Wednesday, 30 October 2013

A Guide to 'Triquetra' - 1. Creating The World

The best stories start with "once upon a time" and this is no different.
Once upon a time, there was nothing, so says the Prose Edda, before it begins to describe the creation of the world, from the meeting of the realms of Fire and Ice and how that created the germs of Life in water droplets through to the fallen giant Ymer giving his very flesh and bones to the creation of the material world. If that wasn't enough, Othin casts down the Midgard serpent Jormungand, that gigantic offspring of Loki, into the ocean around Midgard, surrounding this new earthly creation by biting his own tail.

18th Century title page for the Prose Edda

This story, written down in the 13th century, is believed to have strong roots back into earlier older stories, passed via oral traditions, from the pre-Christian period of Scandinavian history.
For us, and for Triquetra, we wish to charter the story arc of the change from paganism to Christianity and so found this a natural starting point. Such dramatic storytelling from the quill of the 12th-13th century skald Snorri Sturluson also finds a natural mirror in the interpretation of meteorological and cosmic phenomena of the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle.

The Chronicle is a determined attempt to document the history of the English people. Begun in the late 9th century during the reign of Alfred the Great, himself a champion of the ideals of literacy and the spreading & storing of knowledge, it was maintained long after his passing and contains a detailed and colourful interpretation of the perceived ill omens & final devastating effects of the first viking raid on Lindisfarne in 793 AD.

Lindisfarne Abbey today

This is the first point England really felt viking presence and raiding activity and as such, we felt it worth drawing real life and myth together, the fiery dragons in the sky and the dragon headed ships coming from overseas.

To get a good detailed idea & explanation of the sheer power of the Old Norse language here as well as the Old English counterpart, I recommend this recent BBC Radio 3 broadcast on 'Nightwaves'. This short piece (starting at 22:45) features extracts from the Triquetra sound piece alongside Dr Eleanor Barraclough's excellent piece on the sound of spoken Norse and Old English word, how colourful and descriptive they are, hinting at what makes them compelling for so many people.