A Viking reputation.

s you may have guessed, I am following History Channel TV Series Vikings.

vikings season 3

In Vikings season 4, an episode is titled (episode 4). Yol. …

or should it be юл as pronounced in Tatar? (sounds like Yol)

Could it be that at long last we are going to meet at long last the elusive Rus Vikings?

Do not forget that in Season 1, the now defunct Earl Haraldson mentions Russia (which is quite literally an impressive feat of time traveling as Russia certainly does not exist in 793AD.) What we have living in what will be known much later as Russia are Pagan Slavs who live in tribes. Russians they are not.

Season 2 remains silent about the Volga Vikings until Harbard the Wanderer in season 3 admits to have fathered Prince Olav of Kiev!

rus viking ibn fadlan

River Volga was very much a vital trade artery between Scandinavia and Constantinople. Ibn Fadlan chronicles are written about Rus Vikings. Which nicely ties in with Earl Haraldson funeral pyre and its Angel of Death (No, Ibn Fadlan never said she wore an helmet; by the way the word angel belongs to the Religions of the Book. As we are fans, we shall not raise therefore an issue at a Norse child – Bjorn- quoting casually the word Angel). Interestingly, a Viking chieftain was found having being buried in the fashion described by Fadlan in 1906 in Groix Island in French Brittany!). Let’s return to our Volga oarsmen. As this is the origin of the word Rus: oarsmen, rowers.

Where does this lead us?

A painting shows a Viking selling a slave girl to a Persian merchant.

A painting shows a Viking selling a slave girl to a Persian merchant.

Spoilers about Season 4 from almost the beginning advertise the presence of a Chinese slave woman. A slave that Ragnar’s men find inside Paris during the raid. Yidu to give her her name has been enslaved from China and brought to Frankia.

I do not buy Yidu found in Paris out of all places.

Yes, Franks will send about the same time of Marco Polo an envoy to Mongol kings to the express wish to convert said Asian people to Christianity. Louis IX of France (a descendant of Rollo and of a Rus Viking princess – yes, this is a small world after all) took religion seriously; it is not for nothing that Louis is known today as Saint Louis) had sent a few monks Eastward. But this was the 13th century; not the 9th or 10th one.

I do not see how she would have been sold to a Frank when her owner could have racked a fabulous sale in golden denarii ( ancestor of Dinar in use in 2016 Baghdad) in Constantinople. Unless she is a birthday gift from the Caliph or the Basileus to the Emperor (along the customary elephant one presumes.)

If M Hirst uses the script: slave found in Paris sailing up to Kattegat it will mean he is closing once again the door to Rus Vikings; But if Yidu reaches Kattegat via the logical slave road which traveled from India through the Great Tartary up to the Volga ending up… to Scandinavia: this would make a lot more sense.

юл means road, route, way. It is a very Slavic word still in use in Russian. Somehow, I suspect there is more in it than the admittedly more Viking but already quite traveled route of Yule, Jul. In one case, we have an episode linked to a period of the year; in another case, we have the introduction of new lands, new people and at long last M Hirst admitting Vikings partaking to human trafficking!

Jul, the Winter solstice. A family reunion where people can reminisce of the departed ones… Does this calendar-centered episode bring much else to the story line? I doubt.

On the other hand, Yol the Road does.

Vikings sold a lot of prisoners via the Volga Yol. Alexander Skirda – sadly not translated in English – explains in 2010 how Vikings traded with Tatars, Khazars who in turn traded not only with Baghdad but also the Far East.

vikings slavery ireland

Say what may. Do not forget Yidu is supposedly Chinese; if she ends up in Kattegat, she must have traveled some sort of slave trade route.

Does the above gives me hope we are going to enter the not so nice aspect of King Ragnar’s reign? Not that I say that the historical Franks who dabbled in castrating captured Slavs to sell them via Rhadanite Jews to the harems of Al-Andalus were simpering innocents. As you can see, nobody was nice and everybody was corrupt.

Vikings connected Scandinavia, Mediterranean, Black Sea and Caspian Sea to Russian Rivers and Southern steppes while Tatars in which we can include Pechenegs, Turkoman tribes etc who in turn played an active role on the trade routes uniting the Indian Ocean to Byzantium, the Caliphate, via the Near East and Central Asia!

And I have yet to mention how Franks. Irish, English, Scot or Welsh people were enthralled and not for the best though I grant M Hirst to have shown how at first Athelstan is enslaved.

After three seasons of toadying to Ragnar, it is about time to unseat our character. Allowing him to get a step closer to the snake pit he has been fated to meet.

Adding quotes, links and more.



During the Viking age (793 – approximately 1100), the Norse raiders often captured and enslaved militarily weaker peoples they encountered. The Nordic countries called their slaves thralls (Old Norse: Þræll). The thralls were mostly from Western Europe, among them many Franks, Anglo-Saxons, and Celts. Many Irish slaves traveled in expeditions for the colonization of Iceland. Raids on monasteries provided a source of young, educated slaves who could be sold in Venice or Byzantium for high prices. Scandinavian trade centers stretched eastwards from Hedeby in Denmark and Birka in Sweden to Staraya Ladoga in northern Russia before the end of the 8th century. This traffic continued into the 9th century as Scandinavians founded more trade centers at Kaupang in southwestern Norway and Novgorod, farther south than Staraya Ladoga, and Kiev, farther south still and closer to Byzantium. Dublin and other northwestern European Viking settlements were established as gateways through which captives were traded northwards. In the Laxdæla saga, for example, a Rus merchant attends a fair in the Brenn Isles in Sweden selling female slaves from northwestern Europe. The Norse also took German, Baltic, Slavic and Latin slaves. The 10th-century Persian traveller Ibn Rustah described how Swedish Vikings, the Varangians or Rus, terrorized and enslaved the Slavs taken in their raids along the Volga River. Slaves were often sold south, to Byzantine or Muslim buyers, via paths such as the Volga trade route. Ahmad ibn Fadlan of Baghdad provides an account of the other end of this trade route, namely of Volga Vikings selling Slavic Slaves to middle-eastern merchants. Finland proved another source for Viking slave raids.  Slaves from Finland or Baltic states were traded as far as central Asia.


The Mongol invasions and conquests in the 13th century added a new force in the slave trade. The Mongols enslaved skilled individuals, women and children and marched them to Karakorum or Sarai, whence they were sold throughout Eurasia. Many of these slaves were shipped to the slave market in Novgorod. Genoese and Venetians merchants in Crimea were involved in the slave trade with the Golden Horde. In 1441, Haci I Giray declared independence from the Golden Horde and established the Crimean Khanate. For a long time, until the early 18th century, the khanate maintained a massive slave trade with the Ottoman Empire and the Middle East. In a process called the “harvesting of the steppe”, they enslaved many Slavic peasants.







Franks Merovingians

All illustrations were made by Eddy Krahenbuhl and Veronique Ageorges when they participated to the publication of books written by Patrick Perin, the former director of French Merovingian Antiquities and now retired curator of St Germain en Laye museum of National Antiquities.
One is called The Franks: in the heart of the Barbarian kingdoms (‘here as not Roman’); the other one simply From Clovis to Charlemagne’.
Photo 1: Childeric. Clovis father. A bit of a womanizer, exiled in Thuringia, he was noticed by the queen. After being called back from exile to reign as king, said lady literally dumped her husband and married him. The armour is pretty accurate: lamellate design. It is very important as this design is pretty resistant to arrows! Aachen Charlemagne exhibition showed different types of chain mail: after watching it, you learn to respect this craftsmanship. The fibula was found in his grave and is now in Paris. As for his francisca https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CcCbL_y3zTM: here some interesting advice on their usefulness.
And yes, long hair. The right to wear long hair was limited to the royal family. Childeric was buried like a Roman general… because he was one; well, an ally of what was remaining Roman in Gaul between 451 and 481 when he passed away.
Photo 2 is how a real horse was saddled at the time of Clovis birth. Spurs but no stirrups.
Photo 3 is the accepted reconstruction of historical Childeric. Sorry, not as dashing as pic #1 (mind you, he may have been a stunner to turn a queen into a groupie.

Photo 4 shows his son now king of the Franks after the battle of Vouille. This battle confirmed the leadership of the Franks over Gaul. The Visigoths lost an area larger than Aquitaine, retreating to Spain. Emperor Anastasias the First awards him some sort of consulship. Clovis wore a chlamyde and distributed gold coins to the good citizens of Tours like any good Roman consul. Rome and Byzantium were the Gold standard. Barbarian means ‘not Roman’; these people were not barbaric!

Photo 5 shows a traveling blacksmith while on pic 6, princess Brunhildis of the Visigoths is welcomed by Venantius Fortunatus a poet (yes, we still have the panegyric he wrote for her wedding with Clovis grandson. Just like nowadays, weddings were a peaceful way to end up lingering wars…

Photo 7 shows what happened to bishops if they fell on the wrong side of the local governor or as here count Leudaste versus Bishop Gregory whose memoirs (he died about 594 AD) have given France a pretty good idea of what was happening to it during the #notso Dark Ages. Gregory mentions a man of Kent and we know this would be Aethelbert. Britain was back on the Continental European radar (if it had ever left it, which I doubt).

Everything goes fine if the king is old enough to rule by himself when his father dies like Clovis king aged 15 and already able to lead his warriors. But for some unlucky boys, the crown was theirs at a much younger age. Dowager queens would become regents. Quite efficiently like above Brunhildis, some would become saints! And much to our Anglo-Saxon friends surprise, the first Frankish dowager queen to make it to sainthood leaving her name to French royal ladies up to the French revolution… it will be Balthildis (nowadays Bathilde) an English maid.

Proof if it was needed France does not hate England. Here she stands up for her diminutive lord. As you may expect, the vacuum of power was to open the door to the leadership of the mayors of the palace. In 100 years, the relative of this man will be known as Pippin the Short: Charlemagne’s father.
Finally, enjoy the entrance in Lyons of Prince Richomer (yes, wearing long hair) a cousin of Childeric as Frank tribes were Salian and Rhenish (as in east of the river Rhine)

I regret these books were not translated in English as they give a very good impression of the real life of the Franks when the tectonic plaques of conversion were going full swing moving Germanic tribes worshiping Woden/Wotan/Odin to Rome’s orbit

It will take a century or so to stop Franks to bring food and offerings to their dearly departed. No glorious Sutton Hoo style burial, no cremation; but humble stone markers as can be found in Male cemetery in Champagne. Or recently Evrecy.

I like these pictures as they do not show heroic Beowulfs but real people and importantly all above have been vetted by real historians.

1400 Years of the Edict of Paris!

Charles the Trek part 1

Charlemagne is still alive and kicking 1200 years later for TSMorangles 2014 Early Medieval Holidays

When summer comes, the amateurish History Buff starts looking at the calendar: Anniversary calendar, tell me what happened in:

1914: my grandfathers are going to war…

1814… Napoleon horoscope: Not good.

1714 … Anne Stuart leaves the stage

1614: nuptials. Pocahontas marries John Rolfe (too late to buy a wedding gift).

1514. Another wedding: Henry VIII marries off his buxom sister to King Louis XII of France. (Another cunning plan to snatch the French crown and doomed to fail as usual. E for effort).

1414, …

1314: Templars. Burning (note to self: holidays are people friendly; not executioner fun)

1214: Bouvines. Now we enter the nitty gritty of medieval stuff.

1114, …

1014 Aethelred the Unready is packing his suitcase to go back to Britain (problem: snailfrog lives in Britain and plan to travel eastwards)

914: loads of battles in the Middle East (shaking head sadly as nothing seems to change)….



Charlemagne dies. Sorry. 814. Close enough to my favorite era: The Merovingian times! This settles it. Germany: Aachen and maybe… maybe… we shall see. The formula is simple: plan ahead sort of. (short of?) And be ready for a booty of delighted photos.

Will 2 cameras along a mobile phone suffice? Are we ready? We shall cross the Channel (Napoleon dreamt of it: 1814 box ticked). First stop: France. Ticking boxes for 1514, 1414, 1314 etc.

Charlemagne, I presume? Here, we come!


The crown is massive!

No wonder Charles was a big man as in magnus; he had to be to carry this 4 pounds of gold on his head.

We start: …

Let’s be open as in Frank (which is a pun considering what follows) about what the expression Dark Ages may imply in reality:

some museums, you will wish to visit, may suffer drastic budget cuts. Bring your torch (no joke). The Musee d’Archeologie Nationale (Museum of National Archaeology of Saint Germain en Laye) shows finds related to French History. It is also dedicated to Gauls, Iron and Bronze ages and if you want to see the real thing, albeit in a museum which is keen on cutting its electricity bill, this museum is for you. You can see and almost touch items found in Queen Aregund’s grave.(580 AD) It is a pity the French ministry of Culture which runs the museum spends so few monies on artefacts of value such as


Which is her ring or this mysterious terra cotta:


What we know is that it was made about the instant t of King Clovis conversion so end 5th, early 6th C. Who is this person? A cross on the forehead yet armed with a sword trampling a snake while carrying a spear and … a shield? Anyhow his boots were made for walking and he was not an eunuch. What are the funny ears, the diadem, the heads on his side? If any heathen/pagan of new of tumblr community has an idea, please tell us!


One thing is sure. As per this Saxon knife and its scabbard, Raedwald of Sutton Hoo fame had contacts with the Continent.


I want to thank the museum staffs who allowed its disabled visitors to use the goods-lift. Not fancy but kindly offered and welcomed. Also worth a bow the kind musuem-shop manager who gave sound advice to her books buyers.

Next step: Charlemagne Exhibition in Aachen.

A triple exhibition (you can from the start buy the three tickets with the much needed matching three audio-guides): 19 euros per person. A few booklets in your language about the Dom, the Treasure and the exhibition plus a Charlemagne Aachen guide! This printed shopping spree will cost you about 50 euros. I recommend it as you cannot take photos; here it is postcards only)


The original bronze fountain of Aachen as chosen by Charles will find you today at the Dom atrium.


Some say it is a she-bear, some a she-wolf. It sits among us since it left the workshop of its Roman maker in the 2thC AD.

Some decoration artefact from a Langobard palace with matching Iron crown. This exhibition is amazing.


All you wanted to know about the palatial complex, how it was built, what are the actual lines of research can be found at the RatHaus: Town Hall for you and me. If you have money to spend, you can dine (not cheap alas) at Charles’s cellar or Keller as the RatHaus is built on the great hall of our exalted friend. The old coronation hall hosts the exhibition, which is nice considering that up to 1531 all the Emperors of the Holy Roman Germanic Empire have been crowned in this room.


Aren’t we glad Google exists as we could not take picture of the Coronation Hall because this was verboten since it was hosting the exhibition!

Charles possibly at one point sat on this throne, courtesy of France Bibliotheque Nationale.  This is possibly Dagobert the 1st own favourite chair. As dear Dagobert passed away in 639 AD, you will realize that our ancestors were building stuff which really lasted! Well outlasted them.  By the way, this is massive; on par with the marble throne found at the Dom.


Is it Merovingian then Carolingian? It is rightly debated. Frankly, nobody is sure but for one thing. Carolingian kings/emperors sat on it. As the Emperor was a tall man, it fits the imperial physicality as it is very heavy


Carolingian cavalry man, improvement on body armor against arrows…


Links with Byzantium and Baghdad. A must see : sadly no camera. And if you are wheelchair bound: the tags are too high to be read by our disabled friend. By the way, if you do not speak German, ready your souls. This exhibition should and will reconcile France and the Anglo-Saxons. No translation on the tags as for the books. The full catalog exists only in German and to get a human guide, you must book it weeks ahead. None the less, you quickly get an idea of the richness of the architecture during the not-so-dark-ages…

I will add that the curator has a special door and lift for disabled visitors (one of our group had suffered a stroke some time ago hence our targeted comments.).

Then on we moved to the Cathedral. As they say, the Dom and what a Dome it is. Firstly it was raided by the Vikings in 881 AD. So it suffered plenty of destruction before it was one hundred years old… yet… what a sight.


The marble and mosaic are modern as in late 1880s. Hagia Sophia inspired. You must imagine it white! With maybe some red drawings? Maybe as in the few surviving frescoes of the 9th century still around IN Europe (one can dream of a cortege copycatting Justinian and Theodora…)


This gentleman comes from Malles, St Benoit Church. a rare glimpse of a real Carolingian lord.

The Dom has a lot to offer:  many bronze doors are from Charlemagne days, Roman columns, a white marble seat (proof of Imperial thriftiness as it comes from recycled marble floors) and balconies. The whole built on older Roman remains. 


The Dom tourist bureau offers a daily guided tour in English (do not complain; at least you get one in your native language. On the plus side, about all Europe was obliged to follow the English speaking tour since their German was as good or rather poor as mine).

And here we close…


today the first part of this journey.


The Return of the wrongly-named kings

Oswald as Hamlet & Oswiu as Aragorn






Recently, the Daily Mail has discovered the brilliant book of Max Adams about the Kings of Northumbria. Regarding this comprehensive and extensive research, I cannot but approve the publication of this article. Though I feel the journalist could have published it much earlier!


Regardless of the newspaper,  this work is of the highest quality. Albeit there is a but as ….


More recently, New Zealand has once again proven it is the country favoured by kiwis and hobbits. Said furry-footed creature  is gracing our screens with Elves and Dwarves though how can Mr Peter Jackson manage to film a book of less than 250pages in more than 6 hours, is a mystery which baffles me (and I am not alone in this amazement). Tolkien, its writer was an academic on Anglo-Saxon lore and used his historical knowledge to give us Aragon as the Returning King.


So far so good are you thinking. The journalist punctuates his article by quoting Beowulf; thus what’s wrong? Precisely, what feels wrong? Max Adams has written a good book, Tolkien is nonpareil. Beowulf is certainly a rare and valuable authentic glimpse on Anglo-Saxon England while the Lord of the Ring Trilogy is a deserved international success suddenly all freezes.


It is wrong because the journalist misses the point because of his sloppy work. Up to the point I wonder if he has actually read the book! Not to mention if he has ever opened a school history book.


True Oswald of Northumbria was born around 604 AD to die in 642 at Maserfelt battle. Killed by the shining star of Pagan Englaland : Penda of Mercia. (no typo error here, Englaland was the original name for England and can be found in the French ANGLETERRE : The Land of the Angles).


Oswald: only 38 years:  a man with a short but intense life. A life which deserves better than sloppy fast journalism. And a life where truths however unpleasant must be told.






Before becoming a man and in Oswald case a warlord later to be king, one is first a child, a son. Born to a father Aethelfrith of Bernicia and a mother Acha of Deira. For us : Northumberland and Yorkshire respectively.


In the best case scenario, it is Aethelfrith’s father who kills Acha’s father the current Lord of Yorkshire. I write Lord as lordship and kingship in the Early days of Anglo-Saxon England are foggy. Let’s not forget we have no written evidence from 604. What we have is once again my pal Bede writing 125years later.


Whether Bernicia invades successfully Deira via Oswald grandfathers or not, we can only hope Acha was more than just a war prize and possibly a willing bedfellow.  I write bedfellow and not bride as it seems that Aethelfrith had more than one wife/concubine?.


Among the wives of his father or himself, there is a Bebba. “Eadfered Flesaurs [Aethelfrith the Flexer] reigned twelve years in Bernicia, and twelve others in Deira, and gave to his wife Bebba, the town of Dynguoaroy, which from her is called Bebbanburg.”




Was Bebba a pure-bred Angle or did she carry some interesting alliance with the native Romano-Britons, I do not know. What I know is that aside Bebba and Acha, Oswald father may have got frisky with a (Pictish?) lady as he fathered Eanfrith before Oswald. In fact Oswald father fathered a lot of sons if the genealogy is not fantasist :




Eanfrith of Bernicia
Oswald of Northumbria
Oswiu of Northumbria
Oswudu of Northumbria
Oslac of Northumbria
Oslaf of Northumbria
Offa of Northumbria
Æbba of Northumbria




Of Oswudu to Offa we know about nothing else; of Aebba, we have her as the ‘uterine sister’ to Oswiu the younger (youngest?) brother.  By which may mean Aebba is Oswiu half-sister as his mother remarries after her widowhood or they are twins.




8 years are separating Oswald from Oswiu. What is the life of young Saxon princelings? As boys Oswald must have started warrior training, the siblings have survived the many perils of childhood  diseases our times have forgotten (Clue Measles were deadly, same goes for Scarlet fever, Rheumatic fever left cardiac scars etc). Oswald is now 12; he is probably looking for the big event of his young life: the Saxon equivalent to the Roman Barbatoria: the passing of age when a young man has his first shave and really enters full warrior training: in short entering the teen age years with more life-threatening consequences. Some historians a lot more serious than me like Michelle Ziegler have postulated Oswiu may not have share the same mother as Oswald as explaining why tough born of Acha as we suppose him to be the Deirans would take ages to recognize him as their king.






The problem is not here or there: Oswald is planning his big day while little Oswiu follows him like a Tantony pig as he is only 4 hen tragedy strikes. Their father is killed by Aedwin of Deira: their uncle. Their exiled uncle. Acha’s brother. Remember: I wrote about him in previous posts.


All the family runs in a debacle to the safe haven of Scotland: suggesting the Northern kingdom of Bernicia had close familial bonds with the realm of the Picts/Scots.




Uncle, Mr Journalist and this should remind you of … not Tolkien but Shakespeare and Hamlet. A young prince deprived of his crown by a cruel uncle. The fact is that the cruel uncle was pursued for years end by the vigilant hatred of Aethelfrith down to East Anglia intimating Raedwald of the East Angles (yes, the Sutton Hoo guy) either to kill him to save time or to surrender him to Bernicia. As you may not know Raedwald had a wife –  name unknown- who remonstrated her husband and decided him to stand by the exiled Deiran. A battle later, Raedwald had proven himself as the worthy heir of the late Bretwalda Aethelbehrt of Kent who had died earlier in the year and Aedwin was now king of Bernicia.




Acha could have returned to her native land but she did not. She stayed by her sons and daughter. Considering the usages practiced by the time, young nephews standing in the way to the throne did not live long and I speak of Frankish and Visigoth and Langobard Christian kings ! Acha remained in Scotland and her sons thrived. Edwin was not a distant cousin; he was Oswald uncle.




Time flies. Edwin succeeds peacefully to Raedwald as Bretwalda, he is now Christian married to Aethelbehrt of Kent daughter (yes, just like nowadays kings practicing endogamy among their social circle I.e. kings can but marry princesses) . And guess what he has a few sons and … a daughter.






Another battle: gone are Edwin and sons.  By the way, Daily Mail,  IT WAS NOT A Welsh King: it was a coalition against Edwin and it had in its rank the rising star of Mercia: Penda in its rank.




Eanfrith as the eldest son succeeds his father but cannot rule Deira handed to a nephew of the slain king. A year later, both have been killed by this time Caedwallon of Gwynedd ( the native Welsh by which you translate the real Romano-Briton of the time).




Where does Oswald mirror Beowulf’s life? Dunno. Beowulf has a pretty good relationship with his family. Unlike Oswald. As for Heorot, Gefrin as nowadays Yeavering offers clues (dismal when you visit the site) about how a hall would have looked. If you want to see and guess history Yeavering is for you, if you want more than gazing at a herd of goats go else where.


Once again, time flies and another battle later. Oswald who has married, who has become Bretwalda has suffered the very same fate his father, his maternal grandfather and uncle have suffered plus a retinue of brothers and cousins. Once again the 2 kingdoms are sliced apart and Bernicia longs after Deira.




Oswiu his brother is not  a romantic figure. What can you do when your evil uncle is made a saint like Edwin and your big brother is also a saint? Nothing, all you can do is endure and build back from scratch. Instead of uniting the 2 realms through battles and wars, lil’bro decides to win by love.




Why does he think that courting his orphaned cousin via the ministrations of a priest? Your guess is as good as mine. Still it works. The maid is now queen of Deira while her and his cousin, Edwin grand/great-nephew rules over Deira. Some patience, something? Survival of the fittest? Oswiu gets the cousin assassinated. As by the time, Penda is more or less the Bretwalda and he has just defeated Oswiu, one expects Penda to get very angry. But he does not. And the death does not suggest war but a personal element. It shrieks it is not about the throne. None the less the new king is now Aethelwald (Oswald son). Well the one he had from his last Queen. Aethelwald betrays Uncle Oswiu at the Winwaed battle 4 years later and good bye , Oswaldson. At long last Oswiu has re-united and for long (for very long as Deira will never rise again) Bernicia and Deira into Northumbria.






Oswiu succeeds in 642, dies in 670. Fights many, many battles. Some lose, some wins. The ones where he must win to survive, he wins. He does in his sleep, peacefully: rare feat in the Dark Ages. He resolves complicated Christian conflicts within the Church (because just like nowadays and Luther and the Cathares etc, the Christian church supposedly devoted to one unique God has spent its time into divided chapels fighting as what is the best worship. No further comment). He also starts to have a more civilized, a more rational state. Oswald for all his sainthood may have dreamed the dream; it is Oswiu who builds it.




Aragorn may be a lot of things, a dreamer he aint.




In short,  Beowulf has in my opinion a lot in common with the complicated history of Northumbria and its opposing ruling clans: Edwin and Aethelfrith and their sons. Shakespeare describes very well Oswald/Oswiu in the Prince of Denmark with a conflicted mother: what to do about my husband/brother who has also killed my husband but my husband killed our father….




The good point is that just like at the end of The Lord of the Rings  when Aragorn was crowned King Elessar Telcontar of Gondor while marrying Elrond‘s daughter Arwen, and assumed the Sceptre of Annúminas as King of Arnor, uniting the two kingdoms for the first time since the reign of Isildur. Oswiu marries Eanflaed, daughter of Edwin, uniting peacefully the two kingdoms of BERNICIA and DEIRA for the first time ever (peacefully I repeat).




Oswiu is the real Aragorn (Did I mention I have a soft spot for him?)



Thou shalt not steal … my hound and my hawk

In the early middle ages, to steal one’s hunting dog or one’s bird of prey cost you dearly and I do not speak only of the 15 gold solidii you paid as a fine.But of the public humiliation to have to kiss said dog’s … behind.

These were the days where hunting was a serious business!


1 solidus : 4,5grams of gold; 15 solidii : 67, 5 grams.

A fine verging $600.00 and a dog’s bottom kiss…

From The Private Life from Late Antiquity to Byzantium. Georges Duby and Philippe Aries Editors.



To Shave or not to shave.

There is a before and an after when a man can trace the moment he started needing a shave. Our ancestors went through the same change. Romans called it the BARBATORIA. The first shave.

Generally around age 12, the very young men were going through some sort of ceremony. Some offered the first cut to the Gods… then the Barbarians came… and carried on until Charlemagne.

As early as in Tacitus, a rite of passage was described with the chieftain/father/foster father: a shield and sword was handed to the young man. Did boys grow a moustache at 12? Was it a gentle rubbing of the cheek or a full trimming? Let us not forget that shaving in 500 AD was not exactly the safe exercise our days know with the electric shaver.

Greeks, Romans and Germanic tribes were all for a clean shaved teenager. We know that tombs of known Saints could be the objects of the gift of said hair! Franks, Visigoths, Byzantines pronounced prayers at this special time of the life of a man. (Bearing in mind, we are probably describing the barbatoria of a young aristocrat/prince). Foster fathers held such ceremonies.

Charlemagne father Pippin was given a luxurious ceremony. Pippin grand sons would not enjoy such treats: but would go through the original Germanic rite: the sword gift.

A much bigger razor.Image

Real warrior does not wear Piglet on his helmet


Warriors in 561AD and how Hollywood see them.

Recently, Stoke-on-Trent Museum of Potteries has closed Temporarily the rooms dedicated to the Staffordshire Hoard. Said rooms are going to be upgraded. Hopefully the ghastly red wall-paint will be forgotten. Hint : red when your major exhibits are small intricate gold pieces makes the sighting difficult. It literally kills it! (Personal rant space closing)

I hope the curators will get enough fund and private contributions to get new rooms able to enfance the beauty and art of what must be indeed called Dark Ages Male Bling. Male warrior naturally. Which leads me to today’s blog entry.

Warriors: how they looked as reconstructed by historians and archaeologists versus Hollywood and sudden dashes into the realm of fancy by originally sound minded artists.

When you enter the museum, you are met by a 7-foot statue of a Mercian warrior. Who wears on the top of his helmet something looking curiously like Piglet!

I have no doubt that Barbarian (not as Barbaric but as Barbaroi: foreigners, others, people from a different culture as in not Greco-Roman) warriors were just as keen as to decorate their ‘uniforms’ which did not exist with as much gold, gilt and silver as they could afford adding horse tail or wild boar (not the tusks apparently and this is an interesting question which should be raised: what happened to the tusks?) hair. They must still have refrained from wearing a stuffed young wild boar on their head! If only for the rather reasonnable wish to avoid being more singled out on the battlefied. The association of a spear with arrows but no long sword is a bit odd; none the less you get the gist of the honourable and probably headachy gentlemen: one does not mess with Mercian warriors.

I say headachy because warriors would wear helmets to battle: right? And the heavier the helmet the shorter the battle will have to be as our skull is not exactly made to carry heavy objecs fot a certain length of time if you want to keep being mobile, agile and promptly swift as on a 6thC battlefield.

Which is why I prefer the simpler terracotta approach of what a training field warrior might have looked like. And this is where i erupt. Warfare was taken just as seriously in the 7thC as it is taken in 2013. A warrior king wore chain-mails, tried to protect his face/nose/cheeks with metal parts and would knot them! He may wish to have his battledress sartorial taste lauded. He would still avoid wearing stuffed creatures on his head (Medieval knights may have worn bizarre contraptions over their heads but at jousting just for a few minutes). And more importantly HE WOULD HAVE WORN HIS HELMET!

Because I am sort of tired of watching Aragorn/Thorin (Tolkien fantasy based on Dark Ages Britain Oswald) and the new series Vikings showing successful warriors going to battle without decent protection. In real life, they would not have been successful. They would have been dead suicidees.

Somehow I suspect Hengest and Horsa did not show their locks when they faced Vortgiren. Male bling does not imply idiocy.


Mercian warrior in training


Mortain Chrysmale

Create a free website or blog at WordPress.com.