Tag Archive | ancient Scotland

Discovering Aberdeen’s history: Start at the Tolbooth!

As I mentioned in my previous post, we did not originally plan to spend much time in Aberdeen and did not really know much about the city or it’s history.  Our  intent was just to fly into Aberdeen and then quickly head out towards Inverness.  Naturally, most people want to see Inverness or Edinburgh but really, how often do people list Aberdeen on their list of places of must visits for history or anything else?  I will be the first to admit that we were initially quite disappointed when we had to alter our plans and eliminate Inverness from our tour. Our first depressing and foreboding thought was one of, “Well this is just great, now we’re stuck in Aberdeen for three days. What are we going to do with three days in Aberdeen?”  At the time, we really had no other choice but to rather petulantly and grudgingly accept our fate and try to make the best of it.  At the end of three days however, we were complaining because we did not have enough time to see everything.  My personal thought as I left was of how and when I could make another visit!

Aberdeen city of history

The disaster that led to our longer stay in Aberdeen was actually one of  fate or the powers above intervening on our behalf. It provided us an opportunity to explore, discover and appreciate a city that in my personal opinion does not get nearly enough credit for it’s historical importance or it’s present day contributions. What I want to do is share some of what we discovered and maybe change your mind about Aberdeen.  Hopefully by the time I’ve finished, you will be interested and inspired to look at this city not just as a stopping or transfer point on your way to those other places, but as a destination in itself.

First, let’s look at why we even decided on Aberdeen as our starting point for our trip rather than one of the other flight options. Our original plan was to do a driving tour. We knew we wanted to visit Inverness as well as Edinburgh so when we looked at the map, we saw that Aberdeen would be a good option. It is located on the coast a few hours north of Edinburgh and also only a few hours from Inverness. The drive from Aberdeen to Inverness would take you along the Castle trail. The Aberdeenshire area of Scotland is most famous for the number of Castles located there (My main reason for wanting to back)! 

This is a map showing various sites of interest close to the Aberdeen area. Yes, there are even Standing Stones nearby- I will be doing more research on them!

castles near Aberdeen

This map shows Aberdeen in relation to Inverness and Edinburgh. I do want to add here that because of the way our plans were altered, we were unable to fit Inverness into our schedule.  It is very easily doable to take the train from Aberdeen to Inverness, then train from Inverness to Edinburgh. When I checked the train time, it states about a 2 1/2 hour trip from Aberdeen to Inverness. That is not the purpose or focus here though so I am not going to go further into it here other than to say that our experiences with the train and bus systems were great. I will definitely go that option in any future trips!

map showing Aberdeen

Now you understand our main reason for choosing Aberdeen as starting point and why we were looking at it as just a quick stop over. Fortunately, we were inadvertently rewarded with that unexpected longer stay to get to know Aberdeen better!

What we found in Aberdeen was a fascinating history that stretches back at least 8000 years. Besides that history, we discovered a city that is friendly and welcoming but  not a kitschy, over done or over crowded tourist magnet.  There is a wealth of history to be explored here but that is not it’s truest wealth, asset or value.

1969 considerable deposits of crude oil were discovered in the North Sea. Since then, North Sea Oil has come to eclipse Aberdeen’s traditional industries, employing an estimated half a million people living in and around the city. Aberdeen’s port has been improved and developed to serve the off shore oil rigs with the result that most of the fishing fleets have been moved along the shore to Peterhead. Economically this so called “European Oil Capital” has left other Scottish cities behind – indeed, by some accounts it is the wealthiest area in the UK outside the southeast of England.

Aberdeen is a Scottish success story. Any visitor to the city will be impressed by the lively bustle of its streets and the ceaseless activity in the port. The impact of the petroleum industry is undeniable, but in some senses it should not be seen as a development which entirely breaks with the past: Aberdeen has always been a successful port city and has always had an internationally minded economy. Today this  University City is home to around a quarter of a million people and provides cultural diversions for all ages. For the visitor its grand granite buildings, which shimmer like polished silver, its distinctive neighborhoods, its harbour and sandy beach, provide other, more natural, attractions.

Throughout our stay, we observed that the city seems to be undergoing  massive renovation and construction in just about every area from the outskirts of the airport to the city center and all points surrounding it. Do not let that deter or sway you from visiting the area! Our taxi driver pointed out that this work is all much needed and deserved by the city that has contributed so much financially to the UK and it’s about time they got something back! He took all of the construction in stride and gave us a pleasant and much amusing trip from the airport to our hotel near the city center.  I have to say that everyone we encountered during our stay was friendly and helpful with suggestions and commentary about their city.  One other added bonus- everything was less expensive than in Edinburgh! 

As I’ve pointed out, we didn’t know much about the city so one of our first stops was the Tourist information center located near the city center. They went out of their way to help us with everything from free maps to writing notes and directions on the map for us, to giving advice and directions on using the bus system along with which bus to take to different areas. They also offer a variety of day tours to activities and sites outside the city making it very easy to many of those sites if you’re not driving.  One added suggestion on the bus system that they pointed out- besides the city buses, there are buses going to many of the outlying villages and sites you might want to visit. We did not have extra time for those options but the staff will happily fill you in on how to get to certain sites- such as which bus to take, where you can catch the bus and what times they run.  Because we knew so little about the city or it’s history, they suggested we start with a quick tour of the Tolbooth museum which happens to be right across the street from them. I did mention that there is a great deal of renovation and construction going on throughout the city- the Tolbooth block/building is no exception but do not let that deter you from your visit!

Tollbooth tower renovations

Tolbooth block and buildings undergoing renovations

tollbooth and townhouse plaque

plaque on building next door to Tolbooth

Tolbooth Museum

The Tolbooth Museum is one of Aberdeen’s oldest buildings and one of the best-preserved 17th century gaols in Scotland. It features displays on local history and the development of crime and punishment through the centuries. It  provides a unique experience in the form of its atmospheric 17th and 18th century cells, original doors and barred windows. Displays include the Maiden and the blade of Aberdeen’s 17th century guillotine as well as some animated cell inhabitants. Regarding the animations-they were not scary. This is not a spooky type tour. I have heard a few people comment that they were a bit disappointed or let down as they were led to believe it would be more of a ghost, haunting or scarier type experience with more visual effects. If that is what you are looking for, this does not fit that category. It was a bit eerie and haunting but in a realistic way of getting a feeling of what it was like to be incarcerated here back then. 

banner-ackobites-cell

tolbooth museum

 

While the supposed main focus or purpose of the museum is it’s history as gaol or jail, it does provide an excellent introduction to the history of Aberdeen. It is a free tour and probably takes less than hour to do…  we spent a bit longer in there because we had an excellent tour guide who was very informative and gave much additional insight to the overall history. The first half of the tour is about the history of Aberdeen with displays and dioramas of the earliest beginnings of the area that originally consisted of two separate villages. Once our guide realized we were very much interested in the history, he probably went into more depth on it than usual. He seemed rather excited to share the added history with us and we enjoyed all of it! During the first portion of the tour, we learned about some of the early  events and people that had connections to Aberdeen. These important connections go back as far as the Picts and much of the history can be found around Aberdeen yet today.  The legend of Saint Machar tells that Machar was  a companion of St Columba on his journey to Iona.  God (or St Columba) told Machar to establish a church where a river bends into the shape of a bishop’s crosier before flowing into the sea. The River Don bends in this way just below where the Cathedral now stands. According to legend, St Machar founded a site of worship in Old Aberdeen in about 580. He ministered to the Picts around Aberdeen. For this reason he was described anachronistically as the first Bishop of the see of Aberdeen.  The church was also the site for another legend surrounding William Wallace. After the execution of William Wallace in 1305, his body was cut up and sent to different corners of the country to warn other dissenters. His left quarter ended up in Aberdeen and is buried in the walls of the cathedral. 

 

Robert the Bruce also had a connection to Aberdeen. In 1136, David I began the development of New Aberdeen north of the River Dee, and the earliest charter was granted by King William the Lion about 1179, confirming the corporate rights granted by David I, which gave trade privileges to the burgesses. This charter is the oldest surviving charter. The city received other royal charters later. In 1319, the Great Charter of Robert the Bruce transformed Aberdeen into a property owning and financially independent community. Bruce had a high regard for the citizens of Aberdeen who had sheltered him in his days of outlawry, helped him win the Battle of Barra and slew the English garrison at Aberdeen Castle. He granted Aberdeen with the nearby Forest of Stocket. The income from this land has formed the basis for the city’s Common Good Fund, which is used to this day for the benefit of all Aberdonians.

Aberdeen is also home to King’s College, one of the oldest universities in the British Isles.  In 1495, William Elphinstone, the relatively newly appointedBishop of Aberdeen, petitioned Pope Alexander VI on behalf of King James IV to create the facility to cure the ignorance he had witnessed within his parish and in the north generally. A papal bull was issued in February 1495 (1491 in the calendar of the day) founding the university; a royal charter later that year recognised Aberdeen’s status as equal to that of Scotland’s two existing universities at Glasgow and St Andrews. As a former professor at the University of Paris, Elphinstone modelled the university very much on the continental European tradition. Hector Boece, a fellow professor at Paris, was awarded the status of first principal of the new institution. It would not be until 1509, with the issuance of a charter by Elphinstone, that university life at King’s truly began. Construction of the chapel began in 1498; it was consecrated in 1509 and dedicated to St Mary. By 1514, the university had some forty-two members in the form of both staff and students.

Once you finish your tour of the Tolbooth, you can easily find monuments to William Wallace and Robert the Bruce on a walk around the city. You can take a city bus to Old Aberdeen to tour St. Machar’s Cathedral and King’s College. You can also easily take a bus to another site, the Gordon Highlanders Regimental museum which I will talk about later. 

William Wallace monument in Aberdeen

William Wallace monument in Aberdeen

William Wallace monument inscription 1

William Wallace monument inscription 1

William Wallace inscription 2

William Wallace inscription 2

Robert the Bruce monument in front of Marichal College building in Aberdeen

Robert the Bruce monument in front of Marichal College building in Aberdeen

Marichal College building in Aberdeen, now used as offices

Marichal College building in Aberdeen, now used as offices

St Machar's Cathedral in Old Aberdeen

St Machar’s Cathedral in Old Aberdeen

King's College entrance in Old Aberdeen

King’s College entrance in Old Aberdeen

gordon highlander museum2 gordon highlanders museum

 

The only thing you won’t be able to find is Aberdeen Castle! The Castle was situated on Castle Hill, a site today known as the Castlegate, near the City center.  

Castlegate area today

Castlegate area today

Mercat cross at city center

Mercat Cross at Castlegate area near Tolbooth Musuem in Aberdeen

You will see the unicorn throughout Aberdeen and other places in Scotland as it is Scotland’s national animal! You will also find mercat crosses in various cities of Scotland. A mercat cross is the Scots name for the market cross found frequently in Scottish cities, towns and villages where historically the right to hold a regular market or fairwas granted by the monarch, a bishop or a baron. It therefore served a secular purpose as a symbol of authority, and was an indication of a burgh‘s relative prosperity. Historically, the term dates from the period before 1707 when Scotland was an independent kingdom, but it has been applied loosely to later structures built in the traditional architectural style of crosses or structures fulfilling the function of marking a settlement’s focal point. Historical documents often refer simply to “the cross” of whichever town or village is mentioned. Today, there are around 126 known examples of extant crosses in Scotland,  though the number rises if later imitations are added.

Aberdeen’s mercat cross history would go back to that earlier history when it received  Royal Burgh status from David I of Scotland (1124–53). 

The cross was the place around which market stalls would be arranged, and where ‘merchants’ (Scots for shopkeepers as well as wholesale traders) would gather to discuss business. It was also the spot where state and civic proclamations would be publicly read by the “bellman” (town crier). The cross was also the communal focal point of public events such as civic ceremonials, official rejoicings, and public shamings and punishments, including executions. Some crosses still incorporate the iron staples to which jougs and branks were once attached. This would be the reason for it’s close proximity to the Tolbooth, which would often hold public executions right outside their door.

Despite the name, the typical mercat cross is not usually cruciform, or at least has not been since the iconoclasm of the Scottish Reformation. The cross atop the shaft may have been replaced with a small statue, such as a royal unicorn or lion, symbols of the Scottish monarchy, or a carved stone displaying the arms of the royal burgh, or, in the cases of ecclesiastical burghs or burghs of barony, the bishop’s or feudal superior‘s coat-of-arms. Thus the reason for the Unicorn at top of Aberdeen’s mercat cross.

Five crosses: at Edinburgh, Dundee, Perth, Aberdeen and Preston (modern Prestonpans) were supported by a drum-shaped understructure, known as a cross-house, with a platform reached by internal steps or ladder. In the case of Aberdeen‘s late 17th-century cross the platform is supported by a series of open semi-circular arcades. 

 

close up of unicorn at top of mercat cross

Close up of unicorn at top of mercat cross

 

views of city center city center view of black friars pub

The castle was surrendered to the English in 1295 and on 14 April 1296, the English King, Edward I arrived in Aberdeen and stayed in the castle as part of his tour of the east coast of Scotland having defeated the Scots.  However the next year, after defeating the English at Dunnottar Castle in 1297, William Wallace marched his men to Aberdeen during their campaign to retake the east-coast for the Scots.

They found the English hastily preparing to leave in an armada of one hundred ships. The speed of Wallace’s arrival from Dunottar caught the English unawares and at low tide the stranded ships were attacked in the harbour, the crew and soldiers slaughtered, the cargo taken and the ships burnt. The English Sheriff of Aberdeen, Sir Henry de Lazom had been left in charge of the Castle, but during the chaos of the attack he defected, declaring it in the name of the Scottish King, John de Balliol.  This account of William Wallace’s actions and victory in Aberdeen would certainly explain or justify why the English may have sent a portion of his executed body back to Aberdeen! 

It is thought the castle and fortifications were burned down  by King Robert the Bruce in June 1308, during the Wars of Scottish Independence immediately following the Harrying of Buchan. Bruce and his men laid siege to the castle before massacring the English Garrison to prevent its use by the English troops of Edward II. It is said the Scots showed no mercy but “slew every man who fell into their hands. Edward I, indeed, had already set the example of executing his prisoners, and it was not to be expected that the other side would fail to follow the same course”. On 10 July 1308, English ships left Hartlepool to help the English garrison.  However, by August 1308, Gilbert Pecche and the last troops had all been forced out of the city. Following the destruction of Aberdeen Castle, Bruce marched his men to capture Forfar Castle.  Legend tells that the city’s motto, Bon Accord came from the password used to initiate Bruce’s final push and destruction of the castle.  Bon Accord translates to Good Agreement. 

In the first part of the Tolbooth’s history tour, you will find a diorama display of the earliest days of Aberdeen.  At that early time, it was still two separate villages and there were three hills. The city began as two separate burghs: Old Aberdeen at the mouth of the river Don; and New Aberdeen, a fishing and trading settlement, where the Denburn waterway entered the river Dee estuary.  The city was burned by Edward III of England in 1336, but was rebuilt and extended, and called New Aberdeen. The city was strongly fortified to prevent attacks by neighbouring lords, but the gates were removed by 1770. 

Aberdeen was in Pictish territory and became Gaelic-speaking at some time in the medieval period. Old Aberdeen is the approximate location of Aberdon, the first settlement of Aberdeen; this literally means “the mouth of the Don”. The Celtic wordaber means “river mouth”, as in modern Welsh (Aberystwyth, Aberdare, Aberbeeg etc.). The Gaelic name is Obar Dheathain (variation: Obairreadhain) (obar presumably being a loan from the earlier Pictish; the Gaelic term is “inbhir”), and in Latin, the Romans referred to the river as Devana. Mediaeval (or ecclesiastical) Latin has it as Aberdonia. You can see a remnant of the Pictish history on a tour of St Machar’s Cathedral.

Pictish carving at Machar's Cathedral

Pictish carving at Machar’s Cathedral

pictish cross stone information at Machar's Cathedral

pictish cross stone information at Machar’s Cathedral

Over the centuries, the rivers were diverted at various times and two of the three original hills disappeared. Aberdeen Castle sat on Castle hill (Castlegate). This is the only remaining hill. The other two hills were Port hill where the early City Gate was, and St. Catherine’s hill which has been completely leveled. Those three hills are represented on the city’s shield of arms and on the city’s banner flag by three towers.  

coat of arms for Aberdeen

coat of arms for Aberdeen

City Banner flag of Aberdeen

City Banner flag of Aberdeen

 

tolbooth2

 

The second half of the Tolbooth tour went further up the stairs to the cells with history of the jail and it’s various inhabitants from some early witches, a pirate, a lot of debtors, and some Jacobites after the rebellion of 1745. As he talked about the Jacobites, our guide gave us some insight from the standpoint and perspective of ones who were not Jacobites but suffered consequences and affects of the various rebellions. His comments and thoughts gave me pause for thought and inspired me to learn more about all of the sides, the reasons and complexities of so many events taking place over the years,  which combined and culminated in the last Jacobite rebellion.  Most of the tour history on the cells and inhabitants dealt with the period of that last rebellion and later. If you look at Aberdeen’s earlier history and the date the prison was built, it most likely played a part in the rebellions and civil wars during the 1600s. 

The Tolbooth was built between 1616 and 1629 by Thomas Watson, a master mason from Old Rayne. The Wardhouse of the Tolbooth was the prison for both the Royal Burgh of Aberdeen and Aberdeenshire until the 19th century.

Over the centuries The Tolbooth has witnessed, and often played a part in, some of the key events in Aberdeen’s and Scotland’s history. During the 1745 Jacobite rebellion, when the Duke of Cumberland stayed in Aberdeen in order to put down the rebellion here before leaving for Culloden, he posted troops on the steeple of The Tolbooth to watch out for rebels and very visibly display the reasserting of royal authority. After the rebels had been defeated at Culloden hundreds of rebel prisoners were brought back to The Tolbooth where they were interrogated. In the mid-18th century The Tolbooth was one of the many places associated with one of the darkest episodes of Aberdeen’s history. A number of Aberdeen’s merchants and magistrates organised the kidnapping of hundreds of children from both the town and countryside. These children were then stored in various places, including The Tolbooth, before being transported to the Americas and sold as indentured servants.

Regarding the Tolbooth’s involvement in that darker part of Aberdeen history- the child slavery mentioned above, the Tolbooth museum was more recently involved in opening the curtains of that shrouded more secret history. On 11-06-07 the city of Aberdeen pulled back the curtain on a dark part of the cities history. At the Tolbooth Museum “Open to the Public” they had re-enactments of a very dark part of Aberdeen’s past history and helped to tell the stories of those children.  You can read the story of one of those abducted children here:

The Tale of Peter Williamson   http://unknownscottishhistory.com/articleseventeen.php

The Tolbooth stopped being used as a prison in the 19th century and was replaced by Aberdeen’s first ‘modern’ prison, the Bridewell, built on what we now call Rose Street. The Tolbooth remained in use during the time the Bridewell was opened and after, when the Bridewell was replaced by the East Prison on Lodge Walk, as a holding prison. The Tolbooth survived when the new Townhouse was laid out. The front of The Tolbooth was encased in granite, but the rear of the building still shows its original sandstone with its 17th century battlements. 

For anyone interested in history, this museum is an excellent introduction to the history of Aberdeen. It was my first stop on the way to learning about Aberdeen’s long, turbulent past and how it fit in with the rest of the many events that shaped and forged what Scotland has become today.  My only caution to those visiting the museum- it is not suitable for anyone with mobility difficulties as the only way to reach the museum is by way of very narrow medieval type spiral type steps up to the different levels. Because of the building, there is no way to provide any assistance or other option to reach the upper levels- my meaning in this- there is no way for them to say install a lift or elevator.  It is also probably not suitable or appropriate for young children who would not really understand much of the history presented. 

You can plan your visit to the Tolbooth for early in the morning and then head out to all of the other sites of interest within the city. After our visit to the Tolbooth, we went to the Maritime museum which was fairly short walk from city center. This museum gives you a great history of Aberdeen’s long connection to the sea as a port city from it’s earliest beginnings to it’s present day importance in the oil industry. There are a number of hands on activities for children and it also currently has a toy history exhibit which everyone will find interesting and fun!

Aberdeen maritime museum early diving suit at maritime museum robot diver at maritime museum

After the Maritime museum, we went back up to city center and embarked on a self guided walking tour of the city. The maps provided by the tourism office were excellent and we found it easy to find our way around the city. We stopped at St Nicholas Kirk which is easy to spot due the Arches. It is close to city center and you really can’t miss it!

St Nicholas Arch

St Nicholas Arch

St Nicholas kirkyard information

St Nicholas kirkyard information

walkway to St Nicholas Kirk

walkway to St Nicholas Kirk

graves and tombstone in St Nicholas kirkyard

graves and tombstone in St Nicholas kirkyard

St Nicholas Kirk

St Nicholas Kirk

We continued our walking tour and eventually found the William Wallace monument. It was a long walk but we had a beautiful day for it and the city was full of sites and scenery to view.

views of the city

Later in the afternoon, we returned to city center and headed out in the opposite direction with a trek down to the harbor, the old fishing village neighborhood of Footdee or Fittie. The guidebooks and tourist info are a little misleading about this area… it is not a living history village but is an actual residential neighborhood with it’s buildings still being those old stone cottages from the days of the original fishing village. It was a nice walk down to the harbor and beach though. You can walk along the seawall walk behind the cottages towards the beach area. 

footdee seawall walk footdee-fittie

north sea coast3 North sea coast at Aberdeen north sea 2

On our walk back up from the beach we found a great little pub called Fittiebar. You won’t find this pub/bar on the tour guides. It is not one of those trendy touristy type places, it is in the working neighborhood of the docks. There is nothing fancy about it. It is a casual comfortable working class place to grab a pint, a plate, relax and probably enjoy the company of regulars and friends. The menu is on the board listing the specials for the day, though the Bartender/server did laugh and mention that one of these days they get posh and order some real menus… My personal advice- don’t change a thing! Possibly the best part of the experience was seeing her mix up the batter for our fish with an addition of beer from the tap! 

fittie bar2

Fittiebar in Aberdeen

IMG_7531 fittie bar menu

That was our first day in Aberdeen! In my next post, I will share more of our stay in Aberdeen along with more of it’s history. This awesome Granite city so full of  interesting history that I am intrigued and fascinated with all of it! As I mentioned in the beginning, everyone is so interested in the other cities and places such as the Highlands and Edinburgh that Aberdeen and the area around it does not get the attention it deserves!  I look forward to returning and exploring more of it.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Travel planning and Last Kingdom!

Ahhhh I’ve been so busy with initial travel plans that I have not had time to focus or concentrate on much else lately. When you first think about it, 6 months seems like a long time in the future and one might have the thought of “That’s so far out there, why worry so much about it now?” In reality, we’ve come to realize that planning a trip such as this is somewhat similar to planning a wedding. When you break down all of the various details that need to be addressed in order for this to be successful, 6 months is not really all that long! I mentioned in my previous post that one of those important details needing attention so far ahead of time was the accommodations. Those have been set and so now they shape the rest of the travel plans because they set the route and the stopping points for the trip. We also quickly realized that while we would love to take that more care free, wing it attitude that we so often do with our road trips, we really need to plan ahead for this sort of adventure. We will remain somewhat flexible in our sight seeing options along the way but there are just some things that we feel we can not be quite so flexible on. 

As I mentioned in the previous article, there are a few specific places and sights that we have labeled as priorities and those sights must be included in our overall plan.  My daughter has added her own additional stipulations to the plans… she is determined expand her knowledge and appreciation of Beer and breweries. Neither of us are quite so fond of harder spirits such as Whisky but really, one can not visit Scotland without tasting the Whisky.  She was initially more set on the Beer and breweries so she set about a search for breweries in Scotland. She was immediately served with a list of distilleries rather than breweries in that area so has chosen to embrace, or at least experience the Whisky in Scotland. So, because of this, we must find a way to include some of that Whisky experience in our tour of Scotland. Her current thought is as long as the day ends at a pub with opportunity for appreciating the alcohol, she’s good with what ever else happens throughout the day. I am quite fine with that idea as well, and one thing we both agree on is that there will be absolutely no tasting, experiencing or appreciating Haggis!

We have spent the past week tweeking and adjusting our plan and schedule in regards to what we feel is most important and what is realistically workable for us. It has been a process of  thinking on what we truly want to see and experience the most, what we can do without and what we feel is actually doable given our tight timeline and budget. Part of this intense pre-planning is having an estimate far ahead of time on the budget aspect. We need to have a good idea of how much some of these must see sights and experiences will cost us as well when they are open and how much time they will take to experience.  Because of the time issues and the budget, we really do need to have a fairly detailed plan set well ahead of time. I wish it could be otherwise but as I said, in order for this marathon race to be successful, we need to be well prepared and have a good solid plan as to how to accomplish this adventure.

Our time in Scotland is pretty well mapped and set- I will give you more details about that in a separate post. In this post, I want to talk about the one portion or leg of the trip that we have spent the past few days working on. This is possibly the most important and exciting portion for me… and my daughter has begun to show some great enthusiasm for it as well. This one day trip from Edinburgh to Leeds will  be  full of history from ancient Romans, early Anglo-Saxons, Viking era, some Norman influences and some Scottish history. I can’t even think of which is more interesting or important and there is no way to try to eliminate one sight or place from the plan… believe me, we did try but when it came right down to it, neither of us could say “No, let’s toss this part out” so we opted for a way to include as much of it as possible. I will admit that being able to fit Bamburgh Castle into the plan and have my daughter get excited about it was a highpoint of the planning!

This portion of the trip will truly be a marathon day and because of that we have attempted to plan it out as much as possible. In order to hopefully include all of the sights we have listed as a priority on this portion, the pre-planning was and is essential. This will be an incredibly long day. Our ultimate goal is to visit each of the following sights/places and arrive in Leeds completely exhausted- probably late in the evening with no thought or plan to do anything there but sleep and be ready for the next day’s trip.

We will leave Edinburgh as early as possible on Saturday morning in order to accomplish our marathon history goal.  Our mapped out schedule is as follows:

Edinburgh to Prestonpans:

edinburgh to prestonpans

This is a relatively short trip, about 1/2 hour drive. Prestonpans is the site of the 1745 Battle of Prestonpans, and has a history dating back to the 11th century. The town boasts some impressive examples of historical architecture, such as the Preston Tower and the doocot and the local Mercat Cross, which is the only one of its kind in Scotland which remains in its original form and location.  The town is also credited for achieving the title of “Scotland’s Mural Town” with many wall murals reflecting the town’s colourful past.

According to certain stories Prestonpans was originally founded in the 11th century by a traveller named Althamer, who became shipwrecked on the local beach/coastal area. Finding it impossible to get home, the survivors of the wreck decided to remain where they were and founded a settlement named Althamer in honour of their leader. Whether this story is true or not is a matter of opinion, however when the monks of Newbattle and Holyrood arrived in the district in 1184 there was already a settlement named ‘Aldhammer’ on the site of what is now Prestonpans. The monks gave the settlement their own name, Prieststown or Prieston. Because of the salt manufacturing carried out by the monks using pans on the sea shore, the town’s name would later develop into Salt Prieststown and Salt Preston, and finally Prestonpans.

The Battle of Prestonpans (also known as the Battle of Gladsmuir) was the first significant conflict in the second Jacobite Rising. The battle took place on 21 September 1745. The Jacobite army loyal to James Francis Edward Stuart and led by his son Charles Edward Stuart defeated the army loyal to the Hanoverian George II led by Sir John Cope. The victory was a huge morale boost for the Jacobites, and a heavily mythologised version of the story entered art and legend. A memorial to the Battle of Prestonpans in the form of a modest stonemason-built cairn sits close to the battle site. An earlier (and tellingly, much larger and more impressive) monument to Colonel James Gardiner, a Hanoverian who was mortally wounded on the field of battle, was also erected in 1853 near Bankton House where the Colonel lived. It was sculpted by Alexander Handyside Ritchie. Each year on the anniversary of the battle, a Battlefield Walk is organised by local historians, and in September 2008 the Battle of Prestonpans 1745 Trust organised a symposium on local battlefields. A memorial in the parish church commemorates “John Stuart of Phisgul…barbarously murdered by four Highlanders near the end of the Battle.

Battle_of_Prestonpans_Cairn

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Battle_of_Prestonpans

I have stated previously that this trip is not any sort of Outlander theme type trip but more about all of the rich history of both Scotland and England. This site is important to all of that history and may interest some of the Outlander readers/fans because it the battle that the Jacobite forces won. The Battle of Prestonpans was the first significant conflict in the Jacobite Rising of 1745. The battle took place at 4 am on 21 September 1745. The Jacobite army loyal to James Francis Edward Stuart and led by his son Charles Edward Stuart defeated the government army loyal to the Hanoverian George II led by Sir John Cope. The inexperienced government troops were outflanked and broke in the face of a highland charge. The victory was a huge morale boost for the Jacobites, and a heavily mythologised version of the story entered art and legend. We will arrive at Prestonpans early in the morning and most likely won’t see too much, but we are hopeful that we can manage to fit in something of the history.

 

From Prestonpans it is  short trip on to Berwick upon Tweed. We will be following the coastal route down through this portion of England.

prestonpans to berwick

prestonpans to Berwick

The trip from Prestonpans to Berwick is about an hour.

Berwick-upon-Tweed  is a town in the county of Northumberland and is the northernmost town in England,  on the east coast at the mouth of the River Tweed. It is 2 12 miles (4 km) south of the Scottish border. It is about 56 miles (90 km) east-south east of Edinburgh, 65 miles (105 km) north of Newcastle upon Tyne and 345 miles (555 km) north of London. Founded as an Anglo-Saxon settlement during the time of the kingdom of Northumbria, the area was for more than 400 years central to historic border war between the Kingdoms of England and Scotland, and several times possession of Berwick changed hands between the two kingdoms. The last time it changed hands was when England again took it in 1482. Berwick remains a traditional market town and also has some notable architectural features, in particular its medieval town walls, its Elizabethan ramparts and Britain’s earliest barracks buildings (1717–21 by Nicholas Hawksmoor for the Board of Ordnance).

In 1296 England went to war with France, with whom Scotland was in alliance. Balliol invaded England in response, sacking Cumberland.  Edward in turn invaded Scotland and captured Berwick, destroying much of the town. Edward I went again to Berwick in August 1296 to receive formal homage from some 2,000 Scottish nobles, after defeating the Scots at the Battle of Dunbar in April and forcing John Balliol to abdicate at Kincardine Castle the following July. It was at this time that work began on building the town walls (and rebuilding the earlier Castle); these fortifications were complete by 1318 and subsequently improved under Scottish rule. An arm of William Wallace was displayed at Berwick after his execution and quartering on 23 August 1305. In 1314 Edward II of England mustered 25,000 men at Berwick, who later fought in (and lost) the Battle of Bannockburn.

Between 1315 and 1318 Scottish armies, sometimes with the help of Flemish and German privateers, besieged and blockaded the town, finally invading and capturing it in April 1318.[21] England retook Berwick some time shortly after the Battle of Halidon Hill in 1333.  In October 1357 a treaty was signed at Berwick by which the Scottish estates undertook to pay 100,000 marks as a ransom for David II of Scotland,  who had been taken prisoner at the Battle of Neville’s Cross on 17 October 1346.

Berwick Castle was the site where one of Robert the Bruce’s supporters, Isabella Macduff was imprisoned for 4 years of the war between Scotland and England. She was the daughter of Donnchadh III, Earl of Fife, and Johanna de Clare, daughter of Gilbert de Clare, 6th Earl of Hertford. She was married to John Comyn, Earl of Buchan and thus was the Countess of Buchan. After Robert the Bruce killed John III Comyn, Lord of Badenoch at Greyfriars Kirk in Dumfries, the Earl of Buchan joined the English side in the Scottish Wars of Independence. Isabella took the contrary view.

According to tradition, the ceremony of crowning the monarch was performed by a representative of Clan MacDuff, but Isabella arrived in Scone the day after the coronation of Robert the Bruce in March 1306. However, the Bruce agreed to be crowned for a second time the day after, as otherwise some would see the ceremony as irregular, not being performed by a Macduff.  Bruce was defeated at the Battle of Methven in June 1306, so he sent Isabella and his female relatives north, but they were betrayed to the English by Uilleam II, Earl of Ross. Edward I of England ordered her sent to Berwick-upon-Tweed with these instructions: “Let her be closely confined in an abode of stone and iron made in the shape of a cross, and let her be hung up out of doors in the open air at Berwick, that both in life and after her death, she may be a spectacle and eternal reproach to travellers.”[1]

She was imprisoned in this cage for four years,  then moved to the Carmelite friary at Berwick. This was not necessarily a humanitarian move; it is suggested that by this stage Bruce was gaining support, his female relatives were potentially valuable hostages, and the English did not want them to die of ill-treatment. The last clear mention of her is being transferred again in 1313, her eventual fate is uncertain. Most of Bruce’s female relatives returned to Scotland when they were exchanged for English nobleman captured after the Battle of Bannockburn, but there is no mention of her in the records, so she had probably died by then.   Little or nothing remains of the original Castle other than ruins but I am hoping to see them!

berwick castleberwick castle2berwick castle3

With our arrival in Berwick upon Tweed, we will officially be in Northumbria! We will drive down the coast from Berwick towards the best part of all… for me anyway- we will make our way to Bamburgh Castle! For fans of Bernard Cornwell’s Last Kingdom series, Bamburgh Castle is the basis for Uhtred’s ancestral home of Bebbanburg!

berwick to bamburgh castle

berwick to bamburgh castle

From Berwick to Bamburgh Castle is about  1/2 hour drive and will take us past Lindisfarne/Holy Island. Due to our limited time frame, we will not be making the trip to the Island. I have been advised that there is the very real possibility and likelihood that we could get stranded there for a number of hours because of the tides. We will view it from the mainland as I am not about to miss out on Bamburgh Castle because I am stuck on Holy Island for 4-5 hours!

 

As I mentioned, Bamburgh Castle is the basis for Bebbanburg Castle, Uhtred’s childhood home.

Young Uhtred of Last Kingdom

Young Uhtred of Last Kingdom

I am Uhtred rightful lord of Bebbanburg I am Uhtred and I wll claim what is mine

For those of you waiting and anticipating the premiere of Last Kingdom on BBC America which airs on Saturday, just a few days from now- here is just a quick biography of Uhtred:

Uhtred was born into status as son of Ealdorman Uhtred, Lord of Bebbanburg, and raised to have hatred towards the surrounding kingdoms of Mercia, East Anglia, Wessex, Scotland and the Danes. Uhtred was originally called Osbert and was the younger of Ealdorman Uhtred’s sons. The name Uhtred was given always to the oldest son, but after his older brother was killed in a failed attack on the Danes Osbert’s name was changed to Uhtred. Uhtred was never taught swordsmanship in his nine years at Bebbanburg as his stepmother wanted him to pursue a life dedicated to being a priest.

In 866, the first of the Danish army began to arrive in Northumbria. In their speed the Danes were able to capture Eoferwic. Ealdorman Uhtred was killed in the failed assault to reclaim Eoferwic, and Uhtred was captured by the Danes following his furious but feeble attack on a Danish warlord. That warlord, Ragnar the Fearless, son of Ravn, decided to nurture Uhtred’s fury into a suitable fighting spirit and so adopted him. Uhtred found that living with the Danes was a much freer existence than with the pious Christians and their dour priests at Bebbanburg and embraced the Danish gods of Thor, Odin, and Hoder. Uhtred came to love Ragnar as a father and became a brother to Ragnar’s sons, Ragnar and Rorik, and daughter, Thyra.

Living in Ragnar’s company was enjoyable, even after Rorik’s death of sickness, until everything changed. Ragnar had made an enemy in a man named Kjartan due to an incident between Thyra and Kjartan’s son, Sven. The enmity came to a head one night when Uhtred was in the forest making charcoal for weapons. Kjartan led a warband to where Ragnar and his family were sleeping and lit their hall on fire, killing them all. Kjartan initially believed Uhtred to have also died in the fire. Uhtred was crushed by Ragnar’s death and left Northumbria to find family amongst the Saxons in Mercia, to the south.

Uhtred ended up in Wessex and in the service of Alfred the Great. Wessex was the last unconquered Saxon kingdom in England and thus always under constant threat from the Danes. Despite Uhtred’s childhood he began to fight and revel in Danish defeats. However, Uhtred had a particular hatred towards Alfred whom he believed too pious, weak and trusting to fight off the Danish invasion, although he maintained a healthy respect for Alfred’s intelligence. Alfred managed to calm any wanton violence between the two and Uhtred served him faithfully, though grudgingly, and at times with a mind to return to the Danes. Yet, as Uhtred’s usefulness improved so did Alfred’s attention, and as Uhtred aged he began to understand Alfred’s wisdom although dislike was always present.

 

Now, here is some information on the real Bamburgh Castle.

Built on a dolerite outcrop, the location was previously home to a fort of the native Britons known as Din Guarie and may have been the capital of the British kingdom of the region (see Gododdin, Bryneich and Hen Ogledd)  from the realm’s foundation in c.420 until 547, the year of the first written reference to the castle. In that year the citadel was captured by the Anglo-Saxon ruler Ida of Bernicia (Beornice) and became Ida’s seat. It was briefly retaken by the Britons from his son Hussa during the war of 590 before being relieved later the same year.  His grandson Æðelfriþ passed it on to his wife Bebba, from whom the early name Bebbanburgh was derived. The Vikings destroyed the original fortification in 993.

The Normans built a new castle on the site, which forms the core of the present one. William II unsuccessfully besieged it in 1095 during a revolt supported by its owner, Robert de Mowbray, Earl of Northumbria. After Robert was captured, his wife continued the defence until coerced to surrender by the king’s threat to blind her husband.

Bamburgh then became the property of the reigning English monarch. Henry II probably built the keep. As an important English outpost, the castle was the target of occasional raids from Scotland. In 1464 during the Wars of the Roses, it became the first castle in England to be defeated by artillery, at the end of a nine-month siege by Richard Neville, 16th Earl of Warwick.

The Forster family of Northumberland provided the Crown with twelve successive governors of the castle for some 400 years until the Crown granted ownership to Sir John Forster. The family retained ownership until Sir William Forster (d. 1700) was posthumously declared bankrupt, and his estates, including the castle, were sold to Lord Crew, Bishop of Durham (husband of his sister Dorothy) under an Act of Parliament to settle the debts.  The castle deteriorated but was restored by various owners during the 18th and 19th centuries. It was finally bought by the Victorian industrialist William Armstrong, who completed the restoration. The castle still belongs to the Armstrong family, and is opened to the public. It also hosts weddings and corporate events. It has been used as a film location since the 1920s, featuring in films such as Ivanhoe (1982), El Cid (1961), Mary, Queen of Scots (1971), Elizabeth (1998) and both the 1971 and 2015 adaptions of Macbeth. This gives me all the more reason to see the current movie, Macbeth!

bamburgh castle1 bamburgh castle2 bamburgh castle3 bamburgh castle5 bamburgh castle6 bamburgh castle7 bamburgh castle8

http://www.bamburghcastle.com/castle.php

 

I may have extreme difficulty tearing myself away from Bamburgh… I have a feeling that my daughter may have to step in and forcibly drag me away! If we are able to manage departing this place in a reasonable amount of time, we will head on to Roman history at Housesteads Roman Fort which is a part of Hadrian’s Wall.

bamburgh to housesteads roman fort near hexham

It is about 1 1/2 hour drive from Bamburgh to Housesteads so we may end up in a sever time crunch to fit this or the next possible stop into our schedule. Set high on a dramatic escarpment on Hadrian’s Wall World Heritage Site, Housesteads Roman Fort takes you back to the Roman Empire. Wander the barrack blocks and the hospital. Peer into the oldest toilets you’ll ever see, and admire the stunning panoramic views from this ancient fortress. Our interactive museum showcases objects once belonging to Roman soldiers, and the mini-cinema will take you on a journey through time. 

Roman Fort and Tour

Imagine what life was like for the 800 soldiers living and working at Housesteads in Roman times.  The fort’s original name was ‘Vercovicium’ meaning ‘the place of the effective fighters’.

At the very edge of their empire, the soldiers were secure and self-sufficient within the fort. They had a barracks block, hospital, Commander’s House, granaries and communal toilets, all of which you can still see today.

 

http://www.english-heritage.org.uk/visit/places/housesteads-roman-fort-hadrians-wall/

 

housesteads-hadrians-wall-view housesteads-museum housesteads-roman-fort

 

As I’ve mentioned already, this will be a marathon day and if we manage to accomplish all of it, I think we shall consider ourselves winners!  From Housesteads, we will head for Leeds.

housesteads to leeds

It’s another two hour drive from Housesteads to Leeds so I can safely assume that by the time we arrive in Leeds it will be fairly late. Our plan is just to find our hotel and crash into bed! No sights or plans other than that for the Leeds area!  I was originally hoping to fit in a trip through Durham on the way to Leeds but being realistic, we’ll be lucky to accomplish what is on this list as it is without adding anything else to the plan!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

TimeSlips: looking back and forward!

 

Timeslips cover

We’ve reached another huge milestone and once again it’s time to take a few moments to thank everyone who visits and travels through history with me! A few of you have been here since the beginning with me and I want you to know how much I appreciate your continued following through all of the paths we’ve taken in exploring history. Some of you arrived here via the Sims, where this all started, some made the journey through those mysterious Outlander Stones, and yet others have sailed in with the Vikings!  No matter how you have found us, many of you have chosen to stay on the journey.  I can not tell you how much it means to me, how much I appreciate your visits, your comments, questions, and your involvement in this site. I bid you all a gracious and heartfelt welcome and hope that you will continue to enjoy exploring the past with me!  As I mentioned, we have reached a personal milestone for me- 100,000 views! If you have been with me from the earliest beginnings, you will understand why this is such an amazing accomplishment for me.

I began this blog as a way to share my little fantasy world of the Sims 3, my builds, my characters and my stories within that context. One thing has been here since that initial beginning and that has been a life long love of history! I used that Sims platform to begin sharing my love of history, story telling and the weaving of those passions together. I am forever grateful to the Sims 3 for providing me with a basis to begin this journey!  If you look back in my archives, you will find the creations, the ideas and the stories that have led us to where we are today- in the middle of the Viking era with historical figures such as Ragnar, Rollo, King Ecbert, King Charles of France and others who will arrive in our future.

When I began building the castles and homes of history, I did it with the thought and premise that every building has a history filled with people, events and stories never told. I went on the idea that perhaps if one had such ability, they might be able to feel the vibrations, hear the sounds of that past and see the stories unfold in some way. Much of my early writing was a combination of building or renovation progress and the stories that came to life with that progress. I based it much on the way you might see it if you were renovating a historical building in real life. Each time you strip away a layer of paint or dust, you find a new layer, a new story of the past.

As I’ve mentioned, it all began with Sims 3, with castles, with royals, with history and fantasy woven together. Those creations, characters and stories were a huge part of  our beginnings here . While I have progressed from them, I have not forgotten them and I am proud of them. That early work enabled me to set a foundation for this blog that I have tried to keep in mind even today as I use other platforms such books and television to hopefully inspire and encourage you on your own explorations of history. My intent has always been to present history in a way that is interesting and captures your attention. I have always tried, from the beginning to present historical facts in a way that you might be curious enough to go off on your own search of history. In the past, I used the Sims 3 platform to weave together a long and ongoing look at history with a huge dose of fantasy… the Sims allowed me to explore that venue, that realm of vampires, fairies, witches and time travel and use them in telling the stories of the past. As I used that method, I always tried to incorporate actual events, facts and real life mysteries where ever possible along the way. Those early stories, while often fanciful did lead us through history from the present to the past and back again. Yes, I have taken a break from them, but as any writer can attest to, sometimes you need to step back, take a long break, and perhaps re-evaluate your work. The story remains in the background waiting for that time when you can return, re-focused with a clearer idea of where to go. That is where my story is… always in the back of my mind, always in my heart, waiting for that time when I can return to it and give it the proper attention and focus that it deserves!

In a way, my deviation and time away from the story is actually a way of doing more research into the past while keeping my original story and those characters that are now like a part of my family in mind. In some ways, the paths are always connected whether  or not you are ever aware of it. My mind continues to research, to piece together events and people together in relation to my beloved story of the past, the present and the future!

For those of you who have arrived later in the journey and have not searched this space for other bits of information, I can only suggest and hope that you take some time during your visits here to explore those other times, places and stories that are stored here! My archives have become a rather vast vault of time and history spanning from the earliest Roman history in Britain, to that now ever present Viking era that involves so much more than just the Vikings, it veers from tales and history of King Arthur to the mysteries of the princes of the tower. Our journey through time brought us to the world of Outlander, where we became lost in the Standing Stones and spent much time in the 1700s of Scotland and early America, and because of that trip, we found ourselves immersed in the world of the Vikings and early Saxon history! As a result, we are now on a journey through the early medieval period that includes those Vikings, Saxons, and everyone else in between that the Vikings influenced from the Frankish Empire to the creation of Normandy and the eventual battle for a united Kingdom of Britain, as well as future travels to Iceland, Ireland, Scotland, and possibly even on to earliest explorations of North America.

So, how do my early stories of history still remain connected to this present path we are on?  Well, for that you need to take a look at some of those early stories and where my characters have been in the past. First of all, you may need a short summary of how their stories actually began with a fantasy called Royals Castle and a young woman named Eleanor Deguille… my first blog entries covered the beginnings of her story and her life. She began at Royals Castle, traveled through time to various points in history, arrived in the present and then travelled back again. Throughout her story, she met a number of historical figures, viewed some important events and, her story introduced us to some other important characters who had their own stories to tell.

Lady Eleanor DeGuille through time and history, from a lonely child pawn of Royals to an uncertain romance, timeless friendship to a Mother's spirit within her guiding her journey and her destiny.

Lady Eleanor DeGuille through time and history, from a lonely child pawn of Royals to an uncertain romance, timeless friendship to a Mother’s spirit within her guiding her journey and her destiny.

Eleanor’s story was the start of this blog! If you are interested, you can read those earliest beginnings here:

https://timeslipsblog.wordpress.com/2013/07/19/eleanors-journal-entries/

For another look at Eleanor and how her life is woven together within the threads of history and legends, you can read this story about the legends of Avalon, Melusine the Water Goddes and my interpretation of that legend as it shows up through history with people such as Henry VIII and his ancestors making claims to being descended from Arthur and even Melusine! Melusine is a legend or tale that has it’s origins in early France, mainly Poitou, the low countries, and Normandy! She was often referred to as the  fairy of Normandy, or Bretagne. Connecting Eleanor to this legend gave her a more solid connection to the history of France.

Avalon cover1

Arthur and Vivianne

Arthur and Vivianne

https://timeslipsblog.wordpress.com/melusinas-story-a-royals-link-to-avalon/

Eleanor Deguille’s mysterious life eventually connected her to the beginnings of tales of Britain, Romans  and a man named Arthur… that is was where her life, her time travel and her story began. While her story and the rest of it is steeped in the fantasy of those Vampires, Witches, Fairies and time travel, it is woven together with those real events of history. Eleanor’s story took her from that early beginning in the fairy tale realm of British history to the 1400s and 1500s of France, England and Scotland. In those earliest beginnings we met a man named Eric North. Eric’s story is just as important as Eleanor’s and it is a connecting point for that earliest time in Britain’s history. Eric’s story begins in the present day, and then goes on to tell the story of the earliest migrations of the Norse to areas of Northern Britannia as it was known then by the Romans who inhabited the isle. Eric began his life in one of the far off North places and made a journey by sea as a young child with his family to a place now known as the Isle of Skye on the coast of Scotland. He spent his youth growing up in that place which would eventually become Dunvegan Castle.  I used this place and this Castle as the setting for Eric’s birthplace and ancestral home because of it’s rich ties to early Viking history as well as it’s stories of such mythical things as the Fairie Flag. It’s location also lent itself well to making it plausible as a place that some of those earliest travelers might have made their way to. I have always attempted to make those  connections where ever possible when weaving together the fantasy and the history.

You can read part of Eric’s story here:

https://timeslipsblog.wordpress.com/2014/06/20/eleanors-journal72-erics-memories-a-time-before-vampyres-and-a-life-of-contradictions/

Eric in the Castle Eric's final farewell to loved ones

While Eric’s character and story are that of the fantasy realm, his story does make the connections from that earliest migration of the Norse, their settling in this new unknown place and their eventual plausible meetings with the Romans who were attempting to advance from the southern portions of Britannia into the northern portions which were already inhabited by groups such these ancient Norse and Picts…  Eric’s story tells of the rich history  those northern regions now known as Scotland. His story presents the earliest known legends and theories that go back as far as Egyptian migrations to that area!

You can find more of the ancient history of  the Romans and the Norse migration here:

https://timeslipsblog.wordpress.com/2014/06/24/from-the-creator-ancient-history-connects-the-norse-with-romans-and-king-arthur/

This early post explains some of the theories and thoughts on possible Egyptian migration to Ireland and Scotland!

https://timeslipsblog.wordpress.com/2014/07/20/from-the-creator-historical-information/

As to why I chose the Isle of Skye for the setting, you can read that here:

https://timeslipsblog.wordpress.com/2014/06/02/from-the-creator-some-historical-background/

If you go back and read some of these early posts, I think you will see how Eric came to play such an important part in my story, how he sort of took over the story with his life and his story and why he remains such an important connection for me on my path through history which has landed me in this time of the Vikings and kept me here for so long!

 

All of those early stories of history have led us to where we are right now, exploring the real history of all of those people that Michael Hirst and other creators/authors introduce us to! One such important person is Rollo, who we have seen claw his way out of the shadows and darkness of his early life to put himself on the path to his own fame and dynasty.

 

Portrait of Rollo's destiny. Credit to Ines Jagger of Vikings Aftermath group and to lindamarieanson of deviant art. 600px-Cronological_tree_william_I_svg

William the Conqueror AKA William I

Recently, I began reading a book about our Viking, Rollo’s descendant, William the Conqueror and was rather surprised to find a mention of the Fairie Flag in it. The Fairie Flag is one of those relics of Dunvegan Castle that I originally found so intriguing when researching a past for my character,  Eric.

Dunvegan cup, Fairie Flag and rory mors horn

Dunvegan cup, Fairie Flag and rory mors horn

fairy_flag_2

http://fairyroom.com/2013/01/fairy-flag-of-dunvegen/

More information on the history of Scotland, Clans, Dunvegan Castle and the Fairy Flag can be found in this early post:

https://timeslipsblog.wordpress.com/2014/06/21/from-the-creator-some-history-of-clans-in-scotland/

Now, as I mentioned, the book I was reading was about William the Conqueror and Normandy so I was immediately puzzled and curious about this  reference to the Fairy Flag. The book is  The Lion and the Rose: William Rising by Hilary Rhodes. It is the first book in a series about William, his history and his conquest of England. Yes, it is historical fiction, but it is extremely well researched and I think it presents a great picture of the man and his path to the Crown of England. The author presents and provides some excellent resources and references as well as weaving together an interesting story!

http://www.amazon.com/Lion-Rose-Book-One-William-ebook/dp/B00L4K5GKE/ref=sr_1_3?s=digital-text&ie=UTF8&qid=1433189138&sr=1-3&keywords=the+lion+and+the+rose

Fairie flag and Robert of Normandy

In the beginning of the book, William’s Father, Robert the Magnificent or Robert the Devil, travels to the Byzantine Empire where he meets the Empress Zoe, who shares a foreshadowing, a prophecy of his future with him. That prophecy is a bit of a puzzle for readers to decipher throughout the book or books. I found it interesting, intriguing and of course I had to go in search of answers!  The prophecy states: The fighting man and the wyvern and the fairie flag, all will come, and all will give battle, but it is the lion that reaches for the roots. I can not see the end of that. I can not see if it will be enough. The deepest roots can be ripped free. And there is a great ripping to come, aye.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Robert_I,_Duke_of_Normandy

In attempting to make sense of this puzzle, there is one other piece of information that shows up on the same page and is an important clue. This bit of information ultimately gives us the answer to the puzzle of the Fairie Flag and links the entire story and history of Dunvegan Castle to that of the Vikings. That clue is found in the mention of one Harald Sigurdsson… otherwise known  as Harald Hardrada!

Harald_Hardrada_window_in_Kirkwall_Cathedral_geograph_2068881

Harald Sigurdsson (Old Norse: Haraldr Sigurðarson; c. 1015 – 25 September 1066), given the epithet Hardrada (harðráði, roughly translated as “stern counsel” or “hard ruler”) in the sagas, was King of Norway (as Harald III) from 1046 to 1066. In addition, he unsuccessfully claimed the Danish throne until 1064 and the English throne in 1066. Prior to becoming king, Harald had spent around fifteen years in exile as a mercenary and military commander in Kievan Rus’ and in the Byzantine Empire.

When he was fifteen years old, in 1030, Harald fought in the Battle of Stiklestad together with his half-brother Olaf Haraldsson (later Saint Olaf). Olaf sought to reclaim the Norwegian throne, which he had lost to the Danish king Cnut the Great two years prior. In the battle, Olaf and Harald were defeated by forces loyal to Cnut, and Harald was forced in exile to Kievan Rus’ (the sagas’ Garðaríki). He thereafter spent some time in the army of Grand Prince Yaroslav the Wise, eventually obtaining rank as a captain, until he moved on to Constantinople with his companions around 1034. In Constantinople, he soon rose to become the commander of the Byzantine Varangian Guard, and saw action on the Mediterranean Sea, in Asia Minor, Sicily, possibly in the Holy Land, Bulgaria and in Constantinople itself, where he became involved in the imperial dynastic disputes. Harald amassed considerable wealth during his time in the Byzantine Empire, which he shipped to Yaroslav in Kievan Rus’ for safekeeping. He finally left the Byzantines in 1042, and arrived back in Kievan Rus’ in order to prepare his campaign of reclaiming the Norwegian throne. Possibly to Harald’s knowledge, in his absence the Norwegian throne had been restored from the Danes to Olaf’s illegitimate son Magnus the Good.

In 1046, Harald joined forces with Magnus’s rival in Denmark (Magnus had also become king of Denmark), the pretender Sweyn Estridsson, and started raiding the Danish coast. Magnus, unwilling to fight his uncle, agreed to share the kingship with Harald, since Harald in turn would share his wealth with him. The co-rule ended abruptly the next year as Magnus died, and Harald thus became the sole ruler of Norway. Domestically, Harald crushed all local and regional opposition, and outlined the territorial unification of Norway under a national governance. Harald’s reign was probably one of relative peace and stability, and he instituted a viable coin economy and foreign trade. Probably seeking to restore Cnut’s “North Sea Empire“, Harald also claimed the Danish throne, and spent nearly every year until 1064 raiding the Danish coast and fighting his former ally, Sweyn. Although the campaigns were successful, he was never able to conquer Denmark. Not long after renouncing his claim to Denmark, the former Earl of Northumbria, Tostig Godwinson, brother of the newly chosen English king Harold Godwinson, pledged his allegiance to Harald and invited him to claim the English throne. Harald went along and entered Northern England in September 1066, raided the coast and defeated English regional forces in the Battle of Fulford near York. Although initially successful, Harald was defeated and killed in an attack by Harold Godwinson’s forces in the Battle of Stamford Bridge.

Modern historians have often considered Harald’s death at Stamford Bridge, which brought an end to his invasion, as the end of the Viking Age. Harald is also commonly held to have been the last great Viking king, or even the last great Viking.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Harald_Hardrada

 

Harald Hardrada could be considered as the fighting man of the prophecy, but what connection would that have in relation to the other parts, such as the Fairie Flag of Dunvegan Castle?  What does the Fairie Flag or Dunvegan have to do with this at all? Well, for that, you need to know the history of Dunvegan Castle, and the theories on the origins of the Fairie flag!

dunvegan8

Dunvegan Castle

dunvegan3

Dunvegan Castle2

 

https://timeslipsblog.wordpress.com/2014/06/09/from-the-creator-history-of-dunvegan-castle/

Although three individual Chiefs in the last seven generations have been comprehensively ruined by the apocalyptic difficulties caused by the unrelenting hostility from centralised government towards the Clan system practised behind the Highland line, they have remained faithful to the Rock. Dunvegan Castle is said to be the oldest inhabited castle in Northern Scotland, having been occupied by the Chiefs of MacLeod continuously, for over seven centuries and still today remaining the Ancestral home of the present chief, Hugh MacLeod of MacLeod, the 30th of the line, and his family.

Geneologies trace the origins of the McClures and the MacLeods to a thirteenth century fellow named Leod (1200-1283), the son of Olaf the Black, King of the Isle of Man, who in turn was the descendent of the eleventh century Norse King Harald Hardrada. Leod married Lady Macarailt, an heiress to Dunvegan, the birth of their two sons (Tormond and Torquil) marking the entry of the MacLeods into Dunvegan and the pages of history. Very simply, “Mac” is a Gaelic word meaning “son of” with Tormond fathering the MacLeods of Harris, and Torquil begetting the MacLeods of Lewis. (Incidentally, the McClure’s are the descendents of Tormond.)

 As to the theories on the Fairie Flag…  Legends, however fantastic or far-fetched they may appear to be, are rarely without some trace of historical fact. When a relic survives to tell its own story, that at least is one fact it is impossible to ignore. The precious Fairy Flag of Dunvegan, the most treasured possession of the Clan, is just such a relic …The traditional tales about its origin, some of them very old indeed, have two themes – Fairies and Crusaders. Fairy stories are difficult to relate to fact; they often occur as a substitute for forgotten truth. The connection with the Crusades can, however, be linked to the only definite information available as to the origin of the Fairy Flag – the fabric, thought once to have been dyed yellow, is silk from the Middle East (Syria or Rhodes); experts have dated it between the 4th and 7th centuries A.D., in other words, at least 400 years before the First Crusade. So was it the robe of an early christian saint? Or the war banner of Harold Hardrada, King of Norway, killed in 1066, or did it emerge mysteriously from some grassy knoll in Skye? The Legends are all we have to guide us to the answer.

So, there is our connection between Harald Hardrada, the Fairie Flag and Dunvegan Castle! Harald’s connection to the prophecy and to William the Conqueror is that he was one of the fighting men attempting to lay claim to the crown of England at the same time as William. He felt he also had a valid claim and chose to fight Harald Godwinsson for it. It is sometimes thought that his battle with Harald brought about the end of the Viking age, and the end of Harald’s rule of England as well. Harald Godwinsson and his forces defeated Harald Hardrata at the  Battle of Stamford Bridge but did not have time to recover fully before having to turn around and face William and his army at Hastings. The forces were well evenly matched and the battle was close. It is thought that had Godwinsson’s army been better rested and recovered from the previous battle with Hardrada, they would probably have been victorious in the battle of Hastings.

There is one  bit of information on Harald Hardrada that should be of interest to all of us who are waiting for the next raiding season of the Vikings Saga to arrive…

Harald Hardrada was a descendant and a member of the Fairhair/Finehair dynasty of Norway. A member of that dynasty is rumored to be arriving on our Viking shores soon! One Harald Finehair and brother, Halfdan the Black will be showing up as rivals and threats to Ragnar.

peter franzen4

https://timeslipsblog.wordpress.com/2015/05/06/vikings-season-4-coming-soon-to-a-village-near-you/

Harald Fairhair (Old Norse: Haraldr Hárfagri, Norwegian: Harald Hårfagre; c. 850 – c. 932) was remembered by medieval historians as the first King of Norway. According to traditions current in Norway and Iceland in the twelfth and thirteenth centuries, he reigned from c. 872 to 930. Most of his life remains uncertain, since the extant accounts of his life in the sagas were set down in writing around three centuries after his lifetime. A few remnants of skaldic praise poems attributed to contemporary court poets exist which seem to refer to Harald’s victories against opponents in Norway. The information supplied in these poems is inconsistent with the tales in the sagas in which they are transmitted, and the sagas themselves often disagree on the details of his background and biography.  Two of his sons, Eric Bloodaxe and Haakon the Good, succeeded Harald to become kings after his death.

Harald_Hardrada_saga_ancestry

A last bit of interesting information on Harald Hardrada…. it seems that there has been some effort and attempt being made to make a bio-pic movie about his life. I just recently came across a few articles regarding the possibility of Leonardo DeCaprio producing and starring in such a movie. The articles are a bit dated though and I have heard nothing else about such a project. I am curious about it  and wonder if it is still going forward…. With all of interest now in Viking history, I would think it might do well!

http://www.slashfilm.com/leonardo-dicaprio-producing-and-could-star-in-viking-film-king-harald/

 

This battle for the crown of England was  much a case of family disputes and feuds over who had right or claim to that crown. Harald Hardrada had a claim based on his link to the previous ruler, Harthacanut of Denmark and England but realistically he had a very weak claim at best. Harald Godwinsson had no real claim either, the only with any true justifiable blood claim to the crown was indeed William the Conqueror, who was at least a blood relative- even though distant- of King Edward. So, in this sense, William would end up digging deep into the family roots and toppling all to claim the crown. The only other person with a better and legitimate blood claim was unfortunately a young boy with no hope of winning any battle for the crown.

The one other part of the prophecy that we have not mentioned yet is the wyvern.

A wyvern (/ˈwvərn/ WEYE-vərn), sometimes spelled wivern, is a legendary winged creature with a dragon‘s head and wings; a reptilian body; two legs; and a barbed tail.

The wyvern in its various forms is important to heraldry, frequently appearing as a mascot of schools and athletic teams (chiefly in the United States and United Kingdom). It is a popular creature in European and British literature, video games, and modern fantasy. The wyvern is often (but not always) associated with cold weather and ice, and it will sometimes possess a venomous bite or have the ability to breathe fire. The wyvern is a frequent charge in English heraldry and vexillology, also occasionally appearing as a supporter or crest.

In regards to it’s mention in the prophecy, a wyvern is used as symbol in one very  important place.  The Wyvarn is depicted as the symbol of Wessex, the home of Ecbert and his descendents including Alfred the Great and on to Edward the Confessor who left the future rule of England in such dispute and question that his witan/council even went so far as to search for a long exiled and hidden heir residing in Hungary!

After the Danish conquest of England in 1016, Canute had the sons of Edward’s half brother Edmund Ironside, Edward said to be only a few months old, and his brother, Edmund, sent to the Swedish court of Olof Skötkonun  (who was either Canute’s half-brother or stepbrother), supposedly with instructions to have the children murdered. Instead, the two boys were secretly sent either to Kiev, where Olof’s daughter Ingigerd was the Queen, or to Poland, where Canute’s uncle Bolesław I Chrobry was duke.  Later Edward made his way to Hungary, probably in the retinue of Ingigerd’s son-in-law, András in 1046, whom he supported in his successful bid for the Hungarian throne. Many years later when it became apparent that King Edward and his wife Edyth were not going to produce and heir, a search for any missing heirs ensued and Edward the exile was found in Hungary.

On hearing the news of his being alive, Edward the Confessor recalled him to England in 1056 and made him his heir. Edward offered the last chance of an undisputed succession within the Saxon royal house. News of Edward’s existence came at a time when the old Anglo-Saxon Monarchy, restored after a long period of Danish domination, was heading for catastrophe. The Confessor, personally devout but politically weak and without children, was unable to make an effective stand against the steady advance of the powerful and ambitious sons of Godwin, Earl of Wessex. From across the Channel William, Duke of Normandy, also had an eye on the succession. Edward the Exile appeared at just the right time. Approved by both king and by the Witan, the Council of the Realm, he offered a way out of the impasse, a counter both to the Godwinsons and to William, and one with a legitimacy that could not be readily challenged.

Edward, who had been in the custody of Henry III, the Holy Roman Emperor, finally came back to England at the end of August 1057. But he died within two days of his arrival. The exact cause of Edward’s death remains unclear, but he had many powerful enemies, and there is a strong possibility that he was murdered, although by whom is not known with any certainty. It is known, though, that his access to the king was blocked soon after his arrival in England for some unexplained reason, at a time when the Godwinsons, in the person of Harold, were once again in the ascendant. This turn of events left the throne of England to be disputed by Earl Harold and Duke William, ultimately leading to the Norman Conquest of England.  Edward the exile did leave an heir, a young boy- Edgar the Aetheling who was immediately made heir apparent or Atheling. When Edward died, the boy, a young teen at the time was too young to successfully wage a fight for the crown or win any war that was certain to follow. The council feared being taken over again by outsiders waiting for a chance to claim England so they chose instead to elect Harald Godwinsson to the rule. Edgar eventually found asylum in Scotland with Malcom III, who had married Edgar’s sister Margaret.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Edgar_the_%C3%86theling

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Edward_the_Confessor

Wessex is often symbolised by a wyvern or dragon.

Both Henry of Huntingdon and Matthew of Westminster talk of a golden dragon being raised at the Battle of Burford in AD 752 by the West Saxons. The Bayeux Tapestry depicts a fallen golden dragon, as well as a red/golden/white dragon at the death of King Harold II, who was previously Earl of Wessex. However, dragon standards were in fairly wide use in Europe at the time, being derived from the ensign of the Roman cohort, and there is no evidence that it identified Wessex.

 

800px-Flag_of_Wessex_svg

Wyvern on early flag of Wessex

 

Why is any of this important in relation to where we’re at now in history with the Viking age?  It is extremely important because the Vikings of our Vikings saga as presented by Michael Hirst, and hopefully soon the onscreen version of Bernard Cornwell’s Saxon Chronicles, will soon move on to the next years, the next era of the Viking history that includes so much more than just the story of Ragnar Lodbrok and his adventures. We will soon be traveling to the time when Ragnar’s sons and so many others make their own marks and contributions to history. We will see the beginning of Rollo’s great dynasty in Normandy take shape, we will see Ecbert’s grandson, Alfred the Great will take his place in history. The battles for land and claims to kingdoms will begin in earnest and we will witness all of it. As we do, I will continue to help weave the history and the stories together, and perhaps one of these days, I will even find time and inspiration to return to some of my original stories.  I hope that all of you will remain on the journey with me and enjoy all of it!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Book Review and some music to go with it! The Fox by Arlene Radasky

 

 

The FoxOk, a break from our Viking adventure to quickly post my most recent book review! This book is nothing to do with the Viking Era, it goes much further back in time than that! It covers the pre-history of Scotland, deals with the early Roman invasions and take overs of the land, and gives a very good representation of the Picts and the Druids during that time. It is also not time travel but does tell two stories, one of the present day and one of the ancient pre-history.  Arlene Radasky does an excellent job of weaving the two stories together and connecting them in a very personal way through archeology digs, research and a woman’s dreams/visions of the past. It is well documented, researched and put together, drawing you into the  history, the ancient culture and the mysteries of that long ago little known about time in history. She also provides some wonderful lyrics from music by Steve MacDonald to accompany and open the chapters! And, for me, the very best part and hardest part was the end… She leads us towards the Isle of Skye, and Skara Brae- two of my favorite places in historical Scotland. The bad part was that it ended, and as yet there is no second book! She is working on the next book though, so I will anxiously await the continuation of this series!

Steve McDonald – Sons of Somerled

 

 

The Fox by Arlene Radasky

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Just finished this book and was left wishing for more! What a great story, both of them! It was two intertwined stories about the present and the ancient past. I was so fascinated with how she wove both stories together through the archeology digs and research. As some others have mentioned, I was more invested and attached to the ancient story than the present one. The present time portion seemed less thought out and somewhat forced but it was still a good story to use as a vehicle to tell the ancient story of Scottish pre-history. I loved her referrals and use of lyrics to music by Steve MacDonald to open the chapters. I gave it the 4 stars because of the lesser present time story and because, well… I want the next book now!
Arlene Radasky’s website for the Fox!

http://www.radasky.com/Site/Welcome.html

Steve McDonald – The Stone Of Destiny

View all my reviews

Musical inspiration: Christmas music!

 

 

 

A bit of additional music to enjoy while you travel through time! A variety of early medieval music, Celtic Carols, and Norse folk music to accompany our travels back in time while exploring the history of Christmas! If you have been reading the Christmas posts, you will know that we have traveled back to early medieval Britain, Scotland and the lands of the ancient Norse. I have tried to provide you with a sample of all.

The Middle Ages saw the emergence of great changes. After fall of the (Roman Empire) the violent times of the Dark Ages had led to a primitive society lacking in engineering skills or refinement. The traditions of Western music can be traced back to the social and religious developments that took place in Europe during the Middle Ages, the years roughly spanning from about 500 to 1400 A.D. Because of the domination of the early Catholic Church during this period, sacred music was the most prevalent. Beginning with Gregorian Chant, sacred music slowly developed into a polyphonic music called organum performed at Notre Dame in Paris by the twelfth century. Secular music flourished, too, in the hands of the French trouvères and troubadours, until the period culminated with the sacred and secular compositions of the first true genius of Western music, Guillaume de Machaut.

For more info….

Visit here; http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Medieval…

All music and images belong to their rightful owners no copyright infringement intended.

Enjoy!!!

 

Blackmore’s Night Christmas Eve

 

Blackmore’s Night Lord of the Dance Simple Gifts

 

Celtic Woman – Carol Of The Bells

 

Celtic woman Christmas Pipes

 

Pagan Norse

 

A journey in the North (Nordic folk music)

 

Duan Nollaig – A Scottish Gaelic Christmas

 

The Pipes of Christmas

This Christmas, travel to the Celtic lands of Scotland, Ireland and Wales with the Pipes of Christmas. This annual holiday favorite raises funds for music scholarships for students studying Celtic music. For more information visit http://www.pipesofchristmas.com

 

These next few are not medieval, nor all that historical in any sense… but they are a few of my favorites and when I listen to them, I am able to easily travel back in time and enjoy the memories they bring to me!

Anything by Bing Crosby immediately takes me back to my childhood memories of Christmas. While our annual tradition is White Christmas, this particular song is my all time favorite!

 

White Christmas

 

I’ll be home for Christmas

 

 

I can not leave without including some Christmas music from another favorite musician of mine.

Rod Stewart Silent Night

 

Rod Stewart Auld Lang Syne

 

Rod Stewart Silver Bells

Time Traveler’s guide to Christmas: Pre-Christian roots

Music to accompany your holiday time travel journey: https://timeslipsblog.wordpress.com/2014/12/16/musical-inspiration-christmas-music/

 

 History of Christmas in early England

Previous post: https://timeslipsblog.wordpress.com/2014/12/12/time-travelers-guide-to-christmas-part-one/

yule3

As I mentioned in the previous post, this next discussion will focus on earlier forms of celebrating Christmas. As we work through the history, you will find that many of the customs and traditions you follow now as Christmas celebrations are passed on from much earlier pre-Christian winter Solstice celebrations.  Some of them are remnants of Roman traditions but the majority of them that we are most familiar with stem from ancient Germanic and Nordic beliefs and customs. As we saw in the previous post, the earliest Norse migration into northern Scotland and the later Saxon and Viking migrations into the southern portions of the British Isles infused the cultures there with those Germanic and Norse traditions.  The earliest Romans also left their mark in some ways, but towards the end of their occupation of the land, they had become Christians and would eventually bring Christianity to the land.

 

 Roman traditions and beliefs

The druids, the Celtic priestly caste who were believed to originate in Britain,  were outlawed by Claudius,  and in 61 they vainly defended their sacred groves from destruction by the Romans on the island of Mona (Anglesey).  However, under Roman rule the Britons continued to worship native Celtic deities, such as Ancasta, but often conflated with their Roman equivalents, like Mars Rigonemetos at Nettleham.

The degree to which earlier native beliefs survived is difficult to gauge precisely. Certain European ritual traits such as the significance of the number 3, the importance of the head and of water sources such as springs remain in the archaeological record, but the differences in the votive offerings made at the baths at Bath, Somerset, before and after the Roman conquest suggest that continuity was only partial. Worship of the Roman emperor is widely recorded, especially at military sites. The founding of a Roman temple to Claudius at Camulodunum was one of the impositions that led to the revolt of Boudica. By the 3rd century, Pagans Hill Roman Temple in Somerset was able to exist peaceably and it did so into the 5th century.

Eastern cults such as Mithraism also grew in popularity towards the end of the occupation. The Temple of Mithras is one example of the popularity of mystery religions amongst the rich urban classes and temples to Mithras also exist in military contexts at Vindobala on Hadrian’s Wall (the Rudchester Mithraeum) and at Segontium in Roman Wales (the Caernarfon Mithraeum).

 

Fourth century Chi-Rho fresco from Lullingstone Roman Villa, Kent, which contains the only known Christian paintings from the Roman era in Britain.

It is not clear when or how Christianity came to Britain. A 2nd-century “word square” has been discovered in Mamucium, the Roman settlement of Manchester.  It consists of an anagram of PATER NOSTER carved on a piece of amphora. There has been discussion by academics whether the “word square” is actually a Christian artefact, but if it is, it is one of the earliest examples of early Christianity in Britain.  The earliest confirmed written evidence for Christianity in Britain is a statement by Tertullian, c. 200 AD, in which he described “all the limits of the Spains, and the diverse nations of the Gauls, and the haunts of the Britons, inaccessible to the Romans, but subjugated to Christ”.  Archaeological evidence for Christian communities begins to appear in the 3rd and 4th centuries. Small timber churches are suggested at Lincoln and Silchester and baptismal fonts have been found at Icklingham and the Saxon Shore Fort at Richborough. The Icklingham font is made of lead, and visible in the British Museum. A Roman Christian graveyard exists at the same site in Icklingham. A possible Roman 4th century church and associated burial ground was also discovered at Butt Road on the south-west outskirts of Colchester during the construction of the new police station there, overlying an earlier pagan cemetery. The Water Newton Treasure is a hoard of Christian silver church plate from the early 4th century and the Roman villas at Lullingstone and Hinton St Mary contained Christian wall paintings and mosaics respectively. A large 4th century cemetery at Poundbury with its east-west oriented burials and lack of grave goods has been interpreted as an early Christian burial ground, although such burial rites were also becoming increasingly common in pagan contexts during the period.

The Church in Britain seems to have developed the customary diocesan system, as evidenced from the records of the Council of Arles in Gaul in 314: represented at the Council were bishops from thirty-five sees from Europe and North Africa, including three bishops from Britain, Eborius of York, Restitutus of London, and Adelphius, possibly a bishop of Lincoln. No other early sees are documented, and the material remains of early church structures are far to seek.  The existence of a church in the forum courtyard of Lincoln and the martyrium of Saint Alban on the outskirts of Roman Verulamium are exceptional.  Alban, the first British Christian martyr and by far the most prominent, is believed to have died in the early 4th century (although some date him in the middle 3rd century), followed by Saints Julius and Aaron of Isca Augusta. Christianity was legalised in the Roman Empire by Constantine I in 313. Theodosius I made Christianity the state religion of the empire in 391, and by the 5th century it was well established. One belief labelled a heresy by the church authorities — Pelagianism — was originated by a British monk teaching in Rome: Pelagius lived c. 354 to c. 420/440.

A letter found on a lead tablet in Bath, Somerset, datable to c. 363, had been widely publicised as documentary evidence regarding the state of Christianity in Britain during Roman times. According to its first translator, it was written in Wroxeter by a Christian man called Vinisius to a Christian woman called Nigra, and was claimed as the first epigraphic record of Christianity in Britain. However, this translation of the letter was apparently based on grave paleographical errors, and the text, in fact, has nothing to do with Christianity, and in fact relates to pagan rituals.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Roman_Britain#Religion_2

While this may not seem related to our discussion of early Christmas traditions, it is important to know some of the early history of the land in order to better understand how the various beliefs and traditions came to merge together and become what we observe and practice today. It is of course, extremely important to any time traveler who might find themselves in such an earlier time period either by choice… or as the result of any miscalculation or error in the time travel mechanism! While Crag na dun Time Travel has perfected it’s travel, there is always the slight chance of malfunction resulting in a misplacement in time. In these rare cases, Crag na dun Travel will offer full refund and reimbursement upon your return. Please keep some receipt of travel to the time period as your proof of error on their part! Now, back to our discussion…

During the Roman occupation of the British Isles, they most likely left traces of their own midwinter celebrations. Their occupation of the area lasted for some time, from about 45Ad to the late 5th century.  Over those centuries, they made the transition from paganism to Christianity but many still practices and observed their Pagan festivals even after turning to Christianity. One such festival was that of Saturnalia.

Saturnalia

Saturnalia was an ancient Roman festival in honor of the deity Saturn, held on the 17th of December of the Julian calendar and later expanded with festivities through to the 23rd of December. The holiday was celebrated with a sacrifice at the Temple of Saturn, in the Roman Forum, and a public banquet, followed by private gift-giving, continual partying, and a carnival atmosphere that overturned Roman social norms: gambling was permitted, and masters provided table service for their slaves. The poet Catullus called it “the best of days.”

In Roman mythology, Saturn was an agricultural deity who was said to have reigned over the world in the Golden Age, when humans enjoyed the spontaneous bounty of the earth without labor in a state of social egalitarianism. The revelries of Saturnalia were supposed to reflect the conditions of the lost mythical age, not all of them desirable. The Greek equivalent was the Kronia.

Although probably the best-known Roman holiday, Saturnalia as a whole is not described from beginning to end in any single ancient source. Modern understanding of the festival is pieced together from several accounts dealing with various aspects.  The Saturnalia was the dramatic setting of the multivolume work of that name by Macrobius, a Latin writer from late antiquity who is the major source for information about the holiday. In one of the interpretations in Macrobius’s work, Saturnalia is a festival of light leading to the winter solstice, with the abundant presence of candles symbolizing the quest for knowledge and truth.  The renewal of light and the coming of the new year was celebrated in the later Roman Empire at the Dies Natalis of Sol Invictus, the “Birthday of the Unconquerable Sun,” on December 25.

The popularity of Saturnalia continued into the third and fourth centuries AD, and as the Roman Empire came under Christian rule, some of its customs have influenced the seasonal celebrations surrounding Christmas and the New Year.

The poet Catullus describes Saturnalia as the best of days. It was a time of celebration, visits to friends, and gift-giving, particularly of wax candles (cerei), and earthenware figurines (sigillaria). The best part of the Saturnalia (for slaves) was the temporary reversal of roles. Masters served meals to their slaves who were permitted the unaccustomed luxuries of leisure and gambling. Clothing was relaxed and included the peaked woollen cap that symbolized the freed slave, which looks an awful lot like Santa Claus’s peaked red hat . A member of the familia (family plus slaves) was appointed Saturnalicius princeps, roughly, Lord of Misrule.

So, the tradition of Saturnalia left us with gift giving, candles, Santa’s red hat… and the Lord of Misrule!

 

Lord of Misrule

In England, the Lord of Misrule — known in Scotland as the Abbot of Unreason and in France as the Prince des Sots — was an officer appointed by lot at Christmas to preside over the Feast of Fools. The Lord of Misrule was generally a peasant or sub-deacon appointed to be in charge of Christmas revelries, which often included drunkenness and wild partying, in the pagan tradition of Saturnalia.

The Church held a similar festival involving a Boy Bishop. This custom was abolished by Henry VIII in 1541, restored by the Catholic Queen Mary I and again abolished by Protestant Elizabeth I, though here and there it lingered on for some time longer.[1] On the Continent it was suppressed by the Council of Basle in 1431, but was revived in some places from time to time, even as late as the eighteenth century.

 

In the spirit of misrule, identified by the grinning masks in the corners, medieval floor tiles from the Derby Black Friary show a triumphant hunting hare mounted on a dog.

While mostly known as a British holiday custom, the appointment of a Lord of Misrule comes from antiquity. In ancient Rome, from the 17th to the 23rd of December, a Lord of Misrule was appointed for the feast of Saturnalia, in the guise of the good god Saturn. During this time the ordinary rules of life were subverted as masters served their slaves, and the offices of state were held by slaves. The Lord of Misrule presided over all of this, and had the power to command anyone to do anything during the holiday period. This holiday seems to be the precursor to the more modern holiday, and it carried over into the Christian era.

In the Tudor period the Lord of Misrule is mentioned a number of times by contemporary documents referring to both revels at court and among the ordinary people.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lord_of_Misrule

 

Boxing Day

In addition to the already listed contributions, the Romans were also responsible for the eventual tradition and holiday of Boxing Day, which is celebrated throughout the British Isles.

The exact etymology of the term “boxing day” is unclear. There are several competing theories, none of which is definitive.  The European tradition, which has long included giving money and other gifts to those who were needy and in service positions, has been dated to the Middle Ages, but the exact origin is unknown. It is believed to be in reference to the Alms Box placed in places of worship to collect donations to the poor. Also, it may come from a custom in the late Roman/early Christian era, wherein metal boxes placed outside churches were used to collect special offerings tied to the Feast of Saint Stephen, which in the Western Church falls on the same day as Boxing Day.

In Britain, it was a custom for tradespeople to collect “Christmas boxes” of money or presents on the first weekday after Christmas as thanks for good service throughout the year.This is mentioned in Samuel Pepys‘ diary entry for 19 December 1663.  This custom is linked to an older English tradition: since they would have to wait on their masters on Christmas Day, the servants of the wealthy were allowed the next day to visit their families. The employers would give each servant a box to take home containing gifts and bonuses, and maybe sometimes leftover food.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Boxing_Day

 

Anglo-saxon  period, traditions and beliefs

The Romans left the British Isles around the end of the 5th century and were replaced by the Angles/ Saxon invasion and migration into the area. They arrived during the 5th century and remained a dominant force until 1066 and William the Conqueror took over the land.

The Anglo-Saxons were a people who inhabited Great Britain from the 5th century. They included people from Germanic tribes who migrated to the island from continental Europe, and their descendants; as well as indigenous British groups who adopted some aspects of Anglo-Saxon culture and language. The Anglo-Saxon period denotes the period of British history between about 450 and 1066, after their initial settlement, and up until the Norman conquest.

The Anglo-Saxon period includes the creation of an English nation, with many of the aspects that survive today including regional government of shires and hundreds; the re-establishment of Christianity; a flowering in literature and language; and the establishment of charters and law. The term Anglo-Saxon is also popularly used for the language, in scholarly use more usually called Old English, that was spoken and written by the Anglo-Saxons in England and eastern Scotland between at least the mid-5th century and the mid-12th century.

The history of the Anglo-Saxons is the history of a cultural identity, and how this developed from divergent groups, grew with the adoption of Christianity, was used in the establishment of various kingdoms, and, in the face of a threat from Danish settlers, re-established itself as one identity until after the Norman Conquest.  The outward appearance of Anglo-Saxon culture can be seen in the material culture of buildings, dress styles, illuminated texts and grave goods. Behind the symbolic nature of these cultural emblems there are strong elements of tribal and lordship ties, and an elite that became kings who developed burhs, and saw themselves and their people in Biblical terms. Above all, as Helena Hamerow has observed, “local and extended kin groups remained…the essential unit of production throughout the Anglo-Saxon period”.

Use of the term Anglo-Saxon assumes that the words Angles, Saxons or Anglo-Saxon have the same meaning in all the sources. Assigning ethnic labels such as “Anglo-Saxon” is fraught with difficulties, and the term itself only began to be used in the 8th century to distinguish “Germanic” groups in Britain from those on the continent.  Catherine Hills summarised the views of many modern scholars that attitudes towards Anglo-Saxon and hence the interpretation of their culture and history has been “more contingent on contemporary political and religious theology as on any kind of evidence.”

The history of the Saxons is far too in depth and extensive to delve into here and does not pertain all that much to our discussion of early Christmas traditions and beliefs. The most important thing to keep in mind and consider is that they were made of a variety of northern Germanic tribes. While some of these tribes were early converts to Christianity, many of them were not and brought with them their more Norse beliefs.

800px-Anglo_Saxon_migration_5th_cen

Many of the early Saxons had similar beliefs to the later Viking invaders, though as time passed they became the minority and were eventually over taken by those who had converted to Christianity.

For a more detailed and in depth look at these early Saxons, their struggle to hold on to their old ways and their eventual demise under the Christian influence, I would highly suggest you read this series of books by Octavia Randolph. I suggest here mainly because she deals with the early Saxon beliefs and how closely they were connected to the Norse/Vikings beliefs of the time. She also has excellent descriptions of some of their traditions and celebrations! It is a series of four books that tell a young woman’s journey through the Viking conquests of early England and then her life in the northern lands of  Danemark, and Gotland.

circle of ceridwen1

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/23123223-the-circle-of-ceridwen

In Circle of Ceridwen, Octavia Randolph discusses in great detail, the Saxon belief in Woden and  it’s close connection to the Viking belief in Odin.

 

 

Woden in Anglo-Saxon England

“If a West Saxon farmer in pagan times had walked out of his bury or ton above the Vale of Pewsey some autumn day, and looking up to the hills had caught sight of a bearded stranger seeming in long cloak larger than life as he stalked the skyline through the low cloud; and if they had met at the gallows by the cross-roads where a body still dangled; and if the farmer had noticed the old wanderer glancing up from under a shadowy hood or floppy brimmed hat with a gleam of recognition out of his one piercing eye as though acclaimed a more than ordinary interest, a positive interest, in the corpse;… and if all this had induced in the beholder a feeling of awe; then he would have been justified in believing that he was in the presence of Woden tramping the world of men over his own Wansdyke.”

Anglo-Saxon polytheism reached Great Britain during the 5th and 6th centuries with the Anglo-Saxon migration, and persisted until the completion of the Christianization of England by the 8th or 9th century.

For the Anglo-Saxons, Woden was the psychopomp or carrier of the dead,  but not necessarily with the same attributes as the Norse Odin. There has been some doubt as to whether the early English shared the Norse concepts of Valkyries and Valhalla. The Sermo Lupi ad Anglos refers to the wælcyrian “valkyries”, but the term appears to have been a loan from Old Norse; in the text, it is used to mean “(human) sorceress”.

The Christian writer of the Maxims found in the Exeter Book (341, 28) records the verse Wôden worhte weos, wuldor alwealda rûme roderas (“Woden wrought the (heathen) altars / the almighty Lord the wide heavens”). The name of such Wôdenes weohas (Saxon Wôdanes with, Norse Oðins ve) or sanctuaries to Woden survives in toponymy as Odinsvi, Wodeneswegs.

Royal genealogy

Woden listed as an ancestor of Ælfwald of East Anglia in the Textus Roffensis (12th century).

As the Christianisation of England took place, Woden was euhemerised as an important historical king  and was believed to be the progenitor of numerous Anglo-Saxon royal houses.

Discussing the Anglo-Saxon settlement of Britain, Bede, in his Ecclesiastical History of the English People (completed in or before 731) writes that:

The two first commanders are said to have been Hengist and Horsa … They were the sons of Victgilsus, whose father was Vecta, son of Woden; from whose stock the royal race of many provinces deduce their original.

The Historia Brittonum, composed around 830,  presents a similar genealogy and additionally lists Woden as a descendent of Godwulf,  who likewise in Snorri Sturluson’s Prose Edda is said to be an ancestor of “Vóden, whom we call Odin“.

According to the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, composed during the reign of Alfred the Great,  Woden was the father of Wecta, Beldeg, Wihtgils and Wihtlaeg  and was therefore an ancestor of the Kings of Wessex, Northumbria, Mercia and East Anglia. As in Bede’s Ecclesiastical History, a history of early Anglo-Saxon migration to Britain incorporating Woden as an ancestor of Hengist and Horsa is given:

These men came from three tribes of Germany: from the Old Saxons, from the Angles, and from the Jutes … their commanders were two brothers, Hengest and Horsa, that were the sons of Wihtgils. Wihtgils was Witta’s offspring, Witta Wecta’s offspring, Wecta Woden’s offspring. From that Woden originated all our royal family …

Descent from Woden appears to have been an important concept in Early Medieval England. According to N. J. Higham, claiming Woden as an ancestor had by the 8th century become an essential way to establish royal authority. Richard North (1997) similarly believes that “no king by the late seventh century could do without the status that descent from Woden entailed.”

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/W%C5%8Dden

Pre-cursor to Santa Claus

The reason that Woden and Odin become important in our discussion of Christmas is that they are both considered pre-cursors to Father Christmas and Santa Claus!

Throughout the Middle Ages and into the modern period, Woden persisted as a figure in folklore and folk religion, notably as the leader of the Wild Hunt found in English, German, Swiss, and Scandinavian traditions.

Woden is thought to be the precursor of the English Father Christmas, or Father Winter, and the American Santa Claus.

A celebrated late attestation of invocation of Wodan in Germany dates to 1593, in Mecklenburg, where the formula Wode, Hale dynem Rosse nun Voder “Wodan, fetch now food for your horse” was spoken over the last sheaf of the harvest.  David Franck adds, that at the squires’ mansions, when the rye is all cut, there is Wodel-beer served out to the mowers; no one weeds flax on a Wodenstag, lest Woden’s horse should trample the seeds; from Christmas to Twelfth-day they will not spin, nor leave any flax on the distaff, and to the question why? they answer, Wode is galloping across. We are expressly told, this wild hunter Wode rides a white horse.

A custom in Schaumburg is reported by Jacob Grimm: the people go out to mow in parties of twelve, sixteen, or twenty scythes, but it is managed in such a manner that, on the last day of harvest, they are all finished at the same time, or some leave a strip that they can cut down at a stroke, or they merely pass their scythes over the stubble, pretending that there is still some left to mow. At the last strokes of their scythes, they raise their implements aloft, plant them upright, and beat the blades three times with their strops. Each spills on the field a little of his drink—whether beer, brandy, or milk—then drinks it himself, while they wave their hats, beat their scythes three times, and cry aloud Wôld, Wôld, Wôld!. The women knock all of the crumbs out of their baskets onto the stubble. They march home shouting and singing. If the ceremony was omitted, the hay and corn crops would be bad in the following year. The first verse of the song is quoted by Grimm,

„Wôld, Wôld, Wôld!
Hävens wei wat schüt,
jümm hei dal van Häven süt.
Vulle Kruken un Sangen hät hei,
upen Holte wässt manigerlei:
hei is nig barn un wert nig old.
Wôld, Wôld, Wôld! “

“Wôld, Wôld, Wôld”!
Heaven’s giant knows what happens,
He, looking down from heaven,
Providing full jugs and sheaves.
Many a plant grows in the woods.
He is not born and grows not old.

“Wôld, Wôld, Wôld”!

 

Wodan_heilt_Balders_Pferd_by_Emil_Doepler wodin saxon god wodin

 

As the Saxons became Christians, their beliefs in the old Gods and old ways were considered Pagan by the Church. It was a constant struggle  for the Church to eliminate the Pagan beliefs and traditions so they began to incorporate the Pagan beliefs into their preaching as a way to draw the people in. This took place from the beginnings of the Church as an organized powerful and political force. No matter how they tried though, they were unable to get people to give up many of their long held traditions and celebrations of the mid-winter Solstice.  Their earliest means of  incorporating the mid-winter Solstice was to set the birth of Jesus at the same time, referring to him and the event as the “Sun of Righteousness”.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Christmas

The Saxons became Christians and the lower portions of the British Isles were  settled into small separate  kingdoms and territories ruled by newly Christian overlords who fought amongst themselves for power and control but  generally followed the laws of the Church, which held most of the power at the time. If they still practiced or observed Pagan traditions, they did it privately.

The arrival of the Norse Vikings brought back old ways, beliefs and traditions.

It is important to note here that the Saxon migration, as well as the later Viking migration only applies to the lower portion of the British Isles. Scotland was not really involved in this restructuring of the land and was dealing with it’s own changing dynamics. As I have previously mentioned, there was already a Norse migration and influence on the Northern portions of Scotland, the Church was also making it’s way into converting the Scottish lands, and there was what might be considered as a form of genocide of the remaining Druids and Picts of the areas. Little remains of either culture to determine what their traditions or beliefs might have entailed.  what we can note here is that the inhabitants of the Highland areas had a clan or tribal system that might be similar to those of Germanic or Norse tribal or clan systems.

For a better feel and sense of what was taking place in the northern areas of Scotland during these early times, I would suggest reading

 

For our purposes, we are focusing on the beliefs and traditions that we can more easily trace back to their original roots.

 Maggie Griggs makes the trip back in time in Veil of Time  by Claire R. McDougall.

Veil of Time

A compelling tale of two Scotlands-one modern, one ancient-and the woman who parts the veil between them.

The medication that treats Maggie’s seizures leaves her in a haze, but it can’t dull her grief at losing her daughter to the same condition. With her marriage dissolved and her son away at school, Maggie retreats to a cottage below the ruins of Dunadd, once the royal seat of Scotland. But is it fantasy or reality when she awakens in a bustling village within the massive walls of eighth-century Dunadd? In a time and place so strange yet somehow familiar, Maggie is drawn to the striking, somber Fergus, brother of the king and father of Illa, who bears a keen resemblance to Maggie’s late daughter. With each dreamlike journey to the past, Maggie grows closer to Fergus and embraces the possibility of staying in this Dunadd. But with present-day demands calling her back, can Maggie leave behind the Scottish prince who dubs her mo chridhe, my heart?

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/18144050-veil-of-time

Now, while the area of Dunnad and Kilmartin are filled with ancient Stone circles and Standing Stones, Maggie did not make use of them for her trip through time. They were an integral part or mechanism for her travel though as she had not experienced the time travel previously to her visit to Dunadd as an adult.  Also, the Druidess priestess and others she met in the past seemed to feel that the Stones were responsible for her travel as well as for any number of other events. Maggie was suffering from a number of traumatic events in life and decided to spend some time by herself in an isolated cottage at the base of the Dunnad hill fort.  She is working on her doctoral thesis- on the history of Witchcraft in Scotland and trying to finish it before facing a life altering and possible mind altering major operation to cure her of her epileptic seizures. It seems that the combination of the seizures and what ever mystical properties might be at this area are initially the trigger to send her back through time to the year 735 when Dunnad was at the height of it’s importance in history.

The book gives a very good description and visualization of  Mid-winter solstice celebrations as they might have taken place during that time! It also references the Druidic influences and Pict representation in that area and time.

https://timeslipsblog.wordpress.com/?s=veil+of+time

 

In our next segment, we will explore what happens when the Saxons of England face their past and their future with the arrival of the Norse Vikings who bring with them the old beliefs and traditions once more.

 

Settled Christian Saxons face their past and their future with arrival of Vikings

King Ecgbert of Wessex

King Ecgbert of Wessex

 

Time Traveler’s guide to Christmas! part one

Music to accompany your holiday time travel journey: https://timeslipsblog.wordpress.com/2014/12/16/musical-inspiration-christmas-music/

Welcome all to our Holiday edition of Time Slips! I have been quite busy of late between getting ready for the Holidays with my family and making final preparations for my upcoming Time Travel adventure with Crag na dun Time Travel tours. The preparations  for this trip have been far more extensive than I would have thought, and it has taken up much of my time. Mrs. Graham is adamant that I be well studied for any possible events of the time and place that they are sending me to? But, more of that a bit later!

 

yule%20log

For now, We are taking time out from all of our plans in order to share what we feel is important information for all of you might be planning your own trips back in time.  Mrs. Graham mentioned that there have  been a large number of  bookings over this Holiday season. It seems that these time travel packages are becoming popular gifts, and a great many people have expressed interest in experiencing a holiday of the past.  Mrs. Graham is somewhat concerned about this and has asked that we put together an informational page as a guideline to the differences you might experience as you travel back in time to what you believe is a more traditional holiday?

mrs graham3

I have to agree with Mrs. Graham in her concern for your expectations, and for your safety should you make some grevious error in communication or behavior should you not realize or understand the traditions, beliefs or even the laws of the past times to which you are traveling. For those of you who are planning to travel over the Holidays, it is most imperative that you read this guide- especially those of you have booked travel to 1600 and 1700s Scotland- as this is one of the most popular destinations right now, we will deal with some of this first!

Above all else, you should be aware of what the laws were regarding the celebration of Christmas during this time period. Many of you are planning trips to the highlands and may be expecting some great celebrations of the Christmas Holiday there… that would not be the case!

In 17th century England, some groups such as the Puritans, strongly condemned the celebration of Christmas, considering it a Catholic invention and the “trappings of popery” or the “rags of the Beast“.  In contrast, the established Anglican Church “pressed for a more elaborate observance of feasts, penitential seasons, and saints’ days. The calendar reform became a major point of tension between the Anglican party and the Puritan party.”  The Catholic Church also responded, promoting the festival in a more religiously oriented form. King Charles I of England directed his noblemen and gentry to return to their landed estates in midwinter to keep up their old-style Christmas generosity.  Following the Parliamentarian victory over Charles I during the English Civil War, England’s Puritan rulers banned Christmas in 1647.

Protests followed as pro-Christmas rioting broke out in several cities and for weeks Canterbury was controlled by the rioters, who decorated doorways with holly and shouted royalist slogans.  The book, The Vindication of Christmas (London, 1652), argued against the Puritans, and makes note of Old English Christmas traditions, dinner, roast apples on the fire, card playing, dances with “plow-boys” and “maidservants”, and carol singing.

The Restoration of King Charles II in 1660 ended the ban, but many Calvinist clergymen still disapproved of Christmas celebration. As such, in Scotland, the Presbyterian Church of Scotland discouraged the observance of Christmas, and though James VI commanded its celebration in 1618, attendance at church was scant.  The Parliament of Scotland officially abolished the observance of Christmas in 1640, claiming that the church had been “purged of all superstitious observation of days”.  It was not until 1958 that Christmas again became a Scottish public holiday.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Christmas

The celebration of Christmas would have been a very quiet, somber and rather secretive observe in private chapels among those Papists in the area.

Claire hears of no Christmas party this year

We also want to address the small matter of that other most revered personality of the season here… Yes, that would be Santa Claus!

Claire believes in Santa

A number of figures are associated with Christmas and the seasonal giving of gifts. Among these are Father Christmas, also known as Santa Claus (derived from the Dutch for Saint Nicholas), Père Noël, and the Weihnachtsmann; Saint Nicholas or Sinterklaas; the Christkind; Kris Kringle; Joulupukki; Babbo Natale; Saint Basil; and Father Frost.

The best known of these figures today is red-dressed Santa Claus, of diverse origins. The name Santa Claus can be traced back to the Dutch Sinterklaas, which means simply Saint Nicholas. Nicholas was Bishop of Myra, in modern-day Turkey, during the 4th century. Among other saintly attributes, he was noted for the care of children, generosity, and the giving of gifts. His feast on December 6 came to be celebrated in many countries with the giving of gifts.[70]

Saint Nicholas traditionally appeared in bishop’s attire, accompanied by helpers, inquiring about the behaviour of children during the past year before deciding whether they deserved a gift or not. By the 13th century, Saint Nicholas was well known in the Netherlands, and the practice of gift-giving in his name spread to other parts of central and southern Europe. At the Reformation in 16th–17th-century Europe, many Protestants changed the gift bringer to the Christ Child or Christkindl, corrupted in English to Kris Kringle, and the date of giving gifts changed from December 6 to Christmas Eve.

Father Christmas, a jolly, well nourished, bearded man who typified the spirit of good cheer at Christmas, predates the Santa Claus character. He is first recorded in early 17th century England, but was associated with holiday merrymaking and drunkenness rather than the bringing of gifts. Hmmm, it seems that Father Christmas could have been Claire’s patron saint, knowing her fondness for the drink? Except for the fact that he was of Sassenach origin, the rest of the highlanders might have requested his visits as well…

Now, given the fact that Claire was traveling from the 20th century and was a Sassenach, she would have most likely just addressed any requests she had to Santa, or Father Christmas…

Claire's letter to Santa

Hopefully, she would have made this request privately and not called even more attention to her odd ways and behaviors… such as her reference to stockings by the fire…

Well, fortunately for her, Saint Nicholas was able to decipher her letter and answered her requests!

Celebrating Hogmanay

too much whiskey

While the Scots of the time did not outwardly observe or celebrate Christmas, they did celebrate Hogamanay!

Hogmanay (Scots: [ˌhoɡməˈneː], HUG-mə-NAY, Scottish English: [ˌhɔɡməˈneː] HOG-mə-NAY) is the Scots word for the last day of the year and is synonymous with the celebration of the New Year (Gregorian calendar) in the Scottish manner. However, it is normally only the start of a celebration that lasts through the night until the morning of New Year’s Day (1 January) or, in some cases, 2 January—a Scottish Bank Holiday.

There are a number of theories on the origins of  Hogmanay. The etymology of the word is obscure. The three main theories derive it either from a French, Norse or a Goidelic (Insular Celtic) root. The word is first recorded in 1604 in the Elgin Records as hagmonay (delatit to haue been singand hagmonayis on Satirday) and again in 1692 in an entry of the Scotch Presbyterian Eloquence, “It is ordinary among some plebeians in the South of Scotland to go about from door to door upon New-years Eve, crying Hagmane”.

 

Some authors reject both the French and Goidelic theories, and instead suggest that the ultimate source both for the Norman French, Scots, and Goidelic variants of this word have a common Norse root.  It is suggested that the full forms

  • Hoginanaye-Trollalay/Hogman aye, Troll a lay (with a Manx cognate Hop-tu-Naa, Trolla-laa)
  • Hogmanay, Trollolay, give us of your white bread and none of your gray[19]

invoke the hill-men (Icelandic haugmenn, cf Anglo-Saxon hoghmen) or “elves” and banishes the trolls into the sea (Norse á læ “into the sea”).  Repp furthermore makes a link between Trollalay/Trolla-laa and the rhyme recorded in Percy’s Relics Trolle on away, trolle on awaye. Synge heave and howe rombelowe trolle on away, which he reads as a straightforward invocation of troll-banning.

The roots of Hogmanay perhaps reach back to the celebration of the winter solstice among the Norse,  as well as incorporating customs from the Gaelic celebration of Samhain. The Vikings celebrated Yule,  which later contributed to the Twelve Days of Christmas, or the “Daft Days” as they were sometimes called in Scotland. Christmas was not celebrated as a festival and Hogmanay was the more traditional celebration in Scotland.  This may have been a result of the Protestant Reformation after which Christmas was seen as “too Papist”.

Considering the fact that there was a Norse migration to the northern parts of Scotland long before the Vikings arrived in southern parts of the British Isles, the Norse origin would make sense.

https://timeslipsblog.wordpress.com/?s=Norse+migration+to+Scotland

 

There are many customs, both national and local, associated with Hogmanay. The most widespread national custom is the practice of first-footing, which starts immediately after midnight. This involves being the first person to cross the threshold of a friend or neighbour and often involves the giving of symbolic gifts such as salt (less common today), coal, shortbread, whisky, and black bun (a rich fruit cake) intended to bring different kinds of luck to the householder. Food and drink (as the gifts) are then given to the guests. This may go on throughout the early hours of the morning and well into the next day (although modern days see people visiting houses well into the middle of January). The first-foot is supposed to set the luck for the rest of the year. Traditionally, tall dark men are preferred as the first-foot.

 

This next custom of the highlands provides another connection or tie to more ancient Norse traditions and beliefs that midwinter is a time between living and dead, a time when the dead roam the earth among the living.

An old custom in the Highlands, which has survived to a small extent and seen some degree of revival, is to celebrate Hogmanay with the saining (Scots for ‘protecting, blessing’) of the household and livestock. Early on New Year’s morning, householders drink and then sprinkle ‘magic water’ from ‘a dead and living ford‘ around the house (a ‘dead and living ford’ refers to a river ford that is routinely crossed by both the living and the dead). After the sprinkling of the water in every room, on the beds and all the inhabitants, the house is sealed up tight and branches of juniper are set on fire and carried throughout the house and byre. The juniper smoke is allowed to thoroughly fumigate the buildings until it causes sneezing and coughing among the inhabitants. Then all the doors and windows are flung open to let in the cold, fresh air of the new year. The woman of the house then administers ‘a restorative’ from the whisky bottle, and the household sits down to its New Year breakfast.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hogmanay

 

Now that you have a very basic understanding of what the Holiday season may or may not have included in 1600 and 1700s Scotland, we hope that you do more of your own in depth research before your trip!

We will continue our exploration of past traditions and beliefs with our next discussion of even earlier times and places, and we will see how they still play a part in our present day traditions!

yule the longest night

Odin versis santa