Sunday, October 4, 2015

The Rites of the Hidden

Huld in Scandinavian mythology, is only referenced by völva or seiðkona, that is a woman who practiced the seiðr. Seiðr is believed to come from Proto-Germanic *saiðaz, cognate with Lithuanian saitas, "sign, soothsaying" and Proto-Celtic *soito- "sorcery" (giving Welsh hud, Breton hud "magic"), all derived from Proto-Indo-European *soi-to- "string, rope", ultimately from the Proto-Indo-European root *seH2i- "to bind". Note that the Finnish word seita and the Sami variants of the term sieidde refer to a human-shaped tree or a large and strangely-shaped stone or rock and do not necessarily reference magical power. There is a good case, however, that these words do derive ultimately from seiðr. The earliest seiðr was associated with the goddess Freyja, a member of the Vanir, an original people's gods before the appropriation of their mythology into the later familiar Nordic mythology of the Æsir with its ascendant god, Odin.

Seiðr: *saidaz - magic, charm. From Pre-Germanic *soytós, from Proto-Indo-European *seyt-. Related to Middle Welsh hud ‎(“magic”).
The graphics of the Voynich beg a question. Is there any tradition in the world that would cause women to descend naked into a watery cave holding the implements that they do in the Voynich?

Indeed, there is. and it's an ancient north European tradition observed from as far south as the Alps to as far north as Finnmark. It goes by various names.

Winter Nights, Mothers Night (Modraniht),
Twelve Days, dísablót
dísaþingPerchiennacht, Yul, Kekri, etc.

According to north European folk belief, during the intercalary period the spirits of the deceased returned to the family home.

The Dísablót was the blót (sacrificial holiday) which was held in honour of the female spirits or deities called dísir (later, the Valkyries), from pre-historic times until the Christianization of Scandinavia. Its purpose was to enhance the coming harvest. It is mentioned in Hervarar saga, Víga-Glúms saga, Egils saga and the Heimskringla. The celebration still lives on in the form of an annual fair called the Disting in Uppsala, Sweden.

Mōdraniht (Old English "Night of the Mothers" or "Mothers'-night") was an event held at what is now Christmas Eve by the Anglo-Saxon Pagans where a sacrifice may have been made. The event is attested by the medieval English historian Bede in his 8th-century Latin work De temporum ratione. Scholars have proposed connections between the Anglo-Saxon Mōdraniht and events attested among other Germanic peoples (specifically those involving the dísir, collective female beings, and Yule) and the Germanic Matres and Matrones, female beings attested by way of altar and votive inscriptions, nearly always appearing in trios.

In Upper Bavaria peasants wearing horrible-looking wooden masks go about cracking long whips and symbolically driving out Frau Perchta (also known as Berchta, or Bertha), nature goddess of ancient Germanic mythology and custodian of the dead. According to folk belief the mysterious witch wanders about and harms mortals on the Twelve Days between Christmas and Epiphany. On Perchiennacht, or Epiphany, Perchta and her cohorts, symbolizing powers of both good and evil, are thought to fructify the fields and to frighten naughty children.

The Celtic year began with the festival of Samhain on 31 October, when nature appears to be dying down. Tellingly, the first month of the Celtic year is Samonios, ‘Seed Fall’: in other words, from death and darkness springs life and light.

Kekri (also known as Köyri, Keyri or Runtu) is an autumn festival that marks the end of the year in the traditional Finnish calendar. It originally was celebrated at varying dates depending on local tradition; with the introduction of Christianity, the date gradually became fixed on November 1st: the Catholic Church’s All Saints’ Day. This day begins a 10-12 day period of partition, or intercalary period, between the old and new year.  Like the Celtic Samhain, Kekri is a holiday centered on both honoring the ancestors and as thanksgiving for the completed harvest and the transition to winter.

When was this holiday?

To understand a seasonal calendar, it is best to abandon the idea that a month always has a precise number of days and there are 12 of them in a year. The idea of 12 mathematically equal months was only introduced with Christianity. Nevertheless, north European cultures had divisions, albeit rough and far less rigid, that conceptually can be somewhat equated with months.

That said, originally, the festival was held during an intercalary period that usually fell around October/November. In Iceland, for example, the start of winter was celebrated as Vetr-nættr, "winter-nights", which by law always began on "laugardagr" or Saturday, probably between 10/11 and 10/18 of our calendar.
It is interesting to note that the Finnish name for the month of November is marraskuu. Marras probably comes from the Indo-European root *mer-, to die, death (compare: Latin mors, English murder, Old Norse morð etc).

Folklore, Volume 2

 edited by Joseph Jacobs, et al
As a variable span of time, the intercalary period held numinous connotations, as is discussed further in the post titled The Seasonal Year.

The Deities

Hulda, Holda, Holle, Holla 

The kindly Holda was in other parts called Gôde, under which name she resembled Artemis, as the heavenly huntress accompanied by her maidens. In Austria and Bavaria she was called Perchta, or Bertha (the shining), and was supposed to have horns like Isis or Io, other lunar goddesses. But in Swabia and Thuringia she was represented by Hörsel or Ursul.

This Hörsel, in other places called the night bird Tutösel, haunted the Venusberg into which Tanhäuser plunged. She lived there in the midst of her numerous troop of damsels, to assist the laborious farmer and bless faithful lovers, or to allure to herself those souls which still clung to the ancient faith. A beautiful and benignant goddess the peasantry ever regarded her, little heeding the brand put upon her pure brow by an indignant clergy, who saw in her only the Roman Venus in her grossest character, and not Aphrodite, the foam-begotten moon, rising silvery above the frothing sea.

In Germanic Pre-Christian folklore, Hulda, Holda, Holle and Holla were all names to denote a single being. Hulda is also related to the Germanic figure of Perchta. (Perchta embodies light and darkness, life and death. Therefore, it appears at times as a being who is half beautiful woman and half skeleton.) In Scandinavian mythology, Huld is only referenced by völva or seiðkona, that is a woman who practiced the seiðr.

She is mentioned in the Ynglinga saga, Sturlunga saga and a late medieval Icelandic tale. In the latter source, she is Odin's mistress and the mother of the demi-goddesses Þorgerðr and Irpa. As her name suggests, Huld may be in origin the same being as the Huldra and the German Holda.

Holda, in Teutonic mythology, is a gentle lady with a sad smile on her countenance, ever accompanied by the souls of maidens and children, which are under her care. She sits in a mountain of crystal, surrounded by her bright-eyed maidens, and comes forth to scatter on earth the winter snow, or to revive the spring earth, or bless the fruits of autumn. This company of virgins surrounding her in the crystal vault of heaven is that described by Æschylus: Αστρων κάτοιδα νυκτέρων ὁήγυριν (Agam. v. 4). Saint Ursula and the Eleven Thousand Virgins

Below are Frau Holle holding a spoon on the left and a Voynich woman holding a spoon on the right.

Implements of Ritualistic Significance

Drop Spindle


The ancient Eura, women spindle
There are many old beliefs assigning powerful significance to the drop spindle. Svetlana Zhulnickova relates the following ritual:
There is also a custom in Karelia when a baby reaches the age of 6 months the mother makes a special ritual "banya" (sauna) for him. When people prepare the sauna for the baby they put a spindle into the stove together with firewood, that is because 6 month is the age when baby usually gets the first tooth, and that means [her/his] own soul. "Superstitions about the Spindle in Russian Karelia"

Distaff

The word distæf in Old English meant literally "flax staff," from dis- "a bunch of flax" and stæf "staff." Because women usually did the spinning, the distaff came to be a symbol for women's work. The word distaff in time took on the meaning "women's work" and later "woman." The noun distaff is rarely used in this way today, but the female members of a family are still referred to as the distaff side. 

In German legends, 'frau Holda' was the protectress of women's crafts, but none so much as spinning, an activity with strong magical connotations and links to the other world. Spinning traditionally was a woman's task. Holda first taught the craft of making linen from flax. The legend of Frau Holle is found as far as the Voigtland, past the Rhön mountains in northern Franconia, in the Wetterau up to the Westerwald and from Thuringia to the frontier of Lower Saxony. She is also called Frau Bercht, Frau Percht, and Striga Holda, among other names. Below is the portrait of this powerful hag as Perchta. She is also known as Frau Holda, or Frau Holle. She was the protectress of agriculture as well. Her name and the names Huld and Hulda may be cognate with that of the Scandinavian being known as the huldra or Huldra

The most steadfast connections are with Frau Holle and Hulda on one hand, and the Old Norse Hlóðyn, a byname for the Earth, Thor’s mother, on the other. She is also frequently equated with Nerthus, who also rides in a wagon, and Odin's wife, Frigg, from her alternate names Frau Guaden [Wodan], Frau Goden, and Frau Frekke as well as her position as mistress of the Wild Hunt. 

The Clement Side to Hulda

From Proto-Germanic *hulþaz, a variant on a root meaning ‘lean, incline’ (compare Old English heald, hieldan). Cognates include Old Frisian hold, Old Saxon hold, Old High German hold “friendly” (German hold), Old Norse hollr (Danish huld, Swedish huld), Gothic hulþs, “clement,” Old High German huldī  “friendliness”

Danish and Swedish: faithful, loyal; gracious; fair; sweet
Old English: gracious, loyal, kind 

The Inclement Side to Hulda

From Proto-Germanic *huldą, from Proto-Indo-European *kol-, *kwol-. Cognates include Old Norse hold (“flesh”) (Icelandic hold, Swedish hull), and (from Indo-European) Old Irish colainn, Welsh celain.
Dead body or carcase, lich

The Legends

Hulda is the goddess to whom children who died as infants go, and alternatively known as both the Dunkle Großmutter (Dark Grandmother) and the Weisse Frau (White Lady), elements which are more typically associated with the Grimm's fairy tale as well. Her connection to the spirit world through the magic of spinning and weaving has associated her with witchcraft in Catholic German folklore.
 
The legend itself, as it was eventually passed to the Grimm Brothers, originates from oral traditions in Central Germany in what is now known as Hessen. When Christianity slowly replaced Scandinavian paganism during the early Middle Ages, many of the old customs were gradually lost or assimilated into Catholic tradition. By the end of the High Middle Ages, Scandinavian paganism was almost completely marginalized and blended into rural folklore, in which the character of Mother Hulda eventually survived.
The following is an excerpt from Encyclopedia Mythica:
Holle by Sandra Kleinschmitt
Holle is known throughout northern Europe. She is also known as Holda or Hulda. A triple goddess, Holle is the Maiden, the Mother and the Crone--the embodiment of the three stages of womanhood. 
As Maiden, she is the ash girl, whose face is half black with soot. Destined to marry
Holler, King of Winter and Frost, he tested her with a riddle to be sure of Holle's worthiness. She had to come to his palace neither naked nor clothed, neither riding nor walking, neither alone nor with companions, in neither light nor darkness. Holle answered by arriving wrapped in a fishing net, sitting on a donkey with one toe dragging on the ground, surrounded by twenty-four wolves at twilight. 
Holle as Mother is said to be seen as a woman from the front and a tree form the back. Representing fertility and growth she guards and nurtures all the green growing things of the forest.
Oberwerschen-B bracteate (IK 311). This is one of five known "Fürstenberg type" bracteates, showing a female figure interpreted as the goddess Frija-Frigg. The bracteates are IK 259 (Großfahner-B), IK 311 (Oberwerschen-B), IK 350 (site of discovery unknown, reportedly from "south-western Germany"), IK 389 (Welschingen-B), IK 391 (Gudme II-B) Literature: M. J. Enright, The Goddess Who Weaves. Some Iconographic Aspects of Bracteates of the Fürstenberg Type. 
As Crone, Holle is viewed as the wise Queen of Winter. She shakes her bed till the feathers fly to make it snow. When it snows in Holland, people still say, 'Dame Holle is shaking her bed'. Frau Holle, as she is known in Germany, was called The Queen of the Witches. The brothers Grimm tell a story of step-sisters who both go to visit Frau Holle in the 'nether realms'. They begin their journey to her by falling in a well. One is diligent, learning the lessons Frau Holle teaches well, and is showered with gold. The other is lazy and does not learn the lessons well and is showered with manure. Her counterpart in Russia is called Baba Yaga. 
In Hungarian mythology Bába, meaning "old woman", was originally a good fairy who later degraded and became evil. Although she had magical abilities, she was not a witch (boszorkány). She was thought to live in fountains, and if young children went too close to her lair, she lured them in.
Holle's name is linguistically related to the word Halja, which means "covering", and is the ancient Teutonic name for Hel, the Norse land of the dead. Holle is called the Queen of the Dead, and resides in the 'nether' regions. She possibly lent her name to the country Holland, 'the land of Holle', which is also called the Netherlands because many parts of the country are below sea-level. 
Catherine Heath's From Fairytale To Goddess: Frau Holle And The Scholars That Try To Reveal Her Origins gives an excellent summary on the scholarship done on this topic.

The Disir as Ancestors and Worship of the Dead

In Germanic mythology, an idis (Old Saxon, plural idisi) is a divine female being. Idis is cognate to Old High German itis and Old English ides, meaning 'well-respected and dignified woman.' Connections have been assumed or theorized between the idisi and the North Germanic dísir; female beings associated with fate, as well as the amended place name Idistaviso.

In Norse mythology, a dís ("lady", plural dísir) is a ghost, spirit or deity associated with fate who can be both benevolent and antagonistic towards mortal people. Dísir may act as protective spirits of Norse clans. Their original function was possibly that of fertility goddesses who were the object of both private and official worship called dísablót, and their veneration may derive from the worship of the spirits of the dead. The dísir, like the valkyries, norns, and vættir, are almost always referred to collectively.

Icelandic dís f (genitive singular dísar, nominative plural dísir) = goddess, fairy; dis
The disir are explicitly called dead women in Atlamál 28 and a secondary belief that the disir were the souls of dead women (see fylgjur) also underlies the landdísir of Icelandic folklore. Wiki
The woman's face in the center of each star chart is a member of the Disir, the deified female ancestor of a clan.
The surrounding stars are septs within that clan.
Rudolf Simek says that the landdísir "are perhaps identical to the dísir, female protective guardian spirits, or else related in some way to the landvætter, Icelandic protective spirits." According to Simek, since the landdísir were believed to live in stones and were venerated there, the practice could represent a form of ancestor worship. Simek notes that Icelandic folklore tells of other beings who live in stones and hills, such as dwarfs and elves.

Gabriel Turville-Petre theorizes that "the female landdísir, dwelling in their rocks, were probably not far removed from the masculine elves." Turville-Petre connects their veneration to the continental Scandinavian practice of the Dísablót (the sacrifice to the dísir), the Disting (thing of the dísir), and various Scandinavian place names involving the dísir where worship may have occurred. Turville-Petre concludes that "the landdísir of the Ísafjörður were dead women ancestors of the people who lived there. They had come to be venerated, being goddesses at once of death, fertility, and rebirth." Wiki

Next to Christianity the Setu people have held on to their ancient pagan beliefs. Until quite recently it would have been no surprise to find a primeval wooden statue of fertility god Peko hidden somewhere near to the picture of Jesus. Until the beginning of the 20th century the Setus made blood sacrifices to Peko in secret rituals – full-grown men would fight until blood is spilled. Worshiping the souls of dead ancestors is still a vital practice.
Setu community holding picnics at grave sites on All Saints Day (All Hallow's Eve)
Obviously, some sort of ritual is occurring in the Voynich manuscript's pages that depict women processing down into a cave and into water. The ritual has to do with birth, fertility, seasons, spinning, and possibly the dead. How do we know this? Because some of the women are either pregnant or giving birth, quite a few of the symbols have to do with fertility, the other pages show zodiacs and cyclical graphics, one woman holds a drop spindle, another a spoon, and one woman in fact looks dead. All of these are covered in earlier posts except the dead woman. Here she is:

Aado Lintrop's On the Udmurt Water Spirit and the Formation of the Concept of 'Holy' among Permian Peoples in Estonian Folklore discusses the commonly held belief in this region that the realm of the dead is situated on the other side of water.

And in German legend, Holda held her court within the Hörselberg, and from this mountain would
issue the Wild Hunt, with her at its head. The faithful Eckhart was said to sit at the base of the mountain warning travellers to return whence they came; he also rode ahead of the Wild Hunt warning people to seek shelter from the coming storm. While Holda in northern Germany is described as leading a procession of the dead, her close counterpart in southern Germany, Perchta, is described as being surrounded by the souls of unborn children, or children who died before they were baptised. This points to Holda's dual role as protectress of souls both entering and leaving this world.There is also this, among similar legends in other European countries:
Many pools, wells or fountains are associated with the water-holda (roughly translated) throughout Germany. She haunts lakes and fountains and is seen as a fair White Lady bathing in the water and disappearing, a trait in which she resembles Nerthus. Like Nerthus, she too drives about in a wagon, sometimes requiring the help of a peasant to repair it. When he carves a new linchpin for her, she pays him with the cast-off wood chips which turn into gold if he is wise enough to take them. Young women would sometimes bathe in the icy Alpine pools in the hopes of becoming healthy fertile mothers.
Thus, this deity was very strongly connected with fertility.

The PreHellenic Aegean name for the Universal Mother was RHEA, RHEIA. This Great Goddess of Bronze Age Crete
was far more powerful in the days before Indo-European mythology evolved in the Mediterranean. In ancient Crete, she was worshiped in fervent processional celebrations as the Goddess of all Creation. It was said that she was so ancient, she inhabited the oak forests of Arcadia before the moon’s creation. In the early Greek Pelasgian mythology she was one of the 14 original Titans, paired with Kronus. Rhea lost much of her importance under the patriarchal IndoEuropean cultures, becoming the daughter of Gaia and mother of the Olympian goddesses and gods. Thus, while Greeks and Romans best knew her in the image of Mother of the Greek gods Zeus, Poseidon, Pluto, Hestia, Hera, and Demeter; it appears she was pre-Indo-European in origin and was originally the Great Mother. Since the early world was seen as a sea, with the lands like islands in it, she would have been associated with the sea, not with land, and been especially important in the worldview of mariners, sea-traders.
http://www.paabo.ca/veneti/VENETILANG2014.pdf

Vættir 

Vættir (Old Norse; singular Vættr) or wights are nature spirits in Norse mythology. These nature spirits are divided up into 'families', including the Álfar (elves), Dvergar (dwarves), Jötnar (giants), and even gods, the Æsir and Vanir, who are understood to be prominent families among them. The term 'families' (ættir) is often translated as 'clans' or 'races'. These families sometimes intermarried with each other, and sometimes with humans. Sjóvættir (sea spirits) or vatnavættir (water spirits) are guardians of the specific waters.

Húsvættir (house wights) is a collective term for keepers of the household, like the English brownie and the Swedish tomte. The tomte or nisse is a solitary vätte, living on the farmstead. He is usually benevolent and helpful, which can not be said about an innately mischievous illvätte. However, a nisse can cause a lot of damage if he is displeased or angry, including killing of livestock or causing serious accidents. 

The Old Norse term véttr/vættr and its English cognate wight are descended from Proto-Germanic *wihtiz (thing, creature), from Proto-Indo-European *wekti- ("object, thing"). Vættr and wight normally refer to supernatural 'being', especially landvættr (land spirit), but can refer to any creature. The Norwegian vette is used much in the same way as the Old Norse vættr, as are the corresponding Swedish cognate vätte (dialect form vätter - Old Swedish vætter) and the Danish vætte. A related form in the Slavic languages can be seen in Old Church Slavonic вєшть, (veštĭ), meaning thing, matter, or subject.

Landvættir (land spirits) are chthonic guardians of specific grounds, such as wild places or farms. When Vikings approached land, they reportedly removed their carved dragon heads from the bows of their longships, so as not to frighten and thus provoke the landvættir to attack, thereby incur bad luck from them. Icelandic culture continues to celebrate the supernatural protection over the island, and four landvættr can still be seen in the Icelandic coat-of-arms: a troll-bull, troll-eagle, dragon, and handsome giant. The troll-animals are actually Jötnar who shapeshifted into the form (and mentality) of an animal, and such animals are supernaturally strong. Even the dragon is generally a troll-snake: compare the Jötunn Loki whose children include a wolf, a serpent, and a horse. Wiki

Adgilis Deda (Georgian: ადგილის დედა) 

Literally, the "mother of locality" or "place-mother" — Adgilis Deda is a deity in the pre-Christian Georgian pantheon, especially revered by the mountaineers of northeast Georgia, such as the Khevsurs, as a protective spirit of a place (genius loci) and also as a deity of fertility of humans and livestock alike.

The ancient Georgians believed that each place — mountain, hill, ravine — had a "mother" which they called the "place-mother". She was portrayed as a beautiful lady with silver jewelry who patronized not only the location but also the foreigners who traveled in this area. With the advent of Christianity, this cult became closely associated with that of the Virgin Mary (Mother of God). They share some common features of rituals and Adgilis Ghvtismshobeli ("Mother of God of the Place") is still worshiped as a patroness of the community among the Georgian highlanders. Wiki

Sacred Sex

Evidence has shown that elements in seiðr practice were sexual, especially phallic, in nature, to the point where some scholars have suggested that the seiðr's distaff was likely used in rites as an imitation penis. Nordic countries appear to have a standing tradition. Sweden claims the oldest dildo ever found, Norway has ancient phallic sculpted rocks, and Icelandic sagas are riddled with phallic epithets. But the Freyja cult was not contained solely within Scandinavia, as the page on the Venusbergs explains. It spread throughout a good portion of Europe, as its legends still attest. What's astounding, and what I can't quite completely dismiss as coincidence is how well the map showing the distribution of the CCR5 Δ32 HIV-Resistance Allele corresponds to the rosette map in the Voynich manuscript.
What we may be seeing in the top map is a distribution of genes from ancient mariners called the Kvens and on the bottom a map that they or descendants of theirs drew regarding places within which they circulated. The Kvens are thought to have originated from Tavastia, Finland, and before that, the Urals.

The Festival

Holda figures in some pre-Christian Alpine traditions that have survived to modern times. During the Christmas period in the alpine regions of Germany, Austria and northern Switzerland, wild masked processions are still held in a number of towns, impersonating Holda, Perchta or related beings, and the wild hunt. Vivid visual descriptions of her may allude to a popular costumed portrayal, perhaps as part of a seasonal festival or holiday drama.

A 16th-century fable recorded by Erasmus Alberus speaks of “an army of women” with sickles in hand sent by Frau Hulda. Thomas Reinesius in the 17th century speaks of Werra of the Voigtland and her “crowd of maenads.”

Frau Holda's festival is in the middle of winter, the time when humans retreat indoors from the cold; it may be of significance that the Twelve Days of Christmas were originally the Zwölften ("the Twelve"), which like the same period in the Celtic calendar were an intercalary period during which the dead were thought to roam abroad. (See The Seasonal Year post)
"Then [Emily Lyle] combines the three [seasons] into a four-part whole, with their mother, an overarching woman, representing an intercalary period (seen in many ancient calendars) as well as the entire year. This intercalary period in the winter is equated with Eliade’s period of eternal return when the old again is regenerated. "


The above excerpt establishes October as the most likely month for the Winter Nights festival to occur. Below is the Wheel of the Year from the Voynich manuscript labeled with the seasonal occurrences it depicts. The small round faces are the full moons of the months within the quarter of the year. As you can see, something odd happens in the fall. The moons are surrounded by a large red and blue disk to indicate that this (intercalary) time period varies depending on what year it is. This intercalary time period around October was the ending/beginning of their year's cycle. Considered sacred, when the doorway between the living and the dead was thinnest, this was the original time of the Winter Nights festival, when the ancestors would visit to either bless or chasten the living.

Mother’s Night

Modraniht is Old English for `Mothers-night`, an ancient Anglo-Saxon feast referred to by the Venerable Bede in De temporum ratione 13. He wrote that the still heathen Anglo-Saxons hold a sacrifice in the New Year in the modraniht id est matrum nocturum ["the Modraniht, that is, in the night of the mothers[=matrons?]"]

This feast corresponds to other Germanic Yule-tide festivals. It was once speculated that this may have been a Celtic festival but this is largely refuted these days.

Modraniht may be associated with the cult of the mothers or the matrons largely found amongst the West Germanic tribes and the disablot celebrated by the North Germanic tribes in Scandinavia. Excerpted from Celto-Germanic Culture, 11w`Myth and History

Helya’s Night

Helya’s night, a tradition from Orkney, is undoubtedly the same as "Mother's Night" – a night that, wrote the 8th century monk Bede, coincided with Christmas Eve.

In his account of the pagan calendar in 725 AD, the Venerable Bede wrote:

"And the very night that is sacrosanct to us, these people call modranect, that is, the mothers' night, a name bestowed, I suspect, on account of the ceremonies which they performed while watching this night through."

The “mother” connection and the “watching” ceremonies of Mother’s Night seem to indicate that Helya’s Night was the same event, although overlaid with a Christian veneer. Scandinavian settlers brought Gyrorysse into Britain, where she became the Scottish Gyre Carline. The poet Montgomerie equated her to “Nicniven with hir nymphis.” [Briggs, 310] The Gyre Carline watched over women's distaffs at year's end. Women of Fife made sure to spin off the last of the flax on their distaffs before New Years to keep the Gyre Carline from making off with it overnight. [Grimm, 945-6] This taboo ensured magical completion before a new year's cycle began. In Slovenia and Croatia the Mittwinterfrau oversaw the same ceremony of spinning-off, as did Luca in Hungary and Perchta in Austria. [Pocs, 26] Excerpted from The Tregenda .... Max Dashu

The fairy tale Mother Hulda (Frau Holle) is often taken at face value as a proscription for industry and against laziness. Underneath the surface, however, it is as much a tale about the importance of heeding timeliness. It is not just that the first girl does her duty of picking the apples and pulling out the bread. It is the fact that the apples are RIPE and the bread is DONE. Frau Holle is teaching that things have a season, a time for them to happen, and if one wishes to prosper, one heeds the WHEN. This is why the distaffs had to be spun clean by New Years. In some ways it can be likened to that embarrassment when one is the only person in the office to forget to set the clock forward an hour. Only, in this case it could mean the difference between a full cupboard or a bare one.

Women in Nordic Literature

Excerpted from What a Woman Speaks
Nordic women’s literature builds on an age-old tradition with roots back to Norse culture and pre-literate times. There are many indications that women were largely responsible for the oral tradition in Norse literature, not least the eddic narrative poems which by and large thematise women’s experience and have a female perspective. The poetry was linked to the art of divination known as seid and to the healing arts, both of which were predominantly female spheres; that is to say, poetry, seid and healing arts were components of one and the same system, forming a ritual unit.
In range, Norse literature spans the transition from paganism to Christianity and from an oral to a written culture. There is a concurrent movement from a strongly women-centric to a virtually one-sided male-dominated culture.
Excerpted from Women Become Muses
The legendary saga about the giant-woman Huld...has now ended up as a saga about kings’ conquests. The story of Huld has been lost, but the kings’ saga has survived. The oral storyteller has become a professional and male author, and literature has been institutionalised. The excluded women are incorporated in female names on manuscripts and books: Landnáma, Hungurvaka, Grænspjalda, Fagurskinna, Hrokkinsskinna, Morkinskinna, Grágás, Njála, Grettla, Hulda, Skálda, Rímbegla and Edda.

Huld's Runes 

In addition to the women, the water, the dispersion of seed/snow/feathers from heaven, the drop spindle, and fertility symbols, there is another indication that the Voynich manuscript derives from a north European tradition in keeping with the rites of Hulda/Perchta/the Disir. It shows runes similar to those in the ones in an Icelandic magic book titled Huld.



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