Wight of the Nine Worlds


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.

Yggdrasil the Axis Mundi

You can watch the video about this subject in here: Yggdrasil the Axis Mundi

It was common in ancient civilizations the belief in an axis mundi, a central point around which the world existed, a connection between the heavens and the earth, the source of all life and also a connection between different reality planes. The very thing connecting the realms of the divine; the sky, the earth and the infernal. Infernal not in a Christian sense, related to Hell, because pre-Christian or pre-Abrahamic religions had not the concept of an infernal realm for punishment; infernal rather in a sense of an inferior realm, underworld, just like the world above is called supernal (celestial).  

To the Scandinavians and other Germanic peoples, this axis mundi was Yggdrasil, the world tree. Now, we have to take in mind, that the oldest documentations we have about Yggdrasil, are from the X century, and we have to be careful with this, because this was already a period in northern Europe when paganism was coming to an end, and since the IX century Christianity was already a force to be reckoned with in the north. And such polytheistic accounts were registered by Christians who perhaps had lost the true meaning of the pagan folklore, because they wrote such accounts many years after the conversion of the countries, and also, the Norse beliefs at this time had already a lot of influence from the new religion - Christianity. 

Speaking of this, let's take a closer look into two of the most important sources to understand Norse mythology - The Poetic Edda and the Prose Edda - which date from the XIII century. The Poetic Edda is a combination of poems that date far back before the coming of Christianity, but from oral tradition, and there's no telling how much these poems have changed with time. The Poetic Edda is the medieval version of such accounts. And the Prose Edda, written by Snorri Sturluson, is a manual of Skaldic poetry using periphrases or metaphors of mythological references. Snorri Sturluson turned to folklore, to poems contained in the Poetic Edda and other poems which survived in oral tradition to create this work. This work by Snorri Surluson is a synthesized and simplified view of the Norse mythology, in contradiction with other sources and influenced by Christianity since Christianity was the official religion in Iceland in Snorri Sturluson's time for two hundred years already. But about these sources I think it’s best to write another article, so let’s go back to the subject. 

We shall stick with the version we know from Yggdrasil, being the world tree. The term “Yggdrasil” comes from two elements: Yggr, which is one of the names for the god Odin, meaning “terrible” as in Odin being The Terrible/The Fearful/The Dreadful. And the term drasill, which refers to “the one who walks” something, “the one who rides” something, and it's also a poetic term for a mount, a horse. So, as you might rightfully guess, Yggdrasil is Odin's mount, vehicle, or horse. Meaning that this deity used the World Tree to travel between worlds; he uses this cosmic axis to journey into different worlds. But the term drasill can also be connected with the gallows, or hanging as a form of execution, which was compared, for some reason, with the horse. For example the XI century poem Háleygjatal, from Eyvindr Finnson, which refers to Sigarr's horse (a legendary Scandinavian king) as also being his gallows. This gives us the connection of Yggdrasil being the very thing Odin used to hang himself, kill himself, in order to be able to free himself to pursue the knowledge he so deeply wished for. We can see in here an old shamanic tradition of freeing the spirit from the body to reach the world of the spirits and gain knowledge, and communicate with the spirits and gods. 
There might be another possible explanation for the name “Yggdrasil”. It’s also referred as askr Yggdrasil, or “The ash-tree Yggdrasil”, meaning that Yggdrasil is an ash-tree, which might mean that this was the tree where Odin strapped his horse or where Odin tied a rope to hang himself. Well, after all, poets play with multiple meanings and what might seem to us a tree, it might be a metaphor for something else.  

This interpretation leads us again to a shamanic comprehension in how to reach the world of the spirits, through a symbolic but painful death, perhaps a ceremony around a great pillar, symbolizing the centre of the world, and maybe that pillar being made from the trunk of an ashtree, being a tree with magical properties and with a symbolical meaning to our ancestors that go far back since they began to have their first spiritual thoughts. Charlemagne, for instance, in the VIII century destroyed the great symbol of the Saxon faith. It was called Irminsul, and we still don’t know if it was a tree, or a great pillar, or some sort of idol. It was something big and vertical, possibly the remnant of this tradition of an axis mundi. So maybe Irminsul for the Saxons might have been what Yggdrasil was to the Scandinavians, “a great pillar”, a symbol of their faith and the connection between all living things from our world and the world of the spirits. The remnants of a spiritual shamanic tradition. 

This world tree isn't just the symbol of the shamanic techniques used to reach the world of the spirits, or a symbol of the very connection between worlds. Yggdrasil is also the symbol of that which gives life. In the poem Grímnismál, deer eat from the foliage of Yggdrasil, a great eagle lives on top of it, on the very bottom Nídhöggr gnaws upon its roots and that's where snakes also live, and a squirrel named Ratatoskr goes up and down the tree delivering messages between the eagle and the great serpent. This shows the amount of life a tree can give, it is the home of living creatures of the forest, a shelter and also the source of food.  

Another point, is that in the poem Voluspá, it is said that Yggdrasil is an evergreen tree, which is odd because the ash-tree is a kind of deciduous tree. But the Norns water the tree from the well Urðarbrunnr, supposedly magical waters that also give life, it's the Well of Destiny and it keeps Yggdrasil healthy and evergreen. And finally, as it is written in the poem Gylfaginning, three gods created the first humans from the bark of trees, one of those humans was a man named Ask, which means Ash-tree, making the ash-tree once again the source and creation of life, invoking the beliefs passed on by oral tradition, from a past far beyond memory, when our ancestors were much more attached to the natural world than we are today, unfortunately. But they already understood the importance of nature as the source of all life and as a means of communication with the spiritual and the divine. 

Introduction to: The Goddess Eostre (Video)

Introduction to the Germanic goddess Eostre, as a continuation of the previous video about the Vernal equinox (Spring). A better understanding of the pagan celebrations of this season which gave birth to the origins of the christian celebration of Easter. Also, the connection between the "Easter Bunny" and the Eggs. Tack för idag! :D

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Easter - Pagan or Christian? (Video)

Hello friends! This is the first out of three videos about the Vernal Equinox (Spring). In this one the question is simple - is Easter Pagan or Christian?. On the next video I will talk about the goddess Eostre and the connection between Easter and rabbits/hares and eggs. On the final video I will talk about the Northern-European pagan celebration called Sigrblót/Sigerblot/Ostarablot. Enjoy friends and tack för idag! :D

(o.O) ~The owl-bunny!
(___ )
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Introduction to: The God Loki

This video has multiple subtitles, you can choose between, English, Italian, French, Spanish and Portuguese. Many thanks to the contributors!

Hello friends how are you? I've seen that a lot of people would like to know more about the gods; I even receive private messages on my facebook page of people wanting to know a bit more about the rituals and how to praise the deities. So here it is, an intoduction to the Norse deity Loki.

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The Bear - Symbology During the Middle-Ages

You can watch the video about this subject in here: [The Bear - Symbology During the Middle-Ages]

When people ask you “what animal is the king of all animals?” the first creature to come to mind is the lion. But in truth, before the church imposed the lion as the king of all the animals, the bear was the real king, at least in the European continent. The bear was the symbol of power, strength and majesty.

It is possible that our ancestors during prehistoric times already worshiped bears. We can find bear skulls aligned in niches in caves, and they weren’t placed in there at random. There might have been an early bear cult, and unlike the image we grow up with, of people living in caves, our ancestors actually built houses made of huge animal bones and tusks, tree-trunks and animal skins, so those caves with beautiful paintings, were in fact out ancestors’ first temples. But let's not go back so much in history.

Anyway, we can find traces of the utmost respect, even fear and also admiration our ancestors had for these creatures, in folktales, changed by time and the different political and social realities throughout history, and of course, changed by new faiths. We can also see it in sacred places, christianised, but were once the places of pagan deities and with the new faith became the dwelling places of saints and Christian mythological accounts. For instance, the Celts worshiped a goddess which was represented with a bear on her side or in front of her. The bear goddess called Artio, and the name has a lot of similarities with Arthur, who in turn is also a name connected with bears. This was a primitive deity, linked to the fertilizing force of the earth, in a time when gods had not yet been anthropomorphized and were still represented as animals.

There were certain early Cristian accounts that show the importance the bear had to the pagans, and as such, the devil often took the form of a bear to come and terrorized the monks. The king of animals was turned against those who admired it, by demonizing the poor animal. In the Jewish and Christian traditions, the bear often has a negative symbology, and you can see that in the Old Testament.

When the missionaries began their process of evangelization through Europe, they encountered a variety of pagan deities, many of which were either associated with bears, or were bears themselves. To the Germanic and Celtic populations of Europe, the bear was the animal associated with royalty, so it isn't a coincidence that the most famous legendary king, Arthur, was also associated with the bear. It’s interesting to see that the bear, well, the she-bear, was connected to the warrior goddess Brigid, of whom the Celtic kings were sons of, making them little bear cubs. So there was the necessity to christianise this goddess, and so Saint Brigid was born, and later, this pagan goddess, now christianised, was associated with a real abbess of Kildare named Brigid, who died more or less in the year of 525 of our era.

To the Germanic and Scandinavian peoples, the bear was connected to the warrior spirit, personified by the god Thor. It appears that in certain Germanic groups, one of the imposed trials to the young warriors, was the solitary bear hunt. Although it hasn't been proven yet if these initiation rites were real or just mythical. Anyway, what is real is that the strength and the ferocity of the bear was an inspiration to the Germanic and Scandinavian warriors.

Many ancient cities throughout Europe still have the representation of the bear in their coat-of-arms. The survival evidences of the bear being the king of animals before the church replaced the symbolic functions of the bear for the lion. The lion was an exotic animal, and by the time it replaced the bear, sometime in the year 1000, the lion didn't belong to the European Fauna so this almost mythical creature during medieval times was easily adopted. But to this day some cities such as Bern in Switzerland and Berlin in Germany, to name a few, still have the bear in their coat-of-arms.

It's not a coincidence that during the reign of Charlemagne a lot of bears were hunted almost till extinction, because of the cult the Germanic peoples had and the pagan gods associated with the animal, and of course taking down loads of sacred trees. We all know about the forest devastation held by Charlemagne and his nobles, but we don't often hear about the bear-hunt.

To the church, during medieval times, the bear was the personification of evil, ferocity and chaos, because the creature lived in the dense, almost unreachable, forests. The forests were the dwelling places of the pagans (in truth the forests were the places the pagans considered to be sacred, once, but now it was their refuge from the horrible acts of forced cristianization). But the bear started to enter in the christian mythology in another way. It became the symbol of the divine dominating chaos, because the only ones who could contact with these terrible creatures and turn them into docile animals, were the hermits; those who would seek the most inhospitable places to live in solitude, for spiritual reasons. Only through their faith, and the connection with the divine and the power of god, could they do such a thing, turning a ferocious beast into a docile companion. Thus the bear became the symbol of the victory of the divine over chaos, and we can actually see this representation in the story of Saint Columbanus and his many encounters with bears, and befriending them.

The bear was also associated with the Devil, and a symbol of the many vices and sins condemned by the church. There were many accounts of bears being the evil creatures of chaos, to the point that they became the creatures that would kidnap young beautiful maidens and would rape them. And we can still see this in many folktales; the bear being the "bad guy" in the story. This actually might be the beginning of the creation of the story of "The Beauty and the Beast", highly infantilized and softened by Disney, and thank the gods for that because no child would want to hear about the real account.

So, in conclusion, the fight of the church against the bear, was a symbolic, and in some cases a very real way to free territories from their pagan past and convert them to Christianity and order over chaos. Unfortunately, the bear had a very negative connotation during the middle-ages, but at the same time, the symbolism the bear had during pagan times, somehow prevailed till nowadays, and I'm sure all of us remember the childhood stories of the she-bear being a kind and caring mother, and it isn't a coincidence that many children to this day still sleep with their teddy-bear.

Norway’s First Coin

Currency has been around for quite some time, but in the cold northern European countries it took some time to arrive. In truth, everything from the south took long enough to reach the north and vice versa.

In the year of 995, of the Common Era, when Olav Tryggvason became King of Norway (some call him Viking King but that isn't the correct title), silver coins changed their appearance and the king's own name started to be carved in coins. "Onlaf Rex Nor", meaning "Olav, King of the Norwegians", this started to be printed in coins. Of course coins were not something invented by Tryggvason, particular these coins with religious (christian) motifs.

During Tryggvason's time, Ethelred II was the king of England. Viking raids were still common, but things were changing, and not only landlords and nobles were going "viking", but also kings. Raiding became a great source of income to the northern peoples of Europe, which arose their economy imensily. Raiding was also to show one's power and right to rule, so above everything else, raiding was the legitimate claim to govern. So king Ethelred II had to face both the armies of King Olav Tryggvason and King Svend Tveskæg of Denmark. Suffice to say that the king of Englad had to pay a large amount of money to sue for peace. In the spring of the year of 995, Olav Tryggvason returned home with a great amount of Anglo-Saxon Crux coins in his luggage; a lot of coins already with the christian motifs well printed, marking the faith of those people.

Olaf/Olav Tryggvason was King of Norway from 995 to 1000 A.D.. Olav was the major "character" in the conversion of the Norse to the new faith (Christianity). He is known for this and somehow exalted by historians for being the key to the converstion of the northern pagans into christianity. However, such conversion was brutal, horrible even, with many gruesome accounts of torture and the most abominable, enduring and painful ways to kill in the name of religion and forceble convertion. Nonetheless, he was the reason for the first christian coins in Norway, and probably the introduction of hard currency, because before that cattle was the measurament of wealth.

The New Pagan Temple In Poland & Religious Freedom (Video)

This video isn’t just about the new project to build a pagan temple to the Slavic gods in Poland. This is also about the importance of Religious Freedom and this project in Poland is just an example of how we need to start to walk towards a world where religious freedom is possible.

Note: In the video I say Poland celebrated in 2016 its 150th anniversary of the christianization of the land. Yeah, obviously not, it was its 1050th anniversary! My bad! 😀

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The Origins of the Gods - Part 3 (Video)

The 3rd part (and last; thank the gods!) of this subject. The Bronze Age – The period of the human history where the gods of war started to be worshiped more often than any other deities. The Bronze Age is the Age of metallurgy, warfare, hierarquirization of societies, justice, laws and regulations, proto-writing and the warrior-cult. Once again, I used the Norse Gods as examples of the types of deities worshiped during this period of time. Enjoy and Tack för idag!

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The Origins of the Gods - Part 2 (Video)

Hey friends! This is the 2nd part of the Origins of the Gods; leaving the Mesolithic period behind us and going for the Neolithic. The age of the deities associated with fertility and weather. Once again, I use the Norse deities as examples of the types of deities worshiped during prehistoric times. I hope you enjoy it and Tack för idag!

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The Origins of the Gods - Part 1 (video)

Hello friends! I know this is a very long video (probably too long!) I’ll try to make it shorter next time 😛 But I hope you enjoy it!

This video is about the deities worshiped during the prehistoric periods of the Palaeolithic age to the Mesolithic. I’ve used the Norse Gods as examples of the types of deities that were worshiped during these periods in history. Not that the Norse gods were worshiped in prehistoric times, but certainly the gods of prehistory were the ancestors of certain gods of the Norse Pantheon. This is getting confused? Alright, I’ll explain it better during the video.

Hej då! Tack för idag! 😀

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The Yule Goat - Julbock

Hello friends, yet another video!
The Yule Goat, or Julbock, is a festivity held at the end of December and has its roots on a Northern European pagan past. I hope you enjoy this video friends; give some love and support to Mr. Thorstein by subscribing to the channel ^^ See you on the next video! Tack för idag!

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Yule - A Pagan Tradition

Hey there friends! This is a video about the pagan roots of the Christmas season, focused on the Northern European Pagan traditions only. I hope you enjoy this video. Please subscribe to keep the videos coming; your support and feedback is greatly appreciated.

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Introduction to: The God Freyr

I leave you here with a video I’ve done a year ago, speaking about the Norse/Germanic deity – the god Freyr.

You can read about this deity here at my blog, of course. But for those of you who prefer to listen rather than reading, I recomend my own video on the subject 😛 hehe.

If you want more videos about such subjects, please subscribe to my channel; your support and feedback keep the videos coming. I hope you enjoy this one and any suggestions you can always speak to me freely.

Enjoy the video friends! 😀

The Oracle of Delphi

One of the things that has always fascinated me the most, were the tales of oracles, prophetesses of the ancient world, sorcerers and so on. When I turn my studies to ancient Greece, I cannot help but to go and delve a little bit more into the knowledge of the oracle of Delphi. So let us leave the north of Europe for a time and go south into the ancient world of heroes and strange myths.

Situated south-west of Mount Parnassus in the valley of Phocis, Delphi was a Greek city associated with the god Apollo. According to the legends, the hill was guarded by a giant serpent called Python, who was a follower of the cult of Gaia (the goddess or the personification of Earth). After killing Python, the god Apollo claimed Delphi as his own sanctuary. 

Every myth has its own truths; metaphores protecting the culture and tradition of a people. So this mythological account might well be based on actual events. Historically and archaeologicaly speaking, during the Mycenaean period (14 th-11th centuries B.C.) there were small settlements in Delphi dedicated to the Earth-Mother as a deity. However, the worshipping of Apollo was established between the 11th and the 9th centuries B.C. By the 8th century B.C. the city of Delphi was already renowned amongst the peoples of the ancient world as a place of prophetic powers held by the Pythia.

"Pythia" was the name given to any priestess throughout the history of the Temple of Apollo at Delphi. The priestess, apparently, was a woman over fifty years of age, lived apart from her husband and dressed in a maiden’s clothes. It's described to us that the ritual of the Pythia during the call of her prophecies required her to first enter the inner chamber of the temple, then she would sit on a tripod and inhale the light hydrocarbon gasses that escape from a chasm in which the temple was build. After falling into a trance, she would mutter words impossible to understand (at least to mere mortals). These words were thereafter interpreted by the priests of the sanctuary in a common language and delivered to those who had requested the prophecies of the Pythia. But of course, these prophecies were always open to interpretation and often signified dual and opposing meanings.

Some interpretations of the prophecies were just what people needed to hear to convince themselves to go to war or fight a specific battle; and as you might imagine, sometimes it went terribly wrong. Nevertheless, some prophecies were accurate and things did happen the way the prophecies had been translated and interpreted. Coincidence? Perhaps, but there were major events that were just too great to be mere coincidence. Nowadays our society has deprived us all of the magic and mystery of the world and what lies beyond conciousness. So I will just leave this post here and you decide what to make of prophecies, although I must say, sometimes there are forces at work greater than our desires and certain paths must be taken before we reach our true goals with success.

Denmark’s new stash of Viking gold

It was found in Denmark, in a fiel near Vejen, a stash composed of seven wonderfully crafted bracelets, six of which are made out of gold, and one of silver.

The bracelets were handed over to the Sønderskov museum, and I must point out that this treasure was found by amateurs, and just like any responsable adult, the people in question delivered the treasure to their rightful place. Anyway - a little bit of personal thoughts on the matter - the bracelets date back to 900AD, and are decorated in a style typical to Viking jewelry weared by nobility or with high-status in society.

It is important to take in mind that the so called Viking Age is actually the "silver age" when it comes to hoards. The vast majority of them contain only silver. If there is gold, it is always a small part, which isn't the case in this specific finding, since objects made out of gold are the majority of this hoard.

Swedish King's Grave of the Bronze Age

The entrance to the tomb - [Photo Credits]

Kungagraven, translating - The King's Grave - is the name given to the Nordic Bronze Age tomb located in southeastern Sweden, in the province of Skåne near Kivik. A double burial architecture with more or less 3000 years old. A magnificent structure of an unusual size; it is the largest known burial mound in Sweden.

Unfortunately the site was used as a quarry for construction materials until 1748 when two farmers quarrying in the old mound uncovered a 3.25 meters (11 ft) stone tomb, constructed with ten slabs of stone measuring 0.65 meters (2.1 ft.) wide and 1.2 meters (3.9 ft.).

The stones within the cairn represent various symbols, including sun wheels and possibly Bronze Age mortuary rituals held before, during and after the burial. There is also the representation of grave goods. The mound contained two cists which are adorned with petroglyphs which show people and ships, weapons, lurs being played, symbols, animals (including birds and fish), and a chariot drawn by two horses and having four-spoked wheels.

Archaeological investigations of the tomb were carried out during the 30's of the past century. Within this large mound it was found another burial chamber which was called "Prinskammaren" meaning: The Prince’s Chamber (smaller compared to the first one).

Inside the tomb - [Photo Credits]

A Celtic Chieftain's Grave

To this day the celts are still a strong subject which awakens the interest of many. Although with each passing year we are coming to the conclusion that the celts were not a people but merely a culture withdly spread, and that in fact the "celts" are thousands of different peoples who have adopted "celtic" cultural, political and religious similarities, it's still a fascinating subject. The more we dig the past, the better we can understand how our ancestors lived, and when it comes to study a culture which left nothing writen behind, and the only records are from outsiders or from people who lived long after the culture they are trying to discribe was already the stuff of legend, it's always difficult to comprehend the true nature of bygone population who shared a certain traditional background. Fortunately, archaeology has given us new insights on how the "celts" conducted their lives, what were their traditions, political and religious consciousness and, of course, their daily activities.

At the end of the 70's of the last century, a celtic burial chamber was found near Hochdorf an der Enz, Baden-Württemberg, Germany. A richly furnished chieftain's burial mound dating back to, more or less, year 530 BC. The interred subject in this grave, laid out upon a lavishly decorated 9 ft (275 cm) bronze couch on wheels, was about 40 years old and unusually tall for a person of the Iron Age (being a bit over 6ft tall (182 cm)). Judging by the objects found in the grave, this man had probably been a chieftain.

I've said this before, and here it goes again, we archaeologists spend a lot of time with the dead, it's true. The dead (well, their resting places) provide us with a lot of information about the societies of the past especially the votive objects which are, most of the time, what people gave much importance to. The graves of people who were highly respected and revered by the community of their time, are always the ones with a lot of artefacts, and these give us a lot of clues in how the societies of the time functioned.

The well-preserved funerary objects of this grave provided a lot of knowledge into the world of the rulers of these societies during the late Iron Age. This chieftain had been buried with a gold-plated torc on his neck which is clearly a symbol of power and strength; amber jewelry which have always been a "must-have" material, due to its rarety, since the Paleolithic; a gold-plated dagger made of bronze and iron, that we must not forget that this was the age of metals and such weapons had no use in war but were merely symbols of power and prestige; a bracelet on his right arm, a nail clipper, a comb, fishing hooks, a flat cone-shaped hat made of birch bark adorned with circle patterns and punched decorations, arrows, a razor knife, and thin embossed gold plaques were on his now-disintegrated shoes. At this man's feet was a large bronze cauldron, filled with honeyed-mead. The entrance to the burial mound was facing north, and the mound itself was surrounded by a stone ring and oak posts. The east side of the tomb contained an iron-plated, wooden, four-wheeled wagon holding a set of bronze dishes – along with the drinking horns found on the walls, enough to serve nine people. The one reserved for the host was delicately decorated with gold, the tip being adorned with beads made of bones. 

Nearby the burial mound, a museum dedicated to the grave was built, and fortunately enough during the construction of museum the foundations of an ancient Celtic village were found - probably the one to which the chieftain belonged to.

The Viking Priests and Priestesses of Sandvika

In the year of 1963, a burial ground with 24 graves inside the bay of Sandvika on the eastern side of the island of Jøa, in Central Norway, were discovered. The bodies were buried in a sitting position, and after a close analyses the dating  of the remains go back to the years 650 to 1000 AD. The unusual burial caracteristics showned that these northmen belonged to a specific group of people within the Viking society.

Unlike other graves from the Viking Age, this graveyard was unknown to the human sight, because the bodies were not placed inside a burial mound that is could be clearly visible in the terrain, or marked in any other way but rune stones or anything of that kind. These Vikings were lowered into funnel-shaped shell sand holes. This burial ground is unique in Scandinavia, and these people are the only ones to have ever been found like this - in a  sitting position. So why were they placed like this?

Lets make a quick analyses of the bodies. The people in question must have been dead for at least twenty-four hours so that rigor mortis has made it possible to shape the body into a sitting position. Also, it must have been very difficult to dig out chairs in the porous shell sand, so to go into all this trouble these people were not common folk amongst their community. There is another aspect which must be taken into consideration. In 14 of the 24 graves there were found skeletons and skeletal remains; the other 10 graves were simply empty. The remains were identify has belonging to 7 women and 4 men. Analysis shows that the women in question reached an average age of 47 years. (It has only been possible to determine the age of one of the men, and he died at the age of 40.)

The women had an average height of 157.2 centimeters (5ft 2in), and the men 162.6 centimeters (5ft 4in), which is much lower than the normal height for this period. The men were as much as 10 centimeters (3.9in) lower than the average for the Viking Age (172.6 cm / 5ft 8in).

The dating of the artifacts found here, shows that these Vikings were buried fully clothed in the period between 650 and 1000 AD, (from the Merovingian period to the end of the Viking Age), and it seems like the burial custom ended when Christianity was forced with swords upon the Norse society.

Today, on the other side of the small river Hovselva (the Hof River) is the Hov (Hof) farm located in the northeast – indicating that there was a pagan temple located close to the burial ground. In all of the 24 graves there were found remnants of bonfires, so it is natural to assume that there must have been some kind of ritual that includes bonfire in connection with the funeral.

Another peculiarity is that about half of the bodies were facing north-northeast (facing the Hof itself) and half to the south-southeast. No one was facing directly east and only one body was facing directly to the west. As many as ten knifes were found in 9 different graves. They vary in length, but none of them has a blade more than 20 centimeters and consequently have not been used as Viking combat weapons. The individuals they belonged to must have used these knives for a very specific purpose. There were no other weapons found inside the graves, which is unusual for the Viking Age. However, there were also found beads, brooches, finger rings and keys, but there is no repeating pattern.

Summarizing: these people were buried in a small area close to a heathen Hof, and the dead were put down in a sitting position. There was no marking of the graves but they may have been marked with ornamental shrubs or flowers; almost all of the graves contain remnants of bonfire, and there are no traces of weapons. However, there were found many “regular” cut knives; the bodies were facing north-northeast and south-southeast. No one was facing directly towards the east.

So who were these Vikings? They might have been “hovgydjer” - pagan priests and priestesses. The knives might have been used for sacrifice, or were the tools of these priests and priestesses. If thise is the case, it is very important for the understandment of the people who practiced the magical arts. It was common in Viking Age society that the only ones to practice sorcery, witchcraft, spell-work, divination and so on, were only women. But in this community it might have been different; it's quite plausable that men also did this kind of work.

We also have to take into consideration that these specific men were very small, and possibly very fragile. So it may have been that the community found a way to give them a purpose, a trade, a way to help the community since they might have been to fragile for other harduous works. Or maybe we are in the presence of an old Shamanic custome, where men who had certain feminine qualities were revered and worked as spiritual guides. Well, this remains a mystery.

Dalecarlian runes

We usually associate runes with the Vikings, although these symbols have been an early form of writing spread all over Europe since the late Bronze Age (possibly even before that). Our ancestors started to produce geometrical symbols; they perfected them, simplify them, until we start to see in archaeological context the early forms of what would be the runes. This form of writing soon came to an end when Romans started to conquer Europe and the latin alphabet replaced the old forms of written language. But far in the north the runes remained till late, due to the fact that romans had little influence, if any, in those regions. However, christianity eventually reached Scandinavia during the middle ages, and it was thought that the Vikings might have been the last people to use the runes in a daily basis, and that the runes continue to be used only for magical purposes. But in the hidden deapths of Scandinavia, people still used the runes as far as 100 years ago.

The runic alphabet was the dominant written language in Northern Europe until the advent of Christianity in the 9th and 10th centuries introduced the Latin alphabet. By the 15th century the Latin alphabet had almost wiped out the use of runes. But here, in Älvdalen, the runes remained very much in use.

In Älvdalen, near Dalarna, in western Sweden, the local population continued to use the runes for centuries after the ancient written language had been abandoned by the rest of Scandinavia. Until the early 20th century the runes were still used there. The inhabitants of this region retained their very special language - Elfdalian - which is an other completely different language apart modern swedish (an unique old Norse tongue).

Here is an example of the runes used till modern days:

Illustration from: [Arakun/Wikimedia Commons]

As you can see, the runes of Älvdalen - dalrunerne - are reminiscent of those used on runes stones in countries such as Denmark, Norway, Sweden, etc., but there are a number of differences. Dalrunerne developed over time, influenced partially by the Latin alphabet. The use of runes in Scandinavia gradually ceased during the 15th century. Although there were some areas of Gotland, in Sweden, and in Iceland, where the rune tradition survived until the 17th century, but in Älvdalen     their use was widespread until the early 20th century.

The runes in Älvdalen were most commonly found on houses and inscribed in furniture, and were also engraved into "message blades" which were sticks of wood that were circulated among the farms in the area. It's really interesting to see that the people who herded the cattle up in the mountains would write messages to each other in runes.

This wonderful linguistic and traditional treasure remained till late due to the isolation of this region. A place deep in the Swedish forests and mountain ranges, hard to get into. While the rest of Scandinavia, and Europe, the Latin alphabet and Germanic dialects spread and gave way to the modern languages of the European linguistic-branch, in Älvdalen a little bit of the past remained frozen in time.

Ritual Spear found in Poland

A ritual spear dating back 9,000 years - made of wood and decorated with engraved ornament - has been discovered by archaeologists in Bolków near lake Świdwie (West Pomerania). The spear is an unusual artefact. The unique aspect of the find is the rich decoration on its outer, slightly convex side: interwoven geometric and zoomorphic patterns. The construction of the spear, and above all the presence of ornamentation indicates that it was a ritual object associated with the beliefs of the Mesolithic peoples inhabiting the lakeside settlements and hunting camps.

Communities living in the Mesolithic period often adorned items they used. In Europe there are known carvings made on various objects made of antlers and animal bones, wood, and rarely also on objects made of amber, flint and on stone pebbles. They represent the wealth of stylised depictions of forest animals, birds, fish and plants, as well as human figures.

The carvings on the spear showed the presence of different combinations of geometrical patterns in the form of single and grouped triangles, zigzags, herringbone, horizontal and vertical short notches and the dominant theme of short perpendicular incisions, arranged along the lines. Also visible are depictions of stylised human and animal figures. The analysis shows that central place in the image formed by the carvings has a ritual scene with three human figures. One of them is wearing a characteristic mask, made of widely branched antlers. "It certainly symbolizes a shaman - a spiritual guide of the community. The second figure is shown without clothes - drawn with a single thick line. Its position suggests performing a ritual dance. Hands are raised upwards. The third figure is presented in a long robe and carrying a bundle, possibly an offering. The scene takes place on the shores of a lake, by two boats. On the opposite side, in the background, there is an encampment composed of at least four shelters, presented in the form of several adjoining slender triangles.

The spear was discovered during excavations in the vicinity of previously studied shamanic sanctuary from the early Mesolithic. According to archaeologists about 9,000 years ago mysterious rituals were performed in this place. Archaeologists have been studying traces of these enigmatic activities since 2012. During that time they discovered, among other things, a meteorite located inside one of the huts, a wooden censer used during rituals, an unusually shaped stick, and even an object is made of birch bark, which is described as a fragment of a ritual mask.

Viking Cats - Onward to conquer!

We know that cats have already conquered the internet with their cuteness and silly behaviour, but in the past they have also conquered lands! Well . . . not likely, but the latest and largest genetic study of cats revealed how our fluffy friends spread across Europe, Asia, and Africa, and even sailed aboard Viking ships.

The world’s first large study into ancient cat DNA reveals that the earliest ancestors of these furry fellows reached Eurasia and Africa at the same time as early farmers (during the Neolithic), and were later helped by sailors, including the Vikings. It was already known that cats reached the shores of Europe through the mediterranian sea during the Bronze Age, but now this study shows that cats have landed in European soils in a much distant past.

Scientists sequenced the DNA from 290 cats from more than 30 archaeological excavations throughout Europe, the Middle East and Africa, including the remains of a cat in a Viking grave in northern Germany.

But why were the Vikings so important in spreading these feline conquerors? Well, cats have their importance in Norse mythology, and were often connected to specific deities. Of course I will mention the goddess Freyja, notoriously known as the goddess of love. In the Norse Mythology she has two cats that pull her carriage. And, of course, there is that one tale when Thor visited Utgard and he tried to lift the gigantic Utgard-Loki’s cat. It turned out to be a serpent, the Midgard Serpent, which not even Thor could lift; a spell was at work in this tale. Suffice to say, in this tale as well as Freyja's cats, there is a connection between cats and magic, because Freyja herself is also one of the few Norse goddesses to be closely connected to magic and Seiðr work - a type of sorcery which was practiced in Norse society, closely related to shamanic practices which I will not delve much into the subject because we are talking about cats dear friends.

There are other tales about cats in the Norse mythology, so it's safe to say Vikings cared about their cats because even the gods had them. When cultures include a certain animal in their mythologies, or in their cultural and traditional code which defines them as a people, it shows us that these animals where very important to these societies, which is why they gained a connection with the gods in the first place.

Anyhow, in this new study, samples were taken from the remains of cats dating to as recently as the 18th century and as far back as the early Stone Age. Around 8,900 to 3,900 years ago, when Europeans had not yet adopted farming and still led a hunter-gatherer lifestyle.

It seems that cats spread throughout the old world in two waves. The first wave arrived with the earliest farmers in the eastern Mediterranean, as indicated by the discovery of 9,500 years old graves in Cyprus. It contained the remains of a cat and suggests that the relationship between humans and cats dates all the way back to the early days of the Neolithic period. The second wave took place thousands of years later as cats from Egypt quickly spread to the rest of Africa and Asia. Their genetic markers were discovered in cats from Bulgaria, Turkey, and sub-Saharan Africa that also date to around the same time.

It is possible that the friendship between people and cats arose as early farmers began to store grain. The grain attracted rodents, which in turn attracted wild cats, and so began the mutually beneficial relationship with our feline friends. Yes, cats to care of rats and so the grain was safe. This is exactly like the relationship of humans with early dogs. The domestication of wolves and wild canine creatures created the best friend humans could ever have - a guardian to ward of dangerous animals and other predators. In a subtle way, cats also made their way towards humans, showing their abilities and their usefulness, thus becoming equally important. Cats also helped to keep down the numbers of rats and mice on ships, during long voyages at sea, so it's perfectly understand why cats were brought by sailors.

A Viking grave, discovered in northern Germany, is believed to date back to somewhere between the 8th to 11th century CE, and there was a cat in it which helped in the study. A search in the Natural History Museum of Denmark database of archaeological finds showned that there is no doubt that cats were commonplace inthe Iron Age and Viking Age of Denmark and that people commonly wore cat skins by the late Viking Age.

With certainty,  there were domestic cats back then, in the Viking society, because of their size which is related to the type of life of a household cat. Wild cats are larger and their bone-structure is much different, whilst dosmetic cats are smaller and are nowehre near the size of their wild cousins.

According to archaeological research there are also evidences that cats made it to Greenland, which points to the first Europeans to step into those lands - Vikings. Vikings carried cats in their longships probably for the same reason as everybody else, but maybe also because their connection to the goddess Freyja. Mayhaps it was easiler to bring domesticated creatures to a new land, rather than other animals more wild in nature and also connected to magic.