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Trees and Timber in the Anglo-Saxon World$
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Michael D. J. Bintley and Michael G. Shapland

Print publication date: 2013

Print ISBN-13: 9780199680795

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: January 2014

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199680795.001.0001

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Holy Beams: Anglo-Saxon Cult Sites and the Place-Name Element Bēam

Holy Beams: Anglo-Saxon Cult Sites and the Place-Name Element Bēam

Chapter:
(p.186) 10 Holy Beams: Anglo-Saxon Cult Sites and the Place-Name Element Bēam
Source:
Trees and Timber in the Anglo-Saxon World
Author(s):

John Blair

Publisher:
Oxford University Press
DOI:10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199680795.003.0010

The religious and ritual dimension to trees in the Anglo-Saxon world can be approached through the place-name bēam (‘tree’), and its dead counterpart stapol (‘post or pillar’). Whilst some instances of these words carry common-sense explanations, others imply special features, often in numinous places such as cult sites or meeting-places. This is explored in detail through the case study of Bampton in Oxfordshire, a late Anglo-Saxon royal and ecclesiastical power centre on the site of Romano-British and early Anglo-Saxon settlement and prehistoric barrow cemetery. Here, the bēam site can be identified with an early medieval chapel, interpreted as the Christian appropriation of a pagan ritual site.

Keywords:   paganism, holy trees, Christianity, bēam, stapol

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