Rigsthula

Under the pump a little this month so instead of another in depth article I want to share another long poem from The Northumbrian Saga, one that I like almost as much as The Wanderer but for very different reasons. This one is Viking in origin and is called Rigsthula, or the Lay of Rig. As you will see, Rig is not only adventurous but, shall we say, very friendly with the women he stays with. Behind the poem is the description of Scandinavian social hierarchy, beginning with the thralls or slaves at the very bottom (ugly and calloused from work) to the Jarls and finally Kon or King at the top.

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How to fight in Anglo-saxon England

Viking shield wall (www.ydalir.co.uk)

Most of the Anglo-saxon battles took place on land and contrary to many Hollywood movies (which nonetheless can be very entertaining) they fought mostly on foot, not on horseback. Frankish texts are fairly unanimous on this point saying that horses were primarily the mode of transportation to and from the field of war. However there are engravings and other such pieces of art which do depict men on horseback charging with spears. This suggests that although rare it was not unheard of, especially in the later period. Continue reading

York: The evidence (Part 2)

When people think of York images are conjured up of a number of things: a Roman fort, a medieval walled city, even King Richard the III and the Wars of the roses. Over the past several decades however, thanks to … Continue reading

The Vikings are coming to Australia!

OK, so not the real Vikings, but the Australian National Maritime Museum in Sydney is holding an exhibition on the History and culture of the Vikings, in conjunction with the Swedish History Museum. Nearly 500 rare artefacts will be on show at Darling Harbour, including the oldest known Scandinavian crucifix, small statuettes of norse gods, viking swords, jewellery, and hundreds of other items from 700-1100AD. Continue reading

Historical Figure Profile: King Ricsige of Northumbria

Illustration of a Viking raid

Illustration of a Viking raid

So far with the Historical figure posts, we have looked at the years 858-875AD, the years concerning the reigns of those Northumbrians in power during the Viking invasions of York. We started with King Osbert, King Aelle and Archbishop Wulfhere, the last of which was the only one of the three to have survived the destruction of York. In fact, even after the death of Aelle’s successor King Egbert, and after the deaths or disappearances of King Ricsige, Ivarr the Boneless, Halfdan and Ubba (all coming in later posts), Archbishop Wulfhere still managed to hold his position as the Archbishop of York right up until the end of the century (excluding his year in exile).

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