Tag Archives: Scandinavia

The Oseberg Ship: Pagan Ritual Tool or Means of Transportation?

14 May

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The Oseberg ship, along with several other ships found in Norway  during archaeoogical excavations, is on display at the Oslo Viking Ship Museum (Vikingskipshuset). Visitors from all around the world flock to the exhibitions to catch a glimpse of real Viking history. They imagine fierce warriors poised in the ships, navigating the high seas in search of adventure and mischief, commerce and crime. Perhaps their thoughts wander to the image of heathens of yesteryear, as the Vikings became christianized only after their misdaventures began.

Besides the aforementioned Oseberg ship, the mighty Gokstad ship (in its well-preserved state measuring  23.8 meters long and 5.1 meters wide) stands to be viewed. The Gokstad ship was found at the site of the “Kings mound” (Konungrhaugr in old Norse)  or Gokstad mound in Sandefjord Norway. The skeleton of a man in his 40s or 50s was found buried along with this largest of ships found in Norway. The skeleton is thought to have belonged to a powerful king or chieftain. The ship and mound date back to the 9th century.

Similarly, the Oseberg ship date back to the 9th century and is believed to have also been involved in some sea voyages.  The length of the ship was measured to be 21.58 meters and was 5 meters wide. In contrast, the Oseberg ship was ornately decorated with intricate knotwork, as compared to the more simple and utilitarian build of the Gokstad ship. The skeletons of two women were unearthed. The exhibit text refers to one of the women having been a queen.

Upon closer look and some mental “reading in between the lines”, you might come to notice some curious points not clearly discussed in the exhibit’s accompanying text.

While the Gokstad ship is somewhat larger than the Oseberg ship ( a good meter plus) the Oseberg ship features carvings decidedly more ornate. The amount of time and care that such demands is not insignificant. The Oseberg “queen” was likely not just a queen, but a priestess whose status was based on the role she would have played for her people.

Items such as a ritual rattle (seen below) , a meditating figure seated (reminiscent to a Buddha figure) and other unusual things besides jewelry and vauables indicating status were also uncovered.IMG_1932

 

Such a rattle would have been wielded and used to create rhythmic sound, perhaps similar to that of beating a shaman drum (several of which were found in Finland and also Norway, belonging to the Sami peoples )

The only individuals accorded higher status than a king would be those holding spiritual power within a society.  In indigeneous societies even today, the shaman is charged with traversing the other world, navigating the world of the spirit, gleaning information or helping the dying cross over, or to bring back the sick or wounded. Similar in function in Norse mythology/legend were the Valkyries, women who helped the dead find their final resting place. This coincides with the thought that the Volva, or seeress/shaman-like figure was a woman who could divine using runes and other instruments and go into trance-like states to obtain useful information for her tribe.

The Oseberg ship served as the priestess’ burial vessel and contained many items that would serve her in the afterlife. Perhaps symbolic, or recepticles containing energetic residue that would resonate with her while she and her companion (a family member or perhaps a helper) found their way to the afterlife.

It is still a shame that museum authorities do not see the evidence for the Oseberg “queen” being compelling enough to refer to her as a priestess. Enough artifacts are present to deduce this however as private persons visiting the site. The curious can take their travels to the site where the ship was found and observe whether it “speaks” to them, if they are intuitively inclined or sensitive to energy.

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Who was and who is Ullr?

16 Feb

Ullr is a nordic god shrouded in mystery. He is most often associated with winter, snow skiing. There is a ski school in Germany named for him, and skiers sometimes invoke him in order to be blessed with bountiful enough snow to engage in their favourite sport. However, for all his wintery sporting adventurousness attributed, he is said to be a patron of agriculture.

Ullr is referred to on the scabbard found in Thorsberg, Germany as “owlþu“, meaning glory, translated to old Norse “Ullr”, old English “wuldor”. In Lilla Ullevi north of Stockholm, Sweden, a shrine to Ullr was discovered in 2007 containing rings used to swore oaths at the site.  Saxo Grammaticus describes “Ollerus” (the latinized name for Ullr) in his work Gesta Danorum as being able to cross the sea using “terrible spells” in a ship made of bone. Here, Ullr radiates a similar mysterious magic wielding ability as the more well-known nordic god Oden. I personally know people who choose to worship Ullr as the “all father” god in place of Oden, whom they attribute as being more warlike and “German” than Ullr, whom they say is more native Scandinavian, peaceful, and agricultural. My own experience and research has painted a different picture, though.

Some say Ullr is another incarnation of Oden. Indeed, both gods reportedly married Skadi, the giantess who, like Ullr, was very fond of skiing. Both gods are complex, Oden with his shamanic abilities and his presiding over battle, and Ullr and his love for the hunt, skis and the harvest. In comparison with a god like Freyr, who bears the energy of a happy household and guardian of domestic affairs, Ullr and Oden both foster a love for various  activities in a variety of realms.

Whereas Oden is seen as a father god, Ullr is said to be the son of Sif, and the stepson of Thor. In Snorri Sturluson’s Prose Edda,this and that he is one to invoke for victory in duels and battles is mentioned. Indeed, this is another resemblance to Oden.

As all written sources come from the Christian period, again it is important to take one’s own interpretation and relationship to the various gods. Visiting holy pagan sites, meditating in nature is a more personal way to come to knowledge and understanding. Written texts can provide a basis for inspiration, but in order to establish a personal connection one has to do his or her own work to come to the inner wisdom, in any form.

It is my feeling that Ullr is a personality in his own right, similar to Oden but more solitary and earthbound.  I feel the shamanic aspects of Oden and the various guises of Ullr are well harmonised together, as a glorious persona of the unconscious and the will to strive forward. Ullr combines magic, transport, mobility and glory and groundedness (a great combination of runes to call upon his energies with be raidr, fehu, and wunjo. To meditate upon these may bring greater wisdom of Ullr and his origins.)