Lindisfarne Haven in the East Kootenay…a dream begins

A self-sustaining, intentional community proclaiming Jesus Christ through daily worship in the Orthodox Christian way, and daily acts of charity for those in need, regardless of ethnicity, creed, or gender.

This dream of a very special community in the British Columbia interior, named for the Holy Island of St. Aidan and St. Cuthbert, is just beginning. Visit the website to learn more.

Lindisfarne Haven in the East Kootenay…a dream begins things Saint Cuthbert
& my books about himhistory5

Old English Word of the Week

In the right sidebar of this blog you will find a section called “The Languages”.

In my upcoming book about 9th Century Northumbria, Bearing the Saint, there are three languages of importance: Old Norse, Medieval Latin, and Old English.

The last is the one of most interest to me, as it is the language spoken by my protagonists (and by my own personal ancestors, in fact). Like many others today, I first became interested in this ancient tongue via J.R.R. Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings. Tolkien was of course a philologist and the fantasy world he created is woven together with his invented languages. But in the case of one group of people in Lord of the Rings, he uses an actual ancient language in which he was expert– Old English, sometimes called Anglo-Saxon, though the latter now usually refers to the people who spoke Old English in the period before the Norman conquest in AD 1066. Tolkien has the Rohirrim speak what is virtually the Mercian dialect of Old English, and portrays them as a pre-Christian Anglo-Saxon warrior culture.

Saint Cuthbert spoke the Northumbrian dialect of this same language, as did the Haliwerfolc company who carried his body away from Lindisfarne in the face of Scandinavian invasion.

The University of Toronto, where I studied Old English at the introductory level in the late 1970’s, maintains the online Dictionary of Old English. 

A page there is dedicated to an Old English Word of the Week, and this is what I have linked in the sidebar on this blog. I don’t know who chooses these words, but here’s an interesting choice they’ve made for the week after Easter this year:

Att. sp.: heldeofol | heldiobul (CorpGl)
2 occ.

devil, glossing Orcus ‘god of the infernal regions’
ClGl 1 4502: Orcus orc, þyrs ? heldeofol.
CorpGl 2 13.231: Orcus ðyrs, heldiobul.
Lat. equiv. in MS: Orcus
See also: hell, d?ofol; cf. helled?ofol
OED2 helldeoful s.v. hell n. note after sense 11.a, hell-devil s.v. hell n. sense 12. Cf. MED helle devel s.v. helle sense 2(b).

Does the connection of ‘devil’ with “Orcus”  sound familiar? Here is a brief excerpt from Wikipedia’s article on “Orcus”, an Etruscan and Roman mythological figure:

From Orcus’ association with death and the underworld, his name came to be used for demons and other underworld monsters, particularly in Italian where orco refers to a kind of monster found in fairy-tales that feeds on human flesh. The French word ogre (appearing first in Charles Perrault‘s fairy-tales) may have come from variant forms of this word, orgo or ogro; in any case, the French ogre and the Italian orco are exactly the same sort of creature. An early example of an orco appears in Ludovico Ariosto‘s Orlando Furioso, as a bestial, blind, tusk-faced monster inspired by the Cyclops of the Odyssey; this orco should not be confused with the orca, a sea-monster also appearing in Ariosto. This orco was the inspiration to J. R. R. Tolkien‘s orcs in his The Lord of the Rings. In a text published in The War of the Jewels, Tolkien stated:

Note. The word used in translation of Q urko, S orch, is Orc. But that is because of the similarity of the ancient English word orc, ‘evil spirit or bogey’, to the Elvish words. There is possibly no connexion between them. The English word is now generally supposed to be derived from Latin Orcus.

Also, in an unpublished letter sent to Gene Wolfe, Tolkien also made this comment:[2]

Orc I derived from Anglo-Saxon, a word meaning demon, usually supposed to be derived from the Latin Orcus — Hell. But I doubt this, though the matter is too involved to set out here.

Old English Word of the Week things Saint Cuthbert
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Saint Cuthbert in Canada

Wishing all a Happy Canada Day! 

Today is a special Canada Day for me, as it is the official release date of Bearing the Saint, my novel about the pilgrimage of the Company of Cuthbert with his body about the north of England and Scotland in the face of the Viking invasion in the late 9th Century AD.

But what does a saint from early medieval Northumbria have to do with Canada? As it happens, there are quite a few churches bearing his name in this fine country, and a few schools. They are Anglican, Old Catholic, Roman Catholic and Presbyterian and perhaps others.

It appears that the oldest St. Cuthbert church in Canada gives its name to the community of Saint-Cuthbert in Quebec. My French is very rusty, and the Google translation is poor, but as near as I can figure out, one James Cuthbert, aide-de-camp to General Wolfe, was in at the fall of Quebec to the British in the late 1700s. James Cuthbert appears to have been one of that ancient family in the north who trace their lineage to the very people my novel is about, the company of Cuthbert, who were made up of both layfolk and monastics, and some of whose earliest members and their children and grandchildren are named in the Historia de Sancto Cuthberto.  

One source I’ve found seems to suggest James Cuthbert’s family was Roman Catholic, and the page below seems to be talking about an RC church:

” C’est en 1766 que la localité reçoit le nom de Saint-Cuthbert, lorsque le seigneur James Cuthbert, aide de camp du général Wolfe qui a fait l’acquisition de ces terres quelques années plus tôt, en fait don à la fabrique, à condition que son nom soit donné à la nouvelle municipalité.
L’année suivante, on y érige une petite chapelle en bois et en 1879, l’église en pierre est bâtie à l’initiative de l’abbé Kerbério, curé de Berthier. L’église existe toujours et a été classée monument historique, ainsi que le presbytère, en 1980.

but another page I’ve found says he had a Protestant chapel built in memory of his wife:


The oldest Presbyterian sanctuary in Quebec can be found at the junction of routes 138 and 158. Cuthbert built the chapel to honor the memory of his wife in 1786.  It has been protected as a historical monument since 1958, and currently hosts a very convenient visitor’s bureau, open from May to October.  Travelers will find an informative guide here to over 20 other heritage buildings, including the original Berthier Grammar School (1880-1917) at 562 rue Montcalm and the last of the Cuthbert manor houses in Berthierville at 710 rue Frontenac.
The house built in 1821 by Lanoraie seigneur Ross Cuthbert to accommodate servants stands west of Berthierville on Route 138 (701 Grande-Côte Est.) It was occupied until the 1970s by the last descendant of the Cuthbert family to live in the area, Margaret Bostwick.

If anyone can clarify all this for me, I would love to hear from you. Meanwhile, it’s just nice to know that Cuthbert’s name appears in Canada from a very early time by Canadian standards. Of course, 1766 is still more than a thousand years after Saint Cuthbert’s death…

Meanwhile, I offer this picture of the lovely stained glass St. Cuthbert’s cross, taken and cropped from the web page of St. Cuthbert’s Anglican Church, Delta BC. I hope they won’t mind…I have been to this church a number of times when my daughters took part in music recitals in the bright beautiful space of the church nave.

Saint Cuthbert in Canada things Saint Cuthbert
& my books about himhistory5