by Kirsten Brunsgaard Clausen
November. A new year has just begun. The harvest is happily stored. Mother Earth will give no more. The dancing colours of summer are gone. Frost has nipped off the head of all living things. Finally winter! Everything sleeps – from the tiny insect to the big bear. Skeletons of trees stretch out their branches, black and bare. Gray are the heavy clouds, white the frozen ground. Silence. Death … then suddenly – a blood-curdling shriekcuts through the air. Immediately the wind throws back an howling answer. A moment later earth and sky raise a roar together. A tumult of dry leaves and frozen plastic bags whirl round in the storm. People who lose their footing are swept aside. Snowflakes whip in the faces like nails of glass. Now She rules: "the Kælling"2! Now is Her time – Her playtime. On the backs of foaming wolves and ragged boars She rides forward 3. She is the Bone-Mother, the age-old Wise One. Wild and playful. Who would she need to make up to? Was She not the first on Earth, dancing here long before any living creature took its first steps? She is surely older than time. Oh, doesn't She remember the day She wrestled down this conceited warrior god, the high Thor himself, god of the newcomers, the Aesir4! Isn't She Herself the very Grandmother Hel? Elle they call Her. For sure She is the great-great-grandmother of everything. She need not bow to anybody. Ha-haaaa! Her mouth full of yellow teeth laughs. Ugly as sin She is, if you see only her outside. Tough, wrinkled skin covers Her old bones. No rosy cheeks. That was long ago! Her gnarled fingers crook into the fur of the beast. You will see Her flying, yelling, through the air – in stories from Germany – with a deafening noise and fury, with shrieking instruments and howling beasts5.
The air, the air! The storm is Her true element. One of them.In Denmark we find the expression, ´Kællinge-Vind” or ´Kællinge-Bør´6 (Bør is pronounced “bheur”, meaning “sharp wind7”), - and may correspond to the Gaelic Cailleach Bheur/Bheurr/Bhearra8 - and we find old sayings like: “If only the wind will turn, when we go back!” the Kælling said, walking in headwind. (“Om bare vinden vilde vende sig, naar vi skal tilbage!” sagde kællingen i modvind.)9 , or ”One had the luck of a Kælling, headwind both on the way out and home!” (Jeg havde kællingens lykke; modvind baade paa udturen og hjem.10). On Bride's Day the old weather saying goes: “If the wind blows so strong that eighteen hags cannot hold fast to the ground the nineteenth, the winter's cold will soon disappear” ( Hvis det blæser, så at 18 kællinger ikke kan holde den 19. fast til jorden, så forsvinder kulden snart).
When Her time of reign is over the wind will sure enough blow both winter and the Kælling away, but as long as She rules Her screaming will turn blood into ice, whilst She in solemn majesty will whip up gales and snowstorms, and make boulders whistle through the air. All - just for the fun of it. She will dance wildly, uncontrolled and excessively. She is Baba-Yaga. She is Louhi, the old spinner in Kalevala, the Finnish National Epic. She is Hyrrokin, “the fire-smoked and wrinkled one”11 in the Scandinavian Edda12.
She is the ancient Mother of all Women; Mother of Wild Woman Power, full of passion for life and joy.
Cailleach is a well-known figure in Irish and Scottish tradition and her name still connotes a title of honour. Numerous stories, places, traditions and phenomena are linked to the Cailleach and her origin and original context are vividly debated: Are the Cailleach-stories bound to local geographical areas or was She a more commonly-known figure, widespread like a blanket all over Europe, maybe further, and linked to a certain culture and time? And if She was, could there have been a kind of institution of which She was a vital part?
Having worked for a long time with what I would now dare to call “the Scandinavian Brigit”, whose name is BRIDO13, and whose ancient runes were carved into a holy mountain in Sweden, Himmelstalund, Linköping, dating 2-400 CE, I found so many parallels to the Gaelic Brigit and so many passed-down bits and pieces in Scandinavian stories, geographical places, nursery rhymes, seasonal traditions adding to the picture, that it seems to me that Bride/Brido (and all of her similar names) was part of a very ancient and once general Old-European14 belief system, based on the natural and continuous circles of life, circles of nature, pre-dating warfare and dualism15. As I worked on Brido, “Bride of Spring”, the crone-figure, the Kælling or Kärring, popped up and never stopped jumping into the scene. She did not give me any peace until I had started an investigation on her, too. So, diving into the story of the Scandinavian Kärring, I was thrilled to find as many geographical places, stories, wordings, rhymes and verses, traditions still carried out or acknowledged until recently, as I found earlier about Brido. The two, the Kælling and Brido, seem to be closely linked together.
Also it seems that they may be part of an ancient trinity: maiden, mother, crone - in a continuous spiralling order. In Scandinavian languages the trinity would be identified as: the Mö Braido, the Mamma/Omma, and the Kælling/Kärring. The Scandinavian words for the old woman: “kælling” and “kärring” are everyday words, having lost all the glory that the Cailleach may still have. Still the stories and leftovers of Her in Scandinavian folklore are overwhelming, and thus my initial questions are the same as above.
On top of everything The Kärring, the old crone, is such an inspiring character, offering so much wisdom to us, when walking our path of life, coming of age ourselves.
Having been brought up in Denmark and having lived thirty years of my adult life in Sweden, the material I am familiar with is primarily from these two countries, Denmark and Sweden. Norway is figuring in the background. Finland seems to have a very different tradition with an exquisite quality, maybe lying even closer to the Old-European tradition. The closeness of my native town to the German border, and speaking the German language, has naturally resulted in some impact from there, too.
I will introduce the Old Crone Mother seen from a Scandinavian angle, and parallel many findings to the Irish and Scottish traditions, lifting forward overlapping or complimentary pieces. My attempt is to make a contribution to a fuller picture of Her, and hopefully add something to the discussion, whether to define her in a wider and probably Old-European frame, versus seeing Her as linked only to individual geographical places?
Here is the result of my studies.
THE FOUR ELEMENTS
The Kärring is associated with the wind, yes, and of course She, in Her own way, is associated with all of the four elements: air, water, fire, and earth, that means in their solid and most dense appearance as - storm, ice, ember and rock.
In howling winter storms She will fly through the air. Storm and strong winds certainly are concrete ways to experience the air, when walking against it.
Although always being the guardian of the fresh streaming water wells, in wintertime She is the one pointing at water with Her black rod, turning it into solid ice.
The fire She will guard in Her Tinderbox16 as a long-lasting glowing piece of coal, from which She will coax little sparks of fire, the Sparks of Life, in due time. Thus She is closely associated with the fire and fire tree: the elder tree.
Stone and mountains are Hers by tradition. Throwing or dropping boulders She will create the landscape. Many are the stories in Denmark of how the Kælling (or Trollwoman etc, often also in Her slough as a sow, digging up earth, creating rivers) builds landscapes, hills, carried earth or stones in Her apron.
In the dark earth, in mountain caves or deep down under the ground, are Her dwellings. Here the winter crone will tend the little seeds sleeping until spring and oversee the composting of old leaves17. She is the Mother of all transformation.
The Kärring will reign from Hel´s Eve (Hellemisse, Alle Helgen - Samhain) to Disa Day (Kyndelmisse - Brigit´s Day). She will take care of the transformation from death to life, from old to new - the hardest part of the continuous circling life. This role makes Her the most indispensable link in the chain. And to be precise: She is the very lock. She will link old death to new life. When death cuts the thread, Her steady hands will tie the ends together again in a solid knot. And for this operation She will use a Granny Knot, a “Kællinge-knude”18! A knot that will never either loosen, nor slide up; a knot impossible to undo when first tightened.19
Her final task is done! Now Brigit´s Day is dawning (Candlemas). In Old Danish Candlemas is called ´Kjær-/Kjør-mes Dag (Day)20 and Kjørmes Knud. A well-known song goes “Candlemas binds its knot hard and with strong determination” (Kyndelmisse slår sin knude, overmåde hvas og hård21). “Knud/Knut (Knot) whips out Christmas”, the Danish children used to sing.22(Knud, pisker julen ud!)
Knut´s dag (Knot´s Day) is still acknowledged and celebrated in Sweden, found in the Swedish calendar on 13th January. Knut´s Day will also in Sweden mark the end of Jul/Yule/Christmas23. The Christmas tree will be kept until Knut´s day and for the last time be the centre of celebration.
What makes Knut´s dag even more interesting is the fact that in various places in Sweden Knut´s Day has quite another and truly old tradition linked to it. Village people, today often children, dressed up and masked in carnival costumes, will walk from door to door carrying a male doll of straw, called the Knut´s Gubbe (the “Old Knot-man”), hoping to be welcomed in, treated with drinks and sweets, without being recognized. Old women dolls of straw may also appear. These might be directly corresponding to the Celtic straw dolls of (Brigit and) Cailleach, as Harvest-Cailleach ( Skörde-Kärring/Høst-Kælling).
The background of Knut´s Day and celebrations will most often be recorded as a memorial feast of the former saint, the Holy Knut Lavard, a Christian Viking ruler, who was murdered on the 7th of January 1131 CE, or even at times confused with his nephew, also named Knut24. But finding the tradition of Kärring with her knot-rope, together with Her old Greybeard25 lurking around the corners of the red wooden houses in Sweden, still recognisable behind their guises, it would not be too surprising.
DRINK FROM WELLS
The thread of life, now firmly tied together with a Granny Knot, makes the year ready to turn again. The old Kärring, full of days, is ready to make Her way back to the Well, deep within the woods. Her name Kælling indicates Her close connection to the Well called “källa, kille, kilde” in Scandinavian languages26. The Celtic Cailleach will lower Herself into the well and re-emerge, reborn as Brigit, the Bride of Spring.
In Scandinavia the existence of the Bride of Spring would most certainly be testified in the six runes, carved into rock, spelling out Her name: BRAIDO. The runes recorded as the oldest in Scandinavia, dating 2-400 CE27, are carved into the ancient holy mountain, next to a vast area of Bronze Age rock art at Himmelsta, Norrköping in Sweden28. In some Celtic stories the Cailleach will drink the Water of Life from the Well.
Also in Scandinavia there are numerous traditions in springtime of drinking from wells, in Swedish called “dricka brunn”, although often set at Beltane (Valborg) because of enduring ice and frost in February in most of Sweden.
In Denmark too there is a long-lived tradition of going to the wells in spring. One of the famous wells are the ´Kirsten Piils Kilde”, near Copenhagen. Kirsten/Kjærsten would most probably be the “Kjærling”29. And until recently, next to the well, administering the giving of water and collecting of coins,30 the´Kilde-Kone´ (Well-Crone), used to sit. She might be what has survived the passing down from a once commonly known tradition of the live representation of Kælling.
Springtime has come. Old has become New. Black winter has become green spring. The rugged blue winter's hag has turned into a rosy sweet, honey miss31. Admit it, everything is upside down! It is unbelievable and pure magic. Now it is surely time for licentious celebration. Since time immemorial festivals and masquerades have had their peaks this time of the year, mirroring the dramatic transition of turning old into new by dressing up as anything you are NOT! Putting on masks and fancy costumes, playing unfamiliar roles, will also serve as a reminder to humans that our lifespan will turn and equal nature's annual circle; everything including our own lives will gradually proceed, change, grow old, die and come new. So whatever we think we truly are, that is just roles - for the time being! What we are to-day, we will not be tomorrow. As we fulfil our circle, all of our roles will inevitably change.32
Ice-bound water now trickles and chuckles. Spring is here. Warmth and light. Woman and man … water, kisses, and making love are the beginnings of life.
In almost every folktale the young man, setting off to win the whole world and the kingdom, will at some point meet Her, the old ”Kælling”. Suddenly She is there. Most often She will ask Him a favour: to share his bread, to watch Her cattle or he will ask Her for water. The ”Kælling” will reward him with something he will need, maybe a wish or three. Her claim on him may be a kiss or making love to her, or She will just have him carry home Her wood. Now this is his testing! If he runs away, disgusted or ignorant, he is still stuck in his own world of childish self-satisfaction. If he is willing to meet Her in any way She asks him to, he will really be meeting Wisdom and Truth personified. Those two are not always smooth and sweet - as She is not. But if he is willing to face them, embody them, and fully unite with them (Her), he will grow into a responsible man, partner or the true king, and thus be able to fulfil his dreams and goals.33 If not, he will never reach them.
Alas, the famous Danish storyteller Hans Christian Andersen seems never to have understood this old Danish folk tale narrated to him as a small boy, when he used it as setup and frame for his writing. In the tale, The Tinderbox, the old ”Kælling” asks the young soldier to fetch Her tinderbox. Through the hollow old tree trunk he will go down underground, and there, after having secured Her tinderbox, he may take as much copper, silver and gold as he can carry. But on returning, what does he do? He chops off the head of the Old Hag and steals her Fire, in truth being the very spark of life. Never, never do a thing like that: behead and annihilate Wisdom!
Of course the story almost ends in a catastrophe.
SUMMER - THE ELDER TREE – THE FIRE TREE
The rod of the Celtic Cailleach is often a black elder tree stick. When springtime comes she will plant it in or next to the elder bush before climbing Her beloved elder tree.
In Denmark, here between its soft branches, She will sit swaying all summer long, crooning her lullabies, blissfully sniffing in the sweet fragrance of the white elderflowers. In the tales of Hans Christian Andersen34 She is "Hyldemor" – The "Elder Tree Mother" – peacefully watching over the young couples of lovers. Now if young lovers humbly ask Her permission, as they always do, they might be allowed to pick some of these white, sweet scented elder blossoms. They will then dip them into pancake-dough, fry them in hot oil, and eat them sprinkled with icing sugar, on one of these light midsummer nights with the full moon floating on the tops of the birches. In Denmark this heavenly dessert is known as “Young Elder-Lovers” ´Hyldekærester´).
The Elder tree is Grandmother's tree. It is the tree of rebirth, the tree of re-generation - and for good reason: once inside the garden, it is sure hard to get rid of. But thinking about it, what grandmother would be without the elder bush in her garden? The elder tree will provide all the medicine we would need for colds and sore throats during the winter. Its black berries will help raise the fever, so the white blood cells can do their work with bugs and viruses35. Grandmothers know this!
Elder is a medicine tree.
It will heat the body.
Elder tree is a fire tree.
When hand drilling up a fire the old way, the elder tree wood, dry and soft, easily catching fire by friction, has proved to be the ultimate wood. The fire expert in the Swedish Surviving Society, Mattias Norberg, is convinced of this after having worked through and tested all species of wood in Sweden. Also the hollow stem can be useful, when blowing up a fire from embers.
The word elder is connected to the Scandinavian word for fire: eld/ild (Sw/Da). According to the English medical herbalist Mrs. M. Grieve36, “The word "Elder" (tree) comes from the Anglo-Saxon word aeld/æld, meaning fire. In Anglo-Saxon days we find the tree called Eldrun, which becomes Hyldor and Hyllantree in the fourteenth century … or Ellhorn … Æld”.
The Old Hag, Kælling certainly holds the Sparks of Life in her tinderbox37.
In English as in Scandinavian languages, there is a strong connection between the words for both Fire (Eld), for Elder tree and for elderly (old) people (elle, ælde)38.
BREWING AND WASHING
Summer days go by. Plants and animals are busy bringing up their young ones, whereas the Kärring will keep sitting peacefully in Her tree, singing Her little tunes for growth and good harvest. In the evenings, when veils of mist (dis) dance like elves/watery nymphs (diser) over the meadows, Danish people will smile knowingly at one another and whisper: “Look, the Old Crone in the Bog is brewing to-night” (“Mosekonen/Mose-Kællingenbrygger”). She will stir Her cauldron, boiling Her mysterious brews. The Swedish will say: “ Titta, Mossakäringen bykar i kväll!” (She is doing her washing.)
Harvest time comes. In the furthest end of the field She will stand straight, the last to be cut down and tied together as a sheaf, everywhere in Denmark and Sweden called the ´Høst-Kælling/Skörde-Kärring´ (Harvest-Cailleach). Being the oldest in the field, first sown, last harvested, She will have gained more knowledge than any other straw about the transformational journey from grain to ripe ear of corn. The harvesters will bind this last sheaf with tenderness and decorate it with flowers. Then one of the maidens39 will dance Her home. At the harvest festival She will open the ball and have the first dance with one of the men. The rest of the night She will sit in the high seat of honour40 in the middle of the room - at least until the new religion declared the tradition heresy and ensured it would be considered a disgrace. People then stopped dancing Her home, or made a mocking tradition of it.
But in places where the tradition was kept, of the sheaf, the ´Høst-Kælling`, something extraordinary was made: Either the grains of the sheaf would be baked into a holy bread to be eaten at the evening ceremony at Kjørmes-day on the 1st of February41, or this bread was saved for the plough man to eat on the first day of ploughing in spring. Sometimes the custom was to give the ´Høst-Kælling´ to the horse drawing the plough. Or the grains of the ´Høst-Kælling´ were sown first in the field. In this way the circle of the growth stayed unbroken. The loose ends reached each other. She Herself secured the lock in the chain.
Winter approaches. She has things to do all year, but Winter is the main season of Her reign. Young lovers have now found one another, female plants and animals have had their babies and the Earth is bulging with fruits, berries and nuts. Now is the time for the Kärring to step down from Her swaying elder bush and get into action. She stretches and yawns, and as she breathes out, trees and bushes are shook by the first autumn wind. Now is her time! Life-death-life-circles. It is time to think ahead! There is work to be done!
The task She undertakes is not always a popular one. But She will do it. She is attuned to Her responsibility. Future life is a matter close to Her heart: Summer is over. The mother plants have striven all summer to finally be able to scatter their dear little seeds all over; their precious gift to the earth. The seeds now lie there, naked on the ground. They must be covered! Merciless, She now points at the plants with Her black rod, making them wither and sink down, and roll themselves out like warming blankets over the tiny seeds.
Also, in due time they will start to grow, so their future nourishment must be secured, now. Consequently summer's plants and leaves must die now. She starts blowing icy winds from the north that will make everything loose its grip and shrivel up. To every leaf clinging to its twig, begging to cling just a little longer, She will say: NO! Each one of them has done what they came here for! From the marrow of Her bones, from Her deepest guts, She can say NO - as all grandmothers can. Enough! Not because She is evil; but serving life and harmony, things have to happen in a certain order. Without delay She starts tearing leaves off the trees, promptly piling them on the compost heap. Old leaves must be transformed into fertile soil for the next year's greenery to root into. It cannot wait. It is urgent. And it is now! Composting and transformation takes time. Winter will not last forever. Soon enough new life will want to sprout!
On the wings of winds She will hurry tirelessly here and there. Suddenly She is everywhere - tearing apart, breaking up, bending down. She squeezes life out of everything until the earth lies desolated, but well covered. So! The work is done!
Well, just one more thing to do!
In German stories42 Frau Holle will shake Her pillows with such determination that feathers will fly in all directions, covering all land with another warm blanket of white snow on top of the dead leaves, protecting the baby-seeds.
In Celtic stories, as the final thing, Cailleach will wade out into the sea with Her washing, energetically rubbing it, roaring up the ocean, until flying clouds of white foam cover land with a good layer of snow43.
Warm and cosy now in the dark the seeds may peacefully sleep, dreaming forth their lives in spring, whilst winter storms roar above them.
Her task is done!
EVIL OR NOT?
The circle of life-death-life must move on. Therefore all new and fragile life must be secured and supported. For this reason the Kælling is harsh and without compromise. Harsh, yes, but never evil.
Why would we ever consent to stories of grandmothers being evil? Our experience of grandmothers and elderly ladies tells us that most often they are both loving, peaceful, wise and harmonious, and very experienced.
In Denmark the word for Grandmother precisely reflects this: ´Bedstemoder` (Best-Mother). If demanding that her grandchildren put on raincoats, it is not because she is evil, but because she knows the consequences of children playing out of doors in the rain without one. Her demands are profound love and care. She is concerned about the young.
Surviving stories of the Grandmother Kärring are sadly enough often confused on this point. In too many stories Her character and intention is recorded as evil. In these stories She is never playing the leading role, and the underlying message is that She must be subdued and defeated by the young warrior with weapons. Due to centuries of work on the ancient stories by patriarchal and Christian cultures, slowly twisting and distorting them, even demonizing the Grandmother-figure, She has been turned into an evil witch, giantess, dragon, snake, troll, demon or Samish/Lappish/Finnish Kärrings (In Denmark they have occasionally even changed her sex to male: as, for instance ,“The Troll named Stone” or “Mr Finn”44). Behind these foul masks we will often be able to find Her, the Grandmother.
The Greek philosophy of Dualism consisting of ´contradictory opposites´ is like a pair of black-and-white glasses, through which the western world has been taught to conceive of life. The Dualistic belief system seeks to fit in almost everything into two categories: good – evil, friend – enemy, master - slave, we – them, to be favoured – to be held down, to be valued – to be subdued, and so on.45
A figure like the Kärring will most probably have descended from a culture with a belief system essentially different from the Greek dualism. She rather belongs to a belief system based on nature's rhythms, on the repeated, continuous patterns of circles and spirals - a belief system with a built-in successive order of necessity. If that is true, the Kärring cannot be fit into or defined within a system of dualistic categories: good or bad. She is neither.
She will follow the chain of natural, “indispensable necessity” - in old Norse called ´nauðr´ ( the N-rune: ᚾ).
Wisdom and intuition have throughout time always been identified with the Third Eye46, situated between our two physical eyes. The Celtic Cailleach is said to have only one eye - a sharp one by the way. It can see for miles! It is an eye able to see beyond the boundaries of dualism and division. It is The Third Eye of Intuition and wisdom47.
There are beautiful folklore stories on the theme of, for instance , “The Troll Mr Finn”. The ambitious plan of building a monumental cathedral was almost frustrated when a troll named Mr. Finn turned up and offered to finish the cathedral in a wink for the salary of guessing his name. If not, the nobleman and financier had to pay Mr. Finn “his heart and his two eyes”. The story parallels the story in Gylfaginnung, Norse Mythology, where Loki (the giant) will build the wall around As-gård for the payment of “Freja” (the heart) and “Sun and Moon” (the eyes of the sky). By cheating, the name of Mr. Finn is guessed, but the sense and moral of the story never shines through: If you do not “give your heart” and “set eyes on” (fall in love) with what you are doing it will never be “finished” or more than a pile of cold bricks, the monuments with no soul.
Both Finn/Find (could mean white, Finnish or Mr. Find) and Loki (meaning Flame) belonged to the sun-worshipping Old People of Europe.
Some of the central teachings of the Grandmother are likely to be:
- PROTECT THE NEW. Always protect the tender new life, the little ones. Be responsible and ever-sworn ally of the young. Do what is needed without fear, even though it may not always be popular at the moment.
- CIRCLES MUST CONTINUE. She will teach us that the processes of circling and spiralling of life must move on, never stop. If the thread is cut, always to tie the loose ends together again in a solid knot - again, and again, and again.
- LET GO OF THE OLD. The Kælling will teach us to let go of what is not needed any more. That means that when you yourself have done what you came for, it is time to go and give way to the new, at the same time encouraging us to remember that there are journeys still to make for old, yellow leaves.
- TRUST AND HAVE FUN. She will teach us not to have fear when following the path of nature, but to have trust and enjoy living through each phase of our lives. To be wild and playful, have fun - especially in old age, when our work is done.
- GIVE AWAY YOUR HEART AND YOUR EYES. You will never accomplish anything but dead material and cold stones if you do not give to whatever you work with your heart and your eyes. Giving away heart and eyes you will not end up “heartless and blind”, on the contrary, you will work with empathy, love and compassion.
FOSTER MOTHER AND TEACHER
As the keeper of the greatest mysteries, laden with life experience, unquestionably She would best qualify as candidate for teacher or foster-mother of the young generation.48
The Irish and Scottish mythology state that Cailleach is the ´foster mother´ of everything between fifty and a thousand foster children. This fact might be an indication of Her in exactly the role of teacher and initiator. And it may even hint to Her as operating within a former well-established institution of fostering children and passing on knowledge.
Away from home a young girl would be initiated by old, experienced women into the mysteries of life: that is an initiation into her own fertility, to the knowledge of giving birth (midwifery), healing illnesses, and to facing death - and all the ceremonies connected to it.49 She will in this way be made ready to take full responsibility for her grown-up womanhood.
In the dwellings of the Kælling "under the ground, in the woods, in caves in the mountains", the young girl will stay for a period of time50, serving, learning, finding her own strength and true self.51 In fairy tales the young girl will often “accidentally” encounter the old hag in the wood or similar places, which are in the dark underworld where all transformation takes place.
The fairy tale “Frau Holle” by the Brothers Grimm is a wonderful example. The young girl falls down into the well (also identified as traditional shamanic underworld). Walking through the new, unfamiliar landscape she will pick ripe apples from the tree when it asks her (apples of Life represent her own maturing fertility), she will take out the bread from the oven, when the bulging oven asks her to (midwifery). Serving in Frau Holle's dwellings, she will learn to spin and weave (“networking”, making relations) and she will shake the pillows so feathers cover the earth (snow covering the seeds. That is “taking care of the little ones”).52 The Old Woman will reward the young girl with gold, silver and pearls – symbols of the true riches of life: initiative, will, skill, courage, trust, warm-heartedness and so on. Her lazy sister will not achieve the same autonomy, so “tar and dust” is what she will be able to make of life.
A young girl playing the leading role and being the subject will be the rule in these stories.
These types of stories may lie closer to the original stories and be less twisted through time, than those encompassing “beautiful princesses imprisoned in caves by gruesome dragons to be saved by a young warriors”. Armed men will always have the leading roles and be subjects in these latter stories53.
OMMA, THE VEILED ONE
The Kärring, in the role of teacher and initiator within an institutionalized education of young girls/children, maintained by wise women, responsible of passing down the accumulated knowledge and wisdom (both practical skills and oral [sung] tradition of the cult and belief system) comes up occasionally. That would be an idea of a “Kælling-priestesshood”, pre-dating patriarchy (both Christian and Aesir periods).
An old legend well-known in Sweden, "The Legend of Drottning Omma" may have roots in a former institution of this kind, and might thus give support to the idea. By means of local tradition the legend of Omma was re-written by Verner von Heidenstam54 in 1914. Geographically it takes place at Omberg (Omma´s Mountain), the old mother-mountain in Östergötland near Linköping.
The Hag of Omberg, called Queen Omma (Drottning Omma) is Lady of Wild Beasts, protector of animals (Sw: Råda/Guardian). Omma, being closely connected to both mists and veils (imma and dimslöjor), is also known as both the Queen of Mists (Dimmornas Drottning55, note the Mosekone/ Mosekælling) and The Veiled Queen. Veiled in the Omma-context would mean wearing a mask: She would always wear the mask of an eagle owl.
The Cailleach in Irish tradition is referred to as the “veiled One” – or masked one! Omma´s eagle owl mask might give a lead to a possible connection with the Gaelic “Cailleach-oidhche”, meaning Cailleach-Owl56. Also the Greek Pythia was always masked - and concealed in veils of mystery57.
The word Omma connects to other Swedish words, central in this context:
“imma, dimma”- white mist:
It is also Interesting to note the German word Oma meaning Grandmother.
The legend goes:
“Omma lived for hundreds of years without dying. Although every time she began to feel old a young maiden was given as an offering to her, in reality the young maiden would succeed Her, putting on Her headpiece of the eagle owl, receiving Her staff and Her mantle, and gradually growing in wisdom and goodness. No one ever saw Omma´s face. She would be the earthly representative of the concept “The Old Wise Woman”, The Kärring.
Thus the office, the institution lived on, not the person.
Now a fisherman whose wife had died asks Omma's help in fishing. Omma agrees on condition that his daughter will be Hers when she reaches the age of 15 years. The fisherman keeps his promise and gives his daughter Gyda to Omma, although convinced that Omma will sacrifice her. Soon after he therefore regrets his "sin" (later influence) in letting Omma have his child, and in despair he walks off to revenge his daughter. He murders Omma, as she comes walking towards him, light-footed, from the “borg” (burgh), her dwelling, to welcome the father, eager to tell him how happy she is. As she falls dead to the ground the head-piece, the eagle-owl mask, falls off and the fisherman realizes that Omma, whom he has just killed, was his daughter, Gyda.
Thus Gyda became the last Omma at Omberg and the institution died out. The last Omma was buried at the top of the Omberg mountain, called the “Skull”.
Now the name of the young Omma, Gyda, might give us a lead: the Nordic shaman, the Völva, was called Gydia or Gydja. The shamanic “sejd”-tradition (eng. seidr) was held by women58. The name Gyda or Gydia seems to connect to the Greek Pythia, in both wording and function. The Pythia was the head of the Oracle in Delphi. The masked or veiled Pythia of the Temple of the Great Mother (Gaia) would also train a young successor, who would replace her when elderly, in order that the office, not the person, would continue59.
BOULDER RINGS ON MOUNTAINS
On top of hills and mountains all around Sweden there are one thousand so-called forts (borg), consisting of big rings of boulders. Until recently archaeologists have claimed them to have military origins. That means that they would be sites to watch out for enemies, and places for gathering and defending in case of hostile attacks. Recent years excavating on borgs have showed that large numbers of the traditional work tools of women are the only discoveries: spindles, weaving weights, combs, glass pearls and so on. Where a large number of military finds would have been expected, in fact except for one single arrowhead in the whole of Sweden, “there is a total lack of weapons found”60. Today the military explanation is being questioned and reconsidered.
Worth noting is that the dating of the borgs when excavated are often pushed further and further back in time. Also that none of them carry names from traditional military vocabulary, not even names from the sphere of Aesir gods, like Thor, Odin, Hermod etc. Instead the names of most borgs tend to fall into the following categories:
1. Jätte, Troll, Hel (Giant, Troll, Hel)
2. Brud (Bride), Kärring (Cailleach), Vis (Wisdom/Song),
3. Sol/Eld, - Ljus/ Finn/Vit, - Brand/Bål (Sun/Fire - Light/White - Burning)
4. Glas (Glass,Vitrification)61
5. Sten/Klipp/Häll (Stone/Cliff/Rock).
Some have the names of traditional shamanic animals: Deer, Raven, Eagle, Bear, Boar, or of trees62.
When a woman comes of age, not having been married, the Swedish will still use this expression about her (not about a man) and say: “Linda married! No, she got stuck on the Glass-mountain.” (Hon hamnade på Glas-berget). Some of the borgs carry the name, Glasberget and a number of these, having undergone further archaeological examinations, bear witness of vitrifying of the borg in situ63, “where it stands”.
As expressions tend to endure, it is a thrilling thought that the women (“instead of getting married”) chose to stay at the borgs, diving further into wells of wisdom, offering their knowledge and becoming teachers and cult carriers: they were the original Kärrings.
In the close neighbourhood of the borgs, Hag-places (Hag dwellings) are often found, for instance: Hagstugan (Hag´s cottage), Hag-ängen (Hag´s Meadow).
It may not be a far-fetched guess that when starting spelling out the name “Hagg” (Old Woman) on Swedish maps, one of the two "g"s was deliberately left out for the sake of the "modern", more polished ´Hag´, meaning Garden.
In Denmark there are hundreds of stories about “the sow in the bed” and the sunken borg/castle64, pointing out where these “centres” used to be, or where the last ones lingered on, built as they were on islands in lakes. The story goes that a priest is called to the borg, notorious for its blasphemy, to give a dying, old woman the last rites. Arriving there, he finds an old sow in the bed (even called Queen Snout/Dronning Tryne65) and runs away, just in time to see the borg sink into lake. Looking down into the water on calm days one may still see the golden roofs of the buildings and hear the bells tolling beautifully. When fishing in the lakes, people will sometimes discover a ram's horn on the end of their line. Mads Lidegaard, having collected thousands of legends from all over Denmark, suggests that the Sow is the fertile Mother Earth in the bed/earth and linked to the ram's horn, he refers further to Marija Gimbutas.
The culture of fertility died out when the hierarchical cultures subdued the former.
In Scandinavia, as in many places in both Germany and Britain, there are countless stories of Old Hags, kællings, witches, and giantesses throwing boulders or shooting them off with their garters, most often aiming at churches of the new religion, never famed for honouring experienced old women or respecting old local cultures or customs, once having gained a foothold. Still, numerous local stories are found about the Aesir gods, Thor and Odin (or “noble men”) on horseback, hounding jätter (giants/giantesses) and the slattenpatter66 (flabby tits) like deer, disgracefully killing them. Later churches would not tolerate them in charge of any important tasks and warned them to be quiet and humble. So of course, also the persistent ringing from the church bells soon became a constant annoyance, disturbing Her little naps.
In the tales, her garter usually breaks, the stone falling down far short of its goal – as Her power was broken.
THE KÄRRING – WHO IS SHE?
It seems to me that we are truly able to trace Her far back into ancient times, an entity in full splendour long before patriarchal monotheism and dualism. Do all the Kælling and Cailleach stories belong to one original story from ancient times, disguised in different costumes with different names67? We still need a lot of investigation, although it seems to me so far that She really once did belong to a widespread and common system and set of ideas.
And indeed She does raise a lot of questions about how to comprehend Her. Was She understood as a personification of the fundamental circles of life? Was She an ancient metaphor for the full potential of our final phase of life? A matriarchal archetype68? Or something else?
However we choose to see her, She still has a lot to give, inspiring us on our way through life, through its phases, as we head towards the stage of autonomy, womanhood fulfilled and Wisdom, so that one day we might ourselves dare to become La Qui Sabe69, She Who Knows.
Let us enjoy the journey.
Kirsten Brunsgaard Clausen
About Cailleach, Carling – Kælling and Kärring similar stories are told, which has led me to embrace the idea that they are part of the same original story, from the same culture, encompassing the same philosophy of life from the very ancient past, before the patriarchal Indo-Europeans or Kurgans showed up on stage. I found support for this idea in Marija Gimbutas´ immense works. So well on this path I am in debt to and deeply thankful for all the fragments and big pieces that have survived in stories, legends, mythology, sayings and so on, especially in Scotland and Ireland, and also in Germany, Scandinavia and elsewhere, and to the people throughout times who made the survival possible. Without them it would have been much harder to re-construct and trust a fuller picture of the Nordic Kælling/Kärring, our Grandmother of Old.
Andersen, Hans Christian, Eventyr for børn, (Fairy Tales), The Tinderbox
Blicher, St. St. “Det er hvidt herude. Song.
Brøndegaard, V.J., Folk og Flora 1. Rosenkilde og Bagger 1987
Budapest, Zsuzsanna, Grandmother Moon, Library of Congress Cataloging 1991
Danielsson, Ana, Vaniljdoft och dimslöjor: att vandra Ommas stigar, Lavkattans Bokförlag, 2007-10
De Santillana, Giorgio and von Dechend, Hertha, Hamlet´s Mill, David R. Godine, Publisher,Inc, 2007
Deckel, Per, Berg, murar och tolkningar, En analys av den fortifikatoriske tolkningen av Mellansveriges fornborgar. Informationsblad för Växthuset i Västerås. Nr 1, Årg 8, Januari 2004
Eklöf, Marie-Louise, Gröna Apoteket, Prisma Stockholm 2007
Feilberg, H.F. Dansk Bondeliv I, 2.oplag 1898, II 2.udg 1913, ordnet.dk/ods
Feilberg, H.F.,Ordbog over jyske almuesmål. I-IV.1886-1914, ordnet.dk/ods
Gimbutas, Marija, The Living Goddesses, University of California Press, 2001
Grieve, M, Mrs., A Modern Herbal | Elder. www.botanical.com
Grimm, J L K, Eventyr for børn, Sesam 2001
Grønbeck,Vilhelm, Nordiske myter og sagn, Gyldendals Bogklubber 2003
Gunnarsen, Ruth, Vore gamle kalenderdage, Askholms Forlag 2001
Heidenstam, Verner von 1927. Samlade Skrifter: Skogen susar. 1914 Bonnier, Stockholm.
Heimskringla, King Olaf Trygvason's Saga, cap. 32
Højrup, Ole, Landbokvinden, Nationalmuseet 1966
Høst, Annette, Jorden synger, Mønstergårdens Forlag 2005
Kirsten Piils kilde, se www.bakken.dk/forside/om-bakken/bakkens-histori/item/302-kirsten-pills-kilde - link no longer available (Nov 15)
Kjellson, Lennart, www.kjellson.net/vårdkaser - link no longer available (Nov 15)
Kresten, P. & Ambrosiani, B. 1992. Swedish Vitrified Forts - a reconnaissance study. Fornvännen 87, Stockholm.
Lidegaard, Mads, Danske folkesagn, Nyt Nordisk Forlag Arnold Busck, 2001
Lidegaard, Mads, Danske søer og vandløb fra sagn og tro, Nyt Nordisk Forlag, Arnold Busch, 1999
Liljenroth, Gunnel & Göran, HEL – den Gömda Gudinnan i Nordisk Mytologi, AMA förlag Lidköping, 1995
Liljenroth, G & G, Folket bortom Nordanvinden. Från matriarkat til mansvälde. AMA-Förlag Lidköping, 1989, 1994
MacKenzie, Donald, Scottish Folk-Lore And Folk Life, Blackie & Son, 1935
Mau, E., Dansk Ordsprogs-Skat. I-II. No: 11239, 1879. www.ordnet.Dk/ods/ordbog
Monaghan & McDermott (edit.), Brigit: Sun of Womanhood, The Völva and the Sun, by B. Clausen, Kirsten, Goddess Ink, Ltd, 2012
Motz Most, Lotte, The Winter Goddess: Percht, Holda, and Related Figures, Folklore vol 95, 1984, Publ. on-line 2012
Nordén, Arthur, Norrköpingsbygdens Hällristningar, No.25, Wahlström & Widstrand Förlag, Stockholm 1936
Nordén, Arthur, Sägen och Fornminne i Fiskebygden, Östergötlands Bronsålder, Fiskeby Aktiebolag, 1925
Ó Crualaoich, Gearóid, Continuity and Adaptation in Legends of Cailleach Bhéarra Author(s): Source: Béaloideas, Iml. 56 (1988), Published by: An Cumann Le Béaloideas Éireann/The Folklore of Ireland Society Stable pp 154-155, 162
Ordbog over det danske sprog, ODS Historisk Ordbog 1700-1950, www.ordnet.Dk/ods/ordbog/query=kælling - link no longer available (Nov 15)
Pinkola Estés, Women Who Run with Wolves, Ballantine Books 1996
Layne Redmond, When the Drummers Were Women: A Spiritual History of Rhythm, New York, Three Rivers Press, 1997
Spretnak, Charlene, Lost Goddesses of Early Greece, A collection of Pre-Hellenic Myths, s103ff, Beacon Press, Boston 1984
Sturlason, Snorre, Gylfaginning, Book 1, Gyldendals Leksikon om Nordisk Mytologi, Gyldendal 2005 (Hyrrokin)
Svenska Akademins Ordbok, www.g3.spraakdata.gu.se
Troels-Lund, Troels, Dagligt Liv i Norden, Gyldendalske Boghandel, Nordisk Forlag, København, Kristiania, 1914
Feilberg, H.F. Dansk Bondeliv I, 2.oplag 1898, II 2.udg 1913, www.ordnet.dk/ods
Feilberg, H.F.,Ordbog over jyske almuesmål. I-IV.1886-1914, www.ordnet.dk/ods
Grieve, M, Mrs., A Modern Herbal | Elder. www.botanical.com
Kirsten Piils kilde, se www.bakken.dk/forside/om-bakken/bakkens-histori/item/302-kirsten-pills-kilde - link no longer available (Nov 15)
Kjellson, Lennart, www.kjellson.net/vårdkaser
Lindow, John (2001). Norse Mythology.Oxford University Press. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hyrrokkin). http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hulda-Hrokkinskinna - Ordbog over det danske sprog, ODS, Historisk Ordbog 1700-1950, www.ordnet.Dk/ods/ordbog/query=kælling, kællingeknude link no longer available (Nov 15)
Other Languages: And Occasional Notices of Local Customs and Popular Superstitions, 1846, page 203 – Ref.from www. wikipedia.org
Svenska Akademins Ordbok, www.g3.spraakdata.gu.se
Trotter Brockett, John, Brockett, W.E., Charnley, E., A Glossary of North Country Words, with Their Etymology, and Affinity to
1 Kärring: Modern Swedish (Sw). Kælling: Modern Danish/Norwegian (Dk/No) – same word and meaning. Swedish: Kärring. (Old Sw) Kärling - Svenska Akademins Ordbok.Danish: Kælling or Kelling, Kjelling, Kjælling. (Old Dk) ´Kærling´ from earlier Kerlingh - Ordbok over det danske sprog, ODS. Norwegian: (Old No) Kerling/Kærling, The Scandinavian words seemingly disclose a connection to the Scottish “Carling” (e.g. “Gyre Carling”) meaning ´Old woman´(according to 1. Scott, W.(Sir), 2. Brockett, J.T., Brockett, W.E., Charnley, E.)
2 Scandinavian letters: Ä/ä (Sw) or Æ/æ: (Dk/No) – same letter. Pronounciation something like a in Mary or e in e lderly. Ö/ö (Sw) or Ø/ ø (oe): (Dk/No). Same letter. Pronounced like u in “curling”.
3 Mots, L.M; Sturlason, S.; MacKenzie, D.
4 At this time (In Snorre Sturlasons Edda) the Kælling (ælle) of the jätte-people , the old, indigenous people, will bring Thor to his knees. Later when the former population had subdued to Aesirs Thor, Odin and other warriors will hound the Kællings (Dk: the “flabby tits”)( and any Jätter (Giants)) on horse backs and kill them for pastime amusement. It is a well-known theme “Hags fighting Heroes” – spiritual woman Shaman Shapeshifters dealing with brute force of young war-men. The theme found also in the Finnish National Epic, Kalevala: Mother Louhi defending her daughters from the warrior Väinemoinen and his companions.
5 Motz, L.M.,
6 Feilberg, H.F.
7 The Scottish (Carlin Gyre) Cailleach Bheur is said to mean ”biting” or ”sharp”, and related to Wind.
8 Gearóid Ó Crualaoich, 1988, p 154-155, 162 . Ó Crualaoich discusses the connection or even possible origin of the Cailleach in Norse countries, and Her connection to storms, winter and wild nature.
9 Mau, E.
10 Feilberg, H.F.
11 Lindow, John (2001). Norse Mythology. (Oxford University Press. ISBN 0-19-515382-0) suggest Hyrrokin to mean “The Fire-Smoked” referring to her dark and shriveled apperence. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hyrrokkin). http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hulda-Hrokkinskinna translates Hrokkin-skinna as the "wrinkled parchment" – both translations would make sense in regard to the Old Kælling: the dark and shriveled One and the Wrinkled One).
12 Snorri Sturluson 's Gylfaginning. Balder's funeral. The Old Hag Hyrrokin comes riding on a wolf, accomplishing with one hand, what the Aesir gods cannot manage – to launch Balder´s funeral ship out to sea.
13 Monaghan & McDermott (edit.)
14 Term coined by Marija Gimbutas referring to the indigenous Europeans inhabiting Europe before the Indo-European invasions. Their belief system later amalgamated with new religion and belief system (Aesir-belief and Christianity) imposed on it. What could not be fit smoothly into them, were ignored and forgotten or demonized.
15 Earliest signs of organized warfare in Europe seems to be go back to around 2800BCE. In North-Germany the oldest long-sword in bronze, dating 1500BCE, was found in the Tollese-river. It origined from the Carpathian Area/Donau Area and introduced a new fighting technique. Landesmuseum Schleswig, Germany. From “Bernsteinstrasse, Tränen der Götter” by Archeologist Timo Ibsen 2012.
16 Andersen, H.C.
17 Birds linked to the Winter Crone are consequently be birds of darkness and birds of prey – the owl and the eagle, raven, crow, seagull, heron, and cormorant. According to Marija Gimbutas´ theories of death and regeneration, based on her archeological excavation from Old-European sites, the birds of prey are a central part of the excarnation (de-fleshing) practice of that time, associated with ideas of transformation and regeneration. Equally wild animals associated to Her would be: wolves, boars, the sow etc.
18 Dictionary will tell you either that a Granny´s Knot is a knot that easily loosen or slide up (implying that old women are too dumb to bind a proper knot) or Granny´s Knot will be so tight that it will not loosen (implying that she is being ill-natured). The Granny´s knot will be characterized as inferior to reef knot …or a false knot tied in the wrong way. The Swedish scoutwiki.org will admit that “the name Kärring-knut is a patriarchal left-over that suggests that women are unpractical and most often makes tends to make trivial mistakes”.(www. sv.scoutwiki.org).
In most languages Granny´s Knot has similar names for instance in Spanish: Nudo al revés (wrong knot), de las mujeres (women knot). German: Altweiberknoten (Old Women Knot), or in Danish dialect: Dog´s Knot, or the special variant: Whore´s Knot, in the Swedish island Gotland dialect.
19 In reallity a Granny´s Knot is a knot that, when tightened on string or rope that agree, is extremely hard to undue. It is actually recommended for towing boats. The surgeon´s knot is a variation of the Granny´s Knot.
During my training as a weaver I was taught NEVER to use a Granny´s knot in the loom, because it is impossible to loosen, when tightened during the weaving. One would need the help of scissors to cut the shaft bars from the lamms and treadles, which would mean a lot of work afterwards. A square knot, reef knot is what you use, because they will always easily slide up.
20 Kjær-/Kjør-mes Day could refer to Kjærling or kerte (kermes), meaning candle, or kirke/kir(k)-messe (church-mass),according to Old Danish Dictionary.
21 Blicher, St. St. “Det er hvidt herude”. Song.
22 Gunnarsen, R
23 Traditional saying: ”Tjugondag Knut, kör julen ut” (the 20th day of Christmas will chuck the Christmas out)
24 “Knuds Dag” falls on the 7th of January in Danish calenders. Knud even has two more days in the calender, the 25th of June, 10th of July.
25 Very seldom if ever we will hear about a consort of Källing or Cailleach, so if she surely does not have one, it might be a shift in tradition from Knot Woman to Knot Man/Knut Gubbe.
26 Källa (Sw), Kille (Scania), Kilde (Dk, No)
28 Monaghan & McDermott (edit.). According to “Run-doctor” Svante Lagman i Linköping the –o is the old Nordic feminine, which to-day has become –e (Dk) and –a (Sw). Brido would have become Bride (Dk) or Brida/Brita (Sw) in modern day spelling.
29 See note above referring to Kärring/Kælling
30 Kirsten Piils kilde. See www.bakken.dk/forside/om-bakken/bakkens-histori/item/302-kirsten-pills-kilde - link no longer available (Nov 15)
31 Kärringen is a shape-shifter. She can shift into a young girl and she can put on a ham/hamn (slough) turning into a stone, or a bird. Shape-shifting belongs traditionally to the Shaman/Völva (seidr) world.
32 The German medieval tradition of “Narrenmesse” (Masquerade Mass) is still alive in catholic areas, and being revived again in Denmark lately by Brita Haugen, priest, storyteller, actor. The core is perceiving consciousness that much of our identity will turn out to be just roles, ever changing. The rich will be poor, the beautiful be wrinkled, old and reversed. The moral is never identifying oneself with the exterior.
33 The old Celtic saga "The Adventures of the Sons of Eochaid Mugmedon" is a beautiful example, as are many other folktales.
34 Andersen, H.C.
35 Eklöf, Marie-Louise,
36 Mrs M. Grieve
37 Andersen, H.C.
38 According to G. & G. Liljenroth, the elder tree might actually be the very tree of Mother HEL, the tripartite cosmic Mother of Ultimate Unity - Maiden-Mother-Crone. According to their theories the gliding vowels in HEL (hal, hel, hil, hol, hul, hyl, hål, häl, hö l) and/or the common drop out of mute H (al, el, il, ol, ul, yl, ål, äl, öl), would provide us with tools for recognizing Hel in language, as in geographical names.
The Kælling would thus be the dark (crone) aspect of the cosmic Hel-trinity: KEL. K or C in English (dark: Coal, Cellar, Cold, Caldron etc)
The Old woman: (English) Elderly woman, Elders, Old. (Norway) Elle/Hyllemor. (Denmark) Hyldemor/Ælle/Ældre/Elle, Hel. ( Sweden) Holle. (German) Holle, Alt, Hölle.
TheTree: (English) Elder tree. (Norway, Scania) Hyll. (Danish) Hyld. (German) Holunder.
The Fire: (Anglo-Saxon) Aeld (Æld). (No) Eld/Ild. (Sw) Eld. (Dk) Ild.
39 The maiden binding The Høst-Kælling was called The Bride (Bruden). V.J.Brøndegaard s 147
40 Höjrup, O.
41 Höjrup, O.
42 Motz, L.M., Grimm, J.L.K.
43 MacKenzie, D
44 M.Lidegaard, Danske Folkesagn, p187
45 The Greek (and thereof Christian and common western) dualism is a belief system built on “two contradictory opposites”. This belief system has a built-in idea of power and aggressive balance: One side is to be promoted, the other to be controlled, minimizing it´s influence.
The Chines dualism is another belief system builds on “two complementary opposites”, Yin & Yang. Together they provide life and balance. One side is not a “better” or more favoured than the other. The implicit idea of hierarchal power and aggressiveness is therefore not found within the Chinese dualism.
A third belief system would be the one mentioned above that builds on observing natural rhythms: All life follows a strict pattern of being born, grow, mature, being fertile, wither, die and being reborn – in continuous circles.
The attempt to squeeze in two radical different systems into one of the other forms of belief system, very often results in bizarre misunderstandings and plump incomprehensible stories. In western society the old bewildering stories will often be taken as a prejudiced proof of primitive folk beliefs among pagans and peasants.
The often all too loose amalgam of the stories from a profound different belief system at times makes it easier to pick them apart into two separate stories, the nature belief system and the Christian/patriarchal western . See further Merlin Stone, When God was a Woman.
46 As discussed in note 18 the Kärring seldom if ever is recorded to have a consort, but if having one, at least as a counterpart in function, the wise old Mimer in Old Norse Mythology would candidate. His head with long white hair, body withered away, will sit by his holy well, Mimer´s Brönd, under the Tree of Life, Yggdrasil. One day the highest warrior god Odin, the father of the Aesirs, comes rushing to Mimers Well, asking to get his wisdom on the spot. Mimer patiently explains to him that wisdom comes when you see the world with only one eye, and asks of Odin one of his eyes. Mimer of course alludes to the Third Eye of Intuition, but a thing like that does not exist in the concept of Odin´s culture. He doesn´t want a lot of talking. He wants a quick-fix, so to get it over with, he resolutely tears out his one eye and plungs it into Mimer´s well – just to be blinkered for the rest of his life. Ref.: Sturlason, S
47 The third eye is said to be open on all women during the days before moon blood. During these days women are sensible to everything that is out of tune and disturbing the harmony of life. Nowadays they give it names as PMS and find medicine for it. Instead harmony in daily life might benefit from women sensing disharmony, noting it and if necessary save the talks till after moon blood week.
When the menopause comes in a woman´s life the third eye is said to be open all the time, sensitive to what serves harmony. Society not understanding how to benefit from this fact, it might instead have added on the reputation of old women and mothers in law to be quarrelsome?
48 In non-patriarchal societies/cultures, without an established institutionalization of father-hood, children to a greater extent will be perceived as daughters and sons of the “klan”. They would certainly be seen as “daughters” by their teachers and initiators.
49 Motz, L.M.
50 I once heard a beautiful story about a young girl searching her way through the dark in the underground and eventually she find the lovely ancient grandmother, her own grandmother and/or Mother Earth. She loves to stay there learning and listening and finds it very hard to leave, once she has got to know everything and it is time to return, transformed, and go back to live her own spring and summer. If anybody knows it I would love to hear where to find it. As would I be so happy to learn more from you, dear readers, who might be deeper into certain parts of this writing than I am at the moment. Thanks from my heart. Mailadress: email@example.com
51 Grimm, J.L.K., Pinkola Estés, C.,
52 Grimm, J.L.K.
53 In the stories of “beautiful princesses imprisoned in caves by gruesome dragons to be saved by a young warrior” the leading role is played by a young warrior prince (subject), whose mission is to liberate the princess (object), and kill the old dragon (object), and become a hero. He will thus “rescue” the princess from her education and transformation into an autonomous and mature woman, and promptly bring her to his home and marry her; forever keeping her immature, dependent and fragmented in her competence. No wonder the Old Wise-woman was mad!
According to Merlin Stone there are indications that the original stories and the culture of the indigenous European population, the, so called, Old-Europeans, were deliberately and effectively changed. The shift of focus from the knowledge and spiritual power of the old Hags, to the young warrior´s feats and deeds, are not always thought of as incidental. Analyzing the great shift of paradigm into patriarchate (well described as the “Kurgan”-theory by the famous archeologist Marija Gimbutas and others) Merlin Stone discusses the literate elite of priests referred to as the “Luvians” whose schools in Anatolia seems to have had an immense impact in promoting the patriarchal take over. Among other things they would write down an renew the interpretation of the basic and ancient myths of the earlier nature-bound societies in Europe and Near East. (Luvians, Luwians, Luvischen (German) or Louvites (French). S 100-102, Merlin Stone: When God was a Woman). Stone´s discussion is based on Hans Güterbock, “Hittite Mythology”, In “Mythologies of the Ancient World, ed. By S.N.Kramer. New York, Doubleday, 1961)
54 Heidenstam, V.
55 Danielsson, A
57 The Pythia in Delphi was head of The temple of Gaia, a temple of such importance that it was believed to be “the Center of the World”, featured by the Omphalos stone, meaning “navel”. The Omphalos-stone was covered with bees, and also called The Great Bee Hive and is linked to the sacred mantra OM, sounding like the humming of bees, says Layne Redmond, When the Drummers Were Women, s65
58 There are other Gyda-Gydia figures in the Old Norse Edda.
59 The stories of Apollon, capturing the Gaia-temple in Delphi, slaying the guarding dragon snake, the Python snake and exploiting the Oracle into madness, are consequently probably a late, construed patriarchal versions of a former peaceful women account of the institution.
60 Deckel, P.
61 Deckel, P.
62 Kjellson, L.
63 Vitrifying in situ means that the borg has underwent a ceramic burning process, not as bricks and stones having been glassed separately in a ceramic oven, but as the borg as a whole building where it stands. Vitrifying needs temperatures to reach 1100-1200C (2000-2200 F) for several hours. Normally this is not possible in open air burning (A burning house may reach temperatures of 500-600C (900-1100F). Vitrified forts are found on Brittish Islands/Scotland as well. The vitrification does not seem to have happened accidently, but been carefully organized. Kresten, P & Ambrosiani, B
64 Lidegaard, M, Danske søer og vandløb fra sagn og tro, p47
65 Lidegaard, M. Danske Folkesagn p 149 (here creating landscape)
66 Lidegaard, M. Danske Folkesagn p 159ff
67 I am seemingly inclined to believe that all the Kælling stories are part of a big pattern of belief system and conception of life, fragments of which has been transmitted through time to our days.
In the same way potent figures like for instance Jesus will have both many stories about him and many names: Savior, Lord, Shepherd, King, Redeemer, Christ, Mary´s son, David´s son, Master, Son of God without being different figures …as is true for all of us in different roles,still being the same one person: mother, sister, teacher, neighbor, etc. The same might well be the case of a potent figure like the Kælling, the Grandmother of All, whose reign may stretch way to the East and give Her kinship even with Kali in India.
68 See Spretnak, C., s 31 …”Therefore, it would seem more accurate to speak of “patriarchal archetypes”, rather than “archetypes,” when discussing psychological developments in patriarchal cultures such as our own.”
69 Pinkola Estés, C.
Latest posts by Kirsten Brunsgaard Clausen (see all)
- The Scandinavian Cailleach – The”Kælling/Kärring”(1) - 14th April 2015
- Brighid’s Runes in Sweden: The Völva and the Sun - 7th January 2012