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Galdrakver (‘Little Book Of Magic’)

The ‘Little Book Of Magic’ is a seventeenth-century Icelandic manuscript, written on animal skin and containing magical staves, sigils, prayers, charms and related texts.

It is known to have once been owned by Icelandic Bishop Hannes Finnson who was alive from 1739 until 1796 and known for having a vast library containing many volumes of magic related texts and manuscripts.

Full manuscript here.

(via cousinnick)

The History Channel’s popular show Vikings, now well into its second season, is based on the sagas of Ragnar Lothbrok.

Ragnar is a legendary viking king known for leading many raids until his final capture and defeat by King Ælla of Northumbria, after which his sons mounted a bloody invasion of England to avenge his death.

The historical existence of Ragnar Lothbrok is debated, as many of the deeds attributed to him are also attributed to other kings through different sources. Although his sons are known historical figures, there is little to no evidence that Ragnar himself actually existed as described in the sagas. Regardless, it seems that at least parts of Ragnar’s story are based in historical fact, though it is likely that his character is an amalgam of various kings and warriors that lived during his time. 


Sealed with a kiss

This discovery about a secret Viking message is special - and will put a big smile on your face. For years researchers have tried to crack a Viking rune alphabet known as Jötunvillur. It is found in some 80 inscriptions, including the one above, which dates from the 11th or 12th century. Recently the news broke that a runologist in Norway was successful. It turns out that you had to replace the rune character with the last letter of the sound it produced. So the rune for “f”, which was pronounced like “fe”, represented an “e”. And so researchers were able to decode the 900-year-old message on the piece of wood above, which turned out to be - wait for it… - “Kiss me”! It gets better, however. It turns out that coding and decoding such messages was a playful game, a leisure activity. This is clear from the fact that some of the inscriptions invite the reader to solve the code, stating for example “Interpret these runes.” This, of course, makes the discovery of the “Kiss me” message even more sensational. The kiss was no doubt the reward for the successful individual who cracked this particular message. Two Viking lovers entertaining themselves with a playful coding game - that came with a delightful climax. Awesome.

More information: this Norwegian article originally reported the story, which is also the source of the image (made by Jonas Nordby, the researcher who cracked the code). I picked up the story from the invaluable Medievalists blog (here).

(via salmiakkivodka)

Two battles from the 1814 war between Norway and Sweden are to be re-enacted this year to mark the bicentenary of the last time the two countries took up arms against one another.

The Norwegian Napoleonic Alliance, a group of history re-enactors from Norway, are going head to head with some like-minded Swedes to recreate two battles, the siege of Fredriksten and the Battle of Lier.

This year also marks the bicentenary of the first Norwegian constitution, which was a direct consequence of the 1814 war, and eventually lead to the unification of Norway and Sweden for nearly the next century.

[Picture: Photograph of a 2006 re-enactment of a historic battle between Norway and Sweden, source The Local Norway]

Swedish divers unearth Stone Age ‘Atlantis’ relics



"One-of-a-kind" Stone Age artefacts left by Swedish nomads 11,000 years ago have been discovered by divers in the Baltic Sea, prompting some to claim that Sweden’s Atlantis had been found.

"What we have here is maybe one of the oldest settlements from the first more permanent sites in Scania and in Sweden full stop," project leader and archaeology professor at Södertörn University Björn Nilsson told The Local.
Nilsson’s team has been diving in Hanö, a sandy bay off the coast of Skåne County, and has been given the resources by the Swedish National Heritage Board (Riksantikvarieämbetet) needed for a three-year excavation of an area 16 metres below the water’s surface.

So far, they’ve uncovered a number of remnants that are believed to have been discarded in the water by nomadic Swedes in the Stone Age, objects which have been preserved thanks to the lack of oxygen and the abundance of gyttja sediment. Read more.

New Iron Age Sites Discovered in Finland



It was in the autumn of 2010 when local amateur archaeologists discovered evidence of harbor facilities thought to date from around 1000–1200 AD near Ahvenkoski village at the mouth of the western branch of the Kymi River in southeastern Finland. The findings included a smithy, an iron smelting furnace, and forceps, as well as hundreds of iron objects such as boat rivets similar to those found at Viking settlements in different parts of the Baltic, Scandinavia, Scotland and Iceland.

Then, in 2011, a possible 2 x 3-meter-wide cremation grave was uncovered, confirmed later through rescue excavations by archaeologists from the Finnish National Board of Antiquities and through osteological analysis at the University of Helsinki. Artifacts included a battle axe, a knife, and a bronze buckle, all associated with burned human bones, initially thought to be dated to around 1000 - 1200 CE before analysis. Read more.

Sweyn Forkbeard: England’s forgotten Viking king



On Christmas Day 1013, Danish ruler Sweyn Forkbeard was declared King of all England and the town of Gainsborough its capital. But why is so little known of the man who would be England’s shortest-reigning king and the role he played in shaping the early history of the nation?

For 20 years, Sweyn, a “murderous character” who deposed his father Harold Bluetooth, waged war on England.

And exactly 1,000 years ago, with his son Canute by his side, a large-scale invasion finally proved decisive.

It was a brutal time, which saw women burned alive, children impaled on lances and men dying suspended from their private parts.

Gainsborough historian Darron Childs says: “It is perhaps one of the reasons why Sweyn has been largely forgotten. Read more.

Norwegian Vikings purchased silk from Persia



The Norwegian Vikings were more oriented towards the East than we have previously assumed, says Marianne Vedeler, Associate Professor at the Museum of Cultural History, University of Oslo in Norway. After four years of in-depth investigation of the silk trade of the Viking Age, she may change our perceptions of the history of the Norwegian Vikings. The silk trade was far more comprehensive than we have hitherto assumed.

The Norwegian Vikings maintained trade connections with Persia and the Byzantine Empire. A network of traders from a variety of places and cultures brought the silk to the Nordic countries. Her details are presented in the book “Silk for the Vikings”, to be published by Oxbow publishers this winter, but in this article you can glimpse some of her key findings. Read more.

Pre-Viking Age monuments uncovered in Sweden


Archaeologists in Sweden said Thursday they have unearthed the remains of unusually large wooden monuments near a pre-Viking Age burial ground.

As archaeologists dug in preparation for a new railway line, they found traces of two rows of wooden pillars in Old Uppsala, an ancient pagan religious center. One stretched about 1,000 yards (1 kilometer) and the other was half as long.

Archaeologist Lena Beronius-Jorpeland said the colonnades were likely from the 5th century but their purpose is unclear. She called it Sweden’s largest Iron Age construction and said the geometrical structure is unique. Read more.

Archaeological sites on the Estonian island of Saaremaa reveal early Scandinavian sailing ships from before the historical beginning of the Viking Age.

History books generally state that the Viking Age began with the raid on Lindisfarne in 793CE. The Estonian site is dated between 700-750CE and contains the remains of 33 individuals and a 38-foot-long war boat. A neighboring site from the same period contains a 55-foot-long boat capable of open sea voyages.

These two sites provide the earliest evidence of sailing in the Baltic Sea by Scandinavian explorers and suggest that Viking voyages began long before the infamous attack on Lindisfarne.


Danish chemist Kaare Lund Rasmussen has helped to develop a new methodology that would help archaeologists learn “an unheard amount of details from very shortly before a person’s death”.

Rasmussen worked with anthropologists on the excavation of an 800 year old child’s grave in Ribe, Denmark. Soil samples were taken from the precise locations the child’s organs would have occupied before they decomposed. By performing a chemical analysis on these soil samples Rasmussen was able to determine that the body was exposed to large amounts of mercury - which was previously used in medicine - shortly before the child’s death. 

This technique has been used by Rasmussen’s team on 19 other medieval burial sites in two cemeteries. 


Amalienborg Palace is the winter residence of the Danish royal family, consisting of four identical buildings in Copenhagen.

Built from 1750-1760, the palace itself was originally built for four noble families, but was purchased by the royal family after a fire at Christiansborg Palace in 1794, which had been the royal family’s permanent residence.

Amalienborg is at the center of Frederiksstaden, a district in Copenhagen developed to commemorate the 300th anniversary of the House of Oldenberg taking the Danish throne. The district also includes Frederik’s Church and the new Copenhagen Opera House.

Storsjöodjuret is a cryptid, an animal not recognized by science, said to live in Lake Storsjön in Jämtland, Sweden.

The lake is up to 91 meters (300 feet) deep and was formed during the ice age. Storsjöodjuret (Great Lake Monster) is said to be a serpent with fins across its back and the head of a dog.

The first record of the monster is from 1635 in a legend penned by folklorist Morgens Pedersen. The legend tells of two trolls brewing something in a cauldron by the shore of the like. After brewing for years they heard a wailing coming from the cauldron, and the serpent leapt out and disappeared into the lake, where it has supposedly been living happily ever since.

The first recorded sightings of the creature came in the 1890s, and several sightings prompted a group of locals to attempt capture of the monster, an enterprise supported even by king Oscar II. The most recent siting was in 2008, when a documentary crew claimed to have caught the creature on film. 


Karhunpäivä, the Day of the Bear, is a holiday celebrated on July 13 in Finnish Paganism, the opposite day of their midwinter celebration.

Despite the solstice happening about a month beforehand, this is considered the hottest and sunniest part of the summer. Celebrations often included the ritual hunting of a bear, followed by an elaborate feast and ritual to ensure that the bear would reincarnate back into the forest. 

Biggest Viking exhibition in 20 years opens – and this time they’re angry



Recent peaceful Viking rebrands are smashed in a vast and bloodthirsty show that will soon set sail for London

All around the hull of the longest Viking warship ever found there are swords and battle axes, many bearing the scars of long and bloody use, in an exhibition opening in Copenhagen that will smash decades of good public relations for the Vikings as mild-mannered traders and farmers.

“Some of my colleagues thought surely one sword is enough,” archaeologist and co-curator Anne Pedersen said, “but I said no, one can never have too many swords.”

The exhibition, simply called Viking, which will be opened at the National Museum by Queen Margrethe of Denmark on Thursday, and to the public on Saturday, will sail on to to London next year to launch the British Museum’s new exhibition space. Read more.