Wight of the Nine Worlds

welcome

I welcome thee free spirit, which thou shalt come with an open heart, open mind and an open soul, for what you are about to read can only be understood by the wise who are eager to learn and to embrace the roots deep and forgotten in the hearts of the free people of Europe, by accepting who you are and where your roots lie, is half way into the great road of life. We will journey unto where our spirit takes us with the knowledge we gained. Learn and teach.

The Yule Celebrations in Northern Europe


The December celebrations were held by many cultures throughout Europe; for instance, to the romans, the 24th of December was the day the deity Mithras was born. But in this post, I shall exclusively talk about the celebration of Yule.

Yule or Yule-tide is a winter celebration, initially commemorated by the Germanic peoples as a pagan religious festivity, later absorbed into the Christian festival of Christmas. The festival wasn't only held on a particular day. It was celebrated from late December to early January on a date determined by the lunar Germanic calendar. However, this festival was placed on December 25th when the Christian calendar (Julian calendar) was adopted.


The term "Yule" is still used nowadays throughout Europe for the Christian celebrations and other holidays during this season, as well as to refer to Christmas. Apart from this, there are other minor Yule celebrations which are equally important, traditional and historically remote. For example, the Yule Log is another custom, or the Yule goat, Yule boar, the singing Yule carols) and so on.

In modern times, although Yule starts with the chiming of the church-bells in the afternoon of julaften (“Yule Eve” on December 24th), the previous day - lillejulaften (little Christmas Eve) - is when the tree is put up and decorated and the actual starting date for he 13 day long Yule celebration in Scandinavia begins. Julaften remains the main event and it is the reminder of the celebrations held by our ancestors in ancient times.

The time period between Christmas Eve and New Year’s Eve, is called romjul. Occasionally children dress up in costumes and visit neighbours, where they sing Yuletide carols and receive treats like candy, nuts and clementines. This tradition is called julebukk. In olden days, in certain areas of Scandinavia, adults commonly went from house to house to drink with their neighbors; an event called Toftirus, during the 13 days surrounding Christmas eve.

A tiny list of pagan death-deities


The Deities of different cultures have always had their importance amongst the populace. We find many archaeological artifacts since pre-history till the early medieval ages (where in some places the old gods were still worshiped) of deities linked to fertility; the so called smithing gods linked to atmospheric changes and the power of natural forces of the sky and their influence over the earth. But such artefacts representing the fertility deities are linked to the common folk, whose work was agro-pastoral.

People worship the deities more closed to them and to their needs and professional affairs. So it is only obvious that common folk would worship fertility gods and deities related with farming, sexuality, protection and so on, because that was what they needed. Warriors would worship war deities, violent deities, bloodthirsty deities, etc. So what about the death deities? Well, the elites administering communities have the power over religion, and they are the ones who make the rules and administrate the social-religious cults. Linked to religion comes death of course, and all the cults, myths and ideias around death. People would only need to have contact with such deities, when a member of their community or family would die, or even themselves. But those whose affairs in society were constantly related with death, such as priests and priestesses, were the ones to worship the death deities.

As such, it is natural to see that the most famous deities are linked to death, because those are the deities worshiped by the elites of each ancient societies, therefore their representations and names come in all forms because only the wealthiest have the means to registrate, either in written form, in architecture and artefacts, the deities they worship.

That is why, till this day, we know more about death deities than any other deities; even if we only hear the name, we know it and we link it automatically with a deity, whilst other names of other deities are less familiar to us. So here is a tiny list of pagan death deities that you have certainly heard about:

Celtic

Cichol - Leader of the Formorians, a race of semi-divine creatures. A being who preceded the gods of Celtic lore. 

Mannanan - Technically a sea deity but is also associated with the veil between the living and afterlife.

Donn - Lord of the dead in Celtic lore.

Morrígan - Associated with battle, strife, and sovereignty. Most frequently seen on the battle-fields in a form of a crow or raven, seeking the dead.

There are many celtic deities associated with death, for the celts were a variety of peoples with similarities in their warrior-culture. They were constantly in conflict amongst themselves and with others, for the basis of their religious ideas was to achieve glory, honour and to become heroes, by their deeds in battle, the control of the art of war and their warrior skills.

Egyptian

Anubis - Guardian of the dead, mummification and the afterlife in ancient Egyptian religion.

Osiris - Lord of the Underworld.

Nephthys - Anubis’ mother, and sister of Osiris, was also a guardian of the dead. She was believed to also escort dead souls to Osiris.

Seker - A falcon god of the Memphite necropolis who was known as a patron of the living, as well as a god of the dead. He is known to be closely tied to Osiris.

Greek

Hades - King of Underworld. (of course)

Persephone - Queen of the Underworld, wife of Hades and goddess of spring growth.

Hecate - Goddess of magic, night, moon, ghosts, necromancy and crossroads.

Thanatos - Spirit of death and mortality.

Macaria - Daughter of Hades, goddess of the blessed death.

Melinoe - Daughter of Persephone and Hades (or Zeus disguised as Hades), 
goddess of the restless undead, (ghosts etc.).

Angelos - A daughter of Zeus and Hera who became an underworld goddess.

Erebus - The primeval god of darkness, his mists encircled the underworld and filled the hollows of the earth

Keres - Goddesses of violent death, sisters of Thanatos.

Styx - Goddess of the river Styx (the river the dead have to cross), a river that formed a boundary between Earth and the Underworld. 

Erinyes - Chthonic deities of vengeance

Norse

Odin - God of many things, including death. 

Hel - Goddess of the dead, presides over a realm also called Hel or Helheim. 

Freyja - Goddess of fertility, magic and also death. Part of the fallen in battle don't go to Valhalla but to Fólkvangr, the Halls of Freyja.

The scandinavian cultures have a similarity with the celtic one. In the case of Odin, you might think that he is associated with magic and all the cult around that. In truth, Odin was the god of war and death, and not many people worshiped this deity; in fact, the cult of Odin was made by chieftains, specific priests and warriors. The cult of Odin was very violent, therefore not many people worshiped him. With the coming of christianity into scandinavian ground, the worship of the Norse pagan gods was prohibited, but since Odin had had a major importance in the warrior-society of old, his cult was maintained in hiding and he became almost the only old god to be worshiped. This is why all the witchcraft practices also became linked to him and the story of Freyja teaching him magic, spells and all those sort of things, was created. Odin was never a god of magic but a god or war and death.

Finnish

Tuoni - The god of the Tuonela (Underworld).

Roman

Dis Pater - God of the underworld

Mania - Goddess of death

Mors - Personification of death

Orcus - Punisher of broken oaths; usually folded in with Pluto

Pluto - Ruler of the underworld

In the case of the romans, the most famous deities are not linked with death but with the imperial cult. The cult of the emperor and his figure representing power, righteousness, divine love and law,  was much more important during the roman empire (obviously).

Slavic

Morena - Associated with seasonal rites based on the idea of death and rebirth of nature.

Chernobog - The name means "black god". It may be associated with death, although there isn't a very strong association with it or anything else. There are historical sources - christian ones - that interpret him as a malicious god. However, for the Slavs this deity may never had that connotation and wasn't seen as evil.

Peklenc - The lord of the underground and a divine judge.

Veles - Associated with water and the underworld.

Lusitanian and Celtiberian

Cariocecus - God of war and also associated with sacrifices, both of animals and people, which may also be linked to death.

Durius - The god of the river of that same name (nowadays called Douro). There were many river deities, and it is possible that they were linked to death due to the deposition of the peoples' ashes, after funeral rites, on important rivers, including offerings of weapons.

Trebaruna - Goddess associated with home, families, protection, battles, animal sacrifices and possibly death due to the two last associations.

Archaeology: A viking blacksmith


A thousand years ago, more or less, a norse blacksmith reached the end of his life-journey and at his funeral rites, his tools were buried with him. Now, archaeology found his burial place and the artefacts buried with him. The findings give us insight into the work and status of a blacksmith in the viking society of old.

The grave was composed of several layers. It seems, according to the archaeologists , that the placement of the artefacts in the grave signify a relative status. At the top it has been found the blacksmith tools. An axe was also found, along with a sword and some agricultural implements. Deeper down were the blacksmith’s personal items, including a razor, scissors (for trimming his beard, perhaps), tweezers, a frying pan and a poker. The grave contained about sixty artefacts. At the very bottom it was found the cremated remains of a human being – it was the blacksmith, of course. There were other personal items; some beads that had been attached to his clothing and a comb made of bone.

It may be possible that the blacksmith's contemporaries wished to show how skilful he was in his work by including such an extensive amount of objects; he might have forged many of these tools himself even. 

It is interesting to see that during the Viking Age, people still had great respect for blacksmiths. Tamers of fire, who could create objects controlling this wild and dangerous element, molding metal and making a perfect union between earth (the metals it gives), fire, and water and air (which are also needed while forging). The use of the four elements by one single person, and the control of those same elements; blacksmiths in old times must have been seen like some kind of sorcerers.

The joy of creating objects, by controlling the elements and using both strength and delicacy, must be a wonderful therapy.

Samhain: Remembering our ancestors


Halloween is at hand; this most-awaited celebration (including by myself) where scary beings are the order of the day. Funny and pleasant moments spent with family and friends, enjoying the very natural atmosphere this season provides us, along with the creepy and spine-chilling tales we tell each other by the fire and with the lights turn off. Well, I must say, with the exception of Yuletide, this is certainly my favorite time of the year. But this isn't, definitely, Samhain (as it has been named): the far older traditional festivity of our ancestors.

I know I have written about Samhain a few times before. Well, in fact, every year I write about it, and I think I have given the reason why before - I do love this time of the year.But I think it is always important to remember the origins of festivities and the importance those had to our ancestors; it is a way to honor them by remembering the spirit of this season, and in fact, this season literally belongs to them. Samhain, and every other similar European-Pagan celebration, marks the ending of the harvest season and the beginning of winter; not winter as we know it today, but the beginning of darkness, as in the days are shorter and the nights are longer.

This celebration has pre-christian roots. Its celebrations began at sunset on the thirty first (31st) of October, to the sunset of the first (1st) of November. It is one of the four most important seasonal celebrations of the year. Literally, the essence of this celebration marks the beginning of winter.

This time of the year was when the cattle could no longer graze on the green pastures,summer was waning (note that Autumn wasn't known to be a season and there was only Spring, Summer and Winter) and farm animals were slaughtered and the surpluses of the harvest were stored for the coming of winter. Storing food for winter was the key for survival. Nowadays we do not give much importance to that and that is why part of the spirit of this season was forgotten. Samhain was also a liminal time when the spirits or fairies could easily cross into our world. Take note that when I speak of fairies I'm not referring to the little shiny creatures with wings, but to the term for all kinds of spirits, just like in the Scandinavian tradition, that Elves aren't only the good-looking handsome beings with pointy ears, it also includes all kinds of spiritual beings (mostly benevolent). Most of this spiritual beings may be the remnants of older pagan deities and spirits of nature, as such, people used to leave offerings of food and drink out in the fields for them. This, of course, was because people wanted to maintain the bonds of friendship with the spirits and the gods, and avoid all kinds of mischiefs from them. Also, it was a way to ensure that the spirits of nature were appeased and winter wouldn't be so harsh on mortals.

These practices during Samhain are very evident in our modern celebration of Halloween. However, most of these supernatural elements in this celebration now have a wicked or/and an evil aspect, due to their condemnation by the medieval church. To put on a costume was another part of the festival and involved people going door-to-door in disguise to recite verses in exchange for food - Halloween trick or treating recalls this tradition.

However, nowadays there isn't an important aspect of Samhain reflected on our Halloween. This aspect is obviously the honouring of out ancestors. As mentioned before, if the spirits of nature and deities can come through the tin veil, so the dead can as well, for they also belong to the otherworldly activities. People used to held feasts and invited their deceased ancestors to attend those same feasts. This was in fact the true reason this celebration was held, with roots in our prehistoric past. As you might know, Agriculture is as "recent" as 5000 years ago (in some "countries" - the farthest away from the middle-east the earlier to our era it gets). There are archaeological evidences that this celebration was held before the invention of agriculture. In ancient times, Samhain wasn't the celebration of a season and the ending of the harvest, because there wasn't any harvest to be celebrated.

The Coligny calendar (a Celtic time keeping plaque found in France and probably dating to the late 2nd century AD) with celtic words but written in Roman alphabet, is assumed to reflect a far older indigenous tradition of this celebration. The year (as with the Gaelic Celtic year) was divided into two with the division from summer to winter occurring at Samon[ios], which may have given rise to the word ‘Samhain’. It seems there was a three-night festival at this time (Iron Age people recorded times by nights not days), called the trinux[tion] samo[nii] - the three nights of Samhain. What people did at this time of year is hard to discern from the archaeological evidences.

Now, I think it might be relevant what I will transcribe from Mike Williams:

" (...) from the Bronze Age, and possibly long before, people observed the movement of the stars and an embossed disc from Nebra in Germany seems to reflect the celestial skies at the start of winter. The disc shows the moon (...) and a star constellation that looks very similar to the Pleiades. Given its prominence, the Pleiades certainly had considerable meaning to the people using the disc.(...)

" In Western astrology, the Pleiades is associated with mourning the dead (...) as with all stars, the Pleiades has shifted its position over the years. During the Iron Age, the Pleiades rose to its apex in the winter skies during trinuxtion samonii, or the three nights of Samhain. (...) Iron Age people mourned and remembered their dead at this time, then it may have given rise to the association between the Pleiades and mourning the dead. The Nebra disc shows the importance of the constellation to prehistoric people and it may have even been the marker people sought to begin their festivities. There is even folk tradition that Druids celebrated Samhain when the Pleiades were at their apex at midnight. Mourning and remembering the dead may have been the focus of the Samahin festival during the Iron Age. "

Unfortunately, Halloween forgot all about honouring our ancestors, and we seem to enjoy more what it has become. However, during the IX (9th) century, the roman catholic church changed their "All Saints' Day" to the 1st of November. It became the day for remembering the dead, the ancestors. It might seem strange to you to notice that the church, who so fervently fought against pagans in order to make people forget and forsake their ancestral traditions and impose and implement their believes, kept this element of Samhain. In truth, it was a very cunning "marketing" weapon to "collect" more worshipers of the new faith into their flock. The church knew it was a very important celebration and people sticked to it, and it would be very hard to lead them astray from their important ancestral celebrations so rooted in their hearts, so the church just included it in the new faith and both parts were "happy" with it. Recognizing and adopting Samhain as a christian celebration was a way to appease the mood of the pagans and turn them into allies.

Never forget your roots, your origins. You will certainly have time to remember your ancestors this Halloween. Enjoy the feasts, the celebrations, trick or treat and all that stuff, but don't forget your ancestors and honour them as best you may.

The 9th Room


The 9th Room

It was, as far as I can ascertain, in the year of 2013 that a most distressing event happened in my life. I can only tell you the year in which this tale of mine befell my simple and rather calm life, for I do not know exactly the month or day due to this disquieting event.


I was taking my degree in History and Archaeology and I had an important research work to do. There were specific books and documentations on a library far from the city where I lived and study, therefore, I had to spend some time away to be able to do my work. I will not go into details about such studies, for I fear it is a rather dull subject to the reader and it has nothing to do with the strange events I'm about to describe.


I went by train. It took me a bit less than seven hours to arrive into this town where the library was. I had never set foot in this place, nor had I any connections to it. I had only the address of the inn where I was supposed to stay and the name of the street where the library was.

Night fell swiftly when I arrived. The last fiery colours, before the world is consumed by utter darkness, calmly faded in the edge of the world, slowly blending with the gloom. A keen wintry-wind blew and whispered moans in the hollow trunks of trees. Upon stepping in the train-platform, I took a deep breath and clung to my luggage, for I was completely alone and had a few more miles ahead of me till I reached the town.

Glowing in the distance I could see the ruined medieval walls which once protected the town. I hastened to reach safety and light; considering that the road between the train station and the town had no illumination and I felt a heavy presence looming in the darkness, pressing its icy talons on my shoulders and cold breath on the back of my neck.
The entrance to the town was by an archway recently built on the granite walls. The streets were empty, but the shadows of the townsfolk were reflected upon the yellow lights of each window. The names of the streets had long faded from the stone slabs on important buildings, but fortunately a police officer, making the night patrol, gave me indications to where I could find the inn.

I walked on up a gentle slope, passing a few old stone houses, and there it was! - The "Polycarp inn". It had to be, because it was the only building with its front door opened at this time of night. There was a sign with the name of the inn beneath a lamp, but the lamp was broken and I could barely see in the dim what was written in the sign. Had not been for the hazy light streaming out of a window, I would never had noticed the sign.

The innkeeper was a very gentle and friendly woman in her mid-seventies. Her left leg was lame, but even so she went up the stairs to take me to my room and explain me the plumbing problems and that I couldn't turn on every light at the same time I turned the central heating system. I prided myself on being a keen observant, so I had noticed in the reception board that there were no Odd Numbers; the rooms had only Even Numbers and so mine was the number ten. And there it was right where it was supposed to be; the last room at the end of the corridor – the number ten.

I could barely sleep the first night. The person on number eight was very restless, it seemed. The room was right next to mine and it seemed the walls were very thin, so I could hear the person sobbing and walking from one side of his chambers to the other, barefooted, making that irritating pum pum pum sound echoing in my ears. Just a bit before the break of dawn, the sound had come to an end at last. Finally all was at peace and I shut my eyes for a brief moment. But someone was battering at my chamber door, calling everyone aloud, shouting that breakfast would be served in the common hall.

I dragged myself downstairs. I sat and ate and went back upstairs to have some sleep. As I thought of myself as being a keen observant, I had noticed that everyone at the table was as exhausted as I was. Most of them were completely aloof to the fact that there was food in front of them and that the sleeves of their robes were soaking inside their plates filled with milk. It seemed that I wasn't the only one that had a rough night. My brain was still sound asleep, so my observing skills were not yet acute enough at that time of the day and I wasn't able to tell which of those standing there was the person on number eight. All of them had their eyes touched in with a burning red. Weeping or lack of sleep seemed to stain the eyes in the same manner.

It was past midday when I left my room again and went to do some research at the library; for that was why I had come to this forsaken town in the first place. I brought some books with me back to the inn so I could do my work at my chambers, alone, in peace and quiet. I was arriving at the inn when I looked up and saw the window to my room. Next to it was the window of number eight; red shoes on the window ledge - a woman's shoes. So number eight was a woman; I could have sworn that by the barefooted-sound and the crying that it was a man. One can't definitely trust everything he hears.

I went upstairs to my room. I tried to put the key on the door lock of my chambers but it simply didn't fit. Inside my room, or what I thought it was my room, I heard the sound of footsteps and voices talking in whispers. Then all sound ceased and someone, barefooted again, came running towards the door and there it stopped. I noticed that it had grabbed the door handle and was trying to pull it, or push it, I'm not certain. I had the sensation that it was trying to get out. I was startled to hear that there was a low moan by the door, the person had its face leaning against the door and I could hear a rapid breathing as well. I looked up and noticed that the number of the door wasn't mine, nor was it the number eight. It was clear to my sight that there was a nine hanging above the door. For a man who thought of himself as being a keen observant, well, I felt ashamed of myself that moment. My room was clearly the last one and not the one I was trying to get into. I apologized to whoever was inside number nine, and went back to my room as fast as I could so no one would see the stupidity that I had made. One cannot trust half of everything he sees.

At my room, after pondering about my previous encounter with the wrong door, I remembered that there were no Odd Numbers in that inn, so number nine couldn't possibly be there. But what was I thinking? No, no. I obviously had seen it just then, and certainly the day I had arrived at the inn I hadn't see it right in the reception board. I had been tired from the train journey and was a bit afraid, I confess, when I got to the town. Yes, that was it, I definitely didn't notice that there were rooms with Odd Numbers. So much for my observation skills . . .

That same night, and the three nights after, the same moaning and sobbing sounds from number eight - well, from number nine, that is - were still heard. The person inside that room seemed to be dancing in one of those nights. At my fifth night in that inn, I heard a horrible muffled voice, seemingly singing a most dreadful melody. It stopped when someone came banging on my door.

"Who is it?" Said I, afraid to get up and go to the door.

"Your neighbour next door!" A woman shouted.

I went to the door to see what the woman in the red shoes wanted with me. It was clearly her, for now I was convinced that the person on number nine was really a man by the terrible sounds he made. The woman sounded a bit upset. As I opened the door, she spoke to me in a manner that I thought she was going to strangle me. I was very angry by that peevish tongue of hers and the way she addressed me. I was also very tired and with little patience for foolish questions.

"What on earth are you doing in there?!?" She asked me. "Could you please . . .”

When she was about to tell me to stop doing whatever I was doing, I deem, the crying or singing voice was suddenly heard for brief moments, and then dead-silence fell. Only a few seconds later the voice was heard again, seemingly to laughter, laughing at himself in a rather crooning way.

The woman looked at me with bulging eyes. A white fear struck her. Her lips were white, her skin was pale and she started to shake. Had she been a mirror, I would have seen my own reflection similar to her current state of fear.

I told the woman, as she could perfectly hear, that the sounds came from the person whose room was between ours. Then I realised that she was even more frightened when she looked to where, supposedly, the door of number nine was. I peered to see if the person of number nine was on the corridor and what kind of hideous look he had to frighten the woman so. My heart sank into a profound void inside my bowels when I noticed, to my horror, that there was no door at all. There was only number eight and my own room - number ten. Yet, inside the wall between our rooms, the sounds continue.

I and the woman went to get the innkeeper. In the process the sounds inside the wall had died away. Even so, the three of us stood for a while facing that wall, waiting. At first we heard nothing at all, and the innkeeper was about to say we were both barking mad when we heard someone. We heard a faraway sound of someone screaming, and then another person, not too far off, gurgling and groaning. Then we heard someone else, nearer the wall, laughing out loud. Clearly it wasn't the same person - I don't think it was a person at all by such sounds. There was the sound of feet going down some stairs and coming back up, and then a heavy door shutting and all was quiet again. Morning was about to break.
I wanted to forget all about it, because if I couldn't, I would never be able to sleep again. But, we had to get to the bottom of this. Was there something, or someone trapped inside the wall? Going mad by the lack of food and drink? Shut in the darkness of some old chimney? After hearing such sounds, it wasn't likely that these questions had some truth in them.


Everyone in the inn had been troubled by those sounds, but they were too afraid to speak of it or come out of their chambers to see what was going on. At lunch, we all agreed to check where did these sounds came from or if there was a way into the inside of that wall, for it clearly had stairs inside. In fact, there really had been a way as I had suggested. In the cellar, where the innkeeper had made the laundry room, there was a very large pillar, larger than any other supporting the building. In such pillar there was a granite stone with Latin inscriptions. This stone had been placed where a door had been. Well, I'm not an expert on Latin, but I always keep with me a Latin dictionary to aid me when I'm doing a research for archaeological works about Romans. Thus, this is what was written on the stone: Hinc natus est et hinc habitare. I had translated this to "born here and here to stay". But at the base of the pillar another thing was written: Pervetus Umbræ. For this I had no need for my dictionary; I knew exactly what it meant, though everyone was shouting and asking me to see in my dictionary what it meant - but I didn't want to tell them. Eventually I spoke. Pervetus means "old" or "ancient" and Umbræ is the term used for "shadows", but not just any shadows. Umbræ are the shadows of the dead.


We took our time trying to break the wall around the stone to be able to take it away and get in. We were so much concerned with our findings and all that process that we hadn't noticed that night was advancing with haste. We were talking with each other when there was the sound of metal hinges creaking. We were silent. Then there was the sound of a door slamming and hastily feet coming down the stairs to meet us. We all ran outside into the street more quickly than I can write these words or could have spoken them.


I spent the rest of my time in that town on another inn just outside the town walls. I heard that the police was able to enter that pillar, and found a large wooden coffer. Inside the coffer there were animal bones and fur, a rusty dagger and a book, a very old book with a black leather cover with words cut on it. They came to me to see if I could tell them what was written inside the book, but not even I nor the oldest of my archaeology professors could tell what kind of language was that. However, I could see that the dagger was made of copper and dated back to the middle Bronze Ages. Even before the romans had come to that place, but they clearly had an encounter with whatever had been born there and was there to stay.

Arith Härger

║▌│█│║▌║││█║▌│║█║║▌│█│║▌║││█║▌│║█║Cσρуяιgнт © 2015™

https://www.facebook.com/ArithHarger

A slave to my own mind


    A slave to my own mind
 
The story I'm about to tell you still gives me pause. There are many questions I ask myself, which, I fancy, may never be solved. I cannot altogether sweep away the fact that it might be the mere invention of a tired mind; still, the truth of the waking world speaks differently. The reader must judge it for himself what to make of this.
Before me lay a road paved with white stones; slithering its way amidst green fields studded with elms and fringed with firs. Where did it led? I could not say. I wasn't worried about getting to, well . . . whatever place this road would lead me to - if it led to anywhere at all - nor had I in mind from where had I came.
It was a cloudless bright day. The sky was painted in light-blue, and in the featureless and shadowy distance it faded into a soft glowing white. All was silent. Neither birds nor the wind upon the leaves were heard. I had the sense to be utterly alone, somehow forlorn and forgotten in the vastness of the world. The terrible and disquieting silence slowed my pace, for I feared silence did not wish to be disturbed. The road ahead, or the road left behind, was all the same to me. Was there an end beyond the houseless hills? Had ever been a beginning at all? When or why such dead-silence fell upon the road?
Suddenly a sound was heard. The sound of rustling-wind on fallen leaves; but there were no leaves on the ground, and the trees did not move. Then, the sound of my steps crushing both leaf and twig; but the road was clearly paved with stone and nothing lay on it, save my own feet. The eerie cries of night creatures echoed in a deep valley, and the air was left with a restless impression. Moreover, I started to feel something which was also out of place. It seemed to be a very hot day, but I felt the cold fingers of night creeping on my skin. It was all coming to me, as if my senses had awaken.
I looked on every direction. All I could see was the white road, the green fields and the bright blue sky. I heard and felt what could not be, or my eyes were cheated and what I saw was a delusion and reality was distorted.
I went on walking. The scenery hadn’t change, but the sounds of night, and what seemed to be a forest, continue disturbing my mind. Then I realised that what I was seeing was but a dream, and in reality I wasn't in my bed. I forced myself to wake up, but it was helpless. I continue on moving upon that white road, but in the real world I was walking away from my home, and I had no clue in which direction was I heading. I tried to catch every sound; trying to perceive if there was anything familiar, anything which might tell me where I was. But clearly it was night time, and all there was to hear was the sound of nature. With any luck, I wasn't very far from home and I was probably walking in circles on the park near my house. Was I to go forward on the white road? Or would it be better to turn back?
I went on walking, still deciding what to do. I had no control of my legs and my eyes deceived me. Then, a spine-chilling horror filled my mind. I heard the sound of rushing water - perhaps a river. Nowhere near the place where I live - within a radius of fifteen miles or so - was there any river, nor a brook, not even a fountain. Where was I? Worse, the white road led to the sound of the water. Now I had to get off the road and continue walking on the green fields which seemed quite pleasant to wander about. But in the waking world that would lead me even further away from my neighbourhood, perhaps. But then it struck me; before I realised that I was in a dream, I had probably been walking for miles without knowing, and to be near water, I was probably really far from anything that I knew.
My legs ached. I was afraid to go on walking. I decided to stay right where I was until I could wake up. But, after a moment, I heard the sound of footsteps. Someone had found me and was coming towards me. I could clearly hear and feel reality, I just couldn't see it. So if someone was there, why didn't I hear the person saying anything? And why was this person moving slowly, almost as if it didn't want to be heard? Now I wasn't certain if it was a person at all. There were footsteps, slow and cautious footsteps. Whoever, or whatever was there, clearly knew my current condition, and I felt an easy prey.
It was almost upon me. I looked in the direction of the sound, but all I could see was the white road, the clear blue sky and the pleasant green fields and trees. Yet, there it was, in front of me, I could feel its presence and unseen eyes staring at me. I heard the sound of heavy breathing. Nearer it sounded, and with each step the being took, its breath became louder and faster. I could distinctly hear a quick hissing breathing as of someone in strong excitement. Its breath was near my ears, I could even feel in my face the waft of air coming from inside its mouth. From within such mouth I heard a muffled continuous moan. Without touching me, I realised fingers were coming towards me, wanting to grab me. My skin was cold and the air from my arms stood up and sensed that presence, that ghostly-touch. The air behind my neck bristled and a black fear filled me. I was paralyzed.
In my dream, I could not follow the white road, for it led into the sound of water. So I fled to the green fields. In my dream I was running, but in reality it seemed I was merely walking. My feet were swelling, my knees were breaking, and though I saw a flat green land ahead, in the waking world I was climbing a hill. The ground was slippery. The leaves were covered with sticky water from the humidity of the night. I fell, and my hands on my dream were upon green freshly-shaven grass, but what I felt was wet dirt, roots and decaying leaves.
The creature did not stood behind watching, unmoving. It followed me, it came running, and it didn't seem to be the sound of feet but of hooves that chased me. I stumbled and fell many a time, and I rose as fast as I had fallen. The land before me seemed to stretch into the horizon. A land with nothing but grass and trees and a clear blue sky where the sun shone bright. But in reality the world was much darker and dangerous, and there were many traps for my wandering feet.
The creature was almost upon me when I woke up in my room. So, it had been all a dream . . . Alas! I was finally safe in my own room, lying on my bed. I wasn't sweating and my heart wasn't rushing. I was very calm, staring at the ceiling. A bluish light came out of the window, and my room was dyed with this pale gleam. Everything was right where it should be, but it didn't quite seem to be my room. At the end of my chambers, the wall was dark, the light couldn't reach it. In such blackness I saw a shape slowly standing up in the corner, as if it had been there (hidden) the entire night. This shadow was darker than the wall, like a stain in the gloom. There it stood, tall and thin, a motionless shadow of a man. There was no movement, nothing; it watched me and it made a single sound - that terrible quick hissing breathing followed by the continuous muffled moan. And without warning, it came to me in an inhuman-speed, not moving its legs and with an arm stretching forward to grab me. I woke up.
Now I was certain I was in the waking world, but I wasn't on my bed, nor was I inside my own room. I was standing in between the front door of my house. I wasn't certain if I had just arrived or if I was about to leave. Out there it was night. The moon was veiled and it was actually a particular dark night. Something was watching me in the dark; in that void there was a presence afraid to step out of the darkness and come into the light. I swiftly closed the door and turned every light on. I went to my room, closed the door and the window, and sat on a chair with my back against the wall, wide awake and afraid to go to sleep again. There was no knowing if the next time I fell asleep, I had the luck to wake up again at my front door where there was light. Maybe next time I would wake up just a bit away from my house, where the light can't reach and the darkness can catch me.
Arith Härger
║▌│█│║▌║││█║▌│║█║║▌│█│║▌║││█║▌│║█║Cσρуяιgнт © 2015™

Archaeology : The Viking feasting Hall of Heorot found?


First of all, I would like to tell you in a very very summarized way about the Epic Poem of Beowulf which is relevant for this specific archaeological finding. One of the oldest literary works, translated and written in English, is the epic poem of Beowulf. The poem tells us the story of the hero Beowulf who defeated the monster/troll Grendel - the terrible fiend who terrorised the Great Hall of Heorot, in which the Danish King Hrothgar made his great feasts. In this Anglo-Saxon epic saga, the monster Grendel repeatedly attacks Heorot after becoming enraged by the sound of feasting. The Danes were powerless to defend their people and fight against the Grendel, until the arrival of Beowulf of course. Beowulf came from the land of the Geats (nowadays southern Sweden) killing the monster and then descending into the fiend's den and killing his mother; in other versions, Beowulf descended under the sea to kill the monster's mother.


Now, speaking of such feasts, excavations in the area have revealed that this great hall particularly in the time of Hrothgar, did indeed host feasts on legendary measures.

In Lejre - eastern Denmark (on the island of Zeeland, 23 miles west of Copenhagen) - archaeologists are currently working on the site to reveal the truth about the epic saga of Beowulf. Lejre was the centre of one of the most powerful Viking Kingdoms, and in fact, it was a huge trading area receiving goods from all over the places the Viking traders had been; from the mediterranean to India.

The extent to which the events of the poem are based on historical fact is controversial, but it seems to have been inspired by the wealthy Danish court at Lejre. However, the current excavations held in the area have confirmed that giant feasting halls were an integral part of life at Lejre. Archaeologists have found a total of seven halls dating from various points between the VI (6th) century and the XI (11th) century, implying that the structures were periodically torn down and rebuilt. The earliest of all the halls, which dates back somewhere in the year 500 BCE, is the one most likely to have been the inspiration for Heorot.

On the site of the excavation of this great hall, the remains of hundreds of animals have been found, apparently killed and eaten at massive feasts, as recounted in the poem. The animals - cattle, sheep, suckling pigs, goats, chickens, geese, ducks, deer and fish - imply that the Scandinavian elite enjoyed a varied and lavish diet. Pottery has also been found on the excavation, as well as up to 40 pieces of jewellery made from precious metals.

The area is/was thought to have been largely isolated from the rest of Europe, but in truth, as mentioned before, Lejre was a centre of northern trading with the rest of Europe and parts of Asia; not having those people from those parts of the world right there to trade, but the goods being brought by adventurous Norsemen. To support this, there are many objects which have been found at Lejre, although, there is one particular and interesting item - an animal jawbone which is believed to have belonged to a brown bear given to the Danish ruler by another European king.

The Witch Pits - fertility rituals


Strange, but interesting findings. Archaeologists have found a dozen shallow rectangular holes near the hamlet of Saveock, which is near Truro - Cornwall, UK. It seems these particular holes were made by a secret coven of Cornish witches; a group formed in the mid XVII century (1640s to be more precise). Archaeologists dug pits lined with animal skins, bird carcasses and feathers. These archaeological findings go as recently as the 1970s. Such findings seemed to have been part of a fertility ritual, as it was revealed by the archaeologists.

The more recent hole dug with still fresh archaeological deposits, contained animals bones wrapped in a synthetic twine only used in Cornwall since the late 1970s, which indicates that the people who made it (and made such rituals) are likely to still be alive.

The earliest "witch pit" dates back to the 1640s and is lined with a slaughtered swan turned inside-out, claws from other birds and a small pile of stones were also a part of the finding. This particular finding in this specific pit is quite interesting, even though being a bit grotesque. It so happens that in ancient folklore shared by many European cultures, the swan was a symbol of fertility and new life. This may indicate that the rituals held were linked to fertility, and quite possible to help the people who did this, or close relatives, to get pregnant. It is believed that the items found in such pits may have been offerings to St Brigid of Kildare in Ireland, which is the patron saint of newborn babies.

Other pits were lined with the skins of animals like cats and dogs, and many have large numbers of birds' eggs buried as the chicks were about to hatch. Quite remarkably are the piles of pebbles often found in such pits, and these small and round stones can only be found at swanpool beach, which is near Falmouth, 15 miles or so away from these archaeological findings.

Every pit is very different but also remarkably similar. The items involved are always fur and feather, as well as birds' eggs in most cases with this peculiarity - the chicks in every egg were ready to be born, so it wasn't just any egg picked at random. Some pits also contained bones and the heads of goats and/or pigs.

Pagan Temple Unearthed in Norway


Archaeologists have discovery something truly amazing in Norway, something to give light to the pre-christian scandinavian religion. It seems it's the first of its kind to be found in norwegian soil, but it is so unique for a reason - it was deliberately hidden to avoid its destruction by christian hands.

This archaeological finding is located at the site of Ranheim, to the north of Trondheim. It seems the area where the temple was found had been occupied since the 6th-5th centuries BCE until the late 10th century CE (common Era). There are traces of animal sacrifice obviously, which isn't something that outstanding, for it was a common practice in many cultures of antiquity. This temple was dismantled and covered by peat a 1000 years ago more or less, to protect it from christian invaders as told before. The people of this place fled from the christians but not before safeguarding their place of worship.

The temple may have been built somewhere around the year 400 AD. It was thus used for hundreds of years until the people emigrated to avoid Christianity's oppressive religion. The temple consisted of a stone-set, commonly known as "sacrificial altar", and also traces of a "pole building" that probably housed idols in the form of sticks with carved faces of the gods. Deceased relatives of high rank were also portrayed in this way. Not far from there, the archaeologists also uncovered a procession route.

Being covered by layers of peat the temple was very well preserved. Such places covered by stratigraphic layers of turf and a very wet soil, tend to preserve whatever lies beneath. The altar for instance, where one worshiped the gods and offered animal blood, was preserved and we can have an idea how it was. It consisted of a circular stone setting around 15 meters in diameter and nearly a meter high. The pole building a few meters away was rectangular, with a floor plan of 5.3 x 4.5 meters, and raised with 12 poles, each having a solid stone foundation. The building may have been high and it is clear that it wasn't used as a dwelling. It had no fireplace. Inside the "house" were found traces of four pillars that may be evidence of a high seat where the idols stood between ceremonies. The processional road west of the temple headed straight towards where the pole building was marked with two parallel rows of large stones, the longest sequence at least 25 feet long. 

When archaeologists began their excavations two glass beads were found, and also some burned bones and traces of a wooden box that had been filled with red-brown sand/gravel and a cracked boiling stone. Among the bones, it was found a part of a skull and several human teeth.

The latest dating of the temple is between 895 and 990 CE. Precisely during this period Christianity was introduced by heavy-handed methods into Norway. Probably the people who used the temple were among those who chose to emigrate, either to Iceland or other North Atlantic islands. Posts for pole building were in fact pulled up and removed. The whole 'altar' was carefully covered with earth and clay, precisely at the transition to Christian times. Therefore, the cult site was completely forgotten. There are indications that the people who deliberately covered up the temple at Ranheim took the posts from the stave house/pole building, in addition to the soil from the altar, to the place wherever they  had settled down and raised a new temple. 

The sacrificial altar, a fire pit was found, which lay directly on the prehistoric plow layer. The charcoal from this grave is now dated to 500-400 BC/BCE. Thus, the place could have been regarded as sacred or at least had a special status long before the stone altar was built.

My Twitter


Dear followers of this blog, I would like to share with you the link to my Twitter (which I've just created).

Here it is:

https://twitter.com/ArithHarger

I just want to be closer to my followers and fans. :)

My Instagram


I just wanted to share with you my Instagram dear friend! Now you can follow me, and see what I'm up to, when I'm not writing or painting! :D

Here it is the link --> https://instagram.com/arithharger/

I thank you in advance for the follow!

Enjoy and take care! :D

The Viking age in Bretagne


During the late years of the XVII (17th) century, the Scandinavian raiders were already sailing throughout the seas of the known world. They have settled in many places, and raided even more. The first recorded attack in Brittany was when the Vikings pillaged the monastery of Saint Philbert on the island of Noirmoutier. After such an event, few were the incursions until the 830's. Charlemagne at the time built defences along the coast, which provided ample protection for the rising western Frankish Empire. However, the defences briskly faded due to the poor leadership of Louis the Pious.

That region had a strong sense of Breton identity and frequently revolted against the Frankish Empire. By the early 9th Century, the Bretons had won their independence under the leadership of Nominoé. Unfortunately for the Bretons the timing could not have been worse for the Vikings were about to come into their recently independent lands. 

According to the Annales d’Angoulême, in the year of 843, Brittany experienced what might be interpreted as the end of days. The events of the 24th of June of 843 caught the Bretons by surprise during the celebrations of the festival of Saint John. The city of Nantes wasn't fortified, for the denizens of Brittany had not imagined that such a thing, which was about to happen, would disturb their festivities. When the people of Nantes realized what was happening, it was already too late for them to organize any kind of defences, let alone any resistance. The Viking raiders had entered the city posing as merchants, but under their clothes they bore their weapons. The bishop of Nantes (Gerhardus), continued his sermon on the steps of the cathedral until he was violently killed before the townsfolk. The Norsemen killed everyone they could get their hands on (or rather their axes). The city was brought to ruin.

The scandinavians attacking the city of Nantes were raiders of Westfold (a region on the continental coast of the Fjord of Oslo). Their movements had been traced and recorded as far as the Hebrides, and they ostensibly travelled through the Bay of Saint George to arrive in the Bay of Biscay where they led a raid on the Saint John festival. They continued along the Loire River and terrorized the Pays de Retz further inland. Once they had filled their ships they returned to the coast, but not without incident. Two of the fleet’s ships wrecked along the river, too heavy from their booty to keep afloat. Finally, the Northmen established a base on the nearby island of Noirmoutier where they stored and split their spoils. Some returned north, while others continued their voyage south. They avoided returning to the Loire thereafter, for the new count of Nantes, Lambert, fortified the Loire River’s banks to prevent a repeat of the monumental catastrophe in Nantes.

It is well known that some of the Norse people sailed as far as the Iberian Peninsula (Spain and Portugal), which unfortunately little is known about the Viking raids there, safe a few sea battles and raids to the northern christians and the southern muslims. The Viking terror reverberated across the Carolingian Empire, and nearly all the Annales, or chronicles, of the time make reference to the carnage of the sack of Nantes, so everyone across Europe already knew what these Norse men were capable of.

By 847 C.E. it became clear that the Viking invaders of Western Europe had developed political ambitions beyond the sporadic raiding of the previous three decades. Their sights moved beyond Britain and Normandy to other, less defended lands such as Ireland and Brittany. The Vikings used Noirmoutier, an island in the Bay of Biscay, as their base to launch a massive invasion attempt and to supply the warriors involved. The resources of the island (salt) was a necessary resource for any army of the time, and the Vikings were no exception. The Vikings exploited the rift along the Breton March between the Franks and the Bretons. A struggling Breton army even solicited the help of the Vikings to help defeat the Frankish army on two separate occasions. With Nantes under Scandinavian control, the great citadels of Brittany suffered the same fate. Cornouaille, Broweroch, Poutrocoët, Domnoée, and finally Saint-Brieuc were brutally raided. The Vikings expertly divided the lands and conquered them. By 854 C.E. a state of full military occupation was in place. So it would seem what Brittany would remain under Viking dominion.

In Normandy, the heavy influence and frequent raids of Vikings changed the political landscape. The Vikings themselves became divided and often tried to raid each other. Charles the Bald (the king of France of the time), began a campaign to use the variable alliances of the Vikings against themselves. On the Seine, Charles hired Vikings to defend certain areas of the river. Once secured, Charles turned his attention to Brittany where a powerful warlord (Salomon) ruled over a large area of the region. At first, Salomon appeared keen on an alliance with Charles; the Vikings in the Loire themselves had recently been troubled by raids from other groups of Vikings. Charles offered Salomon land rights and the status of vassal. Unfortunately for Salomon, a simultaneous Danish raid on Chartres and Tours following the new alliance sent the counts of Neustria (Western France) into revolt. Charles was forced to cancel his promises to Salomon. Free of the protectorship of Charles the Bald, the Vikings on the Loire suffered a heavy defeat by Robert the Strong, the leading Neustrian Count who had had enough of the Scandinavians invading his lands. The conflict ended in a stalemate. For the next 20 years, more or less, a similar political and military climate dominated the region. Along the Seine the Vikings continued to sack and pillage, and the Franks continued to rebuild and attempt to mount a resistance.

Salomon was finally murdered by his rival in 874. The ensuing power vacuum caused a civil war between the Vikings in which a Breton-Frankish alliance emerged to weaken the invadors. The raids intensified after Salomon's death. An internal struggle again erupted between the Bretons and the Franks, causing the resistance to dissolve. One leader remained with a guerrilla force to fight the Vikings - a man named Alain of Broweroch. Alain mounted an effective resistance and fought the invaders constantly. His greatest opportunity came when the Carolingians successfully pushed out the Seine Vikings who fled into Brittany and disrupted the power structure there. With a renewed civil war between the Vikings, Alain fielded two Breton armies and led them to repeated victories. By the year of 892, Alain had completely expelled the Vikings from Brittany. Along the Seine things for the Vikings weren't good either. The Great Danish Army left mainland Europe and sailed for England to focus on the kingdom of Wessex.

Alain the Great ruled over Brittany after the expulsion of the Vikings as a sovereign king not loyal to Charles the Bald. The Bretons saw the Franks as incapable of defending them, and thus loyalty to the empire served them no benefit. A period of peace ensued. Through military endeavor, judicious alliances, and payment of Tribute, Alain kept the peace in his lands. Upon his death in 907 C.E., his successor - Gurmhailon - would have no trouble keeping this peace. The system put in place by Gurmhailon’s predecessor quickly fell to pieces. Scandinavian invaders again sacked the Breton coast and began deep incursions into Breton lands. The Bretons began a long period of restoration to repair damage done by the Vikings. Still, the overlords from the north seemed a new permanent feature to the Breton landscape. Raids intensified in the continuing decades after Alain the Great  died without a suitable or qualified heir. The situation grew more difficult when a Viking force comprised primarily of Danes sacked and occupied Nantes a second time. Defeated, the Bretons retreated to their countryside where they squabbled in civil war over who should lead them to victory against the invaders.

In 913 C.E. the grandson of Alain the Great was born. The child received an invitation from his godfather, King Athelstan of Wessex, to live under the protection of his kingdom. The child was named Alain Barbetorte (Barbe-Torte). Upon Alain's return he laid claim to the throne of Brittany. The little resistance he encountered was squashed. It took little more than a fortnight for Alain to gain support from the entire kingdom. Thus began one of the more aggressive and seldom known military campaigns held during the Viking Age. Alain led an army beginning in Normandy where many Vikings entered into Brittany having been forced out of the Seine river valley by Charles the Bald. After cleansing the northern territories of Brittany of the Vikings, Alain marched south straight for Nantes. As they passed through Viking held villages Alain’s troops left a wake of devastation behind them. Further and further they marched into the Loire river territory. A fresh fleet of Vikings had sailed up the river to sack the city of Nantes. Alain recruited these Vikings to help him sack the city. His agreement with them included something unusual: a settlement charter. The agreement was that if these Northmen joined him in battle, Alain would grant them rights to fertile lands in the Loire River Valley; so long, of course, they also convert to Christianity. With a deal brokered, the two armies converged on a heavily fortified Nantes. Within two days the city was taken.

Thus the end of the Viking Age in Brittany was near. The Bretons had reclaimed their independence. Breton Sovereignty lasted until the 15th Century when the dukes of Brittany finally accepted to join the kingdom of France.


Archaeology: Viking site discovery


Another major Viking site discovered in a tiny village in Annagassan - Ireland - said to be one of the most important Viking sites in the world. It seems a small rural community once housed a Viking winter base there.

We know that Ireland already has a known major Viking Settlement - Dublin - but it appears a second one was found in Annagassan site, 50 miles north of the capital. This place appears in tales, it was thought to be a myth till now; archaeologists started working on these "virgin" grounds and unearthed the truth.

 It was already confirmed that the Linn Duchaill site, beside the river Glyde and south of Dundalk Bay, was where the Vikings brought their long ships or longphorts to be repaired. It was also the base for inland raids as far as Longford and into the north all the way to Armagh. However, it was eventually abandoned as a port due to poor tides and a shallow bay;  Linn Duachaill was also a large trading town as the Vikings exported Irish slaves and looted goods. 

The site is untouched, it has not been trashed by a road and it still is a greenfield site, there is no motorway going through it and it is basically a "virgin" territory. It has been husbanded and farmed for the last few hundred years and is unspoilt. It seems to be one of the most important sites of its kind in the world, not just in Europe.

Radio-carbon dating has conclusively shown it is a site of early Viking Age. It is an enormously important discovery because it is of the very earliest period of Viking settlement in Ireland. It was founded in 841 and the Annals of Ulster tell it was used over the next 50 years continuously.

The Reindeer Antler Comb


The academically accepted date for the beginning of the Viking Age is around 793 A.D. with the sack of Lindisfarne, however, new researches suggest that the Viking age may have begun earlier. Archaeologists found deer antlers fashioned into various items, including a comb which dates to an earlier age (725 A.D.) The artefacts were uncovered in the town of Ribe in Denmark, which indicates trading connections between the Danes and the Norwegians in a period earlier than what was previously thought.

These amazing findings have certainly altered previous notions of the development of a seafaring culture in Scandinavia. Trade was an important factor to set the beginning of the Viking Age, and the attack on Lindisfarne marks the official start of that period, mainly because of the proximity to several concurring events. If we take other factors into account, the dates for the beginning of the Viking Age will differ a lot of course. However, the first attack on the christians by the Vikings was not Lindisfarne. Another raid tells us of an unfortunate encounter a few years prior to Lindisfarne in which a local official in Britain was murdered for insisting on imposing a tax on Scandinavian traders. Another example are the Raids in Frisia (modern day Netherlands) which had began as early as the 770’s.Now we have evidence that the Vikings had begun traveling for trade as early as the 720’s. What makes Lindisfarne the best candidate for the start of the Viking Age is that it was the singular most powerful event that brought the Scandinavian raids into the public consciousness of the world at that time.

The findings on Ribe raise a lot of questions, but at least we have now confirmed what scholars have theorized for several decades - the Vikings were traveling  merchants around Europe (and possibly other places of the known world at that time) long before they began raiding. There are several theories on why the Norse peoples started leaving their homeland to became merchants and raiders, such as climate changing and a great flow of populations and so on. However, the closing of ports to non-Christians by Charlemagne may have contributed to the increasing violence carried out by the Vikings, because they became so much dependent on foreign trade, and barring their way of making a living certainly brought an economic failure in the north and things got bad and the Vikings were forced to raid.

Ribe, the location where the comb made of reindeer antler was found, is one of the oldest towns in Europe, thought to have been founded in the early 9th Century. The finds indicate the town had its beginnings much earlier than previously thought. Thus, in truth, the Viking Age started with the trading of handcrafted items made out of reindeer antlers. The mercantile town of Ribe may have given the Vikings an economic incentive to sail south to Denmark. Coincidentally, these types of travels likely helped the Vikings refine and master boating and navigation skills that helped them explore the world. Merchants and other travelers from the north were visiting Ribe long before the start of the Viking Age.

Studying the items found in excavations, showed that reindeer (which isn't an animal native to Denmark), made up a number of the crafts. Reindeer did live in Norway during that time, and it's likely the Vikings brought the antlers to Denmark to trade with their neighbors. In fact, combs fashioned out of deer antlers were a sizable industry during the Viking Age, which lasted until the Norman Conquest of England in 1066. Other studies (not directly connected with the excavations and the findings in Ribe) have found that these type of items are commonly found in graves, which suggests that a considerable proportion of the Scandinavian population had reindeer antler combs, which served as a hygienic and aesthetic amenity.

Ascension Day


Beforehand, I would like to apologize to the readers of this blog for not writing as often as I used to. I've been very busy - and there is no need to make a list of the things that keep me occupied - so I don't have the free time I used to have to come here and write about something. I will seize these few moments of free time that I have today, to write about subjects I wanted to write before. Lets go straight to the subject of this post before my free time runs out.
The Ascension Day is a subject I wanted to write at the end of the month of May, but as I've stated before the reason why I couldn't have posted something as often as before, now I'll just have to squeeze in this May celebration in the month of June.

Once in awhile a celebration is at our doorstep. We enjoy the feasts which have been in our communities and/or country traditions for generations. But how much do we know about the origins of such celebrations? How deep do the roots of a tradition goes?

According to the christian tradition, Jesus Christ ascended into heaven after his resurrection on a Sunday during Easter - ascension Day is the universally celebration of this happening. Just like many other Church celebrations and feasts, incorporating folk traditions and pre-christian pagan beliefs, Ascension Day isn't different and has a past which was changed and given a new "look" by the Church. One of these ancient traditions during this day is beating the bounds, which is quite possible the origin of the Ascension procession (which is still carried out today in some church parishes).

When communities beat their bounds, which means going round the boundaries, the whole village would process from marker to marker (often standing stones) that determined the limits of the parish. In most cases, the stone marking the boundery was beaten with willow or hazel twigs and marked with chalk as a sign of the passing of the people. The beating reinforced the rights of the parishioners, setting the boundary of who belongs to that church, as such, could also be married and buried in the that same church and its grounds. This process marked the boundaries between the  parishioners and those who were outsiders, meaning, those living out of the village or in other villages, and those who did not participate in this process.

This tradition dates from a period before the Norman Conquest of Great Britain, so it is quite possible that it has pagan roots. The beating of the twigs in the stones, or maybe another objects, afforded the bounds between the communities and the outside wild world which was seen as the realm where gods and magical creatures dwelt. This was a process of driving out evil spirits before the land was blessed. In economical and political affairs, the procession itself may have been a means to demarcate a place of power, notifying neighbours that the boundary must not be breached just as the standing stones in prehistory did; along with many other religious and spiritual meanings, it was also to mark the boundaries of a community. Indeed, small boys often took the beating on behalf of the stone, ritually suffering to confirm the pact with the local spirits of the land. Some trees in the landscape still bear names such as Gospel Oak, showing they were part of the annual round as soon as the Church became involved in local traditions and ancient celebrations. 

As part of the church services nowadays during this celebration, the first fruits are blessed, presumably in anticipation of the harvest. This certainly replaces the earlier prayers and blessings offered to the spirits of the land at the beating of the bounds, ensuring that the soils will be bountiful in the year to come and that the next harvest will be plentiful. There are indications that the custom of blessing the land and its produce was widespread across early medieval Europe.

The modern Ascension Day feast, presumably celebrating Christ's ascending to heaven, has far older roots involving the communities' connection to the land around them, acknowledging the local spirits, and also offering thanks for the anticipated harvest to come to them and quite possible to the old gods of harvest and fertility. The spirits of the land and/or the deities, have been replaced by the son of the christian god. Ascension Day certainly has pagan roots which have been adapted and embraced by the Church.