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Hearken back to the grit and grimy days of England in the 7th century. Towns were few and far between and wolves and Dragons still ruled the wilds with fang and claw. Fun Anglo-Saxon times.

Detail from Vortigern, Merlin & the Dragons. St.Alban’s Chronicle

This was the age of deep superstition and early conflict between the budding Christian church and old-time Paganism. Of strict class structure and more rights for cattle than women. It was into this world that Princess Æthelthryth (Etheldreda to those more Roman and Anglo-Saxon) was born of a most saintly lineage – according to the Venerable Bede, she, her brother, and three sisters were all canonized. She was a comely aristocrat with a fondness for beads and trinkets and more interest in heaven than earth. In the way of Medieval women, she was also a pawn in politics and religion for much of her short life (636-679 CE). Still, she was blessed to be a woman of wealth and property and so had leverage most women lacked.

After numerous exploits including two marriages (tricky propositions when one vows to remain a virgin), minor miracles, Æthelthryth founded an abbey in 673 at the Isle of Ely, an historic district in Fenlands she’d received as a dower gift from her first husband, King Tondbercht. She remained there as Abbess until her death from an unsightly tumor on her neck she attributed to divine judgement on her youthful liking of necklaces, gewgaws, and baubles. 

What can this possibly have to do with Dragons, you ask? Was she personally familiar with our fierce friends? The strong anti-Dragon stance of the church would have made this highly unlikely. No, the connection comes posthumously, when, in honour of the saintly Æthelthryth – Audrey to those who knew her well – the people of Ely got together to celebrate her life with an annual fair. St. Audrey’s Fair. At these gatherings, in remembrance of Audrey’s jewelry obsession, simple, inexpensive trinkets were bought and sold. (The word ‘tawdry’ even comes from a bastardization of Audrey’s name.) Where better to pick up a little something for one’s Dragon without incurring a mountain of debt or the suspicions of the local constabulary?

 

St. Audrey Fairs are still held around the UK, and there is a growing effort among certain Dragon aficionados to spread the festivities to other corners of the world. Dates vary, from June 23 (Audrey’s Saints Day) to the more MotD-friendly time, October 16-17, Gaudy Bauble Day. Those who don’t have a proper St. Audrey’s Fair near by often substitute the experience with an afternoon of October tag-saling.

Hectic personal lives not to mention the advent of e-bay and other on-line vending venues have made actual ‘fairing’ more than a casual undertaking. Still, it’s autumn! The foliage is gorgeous and the air spiced with apples and woolly-bears. When better to go out with your Dragon and mingle with others of our kind among bins of dazzlers and sparklies.

It’s a great time to get a leg-up on your draconic Yule shopping ,too.

[repost from MotD, 2012]

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