Wednesday, December 29, 2010
While the portions of Monty Python and the Holy Grail showing the French abusing the English are funny, they also seem a little over the top. Then you read something like the Gesta Herewardi where the Normans hire a witch to put a curse on the besieged at Ely. As the hag stands on top of a wooden structure so she can see and be seen, she hurls abuse and incantations and then she turns around to finish the job by baring her behind at the defenders. Yes, the witch mooned Hereward. Take that!
Tuesday, December 21, 2010
Really. Even if it takes six hundred and fifty or so years.
I have been reading so much about the events of 1066 and the fall of Anglo Saxon Britain that it is starting to connect up in my head with other things, such as the fall of Rome in 410 A.D.
Well, it is not completely unrelated. A once great military power falls; their capital taken. There are Germans involved. Only, with the fall of Rome, it was the Germans who were doing the stomping. Six hundred and fifty years later, the Germans are getting their butts kicked by the Normans and their weaselly cousins, the Vikings. See - what goes around, comes around.
When Rome fell, people groaned that it was because they had embraced the Christian faith. While they were pagan, they were masters of the world. This prompted St. Augustine to write his City of God to explain why this is not a reason to start worshipping Zeus once again. Of course Alaric, the Germanic leader who defeated the Romans was a Christian as well so the theory does not completely hold water but..... a few decades after this event, the Germanic tribes were invading Britain because those residents were soft and the pagan invaders were still a warrior culture and much better at fighting. So Hengist and Horsa invade Britain. Then, the Romans send some guy to convert them to Christianity. They start spending their days, vowing celibacy and hanging around churches. Next thing you know, the pagan Vikings come in and totally kick their butts, weakening them to the point that the Normans can finish the job.
There are lessons here: what goes around, comes around. It might take a really long time but I do think karma catches up with you. Also being a Christian is risky; it leads to being on the receiving end of some serious butt kicking. On this winter solstice, I propose a little Woden worship. It just might help save Western civilization.
Friday, December 17, 2010
A professor, whom I am taking a course with, gave me a book to read called Hereward by Victor Head. It is a far cry from Charles Kingsley's novel on Hereward as Head is looking strictly at the historical man. He listed all of the historical sources for Hereward's life and what they contained, although the Gesta Herewardii, account in the Liber Eliensis and even the parts from Gaimar's history that deal with Hereward are too long to be reproduced entirely in the book.
Head is framing his discussion of Hereward the Wake, the Saxon hero of the Lincolnshire fens, around an argument made in a book by a General Harward that he is the descendant of Hereward, and discussing Hereward's career and impact on history. The argument against General Harward got a little tiresome at times. Head also wrote about Kingsley's novel and other Victorian interpretations of the Hereward legend and his connection to the genesis of Robin Hood. He overlooks however, the Waverly novel written by Sir Walter Scott called Count Robert of Paris. The Scott novel sounds fascinating since he places Hereward in the Varangian Guard during his time of exile and places him in a story with Bohemond.
The Victor Head book is an excellent starting place for anyone who wants to know more about Hereward and cannot read Latin, Old English or Old French. What it lacks is the author's best guess for a reconstruction of Hereward's life and the evidence for it.
It is not light reading either. It is a book for when you really want to know just the facts.