DEN GAMLE TRO - THE OLD BELIEF
TALES OF SPIRTS, GNOMES AND TROLLS IN ANCIENT SCANDINAVIA
TALES OF SPIRTS, GNOMES AND TROLLS IN ANCIENT SCANDINAVIA
Norse Germanic Folklore is one very interesting and fascinating part of our Spirituality, because everyone, who grew up with the native Fairytales, was enchanted with a world full of Supernatural beings, of Spirits and Nature-spirits, that live deep in the woods, hidden in the mountains, and generally all around us, all the time. The spiritual world and the material world were seen as one Unity, not separated, but as a organic union of us human beings, and the raw, wild realms of nature.
In 1630, Gustavus Aldophus of Sweden told all Priests to collect the Folklore in all parts of their area. Customs, beliefs that were not censored by the Church, as well as other traditional spiritual beliefs. The Folkesagn, the Folk-tales, have been collected it was generally referred to as “Den Gamle Tro” - the Old Belief. These beliefs and the Tales of the Naturväsen developed from Norse Mythology. Actually, to be exact, Norse Spirituality was considered to be High Mythology - for the initiated ones, the educated ones, and the Tales and Sagas about the Supernatural Beings were developed by the simple minded, yet very much grounded within nature and its powers, people. However, there is no clear separation between the two. They are both connected to each other, and depend heavily on each other as well. Because of their very same Germanic Origin, the Scandinavian Folklore of Norway, Sweden and parts of Finland has many similarities and essential beliefs in common other Countries such as Germany or England. There can be also many other smilier Aspects in the Baltic Countries.
Surprisingly, the old Tales of the Naturväsen and the Småfolk, the Tales of the Nature spirits, are little affected by the Enforcement of Christian Beliefs in northern Europe. There is still a number of people, that hold the belief of these Spirits close and dear to their hearts.
Although, the christian influence can be clearly seen, since some Spirits are said to have connections “to the Devil” and so forth, however, here one just has to differ and realize that Christianity, of course, turned Spirits and Gods of nature into “the Devil”. Just look at the Greek God of Pan…
The Stories and Tales of these beings and their interactions with the human world is an essential part of Norse-Germanic, Scandinavian, Folklore.
Let’s start with perhaps the most known and common, the race of the trolls. The Trolls are usually hairy, big, and not very intelligent. They play Games with you, tricking you into silly things. They are associated with the Bear - and it is said, that they have the very same temperated as a bear - usually peaceful, until they get threatened or teased. They have many shapes and forms, and can be difficult to track. In some Tales, it is said that they can have more than just 1 head, even up to 9 heads at once. They pretty much live everywhere off the land, they like the water, and hide out in the mountains. However, there are even a few dangerous species of trolls, and they usually live alone, as a loner, in the Forest in little huts. Some trolls do even have female wives, the so called trollkonor, they are said to work inside the huts and scratch the Trolls head at night. The King of the trolls is called Dovregubben.
In other tales, the word troll can mean “the hurt someone” (trolla as verb).
Then there is the so called Huldra, Hylda, or simply Skogsfru (forest-woman), and it is, as the name suggests, a dangerous female spirit who resides deep in the forest. She feeds off of mens vitality and their souls, and they can literally suck the life out of men, who dare to enter the forests. Her apperance is usually friendly and of good nature, but only to decieve the man and challenge him. She has an association with the elements of water, rain and mist. The very young Huldra is usually dangerous and suffers from mood issues, but it is said, that as soon as she gets married, she will turn into human form. (christian influence).
There is another Spirit connected to the Huldra, who is her counterpart, and who is associated with water only. The Havsfrun. Her apperance has similarities to Mermaids, however, she is usually friends and does not have an evil intent.
The so called Fossegrimen is a spirit of neutral spirit, he does not know evil nor good. And that is perhaps one of the most untouched spirits in Scandinavian Folklore. Good and Evil were words and religious beliefs created mainly by abrahamic religions. Sure, there were dangerous and harmful energies in Norse Spirituality. But the “Hellfire”, “Devil”, part is completely due to Christianity .
The Fossegrimen usually lives in waterfalls, and plays the fiddle all the time. He will help wanderers who get lost, but usually with a price… which is most of the time an offering to the Fossegrimen, made out of a good hearty meal. The so called strömkarlen is a spirit that loves fresh water and is both clever and dangerous. He can lure fishermen in with his silly tricks, so that their boat will drown in the lake.
There are also many invisible Spirits, that are very difficult to spot, and they mostly do live underground, deep down below the earth. A weight from Northern Sweden is commonly known as Vittra, he does live underground most of the time and they even ranch and do have their own cows and cattle. It is said, that they are very shy, and they want to be undisturbed and most of the time, they do not want to interfere with the world of modern men. By purchasing property or en Gard, one has to perform a few offerings and rituals, before moving in. That is, because one does not want to tease the Vittra, that might live on that property. If they get angry, they can be very dangerous.
In Sweden, there are so called Vittra Ställe, although this Folklore gets more and more lost as well. These are pathways and places, where the Vittra are said to reside. So that they can be left alone and live in peace and harmony, without disturbing them. It is said, that even homes have been removed or rebuild in northern Sweden, simply so that they can be left alone. Sometimes, the Vittra might take your cattle away, and borrow them for quite some time. But it is believed that, if you will ever get that cattle back, it will be more productive as usual. Here you can see, that those beliefs were heavily influenced by the lifestyle of the Farmers.
The Spirit of the Tomte, who is a good one who will take care of your house and your property while the family is away or asleep. The Tomte will work on your Farm for you, but only if you will feed him and provide him with enough sufficient food offerings.
The Swedish word Tomten, is also linked to the property, and plot of land, where one has built a Cabin, a Stuga in Swedish language. (Tomten/Tomtarna). The word tomten and the Spirit Tomte are thus heavily linked to each other, etymologically speaking, and most likely represents a house deity.
The Dwarfs do have two type of races. There is the dark one, the Svartálfar, and the light one, the Ljósálfar in Old Norse. They have a great knowledge of magic and the spiritual worlds, and can be good teachers, although it is believed that they are rather strange when interfering with people, and they can be rather unfriendly aswell. The actual size of the Dwarfs is said to originate from the German Tales of the Zwerge. But I will talk about that later. Old Norse Scholars believe that they might originate from some type of Indo-European practice of dead spirits and Ancestor worship, since they are both connected to the Underworld, both the dark and light ones. They are also connected to the practice of the Alfablot, a norse sacrifice that takes place around Halloween, which is also about the initiation into the realm of the Dead and the Ancestors.
The Elves, in Swedish called Älva if female and Alf if male, are female very beautiful spirits that reside in forests, meadows and foggy and wet landscapes, thus called the Ängsälvor, the meadow Elves. They might originate from the worship of the Dis (singular) and the Díser, that are spirits of fertility and growth. The so called Dísablot is part of the worship of these spirits. They are important to nature and Farming. The word “dis” is also sometimes used to describe very light rain in Swedish language.
Most norse beliefs are used to describe different kind of creates, beings, and spirits and one has to understand the words, original terms, and their context to fully grasp their meaning.
The terms Underjordiske “hidden underground, they below the earth” and the småfolk (swedish for the little people) can be used for pretty much all the nordic nature spirits and supernatural beings of old norse Folklore.
We should not forget, that these spirits can be Shapeshifters, and can be related to many races or appear as if they belong to many different species of nature spirits.
When I grew up, I got to know pretty much all of the old German Tales on these Spirits, and we do pretty much have the very same beings and spirits, only with slightly different names and terms. The dwarfs are Zwerge, the Trolls are Kobolde and Wichtel, the Fairies are Zauberfeen (magic-fairies) and they do reside in Caves, lakes, waterfalls and the deep forest as well. We have many places in Germany that still have names dedicated to these beings and spirits, and where I am from, Bavaria, the traditions of these spirits are still known amongst the alpine Farmers - although very heavy christianized, of course.
That is why we place the Gartenzwerge, our Garden-dwarfs, in our yards - they resemble the same power as the Díser, although they do appear as Gnome-like people, little people, who live underground. They work in the yard, and garden, and help us out most of the time.
Most of the Gnomes and German Spirits/Zwerge/Wichtel/Kobolde are heavily related to the seasons of nature, and the forests and its elements. Some are always around certain Mushrooms or "Hexenkreise" in German (Fairy-rings of mushrooms), such as the Amanita Muscaria, which probably also a symbolic way of describing the essence of fertility and growth, as this mushroom was also associated with Freya. Some "Kobolde" do live below the roots of certain trees, such as the Willow Tree, that is connected to the Realm of Death (Dark-Elves).
If we hold this knowledge dear to our hearts, nature will keep its Gates open for us…
And my opinion.
It is important to understand, that to these people, nature was alive and full of spirits. The whole world was based on mind, soul and consciousness. That is why we have a hard time understanding these Tales today, without laughing about it. Because we have absolutely convinced ourselves, that the mind is a product made up by the brain. The world we live in, has become empty and void.
I believe, that this atheistic and materialistic point of view is perhaps the worst and destructive Aberglaube, supersition-belief, in the modern world. It should be clear, especially to people who are educated and are into biology and modern physics, that there is far more to reality than some simple Atoms. We just have discovered a few other particles in Quantum Physics - it is far more complicated than that.
I have had many experiences in nature, and many spiritual ones as well over the years that I have lived in Europe, and the Alps. I have made experiences, and I have seen things, that are hard to explain and I probably do not want to even talk about it any further - because it is such a difficult topic to talk about. However, a few years ago, I had to write down all of my experiences that have happened to me while being out in nature, and I wrote an occult Script on these forces.
There are things out in nature, that are hard to describe. And I do see these Spirits and Beings as a SYMBOLICAL representation of these forces. With that being said, no. I never saw a fairy or a hairy Gnome, and I have never seen a Dark Elve, either.
However, I have seen and experienced other things. Things, that are far more intense. If you take these Folklore stories as symbolical tale… it will reveal something deeper, and more mysterious, than we modern people would like to think. We always think, we know. We always think, things like that are easy to explain.
And yet, 95% of the people still get paranoid in a dark winter forest at night…
“All matter originates and exists only by virtue of a force... We must assume behind this force the existence of a conscious and intelligent Mind. This Mind is the matrix of all matter.”
"Science cannot solve the ultimate mystery of nature. And that is because, in the last analysis, we ourselves are a part of the mystery that we are trying to solve.”