onsdag 25. februar 2015

Ullr's Alters - Hooked on Hillforts part 4

Ludde has taken his position on the walls
You can read Hooked on Hillforts Part 3 here.

It was dangerous to move on the icy roads without crampons. I had a love-hate relationship with them. I loved that they brought me safely to my destination and I could go almost anywhere I wanted to. I hated them because they were so incredibly tricky to get on. I had for years stood on one leg and dragged the rubber forwards and backwards, while I've jumped around and tried not to fall. The same was repeated each time they fell off. Argh! Then one day I discovered that my neighbor stood watching my artistic yoga movements and fiery red facial complexions. I wondered how long he had been there. "Why don't you just put the crampon on the ground, step on it and pull the rubber over your toes and your heel afterwards? Then you don't have to be sweating before you've started hiking." He said with a dry tone in his voice. "Damn fool," I murmured in my scarf, but I have never done otherwise ever since. I stood with my ass in the air and dragged the rubber over my toes and then over my heels. Unfortunately  I was no longer so used to stand for a long time in that position, but it was at least a little bit better than playing the crane dance.

Then Tina, Ludde and I were going out exploring hillforts. We had ourselves a few cups of coffee before we were to get dressed and get off when Tina suddenly lifted up one of her boots, turned it around with the sole up and elegantly placed the crampons on the boot! When she had done this with both boots she carried them out and took them on outside. "Oh my Gods, Tina, you're so smart," I exclaimed. "This is what it must have felt like for those who once invented the wheel." Tina glanced at me as if she had given me up totally, while she tied her shoelaces, and I was happy to have a problem less.

Ludde had taken his position on the walls. I have to say that he is a rare historically interested dog. His dog candies tasted the best at the top of a hillfort. Kudos to Tina! She was a great dog trainer.. "Look! There is "The Mound by the Farm in a Hole!" I was taken by a Deja Vu moment. One of us had uttered the same magic words at each hillfort we had been to so far: "There -  is -  "The Mound by the Farm in a Hole!" The delicate peak in the east, the eye catching object,  the highlight, the Crescendo! "Why are there no forts on the eastside?" Tina was raised and still lived on the eastside and now she looked skeptical and a little insulted. "Stop whining," I said. "You've got "The Farm devoted to Ullr." The crown jewel on "The Land of the Oaks". "Things have happened there, you know. That is very exciting!" When Tina realized what a treasure she's been living next to, she was a little more willing to discuss the locations of the strongholds. "And "The Farm devoted to Ullr" was located directly below "The Mound by the Farm in a Hole!"

All the hillforts we had been to so far were forming an imaginary border between the village and the Sun in the East, and the mountain behind our backs in the West: "The Mountain of the Farm by the Traveller's Resting Place". Home at "The Farm by the Waterfall", I watched the sun go down over the mountain  many a time. I've seen it disappear into the deep woods, only to rise again from "The Fjord of the Wavy River" in a rift in the landscape. It's not so unthinkable that the same image has enchanted people of all times. The picture on birth, death and rebirth was surely spiritual for a sun-worshiping people who once ruled here. There was also an old "Mound of the Sun" in the same hillside that the forts were located. Was that merely coincidence?

Ludde ran some kind of an agility show over stumps and rocks while we found ourselves a tree each to lean on. The ancient volcano that had once formed the landscape around was a mighty giant image - "The Mound by the Farm in a Hole". Maybe precisely why "The Farm devoted to Ullr", this ancient cult place dedicated to the worship of the god Ullr, right here, protected by a former fire-breathing dragon who had found peace at last. She no longer guarded a treasure.  "The Farm devoted to Ullr" was probably cleared around the year 0. The name originated from the ancient cult site. I thought that it couldn't be a coincidence where such a holy farm was located since we know that the heathen practices were strongly rooted in nature and natural phenomena. As we stood on "The Forts by the Serpent Hill" we saw that "The Farm devoted to Ullr" was situated where the sun rose and where everything in the sky, all the stars and planets came from. Ullr was a Gothic name and meant "shine" or "glory". He was called a "Father Sky" and it was easy to imagine a beautiful sunrise over the east side and get that image to fit with the story. From impaired sources of proto-Indo-European religion, it seems like our Ullr was a cattle god. A cattle god would not necessarily mean that he was a bull, but that he was symbolized by a bull. He protected animal herd for the people who practiced animal husbandry. To cattle gods one sacrificed cattle. By comparison, the god Vulcan from Roman mythology was portrayed as an ox, and in Egyptian mythology there existed  a god Apis depicted as a bull with a sun between the horns. Cattle gods had most likely therefore belonged to a sun-worshiping people.

Ullr was worshipped outdoors, which could imply that Ullr had been venerated where "The Farm devoted to Ullr" laid before the farm was cleared, and that would take us back to the time before the year 0. Agriculture was well established long ago, but the people who lived here was still hunting, fishing and gathering in periods where they did not need to look after the fields, ie seasonal utilization of uncultivated land resources. It was probably very good circumstances for pasturing in the uplands that time as it is now. Then they may well have made up stations in the uplands where they were during their work there. "Ullr" was mighty in Norway, a country where there were mostly mountains and barren forest floor, and not so much agricultural land. "The Land of the Oaks" was one of the few places in what is now called Norway who had particularly good topsoil, but also bordered against a paradise for forest and mountain people: "The Mountain of the Farm by the Traveller's Resting Place". Endless forests went from there and up towards the wild Western Mountains through "The valley of the River of the Boats" On east side laid "The Woods of the Finns". At "The Land of the Oaks" two cultures could easily have coexisted for a long time. Hunterer from the forests and farmers on the flat ground. Ullr was a god of winter. He was an archer and a skiing and skating god, thus he masterly took around in winter. Of course, with that in mind it was easy to see him as a ruler of the forest as well. He was a hunter god which was strongest when others were weakened by the lack of light. He was like his people, only more powerful. Ullr was called on by strife and duel, and they swore oaths on Ullr's ring. Most people would probably argue that Ulls ring was a golden armring, or maybe a finger ring like in "The Lord of the Rings". Maybe they were oval stone rings in the uplands and his dwelling place? Perhaps it was within these stone rings they duelled and came to a settlement in disputes? Was it here that people did handfastings, and took on paternity for children? With the blessings of the Eastern sky - Ullr.

Little did we know where we stood, but it was allowed to marvel, allowed to create some hypotheses. We could just go back on them, change them or create new ones instead. We did know some things, ie. the cult of Ullr existed at "The Land of the Oaks" while these rock formations in the woods were in use. Some stone rings contained graves, and that automatically made them cult places. We could ponder as much as we wanted to about the rest. Was it a Norwegian indigenous people, a forest and mountain tribe that supplied farmers with goods from the uplands? Was it the farmers who built stone temples and had slaves there who extracted metals and hunted animals for them? Was it a priestly caste who lived here in the borderland between the farm and the wilderness, in between life and death, held ceremonies and sacrifices to the gods? There were many questions behind the questions.

On the way down from "The Twin Forts" I noticed that I had lost one of my crampons. Well, I chose to see it as my offering to the winter god Ullr, had he been as powerful today as way back then, he certainly would have been a god of the crampons.

***

Sources: 

Øystein Koch Johansen, Eikers historie bind 1
Snorre Sturlasson, Edda
Oluf Rygh, "Gamle Gaardnavne"
Proto Indo European religion: http://piereligion.org/pantheon.html
Wikipedia om romersk mytologi: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vulcan_(mythology)Wikipedia om Egyptisk Mytologi: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Apis_(god)
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