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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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Books of the Sagas

When asked by people who are first diving into the spirituality of what is commonly known as Norse Paganism I always recommend the Hávamál, the Eddas and of course the Sagas. These I feel really can build a foundation for anyone interested in starting a spiritual path regarding this subject. But of course there are thousands of books regarding the tales of the folklore and the Gods and Goddesses of Scandinavia, many of which are in my personal library which will eventually be added on blogs posts here. But for now I want to focus on five books in my library so let us get to it.

The Sagas of Icelanders: (Penguin Classics Deluxe Edition)

A unique body of medieval literature, the Sagas rank with the world’s greatest literary treasures–as epic as Homer, as deep in tragedy as Sophocles, as engagingly human as Shakespeare. Set around the turn of the last millennium, these stories depict with an astonishingly modern realism the lives and deeds of the Norse men and women who first settled Iceland and of their descendants, who ventured further west–to Greenland and, ultimately, the coast of North America itself.

The ten Sagas and seven shorter tales in this volume include the celebrated “Vinland Sagas,” which recount Leif Eiriksson’s pioneering voyage to the New World and contain the oldest descriptions of the North American continent. Get your copy HERE.

The Sagas of Fridthjof the Bold
By Ben Waggoner

Popular in the 19th century for its sweeping, adventurous, romantic plot and tender love story, the Saga of Fridthjof the Bold was largely neglected in the 20th century. Now, a new and fresh translation of both versions of this Old Norse saga restores it to glory. Also included is the swashbuckling Saga of Thorstein Vikingsson, the father of the hero Fridthjof; the Tale of King Vikar, telling of Fridthjof’s descendants; and plenty of notes and commentary giving the saga’s historical and cultural background. These tales of adventure, war, magic, and love can still thrill the heart today, as they did centuries ago. Get your copy HERE.

The Hrafnista Sagas
By Ben Waggoner

The Norwegian island of Hrafnista was long remembered in medieval Iceland as the ancestral home of a family of powerful chieftains, who were said to have faced and triumphed over dangers ranging from tyrant kings, to storms and famines, to giants, dragons, and sorcery. Descendants of these Men of Hrafnista settled in Iceland and gave rise to prominent families, who passed on tales of their ancestors for generations until they were written down. For the first time, the Old Norse sagas of the Men of Hrafnista—the Saga of Ketil Salmon, the Saga of Grim Shaggy-Cheek, the Saga of Arrow-Odd, and the Saga of An Bow-Bender—have been collected in one volume, in English translation. Enter the world of Viking legend and lore with these tales of high adventure. Get your copy HERE.

Sagas of Giants and Heroes
By Ben Waggoner

Huge in stature; living in far-distant wastelands; sometimes comically stupid or crude; but possessing vast wealth and knowledge—such are the giants of Norse myth and legend.

Four Icelandic sagas and six tales, spanning five centuries, are brought together for the first time in all-new English translations. All tell of mighty giants, and of the heroes who dared to face them, fight them, and sometimes befriend them. The giants and trolls of old still live on in these legendary sagas of old times. These tales of epic voyages, wars, and romance will appeal to both scholars of Norse mythology and fans of Viking adventure.

The sagas include the Saga of the Kjalarnes People, the Saga of Halfdan Brana’s Fosterling, the Saga of Sorli the Strong, and the Saga of Illugi Grid’s Fosterling.

The six shorter tales are: the Tale of Halfdan the Black, the Tale of Hauk High-Breeches, the Tale of Jokul Buason, the Tale of Brindle-Cross, an excerpt from the Saga of the Fljotsdal People, and the Tale of Asmund Ogre-Lucky. Get your copy HERE.

Three Icelandic Sagas Gunnlaugs Saga Ormstungu – Bandamanna Saga – Droplaugarsona Saga Hardcover – January 1, 1950
by Margaret and M. H. Scargill (translators) Schlauch (Author)



This gem may not be so easy to acquire as it is out of print as far as I know. My copy of Three Icelandic Sagas is a first edition published on Januray 1st, 1950 and is my favorite in my Sagas collection. The three Sagas told in this book are the Gunnlaugs Saga, Bandamanna Saga and Droplaugarsona Saga which all took place from the late 10th century to early 11th century in Iceland. The book is so well written and even includes some beautiful art depicting scenes from the Sagas. If you manage to get a copy of this first edition it is one you will thoroughly enjoy.

When we think of the roots of European civilization it’s to Greece and Rome that our thoughts turn. But there is a culture whose effect may be even more profound. Hundreds of years ago in faraway Iceland the Vikings began to write down dozens of stories – called sagas. These sagas are priceless historical documents which bring to life the Viking world.
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Runestones of Scandinavia

Being someone who has studied the different variations of the Runes for years I have also enjoyed learning about the Runestones of Scandinavia. These monolithic stone carvings are believed started as early as the 4th century CE but the vast majority were created and raised between the 10th and 11th century CE in what would be the late Viking Age. These Runestones sometimes tell a story but mostly are a dedication either in Pagan context or Christian but some are a fusion of both. The thing I like most about them is how each is so unique from the next and I have several friends in Scandinavia who share videos and photos of them with Runestones that allows me to virtually tour these amazing pieces of Viking age history. So with that said I would like to dive into what they are about, importance and all there is to know about the Runestones of Scandinavia.

Runestones: Words from the Viking Age

Remnants of Scandinavia’s Viking past are scattered throughout the countryside of Sweden, Norway, and Denmark. Among the most intriguing are the stones covered in Viking runes that give a glimpse of the culture and society of the era.

According to the Swedish National Heritage Board, there are about 7,000 runic inscriptions in the world, of which roughly half are Viking Age runestones. Runestones were most commonly raised as memorials to deceased relatives and friends, but they were not burial markers. Instead they were often placed close to roads or other communication routes. The first runestones were raised in Sweden and Norway as early as the third or fourth century A.D., but most were raised during the later Viking period in the 10th and 11th centuries.

Runestones are the oldest existing original works of writing in Scandinavia. Originally they were written in a script consisting of 24 characters, known as the Elder Futhark (f-u-th-a-r-k being the sounds represented by the first six characters). Beginning in the early eighth century, this writing system was replaced by a revised alphabet, known as the Younger Futhark, with just 16 characters. Most of the runestones found in Scandinavia use the Younger Futhark. Although the standard version of this alphabet is the one typically used on runestones, there is also a variation of the Younger Futhark called short-twig runes that was used for everyday messages carved on wood. Continue reading HERE.

A girl with a teddy bear at a runestone in Söderby, Botkyrka. The inscription reads, “Sibbe and Tjarve had the stone raised in memory of Torkel, their father.” 1930. Source

The erection of the Jelling runestone by King Harald Bluetooth in the 960’s is usually seen as the beginning of this tradition, although the majority of the runestones were erected in the 11th century.

These runestones could be non-zoomorphic or zoomorphic in nature. Those that were zoomorphic had decoration in Ringerike style or in Urnes style. The inscription usually begins by stating who had the stone erected and in whose memory it was made. These inscriptions include both pagan and Christian dedications. Those with a Christian cross tending to be earlier in the sequence of Christian dedications, as if it were important to show that the person was Christian. Later Christian dedications tend to end with a simple prayer. SOURCE.

As I said in the beginning of this post that I have several friends in Scandinavia who share this passion regarding Runestones and one specific friend I refer to as my go-to friend in Sweden when it comes to this subject as well as Scandinavian Petroglyphs. She is known on Instagram as MooseLady and if you share this interest she is someone I highly recommend following. She is currently a Cultural Heritage History and Archeology student which makes her posts and even discussions in her IG story that more fascinating regarding the subject which really shows how well she presents her own studies of the Runestones. I also highly recommend checking out her Etsy shop which I own a few items from her.

MooseLady in her natural environment. Thank you for letting me use one of your photos.
Follow me on a tour around the most interesting Rune stones in Västerhaninge and Österhaninge where I live. Hear about the people and the lives of the Vikings who lived here 1,000 years ago, and why they raised the stones.
Vikings left runestones all over the world, but I decided to check out Uppland in Sweden, that has the highest concentration of runestones in the world!

Further Resources

Viking Rune Stones

Runestones in Scandinavia

Viking Age Rune Stones

Runestones

What’s New in Scandinavian Rune Stones

Viking Runestones

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Mermaids: Legends, Origins and More

Since I was a child playing on the beaches of Oregon and California, I have had a fascination with all things regarding the sea from its marine life to maritime history and especially the mysterious tales of its beings told in ancient to even modern folklore. One of those mystical beings of the sea I adore are Mermaids which can be seen in folklore tales all around the world. Today’s post is all about Mermaid folklore, their origins, mythology and more. I hope you enjoy reading this as much as I did putting it together for my readers.

Early origins of Mermaids

The roots of mermaid mythology are more varied than one would expect.  In modern myth we tend to see mermaids in a singular way – kind and benevolent to humans who keep to their own kind in the deep waters of the ocean.  Not all stories go this way, though, and in most cases the most ancient tales of mermaid mythology follow quite a different view.

The earliest known mermaid legends come from Syria around 1000 B.C. where the Syrian goddess Atargatis dove into a lake to take the form of a fish, but the powers there would not allow her give up her great beauty, so only her bottom half became a fish and she kept her top half in human form. 

As myths tend to do, the story changed over time and Atargatis became mixed with Syrian goddess Ashtarte, who is generally considered the counterpart to Greek mythology’s Aphrodite.  Though Aphrodite is rarely portrayed in mermaid form, this evolution of mermaid mythology is what led to Aphrodite’s role in the mythology of Pisces, which clearly has roots in Syrian mythology.

Later tales in the mythology of mermaids stem from Homer’s epic “The Odyssey”, where some mythologists believe the Sirens to have been in mermaid form.  This was an extremely popular version of the mermaid throughout history.  Many popular tales including legends from the British Isles and the famous Arabian Nights tales identify mermaids in exactly this fashion.  In these myths, mermaids would sing to men on ships or shores nearby, practically hypnotizing them with their beauty and song.  Those affected would rush out to sea only to be either drowned, eaten, or otherwise sent to their doom. Continue reading HERE.

An illustration of Derceto from the work of German scholar Athanasius Kircher, “Oedipus Aegyptiacus”, published in 1652.  (Image credit: Athanasius Kircher/Public Domain)

The Lorelei

“Flows the Rhine as flowing wine,
Bright in its unrest,
Sweet with odors of the vine;
Heaven in its breast.”

So the boatman Hugo sung,
Long, long ago,
By the Lurley-berg that hung
In the sunset glow.

At that fateful rock, upraised
From its foamy base,
Suddenly the boatman gazed
With a stricken face.

On its summit, wondrous fair,
Shining angel-wise,
Sat a maid, with golden hair
And beseeching eyes.

From a shoulder’s rosy sphere
All the robe that slid,
Ripple bright and water-clear,
Rather show’d than hid.

As her hair her fingers through
(Fingers pearly white)
Slowly pass’d, the diamond dew
Fell and broke in light.

But a gold harp from her feet
Lifted she ere long,
And its music, pulsing sweet,
Fed a wondrous song.

And the boatman, drifting fast,
Listen’d to his cost;
On the rocks before him cast!
In the whirlpool lost!

Then the Lorelei’s luring form
Faded from the eye,
As a cloud fades, rosy warm,
In a purple sky.”

– The Lorelei, 1869
From Harper’s Weekly,
January 16, 1869
The Mariners’ Museum Research Library and Archives
SOURCE

Though not as well known as their female counterparts, mermen have an equally fierce reputation for summoning storms, sinking ships and drowning sailors. One especially feared group, the Blue Men of the Minch, are said to dwell in the Outer Hebrides off the coast of Scotland, according to The Scotsman. They look like ordinary men (from the waist up anyway) with the exception of their blue-tinted skin and gray beards. Local lore claims that before laying siege to a ship, the Blue Men often challenge its captain to a rhyming contest; if the captain is quick enough of wit and agile enough of tongue he can best the Blue Men and save his sailors from a watery grave. 

Japanese legends have a version of merfolk called kappa. Said to reside in Japanese lakes, coasts and rivers, these child-size water spirits appear more animal than human, with simian faces and tortoise shells on their backs, according to Encyclopaedia Britannica. Like the Blue Men, the kappa sometimes interact with humans and challenge them to games of skill in which the penalty for losing is death. Kappa are said to have an appetite for children and those foolish enough to swim alone in remote places — but they especially prize fresh cucumbers. 

Throughout West, South and Central Africa, the mythical water spirit called Mami Wata, which means “Mother of the Waters”, was once worshiped for their ability to bestow beauty, health and wisdom to their followers, according to the Royal Museums Greenwich. Mami Wata is often portrayed as a mermaid or snake charmer, however, her appearance has been influenced by presentations of other indigenous African water spriest as well as European mermaids and Hindu gods and goddesses, according to the Smithsonian. Continue reading HERE.

Mermaid and Other Water Spirit Tales From Around the World by Heidi Anne Heiner
Ramakien Murals depicting the hero Hanuman meeting the mermaid Suvannamaccha, Wat Phra Kaew, Bangkok, Thailand (Ramakien Murals depicting the hero Hanuman meeting the mermaid Suvannamaccha, Wat Phra Kaew, Bangkok, Thailand (1831)

Southeast Asian folklore includes the story of a mermaid princess, Suvannamaccha (meaning “golden fish”).

In the Ramayana, the countries retellings of the Indian epic poem, one of the heroes, Hanuman attempts to build a bridge of stones across the sea.

His plans are hampered by Suvannamaccha who has been instructed to prevent the causeway’s completion. The two meet and fall in love and Suvannamaccha ends up helping Hanuman finishing the path. The mermaid is now seen as a herald of good luck and her figure is depicted in charms, streamers and icons throughout Cambodia, Thailand and Lao. SOURCE

Further Resources

Behind the Mythology: Mermaids

Origin of the Mermaid Myth

Mermaids – Myth and Folklore

On the Origins of Mermaids

21 Facts about Mermaids

Mermaid Mythology – Mermaids Myths and Legends

Known throughout mythology, folklore and modern adaptation, we take a look at Mermaids and some stories that suggest they may be out there, lurking in the bottom of the ocean.
Mermaids – Today we take a look at the stories behind Mermaids from Greek mythology, Mesopotamian mythology, Russian & British folklore.
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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