‘Sisters of the Moon: Seers & Songstresses in the Northern Tradition’ by Fenek Solere

‘Sisters of the Moon: Seers & Songstresses in the Northern Tradition’ by Fenek Solere
November 6, 2017 Admin
Lagertha from Vikings.

Greetings men-

The following is an article by Fenek Solere written specifically for the site.

As the title indicates, it is about ‘Seers and Songstresses’ within the intellectual/cultural/metaphysical tradition we are a part of.

In other words, ones reflective of what I now like to call ‘Tolkienism’.

Here is the article:

 

 

Sisters of the Moon: Seers & Songstresses in the Northern Tradition

‘In the hand and in the nature of woman lies the preservation of our race’.
– Alfred Rosenberg, The Myth of the Twentieth Century (1930)

 

We first encounter the Old Norse Volva, female Shamans, Wanderers and ‘Carriers’ of Seidr, Spa and Galdr in Julius Caesar’s Commentarii de Bello Gallico (58-49 BC), a series of Latin accounts of battles with the Germanic Cimbri, Teutones and Ambrones.

Tribes who held the ever expanding Roman Empire in check at the Battle of Arausio in 105 BC, leaving eighty thousand legionnaires and forty thousand auxiliaries dead on the banks of the river Rhone near Orange in the area now known as Vaucluse. Nordic girl with shield.

Caesar taking time to write of ‘matrons who pronounced on whether or not it was the will of heaven that the Germans should conquer, if they engaged in battle before the new moon’.

While Tacitus in his own Histories speaks of Veleda of the Bructeri, who lived on the Lippe river, a tributary of the Rhine, playing a prominent role in the Batavian rebellion of AD 69/70. Veleda, being a figure celebrated in many subsequent novels such as Benedikte Naubert’s Velleda: ein Zaubefroman (1795), Amalie von Helwig’s Die Symbole (1814) and more recently Poul Anderson’s Star of the Sea (1991).

With Tacitus continuing ‘by ancient usage the Germans attributed to many of their women prophetic powers and, as the superstition grows in strength, some even achieved divinity. Jordanes, himself a Sixth Century Roman bureaucrat, being equally enamoured, writing in his work Getica (AD551) of Aliorumnas, or female Hell Runners living amongst the Goths who had settled in Oium (modern day Ukraine).

Each author in his own fashion echoing the characteristics of the Goddess Freyja, a deity not only associated with love and fertility but also warlike duty, causing screams of anguish, blood and death.

All of which puts us in mind of the famed Valkyries, ‘choosers of the slain’, celebrated in poems and songs like The Song of the Valkyries from Njal’s Saga written to commemorate the Battle of Clontarf in 1014:

Widely is flung, warning of slaughter,
The weaver’s-beams-web ‘tis wet with blood;
Is spread now. Grey, the spear-thing before,
The woof-of-the warriors which Valkyries fill
With the red-warp-of-Randver’s banesman.
Is this web woven and wound of entrails,
And heavy weighted with heads of slain;
Are blood-bespattered spears the treadles,
Iron-bound the beams, the battens, arrows:
Let us weave with our swords this web of victory!
Goes Hild to weave, and Hiorthrimul,
Sangrith and Svipul with swords brandished:
Shields will be shattered, shafts will be splintered,
Will the hounds-of-helmets the hauberks bite.
Wind we, wind we such web of darts,
Where float the flags of unflinching men!
Let not the liege’s life be taken;
Valkyries award the weird of battle.
Will seafaring men hold sway over land,
Who erstwhile dwelled on outer nesses;
Is doomed to die a doughty King,
Lies slain an earl by swords e ‘en now.
Now awful is it to be without,
As blood-reck rack races overhead;
Is the welkin gory with warrior’s blood
As we Valkyries war songs chanted.
Well have we chanted charms full many
About the King’s son: may it bode him well!
Let him learn well who listens to us
And speak these spells to spearmen after…

 

Lines heralding Valkyries like Skuld the shield-bearer, Hildr, the battle-warrior and Gondul the wand-wielder. Characters that are deeply interwoven into the Thirteenth Century Poetic Edda, Prose Edda, the Heimskringla by Snorri Sturluson, and Njal’s Saga.

Stories based on much earlier skaldic oral renditions. Examples of which can be found in the poem ‘Helgakvida Hjorvardssonar’:

Three times nine girls, but one rode ahead,
White skinned under helmet;
The horses were trembling, from their names
Dew fell into the deep valleys,
Hail in the high woods…

Nordic girl

Character from the series ‘Vikings’

And also the ‘Helgakvida Hundingsbana’:

The light shone from Logafell,
And from that radiance there came bolts of lightning;
Wearing helmets at Himingvani they came
Their byrnies were drenched with blood;
And rays shone from their spears…

 

This long tradition reaching down to us today in the modern form of the Swedish singer Saga recording her song ‘Valkyrian’ on the album Midgard – Pro-Paria III (2003):

Where souls war, where souls fall
Of Vikings who heard the call
Now fallen is the warrior
The Viking of the north
The ground is coloured red by the blood shed
I am the Valkyrie that will take you home
Warrior send your strength to those who battle yet
I fly over Scandinavia day and night
Carry home the warriors who fall dead
No pain do they ever feel again

 

And these warrior women and white robed priestesses often referred to by the Anglicized term Vola, or the proto-German Walwon and Fjolkunnig, which roughly translates as ‘plenty of knowing’ also appear in other Norse epics like Groa in the poem ‘Grogaldr’ from the Svipdagsmal and the witch-wife Huld in the Ynglinga Saga.

Famed for their gifts of prophecy the Volupsa were said to have been consulted by Odin and warned of ‘mighty whoredom’ in the days before Ragnarok.

Their sisters featuring prominently in many northern cultures like the Slavic goddesses Devana, goddess of hunting; Kupala, goddess of the summer solstice; Lada, goddess of the earth; Marzanna, goddess of winter; and Mokosh, also known as Corn Mother who was worshipped at the cultic centre at Cape Arkona and popularized in the lyrics of Maria Arkhipova, lead singer with folk-metal band Arkona singing songs like ‘Slav’sja Rus’ (2007), ‘Yarilo’ (2009) and ‘Odna’ (2011).

Arkona accompanied by their Russian compatriots Grai with songs like ‘In the Arms of Mara’. And further examples being the goddess Rhiannon, a name derived from the Celtic Rigantona meaning Great Queen of the moon and fertility who appears later as the daughter of Heveydd, wife of Pwyll and mother of Pryderi in the Welsh Mabinogion.

Her character constantly associated in the ancient text with fecundity such as in the story of how Rhiannon bore a son to Pwyll and how he was lost and she was punished for seven years at the court of Arberth; a second, where she and her husband Manawydan, hunt wild animals in their lairs, catch fish and till the land, waiting out the seasons of the year until harvest time; and a third when Llwyd releases Pryderi and Rhiannon from the bondage and servitude of hay-Collars and gate hammers where they had worked the earth so that ‘the land and dwellings was at its best’.

Seers and songstresses.

Maria Arkhipova, mentioned in article.

The legendarium of Rhiannon immortalized by Stevie Nicks of Fleetwood Mac after she had read Mary Bartlet Leader’s Triad: A Novel of the Supernatural (1972), thinking ‘that is a really beautiful name’, while she sat down at the piano to compose one of the band’s most recognizable and commercially successful songs from the perspective of a woman who is convinced she is possessed by the spirit of Rhiannon.

Nicks introducing the showstopper during the band’s 1975 -1980’s live shows as a ‘song about an old Welsh Witch’. And Mick Fleetwood the drummer describing the singer’s vocals and stage performance has being like an ‘exorcism’. The lyrics going:

Rhiannon rings like a bell through the night
And wouldn’t you love to love her?
Takes to the sky like a bird in flight
And who will be her lover?
All your life you’ve never seen a woman taken by the wind
Would you stay if she promised to you heaven?

She is like a cat in the dark
And then she is the darkness
She rules her life like a fine skylark
And when the sky is starless
All your life you’ve never seen a woman taken by the wind
Would you stay if she promised to you heaven?
Will you ever win?
Will you ever win?

Rhiannon
Rhiannon
Rhiannon
Rhiannon

She rings like a bell through the night
And wouldn’t you love to love her?
She rules her life like a bird in flight
And who will be her lover?

 

The young American singer considering the Rhiannon theme an ‘unfinished project’ and revisiting the character in other songs like ‘Stay Away’, ‘Maker of Birds’ and ‘Angel’.

Nicks going on to describe the composition during a Crawdaddy interview in November 1976 as a ‘heavy-duty song to sing every night. On stage it really is a mind-tripper. Everybody including me is just blitzed by the end of it… There’s something in that song that touches people. I don’t know what it is but I’m really glad it happened’.

And anyone witnessing her manic 1976 performance on youtube will understand why some believe her to be almost channeling the spirit of Rhiannon through herself. An act that was to be replicated only a few years later by English songstress Kate Bush. The twenty year old Bush inspired into a frenzy of incredible originality by the fiction of Emily Bronte (1818-1848) who wrote Wuthering Heights (1847) under the pseudonym Ellis Bell and then died a mere year later of tuberculosis.

It is, as per the critic Lucasta Miller, in her 2003 introduction to my well-thumbed penguin classic edition, ‘a book that generates tensions – between dream and reality, self and other, natural and supernatural, realism and melodrama, structural formality and emotional chaos’.

With Cathy the central protagonist’s fate bound inextricably with the windswept moors of Northern England. Emily’s sister Charlotte, herself the author of Jane Eyre (1847), describing her sibling as possessing ‘a secret power and fire that might have informed the brain and kindled the veins of a hero’.

With the indefatigable Elizabeth Gaskell (1810-1865), author of Mary Barton (1848) and North and South (1855), telling the story of a strong-willed Emily cauterizing a wound from a dog suspected of having rabies. One of Emily’s poems declaring Valkyrie-like: ‘No coward soul is mine’.

Seers and songstresses Nicks.

Stevie Nicks.

 

The epic story of obsessional love, written in a hybrid of Gothic and Romantic genres ‘creates a dark and passionate world of imprisonment and torture, ghosts and changelings’ and is so embedded in the northern wilderness and populated with rugged moorland squires that its early readership considered Charlotte a mystic and sibyl.

And this sense of the other worldliness comes through very clearly in chapter nine when Catherine tells Nelly Dean, ‘I’ve dreamt in my life dreams that have stayed with me ever after, and changed my ideas, they’ve gone through and through me, like wine through water, and altered the colour of my mind’.

And it is my view that the story of Wuthering Heights is in some ways an unsettling feverish dream, encapsulated perfectly by the bilious and Byronic Heathcliff when he declares ‘May you not rest, as long as I am living! You said I killed you – haunt me, then!’

The depiction of Cathy’s cold hands coming through frosted windows powering Kate Bush’s 1978 chart-topping song of the same name. With the elfin chanteuse writhing and caterwauling through her Lindsay Kemp inspired dance steps, black hair fluttering like a raven’s wings over a ghoulish white gown:

Out in the wiley, windy moors
We’d roll and fall in green
You had a temper like my jealously
Too hot, too greedy
How could you leave me
When I needed to possess you ?

Bad dreams in the night
They told me I was going to lose the fight
Leave behind my Wuthering, Wuthering
Wuthering Heights

Heathcliff, it’s me, I’m Cathy
I’ve come home, I’m so cold
Let me through your window

Ooh, it gets dark, it gets lonely
On the other side from you
I pine a lot, I find the lot
Falls through without you
I’m coming back, love
Cruel Heathcliff, my one dream
My only master

Too long I roam in the night
I’m coming back to his side, to put it right
I’m coming…

 

Which brings us back to Volvas, Freyja and Wise Women who could divine the future by sifting through animal entrails, tossing bones or reading magic runes scratched on pebbles.

Elemental forces of nature like those who fought and fell beside their men-folk on the whale-roads that took them from Vinland in the West to the Arabian Peninsula in the East.

Nordic girl Amalie Bruun.

Amalie Bruun, mentioned in article.

 

Shield-maidens with braided pony-tails, like those so clearly and cleverly depicted on the eighth century picture stone found in Harby in Denmark in 2013. And the eleventh century Tjangvide image stone excavated by archaeologists in Gotland which has been interpreted as the Valkyrie Sigrdrifa (driver to victory) presenting Sigurd with a drinking horn.

Sublime creatures resuscitated by former model and actress, come Danish black metal artist, Amalie Bruun, in her musical manifestation has Myrkur, thundering out songs like Onde Born:

United, we walk through the shadow, which disappears
The useless creatures fell
They’re thirsting for our pure blood
But they’ll have to honour me at the base of the tree

 

 

 

 

Editor’s Note: Big thanks to Mr. Solere for his excellent essay.

If you have not checked out Fenek’s work, you should absolutely do so. I am including it below in a selection of related content.

 

 

 

Rising by Fenek Solere

The Partisan also by Fenek Solere.

The Vikings: A History by Robert Ferguson

Vikings: Season 1

Greatest Hits by Fleetwood Mac (mentioned above)

Asatru: A Native European Spirituality

Myrkur album by Myrkur (mentioned above)

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Comments (2)

  1. SteveRogers42 1 week ago

    Something similar?

    • Author
      Admin 1 week ago

      Lol that was extremely cool.

      I’d say she fits the ‘Seer and Songstress’ mold pretty perfectly 🙂

      I also think Russia might be catapulting itself way, way past us culturally. I am beginning to think that thirty years from now we will be the equivalent of 1990’s Russia and Russia will be the equivalent of 1990’s (or 1950’s) America. I mean I guess I already thought that but its beginning to seem more and more likely!

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