Friday, 10 April 2015

Musings on the Hearg

A couple of posts ago I mentioned Harrow Hill, the holy Hearg in the open landscape. Sussex Archaeology have more detail here. It is likely the Anglo-Saxon Hearg stood within the late Bronze age square hill fort. There is a possibility that our Briton ancestors used it for ritual purposes, which provides an intriguing possibility of a continuum of worship there from the Bronze age through to the late Iron age/early Medieval period. The final piece of folklore about Harrow Hill is that it's the last place that fairies lived in the whole of England. I was brought up with the folklore that as Sussex was the last place in England to convert to Christianity it has kept more of it's heathen superstitions which would explain why the last of the fairies are here.

The question that I'm interested in is who was it that our Anglo-Saxon ancestors worshipped there?
There are clues I think in the landscape and the folklore, unlike Thundersbarrow Hill where Thunders links it to Thunor or Thor, there's no clue in the name. I think the clue is in it's location and that piece of folklore. The land is also not great arable land but is good for livestock; horses and cattle. So I am looking for a heathen deity who is a leader of the fairy folk, holds horses and cattle dear to them and has holy places within enclosures.

Within Bede's history there is a story of the conversion of a heathen priest, called Coifi, who goes back and then destroys the temples sacred to the heathen gods. As Coifi was not allowed to carry weapons or ride horses it is thought he was a priest to Ingvi-Freyr. It is known that horses were kept in sacred places and that the horse was central to heathen religion. There are tales of horse phalli (phalluses?) being used in heathen ritual and the original Saxon leaders Hengist and Horsa's names mean stallion and horse. Ingvi-Freyr's Hall within Asgard is known as Alfheim, the home of the Elves who we now think of as the fae-folk or fairies. There are also linguistically many places across the Nordic countries that indicate Freyr's sacred places were fields, ancient or enclosures. Ingvi-Freyr is also attested as being worshipped in mounds. Harrow Hill is an ancient mound, home to faeries and a suitable place for cattle and horses to live.

So in a moment of wod, odr or awen it is interesting to think that Harrow Hill could have been sacred to Ingui Frea, the Lord Ing, the horse lord and leader of the fairies.

Ingvi-Freyr's "earthly avatars were worshipped within the mound, just as the alfs were. Through his role as god of the barrow and fro of Alf-Home, Fro Ing is also tied to the living might of our fore-gone kin and to the inheritance of udal lands. In the sagas, his friendship preserves the lands of his followers; but when his wrath is roused, he drives men from their lands." from Teutonic Religion by Kvedulf Gundarsson
For a circular walk that passes Harrow Hill have a look here

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