THE WINWICK PIG
Winwick is a small town between the M6 and Warrington, and as a small Church dedicated to ST Oswald. He was the monarch of northumbria at The time of his passing in the year 642 Oswald died in battle against The pagan King Penda of Mercia, and was one of the few Kings to be Made a saint. The church was built on the spot where he took his Last breathe.
Winwick was then just a small clearing in the woods with a few huts Set as dwellings. This was the place where good King Oswald was killed And many a tale was told of this noble hero. Travelers would call in and pay tribute to the great man, Bowing low to the spot and sometimes leaving token gifts, it was almost Like a shrine.
The elders of the Village cared for it but there was no real guardian Of the place. All there was a great stone that had been rolled there To mark the spot. Neither was there a written inscription but the stories Were passed on by word of mouth.
By the time of our story, in the early tenth century, Oswald had been dead For many years but his name lived on and his stone was tended. No one knew Who placed the stone there or ever questioned its authenticity.
One day the old men of the village sat down under the great tree in the center Of the palisade'd area just to talk about things.
They watched as a group of noble strangers entered the palisade, walked over to The stone and bowed their heads. The old men looked at each other, and seemed to think the Same thoughts and the idea was born to build a church to honor the Saint. There was much talking and many discussions later, it was finally decided that the church Was to be built of timber, with stone doorways and windows. No plans were drawn in those days, except for great marks on the ground, but the young men had to know about the proposed New building and what it was proposed to look like. So the old men drew their plans on the ground And showed inperticular, where the door was to be. They wanted people to come out of the church And see the stone of St Oswald.
Soon the preparations were under way for the building and people were so busy that no one noticed The old wild boar that entered the palisade and rooted around near the fire to see what he could find.
Stones were gathered together and great trees in the forest were marked in readiness for their felling. The marks on the ground were discussed at great length, adjusted, walked around, and talked about again. There was great excitement in the village, and all those who came to see the place left something of value Which would help finance the construction of the church.
And still the old pig stayed in the palisade, walking around and grunting, snuffling around the people, And generally being friendly. Everyone became quite fond of him. He seemed especially interested in the marks On the ground which showed where the new church was to be built, and was often seen there. The men found his Rooting around quite amusing but hastened to replace their marks when his grubbing obliterated them. It was soon time for the actual building to start and stones were used to mark the corners and doorways of the church, Amidst much arm waving and discussion. But at last the groundwork was done and the men surveyed their work with satisfaction. It was the end of the day and the villagers went home for their evening meal, looking forward to the next day when they could Continue their work.
When the first man awoke the next morning, he left his hut to survey yesterday's work, but soon is loud shout alarmed the whole Community. The others came out and stared in amazement at the scene before them. For the great stones and the marks which showed The plans of the church had been moved across the square to lie around St Oswalds stone. And the strangest thing of all, there In the middle, seemingly fast asleep, lay the old boar which the villagers had befriended.
The men, women and children moved over to the place talking in low, hushed tones. They saw stones and marks all laid out most accurately And they looked at the wild pig as it lay in the sunshine. They talked about how they had heard the pig at work during the night and Eventually drew close to it. Looking at the animal closely they saw that the pig was not sleeping but was infact dead.
The village elders gathered that morning for a meeting. It was decided that the church would be built exactly as the pig had decreed and that, In memory of the animal, a pig would be carved on the stone that marked the spot where St Oswald had died.
Many years later, in the fourteenth century, the church was re built in stone and that very stone, the one on which the pig was carved, was built into the tower. There it has stayed until this day, as a token to something deep and mysterious in life.
Who or what was the pig? Exactly what link did he have to King Oswald? There are those who say after death, our souls are re born again into some other creature's body. Who can say that they are wrong? Maybe the pig's soul was that of Kings?