Monthly Archives: November 2014

Skaði and the Saami Part 3

I am proud to say that the wife and I are officially moved into our new home! It is quite weird to call myself a homeowner. It’s so delightfully…. normal. I guess it will be an adjustment. We got the altar up, and have already noticed a few new local spirits. I look to making the introductions. I can’t wait to break in the new work space! Got another novel to finish first…

For those of you that notice such things, I have added my email on the sidebar of this blog. I am open to comments, questions, ideas and your run of the mill hate mail. Ok, so I’d rather not have the last, but I want to be accessible to my readers. I recognize that some may not want to discuss some of things I talk about in the comments, and I wanted to offer a more private avenue.

Anywho, onto part 3 of this series…

Here we transition from Saami generally to Skadi more specifically. Mundal backs up the basic idea that Davidson hints upon, by suggesting that to some extent, Skadi is modeled on a Saami woman. (Mundal, pg 249). As Davidson points out, Skadi, like the Saami, is a renowned skier, hunter, and archer. I have detailed many of the stories in past posts associated with Skadi, so I am going to omit most of that. The Saami were reindeer hunters/herders of the north, and were known widely for being skiers. As Mundal points out, that the Saami go skiing is an entirely natural and normal thing; “… a little fragment is also found in the Norwegian Gulathingslaw (ch. 320) and the contents of the oath point to Norwegian origin. Here, among other things it is said that an enemy shall have peace as long as the falcon flies, the pine grows, rivers flow to the sea, children cry for their mother and the Saamis go skiing. The Saamis being there skiing is mentioned among all the normal things.” (Mundal, pg 348)

 Returning now to my original question, can we trace the concepts upon which Skadi might have been modeled? The answer is yes, to some degree. Countless artifacts could be brought forward as evidence, from wooden skies, bows, arrows, all kinds of hunting finds, blinds, and equipment. However, such things were not the exclusive domain of the Saami, and the Norse are know to have used many of these things as well. That being said, I think the most telling evidence is to be found on rock art in northern Scandinavia. Across numerous panels, from Alta in Finnmark, as well as other sites, there is a full catalogue of hunting carvings, engravings and paintings. I have not the space to detail them all here.

A notable example is a carving of a skier, dated from the late Mesolithic, found at Bola, in Nord-Tondelag. This single piece of artwork could be as old as 6500 BCE. (Bjerk, pg 85) Eight thousand year ago, the Saami, or those like them, were still going skiing.

Perhaps Skadi was as well… 

That brings an end to the current series. There is so much that I have only begin to scratch the surface on, and there will be more in the long run.

As for near future projects, I have an article on Old Norse initiations and the bear cult I am reading through right now. Also, with my focus being mostly ancestor and spirit work, I am working on gathering folklore and other sources so I can discuss the more “everyday” spirits.

References/Sources;

Davidson, Hilda Ellis. The Lost Beliefs of Northern Europe.

Mundal, Else. Coexistence of Saami and Norse Culture – reflected in and interpreted by Old Norse myths

Bjerk, Hein. Norwegian Mesolithic Trends

Advertisements

Viking Dogs Followed Their Masters to Valhalla

ThorNews

Viking Dog Gokstad Ship

The eight large dogs that were found in the Gokstad burial mound may have looked like this Irish Wolfhound. (Photo: hunden.no)

In Viking Age ship graves there have been found large amounts of animal bones: In the Gokstad burial mound dating back to about 900 AD, in addition to bones from two peacocks, several hawks and fourteen horses, it was found eight large sighthounds (Old Norse: mjór) buried on both sides outside the ship. Archaeologists also found a small lapdog buried inside the ship.

– Sighthounds are large dogs, which may resemble Irish Wolfhounds. They had a very high value. I have found that even small dogs had a high value by studying the Frostathing law. If somebody killed such a dog they had to pay a fine equivalent to the price of a thrall (slave), Assistant Professor Anne Karin Huftammer from the Natural History Collections at Bergen Museum told…

View original post 345 more words


Updates and Thoughts

I have the last part of my recent Skadi series forthcoming soon, but I wanted to stop and update everyone on what is going on.

It has been crazy busy around here the last couple of weeks. My wife and I have officially closed on our first house, and we are really excited about it! I will have my forge, and the space of a one car garage at my disposal. Oooh, the possibilities.

With all my stuff in one place, I will be able to get some work done. This apartment is just not any good for that. As such, perhaps this blog will be home to some more hands-on work. I intend to deepen my work with bow making, and have plenty of knives to forge. In addition, I am beginning my adventures in both leatherworking and flintknapping. So stay tuned for some stuff on all this.

On that note, I have already taken a small doe this year, and have her hide curing at the moment. I also got a buck hide from the guy that helped me butcher, and that is curing as well. I will start tanning them as soon as I can get set up at the new house.

The writing has been stop and go at the current time. With all the new-house stuff, I think this is understandable. I am still shooting to get another book done this year, and ideally before the chaos of the holidays begin. It has not been to bad of a writing year, though not as productive as last year. Given everything, I not surprised. I will be happy with about 200,000 words this year. I am somewhere around 150k right now.

So, I have been watching my stats since I changed to shorter posts. I am not noticing much of a difference to date. Maybe it needs more time. Either way, the shorter posts are driving me a bit batty, but I also like posting material each week. I think I can going to go with a more balanced approach. I think I will continue to break up longer posts, so I can do weekly segments. However, I will also do the occasional longer post, just because they are easier for me to write.

I just packed up the altar space tonight, and that will be moved over tomorrow, though I probably will not get it set back up until this weekend. It makes the whole place (the apartment) feel off… Incomplete, empty. I can still talk with my gods, ancestors, and spirits, sure, but I like that connection the altar brings.

Working with Skadi, my ancestors, and spirits has been interesting lately. I think I am starting to understand why Skadi chose to work with me. I have noted before I lack the god-phone, and am primarily an ancestor and spirit worker. The indications lately have been that Skadi is an ancestor of sorts. Not that I am her son or anything like that, but like she is a distant clan mother. I am a bit of a skeptic, so I am still working to confirm this. But in a way, it kind of makes sense. It would make her my oldest known ancestor. I have written before about divine ancestry a little, so this is one of those things that I am not certain about, but that makes sense. I mean, if you think about it, numerous people could be descended from her. Millions maybe. The stories and lore are ripe with gods and mortals getting freaky. If you consider the number of gods, and the number of people on the planet, could it be said that most people have divine ancestry from somewhere? Some of them got around, so I would say it is not impossible. Certainly shifts my personal narrative around a little.

I come from a family of hunters, my dad, my granddad, uncles, aunts and so on. Most of my family have a connection to animals and the outdoors, a little on the wild side, even if not strictly hunters. Could it be because our clan mother was a little on the wild side?

It is often said that the ancestors are those most concerned with our welfare and success, and I would think that includes divine ancestors as well.

Something to ponder at least. Until next time!


Skaði and the Saami Part 2

Scandinavia has been populated since the glaciers retreated some 12,000 years ago. Some argue that these earliest people may have been ancestors to the Saami, while others argue that these people were later replaced by the ancestors of the Saami. There is not enough information to say for sure, only that there have been people in Scandinavia well before we have historical records of them. We can say for sure, however, that the Saami were in Scandinavia well before the first arrival of the Indo-Europeans around 2300 BCE, and the Germanic/Nordic bronze Age that followed.  I don’t have the space here to discuss all the nuances of the archaeological record, so I will leave that be for now.

Going back to the quote from Davidson, the question can be asked, how far do the basic concepts, the basic essence of Skadi go back? How far back can we trace the ideas that may have influenced her as we know her today? Here we turn to Mundal again; ” The consciousness among the Nordic people of this “other people” (Saami) who were so different from themselves, gives reason to ask whether the relation between the two people may have been interpreted and understood in the light of mythic patterns, and perhaps is reflected in the myths themselves.

When Saami people and their world and the relation between the Saami and the Nordic people is described in Old Norse texts, the parallels to patterns in the mythic world are sometimes striking. A detail in the text – or in the literary motif – which shows that the parallel is not accidental is the choice of certain words when Saamis are described. In some texts – or in some motifs – the Saamis are called jotnar, ‘giants’, or a few times dvergar, ‘dwarfs’. In the text the Saami man – or woman – may be called Saami and jotunn alternatively, or in some texts Saamis and jotnar are presented as members of the same family.” (Mundal, pg 348)

Some interesting implications here, and I have commented before on how jotunn are of Utgard, outsiders in a sense. It should come as little surprise that such “outsiders” or “otherness” is translated into mythical forms. Especially from the Aesir, which take the place as conquerors and champions against the jotunns. So then, we see mythical retellings of a conquering people fighting with indigenous people.

Once again, Mundal brings the point home; ” The otherness of the Saamis and their culture and the fact that they mostly lived outside the areas where the Nordic people lived, especially in the North, but farther south also in the border areas between Norway and Sweden and in the inland of Eastern Norway, conformed to the pattern of Midgardr–Útgardr. According to the mythological map the Saamis became the Útgardr people.” (Mundal, 349)

Part 3 will be coming soon!

References/Sources;

Davidson, Hilda Ellis. The Lost Beliefs of Northern Europe.

Mundal, Else. Coexistence of Saami and Norse Culture – reflected in and interpreted by Old Norse myths

Bjerk, Hein. Norwegian Mesolithic Trends


Hunting and Sacrifices

This post was prompted by an article over at the Wild Hunt, where I asked some questions about where hunting stood in the nature of sacrifices.  The articles is linked below. In addition, so is some of my other works along similar lines.

I have been following the discussions in the blog communities with interest, as animal sacrifice is a bit of a hot topic these days. The whole debate is quite intriguing.

So here is the questions I asked in context of the article;

1) Small-farm, loving-raised animals have been addressed as acceptable for sacrifice. What about wild animals? “Nature” raised?
2) Hunting is very much a game of chance, and prey species often withhold consent (my experience). They don’t give their lives willingly, especially to a predator/hunter. Can this still be considered a sacrifice?
3) What about if the kill is not “humane”? Bad shots happen in hunting, for many factors. Can this still be considered a sacrifice?

I got some great responses, and I wanted to discuss them here.

“Consult your deities!” Cat C-B

This is one of the foundations of any sacrifice or offerings involving animals.  I agree entirely, and this is part of my practice.  But not just my deities, but also my ancestors and the spirits I work with. They are the first and last point of contact, and the ultimate decider concerning what is a “sacrifice”. As I have mentioned before, I don’t have much of a god-phone, so I only work with Skadi. That means the ancestors and the spirits are just as central to my work as the gods.

“But it is very true–even with the best will in the world, hunters do not have perfect control over a shot. And it is best to understand up front that the ideal, of an animal that does not find its suffering prolonged, may not always translate to the real. I suspect our ancestors were well aware of this–and I’m quite confident my gods are. In reality, the best we can manage is likely, “no needless suffering.””  Cat C-B

Honestly, I could not have said it better myself. Skill with a bow or gun is helpful of course, but even with skill I have no control over things like wind, cold, foliage cover, or the flood of adrenaline that makes your hands shake.

“Wild hunted animals have led a better life and probably are a more humane option than even well reared farm ones. Incorporate divining and prayer before the hunt – make it as clean a kill as possible, dispatch quickly if needed and make an offering when dead. If it’s bad, finish it off and make some recompense – apologies to the animal, take a week off or something.” linguliformean

Two very important points here. Divination, prayer, and pretty intensive spirit work go into my preseason, as well as before hunts. Clean kills are the ideal of course, but as Cat C-B pointed out, not always the reality. Once the animal is dead, I am responsible for it, the physical remains as well as spiritually. More on this in a moment.

“… I would hold a ritual of blessing and dedication to Herne, the Hunter and ask him to bless my bow (or rifle depending on the season in question). If my hunt was successful, I would offer a prayer of thanks to Herne and offer a prayer of blessing and gratitude to the spirit of the animal hunted. While field dressing the animal, a portion would be left behind as an offering to the Lord and Lady of Animals in thanks and ask that they ease any lingering fear or pain attached to the spirit of the animal I just killed and that it be allowed to return to the herd in the next birthing season.” –

Some good points. Here I want to expand on my responsibilities as a hunter. First off, I guess I would replace Herne with Skadi. Second, prayers, offerings and portions for deity, ancestors and spirits is a part of my practice after the kill. Not only is it my responsibility to do my best to ensure ” no needless suffering” in shooting and recovery of what I shot, I am also spiritually responsible for the kill, as well as ethically responsible to use everything I can of the physical parts. To use the Riddick adage, “You keep what you kill” in the widest sense. I am responsible for the spiritual well-being of what I kill, and this includes offerings to the animal itself, any guardian spirits, as well as its ancestors. The goal being, is that the spirit (and/or any in its “community”) does not harbor any ill will. Third, the last part is one of the best. Allowing it to return to the cycle of rebirth, not only for the sake of the spirit itself, but for a continuation of good fortune in the hunt. That is what I meant by being responsible for what I kill. I have had spirits follow me around until I helped them “cross over” and return to the cycle of rebirth, and often to the keeping of their ancestors. A kind of spiritual conservation.

” In the context I am knowledgeable of, wild animals do not seem to have been used as sacrificial offerings… There is also the issue of quality control – the animal offered should be the best you can present. This involves having raised it yourself to ensure that it is the best of the flock/herd. When you hunt, there is no guarantee that your quarry will be suitable. Finally, there is methodology – right practice is an extremely important part of ritual. When you kill an animal on the hunt, you do not have the surety of a tried and tested method of sacrifice.” – Lēoht “Sceadusawol” Steren

I can see how context is important, and really, this one comes down to a difference in context. Perhaps Lēoht’s context does not allow wild animals to be sacrifices, but that has not been my experience. Certainly, such contexts, cultures, traditions what have you exist. Traditions and beliefs may vary. Concerning the “best” of the herd, what characteristics are considered “best?” The fattest pig? The strongest bull? The most productive chicken? In regard to hunting, would these be the largest rack? (Snicker)

I have made reference to a couple of my posts on such things below. As to the last part, who defines “right” methodology? By what standards are “tried and tested” methods measured? There are many diverse ways to approach sacrifice, and I do not think any one method is the “right” one. That is for the gods to decide.

“There was a good thread on FB on this from a Heathen perspective. IIRC wild animals are not acceptable for blot because they belong to the utgard. The tradition is that domestic animals were given by the gods to humanity, so we offer back that gift.” – Northern_Light_27

Now I got to say, this is one of the more interesting comments. I have not heard of such a thing or thought of this before. I do have quite a Northern bend to my practice, that is to be said. My question is this then, what happens if the deity I work with, being Skadi, is (partially) of utgard?

Ultimately in my opinion the details are really between the person, and the gods, ancestors and spirits they work with. Whether or not something is, or is not acceptable , is up to (T)them. The best I can do is ensure the animal does not suffer needlessly, that I make the best possible effort to find animals I shoot, that I use the remains to the fullest extent, and that I make sure the animal is cared for spiritually and joins the cycle of rebirth so the hunt can continue.

I always welcome comment and further discussion!

References;

http://wildhunt.org/2014/11/animal-sacrifice-in-modern-paganism.html

https://fireiceandsteel.wordpress.com/2014/05/27/hunting-and-blood-rites/

https://fireiceandsteel.wordpress.com/2013/08/19/animism-polytheism-and-shamanism/

https://fireiceandsteel.wordpress.com/2013/08/05/bears-and-the-ancient-north/


Skaði and the Saami, Part 1

It has been a rough couple of weeks, so I am honestly surprised I got any blog work done at all. For those that want to know, my mom was diagnosed with stage 4 Metastatic cancer about two months or so ago. As of last week, on the 28th, she lost that fight, and she goes now to join the ancestors. It has been hard on the family, and on me. Yet, there comes a time when you have to get back on the horse and move forward with your life. That is not to say I am not grieving, because I am, but because I am just not very good at being idle. I would rather be busy, at least as a distraction. Plus I know mom wouldn’t want me to give up on my work.

As such, this new series of posts was inspired by the below selection that I originally came across on Wikipedia. I have not yet been able to acquire the book that was cited, but I am still going to use it as an introduction to this work.

Scholar Hilda Ellis Davidson proposes that Skaði’s cult may have thrived in Hålogaland, a province in northern Norway, because “she shows characteristics of the Sami people, who were renowned for skiing, shooting with the bow and hunting; her separation from Njord might point to a split between her cult and that of the Vanir in this region, where Scandinavians and the Sami were in close contact.” (Davidson, pgs 61—62). The proposed connection to the Sami is an interesting one, and one that will be explored over the course of this series.

As I have mentioned before, the Jotuns, like Skadi, are amongst the oldest known beings in the northern lore. They are prehistoric, predating even the agricultural Vanir and the warrior Aesir. I have also mentioned before, that it is nearly impossible to say how old Skadi might be. While she appears fit, younger, and in good shape, she still resonates with a depth of wisdom that only comes from experience. At lot of experience. It may be rude to ask a woman how old she is, but I cannot avoid my nature. She laughed at the question.

Still, I don’t give up that easy, so I set out to see what I could find out for myself. It is clear that Skadi belongs to a prehistoric past, before the writing of the sagas, and even the Vikings themselves. Going back as far as we have records, it is clear that there existed multiple peoples in Scandinavia, and we see these people reflected in the myths.

As Mundal points out; ” In Old Norse sources, both Norwegian and Icelandic, we meet a consciousness of the fact that on the Scandinavian peninsula there lived two peoples, the Nordic people and the Saamis, who in the Old Norse sources are called finnar. Both were peoples with their own culture that in many respects differed considerably from the culture of the other people. They spoke different languages. The Nordic people were farmers while most Saamis lived a nomadic life. They had also before Christianization – different religions, but the religion of the Saamis may have been influenced by the religion of the Nordic people – and vice versa.” (Mundal, pg 346)

Ugh, at that limit already. More to come!

 

References/Sources;

Davidson, Hilda Ellis. The Lost Beliefs of Northern Europe.

Mundal, Else. Coexistence of Saami and Norse Culture – reflected in and interpreted by Old Norse myths

Bjerk, Hein. Norwegian Mesolithic Trends