Friday, March 6, 2015

Spirit Of Nordic Traditions: Rå

Like people in South-east Asia, spirits known as rå are everywhere across Scandinavia. A very distinct variations to Nordic Law is that one has to pay with real money; though similarities can be found that in Thai culture, real money is offered to the deceased. The Chinese have long been offering hell monies to the spirits. Please enjoy more stories from Mr. Bjerstedt! - Liew

-By Mr. Bjerstedt

Title: "The Lady of the Saw"
Notetaker: Levi Johansson
Messenger: Petrus Sundin
Year: 1916
Parish/Town: Vibyggerå

On a croft here in the village 25 years ago, there lived a crofter, and his name was Nils Olovsson. He claimed, that he had several times seen a maiden dressed in white, that came out of the saw house, walked around a bit and then went inside again. He had seen this several times. He said that it was “The Lady of the Saw”, a form of rå of the saw. He was a completely reliable man.

[Spirit of the saw is a very special spirit probably native to the Nordic traditions, but Chinese also believe that whatever instruments once tainted with human blood, shall possess a spirit. Hence some of the Taoist lower rituals require the smear of human blood onto ritual objects to ‘give it a soul’.-Liew]

Title: Saw spirits
Notetaker: Levi Johansson
Messenger: Isak Vesterlund
Year: 1912
Parish/Town: Selånger

You shouldn't saw with a water-powered saw for a whole day and night, you have
to turn it off for a while during the night, or else something will go wrong. There's spirits in the saw that want to have a little peace for the night.

Title: The Rå in the saw
Notetaker: Levi Johansson
Messenger: Baker Per Erik Lundberg
Year: 1918
Parish/Town: Resele

When a saw doesn’t work, it has been believed that you “haven’t treated the invisible spirit of the saw right.” Such times, it’s best to get out of there for a while, and let the invisible one calm down.

Title: In the woods, lakes and buildings
Notetaker: E.A. Billström
Year: 1873
Parish/Town: Sundsvall

In the woods, lakes and buildings there’s forest rå, lake rå and house rå. How they look, I don’t know. I don’t think anyone has seen them either. However, a lot of people have in other way experienced their presence. Charcoal burners have received help from them with watching the kiln or have during critical moments been woken up from their sleep by their warning voices.

A fjärdingsväg [2672 meters] or so from Sundsvall there’s a tarn very rich in fish, The Black tarn. Fishing in this tarn is something not everyone can do however. You shouldn’t let anyone know, that you’re going there, and when you have arrived you ought to throw a coin in the water or at least offer the lake rås a pinch of snus.

My chief storyteller, the sexton in Sundsvall, chews snus, and that might be relevant to the story. If you neglect these and other precautions, which I do not now recall, you will happen upon every kind of annoyance. One of the smallest is that when you finally get a nibble, a "treasure perch" (Triton oristatus, I think) flying up in a tree with hook and all.

[Indeed. Many Asians still believe that many places mentioned above have watchers: the forests, lakes and even houses. The spirits may look different according to cultural beliefs. Chinese would further distinguish if the spirit is of human origin or it is of animal origins etc. I am pretty sure other traditions do the same. Perhaps the definition of rå here is just a collective name for spirit.-Liew]

Title: Rå
Notetaker: P. Edholm
Messenger: P. Edholm
Parish/Town: Bjärtrå

The view has existed here, that there has been rå for every farm, even for every building.

[Chinese believe that a piece of land or building is protected by a local earth god -Liew.]

Title: Water rå
Notetaker: Levi Johansson
Messenger: Anna Greta Dunder
Year: 1917
Parish/Town: Arnäs

In the Bursjö woods there’s several tarns where it isn’t possible pull up a single fish, if you tell someone that you’re going there. But if you go there in secret, you can get as much as you can carry! It’s because there’s a very strong rå that vigils over those waters. I’ve heard the rå myself, when I’ve been there fishing. It shouted and laughed in the woods. Some people “bribe the rå”. It is done by throwing a coin over your left shoulder into the water.

Title: Water rå
Notetaker: Levi Johansson
Messenger: Jakob Vedin
Year: 1916
Parish/Town: Vibyggerå

This happened, when I was just a child. Two of my cousins, that were older than me was fishing in the Docksta tarn. They stood on the left side of the tarn on a small bog islet, and it nibbled pretty well. A nude woman appeared and jumped into the water so that it started boiling around her. They got so scared that they ran away from their fish and didn’t dare to go there anymore. It ought to be the rå of the waters.

Title: The lake rå and the seal skulls
Notetaker: Levi Johansson
Messenger: Torpare Esaias Ödberg
Year: 1917
Parish/Town: Gudmundrå

If there’s a powerful rå in a lake, you should remove it by throwing the skull of a seal into the lake, then the rå will flee. But it’s a very dangerous experiment, if you don’t do it right, you can become very sad…

[Another of these texts say that the head of the beaver can scare spirits too.- Mr. Bjerstedt]

Title: The stump and the rå
Notetaker: Levi Johansson
Messenger: Märta Sofia Bergner
Year: 1915
Parish/Town: Nätra

My father-in-law leased a homestead here on the island that belonged to the Lögdö works. One time he was growing new crops. It was one night, when he was going to go home. But there was a big stump that he had tried to work on a lot but haven’t been able to do more than rock it a little. It was like there was a big “heart root” that was still able to hold it down. He stood beside the stump, grabbed it with both arms and rocked it as much as he could. At once, the stump loosened so quickly he fell backwards and got it over himself. At the same time, he heard laughs inside a stone hill and when he locked there, there was a fair maiden that jumped down between a couple of rocks and he never saw her again because it wasn’t a human, but a rå. So surely “superstition” has existed here on the Wolf Island. [Ulvön]

Title: The elders have believed...
Notetaker: Levi Johansson
Messenger: Anders Olof Berglund
Year: 1914
Parish/Town: Ljustorp

The elders have believed that in the springs there's spirits called “spring-rå”. If you want to take water from a spring, that isn't owned by humans, you should “pay for the water” with a coin or a pin, that you throw in the water. This does however only seem to apply when you take water for “blowing”.

[“Blowing” refers to a practice where you blow in a bottle of water, that water is later used for curing diseases, among other things.-Mr. Bjerstedt]

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