Anglo Saxon Religion – random notes

This weekend I got to actually sit down and do some research. I have been wanting to do a class on Anglo Saxon religion for a while. One, we really don’t know much about Anglo Saxon paganism. Two, their view of what it meant to be Christian would be a giant shock to modern Christians.

Here are some notes – for thoughts and reference.

  • It is a big mistake to see words like Woden and Thunor and assume the Norse myths are the way the Anglo-Saxon’s saw these deities. It is like the similarity between Roman and Greek deities. The Romans may have taken the Greek myths and drew parallels between their gods and Greek gods (and pretty much any other culture they came in contact with) but Jupiter and Zeus fundamentally behave very differently. So to, is Woden (the Anglo Saxon deity) different from Odin (the Norse deity) and Wodan (the Germanic deity)
  • Most of what we do know about Anglo Saxon paganism is from Anglo Saxon poems, place names, and surviving words.
  • All of our English day names are derived from A-S paganism.
  • I have always been fascinated to learn what other cultures called the planets. In the West, they are all named for Roman Gods, except for the Earth in English. Nerthis was an Anglo-Saxon earth goddess and therefore the name of this planet.
  • There is some evidence that Anglo-Saxon paganism was heavily tied to places. This is one of the tactics early Christian converters used. Where A-S pagans would worship at sacred trees, outdoor crosses were erected. Saints performed miracles at certain locations or were buried in certain locations to co-opt sacred nature sites into Christian lore.
  • On a popular level, a blend of pagan and Christian religion survived all the way up to the Conquest. The various healing charms often contain both pagan and Christian imagery.
  • The image of Christ as Lord worked particularly well on the Anglo Saxons. The word Lord comes from hfalord – bread giver. Pagan Anglo Saxons were used to a lord/servant relationship where ones work was due to the Lord and the Lord then gave back to you housing, food, etc. Substituting Christ as Lord was an easy sell.
  • Baptism and conversion worked well in war for the Anglo-Saxons. By converting after defeat, you were a Christian brother and therefore it could help enforce the peace (Christians shouldn’t attack each other). It was not unusual for the victor to give gifts to the newly converted loser.
  • Especially with the Viking invasions, and Cnut and Swein’s conquests, new churches were often founded by the laity, not the established Christian hierarchy. There was a lot of variation therefore in how the common people interacted with Christianity. And the local church officials were not necessarily beholden to the hierarchy.
  • Part of the struggle between Church and State had to do with who was going to appoint bishops, abbots, etc. When the State could do so, those officials were less inclined to alter doctrine to be more “official.”
  • The Anglo-Saxons had a love-hate relationship with their pagan past, especially elves. Many noteable people have names that suggests a positive view of elves. Aelfred – elf council. Aelfric (famous churchman; common name too) – Elf Ruler. Aelfwyn – Elf Friend. But then many diseases are referred to as elf shot.
Paper, Persona, SCA Life, Vinegar

Post about Posters

At Duchess Wars, Hrefna held a class on SCA:iri and other ways to present information. She mentioned tri-fold posters are popular in the science community to give quick updates on research. And one of the things she stressed was develop your own “brand” or “theme” so people can readily identify your posters. I do have more current drafts; below are the images from before the more recent revisions.

I like the idea. Here are three mock-ups on posters I will put together for upcoming craftperson’s displays.

I have chosen to use my device colors to help brand them. On the more recent versions, I have included my name and contact information.

Here is a persona study poster. I talk about Bath, and the three Oswyns and where they are in development.

I think this is my favorite one. It is about vinegar and why I call it anti-brewing.

Then lastly one about paper. It is medieval recycling; especially compared to modern paper.

Persona, SCA Life

It’s what’s in CIDER you that counts

Last weekend with the Middle Kingdom’s 50th celebration. As usual, Verena ran the Drunken Duck and I, per usual, helped her run it. I am not sure what real relationship as it pertains to the bar is. It is HER bar. I run it when she is gone. Others brew way more than I do and that is what leads to this post.

A while ago, a good friend said of me that I was not a brewer. And to a large extent they were right. I don’t brew. I make cordials. Cordials are fun and easy and by and large not really period. Oh there were some cordials but for the most part it is guesswork on whether any particular one every existed. Oswyn of Baðon wouldn’t have a clue what a cordial was. Oswyn Swann might but since he is now a paper merchant, they aren’t his thing either.

And truthfully, cordials haven’t thrilled me in a while. I have made at least 50 different kinds of cordials in the last 5 years. I have made over 20 gallons of the stuff in that time. I make a pretty good cordial. I have taught about cordials. And I have watched my cordials mostly sit on the shelf in our tavern. By and large, people don’t want them. This weekend, it was mostly mead, ciders, and beers that people wanted. Maelcolm kicked 4 kegs to my knowledge. Dai about 3. Jhondo 2 and some. Bottles of meads were consumed. When people wanted a cordial, it was easier to steer them to Liaden’s very tasty but single flavored berry cordials than try to explain a blueberry lemongrass gin to them. So partly my own fault really.

I really don’t drink much at home. Especially given the amount of cordials I make. I still love my Grand Manier, St Germain, and a few beers and ciders.

So it hit me, why am I making cordials? Just because that is all that I have made? I made a wine to turn into vinegar (yeah I know. I am weird). Then it occurred to me, I could make my own cider. And then turn some of that into vinegar too. And it is something that Oswyn of Baðon might have made. Let me explain.

From one of the classes I teach, the Anglo Saxons knew of four alcoholic drinks, medu, ealu, win, and beor. Mead, Ale, wine, and we don’t know.

But Oswyn, that is obviously beer, you say. Nope. Pregnant women were advised to avoid beor but not ale. That suggests a drink higher in alcohol than ale. While hops were used occasionally in early period, this isn’t the time to distinguish beer from ale yet. There is this word in Old English, beordrunken . It means very drunk. There are several words about getting drunk from mead. None of them mean “very drunk”. So this also suggested beor is stronger than it seems. And in French, cider is bere. So beor might have been a cider, a super cider, or an freeze distilled applejack. And cider in particular is missing from our 4 drink list.

I want to make a cider. I want to make a signature cider for the Drunken Duck. And then I want to turn it into vinegar, because I am weird like that.

Yes another hobby but one that fits into the greater picture. I have been told I lack focus. That is only because you are standing too close to see the whole picture. Trust me, it is all related.

Cider fits in with my persona, fits in with one of the things I do on a regular basis, and helps to give back to those who gave to me. It is all there folks. Wish me well.

Persona, SCA Life, Uncategorized

The Generations of Oswyn

I have been thinking about my personae lately. And I have figured out how they are connected.

If I did a Roman persona, the name would be Marcus Aemilius Vivianus. Mostly because I just like those names. Vivianus is in honor on my WoW character, Vivacity, a draenei restoration shaman. With a name like that, this would be a minor sub-family of the Aemilii. There is some evidence of a Vivianus in Roman Britain. I then envision that this Aemilius Vivianus was a Roman solider in Britain. Either he or one of his descendents or freed slaves took the additional cognomen of Cygnus. When the Roman troops were recalled from Britain, this Vivianus Cygnus remained in Britain.

So from that time to the time of Alfred the Great, this family lived in the Somerset area but I don’t know what they may have done. But the Swan as a symbol was adopted somewhere along the way. When Alfred issued the Charter establishing Bath as a burh, Oswyn’s family was one of founding families of the new port city of Bath.

From the 10th century on to the 16th century, the family took the last name Swann and the fortunes changed. Where they were once at least a lesser nobility (being reeves in Bath), they solidly landed in the raising middle class. I personally will blame the Normans and the drop off in prestige of Bath for that. It is in the early 1500’s that Bath sees a brief revival before the Dissolution of Monastries by Henry VIII. Then in 1590, Elizabeth grants a new charter to Bath and the spa recovers.

Oswyn Swann is probably a bit before Elizabeth. Part of that is I don’t particularly care for ruffs and such. There are some great artwork of Pieter Aertsen’s that I think captures the look I think Oswyn Swann has. So the main question is, does Dutch middle class fashion equal English middle class fashion? I don’t know the answer to that.

So around 1595, a technical school was established in Bristol which in time becomes the University of Bristol, and another branch, the University of Bath. It looks like papermaking was happened around London but certainly these nascent schools would need paper. Before there was a formal school, there would have been early education attempts. And Bristol being a major port, there would need for paper for charters, bills of sale, the churchs and such, etc. I am going to assume Oswyn Swann is active in the Somerset region as a paper merchant sometime between 1500 and 1560.

The last Oswyn is probably an offshoot of the main family around the time of the Conquest. As he is the least developed of the personae, I will just let him be for a while. The connection will come.

Glass, Persona, SCA Life

Making fused plates – abridged

I will have a more detailed post later about a different plate I did.  But here is a quick post about how I make my 12″ x 12″ fused glass plates.  This one is for my device as a sample plate for my display.

I had already cut the glass before I got to the shop.  My device isn’t that complex, other than the swan.

So first thing is again, glass likes to be ~1/4″ thick when it melts.  There are ways to force it.  But for my purposes, just use two sheets of 1/8″ thick glass.  I am spraying hairspray onto a clear piece to bulk out the plate.  I will then put the blue and green pieces on this clear piece.

Yep.  Just plain ole cheap hairspray.  I am told I use too much so I may need to cut back a bit on it.  It does burn off but on large pieces of glass, it has to get out somewhere. If it can’t, it makes bubbles.  So I will cut back a bit.

Adding the blue and green.  You can also see the swan on an irridescent white piece of glass.  I was normally use white for the swan but I had a scrap of irridescent.

The pieces of glass are supposed to be 12″ square but they rarely are.  And sometimes my cutting isn’t the best either.  This is just a hair off center (less than 1/8″).  It will have to be good enough.

Now for the tricky part.  I use a ring saw to cut out the swan.  Just Elmer’s paste glue to glue the paper to the glass.  The water in the ring saw quickly saturates the paper but it usually holds it in place long enough.

There are a few spots to be touched up.  Because the glass will melt in the kiln, most of the small imperfections will smooth out by themselves. I touch up the spots I can get to with the ring saw or a normal grinder.  But I am not too worried about it.

And there we go.  Ready for the kiln.

This will be part of my Artist’s Display.  I have been advised that I need to have examples of my own work.  Since I give so much away, I need to make a few pieces that I don’t give away.  Where we go.  My device is pretty simple.

Persona, SCA Life

Two pieces that say a lot about me.


The first is my arms with a motto.  The colors of my arms are no accident nor is the symbol.  The problem?  My subconscious picked them and it took a while for my conscious to figure that out.  I will give you a hint, “My cloak is blue as sky in summer. Or green as grass. Or white as lime.”  The feathered bird is no accident either.   The motto is a paraphrase of something I say often.  What I say is, “it isn’t Art until you bleed on it.”  The motto on the arms translates as “Blood makes Art.”  It is a little vampiric but the Latin of what I actually say is awkward and lengthy.

The other piece is my Dragon’s Heart medallion with something extra.  I don’t know who made the copper hearts.  I am going to guess Coresande but I really don’t know.  The center bit is a crude fused glass piece to represent my Evergreen.  The whole thing is to symbolize that the core of my service is my art.  I give away a lot of what I make.

Persona, SCA Life

Who is Oswyn?

Some of you have probably heard me say I have three personae all named Oswyn.  So who is Oswyn and how do you tell the difference?

The first Oswyn is the Oswyn I am mostly dressed as.  This Oswyn of Baðon.  He is my most developed persona but strangely I only recently figured out his occupation.  He is from 973 AD from Bath.  His family had their lands granted as part of the Bath charter.  Oswyn is a minor noble, possibly a thegn or at least Oswyn’s father might be a thegn.

Caridoc posted a list of questions about personae.  Here are the answers.

One of the issues Caridoc brings up is looking more “medieval.”  He mentions that he himself doesn’t wear his glasses and theerfore sees the world a bit fuzzy.  I am so near-sighted that I can not fathom not having my glasses.  I would be able to do nothing without them.  Oswyn would not have glasses and would be mostly useless in Medieval society if his sight is like my sight.  So the glasses must stay.  I may someday make those fancy wooden glasses but I understand that they are from a much later time period.  One of my other Oswyn’s could have had them though.

Oswyn’s history:  Oswyn’s father is a minor noble Osmund of Aquamann or Bathon.  Oswyn’s mother is Efa in Welsh but was called Aeffe by the English.

  • What kinds of money do you use? What are the relative values of the different kinds? How much does dinner at the inn cost? How much does a horse cost? How much does a skilled worker make per month?

Oswyn uses pennies and farthings regularly.  A farthing is a portion of a penny (made by cutting it).  A shilling would be ~5 pennies.  A pound would be 240 pennies.  Oswyn might sometimes deal with pounds but that is a lot of money, even for a minor noble.   A horse might cost half a pound of more. A good meal would be a few farthings.  A skilled worker would make a few shillings per month (~5 pennies to a shilling)

  • What system do you use to describe what time it is? When does one day end and another begin? How do you tell time (sundial? clock?)?

12 daylight and 12 night hours is common.  Some more philosophically minded people use equal length hours but that is not common.  The day begins at sunrise.  Sundials are common.

  • What system do you use for describing dates? What is your calendar like?

AD is the common system by this point.  There are still references to regnal dates but by and large, England follows the Church calendar.

  • Can you read? If so, what have you read? What poems, tales, etc. have you heard told?

Yes I can read.  I can read Latin and Old English.  I was taught at the court school in Bathon Abbey by the Abbess and the monks and nuns there.  I have read the Bible, Consolation of Philosophy, the Chronicle to date, and a number of works that would have been at the Library in Bath.  Oswyn has travelled and has learned stories from England, Wales, Ireland, and some from Brittany and Normandy.

  • What do you know about history? Have you heard of Alexander the Great? Julius Caesar? Charlemagne? Vergil? Saladin? What do you “know” about each?

I would know some of these things but not as much as Sean does.  Oswyn would know that Alexander was a great general from the past and conquered the known world.  He would know that several Roman generals admired him.  Oswyn would know more about Caesar but still not too much.  Oswyn would know about Charlemagne and probably read Virgil.    Oswyn wouldn’t know Saladin as Saladin is after Oswyn’s time.

  • What do you know about geography? What is the most distant country you have heard of? The most distant country you have met someone from?

Oswyn is well travelled.  He has been to Wales, Ireland, Brittany, Francia, and Rome!  He has heard of Michelgard and the lands beyond but he doesn’t know their names.  In Rome, he may have met a visitor from Michelgard but that would likely be the farthest away he has met someone.

  • Who is your immediate overlord (title and/or name)? Who is your ultimate overlord?

There would be a Thane who rules the area around Bathon, possibly that would be Oswyn’s father.  Next up would be the Earl of Wessex then the King of England.  Oswyn as a reeve would be more directly subject to the King than to the Earl of Wessex.

  • What is your religion? What duties (prayers, fasts, dietary restrictions, etc.) does it impose? What do you (your persona) know about its doctrines and history?

Oswyn would be a Christian.  Educated in an Abbey, he would know a lot.  Sean needs to work on this.

  • What do you eat for breakfast? Lunch? Dinner? What do you drink? Where do your food and drink come from? How is the food cooked (style of cooking, tools, how does the oven work, etc.)?

Oswyn drinks water, ale, and wine, often.  He has tenet farmers who work his land and they also give him part of their own harvests as rent.  Food is pickled, roasted, or baked.  Hearth cooking, clay ovens, etc.

  • What sorts of wild animals live in your area? Which are dangerous? Which are good to eat? How are the latter hunted?

Deer, various birds, boars, and small mammals.  Net hunting is common.  Some of the more noble people use dogs and hawks.

  • What clothes do you wear? What are they made of? Where do they come from?

Linen and wool would be very common, especially wool.  The wool is made locally.  There is the possibility of small amounts of silk.

  • What crops are grown in your part of the world? What goods, if any, are exported, and how are they transported? What goods are imported?

Wheat, barley, peas, and a variety of vegetables.  Sheep and goats for wool and milk.  There may be the odd cow as well.  Wool is a primary export, even now. The wool is shipped to Bristol and from there to Flanders.

  • What language(s) do you speak? What language(s) do other people in your town (city, barony…) speak?

Oswyn speaks Latin, English, and a small amount of Welsh.  Most people in Bath would speak English and an amount of Latin depending on how much education they had.

  • If you or one of your friends wrote a poem, what form would you use? What about a song?

Alliterative verse

  • What “mythological” beasts do you know about? Which ones do you believe in? What do you believe about them?

Elves, dwarves, trolls, and the Fey.  Folklore will be heavily influences by “Celtic” and Norse beliefs.

Oswyn’s family make up some of the reeves of Bath.  Oswyn himself serves as port-reeve, overseeing trades to make sure they are legitimate and that the appropriate taxes, etc are paid.  He has several assistants so he doesn’t do this himself.

And this is the garb that you most see Oswyn in, the 10th century Anglo Saxon garb.  I have tried to specialize the garb I have.  Brown is a work tunic, the sage green is my teaching tunic, the blue long tunic is my court tunic.  The forest green is a more of a whatever tunic.  I don’t always follow this protocol though.   I need to make and trim out quite a bit of this garb still.


Oswyn Swann – he is my brewer and merchant.  He is from the Tudor Era but I haven’t nailed it down 100% yet as it somewhat depends on when and where Gertie is from.  He is a descendant of Oswyn of Baðon and also lives in Bath.  My Tudor cloths need a lot of work.

Oswyn of Londini – his is my 12th century Mediterranean persona.  A group of Anglo-Saxons fled the Conquest and established a new England on the Crimea.  This Oswyn is from there.  He mostly hangs around in Norman Sicily trading for goods.