I would like an Anglo-Saxon Funeral
According to the evidence Anglo Saxons choose both burial and cremation. It would appear that Angles (those who settled more to the East) opted for cremation and the Saxons tended more towards burial, but evidence of both types of ceremony have been found within the same graveyard.
If the option was cremation, then the ashes would often be placed in a simple urn like those shown in the image. A simple earthen ware often depicting a geometrical markings or serpent or a dragon. There were often swastikas present. However, this is not to be considered to be an expression of fascist tendencies. The symbol was hugely popular and is believed to represent fire or lightening and is associate with the Anglo-Saxon god Thunor an equivalent to the Norse deity Thor or the Germanic god Aesir.
Grave goods were common, there has been some debate as to whether these were interred to bring benefit to the afterlife or buried as they connected with the spirit of the deceased, however scholars tend to consider the former as there appear to be new unused items such as combs which would not have any long-term connection with buried person. Objects that could be buried could include: swords, amulets, belts, beads, jewellery, combs and plenty of other stuff that no has a clue why it is there or what it is supposed to do.
As for choosing location, there appears to be no specific place where buried grounds were located, however bodies were buried clothed it was the norm to face bodies in an eastly direction – to face the dawn. Which implies that the contemporary view of the afterlife was quite optimistic. Children and babies were buried in a foetal position to perhaps imply they were born to early and that the deity would form them to start again.
The Saxons did start to return to Long Barrows as form of interning the decease and now we see quite a few of these reappearing in the landscape – Long Barrows
In addition, many think the the buried longboat at Sutton Hoo was a Viking burial, this is not true. It is a Anglo Saxon burial as are the rest of the ship burials in the area, these were for local nobility and long before the Viking era which came over 100 years later. So a burial in one of or Longboats may be perfect.
How close can I get to an Anglo-Saxon Funeral today?
If you choose cremation then, the ashes can be placed in a similar urn and buried. You would need to use the service or a natural burial ground as opposed to a Church of England Cemetery or Local Authority burial ground. The burial ground may allow the burial of grave goods but as most are based on a ‘return to nature’ ethos so the may be limits. I don’t suggest you bury in your own garden.
Whole burials are much the same, again the burial ground may be able to accommodate you when it comes to orientation for the body, but grave goods could be limited.
Actual traditions of the ceremony are lost and we can only surmise this from the archaeological findings. The ceremony would need to be of you own design, the are however some wonderful Anglo-Saxon poetry left with us. This one is ‘slightly’ less bloodthirsty than many and may well useful: The Wanderer https://oldenglishpoetry.camden.rutgers.edu/the-wanderer/
Which contain the much repeated (and translated phrase) – Wyrd bið ful aræd or Fate is wholly inexorable.
And what of the afterlife for those on this journey…
There appear to be two different views, one a Christianised version of the pagan which according to the venerable Bebe went something like this:
The present life man, O king, seems to me, in comparison with that time which is unknown to us, like to the swift flight of a sparrow through the room wherein you sit at supper in winter amid your officers and ministers, with a good fire in the midst whilst the storms of rain and snow prevail abroad; the sparrow, I say, flying in at one door and immediately another, whilst he is within is safe from the wintry but after a short space of fair weather he immediately vanishes out of your sight into the dark winter from which he has emerged. So this life of man appears for a short space but of what went before or what is to follow we are ignorant. If, therefore, this new doctrine contains something more certain, it seems justly to deserve to be followed.”
Presumably to assist in the conversion to Christianity. However, grave goods, the direction of burial and snippets from sources like the epic poem Beowulf imply a different story…. A whole more ‘rosy’ picture.
So, if you are thinking of this as an exit plan, please let us know, we have it mind to make Anglo Saxon funeral urn (minus the swastika) but can’t judge the demand…