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Tag: Vikings

Today is Saint Edmund’s Day. It’s personal

Tuesday, 20 November, 2018

According to Bernard Burke’s Vicissitudes of Families, the banner of Saint Edmund, with its three crowns on a blue background, was among those borne during the Norman invasion of Ireland in 1169. The bearers included Maurice FitzGerald, Robert Fitz-Stephen, Redmund Fitz-Hugh, Meiler FitzHenry and Robert Fitz-Bernard. From then on, Saint Edmund’s banner became the standard for Ireland during the Plantagenet era. By the way, Richard de Clare and Raymond le Gros, who featured prominently in the Norman invasion, dedicated a chapel of Christ Church Cathedral in Dublin to Saint Edmund.

The banner of Saint Edmund Who was Saint Edmund? Well, when the Great Heathen Army advanced on East Anglia in 869, the obscure King Edmund led the resistance and he met his death on 20 November at a place known as Haegelisdun, after he refused the Vikings’ demand that he renounce Christ. They beat him, tied him to a tree, shot him with arrows and then beheaded him on the orders of Ivar the Boneless and his brother Ubba. Legend has it that his head was then thrown into the forest but was found by searchers after following the cries of a wolf that was calling out, in Latin, Hic, Hic, Hic (“Here, Here, Here”.)

The name Edmund, which is also spelled Edmond, contains the elements ēad (“prosperity, riches”) and mund (“protector”). The Irish Gaelic forms are Éamon, Éaman and Éamann. The corresponding Anglicised forms are Eamon and Eamonn.

Your blogger’s grandfather on the maternal side was Edmond O’Donnell. He is buried in the graveyard of Lisvernane Church in the Glen of Aherlow, County Tipperary.


Nobody does Eurovision like Sweden does Eurovision

Saturday, 14 May, 2016 0 Comments

Vikings, IKEA, Absolut Vodka, ABBA, Stieg Larsson, H&M… The Swedes are good at lots of things. Then, there’s the Melodifestivalen, the national event through which Sweden’s representative for the Eurovision Song Contest is selected. Held every February and March, it unites the country during the long winter nights and offers endless opportunities for small talk during the ritual morning fika at the office.

The Swedes are especially good at hosting the Eurovision Song Contest, so we’re in for a delight from Stockholm tonight. A hint was provided in the interval of the second semi-final on Thursday evening with a show that took the audience through the history of modern dance, but with a very Swedish touch. Three humans were joined by three assembly-line robots in a medley that paid homage to ’70s disco (Bee Gee-style), a Thriller zombie routine, 50 Cent’s In Da Club and a version of Beyonce’s Single Ladies. The hosts described the performance as exploring the “contrasts that divide and the similarities we share with our metallic friends.” The Swedes share the same planet with the rest of us, but they are in a world of their own when it comes to Eurovision.


It is true that the Vikings pillaged and enslaved. But…

Tuesday, 25 November, 2014 0 Comments

There’s always a but, isn’t there? In its blurb for The Vikings by Anders Winroth, Princeton University Press points out that the Norse warriors “also settled peacefully and developed a vast trading network.” When Tom Shippey reviewed Winroth’s book on Friday in the Wall Street Journal he had a go at the modern academy, which works hard to present the Vikings as “explorers, traders, founders of urban life, contributors to civilization.” Uncomfortable fact is, says Shippey, that when the Vikings managed to “stimulate the economy of western Europe,” they did it “by selling slaves to the Islamic world and stealing church treasuries from the Christian one.”

The thing that made Viking culture different, notes Shippey, “was all that academics dislike in the word ‘Viking.’ … Vikings would not be welcome in the faculty lounge.”

Viking axe

The mortal dread that the Vikings could inspire was captured in this ancient Irish poem, as translated from the Gaelic by Kuno Meyer:

The Viking Terror

Bitter is the wind tonight.
It tosses the ocean’s white hair.
Tonight I fear not the fierce warriors of Norway
Coursing on the Irish Sea.

By the way, the second line of the John Montague translation of that anonymous poem is especially evocative: “Bitter the wind tonight/ combing the sea’s hair white.”


Forest Swords

Saturday, 11 January, 2014 0 Comments

Matthew Barnes, known by his stage name Forest Swords, is an English music producer and performer. His debut album, Engravings, was released in August last year to unanimously positive critical response. Interestingly, the album was mixed on Thurstaston Hill in that bastion of Liverpudlian lore, the Wirral Peninsula. Barnes credits the outdoors recording for giving the album a natural and atmospheric sound.

Geography: Thurstaston Hill is the home of Thor’s Stone, a house-sized block of red sandstone, where Viking settlers were supposed to have held sacrifices to placate their thunder god. Others say that the stone was raised by the Danes to commemorate the Battle of Brunanburh in 937. More scientific theories suggest that post-glacial erosion removed the softer surrounding rocks and produced today’s landmark.

Etymology: The Danish masculine name Thorsten comes from the Old Norse name Þórsteinn, which meant “Thor’s stone” from the name of the Norse god Þórr (Thor) combined with steinn “stone”. Variants include Thorstein (Norwegian), Torsten (German) and Torsti (Finnish).