The Castle Ruins of “Hammershus” – where the devil may kill you…

Me, from my best side

Bornholm is a Danish island that’s physically far removed from Denmark and situated closer to Sweden. Ever since I was a kid, I’ve heard it referred to as Danmarks ferieø (“Denmark’s vacation island”). The islanders have their own distinct dialect and culture that rides heavily on local myths, so I thought I’d introduce you to some of the myths I encountered while I, as tradition has it, went on my own vacation there.

An Origin story steeped in magic
Location of Bornholm (courtesy of google maps)

Northern Bornholm has a unique coastal line. For the extremely flat and low-lying Denmark, anyway, so please bear with me here. It’s made up of cliffs and caves deep enough to have their own breed of cave spiders who deposit their eggs like lanterns across the cave ceilings. Hammershus is also northern Europe’s largest castle ruin, originally built as an outer bastion of the Danish kingdom, so Denmark could essentially (try to) regulate the traffic and trade of the Baltic Sea. It was a profoundly important strategic position. Because of that, the oldest part dates back to 1100. And, as with anything so old, magic and superstition both have their important bits to say as regards the history of Hammerhus.

When stonemasons first attempted to build the castle, all attempts were foiled by the “subterranean creatures” (think tiny trolls/gnomes/spirits) living below ground and protecting Bornholm’s landscape. The eventual placement of the castle was decided upon by way of tying two stallions together with one rope and releasing them into the wild. Wherever the two stallions laid down to rest became the placement for the castle. This method proved enough to satiate the subterranean creatures, so that when the castle was finally in the process of being built, it happened so fast people suspected the creatures of assisting during nighttime when the stonemasons themselves were asleep. Relying on this sort of magic could not do, so the stonemasons took a living man and walled him inside the castle, thereby transferring “the power of man” into the castle, thus negating the magic of the subterranean creatures.

With the origin story of Hammershus steeped in myth and legend like this, it’s no wonder the devil found its way to the castle sooner rather than later…

The devil’s path

Word has it that the devil lives in a cave beneath Hammershus. Here, he (she? it?) keeps watch over a subterranean path that stretches south from the castle, following the coastline. This subterranean path starts directly beneath the ruins of Hammershus and ends by Helligdomsklipperne (“Sanctuary Cliffs”), named so because people once traveled to these cliffs to drink from Helligdomskilden, a holy spring.  

Anybody who tries to walk this path will have their necks wrung if the devil comes across them, though that hasn’t stopped people from trying, according to local legend. Two farmhands once made a bet about who came first if one of them took the devil’s path and the other walked above ground. They left at the same time, and when the farmhand who walked above ground reached Helligdomskilden, he saw his friend was already there – only the devil had wrung his neck and put him there to make an example of him. Once, a goose was made to walk the devil’s path while the owners of the goose walked the same path above ground. As with the two farmhands, the goose arrived at Helligdomskilden first, only the devil had put it there and transformed it into a stalactite sculpture by the time its owners arrived. The sculpture still stands today, the reason for why this part of the devil’s path is called Gåserenden (“goose trench”).

Helligdomsklipperne (“Sanctuary Cliffs”)

Helligdomsklipperne are named after the holy spring that once emerged from these 20-meter-tall cliffs. For thousands of years the surf in this spot has eroded the coastline, creating deep gaps into the rocky plateau. What’s left from this erosion are tall granite pillars and steep cliffsides filled with deep caves and pathways – the so-called ovne (“ovens/stoves”).

Section of Helligdomsklipperne, “Sanctuary Cliffs”

Of these many caves, Våde Ovn/Sorte Gryde (“wet oven”/”black pot”) is the deepest, cutting 60 meters into the rocky plateau. It’s here that you may meet the devil, and if you don’t meet him, you’ll certainly meet the Bornholm-ian cave spider, so be prepared to pick your poison.

Våde Ovn, postcard from 1950s
Sorte Gryde, postcard from 1915

A chapel, Trefoldighedskapellet, lay on the field across from the cliffs during the middle ages, and it was this chapel that fed into the belief of the holy spring. Throughout history, people have visited the holy spring during the night of Midsummer in the hopes of curing their ills. It’s a story that sounds familiar to all of us, I’d wager, and this is the version you’ll find in Bornholm.

Photograph from 1870 of a gathering by Helligdomskilden where sacrifices for better health where made (hair, crosses, cloths etc.) People still gather nowadays, with and without religious connotations.

Sources:
Det Okkulte Denmark, book by Bo Bomuld Hamilton-Wittendorff
http://www.bornholmerneshistorie.dk/helligdomsklipperne.html#
https://discoverdenmark.dk/activities/helligdomsklipperne-vbornholms-kunstmuseum-helligdommem
My, myself and I (aka my memory from my trip)

WriterWoes #10 – Tug-o-warring

This post is partly, if not entirely, inspired by my roommate. She got me thinking, you see, during one of our bullshit trade-offs. You know, those trade-offs between friends that have nothing left of interest to talk about after years of breathing the same stale air and then have to kill that stale air with enough hot air that the staleness is pushed to the floor, subjugated by physics?

Anyway, this particular time, my roomie provided me with an image that I needed to get down on paper and share with others – now.

Without further ado, I present to you……….

*drum roll*

…..… the Tug-o-war between Missus Writer and Sire Brain!

 

Mode 1 – Missus Writer vs. Sire Brain

MS: “Sooo… anything good happening over there? Hm? Hmhmhmhm?”

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Mode 2 – “Sire Brain vs. Missus Writer”

SB: “Hey! You! Heeeeeyyee…. balabalabalabala—”

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They say that miscommunication is part and parcel in a relationship, which leads me to believe that I’m in a relationship with my own brain. If I dare peek at it, it cowers in a corner, and if I leave it alone to fend for itself, it springs on me when I least expect it. Or, god forbid, when I have no time for it. Now, this doesn’t just happen with writing, I know. This is just how a brain works, I suppose, with a lot of things.

But, but, but, but— when my brain decides to spring on me with a plot twist that demands I change the last fifty chapters of my novel…. or when it decides to shut the door on me and my deadline… weeeellll……..

My brain never stops working with words and stories.

Rather, it alternates between modes of working with words and stories.

Tug-o-warring.

I do wonder how this will look on a brain scan…

I’d ask Sire Brain, but that might undermine my argument, so let’s leave it at that, shall we?

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LivelyLightbulbs #3

“Don’t rely on the bulb to light up on its own; power it yourself!”

Time for another adventure into what gets my fingers flying across my keyboard – for those who care, anyway, not that I delude myself into thinking that this is a whole lot.

Photography, as always, remains an inspiration… butbutbutbut, travelling mixed with photography truly oil up the gears and gets them going!

Residing in Denmark, but having an American fiancee, I oftentimes travel to the US. Northern Minnesota, more specifically. This time, however, I also swung by New York City to breathe in the grease and blazing Subway heat. You’ll find little concrete and asphalt pictures here, however, because the deep woods and lakes are my truest friend when it comes to renewing my creativity. As a matter of fact, most of my serious writings, my novels, incorporate some element of nature. One of my past protagonists was a human vessel of Artemis the Olympic God, able to create and manipulate nature. My current protagonist is situated in an alternate Hokkaido ruled by feudal-style monsters living in the wilderness. But, back on track; I found nature in NYC, across the High Line Park, an old railway across western midtown that has been renovated into a park raised above streets and stores, but otherwise most of the photos are from Bemidji and Itasca State Park – my home away from home…

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