Opening Ceremony 2016 Viking Valley, Gudvangen, Norway
Welcome, welcome, you are all welcome. So good to see you all gathered here for the opening ceremony of this the 14th Viking Market here in Gudvangen Viking Valley.
You are safe here, welcome; you can relax and enjoy yourself, even though you will be spending the day among huge, hairy, heavily armed Vikings.
We are glad to have you here eating our food, drinking our mead, looking at our stalls.
Yes welcome, so relax you will be safe here – it is when we visit you that you need to worry.
“And we won’t be emailing, there will be no polite email asking if it is OK to visit. We will suddenly be there but you will know straight away. You will be well aware we are among you.”
This is a very special place; there is something magical about this valley. Everyone says so. You begin to feel the effect of being here straight away.
These Vikings here, as soon as they step off the ship they calm down, which is unusual I assure you. All the time they are here they are friendly, easy-going and peaceful – well most of the time.
Look at me. When I am at home I am a wild, dangerous, rampaging mad thing.
You will enjoy yourselves! Do you hear what I say, and can you see the shine of sharpness along the edge of my axe. You will enjoy yourselves!
Besides, we have many things on our stalls which we want you to buy. We have been to many lands and learnt many skills; old, well-tried, traditional skills. We will enjoy showing you; try not to be nervous when you generously show your appreciation.
Yes, we have sailed to many nations. We have landed on a wide range of shores, seen people of many types – and robbed them, traded with them, I mean traded with them, yes, traded.
“Can we ask where you are all from?”
“Spain.” “Poland.” “Canada.” “Ireland.”
“Ah, those are the places we robbed.”
That’s where we got all these things we are selling.
“Hey, stall holders, lower your prices.”
Yes visitors we will sell your things back to you quite cheaply.
“And you will be safe here. Adrian remind them how welcome they will be, and how safe.”
Yes, yes, safe, yes. We have sworn an oath, an oath. We wanted to reassure you so we oathed an oath, and when a Viking makes an oath they make an oath and the oath that they oath is an unbreakable oath which we have oathed; an oath is an oath is an oath. Let it be known that we have oathed.
“What is an oath?”
A promise; and a promise is a promise and…
“Don’t start that again.”
No, right, of course, but we did; there is a ritual and a belief. To make that oath the first thing you have to do is – spit in a barrel.
Well we skipped that bit.
“Yes well we are selling lemonade and mead to you. So we thought it best not to spit in the barrels. Or talk about it even…”
No sorry. No spitting. The barrels are fine!
A promise is a promise though, and it has to be kept. We worry about where we will go when we die.
Oath-breakers have to walk through a river of gushing ice. This ice is formed into axes, spears and knives – then, you step out – to be kept in a tower made of living serpents. Bitten and sprayed with burning poison for ever and ever and ever and ever.
Or until Ragnarok; the end of the world.
“So we keep our promises; enjoy.”
If, you enjoy hearing of the old mythos – watch out for the ravens…
A shadow will flicker over you. As you look up, the second raven will fly in from the world waters, by you see the third raven it will be too late. There it will be upon the mast of an incoming ship; a ship so terrible you will quake at the sight of it. The Vikings are coming, and they are no ordinary Vikings. These are Njardar. Njardar Vikingslag.
We are coming to you and charging onto your land. Hear the roar. See the gleam. A huge army of huge warriors are upon you. These are the best (the Mayor of Aurland himself said that we were second in exports and visitors and soon to become first, so it must be true). It is like the sky itself is filled, and they wait, with weapons high, only for a command to charge. Step forward the chieftain; Olafr Reydarsson. When he speaks we listen. He is big! Very big!
Well, his beard is big anyway. He will give the command; the word and we will all, roaring, act upon that word.
The word is…
“Welcome; you are all welcome to come and visit us in Gudvangen. Everyone is welcome, except those who do not make others welcome. Come visit.”
And so they do, in their thousands, from all over the world.
We have had a battle though, a long, hard fought battle – a battle to build.
As you step though those gates into the fourteenth Viking Gathering here at Gudvangen you step back into the past. Now. The long battle is over. Now. As you step through these gates you are stepping into our future.
By the fifteenth Viking Gathering there will be a Viking Town. It is a two year project with the first row of Viking houses ready by May – I have put my name down for one of these already.
Here is the first of the timber being delivered now…
You will be able to take part in the Glima wrestling…
With hardly any risk to yourself….
Hear Galda upon the holy hill…
Learn leather skills with Hamish, or buy his bags from Annabelle…
Visit Lady Chaga…
Be warned; slavers are in the area and you are at risk…
And it is no use complaining, we know that now.
But no, no, no, do not worry, as we have promised, you are completely safe here, well, until six o’clock. Once the market closes at six all promises are off!
Don’t spit when you speak!
Vikings will become Vikings again.
You will be greatly at risk – unless you buy a tunic and a pair of boots and stay here.
Then you will be welcome.
Before we actually open the market and get on with selling you your treasures back, there is one rather tricky thing which must be dealt with.
“Don’t tell them Adrian.”
No, we must.
“There is a rumour.”
A terrible rumour.
“It has been whispered over and over as people come through the gate.”
We are now going to deal with that rumour.
“People have been saying that they have heard that a group of tourists with plastic wrist bands came here to visit and were never seen again.”
“It is true!”
Never seen again!
They bought Viking outfits and became part of this marvellous experience.
“Now we must warn you.”
This may happen to you.
“This valley is such a wonderful, unique place that once you have visited you never wish to leave. Many choose to stay and be here forever.”
This we must warn you of.
“But there is a greater risk, a great and terrible sadness and yearning which may come upon.”
“If you do choose to leave here you will regret it forever.”
You will always feel that you are not where you belong and will feel terribly, terribly sad that you did not choose to stay.
“Terribly, terribly sad.”
“Now, finally, we welcome you with one piece of explanation about what you might expect here, here is the secret – it is all about love.”
“We will be opening the market again tomorrow.”
And this worries me greatly.
“I will be wearing my helmet. It was a wonderful gift to me and is an accurate reconstruction of a Viking age helmet.”
And why does it have a figure of a boar on the top?
“This is to signify that I command a team of specialist warriors.”
What kind of warriors?
And you are wearing it tomorrow? This worries me greatly. I have pledged to always stand by your side. To dress appropriately and be there in the way that you need me whatever you ask of me. What does a Berserker wear?
“A small fur collar.”
And that’s it!
Right I will have to get my outfit ready then.
“It worries me as well, I don’t think I will be standing next to you tomorrow.”
(“And if you blog about it tomorrow Adrian, do not do a drawing.”)
Thinking about it, I will make a great berserker. If you put all the fighters and all the wrestlers in the field ready I will be able to beat the lot of them, I will clear the field.
If I come screaming across to them wearing nothing but my berserker outfit they will scatter. I will see off the lot of them.
They will run.
“So will I!” “Enjoy yourselves today, because tomorrow is berserker day.”
We now declare the Viking Market open!
“This is a marvellous experience, with Vikings and visitors from all around the world, none of the differences you might notice elsewhere matter at all here, all beliefs, all life styles are for elsewhere; here everyone gets along and shares the wonder which is Gudvangen.”
So it is spoken by Olafr (Georg) and this is the world.
I have done a great deal of research in the build up to turning this very strange and ancient tale into a graphic novel so that it is all based on history, (unless it was the morphine). Some of the research work helped me create the individual features linked to below:
The Handwritten text boxes titled Information Snippet add background details from the research work.
Yes this is what I have been busy with over the past months while in and out of hospital and beginning my long recuperation by the sea.
I came up with the idea of developing a graphic novel around a Greek myth earlier in the year and an independent publisher is now on board with an interest in hybrid publishing (that’s when you publish online and with a major distributor too).
It has been a dream for many years to do something with the quirky and strange Typhon and the terrible Zeus; their battle suited my online graphic novels perfectly.
We are probably a couple of hundred hours from the ‘for sale’ version, but I shall update here as pieces and text boxes are completed.
Please do share with friends as we will be asking for help shifting the finished product later in the year.
PS the first graphic novel from Viking Comics Inc. The Hammer Flies is almost ready for release as a slide show presentation – my first movie!
PPS Soon to become an epic poem, a poetess has commissioned me to illustrate.
The shape changer god no longer knows what he is. The change of shapes so often, takes away the god-like sense of human-form, until a part of him is monstrous.
Even at his birth, when lightning took away his mother, he had to survive. Laufey had ran away while heavily pregnant, in fear for her life from Cruel Striker, she ran. Deep into the Iron Wood. At the moment of Loki’s birth- lightning struck and Loki was alone. He had to change.
To hunt, to hide, to feed,
What monster in a god’s form entered Asgard?
He was embraced as blood-brother. Here he could be equal, and, he loved; his beloved wife and children, to them he was fair and loyal and true.
Yet he felt the call to share his love, to fly away – He went with Giant-woman Angrboda. Went with her often. They had children.
If ‘children’ is what they were. A snake. A wolf. A half dead daughter. Their wildness, their corruption, the danger of them spread as word to gods. They must be stopped.
Now. Jormungand the Midgardyrm is cast into the sea, to grow and fume and wait.
The wolf they could not kill, they tricked it: tied it down to howl and wail and strain with magic dwarven ribbons holding him.
The daughter; blackened half, commandingly beautiful in half; she was cast to the very deep.“Become the queen of all the death, the cowardly dead, the trickster dead, the oath breaker. – Keep them, keep them.” So hollered High-seat god of all the worlds.
How Loki fumed. It turned his heart. They were not monstrous to him. They were his monsters. They were his offspring. See ahead how bitter are his deeds because of this. “My children! My monsters! My offspring!”
We are safe here at Barley Hall, my nosegays will stop you turning purple, and my visitors will keep me informed. Fore-armed is fore-warned and I sought to defend my position with knowledge. There was little need, for every visitor had something to impart. Yes I did have plenty to say at the start of my summer holiday stint but this was nothing to the array of facts and anecdotes. Soon I was passing along the wisdom of one to another and I will gather here some of the best of this.
Some of my newly gained knowledge is debatable; this does not mean it is necessarily untrue, just that there will be debate. The very room I am in has become a convoluted topic. Refer to the notice boards for what is perhaps the definitive answer even though many in the discussion would disagree. Even the name, “No, it is not a parlour” – A solar; sit in there in the sunlight and treat this place as a retreat. A place to craft for joy, a place to make all which is beautiful: here you can write and some say learn.
A few have disagreed that the parlour was a place to receive visitors. Although another interjected that one visitor would be invited in here among the family; the tutor – here we would learn our letters and our lessons. Rhetoric, logic and astronomy are among the topics which would be enabled by this. But nay, this was not the reception say many who contributed to this on-going discussion. The way in was the proving point of this camp of thought. You entered via the stairs; from there you would be in Lord Snawsell’s bed chamber. Here in, it has been read, was his office and softer furnishings.
So therefore this is where he would meet with you. The logic of this is in the access and the fact you would feel you had been welcomed whilst at the same time you would be aware that by being in his realm he retained power. There is logic in the aspect of access too it is argued; from there to get to the parlour one would have to go through Lady Joan’s personal chambers and then get in the way of the busy journeyman all down the long hall.
Not everything I hear, as I say, is definitely right and some things I hear are definitely wrong.
Barley Hall is loved, many revisit, many discuss, many compliment and recommend, but not all feel this way it seems. A passing hen party definitely didn’t like the look. As I was returning from a visit to DIG my way into the alley was blocked. I stood back to allow the party-wear ladies to leave the alley and they stopped suddenly. Looking up the street, “Oh we’ve been this way” – “We’ve been here before” – “We’ve been up there” – “We’ve been up there” – “We don’t want to go that way again” – “We’ve been this way”. Eventually they turned back and I had a path ahead of me, a slow path.
As they noticed the large window into the hall for the first time there were sounds of disapproval from one of these revellers. “Oh dear, I wouldn’t want to go in there” – “And I wouldn’t want to eat that” – “No, it looks awful in there” – “Ancient!” – “It’s like a museum”
Although most people are entranced by the peacock upon the table, the hen party in search of a meal and another drink were not the only ones to not fancy eating a bird which had been cooked and then repacked in its raw skin. “Never do that” visitors inform me, “Never mix cooked and raw”. “They certainly hadn’t heard of health and safety!”
Nosegays keep us safe, or at least perfumed. Gay meaning ornament back in the day; they were about the smell. Many report on the vast amounts of information on the medicinal, spiritual and nutritional uses of herbs; that is not a major concern when it comes to nasal orientated ornaments. It is all about the smell, the logic I am instructed, is that if the smell carried the disease you didn’t want it up your nose. The miasma must be refused access and to follow logic, if your nose was full of sweet smells then how could the horrid miasma get in! So visitors tell me it was not just about masking the smell, it was about keeping you safe.
If you wanted to be really safe, what better than a plague doctor mask. Fill that with herbs and strap it on. While you were feeling ultra-safe as a result of this constant experience of the sweet and beautiful you might want to go all out and get yourself a job.
Plague doctors are in demand it seems. An explanation of this which was given to me was that all the doctors were gone – in one way or another. It was a well-paid job I am told – while it lasted.
Not much in the way of skills was needed, according to some, all you needed was a stick, a big stick. With your mask on off you go, and prod people. Then all you had to do was tell them whether they are going to live or die (if in doubt go for the die option). The strange thing is, whatever the answer, they would thank you. I considered these offerings and discussed with other visitors. It is not so strange when you think, as I was asked to do, on the history of medicine. Throughout Europe ‘knowing’ was often more important than helping. ‘How long will they be?’ – ‘Will it be quick?’ – ‘Have you anything to make it easier?’ Another suggested this was still the main focus in many tribal cultures around the world.
I decided there and then, that once all my visitors had made a nosegay I was off to get a stick; the income would be most welcome – while it lasted.As not everyone wants a nosegay I will be here a while yet. Not that they are to be sniffed at, if you see what I mean. Much a sniffing and a pondering has there been.
Deciding of what aroma, of what herb one is holding a bowl of. Lavender is spotted by most, thyme only by a few and lemon balm by only one chap. Rosemary is spotted on sight by most, although one or two, including a rosemary grower, thought it was pine. The one which is most evocative is actually a flower rather than a herb as such. Some love it, most are reminded, reminded of something. A Greek flower which is gathered as a healing tea, camomile, just flowers, childhood memories, the bottom cupboard next to the pans; we were taken places. I was put off this bowl for quite a while when a girl said it smelt of hamster bedding. This smell was removed for me a little later by the power of suggestion; a lady said it made her think of her grandfather’s pipe tobacco. Now, whenever I hold the marigold bowl in front of me I am transported back to my childhood and the hint of sweetness within a heady aroma which would erupt into the room when granddad opened his pouch to stock up his pipe with baccie.
So far there are no reports of the plague coming to me from my visitors. No one has been spotted to be turning purple, well except for Mr Purple himself, but he is upon his bicycle platform out of the way anyway. The next edition will feature live frogs, alternative universes and elephants tusks among many other oddities of conversation. Remember when recalling this blog so far, it is all absolutely true – that people have told me these things.
Your tales and opinions can be added into the mix for discussion too. Be in touch.
Gods and Goddesses of the Greek Mythos Continued – Hermes the Babe
Here is another of my characterisations of Gods and Goddesses, this one written while I was in hospital having the cancer taken away (nil by mouth for 19 days).
In this case though although it is an interesting storyline the God (if he is a God) Hermes is at best an anti-hero with the historic crimes division after him probably. There are those who leapt from Olympus rather than him turn them to ever staring stone.
Hermes – Cairn-man – Pillar of Stone – Toddler
This man is not a god he is a pillar. An offspring of gods yet was born as an embodiment of an orgiastic pillar. Dance near him if you dare. Hermes is Priapus the totemistic virtue of a phallic pillar or cairn no less.
His mother was Maia and if there was such a thing as fatherhood back then we would be saying his father was Zeus. Maia met Zeus because she was the daughter of Apollo then afterwards being with child she had a score to settle with her father for mistreatments. Gods being gods they grow fast, and Hermes grew fast, very fast, especially in intellect. By seven months he had mastered the bow and invented many things, then Themis gave him nectar and ambrosia of the gods or should that be Nectar of the Gods and Ambrosia of the Gods; and he was ready to adventure. Ready for that vengeance from beyond the womb.
He was followed by a gathering band of nymphs they made a wicked wilful travelling party. He was befriended by Cyllene. They played and sang and laughed. Cyllene showed off her enchanting musical ability and Hermes claimed he could make something far more mystical than that. Cyllene bid him to show it was true, Hermes said he would need some cattle hide to make the strings. Then when Cyllene told him of Apollo’s herd he knew he could get his revenge and build his instrument, he knew so much more too. Well well before we discover how great he is, he knew.
Yes this merry band agreed that little Hermes and they could smuggle the herd, but Apollo would simply follow and they would be found.
Hermes bid them cut large patches of bark from the Fallen Oak and to cut long grass to bind into cord. From these he showed them how to fashion shoes for the cattle and away they were led along a trackless path.
The cattle were gone.
Apollo was livid.
Apollo he searched but there were no tracks.
Then, by chance in his raging stampede around the land he found the Satyrs, led by the rogue Silenus they were greedy for reward, great reward, for Apollo was angry, very great reward.
Eventually, in Arcadia, the Satyr gang heard something unusual, unique in fact; strange music like no melody ever heard before yet dulled and distant. It seemed to be coming from far away and yet from everywhere. It seemed to be coming from below the earth and yet, – no it was, it was down below, it was. Eager as they were they could not help but dance. Dance, as they hunched and sniffed and searched
Then suddenly they noticed a little way ahead by a gateway in a leafy copse the sultry, haughty, Cyllene idly taking the air. The music led them towards her.
It was louder behind her and there at the back of the glade was a cave; the music was coming from there. “What is that music of the nymphs we have never heard before?”
Cyllene swung gently round towards them, “No nymph plays that marvellous tune upon that unique instrument.”
“No one can play better than the nymphs, no one has a better instrument than they.” The satyrs gaggled together in panic behind him, staring in quizzical fear.
“Who is Hermes?”
“Hermes is a babe.”
The Satyrs stood mesmerised as Cyllene gracefully articulated the story of the babe who was born within this cave. He who had adventured across the lands at so young an age, who had acted with great skill and created a marvellous lyre like nothing ever heard before. Silenus enquired what this lyre was like and Cyllene told him how it was shaped like a tortoise because he had fashioned it out of a tortoise and cow hide twine. “So where did he get this twine?” “Are you calling him a thief!” Just as a fierce argument sprung up a few things happened at once. A great long-winged bird landed in the glade; this was the Sacred Crane sacred to Hermes and because of Hermes. Silenus glanced his eyes around the glade and there were two cow hides stretched between branches to dry. The grandfather of the babe of course had known that the crane was sacred, sacred to Hermes, and had followed it; Apollo suddenly appeared.
Silenus pointed at the hides, thus establishing himself a right to the reward, then to seal the deal he pointed at the cave.
Apollo strode in and down with a procession following. There lay Maia sleeping deeply a bundle in her arms. “Bring me that quickly grown man Hermes now,” shouted the mighty Apollo, “For he has stolen my cattle and shall be made to bring them back to me, at least all that live.”
Maia threw back the covers and revealed a babe still in its swaddling bands and wrapped in a large leather hide. “How could it be that a babe such as this has done this thing you say?”
“I recognise the hide!” boomed Apollo and he snatch up the child and fled the cave.
“Father of Heaven,” (and father of the babe unfortunately), cried Apollo as he bent to his knee in front of Zeus, “I accuse this babe”, (the bundle unrolled from his arms as did the other two hides from the glade), “of theft of all my herd.”
“Zeus looked down to Hermes, “I cannot believe that you did such a thing and I ask you to plead not guilty.”
“Well I did,” confessed Hermes standing proudly for all his small size, “and I am sorry. I shall return all that live and tell you of the flesh of the others”
Apollo stood looking dazed, enraged and confused.
I divided the flesh of each dead beast in to twelve pieces each as sacrifices to the twelve gods.”
“Twelve?” questioned Apollo, “Who it the twelfth?”
Bowing with a smirk the tiny Hermes said, “Why it is I”.
How Zeus laughed.
Hermes continued, “A twelfth of the flesh of each of the beasts I ate for I was ferocious hungry the rest I burned. Thus I have invented the first ever flesh- sacrifice. Now I shall give you recompense, follow me.”
He led Apollo in a flash back to the cave and he retrieved a bundle from beneath a sheepskin. “What have you there?” asked Apollo.
Hermes held up the tortoise-shell lyre in display and in the other hand held a plectrum, “This I also invented.”
The music was mesmerising, the singing was praise worthy; it was full of praise also. Praise of Apollo, his nobility, his dignity his grace, his intelligence and, of course, his generosity. It worked, Apollo forgave him and nevertheless little Hermes led him to Pylus, playing all the way, to the cave he had hidden the cattle. He released them to graze and offered the Lyre to Apollo, he took it and thankful he said as I keep this so you keep the cattle. Hermes held up his tiny tiny hand and Apollo solemnly shook.
From the distance they heard the mountain top laughter of Zeus as he watched all Hermes’ antics.
As the cattle grazed Hermes gathered long grasses and wove them into a pipe. He played and he declared, “This is the shepherd pipe that leads any sheep to you.”
“If you will let me have this pipe I will trade you my golden cattle-herding staff; it also has the power to send the spirits of the dead peacefully to heaven.”
“I accept, in part, for the reedpipe is worth far more than the golden staff and I will accept the deal if you also promise to teach me the power of augury.”
The distant laugh of the onlooking Zeus could be heard again from afar.
“I cannot but my three nurses the Thriae can. They will teach you on the isle of Parnassus to read the flowing pebbles in the swirling bowl.”
“This is indeed a very ingenious, eloquent and persuasive Godling.” Chortled Zeus.
Upon their return Zeus bellowed at tiny Hermes, “You must promise forever from now respect the rights of another’s property and never tell utter lies.”
“Then make me your herald great father, and I will never tell lies, although I shall not promise to always tell the whole of the truth in every detail. Furthermore I shall protect and preserve all divine property in your honour.”
(Apollo was chortling now.)
“You shall be my herald then, and you shall in that duty guide the dead to the underworld, oversee all matters of business, all treaties and all rights of way.
Even furthermore you shall teach us the twirling of sticks to make fire you shall assist the Three Fates (this he did and invented the knuckle bones, the alphabet, astronomy, boxing, the musical scale, gymnastics and weights and measures. He also learned the tree alphabet.)
Thus it was Zeus who chuckled quietly now for he had honoured and empowered him in such a way that he would forever be too busy.
So it was that the now growing Hermes was presented with the adornments of Herald and proudly stood in the round hat of rain protection, the fast flying golden sandals and the beribboned herald’s staff which commanded respect from all when Hermes was engaged in matters of administration, (of which there were many).
Creatures of the Norse – Animals of Norway and creatures thought of as mythical are collected on these decorative cards, which one do you identify with?
I created these for Angela, my fellow storyteller at Njardarheimr Viking Valley in Gudvangen, Norway. The idea was that visitors can pick one and be inspired and a selection can be used to improvise a story.
If you are working with children they can repeat each line altogether after you and act it out; remember, many of the stories from the mythology are quite gruesome.
The multi-national story; you need people who speak different languages (and English) you can also encourage different dialects for a bit more fun. You say each of the lines and one at a time they saying along the row in their own language. It works wonderfully well, it works far better than it should! Prepare to have great fun.
I have already been there, in other writings, in other lives, and these are the times. I am stood between Siw-Alfadis and Blathnaid-Brigid whilst Bjorn-Ole surveys the sea from the promontory, we are in Njardarheimr in Freyr-An’ersh’s Gudvangen Village of the Vikings. I am here with my heart. I am at once really here and yet also actually here in this dream.
My Gudvangen Dream Life IV portrays me already in a Viking-style life in Gudvangen where I am actually living as Skald to the Viking Chieftain in Njardarheimr Viking Town in Norway; in this blog version everything of myth and legend has become real.
Stay in place as followers to know what happens next; beware, nothing is made up, yet most of this is dream.
NB The names used are taken from those I have known but the characters added to them are based on other people I know.
PS Credits will be given for any writings.
PPS You can become part of this by sending me thoughts and ideas adrianspendlow @ gmail.com or by commenting below (as if you were there). A huge thank you to all those who have made suggestions and offered writings (there are loads half written up for the next one).
Gudvangen Dream Life as a Viking – Dream-time IV
We use the name Viking yet we are different, we are from different worlds, different worlds of thinking. We are together; I do not think like you. I do not think like you. I am Vanadís. I am Díser of the earth. Creature of the old ways. I craft. I drag the iron from the very earth. I tell stories. I tell stories from my mother tongue. Far away. We are all far away. We are all here. See how the spring shoots grow. See how the hammer is protective. I sew the Troll cross. There is little time to practice to survive. I swing the iron. We practice with long shafts. I see the Ramslurk grow. I see the mists and their foreboding. The children play. The wolf sleeps. Dream people; for we are a commune. Ships come.
Our chieftain, Freyr-An’ersh, respected as he is, he welcomes, while we judge and consider. They bring more skills. We flourish. We are what you call Viking and this is where we lie. Tread lightly as you go for you walk upon our heart.
Fires suddenly burn along the tall ways. Along the high edges of the fjord walls. The lands we hardly know of. Top side. Up there in the Sami lands; the seasonal lands of nomadism, they pay respect to us. They are watchers. They trade with us. They will come down soon as warmer weathers once faded lead to cold times before the hard freeze. They go somewhere else when it is all frozen solid. Some say they go to other worlds, some that they are always of those worlds and visit us through a veil, some that they cave-live for the winter, in the steep sides of uninhabited fjords where no one can observe their smoke.
They will come down for the final trade quite soon. Coming to us is the nearest they ever get to warm climes, and that is in the far end of autumn.
So the beacons burn. The ancient debt we receive for; the old old owing, yet how can we ever repay the repayors! They far surpass whatever it was in ages past that caused them to be owing to us. Yet the fire beacons burn when we are in need of warning. They watch from on high whenever they are in the heights of their seasonal hunting grounds. Their camps look down upon the fjord and they see ships come. So they light the beacon fires; one upon one upon run and light along the high ground; and we know, we know: of battles, or enemies, of returnings, of strugglings. A ship is coming, (or a leviathan). We shall not venture out to sea to see.
We shall watch. We shall prepare ourselves.
Bjorn-Ole stands the stock of blades and bows in the strategic places we have established. Our defences are in place.
Poppa-Varg, Poppa-Volva and the other children climb Yew and Maythorn trees back on the higher ground.
Warriors; Tor-Gunlodd, Brunhildr, Ailbhe Connell and Frode-T’or climb cliff sides.
There is an expected returning. There is a ship we know and love returning just as we hoped that it would quite soon. Nothing comes. The beacon fires up high should have brought a ship or result by now. Our Viking ones are overdue. The beacons must mean other than ‘Here comes your brethren returning’.
Our thoughts are that, there is a complication. Perhaps enemies assail them. Perhaps they are all dead. Perhaps they are sinking on their way home.
We do not know and Thorfinn Asmundsson will no doubt regail us of the tale in a slash by blow way after the settling of them; the hopeful settling of them. We wish and hope for a safe fare landing together if all return and blood is staunched; the fettles calmed.
A light, we see a light. Surely we do. Just a hint of a glimpse of a dot of a shine that amplifies within the mind into a massive talisman of hope. There is a ship coming, it has a light above. We peer in hope and anxiety. Down the long fjord we glimpse for real.
It cannot be an enemy shining one light. Many fires waved would be to intimidate us, but just one would serve as a warning and defeat the objective of the incomer; so this shall be our returning vessel.
One of our brave travellers must have climbed the mast with a flaming torch and is lighting the way. No, the light would guide them very little, it must be for us to see. They are letting us know that they approach. They must be a-feared that they may not make it, they are struggling. “Sail out, they are sinking,” cries Björk-Mari, “Board our vessel here at the harbour and sail out. Just enough to crew the ship, to row to their rescue.
“Yes,” calls Siw-Alfadis, “we may need room for them to board for safe return”.
The one light in the far far distance is standing now, it comes no nearer. “We must hurry, worries Jan-Robert.
Leif-Lasse leaps, “Row, row like the wind”.
“One of you must climb the mast with a burning brand so they know you are coming, to give them hope: for us to see also so we can hope,” Signy Volsungsdottir.
Long is the watching. Long is their journey. Small hands clench maternal hands. Our home ship is slowly nearing the returning vessel. Just in time perhaps we hope. But no. The far light is tipping. Slowly, steadily, heading lower. The mast is swinging. The ship is tipping. They are lost to us in some moments.
The home ship is nearing. Our hands are all gripping. We gasp. We cry out. We clench each other’s shoulders. They are, distantly from us, heading for the ice-cold sea. The nearer ship approaches them, it is traveling fast. They are rowing as hard and as sleek as they possible can. We fear that they will ram.
The one light steers beside the other light. We see the lower light lift. One ship has hit into the side of the other with its fast-incoming flank.
The power of the one ship arriving straightens the other. We see the flaming torch lift till both are the same height.
We can only guess the crew are pulled aboard. It seems that the lightened load of the suffering ship may well be enough to let her ride this stormed night.
There is no blood left in our fingertips, nor in our shoulders, or in our hearts. We can scarcely breathe for the holding of each other so very very tight.
“One ship is bringing both the crews and is pulling the other ship in too,” sighs Björk-Mari.
It is an age and an eon until those two ships near us.
The torch is gone from the mast of the rescued ship and eventually from the saviour vessel.
Our cliff-top warriors cheer.
Eventually they are home. Their ship is home.
There is much blood.
It was a battle at sea. A swooping pirate of the waters has attacked and followed and attacked again. Our ship, the returner, was valiant and saw their ship adrift and empty. The binding which held them while the crews leapt from ship to ship in battle were unloosed. And the empty ship went far adrift before it eventually would go down.
It may have been better to keep it. For our far-travelled ship was much damaged. It made it as far as it did.
The ship is home. Both our ships are home. The long-journeyed crew are mainly returned. Safe and back and families are reunited.
All is good.
This ship which returned did not remove its battle dragon. How could it do so. It is not a trade ship which returns. It is a ship of dragonhead. A serpent thing upon our land. Whether intentional or not. It has been accepted here with sign of war. With sign of mystical beasts. Of other worlds. The Díser are enraged. They abandon us. The land is cursed. Cursed. We all are cursed.
The land is cursed. The Díser leave us. All last growth dies. The new growth in the spring of tomorrows will not happen.
Our chieftain must journey to the land of the Vanadís. We burn the herbs. The juniper for the visions. We shall all sleep. We shall dance, we shall tremor, we shall sleep and some of us shall journey to the realms of the Vanadís and we shall tranquil them. Standing with our chieftain as he bravely speaks. He steps forward and declares. He acts for us all and his true heart is read, “We ask of the earth to return to us growth and plenty”.
There is a cost. In old old tales we hear from other lands terrible costs are paid; the life of the first born, the servitude of the next borne or other such heart-wrenching promises. Terrible things. We promise a terrible thing. We promise that one shall go from our midst to ever-serve in the all-time forever as a Vanadís, returning only at will in the when-ever and at times of need and of love and of celebration. Always over there though in the forever of the timelessness.
We shall not choose who will go though. We shall wait till one is willing. We will tell this tale for generation upon generation, the Sami at the topper-most shall also tell. From our midst and perhaps from theirs too shall emerge a chosen one; chosen by their self.
And they shall go. They will be the payment for the return of life to this valley. The Díser shall be welcomed back. The earthy ones who inhabit our realm in a distant way shall be here and the Vanadís shall be in their realm. With our daughter or son. They shall be ever watching through to ours.
That serpent beast-head upon the returning ship has taken a terrible cost and payment shall be forever. (The one who eventually went is still there even in your time as you read this and they are looking down upon us all.)
Lo the freeze times come and there is chanting, throat music, names of old old gods and beings, remembered ones; chanting, casting, renewing.
Hear the visitation from above. Down the goat path they come; the Sami.
Olga-Stina leads the dancing chant for all to add to. “We sing to lead.” “We sing to enchant.” “We sing to mislead.” “We have pipes of metal to suck back our kindred’s brains in revenge.” “Follow us if you dare, if you are of evil intent.” “Look you follower, a sharp drop off a cliff.” “Come with us enemies, we will keep ourselves safe by leading you, come, come, come.” They softly spookily chant, chant.
They come to trade. First. They come to work. They drag and dodge and massively bundled tree trunks dodge and slide and drag; behind, in front, by sides. They, harnessed, bring the wood they need.
They pile and build and burn and create charcoal, here in the flatter lands of warmer ways.
They bring the wood they need. They pile and build and burn and collect; resinous flowings. Twenty two trees for every trunk needed for wood work.
There had been a huge shadow behind each one of these shamanic nomadic visitations as they traversed down the steep sides in their ancient ways here in Gudvangen; with poles under arms they steered huge mountains to down here, to bring us furs.
There is, before they disappear for winter’s hard of hardest times, a trade, a final trade.
What can we give them worth their trading, worth their skills, worth their service?
They have charcoal for their forging, resin for their building, praise and thanks for their service to us. They have worked well high above and have aplenty.
The crunch and the green and the fruiting of the lower lands. We have lived a summer; they have lived a harshness.
We have a year’s worth of preserves for them. Some still fresh too. Some in sealed leather.
Food up there freezes, here it ferments, when buried (gravved) we dig for them and they guzzle like it is fresh; they chant and then eat more.
Have we a feast for them. “Come join us.” “Come feast”
“Talk of fermented, here is brew you yearn.”
High nethers never yielded such dairy. Milk; they glug. Yogurt with honey they laugh and laugh with joy. This is a feast of many things, the largest of which is joy. Joy.
We have pledges to renew and enjoin.
Then there are bounteous gifts. You from the high lands have done us so much. You are promising so much. We will be united in the blessing of the land which the Vanadís have renewed. We shall be united in the pledged of promise to these Dís. One of you, one of us, will agree to go.
We have a yield to share amongst our two types of humans and a yield to share from our world to another world; the world of Dís. We commemorate this as promise. This is an eternal gift and true true all-world promise.
Boots we have. Bounteous harvest too. Much-folded swords. Treasures; Coptic and Islamic. Gold in bent shapes, and coins. Coins with many pictures amongst them. Jasper. Jade even. Dying materials gathered for this trade. They ‘yeep’ at the colours they can make. They almost wee at the thought.
We give them arched strong bows.
We cry now for they return the wool we shared. We have a holy gift for them we have held back, held back. Here first is the return. Wool. Uncarded it went and spun it returns. The Sami they spin.
They sit and they spin. They walk and they spin. They talk and they spin. They ride and they spin. They spin.
Them Sami can spin,
We have bounteous return for them. We have worked hard over the years, over the seasons two results. One for us. One for them. We own, we have a result from our shared spinning. We have to give… A blanket.
Thus is the strength of our gift.
It will be spring-time and gone by you know this yet here is the winter gathering. The fire. The mjord. The time of tellings. Of sharings. “We gather now and hear,” declares Poppa la Princesse Une fois.
“Let me tell you of a clear blue sky,” our Sami friend now relates, “and then of a terrible sudden downpour; from an empty sky it came, till in a blink, well everything was soaked and covered. Then the strange thing happened. In that instant out of the warm blue it froze. Everything frozen. A bush, the rocky mountain side, for I was not quite at the top. The stream, the moss upon the stone. Everything was silver. Completely silver. Even myself; I had to shake, twist, to break free from it and drop thin sheets down upon the ground. In the time it takes for chick to hatch it was gone and everything was wet and damp. The sky was just as blue and clear as ever”.
“I have been down below there, nearer the dim waters – in the almost always dark,” relates Finley Mac with his woman by his side, “As we sailed out I saw things, well, a thing; it was big and it climbed. It climbed so far then it leapt. As slopes turned to crags it needed to leap to gain purchase, but all of this was fast, very fast indeed. I don’t want to know what I think it was, I don’t want to hear myself say it aloud, but it was grey, it had long arms, long legs, a big knobbly head. I almost wish I hadn’t told you”.
“Indeed, it was huge…bigger than a tree and then it climbed in no time,” Linnea-Ingeborg whispers, “Hundreds of feet it jumped and he told me late one night in the sleepless dark how he saw the space between land and sky where the dark bulk left the ground…”
“There was something on the way back,” says Olafr-Andreas whilst staring outward.
“Who looked out, we were sinking!” wonders Frederick Steinsson.
“No there was something.”
A few listening shudder and quietly groan; they were obviously looking too.
“It had wings,” continues Olafr-Andreas, “No it was wings; wings of shadow, yet with strength. There was nothing else though. Just the wings. They were slow and strong and ponderous, and they were close to the steep stone sides; low over the water. Travelling forever.” “Wings.”
“There was something else terrible travelling back with us!” outbursts Kjell-Toffe, “A man in a skirt!”
“It is a kilt”, proclaims Collum McCull.
“Well, you are from the far north, even norther than the north lands; just below the ice,” spells out Johnson.
“You are Pictish,” points out Patrick.
“It is better than Elvish!” chips in Myrull-Ylva.
“Or silky!” remembers Olve-Daan.
“Or from the realms of rain, begorra,” winks Ragnhild.
“We renamed your Pictish land after us doon forget; Land of the Scots, doon forget that means Irish,” laughs Blathnaid-Brigid.
“Irish? Eh, O, OH, Aye?” laughs Collum McCull.
“Ah yes the land of little men and rainbows,” adds Lars-Eirik.
“The place where the women came from!” Blathnaid-Brigid interjects, “The scribes”.
“That is another story,” adds Add ri An.
“Hex yer, hush noo, ahn look yee tiv the skirt of the monn will yeee,” winked Inga-Idun.
“Take the blame you sailors of all Viks,” declares Hin-Mann, “All the north and all the northern lands are of the Viking in ouradays, look not to stilltocomeadays or longgoneadays I ask you to awaken promptly. All is Norse, deal with it”.
“Kjilt inne Norske Yeh,” laughs Meretha-Silje, “Pleat the material. Look yeh at hoo affluent you look. You are a Viking if you are terribly proud.” “Aifter you.” “Aifter you.” “What yer doing pushin in yer grunta?!”
I heard the dying words of Atle, “it started here”.
“Eermm ok… once upon a time”, starts Björk-Mari, “there was a very commanding Viking chieftain named Hrollr. His village was very powerful and other chieftain would travel from afar to pay his respects in the hope that Hrollr and his army wouldn’t wage war upon them. They would bring Hrollr their most prized treasures from raids from all over the world! One day, a Scottish chieftain by the name Glnockie came to visit and he brought with him the most exquisite wool from the Highlands. Hrollr was mighty impressed with the quality and beauty of the tartan and ordered his most prestigious seamstress, Njaela to stitch together a tunic that he was going to wear during a blot and in honour of Glnockie.
Njaela was ecstatic at such honour bestowed upon her and immediately began cutting the fabric, despite it being dark – so she sat down by the fire and began her work. As she was almost finished, a tiny spark from the fire caught the fabric and in front of her eyes, half of the tartan vanished before her. She knew that the chieftain would certainly have her blood-eagled for this, so she called upon Loki to help her.
Loki had travelled far and wide in his eagle-guise and had seen many strange things however, he quite fancied seeing the two chieftains at war so he began telling Njaela a tale of how the most powerful warriors in all of Midgard wore “half skirts”. Thinking that this would surely impress the chieftains, Njaela began sewing a “half skirt” and added, bedazzled it, with jewellery and a bag with the most beautiful hide she could find.
The next day, her chieftain, Hrollr, called upon her and asked her to show him the tunic. When he saw the “half shirt” he almost exploded from rage until Njaela was able to explain to him that all the greatest warriors that Loki had seen in Midgard, wore those but that this one was the most exquisite of them all. Upon hearing this, the chieftain put it on and entered the feast, presenting his “half skirt” to Glnockie.
Glnockie was so impressed by the “half skirt” that he immediately asked Njaela to make him one too – which she of course did! Upon arriving back to the Highlands, Chieftain Glnockie became a fashion icon and all the clans in the land followed suit.
The Vikings however, quickly discovered that the cold didn’t agree with the half skirts, so the trend never really caught on here.”
“Or so it is told.”
“I came here from even farther away,” tells Bjorn-Ole, “My family were traders and travellers so I was born and bred upon the road and have never seen my homeland. I learnt of the letters though, and so I have written. I sent my ancients letters in a message to be sent to my grandparents in our faraway land”.
“Ah yes I have seen those pictures that you write which are like complicated runes,” adds Nils-Harold.
“They are our letters. I dimly remember how it is done from being a child and Add ri An commanded that I should send word. I will never be able to visit as it is so far away and I am a Viking now. If I could visit I would take sore eyes to my grandparents, but as it is I have sent the letters at the command of the Skald. He said I should say that they could congratulate me on being a good soul who knows their own path and is strong. I told him (didn’t I Add ri An) that I would be too blushed to say so even in writings. Yet he commanded it and Blathnaid-Brigid she also insisted that it be so. Mind you she also suggested I ask them to send us some silk!”
“Let the truth be known at your homes Add ri An told me and I admitted that his command was my command (‘Wise old man that you are,’ I added with a wink)”
“Hahaha he agreed reluctantly what a great honest skilled respected wise man he is who is strong and we are proud of. and he eventually agreed to say. Ah no come to think the wise bit was about me,” laughs Add ri An, “Say that a wise man said, that’s me. He promised.”
“What a noble errand indeed,” is the final word of Blathnaid-Brigid.
“Eh, it’s a good yarn,” smiles Teresa-Linn.
“I recall that when I came here I asked what the white stuff was on the tops of the mountains and now I am sending word of how well I am thought of here.”
“Your grandparents will have sore eyes,” adds Lis-Ravn..
“Wood-smoke fills us, fills this place, it will clear it will clear.”
“Tears are smoke,” acknowledges Tyra av Rafnsblõt.
“Tears are smoke and a sea trip will cheer us,” states Linnea-Ingeborg..
We sleep and as we wake we see the distant Sami climbing. These creatures are fond of welcome; fearful of a goodbye.
So, after feast leftovers are filling us to break our short sleep fast we recall the pledge of line and net to cast.
To net and line and catch and gut and clean and work together.
“A fishing trip, a boat outing, a pleasure to cruise among the fjord walls which in places never feel the step of man,” announces Linnea-Ingeborg.
“Lars-Eirik claims to be the only human to have stepped ashore at every one, (he does fish from his dugout often),” laughs Loke-Daan.
“Pale skins may have stepped there, but often it is as if my feet are the first ever human feet to stand a being tall upon these hidden inner lands, yes,” says Lars-Eirik.
Skirts are held. Arms are held. Ship bows are held.
And tensions, as we gaily step, are released.
This is a ship trip.
The waves skip.
More coming in than river ripples outwards. They bring a mix of clemency.
And we are ripping out.
A turnabout, we feel the drift, the tide within the turn within the burn; is going out. We row anyway. Sails in fjord waters are for gentle sessions or sheer emergency. We seek wider pass where half-rig will tender bob us on. While we sojourn.
Light twinkling on the facets of the stone sides gives a promise of spring,
“And while we idle,” muses the Johnson, “let me intrigue with a riddle…”
“Ooo yes we like a puzzle,” enthuses Svanvhit Smedsdottir-gjenfødt.
I am your ally on the hunt
But do not walk with me
Lest I be warning to your quarry
Eye glaze and there is quiet for a while.
Others will think longer.
“I shall tell my tale,” says Bjarki, “For this journey reminds me of many,” he says as he sits and spins.
“I went to Hildrgard, beautiful Hildrgard,” he glances fleeting to the side, “and I told her – I had made a lock and attached it to my dwelling at the other side of the by, then I untied the key from my belt and offered it to her.”
“He clearly was asking me to move in with him,” chips in Hildrgard from her rowing perch.
“But you wouldn’t would you.”
“I moved in,” she added, “I said I wouldn’t be with you because you had nothing.”
“I cannot help being an orphan; a victim of chance, war and plague.”
In a stirring of mail across towards the prow T’or-Gunlodd asides, “Balder wasn’t there for you was he.”
“No T’or-Gunlodd there was no sense of family for me,” agrees Bjarki
“Never-the-less,” states Hildrgard, “your uncle left you the house, the small house. The blacksmith Svanvhit Smedsdottir-gjenfødt taught you how to make the lock and you still owed her for the iron, not to mention for the lesson.”
“I pledged to pay the blacksmith in the same way I pledged to pay you; a future promise.”
“I wondered how you could ever repay of an equal value to such pledges. Then I learned you had arranged to go Viking.”
“So Hildrgard, you arranged to move in.”
“I agreed to move in on my own, then, when you returned, if you didn’t return dead, I would let you in if you brought treasure.”
Bjarki turns to the crew, “I came back with nothing. Nothing but an agreement to go again.”
“That wasn’t good enough, but I did admire your determination. I couldn’t agree to anything until after your return as you had no skills.”
“I used to watch my mother spin.”
“And on this ship, I asked him, there are times when you just sit?”
“Yes, yes.” Bjarki eagerly nods as if still in that moment.
“Then, I said, take this wool and this spinner and then we will see.”
“Few of us returned alive, all of us with nothing.”
“Except you, you returned with sacks of yarn. It was nearly enough for me to let you in, but not quite.”
“Then you had another idea, and I had planned another adventure.”
“I asked, when you are in foreign lands, do you sometimes sit by a fire? You said you did so, so I said, if you return and you have dyed this yarn I will accept.”
Bjarki looked proud, “I returned with blood-red yarn…”
“And treasure as well my love.”
“Armour and two swords!” beamed Bjarki.
“I made those.”
“And now you are my beloved Bjarki Famed Fletcher.”
“And father of three!” grins Bjarki.
“I am looking forward to the goat hunt in the spring,” smiles Tove-Marie.
“I less so.”
“Why would that be Add ri An?”
“I clambered the old path by the Galda Cave and through the forest came a whole pack of wolves. They were running, running wild for the sake of it. They brushed right past me. One stopped, she was a large silver-grey she-wolf. She hissed breath in and out of her teeth and it sounded like, “Rieka Sølvulven runs with wolfs,” and then they were gone.
Among the very mixed reactions is a sharp intake of breath everyone looks round, they are relieved to look away from Add ri An.
Olafr-Andreas speaks, “As I was about to die upon that tied battle ground at sea I saw a shadow of that famed she-wolf and the tide turned – the tide of the battle that is – I heard the shadow as it fell upon him say, May you feel the burning of a thousand suns as they rise at one upon you. And then I stabbed”.
The eerie silence is broken, “Perhaps once the returned ship is repaired it will be time to build another,” suggests Leif-Lasse.
Myrull-Ylva speaks, “This can be a good opportunity to be a fighter Viking for a big and rich chieftain. Maybe he will allow me to go to Gardariket also. Then I will fight for the big sultans and be rich me too. And then, I can go wherever I want after that. And get my own army of ships and Vikings. I can see me standing there with the big kings and chieftains, with sword of the best blacksmith in our known world.”
“I am a big rich chieftain,” proclaims Freyr-An’ersh.
Happy laughter bursts from all.
“Back to enjoying the boat trip,” Linnea-Ingeborg.
“We are not doing much fishing,” adds Poppa-Varg.
They all laugh and look around.
As the boat gently bobs, their chieftain Freyr-An’ersh adds, “It is enough to know we have worked so hard. That we have enough of everything. To be thankful to those who gave. We move onward in our town in happiness they earned for us. Parties are not the only way to happy. Nor are stories. We are a story. We are taking a boat trip and it is fulfilling. While there is light enough.
Take time to feel the bobbing of the rhythms.”
Poppa-Volva chips in, “Oh look it is time to turn back!”
“And so we return to sleep till spring,” adds Thorfinn Asmundsson.
“Ha you wish,” musters Tyra av Rafnsblõt, “This is when the work starts”
“Oh I long for spring,” sighs Blathnaid-Brigid, “Where I am pleased to know we will witness little miracles growing all around. I am sure we will, I am sure we will, and am so very excited.”
Footnotes and Credits
The element of the story where one ship props up another in a fjord rescue is based upon the real-life memories of my sister-Norn Sigrun watching out for family members returning upon a fishing vessel; hers is an extremely moving tale to hear.
Thank you to my chieftain Georg for the story of the dragon head and the Vanadís.
The traumatic effects of burning the fruiting juniper branch come from the book Legal Highs.
The riddle is the first of a few I shall feature and come from a small book of Vikingesque riddles by highly skilled bone-worker Peter Merrett (and I am sure many of you will wish to add comments below).
Thanks to my good friend Grethe-Irene for her tale of the warrior Viking.
The natural phenomenon of the ice rain in the Rockford area was brought to me by my niece.
Thanks go to Judson, Atle and Holly for discussions on kilts.