IRISH MONKS AND RENEGRADE VIKINGS

VM irish monks and vikings- 2 copyBut it was 925 AD before Dicuil, an Irish monk records that his brethren had been visiting Thule for many years. He gives a description of that barren land that leaves little doubt that he is referring to Iceland. Saint Brendan’s sixth century Atlantic shuttles are set down in the twelfth century Navigato Sancti Brendani Abbati. Even Farley Mowat’s speculation in his book the Farfarers, of the westward trail of the fictitious Albans presents  very plausible candidates for the white robed men of Vitramannaland, also known as Albana or Ireland the Great which lies somewhere near Vinland.
The Vikings took to the sea very early and they traveled far and wide, to Miklagård, the great city of Constantine, while the West Vikings, the scourge of Europe, swarmed over the islands of the North Atlantic and up the Seine to Paris. By 874 Iceland had been “discovered and the adventurous Norse ranges farther west to Greenland and the illusive Vinland around 1000 AD.
The North Atlantic voyager who should be considered the discoverer of the New World was Gunbjorn, who fell afoul of Iceland and emerged from the fog on the rocky skerries off the east coast of Greenland sometime in the late ninth century. The sequel to Gunbjorn is told in both the Greenlander’s saga and Erick’s saga which tell of Bjarne Herjolfsson’s wind and fog-swept coasting west of his intended Greenland landfall. Leif Erickson later followed his wake but naming his own landfalls, Helluland, Markland and Vinland the Good. Thorfinn Karlsefni attempted permanent settlement at Hop in Vinland. Constant skirmishes with the natives contributed to the abandonment of Hop after three years and the saga record retreats into relative silence on the Vinland activities. Attempts to interpret the Zeno map and Nicholo Zeno’s 16th century report of his ancestor’s westward explorations with the Earl of Orkney have occupied English speaking investigators since its publication by Hakluyt in 1582. The leading candidate for the identity of the Orkney leader is Henry Sinclair, Earl of the Norse controlled Orkney Islands. The controversy continues with contemporary members of Clan Sinclair Henry’s greatest champions. Following the Da vinci Code a spate of Templar related books have proliferated.
Other than brief references by the saga men and rune carvers, we are left with a few Atlantic coast clam shells found in a Danish midden, a chunk of Rhode Island anthracite coal found in Greenland, a Norse penny in a native context in Maine and a Norse spindle whorl in the artifact collection unearthed at L’Anse aux Meadows, in Newfoundland for verified physical evidence.

ACROSS THE ATLANTIC, A NINETEENTH CENTURY VIEW

 

Jan Barstad, President of Chronognostic Research Foundation,In her research on source material for the 2001 excavation at the Newport Tower,  found this tantalizing document based on Papal Bulls from the Vatican Archives. Despite the obvious errors and the difficulty in interpreting the unfamiliar Norse original reports rendered into Church Latin and then into French, we felt that an English version would be a valuable contribution to our understanding of a 19th century view of Pre-Columbian America.

jelic_translation.pdf

Renegade Vikings

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Viking lore tells of long migrations of Germanic tribes into Scandinavia and the eventual melding with the native heirs of the red paint people. I believe that Norse mythology reflects folk memory of real events. The united body that would one day be known as the Vikings, took to the sea very early and they traveled far and wide. The Swedes went east down the Russian rivers to Miklagård—the great city of Constantine. Ingvar took his East Vikings as far as the Caspian Sea. His story is recorded in a series of memorial rune stones in Södermanland, Sweden. The West Vikings, the scourge of Europe, swarmed over all the island

The North Atlantic voyager who should be considered the discoverer of the New World was Gunbjorn, who fell afoul of Iceland and emerged from the fog on the rocky skerries off the east coast of Greenland sometime in the late ninth century. North American settlement, for Greenland is certainly geologically and geographically part of North America, began with the arrival of the outlawed Eric the red, with his band of settlers in 985 in the fjords of the west coast of Greenland. This settlement, known as the “Eastern Settlement” spawned another outpost three hundred miles to the north which was known as the “Western Settlement”. The two settlements struggled to survive until the Western Settlement was abandoned around 1340 and the “east” settlement disappeared during the little ice age of the mid-16th century. The fate of Vinland the Good is not so clearly documented.

Both the Greenlander’s saga and Erick’s saga tell of Bjarne Herjolfsson’s wind and fog-swept coasting west of his intended Greenland landfall. Leif Erickson later followed his wake but naming his own landfalls, Helluland, Markland and Vinland the Good. Members of the Erickson clan continued exploring and his sister-in-law with her second husband, Thorfinn Karlsefni attempted permanent settlement at Hop in Vinland. Constant skirmishes with the natives contributed to the abandonment of Hop after three years and the saga record retreats into relative silence on the Vinland activities.

Other than brief references by the saga men and rune carvers, we are left with a few Atlantic coast clam shells found in a Danish midden, a chunk of Rhode Island anthracite coal found in Greenland, a Norse penny in a native context in Maine and a Norse spindle whorl in the artifact collection unearthed at L’Anse aux Meadows, in Newfoundland for verified physical evidence.

The “context for controversy” emerged back in the 1830’s when Carl Christian Rafn, Danish antiquarian, scholar, professor, Royal Councilor and possessor of formidable knowledge of the repertoire of Old Norse literature, published his Antiquae Americanae. In it, he presented a forceful case for Norse presence along the New England coast which included the Dighton writing rock and the Newport Tower. This enthusiastic support set off a flurry of interest, explorations, discoveries and proofs in a search for Leif’s Vinland. Armed with this or that theory, amateurs and professionals alike scoured the countryside looking for clues, especially runic inscriptions. Since those days words, phrases, pleas and prayers have been discerned carved on stone in a myriad of languages from a myriad of times to bolster the faith of diffusionists.

IRISH MONKS

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But it was 925 AD before Dicuil, an Irish monk, records that his brethren had been visiting Thule for many years. He gives a description of that barren land that leaves little doubt that he is referring to Iceland. Saint Brendan’s sixth century Atlantic shuttles are set down in the twelfth century Navigatio Sancti Brendani Abbati. Even Farley Mowat’s latest speculation in his book, the Farfarers, of the westward trail of his fictitious Albans presents very plausible candidates for the white robed men of Vitramannaland, also known as Albania or Ireland the Great which lies somewhere near Vinland.

 

The earliest extan200px-Saint brendan german manuscriptt version of The Voyage of Saint Brendan was recorded around 900 AD. There are over 100 manuscripts of the story across Europe, as well as many additional translations. The Voyage of Saint Brendan is an overtly Christian narrative, but also contains narratives of natural phenomena and fantastical events and places, which appealed to a broad populace. The Voyage of Saint Brendan contains many parallels and inter-textual references to the Voyage of Bran and the Voyage of Máel Dúin.

 

Chapter Synopsis:

Saint Barrid tells of his visit to the Island of Paradise, which prompts Brendan to go in search of the isle.

  1. Brendan assembles 14 monks to accompany him.
  2. They fast at three-day intervals for 40 days, and visit Saint Enda for three days and three nights.
  3. Three latecomers join the group. They interfere with Brendan's sacred numbers.
  4. They find an island with a dog, mysterious hospitality (no people, but food left out), and an Ethiopian devil.
  5. One latecomer admits to having stolen from the mysterious island, Brendan exorcises the Ethiopian devil from the latecomer, latecomer dies and is buried.
  6. They find an island with a boy who brings them bread and water.
  7. They find an island of sheep, eat some, and stay for Holy Week (before Easter).
  8. They find the island of Jasconius, have Easter Mass, and hunt whales and fish.
  9. They find an island that is the Paradise of Birds, and the birds sing psalms and praise the Lord.
  10. They find the island of the monks of Ailbe, with magic loaves, no aging, and complete silence. They celebrate Christmas.
  11. A long voyage after Lent. They find an island with a well, and drinking the water puts them to sleep for 1, 2, or 3 days based on the number of cups each man drank.
  12. They find a "coagulated" sea.
  13. They return to the islands of Sheep, Jasconius, and the Paradise of Birds. A bird prophesies that the men must continue this year-long cycle for seven years before they will be holy enough to reach the Island of Paradise.
  14. A sea creature approaches the boat, but God shifts the sea to protect the men. Another sea creature comes, chops the first into three pieces, and leaves. The men eat the dead sea creature.
  15. They find an island of 3 choirs of anchorites (monks), who give them fruit, and the second latecomer stays behind when the others leave.
  16. They find an island of grapes, and stayed for 40 days.
  17. They find a gryphon and a bird battle. The gryphon dies.
  18. To the monastery at Ailbe again for Christmas.
  19. The sea is clear, and many threatening fish circle their boat, but God protects them.
  20. They find an island, but when they light a fire, the island sinks; it is actually a whale.
  21. They pass a "silver pillar wrapped in a net" in the sea.
  22. They pass an island of blacksmiths, who throw slag at them.
  23. They find a volcano, and the third latecomer is taken by demons down to Hell.
  24. They find Judas sitting unhappily on a cold, wet rock in the middle of the sea, and discover that this is his respite from Hell for Sundays and feast days. Brendan protects Judas from the demons of Hell for one night.
  25. They find an island where Paul the Hermit has lived a perfect monastic life for 60 years. He wears nothing but hair and is fed by an otter.
  26. They return to the island of Sheep, Jasconius, and the Paradise of Birds.
  27. They find the Promised Land of the Saints.
  28. They return home, and Brendan dies.

NEARA Journal Vol 26, No 3&4 69-92

Books

Anderson, Rasmus B.ed. 1906 The Flatey Book and recently discovered Vatican Manuscripts, New York, Norroena Society.

Brondsted, Johannes 1960 The Vikings, London, Penguin

Goodwin, William B. 1946 The Ruins of Great Ireland in New England, Meador Publishing Company, Boston

Gordon, Cyrus H. 1974 Riddles in History, New York, Crown Publishers

Hakluyt, Richard 1582 Divers Voyages Touching on the Discoverie of America. London

Harbison, Peter 1976 The Archaeology of Ireland, Charles Scribner’s Sons, New York

Holand, Hjalmar R. 1940. Westward From Vinland, New York, Duell, Sloan & Pearce,

Ingstad, Helge 1966 Land Under the Pole Star, New York, St. Martin’s Press

Larsson, Mats G. 1990 Ett Odesdigert Vikingatag Sodra Sandy, SW. Atlandtis

Lindal, Sigurðr 1992 Saga Islands, Islendinga Fornrit, Reykjavik

Mowart, Farley 1965 West Vikings, Toronto, McClelland & Stewart.

Mowart, Farley 1998 The Farfarer: Before the Norse, Toronto, Key Porter Books.

Paulsson, Herman and Magnus Magnusson 1965 The Vinland Sagas: The Norse Discovery of America, New York, Penguin.

Percy, Bishop 1847 Northern Antiquities, London, Henry Bohn.

Pohl, Frederick J. 1972 The Viking Settlements of North America, New York, Clarkson N. Potter

Shetelig, Haakon and Hjalmar Falk 1978 Scandinavian Archaeology, New York: Hacker Art Books

Wachtmeister, Ingegerd, ed. 1984 Runstenar i Södermanland, Nyköping, Södermanlands Museum

Þorgillsson, Ari the Wise 1909ed Islendinabok og Landnamabok, Felagsprenntsmiðjan, Reykjavik.

 

Links

Diplomatarium Norvegicum, Part of the Dokumentasjon Prosjektet, www.dokkpro.uio.no/dipl_norv/diplom_ felt.htlm

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