Tag Archives: Midsummer’s eve

Happy midsummer

Tonight we Swede’s celebrate Midsummer’s eve with good food, good wine, lots of beer and aqua vitae/schnaps and some dancing around the midsummer pole.

If you by chance don’t like to dance check out Four stone hearth number 120 at Sorting out Science they’ve been nice enough to include two post from Testimony of the spade – many thanks – and there will be more posts on Öland the ancient monuments, not just rune stones.

Have a happy midsummer!

Magnus Reuterdahl

Happy Midsummer 2010

Midsummer’s eve is once again upon us, this Friday. For many Swedes this is one of the big holidays, and a time for celebration and feasting amongst family and or friends.

I’ll spend this midsummer in the small community Långban, in Värmland. Långban is a small mining community. The mining probably started as early as during the Middle Ages (1050-1520 AD). During the the 18th century mining started in a more industrial form that was more or less shut down in 1933. Today there is a museum in the historic buildings from the mining days, well worth a visit. From the beginning the mining foremost concerned iron ore but in the second half of the 1800’s they also began to mine manganese and dolomite. Lesser mining was done during the mid1950s until the latest closure of the mine in 1972 for dolomite.

Not only the museum is interesting, the small community Lesjöfors, a few km north of Långban is also interesting as well as it is somewhat of a ghost town. It’s not abandoned but several houses are empty as well as industrial building from the 30’s, 40’s and 50’s that stand as hollow reminders of what once was.

Back to the midsummer tradition – me I’ll celebrate with my finance, her sister and her husband and thier children and possibly her parents in a small croft not far from the mining area. For most this weekend is about two things: food (pickled herring, fresh potatoes, schnapps and beer) and meating family and or friends. For me, who do not eat pickled herring, it becomes instead grilled meat and good wine and some schnapps. As tradition bids a midsummer pole will be made; a pole, or rather a cross, dressed in flowers and leaves, around which ring dances are preformed, prefrebly by children with garlands of flowers on thier heads. This really isn’t, and never was, my thing – but the children, at least some, loves it, or are more or less forced to be part of it – and so the traditions lives on.

The midsummer festival has pre-Christian roots and is celebrated at the summer solstice, the tradition has evolved over time; the Christian Church chose to celebrate John the Baptist’s birth at the same time and today it is as previously said more about food and meeting family or friends. The oldest surviving Scandinavian scriptures concerning the midsummer celebration are the Icelandic and Norse sagas, dating to at least the 13th century, where it is stated that Olav Trygvason abolished the sacrificial beer and celebrated with the people at Christmas, Easter, Midsummer and at Michael’s mass.

I’ll post some pictures and notes of our celebration during and after midsummer’s eve.

All in all happy midsummer where ever you are!

Magnus Reuterdahl

Happy midsummer!

In Sweden the midsummer weekend and especially midsummer’s eve is a big thing and so also for me, I’ll take a few days off and come back after the weekend.

The celebration of midsummer is old and though there are no written sources to support it, it is probable that it has prehistoric roots. Even so a possible midsummer eve in the Stone- Bronze- or Iron age most probably wouldn’t have much in common with the traditions of today.

The oldest written source concerning midsummer in Scandinavia can be found in the Norse sagas from the middle ages (ca 13th century) where Olav Trygvarsson; “He abolished the ceremonial beer and did instead participate in the people’s festival beer at Christmas, Easter, Midsummer and Mikaeli (translation by myself)”. It seems beer was an important part of the midsummer celebration then and still is it today, so there are some similarities after all.

Have a happy midsummer!

Magnus Reuterdahl

Drawin frozen in time?

This is a memorial post on Darwin; He would have been 200 years old if evolution allowed it, as it didn’t this post is in remembrance of him as a scientist and person. The theory of evolution was perhaps not a work of a single mind but it was presented by one man who had the guts to stand up for his beliefs though ridiculed by some of his pears. Ridiculous as it sounds he still is by some!

Caricature of Charles Darwins theory of evolution, 18th cent.
Caricature of Charles Darwins theory of evolution, 18th cent.

I’ve never understood the fear of being related to apes or other animals, I rather look at it as George Eliot (1819-1880); “If Darwin’s theory should be true, it will not degrade man; it will simply raise the whole animal world into dignity, leaving man as far in advance as he is at present” . This said I don’t doubt Darwin’s theory, though it can be and has been evolving since it was first told/printed.


In spirit of this, this post is more about theories and ideas in general than on Darwin per se. A theory flourish, evolve and is criticized and this is the very soul of a theory, it thrives as long as it’s being questioned, used and tested. Thereafter it becomes a footnote or a parenthesis in science history. This led me to think of a few articles I’ve read the last few months on UNESCO’s decision that traditions and customs are to be classified as world heritages. The aim is to find representative traditions and customs that we want to protect and preserve.

What would happen if theories and ideas were to become classified as world heritages? It isn’t all that farfetched; the idea of making an immaterial or intangible world heritage isn’t new. A few years back the idea of making Carl Linnaeus (Carl von Linné) into a world heritage was set in play, or rather the heritage of Linnaeus. Besides protecting and preserving buildings, parks etc the aim is also the environment where one can find traces of Linnaeus’ research. It might include plants and animals that are still present in the countryside, in gardens and in places where Linnaeus’ disciples made their collections. In other words a world heritage concerning Science and Technology.

Linneaus Rashult
Linneaus Rashult

What would happen if this is applied on ideas or theories? To protect and preserve!

Would an idea or a theory suddenly be untouchable/unchangeable if it became a world heritage? Would it be submitted to committees regarding what or how the theory should be interpret or used?

I don’t much like the idea of making traditions and customs into world heritages. It is the protect and preserve part I am questioning; I feel this is the something that rather belongs in an ethnographic/anthropological museum.

For example;

In Sweden there is talk about making the process of fermented herring a world heritage; I ask how? There are more than one way to produce this, such as diffrent local customs. Who will decide what the proper way? There is a risk of freezing the tradition or stopping it from evolving and in so making it stagnate and in the end perish. Evan worse if say a tradition as Midsummer’s eve would become a world heritage. The customs are changing, the people celebrating it are changing and probably the reason for celebrating is changing over time?  If this became a world heritage what would to protect and preserve mean?

I see traditions and customs as evolutionary phenomenons. It is the task of museums, journalists, authors and researchers to record how, why and when we do things so that the knowledge isn’t lost. I don’t see any gain in petrify these with the risk of making them stagnate or become obsolete and foreign to those living with them. If they do not change with time and with the users they will wither and fade. I belive that this is as true concerning ideas and theories as well, they need to be used and misused, to go where no man (or ape) has gone before.

Happy Birthday Mr Darwin, where ever you are, and may your memory be used, misused and evolving.

Magnus Reuterdahl

Happy Midsummer’s Eve

Today we celebrate Midsummer’s Eve in Sweden. The origins of the midsummer celebration is prehistoric, but exactly how old isn’t possible to say. The oldest written source are the Icelandic sagas written during the 13th century where it is said that Olav Trygvasson, a Norwegian king during the final years of the 10th century,  abolished the sacrificial beer and instead replaced this with feast beer during Christmas, Easter and Midsummer.

Traditional feasting demands a midsummer’s pole, a cross dressed in flowers and leafs that one should dance around wearing a garland of flowers. A feast also needs food, for many this means new potatoes and pickled herring for lunch and a barbecue at night. This is accompanied with aqua vitae, vodka, beer and wine. While drinking of hard liqueurs, in this case most often schnapps, is often combined with another tradition; drinking songs. Me I’m not much for the pickled herring but I love the rest.

This year we will celebrate with a bunch of friends and their relatives and friends just south of Enköping. They hold a “traditional” (in the sense that they have done so for many years) masquerade at Midsummer, this years theme is Vikings.

 (There might be a few pictures for a coming post.)

I will attend as the monk Anskar who is also known as the apostle of the north. In reality he was a monk, a missionary and the arch bishop of Hamburg-Bremen, which included Denmark, Norway and Sweden. Anskar was born in 801 AD and died 865 AD. His successor Rimbert wrote his biography called Vita Ansgari. Where one can read about his two visits to the Viking age city Birka in lake Mälaren some miles west of Stockholm in 829 and 850’s AD. My fiancée will come as my counterpart a heathen or to frank as a sacrificial tree. Together we come as a symbol of the faiths and the war of faiths of that time.

More info on Midsummer’s Eve is just a click away.

I wish you all a happy Midsummer’s Eve I’m pretty sure I will.

Magnus Reuterdahl

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