The Fertility God Ing in Old English Poetry and in the Royal Centre at Yeavering, Northumbria
with Professor Richard North (University College London)
at Sutton Hoo, Saturday, 18th March, 2017.
An appraisal of the references to the important pre-Christian English fertility god Ing. Ing’s section in the Old English Rune Poem will first be presented in tandem with the evidence for Ingvi-freyr, his tenth-century analogue in Scandinavia, as well as the role of Ing in Beowulf. Finally, Ing will be considered as part of a suggested ‘sun-king’ cult with which King Æthelfrith of Bernicia (c.593–c.616) maintained and redeveloped the solar alignments of the old royal site in Yeavering.
09.50 – 10.15: Coffee on arrival
10.15 – 11.15: Ing in the Old English Rune Poem
What was meant by the lines on the Ing rune in this poem? We shall begin to study this figure and his wagon tour through evidence for the cult of Ingvi-freyr in Tacitus’ Germania (98 AD), in stories of the Vandals from the Age of Migrations, and in Old Norse literature.
11.15 – 11.40: Coffee break
11.40 – 12.40: The cult of Ing in Beowulf
We shall look at the role of Ing or Ingui in Ango-Saxon royal genealogy, using Ingvi-freyr in the Norse list of Swedish kings, Ynglingatal ‘tally of the Ynglings’ (c. 890). Then we consider the latent role of this god in King Hrothgar’s and other stories told in Beowulf.
12.40 – 14.00: Lunch break
14.00 – 14.50: Tribes of Ing in the Old English Exodus
A poem older than, but as skilled as, Beowulf is Exodus, which retells the biblical story as if the Egyptians were tribes in Germany, and the Israelites proto-Northumbrians migrating over the sea to settle in Britain. We shall see how this poem describes Pharaoh like a pagan sacral king, and Moses like an early English warlord.
14.50 – 15.10: Tea break
15.10 – 16.00: Ing the Yeavering sun-king and King Æthelfrith of Bernicia.
How may early Yeavering be aligned with Ing in the Old English Rune Poem? By alignments, on the free-standing posts at this site, which suggest the cult of a sun-king at the spring equinox. This final session will look at photos, line drawings and azimuths in order to see how Rædwald’s enemy King Æthelfrith may have celebrated Ēostre in Yeavering during his reign (c.593-c.616).
c.16.00: Thanks and Close
About Professor Richard North
Richard North received his BA from Oxford in 1983 and his PhD from Cambridge in 1987. He held a postdoctoral appointment in the University of Groningen in 1987-88, and was appointed lecturer in Old and Middle English at University College London a year later. Since then he has taught English literature of all kinds, but mainly Old and Middle English, and also some Old Icelandic, to undergraduates and MA students, as well as supervising a small posse of PhD students. His interests include Beowulf and Anglo-Saxon paganism.
Some Suggestions for Optional Background Reading
Bradley, S.A.J., trans., Anglo-Saxon Poetry (London: Everyman, 1995)
Dumville, David N., ‘The Anglian Collection of Royal Genealogies and Regnal Lists’, Anglo-Saxon England 5 (1976), 23-50
Halsall, Maureen, ed., The Old English Rune Poem, McMaster Old English Studies and Texts 2 (Toronto, 1981)
Howe, Nicholas, Migration and Mythmaking in Anglo-Saxon England (New Haven, CT, 1989)
Larrington, Carolyne, trans., The Poetic Edda, 2nd ed. (Oxford, 1996)
Mayr-Harting, Henry, The Coming of Christianity to Anglo-Saxon England, 3rd ed. (London, 1991)
Newton, Sam, The Origins of ‘Beowulf’ and the Pre-Viking Kingdom of East Anglia (Cambridge, 1993)
North, Richard, ‘Tribal Loyalties in the Finnsburh Fragment and Episode’, Leeds Studies in English n.s. 21 (1990), 13-43
North, Richard, Heathen Gods in Old English Literature, CSASE 22 (Cambridge, 1997)
Swanton, Michael J., English Poetry Before Chaucer, 2nd ed. (Exeter, 2002), pp. 93-101