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Northern Lights: Gods, Vikings and Lore

The Northern Lights (Aurora Borealis) is a phenomenon I have always been fascinated ever since I was a child. having the opportunity to see them twice in my life was truly a magical experience to say the least. What really makes them all the better is the folklore of the people living throughout the lands where they can be seen. From tales of Gods and Goddesses, mystical beings and more including how they even influenced rituals of native cultures. With that said I hope you enjoy the vast amount of resources below that truly capture how magical and influential the Northern Lights are.

The Vikings and the Northern Lights Bridge

by Lyonel Perabo

The Vikings never wrote books, but their descendants produced thousands of manuscripts during the middle-ages. However, within this corpus, only one sure mention of Northern Lights exists: in the Norwegian Konungs Skuggsjá (“The King’s Mirror”), written around 1250. The text’s author describes the Aurora as appearing only around Greenland and doesn’t mention any traditional stories about it. Other sources, this time of mythological nature do, however mention an intriguingly similar phenomenon.

The Bridge of the Gods, Bivröst (“Moving Way” in Old Norse) is mentioned in Snorri Sturluson’s Prose Edda, written around 1220 and in the Poetic Edda which is probably much older. In Snorri’s account, Bivröst/Bifraust is described as such:

Gvðín gerþu bru af iorþu til himins, er heitir Bifravst: “The gods made a bridge from earth to the heavens which is called Bifravst”

Later, Bivröst is said to be covered with flames and having three colors. Bivröst also appears in the Poetic Edda which carries numerous myths from Scandinavia’s Pagan past. In Grímnismál (“Grímnir’s sayings”) Odin gives it two names, the burning Ásbrú (“God-Bridge”) and Bilröst (“Unstable Way”). In Fáfnismál (“Fafnir’s sayings”), the dragon Fafnir, mentions Bilröst and its destruction before the Ragnarök battle. Lastly, Bilröst appears in Helgakviða Hundingsbana II (“Helgi Hundingsbane’s Second Poem”) where it is crossed by a dead warrior and is named Rodnar brautir (“reddened ways”).

Continue reading here:

The Aurora Borealis and the Vikings

Mythology of the Northern Lights

What are the Northern Lights?

The Northern Lights: Norse myths and legends

Northern Lights – The Tale of Rav

ÞJÓÐTRÚ TENGD NORÐURLJÓSUM by Sigurdur Ægisson

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Éljúðnir: Great Hall of the Goddess Hel

Though little is known of Hela’s feasting hall known as Éljúðnir, there are those of us who feel the deep connection to the Þursar (Rökkr) who feel it is not a place of sorrow or darkness but like the other afterlife halls of Valhalla or those of Freyja, Rán and others.

Because Hela and her realm of Helheim was given such a terrible name after the conversion to christianity, she was associated for far too long to darkness, suffering and a place for the damned. This however is not the case at all regarding Hela and her great hall.

I share an opinion with many others that her hall of Éljúðnir is simply another option that one is chosen to go to depending on their deeds in this life. Being chosen to feast and live a joyous afterlife in Hela’s hall does not mean you are weak, disabled or a sick coward in this life. It means you are a person who I feel had the life experiences of a deep connection with both sides of life and death. One I am intimately experienced with.

We do not choose which Great Hall we will dine in once we cross over but I feel most of these places of afterlife celebration including Hela’s are benevolent. This of course is not to say that there are places for the wicked to reside in solemn punishment.

The truth is that we cannot be absolutely certain until our time comes but I will say that I have no fear or concerns about Éljúðnir if that is the Great Hall where you can rest and feel at peace.

Learn more below:

Goddess Hel

Hel (The Underworld)

The Nine Worlds: Helheim

Death and the Afterlife

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Runes and Weland the Smith

These two little books by Ben Waggoner are two little gems I highly recommend for your library.

A Pocket Guide to Runes is a great little resource and guide regarding the Elder Futhark Runes regarding each one’s meaning and use.

Weland the Smith tells about Weland also known as Volundr, Wieland and Wayland. His name lives on as the name of the most masterful craftsman ever known. Captured and crippled, forced to make treasures for a cruel king, he plots not only how to regain his freedom, but how to take a terrible vengeance. His legend was told for centuries in England, Germany, and Scandinavia. Here you will find the major sources for Weland’s legend, translated from Old Norse and Old English.

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The Estonian Vikings

Not so well know is the subject of the Vikings of Estonia during the late Viking age and into the 12th century even though there are historical accounts of them existing. Most like over shadowed by the far more famous Vikings of Scandinavia. Yet the history of these maritime raiders from Estonia landing on shores from the Baltic’s to throughout Scandinavia is in my opinion a piece of Northern European history more should explore and be aware of.

Estland (Eistland or Esthland) is the historical Germanic language name that refers to the country at the eastern shores of the Baltic Sea, and is the origin of the modern national name for Estonia. The largest island of Estonia is called Ösel in Swedish and its inhabitants used to be called Oeselians.

The Oeselians were known in the Old Norse Icelandic Sagas and in Heimskringla as Víkingr frá Esthland (English: vikings from Estonia).

The Livonian Chronicle describes the Oeselians as using two kinds of ships, the piratica and the liburna. The former was a warship, the latter mainly a merchant ship. A piratica could carry approximately 30 men and had a high prow shaped like a dragon or a snakehead as well as a quadrangular sail.

A battle between Oeselian and Icelandic Vikings off Saaremaa is described in Njál’s saga as occurring in 972 AD.

On the eve of Northern Crusades, the Oeselians were summarized in the Livonian Rhymed Chronicle thus: “The Oeselians, neighbors to the Kurs (Curonians), are surrounded by the sea and never fear strong armies as their strength is in their ships. In summers when they can travel across the sea they oppress the surrounding lands by raiding both Christians and pagans.“

Saxo Grammaticus describes the Estonians and Curonians as participating in the Battle of Bråvalla on the side of the Swedes against the Danes, who were aided by the Livonians and the Wends of Pomerania.

From the 12th century, chroniclers’ descriptions of Estonian, Oeselian and Curonian raids along the coasts of Sweden and Denmark become more frequent.

The Chronicle of Henry of Livonia describes a fleet of sixteen ships and five hundred Oeselians ravaging the area that is now southern Sweden, then belonging to Denmark. In the XIVth book of Gesta Danorum, Saxo Grammaticus describes a battle on Öland in 1170 in which the Danish king Valdemar I mobilized his entire fleet to curb the incursions of Couronian and Estonian pirates.

Perhaps the most renowned raid by Oeselian pirates occurred in 1187, with the attack on the Swedish town of Sigtuna by Finnic raiders from Couronia and Ösel. Among the casualties of this raid was the Swedish archbishop Johannes. The city remained occupied for some time, contributing to the decline as a center of commerce in the 13th century in favor of Uppsala, Visby, Kalmar and Stockholm. [Some have addressed Sigtuna as the then capital of Sweden] Source

Further Resources:

Vikings in Estonia by Eddi Tomband

The Baltic Finns were Vikings too, but the world ignores it

The Migration Period, Pre-Viking Age, and Viking Age in Estonia

Vikings, Estonians and the Way East

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The Castle Ghosts Series

I am a huge fan of history and the paranormal and when both subjects collide it really can create one fascinating topic. Especially when it involves real castles and the ghostly stories attached to them. The Castle Ghosts series, Presented by Robert Hardy dives into some really amazing real life stories of ghostly encounters by visitors and those living in castles throughout England, Ireland, Scotland and Wales. But not only are the encounters retold but the history of the origins are presented as well for the viewer. I enjoy this series so much that I want to visit each of these castles featured to see if I myself experience anything paranormal.

So with that said I hope you enjoy the series as much as I do.

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Ravens: The Folklore, Myths and Spiritual

Ravens are perhaps the most common bird symbol in the mythologies and religions of ancient cultures. They assume a variety of roles, ranging from messengers of deities and sages to oracles and tricksters. They play a central part in many creation myths and are typically associated with the supernatural realms lying beyond the ordinary experience. What is so lurid about these black-feathered creatures and why does the sight of them send a wave of shivers down one’s spine? Studying the folklore of different cultures may unravel the motives underlying the superstitious beliefs and religious faiths.

In most North European mythologies birds such as ravens, vultures and others feeding on carrion—the flesh of the dead—commonly pass as symbols of war, death, and misfortune. Celtic and Irish goddesses were believed to appear in the form of a crow or a raven, gathering over the battlefields, where they would feed on the flesh of the fallen warriors. Also, seeing a raven or a crow before going into a battle gave a sense of foreboding and meant that the army would be defeated. When the giant Bran, king of Britain in Welsh mythology, was mortally wounded while warring against the Irish, he commanded his followers to behead him and carry his head to the Tower of London for his burial and as a sign of protection of Britain. A popular superstition arose declaring that if the ravens ever fled the Tower of London, the monarchy would fall. As long as they nested there, Britain would never be successfully invaded. In medieval times, these pagan legends resulted in demonetization of crows and ravens, which were consequently depicted as familiars of witches.

However, the raven as a symbol, also have a positive interpretation. The omniscient god Odin, one of the chief gods in Norse mythology, had a pair ravens called Huginn (Thought) and Muninn (Mind) perching on his shoulders. Each daybreak they were sent out into the world to observe what was happening and question everybody, even the dead. By sunrise, they would come back to whisper their master what they had seen and learned. Since they embodied Odin’s mind and thoughts, they symbolized his ability to see into the future. The book also makes a mention of an early Norse poem Hrafnagaldur Óðins (Odin’s Raven Chant), in which Odin sends the ravens to the Underworld to investigate the disappearance of the lost goddess Idunn. Sometimes Odin himself would turn into a raven.

In North American folklore ravens are the creators of the world. Details of the creation tale differ, but essentially “the Raven”—a creature with the human body and raven’s beak—is believed to have made the world. He gave light to people, taught them to take care of themselves, make clothes, canoes and houses. He also brought vegetation, animals, and other benefits for the human kind. Much like the biblical story of Noah, he is said to have taken animals two by two on a big raft in order to save them from a massive flood. After all, he had done for the humans, he wished to marry a woman in turn, but her family refused to let her go. As a revenge, the myth says, the Raven created mosquitoes from crushed leaves to pester the humans forever.

Learn more about the raven in folklore, myths and spiritual meaning below.

Raven symbolism and meaning

Raven in Mythology

Ravens in Celtic Mythology

Ravens in Celtic and Norse Mythology

Native American Raven Mythology

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The Hungarian Wonder Stag

Nimrud was the great legendary ruler of ancient Mesopotamia. One day, his two sons, Hunor and Magor went hunting. They saw a great white stag which they pursued. The stag continuously eluded them and led them to a beautiful and bountiful land. This vast land was Scythia, where Hunor and Magor eventually settled with their people.

The descendants of Hunor’s people were the Huns, and the descendants of Magor’s people were the Magyars. As they grew in strength and numbers, first the Huns, and then the Magyars went on to conquer new lands.

This story not only symbolizes the close ethnic relationship between the Huns and the Magyars, it is also a clear reference to their Sumerian and Scythian origins. The stag has also been an important symbol in the Sumerian and Scythian cultures.

The mythical story of the Wonder stag illustrates how myths and legends are based on historical facts as the archeological and ethnology-linguistic evidence supports the Sumerian-Scythian-Hun-Magyar relationship which is told by this story in ancient traditional mythological form.

Just as in Sumerian and Scythian mythology, in Hungarian mythology, the stag is also seen as a mystical being with magical powers and whose role was to indicate the will of god and to guide the Hungarians accordingly.

Further great resources to explore.

Hungarian Mythology

Magyar creation mythology

The Legend of the Wonderous Hind

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The Prose Edda

The Prose Edda is absolutely one of the most important books regarding Norse Paganism and the Gods and Goddesses of the Norse. Whenever someone new to the Norse faith comes to me and asks for reading material this is one I always recommend as I feel it is essential to have in your library of Norse religion studies. Some do seem to get overly and in my opinion ignorantly negative regarding The Prose Edda simply because of its author Snorri Sturluson (1179-1241) who was born in western Iceland and it can be seen that yes there is some perhaps christian influence in the Edda however he really did have a deep fascination with the old tales, folklore and stories of the Gods. So I feel it is important to read this book with an open mind but at the same time we should never consider it like a bible of the Norse religion because there are so many other books that expand upon where the Prose Edda began. So with that said I do encourage everyone to have this in their library not just as a foundation of Norse Paganism but it is an iconic book that has lasted the test of time.

Check out the great resources below

The Prose Edda Book

The Prose and Poetic Eddas, Völuspá

The Prose Edda on Sacred Texts

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Experienced Death

As I begin to share my original poetry, thoughts and quotes you will see that a lot of it is a bit dark and is influenced from a lot of my experiences during my career in the U.S. Coast Guard. I have felt that in many ways it has helped me with healing and reflection.

“Once you have experienced death, there is nothing left to fear.”

– Eiríkr Haf Úlfrsson

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Shapeshifters of the North

Shapeshifting in Old Norse Religion as well as other native religions throughout Northern Europe and into Siberia is known but perhaps not spoken of enough about its importance with the practices of Shamans, Witches and with the use of Seiðr. We do see shapeshifting in the stories of the Norse Gods and Goddesses mainly with Odin, Loki and Freyja but not as much with humans like Fafnir the Dragon from the Saga of the Volsungs who used to be a man. Like what we can see with other ancient cultures and even to present times, Shamans will dress in animal hides and become Therianthropic during rituals which is a symbolism of shapeshifting itself. An example that is quite well known during the Viking Age are the fierce wild warriors known as the Berserkrs and Úlfhéðnar which were special warriors that dressed in the hides of Bears or Wolves and they themselves became animalistic.

Besides what was written down or passed by word during and after the Viking Age, as well as other Northern regions across Europe and Asia, regarding shapeshifting, there also is some physical evidence of its spiritual importance with such examples as the Khakassia Petroglyph in Siberia. Shapeshifting depicted with Petroglyphs can be found in other parts of Europe, Asia and especially the Amerindians of North America.

Personally I find the subject of shapeshifting quite fascinating and have read much about it as well as watched a number of documentaries that touch on the subject. Below you will find a selection of resources I highly recommend having a look at.

Three Awesome Magical Powers in Norse Mythology

Shapeshifting in Old Norse-Icelandic Literature