Thursday, September 27, 2018

Some surprises in this one

I bought my copy of “Vaesen” at the Nordic Museum gift shop, and it therefore smells strongly of Northern Lights, a heavily spiced tea also sold there. Weird! But then, Johan Egerkrans' book *is* weird, taking the reader on a guided tour through Swedish folklore. Or rather ghost and monster lore. Some of the paranormal beings described in this book are well known: gnomes, trolls, the lindorm, the Kraken, or the werewolf. Swedes would also have heard of Näcken, Bäckahästen or Skogsrået. Others I had never heard about before procuring this volume.

According to Egerkrans, the good Christian folk of East Scandinavia used to believe in a peculiar being known as the Church Grim. It was the spirit of a ritually sacrificed animal - often a dog, cat or cockerel - which acted as the guardian spirit of a church and its surrounding cemetery. The Grim would chastise children who were too unruly during church service, protect the cemetery against grave-robbers and chase away demons. Some of the demons, known as Night Ravens, were the lost souls of criminals buried in unconsecrated ground. Unfortunately, the demons had a tendency to congregate at roadsides after being chased away by the Grim, menacing anyone foolish enough to travel by night…

Other additions to my folkloric knowledge include the Mine Guardian and the Myling (a particularly scary ghost of a murdered child). The illustrations in “Vaesen” are weird and slightly mischievous, but then, so are the fairy folk. Also available in an original Swedish version, “Nordiska väsen”.

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