Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Mother's Night 2011

The Winter Solstice for the Northern Hemisphere (Summer below the equator), occurs this year on Thursday, 22 December,  at 05:30 U.T.C., or 5:30 a.m. Greenwich Mean Time. As this blog involves pulling threads from the web and weaving them into posts for this blog, there will be no entries made here from Mother Night until the end of the "Twelfths," which will be 2 January of 2012. Hail and Glad Jule blessings to all who have been frequenting this site. See you next year.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Forget the crisis - Iceland survived 500 years of Danish rule

"How a deserted island became Snowland, and then Iceland, adopted Norwegian sovereignty and then Danish, took all our cash and gave us back ash." This encapsulation of Iceland's history, which includes the legend of  Ingólfur Arnarson, is available for viewing at the Copenhagen Post.

Mistletoe's lengthy history

"In Norse mythology, Frigg, the goddess of love and beauty, was the mother of the god Baldr. Frigg asked all living creatures to swear an oath never to harm Baldr after he had a series of visionary dreams. Baldr was protected from all harm, rendered invincible except for one plant: mistletoe. Frigg thought it was too small and innocent to do him any harm. Loki, the trickster god, fashioned a spear of mistletoe that proved to be Baldr's demise." Read the full article on mistletoe's folkloric history and life cycle at the Richmond Times-Dispatch.

A gift from Santa: Santa Pete shares his insight on the real St. Nick and Christmas Read more: Cleveland Daily Banner - A gift from Santa Santa Pete looks at Christmas

"Describing how Saint Nicholas and early legends of Norse gods became the magical symbol of Santa Claus, Edna Barth, in her book, “Holly, Reindeer, and Colored Lights, The Story of Christmas Symbols” wrote, “Swedish children wait eager for Jultometen, a gnome whose sleigh is drawn by Julbocker, the goats of the thunder god Thor. With his red suit and cap, and a bulging sack on his back, he looks much like the American Santa Claus.”

In the chapter, “Santa Claus and his Ancestors,” Barth says, “Thousands of years before Christ, the Scandinavian god Odin rode through the world at midwinter on this eight-footed horse, sleipnir, bringing reward and punishment.

“His son, Thor, god of farming, thunder and war made his home in the far north. At the same season, the gentle German goddess Hertha descended with her gifts of good fortune and health. The Christian religion brought an end of such pagan gods, in form at least. Later, as St. Nicholas and Father Christmas, they reappeared in spirit.”

Read more of this article by William Wright at the Cleveland Daily Banner .

Rediscovering the spirit of Sibelius

Lemminkäisen äiti (Lemminkäinen's mother) by Akseli Gallen-Kallela 1897 – Lemminkäinen's mother on the banks of the river of Tuonela reviving her son. Source: Wikimedia Commons.

"Sibelius's seven symphonies loom like dark, brooding enigmas over the entire orchestral repertoire. Nearly 90 years after the last was completed – the radical and still influential Seventh in 1924 – they still pose a challenge to orchestras and conductors keen to realise their brave new worlds of sound. There are things in Sibelius's symphonies that music had never done before, new kinds of sounds at the outer limits of orchestral possibility. At one pole of his imagination are the evocations of epic landscapes, as in the unforgettable big tunes at the end of the Second or Fifth. At the other, there's the microscopic detail of his orchestration, the subtlety and shimmer of his string-writing – as if Sibelius had taken the lens of his musical imagination and zoomed in on individual pine needles in the vast forests of his Finnish homeland."

The full text of this article by Tom Service about the composer who gave musical life to the Kalevala, in much the same way Wagner did for the Nibelungenlied, may be read at the Guardian.

Christmas or Yule? Pagan secrets of the festive season

"Around 730 AD the Venerable Bede recorded a custom of the Anglo-Saxons, from whom many modern Britons and Americans are descended. 'They began the year,” he wrote, “with 25 December, designated by the heathen term módraniht, that is, the mothers' night.'

The Anglo-Saxons had another word for it: Geol from Jol in Old Norse, the language of the Vikings, and the origin of our word Yule.

At this time the Vikings would honor the gods Odin, Niord and Freya, as well as departed friends. As the leader of the Wild Hunt, Odin would fly over the countryside bestowing favors on those who honored him best and food would be left out for him. Think of Santa's elves, sleigh and reindeer."

Read the full article at the Sierra Sun.

Sculpture at home at Calf Pasture Beach

"The 35-ton tall steel-and-concrete sculpture was shaped by Lundberg in New York City more than 10 years ago. It since has been on display there, in Providence, R.I., and most recently at Oyster Shell Park.

The sculptor, whose parents are from Sweden, said he orignally named the sculpture 'Odin' after the Nordic god. Lundberg said he and others are now trying to think of a new name for it."

Personally, I think the sculpture should keep the name it has. The full article may be seen, with a photo of the sculpture, at The Norwalk Hour

Odinist woman wins 'family life' human rights case

"An American woman who worships Norse gods has won the right to stay in Britain because of her 'family life' with her boyfriend and his wife.
Home Office officials told Emily DiSanto, 25, that they would not grant her permission to stay in Britain because the law bans what are in effect polygamous relationships.
But now she has won an extraordinary legal case in which she was allowed to remain here on the basis of her human right to family life."

In sum, Ms. DiSanto claimed that her lover's beliefs as an Odinist forbade him and his wife from divorcing, and this precipitated their living together. The article does note that Britain's main Odinist group, Odinic Rite, does not forbid divorce, but other Odinists, and other Heathens, may share different views on the matter. The complete article may be viewed at the Daily Telegraph.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Immortal Maidens: The Visual Significance of the Colour White in Girls’ Graves on Viking-Age Gotland

Via Medievalists.net:

"In some Viking-Age (AD 800-1050) burials on Gotland, an island in the Baltic Sea, a large number of white shell-beads have been recovered together with glass-beads predominantly coloured yellow, green, red, blue and turquoise as well as beads of exotic materials such as carnelian and rock crystal. The beads were part of bead-sets from necklaces worn by females. Previous research assumed that the shell-beads were made of local limestone, but analyses have revealed that the beads were actually crafted from the exotic cowry shell (cypraea pantherina), originating in the Indian Ocean and the Red Sea." Read the full article by Susanne Thedéen in a PDF edition of Making Sense of Things: Archaelogies of Sense Perception, pp 103-120.

Viking hoard provides new clues to 'previously unknown ruler'

"One of the most important hoards of Viking silver ever found in Britain contains valuable coins bearing the identity of a previously unknown ruler, it emerged yesterday.
The “hugely significant” hoard of 1,000-year-old artefacts includes more than 200 coins, ingots and pieces of silver jewellery that was found buried underground in north Lancashire." Read the full article at the Daily Telegraph.

Wassail

A demonstration of the ancient custom of  wassailing, specifically that of the Orchard-Visiting wassail:




Some excerpts from Wikipedia's artcles on wassail and wassailing:

Some scholars prefer a pre-Christian explanation of the old traditional ceremony of wassailing. How far the tradition dates back is unknown but it has undeniable connections with Anglo-Saxon pagan ritual. Of recent times the word Wassail (from the Anglo-Saxon toast Wæs þu hæl, "be thou hale" — i.e., "be in good health") has come to be synonymous with Christmas. The word wassail is old English (OE) and so may predate the Norman conquest in 1066. According to the Oxford English Dictionary "waes hael" is the Middle English spelling parallel to OE "wes hal". The American Heritage Dictionary, fourth edition, gives Old Norse "ves heill" as the source of Middle English "waeshaeil". The correct response to the toast is Drinc hæl.
Christmas was not celebrated anywhere before the third century, and only gradually moved northwards through Europe. It was probably the Normans who brought the celebration to England. Traditionally, the wassail is celebrated on Twelfth Night (mostly regarded as January 6, but more properly the evening of January 5). However most people insist on wassailing on 'Old Twelvey Night' (January 17) as that would have been the correct date before the introduction of the Gregorian Calendar in 1752.



In the cider-producing West of England (primarily the counties of Devon, Somerset, Dorset, Gloucestershire and Herefordshire) wassailing also refers to drinking (and singing) the health of trees in the hopes that they might better thrive.
An old rhyme goes: “Wassaile the trees, that they may beare / You many a Plum and many a Peare: / For more or lesse fruits they will bring, / As you do give them Wassailing.”
The purpose of wassailing is to awake the cider apple trees and to scare away evil spirits to ensure a good harvest of fruit in the Autumn.{"England In Particular", Common Ground 2007} The ceremonies of each wassail vary from village to village but they generally all have the same core elements. A wassail King and Queen lead the song and/or a processional tune to be played/sung from one orchard to the next, the wassail Queen will then be lifted up into the boughs of the tree where she will place toast soaked in Wassail from the Clayen Cup as a gift to the tree spirits (and to show the fruits created the previous year). Then an incantation is usually recited such as
Here's to thee, old apple tree, That blooms well, bears well. Hats full, caps full, Three bushel bags full, An' all under one tree. Hurrah! Hurrah!

Then the assembled crowd will sing and shout and bang drums and pots & pans and generally make a terrible racket until the gunsmen give a great final volley through the branches to make sure the work is done and then off to the next orchard. Perhaps unbeknown to the general public, this ancient English tradition is still very much thriving today. The West Country is the most famous and largest cider producing region of the country and some of the most important wassails are held annually in Carhampton (Somerset) and Whimple (Devon), both on 17 January (old Twelfth Night).


At Carhampton, near Minehead, the Apple Orchard Wassailing is held on the Old Twelfth Night (17 January) as a ritual to ask God for a good apple harvest. The villagers form a circle around the largest apple tree, hang pieces of toast soaked in cider in the branches for the robins, who represent the 'good spirits' of the tree. A shotgun is fired overhead to scare away evil spirits and the group sings, the following being the last verse:
Old Apple tree, old apple tree;
We've come to wassail thee;
To bear and to bow apples enow;
Hats full, caps full, three bushel bags full;
Barn floors full and a little heap under the stairs.


Lamb's wool or lambswool is a variety of wassail made from ale, baked apples, sugar and spices. It is mentioned in Poet's Pub by Eric Linklater.
Next crowne the bowle full
With gentle Lambs wooll,

Adde sugar, nutmeg, and ginger,
With store of ale too,
And thus ye must doe

To make the Wassaile a swinger.

In ancient tradition, the first day of November was dedicated to the angel presiding over fruits, seeds, &c. and was named La Mas Ubhal, that is, the day of the apple fruit, and being pronounced lamasool. The English have corrupted the name to lamb's-wool.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

The Snow Queen

This story by Danish writer Hans Christian Andersen contains elements very reminiscent of the old sagas and legends. The title character, particularly as portrayed in the 1957 Soviet animated film, shares many characteristics with the Frost Etins. Also, the heroine's name, Gerda, is a variation of Gerd. Gerda ventures to the land of the Snow Queen to free her love Kay from the queen's icy palace. In the original story, Kay has his mind enchanted by splinters from a troll's mirror. In the animated film, his heart is turned icy by splinters from the snow queen's ice mirror, and Gerda hopes to rekindle his love and warm his heart. This is something of a turnabout on the story of Frey striving and succeeding in winning the heart of Gerd, the daughter of a Frost Giant.

Here is a clip from the first cinematic adpatation of the Andersen fairy tale, Snezhnaya koroleva, produced in the USSR in 1957. Per Wikipedia,  it was "later dubbed by Universal Studios with the voices of Sandra Dee as Gerda, Tommy Kirk as Kay and introduced by Art Linkletter. In the 1990s, the film was redubbed again, this time featuring the voices of Kathleen Turner, Mickey Rooney, Kirsten Dunst and Laura San Giacomo." This clip is in the original Russian.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

The Norse in Newfoundland: L’Anse aux Meadows and Vinland

Via Medievalists.net:
Wikimedia Commons
"One thousand years ago, the Old World and the New stood face to face in the Strait of Belle Isle. The landing of the Norse on the shores of North America was not the result of a sudden journey but the endpoint of a step-by-step expansion stretching over two centuries. This expansion began in southwestern Norway, where chieftains and minor kings jostled for power over a growing population. In such a competitive context, migration across the North Sea to the Scottish Isles and the Faeroes was an attractive alternative to staying home. The contemporary development of seaworthy ships, capable of safely crossing open oceans and transporting people, their worldly belongings and livestock, made emigration possible."

Read the full article by Birgitta Wallace at the Newfoundland and Labrador Studies website.

Riding With Holda

Thanks to Jim in Oklahoma for finding this.

"Like someone else we know, this yuletide goddess also flew through the air, slipped down chimneys, and delivered gifts." This essay by Selena Fox on Holda and Her close variants, - Hulda, Holle, Perchta, Frigga, - may be read in its entirety at Belief.net.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Remnants of Revenants: The Role of the Dreaded Draugr in Medieval Iceland

Via Medievalists.net: "The term 'revenant' is a French term for ghost, derived from the verb revenir, 'to return.' The Icelandic term is more specific to the returning and violently unhappy dead: the feared draugr. These Scandinavian ghosts are almost always purely physical. They rise from the burial grounds (howes), bash the living, and generally make horrible nuisances of themselves until heroes overpower them and destroy their corpses for good. They owe their place in folklore to earlier Germanic literature: a heroic and supernatural tradition that shows up in the medieval Icelandic sagas and ghost stories from northern England."
Read the full article by Mistresss Caitlin Christiana Wintour at Caitlin's Crossroad.

Tips For Helping Your Heathen Child Deal With Prejudice

Thanks to Wild Boar for finding this:

"As much as it warms our hearts that our kids have the opportunity to grow up in our folkway, we can’t forget that they live in a far different world than we do. They have some very perilous territory to navigate, and holding beliefs that are different from the majority make it that much harder."  You may find the full article at the Hridgar Folk's website.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

"We Are Our Deeds" back in print!

Thanks to Jeff Wolf for bringing this to my attention.

"Good and evil. Right and wrong. Law and sin. All of these words can be found in the ancient Germanic languages and all of them are still used today. But what did they originally mean? In We Are Our Deeds, these words are traced back to their original meanings and significances, revealing the sophisticated system of ethics possessed by the ancient Germanic tribes. Unhappily, for history, none of this wisdom ever found its way into any direct literary tradition, which the ancient Germanics did not possess; instead, it is all to be discovered in a close analytical consideration of what we know of their ideas and folkways, the words they used and how they used them. In We Are Our Deeds, Eric Wódening examines the words, customs and laws of the ancient Germanic tribes, with an eye to the more accurate reconstruction from such materials of the true elder pre-Christian heathen ethic." Considered a contemporary classic by many modern Heathens, this book is now back in print and available through Lulu.

A Visit from St. Nicholas (and Black Peter)

"Our present-day North American Santa Claus is a surprisingly recent incarnation of the Christmas gift-giver. In 1823, Clement C. Moore, a professor of classics and theology, published his famous poem, A Visit from St. Nicholas. Moore based much of his jolly old elf on the figure of Sinterklaas, the St. Nicholas of his Dutch-American neighbours.

But Moore was also a keen scholar of Norse and Teutonic mythology, and borrowed from Scandinavian legends elements of the jovial trickster who presided over northern midwinter festivals."

Read the full article by Paula Simons at the Edmonton Journal.

Friday, December 9, 2011

Christmas traditions and performance rituals: a look at Christmas celebrations in a Nordic context

Via Medievalists.net:


"The article explores some pre-Christian, Christian and post-Christian celebratory rituals that exist in a Nordic tradition of Christmas feasts, with a particular focus on the Norwegian Yule. A key theme is the presentation and discussion of rituals and performative events in the described celebrations, along with observations on the interesting etymology of words and names, as well as myths and legends, associated with Yule celebrations. The article looks at some roots of theatre in early religious ritual and dramatic elements in folk practice, and at beliefs and customs that have shaped present day Christmas – or Yule - traditions in the North." The full article by Stig A. Eriksson of Bergen University, Norway, is available in PDF format through Griffith University's website.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Learning Magic in the Sagas

The völva from Völuspá. An illustration
from Fredrik Sander's 1893 Swedish edition of the Poetic Edda.
Via Medievalists.net:

"The image of magic spells being taught by more seasoned practitioners to others eager to learn them comports well with what can be deduced about the actual practice of witchcraft and magic in medieval Scandinavia. For example, at the conclusion of that most remarkable document on love magic, jealousy and sexual intrigue from ca. 1325, De quadam lapsa in hæresin Ragnhilda Tregagaas, Ragnhildr tregagás of Bergen claims that the incantation and performative magic she uses against her erstwhile lover are ones she learned in her youth from Solli Sukk. In a similar case from Sweden in 1471, a witch in Arboga referred to in the surviving records as galna kadhrin ‘Crazy Katherine’ instructs Birgitta Andirssadotthir on how to prevent her lover from pursuing another woman. Another late 15th-century Swedish case likewise describes how Margit halffstop says that she learned from another woman, Anna finszka, the spell by which she could bewitch a man from a distance." The full paper, written by Stephen Mitchell of Harvard University and presented at the 11th International Saga Conference in 2000, may be read at the University of Sydney's Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences site

There Are No Dead Languages

"For Tolkien, Anglo-Saxon was not a dead language. Nor was Middle English, the variant born of the Norman Invasion, which he also taught–and could recite beautifully according to other of his students who were not so dour as Amis and Larkin." Read the full article by John Farrell at Forbes Magazine.

Ancient Ireland: The Vikings


Courtesy of the Witches' Voice, Inc:


"The Viking Age in Ireland began in 795 when the Viking sea kings pillaged the Christian monasteries on the island’s west coast. Prior to the Viking age, Ireland was a remote island at the edge of the civilized world. Unlike the neighboring island of Britain, Ireland had not been a part of the Roman empire and this meant that it did not have roads, cities, or political institutions. It was generally seen by people in “civilized” Europe as being inhabited by a barbarous race. Following the Christianization of Ireland by St. Patrick, Ireland became the home to many monasteries. The monasteries were usually poorly defended militarily and they contained easily portable treasures and sacred relics which the Christian monks would pay high ransoms to retain. The monasteries thus attracted the Viking raiders." Read the full article at The Daily Kos.

Smoochin' under the mistletoe

"In Scandinavia, the mistletoe plant was a symbol of peace. When enemies met under a tree that had mistletoe in the branches they would set aside their weapons and be at peace with each other until the next day. ... The tradition of kissing under the mistletoe probably came from an old Norse legend, namely the myth of Baldur...."
Read the full article at the Danville, VA News.

Legend of the Silver Pine Cones

Thanks to Christy for finding this:
"There once lived a poor family without enough food to eat or enough wood for their fire. The mother decided to go into the forest to search for pine cones. She was planning to use the pine cones to build a fire for her family, and she was also hoping she could sell some of them to get money to buy food." Read the full story and how to make your won silver pine cones at the Odinic Rite's Acorn Hollow site.


Christmas Throughout Heathendom

Following is an excerpt from an article by O.M. Spencer , "Christmas Throughout Christendom," which first appeared in the January 1873 issue of  Harper's Weekly:


In Germany the Christmas holidays appear to have been substituted for the old pagan festival of the "Twelve Nights," which extended from the 25th of December to the 6th of January. The Twelve Nights were religiously observed by numerous feasts, and were regarded by the ancient Germans as among the holiest and most solemn of their festivals. Regarding, in common with other pagan nations, the active forces of nature as living personifications, they symbolized the conflict of natural forces by the battle of the gods and giants. Thus in the old German mythology Winter is represented as the ice-giant, heartless ,inexorable, the enemy of all life, and the relentless foe of gods and men. By the aid of his powerful steed Swadilfari, the all-stiffening north wind, he constructs a formidable castle of ice, which threatens to inaugurate the reign of Night and Winter, of Darkness and eternal Death. Then follows the conflict of giants and gods, of Winter with Spring, of North Wind with South Wind, until Thor, the god of the thunder-storm, demolishes with his thunder-stone the castle of the ice-giant, when Freija, the beautiful goddess of spring, resumes her former sway; and life and light and prosperity return.

But the restless giants ever invent new stratagems to regain their lost supremacy. Thrym, the prince of the giants, robs the sleeping Thor of his dreaded sledge-hammer, and hides it eight leagues under the earth. This insures the reign of Winter for the eight months of the year when the thunder-storm slumbers, until Thor, accompanied by Loki, the spring wind, again demolishes with his recaptured hammer the castle of the ice-king, when the Winter Storm is again compelled reluctantly to retire. This eternal conflict of the opposing forces of summer and winter frequently occurs under various forms in the German mythology, and constituted one of the most striking features of the old German poesy, as the beautiful legend of Idunna and her apples and the giant Thiassi, in the poem of "Edda."
In the midst of this struggle of the conflicting forces of nature the Germans and other Northern peoples celebrated the festival of the Twelve Nights. This festival, as already stated, commenced on the 25th of December. Though in the depth of midwinter, when the ice-king was in the full flush of victory, it was nevertheless the turning-point in the conflict of natural forces. The sun-god having reached the goal of the winter solstice, now wheeled his fiery steeds, and became the sure precursor of the coming victory of light and life over darkness and death.

But while a pagan festival might be transformed into a Christian holiday, there was no place in a system of theism, unless in its poesy, for the pantheon of pagan gods. These were therefore either relegated to oblivion, or, metamorphosed into demons, witches, and ghosts, are now supposed to have special power to work mischief, particularly during the Christmas-time. Hulda, once the producing night of spring, now bewitches the distaff of lazy spinner-girls. Odin, the god of fecundity, who formerly pursued with impetuous ardor the fair and beautiful Freija, now, as the wild huntsman of hell, sweeps through the air with his devilish crew, foretelling future wars or portending coming calamity. The once-resplendent Berchta, now a malevolent witch, hung with cow-bells and disguised with a horrid wooden mash, has become the bugbear of children, as she mutters from house to house,
          "Children or bacon,
          Else I don't go away."
A singular rumor of sea-birds, during the nights of November and December, in the island of Schonen, is still known as the hunting of Odin.

In the Bavarian and Styrian Alps the Twelve Nights are called "Rumor Nights," on account of their visions of ghosts and hobgoblins, when priests and prudent housewives, with prayer and invocation, holy-water and burning incense, fumigate dwelling and outhouse, and sprinkle their cattle with salt. Hence these nights were also called "Fumigating Nights." As an additional protection against "witches' feet" and "devils' paws," the initials of the holy magicians were formerly inscribed upon the door-posts. On the dreaded Twelfth-night, when Frau Holle, or Berchta, issues with her fearful train from her wild mountain home, where she dwells among the dead, she is generally preceded by the faithful Eckhart, an old man with a long beard and a white wand, who warns every one of her terrible approach.

There is a pretty legend related by Von Reinsberg in his "Festliche Jahr" (to which we are indebted for much of the material and a number of the illustrations for this article), that on one occasion the good Eckhart met two little children, who, coming out of a beer shop with a pot of beer, were overtaken by the fearful troop, who drank all the beer. Having no money to buy more, and apprehensive of punishment, they cried bitterly, when the faithful Eckhart comforted them with the assurance that if they would never tell what they had seen, their pot would always be brimful of beer. And so it was, until their parents prevailed upon the children to divulge the mysterious secret, when the miraculous gift disappeared.

As with Christmas as a holiday, so with many of its characters and customs. If not of pagan origin, they constitute a curious medley of paganism and Christianity. This is particularly true among the Germans, who were strongly attached to their old religious ceremonies. The Christ-child with his gifts and masked attendant all belong to the German antiquity. In the procession of the star-singers the three kings replace the pagan gods. Only the names have been changed, while the custom has received the rites of a Christian baptism. The German custom of some one going, in a state of nudity, at midnight on Christmas-eve, to bind the fruit trees with ropes of straw, or of frugal housewives shaking the crumbs from the table-cloth around their roots in order that they become more fruitful, clearly points to the mysterious influence attributed by the ancient Germans to the time of the Twelve Nights. In the Tyrol the fruit trees, for a similar reason, are soundly beaten. In Bohemia they are violently shaken during the time of the midnight mass; while in other localities they are regaled with the remains of the Christmas supper, to which they had been previously and specially invited.
A similar custom, probably of German origin, still prevails in some parts of England. In Devonshire a corn cake and some hot cider are carried into the orchard, and there offered up to the largest apple-tree as the king of the orchard, while those who take part in the singular ceremony join lustily in the chorus,
          "Bear good apples and pears enoug' —
          Barns full, bags full, sacks foil!
               Hurrah! hurrah! Hurrah!"
Mistletoe and holly, Yule-log and Yule-candle, belong to the same category. The mistletoe was regarded by the Druids with religious veneration, and its berries of pearl, as symbolic of purity, were associated by them with the rites of marriage. From this the transition was but slight to the lover's kiss beneath its mystic bough during the Christmas-tide. At this festive season also they kindle bonfires upon the hill-tops. Nor must we forget that our pagan progenitors burned a great log and a mammoth candle upon the 21st of December, which, being the shortest day in the year, was regarded as the turning-point in the conflict between the contending forces of winter and spring.

The original article may be found in its entirety at Wikisource.


Sunday, December 4, 2011

To see if reindeer really know how to fly ...

"The sacred mushroom of these people was the red and white Amanita muscaria, also known as “fly agaric.” This mushroom commonly is seen in books of fairy tales and usually is associated with magic and fairies. It contains potent hallucinogenic compounds once used by ancient peoples for insight and transcendental experiences. Most of the major elements of the modern Christmas celebration, such as Santa Claus, Christmas trees, magical reindeer and the giving of gifts, are originally based upon the traditions surrounding the harvest and consumption of this most sacred mushroom."  Read the full article at Animam Recro.

Yorkshire Dales National Park reveals Anglo Saxon building

"The stone building, near Selside, North Yorkshire, was uncovered by members of the Ingleborough Archaeology Group. ... Samples of charcoal found in the soil floor were carbon dated. That revealed they date from between 660 and 780 AD." Full story is available at the BBC.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Jolasveinar

It's not Mother's Night yet, but here is an early gift, a modern tale of the "Yule Lads" from Paul Bristow at Tales of the Oak:

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Scandinavian Christmas Fair Dec 3rd, 2011, Raleigh, North Carolina

Thanks to Ana for this:

"The Scandinavian Christmas Fair in Raleigh, North Carolina is an authentic celebration of the traditions of the Scandinavian countries, Sweden, Norway, Denmark, Finland and Iceland.

This old-world celebration is certain to get you in the spirit of the season. This year marks the 12th anniversary of the Julmarknad (Christmas Fair in Swedish) and it attracts people from Scandinavia and of Scandinavian descent as well as many Americans who have made this an annual tradition."

More information is available at the Scandinavian Christmas Fair site.

£32,000 to dig up evidence of the past

"A project to unearth Bingham’s past has received £32,000....Mr Peter Allen, the association’s chairman, said the project was designed to look for evidence of the original Anglo-Saxon core village and to show how the village grew and changed, right up to the 20th Century." Full article is available at the Newark Advertiser.

Verdi and/or Wagner: Two Men, Two Worlds, Two Centuries by Peter Conrad

Wikimedia Commons

"...Wagner sought to use the myths of the ancient Germanic tribes and of the Middle Ages to create a new religious experience for the civilization of the West. The faith that the French Revolution and Darwinian evolution had undermined, Wagner devoted himself to replace with a new creed. His temple to music at Bayreuth in Bavaria was built to become the new Delphi, with himself as the prophet and oracle of the modern world." Read the full review by Ed Voves of this comparison of Wagner with Verdi at the California Literary Review.

Spiritual practice is a lot closer to art than science

"However, for me, spiritual practice is a lot closer to art than science. It's outside the realm of a set of testable hypotheses (current attempts to link magic to quantum theory, for example, just don't work). Some religious practitioners make absolutist claims for their beliefs: I've no interest in doing this, nor do I have any interest in converting people, which is doubtless a relief to anyone who has feared finding me on their doorstep asking if they'd like to know more about Odin." Read the full essay by jounrlaist and "practising pagan (sic)" Liz Williams at the Guardian.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Huldufólk 102

Trailer for the 2006 documentary by Nisha Inalsingh about the continuing belief in the huldufólk ("hidden folk," or elves) in modern Iceland:




One native writer's input on the hidden folk may also be read at Iceland Review.


The Ancestor Effect: Thinking about our roots boosts intelligence and confidence

"We all know that giving thanks is something we 'should' be doing. But recently a clinical study reported that thinking positively about our family roots boosts emotional confidence and even intelligence." Read the full article by Ryan Hurd at The Dream Tribe. Hail the holy ancestors!

Flamboyant director Ken Russell's wish was for a Viking funeral

Funeral of a Viking, by Sir Frank Dicksee, 1893.
Courtesy Art Magick
"It is a lurid image to grace any of Russell's films: the conflicted Catholic film director leaving the world in a blazing pagan longship. And, unlike many of the projects of his final decades, it looks like it might actually happen. 'We will do one, even if it's symbolic, and even if we have to wait a while,' Mrs Russell said." Read the full article by Ben Hoyle of  the Times at the Australian.com.

Glíma - Beware the slaying stone

Wikimedia Commons
"In settlement times glíma fell under two categories: “leikfang” or play wrestling and wrestling “in earnest,” the purpose of which was to get a man on the ground and kill him. Yet even leikfang had potential for harm. As it says in Jónsbók, a book of laws dating from 1325, 'whosoever participates in the contest of friendly wrestling does so on his own responsibility.' This warning may have had something to do with the involvement of 'the slaying slab. This was a waist-high tapered stone stuck into the ground that a wrestler would try to bring his opponent to in order to throw him onto it and break his back or, for varietes sake, on occasion slam him belly-down on it and crush his ribcage." The full version of this article on Icelandic folk wrestling may be viewed at the  Reykjavik Grapevine.

Horses could soon be slaughtered for meat in US

Via Yahoo! News: "TULSA, Okla. (AP) — Horses could soon be butchered in the U.S. for human consumption after Congress quietly lifted a 5-year-old ban on funding horse meat inspections, and activists say slaughterhouses could be up and running in as little as a month." The article makes no mention of the consumption of horse meat by pre-Christian Northern Europeans, or the sacrifice of horses to Odin and other Nordic and Germanic deities, whose followers then ate the meat at feast. Reconstructionists and other traditionally minded Heathens may find revival of this practice easier should this ban remained lifted, though some modern practitioners have often voiced their own concerns about the practice. Read the full article here.

Karen Engelsen gives some background on the practice of sacrificing and eating horses at blót in her article "The Whiskey of Spirit: Viking Religion and Sacred Foods," at In the Company of Stones.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Northern Lights make impressive show

Wikimedia Commons

From spaceweather.com:


"The CME that hit Earth gave us some nice, colourful and easy-moving auroras," says photographer Antti Pietikäinen of Muonio, Lapland, Finland, who enjoyed the show with his two dogs.

Also in the Finnish Lapland, Chad Blakely says "the auroras exploded all over the sky. If this is a sign of things to come the rest of the season should be fantastic!!"

Several amazing photos from various contributors have been posted to the Space Weather site. More can be viewed at Lights Over Lapland.

The Vikings in Scotland

Crann Tara.org 
Courtesy of Medievalists.net:
"The evidence for Scandinavian presence in modern-day Scotland can be gleaned from several sources. There are no Scandinavian documentary sources of relevance to Scotland which survive from before the 12th century, although there are references for early Viking raiding activities supplied by the Annals of Ulster for example, telling of raids on Iona in 795AD amongst others (000-299-997- 051-C). These opportunistic raids focused on monastic centres and coastal monasteries in Northern England, most notably Lindisfarne had already been visited by the Vikings in 793. Iona was however to suffer more than many monastic houses, with repeated attacks in future years. Such information survives in the reports written down by the very clerics who were being attacked for their church wealth and manuscripts – items of loot being taken back to Scandinavia as trophies. Such apparent devastation is not so clear in the archaeological record however."

The full article is available at Scran.

Frau Holle: In the Marchen and Beyond

"Known internationally  through the  Aarne-Thompson  Tale Type  Index as AT-480, and also known in the  fairy tale world of the  Grimm Brothers  as Frau Holle, the fairy tale Frau Holle is arguably  one of the most well  known tales  in all  of Germany.  How is the figure Frau Holle in the  Grimm  Brothers'  fairy tale the same  as the  figure  Frau Holle in Germanic mythology and  what is the relationship between the two?"

The full PDF of this Master's thesis by Kerby Lynne Boschee, originally submitted at California State University, Sacramento, in 2009, may be viewed here.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Roman ring and Viking fragment found in North Dorset declared treasure

Courtesy of the Witches' Voice, Inc:

"A Roman ring and a silver Viking fragment found on farmland have been declared treasure and seized for the Queen." (Actually they were taken for the Queen's subjects, the British public, to be placed in a museum.) The full story may be found at the Bournemouth Daily Echo.

Yule and Christmas: their place in the Germanic year

From the preface: "This book treats of the problems connected with the Germanic year - the three-score-day tide of Yule, the Germanic adoption of the Roman calendar, and the introduction of the festival of Christ's Nativity into a part of the German year, which til then had apparently been without a festivity. It traces the revolution brought about by these events, in custom, belief, and legend up to the fourteenth century. By that time, the Author believes, most of the fundamental features which go towards the making of modern Christmas had already come to have their centre in the 25th day of December."

Written in 1899, this book by Alexander Tille is available in a digitized version at Google Books.  Though focusing largely on Germany, Tille also devotes two chapters to Scandinavian customs regarding Yule and the Midvinterblot.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

The Winter Goddess: Percht, Holda, and Related Figures



Article by Lotte Motz which first appeared in Folklore (vol. 95:ii,  1984):

"The figures under discussion appear under two  main designations: Frau Holle, especially prominent in Hesse and Thuringia, and Frau Perchta who belongs, above all, to the Alpine regions. Various other names have also been  recorded, such as Stampa, Rupfa, Luzie, Frau Frie, or Frau Gode."

A PDF of the complete article is available at Winterscapes.

Children's Workshop at the Hex Factory in Philly

Just learned of this. If you're in the Philadelphia area and want to treat your kids to some hands on experience with hex signs, check this out.

Frau Holle movie on YouTube

This is a West German 1961 film adaptation of the German fairy tale, directed by Peter Podehl and starring Lucie Englisch in the title role. Sorry, there are no subtitles, although an English dubbed version was released in the US in 1968 under the title, "Mother Holly," and may be available on DVD. Another version was filmed in East Germany in 1963. The Brothers Grimm version of this fairy tale, in English, can be found here and may help non-German speakers follow the film. The film's IMDB page provides some additional information.


Website on Uppåkra

Many thanks to Jeff Wolf  for finding this, a site about archaeological digs and research at Uppåkra, a town dating back to the first century CE (possibly earlier) which controlled West Scania and was a major religious and commercial center before and during the Viking era. Many exquisite items, including an image of Odin, a bird brooch, and the enigmatic Winged Man of Uppåkra have been found here. The Swedish version may be found here. The English version of the original site may be found here.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Waiting for Ullr to awaken on Summit County ski hills

" 'We're waiting for Ullr to wake up!' said Arapahoe Basin spokeswoman Kimberly Trembearth. The ski and snowboard area is holding off on trail openings this week." Full story at Summit Daily.

Wild Huntsman Legends

Åsgårdsreien (1872) by Peter Nicolai Arbo
Wikimedia Commons

As this is the season of the Wild Hunt, I thought I would post this link from D. L. Ashliman's website on Odin. The page, with which some will already be familiar, contains numerous legends about the Wild Hunt, from England, Germany, the Netherlands, Poland, Denmark, and Bohemia, plus links to additional stories. The page may be found here.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Amid simmering speculation, Iceland volcano keeps intentions quiet

"Iceland’s Katla volcano is always aquiver with seismic activity and local people and scientists have been waiting for an eruption for years — although they probably experienced them this year and in 1999 without even noticing."  Read more at Ice News.

Saxon burial ground under Warwickshire couple's home

"...archaeologists identified the remains of at least four bodies which included two adult females, a young male and a juvenile aged between 10 and 12. ... Radiocarbon dates from two of the skeletons show that they died around 650-820 AD in what is known as the middle Saxon period." Read the full story at the BBC.

DRAGONSBANE: 'Kirby as Channeled By Robert Rodi'

"It's safe to say that Robert Rodi is pretty comfortable with mythology — at Marvel, he's written Thor stories from the Loki miniseries to the current Thor: The Deviants Saga. He's exploring the Norse worlds and more in Kirby: Genesis – Dragonsbane, a new ongoing series debuting in January 2012 from Dynamite." Read more about this new comic, inspired by Norse mytholoy, at Newsarama.

Monday, November 21, 2011

YouTube: Goddess Frau Holle

Yes, I know how some Heathens, especially hard Reconstructionists,  feel about Thunder Wizard's stuff as a whole, but still found the video to be an interesting take on Frau Holle:


Leather and Leatherworking in Anglo-Scandinavian and Medieval York

Vidar. Courtesy Wikimedia Commons

From Medievalists.net:

"Leather was one of the most important materials used by pre-industrial societies, The raw materials, hides and skins, were readily available as a by-product of meat provision. After processing, the resultant leather was a highly versatile material, being both strong and flexible, and could be made into a wide range of items. The remains of a large number of these items have been found at York, along with waste material from both the processing of hides and production of artefacts. All were preserved by the unusual anoxic burial environment. The leather described here spans a range of 600 years and provides an insight into one of York’s principal trades during the Anglo-Scandinavian and medieval periods." The full text of Quita Mould, Ian Carlisle and Esther Cameron, first published in The Archaeology of York, Vol.17 (1993), may be found in PDF format at the website of the York Archaeological Trust.

Ancient Scandinavia: Runes

Codex Runicus, c.1300. Wikimedia Commons.
"Runes consist of a main staff from which one or more less staves point diagonally up or down. Prior to the Viking Age, there was a twenty-four-character rune series known as Old Germanic or Primitive Norse furthark (after the phonetic values of its first six letters: f, u, th, a, r, k), that was used by all Germanic peoples. At the beginning of the Viking Age, a new sixteen-character rune series was developed. Philologists feel that this new series was a conscious reform intended to make the rune script conform more closely to spoken language. However, with the sixteen-character series, each rune had to symbolize more than one sound."  The full text of this overview of the runes by Ojibwa may be found at Daily Kos.

Lady of the Elves: The Great Germanic Goddess

Frau Holle, or Berchta, and her train.
Harper's New Monthly, December 1873,
artist unknown. Wikimedia  Commons.
Courtesy of Medievalists.net:

"The prominent goddess of Europe was known in Germany as Berchta and Holda, who appear as goddesses of the bright and the gloomy. These pairings might be represented as Berchta and Holda, Frigg and Hel, and Freyia and Hyndla. The bright goddess arose as a goddess of the sun and sky and the gloomy one appeared as representative of the earth and underworld, but with Berchta and Holda they encompass both aspects and were largely interchangeable. She received the souls of the dead who rode along the path of the Milky Way in a wagon to the underworld. As ‘lady of the elves’ or ‘queen of the fairies’ the huldren, elves, and dwarfs, thought to be spirits of the dead, would appear with her on earth from time to time."  The full article by Timothy J. Stephany may be read on the Rochester Institute of Technology's website.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

The Poet and the Spae-Wife: An Attempt to Reconstruct Al-Ghazal’s Embassy to the Vikings

Courtesy of Medievalists.net:

"The  purpose  of  the  present  essay  is  to  review  the
evidence  for  the  authenticity  of  al-Ghazal's  embassy  to
the  Vikings:  to  affirm  that the  first  Viking  attack  on  the
emirate  of  Cordova  in  844  was  a  Norwegian  adventure
undertaken  by  way  of  the  Biscay  coast  from  original
bases in  Ireland; and that al-Ghazal was sent by the amir
Abd-al-Rahman  II  to  the  Norwegians  in  Ireland  where
he  encountered Turgeis  and his  wife  Ota."

Note that many myths and stereotypes about the Vikings have been dispelled thanks to the less biased accounts written about them by Arab chroniclers. The complete PDF of this 1960 essay by W.E.D. Allen may be found at Saga-Book.

Review: Francesca Simon's The Sleeping Army

"Imagine a world in which Christianity was merely an exotic minor cult that died out before the end of the Roman Empire. A world in which the official state religion of these islands is that of the pagan Saxons and Vikings, and people still worship the old Norse gods. It's a neat idea, and one that allows Horrid Henry author Francesca Simon to explore the Norse myths in a quest tale with a contemporary central character, and have a whale of a time in the process."  Read the full review at the Guardian.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

More Saxon treasure unearthed

"A silver clothes buckle dating back to the Saxon era has been discovered by two keen archaeologists. ... This item has gone to Verulamium museum as it may be declared treasure trove. ...David Sewell, 52, of New Road, Northchurch, and Mark Becher, 37, from Uxbridge, are regularly unearthing ancient treasure as the heads of firm The Metal Detectors."  More information can be found at Hemel Today.

Request for submissions

From Larisa Hunter:

CFS: From the author of Fulltrui, Patrons in Asatru comes Living Our Faith (title to be determined) and is Currently seeking for submissions for an upcoming book entitled: Living Heathen. I am seeking information relating to the daily life of those living with patron gods, goddess or other entities within the nine worlds. I am seeking information relating to the daily maintance of these relationships (how you honor them daily), how these relationships changed your life (good or bad stories apply) and how you feel that these connections affect your life.
Submissions can be any style and incorporate as many words as contributors wish. We are unable to pay for submissions, however copies of the book may be provided. Submissions can be sent to mist at kenaz dot ca. The deadline is December 2011 (but this deadline is flexible). Contact Immanion Press for more information.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

If You're New to Asatru

... And even if you're not, here's a few good pointers from Steven. T. Abell in his latest "Letters from Midgard" column at Patheos.

Where did Monday come from?

"Why is Tuesday called Tuesday, and what does it have to do with a one-handed Norse god? Click through this slideshow to find out how something called Frīgedæg eventually became our Friday." This slideshow on the Beaumont Enterprise website shows the pre-Christian origins of the days of the week, showing the influence the Northern European traditions have had on modern culture. It may be viewed here.

Frigga's Loom Opens

Image courtesy Wikimedia Commons.
From Larisa Hunter:

Kenaz Kindred has opened a new shop that makes spiritual gift for heathens by hand. It is called Frigga’s Loom and they make custom embroidered harrow cloths with gods and mythology incorporated. http://kenaz.ca/Topics/friggas-loom-portfolio-samples

Book Release: FULLTRÚI, Patrons in Asatru

Submitted by Larisa Hunter:

Book Release: FULLTRÚI, Patrons in Asatru: Throughout history, the ancient Northern people claimed themselves devoted to their gods. In many of the sagas and folklore, the ancients even trace back lineage directly to the divine. Today, in modern heathenry close personal relationships with deities have returned with full force. FULLTRÚI examines this phenomenon by showing real life examples of people living with patron gods. Granting readers an inside look into the joy and hardships of these relationships through personal firsthand accounts of those living and working with gods, FULLTRÚI answers many questions about working with gods including how to find and develop relationships with the gods by using practical and down to earth material that virtually everyone can relate to. This book breaks the standard academic nature of most heathen books, by allowing readers into the life of those that live with the gods. FULLTRÚI includes: Exercises to develop personal relationships with gods; Guided meditation to discover your personal patron and the worlds they live in; Devotional poetry to bring you closer to your gods; Compelling articles that show deep connections with gods; Historical examples of patron relationships. And much more.

Let Mist take you on a personal exploration of patron relationships through which anyone can learn and develop bonds of their own. Come and heed the voice of the gods and submit yourself to fulltrúi.

Author: Mist, ISBN: 978-1-905713-65-3, Pages: 172 Release Date: June 2011 Price: £10.99 $19.99
Available at Immanion Press: http://www.immanion-press.com/info/book.asp?id=406&referer=Catalogue as well as Amazon and other online retailers

Mist has also just release a free downloadable PDF entitled The Heathen Shaman available at: http://kenaz.ca/index.php/the-viking-market-2/e-books/ or http://www.lulu.com/product/ebook/heathen-shaman/18463130

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Kristnitakan – The Adoption of Christianity

Brief and more or less neutral encapsulation by Katharina Hauptmann of the introduction of Christianity to Iceland. She makes note of some of the compromises made with the local pagans, such as the eating of horse meat and private pagan sacrifices remaining legal. She also notes at the end of her article the revival of Asatru in Iceland. Full article may be read at Iceland Review.

Foraging 'weeds' provides ancient Anglo Saxon fare today

Plantago major. Courtesy Wikimedia Commons.
"You probably didn't know that many of what we consider some of the most pernicious weeds in our gardens were once considered sacred among the ancients....For example, when you're mowing your lawn, you may be shredding some of the Anglo Saxons' nine sacred herbs: mugwort, plantain, chamomile, betony, stinging nettle, chervil, fennel and crab apple."  The complete article by Jim Ewing may be found at the Clarion Ledger.

Leeds lands vital grant to save its golden hoard

"The National Heritage Memorial Fund gives £95,000 to keep Anglo Saxon jewellery in the city where it was found. Good news for Leeds' campaign to raise money for the outstanding Anglo-Saxon jewellery found by a metal detectorist, as the Northerner reported last week." Read the full article at The Guardian.

The Paper Trail Leads to Syktyvkar

Courtesy Wikimedia Commons
"More than 70 different nationalities live in Syktyvkar, with Russians making up just over half of the population. Komi, the area’s indigenous inhabitants, are the second-largest group. They became a minority population of about 30 percent following a rise in immigration to the Komi republic in the post-World War II period." This article in the St. Petersburg Times on the city of Syktyvkar makes (all too brief) mention of the Finno-Ugric Komi people and their mythology, specifically the story of Yirkap and his magic skis. The full English version article may be read here.

Finnish folk metal band Turisas begins tour of Spain

Century Media
"The Finns landed in Spain to present their new album 'Stand Up and Fight', a very ambitious work which hearkens back to high drama and epic themes. Turisas are a band that has achieved great popularityTurisas are a band that has achieved great popularity in a very short time thanks to its blend of folk and heavy metal." Full article, in Spanish, may be found at Suite 101.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

World Upside Down: Gunnlöth's Tale

Review by  Eygló Svala Arnarsdóttir of the new English edition of  Svava Jakobsdóttir's 1987 novel, loosely based on the story of Gunnlöth, Odin, and the Mead of Poetry. The full article may be read at Iceland Review.

Viking religion Asatru: A new research project explores the faith of Odin's descendants

This article, in German, is about the study of Asatru as practiced in present-day Germany and in part compares it with Asatru as practiced in Iceland. It may be found at the Grenz | Wissenschaft-aktuell  (Current International Science) blog site.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Hail the Fallen!

Courtesy Wikimedia Commons.
As various countries around this world honor those who have served those countries in battle, we hail the fallen and thank all those who have fought to defend their homes and our freedom. Hail!

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Runelight


Joanne Harris on her new book Runelight ahead of appearing at the Sefton Celebrates Writing Festival - "Her take on the Nine Worlds has a second origin – in a story called Witchlight that she wrote as a teenager, which starred a young girl called Maddy. ... The daughter of Thor the thunder god, she survives as the central character in Harris’s series." Read more at the Liverpool Daily Post.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Braucherei and Hexerei in old Pennsylvania

Lecture by author Ned heindel on the practice of Witchcraft in the area of William Township in Pennsylvania. Full article by Tiffany Bentley at Lehigh Valley Live.

Get Your Herbal On

Professor of food studies William Woys Weaver lectures on Pennsylvania Dutch herbal remedies as presented in the 18th century work, Sauer's Herbal Cures, America's First Book of Botanic Healing. Full article may be read at the West Chester Patch.

Scherenschnitte


"Pennsylvania Dutch poet and folk artist Peter V. Fritsch opens his new book, "Pennsylvania Dutch Halloween Scherenschnitte," with an autobiographical ode about a dedicated paper cutter....Scherenschnitte, which means scissors cutting in German, is the age-old art of cutting paper into intricate designs." Read the full article at Reading Eagle.

How Christianity portrayed Jesus as a warrior to woo the Vikings

"It is one of history’s ironies that the Viking expansion into Europe actually set about the beginning of the end for the Viking religion. As Vikings came into increasing contact with Christians in continental Europe and Britain, their acceptance of Christianity grew – particularly as more and more married Christians. In many cases, however, Vikings converted to Christianity as a way to secure alliances and ensure neighbouring realms would not attack on religious grounds." Read the full article at The Copenhagen Post.

Beowulf Musical Spoof to premiere in London

"Join Beowulf, along with Grendel, Grendel's mother, his sidekick Wiglaff, King Hrothgar and a bladderful of other characters in a maelstrom of bad jokes, great music, excruciating audience participation and downright dangerous dough dodging." Read more at Broadway World.

Rare Exports: A Christmas Tale

This feature length version of the dark Finnish web video short is now out on DVD and Blu-Ray. Those familiar with elements of the Krampus, Wild Hunt, and Old Man Winter myths may appreciate this less than cheery take on Santa Claus. Read the review on Inside Pulse.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

The Swan of Tuonela

Jean Sibelius "Four Legends from the Kalevala, Op. 22," unused sequence from the original "Fantasia (Walt Disney, 1940)."

Legendary Viking sunstones may be real

Courtesy University of Pittsburgh.
"A Viking legend which tells of a glowing 'sunstone' that, when held up to the sky, disclosed the position of the Sun on a cloudy day may have some basis in truth, scientists believe." The stone may actually have been an Iceland spar, a calcite crystal that could be used to pinpoint the Sun's location on cloudy or foggy days "within a degree." Read the full article at the Daily Telegraph.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Monstrosity in Old English and Old Icelandic Literature

Courtesy of Medievalists.net:

"Abstract: The purpose of this thesis is to examine Old English and Old Icelandic literary examples of monstrosity from a modern theoretical perspective. I examine the processes of monstrous change by which humans can become identified as monsters, focusing on the role played by social and religious pressures."

The full doctoral dissertation by Alistair McLennan to the University of Glasgow may be found here.

Anglo-Saxon Recipes

Crustade of Chicken and Pigeon, Lamb and Apricot Stew, Curd Cheese Pastries,  and other recipes for traditional meals for the Anglo-Saxon feast table. Good source of traditional ideas for Saxon and other Germanic Reconstructionists. The full PDF article may be found here.

Staffordshire Hoard goes on display in Washington DC

"A museum in the United States has begun exhibiting the UK's largest find of Anglo-Saxon treasure. ...The exhibition is at the National Geographic Museum in Washington DC. ... The hoard of more than 3,500 gold and silver artefacts was found by a metal detector enthusiast in a farmer's field in Staffordshire in July 2009." Full article at BBC News.

Metal detector fan Darren Webster finds Viking hoard

"A metal detector enthusiast has found a major hoard of Viking silver in a field on the Cumbria-Lancashire border. It is hoped the silver will eventually be displayed at a museum in Cumbria." Full article at BBC News.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

"From the Aesir and Vanir" - the pre-Christian religion in Iceland and their attempt at resuscitation.

Article on the modern practice of Asatru in Iceland, in German, at ORF.at.

It's a new Viking invasion of Britain – but this time it's cultural

"After the discovery of a Viking burial site in Scotland, Norse history and myths are the focus of a TV saga, epic novels and a major British Museum exhibition." Full article by Vanessa Thorpe at The Guardian.

'Once Upon a Time' and 'Grimm' bring fairy-tale characters to prime time

"There are enough stories and characters in the German folk tales compiled by Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm in the early 19th Century to fill at least 10 seasons of a TV series." And remember, many of these German folk tales had their earliest origins in the pre-Christian Germanic myths. Full article on the new television series may be found at the Times-Picayune.

Can We Debunk the Myth of the Horned Helmeted Viking with the Discovery in Scotland?



"The fact that the burial site is undisturbed let`s us know this is just as it occurred one gloomy day more than 1,000 years ago. We have an actual Viking axe now, a sword, a spear, and a bronze ring pin. But where is his horned helmet and skull drinking vessel?"

Well written editorial which unfortunately refutes one myth while invoking a far worse one, namely that of the Nazis's glorification and nostalgia for the Northern Traditions. While Himmler's interests in magic and the occult did include the runes, Hitler is on record as having contempt for both Himmler's interests and the ancient ways of  Northern Europe, preferring to use the Roman Empire as a model for his Third Reich while claiming the ancient German and Nordic peoples "lived in mud huts." (Diana Paxson speaks more in depth about this specious relation between Nazism and the Northern Path in her "Essential Asatru.")  Still the editorial is well written and makes a step in the right direction of refuting stereotypes and myths about our ancestors, and may be found in full at the Student Operated Press.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Interview with The Avengers’ Tom Hiddleston: “You Were Made To Be Ruled”

Hiddleston promises there will be changes to the Loki that we have come to know from this past summer’s Thor. “He is definitively more menacing.' ...Studying up on both Marvel and Norse mythology, Hiddleston was able to craft the God of Mischief into a hybrid creation of his own. Full article and video at Poptimal.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

A Viking Treasure

"A boat burial on the peninsula of Ardnamurchan, in Scotland, reveals just how noble the Vikings were." Full commentary, plus image of a Viking sword, at the Daily Telegraph.

The Origins of Divinity: ‘American Gods’

Image courtesy Wikimedia
"Gaiman novel looks critically at the fall of old legends and their modern replacements. ... Mr. Wednesday is even revealed to be Odin, a Norse god brought to America in the minds of the Viking explorers of the past." Read the full article at the Dakota Student Online.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Staffordshire Gold Hoard

"One day, or perhaps one night, in the late seventh century an unknown party traveled along an old Roman road that cut across an uninhabited heath fringed by forest in the Anglo-Saxon kingdom of Mercia. Possibly they were soldiers, ..." Read the full article at National Geographic.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Ten Things You Didn't Know About Vikings

Well, some of us knew them. National Geographic video from Bing.

Battle of Hastings

Today, 14 October, marks the anniversary of the Battle of Hastings, between Normand under Duke William of Normandy, afterwards known as William the Conqueror and King William I of England, and Anglo-Saxons under King Harold II Godwinson. Though both had been Christian for many years by this time, the Bayeaux Tapestry which recorded the events of the battle show William's forces carrying the raven banner of Odin before them, as their Viking ancestors had done.

New Public Hof in Minnesota

"Volkshof Kindred, a Heathen 501c3 organization located in the Twin Cities, recently purchased a building to be used as a Hof. ... The Kindred says the Hof will provide space for their board meetings, rituals, symbels and other religious and social activities.  It is also available to other heathen groups to rent for workshops or retreats."  Read the full story at the Pagan Newswire Collective.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Historian revives Scandinavian past through mythology

"These are the cultural stories that really shaped Scandinavia,” says Jill Johnson of the Nordic Arts Alliance, which is bringing in the speaker ... Johnson says that while (Ingibjörg) Gisladottir is billed as a storyteller who shares myths, the stories aren’t necessarily pure fiction and she tells them in some historical context." Read the full story at InForum.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Embracing Polytheism

"The monotheistic position is too often assumed to be the default standard against which all other traditions must be judged. Why must this be so?"
Thanks to Eric for posting this to Facebook. As he points out, though this article is about Hindu polytheism, its thesis is applicable to Heathenry as well as other polytheist paths. Full article is at the Daily Pioneer.

Friday, October 7, 2011

Photos: Life among the Sámi

Story on Erika Larsen's four year project recording the life of the Sámi people. The article may be read at Phaidon.  Thanks to The Browser for locating this item.

Not all prison worship requests accepted in Ohio

The article is actually about a warden refusing two inmates's request to wear sackcloth, but also covers provisions made for members of other religions, including Asatru. Read the article at CorrectionsOne.com.

“Odd and the Frost Giants” By Neil Gaiman

Neil Gaiman's book featuring Thor and the Frost Giants is among those recommended in this list of "Cool Books for Colder Days." See the full list at the Adrian, Michigan Daily Telegram.

Anglo-Saxon brooch goes on display

"An Anglo-Saxon brooch discovered in West Hanney is to go on show for the first time since it was unearthed two years ago." Read more at the Oxford Mail.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

'Percy Jackson' author planning book on Norse gods

""There are so many fantastic stories and I want to bring Thor and Odin and the other gods into the modern world, just like I did with the Greeks and Percy Jackson," (Rick) Riordan said. "I'll give the books an urban setting and have young people interacting with the Norse gods." Read the full story at the Utica Monitor.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Leading Chinese Animation Studio Crimson Forest to Bring Legendary Finnish Mythology to Life

A full-length animated feature, "The Sampo," based on the Finnish Kalevala legend, is set to be produced by China's leading animation studios:

"The story of Kalevala is one of Finland's most important tales, and has also served as an influence for J.R.R Tolkien's Lord of the Rings and Silmarillion works. In the manner of all epic stories, the tale pulls at heartstrings and emotion as the hero battles his foes, himself, his people, and the one he loves. The story is an adventure and fantasy tale, evolving around the life of a young blacksmith who cheats death to find he has special powers. The amulet he forges, "The Sampo," brings with it not only fame and power, but also intertwines him in an epic battle of kings and kingdoms."

Read the full story at Business Insider.

New Historical Exhibitions in Iceland and Germany

"On occasion of the upcoming Frankfurt Book Fair, October 12-16, and Iceland being the fair’s guest of honor, the National Museum of Iceland opened an exhibition about the making of manuscripts and archeological discoveries from the Icelandic settlement era in the Archeological Museum in Frankfurt on Friday." Full story at Iceland Review Online.