How to keep Vikings out

Avalon Marshes 'Hands on Heritage'

Owners of saxon lonhgouses sometimes have to keep troublesome Vikings at bay. Doors are a weak point, so our second door in the longhouse is being made Viking proof. It isformed from 2 layers of thick oak heartwood planking, nailed together with about 80 3″ nails. The hinges will be on the inside, so safe from interference by Northmen.

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Remembering Aethelflaed


Aethelflaed of Mercia Aethelflaed of Mercia with her young nephew Athelstan (a modern sculpture at Tamworth Castle).
Today is the 1097th anniversary of the death of my favourite individual from the Dark Ages.

I refer, of course, to the Anglo-Saxon princess Aethelflaed, the Lady of the Mercians. She was the daughter of Alfred the Great, king of Wessex, and sister to his successor Edward the Elder.

Aethelflaed married Aethelred, the ruler of Mercia in the western midlands of England, and joined him in a programme of fortress-building that strengthened his people’s defences against Viking raids. After Aethelred died in 911, his widow became sole ruler and – unusually for a woman in those times – a commander of armies in the field. She led military campaigns in person and achieved several major victories. Working in tandem with her brother Edward, she not only held off the Viking menace but won back a number…

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The Birth of the English Navy


If I asked you what you think of when I say the word ‘Viking,’ you’d probably think of a Viking warship. You’d know that it looks curly and has a very specific look to it. You know that the people who rode them might have worn helmets with horns. But the real question we never ask ourselves is: why were they riding the seas? And why did this make them famous?

Let’s step outside of history for a moment. Let’s say we live in a cold, harsh place and every year it is becoming increasingly difficult to produce food for our children. However, we know that not too far away is an island rich in soil for food, open land to set up homes, and easy access to mainland Europe. Obviously, we are going to pack our bags and move there, especially if it’s our only option.

The Vikings, however…

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King Alfred’s Ambitious Vision For a Secure Kingdom (878-899)


Wessex Under Attack

Alfred possessed all the qualities that only a legendary king would have. His character was one of honesty, courage, brilliance, and piety, and he was just as good at peace as he was valiant in battle. The only thing about his legendary reign is that, for starters, it isn’t exactly ‘legendary.’ Alfred was real, and in many ways, he truly honors his epithet of ‘The Great.’

A modern sketch of Alfred the Great. A modern sketch of Alfred the Great.

Vikings from modern-day Denmark (referred to as the Danes) ravished the northern kingdoms of England. Northumbria first succumbed to their wrath, then East Anglia, and shortly afterwards, Mercia fell to their control. They were called ‘The Great Heathen Army’ and they were unstoppable, ruining everything in their path like a plague of locusts.

When Alfred succeeded the throne of the southern kingdom of Wessex, the Danes stopped their vast expansion. They probably did so…

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Invoking the Saints (As a Lutheran)

The Jagged Word

By Graham Glover


Seriously? Lutherans invoke the saints?

Well, no. At least they shouldn’t. The Lutheran Confessions clearly condemn such a proposition and there is little, if any, historical precedent for this to be a normal practice within Lutheranism.

But I think it’s time we reexamine why Lutherans don’t invoke the saints. I pose this question because I think there is not only room within Lutheran theology for such a practice to be acceptable, but that invoking the saints goes hand in hand with the most sacred Lutheran theological gem of all: the doctrine of justification by grace through faith.

Let me say at the outset that I know my proposition has little chance of gaining ground. I’m also not calling for such a practice to be made a theological rule among those who adhere to the Book of Concord (such a call would clearly be hypocritical to its…

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The Bibliophilia of Anglo-Saxon England

St. Benet Biscop Chapter of St. John's Oblates

[h/t to Deacon Matthew Dallman for the link. A point I would add to this article is that the Rule of St. Benedict played a tremendous role in furthering the value of books and literacy. One of the basic monastic practices, lectio divina, presumes literacy, of course. And monks were given books to read, cover to cover, during Lent.]

Eleanor Parker reveals the scholarly network of knowledge that was at the heart of Anglo-Saxon England and the love these scholars had for the pleasures of the written word.

My insides are filled with holy words, and my entrails bear sacred books – yet I can learn nothing from them.

This is a riddle by the Anglo-Saxon poet Aldhelm, to which the solution (as you may have guessed) is ‘book-chest’. It is one of a number of riddles from Anglo-Saxon England that play with the mechanics of books and…

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Henry Sweet: The Man Who Taught the World Old English

Dutch Anglo-Saxonist

Henry Sweet (1845-1912) was a remarkable scholar who laid some of the foundations for the academic study of Old English. This blog provides an overview of Sweet’s publications with respect to Old English and Anglo-Saxon texts. It also relates how a nineteenth-century Dutch student of Old English felt utterly insulted by Sweet, who had ignored him despite his pointing out several mistakes in Sweet’s published work.

SweetBlog1 Henry Sweet (1845-1912) (source)

Henry Sweet (1845-1912): A formidable scholar with an abrasive personality

Henry Sweet is known as one of the founding fathers of the scholarly study of Old English: a reputation he owes to his highly popular textbooks of Old English: The Anglo-Saxon Reader and The Anglo-Saxon Primer. Even today, many students of Old English will own one or more of Sweet’s works (his Primer and Reader remained classroom texts for at least a century after their publication and can be bought for a…

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