Tag Archives: folklore

When a Nordic forest bath becomes a fairytale

Last weekend I accompanied my Russian friend on her first forest bath. I had found another guide with ANFT that guides in Ekebergparken in Oslo. Two weeks earlier, I had asked the guide before what was the Scandinavian or Nordic way of forest bathing. So nature gave an answer. That weekend the first snow felt in Oslo. Read here my experiences of a forest bath filled with snowflakes and warmed by bonfire.

Forest bathing in snow

I had not experienced forest bathing in the snow. I tried to dress warmly, because I knew we would be not moving so fast, but I made a mistake with the shoes. So my feet were cold. Fortunately she went for invitations with bonfires and with wandering, and not sitting at the same spot. But the snow added something mystical to it. While the guide introduced us to the land of Ekebergparken, I felt mesmerized by the snowflakes. When we walked deeper into the forest, we shared memories about trees. The guide told us how she communicates with a tree close to her house and how it had told her that he feels sleepy. Winter is here. It is almost time for the trees to sleep and rest.

Oak hill without oaks ?

Ekeberg, the guide explained us, was once the place where political gardening were hold. The name means “oak hill” but as some of you know, oak is a very desired wood. All oaks got cut to serve the lumber industry. Some time ago, they found one oak. They planted fungi and did other measures to revive and help the tree.

The interesting first serendipity is that my friend celebrated here her marriage, because of the view on Central Oslo, where once viking ships landed and left. Later she would tell that an oak in a Russian park was very important for her. It was in the closeness of this oak that her boyfriend-now-husband took her hand for the first time. The oak seems to witness the milestones of her love life. Isn’t that beautiful?

At the end of a forest bath, there is a tea ceremony.

Nordic tea and decoration

The guide shared with us a tea made from rosehips, berries and juniper and also explained the healing properties and other usages or the tea plants. She had decorated the fire with vibrant red Rowan berries. Earlier in this trip I learned these berries and tree have special meaning for Scandinavians. It is too bitter to eat, but they make jams and gin from it. My friend remarked how amazing it is that Scandinavian people can make from some simple things like pine cones and berries a setting which feels so cosy. The guide said that Scandinavia’s land has not so much to offer and is not so fertile, and has short fertile periods, so they learned to do more with less.

Vasalisa the Beautiful

In this Russian fairytale, the young girl Vasilisa is given a magical doll by her dying mother. When her father remarries, her stepmother and stepdaughter are jealous of Vasilisa’s beauty, and they force her to cook and clean all day and night. When the wicked stepmother and ugly stepsisters send Vasilisa into the dark forest to Baba Yaga, a terrifying witch with a taste for human flesh, Vasilisa has no weapon to take with her but her magical doll.

Vasilisa the Beautiful with her magic doll as she faces the terrors of the dark forest, in Anthea Bell’s reimagining of the tale, illustrated by Anna Morgunova.

According to Clarissa Pinkola Estes’ book “Women Who Run with Wolves”, the story is about a young girl sharpening her female intuition. The Baba Yaga is for me a wise wild old woman, a sort of archetype, that helps woman to learn how to divide good things from bad things and other necessary skills. I do not see the guide as an antagonist. But I guess the idea that Baby Yaga is frightening for many people is because independent women living alone in a forest look strange. Maybe still feel strange and what society does not expect.

When imagination turns into reality

I love the story in such a way that the story was the basic for my own first fiction book (which gets published in several weeks). It was an almost mystical experience to follow Vasalisa and Baba Jaga, or my Russian friend and this Nordic elder woman, to a fire and a weird wooden construction along birch trees kissed by snowflakes.

I shared this experience at the bonfire. It felt like serendipity that I share this experience with especially a Russian younger friend. I had not thought before I would encounter Vasalisa the Beautiful and Baba Yaga in this forest bath. But yesserendipity is something you experience often when you are in the woods 😉

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I recommend to connect with your next holiday destinations through forest bathing. You can find guides “woodwide” For Oslo, I can recommend to contact the guide through Instagram: https://instagram.com/skogsbad_oslo_shinrin_yoku

A Gravestone for the Witch tree and church bells: a call for a new world

Today I went bicycling in my paternal grandparents’ region. Some time ago, an old friend from university, a linguist with a big passion for history, who is born in the same village as my grandfather, promised me to share his local knowledge and stories about trees, stones and other beings of this region.

Today we were both available and I was in Belgium. We could go for a reunion in a hot chocolate bar (we do have these bars in Belgium), but I reminded him to the promised bicycling tour. He liked the idea. I prepared the bicycle and met him in front of the 12th century church of Vorselaar. Autumn accompanied us at this tour of probably 50kms (more than I had anticipated, but I brought chocolate). I traveled through heathland and forests, listened to stories which are hundred years old, and all his explanations of local names (he is a linguist after all). A lovely surprise was the gravestone for a local tree called “heksenboom”, aka the witch tree, and the “Achtzalighedenboom, or Eight Beautitudes Tree.

gravestone

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