Posted in Knitting
November 10, 2008

Grisly fiberarts

Ok, so four-plus years ago, I quoted from the Finnish national epic (the Kalevala) on weaving. See this post. It seems so… cheerful, especially given how morose and suicidal the Finns are. (Or so say the statistics). But here’s an even better, super-grisly weaving-and-spinning-related tale from Orkney

Read The Battle Song of the Valkyrieson this page:

According to Njal’s Saga, on the morning of the Battle of Clontarf, a Caithness man, named Dörruðr (Daurrud), watched the "choosers of the slain" — the Valkyries — as they worked on a grisly loom, on which they controlled the fates of the armies in far off Ireland.

Their song, known as Darraðarljoð, was still recited in the Norn language in North Ronaldsay in the late eighteenth century.

So, what about this loom? Oh, it’s not your ordinary loom, kids.

“This woof is y-woven
With entrails of men,
This warp is hardweighted
With heads of the slain,
Spears blood-besprinkled
For spindles we use,
Our loom ironbound,
And arrows our reels;
With swords for our shuttles
This war-woof we work;
So weave we, weird sisters,
Our warwinning woof.”

As someone who studied her fair share of ancient Germanic literature, and who counts among her favorite, favorite poems the Hildebrandslied, you can practically hear the influence of various contemporary Germanic works dripping off each word. Like At The Humming of the Wheel: A Collection of Textilely-Correct Fairy Tales (available here), someone needs to collect all these amazing ancient textile-related poems and epics into one big book, no?

I’d do it if no one else steps up…could make my mom do watercolor illustrations to accompany it!

(Oh, and speaking of the Hildebrandslied, here is a REALLY good translation that conveys a lot of the sense, more so than a straight-up translation. Recommended for linguistics geeks, German history and lit geeks and people who didn’t mind reading Beowulf in school or who love the Seamus Heaney audiobook version — one of my faves).

Tagged with:

1 comment

  • Laura Wilson-Anderson

    Ah, my ancestors were sooo cheerful… 🙂 I love it! I’m glad I found your site!

    Reply to Laura Wilson-Anderson

Comments & Reviews

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *