Friday, September 22, 2017

Quote of the Day - Astrid Lindgren

Astrid Lindgren/Photo: Den Store Danske

A childhood without books – that would be no childhood. That would be like being shut out from the enchanted place where you can go and find the rarest kind of joy.”

Astrid Lindgren

Thursday, September 21, 2017

Serious Insect Crisis

 When do we wake up?

Queen of Spain Fritillary/Storplettet Perlemorsommerfugl/ photo GB

Butterflies and other insects are rapidly declining everywhere in Europe - and not least in Denmark. Scientists point, among other things, to pesticides, monoculture and lack of space as reasons.
A new investigation published in the prestigious journal Science shows that the insects of Europe disappear -  this is even a talk about an ecological collapse. The German scientists have examined the insect occurrence in more than 100 nature reserves in western Europe - and the insects are extinct even in the nature reserves. The biomass of insects have fallen with more than 80 %.

The drastic decline for the insects of Europe could mean a decline in the number of birds, which has already been identified in Denmark, where since the 1970s four out of five partridges, three out of four lapwings and more than half the skylarks have disappeared. Huge areas - which earlier was nature- were ploughed without putting something else instead -  and at the same time we experience the climate changes.

Sad but true -many Danish politicians apparently do not care, on the contrary there is a support for that Denmark - as one of few countries of EU - fights against a ban on pesticides, ( because the Danish agriculture demands it), which could represent a risc both to ourselves and the wild bees.

It is said that the approval of spraying in Denmark is tough, but in the approval is alone considered if a substance is representing a risc for the ground water or if it is exceeding limits in our food. It is not  evaluated what happens upon the ground and it is not taken into account that herbicides like Roundup, which is the most used in Denmark,  simply removes all plant growth where it hits -  or that 2.500 tons various active substances are spread over 60 % of Denmarks area each year -  or that the agriculture is allowed to use almost 1.000 various products.

This means that organisms in the earth, the wild plants of the fields and the insects upon the plants and the birds who live by the insects are being pushed more and more in the intensive Danish farm land. This happens in a degree where we are the witness of a slow collapse of ecological balances in the whole open countryside. This also applies to nature reserves.


Source: Excerpt of article by Ella Maria Bisschop-Larsen, Præsident for Danmarks Naturfredningsforening, Journal "Natur og Miljø",  September 2017. 

Bumblebee/ photo:GB

An ecological study in Western Germany. 
The amount of insects collected by monitoring of traps in Orbroicher Bruch nature reserve in north west germany decreased by 78% in 24 years.

Each spring since 1989 insect traps have been set up in meadows and woodlands in Orbroicher Bruch nature reserve and 87 other nature areas in the West German state Nordrhein-Westfalen.

Recently the scientists presented alarming results: The average biomass of insects caught during summer was decreased from 1,6 kilo pr. trap in 1989 till only 300 gram pr. trap in 2014.

"The decline is dramatic and depressing and this applies to all kinds of insects, including butterflies, wild bees and hoverflies ", says Martin Sorg, who is entomologist from  Krefeld Entomological Society, which is responsible for the monitoring project.

Several other studies from the western part of the world support the results from Germany.

The insects disappear everywhere.

Grethe Bachmann
Source/ Natur og Miljø, September 2017 

Saturday, September 16, 2017

Thursday, September 14, 2017

European Birthwort/ Hjertebladet Slangerod

Aristolochia clematitis

European Birthwort 1885/ wikipedia
The (European) birthwort, (DK: Hjertebladet Slangerod)  is a twining herbaceous plant in the Aristolochiae family, which is native to Europe. The leaves are heart-shaped and the (carrion smelling) pale yellow flowers are tubular in form. The plant seeks light by ascending the stems of surrounding plants. It is connected to light-open habitats with dry and warm soil which has a high contents of nutrients and calcium. In Denmark it is cultivated in gardens and parks and is sometimes seen growing wild, especially at kloster sites and castle ruins. Autumn colour yellow-brown.

European birthwort/wikipedia
The name Aristolochia comes from the Greek word aristos which means best and lochia which means birth. The plant was known in the classical antiquity to start births . The Danish name slangerod refers to its use against snake bites.

Folk Medicine 
Birthwort was used in a decoct which was drunk as a sweat- and diuretic means; a decoct was also drunk against against jaundice and leaves and roots for healing wounds. The plant contains a substance which activated the white blood cells.  The root was stuck in the abdomen to promote birth.

Because of similarity to slangeurt (Polygonum bistorta) and corydalis (lærkespore) it is in early literature difficult to identify the botanic species.

Kloster garden(/ photo: GB
Harpestræng ab. 1300:
The physicians often distinguished between the drugs Aristolochia longa (DK: lang hulurt) and Aristolochia rotunda ( DK: rund hulurt) and Aristolochia clematitis (European birthwort/hjertebladet slangerod.)
A. rotunda: to drink with wine after poisonous bite; it drives out the afterbirth; to drink with water for cough; crushed as a cover on gouts; mixed with honey as a wound healing cover; to drink for fever; used as a smoking against insanity.

Christiern Pedersen 1533:
crushed plant to drink with wine or beer for breast pain; vinegar decoct as a cover for stomach pain; crushed root with wine or beer against malaria , to drink with wine after snake bite.
Henrik Smid 1546:
cooked with myrrha and pepper in wine for drink to drive out the afterbirth and all filthiness; wine decoct cleans and heals all internal wounds and broken lungs, liver and uterus; fresh crushed root used as cover drives out thorns, arrows etc. from wounds and heals it. A. rotunda to drink with wine against the plague, drives out sweat and urine and counteracts jaundice; crushed seeds with a drink against diarrhea.  Barbers used the root to heal and dry all runny wounds.
Simon Paulli 1648:
root to make the flesh grow after abscesses; the root is good for itching and scabies; decoct of leaves and roots for bathing mange and wounds on hands and feet. Some say the leaves should be smoked under newborn babies if they looked fragile and sick.

The rootstock of Aristolochia longa and Aristolochia rotunda were written into the Pharmacopoeia in 1772. 

Livestock: the plant was also used in diseases of the livestock: cattle, horse, swine, sheep and poultry.

The plant was revered by ancient healing book- authors who recommended it against snake bites.  Having a root in the pocket as an amulet against toothache.

European Birthwort/ wikipedia
Poisonous Plant:
It was formerly used as a medicinal plant, though it is poisonous , and is now occasionally found established outside of its native range as a relic of cultivation. It is now thought to be the cause of thousands of kidney failures in Romania, Bulgaria, Serbia, Bosnia and Herzegovina and Croatia where the plant is thought to be unintentionally consumed through contaminated flour. Urinary tract malignacies among those who have consumed the plant are also reported. The link between renal failure and aristolochid acid, which the plant contains, was discovered after a clinic for obesity in Belgium, some of the patients experienced kidney failure.

Because of its toxicity it must be warned to use the plant or parts of it as a natural medicine.

All parts of the plant are considered carcinogenic (kræftfremkaldende) and kidney damaging. 

Danske Klosterurter, Anemette Olesen, Aschehoug 2001. 
Brøndegaard, Dansk Etnobotanik, Folk og flora, bd. 3, 1978-80.

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Friday, September 08, 2017

Anna Pavlova - a legendary Ballerina

Anna Pavlovna (Matveyevna) Pavlova was a Russian prima ballerina and the first ballerina to tour ballet around the world. She was born on February 12, 1881 in Saint Petersburg to a single mother. Anna's mother married when Anna was three years old, and her stepfather Matvey Pavlov adopted her and gave her his surname. Her mother took her to the theater to see the ballet "The Sleeping Beauty" and Anna never forgot. She wanted to be a ballerina and came on audition for the Imperial Ballet School, where she was accepted at age 10 in 1891. Her training years were difficult, but she did not give up the training in order to improve her technique. She took lessons from the best teachers. In 1898 was her final year at the Imperial Ballet School and she performed many roles with the principal company. She graduated in 1899 at age 18 and made her official debut. Her performance drew praise from the ctitics.

Pavlova performed in various ballets. Her enthusiasm often led her astray: once during a performance  she lost her balance, and she ended up falling into the prompter's box. Her weak ankles led to difficulty while performing as the fairy Candide in Petipa's The Sleeping Beauty . Once during class she caused her teacher to fly into a rage. He told her "you have to leave acrobatics to others. I beg you to never again try to imitate those who are physically stronger than you". Pavlova rose through the ranks quickly and she was named danseuse in 1902, première danseuse in 1905, and finally prima ballerina in 1906 after a resounding performance in Giselle.

Anna Pavlova is perhaps most renowned for creating the role of the Dying Swan, a solo choreographed for her by Mikhail Fokine . The ballet, created in 1905, is danced to Le Cygne from The Carnival of the Animals by Camille Saint-Saëns. She also choreographed several solos herself, one of which is The Dragonfly, a short ballet set to music by Fritz Kreisler. In the first years of the Ballets Russes, Pavlova worked briefly for Sergei Diaghilev. Originally she was to dance the lead in Mikhail Fokine's The Firebird, but refused the part, as she could not come to terms with Igor Stravinsky's avant-garde score, and the role was given to Tamara Karsavina. All her life Pavlova preferred the melodious "musique dansante" of the old maestros and cared little for anything else which strayed from the salon-style ballet music of the 19th century.

By the early 20th century she had founded her own company and performed throughout the world, with a repertory consisting primarily of abridgements of Petipa's works, and specially choreographed pieces for herself. In 1916 she produced a fifty-minute adaptation of The Sleeping Beauty in New York City. Members of her company were largely English girls with Russianized names. She also performed many ‘ethnic’ dances, some of which she learned from local teachers during her travels. In addition to the dances of her native Russia, she performed Mexican, Japanese, and East Indian dances. In 1915, she appeared in a film, The Dumb Girl of Portici, in which she played a mute girl betrayed by an aristocrat. Pavlova was introduced to audiences in the United States by Max Rabinoff during his time as managing director of the Boston Grand Opera Company from 1914 to 1917 and was featured there with her Russian Ballet Company during that period.

Victor Dandré, her manager and companion, was her husband. He wrote of Pavlova's many charity dance performances and charitable efforts to support Russian orphans in post WWI, Paris...who were in danger of finding themselves literally in the street. They were already suffering terrible privations and it seemed as though there would soon be no means whatever to carry on their education. Fifteen girls were adopted into a home Pavlova purchased near Paris at Saint-Cloud. During her life she had many pets including a Siamese cat, various dogs and many kinds of birds, including swans. Dandré indicated she was a lifelong lover of animals and this is evidenced by photographic portraits she sat for which often included an animal she loved. A formal studio portrait was made of her with Jack, her favorite swan.
After leaving Russia, Pavlova moved to London, settling, in 1912, at the Ivy House on North End Road, north of Hampstead heath, where she lived for the rest of her life. The house had an ornamental lake where she fed her pet swans, and where now stands a statue of her. The house was featured in the film Anna Pavlova. While in London, Pavlova was influential in the development of British ballet. While touring in Hague Pavlova was told that she had pneumonia and required an operation. She was also told that she would never be able to dance again if she went ahead with it. She refused to have the surgery, saying "If I can't dance then I'd rather be dead." She died of pleurisy, in the bedroom next to the Japanese Salon of the Hotel Des Indes in The Hague, three weeks short of her 50th birthday. Victor Dandré wrote that Anna Pavlova died a half hour past midnight on Friday, January 23, 1931, with her maid Marguerite Letienne, Dr. Zalevsky and himself at her bedside. Her last words were, "Get my 'Swan' costume ready".

In accordance with old ballet tradition, on the day she was to have next performed, the show went on as scheduled, with a single spotlight circling an empty stage where she would have been. Memorial services were held in the Russian Orthodox Church in London. Anna Pavlova was cremated, and her urn was at Golders Green, adorned  with her ballet shoes (which have since been stolen).

The Pavlova Dessert is believed to have been created in honour of the dancer in Wellington during her tour of New Zealand and Australia in the 1920s. The nationality of its creator has been a source of argument between the two nations for many years.

The Jarabe Tapatio, known in English as the 'Mexican Hat Dance', gained popularity outside of Mexico when Pavlova created a staged version, for which she was showered with hats by her adoring Mexican audiences. Afterward, in 1924, the Jarabe Tapatío was proclaimed Mexico's national dance.

In 1980, Igor Carl Fabergé licensed a collection of 8-inch Full Lead Crystal Wine Glasses to commemorate the centenary of Anna's birth. The glasses were crafted in Japan under the supervision of The Franklin Mint. A frosted image of Anna Pavlova appears in the stem of each glass. Originally each set contained 12 glasses.

Pavlova's life was depicted in the 1983 film Anna Pavlova.

Pavlova's dances inspired many artworks of the Irish painter John Lavery. The critic of The Observer wrote on 16 April 1911: 'Mr. Lavery's portrait of the Russian dancer Anna Pavlova, caught in a moment of graceful, weightless movement … Her miraculous, feather-like flight, which seems to defy the law of gravitation'

When the Victoria Palace Theatre in London, opened in 1911, a gilded statue of Pavlova had been installed above the cupola of the theatre. This was taken down for its safety during WWII and was lost. In 2006, a replica of the original statue was restored in its place.

A McDonnell Douglas MD-11 of the Dutch airline KLM with the registration PH-KCH carried her name. It was delivered on August 31, 1995

Anna Pavlova appears as a character in Rosario Ferre's  novel Flight of the Swan.

Anna Pavlova appears as a character in the fourth episode of the British series Mr. Selfridge, played by real-life ballerina Natalia Kremen.

photo: from wikipedia

Quote of the day - Mark Twain

If you tell the truth you don't have to remember anything.

Mark Twain

Thursday, September 07, 2017

Common Rue; Herb-of-Grace/ Almindelig Rude

Ruta graveolens

Common Rue(Almindelig Rude) 
Ruta graveolens, commonly known as rue, common rue or herb-of-grace, is a species of ruta grown as an ornamental plant or herb. It is an aromatic half shrub with a loose, bushy growth and with yellowish-green leaves and small yellow flowers. The yellow flowers arrive in June-August; the fruits are capsules with many seeds. The root system has many heavy and deep roots with few side roots. It is native to the Balkan Peninsula; it grows in dry regions and has adjusted the Mediterranean climate. 

The name ruta comes from the Greek word yte, which means window (Danish: rude) and graveolens means strong smell.

It is grown throughout the world in gardens, especially for its bluish leaves, and sometimes for its tolerance of hot and dry soil conditions. It is also cultivated as a medicinal herb, as a condiment, and to a lesser extent as an insect repellent. Common rue was always valuated because of its ability to repel pests (like cucumber beetles). The species was earlier used as a medical plant and as a spice herb but today mostly used as a drought tolerant, ornamental plant. Rue has a bitter and sharp taste and is not usable in the kitchen, but the plant is good in making some low small hedges in the herbal garden, since it can withstand cropping.

The common rue (Ruta graveolens) is commonly cultivated in Denmark. Today is is preferred in many homes and gardens because of its strong scent and its ability to repel  insects from some crops. Rue grows wild in a few places in Denmark, feral from earlier cultivation as a medical and spice herb.


Fresh rue was used in magical rituals since antiquity, and it is one of the earliest garden plants, which was cultivated for its magic abilities. Several  ancient civilizations used rue and worshiped its powers. During the Middle Ages rue was a very used medical plant, used against various diseases. The whole plant is rich in etheric oils and has a strong unpleasant smell. The Romans  and Greeks used it in antiquity as a spice and as a medicine, and it was later famous for attenuating the lust of the flesh in monks and nuns. In the year 795 king Ludwig the Pious ordered that rue had to grow in all kloster gardens and that nuns and monks had to eat it each day to keep their chastity. Evil tongues claimed that the plant was in the gardens of the nunneries because it was used as an abortifacient.  

The Romans cultivated rue and brought it with them when they visited prisoners, because they believed the plant would avert "the Evil Eye". The Chinese used it to counteract negative thoughts or wishes. The Celtic wizards said that rue was a defense against magic and could be used to promote healing. Rue was sacred to the early Jews, Egyptians and Caledonians; they believed it was a gift from the Gods. In the old America rue was used by the Indian societies for spells, and they claimed that they could win the heart of their love forever by placing a branch under the light of the moon, before giving it to their love.

Rue is also a common ingredient in witchcraft and spell making. During the Middle Ages it was a symbol of recognition between witches. The Catholic Church also used a branch of rue to sprinkle holy water on its followers during this time known as the "herb of grace."

Tacuinum handbook
The Tacuinum Sanitatis, a medieval handbook on wellness, lists these properties of rue:
Nature: Warm and dry in the third degree.
Optimum: That which is grown near a fig tree.
Usefulness: It sharpens the eyesight and dissipates flatulence.
Dangers: It augments the sperm and dampens the desire for coitus.
Neutralization of the Dangers: With foods that multiply the sperm.
The refined oil of rue is an emmenagogue and was cited by the Roman historian Pliny the Elder and the gynecologist Soranus as a potent abortifacient (inducing abortion).



Folk Medicine


Harpestræng ab. 1300s: eliminates the desire for women; the juice to take for abscesses in the body; fresh plant to eat for purblind eyes; juice of rue and fennel mixed with chicken bile and honey for an ointment  which gives clear eyes; if someone drank the juice of the plant or had eaten it raw they could not be harmed by poison.   

1400s: crushed green rue and laurel mixed with earthworms and vinegar upon face against headache; the seeds mixed with pigeon shit and seethed syrup of vinegar and honey for dropsy; wine decoct or the seeds mixed with deer- or goat's horn to take against rhinitis.  

Christiern Pedersen, 1533: leaves, walnut cernels and figs to eat as an antidote against the plague; crushed leaves of rue mixed with honey and put upon the navel expel worms; juice mixed with honey or morning dew and the juice from the wine clear the eyesight; crushed rue mixed with dog shit to put upon plague abscesses.

Henrik Smid 1546: the plant resists all venom and poisons; the juice mixed with alum, saltpeter and honey heals "the bulky and shabby head."  

1624: Klog mand (healer) (+1624) in southwest Jutland treated fresh wounds with rue, plucked on Midsummer's Night and put into Rhine wine and mixed with horse manure.  

1693: in times of the plague has to be smoked with green rue and five other plants and chips from the billy goat's horn; rue and lovage mixed with honey for a patch upon snake bites.

1799: pulverized rue, feverfew and St. John's wort-oil used for an ointment upon the wrist-artery for stroke.   

Herb and seed were written into the Pharmacopoeia in 1772. 

 Livestock: Rue was used for various diseases in cattle, horse and swine.  

Superstition: 1300s: The weasel eats rue before fighting a snake, then it will not be hurt by the poison. 1774: Rue was plant close to Sage in order to prevent poisonous animals to be there. Some people believed that the smell from rue dispels the toad.  


Culinary use 

rue foliage

In Denmark it is advised not to use rue as a spice or culinary herb, since it has given liver damage on laboratory rats. It is also advised to avoid sun light and to  wash the skin thoroughly with soap water if the juice from the plant has touched the skin. 

Rue has a culinary use, but since it is bitter and gastric discomfort may be experienced by some individuals, it is used sparingly. Although used more extensively in former times, it is not an herb that is typically found in modern cuisine. Today it is largely unknown to the general public and most chefs, and unavailable in grocery stores. It is a component of berbere, the characteristic Ethiopian spice mixture, and as such is encountered in Ethiopian cuisine.

It has a variety of other culinary uses:
It was used extensively in ancient Near Eastern and Roman cuisine (according to Ibn Savyar-al-Warraq and Apicius).
Rue is used as a traditional flavouring in Greece and other Mediterranean countries.
In Istria (a region in Croatia), and in Northern Italy, it is used to give a special flavour to Grappa/Raki and most of the time a little branch of the plant can be found in the bottle. This is called grappa alla ruta.
Seeds can be used for porridge.
The bitter leaf can be added to eggs, cheese, fish, or mixed with damson plums and wine to produce a meat sauce.
In Italy in Friuli Venezia-Giulia, the young branches of the plant are dipped in a batter, deep-fried in oil, and consumed with salt or sugar. They are also used on their own to aromatise a specific type of omelette.
Used in world beers as flavouring ingredient. 

Rue is also grown as an ornamental, both as a low hedge and so the leaves can be used in nosegays.
Most cats dislike the smell of it, and it can, therefore, be used as a deterrent to them. Caterpillars of some subspecies of the butterfly Papilio Machaon feed on rue, as well as other plants. The caterpillars of Papilio xuthus also feed readily on it.
In South India, rue is recommended for home gardens to repel snakes (however the effectiveness is unknown).


burnt skin from rue.

Rue extracts are mutagenic and hepatotoxic. Large doses can cause violent gastric pain, vomiting, systemic complications, and death. Exposure to common rue, or herbal preparations derived from it, can cause severe phytophotodermatitis which results in burn-like blisters on the skin.

The bitter taste of its leaves led to rue being associated with the (etymologically unrelated) verb rue "to regret". Rue is well known for its symbolic meaning of regret and it has sometimes been called "herb-of-grace" in literary works. It is one of the flowers distributed by the mad Ophelia in William Shakespeare's  Hamlet (IV.5):
"There's fennel for you, and columbines:
there's rue for you; and here's some for me:
we may call it herb-grace o' Sundays:
Millais: Ophelia
O you must wear your rue with a difference..."
It was planted by the gardener in Richard II to mark the spot where the Queen wept upon hearing news of Richard's capture (III.4.104–105):
"Here did she fall a tear, here in this place
I'll set a bank of rue, sour herb of grace."
It is also given by the rusticated Perdita to her disguised royal father-in-law on the occasion of a sheep-shearing (Winter's Tale, IV.4):
"For you there's rosemary and rue; these keep
Seeming and savour all the winter long."
It is used by Michael in Milton's paradise lost to give Adam clear sight (11.414):
"Then purg'd with euphrasy and rue
The visual nerve, for he had much to see."
Rue is used by Gulliver in "Gulliver's Travels" (by Jonathan Swift) when he returns to England after living among the "Houyhnhnms". Gulliver can no longer stand the smell of the English Yahoos (people), so he stuffs rue or tobacco in his nose to block out the smell. "I was at last bold enough to walk the street in his (Don Pedro's) company, but kept my nose well with rue, or sometimes with tobacco".
Rue is mentioned in the Bible, Luke 11.42: "But woe unto you, Pharisees! For ye the mint and rue and all manner of herbs".
In mythology, the basilisk, whose breath could cause plants to wilt and stones to crack, had no effect on rue. Weasels who were bitten by the basilisk would retreat and eat rue in order to recover and return to fight.
Rue is considered a national herb of Lithuania and it is the most frequently referred herb in Lithuanian folk songs, as an attribute of young girls, associated with virginity and maidenhood. It was common in traditional Lithuanian weddings for only virgins to wear a rue (ruta) at their wedding, a symbol to show their purity.
Likewise, rue is prominent in the Ukrainian folklore, songs and culture. In the Ukrainian folk song "Oi poli ruta, ruta" (O, rue, rue in the field), the girl regrets losing her virginity, reproaching the lover for "breaking the green hazel tree". "Una Matica de Ruda" is a traditional Sephardic wedding song.
Chervona Ruta—a song, written by Volodymyr Ivasyuk, a popular Ukrainian poet and composer. Pop singer Sofia Rotaru performed the song in 1971. More recently Rotaru performed in a rap arrangement.

Banner of Saxony with rue./wikipedia

Brøndegaard, Dansk Etnobotanik, Folk og Flora ,bd. 2
Anemette Olesen, Danske Klosterurter, Aschehoug 2001,
Wikipedia, dansk og engelsk, 2017.

photo from wikipedia

Monday, September 04, 2017

The Viking from Fregerslev

The Viking Period
The Viking period is dated to ab. 750-1060 AC. The word Viking means "sea warrior" or "warfare at sea". Many strong men went on Viking expeditions which were often lootings and assaults, but most Vikings lived a more quiet life with farming, fishing and hunting. The Realm formation and the formation of cities and a new religion had a great impact on the development in Denmark. The Society was sharply divided and the differences of rich and poor, free and unfree were significant. The Fregerslev find is - from the golden brackets - dated to the middle of the 900s. The royal power was well founded in that period , although dependent on the aristocracy which supported the king. The aristocracy had an important role in the king's maintenance of the power, and they enjoyed the privilegies from this. 


 You can see the first photos from Skanderborg Museum of objects from the Fregerslev grave at their website:

Bayeux tapestry

The Find at Fregerslev.
In 2012 a unic grave site emerged in an archaeologic excavation at Fregerslev near Skanderborg.(Jutland) It was a complex of chamber graves, several from a younger part of the Viking period, the time of the Jelling Kings. A small investigation in one of the graves showed a magnificent decorated horse bridle, lavishly decorated with gilt bronze brackets and a silver plated trense.Supposedly the Viking from Fregerslev had a funeral with all the equipment necessary for his travel to Valhalla. The find from Fregerslev is probably one of the richest graves from the Viking period ever found in Denmark, and the scientific potential is  invaluable.The excavation of the fascinating grave ended 11 May 2017 but the adventure is not yet over. Many years ahead is a massive work with excavation and interpretation of many earth blocks, which were taken in from the grave. Some X-rays reveal something hidden in the blocks, like metal pieces from the harnes of the Viking's horse.

Chamber Grave.
Some of the Viking Age's wealthiest people were buried in chamber-graves. A chamber-grave consists of a wooden chamber, which is either dug down into the earth or placed in a mound. From Denmark and the old Danish area we know of around 60 chamber-graves. Most of the burials have been found in the area south of the Danish-German border. But they can also be found in Jutland, as well as on Funen, Langeland and Lolland. Such chamber-graves are yet to be found on Zealand. The grave type comes into use at the end of the 800s – perhaps to counter the advancing Christianity?

A chamber grave (Kammergrav) was a grave form reserved for the elite. It was a wooden chamber with enough place for the deceased, grave gifts and personal equipment. Chamber graves with a horseman's equipment are rare, they are only known from 45 finds from the Viking period in the old Danish region: the present Denmark, Skaane, Halland , Blekinge and Schleswig-Holstein. Few of these graves are well documented, especially because of old unfinished excavations or just old clearings of  grave hills. The latest excavated grave with horseman's equipment appeared in 1983 in Grimstrup at Esbjerg.

Viking Ship Museum, Oslo,Bridle, Viking horse,wiki
In few welldocumented graves are few fine parallels. In Schleswig upon the grave sites Thumby, Bienebeck and Lanballigau are horseman's graves with objects which- as for shape and decoration - are contemporary to the decoration brackets in the Fregerslev grave. A few objects are almost identical and must be considered made in the same workshop. Maybe the king has ordered several identical set of bridles which he could give as an alliance gift to his faithful subjects.

The grave site in Fregerslev consists of a large grave chamber complex and two lesser graves. The two small graves are excavated, one grave measured at surface 267x172 cm, length north-south. The grave was only 38 cm deep and had no preserved objects. The other grave measured 265x170 cm at surface and was oriented west southwest. This grave was 120 cm deep - and in the fill were two layers of giant stones. In the bottom of the grave were traces of an oak coffin which had been lightly burned before the laying.

Bayeux tapestry
The Viking from Fregerslev
 At the same time were traces of a skeleton of a person 165-170 cm tall. The person lay on his back with head west. The skeleton was much dissolved, but it was however possible to see a strange crack upon the shine leg. The leg had possibly been broken, but it is uncertain if this happened before or after death. In this grave were not found any preserved objects, except a single iron nail, which probably was a part of the construction of the coffin. Around the grave was built a hedge or a small building. It is unusual to find constructions around the graves from the Viking period. With a broken shine leg and two layers of giant granite boulders above and a possible fence the person must have been something special - someone who should not rise from his grave. 

The Top of the Hierarchy.  
Based upon the richly decorated bridle for theViking's horse there is no doubt that this is a man from the top of the hierarchy in the Viking period. The uppermost power was the king, and his role depended on personal alliances military strength and foreign contacts. The Viking from Fregerslev might have had the title of Jarl (earl). He might have been an army chief administering a large piece of land, and one of his duties was to be a host for the king on his travels in the country. If - after the excavation - it would be possible to identify him as a known historic person or legendary figure depends on whether there are unic finds, like objects with runic inscriptions or other special finds, which might tell us,who this Viking was.

Jelling stones, Jelling, photo:gb 

The research project is a cooperation between Skanderborg Kommune, Slots- og Kulturstyrelsen, Nationalmuseet, Aarhus Universitet and Museum Skanderborg with appropriations from Augustinus Fonden and Den A.P.Møllerske Støttefond as well as funds from Slots' og Kulturstyrelsen and Skanderborg Kommune. The first part is to secure the find by excavation and following conservation of the grave equipment and performance of scientific examinations. Later come part two and three with respectively research and publication and exhibition and communication.

Source: Skanderborg Museum and National Museum.


Monday, August 28, 2017

Valerian/ Læge-Baldrian/ Baldrian

Valeriana officinalis

Valerian (Valeriana officinalis, Caprifoliaceae) is a perennial flowering plant, with heads of sweetly scented pink or white flowers that bloom in the summer and can reach a height of 1.5 metres (5 ft). The fruits are nuts and the root system is a rhizome with numerous root tufts. Valerian flower extracts were used as a perfume in the 16th century. The flowers are frequently visited by many fly species, especially hoverflies and consumed as food by larvae of some lepidoptera, butterflies and moths.

Valeriana means "strong against diseases". The word valens means strong or fresh. The name might refer to a Roman herbal doctor named Valerianus who used the plant as a medicine. Other names used for this plant include Garden Valerian (to distinguish it from other Valeriana species), Garden Heliotrope (although not related to heliotropium Setwall and All-heal (which is also used for plants in the genus Stachys. Red Valerian, often grown in gardens, is also sometimes referred to as "valerian", but is a different species (Centranthus ruber) from the same family and not very closely related.

The valerian is spread in Minor Asia, Caucasus, Iran, Central Asia , Sibiria, East Asia and Europe. Valerian has been introduced into North America.  In Denmark it is spread in the eastern section but not seen in West- and North Jutland. The plant is found in shadowy or lightopen places with moist till wet or flooded soil - and is often seen in meadows or along water streams.

The plant and especially the rhizome contains several active substances: an etheric oil which together with valeren acid and isovalerian acid promote the very strong scent which is typical for valerian.  The plant contains also valepotriat and several alcaloids. The content of the valerian oil varies immensely in relation to the species, the age of the pant and the harvest time.

Folk Medicine

The rhizome contains valerian oil which is tranquillizing. The plant has been used against headache, muscle cramps, irritable colon and against wounds and exemia. Valerian tincture was used against bomb chok and other nerve strains during WWI.

The Valerian drops are used as a calming and somnolent means  and is sold as an OTC medicine. Laboratory studies point out that the plant might have anticancer effects. The root works calming and cramp loosening and can be used in nervous diseases and inner cramps.

Old herbal books recommend  to drink a glass of wine with valerian drops each day in order to maintain the health of the eyes and keep a sharp sight in old age; therefore the plant was named Eye root in the old days, which was due to observations of cats who had extended pupils when they had been rolling in the herb. An unusual feature of valerian is that valerian root and leaves are a cat attractant similar to, and as safe as, catnip. Valerian contains the cat attractant actinidine.  Stories describe the Pied Piper of Hamelin using both his pipes and valerian to attract rats.

Valerian has been used as a medicinal herb since at least the time of ancient Greece and Rome. Hippocrates described its properties, and Galen later prescribed it as a remedy for insomnia. In medieval Sweden, it was sometimes placed in the wedding clothes of the groom to ward off the "envy" of the elves. In the 16th century, the reformer  P. Marpeck prescribed valerian tea for a sick woman.

John Gerard's  Herball states that his contemporaries found Valerian "excellent for those burdened and for such as be troubled with croup and other like convulsions, and also for those that are bruised with falls." He says that the dried root was valued as a medicine by the poor in the north of England and the south of Scotland, so that "no broth or pottage or physicall meats be worth anything if Setewale [Valerian] be not there".

The seventeenth century astrological botanist Nicholas Culpeper thought the plant was "under the influence of Mercury, and therefore hath a warming faculty." He recommended both herb and root, and said that "the root boiled with liquorice, raisons and anisseed is good for those troubled with cough. Also, it is of special value against the plague, the decoction thereof being drunk and the root smelled. The green herb being bruised and applied to the head taketh away pain and pricking thereof."


From wikipedia:
Although valerian is a popular herbal medicine used for treating insomnia, there is no good evidence it is effective for this purpose, and there is some concern it may be harmful. There is no good evidence that valerian is helpful in treating restless leg syndrome or anxiety. There is insufficient evidence for efficacy and safety of Valerian for anxiety disorders.

The European Medicines Agency EMA approved the claim that valerian can be used as a traditional herbal medicinal product in order to relieve mild symptoms of mental stress and to aid sleep. The EMA stated that although there is insufficient evidence from clinical studies, the effectiveness of the traditional use of valerian is considered plausible when it has been used safely for this purpose for many years.

Because the compounds in valerian produce central nervous system depression, they should not be used with other depressants, such as ethanol, benzodiazepines, barbiturates, opiates, kava, or antihistamine drugs. Moreover, non-pregnant adult human hepatotoxicity has been associated with short-term use (i.e., a few days to several months) of herbal preparations containing valerian and scutellaria (commonly called skullcap). Withdrawal after long-term use in a male has also been associated with benzodiazepine-like withdrawal symptoms, resulting in cardiac complications and delirium.

The very limited animal and human data do not allow a conclusion as to the safety of valerian during pregnancy. Moreover, as a natural, unregulated product, the concentration, contents, and presence of contaminants in valerian preparations cannot be easily determined. Because of this uncertainty and the potential for cytotoxicity in the fetus and hepatotoxicity in the mother, the product should be avoided during pregnancy.

Source: Anemette Olesen Klosterurter, 2001, wikipedia 2017 
images: wikipedia



Valerian: Mechanism of action  (read information on wikipedia )

Danish information:
 Brøndegaard, Etnobotanik, Folk og flora bd. 4
Læge Baldrian/ Valeriana officinalis

Navne: Læge-baldrian, velandsurt (1546-1870) var vel opstået med allusion til sagnfiguren Vølund Smed; "katteurt" (1533-1789); "katterod" (1600t.) og "katteglæde" (1820), øjenrod (1648-1821), venderod/ vendelrod (1700t) den stærkt lugtende rod værnede mod hekseri, Danmarksgræs (1700t) plantens stængel med blomsterkvaster blev brugt af børn som slagvåben.

Saft af baldrian og pileblade blev brugt til salve på hævet strube, (begyndelsen af 1400t.)
Christiern Pedersen (1533): saft indgives mod epilepsi; vin- eller ølafkog af rødder var urindrivende, dekokt med fennikel og opiumvalmuefrø i vin eller øl drikkes mod lændesmerter.
Henrik Smid (1546): mellem de to fruedage 15/3 - 15/8 blev rødderne taget op og skyggetørret, den pulveriserede rod drukket med vin var urindrivende og hjalp mod gift og pest. Den friske urt knust og lagt på hoved stiller hovedpine. Øjne badet med vinafkog af rod og blomster bliver klare.
Simon Paulli 1648: den knuste rod indtaget med vin anbefales mod svagsynethed , heraf tilberedes også et øjenbadevand der blev solgt på apoteker. Nogle forfattere hævdede at planten eller en klud dyppet i dens saft kunne trække jern ud af hug- og stiksår.

Roden blev anført i farmakopeen in 1772. Den styrker senerne, er sveddrivende, fordeler svulster, lægges knust på sår og tørret i pose mod svage øjne. Roden har krampestillende, nervestyrkende, sved- og urindrivende og opløsende egenskaber, den modvirker hysteri og forrådnelse og anvendes mod indvoldsorm.  Den pulveriserede rod indgives for epilepsi. Mod hovedsmerter gnides panden med baldrianblade og krusemynte. Klog kone på Rømø gav den tørre, knuste rod som middel mod kvinders søvnløshed - eller de tørrede blade under hovedpuden. En te af bladene mod nervøsitet.
Roden indgik i en beskyttende pest-akvavit og et råd mod bl.a. feber og hjælper mod hudløshed. Indgik i øjenbadevand og "Herr Niels' dråber" = urteudtræk i brændevin


Baldrianrod er komponent i råd for oksens ondartede lungesyge og et røgemiddel mod kvægpest. Afkræftede kreaturer gnides med baldrian og tjære, "tjærespån og vendelrod - giver din ko god helsebod." Efter kælving skulle koen have baldrian. Roden af "katteurt" indgik i middel for hestens sygdomme. Får fik øldekokt af baldrian og stinkende kamille. Rod af baldrian, løvstikke og alant blev givet til syge svin. Baldrianrod blev brugt mod hundesyge. .  

Baldrian eller St. Buldrian nævner ni andre helgener i flere signeråd fx "hil  dig San wenis urt = (Velands?) du er kommet af Jesu blod" (1692 og 1793) i lægeråd for at fremmane tyve , eller mod gæssenes forhekselse.  Hvis køerne omkring Mortensdag 11/11 fik baldrian i foderet, kunne de ikke forhekses. Rod af baldrian og mesterrod spises med kerner af pæon og nyserod mod trolddom.

"Mand og kone at forene som altid kives og trættes, giv dem begge et krus Valeriana, så bliver de straks gode venner."

Danish source: Brøndegaard, Dansk Etnobotanik, Folk og flora bd. 4: Læge Baldrian. 
images: grethe bachmann and wikipedia

Sunday, August 20, 2017

Ebeltoft - one of the loveliest little towns in Denmark.........

Ebeltoft (earlier Æbeltoft) lies at Djursland in East Jutland - it is a popular tourist city, not least because of the old timbered houses in the middle of town. The old market town atmosphere reflects a piece of Denmark's history through centuries . It has a colourful shop- and museums life and the inhabitants are doubled in the summer period. Close to Ebeltoft is the Nationalpark Mols Bjerge with many fine beaches and summer houses.



Ebeltoft was probably established around year 1200, and the name Ebeltoft is seen the first time in king Erik Menved's letter of 21 January 1301, where he gave the town its municipal rights. In the beginning the place was a village or a fishing village and an annex to the village Draaby up till the reformation. On  25 August 1317 the king issued a new letter where he gave the citizens laws and regulations like the cities Viborg and Aarhus.

In 1558 was established a Latin school in Ebeltoft.The town suffered much during he  plague 1619-1620 and was damaged during the wars of the 17th century. The main business of the town was maritime trade, espcially in the second half of the 17th century with large merchants- and warehouses, ship buildings and profitable traffic, especially from Norway.  The large timber transport from the royal forests in the neighbourhod brought much life to the town.  In 1672 the town had 817 inhabitants, after Den Store Nordiske Krig 562 inhabitants in 1769. The latin school was abolished in 1739. The town developed little in the 19th century because of the wars. At the census in 1930 Ebeltoft had 1897 inhabitants , in 1945: 2.104 and in 1965: 2.485 inhabitants. Now in 2017: 7. 430.

Along the beach road and by the Fregat Jylland are still seen the rest of the old seaweed dikes. They were built as a protection of west-facing gardens against intrusion of sea water. The dikes are now listed.




In the various shops in Ebeltoft are arts and crafts in a class of its own, lifestyle and fashions shops etc. In the streets are often music and entertainment in the summer period. Ebeltoft is a lively tourist town with several restaurants and cafés - and walking the old cobblestoned streets there is suddenly a wonderfull scent from the waffle bakery where they sell the most delicate ice cream cone, named Molbo Vaffel. In another old street is a sweet scent of sugar and fruit from the little Bolsjekogeri (candy factory Mols Bolsjer) ) where they make candy in various tastes and looks in the backyard.In Ebeltoft is one of Denmark's largest concentrations of small studio glass work shops.



Glass Museum and the Fregat Jylland.  The fregat lies in the water and is connected to a museum on land, here is the history of the old fregat told in a factual and entertaining way. The Glass Museum lies n
earby, it has various local and international exhibitions and its own glass workshop - and the museum arranges various activities for children and adults. The children can borrow a children's suitcase and go exploring the many halls of the glass museum. Ebeltoft houses numerous galleries and several renowned glass blowers are working in the town. 


A large part of the medieval streets are listed, and Ebeltoft was in 2015 at the top of a list of the best preserved medieval towns in Denmark. It is one of the  most popular holiday towns with cobblestoned, narrow streets and crooked old houses with roses and hollyhocks.

The old town hall is a charming attraction. Many couple choose a wedding at the picturesque town hall, in 2017 have already been celebrated 300 weddings in Danish, German and English . It is is a small building with a tower and with a rich history since 1576, and here is also an old dungeon.

Close to the town hall is a funny little museum Siamese Samling. The museum was established by Rasmus Havmøller, who worked and lived in Siam (today Thailand) from 1914-1933. He opened in 1940 the exotic museum with lots of objects from his life in the East.

The vægterne (watchmen) of Ebeltoft walk the old streets in the summer period .They call in the night each night walking and singing the watchmann's song through the streets . They start at the old town hall at 20.00, 21.00 amd 22.00.

Since the 1890s Ebeltoft was a seaside resort for better-off people from Aarhus, and the fine holiday houses along the coast remind about a time where people went to the resort to bathe and take their vacation. From the 1960s common people could gradually afford to build summer houses -  and today are many large areas with lovely summer houses in and around Ebeltoft. Many can be rented in the summer period.

The name Ebeltoft comes from apple/abel/abild. The apple tree is seen in the oldest seals of the town (Latin: pomagrina and pomagrium).The first "Ebelfestival" (Apple Festival) started in 2004, and it has since become an established part of the cultural life of Ebeltoft. It is held each year in week 42. The vision is to give some good experience and knowledge about appless and about the history and culture of Ebeltoft.

Den europæiske Filmhøjskole in Ebeltoft is one of the world's best basic film schools and it takes students from all over the world (always 50 % Danish). Among the most famous former students in the Nordic countries are actor Pilou Asbæk ('Borgen'/'The Fortress', 'Lucy'), director/screenwriter Nikolaj Arcel ('A Royal Affair', 'The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo'), director Joachim Trier ('Reprise', 'Louder Than Bombs'), cinematographer Charlotte Bruus ('The Hunt', 'Far From the Madding Crowd'), director Michael Noer ('R' and 'Northwest'), cinematographer Magnus Nordenhof Jønck ('The Killing', 'A Highjacking') and cinematographer Sturla Brandth Grøvlen ('Victoria', 'Rams').

Safari Park/photo:gb

The big animal park : Ebeltoft Safari is finansed by the Karsten Ree.

grethe bachmann
and from wikipedia.
Danmarks købstæder, Søren Olsen, 2000
Politikens Danmarksbog , Søren Olsen, 2003