Wednesday, February 29, 2012

The Vikings - the Old Religion.

The world before the new religion. 
Bjørn Nørgaard: The Viking Age. Tapestry, Christiansborg Castle
Ygdrasil, Silkeborg Museum
The Midgard Serpent, Silkeborg Museum

Johannes Gehrts: Valhalla

Iceland gave with  Vøluspa and Snorre Sturlasson great literature and a magnificent insight into the old religion of the Vikings. The ancient myths in the Edda,  all very different and from everywhere, old legends and religious traditions, foreign and local ideas and thinking, the story of the figths of gods and jotuns, the æsirs and the vanirs' pantheon. In the center is the residence of the gods, Asgard, where the major god Odin has his Valhalla with 640 gates and from where he in his high seat looks across all creation, and here is the bridge Bifröst, the trembling rainbow, that divides heaven from earth. Around the disc of the earth lies the ocean with the big monster, the Midgard Serpent, and by the faraway shores stretches the homeland of the Jotuns, Jotunheim with the castle Udgard. Under the disc of the earth is the kingdom of death, Hel. And in the corner is the mighty ash, Ygdrasil, in itself a worldly image of good and evil, of joy, sorrow and pain. Mighty is Ygdrasil. Its crown reaches the sky, its branches overshadow the earth, its three roots reach Hel and Jotunheim and down under Midgard, the world of humans. At the trunk of the ash is the spring of the god of wisdom, Mimir and the spring of the goddess of fate, Urd - in the branches sits the eagle, and between the eyes of the eagle is a hawk, paled by wind and weather; at the root of the ash a snake gnaws, and between the snake and the eagle a squirrel brings evil words up and down. Four deer bit off the young buds of the ash, and the trunk is rotting along the side. Indeed  - the ash Ygdrasil suffers more than humans know. But the norns give solace at Urd's well, where they pour water over the ash each day to prevent it from drying out. And the bees are nourished by Ygdrasil's honeydew. Upon a sacred place at Urd's spring are the gods gathering at the Thing, and here live the highest norns, the goddesses of past, present and future, Urd, Verdandi and Skuld. In the middle of the world, above the humans, lies the residence of the gods, where the families of the æsirs and vanirs live.
Dagfinn Werenskjold: The Norns, Oslo Town Hall.

Johannes Gehrts: Ragnarok
Lorenz Frölich: Heimdall.
Nothing exists forever, and when the gods have worked through their time, the final is near where everything and everyone shall pass away. The great poet of Vølvuspá describes life's final, and Snorre Sturlasson completes the picture. First evil times will come among humans, all desires are out: sword time, wolf time, whore time, brother and sister beget children and brother kills brother. The cocks crow in the halls of Odin, in Hel and in the sacrificial grove. Horror and scary grows, the time of the big monsters has come. The hellhound Garm howls, the Fenrirwolf is loose from his chain, his gap reaches from earth to heaven, the Midgard Serpent whips the ocean into foam and spits venom across the earth. The jotun Hrym comes across the ocean in the ship Naglfar, built from dead men's nails, and the Muspelsons sail out with Loki as their leader. The ash Ygdrasil is trembling, the sky is breaking, the rocks are falling, Jotunheim is rumbling, the dwarfs are whining. Odin scouts, Heimdall blows in his Gjallarhorn, the bridge Bifröst breaks, the jotun Surtr rushes forward with his flaming fire. Then comes the world's last great duels between gods and monsters.The Fenrirwolf swallows Odin, but is killed by his son Vidarr, who tramples his gap into bits with his heavy shoes. Thor kills the Midgard Serpent, but only walks nine steps before he falls and dies, poisoned by venom. Tyr and the dog Garm kill each other. Heimdall and Loki kill each other. Surtr kills Freyr and burns everything with his fire. The sun turns black and the stars go out. But hope lives. Earth rises from the ocean again. Two blameless among the æsirs, Balder and Hoder, return and live guiltless upon the golden Gimli. The eagle flies across the roaring cataract. A new sun shines over a new world.

The last words gives a clue about a new and victorious religion, the replacement of the ancient belief. Christianity is not mentioned at all, but the old religion feels and predicts its own final. It is all a great death- and resurrection drama.

The Gods
Arthur Rackham: Odin
Frölich-Lundbye-Skovgaard: Odin
The religion of the Nordic Vikings was polyeistic. They believed in many gods. Odin was the highest one, a magnificent, demonic, terrifying, sadistic figure. He is obsessed with a devouring craving after wisdom and he sacrifices his eye for it; he is merciless, capricious, callous, he is the god of war and of killed warriors. He owns the spear Gungnir, the self-renewing goldring Draupnir, the eight-legged black horse Sleipnir; he is guarded by his two wolves, Geri and Freki, and he receives news from everywhere by his two ravens Huginn and Muninn, (Thought and Memory). He consults the severed head of the wise Mimir, he discovers the runes and knows their power, he hunts in the night with his entourage across mountain, forest and field, he appears on the battlefield and for those dedicated to death as a tall, one-eyed figure, swept in a long, wide mantle and with a broad-brimmed hat. Odin is also the god of the scalds, he is the manager of the mysterious assignation, the great pathos, the rage of the soul. And he knows about witchcraft and Seid. Nothing in mind and soul is strange to him, he is the god of great people, he's an aristocrat and a dangerous god. To describe him as an Allfather might be true if he leads the seat among the æsirs, but if the Allfather is meant to be fatherly, loving and protecting, mild and understanding, then Odin is not the Allfather. His clientele among humans are kings, earls, chiefs, wizards, poets. Whoever is killed in the battlefield in Odin's name is brought by the valkyries to Valhalla to be incorporated in his incalculable crowd of warriors, the einherjars, who will assist Odin when Ragnarok comes. In order to reach his great purpose, the collection of all knowledge and wisdom , of all secrets and all hidden truth Odin will never miss anything, evasion, cunning, breach of promise; if he's hard to others he's just as hard to himself,  he covers a wide field, from cynical generosity till a Dionysian roaring of ferocity and ecstasy.

J.H. Füssli: Tor
Frölich-Lundbye-Skovgaard: Thor
There is a big distance from Odin till the next æsir god, his son Thor, the redbearded power guy with his goat-drawn chariot and his electric hammer, Mjölnir. He's the democrat where Odin is the aristocrat. If Odin takes care of the upper-class, Thor is the popular god. And if Odin might lack humor Thor has got plentiful of it. There are numerous myths and anecdotes about Thor, this strong and faithful protector of the Viking farmers; Thor, the big brawler - and the thunder rolls when Thor rushes above the clouds with his goat team. He is irrestible wherever he comes, eager to fight and with his hammer in his hand. But he is not cunning or sly. That's not his ways. The jotuns, who know about witchcraft, often bring him in trouble, but he always manages in the end. The Vikings invented colourful and wonderful adventures about his exploits: he fetches the giantic beer-vessel at Jotunheim, he fetches his stolen hammer, he goes fishing the Midgard Serpent himself, he experiences the weirdest adventures at the king of the jotuns, Utgarda-Loki, where he brings with him the sly Loki - without much luck anyway.  The farmers in the Viking period did like and understand Thor, he was important to the farmer,  he was the manager of crop and wellfare, he was the god of farming, and he seemed more necessary than Odin himself. It was Thor, not Odin who had to "vie runerne" ( bless the runes). It was characteristic that the heathen Vikings in the early Viking period chose Thor's hammer and not Odin's spear as a strong sign against the Christian cross. Thor was a more general god than Odin, he was invoked by many kinds of people, beside the farmer also by the blacksmith, the fisherman and the captain on the sea. He was closer to people,  more down-to-earth and familiar than the incomprehensible and remote Odin.

Tyr, Balder, Heimdall, Ull.
Frank Dicksee: Balder's Death.
Tyr is brave and frank, he loses a hand when the Fenrirwolf is being tied up, and he fights the hellhound Garm during Ragnarok. There is not much information about Tyr except that he's a main god together with Odin and Thor. He was possibly mostly worshipped in Denmark in the Viking period. The handsome blonde god Balder has a special position among the æsirs. He is son of Odin and Frigg. He is helpful and friendly, he has difficult dreams, his death is tragic, his ceremonial cremation, nature's complaint, the attempt of the æsirs to save him from Hel, Loki's evil trick and plot - the whole tale about Balder is a famous piece of the art of storytelling.  Another æsir is Heimdall, the god with the Gjallarhorn, he is alert, sharp-eyed and responsive, he is the watchman of the gods and the guardian of the bridge Bifröst. The god of hunting is Ull, a master of the longbow and of skiing. There are no myths about this deity.

The Vanirs
Bjørn Nørgaard: Freya
Three deities who are not æsirs are Njord, Freyr and Freya. They are vanirs and they belong to another and maybe older family of deities, they are representatives of a half surpressed religion, competing with the æsirs. the working area of Njord, Freyr and Freya is erotica, growth, breeding power, sensuality. They are ancient fertility gods. Njord is the god of seafaring and wind, and he gives prosperity and fertility. Freyr, Njord's son, is the god of intercourse, he is one of the most important gods in Norse paganism, he is highly associated with farming and weather. He has a statue in the temple of Uppsala , where he is fashioned with an immense phallus. Freya, sister of Freyr,  his female counterpart; her domain is love and fertility, she is a generous deity, she has a waggon drawn by cats, she is the death goddess of women, but half of the fallen warriors from the battle field are dedicated to her. The vanirs were very old in the North; they might be earlier than both Odin and Thor,  probably even before Tyr.

Arthur Rackham: Loki
The last god among the æsirs is Loki, half god and half devil; he was son of a jotun and a jotun woman, he begets three terrible monsters, the Midgard Serpent, the Fenrirwolf and Hel. Loki is sarcasm and corrosive satire, never humor, he knows about cunning and malice, but never about friendship, he can hurt, tease and hit and his attacks on all deities are without any mitigating elements. Loki is the psychopath among gods; he amuses himself by hurting people. He has like all intelligent slanderers a sharp eye for the weak points of his victims, and he owns all nuances of wickedness in his hatred of morality. But he's got a weak point himself. He is venturing too far and meets the catastrophe.

Carl. J. Bilmark: Uppsala hovet

The Cult.
There is not much knowledge about the Viking cults, the heathen services or the heathen temples,  only  few informations exist, partly archaeological, partly from literature, from Adam of Bremen, Tietmar of Merseburg and Snorre Sturlasson. There was a flowering heathen assembly in the big temple in Gamla Uppsala in Sweden. This temple was the heathen center and the strongest fortification against Christianity. It was dressed in gold outside and inside, a golden chain  hang above the roof, and the building was shining far away across the plain, where it was built. The plain was surrounded by mountains in a circle, like a theater. Inside were three statues, in the middle of the hall was Thor with Odin and Freyr on each side. Priests were assigned to the gods, they came carrying the sacrifice gifts from the people. If sickness and hunger threatened, they sacrificed to the idol Thor, if war to Odin, if a wedding had to be celebrated the sacrifice was for Freyr.

Carl Larsson: Midvinterblót
J. I. Lund: En Offerscene (Sacrifice)
Every ninth year was a common celebration in Gamla Uppsala. Living male creatures, humans, horses, dogs were sacrificed, nine of each, nine was a significant number. The blood of the victims had to reconcile the gods, the bodies were hung up in a grove close to the temple, humans, dogs and horses among each others. A Christian described how he had seen 72 bodies hanging in the grove. Close to the temple stands a large tree with branches stretching broad and wide, it is green both winter and summer, and no one knows what kind of tree it is. There is a spring where sacrifices are done, living humans are lowered down into the water, and if they don't come up, people's wish will be fullfilled. A sacrifice feast, celebrated each ninth year in January, is described in Lejre at Sjælland. 99 humans and 99 horses were sacrificed, and also dogs and cocks; these sacrifices had to give people protection against evil powers and to work as an atonement for evil deeds. A heathen holy sacrifice feast is called a blót. There was a blót feast in Trøndelag in Norway, where all peasants had to come and bring beer and borsemeat. The walls of the celebration hall were smeared with horseblood outside and inside, fire was lit on the floor and the horsemeat was cooked and distributed. The food had to be consecrated to Odin, Njord and Freyr and to the god Brage.

The Lesser Gods. 
Ethel Larcombe: Elves
But people also sacrificed to lower divine creatures like to the disirs and the elves. The disirs were secrecy female creatures, and it was best to keep on good terms with them and not neglect sacrificial gifts. The disirs warned about death and had to do with the worship of the dead; they protected the home and the crop of the field. The disirs were not always friendly, people were often afraid of them. The elves was the name of some lower deities, they were not exactly gods, but they were worshipped in house and home as protecting creatures. Other invisible creatures who lived close to humans were the vættirs and small trolls and pixies, but there was no actual worshipping of them.
Primitive cults.

Freyr, Swedish, Bronze
In isolated districts existed some primitive cults, described in a poem from the Edda called Volsapáttr (the chapter about Vølse) - this happens in the northernest Norway upon a lonely farm with six people, a farmer and his wife, their son and daughter and a thrall and a thrall woman. Vølse is the cut phallus from a horse, whish is kept carefully; the farmer's wife has conserved it with onions and herbs and swept it in linen; each evening the Vølse goes from hand to hand, and everyone talks to it in the form of a short spoke. This has bow become a custom, but one night king Olav the Holy arrives unexpectedly with a couple of travelling companions. He ends the phallus cult by throwing the Vølse to the farm dog and teach the family about Christianity. Cults and cases like this were not unique in a primitive Nordic peasantry.

Harald Bluetooth's rune stone in Jelling.
Christianity arrived and replaced the old religion; the heathen customs were forbidden or re-shaped into Christian customs. This did not happen in one blow, people kept on being loyal to the old gods and using the old customs for a long time, before they had accepted the new religion. The Christian church was relatively patient and wise, Freya was gradually replaced by Virgin Mary, and various Saints did fill in where it was needed. Everything clicked. Christianity had come to stay. Harald Bluetooth raised the great runestone in Jelling, Denmark's birth certificate. But this was actually meant for all of Scandinavia, although it is not certain that the farmer family in the northernest Norway had given up their primitive cult yet. Communication was a long-winding process at that time, and even in a little country like Denmark were isolated places, where people had not yet heard the latest news. Odin and Thor and the other Nordic gods were still alive for a long period, until they finally faded out. These ancient gods have experienced a certain revival during the latest years, which is quite astonishing. The history and the old legends about the Norse mythology are exciting and interesting and they can really catch the interest of almost everyone.

"The past is behind, learn from it. The future is ahead, prepare for it. The present is here, live it".       


Source: Johannes Brøndsted : Vikingerne, Gyldendal, 1960.

(click to enlarge pictures, especially the Carl Larsson: Midvinterblót).

Collection of pictures from Norrøn Billedkunst: Dagfinn Werenskjold, Bjørn Nørgaard, Lorenz Frölich, Frank Dickee, Ethel Larcombe, Arthur Rackham, Johannes Gehrts, J.H. Füssli, J.I. Lund, Carl Larsson. , Carl J. Bilmark
Photo Silkeborg Museum: stig bachmann nielsen,  

Friday, February 24, 2012

Common Toadflax/Almindelig Torskemund

Linaria vulgaris
Flora and Fauna

Common Toadflax is a blue-green 10-50 cm rank plant with narrow leaves, lemon-yellow flowers in clusters with orange palate and a long spur. It's common in dry fields, fences and dikes, especially along the coast. It has many names: Butter and eggs / Fairy's lanterns / Jacob's ladder / Ramsted / Snap-dragon / Yellow toadflax.

A Danish name for it is Virgin Mary's slipper or Grandma's slipper. The Virgin Mary name entered possibly the picture with Christianity. Since it was used as a laxative and diureticum, it was called shit herb or piss herb. The spurs were sucked by children, and this gave it the name cow's teat (kopatte). Actually the plant has got lots of  nicknames, referring to its look and use.

The toadflax is native to most of Europe and northern Asia, from the United Kingdom, south to Spain in the west and east to eastern Siberia and western China.  It has also been introduced and is now common in North America. The plant is widespread on ruderal, along roads, in dunes, and on disturbed and cultivated land. It has escaped from cultivation in North America where it is a common naturalised weed of roadsides and poor soils; it is listed as an invasive species in several U.S. states and Canadian provinces.

The common toadflax blooms tirelessly from May until late autumn. The yellow flowers with the orange underlip has a certain similarity to a fish mouth, which gave it its Danish name Torskemund.  The botanical name Linaria indicates that the leaves are similar to the leaves of the flax plant (Linum). The fruit is a capsule, and if the plant has good conditions it reproduces by self-seeding. Because the flower is largely closed by its underlip, pollination requires strong insects such as bees and bumblebees. The plant is foodplant for a large number of insects. Its typical mask flower can be mistaken for species like cow-wheat and yellow rattle.
While most commonly found as a weed, toadflax is sometimes cultivated for cut-flowers, which are long-lasting in the vase. Like snapdragons  they are often grown in children's gardens for the "snapping" flowers which can be made to "talk" by squeezing them at the base of the corolla.

Folk Medicine:
Henrik Smid 1546: destilled water from the plant is diuretic , but must only be given to patients with dropsy, the same water worked as a laxative, and this or the juice of the plant was used to bath red inflamed eyes - it was used to heal wounds, cancer and fistulas.

Simon Pauli, Flora danica 1648: the whole plant crushed with lard and egg yolk is good in a painkilling compress upon haemorrhoids, this was wellknown by physicians. Destilled water of the plant, added pulverized bark from summer elder is diuretic and was given to dropsy-patients. Some recommend to drink decoction for jaundice,and the drink was said to help someone, who had fallen down from a high spot.

1761:  The plant had painkilling  properties. The leaves were noted in the pharmacopoeia in 1772.

The plant is poisonous for flies, they are killed by the milk-extract.

The plant was in 1648 cultivated in gardens and is recommended as a decoration-flower.

1795: children suck nectare from the flower spurs and eat the pistil.


Source: V.J. Brøndegaard, Folk og Flora, Dansk Etnobotanik, Rosenkilde og Bagger,  1980; Naturstyrelsen, Fugle og Natur; Have abc; wikipedia Dansk/ English .

Photo 2006/2009/2010: grethe bachmann

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Heath Speedwell / Ærenpris

Veronica officinalis
Flora and Fauna

Veronica officinalis, foto: stig bachmann nielsen,

In the Danish flora are ab. 20 species of the Veronica, most common:
Veronica officinalis , Heath speedwell, Læge-ærenpris,
Veronica hederifolia, Ivy-leaved speedwell, Vedbend-ærenpris,

Veronica chamaedrys, Germander speedwell, Tvebladet ærenpris
Veronica beccabunga, European speedwell, Tykbladet ærenpris, 

Rare in Denmark:
Veronica spicata, Spiked speedwell, Aks-ærenpris,

The Veronica officinalis ( Heath speedwell)  is wildgrowing in open forests and on dry hills and fields. The creeping stems  have clusters of little short-stemmed blue-purple flowers with dark veins. Characteristic about the speedwells are the blue-purple flowers, which fall off easily, that's why they have got some nicknames referring to infidelity. The Ivy-leaved speedwell grows in cultivated land, it was once a difficult weed in the winter crops. The seeds were often found in numbers in the corn, and the peasantry believed they had fallen down as rain.  The Germander speedwell is common in fences, in high meadows, in forest and thicket. The European speedwell is easy to recognize from the other Veronicas by the thick oval leaves and dark blue flowers. It's common in flowing water ( brooks, ditches etc).

The Danish name Ærenpris (meaning honor and price) refers to the excellent medical power of the plant.

Folk Medicine: 
Henrik Smid, 1546: the European speedwell was included in a decoction for ointment on gout and in cover on swellings; it was eaten as a salad, which had to dissolve bladder stones, expell urine and women's impurities. Some was of the opinion that a patient with dysentery should have the plant boiled in oil, which eased the pain, and the wounded bowel would be healed.

Veronica chamaedrys,foto stig bachmann nielsen,
Simon Paulli 1648: Germander speedwell was one of the best herbs against scurvy, it was used in baths against scurvy-cramp, it removed spots on arms and legs of the patient , the juice of the plant healed wounds in the gums. Peasants put the plant with salt and spiderweb upon wounds.
The Veronica officinalis helped wounds in lungs and other organs, abscesses, colics, even the plague itself. Some mixed pulverized vitriol in speedwell-water was used to bath and clean abscesses, the same water used to heal itching spots and ringworm. It was wellknown that speedwell-wine was good for a patient with pain in lungs and kidneys. Pharmacies had speedwell-syrup and -water, and it was recommended to drink a decoction of the plant added the syrup or water .

The European speedwell was a part of "King Hans scurvy advice" in 1487. The leaves were eaten, the juice or milk- or water-decoction was drunk for scurvy.

the habitat in Lindenborg ådal
1700s: The peasants of the island Funen used, after the schnapps, mostly elderberry syrup, bog myrtle and speedwell against all diseases. Speedwell-water mixed with mint-water or warm beer provided emetics.

The Veronica triophylla, was used against jaundice.

1800s: the speedwell is mentioned among means against dropsy and was part of blood cleansing tea, the leaves are diuretic and tea of the leaves was used for pain in the loin and kidneys; wine-essence helped to strengthen the brain. Syrup from speedwell taken for asthma, "blood spitting"  and wounds in the lungs; the plant was part of a water extract against shortness of breath and old cough.

The Veronica officinalis was recommended against chest-disorders, the dried aboveground parts are still an ingrediense in tea for the chest.

Veronica spicata, foto gb
Tea of leaves from the Veronica spicata was used in coldfever(Malaria) instead of  china bark.

The wise men and women in the countryside used the speedwell in their treatment of the patients, for gout, wounds, cough etc. It was probably also used in abortions together with savin juniper.

The Veronica officinalis (Heath speedwell)  and the Veronica beccabunga ( European speedwell)  are both noted in the Pharmacopoeia in 1772 and was still sold in pharmacies in 1980.

The speedwell was also used to treat horses. A water essence was given the horse against diarrhea, flower buds used for a narrowed hoof; upon a wounded horse was put a cover of European speedwell, flaxseed, butter and vinegar.

At the Faroe islands the Veronica beccabunga was used against scurvy .
The European speedwell is good in the kitchen. Young plants can be eaten as salad like water cress. In the Swedish wars 1659-60 the plant was a good contribute to people's nutrition. The leaves were eaten as salad, spinach and cabbage. Leaves and shots was used in potatosalad; stalks with leaves to be pickled in vinegar as a replacement for cucumbers. Very young leaves eaten raw or as a salad.

Chinese tea: 
The Veronica officinalis is mentioned in 1740 as one of the best replacements of Chinese tea and was drunk like this in many places in the country. Peasants drank speedwell tea in feast seasons with sage and elderflowers, they never bought Chinese tea (1800s).

Veronica officinalis boiled with vitriol dyes black;  with leaves from another speedwell (?) linen is dyed blue.

Speedwell put under the lock of the gun protects it against witchcraft.

Source:  V.J.Brøndegaard, Folk og Flora, Dansk Etnobotanik, Rosenkilde og Bagger, 1980.

 photo: grethe bachmann and stig bachmann nielsen,

the flowery hill, Lindenborg ådal

From wikipedia: 
Historically the green parts of the plant have been used medicinally for coughs, otitis media, and gastrointestinal distress. The plant is rich in vitamins, tannins, and the glycoside aucuboside. Aucuboside, which is also found in many other Plantaginaceae species, is thought to have anti-inflammatory properties. Extracts are widely sold as herbal remedies for sinus and ear infections. It has been introduced to North America and is widely naturalized there. The slightly bitter and astringent taste and tea-like smell of speedwell led to its use as a tea substitute in 19th-century France, where it was called the d'Europe, or "Europe tea." The French still use this term as a name for speedwell.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Ice on the Water - Snow in the Sky.

A Taste of Denmark

Once again a visit to the small island Alrø in Horsens fjord, the latest couple of visits for the same reason, to see the white tailed eagle, who's always in another place anyway, when we're there - probably sitting on the island of Vorsø, which has got public access for birds only. But it's good to be out in the countryside to get some fresh air instead of the black city air, and the narrow country roads are not very traffic. Although it's a part of our neighbourhood close to Århus then there are still places, we haven't seen yet. In the winter season we take relative short trips. As you can see the day is dark, and the day is short too . The light is quickly disappearing in the afternoon, and it is cold to be out for long.

Two horses in a field often walk together. I think they like company. I feel pity with a horse who's quite alone. Maybe I'm wrong?  Well, two friends, those two horses. The landscape shows that the snow is still here. We've got rid of it in town, this happens quickly, already while it is snowing - and often in the middle of the night.  I can hear the snowmen driving through the streets and in front of our building to remove the snow. They really have to get up early. In the country the snow stays put except on the traffic roads. I wouldn't be able to live in a house in the country. Furthermore there are no shops.

But in this district there is one little village after another, and I took some photos along the way of farms and houses - it was funny, because there were so many halftimbered houses in black and white. Maybe they copy each other. The big halftimbered black and white house is a vicarage. Many priests live in a pretty vicarage, but it's not sunny days always to be a priest. They've got many obligations. A priest is dependent on the parish council and what they decide. If the council don't like their new vicar they can make life difficult for him. I can imagine it's not an easy job to be a priest, and his wife has to be an outgoing and social person. No, the pretty vicarage might be dearly bought!


what about some weight-control?
There were two fields next to each other, one with a lonely pony with a heavy forelock covering one eye and one with the nice friendly cattle with belts - the belted Galloway. They origin from Scotland, they are hornless and  the earliest British cattle, and the opinion is that they came from the hornless cattle of the Scythians from year 485-425 B.C. The fur is traditionally black-brown. The Galloway cattle has outer and inner fur with long cover-hair and a curly woolen under-fur, which isolates against both cold and heat. The cover-hair is water-repellent. The original Scottish Galloway is lesser than the Amercian. The Scottish bull weighs about 700-800 kilos. The Galloways are peaceful and easy to deal with, but if the flock is threatened,  they stick together and form a united front against the enemy.

listening with one ear...

Then we were passing a couple of white washed churches by the road, and opposite a church was a little village house with an outhouse with the same simple decoration of small red bricks. Three ponies stood in a thick layer of hay. It's important to have warm feet. Everyone knows that!  And not far from each other two buzzards in top of a tree. One was very "light-headed". They were waiting for a traffic victim! Well, yes they actually often are in the winter season. If an animal is run over by a car, it won't last long before it has disappeared, if there's a  predator in the neighbourhood. The birds of prey are among  Nature's garbage men. 

the black stripe is birds
looking for birds on the ice.
the first sight of the frozen sea ...

And now we came to the island Alrø which I have shown you a couple of times. I could see from the first sight when we reached the dam that the water in Horsens fjord was completely frozen. Everything was white, land joined water. I was a little surprised about the difference between this sea and the sea at Århus, where we came from. The sea at Århus was blue and shining like a mirror this morning. Some of the ice on the fjord had been pushed into frozen waves and looked like whipped cream. There was not a bird to see anywhere, not even geese and swans on the fields. There was nothing to eat. The grass was frozen too. Only one car when we came out to the only parking place in the southern end of the island. A young couple tried to take a little walk.  The wind made it colder and they gave up after five minutes. I gave up after almost the same and sat in the car drinking thermo-coffee and eating the traditional Wiener-Pecan-cake. Many birds gathered along an opening in the ice far out. The white-tailed eagle was probably on the next island,  also too far away.

two men with telescope
then outermost farm
the village street
Two men were walking along the coast with a telescope, when we drove back to the main land. They were probably on their way to a place, from which they can watch across and over to some small islands, called the Alrø Poller. The island Alrø is an eldorado for birds of all kinds. The low water and the protected area give optimal conditions for the bird life. Alrø is EF-habitat area, EF-bird protection area and Ramsar area. This means that plants, animals and nature types are largely protected. Hunting is forbidden in a section of the sea, and walking about on the small islands Alrø Poller is forbidden most of the year.

As you can see from today's photos the day was dark and with snow in the sky. The colours had a dark blue, which grew darker and darker with the vanishing light, the darkest of ultramarine.

No matter if it was cold and I was freezing my feet, I enjoyed being out to see how nature was now on this day in February. But I'm looking forward anyway to some sunny day in March and April, where the first signs of spring are coming. March is not far away.

going home now...

photo February 2012: grethe bachmann

two landscapes just before the town Odder.