(Re)-Inventing Myths: How medieval people made gods and gorgons their own

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Tuesday 13 September, 6-7pm
The Chapel, University of Winchester, King Alfred Quarter, Winchester, SO22 4NR

Despite being known as the ‘Dark Ages’, the early medieval period was one of widespread learning. In addition to the Latin and Greek works of great philosophers and Christian thinkers, the myths and legends of the Classical past were also imported into England – the exploits of a dysfunctional family of gods fathered by the overbearing Jupiter; tales of colossal winged beasts that swooped out of the skies to prey on mankind; and stories of the seductive songs of supernatural spirits such as sirens.

There were problems, however: how do you explain a gryphon to people who have never seen a lion? The solution was using the closest possible parallel known to speakers of English. Often this meant drawing upon the folklore, superstition, and pagan beliefs that conversion to Christianity had led them to cast aside. In this talk, Dr Eric Lacey will explore how the early medieval English reinvented the entities of Classical myth and legend by merging them with more familiar native concepts. In doing so he sheds some light on the little-known folklore and superstition of the distant past: a realm of elves, pagan gods, and prophetic women who choose those doomed to die.

This talk forms part of the national Heritage Open Days festival, and takes place in our beautifully restored Victorian chapel.

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