Sámi Folklore: Andras Baive

Sámi Folklore: Andras Baive
Andrew Lang wrote this Sámi tale in English in The Orange Fairy Book 1906.

Once upon a time there lived in Lapland a man who was so very strong and swift of foot that nobody in his native town of Vadso could come near him if they were running races in the summer evenings. The people of Vadso were very proud of their champion, and thought that there was no one like him in the world, till, by-and-by, it came to their ears that there dwelt among the mountains a Lapp, Andras Baive by name, who was said by his friends to be even stronger and swifter than the bailiff. Of course not a creature in Vadso believed that, and declared that if it made the mountaineers happier to talk such nonsense, why, let them!

The winter was long and cold, and the thoughts of the villagers were much busier with wolves than with Andras Baive, when suddenly, on a frosty day, he made his appearance in the little town of Vadso. The bailiff was delighted at this chance of trying his strength, and at once went out to seek Andras and to coax him into giving proof of his vigour. As he walked along his eyes fell upon a big eight-oared boat that lay upon the shore, and his face shone with pleasure. ‘That is the very thing,’ laughed he, ‘I will make him jump over that boat.’ Andras was quite ready to accept the challenge, and they soon settled the terms of the wager. He who could jump over the boat without so much as touching it with his heel was to be the winner, and would get a large sum of money as the prize. So, followed by many of the villagers, the two men walked down to the sea.

An old fisherman was chosen to stand near the boat to watch fair play, and to hold the stakes, and Andras, as the stranger was told to jump first. Going back to the flag which had been stuck into the sand to mark the starting place, he ran forward, with his head well thrown back, and cleared the boat with a mighty bound. The lookers- on cheered him, and indeed he well deserve it; but they waited anxiously all the same to see what the bailiff would do. On he came, taller than Andras by several inches, but heavier of build. He too sprang high and well, but as he came down his heel just grazed the edge of the boat. Dead silence reigned amidst the townsfolk, but Andras only laughed and said carelessly:

‘Just a little too short, bailiff; next time you must do better than that.’

The bailiff turned red with anger at his rival’s scornful words, and answered quickly: ‘Next time you will have something harder to do.’ And turning his back on his friends, he went sulkily home. Andras, putting the money he had earned in his pocket, went home also.

The following spring Andras happened to be driving his reindeer along a great fiord to the west of Vadso. A boy who had met him hastened to tell the bailiff that his enemy was only a few miles off; and the bailiff, disguising himself as a Stalo, or ogre, called his son and his dog and rowed away across the fjord to the place where the boy had met Andras.

Now the mountaineer was lazily walking along the sands, thinking of the new hut that he was building with the money that he had won on the day of his lucky jump. He wandered on, his eyes fixed on the sands, so that he did not see the bailiff drive his boat behind a rock, while he changed himself into a heap of wreckage which floated in on the waves. A stumble over a stone recalled Andras to himself, and looking up he beheld the mass of wreckage. ‘Dear me! I may find some use for that,’ he said; and hastened down to the sea, waiting till he could lay hold of some stray rope which might float towards him. Suddenly–he could not have told why–a nameless fear seized upon him, and he fled away from the shore as if for his life. As he ran he heard the sound of a pipe, such as only ogres of the Stalo kind were wont to use; and there flashed into his mind what the bailiff had said when they jumped the boat: ‘Next time you will have something harder to do.’ So it was no wreckage after all that he had seen, but the bailiff himself.

It happened that in the long summer nights up in the mountain, where the sun never set, and it was very difficult to get to sleep, Andras had spent many hours in the study of magic, and this stood him in good stead now. The instant he heard the Stalo music he wished himself to become the feet of a reindeer, and in this guise he galloped like the wind for several miles. Then he stopped to take breath and find out what his enemy was doing. Nothing he could see, but to his ears the notes of a pipe floated over the plain, and ever, as he listened, it drew nearer.

A cold shiver shook Andras, and this time he wished himself the feet of a reindeer calf. For when a reindeer calf has reached the age at which he begins first to lose his hair he is so swift that neither beast nor bird can come near him. A reindeer calf is the swiftest of all things living. Yes; but not so swift as a Stalo, as Andras found out when he stopped to rest, and heard the pipe playing!

For a moment his heart sank, and he gave himself up for dead, till he remembered that, not far off, were two little lakes joined together by a short though very broad river. In the middle of the river lay a stone that was always covered by water, except in dry seasons, and as the winter rains had been very heavy, he felt quite sure that not even the top of it could be seen. The next minute, if anyone had been looking that way, he would have beheld a small reindeer calf speeding northwards, and by-and-by giving a great spring, which landed him in the midst of the stream. But, instead of sinking to the bottom, he paused a second to steady himself, then gave a second spring which landed him on the further shore. He next ran on to a little hill where he saw down and began to neigh loudly, so that the Stalo might know exactly where he was.

‘Ah! There you are,’ cried the Stalo, appearing on the opposite bank; ‘for a moment I really thought I had lost you.’

‘No such luck,’ answered Andras, shaking his head sorrowfully. By this time he had taken his own shape again.

‘Well, but I don’t see how I am to get to you’ said the Stalo, looking up and down.

‘Jump over, as I did,’ answered Andras; ‘it is quite easy.’

‘But I could not jump this river; and I don’t know how you did,’ replied the Stalo.

‘I should be ashamed to say such things,’ exclaimed Andras. ‘Do you mean to tell me that a jump, which the weakest Lapp boy would make nothing of, is beyond your strength?’

The Stalo grew red and angry when he heard these words, just as Andras meant him to do. He bounded into the air and fell straight into the river. Not that that would have mattered, for he was a good swimmer; but Andras drew out the bow and arrows which every Lapp carries, and took aim at him. His aim was good, but the Stalo sprang so high into the air that the arrow flew between his feet. A second shot, directed at his forehead, fared no better, for this time the Stalo jumped so high to the other side that the arrow passed between his finger and thumb. Then Andras aimed his third arrow a little over the Stalo’s head, and when he sprang up, just an instant too soon, it hit him between the ribs.

Mortally wounded as he was, the Stalo was not yet dead, and managed to swim to the shore. Stretching himself on the sand, he said slowly to Andras:

‘Promise that you will give me an honourable burial, and when my body is laid in the grave go in my boat across the fiord, and take whatever you find in my house which belongs to me. My dog you must kill, but spare my son, Andras.’

Then he died; and Andras sailed in his boat away across the fiord and found the dog and boy. The dog, a fierce, wicked-looking creature, he slew with one blow from his fist, for it is well known that if a Stalo’s dog licks the blood that flows from his dead master’s wounds the Stalo comes to life again. That is why no REAL Stalo is ever seen without his dog; but the bailiff, being only half a Stalo, had forgotten him, when he went to the little lakes in search of Andras. Next, Andras put all the gold and jewels which he found in the boat into his pockets, and bidding the boy get in, pushed it off from the shore, leaving the little craft to drift as it would, while he himself ran home. With the treasure he possessed he was able to buy a great herd of reindeer; and he soon married a rich wife, whose parents would not have him as a son-in-law when he was poor, and the two lived happy for ever after.

 

Source & Reference:
Featured Illustration: “Andras Baive shoots the Stalo.” by H.J Ford, published in The Orange Fairy Book by Andrew Lang (1906), Longmans, Green and Company
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Huldra: Northern European Forest Creature

Be watchful when you are hiking in the dark tall woods of Northern Europe, you just may come across a lovely woman that is really a creature termed ‘Huldra’ who are a legendary race of Norwegian forest spirits that dwell in the dark woods of Norway. Huldra is also known as Holder to Germanic folks. They are also spoken about in oral Sámi tradition and Lapplanders. According to Swedish folklore Huldra are called Tallemaja “pine tree Mary,” or skogsrå “spirits of the forest.” In Sámi folklore they are known as Ulda. The origin of the name Hulda connects her to the shaman Völva and the German figure Holder or Frau Holle.

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She emerges out of the dark woods as a bewitching stunning, fair skin woman with long wavy, blonde hair wearing a crown of flowers upon her head with a large gap in its back sometimes filled with tree bark. The Huldra also have cow tail on their lower backs. The Swedish skogsrå has a fox tail on its lower back.

The Huldra are practical jokers known to seduce single men to wed them. Once at the altar the Huldra will turn herself into an old crone in order to shock the groom to be. Once the wedding follows through this spirited creature will gain tremendous strength.

There is a male species of the Huldra termed a huldrekall who dwell beneath the earth in underground tunnels and are hideously, unattractive compared to the Hulda. They have enormous large noses similar to trolls.

 

Sources & References:

  • K. M. Briggs, The Fairies in English Tradition and LiteratureUniversity of Chicago Press, London, 1967
  • Charlotte S. Sidgwick, The Story of Norway, Oxford 1885. Rivingtons Waterloo Place London.
  • Huldra, Featured illustration Skogsrå, Wikimedia Commons in Public Domain
  • “Huldra”  Theodor Kittelsen 1892. Illustration at Wikimedia Commons Public Domain.

Giant Wolves/Wargs of Norse Mythology

Early beginnings for the pups Sköll and Hati. Odin caught them and held them in the kennels in Asgard in order to keep their father and an enemy to the Aesir, Hróðvitnir, at bay. According to Norse folklore, wargs are mythological giant wolves such as Fenrir, Sköll, and Hati.
In the Hervarar saga, King Heidrek is asked by Gestumblindi (Odin),

What is that lamp
which lights up men,

but flame engulfs it,

and wargs grasp after it always?

Heidrek perceives the answer is the Sun, explaining,

She lights up every land and shines over all men, and Skõll and Hati are called wargs.

Those are wolves, one going before the sun, the other after the moon.

Wargs are large, dangerous wolves.

Trundholm-Sun-Chariot

Above: The Trundholm sun chariot from Bronze Age Denmark.

Hati, (meaning hateful) is a large Warg and the son of Hroðvitnir. He desires to ensnare the moon Máni the brother of Sól which he will eventually wolf down. Sköll (meaning mockery) is his accomplice. He is named after one of Saturn’s moons Saturn XLVII. Sköll chases Sól through the sky and will devour her and her horses at Ragnarök

Wolves in folklore also served as a symbol for menacing anthropoid beasts. For example, Gunnr’s horse was a kenning for “wolf” on the Rök Runestone, in the Lay of Hyndla, the völva (witch) Hyndla rides a wolf and to Baldur’s funeral, the giantess Hyrrokkin arrived on a wolf.
Once the wolves gobble up the Sun and moon the end of the world will begin with the eclipse to launch the apocalyptic event, Ragnarök.

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Picture of the wolves Sköll meaning (revenge or mockery) and Hati meaning (hate) chasing Sól also known as Sunna (the sun goddess) and Máni (moon god). Public domain.

Máni and Sól were giants according to Norse Mythology. The solution to devour them is to take them out with giant wargs.

Do giant wolves exist in contemporary times? Today palaeontologists have discovered the Dire Wolf meaning ‘Fearsome dog”  Dire wolves roamed North and South America 125000-9500 years ago in the Late Pleistocene, early Holocene eras. They are similar in size to the Grey wolf and Yukon wolf.

A discovery of a giant wolf’s head dating back to 40000 years ago was found near the Tirekhtyakh River in Yakutia, Siberia.

Read the article in the link below, courtesy of Live Science by staff writer Yasemin Saplakoglu

https://www.livescience.com/65677-severed-head-ancient-wolf-russia.html

The Pleistocene wolf’s head measured 40cm in length, half the size of a modern wolf’s body which varies from 66 to 86cm.

Pleistocene wolf head

Above: The giant wolf with its fur and fangs still intact aged 2 to 4 years old when it perished. Photo by Albert Protopopov courtesy of strangesounds.org.

 

Source & References:

  • Encyclopedia of Norse Germanic Folklore, Mythology, and Magic. by Claude Lecouteaux copyright ©2005,2007,2014  English translation by Inner Traditions International. ©2016 ISBN 9781620554807
  • Featured image: Odin and Fenris (1909) by Dorothy Hardy
  • Live Science by staff writer Yasemin Saplakoglu
  • https://www.livescience.com/65677-severed-head-ancient-wolf-russia.html

 

Folklore Objects: Orbuculum & Aztec Mirrors

Have you ever been to a fortune teller? If so you may have spotted an attractive Orbuculum also known as a Crystal Ball aligned in the centre of a round table.

The Cunning folk would explain ones’ future events using their clairvoyance and the magical art of scrying also known as crystallomancy, crystal gazing or spheromancy. While using their unique psychic abilities they can view ones future by gazing into the Orbuculum.

Photo below of John Dee’s crystal ball, housed in the British Museum. Photo via Wikipedia Commons

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History & Background of the Orbuculum & Aztec Mirrors:

The Celtic Druids were the first accredited to scry the future and observe omens within Beryl balls. During the First Century CE, Pliny the Elder expressed users of crystal balls as soothsayers “Crystallum orbis,” was later penned in Medieval Latin by scribes as orbuculum. It became very popular in the Roman empire by the 5th Century CE.

Once the Roman Empire transformed into the Roman Catholic Church and Christianity took its’ foothold, scrying became a taboo and was condemned by the early medieval church as a heresy.

Overtime spirituality began to blossom once more.

Picture below of Dr. John Dee (13 July 1527 – 1609

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Dr. John Dee was a famous consultant to Queen Elizabeth I. He was also well educated and was a notable astronomer, mathematician, astrologer and geographer. He dedicated most of his time to the research of Hermetic philosophy, alchemy and divination of which Crystal balls and Aztec mirrors were used for scrying. During the Victorian era from 1837-1901 Crystallomancy became in demand again. It was noted that Crystal gazing worked best when the Sun was at its most northern decline. The Crystal orb would become clouded right before a vision presented itself within the orb.

The Aztec or Mesoamerican culture also used mirrors to serve as portals into a realm that could be observed but not interacted with. A spiritual dimension. These mirrors were crafted from stone and later Obsidian using Volcano glass to craft mystic, murky mirrors used for scrying. Dr. John Dee had one and it is shown in the British Museum.

At times, Mesoamerican diviners also used bowls of water for scrying.

Dr. John Dee also used scrying tools such as Aztec Mirrors like the one in the photo below

Below: Aztec mirror fashioned from Obsidian located at the British Museum.

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Scrying in Folklore:

There are scrying rituals cited in ceremonial magic and are kept through folk tales and superstition.

One particular tradition back in the Victorian era was held that a young woman in a darkened room gazing into a mirror usually at Samhain or Halloween would catch an image of their future husband’s face in the mirror or they would spot a skull symbolizing Death if she was fated to perish before they were able to wed.

Below: Ye Olde Postcard from Halloween past in Public Domain.

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Another well known Victorian era folklore was of Bloody Mary where young women were encouraged to walk up a flight of stairs backwards, holding a candle and a hand mirror, in a darkened house. As they gazed into the mirror, they were supposed to be able to catch a glimpse of their future husband’s face. Once in a Blue Moon just by chance one would spot the skull-face of the Grim Reaper instead; this meant that they were fated to die before they married.

Halloween-card-mirror-1904

Above: Ye Olde Victorian Postcard from the Public Domain

Sources & References:

*Northcote Whitridge Thomas. (1905). Crystal Gazing: Its History and Practice with a Discussion on the Evidence for Telepathic Scrying. Moring.

*Aleister Crowley, Adrian Axwirthy. (2001). A Symbolic Representation of the Universe: Derived by Doctor John Dee Through the Scrying of Sir Edward Kelly. Holmes Publishing Group.

*Healy, Paul F.; Marc G. Blainey (2011). “Ancient Maya Mosaic Mirrors: Function, Symbolism, And Meaning”. Ancient Mesoamerica. Cambridge University Press. 22 (2): 229–244. S0956536111000241.

Easter Folklore: France

Each Easter Monday the petite town of Bessieres France (Haute Garonne)  implements their unique tradition beginning in 1973.  The town chefs carefully create a huge, tasty omelette, made from 15,000 eggs and its diameter is 4 metres! Fifty or so folks volunteer to crack all the eggs. This takes all about 90 minutes including cooking time for the omelette. The town’s folklore was based from a 19th century tale. Napoleon Bonaparte and his army stopped over at one of the Inns at Bessieres. The Inn keeper cooked up a delicious omelette for Napoleon Bonaparte while he was sojourning in Bessieres. He savoured the omelette so much that the whole town used all their eggs and cooked him a colossal omelette.

jacques-louis_david_-_napoleon_crossing_the_alps_-_kunsthistorisches_museum

Jacques-Louis David (1748-1825) Napoleon Crossing the Alps — Kunsthistorisches Museum in Public Domain

Source & Reference: https://www.omelettegeante.fr

Mythology of The Unicorn

Don’t you just love Unicorns? I do. I was fascinated with these eloquent, strong, equine creatures of antiquity since early childhood.

Below Photo of Chinese Qilin Statue in Summer Palace, Public Domain

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They may have originated from the Asian Unicorns such as the Qilin from China and the Kirin from Japan. Narwhals may be the original inspiration for the Unicorn, the tusk of the Narwhal was sold as the Unicorn horn in the past. Many Ancient Greek scholars wrote on the illustrious Unicorn such as Pliny the Younger, Ctesias and Strabo to list a few.

Below Illustration: Historical depiction of a narwhal from ‘Brehms Tierleben‘ (1864–1869) Public Domain.

Narwhal

Even the Bible in the Old Testament mentions the Unicorn

“God brought them out of Egypt; he hath as it were the strength of an unicorn.”—Numbers 23:22 (including several more passages.)

Unicorns may have also evolved from Elasmotherium that roamed Siberia 39,000 years ago.

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Above Illustration: First published restoration (1878) of E. sibiricum, by Rashevsky, under supervision of A.F. Brant

Unicorn lore is located around the world from Asia, Persia, Turkey, Siberia, including the United Kingdom. Unicorns were early environmentalists as their great horn purified the water wherever they went. The Unicorn symbol represented pure water of river, lakes and streams. According to Unicorn myth its horn could remove poisons once the tip of its horn touched liquids. Its unique power to cleanse water was noted in Physiologus 14th century exposition. A snake had poisoned the water at a massive lake that quenched the thirst of several animals. A lovely Unicorn approached the lake and with its great horn made the sign of the cross thus sanitizing the toxic water so the animals were able to safely drink from the lake.

During the medieval times Unicorn horns were also known as Alicorns used to heal all types of maladies. Royal Alchemists would use them in their super energized plant based antidotes. It was known to fight plagues and counteract snake and scorpion venom.

Below photo: Three Unicorn horns from the Mariakerk in Utrecht, now on display at the Rijksmuseum.

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The 12th century abbess Hidegard of Bingen kept her written medical journals, noting alicorns were used to treat Leprosy when mixed with eggs. Leather from the Unicorn was crafted into a belt to ward off plaque and fevers. Leather shoes from the Unicorn would heal Gout and other foot ailments.

Unicorns are found in several flags and coat of arms in Europe and United Kingdom.

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Above: Royal Coat of Arms, Elizabeth 2nd in Right of the United Kingdom. Public Domain.

The Unicorn with a Rainbow in today’s culture is a popular symbol of the LGBT. The Rainbow Unicorn symbol was created by by American artist Gilbert Baker in 1978. Unicorns have become important to the LGBT community as a gay pride symbol since the 1900’s. According to Alice Fisher of The Guardian, she mentions in her article that  the Unicorn with Rainbow image gained popularity during the gay rights protests of the 1970s and 1980.

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Above Photo of Unicorn with Rainbow on truck in Portland’s Gay Pride Parade 2017 Public Domain.

 

 

Sources & References:

  • Hildegarde, B. (1989). Le Livre des subtilités des créatures divines. II. Paris: Millon.
  • Odell Shepard, The Lore of the Unicorn at Amazon.com https://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/B002FL4WSI/internetsacredte
  • Perry, J. (2016) ‘Real ‘Siberian unicorn’ remains found.’ http://www.cnn.com/2016/03/29/living/real-unicorn-remains/
  • Godfrey, L. S. (2009).  Mythical creatures . Chelsea House Publishers
  • Fisher, Alice (2017-10-15). “Why the unicorn has become the emblem for our times | Alice Fisher”. the Guardian.
  • Featured Art by Salvador Dali (1941-1989) “The Happy Unicorn.” 1976. Public Domain.

 

 

Fortuna: Roman Goddess of Luck & Fate

Speaking of Lady Luck the Roman Goddess Fortuna or Fortūna in Latin certainly has earned her title. She may have been a former Latin or Etruscan goddess Servius Tullius. Fortuna represents the vital spark of luck, abundance, fate and chance that humans all hope and pray for at one time or another. Augustus Ceasar declared he was her favourite chosen son even if he was not it’s a great way to psyche out your enemies. Fortuna was popular, not as famous as Diana of Juno. Roman soldiers brought her adoration to England where she was revered there. Fortuna was known as a oracular goddess, many would have their fortunes told at her shrine.

April 1st just happens to be her hallowed day. It is a day for women  to ask her to invoke their mate’s virility and desire. She is often represented by the wheel of fortune, a cornucopia (abundance) or a ship’s rudder or a ball. Her father was allegedly Jupiter, Lord of Light and plenty. Her temple was dedicated to her on June 11th. The Festival of Fortuna was celebrated on or near the Summer Solstice.

 

Source & Reference:

  • Billington, S., Green, M. ‘The Concept of the Goddess’ (London, New York, 1996), 133-134.
  • Lesley Adkins, Roy A. Adkins (2001) Dictionary of Roman Religion
  • Featured Illustration of Lady Fortune in a Boccaccio manuscript Public Domain