Creating mythology out of history

One of the starting points for my historical/paranormal erotic novella ‘The Pagan Sorceress’, set in the Anglo-Saxon period, was a real historical event – the Battle of Maserfield of 642.

This was the battle in which the Pagan King of Mercia, Penda, defeated the Northumbrian King, Oswald, and after his victory set about butchering the body of the defeated king in a brutal way.  An account of the aftermath of the battle is told in the Ecclesiastical History of the English People by the 7th century chronicler and monk, Bede.  He described how Oswald’s body was hacked to pieces and how a bird carried parts of it off and left them in a tree and how this supposedly became a site associated with miracles.  The Battle of Maserfield is generally thought to have taken place in the border regions between England and Wales near Oswestry (Oswestry – Oswald’s tree – geddit?!)

Remember though that Bede is a classic case of history as propaganda.  He was a Christian and a Northumbrian and was hardly going to portray the Pagan King of Mercia in a sympathetic light.  Bede was seeking to create his own mythology out of the miracles he wanted to associate with Oswald for his own propaganda purposes – to demonstrate the power of the new Christian religion through these alleged miracles.

Now, even admitting that this was hardly an age of chivalry and there is plenty of evidence that during the period of warring kingdoms Anglo-Saxon kings would happily slaughter each other on the battle field, Penda’s treatment of Oswald sounded pretty savage.  That got me to thinking why Penda might have behaved so brutally.  Aside from the fact that this probably did pretty much accurately reflect the warrior culture of this period I still wondered about building up a story around the historical event and creating my own Pagan mythology to counter Bede’s Christian mythology.

It’s at this point I introduce Cyneburh (great name!), Penda’s daughter and the Pagan Sorceress of the story’s title, and her fictional relationship with Alhfrith, the son of the King of Deira.  The names are all real and historical but I have built a story around them.  The marriage of Cyneburh and Alhfrith in my story was designed to forge a powerful political and religious alliance between the two kings with the Deiran king converting back to Paganism.  This kind of alliance, sealed by marriage and the exchange of rings and gifts is in keeping with the culture of the period.  But more important than that from the reader’s point of view and for the emotional content of the story, Cyneburh and Alfrith are lovers and soul mates.  Their union has a tragic end and in saying that I’m not giving away any spoilers as that is made clear at the outset of their tale.

So, out of this historical event, my story creates a new mythology, which portrays the Christian Northumbrians as treacherous and Penda’s savage dismemberment of King Oswald on the battle field at Maserfield as a just retribution and settlement of a blood feud.

The story of the 7th century Pagan Sorceress is woven into a contemporary story line in which archaeologist Sam. with her friend Dan, seeks to recreate an Anglo-Saxon Pagan burial ritual at the site of a burial mound and in doing so unleashes some awesome paranormal forces.

Personally, I prefer my Pagan re-interpretation of the Penda/Oswald story to Bede’s!  In a strange kind of way they are both examples of how you can build a story or mythology out of an historical event.

Story blurb

If you’re looking for an erotic read this Halloween then check out Slave Nano’s new release ‘The Pagan Sorceress’.  The action takes place on Samhain as archaeology student Sam sets out to re-enact a Pagan burial ceremony.

If the author of the Anglo-Saxon heroic tale Beowulf did erotica what might it have sounded like?  That’s the challenge author Slave Nano has set himself in his newly released novella ‘The Pagan Sorceress’.

Sam is about to carry out a strange experiment.  She is an archaeology student specialising in reconstructive archaeology and her idea is to recreate an Anglo-Saxon pagan burial ceremony.  It’s Samhain eve and the night of a full moon so it’s the perfect time to carry out such a ritual.  She enlists the help of her friend, Dan, and together they go off to the site of a burial mound where wonderful swords and sceptres were excavated many years ago.

A travelling story teller is at the court of a Saxon king.  He recites the tale of two soul-entwined lovers from an earlier, more chaotic, period when king’s warred amongst each other.  He tells the tragic tale of Cyneburh, Pagan sorceress and daughter of the mighty Pagan king Penda and Alhfrith, son of Athelwald the king of Deira, her hero-warrior lover and betrothed.  The two kings have formed a mighty political and religious alliance but, more than that, the young woman and man have forged a passionate union of their own.  But this new alliance has enemies and before their wedding night is over there will be a tragic outcome.  As King Penda stands at the edge of their burial chamber he invokes a curse of vengeance against the murderous act perpetrated against him.  But, how many years will it take before he is finally avenged?

As Sam stands on top of the burial mound dressed as an Anglo-Saxon pagan priestess with Dan at her side, is she aware of what ancient powers she will invoke as their lives become entwined with those of Cyneburh and Alhfrith from many centuries ago?  Will the pagan king’s oath of vengeance be fulfilled?  Will the souls of the two lovers be finally released?

Story extract

The battle field at Maserfield lay scattered with blood covered bodies.  The retainers of Oswald, the Northumbrian king, lay hacked and hewn across blood-soaked mud.  With war-like savagery and bitter anger Penda’s army had extracted his revenge.  Torn to pieces with savage cut of sword by Penda himself the dismembered pieces of Oswald’s body lay scattered at his feet.  Throat cut and limbs torn from body, Penda’s vengeance had been savage and remorseless.  He ordered spears to be forced into the ground and on each spike a piece of Oswald’s hacked body was impaled as a symbol of the terrible vengeance the pagan king could wreak on his enemies.  They stood on the hill for all to see, a testament to Penda’s savage vengeance, for he was true to his word and to the oaths he had made.

But the final words of Oswald returned to haunt him; that the shadowy monks he had paid to enact his treacherous butchery remained un-avenged.  And Penda knew that until they were avenged the souls of Cyneburh and Alhfrith would never rest and would not enter the halls of Valhalla.  Triumphant today on bloodied battlefield but bitter in this knowledge King Penda collapsed on his knees and mourned for the loss of his beautiful pagan sorceress daughter.  Bitter and broken even at the moment of victory in battle.

Author Bio

Slave Nano is a writer of erotic paranormal and fantasy stories with bdsm and fetish themes.  He has had short stories and novellas published by Xcite Books and House of Erotica.  His first erotic novel, ‘Adventures in Fetishland’, was published by Xcite in March 2012.

You can find out more about Slave Nano and his writing at