Tag Archives: Medieval history


This is a pendant with an image of a bull and and what looks like seven bees or seven women. It was found in Ryazan area of Russia, and is attributed to Vyatichi, an early medieval Slavic tribe. Pendant, one of many found in Radimich kurgans, is dated to 11th – 12th century AD.  

What does this pendant represent?

The constellation of Pleiades (also known as seven sisters or seven maidens) lies on the neck of the constellation Taurus (bull)…

According to old writers, for instance Virgil book 4, bees only collect honey between the helical rising and setting of Pleiades (May to November). Funnily this period spans 7 months, the same number as the number of stars (bees or maiden sisters) of the constellation of Pleiades…

King John

Does anyone else think that this picture, allegedly showing king John on a stag hunt, looks strange, and may be hiding something in plain sight?

Well I checked and officially there is nothing special about this picture. It is simply a picture depictint the king who liked hunting chasing a stag day and night.

But maybe, just maybe, there is more in this image than meets the eye.

In Europe, St John’s day, (Ivandan, Jovandan in Slavic languages) is Christianized Midsummer, Summer solstice celebration.

In Serbia Midsummer, Summer, Summer solstice day is also known as Vidovdan, day dedicated to Svetovid, sun god. The sacred animal of Svetovid is white horse. This is an image of the solar rider on a white horse is also found on (medieval???) standing stones from Bosnia.

I already wrote about this in my post “The horseman“.

The same solar rider and horse are found on many Celtic coins:

The rider of the solar horse on Celtic coins often had solar head, a head with hair sticking out like sun rays. The rider was the sun, sun god. We can see this from the fact that the rider is sometimes the sun disc. John has the ray crown which actually represents the sun rays. The same crown was worn by Sun god in later Roman period of Sol Invictus worship and by emperors who worshiped the sun god. This is Aurelian in his radiate crown on the left with Sol Invictus on the right.

The crown that John is wearing is the same radiate crown, the solar crown.

The line between the light (red) and dark (blue) part of the picture can be interpreted in two ways. Firstly this  could be the line between the day and night, so the evening. Secondly this could be the line between the period of the year when the days are getting longer and the period of the year when the days are getting shorter, so the summer solstice. Regardless of which one of these two interpretations we take, it seems that the painter went through considerable pain to make it obvious that this change from light to darkness is important. King John is depicted right on the line between light and darkness and his clothes are also made of the same light and darkness. Meaning he is related to light, he is light. He is the sun. I believe that the line between the “light” and “dark” part of the picture is the summer solstice, because this fits with St John’s day being the midsummer, summer solstice celebration.

King John is chasing the stag, another solar symbol.

The same stag hunt scene is represented on many Bosnian medieval standing stones, like this one from Crljivica:

But just like King Arthur and his knights, who are unsuccessfully trying to catch the white stag, King John and the unknown deer hunter from Bosnia will never catch his stag…Because the stag is just the symbol of the sun, more precisely the 9 sunny months of Spring, Summer and Autumn.

King John is also holding his hand in a very strange way, with the palm pointing up, towards the sky, towards the sun. The reason why palm up means salvation is because sun god and heaven is “up”. The reason why palm down means damnation is because earth, devil and hell is “down”.  And he is pointing up…Towards the sun on the St John’s day, the day of the summer solstice. The day when the sun, the king of heaven is on his throne, the highest point the sun reaches in the sky on the northern hemisphere…

Lastly, the corners of the picture are very interesting. They all have the same symbol, “the hands of god” which represent the solar year, divided into four seasons around solstices and equinoxes with three months each…The god whose hands these are is the sun. 

This symbol is found on Serbian Christmas cakes. Christmas is the Christianized winter solstice celebration, the celebration of the birth of the new sun, new solar year. This is why there is so much solar imagery on Serbian Christmas cakes which are votive offerings to the sun god.

You can read more about these cakes and their ritual use in my post “Can you see me“.

No what about the lanterns? Well officially they are not lanterns at all, but just “patterns”…In Serbia midsummer celebrations and customs have been during Christian time spread through the summer and associated with several summer saints. One of these is St Peter’s day which used to be celebrated on the is celebrated on the 28th of June according to Julian calendar but is today celebrated on the 12th of July according to the Gregorian calendar. During St Peter’s day celebrations in Serbia people light up special votive torches called “lile”.

I believe that these were once lite up on the eve of the summer solstice.  In Southern Europe (including Angevin domains in southern France) this is the time when grain ripens and the time when fireflies light up the night.

South Slavic words for firefly are “svitac”, “svitnjak”, “svijetnjak”, “svitaljka”, “cvitnjak”, “kris”, “krijes”, “kres”, “kresnica”…These are also words used for fire and torches which are lit up on the shortest night of the year, as part of the Slavic summer solstice celebrations…

Are the “lantern” like “patterns” on the picture fireflies or votive toches? 

So that’s it.


Well yes and yes. 

Overanalyzing of a pretty but otherwise meaningless painting? 

That is possible too.

We will never know 🙂


St Brendan and his “team”
Both Ireland and Northern Ireland have bombed out of the EURO 2016. But if you are Irish, there is another Irish team still in competition which you can support: Iceland.

“eee what?” I can hear you say… Let me explain:

If you have watched the EURO 2016, you must have seen Icelandic team and supporters doing their amazing “Viking battle chant”. This is a great recording of it performed by the Iceland supporters after Iceland beat England 2:1.

This “Viking battle chant” which has become synonymous with the Icelandic fans at EURO 2016 has become quite a world sensation. But believe or not this chant has nothing to do with the Vikings. It originated in Scotland. Fans of Stjarnan, a Reykjavik based team, fell in love with the chant during a game they played in Motherwell in 2014. The chant has apparently been performed on the terraces at Motherwell Fir Park stadium for years. The Stjarnan supporters adopted the chant as their own and later it was also adopted by the Icelandic national team supporters. They started performing it during the EURO 2016 qualifying campaign and it has since became firmly associated with the Icelandic team. This is a great example of a cultural transfer. 

But this is not the only thing “Vikings” picked up in Scotland and Ireland and took with them to Iceland. 

When the settlement of Iceland got underway some time around 800AD, it seems that there were a lot of Gaelic people among the original settlers. Genetic analysis has shown that a quarter of the men and up to half of the women among the founding population would have been of “Gaelic” origin. 

The study included 181 Icelanders, 233 Scandinavians and 283 “Gaels” from Ireland and Scotland. “Gaelic” was the preferred term in the study, given the fact that the Vikings in 800AD populated both eastern Ireland and also the Western Isles of Scotland. These territories were at that time settled and controlled by the Irish kingdom of Dál Riata

The study showed that between 20 and 25 per cent of Icelandic founding males had Gaelic ancestry, with the remainder having Norse ancestry. These findings match up with earlier study which looked at mitocondrial DNA in the women from the same population groups. The mitocondrial data showed that over a half of Iceland’s founding females were of Gaelic ancestry.

What we don’t know is who these Gaelic people were and how they ended up in Iceland. 

Even though in some cases, the whole established Viking family groups arrived and settled in Ireland and Scotland, most of the time the Vikings bands were ad hoc armies consisting of young men. It is not inconceivable that these young men who had come over from Scandinavia and lived for a time in the British Isles would have taken local wives, and even entered into alliances with their Gaelic in-laws. When for what ever reason some of these Vikings decided to leave the British isles around 800 AD and settle in Iceland, they took their wives with them. They could have even been joined by some of their Irish male in-laws and their families. 

However some of these Gaelic people who ended up in Iceland might have been taken away against their will as it is known that Vikings engaged in slave trade and took away a significant number of slaves from Gaelic territories in Ireland and Scotland. One of the most comprehensive works on the subject of the Irish in Iceland is Gaelic influence in Iceland by Gísli Sigurdsson. Sigurdsson suggests that slaves may have comprised as much as 30–40% of the population. 

But there is something very interesting about the Viking colonization of Iceland. 

Upon the demise of the Roman Empire and the subsequent spread of Christianity across Europe, monks and holy men increasingly undertook perilous sea voyages to remote uncharted waters. These expeditions could have been pilgrimages of sorts, to test their belief in the Lord.  Well that is one explanation. Another one was that the Irish Christian monks followed their kinsmen to the newly discovered lands….

The most famous of these reputed journeys is that of the legendary St Brendan. 

Saint Brendan of Clonfert (c. 484 – c. 577) called “the Navigator”, “the Voyager”, “the Anchorite”, or “the Bold”, is one of the early Irish monastic saints. He was one of the Twelve Apostles of Ireland. He is most famous for his legendary quest to the “Isle of the Blessed,” also called Saint Brendan’s Island. 

The first mention of Brendan occurs in Adamnan’s Vita Sancti Columbae, written between 679 and 704. But the first notice of him as a seafarer appears in the ninth century Martyrology of Tallaght. The earliest full version of “The Voyage of Saint Brendan” was recorded around AD 900. In it we read that on the Kerry coast, he built a currach-like boat of wattle, covered it with hides tanned in oak bark softened with butter, set up a mast and a sail. He and a small group of monks fasted for forty days, and after a prayer upon the shore, embarked on their voyage to find the Isle of the Blessed. On their way they pass by the land where “great demons threw down lumps of fiery slag from an island with rivers of gold fire” and “great crystal pillars.” Many now believe these to be references to the volcanic activity around Iceland, and to icebergs.[

While the story is often assumed to be a religious allegory, there has been considerable discussion as to whether the legends are based on actual events. Over the years there have been many interpretations of the possible geographical position of Saint Brendan’s Island of the Blessed. Today the most popular theory is that St Brendan actually discovered America, sailing there via Iceland and Greenland. 

 The Voyage of Saint Brendan belongs to the type of Old Irish stories known as “immram” (Irish navigational story). An immram is a story concerning a hero’s sea journey to the Otherworld (see Tír na nÓg and Mag Mell). They were all written in the Christian era. No surprise here as the Irish only had oral tradition before the Christian monks started writing it down. 

But how come it was the Irish who in the Early medieval time developed the “Sea navigation stories”? Well because at that time, the Irish ruled the north western seas. They invaded and settled Western Scotland and gave it its name. The name Scotland comes “Scoti” which was the old name for the Irish. They invaded and settled Northern Wales, giving the name to the Llŷn Peninsula which was named after one of the Irish tribes, the Laigin. 

You can’t invade, settle and hold the coastal areas unless you are a maritime culture a maritime power. You can’t sail the northern seas around the British isles unless you are an accomplished mariner in a very very good boat. And the Irish seem to have in the early Medieval time been accomplished mariners in very good boats. This explains why the maritime voyage stories were at that time very popular in Ireland. 

This forgotten Irish maritime culture was covered in a great TV series and book called “Atlantean Irish” made by Irish film maker Bob Quinn. The films and book proposed that the Irish, or at least some of the Irish, were part of a common ‘Atlantean’ maritime culture that includes the western seaboard of Europe and North Africa.

Official history tells us that there is no reliable evidence to indicate that Brendan ever reached Iceland, Greenland or America. But it is interesting that the route route Iceland, Greenland, Newfoundland is the exact route which we know Vikings took in 10th century or maybe even in the 9th century when they discovered America

Is it possible that the Viking discovery of Iceland, Greenland and Newfoundland was actually a rediscovery prompted by the stories about St. Brendan’s voyage that the Vikings heard from their Irish wives and in-laws before 800 AD? Did Vikings then in the time of need decide to follow the described route and check for themselves what lies out west? 

Let’s see. 

Around 800 AD Vikings with their Irish wives, in-laws and slaves sailed from Ireland to Iceland and colonized it. 

But, there is a popular story in Iceland which says that the first humans who set the foot on the shores and volcanic terrain of Iceland were Christian monks from the north-west of Ireland, in the eighth century. The story is based on one written source, the Islendingabok (‘Book of the Islanders’) by  Ari Þorgilsson, written between 1122 and 1133, about 250 years after the first Norse settlements. Even in such established works as The history of Iceland by Gunnar Karlsson the arrival of the monks has become accepted history. Apparently the monks, having initially discovered a stable sea route from Ireland to Iceland, made repeated return journeys over the course of several decades until the arrival of the first Norse settlers. 

There is little to suggest that these monks established any permanent settlements in Iceland. While conclusive archaeological evidence of the presence of monks has been unearthed on the remote Orkney and Shetland Islands, no such proof has ever been found in Iceland and so this story about the Irish monks being the first colonizers of Iceland remains under question. 

But it is interesting that the first mention of St. Brendan as the “Navigator” appears in the 9th century. The same century when the colonization of Iceland begins. The same century when the alleged discovery of Iceland by the Irish monks, which was described in the Icelandic saga, takes place. The first full description of St Brendan’s “alleged” voyage to America, via Iceland and Greenland then appears in the manuscript published around 900 AD. And right after that Vikings from Iceland, who came from Ireland following St Brendan’s route, sail westward, again following St Brendan’s route, and “discover” Greenland and Newfoundland. 
Strange how it all fits together, don’t you think?

Whatever about the uncertainties surrounding the Gaelic arrivals of the eighth century, their presence in the ninth century Iceland is beyond question. The presence of Gaelic people among the first arrivals in Iceland is confirmed by numerous written references in both the Book of Settlements and the Book of Icelanders. In the former is found a comprehensive list of 400 names, of which at least 60 are distinctly Gaelic. 

Those of Gaelic origin integrated quickly into what became essentially a Norse culture. So what, beyond genetics, is the legacy of the Gaelic presence in Iceland? 

Well, as I said already the archaeological evidence is pretty slim. The same could also be said in relation to the Icelandic language. According to Sigurdsson, the limited number of borrowed words may be explained by the fact that the “Gaels did not contribute any new work skills or crafts, carrying their own vocabulary into the mainly Norse controlled society”, coupled with the fact that “the language of the slaves was probably not widely spoken by their masters”. 

But this is a bit dismissive when we know that it is in the Icelandic literature where we find the most important Gaelic legacy in Iceland. 

Icelandic oral and written traditions of the twelfth and thirteenth centuries were completely unique development in the Nordic world. There have been many theories which aimed to explain this phenomenon, but the one accepted by most British and Irish historians, and indeed Sigurdsson himself, says that the influence of the Gaelic presence in Iceland is a more plausible explanation for the emergence of the Icelandic sagas tradition. In the Gaelic world, oral tradition and the writing of the sagas in the vernacular was highly developed. In fact, Iceland and Ireland were the only countries in Western Europe where sagas of this kind were written down. There are undeniably striking resemblances in the literary output of Iceland and Ireland during the 12th and 13th century not just in form but in content too. In both traditions we find leprechaun-like creatures, Gaelic team game of hurling and boy stalwart heroes like Cú Chulainn from Irish sagas, and Starkaðr (Strong man) from the Icelandic Fornaldarsogur sagas, popular in the early fourteenth century. Both characters in their respective sagas at one point lie naked in the snow searching their clothes for lice. 

The Gaelic influence is even more obvious when we look at the Icelandic family sagas. Sigurdsson claims that the sagas that come from the west of Island have a more powerful Gaelic element than others, which could be explained by the stronger Gaelic presence in this area. How come? The western area of Iceland would have been the exact place where a bout coming from Ireland would have landed. And if the Irish settled permanently on Iceland, that would have been the exact place where they would have done so…Interesting…

Anyway, the most prominent example of this trend is the saga of the people of Laxardal (Laxdæla saga). In this tale one of the characters, Hoskuldr, obtains a slave woman from Norway who turns out to be Melkorka, daughter of a prominent Irish king. Retaining her native Gaelic language, she secretly passes it on to her son Ólafr, who later travels to Ireland to renew family ties and, despite his lowly slave origins, marries well. His son Kjartan becomes the main male hero of the Laxdæla saga. Parallels with the character of Cú Chulainn are again in evidence in a number of the family sagas. Some of his boyhood deeds are mirrored by the character of Kafli in the Kjalnesing saga, and the character of Egil in Egil’s saga. Parts of these sagas, particularly in the case of Laxdæla saga, tend to have a more colourful, exaggerated style with greater attention to detail, perhaps reflecting the Gaelic predilection for such literary affectations.

Slaves alone could have hardly been able to exert such cultural influence. This points to these possibilities:

1. The Irish sailors who discovered Iceland during the early medieval time actually settled in the west of Iceland. They eventually mixed with the Norse settlers who came from the East and who settled the eastern coast of Iceland. 
2. The Viking gang that arrived to Iceland from Ireland around 800 AD was a mixed Norse Irish clan with possibly slaves from other Irish clans. Irish practiced slavery long before Norse arrived. Remember how they “obtained” St Patrick from Wales? Were Irish colonies still on Iceland at that time? Were these people joining their kin in Iceland, or reclaiming the ancestral land?

That kind of mix could have exerted the cultural influence we find in the development of the Icelandic sagas. 

So, let me recapitulate:
1. Iceland was discovered and first colonized by the Irish monks.
2. It was then settled by the mix of Norse and Irish
3. These Irish contributed greatly to the genetics and culture of Iceland 

And so, on Sunday, when Iceland go on the pitch to play France, Irish can stand up and proudly shout:

Come on I(r)celand !!!

St Bega

The village of St Bees is just south of St Bees Head, the most westerly point of Cumbria, 50 miles from the Scottish border. 

The name St Bees is a corruption of the Norse name for the village, which is given in the earliest charter of the Priory as “Kyrkeby becok”, which can be translated as the “Church town of Bega”. It’s well known for the Norman St Bees Priory dating from 1120 dedicated to Saint Bega.  

Saint Bega was reputedly a saint of the Early Middle Ages. Her life was described in a medieval manuscript “The Life of St Bega”, part of a collection of various English saints’ lives that belonged to Holmcultram Abbey and is dated to the mid-13th century. According to this manuscript, she was a virtuous Irish princess who valued virginity. She was promised in marriage to a Viking prince who was “son of the king of Norway”. On hearing this, Bega, fearing for her virginity, fled across the Irish sea to land at St. Bees on the Cumbrian coast. There she settled for a time, in a virgin cell which she built herself in a grove, leading a life of exemplary piety. Then, the Viking pirates started raiding the Cumbrian coast, and fearing (again) for her virginity, she moved over to Northumbria.

The place where she fled was Bassenthwaite, only a short distance away from St Bees peninsula, in the Lake District, where we find church dedicated to St. Bega. 

The Bassenthwaite church of St Bega’s is located on the shores of Bassenthwaite Lake. Legends tell that St Bega settled at Bassenthwaite, and may indeed have been buried in this spot. The architectural history of the church offers more mystery. There are large, uneven stones in the north and east walls, which suggest a Roman building. In the interior, a simple, rounded chancel arch supported on thick pillars certainly suggests a pre-Norman date. The most likely foundation of the current building, then, is about 950, but it is possible that the current church was created on the foundations of a much earlier building. The large arch between the chancel and north aisle is 12th century, and a later 14th century arch is located in the nave. Sadly, Victorian restoration has done away with any earlier evidence that might illuminate the history of the church. The simple font at the west end of the nave dates to about 1300. Above the south doorway hangs a royal coat of arms dating to 1745. It was erected, we are told, after the rebellion of Bonnie Prince Charlie, and was meant to remind citizens of where their loyalties should lie.

When Saint Bega fled the Cumbrian coast and moved to Northumbria, she allegedly left behind her one worldly possession, a bracelet. The writer of the Life of Saint Bega relates that St Bega was given a bracelet in Ireland by a heavenly being. which she left behind in St Bees when she travelled to Northumberland. It was described as having a holy cross upon it, which fits a style of the 9th and 10th centuries. The bracelet is mentioned several times in the charters of St Bees Priory; one instance is in the middle of the 13th century, when an oath was taken by John of Hale “having touched the sacred things … and upon the bracelet of St Bega”. An account roll from as late as 1516/1517 records offerings of 67s. 9d to the bracelet of St Bega; so the cult and the relic were still a going concern at that late time.

The phraseology of the early charters indicates a pre-Norman church at St Bees dedicated to St Bega. At the granting of the first charter of the Benedictine priory one of the witnesses was Gillebecoc; meaning devotee of Beghoc, indicating a Bega cult already in existence when the Norman-era Priory was built in St. Bees in the 12th Century, around 1120. The remains of a 10th century high cross from the graveyard of the St. Bees church confirm that the Norman-era Priory was built on the site of an older church, pre Norman church. 

Cult or person?

Present day scholarship tends to treat St Bega not as a historical personage but a cult. As one scholar states; “The discovery of inconsistencies between these medieval texts, coupled with the significance attached to her jewellery (said to have been left in Cumbria on her departure for the north-east), now indicate that the abbess never existed. … More plausible is the suggestion that St Bega was the personification of a Cumbrian cult centred on ‘her’ bracelet (Old English: beag)”. The 1999 edition of the Dictionary of National Biography includes an article (by Professor Robert Bartlett) that treats St Bega as a mythical figure. A 1980 paper by John Todd offers a comprehensive review of the historical references to that date, including a discussion on her existence. He finishes with the words “We must search for the historical St Bega, not in the glorious years of the Northumbrian Kingdom, but the dark years of its fall. But our search may well be disappointed”.

So cult or person?

I would suggest person, or even better persons. 

In Serbian we have this word cluster:

beg, begstvo, bijeg, bježanje, bižanje – escape, running away
begaj, bjež, biž – go away, run away, escape
begati, bežati, bižati – to escape, to run away
beganje, bežanje, bižanje – escaping, running away
bega, beži, biži – runs away
bega, pobegulja – the one (feminine) who ran away
beganija, bežanija – exodus, refuge
izbegati, izbegnuti, izbeći – avoid, to find refuge
odbegnuti, odbeći – to run away from
pobegnuti, pobeći – to escape, to be safe

So lets go back now to the legend about Saint Bega. She run away from Ireland and she was a refugee in Cumbria. She was the one who is on the run, which is in Serbian the one who “bega, beži, biži (beeži)”. She landed on a peninsula which is now called Bees (beez) and the place where she originally lived was called Bega and Bees (beez).

Do you think that this is a Coincidence? Is it possible that the legend of Saint Bega actually records an exodus from Ireland of a group of people who ran away (bega, beži, biži) across the see to Cumbria? The question here is who in this scenario would have used the word “bega, beži, biži” to describe the refugees? Refugees themselves or the locals from Cumbria?

“Origin of the Anglo – Saxon race” is a book published in 1906 by Thomas William Shore, author of ‘a history of Hampshire,’ etc, Honorary secretary London and Middlesex archaeological society; honorary Organizing secretary of the Hampshire field club and Archaeological society. In it the author gives detailed analysis of the “Anglo Saxons”, and shows us that both Angles and Saxons were just terms used for complex federations of south Baltic Germanic, Norse and West Slavic tribes. He describes the late Iron Age and early medieval northern central Europe as a melting pot where future great nations of Franks, Angles, Saxons, Danes, Norse, Slavs, were being created from tribal federations of mixed Germanic and Slavic ethnic, linguistic and cultural origin. I presented all the parts regarding the Slavic tribes in my post about this book

If you read this post you will see that one of the tribes which comprised the Anglian confederation forces were Wends, and among them Sorbs, the Baltic Serbs. These same Serbs were also part of the later Danish Viking confederation forces which included a lot of South Baltic Slavs. I believe that later the Serbs were also part of the Norse forces which were a direct descendants of the Danish West Slavic Viking confederation. Serbs were always described as darker than the other Slavs, and the book “Origin of the Anglo-Saxon race” says this about them among the Angles and the Danes of the Early Medieval time:

“…This consideration of the probable origin of the great proportion of brunettes in two of the south midland counties of England leads us to that of the colour-names as surnames and place-names, which may probably have been derived from their origin settlers. For example, there is the common name Brown. This has been derived from the Anglo-Saxon brun, signifying brown. It is not reasonable to doubt that when our forefathers called a man Brun or Brown, they gave him this name as descriptive of his brown complexion. The probability that the brunettes were common is supported by the frequent references to persons named Brun in Anglo-Saxon literature. Brun was a name not confined to England in the Anglo-Saxon and later periods. On the contrary, we find that it was common name in ancient Germany. The typical place-name Bruninga-feld occurs in a charter of AEthelstan dated A. D. 938, `in loco qui Bruninga-feld dicitur.` Bruesham, hants, is mentioned in a charter of Edward `the Elder` about 900. Brunesford is another suggestive name. Bruman is mentioned as a personal name in Anglo-Saxon records of the eleventh century, and examples of the name Bruning are somewhat numerous in documents of the same period. At the present time old place-names, such as Braunschweig or Brunswick, are common in Germany. The custom of calling people by colour-names from their personal appearance, or places after them, was clearly not peculiar to our own country. It is probable that the name Brunswick was derived from the brown complexion of its original inhabitants. The map published by Ripley, based on the official ethnological survey of Germany, shows that parts of the country near Brunswick have a higher percentage of brunettes than the districts further north. Beddoe also made observations on a number of Brunswick peasantry, and records some remarkable facts relating to the proportion of brunettes among those who came under his observation.

The name Brunswick appears to be one of significance, and the Wendish names in that part of Germany, Wendeburg, Wendhausen,and Wenden, may be compared with the Buckinghamshire Domesday names Wendovre, Weneslai, and Wandene, and with Wenriga or Wenrige in hartfordshire. The probable connection of the Wends – some tribes of whom, such as the Sorbs, are known to have been dark – with parts of Germany near Brunswick, and with parts of Herts and Bucks, is shown by these names. Domesday Book tells us of huscarls in Buckinghamshire, and of people who bore such names as Suarting, Suiert, Suen, Suert, and Suiuard, among its land- owners, and it is difficult to avoid the conclusion that such names refer to people of dark complexions. Among the lahmens of Lincoln, a very Danish town, there were also apparently some so-called Danes of a dark complexion, for Domesday Book mentions Suartin, son of Gribold ; Suardine, son of Hardenut ; and Suartine Sortsbrand, son of Ulf.

In view of this, and the evidence relating to the use of the Anglo-Saxon word brun in English place-names,we are not, I think, justified in deciding that all English names which begin with brun, modernized into burn in many cases by the well-known shifting of the r sound, have been derived from burn, a bourn or stream, rather than from brun, brown. Such names as Bruninga-feld and Brunesham point to the opposite conclusion, that Brun in such names refers to people, probably so named from their complexions. If a large proportion of the settlers in the counties of Buckingham and Hertford were of a brown complexion, it is clear that they would have been less likely to have been called Brun or brown by their neighbours than brunettes would in other counties, where such a complexion may have been rarer, and consequently more likely to have attracted the notice of the people around them. It is not probable that people who were originally designated by the colour-names Brown, Black, Gray, or the like, gave themselves these names. They most likely received them from others.

The evidence concerning brown people in England during the Anglo-Saxon period which can be derived from the place-names Brun is supplemented by that supplied in at least some of the old place-names beginning with dun and duning. Dun is an Old English word denoting a colour partaking of brown and black, and where it occurs at the beginning of words in such a combination as Duningland, It is possible that it refers to brown people or their children, rather than to the Anglo-Celtic word dun, a hill or fortified place.

As regards the ancient brown race or races of North Europe, there can be no doubt of their existence in the south-east of Norway and in the east of Friesland. There can be no doubt about the important influence which the old Wendish race has had in the north-eastern parts of Germany in transmitting to their descendants a more brunette complexion than prevails among the people of Hanover, Holstein, and Westphalia, of more pure Teutonic descent. We cannot reasonably doubt that, in view of such a survival of brown people as we find at the present time in the provinces of North Holland, Drenthe and Overijssel, which form the hinterland of the ancient Frisian country, numerous brunettes must have come into England among the Frisians. It would be as unreasonable to doubt this as it would to think that during the Norwegian immigration into England all the brown people of Norway were precluded from leaving their country because they were brunettes, or that the Wends, who undoubtedly settled in England in considerable numbers, were none of them of a brunette type.
The survival of some people with broad heads and of a brown type in parts of Drenthe, Gelderland, and Overijssel appears unmistakable. They present a remarkable contrast in appearance to their Frisian neighbours, who are of a different complexion in regard to hair and skin, and are specially characterized as long-headed.

It was in Gelderland that ancient Thiel was situated, and the men of Thiel and those of Brune were apparently recognised as different people from the real Frisians, for in the later Anglo-Saxon laws relating to the sojourn of strangers within the City of London it is stated that `the men of the Emperor may lodge within the city wherever they please, except those of Tiesle and of Brune.

The consideration of the evidence that people of Brunette complexions were among the Anglo-Saxon settlers in England leads on to that of people of a still darker hue, the dark, black, or brown-black settlers. Probably there must have been some of these among the Anglo-Saxons, for we meet with the personal names Blacman, Blaecman, Blakeman, Blacaman, Blac`sunu, Blaecca, and Blachman, in various documents of the period. The same kind of evidence is met with among the oldest place-names. Blacmannebergh is mentioned in an Anglo-Saxon charter; Blachemanestone was the name of a place in Dorset, and Blachemenstone that of a place in Kent. Blacheshale and Blachenhale are Domesday names of places in Somerset, and Blachingelei occurs in the Domesday record of Surrey. The name Blachemone occurs in the Hertfordshire survey and Blachene in Lincoln. Among the earliest names of the same kind in the charters we find Blacanden in Hants and Blacandon in Dorset. The places called Blachemanestone in Dorset and Blachemenestone in Kent were on or quite close to the coast, a circumstance which points to the settlers having come to these places by water rather than to a survival of black people of the Celtic race having been left in them.
Among old place-names of the same kind in various counties, some of which are met with in later, but still old, records, we find Blakeney in Glouceatershire ; Blakeney in Norfolk; Blakenham in Suffolk; Blakemere, an ancient hamlet, and Blakesware, near Ware in Hertfordshire. This Hertford name is worthy of note in reference to what has been said concerning the brunettes in that county at the present time. Another circumstance connected with these names which it is desirable to remember is the absence of evidence to show that the Old English ever called any of the darker-complexioned Britons brown men or black men. Their name for them was Wealas. So far as I am aware, not a single instance occurs in which the Welsh are mentioned in any Anglo-Saxon document as black or brown people ; on the contrary, the Welsh annals mention black Vikings on the coast, as if they were men of unusual personal appearance.
There is another old word used by the Anglo-Saxons to denote black or brown-black – the word sweart. The personal names Stuart and Sueart may have been derived from this word, and may have originally denoted people of a darker-brown or black complexion. Some names of this kind are mentioned in the Domesday record of Buckinghamshire and Lincolnshire. These may be of Scandinavian origin, for the ekename or nickname Svarti is found in the Northern sagas. Halfden `the Black` was the name of a King of Norway who died in 863. The so-called black men of the Anglo-Saxon period probably included some of the darker Wendish people among them, immigrants or descendants of people of the same race as the ancestors of the Sorbs of Lausatia on the border of Saxony and Prussia at the present day.

Some of the darker Wends may well have been among the Black Vikings referred to in the Irish annals, as well as in those of Wales, and may have been the people who have left the Anglo-Saxon name Blavmanne-berghe, which occurs in one of the charters, Blachemenestone on the Kentish coast, and Blachemanstone on the Dorset coast. As late as the time of the Domesday Survey we meet with records of people apparently named after their dark complexions. In Buckinghamshire, blacheman, Suartinus, and othersare mentioned; in Sussex, one named Blac; in Suffolk, Blakeemannus and Saurtingus; and others at Lincoln. The invasion of the coast of the British Isles by Viking of a dark or brown complexion rests on historical evidence which is too circumstantial to admit of doubt. In the Irish annals the Black Vikings are called Dubh-Ghenti, or Black Gentiles. These Black Gentiles on some occasions fought against other plunderers of the Irish coasts known as the Fair Gentiles, who can hardly have been others than the fair Danes or Northmen. In the year 851 the Black Gentiles came to Athcliath – i.e., Dublin. In 852 we are told that eight ships of the Finn-Ghenti arrived and fought against the Dubh-Ghenti for three days, and that the Dubh-Ghenti were victorious. The black Vikings appear at this time to have had a settlement in or close to Dublin, and during the ninth century were much in evidence on the Irish coast. In 877 a great battle was fought at Loch-Cuan between them and the Fair Gentiles, in which Albann, Chief of the black Gentiles, fell. He may well have beena chieftain of the race of the Northern Sorbs of the Mecklenburg coast.

The Danes and Norse, having the general race characteristics of tall, fair men, must have been sharply distinguished in appearance from Vikings, such as those of Jomborg, for many of these were probably of a dark complexion. There is an interesting record of the descent of dark sea-rovers on the coast of North Wales in the `Annales Cambriae,` under the year 987, which tells us that Gothrit, son of Harald, with black men, devastated Anglesea, and captured two thousand men. Another entry in the same record tells us that Meredut redeemed the captives from the black men. This account in the Welsh annals receives some confirmation in the Sagas of the Norse kings, one of which tells us that Olav Trygvesson was for three years, 982-985, king in Vindland – i.e., Wendland – where he resided with his Queen, to whom he was much attached ; but on her death, whoses loss he greatly felt, he had no more pleasure in Vindland. He therefore provided himself with ships and went on a Viking expedition, first plundering Friesland and the coast all the way to Flanders. Thence he sailed to Northumberland, plundered its coast and those of Scotland, Man, Cumberland, and Bretland – i.e., Wales – during the years 985-988, calling himself a Russian under the name of Ode. From these two separate accounts there can be but little doubt, notwithstanding the differences in the names, of the descent on the coast of North Wales at this time of dark sea-rovers under a Scandinavian leader, and it is difficult to see who they were if not dark-complexioned Wends or other allies of the Norsemen. It is possible some of these dark Vikings may have been allies or mercenaries from the south of Europe, where the Norse made conquests…”
So at the time of the arrival of the Saint Bega to Cumbria, Dark Vikings, probably of Danish Slavic (Serbian) origin, were in Controll of Dublin, but they were at war with the White Vikings, probably of Norse origin. These Dark Vikings were also the ones who attacked Cumbria during the same period and Settled there as well. At the same time when these Dark Danish Slavic Vikings were in the East of Ireland and plundering Cumbria, Cumbria was part of the Angle kingdom which, according to the Origin of the Anglo-Saxon race, had a large Dark Wendish (Serbian) minority population.

This is what we can find in the history of Cumbria and Northumbria:

“At the end of the period of British history known as Roman Britain (c. A.D. 410) the inhabitants of Cumberland were Cumbric-speaking native “Romano-Britons” who were probably descendants of the Brigantes and Carvetii (sometimes considered to be a sub-tribe of the Brigantes) that the Roman Empire had conquered in about A.D. 85. Based on inscriptional evidence from the area, the Roman civitas of the Carvetii seems to have covered portions of Cumbria. The names “Cumbria”, “Cymru” (the native Welsh name for Wales), “Cambria” (the medieval Latinization of Welsh Cymru) and “Cumberland” are derived from the name these people gave themselves, *kombroges in Brittonic, which originally meant ‘compatriots’. During the Early Middle Ages Cumberland formed the core of the Brythonic kingdom of Rheged. By the end of the 7th century most of Cumberland had been incorporated into the Anglo-Saxon kingdom of Northumbria. The Kingdom of Northumbria was a medieval Anglian kingdom in what is now northern England and south-east Scotland, which subsequently became an earldom in a unified English kingdom. The name reflects the approximate southern limit to the kingdom’s territory, the Humber estuary. In 867 Northumbria became the northern kingdom of the Danelaw, after its conquest by the brothers Halfdan Ragnarsson and Ivar the Boneless who installed an Englishman, Ecgberht, as a puppet king. Despite the pillaging of the kingdom, Viking rule brought lucrative trade to Northumbria, especially at their capital York. The kingdom passed between English, Norse and Norse-Gaelic kings until it was finally absorbed by King Eadred after the death of the last independent Northumbrian monarch, Erik Bloodaxe, in 954. After the English regained the territory of the former kingdom, Scots invasions reduced Northumbria to an earldom stretching from the Humber to the Tweed. Northumbria was disputed between the emerging kingdoms of England and Scotland. The land north of the Tweed was finally ceded to Scotland in 1018 as a result of the battle of Carham. Yorkshire and Northumberland were first mentioned as separate in the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle in 1065. In 1092 Cumberland was invaded by William II and incorporated into England.”
So it is possible that the “Irish” princess which fled (bega) to Cumbria was one of the Dark Vikings (Wends, Serbs?) of Dublinia. It is also possible that she was a Gaelic princess from Leinster who fled the Viking invasion and who arrived to Anglian coast populated by the Dark Angles (Wends, Serbs?). It is also possible that it could have been both? Either one of these people could have used the word “bega, beži, biži” to describe someone who is escaping, running away, hiding, taking refuge. In this case the dialectic version “beži” of the word “bega” would have produced “bees” (originally pronounced “bez”). So bees would have been “bež”, the place of refuge, and “bega” would have been the one who ran away to “bež”, the place of refuge.

What is very interesting is that the Norman church of Saint Bega contains several grave stones and grave slabs with a “Serbian cross”. 

This is a Serbian cross. It is an ancient symbol first time found among the Vinča symbols. It then inermittentnly pops out in Evroasia and Egypt throughout then next 7000 years until it finally appears on the Serbian medieval heraldry. It is still disputed what the meaning of the four arcs in the symbol is. I will dedicate a whole post to resolving this dispute (hopefully once and for all). 

This one is the symbol of Serbia, from Korenić-Neorić Armorial (1595). 

 And these are carved grave stones and grave slabs from the St Bees priory.

The above stone shows an elaborate version of a “Serbian cross”, with at the centre, a six-petalled flower (Perunika, Perun’s flower). The slab has been re-used at a later date and a much cruder design was superimposed.

The above stone also has a “Serbian cross”, with looped objects, which have been identified as stirrups, in the two upper quadrants of the head centre. Below, a bowman stands on the left of the shaft, with on the right a sword. The bowman, has a quiver slung over his shoulder.

The above stone has a “Serbian cross” formed by four sunk quadrants within a circle, with a cross pate at the centre; on the left of the incised cross shaft is a clasped book, possibly signifying the Gospels. 

The above stone has a “Serbian cross” formed by four embossed arcs tied together to form a cross, with lozenge-shaped buds breaking the circle. On the right of the cross shaft, carved in relief within a sunk panel, is a sword. The stone is chamfered. 

The above stone has a “Serbian cross” formed by four embossed closed arcs tied together to form a cross, with lozenge-shaped buds breaking the circle. Sword on right of shaft, with down-curved quillons. 

The above stone has a cross formed by four overlaping embosed arcs. This is basically a deformed “Serbian cross”. This is also a representation of a solar year which is confirmed by the fact that the cross shaft has an overlay with a small disc or ring, which symbolises a solar year, sun circle. 

This is an interesting “solar” cross built into the structure of the Norman church. I have no information what period this cross was dated to, but it definitely postdates the Norman church.

 Again you see the four arcs (formed by deep gouges) radiating from the center of the cross formed by the line connecting the five circles.

Coincidence? It is possible that whoever escaped from Ireland and settled in this area of Cumbria and Northumberland, whover was the “bega”, used and venerated the “Serbian cross”. It is therefore possible that the story about the misterious St Bega’s bracelet is a misunderstanding of this old symbol by the later settlers who even called the crosses on the above stones “bracelet heads” and the misunderstanding stemmed from the fact that the old English word for bracelet was “beag”. Curiously, this is not the only Norman Basilica which is linked to the “Serbian cross”. More curiously the “Serbian cross” is found at the core of the oldest “Anglo-Saxon” crosses. And even more curiously, the “Serbian cross” is found at the core of the oldest “Celtic crosses”, both in Britain and in Ireland. These oldest “Celtic crosses” were said to have been “stone coppies of much older wooden originals”. Funny that wooden high crosses of both the so called “Serbian cross” type and “Celtic cross” type are found as village crosses in Serbia even today. So what is exactly going on here? I will write about all of this in my future posts.

Until the next time, have fun, stay happy 🙂