History Witch: Anglo-Saxon Death

I think the impulse that defines an academic nature is that one responds to difficult moments by turning to the past to see how others have coped with similar times. So still reeling from unexpected grief, I turn to history as I contemplate the ways we deal with the inevitability of parting from those we love for my History Witch column:

The unexpected death of a friend this week brought into sharp relief the differences between traditions around death and grief, not only between different communities but also between different generations. How we handle the dead and our sorrow shows a lot about our culture.

For the Anglo-Saxons, much of what we know of their material culture — apart descriptions in poems and histories — come from discovered burials. But burial wasn’t always the norm. We have a magnificent pagan shipboard funeral of a king in the opening lines of Beowulf. For a long time people dismissed it as a rather fanciful thing…

Read the rest at Witches & Pagans.