Birds and their meaning in Nordic Folklore


Art by the Norwegian Fairytale artist Theodor Kittelsen.

Long before human beings had ever dreamed of entering the sky realm birds were considered to have otherworldly abilities letting them fly as messengers and communicators between heaven and earth. Birds became important as a way for humans to read signs from the spirit realm, and they were held in awe and even feared. Different birds communicated different warnings and auspicious messages.

The Raven


Art by the Norwegian Fairytale artist Theodor Kittelsen.

The raven is probably the bird with the most spiritual significance in the Nordic countries. The raven was Odin’s bird, or rather birds, he had two ravens, Hugin and Munin, who resided on his shoulders occasionally flying down to the earth realm to be Odin’s eyes on earth. The Norse people considered Raven feathers to be magical, they could among other things pick any lock, perhaps even the lock to someone’s heart.

Another Norse legend tells us of a small pebble that could be found in a raven’s nest, and if you could get hold of this pebble you could, by putting the pebble in our mouth, turn invisible. This pebble was especially sought after by warriors. But if you misused the pebble to do mischief you would be turned into an owl, the least auspicious birds according to the Norse belief, so it came with a fair warning to be used with extreme caution.

If two ravens were seen fighting while a wedding was taking place this warned of a bad marriage, and the wedding could be stopped. If a chieftain saw seven ravens fighting in the sky this meant that war was coming and he had to start preparing his warriors. These signs were taken seriously and followed, without question, by the Norsemen.

The Eagle


Art by the Norwegian Fairytale artist Theodor Kittelsen.

Another significant bird in the Norse symbolism was the eagle. The eagle in most cultures is a symbol of freedom and strength. To the Norsemen the eagle was even more significant. Odin, the king of gods, could turn himself into an eagle in order to fly to earth to drink the elixir of life that kept him immortal and forever young. So if you saw an eagle in the sky you could never really know if it really was Odin in disguise, and accordingly you were on your best behavior around eagles, trying to display honor, courage and bravery. The symbol of an eagle was therefor often used to inspire bravery in warriors.

The Cormorant


Art by the Norwegian Fairytale artist Theodor Kittelsen.

The Cormorant was, to the old Nordic people, the messenger between the “Folk of the Forest” and the humans. They brought warnings to people from the Folk, such as “danger is coming”, this the Cormorant demonstrated by unfolding their wings and holding them up in a protective gesture before the people the warning was meant for. This also gave them the status of being a protector. They could also warn the fishermen of bad fishing by flying against the boat when the men were on their way out to sea.

The Wood Grouse


Art by the Norwegian Fairytale artist Theodor Kittelsen.

The Wood Grouse was nicknamed the trollbird by the old Nordic people. The reason for this was that they thought the wood grouse actually was a troll woman turned into a bird. She was someone to be careful around because she could be unpredictable and moody, sometimes choosing to do good while other times she was full of mischief luring young men into the woods to seduce them and kidnap them. But if you found a feather of a wood grouse you were very lucky because it had healing properties, especially for “womanly” ailments.

The Swan


Art by the Norwegian Fairytale artist Theodor Kittelsen.

There is an old Norse legend that tells of the origin of the Nordic Lights. The legend states that there was a flock of seven swans who were too late to migrate and got stuck in the ice on a lake. Their frozen wings blazed over the sky and turned into beautiful green and blue lights. So whenever the Nordic Lights appeared on the sky it was the seven frozen swans fluttering their wings.

The Dipper


Art by the Norwegian Fairytale artist Theodor Kittelsen.

The Dipper is the Norwegian National bird, maybe because of its mystical past in the Norse culture. The Dipper, who spends most of its time on the ground near waterfalls, was in close contact with the underlings, the fey folk living underground. These underlings were considered to be hostile towards humans who tread on their homes, and the Dipper could plot with the underlings taking revenge of anyone who disturbed their nest or young ones. So the Dipper was a bird who were left alone and avoided at all cost.


Art by the Norwegian Fairytale artist Theodor Kittelsen.

As we can see, birds have a long and mystical history in the North. Most of it is now forgotten and just considered to be old superstition, but many people still swear by birds when it comes to telling the weather or whether or not the fishing is good. Birds do have a deep connection to nature and the elements, and can still be a valuable messengers and teachers when it comes to changes in nature. Besides, some claim that the symbolism around birds is still important today as it points to deeper truths about ourselves and about life.

What do you think?

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The Wind in the Willows

One of my favorite books is “The Wind in the Willows” by Kenneth Grahame and when I came across this willowy forest I was absolutely fascinated!

“The Mole was bewitched, entranced, fascinated. By the side of the river he trotted as one trots, when very small, by the side of a man who holds one spellbound by exciting stories; and when tired at last, he sat on the bank, while the river still chattered on to him, a babbling procession of the best stories in the world, sent from the heart of the earth to be told at last to the insatiable sea.”

-From “The Wind in the Willows” by Kenneth Grahame

“Home! That was what they meant, those caressing appeals, those soft touches wafted through the air, those invisible little hands pulling and tugging, all one way.”

-From “The Wind in the Willows” by Kenneth Grahame

“Here today, up and off to somewhere else tomorrow! Travel, change, interest, excitement! The whole world before you, and a horizon that’s always changing!”

-From “The Wind in the Willows” by Kenneth Grahame

“Believe me, my young friend, there is nothing – absolutely nothing – half so much worth doing as simply messing about in boats.”

-From “The Wind in the Willows” by Kenneth Grahame

Beautiful illustration from the book by Ernest H. Shepard

Night time Fairy Village

Yesterday night I explored a Japanese Fairy Village. It was absolutely magical seeing the Japanese style Fairy houses lit up in the dark. Does anyone else see the little Fairy hiding inside? I couldn’t believe my luck when I saw the photo on screen after snapping it!
Yay! I caught one on camera! 😃😃😃😃

Magic Faraway Tree

Who do you think you will find inside this tree? A whole community of fairies perhaps?

This magic tree is called a Banyan Tree and it is holy to Hindus.

When I found this door hidden under this magnificent tree it made me wonder if perhaps it housed a troll or a hobbit, or perhaps it is the entrance to a magic world!?

What do you think?

Christmas at Hogwarts

Dear Diary,
Today I woke up early seeing as it was Christmas morning. I came down to the common room earlier than any of the other Ravenclaws. And of course, it was beautifully decorated! The Christmas tree was even bigger this year! The theme of the tree was blue and silver, and there were all kind of ornaments! Snow Crystals, Silver Angels, Sapphire Blue baubles and of course tinsel! There was evergreen above the mantle, but instead of ribbons, the evergreen was hung with shoes! Red sneakers with green leaves on, pink boots with purple lace and yellow and blue Wellingtons. I suspect Luna had something to do with that! I found my presents under the tree. One from mum and dad which turned out to be a whole year’s supply of paint and brushes for my art! The other present was from granny and it was a beautiful first edition of “The Tales of Beedle the Bard”with the original illustrations. Granny knows how much I love books! After I had opened my presents I went into the Great Hall for breakfast. I am always so excited to see how the Christmas decorations look each year! The first thing I saw when I entered the hall was the ceiling. It was enchanted, of course, to look like the winter sky, dark blue with white snow, but the most magical part was a train, looking exactly like the Hogwarts express, chugging around on invisible tracks. From the train windows I saw little elves waiving at me, and the driver of the train was Father Christmas himself laughing and smoking a pipe. There was of course also music in the hall, softly played carols, and when I saw where the music was coming from I squealed with delight because what was playing the music were more than a hundred music boxes exactly in tune with each other! All the music boxes were different from each other though, but they all depicted scenes within a snow globe, and when I examined them thoroughly I saw that the scenes were changing every five minutes or so. My favorite scene was the one from Hogsmeade showing a young couple dancing and laughing outside the Shrieking Shack while the ghost of a ballerina was making faces at them and trying to outcompete them on the roof of the Shrieking Shack. I also loved the scene from the Yule ball in Hogwarts, Cornish pixies were stealing champagne from a fountain in the middle of the room and swinging from the Christmas ornaments in the trees. And then of course there was this year’s tree! It was magical! All covered in snow from the winter ceiling, and Christmas lights made to look like twinkling stars, and on top of the tree was a perfect half moon glowing in silver and white. When I looked closer at the tree I saw that it also had tiny fairies sitting on the branches drinking hot chocolate and playing miniature Wizard’s chess. They were a bit shy though, and jumped when they saw me so I decided to give them some space, so I settled down for some breakfast. My friends Cat and Cecil came to join me and they showed me their presents. Breakfast was delicious of course! My favorite type of chocolate cake was there and grilled cheese sandwiches and chips and cinnamon buns. Mysteriously they always have everyone’s favorites in Hogwarts, especially on Christmas morning. The candles floated in the air as always, and soon the Great Hall was full of children and teachers. After breakfast my friends and I decided to go sledding. Hagrid, with the help of some last years, had built a perfect sledding slope from the astronomy tower, and it was almost like being on a roller coaster! But I have to admit that I used my wand all the time as a break, I suspect some of the other kids did as well. By afternoon we were a bit tired and cold so we retreated to our Ravenclaw common room to have cocoa in front of the fireplace. All in all it was just a perfect Christmas Day, and I am going to enjoy the rest of the holidays as well. Christmas at Hogwarts is almost better than Christmas at home!

Happy Holidays!
From Trini

The most beautiful Christmas Tree

It was a few days before Christmas and the school holidays had begun. The streets and the trees were covered in snow and the whole world seemed ready for Christmas. In one red and white house two children, a little girl about seven and a boy three years older, were eagerly anticipating Christmas. They were so eagerly anticipating that their father was losing his mind and to get them out of the house he told them that they could go into the forest and find one small Christmas tree each to have in their rooms. The two children were ecstatic! They had never before been allowed to have their own tree! The boy was given a small ax and a saw and was sternly told to be careful. He nodded obediently and took his little sister’s hand and together they disappeared into the white and green forest. They walked for a while hand in hand before the little girl exclaimed: Look! Look, there is the perfect tree right there! She pointed to a tall spruce with dense branches covered in snow. Her brother shook his head. “No, no that is too big.” But the little girl wouldn’t take no for an answer so he gave in like he always did when his sister really wanted something. The tree was heavy to carry, but between them they managed. Now it was the boy’s turn to pick one. He didn’t want to let his sister outcompete him so he chose a tree slightly bigger than hers. This tree was even heavier to carry, and the two little children really struggled to get home. The snow seemed to have gotten even deeper since they left their house and they kicked and breathed hard up the hill to their home.

When they finally made it home their father was waiting for them, but when he saw the trees they were carrying his face changed from anticipation to anger. “ I told you to find a small tree each for your rooms! These trees are even too big to fit in our living room!” he shouted angrily. The children’s faces fell. “ But daddy, these were the best trees in the forest!” said the little girl. But when they tried to fit the trees in their rooms they saw that their father had been right. They were much too big. “ Okay, this is what we will do,” said the father after he had calmed down a bit, “We will cut a bit off the bottom of the smallest tree and keep it in the living room as our family tree, the other one will become firewood.”

The boy hung his head a bit, he was disappointed to see his beautiful tree becoming firewood, but his sister smiled from ear to ear knowing that it was her tree that would adorn the living room on Christmas Eve beautifully decorated for all the guests to see. When Christmas Eve finally came the little girl proudly told her grandparents, her cousins and all her uncles and aunts that it was she who had fetched this year’s tree in the forest. Her father, a bit embarrassed, confirmed her story, and they all agreed that that year’s Christmas tree was the most beautiful tree they had ever seen.

This is a true story about my brother and I and one of our childhood Christmases in Norway.

All the illustrations are by the magical Lisi Martin.

The Littlest Santa Claus

When I was a little girl I firmly believed in Santa Claus, or “Julenissen “ as we call him in Norway. But being a very informed and sensible child with a strong sense of logic, I did not buy into the idea of one man delivering presents to all the children of the world in one night, and in a sleigh pulled by reindeer? No, that was definitely NOT plausible. Besides, most of my presents came from my parents and family, and I also knew for a fact that many kids did not receive gifts for Christmas. Our neighbors were Jehova’s Witnesses, and those children certainly did not get any presents. So how could I believe in Santa then? Well, I had heard the legend of Saint Nicholas who gave presents to all the poor children and how his spirit inspired the idea of Santa Claus. I also knew about the Scandinavian Nisse, the little gnome who lived on farms and demanded porridge every Christmas Eve, otherwise he would not help take care of the animals and the farm and would rather make a ruckus of everything. So I decided that Santa Claus was a spirit, a Christmas spirit, that inspired generosity, kindness and compassion, and that anyone who became bearers of these characteristics could truthfully call themselves Santa Claus, therefore, Santa Claus existed, and anyone adopting the role with a pure heart became Santa. So that is what I did one Christmas Eve. I became Santa Claus.

I was probably about 8-9 years old and was the middle child in the flock of cousins. I had one older cousin plus my older brother and three younger cousins, and I was particularly fond of the two youngest boys who were just 3 and 5 years old. I had pleaded with my mother to let me be Santa Claus on Christmas Eve the whole month of December, and she had finally given in, saying it would be the littlest Santa anyone had ever seen. But that did not stop her from going all out buying me a red furry coat, a red top hat, fake beard and glasses ( I had never liked those horrible plastic masks). On Christmas Eve, right after dinner while the men were having coffee and cognac and the women were doing the dishes, I excused myself saying I had to use the bathroom, and snuck down in the basement where my costume was hidden. I was giggling the whole time, I was so excited to try out my long practiced North Pole accent, and to see the faces of the little kids as I asked them if they had been good that year. I stuffed my Santa suit full of pillows, tucked the beard into my red top hat and tried out my Ho! Ho! Ho! one last time before ascending the staircase with my huge old sack filled with presents. I felt…magical! In that moment I really was Santa Claus! I checked myself before firmly knocking on the living room door while asking with my deep and heavily accented voice: «Er det noen snille barn her?» Which means: Are there any good children here? As soon as I entered, the adults started chuckling quietly, and the little kids looked at me very suspiciously, but my older cousins played along and convinced the little ones that it really was Santa visiting. I handed out the presents while putting on quite the show, telling stories from the North Pole and doing my belly laugh every time someone accepted a present. When my sack was empty I wished them all a very merry Christmas and told them I had to get back to my reindeer waiting in the forest (I knew the little kids would check the roof through the ceiling window if I said they were on the roof) before I hunched down under the weight of my five pillows and exited the living room, waving and Ho! Ho! Ho’ing! the whole time. I climbed down the stairs and headed out in the snow through the front door while chiming a cow bell my mother had given me. The kids were watching me through the window as I disappeared into the dark snowy forest. I am not sure the grown-ups were quite aware of this part of the performance, but they didn’t stop me. I waited five minutes before I headed back to the house. As soon as I came into the living room I exclaimed disappointedly: Has Santa already been here? The small boys nodded and handed me my present from Santa. “oh, darn,” I said “Typical I had to go to the bathroom and miss the whole thing!” I heard lot of subdued laughter from the adults, but they all played along telling me I had missed a great show! I smiled to myself and thought happily: I knew it, anyone can be Santa Claus, even a quite small girl with fake beard and five pillows stuffed under her sweater!

* The beautiful artwork above is done by the magical Lisi Martin.