Saga of Othala, ch. XVI: The Standing Stone, Skin of the Bear, and the Viking Sheep Funeral

Two years in the making, a Viking runestone is carved and raised at the land of Othala, by this fellow of the Rune Gild, under the guide of my great mentor and Scottish storyteller, master P.D. Brown.

In the first winter, the stone was meditated upon, studied for its strong points and for ease of carving with cold forged tools. In the second winter, a draft was made for the runic inscription in a journal and stenciled into the face with a graphite pencil. In the dawn of spring, chisel was hammered on slate over four weekends to rist the runes right. Then ferric iron oxide pigment was brought in from France, and stained over the course of four weekends. The prospective masterwork is the grand culmination nearly a decade of nomadic traveling and the finding of land and estate in the maritime of Vinland. The stone announces my settlement at Othala, seeking a wife and a tribe, after my last foray in Africa and long years gone a’Viking. Here I compose a poem about the rune stone process:

From slab of slate, forgotten in Urð

Wrested out by hands, its Wyrd is Rebirth

Two Winters air, seasoned Meditations

Of Runes to Rist, with intention and patience

Traced and carved, by Iron and Wood

For right Saga be told, destined by Skuld, told as it should

When last Stave was Stained, the Red Runes brought mirth

Raised in the hall of Othala, to hail this Man’s worth

The longhall has received a wayfarer from the southern lands of Kentucky recently. A man of stoic countenance, and sound resolve. After living in an ashram, and a national forest land for two years in the United States, he has flocked north, where he stayed at a farm in Maine, and crossed in Kanada for a visit to Othala. For two days, we stocked up on meaningful experiences, sharing out a workload infused with as much ceremony as labor. In the first day, we fleshed the fat from a male black bear that was gifted to me last autumn before my trip into Tanzania and South Africa. He hibernated in his soul skin inside my freezer for 10 months before finally thawing out. We used an ulu and a hunting knife to slim down the fat of the bear, which after being rendered, yielded nearly a liter of bear grease and a pound or two of black bear crackling for my dog. Tradition did not mind the extra hair and gristle in his primal energy snacks. This was my friends first time working with fresh hides, and the first with Black Bear energy. He expressed later that the experience was on the frontier of his comfort level, just enough to transcend the fear of turning away from the task, but well beyond any mundane task that could be extended from his service. For this reflection I felt extremely grateful, and I consider it important to provide the space and inspiration for those seeking the expansion of their own personal, and spiritual boundaries. To hold the role of the conscious instigator, the bridge builder our the guide through the non-ordinary experience of trying something new. We toiled with the bear, until the combined effects of the flies, the scent of the fat heating up in the scalding sun, and the soreness of the wrists arrested our progress and we could do no more. I had a cold shower on the moss, a nap in the cabin, and we regrouped around the fire for mead and meat. Later I built a frame and tanned White-tail deer in a solo effort, after traveling with the hide to Fredericton where I could access a greenhouse. Here it remains safe and dry away from bugs while it cures.

Day two brought some persistent drizzle, and grim skies so the bear needed be rolled up into a feed sack until the weather turned. Bear was ready for his tan, but the hide could not get wet. Instead we pitched and heaved shovelfuls of gravel into a circular pad for the future base of the Mongol-hut. This went handsomely well between the two of us, the slag of the sky keeping some of the pestiferous insects from our aura. A fellow of mine called up to ask me if I could provide a funeral for one of his sheep that died over the weekend. He was in Newfoundland and unable to do the service for this fallen ram. His specific request was for a Viking cremation ceremony rather than burial, which fell on open ears and a receptive spirit. Luckily my guest was still with me, so I brought him along for the experience. At the site, we brought the horned one out into a clearing where several felled trees waited as pyres for our Ram. I hoisted him onto my shoulders and set him in a tangle of tree roots, and piled straw around him. His body half in rigormortis was set in a stampeding position, as his spirit seemed to quicken from his physical vessel. With five gallons of fuel and three bales we set alight the gargantuan pile of deadwood with the sheep inside as the blaze grew into a raging burning beast. Saved were two blackened horns which were kept as memorandum of the event.

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