Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Finland teems with stories of werwolves

However, in Finland as in Scandinavia, it is very difficult to procure information as to werwolves. The common peasant, who alone knows anything about the anomaly, is withheld by superstition from even mentioning its name; and if he mentions a werwolf at all, designates him only as the "old one," or the "grey one," or the "great dog," feeling that to call this terror by its true name is a sure way to exasperate it. It is only by strategy one learns from a peasant that when a fine young ox is found in the morning breathing hard, his hide bathed in foam, and with every sign of fright and exhaustion, while, perhaps, only one trifling wound is discovered on the whole body, which swells and inflames as if poison had been infused, the animal generally dying before night; and that when, on examination of the corpse, the intestines are found to be torn as with the claws of a wolf, and the whole body is in a state of inflammation, it is accounted certain that the mischief has been caused by a werwolf.

It is thus a werwolf serves his quarry when he kills for the mere love of killing, and not for food.

Elliott O'Donnell: Werwolves

A budget of home-made Christmas gifts

Sand-Bags for Windows.

These are capital presents for grandmammas whose windows rattle in winter weather and let cold air in between the sashes. You must measure the window, and cut in stout cotton cloth a bag just as long as the sash is wide, and about four inches across. Stitch this all round, leaving one end open, and stuff it firmly with fine, dry sand. Sew up the open end, and slip the bag into an outer case of bright scarlet flannel, made just a trifle larger than the inner one, so that it may go in easily. Lay the sand-bag over the crack between the two sashes, and on cold nights, when you are asleep, grandmamma will rejoice in the little giver of such a comfortable bulwark against the wind.

A Work Basket in Vanilla Grass.

If any of you live where the sweet-scented vanilla grass grows plentifully, you can make a delicious little basket by drying the long wiry blades, braiding them in strands of three, tying the ends firmly together to make a long braid, and coiling and sewing as in straw plaiting. Two circles the size of a dessert plate should be prepared, one for the bottom of the basket, and the other for the top of the lid (the latter a trifle the larger). Then draw the braid tighter, and form a rim to each about two inches deep. The lid, which is separate, fits over the bottom, and the scent of the grass will impart itself to everything kept in the basket.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

In this expectation they were not deceived.

In this expectation they were not deceived. About a week after the offer had been proclaimed, a Finnish peasant (one of the Quäns, as they are called) made his appearance at their headquarters, add announced that he had “ringed” a black bear. It was welcome tidings; and the young Russians at once proceeded to the indicated place.

It may be necessary to explain what the man meant when he told them he had “ringed” the bear; since that is a phrase of specific meaning throughout the countries of Scandinavia. In these countries, when the track of a bear is observed in the snow, it is followed up by the person who has discovered it, with the intention of “ringing” the animal—that is, ascertaining as near as maybe, the locality in which it may have halted from its rambles, and lain down to rest. Of course, if the person thus trailing the bear be a hunter—or if it be a party of hunters actually engaged in the chase, they will keep on until they have found the bear in his den. But in nine cases out of ten, bears are not pursued in this fashion. Generally, their haunt—whether temporary or otherwise—has been ascertained beforehand, by some shepherd or woodcutter, and a party of hunters then proceeds to the spot, and makes a surround of the animal before rousing him from his lair.

This “surround,” however, has nothing whatever to do with the “ringing” of the bear, which is an operation of a different character, and is performed by the party who has first chanced upon the tracks. The mode of proceeding is simply to follow the trail, or spar, of the bear as silently as possible—until the tracker has reason to believe that the animal is not far off. This he discovers by observing that the spar no longer trends in a direct line, but doubles about in zigzags, and backward turnings, upon itself; for when a bear intends to lie down, it is his habit to quarter the ground in every direction, precisely as does the hare before squatting in her form.

Captain Mayne Reid: Bruin. The Grand Bear Hunt

Thursday, November 18, 2010

What are we getting from Russia?

Until now Finland has been resigned to all these disadvantages ; but these are increasing as reactionary tendencies grow upon the Russian Government. The St. Petersburg police find the protection accorded to individual liberty by the constitution daily more inconvenient. The arbitrary arrest, in 1882, of two Finland citizens at Helsingfors, the capital of the principality, called forth an energetic protest from the Senate. The reactionary party around Alexander III. is always working against the "un-just privileges " of Finland. The rigid protectionists, who have, these last few years, sacrificed all general political interests to those of the manufacturers of Moscow, sing the same song. In Moscow the competition of Finland is looked upon as insurmountable, and the Government, in its weakness, is beginning to multiply the barriers between the empire and the great principality.

Further, the Finlanders are asking themselves, again and again, this question: "What are we getting from Russia? What are the advantages to make us forget the inconveniences of our union with an arbitrary country?" Discontent, hitherto dumb, is being shown more and more frequently in hostile manifestations against Russia, and these manifestations, in their turn, are fresh reasons alleged in favour of a decisive policy by the Russian reactionaries.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

An approximate knowledge even of Norway, Sweden, Finland

Born at Ceuta in 1099, this great geographer travelled through Spain, France, the Western Mediterranean, and North Africa before settling at the Norman Court of Palermo. Roger, the most civilised prince in Christendom, the final product of the great race of Robert Guiscard and William the Conqueror, valued Edrisi at his proper worth, refused to part with him, and employed men in every part of the world to collect materials for his study. Thus the Moor gained, not only for the Moslem world but for Southern Europe as well, an approximate knowledge even of Norway, Sweden, Finland, and the coasts of the White Sea.

C. Raymond Beazley: Prince Henry the Navigator, the Hero of Portugal and of Modern Discovery, 1394-1460 A.D. With an Account of Geographical Progress Throughout the Middle Ages As the Preparation for His Work.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

It was Groa the Witch, thy Finnish bedmate

"I had no hand. If any did this thing, it was Groa the Witch, thy Finnish bedmate. For the rest, I was mad and know not what I did. But hearken, Asmund: ill shall befall thee and thy house, and I will ever be thy foe. Moreover, I will yet wed this maid of thine. And now, thou Eric, hearken also: I will have another game with thee. This one was but the sport of boys; when we meet again—and the time shall not be long—swords shall be aloft, and thou shalt learn the play of men. I tell thee that I will slay thee, and tear Gudruda, shrieking, from thy arms to be my wife! I tell thee that, with yonder good sword Whitefire, I will yet hew off thy head!"—and he choked and stopped.

H. Rider Haggard: Eric Brighteyes

Monday, November 1, 2010

Wild wailing wind of misfortune and sorrow

Finnish wizards used to sell wind to storm-stayed mariners. The wind was enclosed in three knots; if they undid the first knot, a moderate wind sprang up; if the second, it blew half a gale; if the third, a hurricane. Indeed the Esthonians, whose country is divided from Finland only by an arm of the sea, still believe in the magical powers of their northern neighbours. The bitter winds that blow in spring from the north and north-east, bringing ague and rheumatic inflammations in their train, are set down by the simple Esthonian peasantry to the machinations of the Finnish wizards and witches. In particular they regard with special dread three days in spring to which they give the name of Days of the Cross; one of them falls on the Eve of Ascension Day. The people in the neighbourhood of Fellin fear to go out on these days lest the cruel winds from Lappland should smite them dead. A popular Esthonian song runs:

Wind of the Cross! rushing and mighty!
Heavy the blow of thy wings sweeping past!
Wild wailing wind of misfortune and sorrow,
Wizards of Finland ride by on the blast.

James George Frazer: The Golden Bough