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Caractacus: The Celtic King Who Defied Rome

Caratacus (Brythonic *Caratācos, Middle Welsh Caratawc; Welsh Caradog; Greek Καράτακος; variants Latin Caractacus, Greek Καρτάκης) was a first-century British chieftain of the Catuvellauni tribe, who led the British resistance to the Roman conquest.

Before the Roman invasion Caratacus is associated with the expansion of his tribe’s territory. His apparent success led to Roman invasion, nominally in support of his defeated enemies. He resisted the Romans for almost a decade, mixing guerrilla warfare with set-piece battles, but was unsuccessful in the latter. After his final defeat he fled to the territory of Queen Cartimandua, who captured him and handed him over to the Romans. He was sentenced to death as a military prisoner, but made a speech before his execution that persuaded the Emperor Claudius to spare him.

The legendary Welsh character Caradog ap Bran and the legendary British king Arvirargus may be based upon Caratacus. Caratacus’s speech to Claudius has been a common subject in art.

Caratacus is named by Dio Cassius as a son of the Catuvellaunian king Cunobelinus. Based on coin distribution Caratacus appears to have been the protégé of his uncle Epaticcus, who expanded Catuvellaunian power westwards into the territory of the Atrebates. After Epaticcus died about 35 A.D., the Atrebates, under Verica, regained some of their territory, but it appears Caratacus completed the conquest, as Dio tells us Verica was ousted, fled to Rome and appealed to the emperor Claudius for help. This was the excuse used by Claudius to launch his invasion of Britain in the summer of 43 AD. The invasion targeted Caratacus’ stronghold of Camulodunon (modern Colchester), previously the seat of his father Cunobelinus.

Cunobelinus had died some time before the invasion. Caratacus and his brother Togodumnus led the initial defence of the country against Aulus Plautius’s four legions, thought to have been around 40,000 men, primarily using guerrilla tactics. They lost much of the south-east after being defeated in two crucial battles, the Battle of the River Medway and River Thames. Togodumnus was killed (although John Hind argues that Dio was mistaken in reporting Togodumnus’ death, that he was defeated but survived, and was later appointed by the Romans as a friendly king over a number of territories, becoming the loyal king referred to by Tacitus as Cogidubnus or Togidubnus) and the Catuvellauni’s territories were conquered. Their stronghold of Camulodunon was converted into the first Roman colonia in Britain, Colonia Victricensis.

Resistance to Rome

We next hear of Caratacus in Tacitus’s Annals, leading the Silures and Ordovices of Wales against Plautius’ successor as governor, Publius Ostorius Scapula. Finally, in 51, Scapula managed to defeat Caratacus in a set-piece battle somewhere in Ordovician territory (see the Battle of Caer Caradoc), capturing Caratacus’ wife and daughter and receiving the surrender of his brothers. Caratacus himself escaped, and fled north to the lands of the Brigantes (modern Yorkshire) where the Brigantian queen, Cartimandua, handed him over to the Romans in chains. This was one of the factors that led to two Brigantian revolts against Cartimandua and her Roman allies, once later in the 50s and once in 69, led by Venutius, who had once been Cartimandua’s husband. With the capture of Caratacus, much of southern Britain from the Humber to the Severn was pacified and garrisoned throughout the 50s.

Legends place Caratacus’ last stand at either Caer Caradoc near Church Stretton or British Camp in the Malvern Hills, but the description of Tacitus makes either unlikely:

[Caratacus] resorted to the ultimate hazard, adopting a place for battle so that entry, exit, everything would be unfavorable to us and for the better to his own men, with steep mountains all around, and, wherever a gentle access was possible, he strewed rocks in front in the manner of a rampart. And in front too there flowed a stream with an unsure ford, and companies of armed men had taken up position along the defenses.

Although the Severn is visible from British Camp, it is nowhere near it, so this battle must have taken place elsewhere. A number of locations have been suggested, including a site near Brampton Bryan. Bari Jones, in Archaeology Today in 1998, identified Blodwel Rocks at Llanymynech in Powys as representing a close fit with Tacitus’ account. SOURCE

Caractacus: The Powerful Celtic King Who Defied Rome

The Speech of King Caratacus

Caractacus

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Alexander The Great

Military history and ancient cultures/civilizations are favorite subjects of mine especially certain key figures that left such an impact that it is still felt to this day. One of those historical figures is Alexander The Great, Megas Alexandros (July 20, 356 BCE – June 10, 323 BCE), also known as Alexander III, king of Macedon (336-323 BCE). The feats he accomplished in really such a short amount of time at such a young age is almost something you would expect from some big blockbuster movie but actually happened over 2,000 years ago. From conquering the Persian Empire to literally building a land-bridge in order to sack a city. He was a larger than life leader and I wanted to share a ton of resources for you to have an opportunity to enjoy.

Alexander III the Great, the King of Macedonia and conqueror of the Persian Empire is considered one of the greatest military geniuses of all times. He was inspiration for later conquerors such as Hannibal the Carthaginian, the Romans Pompey and Caesar, and Napoleon.  Alexander was born in 356 BC in Pella, the ancient capital of Macedonia. He was son of Philip II, King of Macedonia, and Olympias, the princess of neighboring Epirus.

Alexander spent his childhood watching his father transforming Macedonia into a great military power, winning victory after victory on the battlefields throughout the Balkans.   At age 12 he showed his equestrian skill to his father and all who were watching when he tamed Bucephalus, an unruly stallion horse, unable to be ridden and devouring the flesh of all who had tried. Plutarch writes:

“Philip and his friends looked on at first in silence and anxiety for the result, till seeing him turn at the end of his career, and come back rejoicing and triumphing for what he had performed, they all burst out into acclamation’s of applause; and his father shedding tears, it is said, for joy, kissed him as he came down from his horse, and in his transport said, ‘O my son, look thee out a kingdom equal to and worthy of thyself, for Macedonia is too little for thee’ ” (Alex. 6.8.). Continue reading HERE.

The Cold Case of Alexander the Great: Have Toxicologists Finally Explained His Untimely Death?

Alexander The Great

Alexander III The Great

Alexander The Great (world history)

The Rise of Macedon and the Conquests of Alexander the Great

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The Sámi People: Everything You Should Know

Years ago when I discovered I have Finnish blood it led me to learn much about the Kalevala which actually led me to begin studying the Saami (Sámi) people, their culture and of course their Gods and Goddesses which do vary depending on the region. The variety is due to the fact that these amazing people live in the northern parts of Norway, Sweden, Finland and the Kola Peninsula of Russia. Someday I wish to visit a Saami town and spend time with one of their Spiritual ones.

For those of you interested in learning about the Saami and their Gods and Goddesses, here are some great resources.

Sami, also spelled Saami, or Same, Sami, Sabme, any member of a people speaking the Sami language and inhabiting ….. and adjacent areas of northern Norway, Sweden, and Finland, as well as the Kola Peninsula of Russia. They belong to the Finno-Ugric branch of the Uralic family. Almost all Sami are now bilingual, and many no longer even speak their native language. In the late 20th century there were from 30,000 to 40,000 Sami in Norway and about 20,000 in Sweden, 6,000 in Finland, and 2,000 in Russia.

The Sami are the descendants of nomadic peoples who had inhabited northern Scandinavia for thousands of years. When the Finns entered Finland, beginning about ad 100, Sami settlements were probably dispersed over the whole of that country; today they are confined to its northern extremity. In Sweden and Norway they have similarly been pushed north. The origin of the Sami is obscure; some scholars include them among the Paleo-Siberian peoples; others maintain that they were alpine and came from central Europe. Continue reading HERE.

The Sami vs. Outsiders

By Káre (Kimmi Woodard)

Early History:

According to historians, the proto-Sami were said to have inhabited most of Scandinavia and Northwest Russia. We first hear of them in the year 98 AD from the Roman historian Tacitus in his book Germania. At that time, they were called “Fenni.” Tacitus described them as a primitive hunting tribe who roamed the forests near Germany. In the second century A.D, Ptolemy of Alexandria spoke of a tribe in Scandinavia called the “Phinnoi.” And then in 555 AD the Greek historian Procopius in describing a war between the Romans and the Goths referred to a people called the “Skridfinns” who inhabited Scandinavia. And then once again in 750 AD Paulus Diaconus mentions a people called the “Skridfinns” who kept animals resembling deer. This name then spread throughout Scandinavia, to the Finns, the Russians and later to the Germans, Hungarians, Estonians and other groups. Today, the Sami prefer the name Sami, and their land is called Sapmi.

Viking Age Trade:

In the Viking Age there was a tremendous amount of trade (called the Finn Trade) along the coast of the Gulf of Finland and Bothnia. This area brought seasonal visits from Finns, Russians, and Scandinavian merchants, which eventually attracted the attention of the emerging nation states. It was during this early period that the Finns colonized the southwest corner of Finland. And in the 12th, 13th, and 14th centuries, there was also emigration into Sweden. As the Swedes, Finns and Norwegians pushed northward, Sapmi steadily decreased in size. In this early period we learn that the Sami merchants first traded with the Vikings, and later they traded with the travelers from northern Europe. According to the article “Important Years in Same History,” because of this early cultural contact, the Sami people advanced from a Stone Age society to a society that eventually developed its own monetary system; their currency was named tjoervie. The cultural contact not only benefited the Sami but other groups as well. The contact was often mutually beneficial. For example, it was quite common during this early period for different cultures to borrow words from one another. The Sami language, for instance, has hundreds of loanwords of Scandinavian or Germanic origin, as well as many from Finnish. Similarly, the Scandinavians and Finns have many words from each other. Continue reading HERE.

Saami Deities: List and Descriptions

The Sami People

The Sami in Sweden

Cultures of Norway: The Sami people

The Story of the Sami People & Culture

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Ogham: The Mysterious Ancient Irish Script

As much as known by modern scholars, academics and others regarding the ancient Irish script called Ogham, much of it is still shrouded in mystery including a definitive origin. I have been fascinated and studied Ogham for years and still learn more regarding it the more I dig into books and websites I find. I eventually became confident enough with Ogham to not only make divination sets but to actually write in Ogham. So I felt a post about Ogham was definitely needed and I hope you enjoy this one.

Origin Theories

There are four popular theories discussing the origin of Ogham. The differing theories are unsurprising considering that the script has similarities to ciphers in Germanic runes, Latin, elder futhark and the Greek alphabet.

The first theory is based on the work of scholars such as Carney and MacNeill who suggest that Ogham was first created as a cryptic alphabet designed by the Irish. They assert that the Irish designed it in response to political, military and/or religious reasons so that those with knowledge of just Latin could not read it.

The second theory is held by McManus who argues that Ogham was invented by the first Christians in early Ireland in a quest for uniqueness. The argument maintains that the sounds of the primitive Irish language were too difficult to transcribe into Latin.

The third theory states that the Ogham script from invented in West Wales in the fourth century BCE to intertwine the Latin alphabet with the Irish language in response to the intermarriage between the Romans and the Romanized Britons. This would account for the fact that some of the Ogham inscriptions are bilingual; spelling out Irish and Brythonic-Latin.

The fourth theory is supported by MacAlister and used to be popular before other theories began to overtake it. It states that Ogham was invented in Cisalpine Gaul around 600 BCE by Gaulish Druids who created it as a hand signal and oral language. MacAliser suggests that it was transmitted orally until it was finally put into writing in early Christian Ireland. He argues that the lines incorporated into Ogham represent the hand by being based on four groups of five letters with a sequence of strokes from one to five. However, there is no evidence for MacAlisters theory that Ogham’s language and system originated in Gaul.

Mythical theories for the origin of Ogham also appear in texts from the eleventh to fifteenth centuries. The eleventh century Lebor Gabala Erenn tells that Ogham was invented soon after the fall of the tower of Babel, as does the fifteenth century Auraicept na n-eces text. The Book of Ballymote also includes ninty-two recorded secret modes of writing Ogham written in 1390-91 CE. Source

Ogham also is used for divination much like the use of the Elder Futhark Runes with of course their own unique meanings and purpose. This is a source I use and refer to quite often. Ogham Divination

The Ogham Alphabet

The Mysterious Ogham

The Ogham writing system

What is Ogham? A look at the ancient Irish alphabet

Ogham writing

Book Recommendations

Two books I have in my library I highly recommend are below with links to get yourself a copy.

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Hannibal Barca – The Scourge of Rome

Hannibal Barca is a historical figure who has fascinated me for years not just for who he was as a man in ancient times but is unbelievable accomplishments during the Second Punic War against the Roman Empire. Hannibal is by far one of the greatest military leaders in all of military history and was taking vengeance in thew most astounding ways not just in the name of his father but for Carthage, one of the most advanced civilizations in history as well. So this Blog post I decided to feature him and deserving so because in my humble opinion I will say the following. If Hannibal had listened to his counsel after the Battle of Cannae, also known as thew Battle of Annihilation, where it was strongly suggested he advanced upon Rome and lay siege, I believe if he had done so the course of history across Europe and North Africa would be far different.

The Carthaginian general Hannibal (247-182 BCE) was one of the greatest military leaders in history. His most famous campaign took place during the Second Punic War (218-202), when he caught the Romans off guard by crossing the Alps.

Youth (247-219)

When Hannibal (in his own, Punic language: Hanba’al, “mercy of Ba’al”) was born in 247 BCE, his birthplace Carthage was about to lose a long and important war. The city had been the Mediterranean’s most prosperous seaport and possessed wealthy provinces, but it had suffered severe losses from the Romans in the First Punic War (264-241). After Rome’s victory, it stripped Carthage of its most important province, Sicily; and when civil war had broken out in Cartage, Rome seized Sardinia and Corsica as well. These events must have made a great impression on the young Hannibal.

He was the oldest son of the Carthaginian general Hamilcar Barca, who took the ten-year old boy to Iberia in 237. There were several Carthaginian cities in Andalusia: Gadir (“castle”, modern Cádiz), Malkah (“royal town”, Málaga) and New Carthage (Cartagena). The ancient name of Córdoba is unknown, although the Punic element Kart, “town”, is still recognizable in its name.

Hamilcar added new territories to this informal empire. In this way, Carthage was compensated for its loss of overseas territories. The Roman historian Livy mentions that Hannibal’s father forced his son to promise eternal hatred against the Romans. This may be an invention, but there may be some truth in the story: the Carthaginians had excellent reasons to hate their enemies.When Hamilcar died (229), Hamilcar’s son-in-law, the politician Hasdrubal the Fair, took over command. The new governor further improved the Carthaginian position by diplomatic means, among which was intermarriage between Carthaginians and Iberians. Hannibal married a native princess. It is likely that the young man visited Carthage in these years.

In 221, Hasdrubal was murdered and the Carthaginian soldiers in Iberia elected Hannibal as their commander, a decision that was confirmed by the government.The twenty-six-year old general returned to his father’s aggressive military politics and attacked the natives, capturing Salamanca in 220. The next year, he besieged Saguntum, a Roman ally. Since Rome was occupied with the Second Illyrian War and unable to support the town, Saguntum fell after a blockade of eight months. Already in Antiquity, the question whether the capture of Saguntum was a violation of a treaty between Hasdrubal and the Roman Republic was discussed. It is impossible to solve this problem. The fact is, however, that the Romans felt offended, and demanded Hannibal to be extradited by the Carthaginian government. Continue reading HERE.

Trade played a significant role in Carthage’s legacy. The Carthaginians dominated the ancient Mediterranean trade. At a time when the Greeks and many others were going through a dark age, they sailed the western Mediterranean. Carthage’s empire grew as a result of trade profits, and it eventually rivaled the Roman military in size and power.

Five Amazing Facts About Hannibal Barca: Rome’s Most Dangerous Enemy

The Life of Hannibal Barca

Hannibal of Carthage: Military Commander and Greatest Enemy of Rome

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Arminius (Hermann the German)

One of my favorite historical figures during the Roman empire age is Arminius (Hermann the German). Who lived a life that was filled with so much that I felt the need to feature him on my Blog with the best resources I believe exist.

Arminius (b. circa 18 BC, d. circa 21 AD, assumed to be the Latinized form of Hermann) was the chief of the Germanic Cherusci tribe during the later stages of Augustus’ reign. Prior to the great revolt which pushed Rome permanently out of the Germanic interior, and after the conquests of Drusus and Tiberius, Arminius served as a Roman auxiliary (c. 1 to 6 AD), apparently with much success. Some have painted a picture of a young Germanic warrior with the ultimate goal of freeing the tribes by learning Roman military ways, but his service and that of his fellow Cherusci warriors, actually exemplifies the completeness in which the Romans had spread their influence throughout Germania (as well as identifying the early stages of the barbarization of the Roman Legions). Though at this stage, Germania Magna was not an official province, and was still unsettled per Roman victory conditions, the slow process of Romanization had begun in earnest. Arminius, it seems, even earned Roman citizenship as well as equestrian status, perhaps in part, as a peace settlement.

During the revolt in Pannonia, which forced Tiberius’ withdrawal from Germania, and his replacement by Publius Quinctilius Varus, conditions seem to have deteriorated considerably. Varus, it seems, (one must consider the conflicting reports by Dio Cassius, Tacitus, Florus and Paterculus regarding the political climate and the battle itself) was probably given the task of completing the subjugation of Germania and implementing Roman provincial standards by Augustus. Regular taxation, undoubtedly a condition that the Germanics were unaccustomed to, as well as other ‘excesses’ seem to have turned the tribes against their Roman occupiers.

Arminius returned to the Cherusci as early as 7 AD, and likely began preparing for a massive revolt soon after his arrival. Inter-tribal warfare and lack of unity was something that would plague the Germanics for centuries, but in this one instance, the tribes were uniquely brought together in their zeal to throw off the Roman yolk. Everything was not completely in unison, however. Arminius’ rival, Segestes, actually his own father-in-law, reportedly betrayed the plans of revolt to Varus, but these reports were unheeded. Perhaps writing off the idea as political infighting for personal gain, or trusting Arminius due to his service as a Roman auxilia, and equestrian, Varus ignored the warnings, with predictable results. In 9 AD, the situation had come to a head and reports of a growing uprising in northern Germania (perhaps the Chauci) began to reach Varus. Encouraged by promises of allied assistance from tribal leaders like Arminius, Varus set out northward for the Chauci.

In late summer of 9 AD, Varus marched in loose formation with the seventeenth, eighteenth and nineteenth legions, and did so through what they thought was friendly territory. According to Cassius Dio, ” They had with them many wagons and many beasts of burden as in time of peace; moreover, not a few women and children and a large retinue of servants were following them. one reason for their advancing in scattered groups.” As the Romans approached a particular hilly and forested area (and likely fortified in advance) known as the Kalkriese, Arminius and fellow allied chieftains ‘begged to be excused from further attendance, in order, as they claimed, to assemble their allied forces, after which they would quietly come to his aid.’ Unbeknownst to Varus, regional tribes had already put the ambush in motion by killing or capturing legionary detachments that had been working on various projects throughout the region.

Over a period of 4 storm filled and rain drenched days, the Germanics launched a series of blistering attacks on the disorganized and unprepared Roman columns. All three legions and accompanying cavalry were so scattered and beaten in the surprise attacks that communication and cooperation between the two were non-existent. The cavalry attempted a breakout and escape but was cut down before they could. The infantry continued to fight, with little success in hopes of reaching safety. By the 4th day, the cause was lost and Varus committed suicide rather than submit to capture (and the shame). All three legionary standards (eagles) were captured by the Germans and the survivors, of which there were very few, scattered in various directions to safety. Conflicting ancient source material tells differing tales, but some officers joined Varus in suicide while others surrendered. The battle itself was little more than an overwhelming massacre. Read the entire article HERE.

The Hermannsdenkmal (German for “Hermann’s Monument”) Located in
Teutoburger Wald, North Rhine-Westphalia, Germany

The Varus Battle

Hermann the Cheruscan

The Battle of Teutoburg Forest

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The Vast History of Fenno-Scandinavia

Being someone who has both Scandinavian and Finnish blood, when I came across this webpage I completely went into geek research mode and found the entire page filled with so much great information I felt the need to share it with you. The Fenno-Scandinavia history is so rich, in-depth and involved and can be traced archeologically back to the 9,000s BCE. Below is the first part of the webpage and if that sparks your interest then I highly recommend clicking on the link and be ready to be amazed by all that is within it.

Modern Finland (Suomi to the Finns themselves) emerged into European history not only as Finland (in modern southern Finland) but also as Kvenland, a vast, ill-defined reach of Scandinavian and Fennoscandian territory which at the end of the Viking Age still encompassed not only most of modern Finland, but also the northern two-thirds of modern Sweden and Norway and part of north-western Russia.

Peopled in the north by the Sámi, they were bolstered by the arrival of Finno-Ugric speakers from the east who settled much of the region. These new arrivals were known as Kvens or Finns, and they gave their own Uralic-based language to the Sámi who were often described themselves as being Finno-Ugrics (although it seems likely that the Kvens predated the Finns and spoken an earlier language that was gradually lost due to Finno-Ugric dominance). The new arrivals brought with them cattle breeding and tillage skills, but these were later surpassed by the farming skills of Indo-European migrants who first began to arrive around five hundred to a thousand years later (see feature link).

The Finno-Ugric peoples of which these early Finns were a part were settled across a huge swathe of territory which reached eastwards into the Urals, and south of the Gulf of Finland to include the Estonians of the Early Baltics who originally occupied territory as far south as modern Lithuania. They also bear a distant relationship to the early Hungarians, but they never managed to form a unified state, preferring a relatively non-combative way of life in smaller tribal groups.

For the rest of this great webpage click here.

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Shapeshifters of the North

Shapeshifting in Old Norse Religion as well as other native religions throughout Northern Europe and into Siberia is known but perhaps not spoken of enough about its importance with the practices of Shamans, Witches and with the use of Seiðr. We do see shapeshifting in the stories of the Norse Gods and Goddesses mainly with Odin, Loki and Freyja but not as much with humans like Fafnir the Dragon from the Saga of the Volsungs who used to be a man. Like what we can see with other ancient cultures and even to present times, Shamans will dress in animal hides and become Therianthropic during rituals which is a symbolism of shapeshifting itself. An example that is quite well known during the Viking Age are the fierce wild warriors known as the Berserkrs and Úlfhéðnar which were special warriors that dressed in the hides of Bears or Wolves and they themselves became animalistic.

Besides what was written down or passed by word during and after the Viking Age, as well as other Northern regions across Europe and Asia, regarding shapeshifting, there also is some physical evidence of its spiritual importance with such examples as the Khakassia Petroglyph in Siberia. Shapeshifting depicted with Petroglyphs can be found in other parts of Europe, Asia and especially the Amerindians of North America.

Personally I find the subject of shapeshifting quite fascinating and have read much about it as well as watched a number of documentaries that touch on the subject. Below you will find a selection of resources I highly recommend having a look at.

Three Awesome Magical Powers in Norse Mythology

Shapeshifting in Old Norse-Icelandic Literature

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Queen Boudicca: Scourge of Roman Britannia

Ever since I first learned about the fearsome Queen Boudicca of the Iceni tribe of East Anglia when I was a child, I have been fascinated with her story both the tragedy and her vengeful wrath she wreaked upon the Romans occupying her homeland at the time. I feel although the events that took place did not end as she had dreamed of I am sure, her legacy has indeed had an impact for all the centuries since. Not just an inspiration in strength and determination for all but especially for all Women. The following are in my opinion the top resources to learn all about the great Queen Boudicca.

“We British are used to women commanders in war; I am descended from mighty men! But I am not fighting for my kingdom and wealth now. I am fighting as an ordinary person for my lost freedom, my bruised body, and my outraged daughters…. Consider how many of you are fighting — and why! Then you will win this battle, or perish. That is what I, a woman, plan to do!— let the men live in slavery if they will.”

These are the words of Queen Boudicca, according to ancient historian Tacitus, as she summoned her people to unleash war upon the invading Romans in Britain. Boudicca, sometimes written Boadicea, was queen of the Iceni tribe, a Celtic clan which united a number of British tribes in revolt against the occupying forces of the Roman Empire in 60-61 AD. While she famously succeeded in defeating the Romans in three great battles, their victories would not last. The Romans rallied and eventually crushed the revolts, executing thousands of Iceni and taking the rest as slaves. Boudicca’s name has been remembered through history as the courageous warrior queen who fought for freedom from oppression, for herself, and all the Celtic tribes of Britain.

Early years

Little is known about Boudicca’s upbringing because the only information about her comes from Roman sources, in particular from Tacitus (56 – 117 AD), a senator and historian of the Roman Empire, and Cassius Dio (155 – 235 AD), a Roman consul and noted historian. However, it is believed that she was born into an elite family in the ancient town of Camulodunum (now Colchester) in around 30 AD, and may have been named after the Celtic goddess of victory, Boudiga.

As an adolescent, Boudicca would have been sent away to another aristocratic family to be trained in the history and customs of the tribe, as well as learning how to fight in battle. Ancient Celtic women served as both warriors and rulers, and girls could be trained to fight with swords and other weapons, just as the boys were. Celtic women were distinct in the ancient world for the liberty and rights they enjoyed and the position they held in society. Compared to their counterparts in Greek, Roman, and other ancient societies, they were allowed much freedom of activity and protection under the law.

In 43 AD, before the time that Boudicca reached adulthood, the Romans invaded Britain, and most of the Celtic tribes were forced to submit. However, the Romans allowed two Celtic kings to retain some of their traditional power as it was normal Roman practice to allow kingdoms their independence for the lifetime of their client king, who would then agree to leave his kingdom to Rome in his will. One of these kings was Prasutagus, whom Boudicca went on to marry at the age of 18. Their wedding was celebrated for a day and a night and during this time they also gave offerings to the Celtic gods. Together they had two daughters, called Isolda and Siora.

However, it was not a time of harmony for Boudicca and Prasutagus. The Roman occupation brought increased settlement, military presence, and attempts to suppress Celtic religious culture. There were major economic changes, including heavy taxes and money lending.

In 60 AD life changed dramatically for Boudicca, with the death of her husband. As Prasutagus had ruled as a nominally independent, but forced ‘ally’ of Rome, he left his kingdom jointly to his wife and daughters, and the Roman emperor. However, Roman law only allowed inheritance through the male line, so when Prasutagus died, his attempts to preserve his line were ignored and his kingdom was annexed as if it had been conquered.

“Kingdom and household alike were plundered like prizes of war…. The Chieftains of the Iceni were deprived of their family estates as if the whole country had been handed over to the Romans. The king’s own relatives were treated like slaves.” — Tacitus

To humiliate the former rulers, the Romans confiscated Prasutagus’s land and property, took the nobles as slaves, publicly flogged Boudicca, and raped their two daughters. This would prove to be the catalyst, which would see Boudicca demanding revenge against the brutal invaders of her lands. Tacitus records the words spoken by Boudicca as she vowed to avenge the actions of the Roman invaders:

“Nothing is safe from Roman pride and arrogance. They will deface the sacred and will deflower our virgins. Win the battle or perish, that is what I, a woman, will do.”

And so Boudicca began her campaign to summon the Britons to fight against the Romans, proving that ‘hell hath no fury like a woman scorned’. Source

https://www.ancient-origins.net/history-famous-people/boudicca-celtic-queen-unleashed-fury-romans-part-2-002067?fbclid=IwAR0v35L33Y5nJOQ3jfF8rpBAAvB598S78Q23LATmSSdpvEu25m7BeiOb6d8

https://www.historic-uk.com/HistoryUK/HistoryofEngland/Boudica/

https://www.worldhistory.org/article/97/boudicca-queen-of-the-iceni-scourge-of-rome/

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The Anglo-Saxons

Anglo-Saxon Culture

The Anglo-Saxons were Germanic barbarians who invaded Britain and took over large parts of the island in the centuries following the withdrawal of the Roman Empire. They were initially less gentrified than other post-Roman barbarian groups such as the Franks or Ostrogoths because they had less contact with Mediterranean civilization. The Anglo-Saxons were originally pagan in religion. The main group, from northwestern Germany and Denmark, was divided into Angles, Saxons, and Jutes. German tribal affiliations were loose and the original invaders included people from other Germanic groups as well. Although some of the early Anglo-Saxon invaders had Celtic-influenced names, such as Cedric, the founder of the house of Wessex, the Anglo-Saxons had a pronounced awareness of them-selves as different from the peoples already inhabiting Britain. Their takeover led to the integration of Britain into a Germanic world. Unlike other groups such as the Franks they did not adopt the language of the conquered Celtic and Roman peoples, but continued speaking a Germanic dialect.

Continue reading about Anglo-Saxon culture here.

Anglo-Saxon Paganism, Festivals & Rituals

Anglo-Saxon Paganism

It is possible to reconstruct what little we know about Anglo-Saxon beliefs by using a wide variety of literary sources and place-names. What comes to light is an image of a people and a religion in a symbiotic relationship with nature, the powerful, uncontrollable and life-giving forces upon which their existence depended.

From the Roman historian and scholar Tacitus, we learn that Germans in the first century AD worshiped an Earth Goddess called Nerthus. Tacitus also mentions two war gods: Odin (or Woden) and Tyr. The great Viking scholar Magnus Magnusson claims that Woden was one of the chief gods of the Anglo-Saxons. Woden was so important to them, in fact, that most of the early Saxon kings claimed descent from the god as proof of their right to rule. Magnusson also identified the Saxon god Thunor, God of Thunder, who was known as Thor by the Vikings. During times of Viking settlement, Thor was revered above Odin in daily life.

But the strongest evidence for the identity of the Anglo-Saxon gods is found in place-names. Using this evidence, scholars have been able to add Tiw and the goddess Frig to the list of deities the Anglo-Saxons were known to worship. In addition, the Old English word “lea” added to many place-names in Europe is thought to be evidence of places of worship, as it refers to a clearing in the forest. These “sacred groves” were very important to the practice of Anglo-Saxon religion. There is also evidence of worship of the Sun and the Moon as deities, both in charms that have been preserved and in the names for Sunday and Monday.

Festivals

The regular practice of the pagan religion in Anglo-Saxon times involved several seasonal festivals. Nearly everything we know about the religious festivals of the pagan Anglo-Saxons comes from a book called De temporum ratione (“The Reckoning of Time”), written by a Christian monk known to us as the Venerable Bede. In his book, Bede describes the yearly calendar of the Anglo-Saxon people, which usually consisted of twelve lunar months, much like our current calendar.

According to Bede, the greatest pagan festival was Modraniht, or “Mother Night,” which was held on the winter solstice – about December 25th. It is thought that this Yule festival, as it is also known, involved decorating with evergreen branches, the burning of a Yule log, and a feast centered around a boar’s head. Modraniht marked the beginning of the Anglo-Saxon year.

The next festival Bede talks about is in Solmonaþ, the Anglo-Saxon name for February. This festival involved baking special cakes that may have had symbolic significance, not so much in ingredients, but in shape. According to Bede, these cakes were offered to the pagan gods.

March was the time of year Anglo-Saxons would make sacrifices to the goddess Hreda, but the more important spring festival appears to have been Eostur-monath Aprilis, a festival dedicated to the goddess Eostre. Celebrating spring and new life, the festival of Eostre would likely have involved flowers, dancing, and feasting.

Although Bede does not mention a midsummer festival, it is a common celebration that took place throughout Europe – and continues even today. Bonfires were a key component of these festivals, and it is thought that people would dance around or even jump over the fires, while casting herbs into the flames to ward off ill health and misfortune.

The month of September was known as Halegmonath, or “Holy Month.” While little is known about the origin of the name, it is thought that a festival was celebrated at this time of year, and likely included feasting in celebration of the harvest. Owen also proposes that the mythical figures of Sheaf and his son Beow (barley) were once associated with this festival.

Finally, November was known as Blod-Monath, meaning “Blood-Month.” The festival of Blodmonath was, according to Bede, commemorated with animal sacrifices, likely oxen. This practice likely served a dual purpose – both as an offering to the pagan gods, and as a source of food for the coming winter. Bonfires were likely a feature of this festival as well, since we have illustrations in late Anglo-Saxon calendars of revelers tending to fires.

“From this brief survey of the pagan year, we can see that the people in general would have been closely involved in these festivals, raising crops and animals, baking cakes, collecting fuel for bonfires, flocking to see images or wagons carrying the gods and joining them in procession. Above all they feasted, enjoying the fruits of their own labour while propitiating the deities” (Owen 19).

Runes

Runic writing was widely known among the Anglo-Saxons. They were believed to be magic symbols that, when carved into wood or stone, possessed mystical properties. The Runic alphabet is also known as Futhark, , a name composed of the first six letters of the alphabet. Why the letters were ordered in such a way, no one really knows.

Rituals

Marriage, Ceremonies

Anglo-Saxon marriage was nothing like the marriage ceremonies of today. When a man wished to marry, he would bring a dowry to her that consisted of oxen, horses, shields, spears, and swords. If she accepted him, she would then “gift” these items back to her new husband. It is also thought that swords were used in the marriage ceremony itself. According to Owen, the bride and groom would each lay their hands upon the sword “in token of their heroic duty” (61). Swords may also have been symbolic of fertility.

Ritual Drinking and Gift-Giving

Among the more important rituals associated with the mead-hall, ritual drinking had great significance to the Anglo-Saxons. Hosted by a lord or king, an organized banquet would be prepared for guests or favored retainers. Women played a ceremonial role at the banquet, carrying the ceremonial drinking vessel to the king and each of his guests in the hall. There was usually only one cup, which everyone shared. Making speeches (boasting, or “oral resumes”) and gift-giving often went hand-in-hand with this ritual. The lord or king would often bestow gifts and praise upon his valiant warriors through a very ritualistic reward system. Young men, those yet untried in battle, would receive weapons as gifts which they would then be expected to use in defense of the gift-giver. These kinds of rituals helped to maintain hierarchy and allegiance in Anglo-Saxon society.

“Thus the Anglo-Saxons lived their lives, cozy in their brightly lit halls, cheered by feasting and music. They placated their gods with sacrifice and strove to keep out the hostile creatures who lurked in the outer darkness. They enjoyed formal ceremonies – pledging of oaths and speechmaking – and superstitious rituals, like the casting of lots, decided the major issues of their lives. The ritual which was perhaps the most important of all came, however, at the end of life. The pagan funeral ceremony…honored the achievements of a lifetime and, it was hoped, equipped the dead one for the afterlife” (Owen 66).

Funerals

Anglos-Saxons clearly believed in a life after death, because they provided their dead with objects that they felt might be required. A man might be buried with his spears, while a woman would be wearing her best jewelry and costume. The higher status a person had in Anglo-Saxon society, the more elaborate the burial, and the more affluent the grave-goods. It is because of this practice that researchers know as much as they do about the Anglo-Saxon people. Source