The current state of affairs in Turkey

June 23, 2017 at 10:50 EDM:   I’ve only just now realized Why Tayyip Erdoğan and MIT head Hakan Fidan are doing this:  they’re hoping that Fethullah Gülen will crack under the pressure of knowing that all his adherents are being locked up, and that he will come back to Turkey voluntarily. So they can silence him forever with respect to what he knows about corruption in the Erdoğan government. I can’t believe how long it’s taken me to catch on to what the persecution is really all about. He must Never go back there until those people have lost their hold on power. He must only go back when and if they go on trial, and then, if he is able to, he must go back to testify about what he knows regarding corruption. Or maybe he can testify by video. He must understand that if he succumbs to the pressure to ‘end the persecution’ by going back there himself, then They Win. The only way is to go through the valley of tears, until the Turkish people understand that there will Never be peace or prosperity or justice in Turkey, with Tayyip Erdoğan and Hakan Fidan at the helm.

Here is more on the background to the persecutions in Turkey:  Tayyip Erdoğan and Fethullah Gülen used to be best pals – until the latter started instigated a corruption probe against the Erdoğan government and MIT head Hakan Fidan, the latter whom is being accused of being behind a rash of extra-judicial “kidnappings,” both in Turkey:  and internationally:  and there’s considerable evidence mounting of serious judicial interference:

June 21, 2017 at 21:55 EDM:  It is widely being reported today in Turkish news sources that the Deputy Chairman of the official Opposition Party (CHP) in Turkey, Bülent Tezcan, has somehow managed to get ahold of a secret letter from the secretary-general of the Turkish Presidency that amounts to written evidence of direct interference in the judiciary of Turkey by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, in November of 2015.  The letter demands that the Ankara Public Prosecutor prosecute a Turkish newspaper, gercekgundem, for “insulting” the President, and “requests**” to be kept posted of developments in the “case.”  Here’s a summary of the story in English:  Here’s the best copy of the entire letter (in Turkish, naturally), that I could find online, I tried my hand at sharpening it but didn’t see any improvement; the original is legible but barely:  

along with the link to the post (in Turkish) with that picture:  a link with the video of Bülent Tezcan’s conference:  and another summary of the story in English:

**(arzu etmek, ‘wish,’ but stronger than ‘request,’ more like ‘the boss wishes you to do something’ kind of request).


June 15, 2017 at 11:00 AM EDM update:  In Turkey today there are the evil ones who have just been waiting for their chance to siphon off a little power to do evil in the name of Turkey; for instance, these two self-proclaimed “reporters” who are calling on Turks abroad to assassinate anyone they believe to be a follower of Fethullah Gülen’s and democratic process be damned:

And Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan is so possessed by evil that, even though he must know he should condemn and punish those two men, he can’t bring himself to do so, just as he sat and watched his men beat the crap out of peaceful protesters in Washington, D.C.  just as he’s sat by while 66,000 university students lose their schools:  and as journalists are persecuted:

(Here is the source story in Turkish:   )

and as a court system that has learned it had better do what he says or heads will roll works to commit a massive and illegal cash grab of business assets:  all in the name of protecting Turkey from ‘Gülenists,’ claimed by Erdoğan and Turkish Intelligence head Hakan Fidan to be “terrorists” who were behind the 2016 coup attempt in Turkey – and all this even though nothing, I repeat nothing, has been proven either in the coup attempt or in the labeling of Gülen’s followers as being “terrorists.”  The Turkish government is not even bothering to prove that the victims of its purges are Gülenists; just to be in possession of an odd little Google app called Bylock is enough to get locked up for decades, especially if one has assets that the state would like to get its hands on.  It’s taken many months for the United Nations to get one of its own judges released:  and all because he was found to have the google application installed on his phone; Justice Aydın Sefa Akay has repeatedly denied having any links whatsoever to the Gülenist movement.

Earlier this month, the Turkish Official Gazette issued a call for 130 of its citizens living abroad to return home to ‘face trial for being Gulenists’ or get their citizenship revoked.  Although it was easy to find reports of the list, it was with great difficulty that I found the names.  I searched the Turkish Gazette online repeatedly with no success.  However, I found a Turkish newspaper that took screenshots of the entire list:  and I have also saved the list, so if I notice this article has disappeared, then I will upload the screenshots of the list.


May 02, 2017 at 16:30 EDM update:  Word from the online Turkish newspaper Turkish Minute is that the Turkish government, (which essentially means Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, as Turkey is already under a de facto one-man rule), is seeking to lift the immunity of Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu, leader of Turkey’s main opposition party, the Republican People’s Party (CHP), as well as that of seven of his deputies:  I predict that lifting the immunity of eight members of the official Opposition including that of their leader, will prove to be the last straw for Turks.  I predict that such an egregious violation of democratic norms and law even in Turkey will open their eyes finally, to the inescapable conclusion that they have allowed a dictator to take over the government of Turkey.  I predict the result will be a revolution, and civil war, at the end of which, the President of Turkey, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, will finally go on trial for treason.  Perhaps he will be the first to incur the death penalty he is so desperate to bring back to Turkey for his enemies, wh0 would seem to amount to about half of the people living there.  “Hope is the poor man’s bread.”  Turkish saying.

Pendu tarot charles6.jpg

‘hanged man’ Tarot card courtesy of wikipedia, which was banned in Turkey a couple of days ago, for ‘threatening national security, the public order, or the well-being of the public:


April 26, 2017 at 17:17 EDM update:  Today, Turkish judges Metin Özçelik and Mustafa Başer were sentenced to ten years in prison, for “abusing their judicial power” according to the court:

The European Association of Judges had previously released (in 2015) an “informative report” on the background to the arrest and detention of Metin Özçelik and Mustafa Başer, and that report, still available online here:  indicates that it was courageous efforts the judges had made to uphold justice and to do their jobs properly which landed them in trouble.  For the people who had been in pre-trial detention for months in contravention of Turkish law at that time and whom the judges had elected to release pending their trials, were not just ordinary people.  They were the police and prosecutors involved in the investigation of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan on the question of possible corruption.  This video:

which has English subtitles available (just click on the ‘subtitles’ box on the lower right-hand side of the video), gives the essence of what the corruption question was all about:  had Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and his son Bilal conspired to stash away monies that had been unlawfully appropriated?  Certainly, from online news reports at that time, one can see how the Turkish First Family might have felt in need of some extra cash:

Turkey had already run afoul of European courts by ignoring a United Nations order to release United Nations war crimes tribunal Justice Aydın Sefa Akay:  who had been imprisoned, as many thousands of other people have in Turkey, for using a googleplay messaging application called Bylock.  Last month Turkey was referred to the UN Security Council for flouting the UN order to release Justice Akay:

As for that Bylock app, although this pro-Turkish government newspaper, Hurriyet, states in its headline on the subject that the owner of Bylock claims that using Bylock is ‘evidence’ of being a ‘Gulenist,’ that’s not in fact what the man actually says:  as the GlobePost was quick to point out:

Moreover, not only has Judge Akay denied that he is a ‘Gulenist,’*** but the intrepid Turkish newspaper ‘The Turkish Minute’ has also made the claim that back in October 2016, the Turkish Security Directorate ordered police throughout Turkey to “get confessions” of being ‘Gulenists’ or ‘terrorists,’ because evidence of using Bylock was not in itself evidence of a crime:

But the truth doesn’t matter, when one is desperate to hang onto power at any cost.

Turkish flag courtesy of ; Turkish Ottoman minaret ornament courtesy of



February 11, 2017 (EDM) at 23:33 update:  From the February 12 (European time) 2017 article:

““Lawyer and human rights activist Eren Keskin said a state of emergency (OHAL) has been used to cover up all violations in Turkey, saying she does “not remember any period in which torture was this much legitimized.”

….  “Şanlıurfa Bar Association board member Güldal Beyazağaç Tuncel, who spoke during the conference…

said: “Arrestees are waiting for months, and the indictments are not being issued. Due to restriction decisions on investigation files, they do not know why they’ve been arrested; therefore, their defense can’t be made effectively. As part of operations many jurists including lawyers have been taken into custody and arrested.”

Tuncel listed other problems: “Conditions in the detention centers are quite bad. People are being kept at sports centers. Two hundred people use one toilet, and there is no possibility of having a bath. Consulting with lawyers is restricted for the first five days. Additionally, they have started to ask lawyers for written consent from the families of detainees. The right to chose to a lawyer belongs to the detainee, not the family. The detainees are marched in the corridors of the courthouse with their hands cuffed behind their backs; they are being humiliated in this way…

Police discriminate between lawyers chosen by detainees and those assigned by the bar association. The lawyers who are chosen by the suspects are being discriminated against. Lawyers worry when accepting a case. They are worrying whether an investigation will be launched against them. Lawyers are no longer able to perform their duties independently and freely.””   Read the rest of the article here:

And from the February 12, 2017 article:

“Since the coup attempt, more than 125,000 people have been dismissed from state jobs, and more than 45,000 are in jail on terrorism charges, including military personnel and police officers, but also large numbers of journalists, academics and civil servants. Erdoğan has repeatedly vowed to “root out” the entire Gülen network and threatened to reinstate the death penalty and “let the people take revenge”. The president, who wants to turn Turkey’s parliamentary system into a presidential one via popular referendum, is using the coup attempt as an excuse to rid himself of all unwanted critics.

“Many people have been dismissed not because they misused their positions, but because of their opposition to the AKP and Erdoğan,” says Andrew Gardner, Turkey researcher for Amnesty International. “If the state wants to bring proceedings against people, they need to do so based on individualised proof. But what we are seeing are blanket accusations against which people are unable to appeal.””

Read the rest of the article here:



December 26, 2016 update:  I read a remarkable article from Dec. 23 today in the Huffington Post, on the assassination of the Russian Ambassador to Turkey, Andrei Karlov (R.I.P) on Dec. 19:

The sheer self-centeredness and self-servingness of this article is captured perfectly in the last sentence of it: “Regardless of who wanted the ambassador’s death to be a message to whom ― and via whom ― the only loser in this power game looks like ordinary Turks and Turkey itself.” Really?? The only loser is Turkey?? What about the dead guy? And Russia’s loss of face? And, here’s a thought, Maybe, just maybe, he got killed because A. the cop who killed him really Was as angry as he appeared to be about Russian actions in Syria, and, B. because Nobody left outside of prisons in Turkey would Dare to question Why an unknown Turkish man with No official authority at that art gallery whatsoever was allowed to pace back and forth behind the Russian diplomat, and nobody would have Dared to check him for weapons, even though armoured vehicles had been parked outside of the Russian embassy for days in case of an attack; because Nobody in Turkey Dares to question or to Challenge anybody who Might be MIT or government related, and that’s why the Russian ambassador was successfully assassinated!


November 21, 2016 update:  I had an interesting exchange with an AKP party official yesterday and today on twitter.  You can read all about it here:


From a stunning article by Burhan Sönmez published yesterday, November 08, 2016:  ”

“…The government exercise a pernicious influence over Turkish broadcasters, meaning that people have turned their attention towards social media platforms and independent websites to get their news. As a result, the authorities regularly restrict and block internet access. The latest development was the arrest of Selahattin Demirtaş and Figen Yüksekdağ, co-leaders of the pro-Kurdish party HDP, alongside some of their MPs, on Friday. It was a move which followed the arrest of Gültan Kışanak and Fırat Anlı (co-mayors of the biggest Kurdish city, Diyarbakır) the previous week and is a clear sign that the government will target anyone who doesn’t support them. During both incidents, the internet was cut off and social media accounts were out of reach across the country.

Erdoğan recently extended the state of emergency and is using it to the advantage of the ruling party. The AKP now has “legal” permission to bypass parliament and rule by decree. For example, they recently removed the rights of universities to appoint their own rector in free elections. From now on, Erdoğan himself will appoint the head of each university.

While all of these things are happening in Turkey, most people are unaware of them due to media restrictions and bias. The majority of TV channels won’t cover certain stories or will broadcast them in a distorted way. On the other hand, these channels will live broadcast all of Erdoğan’s speeches, as was the case on 12 January this year when a suicide bomb attack killed 10 tourists in Istanbul. Erdoğan gave a speech on the same day and dedicated a mere 44 seconds to the tragedy without mentioning the attacker’s link to Isis. However, he spoke for exactly 10 minutes about Academics for Peace, a group of university teachers who signed a declaration demanding a peaceful solution to the Kurdish conflict.

Erdoğan accused them of sympathising with terrorists and of threatening Turkey’s national security. That’s how the information flows in the Turkish media and that’s why alternative ways of communication news, like free newspapers and social media platforms, are so important….”

I have quoted more than I usually do from media articles, in case the source of the article:  has also been blocked by elements in Turkey.  As of this writing, I don’t think my blog has been blocked in Turkey, so I offer this post as a public service to anyone in Turkey who might be able to access it.  The Guardian newspaper keeps up with events in Turkey quite well and is an excellent source of information.  Another good site is the Turkish Minute: which will post stories that would get a newspaper in Turkey shut down in a heartbeat, in the current climate of total suppression of dissent.

For those of us with ties and memories in Turkey, it’s awful to witness from afar the savaging of democratic freedoms that had formerly made Turkey stand out from any other Muslim country.  When I lived there in the nineties, I often said that Turkey was the only Muslim country I could have lived in.  Not any more.

I remember when Tayyip Erdoğan was campaigning in the last presidential election.  “Make me president and I will bring peace,”  he said.  In fact he has brought the exact opposite.

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“Why I’m voting for Trump:” a considered response.

May 12, 2017:  “”If you’ve seen [James Comey] under sworn testimony, he just doesn’t comment on things he’s not supposed to. He knows the ropes.”   Really??  Has the FBI forgotten so soon how James Comey skewed the last U.S. presidential election?   And, isn’t blabbing about investigations one of the prime reasons that the federal Office of the Attorney General  has just recommended that he be fired?  I think it’s clear the FBI is gunning for Donald Trump, and, while I think it ‘couldn’t happen to a better guy,’ I disapprove of their using lies and the short memories of the American citizens to do it.




February 23, 2017:  Stop the Presses!  Donald Trump makes a good point:  “China has total control over North Korea… and China should solve that problem.  And if they don’t solve that problem, we should make trade very difficult for China.”

Of course, one might say the same about the Republicans and Trump.


November 13, 2016:  This here article by Page Six: is a thoughtful assessment of some of the reasons where the Democrats failed in the U.S. presidential election, while blandly overlooking even more important reasons, such as the FBI Director’s last-minute and game-changing innuendo and the Democratic party chairman’s sabotage of Bernie Saunders’ campaign.   But I think nobody has yet elucidated the single most important reason for Donald Trumps success, and that is:  his hat trick of appearing to many angry Americans who felt they’d been lied to and ignored by government, that he was telling ‘truths’ for the first time in politics – despite the fact that a lie popped outta his mouth pretty much every time he opened it, and his own history shows he doesn’t give a rat’s tushy about the poor, the female half of the human race, immigrants, or human rights in general.

picture from :

However, I had an insight this morning into who is most likely to assassinate Donald Trump:  not ISIS; ISIS is perfectly happy with a Trump presidency, because he’s an awesome propaganda asset for them just by being there.  No, it will be one of his own supporters, when he doesn’t follow through on his craziest campaign promises, like the wall.  If he did start to look like a serious threat to national security, someone in the government would get him, but I’m thinking now he’s not going to do that.  So it will be a ‘supporter,’ someone who can get in close to him by telling him they voted for him, and it will be when some angry white guy with a gun finally realizes that Trump is not going to actually make good on his more outlandish campaign promises.  I do think it’s quite likely that someone will try to kill him at some point.  I’ve seen a lot of U.S. presidents come and go in my 58 years, and I’ve never seen one coming in with so much hate shadowing him, before he even gets into office.


October 12, 2016 update at 12:08 PM EDM:

Kitty Grimnirs

The real elephant in the room is the word ‘evil…’ People have called Donald Trump a lot of names lately, for his remarks on torture: ‘I like it a lot,” on women, ‘they’ll let you do anything if you’re a star, grab ’em by the pussy,’ on Mexico, ‘they’re deliberately sending rapists and murderers to the U.S.’ but nobody uses the word ‘evil.’ Consider this, the meanings of the Hebrew word ‘satan’ are ‘slanderer, adversary.’ Jesus called Satan ‘the father of lies… not holding to the truth for there is no truth in him.’ [John 8:44] Whatever religious or philosophical maps we adhere to, we must surely accept that without truth they are nothing, without truth We are nothing, and therefore, whosoever willfully attacks what is true as a matter of course and as a pattern of behavior may be said to be Inimical to ‘God’ in whatever form you understand ‘God’ to be. Donald Trump is evil. Let us call a spade a bloody spade…

Donald Trump’s “deeply unsettling and disturbing” comments make him a danger internationally, the UN’s human rights chief says.


Canada’s top news magazine, MacLean’s, has just published a set of interviews with “ordinary, perfectly rational” Americans who still intend to vote for Donald Trump:

One of the phrases most often applied to Trump by his supporters is “refreshingly honest.” Repeatedly battering Hillary Clinton over her use of a private server for government emails, he invited Russia to hack the rest of her email correspondence.  Later, he claimed his remarks had been taken out of context, when that failed, he claimed he was joking.  But there’s video of those remarks, which you can still see and judge for yourself if he looks to you like he was joking:  (I often use the British Guardian in references to news stories, or the Canadian CBC, because they’re still free to read, with no monthly limit as to how many articles you can read.)

Trump supporters just love that “Make America Great Again” slogan.  In the first Presidential debate, however, Donald Trump did not deny that he “was one of the people who rooted for the housing crisis” or that he had said, back in 2006, “Gee, I hope it does collapse, because then I can go in and buy and make some money.”  Trump’s response in the debate?  “That’s called business, by the way.”

In that debate, he claimed that deregulation and cutting taxes for the rich were the keys to “bringing back jobs” to America.  One of the causes of the economic meltdown in the United States in 2007 – 2008 was the lax regulation over banks and savings and loans institutions:  a disaster presided over by Republicans.

As for his claim that his tax cut will be the “biggest since Ronald Reagan,”  that’s kind of a low standard, since “According to historian and domestic policy adviser Bruce Bartlett, Reagan’s tax increases over the course of his presidency took back half of [Reagan’s original] 1981 tax cut.”  Trump is beating the drum of Ronald Reagan’s “trickle down economics,”  “the belief that tax policies that benefit the wealthy will create a “trickle-down” effect to the poor.”  But, Reagan ended up taking back half the tax cut he’d promised, and the poor certainly didn’t benefit in the long run:  “Reagan’s economic regimen included freezing the minimum wage at $3.35 an hour, slashing federal assistance to local governments by 60%, cutting the budget for public housing and Section 8 rent subsidies in half, and eliminating the antipoverty Community Development Block Grant program.”

In newly released video from a court deposition, Donald Trump has evidently stated that his infamous claim that Mexico was “deliberately sending rapists into the United States” was a statement that had been “planned in advance,” and, that he “didn’t think the statement would hurt his brand.”  That’s your “refreshingly honest”??  Even many hard-core Republicans don’t think so anymore:

In fact, Donald Trump plays fast and loose with the truth all the time.  Don’t his supporters read the news?  Nobody’s hiding the truth from them.  When I read that Trump supporters believe that he’s a good guy who doesn’t really mean the crazy things he says, I’m reminded of victims of abuse who go back to their abuser, telling themselves, ‘he didn’t really mean it,’ ‘he does really love me.’  They actually have a lot more in common with ISIS supporters than they think:  ISIS supporters take one or two paragraphs from the Quran and ignore the rest, ignore all the parts about obeying the laws of the land, not killing people who aren’t trying to kill you, the part about Christians being closest to God, and how the people of the book (Christians), the Jews and the pagans who do good and try to lead righteous lives “shall get their reward from their Lord and they shall have no fear, nor shall they grieve.”  (Yeah, it’s all there in the Quran; I have five different translations in English, and I’ve read the Quran all the way through three times.)  But ISIS takes one or two chapters and creates a violent ideology based on that.  Similar to ISIS strategy, Trump supporters take one or two claims that their candidate has trumpeted over and over, and they just tune out the rest.  Nor are they as far away from violence as they think:  they’d be just fine with a President who would “shoot boats out of the water” for making rude gestures:  A promise I’d bet money ISIS terrorists would applaud if it was one of their own making it.   The only way you don’t see Donald Trump’s actions as major red flags is if you live in that terrifying place we all go to sometimes:

Frank Dillon – 1823-1909 – Sunset on the Nile 1855


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‘Sink your bottom down’ Robin Camp: what Does it take to remove a judge in Alberta?

I have on occasion written about Alberta Court of Appeals judgments I consider to have been really bad ones:  and  and the case of Justice Robin Camp is right up there with the worst of Alberta court judgments.

Oh, sure, there’s going to be a public inquiry, now, to see if he can keep his job.  A public inquiry in Canada usually means a wrist-slap, designed to satisfy the public that justice has been done even though usually it hasn’t.

Even more appalling than his comments in court to a complainant in a rape case:  repeatedly calling her the accused!  asking her why she didn’t ‘sink her bottom down in the sink to keep the defendant from penetrating her,’ asking her if she couldn’t keep her legs closed together,’ even more appalling than those outrageous remarks, is the fact that the sonofabitch was actually elevated to the Federal Court after the rape case (in which he, surprise, acquitted the defendant)!

How does a troglodyte like that not get immediately suspended from the bench for remarks like the ones he made to the unfortunate rape complainant?   How does he get promoted to a higher court after he makes those remarks?  Did they run out of recording tape in the clerk’s office, was there a problem with the issue of proving he made remarks no judge in Alberta should have ever made at any time in our history?

There will not be justice even if he gets removed; because he should have been removed the day after he made those statements.  That the justice system even thinks an inquiry is necessary to test the waters on the issue of his removal is an appalling indictment of the state of the courts in Alberta.  I’m ashamed of them.  Robin Camp wants to ‘apologize’ to keep his job now.  He says he’s had ‘sensitivity training.’  I will be furious and disgusted if the inquiry judges think that’s good enough reason to keep him on.


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China, where lawyers are martyred…

China, where lawyers are martyred:

Turkey, where a failed coup is being used to settle scores and silence dissent once and for all:

and Russia, where the hand of the government is never quite seen in the bad things that seem to keep happening to Kremlin critics:

are modern reminders that not everyone thinks democracy is something to be cherished; and we can see that some of those who don’t value the very core of individual freedom, which must be the right to speak freely, to criticize one’s political leaders, are right here in the West, gearing up to take control of the most powerful country in the world:

As my daughter quoted to me last night:  “Those who would give up essential Liberty, to purchase a little temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety.”  Benjamin Franklin

‘Early Autumn,’ by Qian Xuan

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On the death of a (former) gangster: Sukh Deo

March 20, 2017:  I have been derelict in updating this post.  I actually did hear back late last year from both the Federal Minister of Justice and from the Public Safety Minister, with respect to that whole Pindi and Interpol thing, and here are their replies, copied here verbatim:

First, on November 18, 2016, I heard from the office of the Minister of Justice: “Reply to your correspondence addressed to the Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada   October 18, 2016 7:46 AM

Dear Mrs. Tunay:   On behalf of the Honourable Jody Wilson‑Raybould, Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada, I acknowledge receipt of your correspondence concerning Parminder Singh Deo. I regret the delay in responding.

I hope you will understand that, as Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada, Minister Wilson‑Raybould cannot comment on a specific case or situation.

It may be helpful for you to know that, in Canada, Interpol is managed by the RCMP, which is an agency of Public Safety Canada and therefore falls under the purview of the Honourable Ralph Goodale, Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness. Accordingly, I have taken the liberty of forwarding a copy of your correspondence to Minister Goodale for his information and consideration.

Thank you for writing.  Yours sincerely,  A/Manager  Ministerial Correspondence Unit

and then on November 22, 2016, I received this letter from the Minister of Public Safety:


But here is Why foreign gangsters flock to Canada, because it’s a freaking party for them here and nobody sends the bastards home:   Malkit Sidhu has been found guilty in Canada of conspiring to murder her own daughter Jasswinder and her daughter’s husband in India, because she didn’t approve of her daughter’s marriage.  Now Sidhu’s lawyer is arguing that the co-conspirators, Sidhu and her brother Surjit Badesha, are “elderly,” and India’s prisons are not very nice.  And it’s gone to the Supreme Court of Canada.  It’s been 14 years since the murders.  You know what, I don’t care about those murderers’ problems, and I bet most Canadians don’t either.  I can’t think of a more cold-blooded and unjustified killing than the killing of a daughter by her own mother for ‘honor.’


August 09, 2016 at 10:44 AM EDM:  Interest in this mini-post has remained surprisingly (to me, anyway)* strong, so, I’ve decided to add a little more info regarding Sukh Deo’s probable drug tie-in, namely, something called ‘the Wolf Pack,’ ending with an edifying lesson that, unfortunately, the late lamented Sukh evidently paid no mind to…

For starters, the Hindustan Times reported that Sukh’s real name is Sukhvir, and the Deo family is from the Punjab, where daddy ‘Pindi’ is wanted in connection with drugs, meth, apparently, and corruption involving politicians.  For more on that story:

Less than a week before Sukhvir bit the bullet, the Kamloops, B.C. Combined Forces Special Enforcement (aka drugs-and-organized-crime-cops) had gone public with their concerns that a coalition-gang I’d never heard of, the so-called ‘Wolf Pack,’ was “working to take control of the drug trade in Kamloops.”  There may be a significant connection to the murder of Sukh Deo, in my opinion, because the two events have a very tight connection in time, as well as a significant connection in space, since Deo was originally living in the Vancouver area.  For more on the drugs-and-organized-crime story:

And finally, a cop’s comments about Sukh Deo’s “Wolf Pack” and ‘wolf packs’ in general, made back in 2011:  “Wolf packs are not as tight as you think they are… There’s no loyalty among drug buddies.”

Duly noted.

*Since my interest in stories not personally connected to me in some fashion tends to be ephemeral.

Update June 13, 13:27 EDM:  I’ve just heard back from the author of that vancouver sun news blog, Kim Bolan, as to the whereabouts of Parminder Singh Deo and why he hasn’t been arrested yet.  She says:  “He lives in Metro Vancouver. So he’s not hiding, as he pointed out in a story I did about his charges last fall. India has to apply for his extradition, then there is a court hearing. That hasn’t happened yet. He told me he’s fighting it in India and will also fight in court here if India makes the extradition request.”  And you can read her comment, in reply to my own, on that article (see below).

Update June 13:  Here’s more on the background of the Sukh Deo assassination, which ties him to a gang called the Wolf Pack, as well as to the Hells Angels:  Meanwhile, I’ve emailed Canada’s Justice Minister The Honourable Jody Wilson-Raybould:  to ask if the father, Parminder Deo, has been arrested, and if not, why not.

Update (June 12):  According to global news, I was wrong and Parminder Singh Deo  did come to Canada to identify the body of his son:  which would raise the question of why has a man wanted by Interpol evidently not been arrested the instant he set foot in Canada?  and why would he have thought (evidently correctly) that he could come here without instantly getting arrested?  I’m not pleased.  And I still think Sukh Deo’s murder was connected to his uncle’s visit.  Oh maybe Uncle Sohan didn’t deliberately set up his nephew for a hit, but the visit and the death and the content of the visit are so closely tied in time that I warrant there’s every chance that information gleaned by someone as a result from that visit was used in the hit.  I don’t like it even when gangsters get gunned down.  I know some people think it doesn’t matter to the rest of us, but it does.  It says ‘f***k you, democracy’ and ‘f***k the law,’ from thugs who’d be the first to howl if they thought their rights to due process were being infringed on.  And I’m really unhappy that some thug from India has strolled into Canada apparently unaffected by the fact there’s an international warrant out for his arrest.


Former Vancouver gangster Sukh Deo was gunned down in Toronto yesterday afternoon; at least 14 bullets hit his car, in a move guaranteed to send a message:  But what was the message?

Well let’s see:  his brother, Harjit, also a member of the ‘Independent Soldiers’ gang:  is in prison for kidnapping and extortion: and his father, Parminder, has had an Interpol warrant out on him, for being an all-around bad apple, it seems:  since mid-September of last year:

Parminder Singh Deo

Oh, but according to the late lamented Sukh’s uncle Sohan in hometown Vancouver, Daddy Parminder is nonetheless rushing to the airport as I write this, to come to Toronto to see his boy:  Uncle Sohan, who had just visited the victim for “a few days” “in May,” and was at that time taken by the victim to where the latter’s “trucking businesses [sic] are,” “has no idea” why anyone would want to kill his nephew Sukh.

I’m gonna go out on a limb here and interpret what has been published about Sukh Deo’s death:  He was killed because somebody thought he’d squealed on his own family.   This is how, in my estimation, the facts stack up as of today’s media reports:   Papa Parminder’s had an Interpol warrant out for him, for about eight months.  Uncle Sohan goes to visit the kid not even a month ago; now, the kid’s been killed.   And I think that Uncle Sohan and his brother Parminder both know that Parminder isn’t coming back to Canada to get arrested.

But appearances are everything, evidently, in that milieu.  Nobody has to really believe in them; they just have to be kept up.  So too, must the appearance of innocence be kept up, which is probably much more important than actually being innocent, in that kind of a family…

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Völundarkviða: when, where and why

The sources cited on this page can be found here:

Contender with Völuspá for the title of ‘most haunting poem’ in the 12th ? cent. Old Norse manuscript known as the ‘Codex Regius,’ Völundarkviða* ‘is hands-down the eeriest of the Eddic poems.  Most probably composed in 10th century British Yorkshire, it tells the story in terse verses (in a free fornyrðislag metre**) of the elf-man who wreaks a preternaturally savage revenge upon the ruthless monarchs who had him shanghaied, robbed of his gold and hamstrung.

*’the song of Völund’

**“old lore metre,” a stanza in 8 half-lines

If you’re not familiar with the poem, Wikipedia can give you a quick rundown:

and the excellent online site   has a good translation into English by Benjamin Thorpe:    (That site also has Eddic translations into other languages, German, Norse and Swedish:   )

Other free online sources for various translations of the poem include:

[Bellows’ translation with his notes and texts, but the concordance with the Old Norse text is messed up.  If you don’t care about that, then this is a great free source for the poem, as well as for numerous others, including an excellent translation of Völuspá.]

Yves Kodratoff corrected the concordance for the above translation:   (There’s one typo though, as of this writing; Kodratoff wrote that it was Benjamin Thorpe’s translation, which it is not; it’s the translation of Henry Adams  Bellows.  He may have corrected that by the time this blog-post gets published; I’ve written to him and he agrees it’s a typo.  Moreover, Bellows’ notes are, as Kodratoff says, not in step with the verses.  Kodratoff also has a site rich in Old Norse pagan material:  and I recommend it.]

Another good free online source for myths from many cultures is, and they also have the Henry Adams Bellows translation of the ‘Lay of Völund:”   together with Bellows’s notes.

Two other translations I can recommend are Ursula Dronke’s, in her book ‘The Poetic Edda, Volume II, ‘Mythological Poems;’ and Lee F. Hollander’s, in his book ‘The Poetic Edda.’  Dronke’s translations are peerless, I think, and Volumes I and II of her ‘Poetic Edda’ contain painstaking, detailed notes.  However, Lee Hollander’s edition is much cheaper in price than Dronke’s, and he tries to replicate the metric patterns (which he also discusses in his introduction.)

Detailed Commentaries on Völundarkviða.  Recommended

John McKinnell.  ‘Völundarkviða:  Origins and Interpretation,’ in his Essays on Eddic Poetry.  University of Toronto Press 2014                                                                                  John McKinnell.  ‘The Context of Völundarkviða,’ in Vol. XXIII of the ‘Saga-Book of the Viking Society,’ 1990 – 93                                                                                                                        John McKinnell.  ‘The Context of Völundarkviða,’ in The Poetic Edda, Essays on Old Norse Mythology.  Edited by Paul Acker and Carolyne Larrington.  Routledge, 2002    Ursula Dronke.    ‘Völundarkviða,’ in ‘The Poetic Edda:  Volume II Mythological Poems.   Edited with Translation, Introduction and Commentary by Ursula Dronke.  Clarendon Press, 1997                                                                                                                                          John McKinnell.   ‘Eddic Poetry in Anglo-Saxon northern England,’ in Vikings and the Danelaw:  Select Papers from the Proceedings of the Thirteenth Viking Congress.  Edited by James Graham-Campbell et al.  Oxbow, 2001                                                                   Kaaren Grimstad.   ‘The Revenge of Völundr,’ in Edda:  A Collection of Essays.  Edited by R.J. Glendinning and Haraldur Bessason, pages 187 – 209.  University of Manitoba Press 1983                                                                                                                                                      H.R. Ellis Davidson.  ‘Weland the Smith’ in ‘Folklore, Vol. 69, No. 3,’ Sept. 1958

I hope to show herein that Völundarkviða may be read as a subtle cautionary treatise, from both a mystical and from a political standpoint, on the dangers both of that Northern aspect of sorcery known as seiðr* as well as on those dangers inherent in the mis-use of especially political power.

*For a quick and very rough idea:

I also hope to show that the poem’s enduring power arises in part from the spiritual power of its composer, who, again and again, picks up anew and transforms the elements in his story, never making a false move, never selling out to popular sentiment, and in the end transforming a weather-beaten old tale into an enduring myth, with real power even today to significantly affect the lives of those with the temerity to try to draw nearer.

What I can only say I believe, but of course will be unable to verify, is the poem was composed in North Yorkshire, perhaps in the 10th century, for the benefit of people who were working with techniques to develop their powers of attention.   I believe this, because I think I understand what the essence of seiðr was all about, thanks to the work of scholars such as Eldar Heide, and from this I also understand why seiðr was called ‘ergi,’ ‘perverse,’ ‘unmanly’ by the 13th century writer and politician Snorri Sturluson. [8]  Eldar Heide has argued persuasively that a very significant component of seiðr involved attempting to “attract” someone or something to oneself by ‘hidden’ or ‘magical’ means.  One does that by creating a ‘receptive’ field, in one’s span of attention.  [9]   It’s ‘black magic,’ when it seeks to act on others without their knowledge or understanding.   Certain spiritual techniques, when practiced extensively, certain forms of meditation, for instance, will tend to produce insight into principles of attraction along the way, hopefully at the same time that conscience is developed and an awareness of the risks of using attraction to manipulate the material world.  In the warrior societies of the north, sitting quietly and sneakily attempting to ‘pull’ someone or something to one must have seemed at odds with the warrior ethos, best left to women, in the minds of most, back then.   (The two Northern deities most known for their affiliations with seið and magic in general, were Oðinn and Freyja.)

Age and Provenance of Völundarkviða, ‘The Song of Völund:’                            The brilliant British scholar John McKinnell takes a number of good runs at this aspect of the poem:  in Saga-Book XXIII, he is writing for specialist academics when he sets out (in pages 1 – 14) his case, based on specific vocabulary elements used by the poet, that Völundarkviða may well have been  composed in Yorkshire of Britain in the 10th or early 11th century.   His Saga article assumes his readers have a good knowledge of both Old Norse and Anglo-Saxon or at least the Old Norse text of the poem with a facing-page translation.  [McKinnell (2) p. 1 – 14]

In his 2002 essay, McKinnell focuses on his interpretation of the context, and merely summarizes briefly the points he made in his earlier essay on the age and provenance.  He does, however, provide more translations into English of those elements he discusses with respect to dating and provenance.  [McKinnell (5) p. 198 – 200] He concludes herein that “the poem probably originates from a Norse-influenced area of England,” namely, “in Yorkshire, and hence to date from the period ca. 900 – 1050.”  [ibid, p. 200]

McKinnell’s  2014 essay strikes a nice balance between depth and accessibility; the arguments are both more extensive than those in his 2002 essay, and more directed towards an audience that may not have a working knowledge of Old Norse or Anglo-Saxon. His discussion of provenance is also greatly expanded from that in his earlier articles on Völundarkviða.   [McKinnell (1) p. 221 – 233]   His conclusion remains much the same, however, that “it is in the Yorkshire of the tenth or early eleventh century that [he] would tentatively place the origin of the poem we have, or at least an important part of its form and language.”  [ibid, p. 233]  I find his research and thought in this area to be very persuasive.

The three McKinnell essays on Völundarkviða are distinct, and I recommend reading all three, but, if you must choose only one, let it be the 2014 essay [McKinnell (1)].

McKinnell’s 1997 article, ‘Eddic poetry in Anglo-Scandinavian northern England’   [McKinnell (3)], has an extensive section on  Völundarkviða, including a run-down of the most significant indications of Old English influence together with English translations, and his most detailed examination of provenance with respect to the poem’s metrical structure.  He concludes herein that “Overall, the case for an Anglo-Norse origin for Völundarkviða seems unanswerable; the evidence comes from all major sections of the poem, and later Icelandic alterations or additions are not now detectable except where they consist of editorial or scribal misunderstandings.”  [McKinnell (3), p. 333].  This article is very tightly organised; and the English translations are a nice surprise, as they usually get left out of McKinnell’s articles.  This would be the first article on Völundarkviða that I would recommend, but for the considerable expense of the book itself.

Over the period of some thirty years, John McKinnell’s conclusion that Völundarkviða was most likely composed in the 10th century or in the early 11th century, in Yorkshire, has never wavered; and nobody has seriously challenged his work in this regard for decades.

I will be discussing specific points raised by McKinnell and other scholars as I go through the poem, stanza by stanza (below).

In an earlier work than that of McKinnell’s, Lee Hollander considers that the “brief glimpses of nature” in the poem “leave little doubt that the poem originated in Norway,” (Hollander, p. 158), but McKinnell disputes this in detail .  Hollander goes on to say that the metre of the poem – “a free fornyrðislag –“  [see for ex. ]  “and treatment place it among the earliest in the Edda, that is, perhaps the ninth century.”  [Hollander, p. 158].

McKinnell, however, has made the best case for the poem’s having been composed in tenth or early eleventh-century British Yorkshire, as we shall see.

Kaaren Grimstad does not address the issue of age and provenance at all with respect to Völundarkviða, preferring to address the question of Völund’s identity – man, elf, or god?

Ursula Dronke looks at the issue of origins in a painstaking examination of the earliest traces of the legend of Völund [Dronke (1), p. 258 – 296] and tentatively concludes that the earliest traces of the poem, “ancient Germanic material,” “may be drawn ultimately from England rather than from Germany.”  [ibid, p. 274]  However, she also points out that “The names of the three main characters in the poem, Völundr, Níðuðr, Böðvildr, are not found as personal names in Old Norse or Old English historical records.  In German records, however, all three are found:  Weland and Baduhilt from the seventh century, Nidhad from the eighth.  This points to a German version of this story at this period.”  [Dronke (1), p. p. 269 – 270]

Context of Völundarkviða:                                                                                                        Hollander considered the poem to be an embodiment of an ancient Germanic “glorification” of revenge, and that the “motif belongs essentially to Germanic hero lore…” which was “given its most authentic expression” in Völundarkviða [Hollander, p. 159].

McKinnell echoes this perspective, saying that by the time of this version of the myth, “Völund’s days as a hero were numbered.”  [(1), p. 243]  He thinks that the poet “seems to regard” Völund as a man, “apart from taking over the probably traditional phrases which call him an elf…”  [ibid, p. 242]  He states on (1) p. 234 that “the poem is characterised by an evident mistrust of the power of women…”

McKinnell states that Völundarkviða is “an attempt to assert exact poetic justice” that “must be attributed to the poet rather than the source.”  [ibid, p. 235]   He later goes on  to examine the validity of the acts of vengeance taken within the context of medieval Anglo Saxon law and concludes that Völund’s acts of vengeance, in particular the slaying of the two young boys, have no validity within the context of the law.  [ibid, p. 242]

But, in my opinion, this view of the poem, as being an account of an outstandingly flawed hero who’s ditched by his otherworldly wife and then messed up bad by other humans for no good reason, the latter to whom he dishes it back in spades, fails to take into account at least two critical problems with the ‘heroic’ perspective:

  1. There is nothing heroic whatsoever, even by medieval standards, in any of Völund’s actions from beginning to end of the poem. Just for starters, when his swan-like wife takes off for sunnier skies, Völund doesn’t do the ‘manly thing’ like his brothers do, according to the Viking standard of the times, and head back out into the world, seeking his fortune and maybe seeking after the errant spouse as well.  He stays put; and, about this, McKinnell cites the story of ‘The Three Little Pigs,’ saying:  “… Staying put in such a situation is also more sensible in terms of this relationship; the human will not be able to find his supra-human mate against her will…”  But Völund is not a little pig, and there is only one place in Völundarkviða where the poet refers to him as a human being, using a poetic word for ‘man’ [‘seggr,’see my Note 1]; whereas he refers to Völund several times in the poem as “the prince of elves.”

Ursula Dronke was inclined to think that the poet meant to portray Völund as an elf:  “Are we to suppose that Vǫlundr was called ‘lord of elves’ because he commanded such spirits to aid him in his craft – as a Prospero commands an Ariel?  It is more in keeping (I suggest) with the treatment of fantasy in the poem – that of the swan maidens, for example – that he should be identified as an elvish being, an elf man, as his wife is a swan woman.  He has the radiant complexion of the elves (cf. hvítan háls, 2/9 – 10) that betrays his affinities.  Belief in ‘mixed beings,’ having a human and a non-human spirit within them, has been, and still is, widespread in many cultures…”  [Dronke (1), p. 262]

Hilda Ellis Davidson agreed that the Anglo-Saxon version of Völund was a supernatural being.  She says:  “But although Weland is linked with the world of heroes through his son, and in Deor is apparently accepted among heroes who have known hardship, he was clearly no mortal smith. The weapons he forged were those of legend, and he is at home in the Other World, the world of the unquiet dead and of fierce struggles against hostile magic, where ordinary moral judgments are suspended. The motif of a powerful supernatural being oppressed by a foolish or arrogant king and taking summary vengeance upon him is one familiar in mythology, and Odin himself is found more than once in such a position. Other heroes beside Weland have one foot in the familiar world of heroic loyalties and another in the implacable supernatural world. The outstanding example is Sigurd the Volsung, whose story has many points of contact with Weland, and there are others from Saxo’s collection of stories, in which again cruelty, treachery and vindictiveness are common. We find Weland and his family inhabiting tombs and mountains, descending to realms under the sea, hurling great stones through the air and forging the superb weapons of legendary heroes. His place then would seem to be among those powerful beings we call giants, although they could have dealings with mortals and even mate with them…”   [Ellis Davidson, p. 159]

Moreover, Völund is not tending the crops on a farm while he awaits the return of his wife:  Identified by the poet throughout the poem as being one of those sketchy elven-smiths, he occupies his time in a very dodgy-appearing act of metal-working, namely, making hundreds of gold rings, stringing them on linden ropes, and, get this, counting those rings, every last one of them, apparently as a nightly ritual.  McKinnell thinks it’s the work of a devoted and forlorn abandoned husband, saying that “there is an apparent rightness” about the nightly ritual.  [McKinnell (1), p. 237]  But there is nothing in the text to back up McKinnell’s value judgment of “rightness” and what the poet actually has to say about that, is to immediately preface his account of the nightly ring-ritual with the phrase “prince of elves,” using the phrase for the first but certainly not the last time in the poem.  This appearance of this phrase in the poem’s recital would have immediately alerted an Anglo-Saxon listener that magic was afoot.  McKinnell at least concedes that it is possible the ritual involved magic to compel the smith’s errant wife back to him [ibid]; and he knows elves were viewed quite dimly in Anglo-Saxon Britain as being trouble-making and dangerous supernatural beings [see Alaric Hall, for instance]; so, where he got the idea that there was any appearance of “rightness” about the ritual is beyond me.

We will learn a lot more about that ring-ritual as we go into the poem stanza by stanza (below), as well as others of Völund’s even more clearly unheroic acts; and, as we shall see, the poem fairly reverberates throughout with undertones of magic.

  1. At the end of the poem, Völund finally escapes his captors by flying away, on ‘webbed feet.’ If he’s a “hero,” then his act of flying away is unique in Norse accounts of heroes.  As Kaaren Grimstad remarks:  “… although gods and giants can fly, either by changing themselves into birds or by donning a feather coat, there is no instance of a mortal flying…”  [Grimstad, p. 191].

Gods, elves can fly in the Old Norse myths, but, humans?  –  only as the ‘astral selves of witches.’ [For ex. see st. 157 of the Eddic poem Hávamál here:  And for more on that reference in Hávamál see my note [2] below.)

Also, having ‘webbed feet’ doesn’t exactly speak to Völund’s humanness either.

Then there is the poem’s position in the Codex Regius, which is the only manuscript that gives the full reading of the poem:  Völundarkviða is either the last of the mythic poems or the first of the heroic poems, depending on your perspective.  John McKinnell considers it to be “a waste of time” to consider the poem’s position in CR [McKinnell (4), p. 38], but if the poem was placed in that position intentionally, then it cannot be ruled out that the CR scribe intended thereby to highlight a shifting ambiguity as regards the nature of the elf-prince, perhaps, part human and part elf, a “mixed being.”  [Dronke (1), p. 262]

In addition to the foregoing, there is no place in the poem where Ursula Dronke gives a translation of ‘hero’ for the poet’s words for the “prince of elves.”  [Dronke (1), p. 243 – 254]  [See my note 3]

One roughly contemporary Anglo-Saxon account of the Völund, the late-9th century [North (1), p. 101] poem ‘Deor,’ does perhaps go closer to the concept of Völund as being a hero.  See stanza 1 here:   which calls him a man and even “a better man” than the king who had him enslaved and hamstrung – although calling him a “better man” than his tormentor would still be setting the bar awfully low for ‘hero’ status.  In any case, John McKinnell points out that in several significant respects, “the spirit of Völundarkviða is quite different from that of Deor, and probably represents innovation by this poet.”  [McKinnell (5), p. 202]

The same can clearly be said and has been said, as regards the oldest known Anglo-Saxon version of the Völund myth, which is embodied on the 8thcentury Franks Casket [McKinnell (5), p. 201 – 202], namely, that it differs quite significantly from Völundarkviða, and it actually has more in common with the 14th century Þiðrekssaga.  [See Dronke’s remarks on the Franks Casket, my note 4.]

Catharina Raudevere emphasises the importance of remembering that the meanings given to eddic lore could change in different historical periods, saying:  “Too often Old Norse mythology has been presented as a reflection of static and homogeneous conditions rather than as part of dynamic processes and changes in northern Europe.  The same stories must have been given highly different meanings in different times in different areas among different social groups – and presumably also by men and women…. But with sources as scarce as the Old Norse ones it is frequently hard to maintain an animated image that gives the full flavour of complexity.”  [Raudevere, p. 79]

Now I think we are ready to take a look at those elements most critical for understanding the poem, by-passing, however, the inept ‘introductory’ prose, which, as John McKinnell as shown, was added by a later scribe, probably the compiler of the Codex Regius, who struggled to comprehend significant Anglo-Saxon elements in the poem.


Stanza 1.  “1. Meyjar flugu sunnan myrkvið í gögnum, alvitr unga, örlög drýgja; þær á sævarströnd settusk at hvílask drósir suðrænar, dýrt lín spunnu.”

“Maids from the south | through Myrkwood flew, foreign beings, young, | their fate to follow; On the shore of the sea | to rest them they sat, The maids of the south, | precious linen they spun.” 

 alvitr:  Ursula Dronke:  “…The linguistic complexities that arise in any attempt to identify the origins of alvitr suggest that in Vkv it derives from an adaptation of a well-understood OE. term for ‘otherworld being,’ and that it was assimilated into Norse before the workings of analogy had removed such forms as al-, ‘other-‘, and vítt-, ‘being,’ from the ON oral vocabulary…”  [Dronke (1), p. 304]

John McKinnell points out that Vkv is the oldest extant use of the phrase alvitr unga(r), and that the “corresponding Old English word ælwit only appears in Beowulf 1500, where it means ‘alien creatures’ and refers to the monsters swimming in Grendel’s mere;4  but the form of the second element of alvitr corresponds to OE wiht rather than OE vættr, and consequently the prose editor [of Vkv] took it to mean ‘All-wise’* and interpreted it as a proper name.  No cognate word survives in Old Saxon.”   [McKinnell (1), p. 222].  [For more on the Beowulf reference, see my note 5.]

*An error of interpretation perhaps picked up by Alfred the Great and passed on when he translated Boethius and Theodoric and substituted a mention of Völundr for Fabricus the smith, in Book II, s. XIX, [See page 66 in your PDF browser here:  ]

myrkvið:  Ursula Dronke gives her best description of this word in her commentary to the eddic heroic poem Atlakviða:  “3/4  Myrkvið:  the archetypal ‘Black Forest,’ on the edges of habitation, beyond which lay the lands of alien peoples.  A messenger riding from the Danube to the Rhine would, in fact, have to cross the great mountainous forests of central Europe, part of which, the Erzgebirge, was still called Miriquidui in the eleventh century… In Norse poetic tradition, ‘crossing Mirkwood’ comes to signify penetrating the barriers not merely between one land and another, but between one world and another:  so Muspell’s sons at Ragnarøk will ride Myrkvið yfir (Lokasenna 42/2), and the swan-wives of Völundr and his brothers fly Myrkvið í gögnum before they find their human mates (Vkv 1/2 , 3/8).”  [Dronke (3), p. 47 – 48]


Stanza 3.  “Sáto síðan sjau vetr at þat, en inn átta allan þráðo, en inn níunda nauðr of skilði.  meyjar fýstusk á myrkvan við, Alvitr unga[r], örlög drýgja.”

 “There they stayed seven winters through; but all the eighth were with longing seized; and in the ninth fate parted them.  The maidens yearned for the murky wood, the young Alvit, fate to fulfil.”

nauðr:  “3/6  nauðr, ‘oppressive, unavoidable, necessity,’ coercion,’ ‘lack of freedom,’ ‘slavery…’  [Dronke (1), p. 307]

Karen Bek-Pedersen discusses the “apparently close connection between nornir and nauð” which “seems to emphasise that these supernatural females were thought of primarily in relation to issues of distress…” on page 34 of her book ‘The Norns in Old Norse Mythology.’

That strong eddic connection between nauðr and the Norns, ‘shapers of fate’ [Note 6], is undoubtedly what made Benjamin Thorpe translate ‘nauðr’ as ‘fate’ in Vkv.


Stanza 5.  (or 6, depending on which translator did the arrangement of the verses]:   “Hann sló gull rautt við gim fastan, lukði hann alla lindbauga vel.  Svá beið hann sinnar ljós[s]ar kvánar, ef hánum koma gerði.”

“Red gold he fashioned | with fairest gems, And rings he strung | on linden bæst ;  

So for his wife | he waited long, If the fair one home | might come to him.”

“Völundr’s detachment from human society is accounted for in the poem (a) by his absorption in his past, and (b) by his belonging to a different society, not human, but supernatural.  Three times he is called ‘lord, or commander, of elves’ (11/3, 14/4, 32/2).  How are we to understand these phrases?  The álfar, revered family spirits, do not seem relevant here:  how could Völundr be their prince?  Völundr’s álfar must be spirits who practice the same skills of smith and craftsman, and whom, by his incomparable art, he excels and masters.  There are only two pieces of evidence that support this interpretation of álfar in Völundarkviða.  In Snorri’s telling of the myth of Sif’s hair (SnE 122 – 4), there is a clear reference to álfar as smiths, making magical treasures of gold, iron, and wood:  Sif’s golden hair that grows to her shorn head; Óðinn’s spear that never fails to kill; Freyr’s boat that brings its breeze with it and folds like a cloth when not wanted.  Völundr’s legendary creations rank with these:  the translucent gems made from eyes, the sword so sharp and hard that nothing can resist it, the artful wings he can fly with.”  [Dronke (1), p. 261]

Tilia cordata, the small-leafed ‘lime’ or linden tree, was an important cultural element in Anglo-Saxon Yorkshire and is still valued there today:

In Northern medieval times, the linden tree as well as certain other trees could stand in as a poetic metaphor or ‘kenning,’ for a woman:

“And as Wrind is Earth, the later poets will use all the synonyms of earth to swell out their verse, calling their mistresses the ground of gems, the field of gold or of the veil or linen (if married, for Northern matrons, like English ones, ‘ went under the linen,’ and covered their heads after the bridal). From the other class of women came the terms, ‘ the nymph or goddess — Thrud, Freyia, Gefn, Hlokk, etc., of the horn or beaker or cup, or wine, or ale, or mead,’ and the like. That once-found word ‘ lauka- lind,” leech-lady, may refer to the office of nurse to the wounded, and the leek-broth and leech-craft, which women occasionally at all events exercised, as the Kings’ Lives testify. The latter half of the ‘ kenning’ — the nymph’s name — might be replaced by the name of any feminine tree, ‘ linden, oak, fir-sapling, birch,’ and so on. These frigid and pedantic metaphors are even used in the few genuine love-verses that remain.”  [Vigfússon/Powell, p.476]

One of the best-known verses from the Old Icelandic sagas is that in ch. 72:48 of the early-13th century ‘Egil’s Saga,’ (which may have been written by the Icelandic scholar and politician, Snorri Sturluson); the verse ties a use of ‘linden tree’ as a kenning for ‘woman,’ with rune magic, in this case, healing magic, whereby the sorcerer-poet Egil Skallagrimsson reverses a spell-gone-wrong.  Afterwards, he says:  “No man should carve runes unless he can read them well; many a man goes astray around those dark letters.  On the whalebone I saw ten secret letters carved, from them the linden tree took her long harm.”  [Egil’s, p. 141]

  leaves and flowers of lime tree (tilia cordata) picture by , creative attribution, share-alike license;  quote is from ‘charm for a sudden stitch, found in the late 10th century [Alaric Hall, p. 109 – 110] Anglo Saxon manuscript Wið færstice

Вæst, es; ml ni The inner bark of a tree, of which ropes were made; tilia:—Baest vel lind tilia. Lye. [Pía!. Dut. bast, m, bark:  О. Dut. bast, m. signifies the bark of a tree and also a rope ; because the inner part of the linden or lime-tree was mostly used for making ropes : Ger. M.H.Ger. bast, m. bark: O.H.Ger. past, m : Dan. bast, m: Swed. bast, и : O. Nrs. bast, n. The word is probably to be derived from bindan to bind, v. Grm. Wrtbch. i. 1 148.”  [Toller, p. 67]

The Anglo-Saxons were the first to institute the custom of wedding rings:  “Wedding rings did not obtain in the Christian Marriage Service until the ninth century. The Anglo-Saxons established the custom of wearing plain gold rings, and these have been worn by married women ever since. There is no rubric on the subject; a ring is all the Church stipulates for. Consequently, we sometimes hear of a bride being married with the ring of the church-door key, in the absence of the more desirable article.”  [Wagner, p. 97]

From Grimm:  p. 1233:  “….  What sounds more significant is a Scotch tradition I take out of Chambers’ Fireside Stories, Edinburgh 1812, p. 37:  ‘When a person has received a sprain, it is customary to apply to an individual practiced in casting the wresting thread.  This is a thread spun from black wool, on which are cast nine knots, and tied round a sprained leg or arm.  During the time the operator is putting the thread round the affected limb, he says but in such a tone of voice as not to be heard by the bystanders or even by the person operated upon:

The Lord rade,              set joint to joint

and the foal slade;       bone to bone,

he lighted,                     and sinew to sinew.

and he righted,             Heal in the Holy Ghost’s Name!’

Here the spell [second Merseburg formula] serves for sprains even in the human body, though it is set out with the sliding of the foal; and to the whispered words is added a ligature of woolen wool in nine knots.”  Teutonic mythology.   Jacob Grimm.  2nd edition 1844  vol. III

In his 2004 paper, ‘Spinning Seiðr,’ Eldar Heide makes a persuasive case [Heide, p. 164 passim] that the “easiest etymology of seiðr, ‘string, cord, snare, halter’, is fully compatible with seiðr as an ecstatic kind of sorcery, with the sending forth of the sorcerer’s mind, because it seems that the mind can be sent forth in the shape of a thread or function as a thread or rope.”  [ibid, p. 166]

However, the act of winding rings on linden ropes initiates a chain of events unforeseen by Völund, which culminates in his dramatic capture.


From stanzas 7 through 9, roughly:

“Stigu ór söðlum at salar gafli, gengu inn þaðan endlangan sal; sáu þeir á bast bauga dregna, sjau hundroð allra, er sá seggr átti.  Ok þeir af tóko ok þeir á léto, fyr einn útan, er þeir af léto.

“From their saddles the gable | wall they sought, And in they went | at the end of the hall; Rings they saw there | on ropes of bast, Seven hundred | that man had.  Off they took them, | but all they left Save one alone | which they bore away.”

Now, a perspicacious listener in any historical period should be thinking: ‘Wait, whaat??  They left 699 gold rings behind and took only one ring away with them?  To where?  And why?”

Without reply, the action in the poem immediately swings back to Völund:  “Kom þar af veiði veðreygr skyti, Völundr, líðandi um langan veg…. Sat á berfjalli, bauga talði, – alfa ljóði – eins saknaði; Hugði hann at hefði Hlöðvés dóttir, – alvitr- unga, væri hon aptr komin.”

“Völund home | from his hunting came, From a weary way, | the weather-wise bowman… On the bearskin he rested, | and counted the rings, The master of elves, | but one he missed; That Hlothver’s daughter | had it he thought, And the all-wise maid | had come once more.”

Here is the first time that the poet refers to Völund as being an elf; translations vary as to whether or not he is a citizen or leader or prince  of the elves, but, as John McKinnell says, “what is undeniable is that Völund is of elvish origin” [7].

And where does the poet elect to announce that Völund is an elf?  It is right in the middle of an activity involving those 700 rings on the linden ropes.  “He counted the rings – the master of elves – but one he missed.”

Clearly, we can’t understand the point of the poem without understanding what Völundr was doing with the rings.

From:  an online Old Norse dictionary courtesy of the University of Texas, we learn that the word <telja (talða)>  meant:   “reckon, count; trace; number, enumerate; recount; declare  and that it apparently was derived from IE           1. del– IE         to tell, count, calculate”  [  see:  ]

and:  “tǫlðu — verb; 3rd plural past of <telja (talða)> reckon, count; trace; number, enumerate; recount; declare – traced” in

as well as **  “talða — past participle; accusative plural masculine of <telja (talða)> reckon, count; trace; number, enumerate; recount; declare – reckoned”  here:

as well as:  “telia — verb; infinitive of <telja (talða)> reckon, count; trace; number, enumerate; recount; declare — to tally” in here:

Tolley (1):  p. 555 – 556:  “The ring [in Völundarkviða]…. the poet may be intending a general allusion in his reference to eating bear meat, alongside mention of a ring, to magical means of tracking someone down as practiced by the Sámi.  Völundr uses a ring in an attempt to get back his supernatural wife.  The ring plays an important part in various broadly shamanic activities…  In view of the part played by the rings in Sámi bear rites, and in their divinatory shamanism, the coincidence of bear-skin and rings in Völundarkviða may be more than accidental, and intended to recall these Sámi practices.  The counting of the rings appears to be a divinatory activity to determine the return of Völundr’s wife, and he carries out this task as he sits on the skin; the complex of bear-skin and rings may thus fulfil a vaguely shamanic role.  The poet, however, has humanised the scene into one of absorbed, doting loneliness, and it is clearly unsuccessful in bringing back the swan-maiden wife – unlike (we may assume) the shamanic acts which may be alluded to.  The poem also tells us that Völundr sat so long that he fell asleep and woke viljalauss, ‘joyless:”  this, again, may be a humanised version of the ritual trance of the  Sámi shaman, who would awake utterly exhausted after searching in far regions for the knowledge he desired…”

About the possibility of the ring activity involving magic, John McKinnell observes that:  “…Völundr spends his time perfecting rings, whose completion seems to function as a symbol of female sexuality, as well as creating the idea of a chain magically binding the characters to each other…”  [McKinnell (1), p. 237]

Eldar Heide argues that etymological equivalents to the word seiðr from Old High German and Old English include the words “cord, string’ and ‘snare, cord, halter,’” and that these concepts are linked with seiðr, because “because it appears that the sorcerer’s mind emissary could be regarded as something spun: a thread or rope;” and seiðr was largely about attracting things.  “In perhaps half of the prose sources, the effect of seiðr is that desired objects, persons or resources, like fish, are drawn to the sorcerer. The clearest example is Saxo’s version of the seiðr séance in Hrólfs saga kraka. The prophetess’s task is to see where two boys are hiding, and Saxo says that they are “drawn out of their recess by the weird potency of the enchantress’s [sic] spells and pulled under her very gaze”  (Fisher and Davidson 979–80 I:202).  In Icelandic seiðr tradition, from recent times, attraction dominates and most of the sources have the fixed expression seiða til sín ‘attract by seiðr’(Jón Þorkelsson 956; Jón Árnason 958–6 [862–64]). In some of the sources, it is as if the victim is pulled by an invisible rope (cf. Almqvist 2000:263). As far as this kind of seiðr is concerned, the etymology ‘cord’ makes very good sense…”  [Heide, p. 164]

The issue of seiðr:                                                                                                                      Tolley (I) says on p. 221:  “The word ælfsiden occurs in three Old English remedies in Bald’s Leechbook III, S41, and Lacnunga S29 (hall 2007:  119; texts in Cockayne 1864: II, 334, and III, 10).  The contexts provide little help in offering an interpretation, but siden is likely to be related to Old Norse seiðr (see Hall 2007: 119 for the etymology and further references.)  A further related word in Old English is the noun sīdsa, also found in an ælf-remedy in Bald’s Leechbook II $65…. [see ref.]   Hence a type of magic related to that found in Norse sources is here associated with ælfe; just as in Norse, seiðr is particularly associated with the close counterparts of the ælfe, the Vanir (Hall 2007: 155).”

Alaric Hall, A states on p. 96:  “…Falling between these manuscipts in date is BL Royal 12 D. xvii, which contains the collections known as Bald’s Leechbook (in two books) and Leechbook III. The manuscript is handsome if plain, written by the scribe who entered the batch of annals for 925–55 into the Parker Chronicle.(3)  (3) See C. E. Wright (ed.), Bald’s Leechbook: British Museum, Royal Manuscript 12 D. xvii, Early English Manuscripts in Facsimile, 5 (Copenhagen: Rosenkilde and Bagger, 1955), 12–27; cf. Ker, Catalogue, 332–3 [no. 264]; A. L. Meaney, ‘Variant Versions of Old English Medical Remedies and the Compilation of Bald’s Leechbook’, Anglo-Saxon England, 13 (1984), 235–68, at 250–1; Cameron, Anglo-Saxon Medicine, 30–1.”

Hall, A.  p. 131:  “Linguistically, seiðr had deep roots in Germanic-speaking cultures, and indeed it now seems clear that its medieval Norwegian reflex was itself later borrowed into the Sámi languages, as *sejda, apparently denoting places where prophecy was sought from gods.38 The senses of seiðr may still have been influenced by contact with Sámi culture later; but if we find correlations between the meanings of seiðr and ælfsīden, there is no reason not to accept them to reflect the words’ shared etymology. It is also worth noting that although we cannot link them lexically with sīden, we have evidence for three concepts in Anglo-Saxon culture which are prominent in our prose accounts of seiðr: the capacity for the soul to wander apart from the body; the use of magic wands; and the practice of working magic from a high place.39

Hall, A.  p. 130:  “Seiðr has been discussed extensively in recent years, but not in an Anglo- Saxon context.33 The main intentions behind conducting seiðr seem to have been divination and the manipulation of targets’ states of mind to cause them harm or to facilitate their seduction.34 It has pejorative connotations throughout our evidence, and these should be explained purely as the result of Christianisation only with caution.35

ELVES AND THE CHURCH:                                                                                                        “The phrase Satanæ diabulus ælfæ (‘devil of the elf Satan’) from an eighth-century Worcester prayer-book shows that ‘elf’ could be used as an epithet of Satan.43…  Demonic possession and its cause are the subject of a remedy in The Christian Ritual against Elves (in Lacnunga, following an Irish incantation against venom)*….   [North (2) p. 54]


Alaric Hall observes that:  “However, we do have one Anglo-Saxon text which explicitly situates ælfe [= ‘elves’] in a wider discourse on the relationships between men and monsters in the world: Beowulf. Moreover, this source is probably relatively early, dating from the eighth or ninth centuries.75 As Neville has emphasised regarding Old English poetry, Anglo-Saxon literature offers little in the way of explicit cosmography; what there is, is directly based on Christian theology.76 Beowulf, however, is rich in implicit cosmology, which corroborates, elaborates and complicates my lexically based reconstruction of the relationships between men and monsters in sixth-century Anglo-Saxon culture.  There is one (certain) attestation of ælf in Beowulf, in the explanation of the origins of Grendel in lines 102–14, at the end of fitt I:  wæs se grimma gæ¯ st grendel hāten mæ¯ re mēarcstapa sē þe mōras hēold  fen ond fæsten fīfelcynnes eard wonsæ¯ li wer weardode hwīle siþðan him scyppend forscrifen hæfde in cāines cynne þone cwealm gewræc ēce drihten þæs þe hē ābel slōg · Ne gefeah hē þæ¯ re fæ¯ hðe ac hē hine feorwræc metod for þy¯ māne mancynne fram þanon unty¯ dras ealle onwōcon eotenas ond ylfe ond orcneas swylce gīgantas þā wið gode wunnon lange þrāge hē him ðæs lēan forgeald ·77   “as called Grendel, the famed border-walker, he who occupied waste-lands, the fen and the fastness, the homeland of the giant-race – the ill-blessed man inhabited them for a time, after the Creator had condemned him; the eternal Lord avenged that killing on the kin of Cain, because he [Cain] slew Abel.  He did not profit from that feud, but the Measurer banished him for that crime, from humankind. Thence all misbegotten beings spang forth, eotenas and ælfe and orcneas, likewise gīgantas, which struggled against God for a long while. He gave them repayment for that.”  [Hall, A., 59 – 60]

Alaric Hall concludes on p. 130 that:  “Like other assaults on the health by ælfe, ælfsīden is associated but not synonymous with diabolical tribulations, attesting again to the uneasy, incomplete alignment of ælfe with demons in ninth- to tenth century Anglo-Saxon clerical culture.”

Associations of elves and sorcery [seiðr] in early medieval Scandinavia include:  Hrólfs saga kraka, the Saga of King Hrolf Kraki, “a fornaldarsaga [legendary saga] from around 1400, but it is based on earlier versions and has analogues in other sources such as Saxo…”  [Tolley (2), p.148]

In the preface to his translation of chapter 32, ‘The Battle With Skuld,’ Stephen Flowers states that “Skuld is of the greatest of magical-kind [galdrakind] and descended from [af álfum] on her mother’s side.”*  Flowers goes on to translate the section involving elves and magic thusly:**  “At this time Skuld gathered to herself all the greatest men and also all the rabble of the nearby districts.  This betrayal was kept secret so that King Hrólfr, was not aware of any of it, nor did his retinue have any inkling about it, because the greatest magic [galdrar] and workings [gerningar] were used.  Skuld employed the strongest sorcery [seiðr] to overcome Hrólfr, her brother, so that in her army were elves [álfar], norns [nornir], and an untold number of other vile things such that human power [náttura] could not stand up to it…” [Flowers et al, p. 14]                                                                         *for more on Skuld see:

**The bracketed Old Icelandic inclusions in the above translation are Dr. Flowers’, not mine.

Clive Tolley points out that in Kormák’s saga ch.22, the spákona [seeress] Þórdís “performs an act of ritual magic healing, involving sacrificing to the álfar…”  [Tolley (1), p. 136).  About the age of the saga, Tolley states:  “Kormák’s saga is from the early thirteenth century, though the verse in it is, at least in part, much older…”  [Tolley (2), p. 153]

In his section ‘Norse notions of spirits,’ Tolley remarks that in addition to probably being evoked “as helping spirits by magical practitioners,” the álfar also apparently practiced magic…”  [Tolley (1), p. 208]

Evidence that seið, ‘sorcery,’ was likely to have still been a living practice in 10th century Norway:                                                                                                Heimskringla, the compilation of Scandinavian kings’ sagas that was likely to have been written by Snorri Sturluson, is not older than the 13th century.  However, in his preface to his translation of the same, Lee Hollander remarks on “Snorri’s cool impartiality… The opponents of King Saint Óláf have their day in court as well as the hero and his followers.  We are given to understand how ill will accumulates against him, how his harsh justice alienates more and more of his former friends.  Snorri does not moralize, he is “objective,” and is content to let facts speak for themselves…”  [Heimskringla, p. xxiii].  And in his own preface, the reputed author of Heimskringla says has this to say about his sources:  “Now when Harald Fairhair was king of Norway, Iceland was settled.  At the court of King Harald there were skalds, and men still remember their poems and the poems about all the kings who have since his time ruled in Norway; and we gathered most of our information from what we are told in those poems which were recited before the chieftains themselves or their sons.  We regard all that to be true which is found in those poems about their expeditions and battles.  It is [to be sure] the habit of poets to give highest praise to those princes in whose presence they are; but no one would have dared to tell them to their faces about deeds which all who listened, as well as the prince himself, knew were only falsehoods and fabrications.  That would have been mockery, not praise.”  [Heimskringla, p. 4]

What the foregoing indicates is, that Snorri  Sturluson likely wrote the saga of King Harald Fairhair, and he likely believed he was speaking the truth therein, about the historical presence of seiðmaður, ‘sorcerers,’ during the 10th century reign of Harald Fairhair over Norway.

From chapter 34 of the Saga of Herald Fairhair, translated by Stephen Flowers and James Chisholm, with bracketed Old Norse inclusions by Flowers:  “Rognvald Rettilbeini had Hathaland.  He learned magic [fjölkyngi] and made himself a sorcerer [seiðmaður].  King Haraldr thought badly of sorcerers [seiðmenn].  In Hordaland there was a sorcerer [seiðmaður] named Vitgeir.  The king sent word to him and asked him to stop the sorcery [seið].  He answered saying :  It harms little that we use sorcery [vér síðím] we farmers’ children and old women.  Since Rognvald does, Rettilbeini, high-born Harldsson in Hathaland.”  But when King Haraldr heard this spoken, Erik-Bloodaxe with his consent proceeded to the Uppland district and to Hathaland.  He burned his brother Rognvaldr along with eighty sorcerers [seiðmenn] in his hall, and people praised this deed greatly.”  [Flowers, p. 4]

Fun people, those Vikings.

At the very least, the preceding section of Heimskringla speaks to Snorri’s belief that his own readers in 13th century Iceland were still going to know exactly what seið was, and that they would consider his account of its continued existence in 9th century Norway to be at least plausible.

And in his book, ‘Heathen Gods in Old English Literature,’ Richard North presents data indicating that “there appear to have been analogues of seiðmenn in Anglo-Saxon paganism,” citing, for instance Bede’s “admiring” 8th century account of Æthelfrith’s slaughter of “that heretical nation” of Welsh monks for “calling on their God against us, though they bear no arms, they still fight us by pursuing us with hostile prayers.”  [North (2), p. 50 – 51].  As North goes on to remark, “Bede thus presents Æthelfrith as if this pagan king was regarding the Bangor monks as wizards whose magic could disarm his warriors…”  [ibid, p. 51]

From the foregoing, we can see it’s quite likely that 10th century listeners; both in Anglo-Saxon England and in Scandinavia, to the poem Völundarkviða would have readily made a connection between the poet’s epithet ‘prince of elves’ for its protagonist and northern traditions of sorcery.  They would not have needed to have been hit over the head with the idea to get it.  The very fact that armed men evidently on a shanghai mission took one ring out of seven hundred and left the others behind on their first foray into the elf-man’s turf, would have put the expectation into most medieval listeners’ heads, that ‘the Song of Völund was going to figure sorcery as a prominent theme.


Stanzas 11 through 16, roughly, (again, depending on which edition and translator you’re reading), deal with Völund’s capture.  Thorpe’s translation of these passages is nice and terse:

“So long he sat until he slept; and he awoke of joy bereft: on his hands he felt heavy constraints, and round his feet fetters clasped.

[Völund says]:

“Who are the men that on the rings’ possessor have laid bonds? and me have bound?”

 “Then cried Nidud, the Niarars’ lord: “Whence gottest thou, Völund! Alfars´chief! our gold, in Ulfdal?  No gold was here in Grani’s path, far I thought our land from the hills of Rhine.””

This last sentence is sometimes attributed to Völund, which is not reasonable, in my opinion.  The speaker is clearly surprised at the fact of the gold in the dark woods, and that could not possibly be the feeling of the owner of that gold, namely, Völund.

““[Völund says]:  “I mind me that we more treasures possessed, when, a whole family, we were at home.  Hladgud and Hervör were of Hlödver born; know was Ölrún, Kiar´s daughter.””

This last phrase of  Völund’s is often considered to be interpolated, but people in shock often go a little funny mentally;  in my opinion, the sentence supports the idea that Völund was in shock and temporarily divorced from the reality of what had happened to him and his surroundings.

Based on the data I have presented in the section preceding this one, with respect to the historical context, namely, that medieval listeners would have already made a connection between the poem, sorcery and elves by this point, it is reasonable to think that the king does not actually think at this point that Völund is an elf.  Clearly, the latter resembles a man in appearance, except, perhaps, for his ‘radiant’ skin.  As I have shown in the preceding section, at the time of the poem’s composition, elves were still considered to be a real supernatural danger, both in England and in Scandinavia.

Therefore, in the minds of medieval audiences, what king in his right mind would have knowingly mocked a dangerous supernatural being?  Therefore, it seems clear to me that epithet ‘prince of elves’ is given again as mockery, to introduce a dramatic tension, between (1) the ‘reality’ of the situation as given by the poet, who has already clearly stated that Völund is indeed an elf – in fact, ‘the prince of elves! – and what that would have meant to the medieval mind in terms of a significant supernatural threat; and (2) the mockery and massive disrespect now being shown to that supernatural being by an earthly king.


I like Bellows’ translation of the next passage but not the bracketed interpolation that he as well as other scholars (though not Thorpe) insist on ‘borrowing’ from a later passage; the interpolation spoils the dramatic effect, in my opinion, and as I hope to show a little bit later…

“And in she came | from the end of the hall;  On the floor she stood, | and softly spoke: “Not kind does he look | who comes from the wood.”

Clearly, there has been a change of scene not spelled out in either the poem or in the running prose commentary (which McKinnell has shown was probably added by a later scribe).  It’s dazing and disorienting, not unlike what the protagonist must have been feeling.  “She” has not yet been identified; it is perhaps given to us to understand that at first the elf-man doesn’t know who the female speaker is, in relation to the king who has had him kidnapped and chained, perhaps with the other 699 of his very own rings and their linden ropes.  Nor do we yet know why one the kidnappers made off with just one of Völund’s gold rings – before, evidently, returning to jack the other 699 rings as well as the elf-man himself.


The queen continues to speak, and the intervening prose, which was added later by someone other than the poet, isn’t really necessary; we can get what happened in the next three verses, stanzas 16 through 18, approximately:

His teeth he shows, when the sword he sees, and Bödvild´s ring he recognizes: threatening are his eyes as a glistening serpent’s:  let be severed his sinews’ strength; and set him then in Sævarstad.”

The queen still hasn’t been named as such by the poet, but now, the listeners as well as Völund himself, who is evidently present during that speech, can understand who the female figure must be, if she’s practically giving orders to the king.  And now he knows who’s responsible for his savage maiming:  the ruthless consort of the king.

With respect to the poet’s likening of Völund’s eyes to those of serpents:  In her article, ‘Skaldic verse in Scandinavian England,’ Judith Jesch quotes the description of the 9th century York ruler, Eiríkr Haraldsson* given in Egil’s saga, ch. 78:  “… where, under the helmet of terror, the omnipotent ruler, advancer of his people, presided [lit. ‘sat’] over the land; the king governed the wet shores in York with a firm mind.  It was not safe, or without terror, to look at the light of the moons of Eiríkr’s brows** [eyes], when the forehead-moon,** keen as a serpent, of the omnipotent ruler, shone with fearsome rays.”  [Jesch, p. 321]

*For more on Eiríkr see:

**  ‘light of the moons of Eiríkr’s brows’ and ‘forehead-moon’ are both kennings [poetic circumlocutions] for ‘eyes.’

Jesch goes on to remark of this description that:  “The seated, helmeted leader with fearsome staring eyes, and associated with serpentine forms, is just the sort of impression we get from the warrior portraits of the Anglo-Scandinavian sculpture of Middleton in North Yorkshire (Lang 1991, Figs. 676 – 81, 686 – 9].”  [ibid]

  ‘The legendary king Regner Lodbrog (Regnar Lodbrog, Ragnar Lodbrok, Ragnar Loðbrók), relief in Frederiksborg Castle, Hillerød, Denmark.’  Photo by , creative attribution, share-alike license


The intervening prose between the forgoing section of the poem and the next one that I will look at really shows up the incompetence of the prose writer:  “So was it done: the sinews in his knee-joints were cut, and he was set in an island which was near the mainland, and was called Sævarstath. There he smithied for the king all kinds of precious things. No man dared to go to him, save only the king himself.”

‘No man dared to go to Völund except for the king.’  And yet it’s clear from later passages in the poem that even the king’s children were traipsing off to see the hamstrung elf-prince – and unaccompanied by a chaperon, to boot!                                                           ************

Stanza 17/18, roughly:  “Skínn Níðaði [skyggt] sverð á linda, þat er ek hvesta, sem ek hagast kunna,  ok ek herðak, sem mér hoegst þótti. Sá er mér frán[n] mækir æ fjarri borinnsékka ek þann Völundi til smiðju borinn. Nú berr Böðvildr brúðar minnarbíðka ek þess bót – bauga rauða.”

“At Nithuth’s girdle | gleams the sword That I sharpened keen | with cunningest craft, (And hardened the steel | with highest skill;) The bright blade far | forever is borne, (Nor back shall I see it | borne to my smithy;)  Now Bothvild gets | the golden ring (That was once my bride’s,– | ne’er well shall it be.)”  ‘ Volund the smith’ by Franz Stassen (1869-1949), courtesy of:

Bellows’ translation of bauga rauða, ‘red-gold ring’ is the most accurate; other scholars, including Ursula Dronke, have pointed out that the singular ‘bauga,’ ‘ring,’is known to have stood in for the plural ‘baugar’ in other writings, and, in the interests of making the elf-prince look less grimly selfish, prefer to emphasise that all of his rings were jacked, not just the one.

However, in my opinion, another interpretation is possible, that doesn’t involve changing the wording of the poem:

The ring that was taken from Völund in the beginning, before he was kidnapped and enslaved, is the ring that was given to the king’s daughter.  This ring had been worn beforetimes by Völund’s other-worldly wife.  It wasn’t just another one of the gold rings; it was the wedding-ring that Völund’s wife had left behind when she took off on him.

At Nithuth’s girdle | gleams the sword That I sharpened keen | with cunningest craft.’

‘with cunningest craft.’  It’s time to talk about the semantics of the word ‘cunning’ in both early medieval Norse as well as in early medieval Anglo-Saxon society.

The use of the word for ‘cunning’ in the poem and its significance:

ON the use of the word ‘kunnig” in Völundarkviða:

Hall, A.  p. 29:  “The distribution of words for supernatural beings in kennings for men is paralleled by other sorts of early Old Norse lexical evidence. Compounds ending in Old Norse -kunnr and -kunnigr (variant forms of the same word, cognate with English kin, not to be confused with the homophonous kunnigr ‘knowledgeable’, cognate with cunning)…”

The Icelandic Dictionary discusses cognates with ‘cunning’ in some detail on page 357 in connection with witchcraft and sorcery.

Catharina Raudvere also discusses the semantics of trolldómr and semantics of ‘kunna’ including ‘kunnig,’  ”

  1. 87: “Trolldómr is chosen here as an umbrella term to indicate the notions, rituals and social interactions in the Old Norse traditions relating to conceptions about the influence certain persons had – by innate qualities or through skill – on the world around them. Trolldómr covered an extensive filed and complex combination of abstractions and ideas as well as ritual practices.  Conceptions of trolldómr were always related to ideas about power and the experience of the balance of power.  The stories are always well integrated into a social setting.  The target for the activities can be a person, an animal, the landscape of a certain vicinity or more abstract entities like prosperity and fortune.  Focused as they are on actions committed, no text gives any formal definitions of trolldómr.  It covers a wide field of assumed abilities to change the visible reality by means invisible and unreachable to ordinary people. …  In Old Norse tradition, trolldómr was first of all a way of explaining the hardships of life – misfortune, illness, theft, unexpected death, etc. (Hastrup 1990a:  197ff.; 1992b; Flowers 1993; Mitchell 1998).  It served as a diagnosis of an uncontrollable situation.  As no established terminology existed, a rich variety of terms to describe the extraordinary capabilities was used, many of them with the connotations of traditional ancient learning and knowledge.”

and on p. 88 Raudvere says:  “Troll is the name of a rather vaguely defined group of supernatural beings in Old Norse mythology (Halvorsen 1982a, b; Lindow 1993).  They are demonic beings, sometimes acting as individual characters but mostly spoken of as a harmful collective.  However, the term is also used to characterize humans with special capabilities, and is even associated with giants, jǫtnar, or related to the dead.  The word is also frequently used in early Scandinavian Christian literature as an equivalent of devils, demons, monsters etc.  But mostly troll refers to the enemies of the Æsir and as a threat to the harmony of Miðgarðr (Hastrup 1981, 1990a, 1992b; Clunies Ross 1994).

“Words associated with trolldómr could point in several directions, particularly those concerning knowledge and speaking out loud.  There was a rich variety in terms relating to knowledge and knowing, and persons affiliated with trolldómr in Old Norse texts were generally described as knowledgeable.  The verb kunna, meaning both ‘to know, to understand, to know by heart,’ as well as ‘to have insight in the old traditions and lore,’ and ‘to behave properly,’ is at the core of this semantic field.  When ‘know’ or ‘knowledge’ are used in an Old Norse context the words have a far more elaborate signification than is usual in modern English…”  [ibid]

More on Seiðr and trolldómr:   Raudvere, p. 90:  “With the exception of seiðr no activity is more closely connected to trolldómr than the art of carving runes with the aim of cursing or healing… Most of the stone inscriptions were memorials of individuals and their deeds, but in the sagas scenes with the carving of runes were also a way of telling of people who made use of their trolldómr knowledge.  The runic alphabet was not just an ordinary writing system used for straightforward communication, but to a large extent associated with the carver’s special abilities… When a phrase like ‘carving runes’ appears in the texts it can also connote performing trolldómr in a more general sense….”

With respect to the power of words in trolldómr:  Raudvere says, p. 90 – 91:  “The most important terms connected to trolldómr either refer to knowledge or to the spoken word.  The importance of the latter in Old Norse literature is well documented (Boyer 1986; Hastrup 1990a:  197ff.; Pálsson (1991).  The importance of words was recognized to have a tremendous influence over the concerns of life.  The impact of a sentence uttered aloud could not be questioned, and could never be taken back  –  as if it had become somehow physical.  Strong and powerful words reappear throughout the sagas.  Many of the deeds of cunning people were not necessarily done but spoken.  The formulaic elements were supposedly vital when performing trolldómr.   Therefore, the verb gala, ‘to say, speak out loud, utter, sing, is the focus in this context…”

Raudvere adds on p. 89 that:  “The multiplicity of meanings is a crucial feature of the trolldómr texts and a key to understanding them…”


From stanza 24 or 25, roughly:   “Sneið af höfuð húna þeira ok und fen fjöturs foetr um lagði.  En þær skálar, er und skörum vóro, sveip hann útan silfri, seldi Níðaði. En ór augom jarknasteina sendi hann kunnigri kono Níðaðar, en ór tönnom tveggja þeira sló hann brjóstkringlor sendi Böðvildi.”

“He smote off their heads, | and their feet he hid Under the sooty | straps of the bellows.  Their skulls, once hid | by their hair, he took,  Set them in silver | and sent them to Nithuth;  Gems full fair | from their eyes he fashioned,  To Nithuth’s wife | so wise he gave them. And from the teeth | of the twain he wrought A brooch for the breast, | to Bothvild he sent it;”

It’s just nonsense to talk, as some scholars have, of this poem as being about a ‘shamanic transformation’ for the king’s sons, or some kind of ‘redemption’ for anyone in the poem. The king’s sons are murdered; their ‘being’ goes down into a lower order of existence, into thing-hood, not ‘up’ into a higher form of existence.  Moreover, the poet knows it:  twice as a refrain in the lead-up to the murders he assesses what is going to happen as being ‘evil’ – “open lay evil.”

However the word ‘kunnigri’ is translated in reference to the queen – ‘wily’ by Thorpe, ‘so wise’ by Bellows,’ ‘wise’ by Dronke, the fact is, as we have seen in the preceding section, that ‘kunnigr’ had definite connections in the minds of medieval listeners with magic-workers, sorcerers and witches.  The implication here is that both the elf-man and the queen are sorcerers, and old Norse sagas feature several other stories of sorceress-queens.

The epithet is in any case given in this section to the queen as mockery:  ‘so wise! so cunning!’ a queen who was sharp-eyed enough to see the elf-prince’s reaction to the loss of his sword and his wife’s ring – but not perspicacious enough to figure out that pay-back was coming ‘round the bend for her.

And the elf-prince sends the queen the eyes of her sons.  “The eyes of the knowledgeable* is a recurring theme in Old Norse literature, but it is the fear of their gaze that is emphasized in other texts…”  [Raudvere, p. 124]

*By ‘knowledgeable’ Raudvere means ‘workers of trolldómr,’ which is the main subject of her essay.


St. 26:  Böðvildr and the broken ring:

As Kaaren Grimstad says:  “The second act of revenge begins abruptly; stanza 26 reveals Böðvildr at the smithy with her broken ring, which she asks Völundr to repair.  Again the audience is reminded of the extraordinary skill of the craftsman, for he replies that he can repair the ring so that it will seem more beautiful…  Unlike the slaying of the princes, the rape of the princess is not expressly stated in the poem…”  [Grimstad, p. 190]

Nor is it expressly stated that the ring was broken as a result of any carelessness on the part of the princess.  In fact, the elf-prince had either cursed the ring, I suggest, or at least predicted its breakage, in an earlier section, wherein he says:  “Now Böðvildr wears my bride’s red ring – never well shall it be!”  [Bellows’ translation]

If the ring was a symbol of his marriage, he may well have been predicting that its appearance on another woman was a sign his marriage to the swan-maiden was truly finished.

I think the poet meant to suggest that the ring had magic in it, intended to bring back Völund’s bride.  But instead of the bride he was expecting and hoping for, he got the king’s daughter.


Stanza 28:  the seduction of Böðvildr:  “28. Bar hann hana bjóri, þvíat hann betr kunni svá at hon í sessi of sofnaði.  “Nú hef ek hefnt harma minna allra né einna íviðgjrna.”

 “Beer he brought, | he was better in cunning, Until in her seat | full soon she slept.  Völund spake:

“Now vengeance I have | for all my hurts, Save one alone, | on the evil woman.” 

Again, the elf-prince’s connection with magic is highlighted with the poet’s repeated use of the word ‘cunning.’  Both Völund and the queen may well be suspected by medieval audiences to have engaged in some form of sorcery in this little drama.   Völund is often said by scholars to have raped the princess, but, as she is later in the poem said to have “cried” to see her “lover” go, and he then refers to her as his “wife,” I’m sceptical that ‘rape’ is the right word for what happened.

I will talk about the second part of the second section of stanza 28:  “Now vengeance I have | for all my hurts, Save one alone, | on the evil woman.” a little bit later, when I discuss the king’s final words in the poem to his wife, the queen.


Völund’s Recovery from his maiming:   “Vel [á] ek,” kvað Völundr- “verða ek á fitjom, þeim er mik Níðaðar námo rekkar!” Hlæjandi Völundr hófz at lopti.”

“Quoth Völund: “Would | that well were the sinews Maimed in my feet | by Nithuth’s men.” Laughing Völund | rose aloft,”

  Volund takes flight,’ drawing by Franz Stassen (1869-1949), courtesy of:  edited somewhat by me.

Again, there is a probable connection in the minds of medieval listeners, with the traditions of seið and with Völund’s physical regeneration.  For instance, there’s the referral in the best-known of the eddic poems, Völuspá, to an evident link between witchcraft and regeneration:  “21. The war I remember, | the first in the world, When the gods with spears | had smitten Gollveig, And in the hall | of Hor had burned her, Three times burned, | and three times born, Oft and again, | yet ever she lives. 22. Heith they named her | who sought their home, The wide-seeing witch, | in magic wise; Minds she bewitched | that were moved by her magic, To evil women | a joy she was.”*  Heid, or Heith, was by far the name most frequently given to witches, prophetesses and sorceresses, in Old Icelandic literature.   Richard North gives other citations in support of a connection between sorcery and regeneration, and concludes that “The sum of this Norse evidence suggests that the seiðr-magic of the Vanir**was regarded from the earliest time as instrumental in the regeneration and subsequent deification of kings who fell in battle.”  [North (2), p. 108]


** one of the two classes of Old Norse deities, to which the witch-goddess Freyja belonged, and of which only she is mentioned in the extant sources to have practiced sorcery.  **********

The culmination of Völund’s revenge:  “Úti stendr kunnig kván Níðaðar, ok hon inn of gekk endlangan sal,- en hann á salgarð settiz at hvílaz -: “Vakir þú, Níðuðr Níara dróttinn?”  “Vaki ek ávallt viljalauss.

Sofna ek minnzt sízt mína sono dauða; kell mik í höfuð, -köld ero mér ráð þín. Vilnomk ek þess nú, at ek við Völund doema.  Seg þú mér þat, Völundr -vísi alfaaf heilum hvat varð húnum mínom.”

 “Stood without, Nidud’s wily wife; then she went in through the hall; but he on the enclosure sat down to rest.  “Art thou awake  Niarars’ lord!”   “Ever am I awake, joyless I lie to rest, when I call to mind my children’s death: my head is chilled, cold are to me thy counsels.  Now with Völund I desire to speak.  “Tell me, Völund, Alfars’ chief!  of my brave boys what is become?””  [Bellows’ translation]

Henry Adams Bellows believed, and so do I, that Völund’s revenge upon the queen wasn’t complete until she saw he’d cost her the thing in life most important to her:  her influence over her husband.  “Now vengeance I have | for all my hurts, Save one alone, | on the evil woman.”

Benjamin Thorpe’s translation of the same lead-up to the end-game is along the same lines but is much more tentative:  “26. He then brought her beer, that he might succeed the better, as on her seat she fell asleep. “Now have I my wrongs avenged, all save one in the wood perpetrated.”

However, Ursula Dronke translates that same verse as being:  “28.  He bemused her with beer, for he was more knowing than she, so that on the couch she fell asleep.  ‘Now have I avenged my injuries – not one, but all of the envious snares!”  [Dronke (1), p. 250 – 251]  In her notes to the verse, Dronke argues that “in order to accept [a translation resembling  Thorpe’s of the last two lines] we need to feel satisfied that Völundr’s escape, together with the crushing níð [black-magic mockery] of his disclosures, could constitute a form of hefnd, ‘revenge…’ [ibid, p. 321]

In my opinion, Dronke shows a startlingly blind spot as regards the position of the king’s consort in medieval times.  We can see what the worst of Völund revenge against the queen actually was, as it plays out in somewhere in stanzas 28 – 31, depending on what translation you use.

I like Thorpe’s, for its terseness, which parallels the original, and I like his use of the word ‘wily’ for the queen, rather than ‘wise,’ which I have already discussed as a separate issue.    “28.   Stood without Nidud’s wily wife; then she went in through the hall; but he on the enclosure sat down to rest.  “Art thou awake Niarars’ lord!”

 “29.  “Ever am I awake, joyless I lie to rest, when I call to mind my children’s death: my head is chilled, cold are to me thy counsels.  Now with Völund I desire to speak.” 

And Ursula Dronke was well aware of the significance of the king’s words to his wife:

“30.  Outside stands the wise wife of Níðuðr and in she walked down the length of the hall, while he by the hall garden settled to rest himself.  Are you awake, Níðuðr, lord of the Níarar?” 

“31.  I lie awake ceaselessly, without joy.  I sleep not at all since my sons died.  My head is icy – your counsels are cold to me.  I long now to speak with Völundr.”  [Dronke (1), p. 251]

Wow.  What a comedown for the queen who had been ruling through her husband up to that point, what a comedown for the queen who had managed to persuade her husband to maim and enslave the prince of elves.  Her humiliation is clear – even without knowing the special significance in Northern medieval culture that this sentence would have had to any woman:  “Your counsels are cold to me.”  [Dronke (1), p. 251]

Ursula Dronke knew the significance of the words ‘cold counsel’ in Old Norse society, although for some reason she signally failed to apply her knowledge in her analysis of what constituted Völund ’s mightiest revenge against the queen who’d got him hamstrung.  In her notes to verse 31, Dronke says:  “31/6 köld … ráð, ‘hostile,’ ‘evil-bringing’ counsel, cf Lks 51/6.  For the deadly implications of kaldr, ‘cold,’ see commentary to Akv 2/6.  That it is ‘coldly fatal’ to follow women’s advice is a proverbial piece of anti-feminism common to ON and ME, earliest record – after the allusion in Vkv – in the Proverbs of Alfred (c. 1150) 122  line 336:  cold red is queen red, ‘women’s counsel is cold counsel…’”  [ibid, p. 325]

In that reference above to the Eddic poem Atlakaviða, Dronke states:  “2/6  kaldri röddo [‘with cold voice’]:  the same phrase occurs in the bitter address of the soul to the rotting body in OE Soul and Body 15… [see (ll. 15-21) here:   ]  ‘Cold’ as an epithet for speech or counsel has the connotations ‘sinister,’ ‘hostile,’ ‘fate-bringing’ in ON… as in OE and ME…”  [Dronke (3) p. 47]

John McKinnell notes the “bitterly appropriate” punishment of the queen with this “loss of her ability to have her advice listened to,” [McKinnell (1) p. 239], and sums up the queen’s ‘appropriate’ punishments, the “ironic gifts made from eyes for the observant woman;”  “loss of influence over her husband which she has misused;” and the “loss of her sons because of her part in the symbolic castration of Völund, in suggesting his mutilation” [ibid, p. 241], without, however, remarking on the significance of the poet’s line:  “köld eru mér ráð þín” ‘cold was your counsel,’ in conjunction with the line:  “”Nú hef ek hefnt harma minna allra nema einna íviðgjarna” ‘“Now have I my wrongs avenged, all save one…”  [Thorpe]                                                                                                              ********

[I will probably continue to update this post in the near future; for example, as I write this, a newer version of the Cleasby-Vigfusson Icelandic Dictionary is on its way to me, and may have an impact on what I’ve written so far about the semantics of the word ‘cunning’ for Northern medieval listeners.]


[1]  ‘seggr’  8. Stigu ór söðlum at salar gafli, gengu inn þaðan endlangan sal; sáu þeir á bast bauga dregna,sjau hundroð allra, er sá seggr átti.  “8. Got down from their saddles| at the hall gable, strode in from there | down the length of the hall.| They saw on the rope of bast rings threaded, seven hundred in all,| which that man ownedg.”  [Dronke (1), p. 245 – 246]  “seggr, m., pl. seggir, [A. S. säcg; from segja?]:—poët. a man, prop. a messenger, which sense can still be seen in Akv. 1, 2, 6, as also in the allit. seggr and segja; at þú mér, seggr, né segir, Skm. 5; seggir segja mér hvártveggja, Hallfred. 2. gener. a man, Vkv. 7, 21; nóttum fóru seggir, 6; sénir vóru seggir (strangers) und hjálmum, Hðm. 20; seggja dróttinn, Bkv. 5: the word remains in mod. usage in such phrases as, grimdar-seggr, a cruel man; óróa-seggr, a rioter. segg-fjöld, f. a host of men, Lex. Poët.”

[2]   On the Hávamál stanza regarding witches apparently flying, [see for ex. Thorpe:  “157. For the tenth I know, if I see troll-wives sporting in air, I can so operate that they will forsake their own forms,  and their own minds.”], Clive Tolley says:  “Hamr* and hug** are found together in Hávamál 155 (72).  The speaker proclaims his power over túnriður19 , sending them villar, “astray,” as they leika, “play, go into ecstasy,” up in the air; its allusion to efficatory magic is enforced by the use of charm-metre, galdralag, in the concluding lines \sinna heimhama, sinna heimhuga\  “from their home shapes, from their home souls.”  This stanza is difficult to interpret… but the essential meaning must be that the speaker has the capability to prevent witches’ hugir, which are playing up in the air… from returning to their bodies.

“*hamr   “The basic meaning of hamr is concrete:  it is an animal or bird pelt… Hamr need not imply the existence of a physical pelt at all, but may exhibit a sense of “the outward form assumed by a being,” which certain people were able to change, assuming the forms of animals…  People (or anthropomorphic beings) changing hamr almost always take on animal form, but the word is sometimes used of people exchanging their outward appearance with each other…”  [Tolley (1) p. 189 – 190]

“**hugr  “The basic meaning of hugr and its cognates is “thought, mind, intention.”  [Tolley (I) p. 186]

 19   Túnriður is glossed as “fence-rider” in Cleasby and Vigfússon.   However, tún does not mean “fence” in Old Norse, but rather the farm buildings and yards; the natural way to understand the word would therefore be that the witches are riding on the rooftops of the buildings, just as Glámr does in Grettis saga ch. 32.  This suggestion, made by B. Olsen (1916:  71), is rejected by Evans (1986, comm. Hávamál 155) on the grounds that tún cannot mean simply the farm building, and in any case it is only ghosts that ride on rooftops; the latter point seems to carry little weight (witches and ghosts may be viewed as belonging to the same class of being, but there does seem to be a degree of unsatisfactoriness in the tún as an object to ride upon.  However, the word is almost certainly borrowed from German, and understood just as “witch” without reference to the lexical elements contained within it; in German a term (without linguistic ambiguity) was zúnrite, “fence rider” (it occurs, no doubt as a traditional term, in the fourteenth-century Münchener Nachtsegen line 14 in the form \zcunriten\ (dat. pl.), which can be either feminine or masculine; in Middle Low German túnride occurs as a plant name:  von Grienberger (1897:  347); this illustrates clearly how witches were conceived to operate liminally, on the boundary between the physical and spiritual worlds, a notion which is found in Norse too:  cf. the Swedish law (73), where the witch sits on a kvígrindr (cattle fence) when day and night are equal, i.e. she works at a dividing point both in space and time.  The same liminality is evident in the terms kveldiða, “evening rider,” (for example Hallfreðr, Óláfsdrápa 6, Skj B, 149) and myrkriða, “murk-rider” Hárbarðsljóð 20.)”  [Tolley (I)  p. 189 – 190]

Tolley adds that “Hamhleypa was a term for “witch,” derived from the ability to “shift hamr,” as the word indicates.   An instance of a hamhleypa turning into a bird and clucking all night at the window is found in the case of Gunnhíldr in Egils saga ch. 60.”  [Tolley (I)  p. 196]

 [4]  Ursula Dronke on the Franks Casket:  “The earliest testimony to the content of the legend does not come from Germany, but from Anglo-Saxon England, in the carvings on two panels of the whalebone casket from Northumbria, the Franks Casket, usually dated to the early decades of the eighth century… On the front panel Weland is depicted in his smithy; a bent leg may signify his lameness; under his forge lies a headless body.  In one hand he holds an object resembling a narrow cup, which is probably better identified as a signet-style ring seen in profile.  (32)  In the other hand he holds tongs which grip a (boy’s) head.  A woman – Beadohild – holds out her hand to him – it is empty – signifying that she has given him the ring.  Behind her stands a woman carrying a flask in a basket; presumably the maid, with a gift of beer for the smith.  To the right of this woman, in a separate scene, a man is grasping the long necks of large aquatic birds… All of these details can be identified as relating to incidents in one or other version of the story.  On the top panel of the Casket is a vivid scene of armed men attacking a bowman at the entrance to a house in which a woman is sitting.  Above the bowman Ægili is carved in runes.  It would seem to record an incident in the career of the brother of Weland, Egill in Old Norse tradition, which is not elsewhere recorded… The Weland scene [on the front panel] is the only scene on the Casket which has no inscription identifying it or its hero.  It must have been better known than [the facing-inscription on the left side of the Magi], who are identified.” [Dronke (1), p. 270]

[But see:  for other interpretations of the Ægili-bowman.]

[5]   “In Beowulf the hero dives into the waters of a haunted lake in pursuit of Grendel’s mother. The suggestion that this lake is a gateway to the Other World is strengthened by the close verbal resemblance between the description of it in the poem and that of the region where wicked souls are tormented after death in a tenth-century Anglo-Saxon sermon in the Blickling Homilies…  In both cases frost-covered trees hang down from grey rocks above the water, and strange sea creatures haunt the lake. Moreover when Beowulf dived under the waves the impression given is that his journey to the hall of the giants was a long one; not until late in the day, we are told, did he reach the bottom, when he was seized by Grendel’s mother, the ‘she-wolf of the mere’, and carried into a hall where he could see a fire burning (1495-1517)…”  [Ellis Davidson, p. 155]

[6]   On the Norns as shapers of fate, see, for example, stanza 20 of the eddic poem Völuspá:   “Thence come the maidens | mighty in wisdom,  Three from the dwelling | down ‘neath the tree;  Urth is one named, | Verthandi the next,– On the wood they scored,– | and Skuld the third.  Laws they made there, and life allotted  To the sons of men, and set their fates.

the original of this picture is ‘The Norns’ by Franz Stassen courtesy of   ….

[7]   “….What is unavoidable, however, is the tradition that Volundr is of elvish origin, and this is elsewhere found only in Middle English, in Lajamon’s Brut 10,544-5 (1963-78, II 550-1), where Arthur’s mail-shirt has been made by an elvish smith called Wygar, father of Widia; the son’s name shows that the father was once WeIand, the traditional father of Widia (see e.g. Waldere II, 4, 9)…”  [McKinnell (2), p. 3]

[8] For another view on what ‘ergi’ meant with respect to male practitioners of seiðr, see Gardela, p. 48

[9] For a very useful, non-magical and step-by-step explanation of how such a field can be created, see Creative Thinking by JG Bennett, Bennett Books, 1998



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Concerning John G. Bennett and Subud…

update June 22, 2016 at 10:23 AM EDM:  This here is an interesting blog-post written by a woman who says she “grew up in Subud” and later left it:  What gives the poster, who goes under the pen name Fuchsia Black, some cred, in my opinion, are both the tone of the post and its venue:  it’s on a site that’s actually run by people who are still involved with Subud:  I stumbled the site just now when I was looking for any information I might be able to find regarding the suicide of a young man, Tulio, on my “Basic Course” in Gurdjieff and other teachings, in 1983.  I had said earlier on this post that Subud had not been offered on my Basic Course.  However, after I wrote that, I heard from a reliable source that Subud had been offered at Claymont, at least, as far as the first Basic Course there.  Moreover, I occasionally ‘cut classes,’ and I began to wonder if I might have missed ‘latihan day;’ so I emailed Avrom Altman, who was then on my FB ‘friends list’ and who had been the ‘director in residence’ for my course, and asked him if Subud had been offered on my course.  According to Facebook, Avrom received and read my  email, but he never answered it; so I deleted him.  (He came back a short while later and asked to be friends again, so I took him back, but he then soon deleted me and blocked me. lol)   Anyhoo, Avrom’s non-response got me thinking about Tulio.  Tulio became very depressed and left the course, going to stay in Pierre Elliot’s residential cottage for a few weeks, in the late winter, I think, of 1983.  For some reason, Pierre, then the official director of Claymont, asked me to go and talk to him.  I don’t know why to this day.  I had my own problems.  I can only guess that Pierre thought I might have some influence on him because Tulio liked me.  But I was the wrong person to fix Tulio’s problems;  I was preoccupied with my own miseries at the time.  I remember sitting in the kitchen of the cottage with him.  There was such a heaviness to his presence.  I didn’t know what to say to him to lift it.  He wouldn’t talk.  But close to the end of my visit, he suddenly looked at me and said, “There is always hope, Marnie.”  And that’s all I got out of him.  Ironic, since the next news I got was that he had returned to his home and killed himself.  I heard later that he’d hidden the fact that he’d been previously hospitalized for mental issues from his Basic Course application.  I always accepted that version of events, until Avrom’s non-answer regarding Subud.  Then I began to wonder if there had been a ‘Subud’ day on my Basic Course, which I’d managed to miss, or, managed to sleep through to the point of completely forgetting it ever happened, possibly in the devastating wake of Tulio’s suicide; and if there had been, what about Tulio?

I plan to check into this more when I have time, which at the moment I don’t; but I thought the blog-post from the former ‘Subud girl’ was interesting enough to post.



I have just edited the ‘Subud’ section on John G. Bennett at wikipedia:  because I find it appalling that Bennett’s account of the death of a student at Coombe Springs was excised from all editions of his auto-biography ‘Witness:  the story of a search.’  Those two pages, pages 345 through 347 in the original 1962 edition of ‘Witness,’ (published in that same year by the ‘Dharma Book Company Inc.  and by Hodder & Stoughton), are to say the least, subjective accounts of the death, but at least they acknowledge that it happened, and record Bennett’s admission in his own words that Subud was the direct cause of the death.

I still consider myself to be a student of Mr. Bennett’s, and you will find numerous references on these pages to his work on ‘triads of will,’ which I still consider to be brilliant.  Moreover, the school he founded in West Virginia for teaching George Gurdjieff’s teachings as well as many of his own ideas, I credit with having saved me.

But I was also very lucky that Subud was not on the menu at Claymont.  I am quite certain that, like the unfortunate student at Coombe Springs, I too would have been vulnerable, and that, had I ever been ‘opened’ by the Subud ‘latihan,’ I would today either be dead or in a madhouse.

Mr. Bennett made an appalling mistake, in my opinion, in rushing to introduce Subud and Pak Subud to his students at Coombe Springs, and it appears to me he never accepted his own culpability in the death of his student, although it seems patent to me reading those pages in the 1962 edition of ‘Witness.’  In his account of that death, John Bennett unwittingly reveals, I believe, his own serious defects as a spiritual ‘guide,’ and show-cases the need to be very careful when the siren call to transform comes along to one, and not to put one’s trust or faith blindly into anything or anyone.

Mr. Bennett’s willingness to sweep that death under the ‘magic flying carpet’ of Subud, shows a profound lack of understanding of the Gurdjieff teachings, in my assessment, which were about more self-awareness and not less, about conscious self-control and self-insight, not giving up control to an unknown force just because it didn’t appear at first go to be malignant.  Subud has nothing to do with the Gurdjieff teachings, and I find it to be really outrageous that Bennett-book-purveyors are still evidently trying to make a buck off of Subud, directly or indirectly.

If you must buy a copy of ‘Witness,’ get the original one, which has the missing two pages on the death from Subud, as well as about fifty more that were removed.  Alibris is an excellent source for rare, second-hand and out-of-print books; I have ordered from Alibris sellers numerous times and invariably found them to be reliable.  As of this writing, in the U.S. still has the original version for sale although Canadian Amazon does not.

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