The Old English Eastertide Festival
with Dr Sam Newton (Wuffing Education)
at the School of Music, Woodbridge School,
Burkitt Road, Woodbridge IP12 4JH,
on Saturday 30th March 2019

Rediscover the magic of the Eastertide festival, beginning with a look at the Old English calendar, which reveals how the pre-Christian year was structured.  We can reconstruct this calendar from De Temporvm Ratione Liber, “Book on the Reckoning of Time” by the early eighth-century Northumbrian scholar Bede. Of great interest is his reference to the origin of the name of the festival.

Eosturmonath has a name … which was once called after a goddess of theirs named Eostre, in whose honour feasts were celebrated in that month.  Now they designate that Paschal season by her name, calling the joys of the new rite by the time-honoured name of the old observance.

translated by F. Wallis, Bede: The Reckoning of Time [Liverpool 1999]).

We shall consider how the month of the Old English goddess Éostre become the great Eastertide festival and some of the ways in which it was celebrated in early England.

We shall also discuss the ‘Synod’ of Whitby in 664 and the question of the dating of Easter which continues to this day.

Finally, we shall look at Cult of the Cross, using examples from early medieval archaeology, art, and literature, especially the sublime poem known as “The Dream of the Rood”.

Provisional Programme

10.00 – 10.30:  Coffee on arrival

10.30 – 11.30:   The Old English Calendar

11.30 – 12.00:   Coffee break

12.00 – 13.00:   The Old English Eastertide

13.00 – 14.00:   Lunch break

14.00 – 14.45:   The Synod of Whitby

14.45 – 15.15:  Tea break

15.15 – 16.00:   The Cult of the Cross

16.00:              Thanks and Close

About Dr Sam Newton

Sam Newton was awarded his Ph.D at UEA in 1991.  He published his first book, The Origins of Beowulf and the pre-Viking Kingdom of East Anglia, in 1993, and his second, The Reckoning of King Rædwald, in 2003.  He has published several papers, some of which are available on Academia –  He has lectured widely around the country and contributed to many radio and television programmes, especially Time Team, for whom he worked for seven series.  He is a tutor for Cambridge University’s Institute of Continuing Education, an accredited Arts’ Society lecturer, and a Director of the Wuffing Education Study-Day Partnership.


When asked ‘What was best about the day?’ at a previous Study Day by Sam people said:

  • Most informative, put over in a fun and interesting way
  • Sam’s skill at including both the newcomers to the subject and the very experienced
  • Enthusiastic and Knowledgeable speaker. Good coherence and timing of sessions. Very interesting subject
  • Witty links of Sam to other arts and presenting history
  • Abundantly instructed ! Another worthwhile day – look forward to many more!
  • Great fun presentation
  • Having an excellent lecturer and a very comfortable room


Some Suggestions for Optional Background Reading (not essential but may be of interest)

  • Alexander, M., The First Poems in English (Penguin Classics 2008)
  • Alexander, M., Old English Literature (Macmillan 1983)
  • Branston, B., The Lost Gods of England (Thames & Hudson 1957, 1974)
  • Breay, C., & J. Storey (eds), Anglo-Saxon Kingdoms: Art, Word, War (British Library 2018)
  • Brooks, N., Anglo-Saxon Myths of State and Church (Hambledon 2000).
  • Brown, Michelle P., How Christianity came to Britain and Ireland (Lion Hudson 2006)
  • Chaney, W.A., The Cult of Kingship in Anglo-Saxon England (Manchester 1970)
  • Dunn, M., The Christianization of the Anglo-Saxons, c.597–c.700 (London, 2009)
  • Ellis Davidson, H., The Lost Beliefs of Northern Europe (Routledge 1993)
  • Farmer, D.H., The Oxford Dictionary of Saints (Oxford University Press, 1978).
  • Hoggett, R., The Archaeology of the East Anglian Conversion (Woodbridge 2010)
  • Hutton, R., The Stations of the Sun: A History of the Ritual Year in Britain (Oxford 1996)
  • Lee, C., Feasting the Dead: Food and Drink in Anglo-Saxon Burial Rituals (Woodbridge, 2007)
  • Mayr-Harting, H., The Coming of Christianity to Anglo-Saxon England (Oxford 1977)
  • McClure, J. & R.Collins, (eds.), Bede: the Ecclesiastical History of the English People (Oxford 1999)
  • North, R., Heathen Gods in Old English Literature (Cambridge 1997)
  • Turville-Petre, G., Myth and Religion of the North: The Religion of Ancient Scandinavia (London 1964)
  • Wallis, F., Bede: The Reckoning of Time (Liverpool 1999)
  • Webster, L., and J.Backhouse, The Making of England: Anglo-Saxon Art  and Culture AD 600-900 (British Museum 1991)