Why a Dark King Cannot Have His Day

I am a Pisces. How does that make you feel? To some that makes me a dreamer, indecisive, creative and lazy. To others – a nutter who believes in mumbo jumbo.

A couple of thousand years ago, when a baby was born, the alignment of heavenly bodies was noted and celebrated annually: hence the birthday. In Anglo-Saxon times when Christianity was the new faith, to mention astrology was a sign of being pagan. So it followed in those early Christian days that to celebrate birthdays was pagan.

Dates of deaths were recorded, however. What this means for us in the twenty-first century is that to apply a commemorative date for someone from the Dark Ages we have to use their date of death. If they were good Christians (prayed regularly and were known for at least one good deed) they would become saints when they passed on. Therefore, their date of death became their special holy day. So far so good.

But what if you weren’t such a good guy?

Then it’s back to remembering the day you met your maker. As I keep saying, I am no fan of death-days and yet again here I am doing just that. (See my post Why I Find it Difficult to Commemorate the Dead) If only Oswiu had been a good guy.

He was a pivotal figure in the history of history England and features in two of my novels (Gulfyrian and Teon).  As king of Bernica and then Northumbria, he had plans to rule over all the English kingdoms. The king of Mercia, Penda, had other ideas though. And hereby lies my dark tales…

His brother, Oswald, ruled before him and was killed by Penda in a very brutal fashion, in 642. The Mercians thwarted Oswiu’s attempts to become overlord of the English kingdoms over many years until finally he defeated and killed Penda in 655. Before this, however, Oswiu was rumoured to have been involved in assassination plots and underhand dealings. He married often and gained territory as reward. Nice man.

Oswiu will probably be remembered for fixing the date of Easter. The Christianity in England during the seventh century was of the Celtic variety and this was the way the Northumbrians liked it. Oswiu, being a true politician, realised that Rome had the most influence and decided to call the synod of Whitby to declare that Northumbria would fall in line with the pope in Rome. His people, including his Kentish wife, were not a bit happy with this. But he knew which side his bread was buttered. From then on, the rest of the Anglo-Saxon kingdoms  followed suit. Until a big guy called Henry VIII changed everything, that is. But even he kept the dates of Easter the same as Rome.

So if the King of Northumbria had been as good a Christian as his brother, instead of being a manipulative, scheming weasel, 15 February would be Saint Oswiu’s Day. As it is, the 15 February is simply the anniversary of his death.


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