Moltke Moe's "Rejuvenation Tonic" - An Invigorating Mulled Tobacco Beer That Will Absolutely Kill You

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Let’s start with a flippin’ disclaimer: I do not recommend that anybody follow the recipe stated in this article. Nicotine is hazardous and any unorthodox method of administration should be carried out with caution. I take no responsibility for any dim ideas that might arise from this article.

Now, is this a trip report or a review? I honestly don’t know. Nothing makes sense anymore. Beer and liquor and smokes are suddenly all the same. There is no separation, no up nor down. Today I question all my life’s decisions that led me down this path of sin and misery.

But first of all, let me explain: It was way back Brute Norse’s infancy, when I went by the name Tulen and ran myself off the bend doing Norse related Q&As, that my old friend Rudi Endresen challenged me to recreate a beverage described by the Norwegian folklorist Moltke Moe, the lesser known (but still brilliant) son of the legendary compiler of fairy tales Jørgen Moe, on an expedition to Bø in Telemark. A bizarre concoction consisting of beer, spirits, and tobacco, intended to grease the throats of his sources. The tale was recounted by Knut Liestøl in his biography of Moe the younger, and in Norwegian it goes like this:


Ein gong ville han få til et lag sjølv. Han hadde høyrt av gamlingane i Bø at i ungdomen sin hadde dei hatt så svær ein oppkveikingsdrykk. Det var øl og brennevin saman, som vart oppvermt og hatt litegrand tobakk i. Så kom Moe på at dersom han no laga ein slik drykk til dei og fekk dei saman, så ville minnet friskna og tungebandet losna, og han ville få høyra mykje gamalt som dei elles ikkje kom i hug. Ja, laget kom i stand, og drykken var der, og stemninga steig fort i taket. Men det vart ein fiasko, for gamlingane tolde ikkje retteleg den drykken dei hadde hadd slik glede av i ungdomen. Dei sovna om eit lite bel, og noko gamalt fekk han ikkje.

Now in English, my emphasis added:

One time he wanted to organize an assembly himself. He had heard from the old folks in Bø that in their youth, they used to have this great rejuvenation drink. This was beer and liquor together, which was heated with a small bit of tobacco added. Moe had this idea that if he could make such a drink for them and get them all together, then their memory would be refreshed and their tongues loosened, and he would hear lots of old things they otherwise failed to remember. Indeed, the assembly happened and the drink was there, and the mood grew quickly intense. But it was a fiasco, because the old people no longer tolerated as well the drink they had enjoyed so much in their youth. They fell asleep soon after, and nothing old was gained for him.

And so I set out to recreate this particular little crap nugget from the cozy outhouse of Norwegian folk culture. Screw all that wine after beer nonsense.

The Grim Reaper (or is it Kittelsen’s “Pesta”?) entertains Moltke Moe with fairytales, in Bø, Telemark. The scene of the crime.

The Grim Reaper (or is it Kittelsen’s “Pesta”?) entertains Moltke Moe with fairytales, in Bø, Telemark. The scene of the crime.

A translation rarely flows well when it’s literal. The same principle applies to reconstructing Moltke Moe’s mnemonic elixir, as the specifics elude us. I haven’t got a clue whether he used local farmhouse beer or some commercial alternative, or from whence he sourced his liquor, so rather than giving in to speculation I decided it was best to opt for a solution based on somewhat common ingredients, for eased consumption and guzzability (?).

In the former incarnation of this recipe I used rolling tobacco, which was convenient. I believe I only used a pinch last time around — admittedly a path I should never have strayed from — but my concept of measurement when it comes to tobacco is shaky. I’m no smoking man and I don’t know a living soul on this side of the Atlantic, so I resorted to bum an American Spirit from a co-worker. As for the remaining ingredients I went for a malt-forward Belgian dubbel and a standard Norwegian aquavit. I threw the ingredients in a pot and heated them to right below boiling temperature, then transferred the concoction into a coffee press to separate the solids. In yonder past, tobaccer was a relatively expensive luxury. You seen the size of clay pipes and whatnot? People smoked a small pinch at a time. Had this moment of historical clarity come to me sooner, I would have severely cut down on the tobacco content. But this is a modernized recipe, and what is more modern than short-sighted, wholesale idiocy?

Drunk warm, it was immediately clear that liquor and beer alone would make for a tasty winter warmer, and slowly other effects began to manifest as well. It didn’t take long before I started feeling excited and spirited, courtesy of the double buzz of alcohol and the unfamiliar nicotine rush. Alert like a motherfucker! I listened to some devilish fiddle jigs and rocked back and forth as I punched the air. In my dipsomania they flashed before my mind’s eye; the infamous brawls of peasant dances past. It all made sense now. I felt like kicking hats off long sticks and brandishing knives, to do ill deeds, throw rocks in the ocean and strike bargains with the devil.

I hear you, brother

I hear you, brother

That all sounds cool and all, but it went downhill fast from there. This was the point of no return. I recall similar, albeit weaker effects at the time of the first reconstruction several years back, but this time I was flying way too close to the sun. I began to sweat profusely. One whole cig per tankard was obviously too much. My nicotine extraction method was too efficient for my own good.

My innards loosener from their place and began to wander my wretched body. For the sake of the article I’m pretending this all happened in the past, but this is happening at the time of writing. Or should I say times of writing, because I had to take multiple breaks to finish this short piece. First to pace around the room, but nausea forced me back on my ass. This is a nonlinear article. The sickness encroached upon me like a bridge troll, and I ended up vomiting multiple times before finally crawling to bed, where I took an hour long nap before I returned to finish this mess of a review. I found the half-full (!) tankard mocking me from the corner of the table, so I poured the fucker out. I’ll let you believe that parts of this very text was written with my left hand as my right hand kept the toilet seat from dunking my head into the bowl. Did I damn near assassinate myself for the sake of immersive anthropology? True to the original account this was a total fiasco, and now, several hours later, I still feel like shit.

So to sum things up: So basically Moltke Moe (1859-1913) was a Norwegian folklorist who once got a bunch of old folks so drunk they passed out by lacing their beer with liquor and tobacco. It was a disaster then, and it was a disaster now. Would I do it again? A nice mulled beer I would not mind, but leave the nicotine out of it.

Recipe: Moltke Moe’s “rejuvenation tonic“ à la Brute Norse aka. Scandinavian ayahuasca

  • 0.33 l of dark Belgian abbey ale (8% alcohol)

  • 4 cl of Norwegian aquavit (40% alcohol)

  • 1 cigarette, but maybe just one third of this if you are sane

    1. Unroll cigarette, mix all ingredients in a suitably sized pot.
    2. Heat slowly on a stove top, do not boil.
    3. Transfer concoction to a coffee press, or pour it through a tea strainer to filter out the tobacco.
    4. Serve in a solid mug or tankard, then pour it straight down the drain. Or, if you are prone to self-harm, drink slowly while it’s still warm.

    Pair with warm sheets in a well ventilated room, or some devilish Nordic jams.

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Barbarian Beverages: The Bitter Viking

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A little known fact about Brute Norse is that I also take submissions for cocktail recipes according to a set of vague, cultural historical criteria. Basically, anything goes as long as it combines old and new in accordance with my idiosyncratic Scandifuturist ethos.

The following concoction, the “Bitter Viking”, comes to me from M. N. Walker of Thrym & Ellen via my pal Michael. This is essentially a Nordic spin on the classic gin and tonic, but swaps the gin for akvavit, and the lime wedge for a more ethereal grapefruit presence. Akvavit is a muscular category of liquor often associated with holidays in Scandinavia, and yuletide in particular. But, you know, I’m a card carrying lobbyist for the year-round consumption of akvavit, so they didn’t exactly have to ask me twice about passing on the recipe. Besides, it’s rather refreshing!

Bitter Viking

1.5 oz. traditional Akvavit (with caraway)
9 drops of grapefruit bitters

Add ice, Fever Tree tonic and zest of grapefruit


As for food pairings, I don’t know - a wedge of strong cheese, maybe? I had it with some fancy sardines straight out of the can, but “recommend” is a loaded word. As for music pairings, distant gunshots, or anything with a jaw harp or a fiddle in it goes without saying. But the real listening combo is obviously episode 14 of the Brute Norse Podcast, which just happened to be released this week!

If you liked this piece you might also enjoy:
Summers are for Mead Spritzers: A Scandifuturist cocktail manifesto
Olde English Malt Liquor: 24 Ounces of Anglo Saxon Glory
Barbarian Beverages: The Noble Savage - a simple cocktail with an archaeological twist
Seaweed: An Authentic Viking Age Beer Snack

Got a good recipe? Why don’t you drop me a line and I just might try it out.
And as always, support Brute Norse on
Patreon or treat yourself to some berserker themed power-socks.

Fårikål: An Edible Cultural History of Norway

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Fårikål, or “sheep in cabbage”, is popularly regarded as Norway’s national dish. Whether or not this most arid half of the Scandinavian peninsula actually requires a national dish is up for debate, but I will not spill blood to contest the claim.

To the untrained and unappreciative eye, fårikål may seem just like any other desaturated slop that emerges from kitchens across the North, which in spite of due popularity in the gourmet restaurant market, isn’t particularly famous for its traditional home cooking. A problem of marketing, certainly, but ask anyone who was ever brace enough to try. They will testify that Scandinavian comfort foods are as hearty as they are delicious. Who needs color anyway.

Fårikål’s main constituents, lamb and cabbage, are both products of the autumn season. So naturally, autumn’s return marks the season of fårikål. Unpretentious, simple, and emblematic of the landscape and its people. It demonstrates a rustic refinement unseen in most modern kitchens. Simply put: It’s great folk culture.

Every bowl of fårikål is in its own little way a cultural history of Norway. The country has over a million sheep, that’s one for every sixth person, and more than an equal number of lambs are slaughtered every year. For comparison our country has less than a hundred thousand pigs, which are historically challenging to raise. Sheep are more than suitable for our steep, saline shrublands, and even help fight overgrowth, doing their part in maintaining a cultural landscape slowly carved out by millennia of agriculture. As our staple livestock since the Neolithic, sheep are quite literally as old as the hills.

Sau, the Norwegian word for sheep comes from the Old Norse sauðr, and is etymologically tied to the verb sjóða, meaning “to boil, simmer”. Initially, sauðr may have meant something along the lines of “the animal we cook”. If that doesn’t speak volumes about how important these woolly critters have been to our survival, I don’t know what does. Sheep have filled the bellies and dressed the bodies of uncounted generations. Hold a leg of lamb alongside a map of Norway and you will realize that the two even look alike.

Kål (Old Norse kál), is an umbrella term reflecting both English kale, cabbage, and various other cultivars of Brassica oleracea. If not as ancient as domestic sheep, it is still an old Nordic staple crop attested in Old Norse texts. It is mentioned alongside angelica (hvǫnn) and onion or leek (laukr) in the Bjarkeyjarréttr. This is a 13th century law regulating centers of commerce, so it must have been important. But it wasn’t exactly a luxury item, as some interesting Old Norse proverbs attest to: At drepa fleski í kál - "to put bacon in the cabbage” means to turn a sorry situation into something nicer (Egils saga einhenda ch. 8). We obviously can’t live on cabbage alone, not today, and not in Norse times either.

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As in later peasant culture, the most common way to prepare fresh meat was by boiling stews and broths (Old Norse soð, a more general term than later Norwegian “sodd”), and to most people it was an occasional and greatly appreciated delicacy. While no *fær í kál is mentioned in any Old Norse texts, broth of lamb is. With the seasonal overlap of slaughter and harvest, it is certainly likely that a bowl of mutton and cabbage provided warmth and comfort to a cold and tired Norseman on more than a few occasions.

The only additional and more recent ingredients, by some considered essential, are whole black peppercorns (for a nice little sting), and a side of boiled potatoes. Pepper, by the way, is probably the most popular spice of the Norwegian larder, while the potato remains an essential vegetable that has saved our starving asses through many bitter seasons.

With its ancient roots and modest selection of ingredients, fårikål is a due reminder of Norway’s humble rural past. I hold that within the Scandifuturist philosophy every bowl is to be regarded at least equal in symbolic value to Tolstoy’s shirt and Heidegger’s lederhosen. Of course, this article would not have been complete without a recipe, which you will find below. Newcomers will find it surprisingly fragrant, and the smell only grows as the dish simmers, and is prone to linger for quite some time after. It should simmer for no less than three hours. If you have a slow cooker, that’s ideal, but it will still fill your house with its distinct bouquet. Loved by many, loathed by some. It can be cheaply and easily be scaled up and down, so why not invite some friends and make it a banquet? This is a two-stage experience meant to be drawn out over at least two days, so plan enough for leftovers. “Second-day fårikål” is widely regarded as the best.

Fårikål

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Essentials:
- 1.5 kg cabbage
- 1.5 kg lamb, diced in large chunks (shoulder or leg, with bones)
salt to taste

Pot with lid.

Optionals:
1 tbsp. whole black peppercorns
as many potatoes as you expect to eat
2 tbsp of wheat flour (I usually skip this)

Directions:

1. Cut the cabbage into large pieces. Many choose to discard the core.
2. Brown the lamb pieces in butter on all sides, bone and all.
3. Starting with lamb, stack meat and cabbage in layers in the pot (add peppercorns as you go along).
4. Fill with water, but not too much: Cabbage itself contains a lot of liquid and will sink down as it simmers.

Heat it slowly, cover and let simmer on low-to-medium heat for three hours, or as long as you can stand waiting. Remember: The longer the better! Pairs well with white wine, lager beer, or a nice rustic cider. Preferably around a sturdy hardwood table with family or good friends. And always keep good salt and freshly crushed pepper close at hand.

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Summers Are For Mead Spritzers: A Scandifuturist Cocktail Manifesto

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A cornerstone of the Scandifuturist way of life is the normalization of anything and all that belongs in the uncanny valley of archaism. Whenever the modern Scandinavian looks at him or herself in the mirror, I see it as the role of the Scandifuturist to be that exact mirror image they are observing, but one that reaches out of the mirror and grabs the viewer by the collar of their shirt. It is the role of the Scandifuturist to play the role of the vengeful ancestor that never died or went away, but stepped into the modern world as if returning from a long and slothful holiday, invigorated and drunk on life.

Cultural elements that are broadly recognized as part of the Nordic heritage, yet are somehow still neglected (or even avoided), drop effortlessly from the trashcan of history and into the shopping basket of the Scandifuturist, who is not afraid of seeming out of step with his time. On the contrary! Scandifuturism, in a sense, represents a left-handed approach to intangible heritage. In the secular nation of Norway, a Scandifuturist goes to church with glee, though he sold his soul at the crossroads years ago. For like their pagan ancestors, Scandifuturists want life to live.

Case in point: Puritan heretics against a more primordial Nordic self-image, as well as the cheaper-or-exotic-is-better mentality of the Industrial Era has long since laid waste to much of the drinking culture that was. I for one lament the loss of a time when not drinking in front of the freshly deceased was an offense towards their living relatives. Don't even get me started on communal drinking bowls and village doctors.

Let's cut to the chase: It is only reasonable that mead, once the drink of kings, is restored to its former position as the house god of the drinking cabinet. Yet the mere mention of this golden beverage will make the modern-minded Norwegian recoil in chronophobic disgust, as I have seen for myself on many occasions, and why so? In reality it is a versatile and tasteful drink, well suited for a number of foods and culinary experiments. None the less, mead today is served as a spectacle, a carnevalesque test of valor. Pot-bellied executives drink it with a grimace in viking themed team-building exercises, where it is served up for the sake of entertainment ridiculing the rustic delights of a more primitive age. In short: Only in the bizarro world of Scandinavian pilsner tyranny could mead be envisioned as an inferior product.

While it is tempting to say that all of these idiots should be drowned in vats of mead, like the mythic king Fjǫlnir before them, Scandifuturism is not a vengeful philosophy, but holds that there is hope for all who keep an open mind and maintain a curious disposition, and so it would be better to send them of to re-education camps. Ones where they are taught to enjoy the manifold delights of an obscure and insulted ancestral beverage, and beyond this there should be room for reinvention not only in the serving of mead, but also farmhouse ales, akevit, berry wine, ciders, and moonshine! For now this simple, but tasteful recipe will suffice.

Scandifuturist Mead Spritzer

You'll need:
1 part mead
2 parts seltzer
3-8 violent dashes of orange bitters
lemon wedge

1. Fill a glass with ice. For the true experience, the glass should be slightly too small for comfort. This drink will sooner be finished, but you will keep making cold ones.
2. By measure of eye, add your "one parts" mead, whispering underbreath a silent prayer to a god blind and deaf.
3. Run the lemon wedge along the rim of the tiny glass and give it a good squeeze for the sake of acidity.
4. Ample dashes of bitters.
5. Add your two parts of seltzer, drink and repeat.

Pairs well with saltine crackers and hot mustard as you gaze into the midnight sun.
And don't forget to tip your server.

By the way, have you ever noticed the abundance of runes in the video for Q Lazzarus' Goodbye Horses?

"Viking Word of Wisdom": a letter to the Norwegian-American newspaper Nordisk Tidende, April 15th 1982

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How often in daily life have we found ourselves shaping our actions according to a little truism, or a certain small sentence packed with life's wisdom? A couple which come to mind are, «A stitch in time saves nine», and «A fool and his money are soon parted». Possibly you have your own collection of sayings which you incorporate into your daily life.

The Viking Age Scandinavians were little different from ourselves in this respect, and fortunately many of these Nordic bits of wisdom wee preserved in writing. Within the set of poetry known as the Poetic Edda, and there, chiefly in the Håvamål, or Sayings of the High One, (i.e. Odinn), we can find the proverbs of early 10th century Norway and Iceland.

Gwyn Jones, writing in A History of the Vikings (Oxford, 1968), defined the central life question for the early Norsemen as being: «How shall a man conduct himself so that his life may be reasonably happy and reasonably successful, reasonably useful to the community, and reasonably free of harmful entanglements?

Within the Håvamål, which wasn't committed to vellum until the thirteenth century, we are offered a glimpse into everyday Norse thoughts on proper conduct, but not necessarily Norse virtue. This was the work of realists, it spoke to a man at the bar of public opinion, with a verdict from a jury of his neighbors. The following are a number of these bits of Viking wisdom.

Before proceeding up the hall, study all the doorways. You never know when an enemy will be present. [Stanza 1]

A guest needs water, towel, and a welcome, a warm word if he can get it, and the right sort of entertainment. [St. 4]

There is no better load a man can carry than much commonsense, no worse than too much drink. [St. 14]

A man of mark should be reticent, thoughtful, and brave in battle. Everyone should be happy and cheerful till he reaches the end. [St. 15]

Only a fool thinks all who smile with him are friends. He will find when he reaches the law-court how few real backers he has. [St. 25]

Only a fool lies awake all night and broods over his problems. When morning comes he is worn out, and his troubles the same as before. [St. 23]

Better a house you own, however small it be. Everyone is somebody at home. Two goats and a poor-roofed cot are better than begging. [St. 36]

Out in the fields a man should never be parted from his weapons. No one knows when a man in the open has need of a spear. [St. 38]

A man should not be grudging of the money he makes. Often what we intend for those we love is laid up for those we dislike. Matters often turn out worse than we expect. [St. 40]

Be a friend to your friend, match gift with gift. Meet smiles with smiles, and lies with dissimulation. [St. 42]

I was young once and walked by myself, and lost my way. I knew myself rich when I found a comrade. Man's joy is in man. [St. 47]

Generous and brave men get the best out of life; they seldom bring harassments on themselves. But a coward fears everything, and a miser groans at a gift. [St. 48]

Out in the fields I gave my clothes to two scarecrows. They thought themselves champions once they had trappings. A naked man is shorn of confidence. [St. 49]

A big gift is not necessary. Esteem can often be bought on the cheap. With half a loaf and a tilted bottle I have gained a companion. [St. 52]

A man should be moderately wise, never too wise. He who does not know his fate in advance is freest of care. [St. 56]

A man with few helpers must rise early and look to his work. A late-morning sleeper carries a heavy handicap. Keenness is halfway to riches. [St. 59]

Confide in one, never two. Confide in three and the whole world knows. [St. 63]

The lame can ride a horse, a man without hands herd sheep, the deaf can fight and prevail, it is better to be blind than burn (i.e. be cremated because of death). A corpse is useless to everyone. [St. 71]

Cattle die, kinsfolk die, we ourselves must die. One thing I know will never die – the dead man's reputation. [St. 76-77]

Praise no day until evening, no wife before her cremation, no sword till tested, no maid before marriage, no ice till crossed, no ale till it's drunk. [St. 81]

No one should trust the words of a girl or what a married woman says. Their hearts have been shaped on a turning wheel, and inconstancy dwells in their breasts. [St. 84]

He who would win a woman's love must speak her fair and offer presents, praise the lovely lady's figure. It is the flatterer who carries the day. [St. 92]

Great love turns the sons of men from wise men into fools. [St. 94]

Be cautious, but not too cautious. Above all be cautious with ale or another man's wife. And third, watch out that thieves don't make a fool out of you. [St. 131]

And finally a curious injunction as to the gods:
Better no prayers than excessive offerings: a gift always seeks a recompense. Better no offerings than excessive sacrifice. So declared Thurdr [sic] (Odinn) before man's memory began. [Corr. Þunðr. St. 145]

Author: Gary M Turnquist
Grassy Creek, N. Car.
[Annotations by Brute Norse]


Nordisk Tidende was a newspaper for Norwegian-Americans based in New York from 1891 to 1983. It often featured news from "the old country" along with a variety of advertisements and content relevant to Norwegian interests in the New World. Though initially a fully Norwegian newspaper, English gradually became the main language of the newspaper as the diaspora assimilated.

To read these and other stanzas from Hávamál in the original Old Norse, check out our friends at Heimskringla.no

Brute Norse does not run itself. If you want to support, please consider making a pledge on Patreon or buying a shirt, if not you can still support the site by sharing links and spreading it among like-minded people.


Galdrastafabók: "A Book of Staves" by Jesse Bransford (Review)

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To pick up your first mail order is an unspoken pleasure of moving house. It may be the last thing you need at a point where you are living out of bags and boxes, but there is truly no better inauguration for a new home than to once again sink into such habits of quotidian life.

This rings particularly true when you go to pick up the things that make a house a home. A good chair, a book, a piece of art. I found two out of three waiting for me recently, in the form of Jesse Bransfords' latest monograph A Book of Staves, or Galdrastafabók, released this year through the UK based esoteric publisher Fulgur. I didn't know too much about the author in advance, but I did know he was an artist and co-organizer of the biennial Occult Humanities Conference. Though a vague point of reference, it was a promising start. I landed in town just too late for the release party, which coincided with Bransford's solo exhibit The Mahavidyas and Fields of Ice at Ortega y Gasset Projects in Brooklyn. Luckily the show was still ongoing by the time I had settled down and come to my senses, and I was fortunate enough to catch a lecture by the artist in question and Elizabeth Insogna, mediated by another Occult Humanities Conference organizer, Pam Grossman. All in all a great occasion to see some of the book's eponymous staves up close.

The Mahavidyas and Fields of Ice, Jesse BRansford (2018). Photo by Janelle Vladimir.

The Mahavidyas and Fields of Ice, Jesse BRansford (2018). Photo by Janelle Vladimir.

Certain expectations follow the Fulgur catalog. As the common ground of art and magic forms their main scope of interest, Fulgur's books and journals seem to burst with pictures, poetry, and colorful illustrations. In the case of their often oversized volumes, they are a far cry from the ubiquitous pocket format fodder found in the new age section of your local bookstore, and truly worthy of rare hours of retreat and contemplation. Their artsy and bookish alibi recalls the old times when it was self-evident that art, magic, and academia were parts of the same trinity.

A Book of Staves does not diverge from this esoteric art book tradition. Nicely bound in its coffee table format, a debossed visual palindrome in the form of a charm hides beneath the dust jacket. With its 120 pages it is not a dense book by any means. The word count is front heavy: The book begins with a statement from the artist, superseded by an introductory essay by the British archaeologist and art historian Robert J. Wallis. Both supplied with a parallel Icelandic translation. From there on, most of the text consists of titles and quotes from the Hávamál in Old Norse besides Carolyne Larrington's popular English translation. This is intended to complement the artwork.

As for the artwork itself, it would be more fitting to refer to the individual images – like the artist does – as spells. For all intents and purposes, A Book of Staves is not a typical "art book", but a neatly curated series of visual charms: It contains 39 individual galdrastafir, 18 of which are based on the equal number of magical charms reckoned by Odin in the ljóðatal section of the eddic poem Hávamál (stanzas 146 through 163). Then, under his “Moon Rituals” follows nine astrological staves, then eight non-sequential “Small Staves” on various magical themes, and finally four staves for the elements.

I was immediately surprised at how well the “songs” of ljóðatal worked with Bransford's visual re-imaginings. In hindsight, Odin's secretive charms sound exactly like the sort of things you'll find in many books of magic, whether in continental grimoires, or the Scandinavian “black books” and Icelandic staves the early modern era. His “Small Staves” come across as faithful developments of this tradition as well. Yet his is no sterile contribution. The artist's playful signature, whether by his use of watercolor, or the sketchwork revealing the underlying geometry of the charms, removes the usual anonymity of his source material. Though unsaid, Icelandic staves work excellently as abstract art.

The Mahavidyas and Fields of Ice, Jesse BRansford (2018). Photo by Janelle Vladimir.

The Mahavidyas and Fields of Ice, Jesse BRansford (2018). Photo by Janelle Vladimir.

This wouldn't be a true review without some critical remarks: While I found myself nodding along to the opening essays, there were one or two points where terminological inaccuracies and anachronisms eased my initial groove. Such as the seeming use of seiðr as an umbrella term for "Icelandic magic". Strictly speaking, seiðr and galdr aren't necessarily associated with one another at all, but the book does seem to make this association somewhat by default. As I have pointed out in previous entries, though, this is a common misunderstanding of Old Norse magic (read: generalizing the particular), so Bransford can definitely be excused. Besides, the author's reason for mentioning seiðr in the first place seems to serve the purpose of contextualizing magic as an example of the transgressive in-between. I can hardly argue with that, even if I disagree with the terminology.

I also wish the book made a clearer statement about the kinship between the galdrastafir and the solomonic magic of the wider European tradition, which much of the Icelandic tradition is directly descended from in form and content. Though the essays refer to the Western mystery tradition and hermeticism here and there, it feels as if the alignment is treated as somewhat of a coincidence or artistic quirk. In fact, the galdrastafir have a closer relation to classic Western esotericism, than they have to historical viking era sorcery. Not to even mention the conjecture and antiquarian tricks involved in the original galdrastafir,  which many people are either unaware of, or reluctant to admit. But when all is said and done it is not Branford's responsibility as an artist to correct the wrongs of how Icelandic magic is sold to the wider audience. Perhaps I can put this on the wishlist for future editions?

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Some nerds may raise an eyebrow at the disregard for runic chronology displayed between the covers of the book, but I see no issue here. The book does not pose as a source of historical magic, as so many modern books on Nordic magic quite fraudulently do. Instead, Bransford's book represents a successful attempt at demonstrating the common ground of past and present, as well as different traditions. I think that to the majority of people, it can be difficult to understand what magic has to offer in such a materialist and disenchanted society as our own. Icelandic magic, actually all forms of folk magic, could introduce them to the idea that magic exists even in the most mundane expressions of the human condition. Jesse Bransford has created a playful and worthy contemporary contribution to the Icelandic magical tradition, which I will heartily recommend to anyone interested in the long-term artistic and cultural legacy of the North Atlantic.


Verdict:

FIVE FROTHY HORNS

Buy Jesse Bransford's A Book of Staves here.

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Migratory Meditations: Leaving a Homeland in the Hard Iron Age

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"It is sad to leave your homeland", an Afghan woman told me. Over the last nine months, I have had countless conversations with people about my intended migration from Norway to America. It is one of those things you can't help but mention. When every day is filled with soul-sucking bureaucracy, forms to fill, and the grueling uncertainty of the wait, the sum of obsession with all possible outcomes becomes an inevitable subject of conversation. You dream about it, and every waking hour it walks in on your trail of thought.

To her it seemed like an odd choice to make, that I would leave Norway. If she could, she would gladly sacrifice the saline shores of Norway to live with her loved ones in the valleys of Afghanistan.  War and persecution ruled that possibility out for the time being. No bombs have fallen over Norway since 1945, no mines haunt my childhood trails. The sad and happy difference, of course, is that I have a choice. My migration is a luxury, but that's not what she said. She said: It is sad to leave your homeland.

And I agree. Her statement stuck with me, not due to the contrast of our respective situations, but due to the skin in the game she displayed within it. She knew what she was talking about. Among the countless people who either cheered me on enthusiastically, or questioned my choice based on a general suspicion towards the American model, this comment came across as most sincere.

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Landscape is a core element of our identities. People are born, live, and die without ever leaving New York state. Many Americans have never seen the ocean. The landscape and traditions I was born into differ, sometimes drastically, from that of the big city in the New World. I was born in an ancestral homeland, with an ethnic, cultural, and linguistic affinity stretching back thousands of years. The single recorded instance of my line of descent ever migrating to or from Norway was a temporary stint in North Dakota that only lasted a generation, before my "squarehead" forebears - ethnic Norwegians both - married and decided, in spite of any promise of opportunity, to return to the old country.

Whenever I looked out the window, I have always felt backed up by countless generations of ancestors. People who changed only as slowly as the landscape, whose looks and traits I carry with me from cradle to grave, and that I may give to prospective children in the future. My paternal line of descent has not, at least to my knowledge, made any drastic choices in terms of landscape and identity since the Bronze Age. The Hindus place us in the dark Kali Yuga, the age of darkness and confusion. Hesiod might say we still live in the hard Iron Age of fuss and misery. To most Westerners it suffices to say the word "modernism" to conjure what seems to be an odd mix of alienation and prosperity. There is no shortage of either, but I believe it that even if all of the above is true, our age of cyberfuss is raised by the girders of some sardonic fate beyond direct control. The gods delight as much as they fear.

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My childhood landscape was filled with mysteries, vernacular traditions, and ancient sites, but if there is any truth and merit to what I have done in my work so far, the recipe should work also here. The Norse Vinland colony collapsed due to understimulation, starvation, and exposure. The cosmos they created in the wake of Leifr Eiríksson's landing collapsed under its own weight, and the Vinland landscape I look upon from my apartment is different. This is a strange world, and nobody really knows what the hell I am talking about if I mention my background. But then again, not everybody did in Norway either. I don't think I have ever been closer to what I believe to be the logical conclusions of the cosmology of the Eddas. When cosmogenitors of the legendary sagas break from society, it is never to live within nature itself, but to lay flat the forests, and to timber houses. Nowhere is the inevitable imbalance of the battle of culture versus nature better exemplified than in a metropolis like New York, a city with a population greater than the entirety of my home country. In a nation whose Norwegian diaspora outnumber the Norwegians of Norway itself.

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People talk about the lightning speed of the proverbial New York minute. Before I decided to move to New York I lived in a marshland cabin off the municipal water supply, often isolated during heavy snowfall or storms. It was fantastic, and I hope to live like that again. Time moves slow in that sort of scenery. A maturing experience for certain, but a life without hustle soon grows stale. In this swamplike landscape I was quite literally wallowing, waiting for the wind to blow in my direction, and it took some time for me to realize that nobody was waiting for me to be ready. I found my Will, and found my way. It only took me a while to realize.

It took only four days between my landing and my marriage to my wife, which was the object of my migration. Things move quickly when the ball starts rolling. Now I wake up in a landscape where every tree is planted by a human hand. Where the surface is peeled down to its granite bedrock, skyscrapers soar so high they go unnoticed on street level, and unsuspecting pedestrians walk on levels of surfaces hundreds of meters above the deepest tunnels and recesses of this Swiss cheese city. Trees are kept behind fences, like cages, and not even the wildlife behaves naturally, but in perfect accordance with the human compulsion towards order. Though the disorder of nature - naturally - oozes through the woodwork. Cruel Mother Nature always will. This is Moondog's city, the blind and visionary artist who never quite belonged in any urban center, yet could never have developed anywhere else. Where thousands like myself passed through, who walked up and down the old Brooklyn ghetto they affectionately called "Lapskaus Boulevard", where the psychic advised Johannes Hansen to return home to Oseberg, resulting in that famous ship find.

I don't know how this process will affect Brute Norse, but I will not be the first writer to leave that homeland.

These are speedy days, but so is the hard Iron Age.

Olde English Malt Liquor (Review): 24 Ounces of Anglo-Saxon glory

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America doesn't have much viking related stuff to see besides runestone-based hoaxes and the odd statue of Leif Erikson. That's cool enough on their own terms, though I haven't had the chance to see any during my trips. Not that it matters. There's enough to see and do in my base camp in New York, which is chock full of beautiful museums and great art. Luckily, I'm bestowed with other fascinations as well. For example, I'm extremely interested in the sociology of drinking culture. Or really just drinking culture in general. Or maybe I just like drinking? Who knows.

I'll read a demographic report on national alcohol consumption with childlike curiosity, so I've spent hours hauling my girlfriend from liquor store to liquor store. I hardly ever bought anything, though: For the most part I was really just comparing booze selections in various parts of the city, which lead me to conclude that Americans of all social classes really love their IPAs.

It was in some sticky-floored bodega I saw it. A bronze can winking at me from the refrigerator at midnight. The label stated Olde English "800" malt liquor. The holy grail and envy of post-ironic Medievalists across the Western hemisphere. This is what Beowulf would have drunk were he a hobo in Detroit. What does the "800" stand for? I have no idea, but 800 was a year in the early viking era, which must mean I'll take any excuse to write an article. Being somewhat of a historian of human and animal alcohol abuse, as well as an expert in certain cultures long since dead, I was pretty stoked to try it out. I took out of the fridge and carried it to the counter with both hands and gave a cheery nod to the proprietor – an unenthusiastic Asian man. I paid in cash and carried it home in a brown paper bag.

What is malt liquor? Let me tell you: Malt liquor is basically potent beer, often sold dirt cheap in large containers. Why don't they just call it beer, then, you might ask. They don't, because that would be illegal in several states, that's why. Instead malt liquor is an umbrella term used for various alcoholic beverages made with malted barley, but usually contains various industrial grade non-standard ingredients to cheaply boost the alcohol level as well. Malt liquor, malt liquor, how it rolls off the tongue.

For context: The Norwegian welfare state is very concerned with the health of its citizens, which means it's prone to nanny-state lawmaking. We have a restrictive alcohol policy, and hard alcohol is only available through a government-run chain of liquor stores. It's not all bad: Two benefits to this is a monstrously huge selection and a thoroughly educated staff. It also means that everything they sell is curated by a board of specialists. This so-called Wine Monopoly does provide both higher and lower quality booze. But they don't offer gut-rot products such as what Americans call bum wine, which tastes like a chemical spill and allegedly makes your tongue turn black, so it's probably for the better. American malt liquor is rarely exported as well, and demand will never be large enough for the Norwegian Wine Monopoly to care. This combined with a general counter-cultural interest, may explain why these beverages hold an almost mythical status to me. Make no mistake, however: Produced by MillerCoors, one of Americas highest grossing brewing companies, Olde English "800" is no underdog by any means. The international beverage industry is cynical and deceptive.

Back in the apartment I sat down, wondering whether I should have a meal or a snack, but in the end I could come up with no better pairing for Olde English "800" than Anglo-Saxon Books' parallel translation of Beowulf. Luckily, a copy happened to be within arms reach. I politely tapped the can to warn the contents of my arrival, put my finger to the tab, cracked it open and had a sip. I halfway expected it to be really awful. It's certainly no taste explosion, but I can't honestly say it was in any way lesser in quality to cheap macro lagers such as Budweiser (so-called " " "king" " " of beers) or Pabst Blue Ribbon (hipster soma). In fact, I found the morning-urine-hued, Anglo-Saxon themed drink to be richer in taste than both of them despite a rather low hop profile. Then again, this is probably carried by the comparatively hearty alcohol content of at 5.9% AB. It is what it is.

 

Verdict:

Three cleft skulls.

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Best paired with poetry in a dead Germanic tongue and bitter musings on the Norman invasion.

 

[First published March 22nd 2017]

5 Viking Hairstyles Proving Scandinavians Were Lightyears Ahead of Everybody Else

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As a Norse educator with 30 years of experience (life experience), and a Norwegian, but first and foremost as a follower of the old ways, I know perfectly well that Iron Age Scandinavia was home to the greatest civilization the world has ever seen. You don't need to tell me, I'm here to tell you, that the 6th century Byzantine historian Jordanes hit the nail right on the head when he called Scandinavia as, and I quote, “the womb of nations”. Dare I even say this womb doubled as the cradle to all civilizations? I do, and like all children, these cultures are all snotty ingrates. What good every came from the shithole called “the Mediterranean”, to not even speak of the near East.

Of course, the denizens of my ancestral lands were also famed for their impeccable style, aristocrats of the soul as they were. This should surprise nobody, for they were forward thinking Pagans all, who lived and died in honor, well versed and familiar with concepts too advanced for the unwashed dunces of Christian nations to fully comprehend.

Your god was nailed to the cross? Well mine has a hammer, just saying ;) Besides, where have all those frost giants gone?

Iconography harvested from a wide range of Ancient Origins suggests that Vikings and their ancestors, which would also make them my ancestors, mastered not only sailing, but also the noble art of cutting hair. This proves beyond the shadow of a doubt what the Vatican has been trying to hide for a thousand years: That the Vikings were the most technologically (and aesthetically) advanced culture the world has ever seen. Other Viking innovations include interstellar travel (some have even said our gods came from space), total equality of the sexes (they even allowed men on the battlefield), and social democracy, but that's a digression. It is all proven in many self-published volumes.

Today we shall look at how they used their supreme seafaring skills to impress and outcompete the fashions of every people they encountered, as demonstrated in five hairstyles. Prepare to be inspired! Skol!!!

1. The Golden Boy Curtained Bowl Cut

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15 square millimeters of pure heartthrob. These gullgubber sport a timeless curtained mushroom bowl cut that is sure to singe the loins of even the iciest chieftain's daughter. Don't forget to ask her father's permission, and be on the watch! With that smooth chin he might not be adverse to your boyish charms himself. Just don't find yourself on the receiving end of any tomfoolery, because that would be unmanly. Not that there's anything wrong with that.

Though not as prevalant today, this ancient hairdo still adorns the noggins of Joe & The Juice employees, Korean stage performers, and Australian backpackers the world over.

2. The Berserker Flattop

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Swept off the cliff like a Faeroese toddler, this dude hails from the isle of Bornholm, mustard capitol of the North. Usually these gold foils are portrayed in profile, but that would hardly give credit to his chiseled bog iron frame. No sir, this bad boy is depicted en face (as in: en your face).

This hairdo offers ample servings of absolutely no fucks given, suggestive of a personality prone to swinging roundhouse kicks at the longhouse wall, continuously flexing and/or kissing his magnificent biceps, all the while crunching drinking horn after drinking horn as he erases your mom's maiden name. Hung like Odin on the windy tree, this dude looks just as home harrassing an Estonian fishing village as he would lifting truck tires in the woods.

3. The Norman Yoke

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The hairdo that destroyed Anglo-Saxon England! This equestrian fringe (that means it looks like a horse) is one of Norse culture's greatest contributions to continental society, as proven by its adoption by the Norman elites, as well as 90’s Dutch gabber culture. It takes some self-esteem to pull off this look, and that, my friends, will get the knees to buckle and quiver on your enemies and lovers alike.

Sure, your dad might not approve, but don't worry, neither did countless Anglo-Saxon parents either, as the scribe Ælfric wrote around the year 1000: «I also say to you, brother Edward, now that you have asked me for this, that you do wrong in that you abandon the English customs which your fathers observed and love the customs of the heathen people who did not give life to you and by doing so you reveal that you despise your kindred and your ancestors by such evil customs when you dress in insult to them in Danish fashion, with bared necks and blinded eyes

So let there be no question of the ancient roots and provenance of this equine haircut. Let it also stand as the final answer to the question of whether or not the vikings got high. They were evidently raving and pillaging every drug cabinet between Dorestad and al-Andalus.

4. The West Fold

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It is famous and true that North America was discovered by Norse exiles, but few are aware that they were just trying to find some decent avocado toast. Oseberg or Williamsburg, what’s difference anyway? Besides, we can thank some Brooklyn witch for finding the Oseberg ship in the first place, and its residents are as unwanted in their homeland as the original Norse settlers were. Exactly how deep does this rabbit hole go? Either way, the west fold cut in any variation is only complete with a thin, neatly kept mustache in the style of the aboriginal Trønders of Middle Norway. This is my style at the time of writing, and I can only conclude that Norway should contest the USA's territorial claim on this bank of the East River.

5. The Heathen Visionary

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Last but not least: Always be yourself, even if you are a total nutter. It doesn’t matter how you style yourself, Norse culture valued total individualism, second only to the value they put on total submission to your extended family. Admittedly, this overtly casual style requires the least maintenance and preparation, but it will certainly give you a characteristic, sage-like look without trying to impress anybody. Whether you are hoarding gold in the swamp to save yourself from the Justinian plague, pondering the endless intellectual depth of neanderthals (the only race that could ever compete with the Norse), sitting in a cave praying for nuclear strikes to decimate the global population, or any other noble pursuit. If not a full-fledged cult following, a full beard and greasy hair is sure to earn you friends according to the principle of quality over quantity. If they can't handle you at your worst, they don't deserve you at your best! That’s what my wife says anyway.

... 

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The Trollish Theory of Art: A scandifuturist art creation myth

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Studying Nordic folklore, one gets the sense that the performing arts were communicated and taught by dark, subterranean powers. The recent ancestors of contemporary Scandinavians lived in a world where the devil was a fiddler and the malicious water spirit known as nøkken, or the nix in English, could be heard playing sweet and seductive jigs from waterfalls and streams. It was said that he offered apprenticeships to those who dared bring him a sacrificial meal. But these entities do not represent creative independence and freedom without compromise: The devil is unable to perform his devilish deeds single-handedly – he is powerless without the initial consent of either god or man – and the nix possesses, like most goblins, wights and trolls, a murderously ill disposition towards mankind. Trolls and their ilk are not known for their innovation, and are in fact utterly passive creatures that must be coaxed or driven to action. Then, one might ask, what do wights and devils have to offer us? The answer is nature. They illustrate that man in one way or another must approach and confront nature if he is to realize culture. And since nature is rather suspicious, poisonous, capricious, etc., it is represented by such clandestine, anti-cultural agents.

Since trolls first and foremost are beings of nature, they are not motivated by cultural concerns. But though they are anti-cultural, they don’t thereby exist in a culture-less vacuum. Nature and culture reside in a mutually destructive relationship to each other, and one could say that the culture of the troll, as it were, is a reactionary necessity. They coil around one another. Norse poetic theory reveals that the shape-shifting nix was originally perceived as a mutant: a creature that was half one thing, half something else, as addressed in Kunstforum 1/2017. The medieval Icelandic poet and chronicler Snorri Sturlusson thus referred to the aesthetic ideal of pagan poetry as nýkrat: “nixy”, because its metaphors were constructed out of opposed elements – poetic, anti-naturalist mutants.

The perception of art in Nordic folk tradition up until the industrial revolution – the era Norwegians refer to as Det store hamskiftet (literally “The Great Shape-shift”) – may be considered an off-shoot of one we see even in Old Norse and Viking Age sources, and can still be traced in language today. This might seem like a bold statement. But languages reveal metaphors and deep psychological concepts and ideas that are often difficult to identify directly, but can be unveiled in etymology and euphemisms. We usually apply negative connotations to the word “darkness”. To most of us, these lean towards uncomfortable, more or less anxiety-provoking subjects. Many of us are afraid of the dark, but darkness is also associated with seductive moods, instincts and subconscious pulls. The Norse realm of the dead, Hel, has the same etymological root as huldra, a seductive and dangerous subterranean spirit in Nordic folklore. Both words mean “the hidden”. It is precisely to the blackest underworld that gods and men alike must journey to retrieve knowledge and inspiration in Norse mythology.

“That trolls dwell in men is a fact known by all who have an eye for such matters,” wrote Jonas Lie in the introduction to his anthology of supernatural stories, Trold (“Trolls”) in 1891. To whichever end we may ascribe human personality traits to wights and trolls, it will more often than not appeal to our worst natures. The things we would rather hide. Greed, laziness, envy, exploitation or seduction. Any behavior Christianity considers sinful, comes naturally to the troll. Pursuing these metaphors, we may begin to discuss subterranean characteristics. The subterranean is where the trollish has its roots. The trollish doesn’t necessarily reside in the underworld itself, but relates to it much like the Sicilian mafia does to America. And nature is trollish in itself. Thus we may consider trollish personality traits, deeds, impulses, and patterns of thought. And, not least, we may consider trollish aesthetics. A trollish paradigm, not only for understanding art, but also mankind’s masochist struggle between order and chaos, nature and un-nature...

READ THE REST OF MY ESSAY ON THE TROLLISH THEORY OF ART HERE

Augvald Granbane: Archaeological Confessions of a Reluctant Eco-Vandal (Interview)

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Driving along the Norwegian coast, you're bound to pass some the many spruce forests dotting the countryside. You'd be excused for thinking that these are naturally occuring features, but in fact they are the wild remnants of man-made plantations. Spruce gardens for the lumber industry. Imported from Canada, it is estimated that some 500.000 acres worth of sikta spruce were planted in the 20th century. Much of it in the years following the second world war, when the rebuilding of the nation raised demand for timber to new heights.

For this, the sitka spruce was a well suited material: It grows fast, straight, and tall. It has excellent strength-to-weight ratio, and more importantly, it thrives in Norway's thin, nutrion deprived coastal soil. There is a sad irony to this, but also a familiar pattern seen wherever the short-sighted decission is made to introduce a new species to a foreign environment.

In a sense, you could say that sitka forests have quite a literal dark side. As anyone who ever set foot in their forests will know, they tend to be dark and lifeless places. The sunless forest floor, though it makes for excellent mushrooming ground, is invariably covered in nothing but spruce needles and cones. If the sitka spruce demands little, it strangles all competition. Considering that most of these plantations are abandoned, they are allowed to spread without regulation. The qualities that made the sitka such a desirable source of timber, have turned it into a monster, and the scheme to meet lumber demands became a sort pact with the devil.

«Guttorm's Mound» (Also called The Prince's Mound), Karmøy. Photo: UiS

«Guttorm's Mound» (Also called The Prince's Mound), Karmøy. Photo: UiS

A new threat to an ancient landscape

Conservationism comes in many forms. In the past, overgrowth was kept in check by traditional livelihoods. A flock of sheep or goats was all you needed to keep the landscape open. With the decline of subsistence farming and rural lifestyles, saplings that would have ended as treats for livestock, now live well into maturity. With landowners uneager to finish the work their grandparents left behind, you can imagine the result. Trees are left as they are, even if they ripe beyond their years for logging. Sooner or later, a gust of wind will tip them over, and their shallow root systems will rip up the soil. This leaves an ugly crater or bare mountain. If a tree grows on a burial mound tips over, which is certainly a realistic scenario, it can ruin the mound forever. And since they they tend to grow in dense concentrations, they'll often take their neighbors with them when they fall. It's not unusual to see huge clusters of fallen trees after winter storms. Sometimes eradicating old pathways.

Landscapes that would have been just as familiar to an Bronze Age sheep herder as they would have been to a 19th century fisherman, are quickly disappearing. Ancient shrublands and pastures are dwindling away in the shadow of an invasive species. It outcompetes local flora, and rips through the innumerable ancient sites along the Norwegian coast.

Today, the sitka spruce is a recognized ecological threat, an unwanted species. It should have happened much sooner, but the fact that it made the national blacklist at all, is probably thanks to a national awareness that has come over time, much through the effort of a few individuals who have gone beyond the call of duty to save our pastures, moors, meadows, and monuments from the sitka's sprawl.

Enter Augvald, vigilante spruce killer

Arguably, the most infamous character in the saga of the sitka spruce, is the mysterious rebel activist going by the name of Augvald Granbane - the spruce bane. Nobody knows who the person behind the name is, only that he (or she) has haunted the ancient landscape of Avaldsnes, on the West Norwegian island of Karmøy, since 2003. His mission? To completely rid the heritage site and its vicinity of the hooligan spruce, as he calls it.

Avaldsnes itself was allegedly the main estate of Harold Fairhair, Norway's first, Viking Age unifier, and forms part of one of the most find dense archaeological areas in the entire country. Including two ship burials from the 8th century, several massive Bronze Age mounds, standing stones, hill forts, and the 3rd century princely burial of Flaghaug, which contained a 600g solid gold torque, among other things. It is also a recurring, important area in the kings' sagas, and was mentioned in mythological Eddic poetry. 

Taking his title from the mythical king that gave Avaldsnes its name, Augvald's nom de plume is not a random choice. In a sense he has written himself into the rich mythology of Karmøy's history soaked moors and mires, taking as his emblem a sketch of a lost, local bronze artifact. Coming and going, issuing updates on his latest activities, leaving a trail of mutilated sitkas in his wake. Emerging every now and then to make statements remniscent of a guerilla leader taking responsibility for an assasination or kidnapping.

But Augvald's intent is not to instil fear or subvert the law. If anything, he seems see himself as a necessary evil against bureacratic passivity. Killing spruce trees at night, and writing by day. His resin stained hands elegantly steering his pen, loaded with literary wit and sarcastic remarks. Demonstrating passion, interest, and understanding of the unique value of Avaldsnes and its surroundings as an archaeological smörgåsbord, which covers the entirety of Norwegian history, from the Ice Age to the Oil Age. Having absolutely no mercy for local politicians without skin in the game, it is hard not to see this anonymous rebel as an example of the great Norwegian archetype of the subversive underdog who sticks it to the big man. As you can expect, not everybody is too thrilled about his vigilante conservationism. Even in the local history scene, he remains a controversial figure.

The Viking Farm by Avaldsnes. Hidden in the sitka jungle. Photo: Eirik Storesund.

The Viking Farm by Avaldsnes. Hidden in the sitka jungle. Photo: Eirik Storesund.

This is close and familiar ground to me. I grew up around the area, where I spent my formative youth reenacting the Iron Age, eventually working as a seasonal educator and guide at the Viking Farm open air museum, and the Nordvegen History Centre on Avaldsnes. Which in turn led me down the path I find myself on to this day. Augvald had a sort of spectral presence there, I recall, as I would spend the hours after drinking and walking from burial mound to burial mound with my friend Aksel, musing and meditating on the mysteries of the past. Very often, Augvald's signature cutmarks adorned the overgrowth around us. 

It was obviously just a matter of time before I reached out to Augvald Granbane for an interview. The rest of the article, I dedicate to our conversation. 

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Confessions of a reluctant archaeo-activist: Augvald Granbane

Brute Norse: It's not every day one gets the honor of questioning a living, local legend. I think it would be most prudent to let you describe yourself in your own words. Who exactly are you, Augvald?

Augvald: Living legend is a flattering exaggeration. Shady instigator with a narrow, and local agenda is, perhaps, a better description. I've arranged civilly disobedient operations on Avaldsnes since 2003. This is done to demonstrate my severe dismay with a situation where the invasive sitka spruce was allowed to dominate – exceedingly – a cultural landscape, one that has always been clear and wide open, ever since people first began to keep pastures along Karmsund [That is, a narrow strait between the isle of Karmøy and the Norwegian mainland]. I've done this anonymously, and as an eye-catcher for websites where I have published my thoughts and observations under the pen name Augvald Granbane.

Brute Norse: The core of your activism seems rooted in the fact that spruce forests are an anachronistic and destructive element, unfitting in a protected historical landscape such as Avaldsnes. Reading your statements, it seems the spruce has become somewhat of a symbol of some overarching bureaucratic tendency. Perhaps you could you elaborate on that?

Augvald: First of all, sitka spruce is a concrete and obvious foreign element on Avaldsnes. That these trees were allowed to grow in peace for half a century is bad and difficult to comprehend. Personally, this situation became unbearable when the trees were still standing a decade after this mistake was pointed out, loudly and clearly. And all while the spruces kept growing, vast resources were spent on building a reconstructed viking farm in the middle of the spruce forest on nearby Bukkøy, and a history center up on Avaldsnes itself. For my own part, the invading trees became an increasingly potent symbol of a nonchalant, restricted, and embarrassing display of historical ignorance among those people whose responsibility it was to take action.

Part of the Migration Era hillfort at Steinfjell, Karmøy, before and after clearing. Photo: Aksel Klausen.

Part of the Migration Era hillfort at Steinfjell, Karmøy, before and after clearing. Photo: Aksel Klausen.

Brute Norse: The sitka spruce is a blacklisted, invasive species, and is considered a terrible nuisance in other parts of the country as well. Is Granbane's mission primarily cultural historical, or is there an element of ecological conservationism as well?

Augvald: My actions were motivated by cultural history from the start. Eventually, the WWF and other environmental organizations have also begun to combat the «hooligan-spruce». Their methods are clearly more effective than mine. In some places along the coast, there's a real ongoing struggle against these invasive forests, which were planted in the post-war era. But unsurprisingly, this trend has not reached our local backwater. 

Girdled sitka spruce. Photo: Augvald Granbane.

Girdled sitka spruce. Photo: Augvald Granbane.

Brute Norse: You've become somewhat infamous for your weapon of choice: So-called girdling, in which you cut a groove along the circumference of the tree, thereby severing the tree's access to water and nutrients, which slowly kills it. I have to admit it's been a bit eerie stumbling across these girdled trees over the years. This has been a sort of trademark and signature of your presence, but I understand you went through a more experimental phase in your early days, when you used poison. Beyond visibility, are there any other perks to girdling that a budding tree-killer should take note of?

Augvald: Girdling, also known as ring-barking, requires patience, but it's simple and effective if you do it right. In the growing season, poisoning the tree with glyphosate will do the trick in about two weeks. Girdling on the other hand won't take effect until the end of the second growth season. With my long-term perspective, it's okay to wait two years. Besides, if you're going to put down another man's spruce, you might as well do it in a way where you cannot be accused of hurting the environment.

Brute Norse: Absolutely, I imagine pesticides would be somewhat counter-productive to your image in the long run. Do you think your ghostly presence has had an impact on local development, say, in terms of environmental intervention?

Augvald: That's hard for me to determine, but anybody can go there and see for themselves that not even a single spruce remains on Avaldsnes itself. Those involved would of course claim that the trees were due to be removed anyway. That may be partly correct, but obviously they've been forced to deal with a somewhat unpredictable, anonymous figure. A recurring fly in the ointment.

Brute Norse: That's for sure! I know one mutual friend of ours reached for his saw and lopper to clear up a Migration Era hillfort outside of Åkra [a small town South on the island], certainly inspired by your own efforts. Do you hope to inspire others to do similar acts in their own local area?

Augvald: Absolutely! But the fact of the matter is, that there is rarely a reason to do this anonymously and illicitly anymore. On the contrary: Combating «hooligan-spruce» and other examples of overgrowth has by far become accepted as a necessity. There's a lot you can do, and today it's even possible to apply for public funding. 

Hill fort site at Steinfjell, Karmøy. Note the girdled tree in the background. This was done with the landowner's permission. Photo: Aksel Klausen.

Hill fort site at Steinfjell, Karmøy. Note the girdled tree in the background. This was done with the landowner's permission. Photo: Aksel Klausen.

Brute Norse: There must be room for some hope with that sort of development. I think it's fundamental that we teach the public to see these sitka forests as the run-amok plantations they are, and not as natural occurring forests. How do you think the situation is a hundred years from now?

Augvald:

I hope the sitka spruce is gone from the entire North and West Norwegian coast, but I am a realist. I expect it will continue to be very dominant in the landscape. Keeping it away from selected areas is a realistic goal, and Avaldsnes is obviously one such area, but it seems it's certainly here to stay. The hope of eradicating this foreign element must necessarily lie in some (bio)technological solution, and that doesn't exist as of today.

Brute Norse: As one would expect, there's no shortage of speculation surrounding your identity. Personally, I think the power of Augvald Granbane's activism lies in all the uncertainty, which seems to give it an element of folklore. Like some sort of modern outlaw, shrouded in hearsay and legend. For example, the story of Augvald ties in with the occasion where Olaf Tryggvason, by many considered one of Norway's great tyrants, was subverted by the god Odin. In a sense, the old taking back from the new.

Do you think Augvald would have made the same impact without the evocative imagery, and the mythology surrounding his name? Is he just a mask for you to hide behind, or do you consider him a being with ambitions of his own? I can imagine such a character taking on a life of his own.

Augvald: The pseudonym was, originally, a purely practical device, and it's served this purpose well. But regarding both the name and means of expression, this was a conscious strategy I chose in order to make the message I wanted to convey a topic of discussion, questions, rumors, and at best even jokes among a local audience. I had a pretty concrete and longstanding plan at the base of it, but it took a while before I came to realize that Augvald Granbane also had a more mythological potential. On a day to day basis, Granbane plays only a marginal and passive role in my real life, but after 14 years it's safe to say he's left his mark on me. Maybe I've even contracted something of a personality disorder? At least he's certainly developed a few stances and values that somewhat differ from my own, and I've grown strangely capable of distinguishing between his opinions and those of mine.

The 13th century St. Olaf's Church on Avaldsnes in 2004. Photo: Augvald Granbane.

The 13th century St. Olaf's Church on Avaldsnes in 2004. Photo: Augvald Granbane.

Brute Norse: Speaking of which, the name Augvald Granbane is frequently uttered in the same breath as the terms «vandal» and «eco-terrorist», but many consider you a kind of folk hero. I suppose I am guilty of this line of thinking, too. Do you keep track of all the speculations and characteristics projected onto you?

Augvald: No... Well, I've obviously heard a variety of more or less puzzling guesses and peculiar commentaries, but for the most part I just let Granbane's reputation go wherever it pleases. But I found an exception relatively early on in his career, when there was an overabundance of rumors about my identity, and some of them were quite unfair. I found it best to contribute with some simple facts to dispel a few of the most imaginative and paranoid theories. Hopefully, this served to clear the names of certain people who were unjustly accused, who may unfortunately have felt it as a burden.

St. Olaf's Church on Avaldsnes in 2012. Not a spruce in sight. Photo: Augvald Granbane.

St. Olaf's Church on Avaldsnes in 2012. Not a spruce in sight. Photo: Augvald Granbane.

Brute Norse: The area around Avaldsnes, actually the entire region, is unbelievably rich in ancient and historical monuments, yet, in the local branding, we see that it is the Viking Era and Harold Fairhair that steals the show. Hence the local slogan «Homeland of the Viking Kings», which is probably the first thing people see when they land at the local airport. What are your thoughts about this «viking circus», as you like to call it?

Augvald: «Homeland of the Viking Kings – Norway's Birthplace!» was the most outrageous version. An undocumented and obviously unreasonable claim. Made even more edgy by the fact that it was presented in English only - from the very beginning. As if it would become more true or trustworthy if one could avoid expressing this hollow nonsense in the native language of the primary audience.

Initially, I think it's absolutely great that the municipal council of Karmøy, and other local institutions want to shine a light on cultural heritage. My complaint is that this is done in a narrow, historically ignorant, short-sighted, clumsy, stale, and partly destructive way. All the while the cultural landscape and the real historical sites go for lye and cold water [a Norwegian expression: to suffer in neglect], get overgrown or outright ruined, unless antiquarian institutions or private forces intervene. Local politicians and municipal bureaucrats have barely any understanding of the fact that the landscape forms an entirely central part of cultural heritage. Their attitude seems to be, that only the Viking Age is worthy of interest, and that it is better to construct new and completely artificial Viking cultural sites, than it is to take care of the actual and far too dull monuments, for the simple fact that they too often belong to the wrong period. The remains of the amazing ship burial Storhaug [A late Merovingian/Vendel Era find, straight north of Avaldsnes] is perhaps the most depressing example of this. Not many years ago, Storhaug was conveniently «forgotten» by the local council, and almost ended up as an industrial site. Today, what remains of the mound is wedged up against, and probably partially within the industrial zone. Storhaug was by no measure a lesser mound than those which hid the Oseberg and Gokstad ships, neither in terms of content nor size. Some persons of influence should reserve a field trip to Vestfold and see how the ship-mounds are taken care of there. On the plane back home, it would be nice if they could find a moment to silently contemplate the state of things, and the verdict that will be passed on them by future generations. Do they think that our descendants will favour their efforts to fund construction of «real» viking houses in the spruce forest on Bukkøy, while at the same time letting actual historical sites – some of them world class – be destroyed by industry, roads, and real estate?

Sadly, it is my impression that the occasionally extreme commotion about the Viking Age locally, is a product of a collective inferiority complex, need for attention, awkward search for identity, and a dream of great economic profits when all the tourists start flooding in to experience these constructed delights. A proper mess, in other words. Let me tell you: Pointing this out won't make you popular...

Brute Norse: A firm statement. There are numerous other examples of such local hypocrisy. When they renewed the road to Saint Olaf's Church on Avaldsnes for its 700 year anniversary, they actually removed several burial mounds to save themselves a few extra truckloads of stone! In 1950! Anyway, I guess the last word is yours. Is there anything you want to add?

Augvald: On my homepage, I've explained the prelude to my actions in detail, as well as the development up until today. It's a long and winded saga about delays, narrow-mindedness, and hopeless ignorance of history. The angle is rather localized. Even to readers who understand Norwegian, but lack a local connection, it's probably difficult to pick up all the details. Google translate works badly for this text, and to a non-Norwegian reading audience I'm sorry to say that only the pictures offer some impression of its content.

Apart from this, I'll keep my action firm. Going in the same tempo, and with the same goal and strategy in mind as before.

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http://avaldsnes.blogspot.com/

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Ginnungagap, The Boundless Enclosure + The Trollish Theory of Art. Brute Norse Podcast Ep.6

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The giants called: They want their primeval chaos back! This episode features a cosmic horror reimagining of the Norse myth of creation, adapted from my essay "The Trollish Theory of Art: a scandifuturist art creation myth", published in the recent darkness-edition of

Scandinavian Kunstforum

. Afterwards, I give a quick overview of Norse poetic morbidity, and I throw out a few thoughts on why a philosophy based on Nordic folklore and cosmology could bridge the gap between traditional and modern art forms.

As always, if you like my work, please consider supporting me on

Patreon

. But you can also help by subscribing to the podcast, follwing Brute Norse on

Facebook

and

Instagram

, and sharing to your hearts content!

Barbarian Beverages: The Noble Savage - a simple cocktail with an archaeological twist

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While recording the latest, third, episode of the Brute Norse Podcast, me and my guest Aksel Klausen strayed into a long digression about one of our favorite subjects: Drinking culture in the past. The act of drinking is, as I've mentioned elsewhere, a deeply symbolic act. What, where, and how we drink unveils our identities, and often our taboos. Drinking correctly can earn you social prestige, but drinking inappropriately has a wider range of possible outcomes, from the carnivalesque to the abhorrent. Next time you go to a party, bring wine and drink it out of a ceramic mug, or a jar. It will raise questions.

Drinking is socially stratified: For example drinking beer was considered somewhat antithetical to drinking wine, historically. I am thinking of my own, native Norwegian society, but it could apply to many other places too. Beer was unpretentious, but also not "cultured". Today, it does not always make sense to talk about beer in broad terms: It's been accepted as the rich culinary expression it is.

With this came an admittance that beer is also culture - obviously, there was never a point where it wasn't. Even the archetype of the village drunk is a saturated cultural expression. What we're really talking about, is shifting perceptions of what constitutes high and low culture.

Anyway, the dichotomy of beer against wine has ancient roots: Wine drinking cultures, such as ancient Rome and Greece, have tended to perceive beer drinking as barbarian, or at the very least vulgar. Bavarians obviously see no stigma in the consumption of beer, while prohibition era Iceland eventually made exceptions for wine and hard liquor (you might say that Nordic drinking culture was spiritual, wink wink), but they made no exception for beer which , unbelievable as it may sound, was illegal until 1989. It was branded a gateway drug, which can be compared to legalizing cocaine, but not cannabis. A poignant metaphor given Rekjavík's past (?) reputation as a safe harbor for yuppies, who were all drinking prosecco anyway.

Beer drinking cultures have tended to be less judgmental, though there are certainly examples where proponents of beer culture have accused wine of promoting decadence and snobbery, both today and in the ancient past. In Norse and Germanic society, there seems to have been a social hierarchy of beverages: Beer is good, and mead is excellent, but wine is the stuff of legend. Heroic poems like Atlakvi­ða passionately refer to the glory of the feasting hall, where champions take deep sips from "wine-heavy ale bowls". Talk about hedonism. 

 

at juellinge in denmark, this roman era woman was laid to rest with roman drinking vessels and a strange concoction.

at juellinge in denmark, this roman era woman was laid to rest with roman drinking vessels and a strange concoction.

Under the Roman Influence

A proverbial dip into some of the archaeological evidence for Bronze and Iron Age Nordic beverages, primarily in the form of residue on the inside of drinking vessels and containers, suggest that these Nordic cultures were far from purists when it came to what they drank. The residue bears witness to the spectral presence of berries, malt from beer, and pollen and wax from honey mead. There are also occasional traces of wine, and pitch that could either be used to flavor the beverages, but probably as a sealant for the vessels. Wine, of course, being telltale of contact with the mediterranean.

While it is impossible to tell whether or not all of this was contained in the vessels at once, there are enough of these examples to suggest that people living in prehistoric, Bronze Age, and Iron and Dark Age Northern Europe, consumed mixed beverages, often referred to as Nordic grog by the venerable professor Patrick McGovern, who refers to them in such classics as Ancient Wine, Uncorking the Past, and lastly, Ancient Brews - the most recent addition to his bibliography.

I've not read that last one, but you should definitely read the former if you're interested in history, fermented beverages, the history of fermented beverages, or the fermented beverages of history. Let me rephrase that: If you are culturally conscious person person who eats and drinks, then you should read at least one of these books, or die. If you are a scholar, you should buy Uncorking the Past, sit down with a typewriter, and retype every word of it. You will have grown as an educator by the end of it.

There are a lot of opinions about what constitutes a so-called serious academic. I believe it is one who takes his or her material so seriously, that they cannot help but reach out to the public. Who are unafraid of breaking the mold. McGovern is just that, as his impassioned, amiable writing style demonstrates. His books achieve to be both pioneering academic text books, and page turners.

Anyway, my friend and I were chatting. We were already somewhat tipsy on his homemade Roman inspired mulled wine. An earthy, spicy beverage he had fashioned from amphora-fermented Sicilian nectar. As it ran out we decided to return to our barbarian roots and recreate a drink we'd enjoyed many times before, usually by an open fire under the blushing sky of long Norwegian summer nights. This simple, contemporary interpretation of Nordic grog requires only two ingredients: Red wine and lager beer. 

Our choice of ingredients was unpretentious, in true barbarian fashion. The wine came from a Shetland duty free, apparently branded by the store itself. If I recall, I found it somewhat dry and earthy, yet not too heavy on the tannins. Online reviews absolutely slaughter it. We topped it off with Faxe Premium. This Danish pilsner was a no brainer given the horned viking adorning the can.

The result was, according to the words of my companion, the best of both worlds: A drink that achieves to be both diluted wine, and fortified beer, satisfying Roman, as well as barbarian thirsts in equal measure! Like a patrician in the gutter in the final days of Rome. Mind you, the wine provides a better complement to the beer than the beer does to the wine, leaving a wine-heavy product laced with the light head and tapered fizz of the danish pilsner. While both ingredients matter as they need to balance each other, don't go overboard with the choice of wine. Save your wallet. Even then it feels significantly fancier to drink than the beer would have felt on its own, as it proved to be quite silky and easy on the tongue. 

Recipe: The noble Savage

1 parts dry, young red wine

1 parts pilsner or similar lager beer

Preparation:

1. Chill the ingredients slightly

2. Pour stoically into a glass drinking bowl,

(Alternately: a highball glass)

3. Mix carefully, don't spill a drop!

4. Sip medio-slowly

Suggested pairings:

Cured ham, gift exchange and blood oaths.

If you would like to hear Aksel's favorite recipe for Roman spiced wine, pledge your support over at the Brute Norse Patreon page.

Seaweed: An Authentic Viking Age Beer Snack

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Few things are as telling about a culture as what, how, and where we eat. The seemingly mundane rituals of our daily meals, whether we skip breakfast, eat out, or prepare decadent dinners in our own homes, each meal is a piece in a cultural puzzle that reveals aspects we might not communicate or consider much in our daily lives.

Food fascinates me, and it's only natural that this fascination extends to my love of the past. For all intents and purposes, the fates wanted it so that culinary history became one of my prime research interests, and particularly the cultural history of drinking. The act of drinking goes far beyond the menial task of consuming liquids. At its best, drinking is the celebration of life and happiness. At worst, it's damnation. This dualism is worthy of investigation!

Whether it is tea or tequila, performative drinking offers a framework for social, political and religious rituals. In the case of alcoholic beverages, it contains an alibi for bonding, even courtship (and seduction), under the assumption that intoxication will undress our true motives and reveal who we really are.

Drinks and delicacies

Drinking fits well in the company of light meals. Bitter coffee or wine is frequently accompanied by chocolate, beer is suitedable for savory snacks, like nuts or chips. This was a truism even in Norse culture, where drinks were accompanied by krásir, a term best translated as "delicacies". It's not entirely clear what these delicacies consisted of, though the 13th century Trójumanna saga names the extravagant luxury of pairing wine with "peppered deliacies" of hens and peacocks.

There's no need to go overboard, though. I've found that beer and red dulse seaweed (Palmaria palmata), or sǫl in Old Norse, make for an excellent duo. Incidently, the combination of dulse and drink (though non-alcoholic in this specific case) saved the life of the infamous 10th century viking and poet Egill Skallagrímsson.

Egill thirsts for life

Throughout his days Egill was haunted by traumatic events and near-death experiences. When his much beloved son Bodvar died driving a load of timber that Egill had purchased, it finally drove him off the bend. He fell into psychosis and holed up in his bedchamber in an attempt to starve himself. However, his daughter Þorgerðr devised a cunning plan: She convinced him she was suicidal too, and sat down by his side, chewing salty dulse seaweed, which she claimed speed up the process. This puzzled her father, who asked for a taste. In fact, it did anything but kill him: Þorgerðr eventually called for a drink of water, which proved too tempting for Egill to resist (the saga paints a picture of a very thirsty man), though he was angry to find he'd been tricked into drinking nutritious milk. Once that was done, the girl compelled him to compose a funerary poem to honor their loss, an elegy, insisting they could well die later if they wished. Yet when the poem was finished, Egill no longer felt like dying. His thirst evoked his poetic passion, and his his passion for skaldic poetry whetted his appetite for life.

 

Palmaria palmata in the wild. Photo: Secretlondon/Wikimedia Commons.

Palmaria palmata in the wild. Photo: Secretlondon/Wikimedia Commons.

The new and archaic Nordic kitchens

Despite its millennia old roots in the Nordic diet, dulse sank into obscurity in modern times. For long, the only means of acquiring it was by going to shore at low tide and foraging it yourself. This can be a quite charming activity if you live in a relatively unpolluted coastal area. Seaweed has since resurfaced in the commercial niche of the new Nordic kitchen, and today it is globally available through select online vendors and Nordic specialist markets. 

If for whatever reason dulse is not available where you live, there are many other options. Japanese and asian markets usually offer some variety of kombu or nori marketed for this exact purpose, and high end American supermarkets like Whole Foods may stock a small variety of kelp and seaweeds as well. Ultimately, there is no feeling that can replace the joy of a free, self-harvested batch dried on your kitchen counter. But whether you are foraging for yourself, or opting for a store bought variety, mind your teeth! You'll be wise to search them for small rocks or grains of sand that may be embedded in the surface (this is not a problem with processed nori). Most edible seaweeds make great snacks if you can stomach the ocean-y taste, and sure as hell makes for a healthier snack alternative than most!

 

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Baywatch Nights - "Frozen out of time" (Review)

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Baywatch Nights, as you probably assumed, was a hilariously bum-steered attempt at squeezing a few extra bucks out of the Baywatch franchise. Originally, this obscure gem didn't seem too far apart from any other weekday crime series set in lotion-infused California. But things got really trippy in the second (read: last) season, when the production company decided to face failing ratings by charging head on into X-Files territory. This creative equivalent of siphoning gasoline from your neighbor's truck resulted in some properly awkward TV-moments, and a few of them are contained in the thirteenth episode of the season; "Frozen out of time.

It's justifiable to ask why I begin my series of viking film reviews with such a dreadfully silly piece. The answer is simple: There are only so many good viking movies, maybe three or four, in the entire history of cinema. I want something to look forward to, and now things can only get better. Or so I hope. Pedantic readers may point out that weeknight TV does not technically qualify as cinema. This is true, but I don't think anybody really cares about the distinction at this level. We take what we get in the grim sausage world of brain dead entertainment.

The episode opens with stock footage of glacial floods and volcanic smoke rising from a dramatic, frozen landscape. The expositional radio dialogue between a recon pilot and someone on ground helps illuminate the scene. It's "another massive eruption" and "really something", the pilot says before describing "widespread disruption", which is also "really something", apparently. He seems either really bored or baffled by this, it's hard to tell. Text on the screen tells us we're seeing the Vatnajökull glacier on Iceland, and the date is May 8th 1996. I lean forward in my seat. I look down at my cat, my cat looks up at me, and I check the current date; today is May 8th 2017. I would never think that a mystery series called Baywatch Nights would actually spook me, and we're only 30 seconds into the episode.

I'm impressed: There actually was a glacial outburst at Vatnajökull in 1996 with a peak flow of whooping 50,000 m3/s! This is more accuracy than I believed I could expect from a show called Baywatch Nights, for which I'll give it a slight authenticity bonus. Things get mysterious when a new voice appears. A stern, masculine voice, like a middle-aged authority figure, someone up the chain of command. "This is... not a secure line" he hesitates. It's Diamont Teague, one of the show's recurring characters, apparently. Despite the apparent security breach they freely discuss the true nature of their mission: A certain "it", something "unbelievable" found buried under 2000 feet of glacial ice. What it could be, aliens? Decent dialogue? A pitch for a better series?

"You know how I feel about boogedy boogedy"

"You know how I feel about boogedy boogedy"

No answers yet, fool! We suddenly find ourselves on the docks of San Pedro, California, on June 2nd to be precise. A ship arrives carrying a mysterious cargo. Then, without warning, we find ourselves on June 8th, still in San Pedro, were the big secret is finally revealed: Two frozen vikings are about to be revived in a misty (and probably highly illegal) chryogenics lab. Things go awry when one wakes up prematurely: The viking, played by Sven-Ole Thorsen - a Danish bodybuilder famous for his role as Thulsa Doom's retainer in Conan The Barbarian - tears through his restraints and beats the living shit out of the laboratory staff. For some reason all his weapons are laid out on a table in the same room (they should be in a museum and handled by a qualified conservationist). The rabid Norseman then tries to kill the other, who still lays frozen with a huge knife lodged in his chest, presumably because they had been caught in the ice mid-battle. Luckily, Mitch Buchannon (David Hasselhoff) turns up just in time, along with his sidekick Ryan McBride, a connoisseur of paranormal phenomena, who is actually a woman, not a grog-blossomed Irishman as the name might have you believe.

Note the knife in his chest.

Note the knife in his chest.

Sadly, they fail to subdue the primeval savage, who grabs his helmet by the horns (!) and takes to the streets where he proceeds to flail his sword at passing cars, steal fish, and throw puzzled glances at industrial machinery.

"Give him space!"

"Give him space!"

Meanwhile, back in the lab, Mitch and his sidekick Ryan are provided with some archaeological context after getting talked out of calling the police, which confirms more than a few suspicions regarding the legality of the whole operation. They hatch a plan to catch the viking alive with a net gun, and Mitch uses anthropology to pin point the stray Norseman's whereabouts, asserting that a viking in distress would always seek out the ocean. Following the principle of Chekhov's gun, which states that every element featured in a story must serve to resolve the plot, we all know that the second viking is bound to wake up as well. What follows is a wildly anachronistic sword fight in a dingy cyberpunk laboratory, where Hasselhoff's character fights his enemy off with a broom. The vikings die and Mitch gives the both of them, and I quote, "a proper viking burial" by putting them in a fiberglass boat, which he torches by means of a flaming arrow before the credits start to roll, accompanying a funky saxophone soundtrack.

I don't know if "Frozen out of time" is worthy of any deeper analysis, but I guess I could spare a few thoughts: Throughout the episode, Hasselhoff's character keeps expressing empathy towards the antagonists, even romanticizing and lamenting their lost way of life. His admiration, he admits, belongs to a yearning for another place and time where he might have been one of them. This is despite the fact that both vikings display few humanizing traits. Actually, they behave more like animals, concerned only with satisfying immediate urges such as lust and hunger: The first eats a raw fish, and the other makes sexually threatening advances towards the supporting character Ryan. Is this a commentary on a modern tendency to defend or explain viking raids, or is it an appreciation of the many facets of human experience regardless of ethics? Is David Hasselhoff an anti-modernist lamenting the vaginalization of Western masculinity? I really don't know. But in any case, I guess his constant expositions about viking warrior culture and seafaring serves some minor educational purpose, at least if the audience is otherwise oblivious about this aspect of European history. The show appears somewhat self-aware that it is completely ridiculous, and that's one redeeming feature. I might even check out some more episodes, because it really did make me laugh. In conclusion this is an authentic example of 90's spin-off television at its most melodramatic and quirky, but by no means does it offer a nuanced representation of Norse culture.

Verdict:

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One cleft skull