Well I had to use it eventually didn’t I? I have resisted the urge for over a year; but here is the Sutton Hoo helmet as painstakingly pieced together by archaeology. A replica as it probably looked in the year 620 can be seen sitting on the King’s lordly head, here. Search ‘Sutton Hoo’ on images in Google and you will be assaulted with so many copies of this helmet that you will feel you are wearing it.
‘Iconic’ is a much overused word these days. And, in common with several other words in contemporary, I hesitate to say, Anglospheric (or should that be Anglospherical?) culture, to the extent that it has become meaningless. Like the word ‘celebrity’. This image though is worthy of the term if only perhaps in the narrow context of the English people. In the way that it provokes meditation on the spiritual significance of ship burial and on historical and mythical origins, the Sutton Hoo helmet may not, after all, be so far removed from the meaning of the term Ikonas understood by the Orthodox Church.
It pleased me immensely to discover that a copy of The Rune of Ing is already in the King’s hand. A spy at court informs me that yesterday he was at Sutton Hoo. It must be strange indeed to traverse the site of your own burial but folk in plenty have seen such things in dreams.
An audience with the King, if only by messenger, got me thinking of the spelling variations of the royal name. For the following information I am indebted to The Reckoning of King Rædwald by Sam Newton. It is available from the Wuffings website although I picked up my copy a while back from the Sutton Hoo shop. I can thoroughly recommend this short book and Sam has an infectious enthusiasm for all things Wuffing. I find that I do not agree with his idea, presented here, that the famous Mound One Ship Burial was a ‘transitional’ burial in a religious sense and I suggest why in my post entitled ‘Soul Train‘. However, although I do not really agree with him something in me responds to the potent Christian imagery of what he suggests.
The Anglo-Saxon letter Æ is pronounced as in ‘man’ or ‘cap’. You can see that the closest phonetic representation in Modern English is the letter ‘a’ rather than ‘e’. As in ‘Radwald’. Redwald derives from the Latin, through Bede’s rendering of an Old English name that may have been spelt Hredwald, Hrædwald, Hræthwald, or Hrothwald, meaning ‘glorious ruler’. There are a couple of other possible meanings to the name. Perhaps ‘counsel or wisdom’ as in Æthelræth (nobel counsel) or even ‘hasty’ as in the Goddess Hreth of the wild March winds.
It can be seen that the ‘Red’ spelling immediately leads an unsuspecting person to pronounce the name as if it began with the colour. Is this important? Not really. Though for somebody too much concerned with the sound of certain sentences it can be. Far more important possibly is the similarity of the name to the famous King Hrothgar in Beowulf that Sam Newton notes. I have used a ‘th’ because, despite my recent discovery of the availability of the æ ligature, the ‘custom characters’ menu of WordPress is not an Anglo-Saxon typeface, nor, obviously, should it be.