Nightjar
  • Paul Jameson

The Legend of Albine and her Sisters

Have you ever wondered where the name of Albion, as the Isles of Britain were once known, came from?

No.

Well I will tell you all the same.

17th Century Map of Albion

Albion, these isles were called in times of old. By the Greeks and the Romans, by those who sailed the seas before them. A mysterious place on the edge of civilisation, forever liminal, of blue-painted warriors, druids and giants where hang the mists of time. It is a place of folklore, white cliffs and monsters. A myth from the very beginning.


But why Albion? We could explore the etymology of the word and come up with two possibilities. That the root of the word originally meant ‘white’, handy given those famed cliffs, or it came from ‘the world above’ (as opposed to the world below). Now if I was to ascribe to either one of these, I’d choose the second; it has more magical connotations. But no, there is the third option. It is nothing to do with word origins and everything to do with legend and folklore. A tale like no other. It’s said the name comes from the Syrian Queen called Albine, who who landed these shores with thirty one of her sisters in exile. Now this is much more like it. There is a quite a wordy version of the tale to be found in 'A Collection of the Chronicles and Ancient Histories of Great Britain, Now Called England (Volume I)' and I would encourage you to read it. What follows though is my much simpler take on it.

In the times of the Greek Kings, Hercules and Jason, Albine was the eldest daughter to a great and powerful King of Syria and Mesopotamia, King Diodicias. With four wives, Diodicias sired thirty three daughters. In time it happened he was encouraged to marry his daughters to lesser nobles, important generals and high ranking officials, as has so oft been the case in history. However Diodicias achieved this in one single event, one wedding for all his daughters, and so acquired thirty three son-in-laws in a single day. Sadly though, for the King and his chosen, the girls were not best pleased with their husbands, and Albine it was who made a plan that they must refuse to succumb to their husbands' desires. It is said the men did try their best (and worst), with a mix of compliment, persuasion and even assault, but at every turn the sisters thwarted all efforts to make them do as they were told. Indeed, they made the men to look like fools, and unable to break the girls down they wrote in desperation to their father-in-law, King Diodicias, for help. Now the King, upset his daughters did not want to please the husbands he’d chosen for them, summoned all his daughters together and, in private audience, ordered his daughters do as they were told; to be obedient to their men and make the husbands happy.

Awful.

It wasn’t going to happen.


But his daughters pretended to acquiesce. All fawned obedience until they left their father's court, but in secret Albine and her sisters did hatch a far more ruthless plan. Upon returning to Albine’s palace in Damascus, the girls did lure the husbands into a false sense of security, with wine and want; drugged them with a sleeping potion given by Albine, and led them happy to the bedchamber. There the men fell asleep, and the wives did slit their throats.

Unknown - Dou you Know? Tell me please.

Bloody!

And brilliant...

All bar the youngest who had fallen in love with her man. She it was who fled the palace of Albine, and with her love escaped. Together they told her father of all that had happened. King Diodicias, furious at such treachery, did banish Albine and all others of his thirty one daughters. Cruelly, they were set adrift on a ship with no mast, provisions only to survive six months. Tall women, strong, beautiful, emboldened by tales of Amazons and with Albine as their Queen, they did take took fate again into their hands; sailed the Mediterranean and journeyed beyond the Pillars of Hercules, on into a great ocean whereupon they landed on the fertile shores of these distant isles. In honour of their eldest sister and Queen they called the islands Albion, and so it came by a name.


A land of plenty. Green, and bountiful.

Queen Albine and her Sisters land on Albion

Here they did flourish.

Only...

(and here in the reading, I sense a Medievel Holiness that creeps in to highlight the wrongdoings of such prideful, sinful and powerful women. They who went against the wishes of fathers and men)

...the Devil sensing carnal desires at being so alone did come among them as a man. Did live and sleep wanton with the girls for many years. From such coupling a race of giants was conceived of sin. Men and women sired, the sons and daughters of the Sisters of Albine and a Daemon; giants as inhabited these shores until the coming of Brute of Troy. Personally though, I prefer to think of Albine and her sisters as the epitomy of womanly power in the face of male dominance and female servitude, an echo of today in the telling. Together they refused to kneel or bow, stood strong and made good with the tribes and people that already inhabited these shores. It may be Albine and her sisters are why the Celts of Britain do celebrate the strength and ferocity of womanhood.


It is an ancestry to be proud of.

To Albine and her Albion!

Boudicca - Barbarians Rising

It is an ancestry to be proud of.

Here's to Albine and her Albion..!

 

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