bridenapped — helena sverkersdatter

Doing some Norsk-side genealogy research, I learned how one of my 21st great-grandmothers, Helena of Sweden SVERKERSDATTER, was a victim of bride-kidnapping.  While this horrified 😮 me, it is a practice that goes on yet today in numerous countries.

Although “in most nations, bride kidnapping is considered a sex crime rather than a valid form of marriage,” it continues yet today “in Central Asia, the Caucasus region, and parts of Africa, and among peoples as diverse as the Hmong in Southeast Asia, the Tzeltal in Mexico, and the Romani in Europe.”[1]

Per some sources, honeymoons are in fact, “a relic of marriage by capture, based on the practice of the husband going into hiding with his wife to avoid reprisals from her relatives, with the intention that the woman would be pregnant by the end of the month.”

But on to my very own way-back Great-Grandmama Helena of Sweden SVERKERSDATTER (circa 1190 Denmark1247)[2], daughter of King of Sweden (reign, from 1196–1208) Sverker The Younger KARLSSON — “Sverker den yngre KARLSSON” in Swedish; “Sörkvir KARLSSON” in Old Norse — born circa 1164died July 17, 1210 Battle of Gestilren, Sweden, &, his first wife, Benedicta EBBESDATTER (circa 1165/’70–1200).[3]

Helena “was the first of the three prominent victims of the Maid Abduction from Vreta[*], others being her daughter Benedicta of Bjelbo and granddaughter Ingrid SVANTEPOLKSDOTTER.  Helen SVERKERSDOTTER, the only daughter of the deposed king, was educated at Vreta Abbey at the time of her father’s death.  Her relatives would not even hear the proposal of young Sune FOLKASON ( –1247), son of an earl who had been among Sverker’s opponents in the battle in which he himself fell.  Sune FOLKESSON was of one of the two dynasties that been rivals for the Swedish throne since 1130, and Helen was from the other, the Sverker dynasty.”[2]

VRETA ABBEY:  MODEL OF HOW IT LOOKED IN MEDIEVAL TIMES  Photo by Håkan Svensson.[4]

* Vreta Convent aka “Vreta Abbey, Swedish Vreta Kloster, in operation from the beginning of the 12th century to 1582, was the first nunnery in Sweden, initially Benedictine and later Cistercian, and one of the oldest in Scandinavia.  It was located in the present-day municipality of Linköping in Östergötland.”  “The original buildings burned down in the early 13th century, but were rebuilt, and a new church was dedicated…in 1289.  Vreta Abbey was a house of Benedictine nuns until 1162, when it was turned into a Cistercian nunnery.”  “It was a prestigious establishment, and the church is the burial place of…kings…”[5]

In those times, “Marriage was an alliance contract and also had many economical repercussions.  A man was not allowed to marry a woman from an enemy clan unless it was to senal a treaty between the clans.  On the other hand, a man might want to marry an heiress from a rival clan in order to impose his own power upon that clan.[6]

“Abduction of 1210
“Around 1210, Helena SVERKERSDOTTER, the only daughter of the deposed King Sverker II, was studying at the Vreta convent when her father fell in battle.  The young Sune FOLKASON, son of an earl who had been among Sverker’s opponents in that battle and had also fallen, wished to marry her, but her relatives would not hear his proposal.  FOLKASON abducted Helena and, according to folklore, took her to the castle of Ymseborg.  They married and had two daughters.”

“In 1216, Helen’s brother became King John I of Sweden.  When he died childless in 1222, Helen and her daughters became heirs of the Sverker dynasty.[2]

“One of her daughters, Catherine, in 1243 was married to King Eric XI, thus finally uniting the two Swedish dynasties.

“Abduction of 1244
“Around 1244, Benedikte [Bengta] SUNADOTTER, the younger daughter of Sune FOLKASON and Helena SVERKERSDOTTER, was being educated at the Vreta convent.  Laurens PEDERSSON, Justiciar ofn Östergötland, abducted her.  One theory is that PEDERSSON may have been a grandson of a king of the St. Eric dynasty and wished to unite that dynasty with Benedikte’s Sverker dynasty.  He may also have had designs on the throne.  In any case, Benedikte was released and soon married high noble Svantepolk KNUTSSON, Lord of Viby, with whom she had several daughters and a son, Knut, who died childless.[6]

“Abduction of 1288
“In 1288, Ingrid SVANTEPOLKSDOTTER, one of the daughters of Benedikte and Svantepolk, was being educated at the Vreta convent.  Her father had intended her to marry a Danish nobleman, the future High Justiciar David THORSTEINSEN.  Folke ALGOTSSON, a knight from Gothenland (and, according to myth, a descendent of Algaut), abducted her with the help of some of his brothers and fled with her to Norway.  King Magnus III, reportedly livid about the wilful breach of women’s safety in convents, had one of the brothers executed.”

“Late in life, [Helena] is said to have become the Abbess of Vreta Abbey.”[2]

Supposedly, “many” poems have been inspired by the Vreta abductions, although I could turn up none in a Google search.  If you do, please share with me! 🙂
~~~

My line to Helena SVERSDATTER, on up from my maternal grandmother’s father, Carl Johan EILERTSEN Fjelse (1848 Fjelse nedre Br.74, Nes, Vest Agder, Norway–after Apr., 1911), goes thusly:
> Kristine DANIELSDTR Fjelse (1808 Fjelse Nedre Br.1., Nes, Vest Agder, Norway–aft. 1864)
> 
Daniel SIVERTSEN Fjelse (1764 Fjelse nedre Br.1.VI., Nes, Vest Agder, Norway–Fjelse nedre Br.1. VII., Nes, Vest Agder, Norway)
> Sivert DANIELSEN Fjelse (1735 Fjelse nedre Br.1. V., Nes, Vest Agder, Norway–before Dec. 16, 1772 Fjelse nedre Br.1. VI., Nes, Vest Agder, Norway)
> Daniel SIVERTSEN Fjelse (1702 Fjelse nedre Br.1. IV., Nes, Vest Agder, Norway–bef. May 3, 1755 Fjelse nedre Br.1. IV., Nes, Vest Agder, Norway)
> Kirsten DANIELSDTR Djupvik (1682 Djupvik Br.1. I., Nes, Vest Agder, Norway–aft. Dec. 15, 1739)
> Anna HANSDTR Kvelland (? Kvelland, Hidra, Vest Agder, Norway–aft. Dec. 15, 1739 Djupvik Br.1.I., Nes, Vest Agder, Norway)
> Anna STEINARSDTR Reppen (? Reppen Br.1., Nes, Vest Agder, Norway– )
> Birgitte TARALDSDTR Reppen (? Reppen Br.1.V., Nes, Vest Agder, Norway– )
> Tarald SVENSEN Reppen (about 1590 Reppen BR.1. II., Nes, Vest Agder, , Norway–1661 Reppen Br.1. IV., Nes, Vest Agder, Norway)
> 
Sven OLUFSEN Reppen (abt 1559– Reppen Br.1.II., Nes, Vest Agder, Norway)
> Karen BERGSDTR Egeland (1520 Egeland ytre, Kvinesdal, Vest Agder, Norway– Reppen Br.1.I, Nes, Vest Agder, Norway)
> Unknown GUNNERSDTR Tengs (?–?)
> Gunnar ASBJØRNSEN Tengs (1470 Tengs, Egersund, Rogaland, Norway–1546 Drangeid Br.4.IV, Nes, Vest Agder, Norway)
> Unknown GUNBJØRNSDTR Tengs (? Tengs, Egersund, Rogaland, Norway–Tengs, Bjerkreim, Rogaland, Norway)
> Gunnbjørn TORDSEN Tengs (? Tengs, Egersund, Rogaland, Norway–aft. 1486 Tengs, Egersund, Rogaland, Norway)
> Tore GARDSEN Garå (abt 1400 Norway–abt 1454 Norway)
> Ramborg KNUTSDTR Lejon (abt 1360 Sweden–aft. 1408 Norway)
> Knut ALGOTSEN Lejon Folkunge IX (bef. 1330 Sweden– )
> Algot BRYNJULFSON Sweden
> Ingegerd SVANTEPOLKSDTR Sweden
> Bengta SUNESDTR
> Helena SVERKERSDATTER.[7]
___

ENDNOTES
1. Wipikedia, “the free encyclopedia,” “Bride kidnapping,” at https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bride_kidnapping , accessed Jan., 2018.
2. Wipikedia, “the free encyclopedia,” “Helen of Sweden (13th century),” at https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Helen_of_Sweden_(13th_century) , accessed Jan., 2018.
3. Enacademic.com, “Academic Dictionaries and Encyclopedias,” at http://enacademic.com/dic.nsf/enwiki/414085 , accessed Jan., 2018.
4. PHOTO — Attribution per Wikimedia Commons for use of this photo on the web is as follows:  “By No machine-readable author provided.  Xauxa assumed (based on copyright claims). – No machine-readable source provided.  Own work assumed (based on copyright claims)., CC BY 2.5, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=441686 ;” accessed Jan., 2018.
5. Wipikedia, “the free encyclopedia,” “Vreta Abbey,” at https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vreta_Abbey , accessed Jan., 2018.  Redirected from “Vreta convent.”
6. Wipikedia, “the free encyclopedia,” “Vreta abductions,” at https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vreta_abductions , accessed Jan., 2018.
7. Most of the data on my Norsk ancestral lines is from Signe Elisabeth Zidjemans, Flekkefjord, Norway; data obtained from bydgeboker.  Some is from cousin Vivian (Unhammer) Moulder.  I cannot thank either woman enough.
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’tis a wee bit o’ luck o’ the irish what spared me living in viking times? (52 ancestors no. 11)

Week 11 (Mar. 12-18):  “Luck of the Irish”
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STATUE OF OLAF THE WHITE.

Apparently I don’t have much Irish in my ancestry or, if I do, I have a memory deficit where it’s concerned… (It’s been a long week.  Bad full moon.)

At any rate, no Irish kin coming immediately to mind, for this week’s assigned theme I resorted to an “Ireland” search of my Family Tree Maker master database.

Of the distant collateral Irish kin I found, I settled Eeny, meeny, miny, moe style on, 2nd cousin 33 times removed[1], King Olaf the White of Dublin (ca 840 Ireland-ca 871 in battle, Ireland), son of King Ingjald the White Helgasson of Ireland. Olaf married, Aud / Auth / Unn Deep-Minded Ketilsdatter (834 Norway-900 Iceland), daughter of Ketill Flatnefur [Flatnose] Bjornsson & Ingveld Ketilsdatter.

The Icelandic “Eyrbyggja Saga” tells us,

            “Ketil Flatneb gave his daughter Auth to Olaf the White, who at that time was the greatest war-king West-over-the-sea; he was the son of Ingiald, the son of Helgi;…the mother of Ingiald was Thora, the daughter of Sigurd Worm-in-eye,…”[2]

And the Icelandic “Saga of Eric the Red” gives us this further historical data:

          “Olaf, who was called Olaf the White, was styled a warrior king. He was the son of King Ingjald, the son of Helgi, the son of Olaf, the son of Gudred, the son of Halfdan Whiteleg, king of the Uplands (in Norway).

Ketill Flatnose--fr HeathenGodsDOTcom            “He led a harrying expedition of sea-rovers into the west, and conquered Dublin, in Ireland, and Dublinshire, over which he made himself king. He married Aud the Deep-minded, daughter of Ketil Flatnose, son of Bjorn the Ungartered, a noble man from Norway. Their son was named Thorstein the Red.

            “Olaf fell in battle in Ireland, and then Aud and Thorstein went into the Sudreyjar (the Hebrides). There Thorstein married Thorid, daughter of Eyvind the Easterling, sister of Helgi the Lean; and they had many children.

            “Thorstein became a warrior king, and formed an alliance with Earl Sigurd the Great, son of Eystein the Rattler. They conquered Caithness, Sutherland, Ross, and Moray, and more than half Scotland. Over these Thorstein was king until the Scots plotted against him, and he fell there in battle.

            “Aud was in Caithness when she heard of Thorstein’s death. Then she caused a merchant-ship to be secretly built in the wood, and when she was ready, directed her course out into the Orkneys. There she gave in marriage Thorstein the Red’s daughter, Gro, who became mother of Grelad, whom Earl Thorfinn, the Skullcleaver, married.

            “Afterwards Aud set out to seek Iceland, having twenty free men in her ship. Aud came to Iceland, and passed the first winter in Bjarnarhofn (Bjornshaven) with her brother Bjorn. Afterwards she occupied all the Dale country between the Dogurdara (day-meal river) and the Skraumuhlaupsa (river of the giantess’s leap), and dwelt at Hvamm. She had prayer meetings at Krossholar (Crosshills), where she caused crosses to be erected, for she was baptised and deeply devoted to the faith. There came with her to Iceland many men worthy of honour, who had been taken captive in sea-roving expeditions to the west, and who were called bondmen.

            “One of these was named Vifil; he was a man of high family, and had been taken captive beyond the western main, and was also called a bondman before Aud set him free. And when Aud granted dwellings to her ship’s company, Vifil asked why she gave no abode to him like unto the others. Aud replied, ‘That it was of no moment to him, for,’ she said, ‘he would be esteemed in whatever place he was, as one worthy of honour.’ She gave him Vifilsdalr (Vifilsdale), and he dwelt there and married. His sons were Thorbjorn and Thorgeir, promising men, and they grew up in their father’s house.”[3]

Of Aud (“Unn the Deep-minded” in the following) we learn more from from the “Laxdæla Saga,” English translation Muriel A. C. Press, 1880:Cover, Laxdæla Saga, Muriel A. C. Press, 1880-GutenbergDOTorg

“Chapter 4 – Ketill goes to Scotland, A.D. 890

            “Ketill Flatnose brought his ship to Scotland, and was well received by the great men there; for he was a renowned man, and of high birth. They offered him there such station as he would like to take, and Ketill and his company of kinsfolk settled down there – all except Thorstein, his daughter’s son, who forthwith betook himself to warring, and harried Scotland far and wide, and was always victorious. Later on he made peace with the Scotch, and got for his own one-half of Scotland. He had for wife Thurid, daughter of Eyvind, and sister of Helgi the Lean. The Scotch did not keep the peace long, but treacherously murdered him.

            “….Unn the Deep-minded was in Caithness when her son Thorstein fell. When she heard that Thorstein was dead, and her father had breathed his last, she deemed she would have no prospering in store there. So she had a ship built secretly in a wood, and when it was ready built she arrayed it, and had great wealth withal; and she took with her all her kinsfolk who were left alive; and men deem that scarce may an example be found that any one, a woman only, has ever got out of such a state of war with so much wealth and so great a following. From this it may be seen how peerless among women she was. Unn had with her many men of great worth and high birth. A man named Koll was one of the worthiest amongst her followers, chiefly owing to his descent, he being by title a ‘Hersir.’ There was also in the journey with Unn a man named Hord, and he too was also a man of high birth and of great worth. When she was ready, Unn took her ship to the Orkneys; there she stayed a little while, and there she married off Gro, the daughter of Thorstein the Red. She was the mother of Greilad, who married Earl Thorfinn, the son of Earl Turf-Einar, son of Rognvald Mere-Earl. Their son was Hlodvir, the father of Earl Sigurd, the father of Earl Thorfinn, and from them come all the kin of the Orkney Earls. After that Unn steered her ship to the Faroe Isles, and stayed there for some time. There she married off another daughter of Thorstein, named Olof, and from her sprung the noblest race of that land, who are called the Gate-Beards.

“Chapter 5 – Unn goes to Iceland, A.D. 895

            “Unn now got ready to go away from the Faroe Isles, and made it known to her shipmates that she was going to Iceland. She had with her Olaf ‘Feilan,’ the son of Thorstein, and those of his sisters who were unmarried. After that she put to sea, and, the weather being favourable, she came with her ship to the south of Iceland to Pumice-Course (Vikrarskeid). There they had their ship broken into splinters, but all the men and goods were saved. After that she went to find Helgi, her brother, followed by twenty men; and when she came there he went out to meet her, and bade her come stay with him with ten of her folk. She answered in anger, and said she had not known that he was such a churl; and she went away, being minded to find Bjorn, her brother in Broadfirth, and when he heard she was coming, he went to meet her with many followers, and greeted her warmly, and invited her and all her followers to stay with him, for he knew his sister’s high-mindedness. She liked that right well, and thanked him for his lordly behaviour. She stayed there all the winter, and was entertained in the grandest manner, for there was no lack of means, and money was not spared. In the spring she went across Broadfirth, and came to a certain ness, where they ate their mid-day meal, and since that it has been called Daymealness, from whence Middlefell-strand stretches (eastward). Then she steered her ship up Hvammsfirth and came to a certain ness, and stayed there a little while. There Unn lost her comb, so it was afterwards called Combness. Then she went about all the Broadfirth-Dales, and took to her lands as wide as she wanted. After that Unn steered her ship to the head of the bay, and there her high-seat pillars were washed ashore, and then she deemed it was easy to know where she was to take up her abode. She had a house built there: it was afterwards called Hvamm, and she lived there. The same spring as Unn set up household at Hvamm, Koll married Thorgerd, daughter of Thorstein the Red. Unn gave, at her own cost, the bridal-feast, and let Thorgerd have for her dowry all Salmonriver-Dale; and Koll set up a household there on the south side of the Salmon-river. Koll was a man of the greatest mettle: their son was named Hoskuld.

“Chapter 6 – Unn Divides her Land

            “After that Unn gave to more men parts of her land-take. To Hord she gave all Hord-Dale as far as Skramuhlaups River. He lived at Hordabolstad (Hord-Lair-Stead), and was a man of the greatest mark, and blessed with noble offspring. His son was Asbjorn the Wealthy, who lived in Ornolfsdale, at Asbjornstead, and had to wife Thorbjorg, daughter of Midfirth-Skeggi. Their daughter was Ingibjorg, who married Illugi the Black, and their sons were Hermund and Gunnlaug Worm-tongue. They are called the Gilsbecking-race. Unn spoke to her men and said: ‘Now you shall be rewarded for all your work, for now I do not lack means with which to pay each one of you for your toil and good-will. You all know that I have given the man named Erp, son of Earl Meldun, his freedom, for far away was it from my wish that so high-born a man should bear the name of thrall.’ Afterwards Unn gave him the lands of Sheepfell, between Tongue River and Mid River. His children were Orm and Asgeir, Gunbjorn, and Halldis, whom Alf o’ Dales had for wife. To Sokkolf Unn gave Sokkolfsdale, where he abode to old age. Hundi was the name of one of her freedmen. He was of Scottish kin. To him she gave Hundidale. Osk was the name of the fourth daughter of Thorstein the Red. She was the mother of Thorstein Swart, the Wise, who found the ‘Summer eeke.’ Thorhild was the name of a fifth daughter of Thorstein. She was the mother of Alf o’ Dales, and many great men trace back their line of descent to him. His daughter was Thorgerd, wife of Ari Marson of Reekness, the son of Atli, the son ofUlf the Squinter and Bjorg, Eyvond’s daughter, the sister of Helgi the Lean. From them come all the Reeknessings. Vigdis was the name of the sixth daughter of Thorstein the Red. From her come the men of Headland of Islefirth.

“Chapter 7 – Of the Wedding of Olaf “Feilan,” A.D. 920

Unn called Olaf Feilan to her             “Olaf ‘Feilan’ was the youngest of Thorstein’s children. He was a tall man and strong, goodly to look at, and a man of the greatest mettle. Unn loved him above all men, and made it known to people that she was minded to settle on Olaf all her belongings at Hvamm after her day. Unn now became very weary with old age, and she called Olaf ‘Feilan’ to her and said: ‘It is on my mind, kinsman, that you should settle down and marry.’ Olaf took this well, and said he would lean on her foresight in that matter. Unn said: ‘It is chiefly in my mind that your wedding-feast should be held at the end of the summer, for that is the easiest time to get in all the means needed, for to me it seems a near guess that our friends will come hither in great numbers, and I have made up my mind that this shall be the last bridal feast arrayed by me.’ Olaf answered: ‘That is well spoken; but such a woman alone I mean to take to wife who shall rob thee neither of wealth nor rule (over thine own).’ That same summer Olaf ‘Feilan’ married Alfdis. Their wedding was at Hvamm. Unn spent much money on this feast, for she let be bidden thereto men of high degree wide about from other parts. She invited Bjorn and Helgi ‘Bjolan,’ her brothers, and they came with many followers. There came Koll o’ Dales, her kinsman-in-law, and Hord of Hord-Dale, and many other great men. The wedding feast was very crowded; yet there did not come nearly so many as Unn had asked, because the Islefirth people had such a long way to come. Old age fell now fast upon Unn, so that she did not get up till mid-day, and went early to bed. No one did she allow to come to her for advice between the time she went to sleep at night and the time she was aroused, and she was very angry if any one asked how it fared with her strength. On this day Unn slept somewhat late; yet she was on foot when the guests came, and went to meet them and greeted her kinsfolk and friends with great courtesy, and said they had shown their affection to her in ‘coming hither from so far, and I specially name for this Bjorn and Helgi, but I wish to thank you all who are here assembled.’  After that Unn went into the hall and a great company with her, and when all seats were taken in the hall, every one was much struck by the lordliness of the feast. Then Unn said: ‘Bjorn and Helgi, my brothers, and all my other kindred and friends, I call witnesses to this, that this dwelling with all its belongings that you now see before you, I give into the hands of mykinsman, Olaf, to own and to manage.’ After that Unn stood up and said she would go to the bower where she was wont to sleep, but bade every one have for pastime whatever was most to his mind, and that ale should be the cheer of the common folk. So the tale goes, that Unn was a woman both tall and portly. She walked at a quick step out along the hall, and people could not help saying to each other how stately the lady was yet. They feasted that evening till they thought it time to go to bed. But the day after Olaf went to the sleeping bower of Unn, his grandmother, and when he came into the chamber there was Unn sitting up against her pillow, and she was dead.Olaf found Unn sitting up against her pillow (p. 192)--fr HeathenGodsDOTcom

            “Olaf went into the hall after that and told these tidings. Every one thought it a wonderful thing, how Unn had upheld her dignity to the day of her death. So they now drank together Olaf’s wedding and Unn’s funeral honours, and the last day of the feast Unn was carried to the howe (burial mound) that was made for her. She was laid in a ship in the cairn, and much treasure with her, and after that the cairn was closed up. Then Olaf ‘Feilan’ took over the household of Hvamm and all charge of the wealth there, by the advice of his kinsmen who were there. When the feast came to an end Olaf gave lordly gifts to the men most held in honour before they went away. Olaf became a mighty man and a great chieftain. He lived at Hvamm to old age. …”[4]

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Nearest common ancestor shared by Olaf the White & myself, Olaf’s’s Great-Grandfather & my 34th Great-Granddad, Sigurd “Snake-in-Eye,” Ragnarson, aka Sigurd Worm-in-Eye / Sigurd Dragon eye / Sigurd Snake-in-the-eyes (so named for a snake-shaped mark in his left eye).

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ENDNOTES

1 Our exact distance of cousin-ness dependant on which folk histories or royal genealogy “expert” one follows… (Oh that they would all agree.)

IMAGE: Statue of Olaf the White from “Art & Architecture of the Middle Ages” blog of Danielle Penney, “Dublina and the Vilking World” post, at http://artarchitectureofthemiddleages.blogspot.com/2012/07/statue-of-olaf-white-viking-king-in.html , accessed Mar., 2015. Statue location not indicated.

2 “The Icelandic Saga Database,” “Eyrbyggja Saga” / “Saga of the Ere-Dwellers,” Chapter 1, “Herein Is Told How Ketil Flatneb Fares To West-Over-Sea,” at http://sagadb.org/eyrbyggja_saga.en , accessed Mar., 2015.

IMAGE: “Ketill Flatnose:” “Temple of Our Heathen Gods Resource Website” (contact, mark@heathengods.com), “Temple of Our Heathen Gods Temple Library,” at http://www.heathengods.com/library/book_sagas/sagas-12.html , accessed Mar., 2015.

3 “The Icelandic Saga Database,” “Eiríks saga rauða” / “The Saga of Erik the Red,” English translation by J. Sephton, 1880, at http://www.sagadb.org/eiriks_saga_rauda.en , accessed Mar., 2015.

IMAGE: “Unn called Olaf Feilan to her:” LookAndLearn.com, at http://www.lookandlearn.com/history-images/M821990/Unn-called-Olaf-Feilan-to-her?img=32&search=sagas&bool=phrase , accessed Mar., 2015.

IMAGE: “Olaf found Unn sitting up against her pillow:” “Temple of Our Heathen Gods Resource Website” (contact, mark@heathengods.com), “Temple of Our Heathen Gods Temple Library,” at http://www.heathengods.com/library/book_sagas/sagas-12.html , accessed Mar., 2015.

4 “The Icelandic Saga Database,” “Laxdæla Saga,” / “Laxdale Saga,” the “Laxdæla Saga,” English translation Muriel A. C. Press, 1880, at http://sagadb.org/laxdaela_saga.en , accessed Mar., 2015.

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regent of kiev, saint olga (52 Ancestors #3)

Theme, Week 3 (Jan. 15-23):  “Tough Woman”
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SAINT OLGA

Tough” sums up my 32nd Great-Grandmother St. Olga of Kiev (ca 890-July 11, 969 A.D. Kiev) as surely as it does, oh, Al Capone? Bugs Moran? Dillinger?

….a cruel and barbarous woman [who] scalded her husband’s murderers to death in 945 and murdered hundreds of their followers…,” Catholics Online succinctly describes her in the second line of her bio.[1]

Olga’s husband, Grand Prince of Kiev Igor, was killed in 945 by a Slavic people called the Derevlians from whom the greedy Igor had tried to collect triple the amount of tribute owed. The Derevlians then traveled to Kiev to attempt to persuade the widowed Olga to marry their prince, Mal. Olga’s revenge upon them is detailed in this account from the Russian Primary Chronicle[2]:

“Olga was informed that the Derevlians had arrived, and summoned them to her presence with a gracious welcome. The Derevlians announced that their tribe had sent them to report that they had slain her husband, because he was like a wolf, crafty and ravening, but that their princes, who had thus preserved the land of Dereva, were good, and that Olga should come and marry their Prince Mal. …

“Olga made this reply: ‘Your proposal is pleasing to me; indeed, my husband cannot rise again from the dead. But I desire to honor you tomorrow in the presence of my people. Return now to your boat, and remain there with an aspect of arrogance. I shall send for you on the morrow, and you shall say, “We will not ride on horses nor go on foot; carry us [on your shoulders] in our boat.” And You shall be carried in your boat.’

“Thus she dismissed them to their vessel.

“Now Olga gave command that a large deep ditch should be dug in the castle. Thus on the morrow, Olga as she sat in the hall sent for the strangers, and her messengers approached them and said, ‘Olga summons you to great honor.’

“But they replied, ‘We will not ride on horseback nor in wagons, nor go on foot; carry us in our boat.’

“The people of Kiev then lamented: ‘Slavery is our lot. Our prince is killed, and our princess intends to marry their prince.’

“So they carried the Derevlians in their boat. The latter sat on the cross-benches in great robes, puffed up with pride. They thus were borne into the court before Olga, and when the men had brought the Derevlians in, they dropped them into the trench along with the boat. Olga bent over and inquired whether they found the honor to their taste. They answered that it was worse than the death of Igor. She then commanded that they should be buried alive, and they were thus buried.

“Olga then sent to the Derevlians the following message: ‘I am now coming to you, so prepare great quantities of mead in the city where you killed my husband, that I may weep over his grave and hold a funeral feast for him.’

“When they heard these words, they gathered great quantities of honey, and brewed mead. Taking a small escort, Olga made the journey with ease, and upon her arrival at Igor’s tomb, she wept for her husband. She bade her followers pile up a great mound, and when they had piled it up, she also gave command that a funeral feast should be held. Thereupon the Derevlians sat down to drink, and Olga bade her followers wait upon them.

“The Derevlians inquired of Olga where the retinue was which they had sent to meet her. She replied that they were following with her husband’s bodyguard. When the Derevlians were drunk, she bade her followers fall upon them, and [went] about herself egging on her retinue to the Massacre of the Derevlians. So they cut down five thousand of them; but Olga returned to Kiev and prepared an army to attack the survivors.”[2]

Bad enough.  But, Great-Grandmama Olga did not stop there.

“The Old Russian annals describe four types of vengeance organized by Olga,” Russiapedia[3] tells us.  First, the preceding capture and, burial alive of the 20 matchmakers.

Second, Olga “asked the Drevlyans to send better ambassadors to her, but as soon as they arrived, they were burned in a bathhouse.

2ND REVENGE OF OLGA: BURNING AMBASSADORS ALIVE IN BATHHOUSE

“Soon after that Olga went to the land of the Drevlyans, supposedly to have a funeral feast in memory of her murdered husband.  Having made her enemies drunk during the feast, the governess then ordered them all killed.  The annals report about five thousand victims in this third act of revenge.”

The 4th and “last vengeance took place in the year 946 when Olga traveled around the land of the Drevlyans in order to gather tributes. She besieged the town of Iskorosten, which refused to pay her. According to legend, the Princess asked that each household present her with a dove as a gift. Then she tied burning papers to the legs of the doves and let them fly back to their homes. As a result, the entire town was destroyed by fire.”[3]

4TH REVENGE OLGA: BURNING OF DEREVLIAN CAPITAL OF ISKOROSTEN

HOW did this viciously vengeful woman come to be canonized a SAINT!, you may be wondering.

Converting to Christianity ca 957 — she was baptized at Constantinople — Olga worked to spread Christianity in her country and, in light of her proselytizing influence, the Orthodox Church calls St. Olga by the Greek honorific, “Isapóstolos,” or, “Equal to the Apostles.”[1]

PAINTING, SERGEI KIRILLOV: THE BAPTISM OF GRAND PRINCESS ST OLGA

“It is a strange historical twist that the first ‘Russian’ woman to be canonized in the Orthodox Church was a Viking warrior princess who spent much of her life as a pagan,” writes Heidi Sherman in “Grand Princess Olga: Pagan Vengeance and Sainthood in Kievan Rus.” (No kidding.)

“Olga earned her sainthood,” Sherman continues, “by becoming the first member of the house of Riurik…to convert to Christianity. But the role of this battle maid in the spread of Christendom to the eastern Slavs is only part of her remarkable contribution to the history of Eastern Europe. … ….it took the will and perspicacity of a barbarian widow to begin the transformation of the Rus lands from a loosely knit pagan chieftaincy into a more stable and centralized Christian kingdom.”[4]

Great-grandmum St. Olga Regent of Kiev is included in the book, “Saints Behaving Badly: The Cutthroats, Crooks, Trollops, Con Men, and Devil-Worshippers Who Became Saints,” by Thomas J. Craughwell, hardcover 2006, which I may just check out for the amusing title alone. 😉

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Footnotes

1 Catholic.org, “St. Olga,” at http://www.catholic.org/saints/saint.php?saint_id=427 , accessed Jan., 2015.

2 The Primary Chronicle of Rus’, traditionally ascribed to the Saint, Nestor; now looked upon as likely a composite work by various Rus’ monks.  Sourced here via Stetson University (Florida, U.S.A.) online at http://www2.stetson.edu/~psteeves/classes/rusprimaryolga.html , accessed Jan., 2015.

3 “RUSSIAPEDIA (Get to know Russia better),” at http://russiapedia.rt.com/prominent-russians/history-and-mythology/princess-olga-of-kiev/ , accessed Jan., 2015.

4 “Grand Princess Olga: Pagan Vengeance and Sainthood in Kievan Rus,” Heidi Sherman, World History Connected (“published by the University of Illinois Press, and its institutional home [of] Hawaii Pacific University”), at http://worldhistoryconnected.press.illinois.edu/7.1/sherman.html , accessed Jan., 2015.

Images, all, public domain online.
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darius I the great, king of persia (52 Ancestors #2)

Theme, Week 2 (Jan. 8-14):  “King”
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The furthest-back ancestors I’m aware of having are, Persian kings.  This per a genealogist in Norway with a humongous database who does research for the Flekkefjord Historical Society.[1]

Thus, the graphic at top my blog here (and the image below):  the Rock of Behistun, famed monument of Darius I the Great (522-486 BC), king of the Persian Empire at the greatest height of its wealth and power, among my 63rd great-grandfathers.

Who woulda thunk?! Certainly not me, let alone anyone else in my family except, my maternal Norwegian Grandma Rosalie, she who endured merry laughter at her assertions that her line connected to, “all the kings & queens of Europe.”

Well, Go Gramma! 😉  Because, according to Norsk genealogy records you were 100% right and, then some:  kings & queens worldwide was more like it.

Genealogy discoveries often make history come alive, and for me, a lot of it history I was previously unfamiliar with; this one falls into that category.

The Behistun rock is much more than “mere” images — those are accompanied by, “a brief autobiography of Darius, including his ancestry and lineage.  Later in the inscription, Darius provides a lengthy sequence of events following the deaths of Cyrus the Great and Cambyses II in which he fought nineteen battles in a period of one year (ending in December 521 BC) to put down multiple rebellions throughout the Persian Empire.  The inscription states in detail that the rebellions, which had resulted from the deaths of Cyrus the Great and his son Cambyses II, were orchestrated by several impostors and their co-conspirators in various cities throughout the empire, each of whom falsely proclaimed kinghood during the upheaval following Cyrus’s death,” relates Wikipedia.

Versions of this in three different languages cover the rock.

“Approximately 15 metres high by 25 metres wide and 100 metres up a limestone cliff from an ancient road connecting the capitals of Babylonia and Media,” “The Old Persian text contains 414 lines in five columns; the Elamite text includes 593 lines in eight columns, and the Babylonian text is in 112 lines.” It’s “illustrated by a life-sized bas-relief of Darius I, the Great, holding a bow as a sign of kingship, with his left foot on the chest of a figure lying on his back before him. The supine figure is reputed to be the pretender Gaumata. Darius is attended to the left by two servants, and nine one-metre figures stand to the right, with hands tied and rope around their necks, representing conquered peoples. Faravahar floats above, giving his blessing to the king.”[2]

DARIUS I — Said To Be, “The only accurate depiction of,” “by Tahke-ra of Byblos,” per AltHistory.Wikia.com.

The son of Vishtaspa — also known as Hystaspes, a Persian satrap (governor) of Bactria & Persis, Darius was born circa 553 BC at Persia.  He died 486 BC Persia.

While Britannica.com calls Darius, “one of the greatest rulers of the Achaemenid dynasty,…noted for his administrative genius and for his great building projects;” and, Civilization.wikia.com concurs with, he “was recognized as a great organizer, builder, and financier.  Ruling Persia during the first century, Darius both consolidated control of his kingdom and substantially expanded its borders, creating one of the largest empires in history;” Wikia.com tells us, “Darius was most remembered for being the coldest and most brutal of the ‘four great rulers’ of Persia.  …  He used bribery and blackmail to gain power, was brutal to his enemies and was prone to violent rages and outbursts at the slightest provocation.  He was still very kind to his subjects who supported him and (toward those who did not break the law) was just as fair-handed as his predecessors.”

STONE RELIEF FROM ANCIENT PERSEPOLIS (PERSIA), IRAN: DARIUS I SEATED ON HIS THRONE.

I wonder what he/she looked like?, is always top of my ancestor questions, and, hopefully the three portraits included here give us an idea.

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ENDNOTES

1 Thank you Signe Elisabeth Zijdemans! 😉

2 Browser address, http://en.wikipedia.org/ wiki/Behistun_Inscription ; accessed Jan., 2015.

COIN, KING DARIUS — FROM BIBLELANDPICTURES.COM.

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