The sun cuts low through winter trees, woodsmoke hangs in the air. Walking through the forest one day I find what's left of a raven dance, the steps clear in the snow. I can see where a raven has scratched it's beak back and forth drawing concentric lines.
As part of a project I have been drawing too, exploring Viking Age ornamentation with pencil and paint, I interpret the knotwork that was inlayed long ago on the blade of an axe that was found in a place called Mammen in Denmark.
If you look closely you can see that this is a beast tangled in it's own horns and body, head thrown back. Viking Age ornamentation is expressive with a narrative purpose that forcefully shines from the arcane lines. Strange and beautiful, what must a Viking artist's dreams have looked like. These were the shapes of their fierce spirit allies; the heath monsters that they drew on their weapons to frighten their enemies. Perhaps they believed that by tying them up in this way they where harnessing their power.
I have been exploring Mammen ornamentation for a sword I have recently completed. I've shown many of the steps of it's creation on this blog. Here is the finished product - Galdrgrimm.
This blade exemplifies the ancient European tradition of pattern welding. A mastery of this time consuming and challenging process produces a swirling star like pattern running down the center of the blade and a keen edge which has been folded and refined to produce a shimmering subtle effect in the steel. Galdrgrimm is forged of contrasting layers of carbon steel and has a subtle blue sheen from the tempering process. Two narrow fullers run down one side of the blade and a wide single fuller graces the other.
The hilt and scabbard are carved in the Mammen style; a popular form of narrative ornamentation in Denmark and elsewhere during the Viking Age. It features looping intertwined figures of dragon-beasts and human forms.
The figured maple wood of the scabbard seems to shift and ripple when turned in the light, adding a mysterious glamour to the complex knotwork. The high layer edge steel refracts light in a similar way to the maple, so that there are dimensions to this sword which can only be experienced in person.
"Galdrgrimm" is a combination of the old Norse word 'galdr' which was a sung incantation and the word 'grimm' which comes from an Indo-European root word that is cognate with the word thunder. Therefore "Galdrgrimm" roughly translates to "thunder-song".
hilt - bronze, blackwood
blade -pattern welded 1075/8670m
scabbard - quilted maple wood lined with
sheered sheep fleece, hand cast silicon bronze.
blade length - 26 3/4"
hilt length - 6 1/4"
overall length - 33"
weight - 2 lb : 7.0 oz
Smoke curls from the chimney, winter ages, the setting sun glints on the ice bordered river.