Wednesday, May 28, 2014

On the Mystery of the Mead

Mead holds a special significance in the ancient North. Its mention is absolutely ubiquitous in the Eddas, whether it be the Mead of Inspiration itself or the simple welcome of the warrior to the hall. Of great mystery to myself at least, I can think of almost no mythic mention of the origin of the mead, that is to say- the bees making the honey.  While the other great pagan religions have in fact, deified the bee in many cases, from Greco-Roman mythology to the Kalevala, Norse material notably omits mention.  One would think that with mead being of such great social and religious importance, the bee and the beekeeper would figure prominently.  They do not.

While pondering this question I came across a charming article in a reprint of an 1899 Saga book of the Viking Society from the Harvard Library entitled "On a Passage of 'Sonar Torek' in the Egil's Saga."  If you don't know Egil's Saga, it is a great read, and Egil is the penultimate Odin's man; warrior, poet, brewer and smith.  He makes a curious allusion in the epic poem composed on the death of his son, Bodvar, using the word Byskip, or "bee-ship (skep)" to describe Bodvar's destined dwelling in death.

On a Passage of "Sonar Torek" in the Egil's Saga

It is a nice image to consider.

Monday, May 26, 2014

Sitte ge, Sigewif!

I haven't known exactly what to do with Blogger since I started it, but I think I now know.  Other social media is very disjointed in a way, as for example, Facebook.  One cannot write a great deal, nor easily maintain a single thread of thought.  I will use Blogger to do this, and link to it from other social media.  Voila!

So what I will present here is the progress of a new major piece.  Some artisans can make many sword length pieces in a very short time.  I am not one of them.  This thread will doubtless come close to a year in length, perhaps even more, but it is a piece that has been on my mind for many years yet.

We shall start with a name: Sigewif.  Most translations of this word, coming from the Old English, point to "sige" (siggeh) as meaning victorious, and "wif" (weef) as meaning "women".  I'm not entirely sure that the second word here should be assumed to be plural.  But I am by no means a great scholar of Old English.  Perhaps it is by context that we are given the plural, for these Victory-Women comprise a collective, in the Old English charm For a Swarm of Bees.

The impetus for the sword came during a conversation held at Arctic Fire 2012 with Don Fogg, Dave Stephens, Shane Harvey, David DelaGardelle, Jake Powning, Peter Johnsson, Petr Florianek and Michael Pikula.  We were brainstorming artistic collective projects and came up with the idea that we could all interpret one theme and each produce an interpretive sword.  The subject of the feminine and the sword resounded greatly, and with this theme I should like to continue.  Being a beekeeper, I have always been amused and enthralled by the fact that the hive is really a vicious kind of Valkyric matriarchy, and the Anglo Saxon charm for catching a swarm of bees immediately came to mind.  It is the note I should like to leave you with today...

Take earth with your right hand and throw it under your right foot, saying:
I hold it underfoot; I have found it:
Lo, earth can prevail against every wight,
and against malice, and against mindlessness,
and against the mighty tongue of man.

Throw light soil over them [the bees] as they swarm, saying:
Sit, victorious women, settle on earth!
Never fly wild to the wood.
Be as mindful of my good
as each man is of food and home.