We found out this year through the Ancestry DNA test that we have 10 to 15 percent Scandinavian blood in my paternal family; meaning I descend in part from Old Norsemen and Vikings! Ever since, I have been thinking of the Vikings and seeing a strange Newfoundland beach in my dreams, and drawing my own Viking ship….
So this season I have been researching Vikings in Newfoundland and Viking art and culture.
I feel like I have found my way home, and sense that ‘my people’ have been misunderstood for at least 1000 years! I mean I know some of the Vikings were raiders and plunderers, but we weren’t always bad asses, all the time. The good ones left behind amazing works of art, carved boats and stones, and churches; I sense in their art a love for nature and golden circles.
In fact, I found a website that lists English words that derived from Viking words, and it starts by saying:
“How many loanwords from Old Nose are there in the standard English language? Viking origin of the words ‘ransack’ and ‘slaughter’ probably would not surprise anyone, but very “peaceful” words like ‘leg’, ‘sky’ or ‘window’ are also of Scandinavian provenance.” – Viking Words in English
Reading these ancient words, I felt some wheels turning in my mind; My mind that can half understand the words and can be shaken whenever I hear them. And I remember walking into a Stave Church in Norway, once….
The Stave church of Heddal, Norway: painting by Johannes Flintoe (1828)
In fact, it turns out then whenever I say words like birth, die, sky or window, I am using the words of my ancestors! Hail hail, to my set of peaceful Norsemen, the type that went to the stave church …. hail, hail!
Here are some other Old Norse words, and my instant reactions and feelings about them:
anger – (ON angr ‘grief’) [1220-1250]
I also find it very interesting that the word angry is related to the word grief. As an artist and sensitive person, I can carry a lot of grief. It is better to express the grief in my art and poetry, than to get angrier.
I am not an angry type of person, despite what some people may experience my heart is full of peace …. even as I shout and scream for respect at times. And in my dreams, my own Viking people are NOT the violent raiders or the plunderers, but my people are the explorers and artisans who became the settlers and who just loved the world. I just don’t have angry dreams…
die – (ON deyja) [1016-1150]
Wow, deyja is about as deep and heart rendering, as you can go; to learn the word comes from a Viking Old Norse is… just awesome.
fellow – (ON félagi) [before 1016]
Now this is interesting, because I love the words fellow and fellowship; and the word felagi sounds even more fun: Hey felagi, lets sail across the ocean today and see Vindland….
sky – (ON skie ‘cloud’) [1220-1250]
I like to hear that this word comes from the Viking word for cloud; as the Vikings sailed the seas they were always surrounded by the sky and clouds, attune with the elements, more aware of the sky as a misty cloud than as a clear day, and probably also more aware of the aurora and the stars, than the land-locked folks.
trust – (ON traust) [c.1250]
I love these concepts, good for you Vikings, you learn when to trust, you learn when not to. You are who you are. You form trust and you lose trust.
window – (ON vindauga ‘wind eye’) [1220-1250]
I think this concept of windows, has been in my dreams, my entire life. I draw and I paint windows. I look out of windows and dream about them; I see the world in the window of my eye. I love to look out. I love the wind.
See also, these linked articles about Viking art: