This last weekend we enjoyed another one of our coven outings: this time I had organised a visit to Sutton Hoo with a private guided tour around the royal burial grounds at this fantastic Anglo-Saxon site. We lucked out with our guide who turned out to be a gifted storyteller, effortlessly bringing the landscape to life and seamlessly connecting the important characters from the 6th and 7th century with those of modern times when the site was “discovered” and excavated.
Some of the details he shared really stayed with me these last few days: little nuggets, for example what the landscape would have looked like back in the day, how looters missed two important barrows, how the buried ship was oriented towards the sunrise. Standing at that very spot and looking towards the horizon gave me goosebumps. Then there was the exciting idea that the famous helmet which was discovered here was shaped deliberately to make the wearer look like the one-eyed god Odin on the battlefield, one eyebrow inlaid with gold foil to make it shine, the other left without.
Thanks to the fabulous volunteers on site we also gained some insight into daily life especially for women, how much work went into making clothing, how precious garments were as a result. We saw the garden where the plants for dyeing are grown, admired different skeins of thread in all colours, marvelled at the complex skill of tablet weaving… I am no longer surprised that one of the “gifts” in the famous Swedish folksong Herr Mannelig is a white shirt. It would have been indeed a priceless offering.
We finished the day with a trip to the Longshed in Woodbridge where a group of volunteers is working on a longterm project to re-create an Anglo-Saxon ship, using only materials and techniques that would have been available at the time. They hope to be seaworthy by ’25 and then embark on some of the journeys King Rædwald would have undertaken. I will certainly keep my eyes peeled for their progress!