Exploring the beliefs of English people during the fifth to ninth centuries


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What's new?

23rd January 2016

It's been a long time since there was an update to this site. In part because 2015 ended up as a year of unplanned distractions for me – although most of them were good ones. But in large part because my thinking about Anglo-Saxon worldviews and related matters has been published elsewhere.

Let me explain. I have lots of notes for updates to the articles which originally appeared on this site towards the end of 2013. But they are mostly at the level of nitty-gritty additions – extra examples, references to recent academic work which looks at relevant topics more incisively, and such like. There is nothing in these notes which requires me to make significant changes or retract any of my suggestions (otherwise I would have done so!).

The Twilight Age

So, rather than merely fiddle up these drafts I have opted to write somewhat more rigorous versions. In other words, fewer flippant remarks and speculations and more citing of recognised academics. These are appearing not on this Anglo-Saxon Twilight website but as free-to-download PDFs on the Heart of Albion site as a series called The Twilight Age. At the time of typing this four volumes have been uploaded and at least one more will follow in March. Visit www.hoap.co.uk to find out more.

The first three volumes are 'vamped up' versions of several articles from this website, combined with considerable new research. The other two works take an innovative look at early churches and pre-conversion shrines, combining topography and place-names with cosmology, as well as 'the usual' historical and archaeological approaches.

Living in a Magical Word

Furthermore, a substantial number of articles originally envisaged as part of Anglo-Saxon Twilight have instead appeared as three books – with another one imminent and a fifth one scheduled for autumn 2016. Allow me to explain. Everything on the Anglo-Saxon Twilight website which appeared in 2013 was, at the time, regarded by me as just one half of the overall scheme. These articles were planned to be listed under an overall heading of 'The Thinking' while a whole new section would be added called 'The Doing'.

In the event the approach and idiom of 'The Doing' was so different that it had little in common with Anglo-Saxon Twilight other than an overlapping interest in pre-conversion Anglo-Saxon worldviews. Indeed, so little in common they were published as a series called 'Living in a Magical World' under the pseudonym Beatrice Walditch. The five books which make up this series are:

They all explore the same 'What if?' scenario: 'What if we look at the modern world through the worldviews of the Anglo-Saxons?' Without spoiling the plot, the result is something decidedly different to the protestant and otherwise post-Christian worldviews underlying modern paganisms influenced by Wicca and Druidry. Sounds flakey? Well you're not thinking from an Anglo-Saxon perspective!

20th November 2014

Minor additions to Who were the landwights? and The Mothers and the Mother of God.

15th November 2014

Finally got my hands on a copy of Sarah Semple's latest 'tome', Perceptions of the Prehistoric in Anglo-Saxon England (Semple 2013). While most of her interest is the re-use of prehistoric burial mounds by Anglo-Saxons, much of her evidence overlaps with matters of interest to Anglo-Saxon Twilight.

More updates in due course but to start with I've made various amendments to the article on Hohs and hlaws, based on the insights of Semple and several other researchers.

Frankly I'm sitting on a substantial amount of notes based on recent reading, with no idea when I'll have the time to do the necessary updates. None of these notes contract the key points in Twilight. Instead, there is much to add to the 'fine detail' or to clarify explanations.

I'm increasingly convinced that the modern terms 'Otherworlds' and 'supernatural' do not accurately reflect Anglo-Saxon ways of thinking about land wights, nor traditional Irish ways of thinking about the . The better term is 'preternatural' (see the first section of Some conclusions about Anglo-Saxon worldviews and links). Sarah Semple gets close by using the metaphor of a fourth-dimension. But as Anglo-Saxons did not share our concept of three-dimensions then this is purely anachronistic – although, as a metaphor, it helps to get across the notion of entities which overlap with our realm but do not fully share it.

22nd September 2014

Over the summer I've been giving a talk based on The Queen the Valley. Based on feedback from the audiences I've added a few extra comments. Sadly most of those comments came from people who's names are not known to me, with the exception of Gordon Rimes. But thanks to you all!

29th May 2014

A number of useful updates after reading Graham Harvey's insightful new book Food, Sex and Strangers: Understanding religion as everyday life (Harvey 2013).

Articles updated with ideas from Graham:

I've 'discovered' the word 'prenatural' – or at least it's original sense before being subverted by theologians! It's an excellent word to describe the Anglo-Saxon worldview when 'supernatural' and 'Otherworldly' don't fit the evidence. See the relevant section of The potency of leeks and the spirit of alcohol. A number of other articles have been tweaked to link to this section.

I've also revised and clarified the section about Proto-Indo-European root words in The Queen the Valley.

Other articles updated (some updates may be quite trivial!):

5th April 2014

More minor modifications. The more profound insights come from belatedly reading David Petts' small but perfectly-formed study of religious change in early medieval Europe (Petts 2011).

Articles updated (some updates may be quite trivial!):

21st February 2014

Yet more minor additions to articles based on information in Ronald Hutton's latest book, Pagan Britain (Hutton 2013), plus a handful of other minor additions from a variety of sources cited in the relevant articles. Few of these changes greatly add to, still less revise, the relevant articles – though some might make the relevant sections easier to understand!

The only exception is in the section of Hohs and hlaws entitled 'Were hlaws burial mounds or altars?' where I have discussed how the cult of first settlers seems to continue seamlessly into the cults of founding saints of early churches. The location of the cult activity shifts from 'burial mounds' to churches, although pre-conversion 'burial mounds' might better be thought of as 'sacrifical altars' for the same reasons we do not regard churches as primarily places of burial (even though far more people are buried in or near churches than in or near burial mounds!).

I regard this as further 'evidence' (albeit of a speculative nature!) of continuity from pre-conversion to post-conversion worldviews.

Articles updated (some updates may be quite trivial!):

7th January 2014

Well, this 'What's new?' page is new for a start!

Firstly, heartfelt thanks to everyone who has offered feedback in some way. Most of you have been happy to simply ask to be added to the email update list. The fact that so many of you have done so has been a real boost for me – it really does make me feel that the time and energy devoted to making Twilight happen was worthwhile.

The limited amount of more specific feedback has mostly been along the lines of 'What about Anglo-Saxon/Viking/Celtic shamanism?' So, at the risk of going off into the Anglo-Scandinavian sunrise rather than staying in the Anglo-Saxon Twilight, I've added and article which looks specifically at the complexities of this topic: The Gods who walk the Earth. And the ones who travel to Otherworlds.

Soon after Twilight was uploaded Ronald Hutton's new book, just called Pagan Britain, was published (Hutton 2013). His detailed knowledge and accomplished analyses have led to a few tweaks to a number of articles. No real undermining of my suggestions, more a case of a few extra facts or a sharpening of the point. However one particular passage in Pagan Britain leapt out at me as offering further evidence of continuity across the conversion era. So obvious is this continuity that most people (including myself) have simply missed it. See Regular rites as continuity for my summary of Hutton's discussion.

Reading Pagan Britain also made me realise that I'd managed to write over 70,000 words about Anglo-Saxon Britain without once mentioning Yeavering! So another new article was needed: Yeavering Anglo-Saxon royal centre.

All this means that I've made no progress on ideas for a more substantial number of articles which I already had in mind in November when Twilight was first uploaded. To make sure you join the email update list to be the first to know when these go online.

Articles updated (some updates may be quite trivial!):


copyright © Bob Trubshaw 2014


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