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Folklore of England

Saturday, July 29, 2006

The Mead Hall: Feasting in Anglo-Saxon England
by Stephen Pollington

Communal meals were an importnat part of Anglo-Saxon society. They were enjoyed by nobles, yeomen, warriors, farmers, churchmen and laity. Some of the feasts were informal communal gatherings while others were formal ritual gatherings.
Using the evidence of Old English texts - including the epic Beowulf and the Anglo-Saxon Chronicles - Stephen pollington shows that the idea of feasting remained central to early English social traditions long after the physical reality had declined in importance.
The words of the poets and saga-writers are supported by a wealth of archaelogical data dealing with halls, settlement layouts and the magnificent feasting gear found in many early Anglo-Saxon graves.
Published by Anglo-Saxon Books, this 283page hardback comes with 24 illustrations and is highly acclaimed. The book can be purchased by clicking on the link below: (UK only) £14.95 plus handling fee.

Anglo Saxon Riddles #12

A moth ate words - to me that seemed
a strange event when I learnt of that wonder
that the words swallowed down part of a man's song
- the theif on the darkness- his glorious saying
and its strong foundation; the stealing guest was not
any the wiser for having swallowed those words.

Answer: book-worm moth

Anglo Saxon Riddles #11

The wet earth, wondrously cold
first gave me birth from its womb
I know I was not made with woollen fleeces
through high skill with hairs, by my wise mind
no weft shall be wound in me, nor have I a warp
nor does a thread run thorugh me with the force of strokes
nor does the creaking shuttle glide through me
nor from any side shall the weaving-slay strike me
Silkworms did not weave me with their lucky skills
who cleverly make a fine yellow fabric
Yet men widely over the earth will
call me a desirable garment for heroes
Say in true speech, being wise in cunning thought
clever with words, what this clothing may be.

Answer: mailcoat

Anglo Saxon Riddles #10

I am a wonderful thing, a hope for women,
useful to those near me, none do I harm
among men except my slayer.
My standing is high and steep, I stand in a bed.
hairy beneath. Sometimes she dares -
the comely daughter of a yeoman,
the proud girl - so that she grips me,
rushes on me, ruddy, seizes my head
fixes me in a firm place, she soon feels
our meeting who comes near me
- a woman with curly hair - wet shall be her eye.

Answer: onion (and not what some of you crude minded folk may have thought!!)

Thursday, July 27, 2006

Anglo Saxon Riddles #9

Grey is my garment; adornments bright, red, and shining are in my raiment. I lead astray the stupid, and urge the foolish on to rash journeys; others I hinder from a useful journey. I know not at all why they, thus maddened, deprived of mind, led astray in deed, praise my crooked ways to everyone. Woe to them for their custom, when the High One brings the dearest of treasures, if they cease not from folly ere that.

Answer: night . The riddle seems to refer not only to darkness but also to night revels. ‘The dearest of treasures’ is perhaps the sun. An alternative solution is wine.

Anglo Saxon Riddles #8

My neck is white, my head yellow, also my sides; I am swift in my going, I bear a weapon for battle; on my back stand hairs just as on my cheeks; above my eyes tower two ears; I walk on my toes in the green grass. Grief is doomed for me if anyone, a fierce fighter, catch me in my covert, where I have my haunt, my lair with my litter, and I lurk there with my young brood when the intruder comes to my doors; death is doomed for them, and so I shall bravely bear my children from their abode, save them by flight, if he comes close after me. He goes on his breast; I dare not await his fierceness in in my hole – that were ill counsel – but fast with my forefeet I must make a path through the steep hill. I can easily save the life of my precious ones, if I am able to lead my family, my beloved and kin, by a secret way through a hole in the hill; afterwards I need dread not at all the battle with the death-whelp. If the malignant foe pursues me behind by a narrow path, he shall not lack a struggle to bar his way after I reach the top of the hill, and with violence I will strike with war darts the hated enemy whom long I fled.

Answer: badger

Anglo Saxon Riddles #7

Often I must war against the wave and fight against the wind; I contend against them combined, when, buried by the billows, I go to seek the earth; my native land is strange to me. If I grow motionless I am mighty in the conflict; if I succeed not in that they are stronger than I, and straightaway with rending they put me to rout; they wish to carry off what I must keep safe. I foil them in that if my tail endures and if the stones are able to hold fast against me in my strength. Ask what is my name.

Answer: anchor

Anglo Saxon Riddles #6

My head is forged by a hammer, wounded with pointed tools, rubbed by the file. Often I gape at what is fixed opposite to me, when, girded with rings, I must needs thrust stoutly against the hard bolt; pierced from behind I must shove forward that which guards the joy of my lord’s mind at midnight. At times I drag my nose, the guardian of the treasure, backwards, when my lord desires to take the stores of those whom at his will he commanded to be driven out of life by murderous power.

Answer: key

Anglo Saxon Riddles #5

My abode is not silent, nor I myself loud voiced; the Lord laid laws upon us, shaped our course together; I am swifter than he, stronger at times, he more laborious; sometimes I rest; he must needs run on. I ever dwell in him while I live: if we are parted death is my destiny.

Answer: Fish and River

Anglo Saxon Riddles #4

I am puff-breasted, swollen necked, I have a head and lofty tail, eyes and ears and one foot, a back and hard beak, a high neck and two sides, a rod in the middle, a dwelling above men. I endure misery when he who stirs the forest moves me and torrents beat upon me in my station, the hard hail and rime; and frost comes down and snow falls on me, pierced through the stomach, and I….

Answer: weathercock