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Angerboda - English

What is this blog about?

I usually blog in Swedish and the topic are Norse mythology and spirituality, mainly from a Stav perspective. But since there is not that much information available in English that covers deeper layers of Stav; I decided to write a few articles in English.

My English blog is mainly driven by demand; if you want more posts, please ask me questions.

Blog moving.

General Posted on Thu, August 22, 2019 12:19:27

My web provider has informed me that they
will migrate all the blogs they are hosting to another platform, this will
happen in September. There will probably be some downtime at one point or
another. According to the service provider the blog will look identical after
the move.

To be honest, I am happy to hear about these news, since the blog tool was dated and crude in many ways. I just hope the migration goes well.

Please also notice that I have started to
share video´s on Youtube, the links can be found at angerboda.se´s facebook
page.



The non-pedantic joke claiming to be a swordsman!

Stav Posted on Sun, March 24, 2019 01:04:28

Stav has been of great importance to me for
around half my life, it has taught me a lot and opened doors to fantastic
places I would never have ventured into without Stav. I have spent a lot of
time writing about Stav, with the intention of sharing knowledge of this
amazing tradition. I also teach weekly with the ambition to establish a new generation
of teachers in Sweden. All my engagement has been completely without monetary
interest, because I feel that Stav is too important to make profit on, and too valuable
to be forgotten.

One of my ambitions with writing has been to address many of the
misunderstandings and really ignorant claims that people has posted online for
the last decades. In a Swedish context it has worked quite well, and Stav has
gained some well-deserved respect in the heathen community.

Out of interest of how the tradition is perceived
I occasionally google Stav to see what is out there, it inspires my writing. Most
of what is written about Stav does not really give a flattering image of the
human nature, however it still teaches a lot of how the flawed mind perceives the
world. Too many people are obviously not capable of actually dong research and
coming up with a reasonable evaluation of the information. Somehow they also
seem to be of the opinion that their flawed image needs to reach others; and
those seem to share the same limitations, since they only can evaluate second
hand sources.

One article that shows up highly in the
results is posted by someone that labels himself as the “pedantic swordsman”,
who completely lacks understanding of what stav is, but still feels he has the
mandate to label it as a joke. Unfortunately his research seems to be anything
but pedantic; and his analyses really makes him look like a joke, at least to
anyone who has actually bothered to study the topic he rants about.

The first thing he does, probably out of
ignorance, is to present the classic straw man; by claiming that the stav community
has claimed that Stav is a Viking age martial art that has frozen in time. No
such claims has ever been made. We have claimed that Stav is a living
tradition, who´s orally transmitted history puts it far back in time; but we
have never claimed the oral history as cold hard facts.

Based on this straw man, he presents the idea
that a closed tradition, kept within one family or region, would completely
degenerate since it would not be in touch with the unforgiving reality of
combat. He also claims that it would degenerate since it would not have been a
part of the evolution of warfare that happened all over Europe.

From there he makes a complete illogical leap
of thought, and claims another thing to discredit stav; the fact that the
classical weapons used in the Viking age context is absent within the
tradition. Maybe that should have been a hint if anything? Weapons such as
shields and Viking type swords fell out of fashion in Scandinavia shortly after
the Viking age. Any tradition that claimed linage that used these weapons;
would as a matter of fact come across as anything but a living tradition.

He also misses the fact that Stav works
with principles, the two handed staff and the one handed stick is basically a
substitute for any bladed weapon. Within the Stav philosophy, the idea is that when
you understand the basic principles with the aid of a stick or staff; there are
only small adjustments when utilizing bladed weapons. This also fits very well
with what is known about martial arts in mediaeval Scandinavia.

From an
historical context, most people of Scandinavia during the mediaeval period
would probably not train with live weapons, simply because they were too
expensive. A sword would probably hold about the same monetary value as a
modern tank today. The most common bladed weapons of Scandinavia were the axe and
the spear; which by a coincidence happens to be to most important sharp weapons
within Stav.

There is no doubt either that the traditional
Stav practitioners evolved together with the world around them. The Hafskjold
family was a family of statue, traditionally educated at one of the most prestigious
universities in Europe. Many were also involved in the military. So, the idea
that they were not present during the evolution of combat is just a silly claim
by someone who has no idea what he is talking about.

There are many similarities
between Stav and other Scandinavian martial arts. One good example is traditional
Swedish bayonet fencing, which is another living traditional martial art. The
strongest parallels to Stav is have seen to date, is what I have found in the
19th century Swedish military manuals of bayonet fencing.

The pathetic swordsman also uses one of the
classic arguments to discredit stav; the fact that Ivar Hafskjold has spent
many years in Japan training in Japanese martial arts. If you really think
about it, what is the problem with someone who has one background of martial
arts, seeking out another tradition to compare and to learn? Especially when
fate has put him in one of the few places on the planet that still has many living
traditions of weapon arts?

Just as his ancestors, Ivar trained in the
best martial art he found available; and just as his ancestors he kept the philosophy
and concept that was taught within his family. There is nothing in Japan that
slightest resembles the philosophy behind stav.

At one point I actually asked Ivar the
straight forward question; what is the difference of Stav now compared with
before you went to Japan? The answer was that when he was young stav worked
great against other stav practitioners, but not always against other styles of
martial arts. His experiences in Japan helped him to tweak some details, and now
he felt it would not matter what style the opponent came from.

Stav has a unique and highly elaborated philosophy
that is intertwined with the martial art. I have seen nothing comparable, this
is not something that comes up in a short period, and it takes time for something
like this to evolve. The Pathetic swordsman next claim is that the philosophy within
Stav has nothing to do with historical sources of Scandinavia, and claims that
it is new age. Anyone who has bothered to research all these ideas woven around
Stav, will find strong parallels in historical Scandinavia.

One good example is the runic calendar I
have described before in this blog, which is encoded in the core of Stav, and therefore
it is a good indicator of the age of the system. As I described this cannot
have been created after the year 1700 in Norway, because this type of runic
calendars died out at the time due to the introduction of the Gregorian calendar.
There is no other examples of such an elaborate perpetual living Norse calendar
today, neither any recreated ones. We have two options! Either, the calendar
and the system around it, was recreated by a genius; or it comes from a living
tradition. If you then consider all other aspects of Stav´s curriculum, it is
very unlikely that it is anything but a living tradition. But, please bear in mind,
I am not putting a date of the age of the tradition; I am simply arguing that
it is not a modern construct.


There are many components and ideas within Stav that one could date
individually, and by considering them in context one would probably be able to
estimate a reasonable birth date for the tradition. But to do this properly one
would have to spend years studying Stav, and reading up on Norse mythology,
history of religions, runology and Scandinavian folklore. Then spend a lot of
time putting these finds on paper. But it would still defeat its purpose,
because what is the point of putting a date on an esoteric tradition? For the
practitioners it makes absolutely no difference.

Next the pathetic swordsman claims that he
has checked some videos of Stav, and what he sees is a joke. Well, here I have
to partly agree, there a lots of really poor videos of Stav out there. In some
cases, the level of the martial art displayed in the video is not the best. In
other example´s the filming is not the best. On top of that, a two dimensional
video has it limits when it comes to portraying martial arts. To really present
a marital art on video in a fair way, one would need a professional production
with only high level practitioners; this has not been done to this date when it
comes to Stav.

I regularly get requests to do video
presentations, but I always decline. I do not feel I have the resources to do
it in a way that presents Stav in a good way. Besides, why would I share the
practical applications of Stav with random people online?

There is only one way to experience any
martial art, and evaluate it, and that is to seek out an instructor and actually
train with them. Those who are serious enough will seek out a qualified
instructor; there are probably less than ten of us in total. For some reason,
very little of the criticism towards Stav actually comes from people who has
tried it out.

For me personally Aikido does not appeal to
me. I do not really like what I have seen. This is based on me visiting a few
Aikido dojos, and also training with several fairly experienced Aikido
practitioners who has sought me out to learn Stav. So I do have some personal
experience, but still do not feel I am in a position to criticize Aikido as a
martial art! I simply know too little about Aikido! Yet, this pathetic
swordsman, who has absolutely no experience of stav, believes he are an authority
to label it as a joke?

This guy labels a martial art he knows
nothing about as a joke, based on random stuff he has seen on Youtube? And perhaps
he has read a few articles written by his English speaking countrymen!? Who in
most cases has shown a limited understanding of the deeper aspects of Stav, to
put it gently!

England is both the savior and curse when
it comes to stav! If Ivar Hafskjold would not have moved to Japan and then to
the UK; he would most likely never have shared his family tradition. But the
English context is a curse, because a lot of people, even highly experienced
practitioners; lacks an understanding of fundamental aspects of stav. A lot of bold claims were made that was not
really accurate, and a lot of perspectives shared was not the traditional
perspective. But still, a poor presentation of something, does not excuse poor
criticism.

Just as the pathetic swordsman, I will end
by explaining the need for this rant; it is because his flawed and ignorance
disrespect the art, and the people who lived and died by it. And the people who
diligently practice it today! He also disrespects the keeper of the tradition,
who has shared it openly without any personal gain what so ever; on the
contrary he has for the last 25 years been discredited by ignorant people just
like this one.

The pathetic swordsman accuses stav of fanaticism
usually found in cults, which again misrepresent what Stav actually is! A philosophy
of the free mind and body, with a lot of thought parallels with Hermeticism. The
perspective within the tradition encourages the practitioners to research it
and evaluate it and criticize it; which I and other have done with enthusiasm! I
have spent countless hours actually researching stav, and the components within
it. And I have spent countless hours of writing about Stav

To this date, I have published 33 blog
posts in Swedish and 10 in English; this is the most indebt resource on Stav
anywhere! This would be the best starting point for anyone that wants to expose
Stav. Hack job criticism is not good enough anymore! You need to try harder.

So, just as the pathetic swordsman
encourages; anyone who’s interested in the subject; read, read, read, and read
some more. Please read my articles with a critical perspective, and please
point out any flaws you find within them. But even more importantly, never let
any random and arrogant prick on the internet decide for you what is worth your
time.

The ironic thing to it all, is that this pathetic
swordsman seem to have a huge interest in both European martial art and
Scandinavian spiritualty; yet he slams the door in his own face to the only system
that actually integrates both these aspects into a meaningful product. Which also
is a lesson to be learned.

Stav is the only variety of Norse
spirituality available today that integrates all aspects into a coherent
system, were everything from the mythology to the runes, to the cosmology to
the festivals follow the same path. Stav is probably the only variety of Norse
heathenism that qualifies to be labelled as a genuine denomination of this
religion. One problem is, that parts of the English speaking Stav community has
failed to label it as such, and they are guilty of mixing stav up with New Age
and all kinds of stuff. But this is a flaw of the practitioners, not the
tradition itself.

Since I always aspire to be descent, even
though I occasionally fail miserably; I have tried to find an email to the pathetic
swordsman, but I failed to find one on his web page! I do not understand why
you publish stuff without giving people an ability to contact you! If anyone is
in contact please forward this link.

As I see it; he has two options. Either he
acknowledges that he had no idea what he was ranting about, and removes his
article from the net. Which would make this article redundant.

Another option is of course that he reads
through my blog, and follow up on his previous post. Which would be refreshing!
I have almost blogged for five years, and up until this date no one has opposed.
Going into debate would require a lot on his behalf, and I doubt he has the commitment!
It is just so much easier to post bullshit on a topic you know nothing about
and never bothered to research.

Link to original post:

https://pedanticswordsman.weebly.com/stav-is-a-joke.html



Stav – runes and martial art

Stav Posted on Mon, January 01, 2018 22:07:14

About two years ago I wrote an article in Swedish about the
philosophy and system behind the martial art within Stav. It became a massive
article, which I planned to translate to English. But my understanding has
somewhat deepened since then. So instead, I decided to write a new article that
is more in line with my current perspective. However, if you read Swedish there
is nothing wrong with the old article.

I would like to clarify that this article is based on my
understanding, and my perspective! I firstly discovered Stav in the 1990´s, and this article is the result of
many hours of studies. I have done my best to understand, and stay true to,
Stavs core. But still, this is my personal understanding and interpretation;
which I hope will benefit both those who are new, and those who has studied
Stav for a longer period.

Basic philosophy

Most people who has heard about Stav labels it as a martial
art, but Stav is better described as an esoteric educational system. The
martial art in Stav are a tool to practically teach the philosophy within Stav.
To become proficient in martial arts is one step on the road, but it is not the
end goal of the studies.

Stav is highly systemized, even the martial art is
systematized, the reason is that Stav is a “cult” devoted to the Norse deity Heimdall.
Within the tradition Heimdall is understood as the god of logic; education,
systematization, mathematics and so on. If we must relate Heimdall to a deity of
another pantheon, the Greek deity Hermes Trismegistus would be a good
comparison.

As within many similar traditions geometry plays an
important role in the philosophy. But compared with the southern European philosophical
schools, Stav has a different perspective. The geometrical understanding is
related to the runes, the pre-Christian alphabet of northern Europe.

Within Stav there is a mythological concept that the runes
represent essential building blocks of the universe, comparable with the Greek
understanding of the Platonic solids. This thought has support in the literary
sources of Norse mythology. Odin hung himself on the world tree for nine
nights, and sacrificed himself to himself; which enabled him to call out and
collect the runes. The knowledge of the runes was later passed down to humanity
by Heimdall.

The runes within Stav is a variation of the younger futhark,
the alphabet used in Scandinavia during the Viking age and into the medieval
period.

The geometry within Stav is not taught with the aid of a pen
and a compass as within many other schools, it is taught by the aid of one’s own body and the martial art within
the system. Stavs ambition is to teach the student how to apply the principles
of the universe as a martial art.

Before the
modern standardization, measurements were based on body measures, such as foot,
hand, finger or the ancient measure of a cubit; the tip of the middle finger to
the bottom of the elbow. Before the standardization, geometry played a very
important role, instead of standard measures they relied on proportions when
constructing or doing art. The specific measures would differentiate from one
project to the other, or between one individual and the next.

Within Stav the seventh rune Hagl is associated with
Heimdall, if we stack the seventh rune seven times; we get an image that
consists of nine lines. Both seven and nine are very important numbers within Stavs
numerology. From this illustration, all the other runes can be extracted. The
image also illustrates the web of Urd.; the cosmological web, that connects all
humans to each other and the universe. Simplified we can say that the web of
Urd contains all our fates.

The illustration of the web is also regarded as a map of the
human body, and it shows us cutting lines and points of balance or attack. The
martial art is a way to manifest the underlaying philosophy of Stav. The
illustration of the web correlates to sacred geometry and classical mysticism,
and mathematics in many ways. Anyone who really wants to learn to understand Stav,
needs to spend some time working with this geometric composition.

The rune stances – the basics
of stavs martial art

The first method to internalize the knowledge of the runes within
ourselves is the rune stances, simply put we form the runes with our own body. This
is done in a ritualized way, and we coordinate our breath and our movements.
There are many layers of knowledge transferred through this routine, in its
most mundane form it teaches us to read and write runes without pen and paper. The
ritual also teaches us the movements and body postures utilized within the
martial art of Stav. Furthermore, these postures and movements are regarded as
essential in any genuine martial art; a Stav practitioner will systemise
whatever martial art he encounters with the aid of these basic components.

Each of the sixteen runes correlate to deities within Stavs
variety of the Norse pantheon. In some cases, there is a key understanding of
the mythological function of the deity encoded within the specific stance. For
instance, the stance of the deity of fishing is a rowing position, and the
deity of skiing has a position used in skiing.

The rune stances are constructed in such a way that both our
left and right side will be leading, which develops ambidexterity. With the aid
of the stances we learn the basics of the martial art within Stav. By performing
the ritual daily, we slowly program our body to follow the principles taught by
the system, principles encoded within the runes. The runes and our own body are
the manual that allows us to teach ourselves.


The classes

There are five varieties of doing the stances, each
connected to one of the five classes within Stav. Each version teaches the
perspective of the specific class. Some people have misunderstood the five
classes, and believe they are some sort of grading system, they are not. It is
five different archetypes that has a different spiritual and psychological
perspective of the world. All the classes are essential to enable the society
to work optimally. Most of us will naturally belong to one of these classes.

I will give a very short and simplified description of the
classes, since it is necessary later in this article.

The first class is the trell, a person without knowledge or mental
capacity to take responsibility for himself. Few are fixated in this mental
state, but all of us can get caught in this state due to situations we
encounter in our life. The rune stances of the trell simply teaches us the
basic shape of the runes and to breath properly. As a Stav instructor I have
noticed that a lot of people find it hard to do deep breathing these days. Correct
breathing are essential when learning martial arts, but also within spiritual
work.

The next class is the karl class, this is the free person
who provides for himself, traditionally a farmer or a fisherman who worked with
his hands. The bulk of the society are made up of this class. The karl version
of the stances are a bit more advanced compared to the version of the trell,
this is the first “galder” form of the stances, were we use our voice to enhance the
effect.

The third class is the herse, or the warrior. The warrior
can be either an intellectual or spiritual warrior, a soldier or a guardian. The
herse version of the stances focus on martial art, and breathing patterns
needed in a combat situation. This version also develops a mental capacity for
combat, and it is highly efficient; not suitable to do too often.

The fourth class is the jarl, which is the priest or the
philosopher, the thinker or the healer. The jarl version of the stances teaches
a meditative and spiritual perspective. This version of the stances could be regarded
as a sort of prayer.

The fifth class is the king, but this is not the same
concept as the modern monarchy. This is a person who is achieved and has
insights that most of us lacks. The variety of these stances basically goes
full circle and returns to the beginning, the trell and the king are in many
ways regarded as each other’s
flipsides.

Practicing the rune stances correlates to concepts such as
mindfulness and meditation, with a focus on here and now. When doing the
stances, we enter a mental place that is free of the stress of everyday life. The
stances help us to focus ourselves and connect with the world around us on a
spiritual level.

Meditation and mindfulness may not sound as martial art to
some, but in war and conflict a focused mind will be most helpful.


The cuts and the weapons

Even though the rune stances teach us movements, they are
somewhat two-dimensional, what we strive to get is a three-dimensional
understanding of ourselves in relation to the universe. To achieve this, we do
our basic cuts with the weapons used within Stav. Simply described we move from
one of the basic runic positions to the next, the cut happens in the
transition. The difference compared to the rune stances is that when we move;
the body are forced to adapt in relation to the weapon and the foot work. The
more we practice the cuts, the more precise they will become.

When we move from one position to the other we will also
learn the guards automatically, we move from one safe position to the next,
trying to be covered as much as possible. The attack, or defence, happens in
the transition.

There are basically two main weapons within Stav, the staff
and the stick. The staff represent any two-handed weapon, such as a spear or an
axe or a two-handed sword. The stick represents any weapon with a one-handed
grip, such as a walking stick, or a one-handed sword. Stav works with
principles, when we understand the basic principle of one-handed or two-handed
weapons we can adapt to the specifics of various weapons. As I wrote before,
Stav is highly systemized, and the smallest common dominator between different
weapons is their length and grip.

It is also more practical to train with wooden weapons
compared to sharp weapons, if you can handle a walking stick or a staff, you
can handle a bladed weapon. The attacking weapon in Stav was traditionally an axe,
which up until modern times was a common practical tool in Scandinavia, that
most people had access to and experience of using. I was personally a young boy
when I was taught to use an axe to cut wood, an axe was a completely natural
thing for a kid to learn to use.

Initially I always teach the new student how to do the cuts
with the two-handed staff, because it is so obvious how these cuts relate to
the postures of the rune stances. Once the student is comfortable with those he
will learn the cuts with one-handed stick. The practical difference is that the
student will have to perform the one-handed cuts with both left and right arm, just
as the rune stances are done with both the left and the fight hand leading.
Within Stav we strive to develop a degree of ambidexterity; that will make sure
that we are not incapacitated if our dominant side is injured during combat.

The two man drills

When we know the stances and the cuts it is time to work on
the two man drills. One person will attack, and the other one will defend
himself. Each weapon and class has a prepared and unprepared response to the
attack; the difference is if we attack into, and defend from, a guard or not. This
enhances our understanding of personal web in relation to other people.

The first class is the trell, his only objective is to
survive, and he has no obligations nor any honour. Usually he will retreat to
gain distance which messes up the attack, so the trell may counterattack.

The karl has an obligation to his family, in his applications
he will not retreat nor forcefully attack. He simply holds his ground and goes
for a safe counterattack once the attacker commits. The karl utilizes small
changes in position and balance to gain the advantage.

The third class is the herse; he is a skilled martial
artist, that will simply go in and dominate the opponent and take control over
him. Sometimes his ambition is to kill his opponent, sometimes his ambition is
to incapacitate him; it depends if his objective is as a soldier or if he is
upholding the law. The Herse often directs his response to weak areas such as
the groin or the kidneys, and the herse attacks come from angles not expected.

The fourth class is the jarl. He understands that he does
not have to be reactive just because someone goes after him with force. He
reads the situation and the opponent and moves in such ways that he controls time
and distances. This is a unique perspective for a martial art, I have not seen
it anywhere else; it really takes someone comfortable in this mindset to pull
it off. Most of us will react when attacked, even if it is just during a
training season. The jarl is not reactive, he is proactive and uses psychology
to control the situation. If the jarl kills or hurts the attacker it is not
done with aggression, it is done with precision and a relaxed mindset.

The king acts brutal and proactive, he simply crushes his
opponent before he has even committed to an attack, he breaks down the lines of
the attacker. It is hard to train these applications, because they are often
somewhat on the edge of safety.

There are prepared and unprepared drills for all five
classes with both two-handed and one-handed weapons. Each drill teaches us techniques
and tactics that we can apply in a martial situation. But the important thing
is to learn to understand different mindsets. The same movement can be done
with completely different objectives.

The aim with these drills is to learn to “take the line” and control the balance point of the opponent, which
again is a geometrical understanding of martial arts. We work with three-dimensional
lines, and by understanding both our own lines and the opponent’s lines we can control and manipulate
the situation in our favour. Stav as a martial art is not just about hitting
our opponent with brute force, it is about finesse.

Simply described; the stances are the perspective of the trell,
we know nothing and starts to learn the absolute basics. The cuts are the perspective
of the karl, we learn to practically use the weapons. The two man drills are
the perspective of the herse, now we are learning martial arts and tactics of
war. The two man drills also teach us the different perspectives of the classes
through martial arts.

The nineteen deities

At this level, the student is taught to manifest the deities
within the system, which also gives a mythological and spiritual understanding
of their character. This can be described as the perspective of the jarl class.
It is still two man drills, but beyond the classes. Each deity is associated
with a drill that consists of several attacks and counter attacks, that
emphasis the use of the specific rune connected with each deity.

There are versions for both the one-handed stick and the
two-handed staff. This is on a quite advanced level of weapon based martial
arts, and there are very few Stav practitioners that fully knows the forms of
the nineteen deities.

The work with the deities is the closest thing we come to
sparring within Stav, but this is not free sparring, but sparring within
controlled premises. The philosophy within Stav is that free sparring teaches
us bad habits, while controlled drills will teach us to read the opponent and
react appropriately to his intentions.

There are fencing techniques and footwork and tactics
encoded within the drills of the nineteen deities. But most importantly, it is
a practical way to use martial art to learn the essence of the Norse deities.
The knowledge transferred through Stavs system just flows over so many layers,
the runic postures in its simplest form teaches us how to read and write runes,
but the more advanced aspects teaches us philosophy and martial arts. The
martial arts on the other hand is a bridge between the spiritual world and our
own reality.

The perspective of the king

When we have internalized the stances, the cuts, the drills
and the deities, we have learned martial art through the perspectives of the
first four classes. By learning to know which class we belong to, we will learn
how to do the best of our given potential. By learning to know all the other
classes we will also learn how to use their tactics against them. We will also
be able to emulate the other classes and use them as tactics both in martial
situations and in our daily life. The teachings elevate us to the level of a
king within our own realm and class. At this level, the Stav practitioner has
gained knowledge to see the lines of the web, and understands the underlaying
principles of the human conditions in our world.

But the genuine king has a perspective completely beyond
the classes, he moves naturally to where he needs to be. He can read the
intentions of the opponent to such a degree that it may almost come across as
he is attacking, when he actually is defending himself. Just as the highest
deity of the Norse pantheon, Odin, the king can meet an armed opponent with
just a staff. And just as Odin, he will be able to mess up the mind of the
opponent to such a degree that the opponent loses the battle before it has even
started.

Just as the trell, few are fixed in the mental state of the
king, but most of us can experience this perspective if we find ourselves
extreme situations. A couple of the soldiers I have trained has described their
experience of being in this mental state.

The unarmed martial arts of Stav

Stav are primarily a weapon based martial art, and the philosophy
states that if you are unarmed you are in a disadvantage. Unarmed combat is
almost regarded as primitive, yet Stav is realistic and acknowledges that
unarmed combat is a reality we may have to face.

Using weapons is regarded as the foundation that also
develops an understanding of how to do hand-to-hand combat efficiently. Within
Stav´s toolbox there are punches
and kicks, locks and throws and even headbutts; they are all taught through the
rune stances, and refined by practicing with weapons.

As with the armed attacks, any unarmed attack goes for the balance point of the
attacker. It is not enough to hit him with brute force, we want to break his
balance and take control of his lines. The throws are not dependant on the
garments, instead we take control of the opponent’s
balance points, to achieve this we can amongst other things go for their head,
their waist or their legs.

Similarities to other schools of martial arts?

Stav is a martial art, it is not a sport and it is not about
aesthetics, Stav has no concept similar to Bushido. Stav is combat and about
winning, or at least doing the best of the fate you have been given.

Even though this text is just a brief introduction, I hope
it is obvious that Stav has a unique perspective and philosophy regarding
martial art. Stav has its own terminology to describe martial art. Primarily
Stav does not work with techniques, but principles.

The concept within Stav is so different that it is quite
clear to me that Stav has been separated from other schools over a long period
of time. Still the traditional practitioners were in the military, and they
were obviously taught traditional fencing and martial arts during their
military training.

One of my students is a Swedish military instructor, who
quickly noticed similarities between Stav and the Swedish bayonet fencing
tradition. Just as Stav, Swedish bayonet fencing is a living tradition. Perhaps
Stav and the Swedish weapon tradition are sprung from the same roots? Or
perhaps Stav got influenced by Scandinavian military teachings?

Some people have claimed that Stav is HEMA, Historical
European martial arts that are based on preserved manuals. But even though
there are similarities, Stav is just too different to be regarded as a part of
the HEMA family. HEMA is based on written manuals, while Stav is a living
tradition, and the manual is encoded in its core. The foundation of Stav is the
rune stances, which can be taught in a day; but then the student has enough to
work with for himself for a long time. The rune stances are the only Stav
manual needed. It does not matter what background a practitioner has; when we
start to understand what we are doing based on the rune stances, we are doing
Stav.

Stav – an
esoteric educational system

Many martial artists talk about the philosophy within their
schools, but when it comes to Stav the philosophy is really woven together with
the practical applications. The more you understand Stavs philosophy, the more
you will understand the martial art. The Stav philosophy does not encourage or
disapprove of the use of violence, but it gives us capacity to know when it is
called for and when it is better to avoid it. Studying the philosophy also
develops us into responsible human beings.

The concept of the classes will allow the Stav student to start
to explore his own style very soon. The student does not have to spend decades
with a master trying to figure out the master’s
style, before he can try to understand his own. The concept of the classes will
also teach us the value of different perspectives, which develops a tolerance
for others.

Stav is an education system, martial art is one of the
courses within the coherent curriculum. Many seem to get hung up on the
question of the age of the system, which really is irrelevant as a student.
There is only one relevant question, do you believe that Stav will give you the
knowledge you are looking for? I hope this text can help you to make a
qualified choice. But Stav is not for everyone, so I cannot answer if Stav is the
best path for you.

This text is just a brief introduction to things that needs
to be practically explored and experienced. The strength of stav is that it is
a living tradition, and I hope it will remain that way. If you decide that you
want to learn Stav, you really need to find a qualified instructor. Make sure
that the teacher is connected to the official lineage of stav. The
international Stav community is not big, any qualified instructor will be known
by the rest of the community.

The problem is that the qualified instructors are few and far
between. It is very unlikely that you can drop in at the local “Stav dojo” and get weekly training. You will probably have to travel
to meet an instructor, and most of your training will be done in solitary by
yourself. But this forces you to move away from the trell state were someone
else is responsible for your development. Another reward is that you are a
pioneer that will learn something very exclusive.



An interview about Stav and heathenism

Stav Posted on Fri, January 27, 2017 17:34:33

I was contacted in early 2016 by a scholar at a university who were eager to conduct an interview with myself, the purpose was to get source material to publish a research thesis about the modern heathen environment. I was a bit reluctant to be a part of it, but after some persuasion I decided to participate even though I still had my doubts. My ambition was to show the academic world a new side of Stav, compared to the way that Stav usually has been described. As always when I commit to something I take it seriously and spend a lot of time on it. Some of the question and answers gave a very unique perspective into the world of Stav.

The thesis has now been published, and to my amazement the description of Stav did not bring anything new to the table. My answers to the questions had not really been taken into consideration even in the cases when they were highly relevant. My impression is basically that the researcher wanted to be able to write in the references section that there were informants from the Stav environment.

I felt that a lot of important perspectives about both stav and heathenism in general came forward in this interview, but the final result did not allow people to get access to it. Therefor I have decided to publish the interview myself on this blog. I have shortened a few answers since they were too long to fit this format. I have also removed a few questions since they were only relevant to this specific research project. I will keep the scholar and the institution he is connected to anonymous.

The interview was conducted in Mars and April of 2016.

Q) Organisation (if any)

It is not easy to give a straightforward yes/no answer to this one. Stav originates from a closed family tradition, where the knowledge was passed down informally between family members. In many ways the stav community still works as an informal network, a sort of extended spiritual family

Q) How do you refer to yourself in religious terms?

I am religiously a Norse heathen, but the modern concept of religion in terms of dogma is not applicable on what I do. I do what I do for my own benefit, not because someone/something stipulate that I have to do it.

Q) How long have you identified yourself by your current religion?

I have regarded myself as a heathen for about 20 years or more, I cannot really remember. I came in contact with stav 18 years ago.


Q) Are there are any other members of your family that are part of your organisation, or attend your rituals?

Yes, my family are involved in the stav activities we arrange, and they are obviously involved in celebrating our festivals. I occasionally do the runestances together with my kids, usually when they ask for it. It is nothing that I dictate that they have to do, but they seem to enjoy it; perhaps because it is relaxing and somewhat meditative.

Q) How long have you participated in your organisation?

I have been a part of the international stav community for about 16 years, at points I been more active and at other points I have hardly been visible. Pretty much in the same fashion it works in most modern extended families.

Q) Do you have any administrative roles in your organisation?

I do not know if it can be qualified as an organization, but I am responsible for Sörmlands stavhov. I have the function of a “gode”, I both arrange activities and instruct and teach.

Q) Are you in communication with Heathens in other countries?

I am constantly in contact with stav practitioners worldwide. I also have contact with people interested to learn about stav from all over the world, some of them define themselves as heathens. They are often drawn towards stav because they feel that whatever they are doing at the moment lacks something that they are in the need for.

Q) What is your impression of Heathens in general?

I find it hard to generalize the heathens- they are quite eclectic. But coming from a structured and systemized tradition gives me the impression that many are a bit unsorted. They pick up on ideas that they instinctively like, but they are not too concerned with the origin of the idea, or if it really fits with the Norse philosophy.

When looking into a lot of the runic practices today you will see that a lot of it is actually Kabbalistic, and quite heavily influenced by Crowley’s way of working with Tarot. All of that is fine- but not when you label it as genuine Norse traditions. Another problem is that people let their heathenism being influenced by their preexisting and modern political world view; which they project upon the Norse mythology. Personally I do not appreciate that- I would rather see that they let the long term and deep esoteric Norse perspective influence how they view the world today.

But I am quite optimistic, and I believe that the heathen scene is going in the right direction- but there is still a lot of room for improvement.

Q) Are there any experiences with certain Heathens (or Pagans, or Stav practitioners?) that have been significant for you, or that have created a strong reaction in you?

The person that has had the biggest influence on my heathenism and been most significant is obviously Ivar Hafskjold. The reason is quite simple, I was already familiar with Norse mythology and already labeled myself, at least partly, as a pagan when I met him. He quickly made sense to me, and he had a deep understanding in areas where others gave very vague descriptions or had very little understanding.

I also noticed that Ivars teachings were coherent, the mythology, cosmology, runes and elements and classes etc. were incorporated within the same structure, and all the layers were interconnected. I quickly realized how unique this was in a contemporary context.

Q) Could you tell me a little about your thoughts and feelings -your relationship- with the Norse gods and/or spirits?

The relationship is what it is, it is hard to label. Sometimes the relationship feels stronger, sometimes not as strong.

Q) How often do you think about the gods and spirits?

Most of the time in one way or another. The Norse gods are a part of my daily life. Stav is very structured- the gods are connected with runes, trees, herbs, plants, domains and animals, elements and more. If I see an animal, I will probably start to think about the deity it represents. If I move in a domain or an environment where a god is represented I will notice, the same if I move through a vegetation associated with a deity. If I visit any ancient cult places I will quickly start to look at the surroundings and the vegetation to try to figure out which gods the place may represent.

Within stav the gods are also associated with handicrafts or other activities such as skiing, hunting, sailing, fishing etc. when doing any of these activities I will also relate to the gods. Some gods also represent aspects of society, so I will be reminded of them in some situations.

All the runes equal the deities to me- show me a rune and I will see a god!

Even the martial arts applications within stav connects with the deities and the philosophy in a very profound way- so even when I train I will be reminded of the gods. Out of an esoteric perspective the martial art within stav could be regarded as a manifestation of the gods in our reality.

Q) How often do you conduct rituals or communicate with the gods or spirits?

I try to conduct rituals daily, but too often the modern hectic life prevents me. Some other rituals are performed on weekly basis. Other rituals are connected with the festivals of the year. Some rituals are connected with initiations; I only perform those when they are relevant to someone. Other rituals are personal and performed when one feels the need. A few rituals are connected with the healing aspects of stav, and again they are not conducted that often. But the purpose of most of these rituals is to communicate, or at least keep the door open, to the spirits and the gods.

Q) Do you think that the way you relate to -and experience the gods- is different from other Norse Pagans, say in Iceland, Scandinavia or the USA?

The way stav associates the deities with different attributes will help the practitioner to develop a very clear image of the gods. This image will be clearer in many aspects compared with the image given by the Eddas. So in some aspects I believe that my experience differs from that of other heathens.

Q) Have you ever had an experience that you would term specifically religious or spiritual? If so would you be willing to tell me more about it?

Yes, on several occasions. These experiences are private and not easy to put into words so I think I will leave it for now.

Q) Has this experience affected your dedication to your religion or your relationship with the gods/spirits?

Yes, the dedication becomes stronger since it all felt even more relevant. It has also affected my relation with the individual deities, especially in the cases where they have “introduced” themselves – which has given me a deeper understanding of their character and personality.


Q) Has this experience affected your relationship with other Heathens?

For sure- it has made me more alienated with those who does not seem to take it too seriously or those who reenact. I also have issues with the post-modernistic and relativistic interpretations of Norse spiritualism.


Q) Has this experience affected your relationship with society in general?

All esoteric and spiritual work will affect your relationship to society. In some ways it has given me a deeper understanding of different types of people that operates within the society; which has made it easier for me to interact with society in general. In other ways it has made it harder for me to relate to the way that modern society views the world.

A lot of people today seems to regard the world as a backdrop that they move in front of; while the perspective learned through stav and genuine Norse heathenism is that the world is alive- and interacts with you. When you move around the world around you will be affected by your presence and you will be affected too. There are things around you that exists but that are not visible- so we shall not act like buffoons! Which a lot of people seem to do in the modern society; even within the so called neo-heathen community.

Q) From what I understand of Stav, there is some use of a hierarchy similar to the grading system in other martial arts, it appears to be based on some aspects of Norse mythology such as Heimdall. Can you tell me more about this?

This is a common misconception about stav- there is no grading within the system comparable with that of other martial arts. Stav is an esoteric system that is designed to help the student to gain certain knowledge; martial art is one of the tools- but martial art is not the final goal.

Heimdall is essential within stav, and there is an understanding of the classes similar to the one described in the Norse poem of Rigstula. The difference is that Rigstula mainly describes three classes- the träl the karl and the jarl, while stav incorporates five main classes- träl, karl, herse, jarl and kung. These other classes are mentioned in Rigstula but not described, and it is not entirely clear that they are referred to as genuine classes either.

Another thing is that Rigstula is written out of a socio-economic perspective, while stavs classes are personal, spiritual and psychological. My personal interpretation is that stav and Rigstula are two tree stems that has grown from the same root.

One of the most essential initiations within the system is to try to find out which class one belongs to. This is not something that the teacher will tell you- he will just guide you and interpret the result. At this stage the student usually do not have the knowledge to manipulate the result. This is the first step to actually learn to know and understand oneself out of stavs psychological and spiritual definition- and I am still very amazed of how well it works.

Q) In what ways are the runes of especial value? For many people they appear to have various mystical and magical connotations.

Stav is highly systemized and constructed around the sixteen runes of the younger futhark. The runes are mainly a method of loci- or a memory palace; each rune represents many layers of information and knowledge. If we remove the runes out of stav the system will fall apart.

Within stav the runes are not intuitional as it seems to be in the neo pagan environment; where people regularly are recommended to “meditate on the runes so their character will be revealed so they may make a personal interpretation”. Within stav the associations of the runes are set, once people have that knowledge it will help them to make their own personal interpretations of the mythology trough the runes.

Q) Are there any other Gods that are incorporated into the Stav system? Do any of these ‘communications’ resemble ritual or meditation? (Feel free to wax lyrical!)

The essence of stav consists of three deities, two masculine and one feminine. Heimdall is one of these three and he is probably the most important of them; stav could be categorized as a Heimdall cult. The principle of 2 males and one female deity seems to have been a fairly common way to structure the mythology. There are quite a few myths revolving around two males and one female deity- the Vanirs are one example amongst many.

But altogether there is nineteen gods within the stav system, they are all connected with one of the sixteen runes; a few of the deities are seen in groups and therefor they share the same rune. The nineteen gods/goddesses are connected to the nineteen-year moon cycle, the so called metonic cycle; which means that each deity will represent one year of the cycle. For instance, this year is the year of Loki. The amazing thing is that the knowledge on how to fixate this calendar is preserved.

The main practice of the system is the so called runestances- traditionally referred to as “sette staver”. Easily described the practitioner forms the runes with the body and this has both meditative and martial art aspects to it. The ritual flows over many layers, I will not go into too many details about it. But the information that each rune has a mythological association with a deity, or a group of deities, would perhaps give some indication of one of the layers.

The stances are the fundamental ritual practice within stav- but on top of that there are several other rituals. The intention of these other rituals is also to interact with spirits or deities, or in some cases ancestors. But these rituals are private and family oriented and not a spectacular blot-feast comparable with the blots of the mainstream heathens.

Q) Wow. This is great material. One interesting aspect of the Stav – Heathen relationship is that mainstream Heathens talk of concepts such as fylgja, meginn, ande, hamingja etc but seldom give any real time to it. Stav on the other hand seems to deal precisely with maximising and exploiting these powers. Could you tell me more about these aspects of Norse mysticism?

The “Fylgjor” is called “Följor” in stav, and your observations are correct. Mainstream heathens seem to have quite a vague conception of what it is- and a lot of their ideas seems to be borrowed from other shamanistic traditions. The Fylgja does not seem to be essential to most of them, it is just a novelty or something. Stav on the other hand has a very well defined understanding of the Fylgjas.

I will not go into practical details – as I already mentioned people are keen on “borrowing” things, but they tend to forget where it came from and to give credit when credit is due. For me the integrity of stav is very important.

There are mainly two types of “följor” within stav- one that is manifested as an animal and one that is a manifestation of a feminine entity.

If we start with the animal type, these would be labeled as familiars by the terminology of history of religions. Stav has the most comprehensive set of associations available anywhere, far more than within the literary sources. There is also a key understanding of the function of these familiars, which is something neither the neo-heathens nor the academics seems to have clear understanding of.

I will not go into details about the purpose or use of the animal följa. But everyone has an animal Följa, it is just a matter of finding it. Once this connection is established it is not all that much to it- it is just there.

The feminine följa is something else though- to be able to uphold that bond demands dedication and commitment. She is not connected to one single person as with the animal- she follows the family line. She is a guardian of the family and she also provide luck- hamingja- that is why some people seem to mix these concepts together.

Hamingja is the fortune, luck or happiness or success of the family. A family with a poor Hamingja will pass it on to their children, a family with good Hamingja will also pass that on. But Hamingja is not just a concept of wealth or success, it is also a spiritual concept, a good Hamingja also means spiritual wealth. Every generation is responsible for the Hamingja of the family, they should not drain it, instead it is their task to strengthen it. One way of strengthen the hamingja is to be dedicated and do the ritual work directed towards the deities and the följa- those actions will be returned. Another thing is to act like responsible humans within society and towards other people. Perhaps there is a reminiscence of karma associated with this concept?

Megin is strength or life force- comparable with the Asian concepts of prana or chi. This could very well be a later understanding of megin specifically within the tradition. I have not been able to investigate megin out of a general perspective; since I have not found any academic investigations about the subject. So if you are aware of any I would appreciate it. With that said- every time I have labeled something as a later infusion within stav I have had to back off from that when I eventually have been able to research it deeper.

When it comes to “ande”, what I will write is more or less a fusion between stav and the literary sources.

Ask and Embla did not possess ande- “önd gaf Óðinn”. Önd is basically dependent of breath- I believe that there is a linguistic relationship in Swedish; ande/andas. I think the relationship between breathing and “ande” is acknowledged by some scholars. Within stav Odin is associated with the element of air or directed wind. The first thing a student will be taught is correct breathing! It is amazing how many people today who are not able to breath properly. It does not matter if it is martial arts or spiritual work- correct breathing is essential. A person who cannot breathe properly is out of a stav perspective to be regarded as a träl; Loke- the main representative of the träl class, are associated with unfocused or uncontrolled wind. I have written about the misconception of Loke being associated with fire on my Swedish blog.

Breathing techniques is a major part of the tradition- the three most common classes has their own galder form of the rune stances. The basic version of the stances just teaches basic breathing. The karl galder develops this aspect further. The herse galder teaches an extreme form of breathing pattern and technique that is perhaps only suitable on the battle field- it also affects the mind heavily towards a confrontational psychological mode. The jarl galder is meditative and spiritually oriented, and relaxes and slows down the mind.

Q) Excellent. I think this really shows how Stav shines, and as some other Heathens recommended for me- that Stav can really be a valuable aspect of Heathen Religion. What do you think, or rather- what do you say to the people that criticise Stav for being a hoax or a derivative of Aikido and other eastern martial-spiritual practices? This must be a key question of conflict with Heathens.

I really do not say anything to them- they have made up their mind and decided that stav has nothing to offer them. I only feel responsible for those who actually could benefit from stav and develop trough stav- and by doing so helping the tradition to prosper.

Statements “like Aikido in Norwegian clothing” shows a complete lack of insights into both stav and Aikido. Over the years I have trained with a fair amount of people with a background in Aikido or other Japanese martial arts- there are huge differences. They usually get a bit shaken up when they encounter stav; the way they move their body in relation to the weapon and their footwork really causes them concerns, and if they have trained a style for 10-20 years it is not easy to shake off.

The way martial arts are perceived within stav are so unique that it is very unlikely that it is a derivate from any other source. I have not seen anything that the slightest resembles stavs philosophy about martial arts anywhere. The rest of the practices within the tradition speaks for themselves; they can only be paralleled within the deepest layers of Norse spirituality and philosophy.

I do not know if stavs authenticity are a key question of conflict, we have actually instructed several prominent members of the neo-heathen community in Sweden over the years. A few of them has praised stav publicly- so it is not a general conflict as such.

Those who loudly has criticized stav never had any personal experiences with it. They seem to be bothered because stav has lineage; which they find threatening to their own agenda. If the only references to stav would have been found in a dusty old notebook they would have been all over it. But with lineage the first step to learn has to be to curb the ego and acknowledging that someone else has more knowledge about the subject. Their ego has already branded them as accomplished rune masters, so it will not allow that; which will work to stavs favor in the long run.


Q) In what ways do you feel connected and in agreement with other Heathens?

I feel a strong connection to those who are genuine and tries to understand Norse heathenism through itself; no matter if they are stav practitioners or connected to “mainstream” heathenism. I do not feel any agreement with those who claim to be heathens but rather should be defined as post-modernistic new agers.

Q) Do you think most Heathens feel connected to each other as part of a religion distinct from other religions?

If we talk about the mainstream heathens, I would not know- their practices are quite syncretic and many of the practitioners seems to have engagements in other traditions and practices too. When it comes to stav practitioners; most seems to feel distinct from mainstream heathenism.

Q) Do you think there are any major divisions or denominations within the Heathen community?

I believe I look upon the heathen community a bit from the outside, and I do feel that there are two major directions within it; a left or liberal group and another group that is more nationalistically oriented- I am in disagreement with both. Not because their political standpoints as such, but because they project their 20th century ideological garbage upon heathenism; that has roots that goes back thousands of years.

Q) What do your friends and family think about your religion?

I do not talk about it too much in social contexts. But I do have a couple of really old friends that follows my blog, they have expressed appreciation. They find it different and they say they would not have learned about the subject otherwise.


Q) How do you think society sees you and your religion?

To be honest I do not have a clue and I am not the slightest bothered. I think it is a problem that many neo-pagans are too concerned about how society may perceive them; so they define themselves in contrast to a stereotypical image they imagine people may hold.

Q) How do you think society sees Heathen religion in general?

Again I have no clue- I think society generally lacks an understanding of what heathen religion actually is. Which is not so strange since a lot of those who publicly has promoted heathenism over the last decades seems to lack a sincere understanding themselves. The way that they generally represent heathenism makes it hard for people to perceive it as the powerful spiritual path it actually can be.

Q) Does your religion affect the way you interact with other people in society- or maybe affect the way you see society in general?

I used to be at odds with society and really felt alienated from it and the people in it. The stav philosophy has taught me an understanding of society and how it works in a practical and spiritual context. I am still quite critical towards the modern society, since it is nothing organic or natural about it; but I still feel more comfortable about it compared with before I started with stav.

The five archetypes/classes/personalities within stav- which actually are nineteen personalities in reality; also has taught me how to interact with different types of people. I know how to differentiate between a karl and a jarl, and I know how to make things work smoothly with the different personalities, or how to work around them.

Ivar once told me that his family used to teach aspects of the tradition outside their family; but never the system as a whole. There was one aspect though that they never taught anyone; the classes. The reason was that the classes gave them such advantages when dealing with other people.

Q) Do you think your country sees Heathens differently than other nations’ societies where Heathens are active?

Society will base their impressions of heathens on how mainstream heathens project themselves towards society- and I believe that they project themselves quite similar in most places.

Q) You have been a Heathen for many years, in your experience are things changing for Heathens?

Out of a heathen perspective- things will change when the time is right- and when heathens make sure that it changes. The time feels right- but I still have doubts about the heathens committing on a larger scale.


Q) Is Heathen religion itself changing its qualities, values, aesthetics or the people drawn to it?

Most certainly, today there are a few people who genuinely interpret the myths and internalizes the philosophy, then they teach others their understanding. These people do not seem to be driven by their ego; but by their passion for Norse spirituality. Genuine passion will affect other people- the most influential spiritual leaders have been extremely passionate.

Q) People say that Heathen Religion has boomed recently, and that it is possibly one of the fastest growing religions in western countries. Do you think this is true? If so, why do you think it is growing so much?

It could very well be true- a heathen band from Norway entered the billboard chart last week. In Europe quite famous music acts proclaim their heathen affection. There are hovs being established all around the Nordic countries. There are two facilities established that are dedicated to stav- one in Sweden and one in the UK. It is quite impressive how things have developed in just a few years.

I think people are in the need for genuine spirituality at this time. They feel how stressed the society is and they have lost touch with a natural way of life. The modern science and atheism are killing the spirituality- or magic if you so will – that people have such a need for. People feel that they are mere production units in a gross economy which they cannot grasp. They feel alienated from their traditional culture and spiritual heritage.

Q) Do you think things are getting easier or harder for heathens, – or to live as a Heathen in the world today?

I believe that it is getting harder for everyone to live in this world today- it is unnatural, it is stressed both on a physical level and on a spiritual level. The wheels constantly spin faster. The civilization is not developing organically- it is super charged and artificial.

The ideal is constant growth- which again is based on a linear way to view the world; or perhaps out of viewing the global society in form of a pyramid. Out of a heathen cyclic perspective it is impossible with a never ending growth. The longer this doctrine is the standard the harder will we fall when we revolve back to the starting point.

Q) Is there anything specific you think that could make things better for Heathens in society in the future?

The question has some sort of external perspective and presumes that something undefined would assist heathens to prosper in society; it is somewhat a non-heathen way to perceive things. Society will be better for heathens when they start to take responsibility for their own situation; and becomes a force that cannot be ignored or overseen in the society. If this happens heathens will be a major contributor to defining the future society; and the heathen philosophy has so many valuable perspectives that would gain society as a whole.



The sources to the blog?

Stav Posted on Thu, December 08, 2016 10:24:28

As of lately I have had a few people that has read my blog and found the perspectives given to be quite interesting. Furthermore, these people have set a good example, since there are aspects that they do not recognize; they ask me for the sources and where in the written myths and sagas they can find the information. I wish more people would research the sources when it comes to claims about Norse mythology.

I
find it important that people understand where this comes from, so I decided to
make a separate post about what this blog is about, and the origin of the information
found here.

What I write about has modernly been labeled as “Stav”, if you google it you will find tons of posts about it being a modern constructed martial art. But if you have read my blog you have probably noticed that I have written very little about martial arts, actually only one post in Swedish to be specific.

How I found Stav

I have always had a great fascination of Norse mythology and runes and Scandinavian folklore. I grew up in an area of Sweden where there were traces of Norse mythology and ancient sites and rune stones wherever I looked. I think this sparked my interest and fascination early in life.

My fascination of Norse spirituality, and esoterica in general, evolved over the years. As a teenager it took me on some strange paths, and in a really weird corner I heard the name Stav mentioned for the first time in the mid 1990´s. A few years later a friend of mine searched for indigenous martial arts of Scandinavia, which made me remember Stav; and he started to research it further. In the year 2000 we traveled to England to meet Ivar Hafskjold for the first time. Ivar is the inheritor of the tradition, born in Norway, but now he resides in northern England.

As I already had some knowledge of Norse spirituality at the time, I was fascinating with how well put together Ivar’s teachings were. He was really the only one that I had met that were able to present a coherent version of Norse spirituality. The complexity of the system also made me realize that this was something that must be based on living knowledge of Norse spirituality, one way or another.

What is Stav

Stav is in essence Norse spirituality systemized around sixteen runes, the ancient script language of northern Europe. But it also holds a specific mythology that differentiates from the written sources; and Stav presents a much more coherent version of the myths and the cosmology compared to the sources. Stav also contains herbal lore, and aspects that can be regarded as shamanistic. Stav has ritual aspects, and on top of that it has the martial arts that is also closely tied together with the rest of the philosophy of the system.

Everything is so tightly put together that all aspects feeds and draws from each other. When learning the runes with the traditional method of the system, you will also be taught the martial arts. When doing martial arts, you will develop a deeper understanding of the mythology, when learning the mythology, you will understand the martial arts; and also get a better understanding of the runes.

Even the healing aspects of the system, and the herbal lore and knowledge of the plants can in most cases strengthen the understanding of the spiritual parts and the mythology, and in some cases even connect directly to the martial arts.

Where does Stav come from?

Ivar made Stav public in 1992, which would be the appropriate date for Stav as we know it today. Beyond that there is really no written sources of Stav. But Ivar himself does not take credit for constructing it, he says it is his family’s traditional education system. He learned it as a boy in the 1950´s in Norway, partly from his parents. But also from other relatives, when it comes to the martial art aspects his granduncle, born in the 1890´s, was very important.

The family tradition itself claims longer lineage than this, but the oldest named practitioner we know of by name was born in the 1890´s. He on the other hand is quoted to have said that he had learned it from older relatives, and the family has a very long and documented history in the region.

From an academic perspective it would be quite hard to set a satisfying date on Stav. A system like this has to be researched based on its own integrity. But the first, and most important question, has to be; if the system works and if it works for your needs? If it works it should be good enough for most.

But as an analytic person it is always interesting to reason about the origin of something, which can be done once we have developed a theoretical understanding of the system, and what it contains. Then you need to compare it with the written sources and note the similarities and differences.

Personally I have investigated the structure of Stav, and the mythology, the cosmology and the calendric aspects of the system. I think I can make a very good estimation of the age of these components, and thus the system itself. But I doubt it´s really relevant in the end! The only important thing is what the practitioner is able to learn from the Stav-curriculum. If antiquity is the important thing, this is not what you are looking for!

The source of the blog

So the source of the blog is myself; and my interpretations after hours of conversations with Ivar that has taken place over the last sixteen years. Many of these conversations took place when physically meeting Ivar, both in Sweden and in England. Most of the time we speak in Swedish/Norwegian, which is basically only dialects of the same language; this has given me the opportunity to avoid some of the linguistic and cultural issues that has occurred when Stav has been transferred in English.

My understanding has also been aided by some very valuable contributions from a few Scandinavian academics within relevant fields, that also happens to be Stav practitioners.

This blog is frankly put unique! It is the first time a lot of the information on it has been described in detail in public. The information should be regarded as source material to a tradition that fairly recently was made public. There are no books available, nor any webpages, that describes components of Stav as detailed as I do in this blog. There are also very few that has studied these aspects as deeply as I have, and that would be capable of writing a blog like this.

My understanding of Stav is based on Ivars teaching, but still published out of my personal perspective and understanding of it. Some aspects I have been able to expand compared to what has been preserved of the traditional knowledge, other areas I need to study further. After all, this is a living tradition and every generation will put their mark on it! Within Stav different perspectives and personal interpretations are valued, especially when it is based on serious research.

Summary

The information found on this blog is my personal understanding, based on the teachings of Ivar; which comes from the tradition preserved within his family. If you find anything here valuable, it would make me very happy. But do not mistake anything here for mainstream Norse mythology, it is not! This is a living tradition that has kept evolving. In the English speaking world, the written sources have sometimes confused the understanding of Stav more than anything.

If you want to quote anything on the blog, please go ahead. But for your own sake specify the source to avoid any confusion. I would also like to say that text is quite crude; the best way to learn Stav is directly from one person to another, the way it always was taught. There are very few qualified instructors available, even fewer if you want to focus on the spiritual perspective. Stav is not mainstream heathenism.



The ancient and magical roads of Scandinavia

General Posted on Sat, October 01, 2016 18:53:08

Sweden has
a fully modern road network. It has been designed by engineers to be the most
efficient and straightforward paths between cities and regions. Not much
thought has been given to the local environments the roads crosses trough.
Neither have they cared about the animals or spiritual values when constructing
these roads; if there is an obstacle they just remove it or tunnel through it. There
are cases were a modern highway are built right through ancient sacrificial
grooves, which is really upsetting! The only positive thing is that the Swedish
law demands that they excavate the site thoroughly before they devastate it.

Above; what remains of the holy grove besides one of Sweden’s most trafficked roads.

The road
system is sometimes too efficient, one can travel through Sweden without
actually seeing much of it at all. The main roads are always outside the cities
and villages, and at all the exit points are the same gasoline stations and
fast-food restaurants. Finding a decent meal on the road is almost impossible.

The
obsession of an effective road system probably started in the 1950´s; when
ordinary people were able to get their own cars. Modern logistics probably had
an impact too; since people these days are in demand of goods that is
transported a long way, instead of buying stuff that is manufactured locally. These
modern roads are like scars in the landscape, and the landscape will never be
able to recuperate from the intervention.

The biggest
and most trafficked road in Sweden is the European route E4, it passes all the
way from the south up to the northern border and crosses into Finland. In the
1980´s they were modernizing a small portion of the E4 in mid Sweden. The
locals were very upset and said that the road would disturb all the invisible
entities living in the forest were the new stretch would be built. The
authorities even got angry letters with threats. According to the local lore
the forest had lots of different entities living in it, such as; vittror,
tomtar and trolls. Even ancestral spirits have been mentioned. As you could
imagine, no one really took these worries seriously, business went on as usual
and the road was constructed. Perhaps they were right? It was probably just
superstition.

Today this
short stretch has an unpropitious amount of incidents on it, it is one of the portions
of the over 1500 kilometers long road that really stands out. There are often standstills
at this place, and there are many accidents. There are incidents were cars have
started to burn for no apparent reason, and there are lots of flat tires and
technical malfunctions. A few people have all of a sudden become very ill while
driving on the road. When researching for this article, I found out that just
during the last few months there has been several cars that started to burn
there and some serious accidents. The latest incident happened yesterday. Who can
tell for sure if the invisible entities are to blame? but sometimes people have
a good reason to be superstitious!

Above: Nothing but a small and modest sign reveals that a murderer was executed on this spot in 1785, he was decapitated after murdering a nineteen-year-old maid.

I am very
skeptical about these modern roads that are constructed by omnipotent bureaucrats
equipped only with a map, a ruler and a pen. Things used to be different! Hidden
beyond these tarmacked roads there is a completely different set of roads;
which people almost has forgotten. These are the ancient roads and trails of
Scandinavia.

These roads
started as small tracks in the forests, initially they were perhaps not even
man made. They can just as well have been trampled up by animals; which made
them a natural and convenient path for humans to follow. When people started to
use them they gradually expanded until someone decided to lay gravel on top of
them to make them more stable and able to carry weight. Sometimes the roads
kept growing, and in some cases they were infused in the modern road system. I
have seen many runestones that are erected just beside a fully modern road, and
the runestone still stands at the same place as it did a thousand years ago. The
road has naturally evolved over a long period.

A runestone in western Sweden, in front of it you see the old road; behind it you see the modern road.

These
ancient roads were not planned by any engineer, they simply emerged were people
traveled. They were the bloodstream of the old society, and they often pass
right through old settlements and farms. Often the living house is on one side
of the road and the old stables on the other. This was highly efficient since
you could trade with anyone that passed by that had goods, or simply catch the
latest news. It also created a natural mail system since it was easy just to
ask those who passed by to bring messages or goods to the next farm. But these
days it can be bit problematic to have the road right through your yard though,
especially if the road has grown and there is a lot of traffic on it. In some cases,
it has practically meant that parts of the old homestead have been abandoned.

But many of
these ancient roads are still tucked away off the beaten path, only relevant
for the few who lives in the area; some of these roads are hardly used anymore.
These seemingly insignificant roads move graciously trough the landscape and
sometimes two cars will hardly be able to pass each other. I once mentioned the
bad condition of an old road to an elderly man who lived on a farm close to us;
he was the fifth generation inhabitant of the farm, and the last of his line to
keep it. He told me that in the 1950´s the bus to the village used that road,
and the road was not in any better condition back then.

Above: the road the bus used in the 1950´s.

These roads
are a good example of all that which has organically grown and been used for
centuries or more; which has been discarded during the last decades.

Since these
old roads follow the landscape, they often pass the type of places were
invisible entities would thrive. Perhaps some of the roads were initially
theirs? Due to the longevity of these roads, they are no longer only for the
living; they are the roads of those who has been here many generations before
us! Perhaps their spirits still use them? When walking, or driving, on these
old roads it is appropriate to act respectfully towards those who has used them
before us and those who we cannot see. Too many times have I encountered that
the modern corrupted mind have found it convenient to use these old roads to
drive out in the woods to dump their garbage. This could be very bad idea,
remember the incidents on the modernized stretch of the E4…

Have you
ever wondered what Helvegen looks like? The road to the realm of the dead, made
famous by the Norwegian band Wardruna. I bet you it is a seemingly insignificant
trampled old dirt road of Scandinavian fashion; but within Norse spirituality
it is perhaps seen as the most important road you will ever walk upon.


Scandinavian
folklore and folk-magic knows the significance of the ancient roads. There is a
lot of spiritual practices in relation to old roads, especially during the lightest
part of the summer, around Balders vigil; or midsummer in modern terminology.
At this time of the year it is hardly dark at all in most parts of Scandinavia,
and according to the folklore this period is accredited extra potential for
magic.

A modern
road would be totally useless for magical work; because it simply scares all
invisible things away. Not even the wildlife is able to cross a modern and
fenced road, so I doubt the invisible entities are able to do it. I would even imagine
that they simply stay clear of it, just like most entities flees cities when
they become too crowded. The modern roads are efficient, but when it comes to
both the living and the non-living in their proximity; they work as a wall that
keeps things apart.

If you ever
have the opportunity to visit Scandinavia during the summer, you could find
yourself an old desolated road with no regular traffic on it. Look for an intersection
with another old road, and spend the night there by yourself. Something very
interesting may happen to you during that night! But I am not guaranteeing
anything but mosquito bites and birdsong. On the other hand, I am not giving
any guarantees when it comes to your safety either. Spiritual work is not to be
taken lightly, especially not by the urbanized and modern human being! There
are examples of people who have come to Scandinavia to search out the spirits,
and their quest literally ruined their life. An unbalanced mind may not be equipped
to handle what it might be exposed to.

All pictures were taken by myself, during the summer of 2016.



The esoteric rune calendar of Stav

Stav Posted on Sun, September 25, 2016 00:51:12

Those who
have been following my blog knows by now that Stav originates from a family
tradition that has been passed down within a family in southern Norway. Stav
has been labeled as a martial art; but Stav is in its essence Norse
spirituality structured around the runes of the younger futhark.

Within the
tradition there is a runic calendar, but as with many aspects of Stav there has
not been that much written about it. Stav is practically still an oral
tradition. I believe this is the first time an in-depth article about the
calendar is published in English; but I will still leave a couple of things untold.

For many
years I did not really pay too much attention to the Stav calendar, I could not
really relate to it. The concept was perhaps too alien to my modern imprint. About
a year ago I decided to investigate the Stav calendar further. I read up on
what some of the most notable scholars in the field has to say about early
medieval and pre-Christian calendric practices of Scandinavia. After I had
studied for a while I was totally blown away by the Stav calendar, it´s
integrity is fascinating, and it is clearly of respectable age.

This could
quickly become a very long and complicated text about the calendric aspects
within Stav, but I am afraid that would defeat its purpose; since very few
would read it. So I have tried to stick to the basics and not make things
overcomplicated. But there still has to be some terminology within the text. I
will start with a short introduction of calendric systems to make this text
relevant.

Introduction

There is so
much we take for granted today based on our modern perspective of time, just a
few hundred years ago things were very different. People were dependent that
someone in their proximity could calculate time based on the movements of the
sun and the moon. Calendric calculations were probably an important factor that
contributed to developing the mathematical understanding that laid the
foundation of our civilization. In most old cultures the highest priesthood was
responsible for these calculations, and there was really no difference between
spirituality and science; the separation of the two is just a few hundred years
old.

Our modern
calendar is called the Christian calendar, or the Gregorian calendar; after the
pope who was responsible for introducing it. This calendar system is basically
just an improvement of an older calendric system called the Julian calendar;
the name comes from the fact that the Roman dictator Julius Caesar was
responsible for introducing it in 45 BC.

Both the
Julian and the Gregorian calendars are based on 365 days, the practical problem
is that the number of days do not exactly match the so called tropical year, or
solar year. The Julian calendar will therefore have a discrepancy in relation
to the solar year that increases over time. The concern out of a Christian
perspective is the drift in relation to the March equinox; which is used to
calculate the Easter celebrations, the most important celebration within
Christianity. The Gregorian calendar has addressed the drift with a more
precise system of leap years and leap days.

In the
early history of the church it was the responsibility of the local priest to calculate
the date of the Easter celebration. Some of the priests were not competent
enough to handle the task, which meant that the celebrations could differ
between parishes. Within the Catholic church someone realized around year 800
AD that they could implement something called the Metonic cycle, named after a
Greek mathematician and Astronomer who lived in Athens in the 5th
century BC.

The Metonic
cycle defines that 235 lunar months almost precisely equals 19 solar years, but
there is some discrepancy which we will come back to. The practical calendric
use of the Metonic cycle is that; if you define a nineteen-year cycle the moon
and the sun will relate to each other in a specific pattern each year of that
cycle. The Metonic cycle has a very long history in calendric systems and was implemented
for the first time by the Babylonians. By utilizing the Metonic cycle the
clergy only had to calculate Easter for each year within the cycle, the Easter
Sunday will be the first Sunday after the so called Paschal full moon. Then
they applied so called golden numbers from 1-19 to each year of the cycle.

In essence,
our modern calendar is a Roman-Christian way of calculating time, based on a
Christian way to view the world; we count time in a linear fashion from year
zero, the presumed birth year of Jesus, and the progression will just continue
until the end of time.

The Norse
calendar

Let’s move
over to the pre-Christian Norse and heathen calendric aspects. The preserved information
is quite fragmented, but we still have a pretty good idea.

The Norse
probably celebrated six festivals each year, and a couple of these festivals
were dependent on the sun. On the contrary to common beliefs they did not
celebrate the spring and autumn equinoxes; instead those celebrations seem to
have been delayed with about four weeks. The pre-Christian ritual year only had
two seasons; summer and winter. The summer started sometime in April, and the
festival is still celebrated in Scandinavia. The summer ended, and winter
started, at the so called Alvablot; which would be around the same time as the
modern Halloween celebrations.

In
pre-Christian Scandinavia they seem to have followed an eight-year lunar cycle,
called the Octaeteris in astronomical terms. This cycle is less accurate
compared to the Metonic cycle of nineteen years. The historical sources tell
that big sacrificial festivals were held every ninth year in Uppsala, Sweden. These
festivals were held in relations with the yearly big winter thing- called Disting
in Uppsala, and every ninth year they had extra big festivities. But in reality
it was most likely every eight years, and based on the eight-year lunar cycle.
To make an easy description, the way they calculated time back then was
different, the ninth year and the next first year of the cycle will be
calculated as the same.


They held
the festivities in Uppsala for nine days, the opening day they held thing and
the sacrifices started during the evening. Then they held the sacrifices for
the next seven evenings. The ninth day they held a thing again, and ended the
festivities. Which meant that they only sacrificed during eight nights, and
each night probably represented a deity and a year in the eight-year cycle. It
is unfortunately beyond this article to describe this in further detail.

The
important thing to notice is that this way of calculating time is in essence
heathen, it is cyclic; a 24 hours’ day is a cyclic period going from dark to
light and back. A Scandinavian year is also very obviously cyclic, passing from
winter to summer and back. Scandinavian heathenism is in many ways a nature
religion and a lot of the philosophical aspects follows natures cyclic
perspective.

Medieval
Scandinavia

In the
early medieval period Scandinavia went through a major turmoil when
Christianity were introduced. The change of religion was in many ways a very
painful process and it took hundreds of years to fulfill, if it ever was really
completely done. Around 1150 the church introduced the Julian calendar, which
became the official calendar in Scandinavia.

Since Scandinavia
is quite desolated people still had a need to keep track of their own time, so
they knew when they needed to go to church to celebrate the Christian holidays.
Shortly after the introduction of the Julian calendar the so called runic
calendar staves emerged. They were often made on a big wooden plank or a stave,
which had a lot of runes carved into them. They were constructed in relation to
the Metonic cycle amongst other things; but instead of having golden numbers
representing the years of the cycle, they used runes.

One problem
was that the Runic script of the Viking age and early medieval times consisted
of sixteen runes; so three additional runes were made up, so they got nineteen
runes which they could correspond to the Metonic cycle. Seven runes also corresponded
to the days of the week. The runic calendars had various symbols that marked
the Christian festivals during the year.

The medieval
runic calendars were most likely syncretic; based on old Scandinavian ways of
calculating time, but adopted to fit the newly introduced Julian-Christian
calendar. The epicenter of the Runic calendars was in Sweden, but they are
found throughout Scandinavia and Finland, even in the Baltic countries.

As
previously mentioned; the Metonic cycle are not flawless, and there were
several improvements made. One important contribution was made by Hipparchus of
Nicaea, who is regarded as the greatest of the Greek astronomers. He calculated
that 3760 lunar months, or 16 Metonic cycles, will be equal to 304 solar years.
But there is a small discrepancy of minus one day.

In medieval
Scandinavia the common people seem to have been aware of the Hipparchic cycle
of 304 years. In Uppsala in Sweden they hold the Disting market in February
each year. The market was initially held together with the sacrifices that I
mentioned before, when Christianity took over the sacrifices were abandoned;
but the market is still held to this day! The difference is that the market now
is held in accordance to our modern calendar; in medieval times the moon stipulated
when the market would be held.

The
medieval rule for calculating the Disting market is still known; “the market
starts at the first full moon that follows the first new moon after the day of
three holy kings” (I.E. Epiphany).
I have translated this rule from the
earliest notation of it, published in 1555.

At the
Disting market in 1689, a famous Swedish scholar met a 90-year-old man with a runic
calendar that he had inherited from his great grandfather. The scholar talked
with the old man about the calendar in relation to the Disting. The old man
told him that the market had followed a nineteen-year cycle for the past period
of a little more than 300 years; but it had just passed an “Auni” and it would
follow a new cycle of 19 years for the coming period of a little more than
three hundred years. Which meant that the market would be held on slightly
different dates than those who used to occur during the previous cycle.

The scholar
was intrigued and wanted to know how the old man knew this; he said that his
great grandfather had marked out Auni on his runic calendar stick. When asked
further about what an Auni was the old man said it was a period of a little
more than 300 years. The name came from the old king of Uppsala, Aun the old, that
became 300 years old. Aun is mentioned by Snorri, but in his texts the
calendric aspects are not so apparent. It is not likely that the old man in the
17th century would have been exposed to Snorris work either, so this
is most likely a reminiscence of eastern Scandinavian mythology where Aun
personalizes the Lunar cycle of 304 years. There is also accounts in the story
of Aun that indicates that incidents in his life corresponds to the Metonic
cycle of nineteen years.

Around year
1700 the more exact Gregorian calendar was introduced in Norway. Sweden was the
longest protestant stronghold in western Europe to oppose the reform; and did
not reform the calendar until 1753. One practical result of the reform was that
the runic calendars died out, since they did not work in relation to the new
calendar. Some tried to adopt the runic staves to the Gregorian calendar, but
time had simply moved on and they were out of fashion.

The calendric
aspects of Stav

Stav is
structured around the sixteen runes of the so called younger futhark, the runic
alphabet that probably was introduced around year 800 AD. Writing is just one
aspect of the runes according to the Stav perspective, there are many other
aspects. Everything within Stav, from mythology to herbal medicine; is systemized
around the runes

Amongst many
other things, there are nineteen deities of the Norse pantheon associated with
the sixteen runes. Some runes have several deities associated with them; and in
these cases the deities have a close mythological relationship. Each deity is
connected to a specific year of the Metonic cycle! The amazing thing is that
this system is totally independent of modern calendars; there is a method
within the tradition that describes how to set this system based on the moon.
The deities associated with each year gives this calendric system a ritual and
mythological aspect that the medieval calendars totally lack. Since the core of
Stav is structured around the nineteen deities of the calendar; this aspect is
something that must have been taken into consideration when Stav was systemized;
it is very unlikely that this would be a later adaptation.


I used to
have some issues with the fact that there were nineteen deities but only
sixteen runes; why not expand the amount of runes as they did on the medieval
runic calendars? I realized how it all fits together when I investigated Stavs calendar;
if you multiply the nineteen gods with the sixteen runes you will incorporate
the Hipparchic cycle. 16 Metonic cycles adds up to 304! (16 x 19 = 304) It can
simply not be a coincidence that 19 deities representing the Metonic cycle are
structured on the sixteen runes. Hipparchus defined the 304-year cycle when he
tried to improve calendric cycles that was based on the Metonic cycle. As
stated previously, the medieval Scandinavians were aware of this cycle.

Since there
no longer are any practical use of the Hipparchic cycle in Stav, the modern Stav
community were not aware of this aspect. But since Stav is so highly systemized
it was still preserved in the core of the structure, just waiting to be found. This
is one of the cautions I want to address when it comes to the derivatives that
has come off of Stav during the last decades; the encoded “secrets” within the
coherent structure will be lost in the copies. Those who create the derivatives
will deny their students to be able to uncover what they have not yet
discovered themselves.

The
festivals of Stav

Unlike the
medieval runic calendars, the yearly festivals of Stav is not based on
Christian celebrations but on heathen feasts. There are six festivals, Yule,
Winter-thing, summers day, Balders vaki, Summer-thing and Winters night. As
everything within stav, these festivals are structured around the Hagl rune,
where the runes of the deities representing the festival has been placed in a
particular order. Each festival has two runes that represents it, which in
total gives 13 deities, since one rune has two connections. I have the
impression that these 13 deities represent the pre-Christian months of
Scandinavia, but as far as I know there is nothing preserved in the system that
clearly says so. Six deities are not associated with specific festivals; since
they represent the function of ritual leaders, and therefor are relevant for all
festivals.

The deities
relations to the festivals follows what is known about the pre-Christian gods and
the festivals; but as often within Stav the knowledge goes beyond and fills in
the blank spots. The festival year is also woven, which means that the
festivals that oppose each other will also have deities connected to them that
has a relation. The festival year is at the same time regarded as cyclic. There
is nothing random about the festivals of the Stav calendar. I have described
some of this previously on this blog. Another unique aspect is that there is
knowledge on how to fixate the festivals independent of the modern calendar;
something that I myself was not aware of until recently when corresponding with
the inheritor of the tradition, Ivar Hafskjold, about the calendar.

The week of
Stav

Within Stav
all weekdays have specific runic relations, and thus associations with deities.
It is common knowledge that the week as we know it has Norse origin. Tuesday is
associated with Tyr, Wednesday with Odin and Thursday with Thor. The relations
of the other weekdays are not quite clear, but within Stav these days have
clear associations with deities too. The ritual week of Stav is dependent on
this knowledge. Sunday is the last and first day of the week; and in accordance
the rune associated with the day is connected to two deities. One representing
death, and the other one continuation. There are several rituals that marks
each week.

How old is
the Stav calendar ?

In the core
of Stav we have a cyclic calendric system that not only measures time over 19
and 304 years, it also relates to the yearly festivals and weekdays. This
system has a strong relationship to what is known about medieval and pre-Christian
Scandinavian calendric tradition; but it goes beyond the known historical
systems out of an esoteric and spiritual perspective. The Stav calendar is in
essence independent of the modern calendar.

Since
the calendric aspect are encoded in the core of Stav, it gives a good
foundation to discuss at what time period Stav, as a system, could have been
structured. As already
mentioned, the runic calendric systems died out when the Gregorian calendar was
introduced, this happened around year 1700 in Norway. After that there were no
practical use, and probably no knowledge, to structure a runic calendric system
dependent on the Metonic cycle. So clearly Stavs calendar must predate the
introduction of the Gregorian calendar in Scandinavia.

The
absolute earliest point something like this could have been created are at the
time that the younger futhark was introduced, which many believe are around 800
AD. These two events give us the timespan we have to relate to. Another key question
is; would the Scandinavians have been utilizing the Metonic cycle prior to the
official introduction of the Julian calendar? If the answer is no, then the
timespan is 1150-1700. For the time being it is reasonable not to go beyond
this time span, even though the Norse sources indicates an awareness of the
Metonic cycle.

When
comparing the information of Stavs calendar with the medieval runic calendars,
I am personally prone to believe that Stavs calendar has to be early in this
span. The oldest notation I am aware of in Norwegian archives that mentions the
family that has kept the tradition, are from 1348. So I do not feel that I am the
slightest preposterous to claim an early medieval origin. But in essence it
does not matter when the system was structured; those who did it knew more
about Norse mythology in relation to heathen calendric aspects than anyone alive
today.

What is the
practical use of this calendar?

The calendric aspects of Stav is something
totally unique! As far as I know there is no other comparable living calendric
tradition left in Scandinavia. Stav is the only contemporary form of Norse spiritualism that includes a
complete calendric system. Each year has a mythological association which sets
the tone of the year. All the festivals that are celebrated are genuine Norse
festivals, that has a clear connection with specific deities; which gives a
good understanding of the nature of the festival. The actual dates of the
festivals will not be dependent on the modern Christian calendar. Each day of
the week also has specific connection with Norse deities; which gives a
spiritual meaning to the weekdays.

This
article only describes one aspect of the use of the runes within the Stav
tradition; there are many other aspects that could be expanded and explained in
the same fashion. I find Stav utterly fascinating, and it is something that
really needs to be preserved for the future. There are still so many aspects of
Stav that needs further investigation, but it takes a lot of time and devotion
to do it properly. At this time there are not enough people that really studies
the deeper layers of Stav in relation to historical sources; which is a shame.

Thor spake:

13. “Answer me, Alvis! Thou knowest
all,
Dwarf, of the doom of men;
What call they the moon, that men behold,
In each and every world?”

Alvis spake:

14. “Moon with men, Flame the gods
among,
The Wheel in the house of hell;
The Goer the giants, The Gleamer the dwarfs,
The elves The Teller of Time.”

Alvíssmál – The Ballad of Alvis.



The stav poem

Stav Posted on Sun, March 13, 2016 14:16:40

Within the stav
tradition there is a poem handed down; the poem is basically a description of
the content and knowledge within the tradition. The poem is written in an old
Norse alterative form of metric verse. This form of verse was used in most of the
poems of the Edda, and there are runestones in Sweden written with these types
of verses.

I would identify the specific form of verse in the stav poem as Fornyrðislag;
which consists of eight lines of text, each line has two emphasized syllables,
and the lines are grouped in pairs by alliteration. It is not easy to express
what you want to say in this form of verse, and good poets were highly regarded
in the pre Norse society. It was a great honor if a poet wrote a verse about your
achievements and character; perhaps comparable to someone commissioning an
expensive painting of them self today.

The ancient poets of Scandinavia travelled around from king to king and
recited poems about the gods, heroes and kings. The king of the gods Oden, was
regarded as the god of the poets, which indicates what a high status they had. Some
of the most revered heroes of the Viking age even made poems as they were
dying; one example is Ragnar Lodbrok- who´s legend has been capitalized by the popular
television show “Vikings”.

I have really tried my best to make a good translation of the stav poem from
Norwegian to English. I have tried to stay true to the meaning, but still tried
to keep as much as the alliteration as possible. The poem has only been handed
down to the modern stav community as eight lines of text, with absolutely no
separations; so I barrowed the separations from Erik Brates Swedish translation
of the Edda poem Vǫluspá.

This is my English translation of the stav poem:

Hounds bait,
horses tame,
falcons fly;
upon skis fare,
bending bows,
billows ride;
staves are done,
by Heimdall´s sons.

The poem describes
seven skills and knowledges. If one reads the Edda poem of Rigstula one will
notice that knowledge and skill is what separates the classes; the further up on
the social ladder, more skills are demanded. Being able to describe these
skills in alliterated verse is a statement in itself. Since stav has been a
closed tradition it should be seen as an internal statement and an internal
definition of belonging to the top levels of society.

I will
describe the poem two lines at the time, since this is the way Fornyrðislag is
constructed.

The two first lines are “Hounds bait, horses tame”.

“Hound bait”
refers to hunting with dogs, the traditional way of hunting with dogs in
Scandinavia is by using dogs that keeps the pray at bay until the hunter could
come forth and kill the animal. The method of hunting is very similar to the
way the hunting with cur dogs is conducted in the USA, except that we usually
do not hunt dogs in packs in Scandinavia.

The Scandinavian
spitz type of breeds used for hunting is very common and amongst the oldest
breeds in Scandinavia; an example of such a breed is the Norwegian Elkhound.
This type of dog is even found in Viking age burials.

Within the
stav tradition it is said that they used to breed a large mastiff type of dog.
The indigenous mastiff´s of Scandinavia is more or less extinct, there were not
much use of them after the wolfs temporary disappeared about a hundred years
ago. There is just one breed left, the reconstructed Danish Broholmer.

Horses tame
refers to the knowledge of being able to tame and ride horses; a greatly
revered knowledge in ancient Scandinavia; it is not a coincidence that Oden is
associated with an eight legged steed.

In
premodern Scandinavia one would need to know more than just how to handle the
horse. The horseman would have to be able to manufacture, or at least maintain,
the equipment needed; which needs skills in leather work. They would also need
to be able to attend the horse if it became ill or injured.

The
pre-Christian Scandinavians are reputed for their ability to use boats to
travel long distances; people seldom think of the fact that they also were a
horse culture. Some scholars say that
the Vikings probably gathered horses when they attacked the coastal areas; and
then used the horses to swiftly move inland to attack settlements there.

The next
two lines say “falcons fly; upon skis fare”. To fly
falcons refers to falconry, in pre-Christian Scandinavia it was regarded to be a
skill of the nobility; in many ways it was seen as a magical skill to be able
to get a wild bird of prey to work on your command. It would take me a long
time to explain it in detail, but anyone that flew falcons had great respect.

Falconry was
introduced in Scandinavia during the migration period, and it seems that it to
a large extent disappeared during the middle ages. Today falconry is forbidden
in all three Scandinavian countries.

The
falconry within the stav tradition is quite different compared with the
continental and the English falconry. There were two types of birds that were
used, goshawks and the Eurasian eagle-owl; the owl was not a bird used
traditionally on the continent. Within the stav version of falconry the birds
were flown from baskets that were carried on the back by the falconer. The
birds were trained to return to these baskets after the hunt; instead of
returning to the hand that is the common method within falconry. This enabled
to fly the birds without jesses and bells; which gives stav-falconry totally
different conditions compared to continental and English falconry.

The main prey
within the tradition were foxes that were hunted for their fur, which was a great
income. As soon as the winter came the
traditional stav practitioners used to freeze fish to the ground on a meadow
behind their house; and waited for the foxes to try to come and try to eat the
fish. They watched the spot from their window with the help of the moonlight;
as soon as a fox would appear they sent their bird off right out of the window.
Eagle-owls are nocturnal hunters, and they fly completely silent, the prey will
not even know what hit them. Fox fur were one of the items traded at the winter
thing market; which I have already covered on the blog.

In the
1980´s scientists analyzed the bones within fourteen graves of Viking age
chieftains; the graves were mainly located in the proveniences of Uppland and
Sörmland in Sweden. Twelve
of these graves contained bones originating from birds of prey. There were about
24 birds found in the graves; the predominant species were Eurasian eagle-owls
and northern goshawks.

Again; to
be able to fly falcons would require more than just flying the bird. The
falconer needs to know how to capture the bird; and how to imprint it and how to
train it. He also needs to be able to manufacture the equipment needed.

“Upon skis
fare”, simply means that one can use skis; and could move about in nature to
hunt and support the family during the winter. Oddly enough most stav practitioners
today seems to come from countries were there hardly is any snow, so perhaps it
is hard to relate to this aspect. But in Scandinavia there is occasionally
rough winters. Before there were modern roads and snowploughs; people would
more or less be trapped in their house during the winter, unless they could
ski.

The deity
associated with skiing is Ull; which is also apparent when it comes to the jarl
version of his rune stance. The stance is still taught children in Scandinavia
when they are learning to ski; it is referred to as ploughing. It is amongst
the first skiing techniques learned; since it is used to slow down when going
downhill. Of course none of the parents teaching their kids have a clue that
they are teaching what we in stav regard to be a runic posture.

“bending bows,
billows ride”

Bending bows
refers to the art of shooting with bows, or archery; both as a martial art and
for hunting. It connects with the previous line; Ull is also the god of archery.
The name of Ulls rune is “Yr” which linguistically relates to the yew tree; traditionally
the preferred tree of making bows. According to Norse myths the domain of Ull
is called Ydalar, the valley of the yew. This is one of the instances were the
connection between a deity and rune as it is described within stav can be
confirmed. By using a logical approach to the preserved knowledge, it is
possible to reverse some of these connections; especially when we already have
the key as we do in stav.

The oral
stav tradition tells that the stav bow was a quite odd creation; it was a
combination of a spear and a bow, it had a spearhead attached at one end.
Another interesting thing in the oral myths of stav is that the bow could be
used as an improvised shield; redirecting the attack by having the attackers
axe bounce back of the string. It is said that the recoil when the weapon hits
the string is quite powerful and the attackers own weapon could potentially
harm himself on return.

“To ride
the billows” means to ride the waves by using a boat, the word billows imply
that this refers to the ocean and not a small lake. To be able to travel on a
boat would traditionally demand skills; especially to be able to cross the
ocean. Being able to travel over the sea shows that the traditional stav
practitioners did not see themselves as confined by their geography.

Traveling
by boat was a venture that demanded resources, and it is a statement on where
the traditional stav practitioners would see themselves in society. A farmer (the
karl class) would perhaps never be able to cross an ocean by boat, and if a
farmer were able to travel on a boat it would be because he was accepted there
by the owner of the boat; therefor he would probably not make a bold statement
that he was able to ride the billows.

“staves are
done, by Heimdall´s sons” – ties the whole poem together. Staves are done is
the seventh knowledge described within the poem- seven is a key number within
stav. Staves refer to the staves that constructs the runes, and doing staves
refers to performing the rune stances; which is the most essential practise
within the stav tradition. This is essentially where the name stav derives
from.

To be able
to do all the varieties of the stances demands a lot of knowledge about the
runes and how the galders within the tradition is performed. Knowing the runes out
of a stav perspective demands knowledge beyond using the runes as letters.

“By
Heimdall´s sons”; stav is in essence an intellectual spiritual tradition devoted
to Heimdall. Heimdall is seen as the god of knowledge and education, and this
poem is about the expected knowledge of the traditional stav practitioner.

The
traditional stav practitioners claimed to be descendants of Heimdall, which can
come across as somewhat strange to a modern person. But it was quite common
that Scandinavian nobility claimed to descend from Norse deities, this was an
important aspect of the pre-Christian cult. During the middle ages they
actually had to make up how the deities related to Jesus; since people did not
want to abandon their claim to be related to Norse gods.

This does
not exclude anyone; out of a stav perspective we all descend from the deities;
it does not matter if we are aware of it or not. Anyone that follows the
teachings within stav will honour their relation to Heimdall; and strengthen
their bond to him. As a devoted student of stav I consider myself to be a son
of Heimdall; both spiritually and philosophically. Working with this tradition
will change you; it is just your ego that set the boundaries on how much you
are able to change.

To sum it
all up; the stav poem is a statement or a declaration. The poem describes people that
would be able to live and prosper in all the natural elements; they would be
able to utilize dogs, horses and falcons in the open landscape and in the forests.
They would be able to ski during the winters and hunt with an arrow and a bow.
They were able to travel the oceans. They had an intellectual and spiritual approach
to the myths through their connection to Heimdall.

Since I always like to work with the methods within the tradition, I constructed a bind rune that visualises the information in the poem. This bind rune was very helpful when I memorized the content of the poem. This bind rune shows how specifically you can use the runes within the stav tradition when you are aware of their associations.

The way
that we work with bind runes within the stav tradition is really similar to the
way that Snorri Sturluson describes how to work with verse in his Edda. This
part is amongst the most beneficial portions of Snorris work; out of a
spiritual perspective, yet most people seem to ignore these chapters.

When we
work with bind runes, we utilize the associations of the runes, and the mythological
relations and connections around the rune. Sometimes we also use counterparts and
opposites, very similar to how Snorri describes kennings. The Eddas work with
words, stav uses graphical methods to illustrate the mythology; but when I have
worked with it intensively I have noticed that it often enough ends up in the
same place.

The purpose
with both the poetry and the stav bind runes is to develop a very different way
to use our brain compared to how most modern people seems to think. It
essentially develops a very esoteric and spiritual way of thinking. Those who
is trained in this art will become aware of patterns and under laying
information. The student will be able to see things that is hidden to most
people. The only negative thing that I have experienced is; that the more I
develop this way of using my brain- the harder I find it to relate to modern
people.

How old is
the poem?

It is
basically impossible to date this poem with certainty; the poem consists of
fairly modern Norwegian words. Perhaps the poem has been linguistically
updated? Perhaps the poem is a newer construction following the old Norse traditions
of poetry?

But there
are parallels to this poem, and to find them we need to go far back; to the
preserved Norse literature. Within the poem Rigstula we find something very
similar when we come to Jarl, the personification of the jarl class. Just as
stav; Rigstula centres around Heimdall. Rigstula describes how Heimdall created
and educated all the classes except the herse class. According to stavs
philosophy Heimdall is still mainly the patron of the jarl class, since he is a
bearer and transferor of knowledge.

Rigstula, stanza
35:

To grow in
the house,
did Jarl begin;
Shields he brandished,
and bow-strings wound;
bows he shot,
and shafts he fashioned;
Arrows he loosened, and lances wielded,
Horses he rode, and hounds unleashed;
Swords he handled, and sounds he swam.

Rigstula
describes almost the same skills as described by the stav poem. There are two references
to spears and three to archery; if we regard these as redundant information this
poem actually describes seven skills just as the stav poem. But this verse does
not mention runes, it is addressed in the next stanza of Rigstula.

In the
Orkneyingers’ Saga, who describes the history of the jarls of Orkney; there is
a poem accredited to Kale Kolsson. He describes that he knows nine skills,
amongst them knowledge of the runes:

“Draughts
I play with open hand,
games and feats so skilful nine;
writing runes to me comes ready;
books I read and smith’s work furnish;
I can glide on snow-shoon swift;
doughtily I shoot and row;
Either stands at my behest,
sweep of harp or burst of song.”

This poem
is also very similar to the stav poem. Kale can play draught, which refers to
the ancient board game Tafl, similar to chess. Kale knows the runes, he reads
books, he can do smiting and ski. He can shoot a bow and he can row a boat. He
can play the harp and knows how to make poetry.

Altogether
Kale gives the impression of being a culturally achieved person. Which is
expected, he comes from the top level of society. Kale is one of the jarls of
Orkney, and he descended from the mythical jarls of Møre in Norway. The oral history
of stav connects stavs origin partly to the jarls of Møre.

No matter
if the stav poem is ancient or a more recent expression of someone’s
creativity; it shows how well stav follows Norse tradition. The poem is written
in an ancient form of verse that most modern people of Scandinavia have never
heard of. Most of the skills mentioned would not be seen as more than trivia to
a modern person; but to anyone living in Scandinavia hundreds of years ago it
would have been seen a statement of belonging to the nobility.

The stav
poem in Norwegian:

Hunder hisser,
hester temmer,
falker flyger;
på ski farer,
buer bender,
bølger rider;
staver setter,
Heimdalls sønner.



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