Berkana, or Birch, the 18th rune, is often said to be named after the birch goddess. I think however the “goddess” part is modern mythology. Before I go any further I want to say that there’s nothing wrong with that – that’s how mythology gets made. It is interesting to see how ideas get put together and grow into something new.
Sheila’s Brush is a Newfoundland term for a storm on or about the 18th of March. Because Sheila’s storm comes just after St. Patrick’s Day, Sheila is often described as the saint’s wife or mother. You would think that this would be an Irish tradition as well, carried to the new world by immigrants, but it appears to be a local invention.
“The rowan is the salvation of Thor”, was a Icelandic proverb, and we have to wonder how this small tree could save a mighty god.
There are elder trees all over Europe and Asia, but no one has been able to trace a root word common to the Indo-European languages for it. Considering that other widespread trees like birch and oak do have names that are clearly related across the whole language family, it seems strange that a useful tree like the elder should be overlooked. (Hyllested: 119) Or was there a reason behind this refusal to name the tree?
A story in The Guardian about how Icelanders’ belief in elves can hinder construction, and how surprisingly common it is.
The other day I was browsing Tumblr and I turned up a post on Irish werewolves. I knew Irish mythology and folklore had lots of shapeshifters, but I had never heard of werewolves. Better still, it turned out that not only does Ireland have werewolves, but also its own form of Úlfhéðnar, the berserker-like wolf-warriors of Scandinavian legend.
There are no real wolves in Ireland any more, but they were once a very real menace, which would explain the large number of stories about them.
I have been intrigued for some time by a bit of lore that I’ve run across on several websites, without any credit given. It connects the Norse goddess Skadi and magpies, and makes several rather large claims about a “magpie clan” and a priestesshood, and it usually runs something like this: