Thursday, January 9, 2014

Why is Hild buried at Glastonbury?

From: Julie

I visited Glastonbury for the summer solstice when I was in England - why were Hild's remains taken there from Whitby? (Main purpose of rambling comment). What was Glastonbury's purpose/symbolic meaning to the people who lived at that time?

I'm very interested in the pagan mythologies and histories of England, Wales and Brittany, (Brythonic Celt). Caitlin and John Mathews wrote quite a good book, 'The Western Way, A Practical Guide to the Western Mystery Tradition' which lists old pagan folk stories and tales. Especially of the old Gods and goddesses one might meet along the pathways, disguised. And about the mythology of Glastonbury. But really, why were Hild's real remains taken south to Glastonbury?

(Congratulations on your book - I hope it comes out in Australia soon, if not, I'll just order it online from U.S.)

We don't know that she is. The powers-that-be at Glastonbury have always been most astute with spin; I suspect that Hild's translation from Whitby was a bit of a fantasy. King Edmund of East Anglia (or Saint Edmond, if you prefer; b. 841, killed by Vikings around 870) is meant to have moved ('translated') Hild's remains to Glastonbury...but he's also rumoured to have taken them to Gloucester.

There's also a rumour that in order to escape the ravages of the Vikings a monk of Whitby, Tyccea (there are various spellings of his name) fled to Glasonbury with the holy bones of an assortment of saints of the north. He became abbot of Glastonbury and was active as such in the 750s. The thing is, Viking raids didn't start until around 793--or 787, depending. Whichever ever way you slice it, these dates just don't match.

There's a third rumour that William Percy, the first abbot of Whitby, acquired 'by a miracle' an odd assortment of bones from Glastonbury, including bits and pieces of Hild.

In my opinion, we'll never find her body. But, ah, I wish we could. Just two teeth and a scrap of jewellery (with possible mineralised textile attached) could tell us so much!

As it is, she will remain a mystery. Here, as some consolation, is my notion of what her grave marker might have looked like:
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