Is the Anglo-Saxon period sexy?
BY JAYNE CASTEL
Absolutely! When writing my first historical novel, it wasn’t difficult for me to choose my setting: Anglo-Saxon, Britannia. The Anglo-Saxon period also has great potential for romance. A largely pagan, violent world ruled by blood feuds, vengeance and honor, it lends itself to tales of adventure, mysticism and passion!
Here are a few interesting facts about Anglo-Saxon England:
- The Anglo-Saxon period spanned the period of circa 550-1066 A.D. It began with the departure of the Romans from Britannia and the arrival of Germanic and Danish invaders: the Angles, Saxons and Jutes. At around 700 A.D. the Vikings began attacking the English coast, eventually settling huge tracts of the country. The Anglo-Saxon period ended with the arrival of the Normans.
- Anglo-Saxons lived according to the whims of fate, or wyrd. Their motto was: Fate is all! Wyrd bið ful aræd! This fatalistic view of life and fortune colored their entire existence.
- There were no prisons in Anglo-Saxon England – rulers dealt with law-breakers by exile, maiming, beheading or hanging. Retribution was swift and brutal.
- Although the Anglo-Saxon world was not as stratified as the Medieval period, there was still a clear class structure with four classes under the king: ealdormen (earls), thegns (retainers) ceorls (free men) and theow (slaves). However, unlike the Medieval period, men could move up classes, if favored by their lord, or down if stripped of their title.
- The Anglo-Saxon marriage celebration was known as a ‘handfast’ ceremony. The couple would present gifts to each other, from their respective families and pledge oaths of loyalty before a ribbon was wrapped around their joined hands. Then, they would share a sip of mead from the same cup and feed each other a bite of honeyed seedcake. These cakes were for the bride and groom only; the seeds represented fertility and abundance while the honey symbolized harmony between the new couple. The handfast ceremony was held in honor of the goddess Frigg (or Freya), protector of marriage and childbirth.
- The Anglo-Saxons loved stories. They had a great oral tradition, and they would tell epic songs, lays and tales while seated around the fire pit in their halls. It was from this tradition that the epic Beowulf emerged.
- Although the warrior and the sword dominated the Anglo-Saxon world, women were near equal companions to their husbands and brothers, much more so than after the Norman Conquest in 1066. Anglo-Saxon women were often courageous, independent, and many were ambitious and powerful.
- “I love you” in Old English (the language spoken in Anglo-Saxon England) is: Ic þē lufu (pronounced Ich thee loofu).
With such a unique historical setting, culture and people, Anglo-Saxon England is an exciting backdrop for any historical romance. Indeed, I loved writing about this period so much that as soon as I finished my first novel, Dark Under the Cover of Night (set in the Kingdom of the East Angles in 624 A.D), I started on my next one!
Jayne enjoys combining romance with her two passions: Italy and history. She lived in Rome and Umbria, Italy, for ten years – and enjoys setting romances in this vibrant country. She also has a love for the Viking, Anglo-Saxon and Medieval periods of English history.
She lives in New Zealand and when she’s not writing, works as a language and cooking teacher, administrator and web content writer!