
The Cambridge Colloquium in ASNC ( Anglo-Saxon, Norse and Celtic) is on-line on 8th May and free to register this year. The theme is "Faith and Fidelity". The keynote speaker is Dr Sarah Künzler from the University of Glasgow.

« Last post by David on April 12, 2021, 08:53:16 PM »
Old Calendars
This week someone bought a 2021 calendar. This makes me wonder whether other members want to buy old calendars. We can sell them for £3 plus postage which is £3.20 in the UK at the moment. Jenny Ashby has some 2021 and 2020 calendars and I have some 2019 calendars.
2022 Calendars
Now I shall start working on the 2022 calendar. I am keen to receive suitable images with no copyright issues that we can tie to particular months. If I have more than one suitable image for a month I can use an image in a later year. If you have a very good image that is not tied to a particular month then it can be used on the cover.
General Discussion / OTD 9th April 1975: the Gilling Sword
« Last post by Phyllis on April 10, 2021, 09:41:44 AM »
Continuing my series of posts from the Companions' Facebook page, here is the most popular post from the past week commemorating the discovery of the Gilling Sword, although to be honest with you much of the commentary was about the relative vlaue of a Blue Peter badge...

On 9th April 1976 a nine year old boy playing by Gilling Beck in North Yorkshire made a discovery that later earned him one of the most coveted of all awards – a Blue Peter Badge! A second Blue Peter badge was also awarded to the sword.

Gary Fridd spotted metal about 2 feet from the water’s edge and so uncovered one of the finest Anglian swords found in Britain. Fortunately for us it was acquired by the Yorkshire Museum and is frequently on display there.

The sword dates to the 9th-10th century, and is typical of this period. It is made of iron and is about 33 inches (83 cm) long, with a maximum width of 3.4 inches (8.6 cm) across the guard. Of this the blade is about 28 inches (70 cm) tapering to a width of about 2 inches (5 cm).

It is two-edged with five silver bands on the grip and silver plaques on the pommel. The patterns are geometric with horizontal and vertical lines around a circular design. The Yorkshire Museum gives a more detailed description here:

“Iron blade with five silver bands on grip and silver plaques on pommel. Two edged blade, pattern welding, pommel decorated with silver plates with geometric decoration, five silver bands in grip, grip missing. Elaborate pommel with large central lobe topped with a circular button below which is a silver band decorated with vertical lines, on both sides of the lobe there are small plaques with a geometric circular design. Running vertically on the shoulders of the pommel either side of the lobe are two thin silver bands decorated with horizontal lines. The shoulder beyond these are concave and curve to meet another silver band which runs along the top of the upper guard, again decorated in a geometric pattern. The tang is visible through the silver bands that remain from the grip - which too bear the geometric pattern - between there it can be seen to reduce steeply in size as it reaches the pommel. The guard is thick but short, curving at an angle similar to that of the pommel it is slightly deformed on one arm. The blade by the hilt is black and reasonably intact, it still holds a sharp edge, and the cutting edge is chipped as well as corroded. The condition of the blade becomes worse toward the tip and the wide shallow fuller or plane which runs along the blade becomes obscured in the damaged portion, the blade is also reasonably loose in its hilt.”

General Discussion / OTH 29th March 845: Viking attack on Paris
« Last post by Phyllis on April 03, 2021, 11:43:59 AM »
Continuing my series of posts from the Companions' Facebook page, here is the most popular post from the past week commemorating the Viking attack on Paris in 845 AD.

In March 845 AD Ragnar allegedly led a Viking fleet into France raiding up the Seine, attacking Rouen.

On 29th March, Easter Sunday that year, they arrived at Paris with a fleet of longships and plundered the city. It was early in the raiding season and the attack was not expected. However, the Franks drew up defences on both banks of the river. This was of little concern to Ragnar, who attacked the smaller of the two forces, defeated it and took 111 prisoners. These unfortunates he hanged on an island in the Seine in full view of the second force on the other bank.

Despite the Danes being miles from the sea, and therefore perhaps more than usually vulnerable, the Franks were unable to defend the city. Charles the Bald paid the Danish to leave, handing over more than 2,500 kg of gold and silver. This was the first of 13 payments by the French to the Danes. On their way back the Danes pillaged several coastal sites including the Abbey of St Bertin.

Charles was heavily criticised for this payment but in practice he was facing conflict with his brothers over control of the remains of the wider Carolingian Empire, along with rebellion in the provinces and disaffected nobles. Paying off the Danes gave him space to deal with his other challenges, and in fact the agreement held for 6 years.

During the siege of Paris many of the Danes had died of plague which only subsided following a fast which they undertook on the advice of a Christian prisoner. Prayers to the Norse gods had previously proved ineffective. 

In the same year, a fleet of longships sailed up the Elbe and ravaged Hamburg in an attack which destroyed the town, including its church, school and library. A Viking fleet was also present in Moorish Spain; 150 ships had been ravaging in the Garonne and then appeared in northern Spain off the coast of the kingdom of Asturias. They were driven off and after a couple of weeks enter the Guadalquivir and attacked and took Seville. However Abd al-Rahman II was a far more effective deterrent than Charles and the Vikings were soon overcome. It was said that the Moors took so many captives that the city gallows were not sufficient and the palm trees “bore strange fruit”. However, the Moors also wanted to redeem the captives taken by the Vikings so some diplomacy was called for and Abd al-Rahman sent an embassy to their king (it is unclear if this was the Danish or Norwegian king) and it appears trading links were established.

General Discussion / OTD 22nd March 871: Battle of Meretun
« Last post by Phyllis on March 28, 2021, 10:44:03 AM »
Continuing my series of posts from the Companions' Facebook page, here is the most popular post from the past week commemorating the battle of Meretun on 22nd March 871.

On 22nd March 871 AD we come to the final battle of that year against the Vikings in which King Æþelred of Wessex participated. The men had already fought the battles of Englefield, Ashdown, Basing and Reading.

The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle tells us that:
“King Aethelred and Aelfred his brother fought against the [Viking] army at Meretun; and they were in two bodies, and they put both to flight, and during a great part of the day were victorious; and there was great slaughter on either hand; but the Danes had possession of the place of carnage: and there bishop Heahmund was slain, and many good men: and after this battle there came a great army in the summer to Reading.”

The site of the Battle of Meretun is not confirmed, although there are a number of candidates. The most quoted options are for either Martin in Hampshire or Marden in Wiltshire. Although it is not certain what caused Æþelread’s death it is a possibility that he died from wounds or infection following the battle. We do know he was buried at Wimborne, which is fairly close to Martin and so this may be an indicator. In addition a 10th century charter refers to Martin as “Mertone” which is closer to “Meretun” than perhaps some of the alternatives. However, in the interests of balance, it must be remembered that other site options are available for discussion.

John of Worcester summarises for us:

“Again, after two months had elapsed, king Ethered with his brother Alfred fought against the Pagans, who were in two divisions at Merton, and for a long time they had the advantage, having routed the enemy ; but the Pagans rallied, and gained the victory, remaining masters of the field of death, after great slaughter on both sides.
The same year, after Easter, on the ninth of the calends of May [23rd April], king Ethered went the way of all flesh, having governed his kingdom bravely, honourably, and in good repute for five years, through much tribulation: he was buried at Winborne, where he waits the coming of the Lord, and the first resurrection with the just. On his death, the before named Alfred, who had hitherto, while his brothers were alive, held only a subordinate rank, at once succeeded to the throne of the whole kingdom, to the entire satisfaction of all the people.”

Following another battle at Wilton in May, King Ælfred of Wessex paid the Vikings to go away. An uncertain future lay ahead and Ælfred’s chances of retaining his throne probably seemed slender indeed.

News & Events / Living and dying in Cambridge after Rome - recorded online talk
« Last post by Phyllis on March 25, 2021, 04:32:04 PM »
Here is a link to a recent talk that might be of interest:

Dr Caroline Goodson (King’s) hosts Dr Sam Lucy (Newnham), who is a world-recognised expert in Anglo-Saxon archaeology and cemeteries in particular, to learn more about what we know about Cambridge after the Roman period and why cemetery archaeology in particular is such a critical source of new evidence.

The discovery last summer at Barton Road in Newnham of a burial ground dating from the early Anglo-Saxon period (5th to 7th centuries) is prompting new research into old questions about life and death in a key period of the history of Britain.

General Discussion / Canonical Hours
« Last post by Phyllis on March 20, 2021, 09:54:17 AM »
Continuing my series of posts from the Companions' Facebook page, here is the most popular post from the past week discussing the Canonical Hours of the Benedictine Rule.

According to John of Worcester, on 14th March 880 AD there was an eclipse of the sun between nones (mid-afternoon) and vespers (evening) - but nearer to nones. This would have been around 2.30-6.00pm

So what are “vespers” and “nones”?

They are two of the Canonical “Hours” which divided the day for Christians both privately at home and for those living in religious houses. The schedule included regular intervals for rest, prayer and work. The Benedictine Divine Office became widely adopted in England, as elsewhere on the Continent, and this defined a collection of prayers distinct from the Roman Office (Liturgy of the Hours). In the Rule of Saint Benedict, written in the early 6th century, there are eight prayer periods: Matins or Vigils, Lauds, Prime, Terce, Sext, None, Vespers, and Compline, dividing the 24 hours thus:

•   Matins about 2 a.m   
•   Lauds about 5 a.m, or dawn, depending on the sunrise
•   Prime (First Hour) about 6 a.m
•   Terce (Third Hour) about 9 a.m
•   Sext (Sixth Hour) about 12 noon
•   Nones (Ninth Hour) about 3 p.m
•   Vespers about 6 p.m
•   Compline about 7 p.m.

At different times of the year the timing of the prayers varied to accommodate the longer and shorter days. In St Benedict's time, the day was divided into twelve even hours of daylight, so an 'hour' was shorter in winter and longer in summer.

The monastic day was spent between work, reading and prayer, and rest.

General Discussion / The Cuddesdon Bowl
« Last post by Phyllis on March 13, 2021, 08:55:00 AM »
Continuing my series of posts from the Companions' Facebook page, here is the most popular post from the past week taking a look at the Cuddesdon Bowl. Hopefully gesithas are aware of the appearance of this beautiful blue glass bowl, but the post about it is copied below.

A close second was a discussion about how mutually intelligible Old English and Old Norse was, and I can recommend a recent YouTube video on that very topic here:

But back to that bowl!

This may be a surprise – but glass was not completely uncommon in Anglo-Saxon England. In fact remnants of vessels are found in cremations often enough to suggest it was relatively widespread in use and not reserved only for the highest status burials. While glass vessels may well have been made in England it is entirely possible they were made from imported glass tesserae produced on the Continent, for example at Ravenna in Italy or Ribe in Denmark. Glass was used to make beakers and beads for jewellery as well as for glazing high status windows, such as the Monkwearmouth monastery. Well-known vessels have been found at Sutton Hoo and Prittlewell.

Today we are taking a look at the deeply wonderful Cuddesdon Bowl, and early 7th century artefact found in Oxfordshire in 1878, but believed to have been made in Kent. It was found in a high status grave and then used as a flower vase until 1971.

The dark blue colour comes from copper oxide or cobalt which was added to the molten glass. Around the upper part of the bowl is a thin applied trail of glass, arranged in ten tight spirals. The lower part of the bowl is decorated with thirteen vertical loops. These trails were formed by applying molten glass to the outer surface.

It is thought the bowl was actually a drinking vessel. It was found along with another blue glass bowl and a bronze bucket, typically thought to supply the owner with sustenance in the afterlife.

Coloured glass was available in a wide range of colours through addition of particular additives, although the process was complex and sometimes unpredictable. Most surprisingly perhaps, clear glass was harder to make than coloured glass. This is because iron impurities were difficult to circumvent. These impurities tended to result in a blue-green colour, and could only be removed by the use of decolourants such as antimony or manganese; an olive green was also often found and probably a result of impurities int eh glass. Meanwhile, red glass could be produced by adding copper-rich material to the molten glass;  amber colouring through iron additives mixed in a very low oxygen environment; yellow  glass was produced by adding tin oxides; purple through manganese in higher quantities than when used as a decolourant.

As glass rarely survives in more than fragments, we can appreciate this vessel. It’s an absolute beauty, so sit back and enjoy the view

[I am including the link to the Ashmolean page too so you can enjoy it]

Old English Language / Re: Old English Phrase Book for the Intrepid Traveller
« Last post by Bowerthane on March 09, 2021, 02:57:04 PM »
Thanks David. I'm on it!

( Crumbs, does this mean that I got 'sunlosan' right?  I plumped for a guess at the dative plural)

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