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Scandinavian folklore Begings

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Scandinavian folklore Begings

Post by CJWatso on December 20th 2008, 11:45 am

The Askafroa (Swedish "ash lady"), was a being in southern Swedish folklore which was thought to live in the ash tree, similar to the Greek Hamadryads. The belief in the Askafroa was recorded by the Swedish scholar Gunnar Olof Hyltén-Cavallius in the 19th century. According to Hyltén-Cavallius, it was a custom in the Ljunit Hundred in Scania, Sweden, to sacrifice to the Askafroa in order to invoke her goodwill. The belief in the Askafroa is closely related to similar types of veneration of trees in Scandinavian folklore.[1]

In his ethnographic work Wärend och Wirdarne, Hyltén-Cavallius recorded a belief in a female creature living in the ash tree. The elders used to sacrifice to the Askafroa on the morning of Ash Wednesday. Before the sun had risen, they poured water over the roots of the ash tree. While doing this they said: "Nu offrar jag, så gör du oss ingen skada" meaning "Now I sacrifice [to you], so that you don't do us any harm". Hyltén-Cavallius further writes that if anyone broke branches or twigs from the ash tree, it was thought that they would become ill.[1]

The online role-playing game Dark Age of Camelot features enemies in the form of Askafroar.
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Re: Scandinavian folklore Begings

Post by CJWatso on December 20th 2008, 11:47 am

The Neck (English) or the Nix/Nixe (German) refer to shapeshifting water spirits who usually appear in human form. The spirit has appeared in the myths and legends of all Germanic peoples in Europe.[1]

Though in recent times such creatures have usually been depicted as manlike in shape (albeit in many cases shape-shifting), the English Knucker is generally depicted as a wyrm or dragon, thus attesting to the survival of the other usage as any 'water-being' rather than an exclusively humanoid creature.

Their sex, bynames and various animal-like transformations vary geographically. The German Nix and his Scandinavian counterparts are males. The German Nixe or Nixie is a female river mermaid.[1]

Names and etymology
In Norway, Theodor Kittelsen's Nøkken from 1904 is equally famous.

The names are held to derive from Common Germanic *nikwus or *nikwis(i), derived from PIE *neigw ("wash").[2] It is related to Sanskrit nḗkēkti ("wash"), Greek nízō and níptō, and Irish nigther.[3]

The form neck appears in English and in the dialect of northern Sweden.[3] The standard Swedish name is näck, but in southern Sweden, it is also called nick and nek.[3] The Swedish forms are derived from Old Swedish neker, which corresponds to Old Icelandic nykr (gen. nykrs), and modern Norwegian nykk.[3] In Old Danish, the form was nikke and in modern Danish it is nøk(ke).[3] The Icelandic word nykr also means hippopotamus.[1][3]

In Middle Low German, it was called necker and in Middle Dutch nicker.[3] The Old High German form nihhus also meant "crocodile",[1][3] while the Old English nicor[1][3] could mean both a "water monster" and a "hippopotamus".[3]

Common bynames are the Swedish Strömkarlen and the Norwegian Fossegrim.[3] Since the Scandinavian version can transform himself into a horse-like kelpie, he is also called Bäckahästen (the "brook horse"). In Germany where they mainly appear as female, they are also called Rhine maidens.

[edit] Scandinavia
Nils Blommér's the Nix and Ægir's daughters makes the Nix of Scandinavian folklore meet the Nixes of Scandinavian mythology.

[edit] Näcken, Nøkken

The Scandinavian näcken, nøkken, strömkarlen,[4] Grim or Fosse-Grim were male water spirits who played enchanted songs on the violin, luring women and children to drown in lakes or streams. However, not all of these spirits were necessarily malevolent; in fact, many stories exist that indicate at the very least that Fossegrim were entirely harmless to their audience and attracted not only women and children, but men as well with their sweet songs. Stories also exist wherein the Fossegrim agreed to live with a human who had fallen in love with him, but many of these stories ended with the Fossegrim returning to his home, usually a nearby waterfall or brook. Fossegrim are said to grow despondent if they do not have free, regular contact with a water source.

If properly approached, he will teach a musician to play so adeptly "that the trees dance and waterfalls stop at his music," [1]

It is difficult to describe the actual appearance of the nix, as one of his central attributes was thought to be shapeshifting. Perhaps he did not have any true shape. He could show himself as a man playing the violin in brooks and waterfalls (though often imagined as fair and naked today, in actual folklore he was more frequently wearing more or less elegant clothing) but also could appear to be treasure or various floating objects or as an animal — most commonly in the form of a "brook horse" (see below). The modern Scandinavian names are derived from an Old Norse nykr, meaning "river horse." Thus, likely the brook horse preceded the personification of the nix as the "man in the rapids". Fossegrim and derivatives were almost always portrayed as especially beautiful young men, whose clothing (or lack thereof) varied widely from story to story.

The enthralling music of the nix was most dangerous to women and children, especially pregnant women and unbaptised children. He was thought to be most active during Midsummer's Night, on Christmas Eve and on Thursdays. However, these superstitions do not necessarily relate to all the versions listed here, and many if not all of them were developed after the Christianizing of the Northern countries, as were similar stories of faeries and other entities in other areas.

When malicious nix attempted to carry off people, they could be defeated by calling their name; this, in fact, would be the death of them.[5]

If you brought the nix a treat of three drops of blood, a black animal, some brännvin (Scandinavian vodka) or snus (wet snuff) dropped into the water, he would teach you his enchanting form of music.

The nix was also an omen for drowning accidents. He would scream at a particular spot in a lake or river, in a way reminiscent of the loon, and on that spot a fatality would later take place.

In the later Romantic folklore and folklore-inspired stories of the 19th century, the nix sings about his loneliness and his longing for salvation, which he purportedly never shall receive, as he is not "a child of God." In a poem by Swedish poet E. J. Stagnelius, a little boy pities the fate of the nix, and so saves his own life. In the poem, arguably Stagnelius' most famous, the boy says that the Nacken will never be a "child of God" which brings "tears to his face" as he "never plays again in the silvery brook."

In Scandinavia, water lilies are called "nix roses" (näckrosor/nøkkeroser). A tale from the forest of Tiveden relates of how the forest had its unique red waterlilies through the intervention of the nix:

At the lake of Fagertärn, there was once a poor fisherman who had a beautiful daughter. The small lake gave little fish and the fisherman had difficulties providing for his little family. One day, as the fisherman was fishing in his little dugout of oak, he met the Nix, who offered him great catches of fish on the condition that the fisherman gave him his beautiful daughter the day she was eighteen years old. The desperate fisherman agreed and promised the Nix his daughter. The day the girl was eighteen she went down to the shore to meet the Nix. The Nix gladly asked her to walk down to his watery abode, but the girl took forth a knife and said that he would never have her alive, then stuck the knife into her heart and fell down into the lake, dead. Then, her blood coloured the waterlilies red, and from that day the waterlilies of some of the lake's forests are red (Karlsson 1970:86).

[edit] Bäckahästen, bækhesten
The Nix as a brook horse by Theodor Kittelsen, a depiction of the Nix as a white horse

Bäckahästen or bækhesten (translated as the brook horse) is a mythological horse in Scandinavian folklore. It has a close parallel in the Scottish kelpie.

It was often described as a majestic white horse that would appear near rivers, particularly during foggy weather. Anyone who climbed onto its back would not be able to get off again. The horse would then jump into the river, drowning the rider. The brook horse could also be harnessed and made to plough, either because it was trying to trick a person or because the person had tricked the horse into it. The following tale is a good illustration of the brook horse:
Gutt på hvit hest (Boy on white horse) by the same Kittelsen

A long time ago, there was a girl who was not only pretty but also big and strong. She worked as a maid on a farm by Lake Hjärtasjön in southern Nerike. She was ploughing with the farm's horse on one of the fields by the lake. It was springtime and beautiful weather. The birds chirped and the wagtails flitted in the tracks of the girl and the horse in order to pick worms. All of a sudden, a horse appeared out of the lake. It was big and beautiful, bright in colour and with large spots on the sides. The horse had a beautiful mane which fluttered in the wind and a tail that trailed on the ground. The horse pranced for the girl to show her how beautiful he was. The girl, however, knew that it was the brook horse and ignored it. Then the brook horse came closer and closer and finally he was so close that he could bite the farm horse in the mane. The girl hit the brook horse with the bridle and cried: "Disappear you scoundrel, or you'll have to plough so you'll never forget it." As soon as she had said this, the brook horse had changed places with the farm horse, and the brook horse started ploughing the field with such speed that soil and stones whirled in its wake, and the girl hung like a mitten from the plough. Faster than the cock crows seven times, the ploughing was finished and the brook horse headed for the lake, dragging both the plough and the girl. But the girl had a piece of steel in her pocket, and she made the sign of the cross. Immediately she fell down on the ground, and she saw the brook horse disappear into the lake with the plough. She heard a frustrated neighing when the brook horse understood that his trick had failed. Until this day, a deep track can be seen in the field. (Hellström 1985:16)

[edit] Germany
The Rhine maidens

The German Nix and Nixe (and Nixie) are types of river merman and mermaid who may lure men to drown, like the Scandinavian type, akin to the Celtic Melusine and similar to the Greek Siren. The German epic Nibelungenlied mentions the Nix in connection with the Danube, as early as 1180 to 1210.

Nixes in folklore became water sprites[6] who try to lure people into the water. The males can assume many different shapes, including that of a human, fish, and snake. The females are beautiful women with the tail of a fish. When they are in human forms, they can be recognized by the wet hem of their clothes. The Nixes are considered as malignant in some quarters, but as harmless and friendly in others.

By the 19th century Jacob Grimm mentions the nixie to be among the "water-sprites" who love music, song and dancing, and says "Like the sirens, the nixie by her song draws listening youth to herself, and then into the deep."[6] According to Grimm, they can appear human but have the barest hint of animal features: the nix had "a slit ear", and the nixie "a wet skirt". Grimm thinks these could symbolize they are "higher beings" who could shapeshift to animal form.[7]

One famous Nixe of German folklore was Lorelei. According to the legend, she sat on the rock at the Rhine which bears now her name, and distracted fishermen from the dangers of the reefs with the sound of her voice. In Switzerland there is a legend (myth) of a seamaid or Nixe that lived in lake Zug (the lake is in the Canton of Zug).

The Yellow Fairy Book by Andrew Lang includes a story called "The Nixie of the Mill-Pond" in which a malevalent spirit that lives in a mill pond strikes a deal with the miller that she will restore his wealth in exchange for his son. This story is taken from the Tales of Grimm.

The legend of Heer Halewijn, a dangerous lord who lures women to their deaths with a magic song, may have originated with the Nix.

See also: Lorelei
See also: Wagner's Rhinemaidens

Alternate names(kennings) for the female German Nixe are Rhine maidens (German: Rheintöchter) and Lorelei.

In a fictional depiction, the Rhine maidens are among the protagonists in the four-part Opera Der Ring des Nibelungen by the composer Richard Wagner, based loosely on the nix of the Nibelungenlied.

The Rhine maidens Wellgunde, Woglinde, and Floßhilde (Flosshilde) belong to a group of characters living in a part of nature free from human influence. Erda and the Norns are also considered a part of this 'hidden' world.

They are first seen in the first work of the Nibelungen cycle, Das Rheingold, as guardians of the Rheingold, a treasure of gold hidden in the Rhein river. The dwarf Alberich, a Nibelung, is eager to win their favour, but they somewhat cruelly dismiss his flattery. They tell him that only one who is unable to love can win the Rheingold. Thus, Alberich curses love and steals the Rheingold. From the stolen gold he forges a ring of power.

Further on in the cycle, the Rhine maidens are seen trying to regain the ring and transform it back into the harmless Rheingold. But no one, not even the supreme god Wotan, who uses the ring to pay the giants Fasolt and Fafner for building Valhalla, nor the hero Siegfried, when the maidens appear to him in the third act of Götterdämmerung, will return the ring to them. Eventually Brünnhilde returns it to them at the end of the cycle, when the fires of her funeral pyre cleanse the ring of its curse.

[edit] England

In the English county of Sussex, there are said to dwell "water-wyrms" called knuckers. The Word knucker is derived from the Old English nicor.[8]

English folklore contains many creatures with similarities to the Nix or Näck, such as Jenny Greenteeth, the Shellycoat, Peg Powler, the Bäckahästen-like Brag, and the Grindylow.
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Changeling

Post by CJWatso on December 20th 2008, 11:50 am

A Changeling is a being in West European folklore and folk religion, typically described as the offspring of a fairy, troll, elf or other legendary creature that has been secretly left in the place of a human child. The apparent changeling could also be a stock, an enchanted piece of wood that would soon appear to grow sick and die.

A human child might be taken due to many factors: to act as a servant, the love of a human child, or malice.[1] Most often it was thought that fairies exchanged the children. Changelings were said to feed on their mothers and to leave odd bruises in the back of their necks as a result. The feeding process could take weeks, until the mother was drained dry. Anything or anyone that prohibited the Changeling's nutrition would be mercilessly killed. Simple charms, such as an inverted coat, were thought to ward them off. The best way to get rid of a changeling is to make them laugh. The parents of a changeling child will have no choice but to take back their baby and leave the real baby or child behind.

Identifying a changeling

Changelings would be identified by voracious appetite, malicious temper, difficulty in movement, and other unpleasant traits.[2] Medieval chronicles recorded instances of this, which is one of the oldest known pieces of folklore about fairies.[3] Changelings usually can be identified by a greenish tint to their skin. Changelings also hate shoes so they walk about barefoot as often as possible. They are very wise and possess an intelligent vocabulary. Their hair is hopelessly tangled, no matter how many times you brush it, and grows very fast. It is said[who?] that if you cut a changeling's hair, it will have grown back the next morning. Their eyes and hair are usually earthen colors such as green and brown.[citation needed]

According to some legends, it is possible to detect changelings as they are much wiser than human children. When changelings are discovered in time, their parents must return them. In one tale of the Brothers Grimm, there's an account of how a woman, who suspected that her child had been exchanged, started to brew beer in the hull of an acorn. The changeling uttered: "now I am as old as an oak in the woods but I have never seen beer being brewed in an acorn", then disappeared.[1]

Changelings are picky eaters unless offered something they like. They have pointed ears. They also grow slower than other humans. Compared to other children, Changelings tend to be extremely eccentric in personality and in clothing choices. As young adults, their strange traits will become harder and harder to conceal.[citation needed]

[edit] Purpose of a changeling

Some people believed that trolls would take unbaptized children. Once the child is baptized and therefore part of the Church, the trolls can't take them. One belief is that trolls thought that being raised by humans was something very classy, and that they therefore wanted to give their own children a human upbringing.

Beauty in human children and young women, particularly blond hair, attracted the fairies.[4]

In Scottish folklore, the children might be replacements for fairy children in the tithe to Hell;[5] this is best known from the ballad of Tam Lin.[6]

Some folklorists believe that fairies were memories of inhabitants of various regions in Europe who had been driven into hiding by invaders. They held that changelings had actually occurred; the hiding people would exchange their own sickly children for the healthy children of the invaders.[7]

Note: Some changelings might forget they are not human and proceed to live a human life. Changelings which do not forget, however, may later return to their fairy family, possibly leaving the human family without warning. As for the human child that was taken, he or she may stay with the fairy family forever.

[edit] Changelings in medieval folklore

[edit] Scandinavia

Since most beings from Scandinavian folklore are said to be afraid of steel, Scandinavian parents often placed a steel item such as a pair of scissors or a knife on top of an unbaptized infant's cradle. It was believed that if a human child was taken in spite of such measures, the parents could force the return of the child by treating the changeling cruelly, using methods such as whipping or even inserting it in a heated oven. In at least one case, a woman was taken to court for having killed her child in an oven.[8]
Painting by John Bauer of two trolls with a human child they have raised

In one Swedish changeling tale[9], the human mother is advised to brutalize the changeling so that the trolls will return her son, but she refuses, unable to mistreat an innocent child despite knowing its nature. When her husband demands she abandons the changeling, she refuses, and he leaves her - whereupon he meets their son in the forest, wandering free. The son explains that since his mother had never been cruel to the changeling, so the troll mother had never been cruel to him, and when she sacrificed what was dearest to her, her husband, they had realized they had no power over her and released him.

In another Swedish fairy tale[10] (which is depicted by the image), a princess is kidnapped by trolls and replaced with their own offspring against the wishes of the troll mother. The changelings grow up with their new parents, but both find it hard to adapt: the human girl is disgusted by her future bridegroom, a troll prince, whereas the troll girl is bored by her life and by her dull human future groom. Upset with the conditions of their lives, they both go astray in the forest, passing each other without noticing it. The princess comes to the castle whereupon the queen immediately recognizes her, and the troll girl finds a troll woman who is cursing loudly as she works. The troll girl bursts out that the troll woman is much more fun than any other person she has ever seen, and her mother happily sees that her true daughter has returned. Both the human girl and the troll girl marry happily the very same day.

[edit] Wales

In Wales the changeling child (plentyn newid) initially resembles the human it substitutes, but gradually grows uglier in appearance and behaviour: ill-featured, malformed, ill-tempered, given to screaming and biting. It may be of less than usual intelligence, but again is identified by its more than childlike wisdom and cunning.

The common means employed to identify a changeling is to cook a family meal in an eggshell. The child will exclaim, "I have seen the acorn before the oak, but I never saw the likes of this," and vanish, only to be replaced by the original human child. Alternatively, or following this identification, it is supposedly necessary to mistreat the child by placing it in a hot oven, by holding it in a shovel over a hot fire, or by bathing it in a solution of foxglove. [11]

[edit] Ireland

In Ireland, looking at a baby with envy -- "over looking the baby" -- was dangerous, as it endangered the baby, who was then in the fairies' power.[12] So too was admiring or envying a woman or man dangerous, unless the person added a blessing; the able-bodied and beautiful were in particular danger. Women were especially in danger in liminal states: being a new bride, or a new mother.[13]

Putting a changeling in a fire would cause it to jump up the chimney and return the human child, but at least one tale recounts a mother with a changeling finding that a fairy woman came to her home with the human child, saying the other fairies had done the exchange, and she wanted her own baby.[12] The tale of surprising a changeling into speech -- by brewing eggshells -- is also told in Ireland, as in Wales.[14]

Belief in changelings endured in parts of Ireland until recent times; in 1895, Bridget Cleary was killed by her husband who believed her to be a changeling.

[edit] Scottish

Child ballad 40, The Queen of Elfan's Nourice, depicts the abduction of a new mother, drawing on the folklore of the changelings. Although it is fragmentary, it contains the mother's grief and the Queen of Elfland's promise to return her to her own child if she will nurse the queen's child until it can walk.[15].

[edit] Cornish

The Men-an-Tol stones in kernow / Cornwall are supposed to have a fairy or pixy guardian who can make miraculous cures. In one case a Changeling baby was put through the stone in order for the mother to get the real child back. Evil pixies had changed her child and the ancient stones were able to reverse their evil spell.[16]

[edit] Spain

In Asturias (North Spain) there is a legend about the Xana, a sort of nymph who used to live near rivers, fountains and lakes, sometimes helping travelers on their journeys. The Xanas were conceived as little female fairies with supernatural beauty. They could deliver babies, "xaninos," that were sometimes swapped with human babies in order to be baptized. The legend says that in order to distinguish a "xanino" from a human baby, some pots and egg shells should be put close to the fireplace; a "xanino" would say: "I was born one hundred years ago, and since then I have not seen so many egg shells near the fire!".

[edit] Malta

The ritual impurity[17] of the parturient mother and her child exposed them, according to traditional Maltese belief, to unusual danger especially during the first few days after birth. A changeling child (called mibdul, 'changed') was taken to St Julian's Bay[18], where a statue of the saint stands, and given a sand-bath. A cordial was also administered, in attempts to return the child.[19]

[edit] "Changelings" in the historical record

Real children were sometimes taken to be changelings by the superstitious, and therefore abused or murdered.

Two 19th century cases reflected the belief in changelings. In 1826, Anne Roche bathed Michael Leahy, a four-year-old boy unable to speak or stand, three times in the Flesk; he drowned the third time. She swore that she was merely attempting to drive the fairy out of him, and the jury acquitted her of murder.[20] In the 1890s in Ireland, Bridget Cleary was killed by several people, including her husband and cousins, after a short bout of illness (probably pneumonia). Local storyteller Jack Dunne accused Bridget of being a fairy changeling. It is debatable whether her husband, Michael, actually believed her to be a fairy - many believe he concocted a 'fairy defence' after he murdered his wife in a fit of rage. The killers were convicted of manslaughter rather than murder, as even after the death they claimed that they were convinced they had killed a changeling, not Bridget Cleary.[21].

[edit] Changelings in other countries

The ogbanje (pronounced similar to "oh-BWAN-jeh") is a term meaning "child who comes and goes" among the Igbo people of eastern Nigeria. When a woman would have numerous children either stillborn or die early in infancy, the traditional belief was that it was a malicious spirit that was being reincarnated over and over again to torment the afflicted mother. One of the most commonly-proscribed methods for ridding one's self of an ogbanje was to find its iyi-uwa, a buried object that ties the evil spirit to the mortal world, and destroy it.

Many scholars now believe that ogbanje stories were attempting to explain children with sickle-cell disease, which is endemic to West Africa and afflicts around one-quarter of the population. Even today, and especially in areas of Africa lacking medical resources, infant death is common for children born with severe sickle-cell disease.

The similarity between the European changeling and the Igbo ogbanje is striking enough that Igbos themselves often translate the word into English as "changeling."

Aswangs, a kind of ghoul from the Philippines, are also sometimes said to leave behind duplicates of their victims made of plant matter. Like the stocks of European fairy folklore, the Aswang's wood duplicates soon appear to sicken and die.

[edit] Changelings in the modern world

[edit] Neurological differences

The reality behind many changeling legends was often the birth of deformed or retarded children. Among the diseases with symptoms that match the description of changelings in various legends are spina bifida, cystic fibrosis, PKU, progeria, Down syndrome, homocystinuria, Williams syndrome, Hurler syndrome, Hunter syndrome, and cerebral palsy. The greater proneness of boys to birth defect correlates to the belief that boy babies were more likely to be taken.[22]

As noted, it has been hypothesized that the changeling legend may have developed, or at least been used, to explain the peculiarities of children who did not develop normally, probably including all sorts of developmental delays and abnormalities. In particular, it has been suggested that children with autism would be likely to be labeled as changelings or elf-children due to their strange, sometimes inexplicable behavior. This has found a place in autistic culture. Some high-functioning autistic adults have come to identify with changelings (or other replacements, such as aliens) for this reason and their own feeling of being in a world where they don’t belong and of practically not being the same species as the "normal" people around them.[23] In the book The Stolen Child, Keith Donohue talks about the life of a changeling from the point of view of two boys, one of which was evidently autistic.

[edit] Failure to thrive

Infants diagnosed with Failure to thrive that have no history of neglect also fit the description of changelings. This can be a devastating diagnosis, and it is easy to see how people would have taken comfort in placing the cause outside their influence. The stories of kindness and care being rewarded with the return of the child also fit the nursing needed to restore an infant's health.


Last edited by skywalker on December 20th 2008, 11:54 am; edited 1 time in total
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Deildegast

Post by CJWatso on December 20th 2008, 11:52 am

In Norwegian folklore, a deildegast is a type of ghost connected with the sanctity of border-stones, and what happened to those who dared to move them. The deildegast-tradition was most prevalent in the southern parts of Norway, and is also connected to the gjenganger phenomenon. A deildegast, it was said, does not receive peace in the afterlife, as a result of (in life) moving the border-stone dividing his own and his neighbours territory, and through this enlarging his own territory. After dying, and becoming a deildegast, the person was forced to haunt the area near the border-stone until he was able to lift it back to its correct place. This feat proved impossible, however, as the stone would always slip, causing the deildegast to emit a sorrowful scream before trying again, still to no avail.

In Norwegian, "gast" approximately means "ghost", but ghosts in Norwegian and Scandinavian folklore differ greatly from the modern perception of ghosts, often having a corporeal body and being violent in nature. "Deild" is an archaic word for "border-stone". The approximate translation of deildegast then, is "border-stone ghost". The first mention of a deildegast in literature comes from Draumkvedet, written near the end of the middle ages. The belief itself might be considerably older, though there exists no proof for this.

The deildegast was also said to be able to transform into a bird. Most often this bird was a species of owl, called "gasten"("the ghost") by the local people. In human form the deildegast looked like a normal human, except for his clothes. Often having died many years ago, the deildegast wore the clothes of its own days, which often meant that they looked very outdated to those that saw it.

As a social phenomenon, the deildegast served several functions First of all, the threat of becoming a deildegast most often deterred any attempt at tampering with border stones. Secondly, as a result of this, land disputes were kept under control. Thirdly, it might also have prevented people who suspected that their border stones had been moved, from enacting physical revenge on their neighbours, in safe knowledge that they would get their metaphysical revenge when the wrong-doer died.
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Draugr

Post by CJWatso on December 20th 2008, 12:05 pm

A draugr or draug (original Old Norse plural draugar, as used here, not draugrs), or draugen (nor., swe. and dan., meaning "the draug") is an undead creature from Norse mythology. The original norse meaning of the word is ghost, and in older literature one will find clear distinctions between sea-draug and land-draug. Draugar were believed to live in the graves of dead Vikings, being the body of the dead.

Views differ on whether the personality and soul of the dead person lingers in the draugr. As the graves of important men often contained a good amount of wealth, the draugr jealously guards his treasures, even after death.
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[edit] Traits

Draugar possess superhuman strength, can increase their size at will and carry the unmistakable stench of decay. They are also noted for the ability to rise from the grave as wisps of smoke. In folklore the draugar slay their victims through various methods including crushing them with their enlarged forms, devouring their flesh, and drinking their blood. Animals feeding near the grave of a draugr are often driven mad by the creature's influence.[1]

Some draugar are immune to weapons. Only a hero has the strength and courage needed to stand up to so formidable an opponent. In legends the hero would often have to wrestle the draugr back to his grave, thereby defeating him, since weapons would do no good. A good example of this kind of fight is found in Hrómundar saga Gripssonar.

It is said that the draugr will come back even when defeated, requiring the hero to dispose of the body in unconventional ways. The preferred method is to cut off the draugr's head, burn the body, and dump the ashes in the sea, the emphasis being on making absolutely sure the draugr was dead and gone. This may be related to the traditional practice of killing vampires seen in other cultures.[citation needed]

The draugar were said to be either hel-blár ("death-black") or, conversely, nár-fölr ("corpse-pale").[1]

In tradition, some draugar are able to leave their dwelling place, the burial mound, and visit the living during the night. Such visits are supposed to be universally horrible events that often end in death for one or more of the living, and warrant the exhumation of the draugr's tomb by a hero.

A similar creature is the haugbui. The notable difference between the two was that the haugbui is unable to leave its grave site and only attacks those that trespass upon their territory.[1]

The creature is said to either swim alongside boats or sail around them in a partially submerged vessel, always on their own. In some accounts, witnesses portray them as shape-shifters who take on the appearance of seaweed or moss-covered stones on the shoreline.

[edit] Means of prevention

Traditionally, a pair of open iron scissors were placed on the chest of the recently deceased while straws or twigs might be hidden among their clothes. The big toes were tied together or needles were driven through the soles of the feet in order to keep the dead from being able to walk. Tradition also held that the coffin be lifted and lowered in three different directions as it was carried from the house to confuse a possible draugr's sense of direction.

The most effective means of preventing the return of the dead was the corpse door. A special door was built on, through which the corpse was carried feet-first with people surrounding it so the corpse couldn't see where it was going. The door was then bricked up to prevent a return visit. It is speculated that this belief began in Denmark and spread throughout the Norse culture. The belief was founded on the idea that the dead only enter through the way they left.

[edit] Speculation

Dr. John Tanke has theorized that the words dragon and draugr might be related. He notes that both the serpent and the spirit serve as jealous guardians of the graves of kings or ancient civilizations. Dragons that act as draugar appear in Beowulf as well as in the stories of Siegfried.

[edit] Folklore

Arguably, the best known draugr in the modern world is Glamr, who was defeated by the hero of the Grettis Saga, as the saga includes a short account of him as a living man, and a full account of his haunting, up to the intervention of Grettir who wrestled him back to death.

A somewhat ambivalent, alternative view of the draugr is presented by the example of Gunnar in Njál's saga:

* "It seemed as though the howe was agape, and that Gunnar had turned within the howe to look upwards at the moon. They thought that they saw four lights within the howe, but not a shadow to be seen. Then they saw that Gunnar was merry, with a joyful face".

In the Eyrbyggja Saga a shepherd is assaulted by a blue-black draugr. The shepherd's neck is broken during the ensuing scuffle. The shepherd rises the next night as a draugr.[1]

In more recent folklore, the draug is often identified with the spirits of mariners drowned at sea. In Scandinavian folklore, the creature is said to possess a distinctly human form, with the exception that its head is composed entirely of seaweed. In other tellings, the draug is described as being a headless fisherman, dressed in oilskin, sailing in half a boat. This trait is common in the northernmost part of Norway, where life and culture was based on the fish, more than anywhere else.

A recorded legend from Trøndelag tells how a corpse lying on a beach became the object of a quarrel between the two types of draug. A similar source even tells of a third type, the gleip, known to hitch themselves to sailors walking ashore and making them slip on the wet rocks.[citation needed] Norwegian folklore thus records a number of different draug-types.
A draugr aboard a ship, in sub-human form, wearing oilskins.

But, though the draugr usually presages death, there is an amusing account in Nord-Norge of a Nordlending who managed to outwit him:

It was Christmas Eve, and Ola went down to his boathouse to get the keg of brandy he had bought for the holidays. When he got in, he noticed a draugr sitting on the keg, staring out to sea. Ola, with great presence of mind and great bravery (it might not be amiss to state that he already had done some drinking), tiptoed up behind the draug and struck him sharply in the small of the back, so that he went flying out through the window, with sparks hissing around him as he hit the water. Ola knew he had no time to lose, so he set off at a great rate, running through the churchyard which lay between his home and the boathouse. As he ran, he cried, "Up, all you Christian souls, and help me!" Then he heard the sound of fighting between the ghosts and the draugr, who were battling each other with coffin boards and bunches of seaweed. The next morning, when people came to church, the whole yard was strewn with coffin covers, boat boards, and seaweed. After the fight, which the ghosts won, the draugr never came back to that district.

[citation needed]

The connection between the draugr and the sea can be traced back to the author Jonas Lie and the story-teller Regine Nordmann, as well as the drawings of Theodor Kittelsen, who spent some years living in Svolvær. Up north, the tradition of sea-draugar is especially vivid.

Arne Garborg, on the other hand, describes land-draugar coming fresh from the graveyards, and the term draug is even used of Vampires, in Norway translated as "Bloodsucker-draugar". In this sense, the draug is undead.

Draugr sightings in modern times are not so common, but are still reported by individuals from time to time. Due to this trend, the term "draug" has come to be used in a more general sense in recent years to describe any type of revenant in Nordic folklore.

The Norwegian municipality of Bø has the half boat of draugen in its coat-of-arms.
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