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The Story of Ragnhildr Hrólfsdóttir

There are a number of Women who’s stories are mentioned in the Sagas of the Viking Age that I find quite fascinating and one of these Women is Hildr also known as Ragnhildr Hrólfsdóttir. Her story is wrapped into several Sagas which I will include in this blog post along with some videos I highly recommend regarding this subject. I do plan to post of other key female figures of the Sagas but for now here is the tales of this lady.

According to the sagas, Hild was the daughter of Rolv Nefia (Hrólfr nefja) jarl at Trondhjem (modern day Trondheim). In the Orkneyinga saga, the daughter of Rolv Nefia was called Ragnhild, although in the Heimskringla she was called Hild. Her father used to go on Viking expeditions. One summer he plundered in Vík. This aroused king Harald Fairhair’s anger and he was banished. Hild appealed unsuccessfully for clemency for her father. On this occasion she composed a scaldic stanza (lausavísa), which is one of the few testimonies of scaldic poetry composed by a woman that has come down to us.

She was married to Rognvald Eysteinsson (Ragnvald Øysteinsson Mørejarl) who was the jarl of Møre. They had three sons: Ívarr, Þórir and Hrólfr. Thorir (Þórir) succeeded his father as jarl of More. Rolv (Hrólfr), nicknamed Gange-Rolv, became known as Rollo of Normandy. The death of Ivar (Ívarr) during an earlier campaign in support of King Harald Finehair resulted in the Northern Isles (Norðreyar) being gifted to his family as compensation. According to the Historia Norvegiae, Rognvald’s family conquered Orkney and Shetland islands in the late ninth century.

The Orkneyinga saga

The Saga of Olaf Haraldson

Lausavísa — Hildr

Lausavísa: Hildr Hrólfsdóttir nefju

Ragnhild Hildr Hrolfsdottir

Landnámabók


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Vikings in Canada

Much regarding the Vikings in North America are still a mystery slowly being uncovered by Archeological evidence but what is know is quite fascinating like the excavation of the ruins at L’Anse Aux Meadows or where exactly “Vinland” was on the Atlantic coast. The fact that the Vikings did indeed travel to North America is undisputed but why did their settlements have such short lives unlike those of the Vikings in places such as Ireland, Russia and even into the Mediterranean? Perhaps eventually with more Archeological excavations more clues will be uncovered but until then have a look at the excellent articles and videos below which really dive deeply into the Vikings of Canada.

L’Anse aux Meadows National Historic Site

Where is Vinland?

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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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Völva: The Shamanic Seeress of the North

The Völva in Norse Paganism is in my opinion the most sacred title that can be bestowed upon a Woman who has worked tirelessly with unwavering dedication to practicing and learning the secrets and magick that is Seiðr and Galdur. It is not something just anyone can call themselves. It is a name with a history dating back thousands of years even before the Viking Age. Women as Shamans in ancient Scandinavia and across Europe has been found through Archeological evidence from the Bronze Age. It is a tradition of spiritual beliefs, medicine, divination and more passed down through the generations. Years ago I met a woman born and raised in Iceland. We quickly became good friends and to this day I consider her like a sister of mine. She also happens to be a truly recognized Völva not only in Iceland but across Europe and elsewhere. She learned the secrets and practices of a Völva from her Mother who learned from her Mother and so on going all the back to when Iceland was settled during the late Viking Age. I can honestly say that not only am I proud to be her friend but feel a true gratitude and unbelievable privilege that she has mentored me during the years and she even has gone so far to share with me things regarding this sacred magick I hold closely guarded myself. So with that said I feel the need to share what I feel are some of the best resources to learn more about the Völva.

Remember this as I have been saying this for years. No one can just become a Völva or self proclaim this title. The Völva is chosen, granted the title and only after showing that they themselves are worthy.

In the Sagas, seeresses called völur (plural) have been described. The word völva (singular) means a carrier of the wand. Usually, a völva was an older woman who traveled around helping people with her magical skills.

“There was in the settlement the woman whose name was Thorbjorg. She was a prophetess (spae-queen), and was called Litilvolva (little sybil). […] It was a custom of Thorbjorg, in the winter time, to make a circuit, and people invited her to their houses, especially those who had any curiosity about the season, or desired to know their fate. […]

The women formed a ring round about, and Thorbjorg ascended the scaffold and the seat prepared for her enchantments. Then sang Gudrid the weird-song in so beautiful and excellent a manner, that to no one there did it seem that he had ever before heard the song in voice so beautiful as now.”

Read full article HERE

Weaving the Dead: Völvas and Their Analogues in Europe

Völva, a Shamanic Seeress

A seeress from Fyrkat?