How the blog works

The poems on this blog are mostly written on the basis of my historical reading and are intended to be both educational and entertaining.
Recently I have also begun posting some of my work with Anglo-Saxon charms. This work is somewhat speculative and is conducted as an amateur researcher and keen Pagan historian.

Please feel free to use anything on this site as a resource if you think that it may be relevant to your needs.

Monday, 30 July 2012

August (Weod-monath)

August (Weod-monath)

Weod-monath means month of weeds and may refer to the harvesting and blessing of herbs – a parallel to this custom survived until recent times in Germany.

Reference to Nerthus  - Goddess of fertility is based on the writings of Saint Bede. Representations of her were decorated with cloths and carried from village to village. Any fighting could be interrupted, at least, by this as no one would dare to fight in her presence.

After the first days harvest a feast was provided to be enjoyed amongst the rigs.

Reference to bare legs and feet is based on the Bayeux Tapestry, generally taken to be an accurate portrayal of the Anglo-Saxons.

Reference to thatching and clean the ox fold is taken from contemporary farming manuals (The Good Reeve).

August (Weod-monath)

August  month of weeds, and ripening grain,
Bread from wheat sievings, has long been our bane.
Bright harvest moon, reaping late into night,
Lifting our spirits, with songs we recite.

We pray thee oh Thor, take heed of our plea,
To survive winter, we depend on thee.
We implore thee oh Thor, send us no rain,
Nerthus blessed us, with much corn to sustain.

With sun moon and scythe, the power of three,
Massive rigs of fine wheat, so mote it be.
To bake the first loaf, we gather the corn,
And make the Corn Queen, for all to adorn.

After dusty toil, ale jug in the meads,
Feast and be glad, drink hail to our deeds.
Rejoicing the harvest, breaking first bread,
The gods on our side, be glad of the spread.

Bare legs and feet, in field of summer wheat,
Wearing hooded tunics, we are complete.
Among the rigs, we’ll drink and be cheery,
There’s always the new, day to be weary.

A good crop of corn, to keep us well fed,
With full load of grain, we can look ahead.
Tomorrow we thatch, and clean the ox fold,
But tonight in the rigs, we’re feeling bold.

Copyright Andrew Rea 2009

Sunday, 22 July 2012

The Corn Dolly

The Corn Dolly

Historical Introduction
This poem is based on the tradition of the corn dolly and the idea that the corn has a spirit which should be preserved through the winter to be returned to the earth in the spring to ensure fertility.

The poem draws from the image contained within an Anglo-Saxon Psalter which shows a corn field being reduced to a single ‘clump’ known as ‘the neck’. In the foreground a peasant is shown holding a ‘corn dolly’ in the shape of a cross with five blades for each hand and the head.

The method of cutting the ‘neck’ is based on surviving traditions which were common until modern times.

References to Nerthus a fertility goddess replaced largely by Frigg in late Saxon times and Wuldorfador ‘glory father’ representing the Solar Logos, are taken from the writings of St Bede and are mentioned in his ‘On the computation of time’

The idea of the ‘sol cakes’ are again taken from Bede, where he refers to the second month of the year called Solmonath (February). Which is said to mean Mud Month. (compare sol with soil and think of ground conditions at this time of year). The cakes were planted into the ground as an offering to both Nerthus and Wuldorfador.
We have no surviving recipe for the sol cakes, but given that the tradition of ploughing the corn dolly into the ground at the start of ploughing and sowing season was widely observed until modern times it seems possible that the dolly would have been broken up and added to a mixture of some kind, perhaps of flour of various grains, and returned to the ground uncooked to preserve its fertility.

The harvest feast is recorded in Saxon law as a reward for the harvest work done on the lord’s field.

The drinking feast after ploughing starts in Solmonth, is again recorded in Saxon law as a reward for work.

The Corn Dolly

Goddess Nerthus, out of her womb born,
Goddess Frigg became, the Queen of the Corn.
Cared for and nurtured, by Wuldorfador,
Plentiful abundance, for winter’s store.

Standing tall and straight, we do thee adore,
Sudden end with sharp blade, as if to war.
Thine neck wilt be cut, with greatest of care,
Thine spirit set free, by he who doth dare.

With his flying scythe, falling to the ground,
Into three sheaves, to be twisted and bound.
Preserving the spirit, of summers corn,
To be reborn again, we shalt not mourn.

The Corn Queen’s spirit, now safely preserved,
First loaf of bread, in the rigs to be served.
The first day of harvest, feast and wassail,
To the Harvest Queen, let us now drink hail.

Revered through the long, winter months of gloom,
Looking and guarding, over spinning loom.
In the New Year’s soil, thee wilt be reborn,
Our offering to, a new crop of corn.

We fashion thee into, a small Sol Cake,
To keep thine life whole, we do not thee bake.
Into the mud, we return thee to Earth,
Dolly a symbol, of goddess rebirth.

The dollies power, to be now released,
After so much ploughing, the drinking feast.
Much ale to be drunk, this Sol Monath day,
Tomorrow we plough, but tonight we play.

Hail to thee Nerthus, Earth Mother of men,
Five blades for thine head, and thine fingerers ten.
Filled with ample rations, to bring us grace,
Be fruitful in, Wuldorfador’s embrace.

Copyright Andrew Rea 2009

Monday, 16 July 2012

Here be Woden

Here be Woden

There are many places in the landscape named after Woden. My research materials here are so extensive that I could have written many more verses. As it is I decided to stop writing at 13. The final verse is borrowed from Beowulf. It was by coincidence that the poem was finished on Friday the thirteenth.

Here be Woden

Woden magic lord, leader of Wild Hunt,
Our great god of war, make other swords blunt.
Thee collected souls, and led them away,
Fallen in battle, upon their last Day.

Lead to Valhalla, our brave drychten thane,
Thine soul to collect, after thee be slain.
Thee became Devil, when they styled thee Grim,
Evil Grim Reaper, protect us from him!

The new religion, had put thee to shame,
If death came to thee, then he was to blame.
As grima was ghost, they sort to defame,
But Grimr was Woden, by another name.

Woden's Wednesbury, town in Staffordshire,
Fortification, wall of shield and spear.
Shaped battlement stones, garden site to search,
Site of his temple, now site to a church.

Doomsday Wednesfield, ‘’Woden's open land,
In Staffordshire town, Danes made their last stand.
Falling in battle, Grimr led them away,
Alfred's son Edward, his victory day.

Derbyshire Wensley, Woden's sacred grove,
Silently guarding, a lead mining trove.
Domesday Wodnesleie, perched on top of dale,
Wensleydale cheese, to thee we drink hail.

Wansdyke Somerset, yon Saxons about,
Stretching to Wiltshire, to keep them without.
Earth work ditch and bank, did not heathens tame,
As Woden's Dic is, a West Saxon name.

Wansdyke Woddes geat, a gap in the line,
Wiltshire Woden's gate, was there by design.
As to invasion, they needed no sign,
Saxons then named it, after the Devine.

Wodnes denu lost, in West Overton,
Woden's vale Wiltshire, hast barrows long.
With six rings of wood, two circles of stone,
Wansdyke Roman road, didst king Arthur roam?

Woodnesborough Kent , Domesday Wodens Hill,
Sacred high altar, did worship fulfil.
Houses where fir trees, didst formally stand,
Wodnes Beorg was part, of our sacred Land.

Woden's barrow saw, slaughter for riches,
Two Saxon battles, in hill fort ditches.
Caewlin of Wessex, could not kingdom save,
Wodnes Beorg Wiltshire, became Adam's Grave.

Various places, didst Woden name,
Fields hills and valleys, sacred to the Dane.
Some sites and spaces, have altered their name,
But Woden's spirit, sits in groves the same.

You have travelled here, my friend Woden,
For were fythum thu   wine min Woden.
To favour us with help, and to fight for us,
Ond for ar stafum   usic sohtest.

Copyright Andrew Rea Friday 13th July 2012

Monday, 9 July 2012

Spell of the mead

Spell of the mead

See footnote for a glossary of Anglo-Saxon words and expressions used.

This poem is written in the style of an Anglo-Saxon banishing spell. The use of repartition is particularly apparent. 

Spell of the mead

Helheim beast be gone, to whence ye doth came,
Be gone ye dark orc, we wilt mead reclaim.
Thou art unwelcome, within this corn mead,
Be gone to thine lair, thee shalt not proceed.

Be gone ye dark orc, return to thy kin,
To darkest helheim, return thee within.
Be gone malignance, thou powers recede,
We cast ye hence forth, with songal of seed.

By sacred power, of the old stone god,
We banish thee spirit, with flaming rod.
No sinister war spears, for thee to spin,
Out now thee dammed spirit, thee shalt not win.

With runes in the air, oaken rod to write,
Ese of Albion, we doth invite.
We write magic runes, with fire and smoke,
Wodan of Wild Hunt, we doth thee invoke.

We conjure thine spirit, with sacred chant,
Invoke runic spells, thine help us to grant.
Wodan lord of magic, make this spell true,
Return this mead’s richness, as hitherto.

Nerthus producer, of bountiful yields,
Come to our aid in, Avalon’s green fields.
In glædmód we wassail, thy sacred rite,
Spell casting by singing, into the night.

Copyright Andrew Rea October 2011

Helheim  = a cold, dark underworld, one of the nine Norse worlds.
Orc = demon in Old English, used also by Tolkien
Songal = Middle English expression for a handful of corn.
Ese = Saxon deities
Nerthus = a fertility goddess replaced largely by Frigg in late Saxon times
Glædmód = cheerful, joyous

Tuesday, 3 July 2012

The third Litha Monath (Drilithi)

 Third Litha Monath

The Anglo-Saxon calendar was made up of lunar months so only loosely corresponds to ours. Instead of a leap day they needed a leap month about every 3 years, this was added to the summer and became the third month of Litha.
This poem focuses on a sorcerer and a popular method of finding cures for aliments where
knowledge was lacking, The sorcerer would go into a trance like state and commune with
the spirit world in order to find the cure using Scinn-craeft (magical skill).
The penultimate verse draws from ‘The Good Reeve’ an 11th century farming hand book.

The third Litha Monath (Drilithi)

The long lazy litha, daylight blessing,
Summer’ extra moon, is now progressing.
Triple Litha monath, brings much delight,
Three months about the, solstice brightest light.

The sorcerer with, flowing gown and broach,
Raises long sleeved arms, as we now approach.
Drawing on the gentle, spindle power,
Signing to us this, be not the right hour.

By the power of, earth fast standing stone,
Scinn-craeftic magic, spell be spun alone.
Conjures nature’s spirits, with sacred chant,
Singing to the stone gods, their aid to grant.

Calling quarters, magic galdor intone,
An offering placed, at his sacred stone.
The Scinn-craeftic spell, nine times to recite,
A libation made, for spirit insight.

Holly oaken rod, runes in air to write,
Ese of Albion, he doth invite.
Whisper of the covert, to listen too,
Wodan magic lord, make the spell come true.

Common weapon men, fetch timber, cut wood,
Old shippons and sheep pens, for making good.
Mowing meads cutting reeds, for roof to thatch,
Cleaning of oxfold and, the roof to patch.

Extra month of Litha, wilt bring good cheer,
Drink hail me lads, raise thine beaker of beer.
Three Litha months, more time on the mead bench,
Bearers of the mead cup, their thirst to quench.

Copyright Andrew Rea 2010