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Finland in the Viking Age

Finland is a country filled with rich history, amazing people, fascinating folklore, great culture and a beautiful landscape. It is a country I have been fascinated with for many years for a myriad of reasons. Today I wanted to explore a period of time in Finnish history that is not discussed enough in my opinion and that is what was going on in Finland during the Viking age. The Viking age in Scandinavia and throughout Europe, North Africa and the Mediterranean had a huge impact. So The question is this, how was Finland effected during this period of history? Well that is exactly what this blog post is about.

Finland: the Viking Ages

  By Kristian Ola (Wilpuri)

Viking Age Finland is a topic which is rarely discussed when talking about Finnish history. In schools, pupils learn next to nothing about pre-Medieval Finnish society. Also, historians have been rather reluctant to deal with the topic in-depth in recent years, and so very few works have emerged. It is almost as if it were taboo.

Because of its remote location, Finland has always been a little bit behind in technological advances. The Bronze-age had just made its arrival, when in they already started to become out-dated in the cradles of civilization. However, during the iron-age, there were strong contacts with the Finnic tribes on both sides of the Gulf of Finland, as well as to the east and to the west. During the Viking age, the tribes of Finland were more or less at par in technological development with their neighbors to the west, east and the south. Differences between western Finnic tribes and eastern Finnic tribes of Finland become evident by the Merovingian period. Finland is commonly divided between Western Finnish Cultural Sphere and Eastern Finnish Cultural Sphere. The Pre-historic period of Finland stretched all the way to Swedish conquest in the 12th century, and in eastern Finland it stretched all the way to the late 13th century.

The entire area that is thought to have been possessed or controlled by the Finns during the late iron-age was most likely not a united province politically until the medieval times under Swedish rule. There appear to have been some key areas, which formed which are thought to have acted as political entities. The most important of these areas are the Turku-region, and the area known as Vakka-Suomi, which has also been referred to as “Kaland” in some historical sources. It is impossible to tell exactly how these areas were governed, but some educated guesses would suggest a very “democratic” style of decision making. The strong men of different villages would decide together on a common course of action, as no single leader was strong enough to dominate the entire province, very much like the Vikings are thought to have operated. One cannot talk of a nobility or aristocracy as such, but there are evident class-distinctions. These become evident when looking at the items found in the graves. As swords were expensive and hard to come by (as they had to be imported from over-seas), they act as a good marker of a wealthy and usually important person within the community. As mentioned earlier, the Finns of the Turku-region and Vakka-Suomi had a very good geographical location to engage in trade with the west, especially with Birka, as this had become a dominant (if not the dominant) trade-centre of the Baltic by the Viking age. Continue reading HERE.

There is evidence of both peaceful trade and not-so-peaceful conflict between Finns and the neighboring Vikings during this time, and Finland is thought to have been a regular stop for Vikings on their way east, with significant evidence of trade with the Viking trade center of Birka (situated near modern-day Stockholm) found in archeological sites in Finland and Sweden.

Finnish ports along the Baltic sea were thought to have been key factors behind the Norsemen’s expansions eastwards, and it is believed that individual Finns did take part of Viking raids and expeditions.

Furthermore the island of Åland was considered an important Viking port at the time, and it was considered to be Finnish back then too. The Norse also acquired important knowledge about the Russian lands from the Finns, which is thought to have been crucial information enabling their future eastern endeavors. SOURCE

The Ålandic mystery

Åland has been ”a contact zone between Finnic and Scandinavian linguistic and cultural groups for at least two thousand years” (p. 7). Recurrent themes in VAÅ include some ”mysteries”. Åland is conspicuously absent from Old Norse sources, mentioned only once, in Fundinn Noregr (The discovery of Norway); but there it appears in an accurate itinerary, indicating familiarity, as Schalin with Frog point out (pp. 277–278). The lack of place names in Åland older than the late Viking Age and the dearth of artifacts from the late 10th through the 11th century have been taken as evidence of a possible discontinuity in settlement near the end of the Viking Age. Another mystery is the clay paw amulet, a grave practice mainly restricted to Åland, from which it spread to Timerëvo in central Russia. Frog focuses on this rite in relation to bear ceremonialism generally (arguing convincingly that the paws are more likely to represent bear than beaver), situating Åland between Finnic and Scandinavian mythological traditions.

Many contributions adopt indirect approaches to problems for which the evidence is minimal. Ahola, Frog and Schalin explain the methodological problems involved in trying to ascertain the language(s) spoken in Åland during the Viking Age. Aalto explores the meaning of the Norse ethnonym Finnr, which in addition to Sámi and (occasionally) the residents of present-day Finnish territory may have included Ålanders, even if they were Scandinavian speakers. Place names indicate that continuous Swedish-speaking settlement in Southwest Finland dates to around 1100 AD, according to Mikko Heikkilä. Schalin with Frog argues for Germanic etymologies for most of the older place names in Åland. Jomala, a Finnic name for ’god’, is likely an old name for the largest island, and may reflect a Viking Age borrowing of the word into Scandinavian as an appellative for Finnic sacred places (pp. 286–289).

Ahola discusses traditions in Kalevala-meter poetry associated with Saari ’Island’, which has sometimes been identified with Åland. Rather than indicating that these epic stories are based on historical events in Åland, as Kaarle Krohn thought, Ahola suggests that mainland Finns may have come to view Åland as a mystical place because of the valence of islands in epic tradition. SOURCE

Most overviews dealing with eastern Vikings have cast the Eastern Baltic peoples in a predominantly passive role during the large-scale Viking movement into the region. This book demonstrates how communication networks over the Baltic Sea and further east were established and how they took different forms in the northern and the southern halves of the Eastern Baltic. Archaeological as well as written sources indicate the impact these networks had on the development of local societies. In particular, areas along the northern Baltic Sea, both on the eastern and the western coasts, were characterized by a shared cultural sphere for warriors. Changes in archaeological evidence along relevant trade routes through these areas suggest that the inhabitants of present-day Finland and the Baltic States were more engaged in Viking eastern movement than is generally believed.
From Ancient Finnish Kings who ruled the whole of Northern Europe to savages living in dirt holes to the bane of Viking raiders, there are countless stories of Viking Age Finland and its inhabitants going around. How was this cold and remote country a thousand years ago? This animated documentary takes a look at some of the facts and theories of what Viking Age Finland was like.
Vikings spread terror across the Baltic Sea and beyond. But why they left Finland alone has been a mystery until now. There are several runestones describing grave military disasters experienced by Viking raiders in modern day Finland. What went so wrong for them? The answer is bloodcurdling.

Further Resources

The Viking Age in Finland III: Identity and Identification and the Viking Age in Finland (with Special Emphasis on the Åland Islands)

History of Finland: THE ERA OF SWEDISH RULE, 1150-1809

Fibula, fabula, fact : the Viking Age in Finland

Were there ever Vikings in Finland or Finnish Vikings?

Finland in the Viking Age

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Kanaloa, Hawaiian God of the Ocean

Having a close connection and love of the ocean and all that is in its world from the Marine life, its still existing mysteries and the amazing folklore as well as the Gods and Goddesses associated with the seas. I am always exploring into different deities of the seas and learning about their importance with the native cultures who revere them and their importance. One such God is Kanaloa, the Hawaiian God of the ocean, long distance travel and associated with the underworld, fresh water sources and even healing. So in today’s blog post I would like to give honor to this important Hawaiian God.

Kanaloa is known as Kāne’s traveling partner. Kanaloa is said to be tall with a fair-skinned complexion. Kāne is darker, with curly hair and thick lips. These two gods are well known as ʻawa drinkers and for establishing sources of water. Some say Kanaloa would point out the source, and Kāne would bring forth the water. Kāne and Kanaloa are also known as growers of maiʻa.

Kanaloa and Kāne are paired together in other work as well. In building a waʻa (canoe), Kāne is invoked, while Kanaloa, lord of ocean winds, is invoked in sailing the waʻa. The northern limit of the sun’s seasonal travel is called “ke alanui polohiwa a Kāne” (“the dark path of Kāne”); its southern limit is “ke alanui polohiwa a Kanaloa” (“the dark path of Kanaloa”). SOURCE

Eye Of Kanaloa

The Eye of Kanaloa by Serge Kahili King

As a whole, the pattern represents the Aka Web, or The Web of Life, the symbolic connection of all things to each other. In this aspect, the star at the center is the spider/shaman, or the individual who is aware of being the weaver of his or her own life, a dreamweaver.

In another aspect, the eight lines represent “mana”, or spiritual power, because another meaning of “mana” is “branching lines” and the number eight in Hawaiian tradition is symbolic of great power. The four circles represent “aloha”, or love, because the “lei” or garland, a symbol of love, is circular and is used figuratively in Hawaiian to mean a circle (as in “Hanalei – Circular bay”), and because the word “ha” is a part of the word “aloha” and also means “life” and the number four. Together the circles and lines represent the harmony of Love and Power as an ideal to develop.

The star pattern is composed of a dot in the center representing the Aumakua, or Higher Self; a ring representing Lono, or the Mental Self; the seven limbs of the star representing the Seven Principles of Huna; and the ring around the star representing Ku, the Physical or Subconscious Self. One point of the star is always down, aligned with a straight line of the web, representing the connection of the inner with the outer.

The Eye of Kanaloa symbol generates subtle energy, known as “ki” in Hawaiian. This energy can be used for healing, for stimulating physical and mental faculties, and for many other purposes. Most people can sense the energy, which may feel like a tingle, a current, a pressure or a coolness, by holding the hand, fingers, cheek or forehead near the symbol. By itself the symbol will help to harmonize the physical, emotional and mental energies of a room or other location. The energy may be accessed more directly by meditative gazing or by holding the symbol near something that needs harmonizing. The symbol can also amplify and harmonize other energy sources by placing it behind or in front of the source.

Kauai, Hawaii
I recently purchased this book to add to my library.

Further Resources

KANE AND KANALOA

Kanaloa, Hawaiian God of the Ocean

Kanaloa, Dark Squid God

What You Should Know About Kanaloa (Hawaiian Ocean God)

A video on the ancient Hawaiian god Kanaloa, symbolized by the squid or by the octopus.
Rising from the sea millions of years ago Hawaii was forged from molten lava with a history as rich as its landscapes. Ka’ao means legend in the native Hawaiian language and in this film we explore stories that have been passed down through generations.
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Mongolian Shamanism: An Introduction

Mongolia is a country I have been fascinated for a very long time and a place someday I hope to visit. Mongolia is so rich in history, culture and spirituality. Lesser known by most, which is unfortunate, is Mongolian Shamanism. This is a subject I touched on in my blog post regarding the Tengriism which is the native religion of Siberia, Mongolia and throughout the Asian Steppe. Even the great Genghis Khan (ca. 1162–1227) himself was a believer in Tengri and attributed his success and rise to power due to his devotion to Tengriism. So now I wish to dive into specifically what Mongolian Shamanism is all about, at least what is known because the unfortunate truth is with modern society taking a strong hold in Mongolia, the native religion is slowly disappearing. So I wish to at least do my part in sharing with you what I have gathered to help preserve this fascinating spiritual practice.

Mongolian Shamanism is an ancient ethnic religion, tradition and moreover, a way of life. It is a way to connect with nature and all of creation. As all ancient spiritual practices are rooted in nature, shamanism is the method by which we can strengthen that natural connection. It is also centered on the worship of the Tenger “Tengri” (Heaven, God of Heaven, God)

Shamanism is the universal spiritual wisdom inherent to all tribes and it is memory of tribes and nations, preserving the traditions throughout the centuries. Mongolian shamanism is an all-encompassing system of belief that includes medicine, religion, a reverence of nature, and ancestor worship.

It is a practice that involves a practitioner reaching altered states of consciousness in order to perceive and interact with spiritual world. A shaman is someone who is regarded as having access to the world of spirits and enters into a trance state during a ritual and connects with spirits of their ancestors. Shamans perform a variety of functions depending upon their respective cultures; healing, leading a sacrifice, preserving the tradition by storytelling and songs, fortune-telling, and acting as a psychopomp (literal meaning, “guide of souls”). A single Shaman may fulfill several of these functions. In this way the Shaman helps to maintain balance and harmony on both a personal and planetary level. SOURCE

Two books in my library regarding Mongolian Shamanism which I highly recommend. You can purchase a copy HERE and HERE.

Ovoos or aobaoes (in Mongolian “heap”) are large rock ceremonial altars in the shape of mounds that are traditionally used for worship in the indigenous religion of Mongols and related ethnic groups. Every ovoo is considered to be the representation of a god. There are ovoos dedicated to heavenly gods, mountain gods, other gods of nature, and also to gods of human lineages. In Inner Mongolia, the ovoos for worship of ancestral gods can be private shrines of an extended family or kin, otherwise they are common to villages (dedicated to the god of a village). Pilgrims passing by an ovoo traditionally circle it three times in clockwise direction while making prayers. They often make offerings by adding stones to the mound, or by hanging blue ceremonial silk scarves, called khadaq, symbolizing the Tengri mountain spirits. Some pilgrims also leave money, milk, incense sticks, or bottles of alcoholic beverages. SOURCE

Shamanic sacred mountain of Han Bogd Hairham (Mongolia)

Further Resources

Mysterious World of Shamanism in Mongolia

Mongolian Shamanism: What is a Shamanic Ceremony Like?

Brief introduction to Mongolian Shamanism.
In Mongolia, Chinbayar embarks on a journey of initiation across his homeland which is in great turmoil after major mining companies trying to exploit its vast mineral wealth. The young shaman wants to solve one dilemma: his father also digs the land in search of gold to support his family… But in Mongolia, the ground is home to the spirits, and one cannot disturb its peace with impunity. From the Gobi desert to Ulaanbaatar, Chinbayar hopes that his encounters with lamas and wise elders will give him the answers he is desperately looking for.
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Sedna: Inuit Goddess of the Sea

Recently a friend of mine sent me a short video regarding a Goddess of the sea I was not aware of but am very much appreciative that I now know of her. Across the lands of the Inuit culture she has many names such as Mother of the Seas, Nuliayuk (Nuliajuk), Taluliyuk but most commonly she is known as Sedna. I immediately dived into learning about her and for those who personally know me know how much I love the Gods and Goddesses of the seas. So I felt an important need to share with you all the story and importance of this Inuit sea goddess that is certainly one of the most celebrated within the Inuit pantheon.

One thing I want to express which is very important to me out of respect to the Inuit nation is this. The Inuit are a proud people with a rich culture, traditions and history which really deserves to be preserved and respected.

SEDNA – (also known as Nuliajuk) – The sea goddess and the most celebrated deity in the Inuit pantheon. Even mythology books that cover no other figures from Inuit myths will usually have an entry on her. She was the daughter of the god and goddess Anguta and Isarrataitsoq and, like countless female figures in Inuit myths, she refused all prospective husbands. Sedna instead had sexual relations with dogs and the “freakish” offspring of these unions were said to be white people and Native American tribes that the Inuit were often at war with.

A ghoulish twist to the story is how Sedna took to using her parents as food (a recurring theme in Inuit myths because of the scarcity of food in the frozen north at times and how instances of cannibalism during such famines were much-discussed). Sedna devoured both of her mother Isarrataitsoq’s arms and had finished eating one of her father’s arms before he was able to subdue her and take her out to sea in his canoe, intent on banishing her to the sea. Continuing to struggle, Sedna clutched the sides of the canoe as her father tried to submerge her, prompting him to take his long knife and cut off her fingers.

Since, to the Inuit,  loss or mutilation of the hands was often seen as a horrific transformation into something new, the myth states that Sedna now embraced her fate, transforming her now-fingerless hands into flippers and transforming her severed digits into the various species of sea animals. When the one-armed Anguta returned to shore, where his still-armless wife awaited, Sedna, now fully realized as the sea goddess, caused a massive wave to wash over her parents, dragging them down to her new home to serve in her subaquatic court. Continue reading HERE.

Sculpture of Sedna in the National Museum of Finland

Once upon a time there lived on a solitary shore an Inung with his daughter Sedna. His wife had been dead for some time and the two led a quiet life. Sedna grew up to be a handsome girl and the youths came from all around to sue for her hand, but none of them could touch her proud heart. Finally, at the breaking up of the ice in the spring a fulmar flew from over the ice and wooed Sedna with enticing song. “Come to me,” it said; “come into the land of the birds where there is never hunger, where my tent is made of the most beautiful skins. You shall rest on soft bearskins. My fellows, the fulmars, shall bring you all your heart and desire; their feathers shall clothe you; your lamp will always be filled with oil, your pot with meat.” Sedna could not long resist such wooing and they went together over the vast sea. When at last they reached the country of the fulmar, after a long and hard journey, Sedna discovered that her spouse had shamefully deceived her. Her new home was not built of beautiful pelts, but was covered with wretched fishskins, full of holes, that gave free entrance to the wind and snow. Instead of soft reindeer skins, her bed was made of hard walrus hides and she had to live on miserable fish, which the birds brought her. Too soon she discovered that she had thrown away her opportunities when in her foolish pride she had rejected the Inuit youth. In her woe she sang: “Aja. O father, if you knew how wretched I am you would come to me and we would hurry away in your boat over the waters. The birds look unkindly upon me the stranger; cold winds roar about my bed; they give me but miserable food. O come and take me back home. Aja.” Continue reading HERE.

Inuit mythology refers to the indigenous peoples of Alaska, Canada, and Greenland’s shared spiritual beliefs and practices. Their religion has many parallels with the religions of other North Polar peoples. Inuit myths and legends, like any mythology, both are entertaining and educational. The Inuit attributed excellent and evil powers to deities who lived in a spirit world intertwined with the stunning northern landscape.

Did you know that the farthest known celestial body in space is named after the goddess Sedna?

2003 VB12 was the official temporary designation of the International Astronomical Union (IAU) Minor Planet Center, based on the year (2003) and date (14 Nov = the 22nd 2-week period of the year thus V=the 22nd letter of the alphabet. after that it is sequential based on the discovery announcement) of discovery. Once the orbit of 2003 VB12 is known well enough (probably 1 year), we will recommend to the IAU Committee on Small Body Nomenclature — which is responsible for solar system names — that it be permanently called Sedna (this has now happened, see above) . Our newly discovered object is the coldest most distant place known in the solar system, so we feel it is appropriate to name it in honor of Sedna, the Inuit goddess of the sea, who is thought to live at the bottom of the frigid arctic ocean. We will furthermore suggest to the IAU that newly discovered objects in this inner Oort cloud all be named after entities in arctic mythologies. SOURCE

Further Resources

The Inuit Legend of the Sea Goddess

The Goddess of the Sea: The Story of Sedna

Goddess Sedna

The Arctic Ocean is integral to the lives and culture of the Inuit peoples of the Arctic Circle, and one of their primary deities controls the ocean and all of the creatures who live within it. Though she goes by many different names, and her story varies from region to region, she is widely known as Sedna. Once a mortal girl subjected to cruelty and manipulation, Sedna’s fingers were chopped off, and they became the animals of the sea, while she rose to become one of the most powerful and venerated goddesses in all mythology. Mythology unleashed
In this episode of Makeup and Mythology, I cover Sedna, the Inuit goddess of the sea– but she wasn’t always. Swindled by her husband and betrayed by her father, this powerful goddess is known to be rather vengeful and demands to be worshiped. Liana C.
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The Sámi People: Everything You Should Know

Years ago when I discovered I have Finnish blood it led me to learn much about the Kalevala which actually led me to begin studying the Saami (Sámi) people, their culture and of course their Gods and Goddesses which do vary depending on the region. The variety is due to the fact that these amazing people live in the northern parts of Norway, Sweden, Finland and the Kola Peninsula of Russia. Someday I wish to visit a Saami town and spend time with one of their Spiritual ones.

For those of you interested in learning about the Saami and their Gods and Goddesses, here are some great resources.

Sami, also spelled Saami, or Same, Sami, Sabme, any member of a people speaking the Sami language and inhabiting ….. and adjacent areas of northern Norway, Sweden, and Finland, as well as the Kola Peninsula of Russia. They belong to the Finno-Ugric branch of the Uralic family. Almost all Sami are now bilingual, and many no longer even speak their native language. In the late 20th century there were from 30,000 to 40,000 Sami in Norway and about 20,000 in Sweden, 6,000 in Finland, and 2,000 in Russia.

The Sami are the descendants of nomadic peoples who had inhabited northern Scandinavia for thousands of years. When the Finns entered Finland, beginning about ad 100, Sami settlements were probably dispersed over the whole of that country; today they are confined to its northern extremity. In Sweden and Norway they have similarly been pushed north. The origin of the Sami is obscure; some scholars include them among the Paleo-Siberian peoples; others maintain that they were alpine and came from central Europe. Continue reading HERE.

The Sami vs. Outsiders

By Káre (Kimmi Woodard)

Early History:

According to historians, the proto-Sami were said to have inhabited most of Scandinavia and Northwest Russia. We first hear of them in the year 98 AD from the Roman historian Tacitus in his book Germania. At that time, they were called “Fenni.” Tacitus described them as a primitive hunting tribe who roamed the forests near Germany. In the second century A.D, Ptolemy of Alexandria spoke of a tribe in Scandinavia called the “Phinnoi.” And then in 555 AD the Greek historian Procopius in describing a war between the Romans and the Goths referred to a people called the “Skridfinns” who inhabited Scandinavia. And then once again in 750 AD Paulus Diaconus mentions a people called the “Skridfinns” who kept animals resembling deer. This name then spread throughout Scandinavia, to the Finns, the Russians and later to the Germans, Hungarians, Estonians and other groups. Today, the Sami prefer the name Sami, and their land is called Sapmi.

Viking Age Trade:

In the Viking Age there was a tremendous amount of trade (called the Finn Trade) along the coast of the Gulf of Finland and Bothnia. This area brought seasonal visits from Finns, Russians, and Scandinavian merchants, which eventually attracted the attention of the emerging nation states. It was during this early period that the Finns colonized the southwest corner of Finland. And in the 12th, 13th, and 14th centuries, there was also emigration into Sweden. As the Swedes, Finns and Norwegians pushed northward, Sapmi steadily decreased in size. In this early period we learn that the Sami merchants first traded with the Vikings, and later they traded with the travelers from northern Europe. According to the article “Important Years in Same History,” because of this early cultural contact, the Sami people advanced from a Stone Age society to a society that eventually developed its own monetary system; their currency was named tjoervie. The cultural contact not only benefited the Sami but other groups as well. The contact was often mutually beneficial. For example, it was quite common during this early period for different cultures to borrow words from one another. The Sami language, for instance, has hundreds of loanwords of Scandinavian or Germanic origin, as well as many from Finnish. Similarly, the Scandinavians and Finns have many words from each other. Continue reading HERE.

Saami Deities: List and Descriptions

The Sami People

The Sami in Sweden

Cultures of Norway: The Sami people

The Story of the Sami People & Culture

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A History of the Vikings – Gwyn Jones

Time for another book recommendation from my personal library and this is a really good one. A History of the Vikings by the late Gwyn Jones (24 May 1907 – 6 December 1999). Jones was a Welsh novelist and story writer, and a scholar and translator of Nordic literature and history.

The subject of this book is the Viking realms, Denmark, Sweden, and Norway, their civilization and culture, and their many sided achievements at home and abroad.
A highly readable narrative follows the development of these Northern peoples–the Nordmenn–from their origins and the legendary pre-history to the military triumphs of Canute and the defeat of Harald Hardrádi at Stamford Bridge in 1066, which symbolically ended the Viking age.
The book recounts the Vikings’ exploits in war, trade, and colonization: the assault on Western Christendom; the trading and military ventures to the Slav and Muslim worlds and to Byzantium; and the western voyages of discovery and settlement to Greenland, Iceland, and America.
Numerous photographs, maps, and drawings contribute to Gwyn Jones’s rounded portrait of Viking civilization and vividly evoke the importance in their culture of religion, art, and seafaring.

Here is a list of his other works. Books by Gwyn Jones

Get your copy here.

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The Vast History of Fenno-Scandinavia

Being someone who has both Scandinavian and Finnish blood, when I came across this webpage I completely went into geek research mode and found the entire page filled with so much great information I felt the need to share it with you. The Fenno-Scandinavia history is so rich, in-depth and involved and can be traced archeologically back to the 9,000s BCE. Below is the first part of the webpage and if that sparks your interest then I highly recommend clicking on the link and be ready to be amazed by all that is within it.

Modern Finland (Suomi to the Finns themselves) emerged into European history not only as Finland (in modern southern Finland) but also as Kvenland, a vast, ill-defined reach of Scandinavian and Fennoscandian territory which at the end of the Viking Age still encompassed not only most of modern Finland, but also the northern two-thirds of modern Sweden and Norway and part of north-western Russia.

Peopled in the north by the Sámi, they were bolstered by the arrival of Finno-Ugric speakers from the east who settled much of the region. These new arrivals were known as Kvens or Finns, and they gave their own Uralic-based language to the Sámi who were often described themselves as being Finno-Ugrics (although it seems likely that the Kvens predated the Finns and spoken an earlier language that was gradually lost due to Finno-Ugric dominance). The new arrivals brought with them cattle breeding and tillage skills, but these were later surpassed by the farming skills of Indo-European migrants who first began to arrive around five hundred to a thousand years later (see feature link).

The Finno-Ugric peoples of which these early Finns were a part were settled across a huge swathe of territory which reached eastwards into the Urals, and south of the Gulf of Finland to include the Estonians of the Early Baltics who originally occupied territory as far south as modern Lithuania. They also bear a distant relationship to the early Hungarians, but they never managed to form a unified state, preferring a relatively non-combative way of life in smaller tribal groups.

For the rest of this great webpage click here.

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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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Ibn Fadlan and the Land of Darkness

Ibn Fadlan and the Land of Darkness is a book that certainly gives an outside perspective during the late Viking Age and post Viking Age I feel is excellent to read about. This book was even the inspiration for Michael Crichton’s 1976 novel Eaters of the Dead and the film The 13th Warrior.

Between the ninth and fourteenth centuries, Arab explorers journeyed widely and frequently into the far north, crossing territories that now include Russia, Uzbekistan, and Kazakhstan. Ibn Fadlan’s chronicles of his travels are one of the most important documents from the period, and this illuminating new translation offers insight into the world of the Arab geographers and the medieval lands of the far north. Based on an expedition to the upper Volga River in 922 AD, Ibn Fadlan and the Land of Darkness provides a rare and valuable glimpse of Viking customs, dress, table manners, religion, and sexual practices, including the only eyewitness account ever written of a Viking ship cremation.

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The Anglo-Saxons

Anglo-Saxon Culture

The Anglo-Saxons were Germanic barbarians who invaded Britain and took over large parts of the island in the centuries following the withdrawal of the Roman Empire. They were initially less gentrified than other post-Roman barbarian groups such as the Franks or Ostrogoths because they had less contact with Mediterranean civilization. The Anglo-Saxons were originally pagan in religion. The main group, from northwestern Germany and Denmark, was divided into Angles, Saxons, and Jutes. German tribal affiliations were loose and the original invaders included people from other Germanic groups as well. Although some of the early Anglo-Saxon invaders had Celtic-influenced names, such as Cedric, the founder of the house of Wessex, the Anglo-Saxons had a pronounced awareness of them-selves as different from the peoples already inhabiting Britain. Their takeover led to the integration of Britain into a Germanic world. Unlike other groups such as the Franks they did not adopt the language of the conquered Celtic and Roman peoples, but continued speaking a Germanic dialect.

Continue reading about Anglo-Saxon culture here.

Anglo-Saxon Paganism, Festivals & Rituals

Anglo-Saxon Paganism

It is possible to reconstruct what little we know about Anglo-Saxon beliefs by using a wide variety of literary sources and place-names. What comes to light is an image of a people and a religion in a symbiotic relationship with nature, the powerful, uncontrollable and life-giving forces upon which their existence depended.

From the Roman historian and scholar Tacitus, we learn that Germans in the first century AD worshiped an Earth Goddess called Nerthus. Tacitus also mentions two war gods: Odin (or Woden) and Tyr. The great Viking scholar Magnus Magnusson claims that Woden was one of the chief gods of the Anglo-Saxons. Woden was so important to them, in fact, that most of the early Saxon kings claimed descent from the god as proof of their right to rule. Magnusson also identified the Saxon god Thunor, God of Thunder, who was known as Thor by the Vikings. During times of Viking settlement, Thor was revered above Odin in daily life.

But the strongest evidence for the identity of the Anglo-Saxon gods is found in place-names. Using this evidence, scholars have been able to add Tiw and the goddess Frig to the list of deities the Anglo-Saxons were known to worship. In addition, the Old English word “lea” added to many place-names in Europe is thought to be evidence of places of worship, as it refers to a clearing in the forest. These “sacred groves” were very important to the practice of Anglo-Saxon religion. There is also evidence of worship of the Sun and the Moon as deities, both in charms that have been preserved and in the names for Sunday and Monday.

Festivals

The regular practice of the pagan religion in Anglo-Saxon times involved several seasonal festivals. Nearly everything we know about the religious festivals of the pagan Anglo-Saxons comes from a book called De temporum ratione (“The Reckoning of Time”), written by a Christian monk known to us as the Venerable Bede. In his book, Bede describes the yearly calendar of the Anglo-Saxon people, which usually consisted of twelve lunar months, much like our current calendar.

According to Bede, the greatest pagan festival was Modraniht, or “Mother Night,” which was held on the winter solstice – about December 25th. It is thought that this Yule festival, as it is also known, involved decorating with evergreen branches, the burning of a Yule log, and a feast centered around a boar’s head. Modraniht marked the beginning of the Anglo-Saxon year.

The next festival Bede talks about is in Solmonaþ, the Anglo-Saxon name for February. This festival involved baking special cakes that may have had symbolic significance, not so much in ingredients, but in shape. According to Bede, these cakes were offered to the pagan gods.

March was the time of year Anglo-Saxons would make sacrifices to the goddess Hreda, but the more important spring festival appears to have been Eostur-monath Aprilis, a festival dedicated to the goddess Eostre. Celebrating spring and new life, the festival of Eostre would likely have involved flowers, dancing, and feasting.

Although Bede does not mention a midsummer festival, it is a common celebration that took place throughout Europe – and continues even today. Bonfires were a key component of these festivals, and it is thought that people would dance around or even jump over the fires, while casting herbs into the flames to ward off ill health and misfortune.

The month of September was known as Halegmonath, or “Holy Month.” While little is known about the origin of the name, it is thought that a festival was celebrated at this time of year, and likely included feasting in celebration of the harvest. Owen also proposes that the mythical figures of Sheaf and his son Beow (barley) were once associated with this festival.

Finally, November was known as Blod-Monath, meaning “Blood-Month.” The festival of Blodmonath was, according to Bede, commemorated with animal sacrifices, likely oxen. This practice likely served a dual purpose – both as an offering to the pagan gods, and as a source of food for the coming winter. Bonfires were likely a feature of this festival as well, since we have illustrations in late Anglo-Saxon calendars of revelers tending to fires.

“From this brief survey of the pagan year, we can see that the people in general would have been closely involved in these festivals, raising crops and animals, baking cakes, collecting fuel for bonfires, flocking to see images or wagons carrying the gods and joining them in procession. Above all they feasted, enjoying the fruits of their own labour while propitiating the deities” (Owen 19).

Runes

Runic writing was widely known among the Anglo-Saxons. They were believed to be magic symbols that, when carved into wood or stone, possessed mystical properties. The Runic alphabet is also known as Futhark, , a name composed of the first six letters of the alphabet. Why the letters were ordered in such a way, no one really knows.

Rituals

Marriage, Ceremonies

Anglo-Saxon marriage was nothing like the marriage ceremonies of today. When a man wished to marry, he would bring a dowry to her that consisted of oxen, horses, shields, spears, and swords. If she accepted him, she would then “gift” these items back to her new husband. It is also thought that swords were used in the marriage ceremony itself. According to Owen, the bride and groom would each lay their hands upon the sword “in token of their heroic duty” (61). Swords may also have been symbolic of fertility.

Ritual Drinking and Gift-Giving

Among the more important rituals associated with the mead-hall, ritual drinking had great significance to the Anglo-Saxons. Hosted by a lord or king, an organized banquet would be prepared for guests or favored retainers. Women played a ceremonial role at the banquet, carrying the ceremonial drinking vessel to the king and each of his guests in the hall. There was usually only one cup, which everyone shared. Making speeches (boasting, or “oral resumes”) and gift-giving often went hand-in-hand with this ritual. The lord or king would often bestow gifts and praise upon his valiant warriors through a very ritualistic reward system. Young men, those yet untried in battle, would receive weapons as gifts which they would then be expected to use in defense of the gift-giver. These kinds of rituals helped to maintain hierarchy and allegiance in Anglo-Saxon society.

“Thus the Anglo-Saxons lived their lives, cozy in their brightly lit halls, cheered by feasting and music. They placated their gods with sacrifice and strove to keep out the hostile creatures who lurked in the outer darkness. They enjoyed formal ceremonies – pledging of oaths and speechmaking – and superstitious rituals, like the casting of lots, decided the major issues of their lives. The ritual which was perhaps the most important of all came, however, at the end of life. The pagan funeral ceremony…honored the achievements of a lifetime and, it was hoped, equipped the dead one for the afterlife” (Owen 66).

Funerals

Anglos-Saxons clearly believed in a life after death, because they provided their dead with objects that they felt might be required. A man might be buried with his spears, while a woman would be wearing her best jewelry and costume. The higher status a person had in Anglo-Saxon society, the more elaborate the burial, and the more affluent the grave-goods. It is because of this practice that researchers know as much as they do about the Anglo-Saxon people. Source