The Holly and the Ivy: Battle of the Sexes Preserved In Song

Grand Gallimaufry

I’m fascinated by the ancient origins of various holiday traditions, and occasionally go in search of their roots by way of a good, old fashioned Google search.  Today I had an additional motivating factor: I was searching for the perfect names for two special characters in my latest story.  I’ve decided to name them Holly and Ivy, for they are the perfect opposites, yin and yang.

What follows is an abridged version of The Holly and the Ivy, Meaning Behind a Curious Christmas Carol  by David Beaulieu.  The tale of this song’s origins is a fascinating and convoluted blend of Paganism and Christianity, with religious overtones masking its more esoteric meaning.

“Those of you familiar with “The Holly and the Ivy” have perhaps puzzled over the meaning behind this old (17th-18th century) Christmas carol.  Before we get to the lyrics of “The Holly and the Ivy,” let’s back up a bit…

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Vikings – An Archaeodeath Review of Death in Season 1


Screenshot_2015-02-08-23-25-12 Cremation at Kattegate, season 1, episode 9 of ‘Vikings’

In a previous blog I discussed the television series Vikings seasons 1 and 2. Here I focus on death, burial and commemoration in Season 1.

There is a lot of death in this first series as you might expect, mostly killings: battles on different scales between and within different groups of Vikings and involving Vikings and others, mainly Anglo-Saxons but also with an unnamed Baltic tribe (at the opening of episode 1). There are also individual murders, executions and examples of gruesome one-sided slaughters of unarmed men, women and children (and monks). Disease makes an appearance but old-age and accidents make no intervention in the narrative.

Some of these deaths lead to funerals in different locales, on varying scales and in contrasting character. It is interesting to me as an archaeologist how the disposal of the dead is portrayed in this popular series – both funerals and instances…

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Shepherdess Writes

ibnAdvent 2B   Isaiah 40:1-11  2 Peter3:8-15a  Mark 1:1-8

Prepare the way of the Lord! Prepare!

What on earth does that mean? I feel like we should all be scrambling around making something or cleaning something, but I’m not sure what.
Every time I hear that word “prepare” associated with the church, I think about a scene from a movie called the Thirteenth Warrior. Through a complicated set of circumstances, a young man from an Arabic royal court is traveling with a band of Viking warriors. This young man has never even been close to a weapon, much less a battle because he was a poet who spent his life in royal culture. But the story finds him in the middle of foreign lands with these seasoned warriors and a wild, fierce enemy about to attack. One of the Vikings looks at the young poet and says, “Prepare yourself.” The look…

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Vikings, Warrior’s Fate: It’s so much more than just a bath!

Time Slips

Before we deal with the darker sides of the Warrior’s Fate, namely battle and it’s aftermath… I think we need a few moments of amusement, entertainment and ohhh yes, let’s do spend some time in that Roman tub with Ecbert, Lagertha, Athelstan… and a rather reluctant Judith. Let’s also catch a glimpse of  Athelstan’s well hidden finer assets…

I do want to warn and advise ahead of time that this post contains some partial nudity, minor sexual contact and explicitness. The clips are from a scene that was deleted for American viewers. I give credit to for providing the deleted scene so all of us can enjoy it!  You can view the scene here:  I have pulled the stills out of it for our purposes and enjoyment!

In our previous discussion, we talked of  Ecbert, his games of strategy and his pawns in this power game. I did…

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Subtext and Subversion: Update


The Vikings season finale just aired this week, so I figured it’s time for an update on the show’s amazing, and in my opinion groundbreaking, central male/male relationship, which I commented on last summer. Our pair, Viking king Ragnar and his constant companion Athelstan, a former Christian monk captured in a raid in season one, have been through a great deal over the course of the show so far, and this season only upped the stakes–to a significant degree.

Will get into the spoilery details below, but the short version: The narrative of this relationship continued doing what it did all through the previous seasons: hitting trope after trope of a kind almost always found solely in stories of romantic love. While still maintaining a tiny shred of plausible deniability for those drowning in heteronormativity, it even crossed lines I never expected a show like this would cross. I have to give showrunner and sole writer Michael…

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Subtext and subversion: Part Two


Carrying on from the previous post, below is a detailed, episode-by-episode rundown (with pictures!) of Ragnar and Athelstan’s relationship.

I present this not as a “This is why my slash ship is canon” manifesto, but instead as an illustration of the relationship itself, so folks can understand why I’m so giddy about it. Regardless of whether one sees or even imagines a sexual aspect to the relationship, it is still one of the greatest m/m love stories in current popular media, on the same level as some of the all-time great homoromantic (if not homoerotic) relationships such as LOTR’s Frodo and Sam. And it does all this without ever once apologizing, downplaying, laughing it off, or trying to macho things up to avoid anyone getting uncomfortable with it. This is not a “bromance,” with muscle-bound Ken dolls giving each other fist bumps and Man Smacks and then going home to their hot, completely underwritten female love interests. It’s just plain…

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