So, my first dissertation chapter deals with how early medieval English writers dealt with the sea, metaphorically, in a redemptive away when faced with exile/displacement. Exile at sea seems to be linked to the idea of control, ultimately. The more a person clings to control while at sea, the more they flounder. The sooner they relinquish any illusions of control and leave their fates to either wyrd or the Christian god, the sooner they get through their ordeals (see, for example, The Seafarer, The Legend of St. Brendan, King Horn, etc). Even Beowulf must submit to the ocean when the waves separate him from Breca. Eventually, this lack of control and need for assistance translates into intermediaries of the celestial type, such as the archangel Michael or the Virgin Mary, whose title “star of the sea” (stella maris or sæ-steorra) rose in popularity beginning in the twelfth century with religious writers like Bernard of Clairvaux. When you look up sæ-steorra in Bosworth-Toller online, the definition is “A star which guides mariners at sea,” which is unsurprising since the “sea-star” role that Mary plays is one of guidance of lost sailors (read “souls”).
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