We are approaching that time again, marking one of the quarters of the wheel in the old calendar and time for one of the main blóts of the year; Midwinter!
Cured, dried and salted meats are stocked and ready, and the Yule ale and mead is secured. I have reached a milestone in my research at work, and I am taking time off for the remainder of the year spending time with my family, giving gifts and sharing good food. I feel happy and grateful. This year, we have had to endure the passing of loved ones, yet new life has also been born into our family.
Our dinner traditions for the upcoming days involve the Icelandic hangikjöt, lamb roast of wild sheep, and the Norwegian pinnekjøtt, served with puréed rutabaga, potatoes, beer and aquavit. This kind of food has strong and mouthwatering smell, and effectively fills the house with the seasonal mood, blending in with the fir-smell of the Yule tree that has been brought inside.
Next week Christian and I will be off to spend alone-time together and celebrate new years at his family's cabin. Come January, it will be time for the Midwinter blót, when we are midway between the first day of winter and the first day of summer.
Til árs ok friðar!
If you would to read more about the old Jól you could take a look at this post about the Winter Solstice, Yule and the Midwinter Celebration, and check out the post from our last Midwinter blót.
Music: Bukkene Bruse - Miriams Voggelåt
As the writer of a public personal blog, sharing my photography in relatively high image quality, I will now and then see my material being used in other places. This can be good publicity, and open doors to many new readers and followers, and is greatly appreciated. But that is highly dependent on the way the material is being used!
The photography and articles from this website may be used/shared as long as you:
I have found many strange things out there throughout the years. Blog posts with information that has taken me long time to collect, write and code, has been copy-pasted and used by people crediting themselves. Photography by and of me has been edited and posted as memes on social media, receiving hundereds and thousands of shares, with credit to page owners who list it as their original material. My photos have been used to promote ideas that I do not wish to represent. I have been contacted by members from forums working to expose identity theft and dating scams. A few months ago I received a photo of a false passport with my headshot edited onto it. "I" have had many different names, ages and nationalities on fake social media profiles using photos from this blog, sometimes in combination with other girls with similar features. While many of these examples have been reported and removed (which in some cases can be a quite wearysome process as certain sites will demand elaborate legal infringement complaints to be filed or copies of your ID to be mailed or faxed to them), others are still out there. These things are a burden for the owner of the original material, that has sometimes made me wonder whether I should go offline.
Meanwhile, telling people to shut down their blogs or expand the watermarks to cover whole images, is an unfortunate perspective and an effective nail in the coffin for creative output.
Copyright law and international conventions.
Some of these cases are obvious clear-cut illegal acts. However, what seems to be of less general knowledge is that simply using other peoples material without giving credit is not only unethical, but also prohibited. Sites such as Tumblr or Pinterest may have given us the impression that other people's photgraphy is fair game and free for all. But it isn't. Pressing a share/reblog/embed button is worlds apart from uploading other peoples material yourself without giving credit. The first is a welcomed gesture. The latter is copyright infringement. And contrary to common belief, obtaining copyright does not require the owner to file any special paperwork, it is an automatic right that is created when a photo is snapped, or a text is written. The idea that material has to be tagged with an official copyright notice in order to be protected is also a myth. You need to ask permission to use material created by someone else, and in most cases this will simply lead to a nice and quick little correspondance, followed by you being free to go ahead. Do a reversed image search, and you will usually be able to locate the origin of the photos. And your website/group/blog will stand out as much more organized and professional for it.
Good news is that people seem to be becoming increasingly aware of these things. While I still run into some who seem oblivious, my general impression is that most people know this, and during the past few years I have been receiving many more honest and proper requests regarding use of my material, tagged shares, or invitations to collaborations. Thats is much appreciated!
It's simple. Be fair, and you won't have to worry about being exposed, confronted, or having the material removed. And to top it off, you will have a clean conscience. ^^
We were in Oslo this weekend, and we spent the Sunday walking around at the beautiful open air Museum of Cultural History at Bygdøy. It lies right by the Viking Ship Museum which I blogged about earlier this year, and features a large range of historical buildings (including various farmhouses, lofts/storehouses, firehouses, bathhouses, barns, stables, and a stave church) from the Middle Ages and up. These have been moved from their original locations around Norway, re-erected, preserved and/or restored for us to be able to look around and enjoy the historical architecture with its traditional carvings and embellishments. Being outside on a quite cold winters day, we kept warm with hot beverages and walked around for a few hours until dusk, ending up in the "Old Town" area where there was a Yule-market going on, with merchants selling crafts, mulled wine and pastries. Beautiful day in historical surroundings and with the best of company. ^^
Large storehouse from Søndre Berdal in Telemark, 1750s.
The Åmlid farmhouse, and three story storehouse from Brottveit, Valle, approx. 1650-1700.
Gol stavechurch, dated back to 1212, with its incredibly detailed wood carvings and astonishing embellishments.
While these churches in my opinion, are tainted with echoes of the brutality of the Christianization toward the end of the Viking Age, the heartbreaking beauty of their traditional carvings and Norse ornamentations surrounds them with an eerie yet nostalgic ambience.
I so love the colors and texture of wood, especially when aged and worn. A part of my predilection for natural materials (which those who know me will know is highly visible in my home and the things I surround myself with), I am so infatuated by it and would choose it over modern designs and plastics any day. ^^
My home town Bergen (I prefer to call it by its historical name, Bjørgvin), the city in between 7 mountains, has a rich cultural history. Located on the Western coast, it was one of the main trade centers of Northern-Europe in the Middle Ages, and served as the capital of Norway. It was a market town for the Hanseatic league, and the main export was that of dried cod. The Hanseatic age lasted for about 400 years, and has affected our towns dialect (living in passive bilingualism with German merchants, making up as much as a fifth of the population, will do that to you) and our local brew is called Hansa. Most notably however, it has left us with Bryggen (the "Wharf") in our city center, a historical harbor with characteristic wooden houses, which is now a World Cultural Heritage site.
The area with its old wooden buildings has been plagued by fires many times throughout the years. It was after a fire in 1955, when several farms in the North end went up in flames and were totally destroyed, that the excavations of the burnt-out ruins revealed a wealth of hundreds of thousands of objects from the Medieval period, including what is called the most important runic find in the 20th century.
The last photo above shows how a part of the site looked during the excavations, where archeologists revealed layer upon layer of floors built on the remains of their predecessors, showing that they had been built in the same way all the way back to the early 1100s.
Over 670 runic inscriptions were found in the earth, mostly on wooden sticks and others on bone. Some of the inscriptions were that of names and simple phrases functioning as name tags and indicating ownership of an item (such as B168 "Þorgunna owns this", B245 "Einarr Síkr owns me", and B379 "Gyrðr owns the key") and various "bumerker" or house marks, used to label property.
Many rune sticks contain incorrect and incomplete inscriptions of the Fuþark alphabet, and are believed to have been used for practicing and learning runes. The nature of many of the inscriptions also reveal that runes were not only used by the rich or educated, but were also used by laymen, for serious purposes as well as for the type of writings you will find on walls of public bathrooms today... A total of 67 personal names and nicknames were found, and I even saw my own name there on item B039. I'll leave out the context in which it was carved here, haha, but my namesake had clearly been having fun!
But importantly, before the findings of the rune inscriptions at Bryggen, we did not have knowledge of whether runes were ever used for anything other than simple inscriptions of names and short phrases. These findings however revealed a range of religious inscriptions; Norse poetry; business letters, orders and receipts; in addition to personal messages (the text messages of medieval times, if you will), providing invaluable insight into the daily life of people in Bjørgvin at the time. Examples are B017 "My love, kiss me", and B190 "Now is a great uproar". Others are longer and are believed to concern matters including family arguments and civil war. These were delivered to the recipient and likely hidden or discarded afterwards, and the people who wrote these messages would not have thought that we would be reading them many hundreds of years later... Imagine that!
As mentioned in my previous post, some messages were of a more secretive and cryptic nature, and runes were sometimes carved in coded messages. This may have been done to convey hidden and secret messages, or simply as a sport and way of practicing or showing off skills in runelore. These could be created as challenges for others to decipher, as indicated by the common phrase in medieval inscriptions: "raþ rett runar þessar" (interpret these runes right). One example is that of the rune stick B361 found with my brother's name, coded in the well-known system I described the other day based on the three runic "ættir": 2/5, 1/1, 2/4, 2/2 a 3/5. Other codes are much more complicated, such as the famous yet ambiguous Jötunvillur code, which was recently deciphered based on inscriptions where the two carvers named Sigurd and Lavrans provided their names in both uncoded and coded version (the Rosetta-stone of Bjørgvin, so to speak)! But although researchers have been able to break some of the codes, others remain unsolved. And when looking at runic codes today, it is almost as if the writer is challenging us from the past...
Thanks to the Bryggens Museum for featuring this incredible display of
Photography: Valkyrja.com (unless otherwise referenced)Music: Vox Vulgaris - Cantiga 166
Veiztv hve raþa scal?
[Do you know how to carve? Do you know how to interpret?]
From Hávamál, the sayings of the high one, Elder Edda
Runic alphabets were used in the various Germanic languages before the Christianization and the gradual entry of the Latin alphabet. The runes were mainly cut into bones, stone and wood, and are characterized by straight lines making them easy to carve. They are called Fuþark, named after the first six characters in the rune-rows.
The Elder Fuþark
The Elder Fuþark, consisting of 24 runes, was in use from approx. year 150 to 700 A.D., that is, before what we now know as the Viking Age. From around year 500, the Proto-Norse language evolved through an syncope period to become the Old Norse language and dialects spoken in the Nordic countries from the 700-800s, and by this time the Elder Fuþark was succeeded by the shorter and Younger Fuþark.
The Younger Fuþark
Consisting of only 16 characters, this alphabet reduced the number of runes in a time where the number of phonemes in the language actually increased, and thus the spoken language would include various sounds that were not distinguishable in the written language (the same letter could represent several different sounds). It was in use in Scandinavia from around 700-800 to 1100, and was later succeeded by the Medieval runic alphabet with the dotted runes. Focusing on the Viking era, I will be discussing the Younger Fuþark in the remainder of this post.
Short-twig and long-branch runes
Within the Younger Fuþark, the next distinction to be made is that of the two main groups of runes, namely long-branch and short-twig runes. The long-brach runes or Danish runes, also called normal runes, were used across the Scandinavia countries. I have written them up below, along with variations listed in the literature (although the list is not exhaustive). The corresponding modern letters follow below, and finally the sounds that they represent at the bottom.
The short-twig runes or Swedish-Norwegian runes, also called stutt- (short) or Rök-runes, were a simplified version that was also used in Sweden and Norway. As their name signifies, some of the runes were shorter and would be simpler to carve.
While these are the most common, there are other variations such as the earliest Younger Fuþark, and further simplifications such as the staveless runes. Furthermore, in Norway, carvers use both long-branch and short-twig runes in a mixed Fuþark. In a time without official language councils or standardized procedures, in periods of transition, and with words being written based on the way they sounded, it is only natural that modern classification and standardization is difficult. This challenges the rationale of applying modern conceptions of fixed alphabets to the variations of the Fuþark. But that does not make it easy for us who do not have formal education within this field!
Runology is a complicated academic discipline, and commonly underestimated. Evidence-based literature may not be easily accessible, and using a depiction of one version of a Fuþark as a reference, you will readily come short when facing inscriptions from various geographical areas and periods in time. This should be kept in mind when seeing one of those souvenirs or gift-shop items, few of them seem to be able to get it correctly, and logos, emblems and tattoos alike are often inaccurate, even within the Viking reenactment society. Aside from using runes from the wrong period, one example could be the error of mixing up the two r-runes Raidō and Yr (the latter commonly going at the end of words).
The names of the runes
In both the medieval Icelandic and Norwegian rune poems, we find the names of each of the 16 runes (along with poetic stanzas concerning their symbolism).
The thee ættir: fuþąrk • hnias • tbmlʀ, and coded runes
In some manuscripts and as seen in the above, the runes are commonly divided into three groups, or ættir (families). Those are fuþąrk (Freys ætt), hnias (Hagals ætt), and tbmlʀ (Týs ætt). Runes could be written using codes based on this system, where each group would be associated with numbers 3, 2 and 1, respectively (or the other way around). Each individual rune would also be associated with a number, counted from the left within its group. In this way, the code 1/5 could mean ʀ (Ýr). Using such a system, coded messages could then be drawn up as twigs, where the relevant numbers where drawn on each side of a vertical line. In this way, ʀ could be drawn as . There are however examples of far more imaginative inscriptions and drawings used instead of vertical lines, such as fish or men with numerous fins or beards (respectively, that is ^^).
Wardruna - Runaljod
According to the Old Norse calendar, dividing the year into two seasons, we have now entered winter. I am at my family's farm in western Iceland these days, and as I took a little walk up in the lava landscapes behind the house yesterday, the first snowflakes fell there. We spent some hours last night trying to find and round up the last missing sheep and lambs from the mountains where they have spent the last months, it's time to bring them all inside. The earth and moss is soggy and cold. The northern lights dance over the sky at night, and the temperatures are dropping.
Photography and editing: Valkyrja.com
The latest album by Wardruna, released tomorrow on Oct. 21st, is the final album in their Runaljod trilogy. A couple of the songs have already been released and there have been sneak-peaks of the material at their recent concerts, but it feels great to be holding the complete work in my hands!
Runaljod is the musical reincarnation of the runes of the Elder Futhark, with the various songs representing each of the runes, interpreting their essence and individual symbolism. Singing in Norwegian and Old Norse while using old Scandinavian and historical instruments (such as the Hardanger fiddle, Kraviklyre, tagelharpa, mouth harps, flutes, horns, hide frame drums, and natural sounds of wind, rain, snow and fire recorded in the Norwegian nature), they create the most beautiful music that warms a heathen heart. ♥
I will be leaving on a sudden trip to Iceland tomorrow, due to the passing of my beloved and dear grandfather. I know what I will be listening to for comfort in the time to come.
Back home and enjoying the crisp and cool northern autumn air.
I arrived from the east yesterday, after traveling near the equator with my father, my brother, and my other half. We had a wonderful time, and enjoyed beautiful Penang, Malaysia where we were pretty much the only Europeans walking in the streets, amidst busy markets, prayer calls, street food carts and mix of Christian, Hindu, Muslim, and Buddhist voices. The temperature was hovering around 30°C and the air was humid and smelled of incense, smoke, and various Asian cuisines on each street corner. Although I have traveled quite a bit to the east, I got so many new impressions and experiences in this place.
I had not been at home in a while due to a conference I attended abroad before my vacation, and had missed the seasonal transition and onset of proper fall in Norway. Arriving to a heat difference of 25 degrees, I shuddered, but felt very much at home. One of the things I always love about returning, is the clean and icy cold drinking water, the silence, and the freshness of the air! We lit the fireplace, made tea, and stayed in for the whole day to rest and recover our bewildered circadian clocks.
I will stay home for a while now, and enjoy.
Bergenhus fortress, located in my hometown of Bjørgvin, is a beautiful medieval castle and defensive fortress with several buildings, dating as far back as the 1240s. Each September, it hosts a nice little medieval festival and market where reenactors sell handicraft from historical tents and guests can watch shows by fighter groups, practice archery and various other activities and attractions.
I used the occasion to wear on of my medieval style dresses (although not historically accurate). Since I personally focus on the Viking era I do not wear these dresses as often, but I love the close-fitting design with the lacing along the arms and the back, and wide skirts that are perfect for twirling. ^^
♪ Are you going to Scarborough Fair; Parsley, sage, rosemary, and thyme... ♫
The Kutscheras, check out their blog the Past Time Family.
Hans Gunnar from Eikthyrnir in his glorious red leather shoes!
Medieval lovebirds <3
I remember playing around these walls as a child, pretending that I lived in this castle ^^
The market had a food section with a bar and lots of good food.
This year the market on Saturday was followed by a concert by amazing Wardruna, who performed in the Haakons Hall, a truly majestic building dating back to 1260. They really do know how to pick their locations, this time in the largest secular Medieval building in Norway, with their shadows casted high up on the tall stone walls around them. They were sold out, but we had managed to get tickets and got a nice spot where we enjoyed the absolutely beautiful voices of Lindy-Fay and Einar Selvik, along with his children who performed with him during the new song called "Odal".
They finished with "Helvegen", a song that concerns death and has a ceremonial and personal meaning to many of the people in the Viking reenactment society. I noticed several people wiping their tears during this performance. I've heard this song sung repeatedly by others around Viking markets this summer, in festive settings that I feel are unfitting and do not do it justice. This was however a perfect time and place for this song, and it was as strong and meaningful as it was the first time I heard it.
This concludes this years market season on my part. It has been an amazing summer, with Bjørgvin, Karmøy, Hafrsfjord, Gudvangen and Møystadsaga Viking markets. Now comes fall and winter, but that does not mean that we won't find many other occasions for historical reenactment and feasts in the months to come! ♥
According to the Old Icelandic Calendar Haustmánuður is approaching, and autumn in drawing near. It's still warm, but evenings are growing darker and leaves are starting to turn orange. September is the time of my birthday, and I recently celebrated my 30th year! I feel glad and thankful. Did you know that 35 % of women in the Viking Age would not reach this age?
Among the beautiful gifts I received, my dear cousin Anna Herdís had made me this marvelous lopapeysa - the Icelandic sweater with the characteristic pattern, knitted with lopi (that is, Icelandic wool). If you've been to Iceland you will have seen them worn in all kinds of places and settings, and most Icelanders own at least one of these. ^^
Isn't it lovely?
I was so happy about the brown color, now I have one for each of the natural base colors (my grandmother has knitted an unknown number of these for the whole family, and that is saying something because we are a very large group). Glad to see that her namesake is doing a good job bringing the tradition on!
The Icelandic sheep is truly an amazing breed, and was brought to the island by the settlers during the Viking age, where it has been isolated and import of sheep is forbidden (much like the case with Icelandic horses). They show large genetic diversity, are stocky and weather-hardy, and their wool is thick and dual-coated. Multiple births are common, and the so-called "Þoka-gene" in ewes is known to give up to six lambs. They are short-tailed and have beautiful horns, and the rams have big curled ones (I found this one on my grandparents' farm as a child).
Well, that's it for today's lecture on livestock... I am spending this Sunday night curled up in the sofa at home, and that calls for blankets, snacks, blogging and candles.
This epic stone cheese plate was a gift from another friend, it has runic inscriptions in elder futhark, and Norwegian rock carvings of reindeer and elk (from Alta in North-Norway, the oldest ones dating about 7000 years back). Also, the knife is a Njardar-knife, an artifact created for the Njardar Viking group in Gudvangen, and its sheath bears the symbol of the group. It belonged to a departed friend and I proudly received it from his daughter earlier this year. ♥
This weekend we visited friends in Austevoll, where we spent last night discussing new and projects over wine and snacks around the fire. There are exiting things happening (and I will let you hear about them here in due course).
Wishing all my readers a good night!
- used with permission from Skuggsjá
Last weekend I traveled eastwards again, to my friends’ annual meeting at their home in Møystadsaga, in the forest close to the Swedish border. For the fourth year in a row, André and Aase Anita invited us to their place in the woods where they have an ongoing project of building an authentic Viking Age farm, and have already raised several structures and buildings, including a stone circle, a smokehouse, an earthcellar and sleeping houses.
I came down with a flu and wasn’t feeling very well, and during my stay I learned that a dear friend and mentor of mine passed away back home. So as you would understand I didn't feel very social, spent some time in solitude, and took rather few photos this year. But here are some of the glimpses I caught during these three days.
A rune-stone was unveiled, carved and raised by André (on the left), made in honor of our Johannes, father of Nina (on the right). The stone is from his birthplace Massneset on the other side of the country. A beautiful and moving gesture.
There was a glorious gilde on the Saturday night, consisting of meat and vegetable soup, whiskey salted deer, barley risotto with apples, and bison stew with self-picked mushrooms. For dessert, we had beaten egg whites and cream with blueberries from the forest.
After the feast there was a blót in the stone circle nearby, where those who wished would read texts, say a few words, and make honorary toasts with a ceremonial horn of home-made mead. While not being of religious conviction, I find the blóts beautiful and to be a part of our history and cultural heritage that should be experienced, along with the celebration of wisdom, strength, family, fertility, the various aspects of nature and human psychology that are represented by the old Norse deities.
Thank you for now Møystadsaga, I hope to return next year, back in my usual good spirits.
And to André and Anita: your project is beautiful and inspiring, and I am thankful for being invited to take part in it.
I spent the last fortnight in my second homeland, "the land of ice and fire". ^^ These are some of the photos from our trip.
I spent the whole past week in between the tall mountains by the Nærøyfjord in Gudvangen, the valley of the Gods. 🌿
As always in Gudvangen, there was a lot of weather. We arrived in rain and were thoroughly soaked during the first couple of days, followed by promises of thunder (which flew by, almost to my dismay as I was starting to look forward to hear it rumble and echo between the majestic cliffs). But the sunshine broke through, and most of our time was spent in sunshine, and there was less need for woolen clothes and more need for sleeping with tents open in the heat of the summer nights.
View from the tent-opening!
Our little group of eight got a spot on the top of the hill and were very happy with it, and were a bit secluded from the main hustle and bustle of the market area. We put up the new middle part in between two of our Gokstad-tents, and it was great to have a place to seek shelter or shade.
With room for several fires, we could also have many people join us in the evenings, for singing, sharing drinks, food, and good company. ^^ During the week another Icelander arrived, then two and three, and we could sing Icelandic folk songs together, such as Ríðum, ríðum" and "Krummavísur".
Happy Viking-market feels, beautiful people and pretty things!
The amazing bone-work of Dariusz.
Wax-tablets (historical iPads).. Did you know that archeological findings of such tablets have impressions in the wood where the stylus has gone through the wax, showing that the runic alphabet was being used?
Vibeke and Kjell (didn't notice his face until later when I zoomed in on the photo, hehe)
The beautiful combs in protective cases sold by Nordlys Viking crafts. I have seen similar finds of decorated composite single combs from Birka, Gotland, Hedeby, and Jorvik, made of bone and antler.
Anja with her new gorgeous hand-woven diamond twill fabric, made of hand-spun woolen thread!
Sowing a new lined woolen cloak...
Silje trying to tidy up an old tablet weaving mess!
Glíma master Lars Magnar Enoksen was present as usual, and Gudvangen hosted its 12th glíma wrestling championship.
My cousin Anna Herdís joined us in the weekend to try Viking reenactment for the first time :) And she rocked my red dress!
Back in our camp, Silje & me, and my historically inaccurate potato.
Vikings waiting in line for the gilde (feast) on Saturday night!
Pit cooked lamb, chicken, and root vegetables..
It was definitely a week of vacation well spent! I arrived back home in Bjørgvin late Sunday night, and tomorrow I am off for my next adventure; heading to Iceland for two weeks.
Thank you for now Gudvangen! See you again next summer ♥
This weekend was the start of my summer vacation, it's been a long time since I took a proper time off, and it feels so great. ^^ That doesn't mean I've been idle though, so here is a follow-up on my last post, the products of the weekend: a green sleeveless summer dress, a blue tunic, and a purple long-sleeved serk. All linen, and with hand-sown outer seems.
Ready to be worn at Gudvangen Viking market in the upcoming week!
I will be back with updates. :)
Went shopping for some linen, first steps of materializing some ideas for new additions to my Viking wardrobe, that have been floating around in my mind lately. I ended up with alen upon alen of green, brown (no big surprises there), blue and purple. Also, I ordered another custom made tablet woven trim from Anna, in different shades of brown wool. Beautiful, isn't it?
Now it remains to be seen whether I will have the chance to start - and perhaps finish - any of these projects before the next Viking market. ^^ I'll probably be bringing some half-sewn garments with me when I go to Gudvangen, but then again, sewing during markets is a relaxing pastime. :-)
This week, the Vikings at Hafrsfjord invited us to their home in Stavanger, some hours south from Bjørgvin. Hafrsfjordkaupangen has become one of my favorite markets, it has such a good atmosphere, so many friendly faces, and a really nice and well organized leadership. It is situated by a river in between tall trees in Møllebukta, by the shore of the legendary fjord where the great battle of Hafrsfjord took place in the late 9th century.
During the weekend we were visited by a TV-team from Austria who contacted me last year, after having read my blog about last summers market. They filmed a lot throughout the market, and we did an interview on the last day. I am horrible in front of video cameras and didn't really manage to convey anything intelligible at all, but it was still all good fun and I am looking forward to see their portrayal of the Norwegian Viking reenactment scene (almost as much as I am looking forward to hearing the Austrian voice-over). ^^
Meanwhile, here are my photos from the weekend!
The calm before the storm...the market area before opening.
Anna tablet weaving :)
I traded me a nice little ceramic cup with knot-symbols, another drinking horn, a new key (Birka-style), a new valkyrja pendant (this one from Grödinge in Södermanland, Sweden), earrings with birds (supposedly from 10th century Sweden, perhaps someone knows the exact origin?), and two triquetra pendants that I asked the smith to make into earrings. :)
Playing Viking games (leikr) in the twilight... (the monument "Swords in Rock" can be seen in the background)
Atmosphere around the large campfire in the evenings. Singing, storytelling and drumming into the summer nights... Could it get any better? ^^
Philip playing his bagpipe :D
The last four days have been filled with good company, food, laughter, music, late nights...and I am content but absolutely exhausted. As I'm writing this it is Sunday night, and we are on our way back home where we expect to arrive sometime after midnight, and I am looking forward to taking a long, warm shower and diving into bed. Already looking forward to the next market, which on my part will be Gudvangen in July!
Photographer Marius Pettersen came to visit me on the third day of the Bjørgvin Viking market last weekend, and shot some photos in the beautiful surroundings at the Hordamuseum in Bergen.
(He prefers not to watermark his photos, but as with all the photography on this blog, I need to ask you not to share them without providing due credit and source, and not to use them in any hateful or political context)
Music: Wardruna - Ragnarok
Photography: Marius Pettersen
Back home and finished unpacking, after a delightful weekend at our first historical market of the year here in Bergen, beautiful and cheerful Bjørgvin Marknad! My hair smells of bonfires and my feet are sore after walking barefoot more or less all day since Thursday.
I arrived after work, and picked up a long-awaited custom order from fellow Vikings at Taberna Vagantis, my first and very own historical tent! Isn't it beautiful? ^^
I am very excited about it, as it will be my second home away from home, following and housing me on my Viking-expeditions from now on. It canvas is natural linen, thick and waterproof, and the tent poles and engraved heads are reconstructions of the ones found on board the Gokstad ship that I photographed at the Viking Ship Museum earlier this year (except for the originals being painted in black and yellow) and the frame is 2,5 x 3,5 m. I decorated it with a deer skull with antlers that I bought at the market in Gudvangen last year...
The weather is incredibly warm, and the whole weekend has been a summer haze of good company, abundance of foods and drinks, blue skies and green surroundings on the grounds of the Hordamuseum. The longship Haakon Haakonsson was there taking people out to sea, while some of us went swimming by the beach. The Danish group Virelai (music featured above) played festive medieval music for us all weekend, the melodies of flutes and hurdy-gurdies filling the camp.
Thank you once again, Bjørgvin, for your hospitality and good atmosphere! ♥
Það vorar um hlíð og mel.
Smalar á heiðum hóa
hjörðum við fjallasel.
Vorblærinn lætur í laufi
létt eins og fiðluspil.
Á sveitabæjunum brosa
björt og reisuleg þil.
Það vorar í hug og hjarta
og hrjóstrin skipta um lit.
Úr sólarátt heyrum við söngva
og síglaðan vængjaþyt.
Störfin yngja vorn anda
og efla vor sóknarspor.
Það er létt yfir lífi og vonum,
ljómandi sólskin - og vor.
We are currently in the month of Skerpla, according to the old Icelandic calendar. Even older names for this time are "eggtíð" and "stekktíð", as written by Snorri Sturlusson in Skáldskaparmál. Like many of the old names of the months, they are descriptive and concern agriculture and nature. Eggtíð simply means time of eggs. Stekktíð refers to stekkr which were folds where lambs would be kept from the ewes during nights, so that the ewes could be milked in the morning before the lambs were let out. Stekktíð lasted for a few weeks before the lambs were led up in the mountains for the summer, and this was common practice in Iceland for centuries. The milk would be used for making skyr, as well as butter and cheese. No doubt, the harvest and produce of this time would be welcome additions to breakfast-tables in the North, where supplies in granaries and store houses would be growing meager after the long winter months.
Here in Bjørgvin the market season is drawing very near, and we are preparing and packing for summer days and nights to be spent outside. I am looking forward to reuniting with good friends and fellow Vikings whom I haven't seen since last summer, and there is excitement and bliss in the air. ^^ The poem above is a relatively unknown piece written by Björn Daníelson, and although relatively contemporary, it is timeless just the same, conveying the long awaited feelings of spring, the arrival of the birds and soft summer winds blowing lightly over heath and hillside, spirits strengthened and hearts light.
Poetry: Björn Daníelson - Vor (Frá liðnu vori)
A few weeks ago our little group of Viking friends were invited to a feast at Austevoll, a place just southwest of Bergen consisting of heaps of islands and reefs of varying size connected by bridges and boats, home and port of a substantial part of the Norwegian fish industry. Austevoll is also home to the countries largest stock of "villsau" (wild sheep), the oldest Norwegian sheep race, domesticated since the iron age. On our way there, we frequently had to stop and urge them on in order to be able to follow the road, which many of them seemed to own themselves, finding it fitting to finish their nap or stop to chew their food there rather than moving for a silly vehicle. ^^ Being half Icelandic, that felt sort of like being home, along with the strong winds and beautiful landscapes all around.
Claus and Anja served us delicious roasted leg of pork cooked Danish-style, with sugar browned potatoes, ale and wine. Later in the evening we prepared snacks, lit up a fire outside, and spent the night enjoying good company in our usual good mood.
Some snapshots from the weekend, and some of our outfits (although I didn't get us all):
Only a few weeks until its time for our first Viking market of the summer, Bjørgvin Marknad!
I wasn't really planning to go out this weekend, but late Friday night, this happened.. ^^ I learned that Kristian was performing with his new band Gaahls Wyrd at the small but famous rock club Garage here in Bergen, and that other fellow "Bergensers" Einar and Lindy-Fay from Wardruna as well as Lars Magnar Enoksen (rune master and friend from the viking reenactment society) were doing guest performances with them. Couldn't miss out on that now, could I?
The party went on until morning, and the birds were singing as I went outside to catch a cab home. But we all had a blast!
Many of you write asking about my clothing, about fabrics, patterns, and how I sow them. I am not an experienced sower, but I do things mostly by eye. I did get a book with patterns for Viking reenactment clothing a few years ago, but I gave up on following the patterns, as I was starting to get unsure of whether there were errors in the book or whether there were errors in my spatial intelligence. ^^ I have made my own patterns for dresses and tunics, mainly according to the finds from Birka and Thorsbjerg, but slightly fitted. While round or keyhole-necklines were common in Birka, the neckline of the Thorsbjerg tunic was boat-shaped, and I vary in which designs I use. I add gores as needed and depending on how much fabric I have available, and the same goes for the length. This would also have been an important consideration during the Viking age, when producing fabric was time-consuming and expensive, and one would let as little as possible go to waste, sometimes resulting in garments being an assembly of smaller pieces.
I thought I'd show you the newest garment I've made. My little brother has been joining me in Viking reenactment for the past few years, and I made him a tunic in brown wool for his birthday earlier this spring.
I decorated it with a tablet woven trim in a Birka style, made by order from a local weaver at Liljekonvall Tablet Weaving (I personally recommend her store, for good Norwegian craftsmanship at fair prices).
I added a name tag just for fun, and to make it more personalized. I sowed in his name in runes using the younger futhark long-branch runes. The younger futhark alphabet contained a reduced number of letters compared to the elder futhark, and did for example not include the letter "e". I replaced it with an "a", in the same way as I have seen in runic finds of his name. Can you read it?
I think it matches his colors well, as well as a mustard undertunic that I made him earlier. It's great to have a brother to practice on. :D
Music: Sowulo - Dageraad
Upon hearing the word blót, some might expect severed heads and people dancing naked around the fire (or something of the sort). If that is the case I must disappoint you, as the blóts are far from any sort of Hollywood-representation. :) Blóts are sacramental meals or feasts, where people gather in fellowship to feast and honor various deities or natural phenomena, seasons and the turns of the wheel of the sun. Sumarmál is by some scholars believed to have been held for Óðinn, for prosperity in summer raids and victory in battle, and may thus have been synonymous with the Sigrblót that is mentioned in Ynglinga saga. Others, like the Ásatrú community in Iceland hold this blót in honor of Frey and Freyja, vanir and Gods of life and fertility of the earth. In our case, this blót is a feast involving friends spending time together in nature, sitting around the fire, sharing good foods and drinks, cheering and celebrating, and planning the upcoming viking expeditions. ^^
Sweet Høst, the Norwegian forest cat.
I made a new dress for the occasion (that is, I tore up the stitches of an old one I had made a few years ago, dyed and hand stitched it back together). I really like how this blue goes with the brown. :)
Birka coat with five gores. I made it way to wide, so it needs some adjustments before I'll be happy with it, but it is comfy and nice for chilly evenings.
We were really lucky with the weather, and although it was not particularly warm, it was dry and windless, and we spent hours and hours outside, keeping warm on mead and fire. ^^ And the morning after I woke up with the sunlight on my face, and walked barefoot on the grass for the first time this year. Lovely!
How do you celebrate the coming of summer?
Today is the day of Freyja and Frigg, and as I am planning to paint the town red tomorrow, I am spending the night at home enjoying a long-awaited night of relaxation. I'd like to follow up on my earlier post about the Norse calendar, by discussing the old names of the days, named after the Norse Æsir and Ásynjur.
The idea of a seven-day week is ancient, and is believed to have originated from astrological and religious conceptions in the ancient Near East, named by the seven classical planets. It is used in most parts of the world, with the days named after various corresponding gods and goddesses, varying by regions and periods. It was made official in Roman areas in AD 321, adopted by the Germanic peoples, and has been in use in Norway as far back as we know. The old names indicate that the system was in use in Norway before the Christianization.
While the names were subsequently changed and "de-heathenized" in the otherwise extremely puristic Icelandic language around year 1200, I find it fascinating and joyful that the old heathen names have remained in the other Scandinavian countries, in the same way as we use terms such as Jól (Yule) instead of Christmas etc. The modern Norwegian names are Mandag, Tirsdag, Onsdag, Torsdag, Fredag, Lørdag, and Søndag, and although not literally accurate, they hold the same meaning, in the same way as the English names still use the old Germanic names today.
Wishing you all a great night!
This week I travelled to the east of Norway with a couple of my friends to our capital Oslo. We were mainly there for ArtheCon, the very first Tolkien-con in Norway, but I also really wanted to visit a museum that I haven't been to since I was a child, the Viking Skip Museum at the Museum of Cultural History in Bygdøy.
The museum houses three Viking ships excavated from burial mounds, and a large amount of grave goods. It is most famous for the completely whole Oseberg ship, which is the largest known ship burial in the world and is often deemed to be the finest finding from the Viking Age. You might also recognize it from my header for this website!
And needless to say, I went berserk with my camera, humming in excitement. I had managed to leave my zoom-lens behind, but I got a fair amount of shots of details and things I would like to share with you nevertheless.
The Oseberg ship grave contained remains of two women, both around 153 cm tall. The younger was about 50 years old, with teeth indicating that she had been eating food of high quality. She had a broken collar bone, but unknown reason for death. The older woman was 70-80 years old, an unusually high age to achieve in her time. She had several health problems, including arthritis and compression injuries in her spine which would make her walk crookedly and having trouble turning her head. She had cancer that had spread to her bones, and I've seen from other sources that she was found with a small leather bag of cannabis seeds in her pocket, possibly used for pain-relief. The identity of the Oseberg-women remains a mystery. The burial indicates that they would certainly have had an important and powerful position in their time, and may have been religious or political leaders. Whether they were of equal stature or whether one was sacrificed to follow the other to the afterlife, is unknown.
The Oseberg ship also contained a cart of oak with complex decorations and carvings, with two shafts of ash, likely drawn by two horses (one on each side).
Five beautiful animal head posts were also found in the Oseberg grave, four of them well preserved and displayed at the museum. They all have different designs, and some are decorated with silver nails. each was found together with a rattle made of iron and rope. Their use is unknown, but they may have been part of the burial ritual and been carried in the procession toward the grave.
The Gokstad ship, built with oak that was felled about year 890, is large and sturdily constructed. It is very much seaworthy, and had sailed for many years before being used in the burial around year 900. The man found in the burial chamber was, as his ship, strong and unusually robustly built, with a height of 181-183 cm (well above average at the time). Investigations of the remains show that he might have had a tumor causing imbalance in growth hormones. Several injuries from stabbing and hacking from a sword, a blunter weapon, and a knife (including a calf bone that had been cut straight through), without signs of healing, show that he had died in battle. According to the museum he was about 60 years old when he died, but I've read newer research concluding that he was rather in his 40's.
The Tune ship was built at the same time as the Gokstad ship, and even though it is still the third best preserved Viking ship in the world, it is fragmented and has the missing parts of it have not been reconstructed (partly due to poor documentation and routines during its excavation, and it had also been exposed to oxygen before it was fully excavated in a hurried and rather rough manner). It was even kept outside for a while, before getting its own temporary storage place. It contained a burial chamber with a possible chieftain, but the grave goods are sadly lost or destroyed during or shortly after the excavation. This goes to show the importance of modern archeology and proper treatment of invaluable historical artifacts in order for them not to be lost to future generations.
A large amount of personal items, various equipment and furniture were also found in the various graves. Below you will for example see a dog collar and part of a leash, bridles for horses (one of them from the Borre mounds and the other from Gokstad, possibly made in the same workshop), axes, whistles, several weaves, tools for spinning yarn, and cooking utensils and tableware... Many animals (dogs, horses and oxen) were also found in and around the ships, and the Gokstad grave even contained remains of a peacock, possibly a gift or souvenir from abroad.
Oak lid, decorated with a triquetra or valknútr ("knot of the fallen") symbol.
...and then there were the Oseberg shoes, of which I wear a reconstruction with my Viking outfits :) These are very well preserved, I must say, especially seeing that mine are 1182 years younger and are starting to look a bit scruffy...
And talking about reconstructions, the tents found aboard these ships are commonly used by Viking reenactors. And soon I shall have my own, which is currently in construction and being carved according to the exact design of the Gokstad tent poles (I'll make a blog post of it when summer comes). :)
Then there is this belt buckle, strap end and fastener which was found in the Gokstad ship, showing that belts from the Viking Age could be quite wide, although I have heard reenactors claiming otherwise. This particular buckle was 5 cm wide, I suppose the belt might have been 4,5 cm.
Who would have though that buckets could be this interesting? Both are made of yew wood, and the one intricately decorated with brass embellishments and iron handles contained wild apples, that were so well preserved that they were still red when the ship was excavated. The other one, called the "Buddha-bucket" is decorated with figures sitting in a lotus-position, made of enamel and brass.
Several wooden boxes and iron-bound chests contained textile tools, a lamp, combs, and fragments of textiles and leather. The grave chambers had been robbed, and there were no findings of jewellery or precious metals, which may have been contained in the broken chest seen at the bottom.
...and then there are the textiles! Findings of fabrics are relatively rare, as the natural materials decompose rapidly. The Oseberg grave did however contain remains of tapestries (long and narrow ones that were likely used for decorating walls on special occasions). The largest piece shows a procession of people and horses drawing wagons, and although the colors have faded and disappeared, one can still see the red. There were also various tablet-woven trims and embroideries, including foreign and valuable silk fabric imported from Byzantium and Persia.
We had an amazing time!
Make sure to visit the Viking Ship Museum if you are ever in the area. Seeing actual items made by, owned and used by our forefathers with ones own eyes is an epic and goosebump-inducing feeling that cannot be captured in photos. :)
Spring has come early in Bjørgvin this year, and I am enjoying waking up to light skies, following my niece to school and walking to work in the mornings, listening to the first chirps of birds returning, and even having some rays left in the evenings as I come home. Soon there will be time for planting seeds and watching them grow. I cannot wait until summer, walking barefoot in the grass and sleeping outside in warm summer nights. It is still only the end of Góa, but Einmánuður (the last winter month according to the old Norse calendar) is right around the corner, starting next week. In the Viking age people would be looking forward to hens starting to lay eggs again, new lambs to be born, and many other blessings of the season and signs of fertility and new life that people today will associate with Easter celebrations.
According to an Icelandic folksong, the weather of these months foretells how the upcoming season will be.
Trúðu aldrei vetrarþoku, þótt aðeins sé ein nótt til sumars.
Kvöldroðinn bætir. Morgunroðinn vætir.
Sjaldan er gýll fyrir góðu, nema úlfur á eftir renni og í fullu vestri séð.
I would translate that first phrase to something in the lines of "Þorri should be dry, Góa mild/thawing, Einmánuður wet, then spring shall be good". The accuracy of such predictions can be discussed, but so could the modern chaos theory of weather forecasts as well, I suppose. :D
An iconic part of the female Viking garb, the brooches with their strings of beads and pendants are worn across the chest, connecting the loops of the apron dress at the front. They are a beloved part of my historical wardrobe, and the other night I gave them a little upgrade!
I have been collecting new glass beads here and there at various markets and museums that I've visited, and getting rid of all the beads that were not handmade or historical replicas. I like adding pieces as memories from places I go, which is bound to get heavy, so I've had to remove what used to be a fourth row of beads (even if "more is more", there comes a point when it gets impractical and you sound like a jingle bell reindeer when walking around).
The circular bronze pendant in the upper middle is from Birka, so are the bells, and the Mjölnir in the center is in the Swedish style from Östergötland. There are also three pendants there that are believed to represent Valkyries:
They are all findings from Sweden, the first one from Tuna in Uppland, the second from Björkö in Uppland, and the third from Köping in Öland. Seeing that my given name means Valkyrie (or Valkyrja in Norse), what could be more fitting than to have a few of these ladies represented on my clothing? :)
This weekend was the premiere of the album "A Piece for Mind and Mirror" by Skuggsjá, a music project by Ivar Bjørnson from Enslaved & Einar Selvik from Wardruna. As my readers will know, I am personally a big fan of Wardruna, and I was looking forward to this collaboration with great enthusiasm. I am lucky enough to live in Bergen, the capital of black metal of the world. It is the home town of many amazing artists, the type of people who will perform for huge audiences worldwide, and then come back to the rainy city to play for free in a small pub and record shop, and go out with people like me to drink and chat afterwards.
Originally initiated as a commissioned piece for the celebration of the 200th anniversary of the Norwegian Constitution, the theme concerns Norwegian history and tells parts of the old days that have formed us as a nation and people. Having developed into a full album of 10 tracks + 2 bonus tracks (some lasting for a good 10 minutes), it sheds light on aspects of our history that are unknown and forgotten by many.
One example is the history of "fat Olav" (...or St. Olav as he is called today) who cut grain supplies to the North of Norway and practiced a merciless confiscation politic that made himself immensely rich, and even turned his own family against him. The Christianization of Norway and ban of all other religions made him the uppermost leader of the Norwegian church, and he is celebrated as a holy man today. Skuggsjá tells the story of chieftain Tore Hund (Tore "the hound") and the peasants' uprising against Olav, from a historical and educative perspective. And it is all done beautifully, to the sound of historical instruments such as the kraviklyre, which is the oldest string instrument that has been found in Norway, mixed with the electronic in a symbiosis of ancient and modern.
Last night they played two of their new tracks for us, and as Einar said when he held up his lyre, the original is dated to the 13th century and we are waiting for a C14 analysis that may reveal if it is even older (after which Ivar held up his el-guitar to mention that his was from 2004). :) After their performance we went out to celebrate the launch on their new ale, Alu by Norse, a handcrafted Norwegian farmhouse ale based on old Norwegian brewing traditions.
It was a great night!
The title of this post has been a subject of discussion among my friends in the Viking reenactment society lately, as well as in many Scandinavian speaking newspapers and discussion channels. Why do fascists feel an urge to use Norse mythology as if it had anything to do with their ideology? Why do they insist on dragging our cultural history through the mud?
In Germany, there once lived a dangerous man, with a strange little mustache, who approved of some people and despised others based on their genealogy. He liked blonde, tall and blue-eyed people (none of which he was himself for that matter). He liked them so much that he occupied our country, tortured and killed us when we resisted. Members of his party were into Norse mythology, and they hi-jacked our cultural history and our symbols. This happened in the 20th century, a millennium after the Viking Age. People connect these two periods based on the Nazis who raped our culture, not because it has any other ties with these political views. It is as simple as that. There is no other plausible connection. What you might have read and seen on various social media pages promoting old Norse culture and supremacist views together is without a sense of history, it is ignorance and racism (two characteristics that I am pretty sure are significantly correlated, but that is another matter).
The photos they are using in their promotion, of my friends in the reenactment societies around Scandinavia, are stolen. These people dip their pens in gall, and write texts on photos of people who do not support their views, and who disagree with the juvenile phrases pasted on them. I do not appreciate having to explain to people that I do not support far-right political views etc. due to my interest in Norse culture. I find the mere fact that it is necessary, revolting. Why do organizations such as Åsatrufellesskapet Bifrost (the Norwegian organization for Åsatru) and Ásatrúarfélagið (the Ásatrú association in Iceland) explain on their websites that bigotry and hatred towards others is incompatible with membership? I have never seen any other religious organizations doing the same, but these societies actually do. You are not welcome there, and your views disqualify you from membership. We who love Norse history must speak up in order for the public not to start associating the culture and more of its symbols with modern extremist views, in the same way as the sowilu rune and the ancient swastika have been desecrated. And not only in Scandinavian media, but also in English, because many of the people who are relevant in this discussion do not speak the languages.
Could it simply be due to lack of historical knowledge? One might think so, when looking at some of the facebook-profiles that promote Norse mythology in combination with racist views, with profile photos of them posing with plastic hammers in some basement or club house, basing their appreciation of the Norse culture on Marvel comics and TV-shows.
The title of this post is also that of a Danish article by Sebastian Stryhn Kjeldtoft at Information.dk, concerning thugs who dress up in black hoodies as seen in the photos I am holding above, and patrol Scandinavian cities, protecting the streets from foreigners. This recent phenomenon originated in Finland, the founder being the Nazi and ex-con Mika Ranta. The author allowed me to translate and reproduce parts of it:
Why then, do fascists insist on sailing under false colors and waving the Norse flag, using old symbolics and names in combination with a modern political agenda? And as if that wasn't enough, using the image of a Viking with a horned helmet, just to underline their complete and utter lack of knowledge? Well, perhaps ignorance is a necessity when using the Viking age to promote a supremacist view of our history. Even Hitler was reported by one of the Nazi ministers to have disliked Himmler's attempts to have scientists dig up pre-historic sites, because that would only prove that we were still crouching in mud huts while the Romans and Greeks had reached the highest stage of culture.
But nevertheless, if idolizing the Norse cultural history and the Viking Era, one should think they would utilize historical sources, like the rest of us do? That could for example be the "sayings of the high one", Hávamál, 164 stanzas that mainly focus on knowledge, proper conduct, and how to welcome guests. See the irony?
These people are not there out of an egalitarian desire to do good and make people feel safe. If they were, they could have signed up with organizations such as the Natteravnene (the Night Ravens), who are a legal and highly recognized volunteer organization of adult and sober citizens who walk the streets in Norway at night, highly visible in their yellow and labeled vests, to prevent anti-social behavior and promote a safe environment, assist those who cannot take care of themselves, and contact the authorities if needed. To call for help. From the one organization that is supposed to reinforce the law in a democracy: The police. As this commentary points out, vigilantes threaten the foundation of our democracy. The monopoly on violence is, as formulated by Max Weber, the actual definition of a state.
But many of the "Soldiers of Odin" would not have passed the background checks to join such organizations, as they have criminal records. A report presented by the NRK the other night, states that 14 out of 20 central members of the group in Norway are ex-cons, most of them with repeated offenses. That includes one of the administrators of the group, who was sentenced for a blind aggravated assault against an elderly couple he had never seen before, in their home, leaving the elderly man unconscious and broken before he beat up his wife. Meanwhile, their banner reads: "We make the city safer".
Living right next to what was recently turned into a refugee reception center due to the crisis in Syria, I must say I would rather share my neighborhood with people fleeing from war and extremism, than risk running into these criminal fascists in a dark back alley. The refugees are the people who shared Christmas dinner with our neighborhood church, who I pass when taking hikes in our nature, and who play soccer in the evenings wearing secondhand shoes collected by our local soccer-team. Please do not spread fear unnecessarily. Don't be a warmonger. Check your sources, and do reverse image-searches. If in doubt, check official statistics registries yourself for things such as the development of crime rates. Misleading posts being shared on social media promote fear and hate, feelings that are difficult to reverse even if people later find out that the sources came from creative spinning of statistics or satirical newspapers with plain hogwash, because when hatred has already been established independently of facts, people won't remember where it came from in the first place, and quite frankly, I don't think they care.
I am aware that writing publicly about this topic can be uncomfortable, as illustrated by the Norwegian author Bjørn Andreas Bull-Hansen who received death threats from the US after he wrote the critical blog post called "No room for racists in Valhalla". And writing this I am prepared to lose some followers, but in that case I consider it necessary riddance. I have so many more of you who share a sincere love of our history: you who use your free time learning and teaching crafts and techniques that are nearly extinct; create beautiful music using historical instruments; write educational books; arrange and attend reenactment events and markets, to promote and educate tourists and schoolchildren about our culture; plain and simple history geeks, and those just eager to learn more. I consider you the real supporters of Norse mythology and cultural history!
Someday during the early iron age, around year 475, a burial mound was being built at Eide, Gloppen, in Western-Norway. The man who was to be laid there, a powerful and wealthy person, had been dressed in the finest red and brown clothing, with the most extravagant details and colorful tablet woven trims. He was laid upon a bearskin on a bed of birch bark, and on his journey to the afterlife he would bring a rich amount of grave goods, fully equipped with weapons and a range of various belongings. There he would lay for many years to come, the large mound placed by the edge of the highland, easily visible for those passing by on the fjord.
In year 1889, someone would come digging and brushing their way through the dirt, discovering what would become one of Norways larger, archological findings. Beside the man, who is now called the Eide or Evebø chieftain, there was a bronze scale, and a nifty little leather pouch containing seven weights of various sizes. Scales and weights are commonly found in graves from the Roman Iron Age throughout the Middle Ages. They were an important tool for the tradesman or woman, and would have been used for measuring valuables such as precious metals or spices. In the case of the Eide chieftain, it is also possible that they would have been used for legal purposes such as payment of weregild, overseen by a person of authority such as himself.
The pouch is stored in my hometown at the Bergen Museum, as depicted below.
(Photo credit: Arnybo@Flickr)
A simple and straightforward piece in between all the riches, its recreation is ideal for someone who like me had never sown in leather before. So I've made my own Eide pouch, using what I had available, soft goatskin, hand sewn with linen thread. Perfect for keeping valuables at historical markets as well as anywhere else in the daily life of modern vikings. In addition to being darker in color, I've made mine more rectangular, to be a perfect fit for my phone and cards *cough* I mean, my coins and weights!
The glass beads and bells are historical replicas of findings, I believe most of them are from Birka.
Do you do any crafts based on historical sources?
Sun and Moon Dance - Hagals hjerte
Last weekend a group of my friends and I went to see Birkebeinerne (or "The Last King"), a new film about a piece of Norwegian history dated to 1204-1206, when the country faced civil war and two men of the opposition/rebel party "Birkebeinerne" (Birchlegs) found themselves protecting the late kings' son, Håkon Håkonsson, from being killed by the baglers. The two men, Torstein Skevla and Skjervald Skrukka, transported the child to safety in what was a tough and long journey during over the mountains in the harsh Norwegian winter. The story is strong and iconic, and well deserving of what I am sure will be an large international audience. The filmization has however, as one would expect, been criticized for lack of historical accuracy and compliance to the story. The opening screen indeed stated that this was a film inspired by historical events, thereby escaping some responsibility, though there were some ludicrous costume pieces that hurt my eyes, and in hindsight I realize that I need to do some homework on this one, and I am sure I will have more problems with the storyline after I get a chance to do so. But seeing that I hadn't read up on the history in particularly great detail beforehand (shame on me), I ended up really enjoying it. The beautiful music, impressive landscapes and skiing-scenes (and ridiculously pretty horses and men), didn't hurt either!
We wanted to make a night of it, so I invited them over for a sleepover at my house, and cooked a steak dinner with root vegetable mash, salt-baked potatoes, mushrooms, and mead.
And we dressed up, of course!
Vikings on the bus (Anja and I) ^^
The film has been sold to over 60 countries, so most of you should be able to enjoy it as well (at least sometime during late spring or early summer this year)!
On a different note, I'm reading a book tonight that is also to be made into a film this year, namely J. K. Rowlings' Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them. What a nice and cozy read! It drew me right back into the Harry Potter universe, and I am looking forward to see how it transfers to the screen. It will be quite the display of visual effects, I expect.
When time comes, I think we'll have to make another night of it, and I will undoubtedly need to wear my Ravenclaw-scarf for the occasion!
As I archive old posts, but have been getting quite a few new readers lately, there are some things that call for reblogging.
You see, a few years ago, Danish photographer Thomas Lekfeldt (working for the newspaper Berlingske), visited a few viking markets, including some of the fighter-meetings in Denmark and us at Gudvangen by the Nærøyfjord in Western-Norway. He captured some of the atmosphere of the meetings, where viking reenactors from all over the world gather to live together for a week or so at a time, escaping the modern "clamor of the wagons" to spend time in nature and sleep under summer skies.
This resulted in a media-production with photography and sound recordings, combined with beautiful Icelandic music by Sigur Rós. Click here to read the article and here to watch the video, or see the embedded video file below (property of Berlingske.dk).
I could even spot myself there, wearing a brown linen dress in a few of the photos from Gudvangen, and the photographer kindly sent them to me, allowing them to be shared on my blog.
It should be mentioned that the viking reenactment society involves so much more than what can be captured by a camera. Not just in terms of the arts of historical craftwork (including blacksmithing, weaving, woodcarving), foods, music, sports etc. that were not covered in this production, but also in terms of the feeling of meeting fellow history-nerds and good friends (after what is usually a year apart), the joy of new friendships made, new things learned, and last but not least; summer bliss and total relaxation of the mind.
I remember nine worlds, nine giantesses, the mighty tree, before the ground below.
First was the world in the south, which is named Múspell. A region of scorching heat, ablaze with fire. It is impassable to those who are outlanders and do not have holdings there.
There is a place in the skies, called Álfheimr.
There live the folk which we call Ljósálfar (Light Elves), fairer than the sun to behold.
In Vanaheim live the wise Vanir. Here Njörðr was created, he who was sold as a hostage to the Gods.
At the end of the ages, shall he return again, home to the realm of the Vanir.
The sons of Bor made themselves an abode in the middle of the world, which is called Ásgarðr. There lived the Gods and their kindred, and many events and tales have come from there to pass on earth and above.
Of Ymirs brows, the blithe Gods made, Miðgarð for sons of men.
The sons of Bor lifted the land, those who Miðgarð the mighty made;
the sun shone from the south, on hall stones, earth was grown, with green herbs.
The edges of the earth are circular, and without lies the deep sea.
And by the end of the sea the Sons of Bor gave lands for the Jötuns kin to build.
The Dökkálfar (Dark Elves) live below the earth.
They are unlike the Ljósálfar in appearance and even more in behavior. Dökkálfar are blacker than pitch.
Óðinn cast Hel into Niflheim and gave her the power over the nine worlds, to share abodes between those who were sent to her; those who were dead of sickness or age.
It was many ages before earth was created that Niflheimr was made.
And like all things cold were from Niflheimr and all things grim, so were all things from Múspell hot and light. But Ginnungagap, that lay between, was as mild as windless air. And ere the rime met the blaze of the heat, so that it melted and dripped, there awoke from the drops and the energy created, a man-like being.
The above is my interpretation and attempt to list each domain, but it will not be precise or absolute. There is some variation in names and locations of each world, and in their relation to each other. One example is Hel or Helheimr, which is also treated as a location in Niflheim. Jötunheimr could also be termed Útgarðr, or Miðgarðr and Ásgarðr as Mannheimr and Guðaheimr, respectively.
Based on the sources we have available, we can each form our understandings, but I think it is impossible to be very conclusive. I have ofttimes tried to construct the layout of the world tree, its roots and nine worlds in my mind, but there are inconsistencies that make it hard to draw up. Perhaps it is not to be analytically constructed at all. Or perhaps important sources are lost to us. But what can be said is that it is certainly an impressing universe, rich with personifications and metaphors that can tell us a lot about the culture of the time. And the descriptions above form an open invitation to the topic of the Norse creation myth, but that will have to be a different blog post. ^^
Text: Selected stanzas and excerpts from Gylfaginning, Vafþrúðnismál, & Völuspá, freely translated
Photography and editing: Valkyrja.com
Music: Heilung (Kai Uwe Faust) - Alfadhirhaiti
Staying in with my long-eared friend on this stormy and dark Saturday night, listening to music while twiddling about and maintaining my Viking gear, fixing, scrubbing, rubbing, sowing, polishing and oiling.
Soo ready for the new season to start now (not talking about the tv-series, but hey, that too)!
I hope you are all having a good weekend ^^
The midwinter days - halfway between the first day of winter and the first day of summer in the old Norse calendar - call for the miðsvetrarblót.
People in the Nordic countries would celebrate and "drink Yule" long before Christianity was introduced, but the time of the feast was later moved to conform to the new religion as it entered the land and the laws of the countries.
In Saga Hákonar góða, Snorri Sturluson writes: "áðr var jólahald hafit hökunótt, þat var miðsvetrar nótt, ok haldin þriggja nátta jól" (meaning that "before, the Yule celebration would start with hökunótt, that is midwinter night, and was held for three nights").
The exact date of the Yule celebration in the Viking Age is unknown and disputed, but it has been argued that it was held around the first full moon after the first new moon after the winter solstice (and not at the winter solstice as commonly stated). According to this theory, Yule and Midwinter will be celebrated between January 5th and February 2nd., depending on the lunar phases, and thereby marking one of the quarters in the Norse calendar and the four main heathen feasts of the year.
I spent this weekend celebrating midwinter with a few good friends, in the snow-clad woods of beautiful Samdalen.
The temperature crept below -15°C, but we lit a fire and kept warm with sheepskins, mead and ale, salt-cured meat and sausages. We sat there and enjoyed ourselves for hours, under a the kind of starlit sky you only see when there are no streetlights around and you are surrounded by the darkness and solitude of the forest.
When we had used up all the fire-wood we had brought with us, and our hair and the men's beards had gone all white and frosty, we wandered back through the woods to the house, where we had warm moose stew while defrosting our toes and getting the feeling back in our fingers. I fell asleep listening to the others talking, and was woken up a few hours later only to be given a blanket and a pillow, and falling asleep again. What a lovely weekend!
Do you celebrate midwinter?
Skuggsjá - Vitkispá
Time to start planning this years adventures of a lifetime; our escapes into the culture of our past. We will have time off to live, work, create, fight, and teach during long summer days, feast under the starlit skies, and sleep in historical tents, on grass, in trees or cuddled in between warm sheepskins. We will meet up with people we haven't seen since last year, and discuss anything from big life changes to how this season's mead turned out.
(Is your market or event not listed here? Please let me know and it will be added.)
I hope to attend most of my usual ones and perhaps some new ones as well. Maybe I'll meet some of you?
Music: Faun - Karuna
Another year gone! And a fresh and new one is upon us. ^^
I am excited for 2016, and what adventures it may bring! When it comes to upcoming plans, there is a lot to look forward to. Soon it will be Midwinter, a time of celebration and Midwinter blóts for vikings and reenactors alike. Then there is the planning of the upcoming market season, and I am currently in the process of putting together this years calendar/overview of viking and medieval markets or festivals in Scandinavia (will share it here when it is done).
2016 is also the first year of a new Tolkien-con in Norway, Arthecon. While I do sow my historical clothes myself, I'll sometimes fall into temptation and buy fantasy clothing for special occasions, and the new blue dress I'm wearing here is an example of just that. :) It will form the base of a simple cosplay of a character in Tolkiens legendarium, her robe as blue as summer skies.
Can you tell who I will be going as? (Hint: She does not appear in any of the LOTR or Hobbit movies). And will you be going to any cons or reenactment events this year?