news report on Channel 4 this evening notes that the library at Irby was one of those scheduled to close, and also shows this fine old signpost of the footpath to Thurstaston. Both Irby and Thurstaston are places that can trace their origins to the Viking settlement of Wirral in the tenth century, as you can read, if you are interested, in Paul Cavill et al., Wirral and its Viking Heritage, 2000.
Today's Guardian editorial is 'In praise of ... British cheeses' - hear, hear! I think we can all assent to that... News to me, however, is that a Scottish cheese called crowdie 'traces its origin to the Viking invasion'. I suppose this is part of the general tendency to ascribe all good things to the Vikings, so I can second that. However, the OED claims its derivation is unknown, merely noting that 'Jamieson conjectured some connexion with GROUT, and Icel. groutr [sic] porridge; this suits the sense, but leaves phonetic conditions unsatisfied'. Quite. Thus do scholarly conjectures turn into newspaper fact... The 'porridge' meaning, by the way, is now obsolete according to the OED, but the second meaning it lists is 'in some parts of the north of Scotland, a peculiar preparation of milk' (eh?). The northern distribution may I suppose reflect Viking influence, and here I must recall one of my earlier posts on this blog, just over a year ago, about Crowdie Vikings, so maybe there is something in it.
Happy New Year to one and all, Viking or no Viking!
31 December 2009
22 December 2009
most recent blog, posted by Lisbeth Imer on 15 December, shows a recent find of a bronze runic amulet (from near Ribe) which has not yet been fully interpreted but seems to contain the word þurs ... interesting!
11 December 2009
news item on the BBC the other day. Because the BBC report implied it was being tried out in the Pentland Firth, it reminded me of an Old Norse legend, a version of the widespread aetiological tale in which an undersea salt mill is said to be the reason why the sea is salt. One version of this tale attaches this legend to the Swelkie (sometimes written Swilkie or Swelchie), a fearsome tidal whirlpool in the Pentland Firth (I've discussed this a bit in this paper from the Durham Saga-Conference and also in one from the Uppsala Saga-Conference, which can be downloaded here). This picture of the turbine looks just like how I imagined the salt-mill...
06 December 2009
Everyone's favourite Vikings, the Lewis playing pieces, are in the news again. There is an article in Medieval Archaeology (which I haven't fully digested yet) propounding new theories about what kind of board game the pieces were used for (hnefatafl rather than chess), and why they were found on Lewis (belonged to a rich person who lived there, rather than just accidentally shipwrecked there). No doubt the press accounts (e.g. the BBC website) oversimplify a more nuanced academic article, so I am looking forward to reading that (there is also a bit more detail in the press release). The article is in fact available free online, so it will save me a trip to the library! I have a particular interest, because I have recently argued that one of Earl Rögnvaldr's verses contains a reference to chess, and draw the parallel with the roughly contemporary Lewis pieces.
The other bit of news is that a selection of the playing pieces will go on tour around Scotland in 2010-11: full details are available from the National Museums of Scotland website.