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An Anglo-Saxon term that meant wise men, persons learned in the law; in particular, the king's advisers or members of his council.

In England, between the sixth and tenth centuries, a person who advised an Anglo-Saxon king was called a witan, or wise man. A witan's basic duty was to respond when the king asked for advice on specific issues. A witan gave his advice in the Witenagemote, or assembly of wise men. This assembly was the forerunner of the English Parliament.

The Witenagemote was the great council of the Anglo-Saxons in England, comprising the aristocrats of the kingdom, along with bishops and other high ecclesiastical leaders. This council advised and aided the king in the general administration of government. The Witenagemote attested to the king's grants of land to churches or laypersons and consented to his proclamation of new laws or new statements of ancient customs. The council also assisted the king in dealing with rebels and persons suspected of disloyalty. The king determined both the composition of the council and its meeting times.

The Witenagemote generally met in the open air in or near some city or town. Members were notified by public notice or particular summons issued by the king's select council. When the throne was vacant, the body also met without notice to elect a new king.

After the Norman Conquest in 1066, the council was called the commune concillium, or common council of the realm. This was transformed into the Curia Regis, or King's Council, and by the late thirteenth century, it was called Parliament. The character of the institution also changed during this period. It became a court of last resort, especially for determining disputes between the king and his nobles and, ultimately, from all inferior tribunals.


English Law.

References in periodicals archive ?
In La3amon we find witen 'to know' and witen 'to guard', which go back to witan and witan respectively.
I HAVE a sense of humour and do not have any problem with your lighthearted approach to my commitment to the reinstatement of the Witan of Mercia.
And godsibbas [&] godbearn to fela man forspilde wide geond pas deode; [&] ealles to manege halige stowa wide forwurdan purh paet pe man sume men aer pam gelogode, swa man na ne sceolde, gif man on Godes gride maede witan wolde; [&] cristenes folces to fela man gesealde ut of pyssan eard nu ealle hwile; [&] eall paet is Gode lad.
The gate guard of Edoras, on the other hand, does not succeed in his character analysis of Gandalf; he is unable to "gescad witan, / worda and worca" ("understand the meaning of words and deeds") (288-99), to use his counterpart's phrasing.
Paet hi dydon for pam dingum pe hi woldon witan hu heah hit waere to daem heofone, and hu dicce se hefon waere and hu faest, oddes hwaet paer ofer waere.
Many are currently trying to buff up a tired and tarnished image - even the giant Witan has changed management after years of underperforming.
In the mid-80s, Tanton circulated a series of memos among his inner circle known as the Witan memos, Witan being an abbreviation for the old English term Witenagemot, or Council of Wise Men.
Administrative institutions such as kin, hundred, borough, and witan figure prominently, as do feast, fast day, religiosity, and language.
Most recently, she worked for The Witan Group in St.
Financial information aggregators such as Onmoney, VerticalOne, Witan, and Yodlee, as well as financial-services companies, now offer this type of service.
While most medieval states were defined as territories possessed by royal families, Saxon institutions like the shire and the witan generalized the English sense of shared "national" governance with the crown.