Wight of the Nine Worlds


I welcome thee free spirit, which thou shalt come with an open heart, open mind and an open soul, for what you are about to read can only be understood by the wise who are eager to learn and to embrace the roots deep and forgotten in the hearts of the free people of Europe, by accepting who you are and where your roots lie, is half way into the great road of life. We will journey unto where our spirit takes us with the knowledge we gained. Learn and teach.

The Reindeer Antler Comb

The academically accepted date for the beginning of the Viking Age is around 793 A.D. with the sack of Lindisfarne, however, new researches suggest that the Viking age may have begun earlier. Archaeologists found deer antlers fashioned into various items, including a comb which dates to an earlier age (725 A.D.) The artefacts were uncovered in the town of Ribe in Denmark, which indicates trading connections between the Danes and the Norwegians in a period earlier than what was previously thought.

These amazing findings have certainly altered previous notions of the development of a seafaring culture in Scandinavia. Trade was an important factor to set the beginning of the Viking Age, and the attack on Lindisfarne marks the official start of that period, mainly because of the proximity to several concurring events. If we take other factors into account, the dates for the beginning of the Viking Age will differ a lot of course. However, the first attack on the christians by the Vikings was not Lindisfarne. Another raid tells us of an unfortunate encounter a few years prior to Lindisfarne in which a local official in Britain was murdered for insisting on imposing a tax on Scandinavian traders. Another example are the Raids in Frisia (modern day Netherlands) which had began as early as the 770’s.Now we have evidence that the Vikings had begun traveling for trade as early as the 720’s. What makes Lindisfarne the best candidate for the start of the Viking Age is that it was the singular most powerful event that brought the Scandinavian raids into the public consciousness of the world at that time.

The findings on Ribe raise a lot of questions, but at least we have now confirmed what scholars have theorized for several decades - the Vikings were traveling  merchants around Europe (and possibly other places of the known world at that time) long before they began raiding. There are several theories on why the Norse peoples started leaving their homeland to became merchants and raiders, such as climate changing and a great flow of populations and so on. However, the closing of ports to non-Christians by Charlemagne may have contributed to the increasing violence carried out by the Vikings, because they became so much dependent on foreign trade, and barring their way of making a living certainly brought an economic failure in the north and things got bad and the Vikings were forced to raid.

Ribe, the location where the comb made of reindeer antler was found, is one of the oldest towns in Europe, thought to have been founded in the early 9th Century. The finds indicate the town had its beginnings much earlier than previously thought. Thus, in truth, the Viking Age started with the trading of handcrafted items made out of reindeer antlers. The mercantile town of Ribe may have given the Vikings an economic incentive to sail south to Denmark. Coincidentally, these types of travels likely helped the Vikings refine and master boating and navigation skills that helped them explore the world. Merchants and other travelers from the north were visiting Ribe long before the start of the Viking Age.

Studying the items found in excavations, showed that reindeer (which isn't an animal native to Denmark), made up a number of the crafts. Reindeer did live in Norway during that time, and it's likely the Vikings brought the antlers to Denmark to trade with their neighbors. In fact, combs fashioned out of deer antlers were a sizable industry during the Viking Age, which lasted until the Norman Conquest of England in 1066. Other studies (not directly connected with the excavations and the findings in Ribe) have found that these type of items are commonly found in graves, which suggests that a considerable proportion of the Scandinavian population had reindeer antler combs, which served as a hygienic and aesthetic amenity.

Ascension Day

Beforehand, I would like to apologize to the readers of this blog for not writing as often as I used to. I've been very busy - and there is no need to make a list of the things that keep me occupied - so I don't have the free time I used to have to come here and write about something. I will seize these few moments of free time that I have today, to write about subjects I wanted to write before. Lets go straight to the subject of this post before my free time runs out.
The Ascension Day is a subject I wanted to write at the end of the month of May, but as I've stated before the reason why I couldn't have posted something as often as before, now I'll just have to squeeze in this May celebration in the month of June.

Once in awhile a celebration is at our doorstep. We enjoy the feasts which have been in our communities and/or country traditions for generations. But how much do we know about the origins of such celebrations? How deep do the roots of a tradition goes?

According to the christian tradition, Jesus Christ ascended into heaven after his resurrection on a Sunday during Easter - ascension Day is the universally celebration of this happening. Just like many other Church celebrations and feasts, incorporating folk traditions and pre-christian pagan beliefs, Ascension Day isn't different and has a past which was changed and given a new "look" by the Church. One of these ancient traditions during this day is beating the bounds, which is quite possible the origin of the Ascension procession (which is still carried out today in some church parishes).

When communities beat their bounds, which means going round the boundaries, the whole village would process from marker to marker (often standing stones) that determined the limits of the parish. In most cases, the stone marking the boundery was beaten with willow or hazel twigs and marked with chalk as a sign of the passing of the people. The beating reinforced the rights of the parishioners, setting the boundary of who belongs to that church, as such, could also be married and buried in the that same church and its grounds. This process marked the boundaries between the  parishioners and those who were outsiders, meaning, those living out of the village or in other villages, and those who did not participate in this process.

This tradition dates from a period before the Norman Conquest of Great Britain, so it is quite possible that it has pagan roots. The beating of the twigs in the stones, or maybe another objects, afforded the bounds between the communities and the outside wild world which was seen as the realm where gods and magical creatures dwelt. This was a process of driving out evil spirits before the land was blessed. In economical and political affairs, the procession itself may have been a means to demarcate a place of power, notifying neighbours that the boundary must not be breached just as the standing stones in prehistory did; along with many other religious and spiritual meanings, it was also to mark the boundaries of a community. Indeed, small boys often took the beating on behalf of the stone, ritually suffering to confirm the pact with the local spirits of the land. Some trees in the landscape still bear names such as Gospel Oak, showing they were part of the annual round as soon as the Church became involved in local traditions and ancient celebrations. 

As part of the church services nowadays during this celebration, the first fruits are blessed, presumably in anticipation of the harvest. This certainly replaces the earlier prayers and blessings offered to the spirits of the land at the beating of the bounds, ensuring that the soils will be bountiful in the year to come and that the next harvest will be plentiful. There are indications that the custom of blessing the land and its produce was widespread across early medieval Europe.

The modern Ascension Day feast, presumably celebrating Christ's ascending to heaven, has far older roots involving the communities' connection to the land around them, acknowledging the local spirits, and also offering thanks for the anticipated harvest to come to them and quite possible to the old gods of harvest and fertility. The spirits of the land and/or the deities, have been replaced by the son of the christian god. Ascension Day certainly has pagan roots which have been adapted and embraced by the Church.