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Silver Wind
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Silver Wind

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PostSubject: Historical Heathens   Historical Heathens Icon_minitimeTue Feb 05, 2008 10:21 am

While of course at one point all the Anglo-Saxons were Heathen, we are left very few clues or written accounts describing to us certain individual Heathens in Anglo-Saxon society, and when we do hear of a particular Heathen it is usually just a small commentary on their conversion to Christianity, and that was more than likely the description of a particular kings conversion. The common folk were pretty much left totally out of written records, unless again it be a small comment on their conversion as a community, such as the people of Sussex or Kent and when the missionaries arrived in their particular communities. But there is written documents giving us names and information on certain historical Heathens, whether they be royalty or some other folk. And it is the purpose of this page to give some information on these recorded individuals, whether it be an account of their birth, conversion, death or a battle that they may have fought.

Aelle (c.480)

Aella is remembered in Anglo-Saxon tradition as being the first Germanic king of the South Saxons in Sussex. Records show that he was active in battle through a lot of the latter half of the fifth century. It is recorded that Aella was the first king to rule over all of the other Anglo-Saxon kings south of the river Humber, which tends to suggest that he was a powerful individual during his life.

Cerdic (c.490-530)

Cerdic is remembered in Anglo-Saxon tradition as the first Germanic king of Wessex. There are some accounts of military campaigns that he fought in during the fifth and sixth century, recorded mainly in the Anglo-Saxon chronicle. It's possible that his exploits took place in what is today modern Hampshire and South Wiltshire, extending northward from Southampton. The most interesting fact about Cerdic is that his name is Celtic and not Germanic, this could either be because his parents in naming him were very influenced by the surrounding Celtic culture or that he was in fact part Celtic himself, rather than pure Germanic.

Ida (c.560)

Ida is remembered as being the first king of Bernicia, the northern half of the kingdom of Northumbria. Bede tells us that he ruled Bernicia for 12 years. It's possible that his royal court was based at Bamburgh, which is situated on the coast of Northumbria, It's possible that his rule did not stretch far inland, but his grandson Ethelfrith was someone who extended the rule of Bernicia over a far wider area, and further inland.

Aella (Died 588)

Aella is the first recorded king of Deira, which was the southern half of the kingdom of Northumbria. It was during his reign that Anglo-Saxon slave boys were seen by Pope Gregory in a Roman slave market, which compelled the Pope to dispatch the missionaries to convert the Heathen Anglo-Saxons to Christianity.

Ceawlin (Died 593)

According to the Anglo-Saxon chronicle, Ceawlin was the king of the West Saxons of Wessex. Ceawlin could be seen as the stereotypical dark age barbarian war leader. Bede tell us that he was one of the seven 'Bretwaldas' who ruled over all the Anglo-Saxon people south of the river Humber. The chronicles show Ceawlin as being engaged in warfare with several peoples, Anglo-Saxons and others. He won battles at Dyrham in 577, captured the town of Bath and acquired much reward.

Ethelfrith (Died 616)

Ethelfrith is recorded as being the grandson of king Ida, he is also recorded as being a very powerful and ruthless king. He is believed to be the king who won battles at Catterick in the year 600 and in an unknown place known then as Degastan in 603. Ethelfrith also at one point managed to extend his rule over the southern Northumbrian kingdom of Deira, this could have been as a result of his marriage to the daughter of the Deiran king, Aella. It was the ruthless nature of Ethelfrith that caused members of the Deiran royal house to be forced into exile, the most notable being king Edwin who spent his exile with Redwald the East Anglian king. As a result of this power struggle Ethelfrith was killed in battle by Redwalds army in 616, which allowed Edwin to succeed Ethelfrith as the major Northumbrian king.

Ethelbert (Died 616)

Ethelbert is most famous for being the first Anglo-Saxon king to convert to Christianity, and according to the scholar Bede he was one of the seven Bretwaldas, who although being the king of Kent also ruled over all the Anglo-Saxon people south of the river Humber. Bede also mentions that Ethelbert reigned for fifty-six years, most dismiss this a a rare mistake by Bede, considering that the average life span during this era was well below that of fifty-six years. Ethelbert was married to Bertha, who was the daughter of Charibert, the Frankish king. Although during much of their marriage Ethelbert was a Heathen, it is interesting to note that Bertha was a Christian, and when she came to live in England she was escorted by a Christian bishop named Luidhard, who at some stage refurbished an old Roman building to be used as a church. So before the arrival of St Augustine, the missionary that converted Ethelbert, Ethelbert already had knowledge of the Christian faith while still a Heathen.The conversion of Ethelbert began in 597 when St Augustine landed on the Isle of Thanet. The result of Ethelberts conversion was the establishment of the Christian church amongst the Anglo-Saxon people, the Kentish city of Canterbury was made the home of the Anglican church by Augustine, and still it remains so today.

Redwald (Died 627)

Redwald is one of the most well known of early Anglo-Saxon kings, partly due to the words of the Venerable Bede, but mainly for his association with the Sutton Hoo ship burial. Redwald was the king of east Anglia during the early seventh century, Bede records that he was partially converted to Christianity while on a visit to Ethelberts Kent, but he remained true to his ancestral religion by keeping his pagan shrines, and only setting up Christian ones beside them. Redwald of course is the leading contender to have been buried in the ship burial at Sutton Hoo, which if true shows how much of a powerful and well respected king Redwald was, and also it shows that he must have remained a strong Heathen right up until his death to have been buried in such a pagan fashion.

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