How the blog works

The poems on this blog are mostly written on the basis of my historical reading and are intended to be both educational and entertaining.
Recently I have also begun posting some of my work with Anglo-Saxon charms. This work is somewhat speculative and is conducted as an amateur researcher and keen Pagan historian.

Please feel free to use anything on this site as a resource if you think that it may be relevant to your needs.

Monday, 20 July 2015

I am called Mask


The title ‘I am called Mask’ has been borrowed from Old Icelandic ‘Heto mek Grímr’  (Grímnismál when Odin introduces himself in strophe 46)

In this poem we set the mood of a runic consecration by the masked lord based on the Sutton Hoo Helmet (An Eye for Odin? Divine Role-Playing in
the Age of Sutton Hoo - European Journal of Archaeology 17 (3) 2014, 517–538) and also from an idea expanded from a contemporary inscription: ‘One with a gleaming eye consecrates the runes’ (Looijenga, 2003: 211–12; McKinnell et al., 2004).

It has been argued that in certain circumstances and locations, such as the firelit interior of the mead hall that the wearer of the Sutton Hoo Helmet was seen as both war leader and war god, a literal personification of Odin.

This was reinforced by the addition of wafer-thin foils of gold behind the garnets, which were stamped with a cross-hatched pattern, over the right eye causing this eyebrow to sparkle, thus placing emphasis on one eye.

The heavily patterned plates of tinned bronze would also have caught the flickering flames of the fire and appeared to sparkle and move.

‘On the spear side’ means within the realm of men, compare ‘on the spindle side’ within  the realm of women.

I am called Mask

Warriors retainers, fill the mead hall,
Glittering Lord on, carved seat set so tall.
On warrior’s sword, at height of full moon,
The gleaming eyed one, consecrates the rune.

The shifting flames light, the glimmering mask,
Mead cup bearing boys, break open the cask.
Horn of mead passes, from bench to bench,
Boasting of valor, and longing to quench.

The right eye garnets, glitter and glimmer,
Stiff bronze dragon shank, sparkle and shimmer.
Dark hollow eyeholes, in soft shadows deep,
Warriors move round, flames flicker and leap.

The bird soars skyward, and dragon descends,
Bronze boar heads to wings, strong shielding defends.
Figurers of silver, on mask of giver,
Forming in firelight, they shudder and shiver.

Thick billowing smoke, upwards ever drift,
Flickering fire light, faint images shift.
Torn long tunic bard, he weaves riddle craft,
While on the spear side, they down the best draught.

Amid the chatter, and immodest song,
Wæs hæil loudly called, amongst heathen throng.
While slacking the thirst, with ample mead strong,
Much wassailing in, the small hours long.

Copyright Andrew Rea July 2015

Friday, 3 July 2015

The mead halls and the masked ones


The Sutton Hoo helmet formed a glittering mask that would have been worn in the mead halls.
The land was divided into a number of kingdoms each with a pyramidal structure of king, earls and thanes. You would have been likely to swear allegiance to one of these lords perhaps in exchange for a gift. Each lord would have provided entertainment within their mead hall. From Beowulf we know that much boasting took place in the halls but this did not always bear true in the field of battle.
This poem explores and laments some of the pitfalls of any such power structure and could also be applied to certain contemporary institutions. The reader is invited to form their own overlay.

The mead halls and the masked ones

Wherefore art my maid, with her linden shield?
Before an aloof lord, she hast now kneeled,
Shield maiden hast gone, to have her oath sealed,
Before the glittering Lord.

Believe the bond of, the sacred mead oath,
Bound in loyalty, love and trust he quoth,
She solemnly said, that melomel troth,
She swore upon her sword.

Oath of love to pass through, that oaken door,
Such magical sights, in mead hall she saw,
Glittering eyed one, that makes all thine law,
Much mead in horn was poured.

Allegiance is as, to darkly enthrall,
We must meet without, of merry mead hall,
As this Lord didst not, me to circle call,
We bow to his accord.

Her fine linden shield, still serves me quite well,
But he who wouldst cast, such a magic spell,
Will not a mead hall, conflict stop or quell,
He will not draw his sword.

But these melomel oaths, do soon wear quite thin,
As mead spell wear off, attack kith and kin,
But still some do not, think this is a sin,
Hast anyone here deplored?

There are those with a need, to take other's power,
Oft with false faces, looking so dour,
Hidden within their, distant tall tower,
Guarding their stolen hoard.

Oaths of love seem bland, in light of morrow,
Other's trust promise, slowly wanes hollow,
A knife in the back, brings many sorrow,
Are we bound by the same accord?

Mead halls together, they serve a great part,
Yet some usurpers, will rip out thy heart,
We see kith and kin, cleave and split apart,
That sly Auld Scrat has scored.

Alas all power, that is so unjust,
Alas the broken oath, of love and trust,
Alas for good work, that withers to dust,
Is this our perfect accord?

Copyright Andrew Rea Midsummer 2015