Saturday, April 12, 2008

Anglo-Saxon Cult Burial

Could an Anglo-Saxon woman, whose remains have recently been unearthed, have been at the center of a pagan cult? That is the question archaeologists are now asking.

In November 2007 two articles came to my attention:

BBC News: "Dramatic” Ancient Cemetary Found" and 24Dash: "Royal Burial Ground Unearthed". Both articles reported on the discovery of an Anglo-Saxon burial that, from the items discovered with the burial, could indicated that it was a royal burial. The excavations had been underway since 2005 - but these new items were recent.

Both BBC News and 24Dash commented upon the fact that traditionally Anglo-Saxon burials took place in the southern parts of England. And the grave contained many objects considered to have been typical amongst "high status" people. As such, it has been speculated that it could have belonged to Ethelburga, Princess of Kent, who married Edwin, King of Northumbria.

In "Bejeweled Anglo-Saxon Burial Suggests Cult" Jennifer Viegas of Discovery News speculates that this 7th Century woman could have been the leader of a pagan cult.

" ... jewelry-draped body was laid out on a specially constructed bed and buried ..... Her jewelry, which included a large shield-shaped pendant, the layout and location of the cemetery as well as excavated weaponry, such as knives and a fine langseax lead the scientists to believe she might have been a member of royalty who led a pagan cult a time when Christianity was just starting to take root in the region."

This burial first came to light in November 2007 when some of the most beautiful jewelry was discovered:

"Mounted by a central blue gemstone, the piece has scalloped-shaped carving with 11 separate lobes and a scalloped lower edge. Small red gems resting on gold foil, which would have reflected light when the piece was worn, surround the central stone."

Even today, speculation as to the identity of the woman has ranged between a number of leading 7th Century Anglo-Saxon queens - including Ethelburga, the wife of King Edwin of Northumbria, and Eanflaed, the wife of King Oswiu, or even Oswiu's daughter, Aelflaed.

Why this Anglo-Saxon cemetary is so important lies in its age - in the 7th Century, Britain was on the cusp of Christianity becoming the more dominant religion. Pagan Kings and Queens were following the examples of those on the other side of the Channel, and adopting baptism from the missionary priests. It was a time where two religions collided and slowly merged becoming one.

Website: Anglo-Saxon Heathenism

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