This past week was Celt mania at the Twitter feed, perhaps in anticipation of Saint David’s Day being celebrated, which is big in the Celtic world, in particularly in Wales where he is the country’s patron saint.
Before getting into the main categories, I have a few links or more general or broader interest. So, what two things could be more relaxing than fishing and reading a good book? (I suppose it depends on whom you ask!). If you agree with that statement, then you might be interesting in reading about early medieval fishing or going to the Center for the Study of the Book to learn anything you could ever want to know about the history of books and bookmaking. In case fishing or books aren’t your interest, then perhaps fashion is. Medievalists.net posted a nice collection of articles the have on medieval dress, with the articles covering a wide range of topics, including some on Anglo-Saxons and Vikings.
Last week I provided a link via Medievalists.net to a new publisher for scholars looking to get their work out and about. This week I have for you a link for Open Access Publishing which is another alternative for some. Check out the link (and the link to the real program from inside the page I link) to find out more info.
A topic that may seem obvious but still raises questions worth asking is on the Anglo-Saxon influence on Romano-Britain. And while undoubtedly Alfred the Great was quite pious and steadfast in his belief in Christianity, that doesn’t mean that Anglo-Saxon Magico-Medicine died, nor does it mean the there was never any period of church-state antagonism in the later Anglo-Saxon world. This latter points also warrants a look at many aspects of the later pre-conquest boroughs.
Exciting news in the modern world is that there will be new digs on an Anglo-Saxon site and now public guided tours of the Staffordshire Hoard are offered. Also exciting is the fact that articles of the Sutton Hoo Society newsletter, a society named after last century’s famous Anglo-Saxon find, can be read online. And don’t miss the latest English history podcast recently released.
Unfortunately, nearly no site nowadays is free from vandalism – even the old Jelling stone was recently sprayed with green graffiti (note that the article is in Danish). And another ‘problem’ in the eyes of some – not my own, personally – is some of the casting choices for the new “Thor” movie, which led at least to an interesting take on racism among Vikings (or the lack thereof). The “Thor” movie also makes you wonder on what Vikings really wore – Viking arm rings at least are real. But what about Norse magic, like spinning seiðr?
One thing at least that becomes clearer lately is how medieval Icelanders regarded reading and books, as evidenced by marginalia in medieval Icelandic manuscripts. And if you want to learn about medieval Norway, check out the Historia Norwegie. As for Vikings in north-west England, however, things are less clear. At least plenty is known about the coins of the Danish kings of Ireland.
Once you’ve read about Danish coins in Ireland, why not learn more about medieval Ireland by reading the books “The Archaeology of Early Medieval Ireland“, “Early Medieval Ireland 400-1200“, “Churches in Early Medieval Ireland: Architecture, Ritual and Memory“, and for a broader perspective, “The Oxford Companion to Irish history“.
Now let’s travel back across the water to Cornwall, which some might call the English Riviera, whose famous Cornish pasty has just recently gained Protected Geographical Indication status by the EU. It makes you wonder if they were eating pasties back in Iron Age Cornwall.
Much further north, it appears there was Iron Age and medieval occupation at Culzean in Scotland, a country which has had many languages over many centuries. Shetland’s Cultural History alone is a rich tapestry of varying languages. But are the languages of Scotland too politicized nowadays? That is a question addressed in the next installment of Scotland’s language myths.
For me, the most interesting language of medieval Scotland, and the one we know the least about, is Pictish. Some scientists believe that the symbols on Pictish stones are actually forms of the Pictish language. I’m not terribly convinced. One commonly held believe, and one that seems to be refuted more and more nowadays, is Pictish matriarchy; there is no doubt, however, that there were some strong Pictish women. Another interesting topic concerns the theme of Pictish ethnicity and it’s interplay on the interaction between the Picts and various other peoples. And the recent non-listing of Pictish battlefield as a significant historical battlefield has raised the question as to what extent the Picts are ultimately responsible for the sense of “Scotland” as an entity different from the rest of the Isle of Britain.
Whether the Picts were Celts or not is another big debate. Why not judge for yourself by learning about Celtic culture (including the mythologically-significant site of Ben Bulben and the possibly druidic magico-medicinal serpent stone) and Celtic symbolism, including the symbolism of the number 3 and birds. Do the symbols in the Pictish stones seem to be Celtic? There are Celtic symbols in “Sir Gawain and the Green Knight“, however, so it seems to me Celtic symbolism in art or literature doesn’t necessarily equate to Celtic ethnicity of the artist/author.
You may also want to apply your new-found knowledge on Celtic symbolism by looking at Celtic jewelry worn by men and reading about Celtic wedding traditions. Head on over to find the 50 best blogs for Celtic Culture to find even more resources.