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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General Discussion / OTD 17th June: The Feast Day of St Botolph
« Last post by Phyllis on June 19, 2021, 09:53:33 AM »
Continuing my series of posts from the Companions' Facebook page, here is the most popular post from the past week commemorating St Botolph.
Here’s the post.

Despite being a significant missionary of the seventh century Botolph is little known to us today; he is not even mentioned by Bede. His feast day is 17th June, and there are over 70 churches dedicated to him around the UK which indicates his popularity in earlier times, despite our current lack of awareness.
Botolph (originally Botwulf) was probably born in East Anglia although this is not certain. The Flemish hagiographer Folcard in the 11th century wrote a “Life” of Botolph, and claimed he was Saxon, although loved by the Scots; meanwhile the Schleswig Breviary claims he was a Scot (Irish), and this suggestion may have originated with St Willibrord who studied in Ireland before his career on the Continent where he ultimately became Archbishop of the Frisians.
Botolph studied in Germany and Chelles in Frankia before returning home.
According to the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, in 654 AD he founded a monastic community at Ikenhoe based on the Benedictine Rule, although before doing so he had to exorcise the demons which inhabited the place. The fens and marshes held many terrors for people, some of which have continued in legends still told today about the phantom dog, Black Shuck (OE “scucca” meaning fiend) and other terrifying creatures. As such Botolph was also a saint who protected travellers, especially crossing water, and many of the churches dedicated to him are placed beside the road leaving a town (ie on the left) or crossing a river. [The forgotten history of St Botwulf, Dr Sam Newton, 2016]
The location of the monastery is not certain: both Iken in Suffolk and Boston are suggested possibilities. Wherever it was located, it was an important site. In 669 AD Ceolfriþ, who later became abbot at Monkwearmouth and Jarrow, studied there to learn about the Rule, while on his way back to the north after a period studying at Canterbury under Archbishop Theodore and following his ordination. The good Botolph is described as “so well founded that no one could be found better versed than he, either in ecclesiastical or monastic tradition.”
Botolph is also referenced in a charter for the foundation of St Mildburh in Shropshire, around 675-690 AD.
Botolph died around 680 AD and was buried at his monastery. However, the house did not survive the Viking incursions in East Anglia and was destroyed around 870 AD. King Edgar (963-967AD) ordered that the remains of the saint be taken from the monastery ruins, and be divided into three parts: the head to be taken to Ely, the middle to be taken to Thorney, and the remainder to be taken to Westminster Abbey, although the planned distribution may not have been completed as the King commanded and they probably only reached Grundisburgh.
The Rev Dr Baring-Gould appeared to share Bede’s lack of interest in the saint when he concluded:
“There [Ikenhoe] he dwelt and founded an abbey, and there he spent a life singularly barren of interesting events. He was beloved by all who came near him, on account of his humility, gentleness, and affability. He died the same year as S. Hilda, in 655 [sic]. It is impossible to give more details concerning a saint of whom so little that is trustworthy or interesting is known.”
Poor St Botolph! He was a man renowned by his contemporaries for his gentleness and humility, as well as his learning, and these talents should be worth celebrating as much as great deeds and miracles.
« Last post by Phyllis on June 12, 2021, 11:02:20 AM »
Members will be receiving reminders about their accounts for our annual GDPR audit in the next few weeks. Accounts which have not been active in the past year will be deleted. You can always re-apply for an account later if you wish.

If you need any help accessing your account please contact the Gegaderung Administrator - contact details inside front cover of Wiðowinde.
General Discussion / OTD 10th June: Feast Day of St. Margaret of Scotland
« Last post by Phyllis on June 12, 2021, 10:54:40 AM »
Continuing my series of posts from the Companions' Facebook page, here is the second most popular post from the past week commemorating St. Margaret, sister of Edgar the Æþeling.

The most popular post was a in fact brief notice commemorating those killed at Lindisfarne on 8th June 793 AD, but I thought I would skip over that here.
So back to Margaret...

The Anglo-Saxons did not vanish mysteriously in 1066 and so today we are going to remember Margaret, daughter of Edward the Exile and sister of Edgar the Æþeling and Christina. She became known to posterity as St Margaret of Scotland and 10th June was originally her Feast Day; she actually died on 16th November 1093. She is also called Margaret of Wessex.

Margaret was the daughter of Edward the Exile and granddaughter of Edmund Ironside. Edward’s family fled abroad following the accession of Cnut to the English throne in 1016, around the time of Edward’s birth, and so Margaret was born in Hungary around 1045/6 AD.

Edward returned to England with Margaret and the rest of his family in 1057 during the reign of Edward the Confessor; the search for a successor to the English throne was in full spate. Hearing Edward was alive the Confessor recalled him and made him his heir. Harold Godwinson had been sent to persuade Edward to return and take up the role, but within a few days of his arrival in England Edward died without meeting the King.  The children were still young, but Margaret’s brother Edgar was considered a potential heir to the Confessor and the family stayed at court.

Following the invasion by William of Normandy the family once again fled the country, this time to Scotland where they were offered refuge and Margaret married King Malcolm III Canmore in 1069/70. Malcolm already had two sons from a previous marriage.

After their marriage Malcolm led a number of invasions into Northumbria in support of Edgar’s claim to the throne but to little effect.

Margaret and Malcolm had eight children, among them Edith (Matilda) who later married Henry I of England, William of Normandy’s son, providing a start towards the unification of the Norman and Anglo-Saxon houses. “The Life of St Margaret, Queen of Scotland” was written for Edith by Turgot of Durham and describes Margaret as a civilising influence on Malcolm. She also worked to introduce church reform, trying to align Scottish practice with the Continent and was inspired by Lanfranc, later the Archbishop of Canterbury. 

Her piety and concern for the poor earned her great affection and she is also known for establishing the Queen’s Ferry across the Forth to ease access to the shrine of St Andrew. She used a cave on the banks of the Tower Burn in Dunfermline to pray, and today the cave is open to the public, should you wish to get closer to the life of this extraordinary woman.

On 13th November 1093 Malcolm and their eldest son Edward were killed at the Battle of Alnwick fighting William Rufus, who had succeeded his father William of Normandy to the throne of England. Margaret received the news at Edinburgh Castle where she was already ill, and she died on 16th November, heartbroken.

She was canonised in 1250 and on 19th June 1250, both her body and that of Malcolm were exhumed and removed to a magnificent shrine.
Mary, Queen of Scots had St. Margaret's head removed as a reliquary to Edinburgh Castle in the 16th century and in 1597 it was taken by a “gentleman” to Antwerp, then France when it was lost during the French Revolution.

Three or four of Margaret’s surviving sons became kings of Scotland in turn: Edmund (evidence for his kingship is disputed), Edgar, Alexander and David. Her youngest son, David, honoured her memory by building St. Margaret's Chapel at Edinburgh Castle on the spot where his mother died.

General Discussion / OTD 2nd June 958: Death of Archbishop Oda
« Last post by Phyllis on June 05, 2021, 09:30:52 AM »
Continuing my series of posts from the Companions' Facebook page, here is the most popular post from the past week commemorating Oda se gode, the Viking-descended Archbishop of Canterbury. Here’s the entry:

Today we celebrate St Oda's day - a boy of Viking descent born in East Anglia. He fought at Brunanburh for King Æþelstan and miraculously re-forged the sword that was broken (“Thank you,” Tolkien). He ended up Archbishop of Canterbury - Oda, we salute you!
Oda’s father had been a warrior in the army of Ivar and settled in England. Oda was brought up as an English and Christian thegn called Æþelhelm and he decided to enter the church. About 926 AD he became Bishop of Ramsbury and was an important counsellor to King Æþelstan, including being one of the team sent to negotiate the restoration of Æþelstan’s nephew, Louis d’Outremer, as King of the Franks in 936 AD.
It would seem that during this visit he became a monk at Fleury-sur-Loire. He was obviously a man of talent because only 5 years later, in 941 AD, he became Archbishop of Canterbury.
Oda was a keen and determined reformer taking particular interest in the area of England that had been under the greatest Danish influence, East Anglia and the East Midlands. He kept his links with Fleury as well, and sent his nephew, Oswald (later Archbishop of York) to study there. He was also involved in Dunstan’s church reforms, and Dunstan admired him greatly, calling him “Oda se gode” (Oda the Good).
He crowned King Eadwig in 956 AD but quarrelled with him in 958 AD and took the part of Edgar who was rivalling his brother for power. He annulled Eadwig’s marriage on the basis of close kinship, almost certainly in a political act to support Edgar.
Oda died on 2nd June 958 AD.
Naturally miracles were recorded, including one written down in a “Life” shortly before 1100 AD by Eadmer who based it largely on the work of Byrhtferth, writing a century earlier at Ramsey Abbey, which had been founded by Oda's nephew St Oswald. The miracle in question occurred at the Battle of Brunanburh (937 AD) at which Æþelstan broke his sword:
“The king had brought blessed Oda into battle with him, trusting that he would defeat the enemy much more by the merits of this man than with hordes of soldiers. And while the most bitter and wretched slaughter was happening all about, a lamentable event occurred. For while King Æthelstan was fighting, his sword shattered close to the hilt and exposed him to his enemies, as if he were defenceless. Meanwhile Oda stood somewhat removed from the fighting, praying to Christ with his lips and in his heart for the safety of the Christian army, and for the sake of this continually raised his face, hands and eyes to those in heaven.
The king was perplexed about what to do in such a situation, for he thought it unspeakable to take a weapon from one of his men in order to arm himself. When a group of his adversaries noticed that the king had a broken sword and was unarmed, though they had begun to flee they turned their faces back to battle and set about obtaining revenge for their shameful flight by killing him most cruelly. Then all at once the air resounded with the clamour of the multitude crying out both for God to offer assistance and for venerable Oda to come forth as quickly as possible.
He raced up to the king and, although weary, asked what it was he wanted him to do. He listened to the king and immediately responded with these words: "What is the problem? What is worrying you? Your blade hangs intact at your side and yet you complain that it is broken. Come to your senses, extend your hand to the sheath, draw the sword and, behold, the right hand of the Lord shall be with you. And be not afraid, since the sun will not set until either flight or destruction envelops the enemies of your Lord who have risen up against you."
At these words all those who were listening were struck with great amazement, and casting their glance towards the king they saw hanging by his side the sword, which had not been there when they had looked earlier. Snatching it and taking comfort in the Lord, the king advanced and maimed or put to flight or dealt death to all the men rushing upon him from both his left and right. And so in accordance with the prediction of the servant of God, it came to pass that the king gained victory over his enemies exactly as the sun was setting.”
How very ironic that in this way the son of one of Ivarr’s warriors helped the Anglo-Saxon King to his great victory over the Viking and Scots armies at Brunanburh.

News & Events / Wiðowinde #198
« Last post by Phyllis on June 04, 2021, 02:17:12 PM »
Wiðowinde #198 has been posted out to members and looks like a cracking read!

See contents page here:
General Discussion / OTD 25th May 735: Death of Bede
« Last post by Phyllis on May 30, 2021, 10:08:13 AM »
Continuing my series of posts from the Companions' Facebook page, here is the most popular post from the past week in which we commemorated the life of Bede.

The Venerable Bede died on 25th May 735 AD at the 10th hour of the day. Most of what we know about him comes from his own writings, primarily the Ecclesiastical History of the English People which was completed in 731 AD.
He was born on the lands of monastery of Wearmouth around 673 AD. In 680 AD, at the age of seven, he was given to the Church as a child oblate (a person dedicated to God) under Benedict Biscop. The monastery at Jarrow was founded in 681 AD and he was sent there in the care of Ceolfriþ. As an oblate he followed the rule of Benedict and the routine of work, prayer, study and sleep.
According to the “Life of Ceolfriþ” when a plague visited the monastery all the monks were struck down except for Ceolfriþ and a young boy who between them sustained the Rule and sang the offices daily until more monks were able to join them. As he obviously survived, the boy must have been Bede and he would have been about 14 at the time.
Bede was ordained as a Deacon at the age of 19 by John of Beverley, who was at that time Bishop of Hexham. The canonical age for ordination as a deacon was 25, so the early date and the presence of John indicates that Bede was already recognised as exceptional. He became a priest at 30, again ordained by John. In due course he became probably the most learned man in Europe.
Bede left Jarrow only twice, visiting Lindisfarne in 721 AD and York in 733 AD. He lived the life of a scholar-monk, delighting in learning, teaching and writing. In this, he benefited enormously from Benedict Biscop’s collection of books acquired on his many trips to the Continent. Among his pupils was Ecgberht, later Bishop of York (whose ordination was the reason for his trip in 733 AD); Ecgberht invited Bede to the ceremony for his elevation to Archbishop in 735 AD but Bede was already too frail to make the journey.
His most famous work is of course the Ecclesiastical History, but he also wrote a huge range of other works, some of which have been lost but others survive. He was an historian, poet, musician, scientist, theologian and hagiographer. His major early works include On the Nature of Things (De Natura Rerum) and On Time (De Temporibus), which established the basis for his future intellectual development.
On the Nature of Things aimed to refute superstition by the rational explanation of the nature of the universe. This included phenomena such as earthquakes, eclipses, and thunder and lightning. Bede also aimed to foster appreciation and admiration for the beauty of the natural order.
His preface says:

“In brief chapters, I, Bede, the servant of God,
Have lightly touched on the varied natures of things
And on the broad ages of fleeting time.
You who study the stars above,
Fix your mind’s gaze, I pray, on the Light of the everlasting day.”

On Time, as well as being a reflection on the divinely instituted order of time, also represented the new Christian genre of the computus manual for calculating the date of Easter – a genre which Bede himself played a very significant role in developing.
Both works were in the format of question and answer and could easily have been adapted for teaching.
In his later expanded work, The Reckoning of Time (De Temporum Ratione), Bede took up and promoted the ideas of Dionysius Exiguus and Isidore of Seville and embedded the concept of the “Years of Grace” or “Anno Domini” method of dating which led to it being widely adopted.
In the Reckoning of Time ch 32 Bede describes the Earth as a globe:

“It is not merely circular like a shield [or] spread out like a wheel, but resembles more a ball, being equally round in all directions.”

In addition to these scientific endeavours Bede is known for writing the Lives of the Abbots, a history of his own monastery. He also wrote two versions of the Life of Cuthbert, one in prose and one in verse.
In the Ecclesiastical History Bede shows himself to be a true historian, collating and analysing his sources and quoting his authorities. Five 8th century copies still remain and it was chosen by Alfred for translation as one of the books “most needful for men to know.”
Bede was buried at Jarrow and was later translated (relocated) in the early 11th century to Durham under slightly questionable circumstances; the monks of Durham stole it to bring to their church, being dissatisfied that Bede’s relics were held at Jarrow. He now lies in the Galilee Chapel beneath a quotation from his own writings:
“Christ is the morning star, who, when the night of this world is past, brings to his saints the promise of the light of life, and opens everlasting day.”
But perhaps we should finish with another poem, credited to Bede (although not known certainly) about final thoughts before death and which is known as Bede’s Death Song:

"Before the journey that awaits us all
No man becomes so wise that he has not
Need to think about, before his going hence,
What judgement will be given to his soul
After his death, of evil or of good."

You can also listen to Melvyn Bragg discussing Bede on Radio 4's "In our time"

General Discussion / Re: 'Viking' hoard was actually Anglo Saxon
« Last post by Phyllis on May 30, 2021, 10:04:06 AM »
Funnily enough I was just looking up how to book tickets for this today!

The National Museum of Scotland is making tickets available for free but you have to pre-book. I'm devastated to say we decided to chicken out as the train costs were exorbitant and there was no refund on tickets - and we were concerned a flare up of Covid in either England or Scotland might prevent us attending. We are keeping our fingers crossed for a permanent display there once the Hoard has completed its peregrinations.

General Discussion / 'Viking' hoard was actually Anglo Saxon
« Last post by Blackdragon on May 27, 2021, 12:24:23 PM »

A marvellous hoard previously thought to be Viking has been identified as Anglo Saxon religious property, hidden in a layered pit against Viking attack. There are some unusual items there with foreign origins. It goes on display in Scotland today.

[color=var(--blue-link)]https://www.msn.com/en-gb/news/uknews/solving-one-of-viking-age-britain-s-greatest-mysteries/ar-AAKr6Tl?ocid=msedgntp [/color]
General Discussion / The Franks Casket
« Last post by Phyllis on May 22, 2021, 11:53:56 AM »
Continuing my series of posts from the Companions' Facebook page, here is the most popular post from the past week discussing the Franks Casket.

The Franks Casket is a cornucopia of stories and legends created from the bone of a whale and incorporating its very own riddle. It is not named for the people known as the Franks, but of the donor who gave it to the British Museum, Augustus Wollaston Franks (1826-97).

The casket was made in the 8th century, probably in Northumbria, and it is astonishingly, although not completely, intact. It bears the scars left by lost metal fittings on the exterior - handle, lock, hasps and hinges - and crude internal repairs. Originally it would have been painted.

The panels around the sides and on the lid show an array of stories from Roman, Jewish, Christian and Germanic tradition. Starting with the Romans, the left hand panel depicts the story of Romulus and Remus, the twin founders of Rome, being suckled by the she-wolf. The inscription reads: “Romulus and Remus, two brothers, a she-wolf nourished them in Rome, far from their native land” in Old English runes.

The back panel depicts the fall of Jerusalem in 70 AD to the Romans. Part of the inscription here is in Latin using the Roman alphabet and the other part is in Old English in runes. In the top left the Romans attack the city and it states “Here Titus and the Jews fight” (Old English runes); then in the top right the population is trying to escape, with the text “Here the inhabitants flee from Jerusalem” (mixed Latin and runes); in the bottom left we see a judge, and the word “judgement” (in Old English runes); and finally in the bottom right the defeated slaves are led away with the word “hostages” (Old English runes).

The front panel has two stories side by side. The first is the Christian Adoration of the Magi at the birth of Jesus. A rather duck-like bird in the scene is probably the Holy Spirit, and word “magi” is shown in runes.

The other side of the panel depicts the legend of Weyland the Smith, a Germanic story about a master smith captured and hamstrung by King Niðhad. In revenge Wayland kills the king’s sons and makes goblets from their skulls which he presents to the king. He also gives drugged beer to the king’s daughter and then rapes her, leaving her pregnant. Wayland finally escapes on wings made from the collected feathers of birds.

Around the border of the front panel is a riddle about the casket itself, written in Old English in runes and ending with the solution:

“The flood cast up the fish on the mountain-cliff
The terror-king became sad where he swam on the shingle.
Whale's bone.”

The lid is quite damaged but the detail that remains is taken from the Germanic story of Egil, the brother of Wayland, relating to the front panel discussed above. This is not Egil Skallagrimsson from the eponymous Icelandic saga. Egil is a legendary archer and King Niðhad forces him to shoot an apple from his son’s head, much in the style of William Tell. Later Egil shoots birds to collect their feathers and make wings so that Wayland can escape.

The most mysterious panel is the one on the right hand end of the casket. It depicts a story about which there is no agreed interpretation. An animal sits on a mound confronted by a warrior and another animal, probably a horse, stands in the centre facing another figure with a sword, or stick. Three figures are to the right. The runes themselves are damaged and decoding them is difficult, with different suggestions producing different translations.

There have been numerous suggestions about what story this represents, from Hengest and Horsa through the death of Balder to the story of Rhiannon from the Mabinogion.

Despite the strong Germanic imagery and styling of the casket, the actual design and layout is based on a casket from Brescia in northern Italy. Possibly a similar casket travelled back to Northumbria with Benedict Biscop after one of his many visits to Rome.

The use of a range of stories and traditions is generally understood to promote a Christian message in a way that made sense to early converts to the Church The theme can be seen as good kingship, and perhaps the casket was to hold a psalter comprising the psalms of another king, David as inspiration to an Anglo-Saxon æþeling.


News & Events / Viking camp in Northumbria
« Last post by Phyllis on May 21, 2021, 09:00:43 AM »
Following the announcement yesterday of the discovery of a Viking camp in the Coquet Valley of Northumberland linked to Halfdan's army, here is a discussion between Drs Cat Jarman and Jane Kershaw about the finds, including Anglo-Saxon and Roman activity on an existing high status site.


Archeological evidence of the Vikings as far north as Northumbria has practically been non-existent...until now. In an exclusive for Gone Medieval, Dr Cat Jarman is joined by Dr Jane Kershaw as they discuss their discoveries from a brand-new Viking site in Northumberland, fifteen years after metal detectorists started carefully documenting their finds in the area. Hear why Halfdan and the Viking Great Army ended up in this part of the country and find out what they've left behind. Jane is a professor of Archaeology at the University of Oxford, specialising in the Early Medieval period and Viking-Age; Scandinavian settlements in Britain; and Viking silver, gender and cultural identity.
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