A WALK AMONG THE DARK AGE SPIRITS – Alli Templeton (Reblog)

With my big exam finally behind me, last weekend I was in dire need of some fresh air and a good walk. So with a gap in the seemingly endless rains, we took the opportunity of taking a long wander into the spiritual world of the Dark Ages around a small village with a big history.

Wootten Wawen in Warwickshire is a little historical haven, having been a homeland for people of the region since the late Bronze Age. Its haunting wildwood, lush pastures and meadows gave rise to an early society of scattered farmsteads linked together with a network of paths and a river, and all its ancient peoples have left their marks and mysteries in the landscape across the millennia.

Tumulus.JPG

The ancient with the modern: the tumulus in the churchyard

Although not much is known about prehistoric religious systems, it’s widely agreed that there was a strong spiritual attachment with the land, and features such as woods and streams held particular significance as holy sites. The dead were also an important presence, being laid to rest in burial mounds called tumuli, one of which has been discovered in the churchyard at Wootton Wawen. The Romans tried to eliminate this form of nature worship, but after their departure in the early 5th Century, the succeeding Saxon settlers revived the old practices and incorporated them into their own pagan beliefs. This village, nestled in the middle of an ancient holy site now called Austy Wood, had all the right features and ingredients to remain a prominent place throughout the Middle Ages and beyond. So we set out on a trip to investigate the area’s important early medieval sacred sites at a time when the new Christian religion was just arriving on our shores.

A path from the village centre took us out along an ancient embankment, part of an extensive complex of Iron Age earthworks about which little is known, save its medieval nickname of Puck’s Dyke. Puck is a spirit name, and the Celts believed that many of their gods and spirits inhabited the landscape. They named places and things after them, and it seems this tradition may well have resurfaced in the Middle Ages.

Pucks Dyke.jpg

Pucks Dyke: part of the raised Iron Age earthworks

We soon came to a footbridge across the fast-flowing River Alne, a name corrupted from the original ‘Alwen’, meaning ‘white’ or ‘shining’, reflecting the sacred nature attributed to it by the ancient Britons. After crossing a few fields, we reached my favourite part of this walk: Austy Wood itself. Its ancient name was Horstow, meaning ‘hallowed place’, strongly suggesting that it was here that pre-Christian religious ceremonies took place. Without doubt, there’s more than a hint of the mystical within its enchanted groves. The first Christian missionaries clearly realized this because they hijacked the woodland for the new faith, placing crosses around its then expansive boundaries and holding religious ceremonies in the ready-made holy site.

River alne.JPG

The River Alne connected the old communities and farmsteads

me in woods.JPG

Admiring the whispering sacred groves 

The way through the woods 2.JPG

The way through the woods

Leaving the sanctuary of Horstow, we continued in the footsteps of medieval folk along a hollow way, a trackway running from Wootton Wawen to the outlying fields. Separated from the farmland by boundary hedges, these special paths have been gradually eroded by centuries of use until they are lower than the fields around them. For me, there’s something a little bit spellbinding about hollow ways, knowing that by wandering among them we’re leaving our own footprints to mingle with those of our medieval ancestors.

Hollow way.JPG

In the footsteps of the ancestors: the medieval hollow way

Our pub stop was – for once – a softie break, owing to the wine consumed the night before by way of winding down after my exam (but don’t worry – we won’t make a habit of it!) and after a short break we headed back towards the village to the attractive church of St Peter. Inside, the Lady Chapel hosts a permanent exhibition called The Saxon Sanctuary, covering the holy history of Wootton Wawen. The village’s curious name is derived from the name Wudu Tun – an ‘estate in the woods’, which was the manor of a Saxon thegn – or lord – called Wagen, until the Normans arrived. The first church here was founded in the early 700’s as part of a minster in the Saxon royal territory of Stoppingas, but it was no ordinary church.

The original Minster of St Mary was the operations base for those missionaries who erected the crosses around Horstow woods. The black-cowled Benedictines also placed their crosses within the wide-spread communities of Stoppingas, where they preached the Word to the local Saxon heathens. Wudu Tun was at the centre of their target territory, and it was here that a wooden church was built, later to be reworked in stone. This remained the Mother church of a huge parish throughout the turbulent years of Viking raids and invasions, the old monastic community waning and giving way to control by the bishops of Worcester and the patronage of local thegns, the last of whom was Wagen.

Church outside.JPG

The pretty Church of St Peter in the heart of Wootton Wawen

There are many mysteries about what happened to Wagen after the Normans took over. One theory is that he fought and perished at Hastings, and another that he fled into exile. But whatever fate befell the last Saxon thegn of Wudu Tun, he’s immortalized in the name of this special little place in a landscape shaped by thousands of years of spiritual rites.

Please visit the original post at MEDIEVAL WANDERINGS.

Comments are closed on this reblog. Please leave comments on the original post!

WANDERING OFF THE GRAMMATICAL POINT AT BERKHAMSTED CASTLE by Alli Templeton – Reblog

Take your mind off current events and roam into the medieval world. England from The Battle of Hastings onward.

As several of my blogging friends are aware, I’m currently up to my ears in revision for my impending OU Latin exam in a couple of weeks’ time. However, after hours of work yesterday, I was in desperate need of a medieval break, so I escaped to a place I’ve only been to a couple of times before. And it was a good choice, because although little remains of its medieval stone structures, Berkhamsted Castle is a hugely important site, not just for its string of famous owners, but because it witnessed first-hand the single biggest change in England’s history.

Me relaxing on wall.JPGTaking time out from the hard work to relax on the castle walls

There has been a castle here since the late 11th Century, but our story begins before it was even built; in fact we have to travel back to Hastings in 1066 and the aftermath of the iconic…

View original post 977 more words

ON THIS DAY: SCANDALOUS WEDDING, AND TROUBLE AND STRIFE – Alli Templeton – Reblog

The happy home life of THE couple of all royal couples, Henry II Plantagenet and Eleanor of Aquitaine. Sex, infidelity, war, strife — and a hasty wedding.
Medieval history doesn’t get any better than this.

On this day, 18th May, in 1152, a wedding took place in Poitiers in France. The marriage had been hastily arranged and the service was simple, lacking any pomp or ceremony. But this was no lowly peasant’s big day or a shotgun affair called for by an angry father; instead it was a scandalous marriage between a future king of England and one of the most powerful women in Europe. En route to Poitiers, the bride had managed to evade an ambush from the groom’s own brother, who’d hoped to marry her forcibly to obtain her lands and power, and the groom had to hot-foot it to Poitier Cathedral before the ceremony could be sabotaged. So the wedding between Eleanor of Aquitaine and the future King Henry II of England went ahead, despite all the setbacks. It sounds like a fairy tale romance, but far from it – rather than…

View original post 666 more words

Wandering back in time through a real medieval village – Reblog – Alli Templeton

Even then, if you had the money, life was not bad! A medieval village!

Writing about Easter in the Middle Ages has got me thinking about village life back then. It’s harder to pin down the lives of ordinary medieval people because they left little of themselves behind. I’ve walked over a fair few settlement earthworks in my time, those spectral lumps and bumps in the land, but the other day I got to wander around a very special place: a living medieval village. So come with me on a wander around the enchanting homes and buildings of a real community from the Middle Ages.

swineherd and tithe.JPGCosmeston Medieval Village

Welcome to Cosmeston Medieval Village in South Wales, the remains of which were discovered in the late 1970s during the construction of the country park in which it now stands. Named after the Costentin family from northern France, this was part of the Anglo-Welsh border lands partitioned out after the Norman Conquest to keep the unruly…

View original post 1,334 more words

PIETY, PRANKS, AND PARTIES: EASTER MEDIEVAL STYLE – Reblog – Alli Templeton

Easter in the very olden days of yore.
Plus, there were eggs.

In medieval times, life revolved around the church, and the year was marked out by a series of religious festivals, customs and holidays of which Christmas and Easter were the main events. But contrary to many a modern perception, people in the Middle Ages had more time off than we do today. And although there was a good deal of attending church and religious rituals and processions, these did bring the community together, and they also knew how to kick back and have fun.

The Easter period would start with Shrove Tuesday, a secular holiday involving boisterous games and sports. After this, the fun gave way to the fasting period of Lent, when churches were hung with veils and crosses shrouded. Little observed today, if anything we brace ourselves to give up chocolate or booze for the requisite 40 days, but they took it much more seriously in the Middle…

View original post 609 more words

BY YOUR OWN PETARD, THOU ART HOISTED – Marilyn Armstrong

Last night I said to Garry “Aha! He is hoisted upon his own petard!”

By which meant he had just become the victim of what he (in this case a movie character) had planned for someone else. Then, I paused, thinking.

“What,” I asked Garry, “Is a petard?”

“I have no idea,” said my husband.  Which is when I realized I’ve been using this expression my whole life and don’t know what it means.

Petard sounds French, but what is it? I grabbed my laptop and typed  “hoist on his … ” into Google. Before I got to petard … up it came. Don’t you just love when that happens?

petards

Voila! Courtesy of Wikipedia, here is the rest of the story.

petard was a bomb used to blow up gates and walls when breaching fortifications. Castles. Walled cities. That sort of thing. The word was originally (duh) French and dates to the sixteenth century.

Typically, a petard was metal (bronze or iron), shaped like a cone or box. Filled with two or three kilos (5 or 6 pounds) of gunpowder and using a slow match for a fuse, the petard was a primitive, powerful and unstable explosive device.

After being filled with gunpowder, it would be attached to a wooden base and fastened to a wall, on or under a gate. The fuse was lit. If all went as planned, the explosion would blow a hole big enough to let assault troops through.

Thus the phrase “hoist on his/her own petard” came to mean “harmed by one’s own plan to harm someone else.” It suggests you could be lifted — hoisted — by your own bomb.

ESPECIALLY BAD WAYS TO DIE – Marilyn Armstrong

Drawing and Quartering – A Fun Day for a Crowd!

I thought we might take a little trip to Merry Olde England. This should give everyone nightmares and have you running for any door. Even the one which leads into the dark tunnel.

Acts I and II

The following information was gathered with the assistance of the Encyclopædia Britannica. You can find additional details, if this isn’t enough, in (where else?) Wikipedia.

Home rackDrawing and quartering was (the public) part of the grisly penalty anciently ordained in England (1283) for the crime of treason. Before they got to this part of the orgy of pain and agony, professionals had been privately torturing the traitor on the rack for weeks, months or years.

Enhanced interrogation has a long, proud heritage.

The show’s finale often took several days. Its most important feature was that the star of the show had to be alive to fully participate in the event. He or she would be brought near death many times, then revived.

Ordained in England in 1283 for the crime of treason, this form of “execution” remained on the books — entirely legal — until 1867.

The full punishment for a traitor included a variety of creative mini-executions, none of which ended in death. First, Mr. Traitor was drawn. Which meant he was tied to a horse and dragged to the gallows. It was probably some kind of sledge.

The History of English Law Before the Time of Edward I (2nd ed., 1898; reissued 1996) indicates it was a way to deliver the live body to the hangman.

Act III, the Finale

The remainder of the punishment left the executioner with a few choices, based on what he thought the crowd would most enjoy, would cause the most agony without actually killing the object of his attention or both. These choices included hanging (not to death) and/or live disembowelment and burning of the entrails while the subject watched.

Drawing_of_William_de_Marisco

For the finale, you could take your choice of quartering. This was done by tying each limb (four – two arms, two legs) to a different horse and spurring them in different directions. Or, if that was impractical (not enough horses? insufficient room?), there was always a final beheading. If anyone thinks the British are not creative, this should dispel that myth.

I’m not making this up.

The first sentence of drawing and quartering was inflicted in 1283 on the Welsh prince David ap Gruffudd, whose punishment for myriad crimes included being drawn for treason, hanged for homicide, disemboweled for sacrilege, then beheaded and quartered for plotting the king’s death.

drawn-and-quartered3

In 1803 Edward Marcus Despard and six accomplices were drawn, hanged, and quartered for conspiring to assassinate George III. And finally, the sentence was last passed (but not carried out) on two Irish Fenians in 1867.

Are we having nightmares yet? Great! My job here is finished. Have a great day!