Lagertha: Viking Shieldmaiden

Lagertha (also spelt Lathgertha or Ladgerda) is a legendary Viking shieldmaiden known from Saxo Grammaticus’ early 13th-century CE Gesta Danorum. In this work, written in Latin and concerning Danish history, she is the first wife of Ragnar Lothbrok, a legendary Viking king said to have lived during the 9th century CE. Contrasting with the prominent role Lagertha plays in the ongoing Vikings TV series, where she is portrayed by Katheryn Winnick, the Gesta Danorum is the only historical source that even mentions her and ties her in with the more broadly-known Ragnar mythos, making her more of a footnote within his legend rather than a core element. She makes for a bold footnote, though, and an interesting character in her own right; brave and skilled, she is twice responsible for ensuring victory for Ragnar in battle. Although classical concepts of Amazons underlie Saxo’s warrior women, his stories are rooted in the Old Norse traditions known from medieval Icelandic literature. Specifically, Lagertha herself may have been inspired by the Norse goddess Thorgerd, local to Hálogaland, Norway.

Saxo Grammaticus sets the stage for Ragnar and Lagertha’s meeting by describing how the Swedish King Frø has slain Siward, King of the Norwegians, who was Ragnar’s grandfather, and has publically humiliated Siward’s female family members by putting them in a brothel. Ragnar, having just succeeded his father Siward Ring (Sigurd Hring or Ring in other Ragnar stories) to the throne of Jutland in Denmark, hears of this and is obviously not pleased. Coming to Norway with vengeance on his mind, Ragnar is met at his camp by some of the women who had been scorned, dressed up in male attire and ready to join him to hunt down the Swedish king. In the ensuing successful battle, it is one maiden in particular who stands out to Ragnar; he even goes so far as to attribute the victory to her might alone.

Lagertha’s origins aside, it is clear that in Saxo’s work she fulfils a role not immediately expected of historical women of that time but instead of a more legendary proportion: that of the warrior woman. Despite present-day popular imagination running wild with the image of the ‘strong Viking woman’, when critically evaluated the archaeological and historical material is not at all sufficient to support their existence. The Old Norse sagas, however, are a different beast altogether and show strong women taking action, stoking up revenge, standing up to their husbands or even engaging in fights. The popular TV series Vikings, although creatively expanding Lagertha’s role massively from that which it is in the Gesta, does take her reputation as shieldmaiden on board and shows her as a strong fighter who can hold her own, even participating in the raid on Paris (in the show, inspired by the historical siege of Paris of 845 CE).

Within the other legends revolving around Ragnar Lothbrok, Lagertha does not stand alone as a shieldmaiden. Aslaug (Kráka) is another wife of Ragnar, and she eventually leads her sons into battle against the Swedes.

Source: worldhistory.org

Famous Trolls of Mythology

Legend has it that a Christian can kill a troll if they say its name aloud, so as you can imagine troll names are some of the best-kept secrets in the world. Despite that, the names of some trolls from literature and Norse Mythology are known:

Grendel – the troll from Beowulf and one of the three main antagonists of the epic poem

Dunker – a troll mentioned in an old folktale from Fosen

Ymer – a jötunn and the largest creature from Norse Mythology

Dovregubben – the troll king in Henrik Ibsen’s Peer Gynt

Hrungnir – a jötunn and the largest of its kind in Old Norse texts

Trym – king of the jötnar, reigned in Jötunheimr

Geirröd – another jötunn from Norse mythology, father to Gjálp and Greip

The Myth of Marie Laveau, Part I

“Marie Laveau was a negress of café au lait tint, handsome in face, commanding in figure, and of remarkable intellect and force of character. She masqueraded as a hairdresser, thus learning the secrets of many a proud old New Orleans family. In helping sweethearts to secret meetings and forwarding clandestine correspondences, she had no equal and cared not whether the men and women she aided were old in coquetry and vice or young and innocent.”

~ Richmond Daily Palladium, 1900

The Originals (2013-2018)

The Originals is the first spin-off from the supernatural drama The Vampire Diaries, and it further expands the universe by providing a rich background story to many of the characters first met in the parent series.

In particular, we learn more about Klaus Mikaelson and his family, the first vampires to ever exist.

Their story unfolds in the French Quarter of New Orleans, a neighborhood they built and once ruled over but has since been taken over by Klaus’ own protege, Marcel.

Klaus is determined to regain control, but must also fight to keep his daughter safe from external threats against his family and the entire supernatural world.

Aegir and Ran

In Norse mythology, Aegir and Ran are a married couple that lives under the sea. Ran is a sea goddess, and her husband Aegir is a jotünn, and together they have nine daughters who all are named after the waves of the sea.

Their names are bloody-hair (Blóðughadda), wave (Bylgja), foaming sea (Dröfn), pitching wave (Dúfa), the lifting one (Hefring), transparent wave (Himinglæva), welling wave (Hronn), cold wave (Kolga) and frothing wave (Uðr). They are sometimes referred to as the spirits of the waves or the nine billow maidens.

Ran whose name means robbery, loves to spend her day catching and dragging drowning sailors with her huge fishing net down into her realm on the bottom of the sea.

This is the same fishing net as the trickster Loki once borrowed because he wanted to capture the dwarf Andvari who had turned himself into a pike.

Aegir means “sea” in Old Norse, is not a sea god, but he is a jötunn. Even Though Aegir is a jötunn (giant) the couple has befriended the Aesir, they are actually very well-liked among them, and they are often invited to the feasts in Asgard.

Aegir and Ran are often the hosts of the feasts themselves, and they send out invitations to the Aesir to visit them in their great hall in their underwater realm. The Norse gods never decline an invitation, they love to come and visit and drink the beer that Aegir brews.

For you see, Aegir is very well-known for his astonishing beer throughout the nine realms. He might be using his magic as his secret ingredient when he is brewing the beer in his huge cauldron.

His immense knowledge in the art of magic is known among the Aesir, probably one of the reasons why Odin wants to be around him. Odin does not come to the feasts for the beer, he only likes wine, but he probably comes to learn some of Aegir’s magic.

Li Grande Zombi

Li Grande Zombi is the major serpent spirit of worship among New Orleans Voodooists. In New Orleans Voodoo, snakes are not seen as symbols of evil as in the story of Adam and Eve. Snakes are considered to be the holders of intuitive knowledge—knowing that which cannot be spoken. Women often dance with serpents to represent the spiritual balance between the genders. Voodoo rituals in New Orleans almost always include a snake dance to celebrate the link to the ancient knowledge. The origin of Li Grande Zombi can be traced to the serpent deity Nzambi from Whydah in Africa. According to the Bantu Creation story, Nzambi is the Creator God:

Nzambi exists in everything and controls the universe through his appointed Spirits. In the beginning only Nzambi existed. When he was ready to create, millions and millions of pieces of matter swirled around him counterclockwise until Ngombe was born. Ngombe is the universe, the planets, the stars and all physical matter. Nzambi then created movement, and the matter that he had created began to change and drift apart. So, he decided to create a being that could traverse the universe and mediate between matter and space. Nzambi focused on a fixed point and gave life to a being who was simultaneously man and woman, a manifestation of the nature of Nzambi, called Exú-Aluvaiá.

Sources: The Voodoo Hoodoo Spellbook

Hares As Familiars

According to “The Country Justice”, that was responsible for the legal aspect of witchcraft prosecutions in the New England colonies, owning a hare could be seen as a witch mark for hares were considered magical familiars.*

* Based upon European folklore of the medieval and early modern periods, familiars (sometimes referred to as familiar spirits) were believed to be supernatural entities that would assist witches and cunning folk in their practice of magic.

Empusa

The Empusa is a shapeshifting creature of the night, though she also appears at midday. She is an eidolon, an illusory phantom, with an appetite for the flesh of her victims. All of which aligns well with the Titaness Hekate, who is sometimes the mother of Skylla, and often associated with ghosts and haunts.

The Empousa appears in The Frogs by Aristophanes and may have had a role in the Eleusinian Mysteries, which may stem from her association with Hekate. She can appear as a cow, mule, woman, or a dog. With the exception of the mule, Hekate can appear as any of those animals according to lore. In each of these roles, the Empousa is a fearsome creature who resides in the underworld, another connection to Hekate, who is sometimes known as the Queen of that realm. The Frogs puts Empousa in Hekate’s train, a creature bound to Hekate’s will.

Some scholars believe that Hekate and Empousa began as one, with the monstrous creature being an epithet for the Goddess. Yet, Empousa is also described as a vampire-like daimon who will devour her victim. Most surviving stories suggest that the Lamiai, including Empousa, were used as boogy-men, to scare children into following rules. 

Hekate and Empousa share an underworldly nature, an association with the Dead, with the same figures of cow, woman, and dog, as well as both wearing bronze sandals, and being an, at times, fearful figure. It is no surprise that scholars believe that they, at the very least, have some common origin.

Hekate-Empousa,
Who haunts the day and night,
Come forth from the Underworld,
You who attends the sacrifices for the Dead,
Stay your hand from those I love,
And be kind,
And many will be the offerings poured in your honor,
Oh Hekate-Empousa,
Bless us,
Phantasmal Goddess.