The Four Branches of the Mabinogi is an old Welsh classic that was first written down about 900 years ago. It appears to be a collection of traditional tales that probably originated in the oral storytelling tradition of the early Welsh. The only real certainty is that they were written down by some talented, but unknown, author.
The Four Branches are set in a past where the Welsh aristocracy still claim the Crown of London, and consider the whole of the island to be their sovereign territory. Historically speaking, this would have been sometime between 350 and 500AD. The Four Branches could preserve one of the oldest versions of Britain to have survived.
As a result, the tales can tell us much about what Britain was, is and could still be. They explore in great detail the possibilities and problems that arise for those who seek to claim…
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The successful roll back of Muslim conquests in Europe by European resistance fighters meant that Muslim harems in the Islamic world were starved of their divinely sanctioned bountiful supply of sex slaves. Conventionally, these sex-slaves were acquired via the jihad franchise. The unmet Muslim demand for concubines found compensation in another slave-trade however. This trade was established by the Vikings. The Vikings saw an unmet demand in the market and sought to tap into its economic potential by supplying extremely wealthy sex-starved males of the Muslim Empire with the highly-prized White sex slaves they were accustomed to. Needless to say, the Vikings were the European equivalent of the corrupt African chiefs and local mercenaries in Africa who participated in neighbouring village raids to meet Muslim merchants’ insatiable demands for the infidel African slaves.
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The Psalter was perhaps the best-known text among the Anglo-Saxons. As a result, many Psalters have survived from early medieval England. This blog post focuses on the Paris Psalter, which has been associated with Alfred the Great and features some beautiful illustrations.
The prose Psalm translations of Alfred the Great in the Paris Psalter
Left: The Old English Paris Psalter. © Paris, BnF, Lat. 8824. Right: Alfred disguised as a harper in the Viking camp (source)
Paris, Bibliothèque nationale de France, lat. 8824 (the ‘Paris Psalter’) is a unique manuscript dating to around 1050. The main texts of the manuscript are the 150 Latin Psalms with facing Old English translations: the first fifty Psalms are translated into Old English prose and another translator rendered the last hundred Psalms in Old English verse. Although the Paris Psalter does not mention the author of the Old English Psalm translations, the translator of the first fifty Psalms…
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An image showing King David with his harp from the Vespasian Psalter, an Anglo-Saxon book of Psalms written in the eight century – around the same time as the setting of “Vikings”
In a show dominated mostly by Norse Pagans, the one character who is used to bridge the gap between the two disparate faiths in the History Channel’s Vikings is Athelstan, the poor monk who is captured during Ragnar’s raid on Lindisfarne. I find this character interesting because he is used by the writers of the show to illustrate the process of conversion. He struggles throughout the show whether to believe in Christianity or the Norse Gods. One of the things that has actually impressed me about the Vikings show on the History Channel is its portrayal of religion, especially Medieval Christianity. That being said, Athelstan’s character is the one aspect I have mixed feelings about. So, as I…
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I’m writing up for publication some of my reflections on the fascinating and varied scenes of funerals in Seasons 1-4 of the popular television drama series Vikings for publication. While many ideas for the funerals are derived from later saga literature and some contemporary written sources, the varied archaeological evidence from cemeteries and graves found across Scandinavia from the 7th-11th centuries have had manifold influences on the portrayed funerals.
Seasons 1, 2, 3 and 4 part 1 have depicted varied dimensions of mortuary practice. These include cremations on land and water, furnished and unfurnished inhumation graves. These have involved individual and mass funerals, funerary processions, human sacrifice, grave-robbing, infanticide and private (anti-funeral) burials. Throughout are the ever-present media of fire and water in the disposal of the dead and archaeological influences are evident but rarely specific.
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After the initial migration period of Angles and Saxons in the 5th and 6th centuries there was a shift from chieftainships and petty kingships with small territories to larger kingdoms (such as the kingdoms of Deira and Bernicia which themselves joined to make the larger Kingdom of Northumbria). The larger the kingdom became the more the king found that he had to move about this vast territory in order to keep law and order. Palatial estates like Yeavering in Northumberland were established for the royal families and their courts to stay at and the food and drink that the royal court consumed during these visits were provided by the locals as part of their rent. These royal centres also acted as centres of administration and for Christianity, especially during the 7th and 8th centuries when the new faith was being encouraged amongst the pagan Anglo-Saxons.
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