Albion, ancient sites, Archaeology, Art, Books, Photography, sacred sites, spirituality

Discovering Albion – day 7: Intrigued…in Brechin

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He was right, I couldn’t believe it. A whopping great Pictish Cross slab right opposite the door… and looking so fresh you wouldn’t believe it. Four letter words chased through my mind in lieu of superlatives, along with wondering why they had wasted my schooling with a year studying the history of tarmac when I could have been studying stuff like this.


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The thing stands man-height, is carved of old red sandstone and is said to date to around the tenth century. The front shows a cross… not just any cross, mind you… the symbolism of square and circle will need some thinking about in that context. Again there are twin birds and twin figures, robed and holding what appear to be books. And that, with the interlaced carving, would have been enough.


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But the back is carved too with what the information available calls ‘indeterminate figures’… though I have to say that there seem to be an awful lot of legs on that bottom creature… as many, say, as Sleipnir, the eight-legged steed of Odin. Which begs the question of who the other figures might be and will no doubt send us delving into the myths once more. And you then have to wonder about the two birds on the front of the cross… the doves of the Holy Spirit… or Hugin and Munin, the Ravens of Odin?


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The official line is that we have King David battling the lion… which is how the St Andrews sarcophagus is interpreted… The mounted figure they posit to be Goliath and the eight-legged creature is supposed to be two creatures, ‘one half hidden’… which doesn’t seem to sit right with the way these things are usually carved. Or it could be an eight-legged steed after all, and ‘King David’ perhaps Odin battling Fenrir… but then, I’m no archaeologist … just intrigued.


Odin battles Fenrir, Thorwald's Cross, Isle of Man... another example of syncretic art showing Norse and Chritian scenes. Image: BBC
Odin battles Fenrir, Thorwald’s Cross, Isle of Man… another example of syncretic art showing Norse and Chritian scenes. Image: BBC

It certainly wouldn’t be the first stone we have seen ancient crosses where symbols and stories of the old gods and the new were shown together. We have explored this in the Doomsday books. Perhaps such stones drew a parallel between the sacred stories of both traditions? Maybe they were used to teach or to show that the new came not to oust the old gods to but illuminate them? It is a possibility. And one with some basis in the historical record.


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The Venerable Bede recorded in his Historia Ecclesiastica Gentis Anglorum, a copy of the letter written in AD601 which Pope Gregory sent to Abbot Mellitus, who was part of the papal mission to Britain. The instructions were clear… not to overthrow but to gently replace the indigenous faith:

“…that the temples of the idols in that nation ought not to be destroyed; but let the idols that are in them be destroyed; let water be consecrated and sprinkled in the said temples, let altars be erected, and relics placed there. For if those temples are well built, it is requisite that they be converted from the worship of devils to the service of the true God; that the nation, seeing that their temples are not destroyed, may remove error from their hearts, and knowing and adoring the true God, may the more freely resort to the places to which they have been accustomed. And because they are used to slaughter many oxen in sacrifice to devils, some solemnity must be given them in exchange for this, as that on the day of the dedication, or the nativities of the holy martyrs, whose relics are there deposited, they should build themselves huts of the boughs of trees about those churches which have been turned to that use from being temples, and celebrate the solemnity with religious feasting, and no more offer animals to the Devil, but kill cattle and glorify God in their feast, and return thanks to the Giver of all things for their abundance; to the end that, whilst some outward gratifications are retained, they may the more easily consent to the inward joys. For there is no doubt that it is impossible to cut off every thing at once from their rude natures…”


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You just never know what you are going to stumble over if you keep your eyes open… and there was still enough in this quiet church to keep us occupied for a while. We hadn’t even started on the rest of the stones… and the windows were just glorious…


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The Aetheling Thing     Dark Sage   Scions of Albion

All books available via Amazon in Paperback and for Kindle

Don and Wen, following the breadcrumb trail of arcane lore and ancient knowledge, scattered across the landscape of time, turn their attention to the myths and legends of Old Albion. They delve into the tales of King Arthur, asking some very strange questions about biblical family trees and exploring the many stories that abound in the very landscape of Avalon. Meanwhile, in Derbyshire, the voices of the past still whisper from the stones, opening a passage through time, place and memory to another world…


Doomsday: The Ætheling Thing

How is it possible to hide such a story… the hidden history of Christianity in Britain? Oh, there are legends of course… old tales… Yet what if there was truth in them? What was it that gave these blessed isles such a special place in the minds of our forefathers? There are some things you are not taught in Sunday School. From the stone circles of the north to the Isle of Avalon, Don and Wen follow the breadcrumbs of history and forgotten lore to uncover a secret veiled in plain sight.

Doomsday: Dark Sage
…. something was spawned up on the moor… something black that flew on dark wings. It heeds not time or place… but it seems to have developed a penchant for the travels of Don and Wen….
“Are those two still at it?”


Doomsday: Scions of Albion

Things are getting serious…

Exactly what is Wen doing with that crowbar and why is she wearing a balaclava?

All will be revealed…or will it?


Follow the story begun in The Initiate and the Triad of Albion, as Don and Wen explore the ancient land.


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