From Runes to Ruins

  • In Search of the Earth Mother of Anatolia

    A documentary which looks at the root of the Earth Mother goddess common to European pagan religions; call her Cybele, Rhea, Ceres, or whatever - she comes from Anatolia and spread out in various forms from the Neolithic to the Iron Age. One late form was Artemis of Ephesus, an Anatolian version of a Greek goddess who was then sent back to Europe in her new form. This film focuses mainly on the Lycians, who were an early Indo-European people in Anatolia who seem to have preserved more of the pre-Indo-European Anatolian religion and culture than most.

  • From Runes To Ruins

    From Runes to Ruins is the first ever documentary film about Anglo-Saxon paganism. Independently produced and funded, it is unique in its emotive and artistic approach to religious history.

    All over Britain there are people whose lives are influenced by the largely forgotten culture of the Anglo-Saxon barbarians who founded England. There are landmarks, place names and aspects of our language which are remnants of Anglo-Saxon paganism. It is from Woden, the god of war, that we take the name for the third day of the week, Wednesday (Woden’s day). There are many places around England named after Woden, like the ancient earthwork of Wansdyke which was probably a cult-centre of the god. In this film, Tom Rowsell, an expert in the paganism of early medieval England, travels around the country looking at places like Wansdyke and talking to people whose lives are influenced by the Anglo-Saxons and their pagan religion. The film features all kinds of peculiar characters; like neo-pagans worshipping Thor in Oxfordshire, the leader of the London Longsword Academy and historical re-enactors who like nothing more than to get dressed up in armour and swing axes at each other.

    From Runes to Ruins combines amusing and characterful interviews with informative history all presented with beautiful cinematography and an original and haunting synth soundtrack.

    Despite the significance of Anglo-Saxon paganism to the history of Britain, no one has ever made a documentary exclusively on this subject. In this film, Thomas Rowsell reveals a forgotten aspect of English history that many are oblivious to, by uncovering paganism in runes and ruins

About the director

While studying my Master’s degree in medieval history, I was fascinated by the same mythology and legends that had inspired J.R.R. Tolkien to write The Lord of the Rings. Delving through old leather books and countless journals, trying to discover more about the forgotten religion of the Anglo-Saxon pagans, I couldn’t help noticing some familiar place names. It seemed that all the places from my youth were in some way connected to the history of the Anglo-Saxon heathens whether it be the village of Thursley, named after Thor, which was near to my childhood home, or the ancient pagan barrows I used to camp on as a teen. I realised that through the landscape I had a personal relationship with the pre-Christian inhabitants of England and wondered how many other people had developed this strange fascination. Initially I had never intended to present From Runes to Ruins, but after the production house I was working with dropped the project, I no longer had the funds necessary to pay for a famous presenter. Financial constraints necessitated my stepping in to the presenting role, but this allowed me to put a personal slant on the documentary, using the pagan landscape of my own past to communicate the culture of a far more distant one. I hope that From Runes to Ruins sparks a new interest in the pagan religion of our Anglo-Saxon ancestors and also encourages people to look at the land itself as a beautiful, spiritual inheritance which brings us closer to nature, our ancestors and each other.