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Dragons – Mythology, History and more

The stories of Dragons have fascinated me my entire life from folklore around the world to how they are depicted in books and movies. Dragons are depicted in every kind of style and color you can imagine from fiery titans in size with impenetrable scales to small more feathery gentle creatures. They can be seen as cave dwellers hiding hoards of treasure such as J.R.R. Tolkein’s Smaug to the legendary Fafnir of Norse mythology.

Dragons can be found in the folklore of pretty much every ancient civilization on every continent and is heavily a part of many important tales involving Gods and Goddesses from Scandinavia, to China and in between. They are even to this day wrapped up in a lot of modern culture as we see in movies, books and even festivals. The subject of Dragons is quite massive and could take pages and pages on my blog to cover in full extent. Instead what I have chosen to do is provide my readers with one massive post that includes some of the best resources available.

Dragons can be placed in two groups- East and West dragons, and they were regarded as either good or very fearsome and evil creatures.

In ancient China, a dragon was a highly significant creature that became a symbol of the Emperor and his throne was sometimes called the Dragon Throne. Ancient Chinese believed dragons were in control the weather and water. These creatures were said to be able to manipulate oceans, floods, tornadoes and storms.

There are nine distinctive Chinese dragons and some of them are serpent-like creatures with large bodies and long heads. The dragon in China is believed to be a benign creature that is said to bring wisdom, power and luck. They are famous for their goodness and to ward off evil, protect the innocent and bring safety to all.

Tradition and celebration of New Year in China can be traced to a dragon named Nian (or “year”).

Nian was a legendary wild beast that attacked people at the end of the old year. Villagers would use loud noises and bright lights to scare the creature away, a practice that slowly morphed into the Chinese New Year festivities. Today the dragon has its own year on the Chinese calendar.

On the British Isles and in Scandinavia, dragons were often depicted as wingless creatures. In this part of the world, the dragon was depicted as a more malevolent creature that was very difficult to kill. The West dragon was wingless and lived in dark places or wells where he was guarding hoard treasures. Approaching the dragon was almost impossible because of its poisonous fire breath.

Dragons in British and Scandinavian mythology often appear in stories when a prince tries to save a young maiden from being abducted by the fearsome animal. If he can slay the dragon, he can become the new King and win the girl as his bride. Continue reading HERE.

Draken Harald Hårfagre is a modern real working Dragonship from Vikinggården, Avaldsnes, Haugesund, Norway.

Dragonships were large longships that had carved heads of dragons and other magical beings mounted on their stem. They were ships for chieftains and kings. The ship’s dragonhead was a visual message about the owner’s status.

His dragon with her sails of blue,
All bright and brilliant to the view,
High hoisted on the yard arms wide,
Carries great Canute o’er the tide.
Brave is the royal progress — fast
The proud ship’s keel obeys the mast,
Dashes through foam, and gains the land,
Raising a surge on Limfjord’s strand.

(The Song of Canute, Saga of St. Olaf)

Many have asked if Dragons really existed? Do they still exist in a spiritual realm? Many believe they indeed do just as Elves, Faeries and other mystical beings in some way cohabitate in this world.

Further Resources:

Dragons: Exploring the Ancient Origins of the Mythical Beasts

Zmaj and the Dragon Lore of Slavic Mythology

Dragons of Greek Mythology

Dragons from Myth, Folklore and Magick

Dragons of Fame

Dragon as a Totem

Dragon Totem Meaning and Dragon Symbolism

Dragons were once thought to be just as real as wolves, boars or deer. Now, go inside some of the greatest battles between man and dragon in Western folklore and explore the many influences that came together to create the sum of all medieval fears.
The legends of Dragons
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The Elves of the Yggdrasil

When most discuss or think of the Elves of Norse Mythology they usually think of a certain kind of Tolkien in appearance and even refer to them as the Dark and Light Elves. But I want to go deeper into these Elves and to educate my readers on how much more expansive they are within the Yggdrasil. So in this Blog post I plan to cover the Svartálfar (“Black Elves), Dökkálfar (“Dark Elves), Ljösalfar (“Light Elves) and the Hvítálfar (“Shining Elves).

The Dökkálfar are referenced in a few places in Norse mythology. The name itself means ‘dark elves’ and Snorri describes them as living in the earth. Grimm calls them ‘Genii obscuri’ or spirits of the dark and suggests a connection between them and nâir, spirits of the dead, even going so far as to place them living ”in Hel, the heathen hades” (Grimm, 1888, p446). Grimm also questions whether the Dökkálfar should be separated from the nâir or whether “[t]he dusky elves are souls of dead men…” (Grimm, 1888, p 447). There is some strong evidence that the Dökkálfar were the mound dead or male ancestors and the Dökkálfar are sometimes called Mound Elves; it is not certain however and it may be that some Dökkálfar are human dead but others are not.

Svartálfar – meaning ‘black elves’ they possess their own world, Svartálfheim [black elf home]. The Duergar or Dwarves also live in Svartálfheim creating a longstanding confusion about whether Svartálfar are truly elves in their own right or are actually another name for Dwarves. Both are associated with mountains and mountainous regions, but seem to have a distinct and separate focus in activities and interactions with people. Grimm believes that the Svartálfar were good natured beings and argues that they received worship from people into the 19th century.

The Álfar and the Duergar – elves and dwarves – are also difficult groups to entirely sort out. On one hand there are some good arguments that the two may actually be the same, with Svartálfar and potentially Dökkálfar both simply being alternate names for deurgar. This is supported by three main things: many deurgar have names that incorporate the word ‘álf’ such as Vindalf and Gandalf; the Svartálfar were said to live in Svartálfheim but the deurgar live there as well; and the svartalfar and Dökkálfar were said to live beneath the ground or in mounds. However there is also evidence that might support the argument that the two groups were separate, including that they are occasionally referenced in the same work together as different groups. In verse 25 of Hrafnagaldr Óðins we see the Dökkálfar being grouped together with giants, dead men, and dwarves: “gýgjur og þursar, náir, dvergar og dökkálfar” [Giantesses and giants, dead men, dwarves and dark elves]. This would at the least seem to indicate some degree of separation between Duergar and Dökkálfar. In the Alvissmal it is also established that the Álfar and Duergar have different languages and kennings for things, which would also indicate separation of the two groups (Gundarsson, 2007). For the most part the Álfar would seem to be beings closely tied to the Gods, perhaps one step beneath them in power and influence, beings who can influence weather and possess powerful magic that can effect people’s health. The Duergar are associated with mining and smithcraft and are not as closely tied to the Gods; when they appear in myth dealing with the Gods they must always be negotiated with or otherwise dealt with in some fashion diplomatically.

The Álfar are a complicated and fascinating group in mythology and I have barely touched on them here. Consider this merely a brief introduction to some basic ideas about the Álfar as they appear in Norse mythology but bear in mind that they can be found throughout Germanic/Norse folklore. they are beings that are both benevolent and dangerous as the mood suits and depending on how they are treated, like the elves found across folklore.

Further Resources:

Ljösalfar, Dökkalfar & Alfheim: 7 Unknowns about Norse Elves

Svartálfar

Medieval Scandinavian Elves and Dwarves

Elves are Fairies? Wait, what?

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Huldra – The Seductive Forest Lady

A Huldra is a dangerous seductive forest creature found in Scandinavian folklore. She is a member of a family of a very ancient beings that inhabit the forest, but remain hidden from humankind.

In Scandinavian folklore, the Huldra (Norwegian, derived from a root meaning “covered,” “hidden,” or “secret”) is a very elusive and seductive creature of the forest. The huld-rå being is a rå, which is a keeper or warden of a particular location or land-form. The different species of rå are sometimes distinguished according to the different spheres of nature with which they were connected, such as Skogsrå or Huldra (forest), Sjörå (freshwater) or Havsrå (saltwater), and Bergsrå (mountains).

Other names include: Huldra, huldrå, Hylda, Skogsrå or Skogsfru/Skogfru (meaning ‘lady (ruler) of the forest’ or ‘forest wife/woman/spirit’) and Tallemaja (‘Pine Tree Mary’). They are often referred to as Ulda by the Sámi.

As a whole, they are known as Huldrefolk or Huldufólk. They are hidden folk of the forest. Her name suggests that she is originally the same being as the Völva Huld and the German Holda. “In Scandinavian mythology, Huld is only referenced by Völva or Seiðkona, which is a woman who practiced the Seiðr. She is mentioned in Icelandic tales and sagas, such as the Ynglinga saga, Sturlunga saga and a late medieval Icelandic tale. One source states that she is Odin’s mistress and the mother of the demi-goddesses Þorgerðr Hölgabrúðr and Irpa. As her name suggests, Huld may be in origin the same being as the Huldra and the German Holda.” <Nordisk familjebok (1909)>

The males are called Huldrekall (hulder man), Huldu, or Huldrekarl are often said to be hideous in appearance and have grotesquely long noses.

A Swedish forest spirit visiting a charcoal burner. Illustration by Per Daniel Holm, from Svenska folksägner, Herman Hofberg (1882), Public Domain.

The Huldra (forest woman)

Huldra/skogsrå, The Scandinavian Goddesses

Skogsrået

Huldra – Norse Forest Lady

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Horses: Their Spirit, Lore and Mythology

The Horse throughout history is one of the oldest animals found in ancient Indo-European culture, folklore and mythology. The Horse holds such significance in many cultures for not just providing a mode of travel but even as a source of food and milk like Airag, the Mongolian fermented Mare’s milk drink. From the Middle East, Mediterranean, Asia and across Europe, The Horse is wrapped deeply in many cultures and local mythology including the close relationship of the Horse with certain Gods and Goddesses. Of course still to this day many relate and have themselves connected to the Horse spirit animal. Which is why I decided to put this Blog post together for everyone who has any connection or interest in all that I will include regarding the Horse.

Horse symbolism changes depending on whether the Horse is wild or tethered. When the Wild Horse enters your awareness, often there is more than enough energy to motivate you and carry you through anything. As you read through the in-depth collection of Horse information, take some time to meditate on it. Consider what kind of spiritual gifts Horse bestows on you and how you should work with the creature’s Energies.

A Wild Horse brings vitality and freedom in on its galloping hooves. There is no constraining Horse when it runs with the wind, but the creature also enjoys the company of family and friends. It’s always more fun to gallop together in a setting where individuality never gets lost. That’s why Horse symbolism speaks to your social nature and how you connect with those you hold dear.

Carl Jung suggested Horses symbolize personal power, the things you master in your life, and your natural gifts. Horse is a creature representing success and self-actualization. When you know what drives you and puts the awareness of your motivations to work, you can get much further and faster than you ever imagined possible.

When tame, Horse represents those parts of your personality you restrict and confine, like sexual urges. The tame Horse also symbolizes service and trusting relationships. If Horses show up in images where they’re in a stable or tied up, it could be a message that something is holding you back and limiting your autonomy. It may also speak of low energy levels and the need to pay attention when using your physical resources. Continue reading HERE.

Automedon with the Horses of Achilles; Artist
Alexandre Georges Henri Regnault (1843-1871)

Horse Symbolism, Meanings & The Horse Spirit Animal

Horse Spirit Animal Meaning & Symbolism

Horse Spirit Animal

Horses and the Heavens

Some of the oldest myths in the Indo-European tradition concern the existence of supernatural or divine horses. The earliest text in Sanskrit, or indeed any Indo-European language—the family that includes most of the main languages of Europe, South Asia, and parts of western and central Asia—is the Rig Veda, a collection of sacred hymns written sometime in the late second millennium B.C., during the Bronze Age. Among its more than 1,000 hymns are prayers and poems appealing to and honoring the gods. At the time the Rig Veda was set down, the myths it references were already centuries, if not millennia, old, but it was during the Bronze Age that Indo-European-speaking peoples began to travel and trade across great distances, carrying with them beliefs that were then communicated across a vast territory, stretching from Asia to Scandinavia.

Archaeological evidence collected in Europe provides the strongest parallels for early Indo-European myths first set down on the Indian subcontinent, says Kristian Kristiansen of the University of Gothenberg. One of the most important of these shared Bronze Age myths is that of the sun cult, wherein the sun’s daily journey is symbolized by a horse drawing a chariot across the heavens. This is also widely interpreted as the journey from death to the afterlife. Continue reading HERE.

Ultimate List of Mythical Horse Names

Mythical Horses

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Landvættir: Spirits of the Land

The Landvættir also known as Wights or Spirits of the land are spiritual beings that have always fascinated me and even have had my own experiences with them ever since I was a child. Much like the Vantavættir (Water spirits) or Hafvættir (Sea spirits) which I also have had experiences with, the Landvættir hold great importance for those who know of them in Norse and Germanic Lore and yes I do believe these Beings do indeed exist. So I felt the urge to share with you all some really great sources that are worth taking the time to have a look at.

Landvættir are Land-Spirits who are the guardians of particular places or countries. Landnámabók, The Book of Settlements, states that dragon-prows of ships must be removed close to land in fear of disturbing or offending these spirits. Egil Skallagrimsson left a niðstöng, a scorn-pole topped by a horse’s head and inscribed with threatening or offensive runes, in Norway in order to upset these land-spirits so badly that they would drive Eirik Bloodaxe from his kingdom; within a year Eirik was gone, deposed by his brother Hakon. Clearly, these are beings to be reckoned with.” – Somerville and McDonald, The Viking Age: A Reader (Readings in Medieval Civilizations and Cultures: XIV, 2010), pp. 104-105.

Landvaettir-land wights

Land Spirits

Supernatural Beings in Norse Society

Landvaettir

Landvaettir the Land Wights

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The Legendary Kraken

Ever since I first watch the movie Clash of the Titans as a kid I have always been fascinated by the legends and tales of the deep sea monstrous beast who has been described in a number of forms and sizes from Scandinavia all the way to Greece. There are quite a lot of theories regarding the origins of the Kraken from it being encounters with Giant Squids to there perhaps being a deep sea creature that we have yet to discover. Considering we know more about our solar system than we still know regarding our oceans says a lot.

By looking at the characteristics of different descriptions of the Kraken, it is quite easy to see how natural occurrences other than sea creatures have influenced the legends and stories. For example the 13th century Old Icelandic saga Örvar-Odds saga tells of two massive sea-monsters called Hafgufa (“sea mist”) and Lyngbakr (“heather-back”). The hafgufa is believed to be a reference to the Kraken. In other sources, the Kraken is told to usually appear, and attack vessels in patches of thick mist at sea, particularly around Iceland. The mist is also told to be created from the Kraken itself, with the mist smelling awful, likened to rotting fish coming from the Krakens stomach. This can most likely be explained by further volcanic activity under and around Iceland, explaining the cases with the foul-smelling mist.

Other elements of a Kraken attack include pulling apart ships with tentacles, or it simply lying in wait, appearing to be an island, and allowing for ships to flow into its mouth in the obscuring mist. These can also be explained; with the attacks form the creature’s tentacles perhaps really being the undersea volcanic activity mentioned earlier, creating sudden bubbles of water, and large dangerous waves and currents that would pull a ship apart in severe cases. The mentions of a Kraken appearing as an island and allowing ships to sail into its mouth most likely also come from volcanic activity, with small islands being pushed above the surface of the water fairly frequently in the high activity volcanic area of which Iceland itself was made from.

Overall, it is fairly simple to see how stories of a horrific and deadly sea creature emerged from such occurrences. With the combination of sudden, deadly currents of water, unexpected pieces of land popping up and the sightings of large creatures in the water, all obscured by a strange, disgusting smelling mist, it’s no wonder that the Scandinavian seafarers of the time thought something ‘supernatural’ was happening in their waters, Especially when ships went missing or were found wrecked and deserted.

Vintage engraving of The Kraken, a legendary sea monster of large proportions.
getty

The Kraken

Alfred Lord Tennyson – 1809-1892

Below the thunders of the upper deep,
Far, far beneath in the abysmal sea,
His
ancient, dreamless, uninvaded sleep
The Kraken sleepeth: faintest sunlights flee
About his shadowy sides; above him swell

Huge sponges of millennial growth and height;
And far away into the sickly light,
From many a wondrous grot and secret cell
Unnumbered and enormous polypi
Winnow with giant arms the slumbering green.
There hath he lain for ages, and will lie
Battening upon huge sea worms in his sleep,
Until the latter fire shall heat the deep;
Then once by man and angels to be seen,
In roaring he shall rise and on the surface die.

The real-life origins of the legendary Kraken

The Kraken: When myth encounters science

The Legendary Kraken: The Real Animal Behind the Monster

What is the Kraken?

The Legendary Kraken

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The Legends of the Selkies

Being a man of the sea myself I have always been fascinated with all myths and folklore of the sea and its shores. Whether is be Sea Nymphs, Mermaids, Water Horses, Ghost Ships and more. Today I want to talk about the mystical and alluring Selkies. These mysterious beings of the sea are wrapped up in the folklore specifically on the Orkney Islands of Scotland and the Faroe Islands. I put together for this my favorite resources that go quite in-depth of the Selkies. I hope you enjoy this topic as much as I do.

Amorous, affectionate and affable, Selkies are the hidden gems of sea mythology. Gentle souls who prefer dancing in the moonlight over luring sailors to their death, Selkies are often overlooked by mythological enthusiasts for the more enthralling forms of mermaids or sirens. Yet Selkies play a prominent role in the mythology of Scandinavia, Scotland and Ireland. Their myths are romantic tragedies, a common theme for land/sea romances, however it is the Selkies who suffer rather than their human lovers and spouses. While the tales of Selkies always begin with a warm and peaceful “once upon a time”, there are no true happy ending for the tales of Selkies—someone always gets his/her heart broken.

The mythology of selkies is similar to that of the Japanese swan maidens, though historically it appears that the tales of the swan maidens predate the western tradition. Selkies can be either men or women, but are seals while in the water. What differentiates them from mermaids (aside from the choice of animal) is that they undergo a full body transformation upon coming to shore: they do not merely transform seal tails into human legs, but rather completely shapeshift from the sea animals into a human. This is accomplished by shedding their seal-skin when they come to land. Selkies are predominately mythological creatures from Irish, Scottish (particularly in Orkney and the Shetland Islands) and Faroese folklore, however there is a similar tradition in Iceland as well.

Their name descends from the Scottish selich, and there does not appear to be a Gaelic term for these creatures. This is likely indicative of their prominence in early modern Scottish culture. It is believed that the Selkies arose in legends when early Scottish settlers and shipwrecked Spaniards married dark-haired, fur-wearing Finnish and Saami native women… Continue reading here.

Kópakonan: A statue of the Seal Woman was raised in Mikladagur on the island of Kalsoy on 1 August, 2014. The statue is 2.6 metres long, weighs 450 kilograms, and is made of bronze and stainless steel.
Picture: Frítíðargrunnurin.

The origin of the selkie-folk

The seal-folk of Scotland and Ireland

The Secret History Hidden in the Selkie Story

The legend of Kópakonan

The Seal People – Selkies

Click Image for Selkie: Norse Mermaids
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Bears: The Myth, Symbolism and Folklore

Since the dawn of time and where ever humans and bears have cohabited there have been folklore and spoken myths regarding the Bear from being spiritual creatures to Gods to being a spirit animal for the fierce warrior from the Amerindians to the Northern regions of Europe and all around the world really. I find Bears to be a joy to watch in the wild and just see how they live from the mother Bear raising her cubs to watching them catch salmon in a river. There is so much rich history and stories of Bears in so many different cultures that I decided to offer in this post the best I have found for you to learn more from and hopefully enjoy.

Bear folklore is widespread, especially in the far northern hemisphere. It is not surprising that this awesome beast was one of the first animals to be revered by our ancestors. From as far back as the Palaeolithic (around 50,000 years ago) there is evidence of a bear cult in which the bear was seen as lord of the animals, a god, and even the ancestor of humans. Various species of bear played a central role in many shamanic practices of the north, and brown bears were part of our native forests as recently as the 10th century, when hunting and habitat loss drove them to extinction.

The Celts venerated the bear goddess, Artio – like a mother bear she was a fiercely protective influence. The bear god Artaois is closely linked to the warrior-king, Arthur; with his legendary strength and fighting prowess, Arthur’s name and emblem both represent this animal. Celtic families would often have their own animal totem, a tradition that is still evident in the family name McMahon, which means ‘son(s) of the bear’.

Viking warriors were famous for working themselves into an insane battle frenzy (it has been suggested that the psychotropic fly agaric mushroom was sometimes used). They invoked the bear spirit, at times even donning a bear skin, to imbue them with superhuman strength and fury. These were the Berserkers, their name being derived from a Norse word meaning ‘bear shirt’.

In Greek legend, Zeus fell in love with the huntress Callisto, and she bore him a son named Arcas. In a fit of jealous rage, Zeus’s wife turned Callisto into a bear. Time passed, and one day Arcas was out hunting. How was he to know that the bear he was stalking was his own mother?! On seeing that Callisto’s life was in danger, Zeus whisked her up into the night sky out of harm’s way. She can still be seen in the constellation Ursa Major, the Great Bear. (In another version, Arcas is also sent skywards, and becomes the adjacent Ursa Minor, the Little Bear.) The Big Dipper, or Plough, is one of the more familiar groups of stars within this constellation. Interestingly, the Druidic name for this group was Arthur’s Plough, and the constellation was also seen as a bear in Native American and Hebrew tradition.

In Native American folklore there are many tales about bears. It is highly respected as the ‘keeper of dreams’, and ‘the keeper of medicine’, and is one of the most powerful totems. (Bears hibernate, giving them associations with the world of dreams.)

Human fascination with this animal has not always worked in the bear’s favor. The bear appears in the names of many English pubs, and this is thought to be a hangover from the days bear-baiting – medieval ‘entertainment’ which involved tying a bear to a post and setting dogs on it. The Caledonian bear was said to be so fierce that it was favored by the Romans who used them in their amphitheaters, for similar purposes. In 1902, U.S. President Theodore (‘Teddy’) Roosevelt was on a hunting trip along the Mississippi, but showed mercy to an old bear he could have easily taken as a trophy. The story of this act spread quickly, and the Teddy Bear was born.

Bears still make an appearance in recent literature. Beorn in Tolkien’s The Hobbit was a man who could take the shape of a bear, echoing ancient shamanic practices. And who could forget wise old Baloo, the teacher of the wolf cubs from Kipling’sJungle Book, Paddington Bear (think marmalade sandwiches and hard stares), or Winnie the Pooh? More recently, Benjamin Hoff’s Tao of Pooh used this unassuming bear to illustrate the Taoist principles of modesty, simplicity, and intuitive, practical wisdom. In Phillip Pullman’s Northern Lights, the young heroine, Lyra, befriends a fierce and loyal polar bear king named Iorek Byrnison, helping him to regain his throne. Read more here.

Bear Spirit Guide

Bear Folklore, Through Myths, Legends and Folktales

Native American Bear Mythology

Following the Bear in Mythology

All about Bears

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Otters – Folklore, Symbolism, Tales

A lot of people may not be aware of how fascinating the tales are and even the importance of the Otter within Northern European folklore and mythology from the British Isle, throughout Scandinavia and into Finland. In the Pacific Northwest region of America Otters are also featured in Native American folklore as well. Another place that holds a place for the Otter in folklore and mythology is Japan which are very intriguing tales to read. Growing up in the Pacific Northwest I had many close encounters with both river and sea Otters and I can tell you they do give a flare of mischief which always resonated with me. I actually have a funny story about a Wildling bevy of Sea Otters while I was stationed at USCG Station Cape Disappointment in Washington. But perhaps that’s good to share another time.

Otters of Myth and Folklore

Sleek, lithe and playful, at home on land and in the water, the otter is a well-loved member of the Caledonian Forest fauna. A Scottish name for the otter is the ‘dratsie’, and in Scottish tradition there are tales of ‘Otter Kings’ who were accompanied by seven black otters. When captured, these beasts would grant any wish in exchange for their freedom. But their skins were also prized for their ability to render a warrior invincible, and were thought to provide protection against drowning. Luckily, the Otter Kings were hard to kill, their only vulnerable point being a small point below their chin.

Otters sometimes swim single file as a family group, and it has been suggested that this might account for some of the Loch Ness Monster sightings! In a similar vein, an old Anglo-Saxon name for the otter was the ‘water-snake‘.

The otter features in an ancient shamanic Welsh tale. The sorceress Ceridwen left young Gwion to guard her cauldron, but he tasted the draught by accident and gained knowledge of all things. He transformed into a hare to escape her wrath, but she pursued him as a hound. When he plunged into the river as a salmon, Ceridwen became an otter to continue her pursuit. Gwion was eventually reborn as the great bard, Taliesin.

In Celtic and other folklore the otter is often characterized as a friendly and helpful creature, and is given the name ‘water dog’, alluding to these qualities. In the Irish story The Voyage of Maelduin, otters on the Island of Otter bring the sailors salmon to eat, and the Voyage of Brendan tells of how an otter performed this service for a hermit, even collecting firewood for him! St. Cuthbert is the patron saint of otters, and after standing waist-deep in the North Sea during his nightly prayer vigils, two otters would come and warm his feet with their breath and dry them with their fur.

Bizarrely, there was debate among Celtic clerics as to whether otter flesh was fish or meat, determining whether of not it could be eaten at Lent; and the Carthusian monks of Dijon, who were forbidden to eat meat, ate otter as they classed it as a fish!In Norse mythology, the mischievous god Loki killed the dwarf Otr while the latter was in the form of an otter. The dwarves were furious, and demanded compensation from the gods who gave them the otter skin filled with gold. In ancient Persia the otter (again known as the ‘water dog’), was esteemed above all other animals, and a severe penalty was imposed on anyone who killed one.

This popular mammal also features in more recent literature. Otter in Kenneth Graham’s Wind in the Willows is an affable character, with a particularly adventurous son. The moving tale Tarka the Otter by Henry Williamson follows the life of an otter in the rivers of North Devon, and Gavin Maxwell’s Ring of Bright Water recounts the touching, funny and tragic true story of his friendship with otters, giving a lyrical portrayal of their intelligence and irrepressible playfulness.

Human admiration for this animal is perhaps best expressed in the words of the American naturalist, Ernest Thompson Seton: “…the joyful, keen and fearless otter; mild and loving to his own kind, and gentle with his neighbor of the stream; full of play and gladness in his life, full of courage in his stress; ideal in his home, steadfast in death; the noblest little soul that ever went four-footed through the woods.” Source

For what reason is gold called Otter’s Wergild?

The Otter Woman

The Otter in Folklore

The Otter Kawauso of Japan

Ainu legend: The otter is why mankind is imperfect today

Otter’s Ransom

Native American Otter Mythology

Finnish Mythology: Hillervo the goddess of otters, her partner was Juoletar. Hillervo lived near rapid waters, streams and fountains

Otter Symbolism & Meaning

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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”).

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ÞJÓÐTRÚ TENGD NORÐURLJÓSUM by Sigurdur Ægisson