Tuesday, 8 September 2015
A Very English Fear
The Anglo-Saxons began to arrive in Britain in their droves in the 5th century, filling the power vacuum left by the crumbling Roman Empire.
They found deserted villas, settlements, sometimes entire towns, disturbed only by scurrying mice and gusting leaves. A ready made home, you'd think, which they'd take over at once, or at least plunder for materials.
This never happened. The Saxons avoided these forgotten places with superstitious dread, choosing to settle in new sites a distance away.
The Roman roads too, were avoided. The arrow-straight, paved routes, which sliced through groves, burial mounds and streams with no heed for the natural landscape, were regarded as a scar, a destruction of that harmony which so many cultures, the Saxons included, tried so hard to accommodate.
The Saxons knew this spiritual undercurrent of all things, connecting everything with everything else, as 'Wyrd'. This is where we get our word 'weird' from. Rather like the Chinese feng shui, the principle concept is to work with nature rather than superimpose our will upon it.
The Roman buildings, made of stone and tile rather than wood and thatch, were completely at odds with this principle, hence the Saxons chose to build new homes in the wooded groves, carefully chosen to give the best practical and spiritual advantage.
Hardly the principles of a barbaric people that they are commonly thought to be.