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Ratatoskr – The Gossiping Messenger of the Yggdrasil

Ratatoskr maybe be only mentioned a few times in text but this mischievous Squirrel of the Yggdrasil is actually quite an important critter of Norse Mythology and is a personal favorite of mine. This is why I felt the need to create this post about this special Squirrel. Ratatoskr is a squirrel who runs up and down the world tree Yggdrasil to carry messages between Veðrfölnir, perched atop Yggdrasil, and the wyrm Níðhöggr, who dwells beneath one of the three roots of the tree.

Ratatosk is mentioned in the Poetic Edda, in stanza 32 of Grimnismal, presented with some context so you can see that the squirrel is described as just one piece of an essential part of the Yggrdasil.

31. Three roots there are | that three ways run
‘Neath the ash-tree Yggdrasil;
‘Neath the first lives Hel, | ‘neath the second the frost-giants,
‘Neath the last are the lands of men.

32. Ratatosk is the squirrel | who there shall run
On the ash-tree Yggdrasil;
From above the words | of the eagle he bears,
And tells them to Nithhogg beneath.

33. Four harts there are, | that the highest twigs
Nibble with necks bent back;
Dain and Dvalin, | . . . . . .
Duneyr and Dyrathror.

Poetic Edda, stanza 32 of Grimnismal

Also Ratatoskr is mentioned in the famous book the Prose Edda written by Icelandic author Snorri Sturluson.

From Gylfaginning – Here Begins the Beguiling of Gylfi

“What more mighty wonders are to be told of the Ash?” Hárr replied: “Much is to be told of it. An eagle sits in the limbs of the Ash, and he has understanding of many a thing; and between his eyes sits the hawk that is called Vedrfölnir. The squirrel called Ratatöskr runs up and down the length of the Ash, bearing envious words between the eagle and Nídhöggr; and four harts run in the limbs of the Ash and bite the leaves. They are called thus: Dáinn, Dvalinn, Duneyrr, Durathrór.

The text by the animal reads “Rata / tøskur / ber øf / undar / ord my / llū arnr / og nyd / hoggs”. From the en:17th century en:Icelandic manuscript AM 738 4to, now in the care of the Árni Magnússon Institute in Iceland.

From Wight of the Nine Worlds

We often hear about the animal spirits that live in the great world tree of the Norse Mythology, Yggdrasil, the Eagle at the top, the Dragon at the bottom and in the middle the Squirrel named Ratatoskr/Ratatosk, which is said that he carries messages and occasional insults between the Eagle and the Dragon and to many other inhabitants of the area and also to the rest of the Nine Worlds.

Ratatoskr knows all about Yggdrasil and its surroundings, and also knows about all the hidden places in the Nine worlds, all the passages from one realm to another. This animal is a powerful symbol in the Norse Shamanic practices of old, it is the symbol that links each sacred being in the Norse mythology by peaceful means, avoiding trouble, avoiding unnecessary danger, he is also the symbol that links each realm, just as the Squirrel moves from one tree to another, silent, watchful, without drawing attention, discreet, always with eyes open, so too the Shamans of the Norse/Germanic peoples must do that when traveling between the Nine worlds, but also a lesson to take by all the others who must travel in this mortal realm, searching for food, a place to live, hunting, or whatever one must do into places he or she doesn’t know and where extra careful is necessary, always attentive, alert, for possible dangerous threats. Continue reading HERE.

Further Resources

Ratatoskr in Norse Myth

Thinking About Ratatoskr and the Spirit of Our Age

Grímnismál – The Speech of the Masked One

Mythology Ratatoskr

From the great Youtube channel called Mythology & Fiction Explained
This video I think was very well done by Zephyr’s Voice
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The Ancestry Genetics Journey: An Introduction

Recently I have seen a huge increase in people’s interest in uncovering their ancestral heritage and to learn further about their ancient roots. This is a subject I am quite passionate about and have been studying as a hobby for over 20 years. By no means am I an expert but I have a great deal of knowledge and experience I have acquired that I feel is important to share with my readers.

Getting started with the process of uncovering your ancestral heritage via your DNA can be quite intimidating but it does not have to be if the right tools and tutorials are given to you. This is a complicated subject that I could spend hours explaining regarding Genealogy, Mitochondrial DNA, and even the fascinating forensic science of Isotopic mapping but for this blog post I feel it should be a How-to beginner’s guide.

So in order to give those interested a starting point in beginning this amazing journey I am providing a list of websites and articles I feel are fantastic for not just beginners but for anyone who wishes to expand upon their own search.

Please do take note of the GEDmatch links as these are essential above all to get such specific details of your ancestral heritage it may just blow your mind.

Websites to get a DNA ancestry test to begin the journey of discovery

Then be sure to go to Ancestry DNA.

23 and Me

MyHeritage DNA

HomeDNA

Helix website

Join GEDmatch for free HERE.

What is GEDmatch?

Directly from the website About page.

“GEDmatch is a free DNA comparison and analysis website for people who have tested their autosomal DNA using a direct-to-consumer genetic testing company, such as 23andMe, or have a custom file from other sources. Testers download their DNA data file from the testing company, and then upload it to GEDmatch. GEDmatch processes the file, adds it to a genealogical database, and provides applications for matching and further analysis. Because GEDmatch aggregates files from all testing companies, your potential for matches is greater.”

GEDmatch can be a bit overwhelming for those first looking at the website so I want to provide to you easy guides to follow.

GEDmatch: Get Started

Genetic Genealogy Using GEDmatch: An Absolute Beginners Guide

Many beginning genetic genealogists want to know which GEDmatch tools to access first and in what order. This video will help with getting started using GEDmatch.

Further Resources:

Which DNA Test is Best for Me?

Ethnic DNA Testing Reveals Your Genetic Heritage

Ancestors and Heritage in Paganism

If you follow these 5 tips when getting started in genealogy research, you will have more success. These family history tips that will help you avoid the most common genealogy mistakes.

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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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Slavic Paganism: An Introduction

Much like with Norse Paganism (Asatru), Slavic Paganism often in modern times gets a negative reputation by some mainstream sources and organizations as a result of a minority demographic that utilizes such spiritual beliefs for their own malicious intentions. However the more ancient native beliefs throughout the Slavic countries which can be in general described as Slavic Paganism has a rich history of traditions, ritual holidays and their Gods and Goddesses. Being that I myself have Slavic blood running through my veins I have been fascinated and studied this subject for years and even in my own crafts pay homage to Slavic Paganism and their Pantheon of Gods and Goddesses. In fact eventually on this Blog I plan to feature each Slavic God and Goddess in their own post.

I also with my personal practice of Galdur and Seiðr (Nordic Magic) have studied in some extent the practices of Slavic Witchcraft. Two books I have in my library were written by Author Natasha Helvin and her books I highly recommend. The two books I have she wrote are Russian Black Magic: The Beliefs and Practices of Heretics and Blasphemers and Slavic Witchcraft: Old World Conjuring Spells &Folklore. So with that said let us now dive into the amazing world of Slavic Paganism.

Yes, Slavic paganism is a reconstruction of the pre-Christian and pre-Islamic religion of Slavic peoples. Reconstructionism “…is a methodology used to build a cohesive belief system revolving around certain/specific ethno-cultural peoples, located in a specific era of time…” This methodology includes close study of primary sources about Slavic paganism: medieval chronicles, epic poetry, etc. But it also emphasizes Christian folklore (often a thinly veiled retelling of pagan oral tradition), linguistic analysis and comparison to other mythologies. Altogether, these different approaches compose a reconstructionist method which we employ to revive the Slavic pagan religion.

The use of this methodology in contemporary paganism is not new. It has proven its worth through the compelling reconstructions of the paganisms of other ethno-cultural groups, such as the Gauls, Anglo-Saxons, Greco-Egyptians and Norse, among others.

Slavic reconstructionist paganism includes three main objects of worship: the gods (Russian: Bogi), the spirits (Russian: Dushi), and the ancestors (Russian: Predki). We believe in multiple, distinct gods who are both immanent (appearing in the world) and transcendent (not limited to the material world). We believe that every building, every forest, every river or lake, the landscape itself is populated by countless spirits. We believe that our ancestors watch over and protect us throughout our life. SOURCE

Slavic Pantheon

The following list gives some of the more important Slavic deities known from older sources. Almost all of these are easily identifiable as Slavic cognates of other Proto-Indo-European Goddesses and Gods. The names used here are just some of the forms of the names which vary widely because of dialect differences in the Slavic languages as well as differences in the alphabets and the manner of their transcription from the Cyrillic alphabet. The element -bog seen in several of these names means ‘a god’ in various Slavic languages. The earliest references to specific deities are to Vladimir’s pantheon, the Gods and one Goddess worshiped by Prince Vladimir in about 980 CE before his conversion to Christianity. Most of the earliest references are from Christian sources and do not give much information, and even that is suspect. However many of these deities continue to be worshiped in the dual religion of the country people, and so they are well known from folk traditions.

Belbog, with the element bel- meaning ‘bright, white.’ This deity is known from early Christian sources.
Bereginya, mentioned in old sources, the bereginyi (plural) receive offerings among the folk, and there are folk stories told about them. Bereginya dolls are still made by Russians.
Dazhbog, a ‘Day God’ known from Vladimir’s pantheon and other early sources. In myths, he is the father of the morning and evening stars and of the Zoryi.
Khors, known from Vladimir’s pantheon, but little else is known about this God.
Koliada, the Goddess associated with the winter solstice and possibly a personification of it. There are many songs and dances known for her.
Kupalo/Kupala, a deity associated with the summer solstice. Kupalo, a masculine form, appears in early Christian references, while Kupala, a feminine form, appears in more recent folklore sources.

Lado/Lada. Lado, a masculine form, appears in early sources and is identified with Pluto and was the God invited to any occasion of merriment including weddings. Lada, a feminine form, appears in many folklore sources and is the Goddess associated with the May Day festival. There are many songs for her which people still sing. Although the linguistic relationship is uncertain, she appears to be the Slavic version of the Proto-Indo-European Goddess *Pleto.
Leshii, a personification of the forest fires which were a big concern for people who lived and worked in the northern forests.
Marzanna, a Grain Goddess known from early references and later folklore
Mesyats, a personification of the Moon, Mesyats appears in folk tales, where he or she marries Dazhbog, and they have lots of little baby stars together.

Mokosha, a Goddess from Vladimir’s pantheon, she remained important to people and is associated with water.
Perun, known from Vladimir’s pantheon, he is the Slavic version of the Proto-Indo-European God *Perkunos, a Storm God.
Poxvizd, Pogwizd are Wind Gods.
Priye and Porevit are Slavic versions of the Proto-Indo-European Goddess *Pria, Goddess of spring flowers.
Radigast at Rethra, known originally from Christian sources, the name Radigast is not well understood, but Rethra, the site of a temple appears to be the Slavic form of a standard Proto-Indo-European Goddess or God. The site of the temple described in old records is not certain, but it is probably south of the Tollense Sea (lake), where a wooden idol with two heads was found in 1968.

Rugavit, known from a confused description by the Christian Saxo Grammaticus, Rugavit was said to be a God of War. In later Slavic folklore she appears as Baba Rugen and similar names, meaning Rye Mother among the country people.
Simargl, mentioned in connection with Vladimir’s pantheon, the Simargl was often pictured in folk art as a supernatural bird with a long or braided tail. Various etymologies have been offered, but it may be borrowed from a Zoroastrian/Persian source. The Simargl was also borrowed into Islam and can be found as far afield as Indonesia where it is known as the Simurgh.
Stribog, a Wind God in Vladimir’s pantheon, also mentioned in the Lay of Igor.
Svantovit, is mentioned by Saxo Grammaticus but may be borrowed from Zoroastrian as one of the Amesha Spentas. It’s not clear because the name has been interpreted and reinterpreted in various languages, including as St. Vitus in Latin. The archaeological site for a major temple of Svantovit has been found at Arkona on the island of Rugen along the Baltic Sea. A proper dig was done by Schuchhardt starting in 1922.
Svarog, a God of the Sun or of the Forge in early sources.

Svarozhich, a son of Svarog, another name for a forge or smithy, also known from early sources.
Volos/Veles, though not specifically mentioned in Vladimir’s pantheon, it is known that warriors at that time (10th century) swore oaths by Veles and their swords. Veles is more widely known as the protector of cattle though he seems to take the form of a wolf.
Yarovit, one of the faces of Svantovit, and a deity of summer. Yaro means ‘summer.’
Zhiva is a Grain Goddess, and the Slavic version of the Proto-Indo-European Goddess *Devi.
Zoryi/Zorya, the Zoryi (plural) were personified forms of the sun at sunrise (dawn) and sunset and their names are cognate with other Indo-European names for the Sun, such as Surya. There is a third sister called Black Zorya who represents Night in folklore, or as some say, the Northern Lights. The three are the daughters of Dazhbog. They sometimes appear as knights on horseback as in the tale of Vasilisa and the Baba Yaga.
SOURCE

This symbol represents the Hands of Gods that reach out to everything and everyone,  including our whole world, our galaxy and all universes.
It contains  all elements of life: Svarog – the heavenly smith, the creator of mankind (bottom right field), Mother Earth (bottom left field), the Sun and its life-giving force (upper left field) and Perun, the patron of mankind (upper right field).”

Further Resources:

Slavic Paganism

Slavic Paganism Posts from Elder Mountain Dreaming

Ancient Beliefs Among Ukrainian People From Slavic Paganism To Orthodoxy

Slavic Pagan Festivals

Resources about Polish and West Slavic mythology and paganism

Slavic Paganism: History and Rituals

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The Sacred Ritual of the Blood Eagle

The ancient ritual from the Viking Age known as the Blood Eagle is quite the popular subject in recent years since it was depicted in the television series Vikings. But was it a common practice? Was it reserved for only the “worthy”? How exactly did it take place and what evidence exists to expand upon this ritual? Well for that I have gathered some of the best sources and research online for you to explore and dive deeper into the legendary ritual known as the Blood Eagle.

The blood eagle ritual was a sacrifice usually done to a captured enemy. It was mostly associated with God Odin as it give homage to God for giving victory. There were several ways to conduct the blood eagle ritual. However, the typical blood eagle involved the back being slice open; the ribs slashed from its attachment and then pulled back by the executioner. The lungs were then drag to exposed ribs, creating an image of wings of an eagle, the bird associated to Odin. Sometimes, salt was sprinkled as the wounded back to insight further pain to the victim.

The lurid ritual was depicted in some poems, stories, and historical records. In the Poetic Edda of the 13th century, Lyngvi who was captured by his enemy, Sigurd, became victim of the blood eagle ritual. In another story from the Thattr Orms Storolfssonar, Orm drew a blood eagle from the back of Brusi in a cave. A historical record known as the Orkneyinga Saga from the 13th century depicted how Earl Einar did a blood eagle ritual from the back of Halfdan in the island of Orkni. But the most well-known record of the blood eagle was from a historically based poem of Sighvatr Poroarson, the Knutsdrapa. According from the poem. King Aella of Northumbria killed the legendary king Ragnar Lodbrok. To avenge his father, Ivar the Boneless attacked Northumbria. The forces of Ivar and Aella met in 867 in the Battle of York. Ivar luckily captured Aella. To satisfy vengeance and give homage to Odin, Ivar slashed the back of the poor Aella and drew a blood eagle from back of the Northumbrian King. However, many disputed if the interpretation of the text was correct or a result mistranslation. Nevertheless, many persist that King Aella was a victim of the blood eagle ritual… SOURCE

Expert medical theory on how a Blood Eagle was performed.
The Orkneyinga Saga as mentioned above tells of the Blood Eagle.

Further Resources:

An Anatomy of the Blood Eagle: The Practicalities of Viking Torture

Did the Vikings Actually Torture Victims With the Brutal ‘Blood Eagle’?

Executed: The Blood Eagle of the Vikings

Was Kildalton the Site of a Bloody Viking Ritual?

Torf-Einar and the Blood Eagle

King Aelle and the Blood Eagle: Ritual Sacrifice in Viking Age Britain

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Nehalennia: Dutch Goddess of the North Seas

A couple of years ago I learned about the little know Dutch Goddess of the North seas, Nehalennia. Since my main deities are Gods and Goddesses of the seas I had to dive into who this Goddess is and her importance. Nehalennia is the Goddess of the North seas, Sailors, fortune at sea, safe passage at sea and sometimes considered a Goddess of life and death. She is also considered to be a Mothergoddess. So in many ways you can see similarities between Nehalennia and the Norse God Njordr, Ægir and the Goddess Rán. I always like to give lesser known Gods and Goddesses the spotlight they deserve and Nehalennia definitely deserves such honor.

In 1645 a large part of the Zeeland Dunes in Domburg were eroded due to a huge storm. What they found were altarstones or votive stones dedicated to the Goddess Nehalennia. These stones dated back to the second and third century BC. They also find the remains of a Temple. Which suggests that there once was a Temple dedicated to Nehalennia there. Although it is still not known whether this Goddess was Celtic or Germanic, it is known that the Romans in the area worshipped this Goddess. The texts on the votive stones are in Latin. Therefore it is thought that Nehalennia is the name the Romans gave to the Goddess. The stones found in Domburg were displayed in the church, which turned into a sort of museum. However in 1848 lightning struck the church tower, burning it to the ground. Most stones were destroyed.

In 1970 a fisherman at Colijnsplaat in Zeeland noticed four large stones in his fishing net. He decided to take them to shore and showed them to a lot of people. They recognized the name Nehalennia, which was still readable on one of the stones. In the years after this discovery they excavated more of these votive stones, together with pieces of building materials. Suggesting that here too, once a Temple dedicated to the Sea Goddess stood. SOURCE.

Nehalennia Dutch Goddess Statue, Colijnsplaat. Date
ca. 100 CE–ca. 250 CE
Nehalennia, a Dutch Goddess Kindle Edition
by Ingrid de Haas

Further Resources:

Nehalennia (Celtic: “she of the sea”): ancient goddess, venerated in the Roman age at the mouth of the river Scheldt.

A Dutch Goddess, Nehalennia

Nehalennia – the ‘Cailleach’ of Zeeland?

Nelahennia is a native Dutch Goddess

Ancient Goddesses Indigenous to The Netherlands: Nehalennia, Hludana and Tanfana

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The Legendary Viking Berserkers

One of the most well known yet still much unknown warriors of ancient times are the Berserkers (Berserkr) of the Viking Age. These fierce warriors said to go into an animalistic rage and even trance like in ferocity would bang their axes against their shields and would even chew on their shields whilst gnashing their teeth. They are mentioned in the Sagas and even an account of one famous Berserker who held off an army at the Battle of Stamford Bridge. So let us now dive into the what is known and what is thought of these ancient Special Ops warriors of the North.

Hrolf’s Saga tells of the hero Bjarki, who takes on the shape of a bear in battle:

Men saw that a great bear went before King Hrolf’s men, keeping always near the king. He slew more men with his forepaws than any five of the king’s champions. Blades and weapons glanced off him, and he brought down both men and horses in King Hjorvard’s forces, and everything which came in his path he crushed to death with his teeth, so that panic and terror swept through King Hjorvard’s army…” (Gwyn Jones. Eirik the Red and Other Icelandic Sagas. NY: Oxford Univ. Press. 1961. p. 313).

Another Óðinnic quality possessed by the berserk is a magical immunity to weapons. In Havamál, Óðinn speaks of spells used to induce this immunity:

A third song I know, if sore need should come
of a spell to stay my foes;
When I sing that song, which shall blunt their swords,
nor their weapons nor staves can wound
….
An eleventh I know, if haply I lead
my old comrades out to war,
I sing ‘neath the shields, and they fare forth mightily;
safe into battle,
safe out of battle,
and safe return from the strife.
(Lee M. Hollander, trans. Poetic Edda. Austin.
Univ. of Texas Press. 1962. pp. 44-45)

The berserk was sometimes inherently possessed of this immunity, or performed spells to induce it, or even had special powers to blunt weapons by his gaze. Many tales say of their berserkers, “no weapon could bite them” or “iron could not bite into him.” This immunity to weapons may also have been connected with the animal-skin garments worn by the berserk. As we saw above, while in animal form, “blades and weapons glanced off” Bodvar Bjarki. Similarly, Vatnsdæla Saga says that “those berserks who were called ulfhednar had wolf shirts for mail-coats” (Ellis-Davidson, “Shape Changing,” p. 133). This concept of immunity may have evolved from the berserker’s rage, during which the berserk might receive wounds, but due to his state of frenzy take no note of them until the madness passed from him. A warrior who continued fighting while bearing mortal wounds would surely have been a terrifying opponent. SOURCE

The mushroom Amanita muscaria is known to have hallucinogenic properties and is theorized to have been consumed by Berserkers.

Viking berserkers may have used henbane to induce trance-like state

It tells of the exploits of King Hrolf and of his famous champions, including Bodvar Bjarki, the ‘bear-warrior’
The Lewis Chessmen, discovered in Scotland but believed to be Norwegian, date to the 12th century and include a number of pieces showing wild-eyed berserkers biting their shields.

Further Resources:

The Viking Berserkers Were Norse Warriors Who Entered A Trance-Like Rage During Battle

Berserker: Norse Warrior

Viking Age Berserkers

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Úlfheðnar: The Wolf Spirit Warriors

The Úlfheðnar (Ulfhednar) from Viking age history was actually chronicled during the Viking Age and they have been described with definite specifics. A fascinating “Special Forces” of the Viking forces during raids and even on homelands these warriors were said to have a spiritual ability to shapeshift into Wolves. Many like to adopt the title of Úlfheðnar in modern times but my personal opinion is that is as ridiculous as someone calling themselves a modern Viking. I will expand on this opinion in a future Blog post. Now I for one am of the Wolf Spirit animal kind and give much respect to that which is why I feel this post must be looked upon as what once was and preserved with due respect.

The oldest extended description of Viking beast men comes from a 9th-century poem called Haraldskvæði, describing the army of Harald Fair-Hair:

   I’ll ask of the berserks, you tasters of blood,
   Those intrepid heroes, how are they treated,
   Those who wade out into battle?
   Wolf-skinned they are called. In battle
   They bear bloody shields.
   Red with blood are their spears when they come to fight.
   They form a closed group.
   The prince in his wisdom puts trust in such men
   Who hack through enemy shields.

The four Torslunda plates, Knut Stjerna (1874–1909) – Knut Stjerna, “Hjälmar och svärd i Beovulf” (1903)

The Ulfhednar wore wolfskins (Wolf-shirts, vargstakkar) over coats of mail, and unlike the Berserkers, who fought as squads, entered combat singly as guerrilla fighters. There were also the Ulfhamir, the wolf-shirts, who are believed to have fought, like the Berserkers, without armor.

Some had hammered, metal plates on their helmets used to magically protect them. There is a carving from the eleventh century showing these warriors. It depicts a wolf-mask with a human head looking out and armed with a spear.

Similar masks are used by shamans, acting as spirit receptacles when worn. One of the by-names of Odin, Grim, means ‘the masked one’ and the old Norse warriors wore a literally grim visage when going about their business.

The Ulfhednar used the superhuman strength of the wolf as their basis for martial arts. Their techniques were fraught with dangers, especially for the uninitiated.

From the Volsunga Saga we can learn some secrets about the Ulfhednar. Sigmund and his son put on wolf skins, agreed to follow certain rules when they fought, ‘They spoke in wolf-language,’ both understood that speech. The wolf-language is a form of ‘call’ like the Kiai of oriental martial arts, which has a momentary lowering of the blood pressure of opponents, allowing the warrior to strike. “The Beserks bayed…..the Ulfhednar howled!”

The tradition of the wolf-warriors is not just Nordic. A wolf-like cult is also ascribed to the Celtic race. From the Irish book, “The Wonders of Ireland”, “For by an evil craft they can at will change themselves into the shape of wolves with sharp tearing teeth.”

Feats of arms attributed to members of these warrior clans, and also others bearing names of wolf and bear, are legendary. The greatest Anglo-Saxon poem is about a wolf-cult warrior; “Beowulf”. Beowulf is a compound name composed of the Saxon fertility god, Beow and the wolf. SOURCE

Úlfhednar, Wolf Warriors

Beast Men: Berserkir and Úlfhéðnar in the Viking Age

Úlfhéðnar, Werewolves, Warriors and Winter Sacrifices

About Ulfhednar

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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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Uppsala – History, Legends and More

The Temple of Uppsala

Around the year 1070, Adam of Bremen described the great pagan cult center of Uppsala, Sweden in his work Gesta Hammaburgensis ecclesiae pontificum, the most famous source to pagan ritual practice in Sweden. It was written with the agenda of showing how barbaric and immoral were the practices and religion of the pagans, in defense of the still somewhat fragile position of the Christian church in Sweden at the time. Thus it cannot be read as an objective source to paganism, but rather as a strongly biased attack on paganism. Yet it is one of the only sources we have, and must make do with. The temple of Uppsala is described in the fourth book, chapter 26:

“This people have a widely renowned sanctuary called Uppsala. By this temple is a very large tree with extending branches. It is always green, both in winter and in summer. No one knows what kind of tree this is. There is also a spring there, where the heathens usually perform their sacrificial rites. They throw a live human being into the spring. If he does not resurface, the wishes of the people will come true.

The Temple is girdled by a chain of gold that hangs above the roof of the building and shines from afar, so that people may see it from a distance when they approach there. The sanctuary itself is situated on a plain, surrounded by mountains, so that the form a theater.

It is not far from the town of Sigtuna. This sanctuary is completely covered with golden ornaments. There, people worship the carved idols of three gods: Thor, the most powerful of them, has his throne in the middle of the hall, on either side of him, Odin and Freyr have their seats. They have these functions: “Thor,” they say, “rules the air, he rules thunder and lightning, wind and rain, good weather and harvests. The other, Odin, he who rages, he rules the war and give courage to people in their battle against enemies. The third is Freyr, he offers to mortals lust and peace and happiness.” And his image they make with a very large phallus. Odin they present armed, the way we usually present Mars, while Thor with the scepter seems to resemble Jupiter. As gods they also worship some that have earlier been human. They give them immortality for the sake of their great deeds, as we may read in Vita sancti Ansgarii that they did with King Eirik.”

The following is largely quoted, or abridged from the book Frey’s Offspring: Rulers and Religion in Ancient Svea Society by Olaf Sundqvist (2002) p.  94-136. Most of the evidence and copious examples have been truncated or omitted. Please refer to the original text for details:

“Gamla Uppsala is one of the most complex archaeological monuments in Scandinavia. The finds are sufficient for it to be considered a central place during the entire Late Iron Age. The mounds, boat-graves, traces of hall(s) and the wall to the north indicate the presence of a ruling stratum at least from the 5th or the 6th century. These finds, together with the phosphate values at the Eastern Mound and the Middle Mound, may also indicate ritual activity. Archeological analysis shows the site has been settled since the Roman period. It is an important site from at least the Migration Period up to the Middle Ages, though it may have experienced some troughs during the 9th century, after the hall on the southern plateau was burnt down.” SOURCE

Offering by Johann Lund 1831, depicting a horse being led to a statue of Thor for sacrifice.

Resources:

The Viking Age Temple at Gamla Uppsala

The Royal Mounds of Gamla Uppsala, Ancient Pagan Site of Sweden

Human Sacrifices?

The Temple at Uppsala

The Viking temple of Uppsala

Vikings in Uppsala

Pre-Viking Grave in Uppsala Reveals Ornate Sword and Jewelry