Donnerstag, 30. April 2015

A thing for escapism - More thoughts on the film "Mara und der Feuerbringer" and a resolve

Okay, so you all know it. We all are faced with a world full of war and greed and hate, and there seems to be not much hope at all left. Every day in the media, in the web, we are faced with new catastrophes and new forces of Evil trying to take the oh-so-superior Western civilisation to hell. If you read the newspaper, you have to hold it straight up to keep the blood from dropping out of the lines. Once the communist regimes of Russia (and the Russian people) were the personification of Satan, and we were told to hate them, now it´s the Muslims. Good jobs are scarce, and if you don´t have one, you are subject to exploit and abuse or even worse. Kids should not play, but learn in order to get a good career going in order to "survive". Survival is estimated by income. The middle class is practically non - existent. You are either upper class or antisocial (a quote from a head of corporation I had the doubtful pleasure to meet). Bad news pepper your mind every day, every minute, every second. It is not a place for dreams, this world, isn´t it? Is it really?

A very strange thought occurred to me, and a very strange observation I have made. I meet many people from the "upper class". In fact, many of my former mountainbike team are actually members of the upper class. At work, I work with upper and middle management people in business promotion. I noticed something very strange. Many of them get dumb.

What I mean is, those people should be well educated and sharp - witted, and they actually were once. But many of them seem to degenerate, to a degree that some of them are not even able to fulfil  the least requirements of social structures. They are still able to maintain their life, because they live in a structure that degenerates with them, but, judging from an outside point of view, their intellectual capacity is deteriorating fast. This observation is not even exclusive to myself. I would be glad to pass it off as a hallucination of a guy that encounters a bit of a hardship sometimes and has many things in his mind to work on, to be diplomatic;-). But this observation has a strong backing in scientific research, so much in fact that it is a commonplace. It is a well-used theory that our intensive use of computer aids and comfort add to this degeneration of our mind. Now this could be just another kind of bad news, and many might get into bed, draw the blanket over their eyes and not get up again, and I´d be lying if I said I could not understand them.

But I also made another observation. For I met other people also. Different people. Often people who have to work extremely hard to just so make a living for themselves and their families. They don´t have a good career, or maybe some of them actually do, for this observation is not exclusive to people without a decent job. But they have something in common. They are sharp of wits, socially and intellectually competent, and many of them are what many so - called heads of society would call a hazy-eyed dreamer.

 Reenactors, artists - mostly deviant artists - bushcrafters, preppers, Pagans, Christians, Muslims. People who call themselves druids or heroes. Musicians living just so from the extraordinary music they make with a guitar consisting mainly of holes, duct tape and splintered wood. I think of Rhobynn Byrdd, a ranger and druid and musician the magic troll and I met once in Marburg. He sat there, all clad in green, barefoot with the aforementioned guitar and his clothes and the shoes standing near his battered backpack held together with twine. Everything he had was beaten, used and battered, he took a swig from abottle of cheap beer, and yet he did not look like a bum. On his guitar case there was a silver badge of the tree of life, and when he sang, he transformed the hallway into a concert hall, or better yet, the Golden Halls of Lothlórien or the halls of Rivendell. We bought a CD from him, and he traded in some dreams and weird tales and we talked a huge pile of shit. But that wasn´t all of it. When I first read the "Lord Of The Rings" by J.R.R. Tolkien, I had the same impression getting to know him when  the author described the first encounter of the wayfaring hobbits with Aragorn, Arathorn´s son. I am well aware that Rhobynn´s life is not at all romantic. And this is the dimension of truth behind it all: For if you really try to FEEL the figure of Aragorn, Arathorn´s son, you notice that he isn´t romantic, either. And Rhobynn is not a figure in a book. He is not a fantasy novel. But he refuses to give up his hope and dream. He stubbornly clings to being a "ranger". He stubbornly clings to his dream, even in a damp tent in a November rain with little to eat and no warmth at all. And this makes him a real - world hero. He fights enemies of mankind we cannot even agnize and that would "make our hearts freeze" could we take them for real. Rhobynn´s art and prowess are extraordinary. He is a story become true.

He lives in a dream.

I have met many people like him in the last few years. Many of these experiences I made with the love of my life by my side, and I cannot tell how grateful I am for that. And, talking of which, I have realized that we are like them. We are dreamers, yap. We care about all those people suffering in Nepal now, but then we know that the elders of the Inuit tell the hunting grounds become strange. The North pole has shifted, so they say. Shamans and dreamers report that something is changing, and many of them tell of something very grey and dark on the rise. Sounds like a fantasy novel? They also say the earth will shift. Nepali Bön priests tell of the serpent that is preparing either for war or shifting in its sleep. Maya and Aztec astronomers announced the rise of the winged serpent. Myth. Magic. Hazy-eyed dreams. But we ask, why has the earth trembled? In what direction has it risen or fallen? We ask the signs, and many call us cold - hearted to ask these questions. But we ask because we want to know how to give hope the way Rhobynn gave us. We are druids and tellers of stories.

There are many like us, and please forgive me if I cannot be too objective. It is just a feeling I have. I see the children of reenactors, and I work with the  children of the middle management. The  middle management kids often are to be called as bad an attribute as retarded.

One 9 - year -old I worked with and who was absolutely normal according to the interview I did with the parents was not only far too small for the age (I first mistook him for a 4-year-old), but severely motorically challenged, so far in fact that he was not able to distinguish his hammer from his arms, had difficulties of hitting the anvil in front of him and could not tell left from right. I had to "anchor" him by touching the body part he had to move just in order to make him step up the step ladder in order to achieve the proper working height over the anvil. He visited a private school, a gymnasium of a very good reputation. But also his abstraction capabilities and intellectual capability was not "adequate" (I hope you know that I do not mean a disqualification by this, but refer to the system valid in the society of five years ago.) in a degree that terrified me. And the examples are legion. There is two kids of thirty maybe coming to the smithy not acting severely socially inadequate, and I mean it, when I say. I am not talking swear words or a bit of testing borders, but trying to swing a hammer full -tilt at the face of their fellows just to see what happens.

Now enter the encampment area of a re-enactment fair. Escapists and dreamers are gathered there, not being able to stand reality and dressing up like characters from a fantasy film. Some of them can be respected by the so-called normal and socially relevant people by doing actual living history and re-enacting the Viking age in a human zoo, but most of them actually do not put a mask on, but a mask off on the weekend. There are some middle management types, good people, bad people, and people in general. People from many social classes. But take a look at the kids. Often sooty, dirty, barefoot, and some even wear sharpened seaxes. They treat each other a bit rough often. But they act responsibly around the fire and the weapons and gladly accept responsibilities such as chopping wood and fetching water. And I have never in the roundabout 25 years of re-enactment seen a reenactor´s child kicking or beating anyone who had fallen to the ground, with the exception of an observed martial arts contest.

Dreamers like Petr and his son. Escapists. How come now that those escapists seem to be more capable than the "Herrenmenschen", the masters of virtual and economy? How come that those apparent outcasts are socially more capable, more intelligent and more virile?

I could bore you with scientific studies and sociological research. But I am a dreamer, so I´d try to answer the question with a dream.

In "Mara und der Feuerbringer" the protagonist, 14-year-old Mara Lorbeer has to face the "Feuerbringer" a demonic would-be god that was born out of a demon, a wrong translation - and, as I interpret it- psychological neglect. One could learn that there also is more to the dubious Dr. Thurisaz mentioned in the film, obviously making a big business out of selling esoteric seminars. But there is more to the seemingly superficial seminars. I a second part of the film we COULD learn, why the firebringer gains his power and whereof he is made. Mara is not done with him in the least, and the second book and the third (and I guess the fourth, which is currently in the making) will offer a lot of insight into the mythological world which is courtesy of Tommy as well as the Vikings themselves. And here is where the rubber hits the road and myth and magic meet the so - called actual world. The film was made with two big - term corporations. It was considered as recommendable by objective and independent institutes in Germany, and yet by active ignorance became subject to sabotage. But I do not want to rant on endlessly about that fact.

There was a growing community of people with a dream centering around Tommy and his achievement. Reenactors, poets, students and professors of Old Norse literature as well as druids and storytellers, musicians and lovers of fantasy and science fiction. How I am informed did they fight the sabotage and even managed a small victory in that smaller cinemas now boycott this abominable Marvel Avenger cartoon novel trash film in favour of a great movie made with heartfelt love. It was love that created this victory, and you can take for granted that I do not advertise this film because I get money or any other advantage from it than the dream coming to life. For if you look closely at how the topic of the movie and the adventures of Mara Lorbeer interfere with reality you notice something weird and wonderful: That where the story ends, another begins. And this latter story is deeply rooted in our prosaic everyday life, a life we thought was bereft of any wonders and cleaned and sanitized from all magic.

There is a loving community now. Dreamers, for sure. Escapists.

But escapists with teeth and nails. And as Mara Lorbeer faces the deity that wants to doom the world, with a little help by the professor and the Gods, the real story happening alongside it in the so - called real world coincides.

We all are faced with doom. It is reality. And a dark and unholy shadow is lurking in the sunshine of a world we thought was ours to take and shape. And it was all of us who invocated the shadow by forgetting to dream and love and tell our children wonderful stories. It is quite unhelpful to sit back and grin and look forward to the Apokalypse, as many monotheistic fanatics do. This attitude helped pave the road for the Evil that has befallen our world, the cynical grey god of a machinery human.

This cyborg human subspecies is thrice blessed and thrice cursed. First, it seems overly powerful and almighty. It has no dreams and thus no fear. It has not feelings but lust, greed and hate. It has everything it could want for and yet will always hunger for more, until it has eaten the world and all of its dreams. It feeds on all things colourful and turns it into a hopeless grey.

Am I wrong? Read the newspaper, watch the TV, browse the internet. And find your own opinion.

I am a dreamer. I guess I am a bit like Tommy, and Jonny, and Rhobynn. I am frightened, and cold, and I often have no hope left in the November rain.

But there is the love of my life by my side. I do not know how I will survive or fare. But I know there´s always help. As long as you stubbornly believe in your dream, and if you can´t do it, stubbornly believe you could, I guess there´d always be a way.

We will walk into the woods, into the night, along the stems of moss and tree into the golden twilight where both worlds meet. There it will be we will be clothed. There it will be we will find our weapons. There will be the place of our feasting and our fighting.

Death to the Maggot of Grey!

Marihar Iala Makija!

The new sheath for Gládhustrók

 I figured one thing: A Viking bling sheath looks great. It´s even a comfortable carry around the camp or the fair. It keeps the blade securely in, it´s very sturdy and simply looks great. But there are distinct disadvantages. It´s a bit clumsy when dangling from your belt. If you have to move through the thicket, it gets stuck to branches and thorns, adds heft to movements to which you are not accustomed. In martial training it can compromise your movements. So it´s better to keep any weight close to your body, and any accelerated mass as little as possible. Since our ancestors were no complete idiots, I strongly suggest that those sheaths found in the burials were especially made for special representative occasions, such as one´s own burial, for instance;-). Vikings seem to have been quite the show-offs. But then they certainly could in the first place. But they were no tarts, either. Surviving in a world where you can´t simply buy fast food just over the street, where you had to work hard for your welfare means you need knowledge or you´d die. So it was well esteemed to be skilled, and someone who did not have enough skills was called "ósnotr madhr", "mind-challenged man" (I refer to the Eddic strophes in the Hávamál).

Men had to be skilled in martial arts, crafts and arts, knowledge and cunning. One was estimated far higher for cunning than mere fighting prowess, and it is a mistake to assume Vikings would storm a city if they could help it. Recently this prejudice was fed again in the media...:-/ (I refer to this TV production, whatsitcalled, you know, the one with the underwear model in a starring role and that Taekwondo gurrl with the steel boobies that can actually bend a round shield... or wait, was the shield maybe not made from wood, but hard foam?*ggg*...).

So one can safely assume, that, when working and hunting or even "raiding":-P, Viking men would not actually carry that much bling looking like a chrismas tree, but a more subdued attire.

I made a more simple sheath for actual working with this knife due to my experiences with a bling sheath, and I want to ask the question if Vikings actually wore them in battle or when working or if they used a more subdued and maybe more practical kit. I know that the custom in Norway even today is to have one finely made knife for special formal occasions and one for hard working in the woods. I will do some further research on the topic. Maybe I just messed up with my interpretation, and other people have different experiences, too.

Anyway, I made a simple sheath, with a "classical" belt loop. This fact posed another question: Since there is no archaeological evidence for a sturdy belt loop, I asked myself, why this was the case. The line of thinking around the advantages of a sturdy belt loop centers around the fact that this way a knife is easier to draw with one hand. It requires a sturdy base in a wide belt. All this adds up to a picture where a knife user sees an advantage in having
a) the possibility to draw the knife with one hand.
b) a firm and sturdy mounting on the belt
This leads to assuming that
a1) the user needs the other hand to work with
a2) the user needs the other hand to aid in different actions, maybe a defensive movement
b1) a fixature of the hips and lower back support or keeping the weight close to the body
b2) a sturdy base to draw fast.

The layout of a sturdy belt loop is especially popular with hunting knives, but also fighting knives, so much in fact that many modern sheaths are made from Kydex(TM). A flexible mounting, as with many Saami knives and most bushcraft knives, has the advantage to aid in some movements and when sitting down. That way the handle will not constantly poke into your ribs. It´s more comfortable.

My theory now goes towards a different reception of knives in general. For personal defence and attack people in the Viking age used an axe, a long seax, a spear and shield. Rare are the documents that actually hint of the use of a knife as a weapon. I can remember one saga, but have forgotten the title (I think it was in Grettir´s or Hrolf Kraki´s saga, but am not sure), where the protagonists are assaulted at a feast. It was customary to store the weapons at the clothing room, except for the table knives, which often were highly decorated. The assaulted guests in the saga had to defend themselves with their cutlery, and this was considered shameful.

Even if a sword is suspended from a belt chain, it can easily be drawn with one hand, and it even more so goes for polearms like axe or spear. A seax, however, is a different matter. It can be a bit of a bummer to get a seax carried at the back suspended from two flexible loops out fast and smoothly enough to draw and cut in one fluent motion, which is crucial for fighting.

So I think knives were seen as tools. They even had a  pseudo - ritualistic character, for they were by nature playing a pivotal role at the feast, which was considered as sacred. The receptions of an afterlife in the often ill-received Valhóll (Valhalla) being an eternal feast give testament to this. The handles of those knives found are often decorated with concentric circles (a most ancient ornament dating back to the Neolithic age), zoomorphic or anthropomorphic or simple knotwork ornaments, triangles and other geometric decoration, which one could easily interpret as having an apotropaeic function due to many consistent ethnographic comparisons. Even in the 20th century ethnological field research documented many customs in Finland involving a Puukko serving this function. This function, however, was not generated by the use as a weapon or the cutting ability, but by the material aspects of the artefact. It was iron itself, as the story in the Kalevala, the Finnish National epic poem indicates. Iron (Rauta) had a soul, and "väkirauta" was the "folk of iron" invocated in many forms of agricultural magic. In early Christian Germany, up to the 20th century, the knife fulfilled many aspects of a feasting ritual,  especially in giving thanks before the meal to God.

I personally think now, that it is safe to assume, that if the Vikings deemed the feast as such a kind of ritual service (compare giving thanks before the meal), that the richly decorated knives were carried at the feast to be used as a maybe not even structural, but essential tool. This is of course a commonplace, since the host did not provide for cutlery in that time, so you needed a knife to cut the meat and for eating in general. Quite certainly they were not seen as weapons, and it was seen as a last-ditch resolve, if not a shame to use a knife for defending oneself.

So back to the sheath. It´s a modern approach, then. To me it´s more practical (and not because I need it for fighting;-), whoever thinks a knife fight is romantic has never really thought about it and might want to get a good psychotherapist). I also have tried something new that Willi brought up and Nick inspired me to: I used to use water soaking for modelling and reinforcing, but have tried to do this with pure alcohol (Pure Ethanol, Spiritus). That way you don´t have to add layers of duct tape to the blade that gets thrown away afterwards, it dries far quicker and makes for a more controlled soak when modelling. Then I added three soaks of a mixture of spirit alcohol, beeswax and linseed oil before heat-waxing it to a firm and sturdy sheath that actually locks around the handle. I personaölly like it... 

Mittwoch, 29. April 2015

Ranger bag-it was about time

 Yap, it really was. Indeed. It was about time that I completed a project so long overdue that none but my longest - time readers might remember me having the plan. I had always been a bit timid to make a real bag. I am - out of reasons even I cannot tell - always a bit reluctant to measure and meter and draw schemes, and for a simple leather sheath that is fine. But a bag, even a simple one, is a whole different matter, due to the complexity. But, keeping in mind the craftsmen in the Viking age also did not measure and meter and scheme in the way we do, and concerning the immense quality of their products, I figured that there had to be a way. I had read an article about ethnomathematics in the knotwork panels of the Celtic peoples and am slowly becoming aware of the fact that the way things were measured in the Viking age and earlier might have been altogether different than nowadays. Many things were made by manual geometrics using compass and lines or estimation. So, less talk, more action, I simply cut the pieces, punched them and stitched them together. Above´s a typical content as it will be used. Gladhustrók is lying there , because I made an EDC sheath for it. There´s also my striker, an ear spoon toiletry device, the shot spoon and two silver mugs. I guess I am still about what items to fit in, and I will quite certainly make another bag, because it was fun. 

Of course, the magic troll made fun of me because the bag´s a bit overbuilt, so to say ahem;-). The back is made from 6 mm leather, the sides are 3 mm and the front still some 2,5 mm leather, all put together with tough and sturdy 2mm pitched twine. But I had suffered enough bags coming apart in the middle of nowhere and thought I´d rather carry a bit extra weight instead of having to walk 20 km with a lot of stuff in my arms again.:-)

I think the bag´s not quite eloquent, of course, and my decorating it will not help that;-), but it´s well sturdy, and I like it. Now it´ll be some carving the flap, adding a bit of brass or copper for reinforcing the strap and strap hole, and it´s in for waxing and oiling and off to the trails!;-)

Dienstag, 21. April 2015

Viking Bling;-)

 I guess it has happened.:-) I have fallen in love with Viking bling.

I got a bit of fur and a silver cup for the magic troll (you know, vikingsgángr...;-))
 And I have tried something new: Silverworking and jewellery. Certainly not as eloquent as the magic troll´s work, but I am still learning:-). This is a "shot spoon". Little archaeological evidence has been found concerning this valuable tool. But it is very practical to have on a re-enactment fair. Just imagine someone brings out the well-seasoned whisky and you have none;-).
 I made it from an old spoon. It was annealed and then drawn out to get deeper and rounder, and I forged a swan´s neck to hold the two-in two byzantine chain [edit]: This type of chain was also popular with the Pictish peoples abroad. This one is made from brass wire.
 Plus, I got the small Rus replica finished and tested it, which was a disappointment at best. Chopping antler dented the blade, and the hindmost part towards the handle is so soft it just so carves mild steel. Doh.
But overall, I like this new obsession;-).

Donnerstag, 16. April 2015

A viking age friction folder for the magic troll

Here´s a friction folder I made for the magic troll, my lovely UMMIBÄR;-) (Hey, it´s spring, what do you expect...?*ggg*).

The blade (some 60mmx 2,5mmm) is Damascus out of 1.2842 and crucible steel I found in the woods, the handle´s a stag antler tip with a brass pivot. Peening went not too well, and there´s a tiny hairline crack. With this type of one- piece design it´s crucial to have a straight surface in the pivot area before peening the pivot over the handle. Due to the lack of offset in the scroll I had to file the handle down a bit too much. Having no time left, I peened it over very carefully, but still, the crack developed. It´s tiny, and the magic troll can easily fill it with epoxy, and the knife will still work.

I am still learning the how-do´s on this type of knife, but generally it´s slowly growing on me and I start to like those very much.

Some thoughts on Mara- the film by Tommy Krappweis

Tommy Krappweis, inventor of German cult cartoon character (uh, am I possessed because I write in aliterations?;-)) "Bernd das Brot", has made a very, very great film. "Mara und der Feuerbringer", a spellbinding story about a young girl discovering that she is a spákóna and has to save the world from the fate of the Gods, the Ragnarök, has a lot to offer. Dragons, Vikings, professors dunked into a stream and THE idol of many students of Old Norse literature, Prof. Dr. Rudolph Simek, in a role playing himself as a teacher. And there is a most evil character, a new-born God called Loge, the firebringer. This ursurper kidnaps the wife of Loki, the genuine Old Norse God of fire, deception and satire, the trickster of the Gods. Myth has it that Loki was bound by the thundergod, Thórr, to a rock and tortured by the poisonous saliva of a giant snake fastened above him. His wife, Sigyn, helps Loki by gathering up the saliva in her magic bowl. But when the bowl is full, she has to empty it, and when Loki is hit by the poison again, he writhes and cries, and his cries shake the ground. Ultimately, the shaking earth will loosen his bounds, and then the end of the world as we know it will come. Now Sigyn (and her bowl) are kidnapped, and if you take that to mind you realize the world´s in for big trouble. Mara, with the help of Prof. Weissinger and a migration-era superhero is the only one capable of bringing back Sigyn and her bowl from the captivity of Loge.

Loge has many characteristics of Surtr, the Eddic fire giant, but there is more to him. For he has been born out of a wrong translation and Wagnerian hype. And the perversion of Old Germanic mythology by the Nazi regime in the Third Reich, one might add.

Prof. Weissinger, in one scene of the movie, states that he owes the fact that his office is situated in the basement of the University to the Nazis and their ideology that up until now renders a study of the subject near impossible. He gets infuriated by the media hype about vikings with horned helmets, cartoon characters and underwear models as Norse heroes... this I take as a very little nasty comment on recent media productions not exactly brimming with authenticity, so to say;-).

And, OH, how well I can relate to this! I once studied Old Norse literature as well, at Bochum University. We were constantly threatened by closure, were cut short on finance, had no access to modern literature and constantly had to legitimate ourselves for studying topics such as runeology, a science about the study of runes and runic inscriptions, since the Nazis also  did this and that.

Enter Loge. He is not just the personification of Wagnerian provenience, but also of the madness of the esoteric approach, of media hype, and the ultimate enemy of any sincere scientific and mythological approach towards Old Norse mythology. And, as C.G. Jung stated in Wotan (1928), the neglect of this genuine mythology ultimately leads to mass hysteria and neurosis, being one reason the Nazi regime had such an easy dealing with the mass psyche of Germany.

We live in a world where surface is everything, where buying, selling and consuming are the primary sense of life. Many of my so-called friends have developed a psychotic line of behaviour along this frenzy, this frantic run through life, where there are no values left.

Generally, there is a strong desire, an outright yearning for myth. But, as Ursula K. Le Guin, author of the famed "Earth Sea" series states in her foreword to the new book of the series, the industry is already reacting. By marketing hype and consumer politics even dragons are subject to buying and selling and thusly deprived of their enchantment and magic. I personally believe that this is not only due to business policies and marketing strategies, but a reactionary social process. People with a strong and stable character are less prone to hype and marketing hysteria. Genuine myth and fairy tale offer a strong method of character - building, and, it is a commonplace in psychology that myths have a strong influence on the development of personality and character. Strong characters have a tendency to question their own consumer behaviour. The media have long lost their objectivity in favour of spreading a mixture of fearmongering news and marketing. Product placement and underwear models as superheroes are a normal marketing strategy in our time. A true story without intent of selling anything but its own content is hard to come by. This goes as far as the use of fantasy classics such as the Lord Of The Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien. Apart from the movies which were not THAT bad, but not THAT good either, you can buy anything from t-shirts, cups, stickers, replicas, toilet paper and whatnot. The pictures created by the movie are commonplace now. Millions of fans now have the same picture of a king, with the associated merchandise flowing in behind. It is refreshing to see, however, that the victory over the wild psychological landscape of fantasy is not complete. Still there are artists, e.g. like my idol in blacksmithing, Gullinbursti creating art that brings up different pictures, and re-enacting the myth and thusly unmounting the rigid regime of those marketing pictures.

Enter Tommy. I daresay he believes in myth and magic. He appears not a hazy-eyed dreamer, but in any case he wanted to create a modern myth to give back something to the world of fancy and dreams in the best sense of the word. He is very authentic and created a genuine myth.

And here comes the culprit: He did so with co - financing by a big-player TV production corporation famed for hype and marketing in the worst sense of the word. Of course, this corporation does nothing else than other corporations do. But I personally have the impression that they financed a production they deemed harmless and serviceable only to learn there was a myth created with a lot of potential to endanger many marketing strategies they had thought up. What better way then to get rid of it than doing no marketing for the movie and letting it die? From an accounting depreciation point you could easily account it as a dismission depreciation, and there´d be no second part to fear. More important yet was that the distribution corporation tried to label it as a mere children´s movie while it actually is THE best fantasy movie Germany has come up with since the venue of the Michael - Ende novel film "Die unendliche Geschichte" (The Neverending Story). The message was "leave the making of fantasy films to the Americans, they know their trade better". This would have been the end of the story.

But that does neither take into account Tommy nor the community he created in two weeks time. Throughout Germany, people from many social backgrounds socialized and visited the cinema to watch the movie repeatedly - as a statement. They went there in their re-enactment attire or as a cosplayer. I daresay, Loge is writhing now in anger;-). And why should it be that German directors should not be able to create a decent fantasy film? There´s no reason they should not. German history is brim full with authors of fairy tales (Grimm, E.T.A Hoffmann, Eichendorff, Storm, Goethe, Schiller, just to name a few). The German fantasy scene is thriving and is one of the liveliest in the world.

Mara is not just a film now. It is a movement, and I am proud to have part in it. I am proud to kick Loge´s ass myself. It is about time that real people took to peacefully repairing a shattered world.

Tommy has started it. He is a genuine, true hero to me. I ask... what would be if the rebels of dreams joined forces?

I just want  my readers to take hope into the fact that still it is possible to have a mind open to real pictures of the mind, real fantasies, and real dreams... and that it is never too late to fight for your dream. Such as Tommy does and many others who follow him. 
Never surrender.

A spring foraging ride

 The sun was shining, and birds were singing everywhere. It was warm and nice, and I felt that urge to get out. Only but recently I had rebuilt the drivetrain of my bike and repaired the brakes that alas where so neglected over the winter they made some funny noises but did not quite... well... brake?;-)

Anyway, after all this and some new handlebar grips it felt like a fresh bike and it is funny how these simple things can affect the fun one has riding so much. So, out with a bike it was, packing the old textile grocery bags, a hand drill, a plastic coke bottle and a tapping system.

Out into the hills pedalling, and even hammering, it was great to see my bike work properly, but I was also astonished to feel that my body, which has made some sissies recently, also worked like it should. It felt as if years fell off my back! I was hooting and hollering and celebrating a great, great ride along technical singletrack.

 No reason one could not have both, I also collected some lesser celandine (ranunculus ficaria, in German: Scharbockskraut) as spice, taking care to only collect the ones not yet blossoming.
 Just around the corner there was a right abundance of wild garlic (allium ursinum, in German: Bärlauch), and I got some for wild garlic oil, for salad, as spice and to put on a cheese sandwich fresh.
 On the trail went, gnarled and rooted it wound through the ancient forest. Up the hill across rocky sections, and when the trail tilted down, I simply had to scream out my joy into the mild and warm driving wind. The echoes in my mind were like the song of a buzzard´s cry. And thus I came to the birchtree grove. Out came the flask of tea, a blanket to sit on, and the hand drill and tapping system.
 So violently the sap rises at the moment that I got 0,7l of birch sap in half an hour! Please remember to always plug the tree after tapping!
 I just sat there and smelled the roses while the birch sap tap system drip-dripped the time away.
A steely blue sky above bore the songs of birds, and a buzzard was circling above.
Then I got a drink of fresh birch sap to go with my cuppa tea. I always love the first cup of sap in spring. It feels like a fountain of youth. It feels like you swallow spring´s essence itself, so refreshing after a long and cold winter that I felt like a bone - shiver this time.
Beech sprouts are delicious with their nutty flavour. I got them for salad... go with wild garlic, jack-by-the hedge,

...and blanched nettle leaves.

Clover was in blossom. I like the fresh flavour, too.
...and the woods were enchanted by so many flowers... beautiful!

As the sun was sinking, I made for my trail home.

Those are maple leaves. You can use them to mend insect stings or ease blister pain. The sap makes for a delicious syrup. The young sprouting leaves can be eaten as salad.
Ground elder - good for tea, as spice or salad!

Violets (viola, in German: Veilchen) make for a delicious flower flavour in herbal syrup.
And, last but not least, sweet woodruff. (Galium odoratum, in German: Waldmeister). When used sparsely, you can make a delicious syrup or wine from it. But keep in mind woodruff is rich with cumarine inhibiting blood-clotting ability. So if you take Marcumar or other medication, please remember to use woodruff only after taking council with your doctor or apothecary.

I came home with quite a loot and the great feeling of spring and birdsong and warmth in my heart.

Mittwoch, 15. April 2015

Sheath for the Rús replica knife- and a name

 Now this one makes me a bit proud... my first reconstruction of a Viking sheath that actually deserves the name. The first one I was a bit ashamed of, but, hey, it´s learning by doing...;-). This one also has room for improvement. The mountings are made from copper, and I have yet to learn how to work with it. Keeping that in mind, I am nonetheless quite happy with the outcome, and it certainly will not be the last in this line of design. It is inspired by Finnish (Kekomäki and Suontaniemi) and Gotlandic finds. It is an interpretation. The knotwork and spiral patterns are of my design.
It is quite surprising how well this type of sheath keeps the knife in. It seems next to impossible to lose a knife from a sheath in this configuration.

The name of the knife is written in runes from the elder Futhark. It reads "Gládhustrók". It should mean "lightning strike". My faithful readers might know why that is so;-).

The magic troll already made fun of me because it resembles "Stroík Gládu" in Croatian, meaning "hunger strike". I reconstructed it into Old Icelandic from Faeroian, but I am still not sure if it´s a true name or just a fancy... I´ll keep you informed!:-)

Short review of a classic bushcraft combination

On request I am doing a personal evaluation of a very classic bushcraft combination. The famed Roselli hunter and carpenter´s knife. I purchased both on the Jagd und Hund expo years ago and have used them intensively for years.

The big one comes with a 100 mm blade, the short one at 85 mm. Both have slicey 3mm spine thicknesses. The handles are very beautiful birchwood burr and glued on with.... teeth.

Wait... is that teeth? No kidding, even if it made my day when I learned it (I have a very simple kind of humour, you see;-)). Roselli knives are mounted in a special process with the same compound out of which artificial teeth are made.

This, in combination with the hard wood for the handle, makes for a short-tang knife that offers a surprising degree of durability. Even (light) batoning is possible. The blades come with a carbon steel blade each that has a claimed 55 HRC. I suspect a higher degree of hardness, however, for they hold an edge far better and carve a 57 HRC blade. Roselli also offers an alternative with the UHC steel, which has a claimed hardness of 63 HRC and which is made from crucible steel with a carbon content of 1,8%. By heating and special techniques it is achieved that the steel can be forged... and thusly it gets characteristics similar to the famed wootz / pulad... interesting. I´d love to try one, and I´d certainly love to try this technique... we´ll see...;-). No way is not in my vocabulary, and I find it refreshing that in Roselli´s it is neither...;-).

The big knife is a bit awkward at first. The handle makes for a grip that is a bit far back. It is big and chunky and seems to make little sense at first. But as usual, Mr. Roselli had something in mind when designing it. First you have to keep in mind that the butchering technique in the North involves using the handle as a prolongation of reach. The blade is stuck into the flesh of the animal and then pumped to enlarge the wound channel. This extra space is then used to apply further force on the butt of the handle to insert the blade farther in. You might not like this description, and please take note that I am full well aware of the fact that I talk about a living animal. I do not recommend you to try this, too, for when animals are concerned, you need a lot of experience to do this.

Now Mr. Roselli did not want to compromise this technique but also wanted a safety stop for hard working. In order to achieve this he added the taper behind the bolster, which by the way is made from stainless steel, and a finger groove behind it.

It is a light knife and a comfortable carry, but it is suited for hard work such as hard wood whittling, preparing firewood and not-so-delicate tasks. In bigger hands than mine it also might be suited for delicate work, but I am constantly thinking of reshaping the handle. It simply does not suit me that way.

The blades both hold an edge well and out of the box they came hair-poppingly sharp. I never did any reprofiling on the scandi grind, just some stropping from time to time. That tells a story!

The carpenter´s knife is as comfy as it gets. It is well suited for delicate work, preparing food, and, to be honest, all I could wish for.

The sheaths get their job done, ahem;-). They look a bit awkward and are not the best money could buy, but no harm done. They are a bit simple with those belt slits, but one could make or purchase another.

If I had to buy it again I would opt for the carpenter´s knife in UHC steel. It is my personal favourite. The hunter is a specialist knife for special applications. To be a great bushcraft knife (of which the blade and mounting is more than capable) it would need a more versatile and ergonomic handle shape.

Donnerstag, 9. April 2015


Maybe you know this feeling: The woods call you, call you out into their solemn embrace. They call you in your everyday business, in work and leisure, and some of you listen. But the call grows more intense. You adapt to the woods, that is what you do and have to do, if you want to move swiftly and silently in their realm, and the trees grow into your heart and soul. You watch the animals and listen to the murmur of the creeks, and they tell you tales alien to mankind´s endeavours so far removed from the actual world. The wind in the treetops cradles you in its eternal lullaby, and something happens to you.

In ancient times in the North, people found guilty of severe crimes were banned from the community of man. In times when life was at bay at a blink of an eye, this was absolutely necessary to ensure a working community. They were deemed inhumane, called "vargr" (a grim connotation of "ulv", meaning wolf) or skóggángr (woodsroamer). Science is still going on about the term skóggángr, but it seems to be referring to someone deliberately leaving the community of men.

In our times something has happened. The tides have turned. While in former times survival meant to fight nature for survival, now we are faced with an altogether different matter. We as human beings have deprived the world of all magic, have exploited nature to an extent that the desolation threatens our own life. The seas are littered with toxic and nuclear waste, and it might be argued that the recent shift of the poles has something to do with the erection (pun intended) of super-high skyscrapers on critical balance points. No wolves roam the woods, and if a bear chances to come by, it is called a psychotic problem-bear and shot to mincemeat. We even try to kill nature in ourselves by domesticating and stupefying humans to an extent that many youth are not even capable of survival in a civilized surrounding.
But it is YOU who is called by the woods. They might be subject to forestry commission and business. They might be domesticated and seem to be tame, but believe me, they are not. Their call is violent, and tragedy and triumph happen every year, month, week, day, second ticking away not with the pulse of a clock, but the pulse of the almighty mother, earth. Spring and winter, summer and autumn are but a breathing in and out there. Your individuality does not tip the scales even a tiny bit, but your soul weighs heavy there. It coincides with the pulse and breathing of the dark, rich soil. It blossoms with the flowers and withers with the winter.

And you get a notion that this might be the real life after all.

Then you return to your everyday endeavours, a changed human being, and you notice the everyday wrongness of life. All too soon you notice all your energy you won in the woods is spent, and when you feel exhausted, you hear the call again. And you return, and the roots of ancient trees yet unborn grow deep into your heart. Alien you become to the ways of those cyborgs and zombies that call themselves human and that delight in preying on their fellow beings while preaching denaturation and trying to establish a peace that is no peace, but numbness, ignorance, and indifference. By stealing away all dream they try to become immortal in indifference.

But there is no immortality of the body, and dynamics and change is the immortality of the soul. Metamorphosis is the law of nature, never ceasing to grow and blossom. Violent is the creativity of that dream, unfathomable by the ways of the Grey God they pray to. And thus they make this world.

You try to fight them. But you cannot fight with their weapons.

And so again you run into the woods. Is this escapism?

I do not think so. In fact, I think that it is in the woods that we find the weapons to fight with. Roaming the woods, being banned from a society of zombies and cyborgs is no longer a sentence, but a privilege.

Into the woods we walk. Into a dream we walk.

But under the treetops, near the stream, the clover sprouts, and under the pillars of the tree´s stems, the dream prospers.
Pathways we walk, ostracized by mankind, to become something old and something new, over old hills and farther away than just the distance.
And this is what skóggángr means to me now. It is a mere word, but it is taking roots, slowly, but securely, in the dream of the forest in my heart.
The buzzard flies above this forest, scanning the ground for its prey. Wolves return from the exile. Oh, yes, they are dangerous. Yes, they might threaten the life of wildstock and tame animals and humans alike. Yes, I would not want to get on the wrong side of them. But then they are of my kind. As is the owl, that stealthy hunter in the night.

This is the essence of skóggángr: Being one with the hunters and the prey, with river and stream. With the wind and the storm and the shadowy mists in the night. With the sun shining warm upon the meadows and twinkling in the stream, but also with the piercingly hard and frosty starlight in the midnight sky.

And with both sides united in the shady twilight.
The sun might sink beyond the hills: Darkness falls. But there is no Evil lurking here, for the Evil man fears is not the truth; man in itself has become the worst enemy. So we unbecome human. So we dream another life. So we deliberately walk into the thrall of the forest´s spirits, for there is nothing to be feared but the utter void of grey. Skóggángr we become. Forest we become.

Behind the gates there is a spring waiting. Behind the mist-enchanted sun, behind the circles of passage spring dwells.

There is art in this hope, there is hope in this art.
This is a new way.

This is a war to be fought, a hunt to be feasted.

Run with the night. The hunter´s moon is rising.

Mittwoch, 8. April 2015

Rettet Mara! (Save Mara...)

(English article below the German version)

Neu in den Kinos und schon zum Scheitern verdammt zu sein scheint der von der FBW Filmbewertung mit dem Prädikat "wertvoll" ausgezeichnete Film "Mara und der Feuerbringer". Tommy Krappweis, Erfinder der Kultfigur "Bernd das Brot", der auch schon die Bücher der Mara - Trilogie verfasste, führte Regie. Der Film wurde unter anderem durch den bekannten Altgermanisten, Skandinavisten und Philologen Prof. Dr. Rudolph Simek, Verfasser zahlreicher Standardwerke zur nordischen Mythologie, beraten und liebevoll und jugendgerecht umgesetzt. Im Film werden wichtige Fragen der jugendlichen Entwicklung aufgegriffen und in den Kontext der skandinavischen Mythologie gesetzt: Die Protagonistin, Mara Lorbeer, die in der Schule bislang das Leben einer Außenseiterin führte, entdeckt eines Tages, dass sie eine Spákóna, eine Seherin in der nordischen Tradition ist. Nur sie allein kann die Welt retten, die vom Untergang und dem "Endschicksal der Götter", dem Ragnarök, bedroht wird. Unterstützt wird sie dabei von einem Skandinavistik - Professor, der einige Überraschungen erlebt, aber auch zu bieten hat. Der Film stellt neben vielen anderen Aspekten eine Tour de Force durch die Welt der nordischen Mythologie dar, bietet jedoch auch eine ganz entscheidende Kritik an dem Umgang mit dem Thema vor und während der Zeit des Dritten Reichs. Die Figur des Loge, die den Widersacher der jungen Seherin darstellt, thematisiert die pathologische Verfremdung der alten Mythen während dieser Zeit.
Der Film stellt eine kurzweilige und wertvolle Unterhaltung, nicht nur für Kinder und Jugendliche, sondern gerade auch für gebildete Erwachsene dar, und bietet kulturelle Aufarbeitung mit wohldosierter Action auf hohem Niveau. Die deutsche Produktion mit namhaften Größen wie Esther Schweins und Christoph Maria Herbst (Stromberg) wurde durch eine namhafte TV- und Kinoproduktionsgesellschaft produziert. Jedoch steht zu befürchten, dass der Film aufgrund mangelnder Werbung wieder in der Versenkung verschwindet. In sozialen Netzwerken wird daher zu bewußtem Engagement für diese deutsche Produktion aufgerufen. So ist bereits eine regelrechte Bewegung entstanden, die sich aus Museumsdarstellern, Germanisten, Skandinavisten und anderen Geisteswissenschaftlern zusammensetzt. Diese Bewegung setzt sich neben dem Einsatz für einen sehenswerten Film auch und besonders für die unverkrampfte Auseinandersetzung mit wichtigen nordeuropäischen Mythen ein. Denn gerade in einem geprüften Europa ist diese Auseinandersetzung mehr als wichtig: Nur wer weiß, wo er herkommt, kann gemeinsam mit anderen auch die Herausforderungen der Zeitgeschichte nachhaltig meistern.
Es bleibt also nur ein Aufruf: Besucht diesen sehenswerten und wertvollen Film mit Eurer Familie oder allein und handelt damit in mehrfachem Sinne positiv für die Förderung deutscher Kultur in einem europäischen Zusammenhang. Wenn Ihr ihn gut findet, sprecht darüber. Teilt ihn auf facebook und twitter, schickt ihn an alle Eure Freunde. Macht ein Event draus, geht in Gewandung in den Film oder mit Holzfällerhemd, Chucks und T-Shirt, wie Mara es tun würde. Und zeigt so den Mobbing Kids "eine WIRKLICHE Schlange" (Zitat aus Mara... neugierig?;-))
Hier gibts ein Interview mit Tommy Krappweis, der sich für sein Baby den Arsch bis zur Erschöpfung aufreisst.
So, now to a little insight for my English readers. You might have wondered why it is that you read on Fimbulmyrk about yet another fantasy film. "Mara und der Feuerbringer", a motion picture directed by German film director Tommy Krappweis, who by coincidence is also author of the fantasy novel trilogy, however is more than just another fantasy movie.
It is a spellbinding story about some things those of us who are old might remember still - it is about growing up and not giving up on your dreams in the process. It is about a little girl, Mara Lorbeer, being mobbed at school, and having a hard life - with a mother who is on something of an esoteric rampage, a frantic quest for sense in a world deprived of all magic and being beaten up at school by the bully kids. In this situation she learns that she is actually a spákóna, a seeress in the Old Norse tradition. The film, by the way, was counselled by the famed Austrian philologist Prof. Dr. Rudolph Simek, author of many benchmark works concerning Old Norse mythology and philology. If you know Prof. Dr. Simek and you learn that Mara gets a much - needed support by "the professor", you might even discover some similarities. For Mara desperately is in need of support: She is the only one capable of saving the world from the "Ragnarök", the final fate of the Gods. In a most eloquent way the ultimate enemy is introduced: Loge, who shares many, many characteristics with the fire Jotun (giant) Surtr, who storms the Asgardian realm with his flaming sword on the day of doom. But Loge is made of a different stuff. He gets his power by the neglection of Nordic myth and the hysterical and pathological way Nazi Germany adapted the tales of the Gods in the time of the Third Reich and before. Being the mythological personification of the Loge of Wagnerian provenience, Loge seems to be larger than life, and at  the first look it seems next to impossible that a little girl could manage to even face this almighty and powerful God who is even capable of kidnapping the wife of the great deceiver of Norse mythology, Loki, himself. But both Loge and the spectators are in for a surprise. The professor and Mara both learn from each other, thusly making the perfect match for the adventure. This to me is a message that has certainly enriched my life: That the virile creativity and the academical view can work hand in hand to cope with the overly strong and Evil force that threatens the world.
I have watched the film. It is well suited for Youth and children, but you can truly appreciate it if you have some insight into the Norse mythology. And here it is where the story enters into real life.
For Tommy Krappweis produced the film for a huge TV and cinema production corporation. The motion picture was considered with the official predicate of being a valuable one for kids and adults alike. But fact is, there is next to no advertising for this movie by the corporation. The film is no supported and Tommy himself advertises it via facebook and twitter in hope of being able to fund the second part of the movie.
To me personally there is a very acrid stench of fish around the whole process, one that I know all too well from my time of studying Old Norse literature, the stench of outright sabotage, ignorance and neglect. When studying, we were always faced with the accusation of being Fascist or Nazi just because we wanted the outright opposite - learning about the truth of Norse mythology to get rid of the ridiculous endeavours of Nazi Germany. Or plain ignorance, neglect and derision. In order to fight for our country, to regain a healthy national identity we strove to look through the nationalistic pamphlets, through the sneer and sniggering of materialists and the almighty businessmen. We were fighters then, we are fighters now.
And here comes the beauty of it all: Philologists and reenactors, philosophers and students, kids and adults alike have formed a friendly and peaceful community to support this modern-day myth. A genuine myth, for its is the mythological personification of one of the biggest fights of our time: The fight of the dream against the egomaniac times, the fight of the heart against hate and greed, and the fight of our nation for a healthy identity. For only if you really know who you are you can truly welcome guests or fight enemies within, as our time demands from us all. Mara fights our fight, and she has become a symbol for this fight, and I sincerely wish that creativity and science will form a shield wall against the force of Evil - that dwells in ourselves.
Watch the movie. It´s not a heebie-jeebie action fancy where things go kaboom every second. It is sincere, and unpretentious, funny, serious, and atmospheric. It is a children´s film for adults, and adult film for children. It´s about fighting dragons, heroes, swords, friendship, love and freeing Gods.
But be warned: The "Vikings" series might make you throw up afterwards:-D. 

And here´s a poem I wrote long ago (and was inspired by the hélstáfnar runes on the rune inscription of Rök, Sweden: "Sibbe veahvari ól niraethr", but seems to strangely fit now:

Vaivarar Kríg

Hrafnar thrjá floginn yfir hafinns,
Hrafnar thrja,
Inn fyrsta fló,
Hann fló till Útgards,
Annar fló,
Hann fló till Midgards,
Inn thridi fló,
Hann fló till Asgards.

Hveistu hvé hrafnar sagum?
Hveistu hvé rúnar ratinn?
Hveistu hvé sóa ok hvé rista skál?

Vart sverdtíd, vart blóttid,
Vart vaevarar kríg,
Vid mannligan vapnóm vi gangan till strids:

Vid sverdi ok skeggi ok gándr av ýr,
Vid fyfir fárbauti ok gándr av ýr,
Vid iarnarbrótt iarnt ok gándr av ýr,
Vid galdinn ok seidinn ok gándr av ýr,
Vid rúnor ok sógur ak gándr av ýr-

Vi kempan att vinna ok vinnan it lands.

The war of the guardians of the sacred

Raven three flew over the sea,
Raven three.
The first flew, he flew to Útgard,
The other flew, he flew to Midgard,
The third one flew, he flew to Asgard.

Do you know what the ravens say?
Do you know what the runes council?
Do you know how to sacrifice and how to write?

It is sword - time, it is time to sacrifice,
The war of the Vaivari (sentinels of the sacred) has come,
With gleaming weapons we face combat:

With sword and axe and a staff of yew,
With the arrow´s giant and a staff of yew,
With shards of broken iron and a staff of yew,
With sorcery and witchcraft and a staff of yew,
With runes and tales and a staff of yew,

We will fight to win and claim this land.

Please take note: This is in no way an academical way of treating the topic. Actually, we read the phrase "Sibbe uuai uaari" as "Sibbe of Vé" nowadays, and my teacher, Prof. Dr. Else Ebel would whack the shit out of me, but hey, it´s poetry. It is fantasy. I have also messed up the writing, for I can´t find the types for the "dh" and "th" sounds. But I guess the point´s made nonetheless. To my English - speaking readers: There´s something you can do: Inquire about the movie in English. Tell your friends about it. Share it on facebook and twitter and social networks. And "show the bullies a real snake" (quote from Mara).

So, Tommy, if you read this: Take care, and rest assured that you are not alone.

Mittwoch, 1. April 2015

Muttentalfest Mayhem over Bethaus... and the dragon´s breath

 Now this is a somewhat incomplete post... It´s not complete because there are a lot of pics missing. Just had way too much to do to shoot some photos. But here´s an article (in German).
 When we prepared the event the day before, all was still grand in wonderland. The weather, while not exactly great, was quite okay for smithing. Nick was there preparing his work and having some fun with his own projects, I was booked for a children´s birthday party together with Volker...
 Volker looking sceptical. He had a lot of work still to do for the preparations of the following day and was a bit stressed of course. I helped him as best as I could, but the guy ´s not one for talking, and I am fed up with doing that clairvoyant stuff;-). Anyway, after helping out, I had some time for some projects of myself, and, after putting out knives by the truckload to date;-) I decided it was time for something different.
 A hatchet that will maybe end up as a Ciupaga. But we will see...
 Nick, as I mentioned, had also some time to kill and did some projects of his own. When I noticed he was doing some mistakes I tried to notify him, but to no effect. Little details, however, make huge differences. I have learned smithing after the ergonomic technique from Oli Durm, a blacksmithing master from the Rhineland region, who had tutored me on several occasions. It all starts with the correct position at the anvil, and it makes all the difference between feeling cramped and uncomfortable or relaxed and able. Plus, the way you use your hammer is altogether different from using a hammer for nailing or smashing something, and, of course, very different to using an axe.

Learning from Oli, whose blacksmithing is far superior to mine (he´s a certified master after all), I have profited a lot and, in general, would not have made any progress at all had I not "stolen with my eyes", as my laid father used to say. It does not make me a lesser person that I have learned from better blacksmiths. I know it is hard to accept that one has still a lot to learn, but I personally tend to see it the other way round: I like the fact that I actually CAN learn a lot still.

Okay, often there is no time to practice, but is there really? Can´t I take some extra time to shave a huge amount of time off because I will work more efficiently afterwards? Many learning effects came to me in a stress situation, when someone told me I could do it better. Often there are people visiting the smithy, you know them well, know-it-all morons who of course would manage to forge 20 nails in one heat:-), and had in their time (which often is a life´s age since), because their great-grandfather knew someone who had a great- grand- uncle who lived close to a house that was just half a village away from the local smithy and even bought a morsel once from the baker whose niece had a friend who actually knew the blacksmith´s best friend in person.

But sometimes there are real blacksmiths coming for a visit giving actual input. And if that´s the case, I gladly accept their hints or even criticism, even if there´s a right ruckus going on at that moment. For I tend to learn that way, and if it´s the only way to learn, I´ll do it. Since it is no longer commonplace to learn the traditional techniques involved in our style of blacksmithing, I´ll take whatever I can, and will do whatever it takes to learn what I want to learn. Guess the point is made;-). Another master I learned a lot from used to say: "We shape the steel, but steel also shapes ourselves." This is obvious when you look at photos before and after you took up blacksmithing. Kai, for instance, was bit of a lanky lad when he first took the hammer and has developed a bit of a bodily presence;-), so to say:-), in the time he has now worked as a blacksmith.

But that´s just a tiny bit of it all. Iron is far more than a  metal (as are silver, copper, brass, tin, lead, and gold also, but, as the famed poem by Kipling says, iron is master of them all). Iron, and especially steel, are fierce and strong to work with. If you look at it like an industrial worker, it will eventually cripple your soul and wreck your body. If you are soft and reluctant, it will hurt you eventually. If you are lazy, it will treat you indifferently, and the music of steel will elude you.

But, if you listen, and if you strive, and if you are gentle, patient and strong enough, chance is, one day, maybe in the far future, you will "beat the ancestors" and thus become a master. This is a lot of the energy that propels me forward. There is so much to learn, and in learning the craft, you can be able to create a myth, not just a tool or artefact. Another one of my tutors used to say: "Working with your hands is craft. Working with your hands and heart is craftwork. Working with hands, heart and soul is art." Only by doing the latter, you will be able to agnize the music of steel that comes from spheres higher than your own. Only by listening to that music will you transform yourself onto a higher level. As a smith. As a storyteller, and as a human.

Blacksmithing made our world, and in my book, I have a big responsibility. Hands are reaching one to the other through the ages, through the age we call the iron age and in which we live since 2900 years now. Given you will "meet" all those ancestral blacksmiths after death, it would be a right pain had I not tried hard enough to be a good conversational partner:-). Eternity can be a long time, you see?*ggg*. That´s my way, of course, and not for everyone. As Helena Blavatsky put it, many are called, few are chosen:-), meaning, few will see it along this line of thought, for it makes for a hard life.

To be precise, what we do is not just industrial blacksmithing, or just the craft in a prosaic sense of the word. It is transcending this. This makes it a hobby, if not a passion. It makes it art, if not a philosophy, and the dedication it requires is almost religious.

To feed the fire in others, and especially in the kids, you have to burn. It´s that simple. You have to kindle your own flame so that it matches the sparkle in the eyes of children. Like a kid, you have to discover it all anew, with and for the children, but also for yourself. You have to strive and fight to keep that fire burning, and only then you will one day feel the dragon´s breath. You have to smell the taste of iron that tastes so much stronger than your own red blood, but is made of the same stuff. You have to listen to the song of the lightning and the inspiration in the wind. You have to feel the hurt and pain as well as the overwhelming joy and passion of this life, and with the breath of your inspiration have to heat the forge that is your heart, like to a bellows. And the fire in your heart will fill your spine, and your dragons will awake and guard your inner sword-that is your soul. And you will fly. The kids did. They would not rant on endlessly about it. It is not necessary to them, and they would not, could not, should not do so. They lack this indifference we adults often develop. It makes us jabber on endlessly, build intellectual concepts about God and Gods and antagonists and fight each other over a name, all this just to gain safety in our ignorance of reality, in our confidence all could be explained, and we should be good citizens of a rationalistic, materialistic society. The truth is wilder, more uncivilized than we dare think. It is a picture, a symbol, of course, when I call iron a dragon. But it´s not just me doing so... the dragonslayer in many cultures, from Germanic to Vedic to Kurdish myth also had at least a strong affinity to blacksmithing or the smith. It is the blacksmith nailing home the iron pole that fixes the chaos snake, and with tool and weapon he offered the means to cope with a hostile environment. But nowadays there often is no hostile environment, but it is to be feared that there will be no environment whatsoever, and soon.
 So what good is it to forge with the kids, forge those age-old tools with them that were the means to prepare the food, to reap the harvest, to carve the implements of everyday homesteading needs?
I personally think the blacksmith stands for a yearning of modern people. A village, peasants, farming, simple needs and simple solutions to a simple life with simple answers. Hobbits and cheap religious answers are all the rage these days, with the hobbits being the better alternative, if you ask me. At least they will not blast up hundreds of people, but instead cook good food, listen to homemade music and drink home-brewed ale and lead a healthier lifestyle.

At the smithy, we often forge things from absolute crap. It is almost terrifying, however, how many children who come visiting lack the imagination to even think of being creative. It´s not that they do not know  what they want to forge, but that they prefer the cheapo answers of the virtual world to real - life experiences. They, for instance have no individual imagination or visualisation of a "king" as an archetype, but pictures from movies far exceeding their age permittance or computer games.

Many of them cannot visualize a snail or a snake from the abstract form we produce. And they certainly cannot imagine that the utterly rusted and pitted crap we use as raw material will transform into something beautiful. In that, we tell a story in an almost "filidh" tradition. We fulfil a social task. Society, however, is often having a different opinion. It is not socially acceptable to make new things from crap. There´s a word for someone who collects other people´s trash. Many adults are surprised what you can make from trash-but you are not permitted to think sustainable by even repairing the stuff you bought- by planned obsolescence. And it is certainly NOT accepted to collect other people´s trash at all. But we all know that.

The culprit is, as a blacksmith, we have more than just a function as a craftsman making things for sale CHEAP! AND! NOW! We make things that last a lifetime. And, from the first caveman knapping a spearpoint or carving a vessel, to modern swordsmiths, we are warriors of mankind, in that we ward off chaos from the circle of the world of man. But chaos is within, and chaos is in all of us. The deceiver is within our culture, so to say, not just western civilization, but human culture in general. Chaos was the very motor of our so-called well-organized society. Greed, hate, lust, disease were the ones making our world, not the other way round.

But iron is another matter. Fire, Earth, Wind and Water and Inspiration are superior to this. This is our challenge and our mission as this special kind of black- and wordsmiths that we are; to introduce the fire that burns in all things natural and that is, while not necessarily "good" in contrast to "evil", well, just this: natural. It´s not just about iron and fire and all that dragon talk. It´s about being.

And people sense that, when they come visiting, that we are different, wilder and more authentic than many others in our tiny part of the world. Of course, the Bethaus sells services.  But I think it sells with pride, something pitifully alack in our society, for there´s a difference between pride and hysteria or egomania. This, in turn is a small responsibility compared to the whole entity of being a blacksmith. We have to cleanse our imagination in order to agnize even what we work with every day, to agnize the smallest of our technical challenges.

On Sunday, it rained hard. The storm raged, but still the customers came in a steady trickle. The forge was always busy, and while it was not exactly a stress day, Willy and myself had enough to do to keep it interesting enough. We forged with a lot of kids, and many of them were not there for the first time. There were many, many different projects to be made. I remember one little girl wanting to forge a butterfly. Willy looked at me with a huge grin that was as wide as if chopped into his face... and I grinned back, and we made a challenge out of it. I freely admit I messed up. I did not mess up because the stars were in the wrong constellation or because I had a bad childhood or because my morning shit was going down in the wrong rotation. But because I made a mistake in planning the technical routine. Willy got it wired, then. And the little girl went away with a sparkle in her eyes. The parents were fond of our playful stance towards the challenge and maybe went home thinking about being a bit more playful. This is what counts, and I learned something new... perfect.

We talked a lot, too. Stefan and his kids also came across, and it was a right pleasure. Now Stefan is one of the nicest persons I know, an avid knife enthusiast with an ambition to forge himself. He also is one of the best Dads I know, and his boys are telling the story, by being highly intelligent and creative little persons while being actual children, not some overcivilized mutants like the ones we get to see far too often. We chatted most of the day, for they always were to be found in the nearest vicinity of the smithy, and all three of them seem to have the bug bad;-).

Then, all of a sudden, the day was over. I made two fast knives from spring steel, the iron age one and the semi-integral you already know from a recent post, and, in the last light of the day, quenched and ground them, and completed the carving on the Rus replica ´s handle.

Then I was preparing for my way home. And in the distance there were the first flashes of violet, violent lightning light, still somewhat far away, but nearing soon with roaring, searing speed. I had no choice but to quit fast, and said my goodbyes, and, with panic striking my very heart, hammered my pedals like I seldom did before. Having forged the whole day through, this was not quite that good an idea; and all too soon I was feeling quite exhausted. Riding along the river, on a storm-ravaged bike lane with a rucksack of steel was presumeably the silliest thing I did in my entire life, and that means a thing. It also was the most dangerous thing I ever did, and I knew that.

All the while the storm, which I thought I had already left behind by my frantic hammering, crept nearer like a roaring dragon on wings of fury. When I looked back I could see the flashes in the not-so-far distance, and the growl of thunder shuddering through the very ground up to the sky in ever closer distance to the flashes. It seemed that everything was vibrating, and it was then that I heard the steel in my rucksack sing, a violent, silent growl and a glass-like reverberation joining in a primal choir, beautiful, but making my hair stand on end, and I knew I was in big trouble.

I cried up to the sky and prayed for an answer; what the message would be in this situation. I did not exactly fear death itself or the pain, but dying with so many things left undone, things that I left and people that would be hurt by my death. I asked for a reason to die- or a reason to live.

Lightning struck behind me, I do not know how far or how near it was, but th eground shook and the flash blinded me for five minutes. When I could see again, the St. Elmo´s fire danced through my spine and lighted up the lane for some 500 m ahead of me with violet flickerlight, filling my body with a strange vibration, and shivering heat and cold. It felt as if I breathed the fire, and the tempest took me from behind with a giant fist, pushing me ahead with terrifying speed, so violently that I had to strive to keep my balance, so fast that it propelled me forward with some 35 km/h without pedalling. It was raining and hailing hard, I was soaked through but did not feel it. All I felt was the ringing in my ears and the fire in my spine and that unearthly, eerie song of iron in my pack still screaming wildly.

Might be my account is not objective, but as I arrived home with this narrow escape, I opened a bottle of black beer and toasted to the living and the dead and thought one thing:

I will always treasure this gift of the dragon´s breath in my heart of hearts. It is one of the gifts one gets once in a lifetime, and that will last longer than a lifetime. It is not relevant if I am grateful for it or not, but no one will ever take this from me now. It is a strength that transcends my humanity. It is insanity to look into it, but I understand it.

There is no way to avoid the dragon.

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