An illness came and took the frail. Lady of small green things1 helped some, the Vitki2 others. The lady who spun and wove, she never faltered, though it struck about her hearth. At her stoop she lay unrobed, as in a summer sweat. In the cold day, brisk drove the herd with only a shawl about. In Ôstara’s3 cold water was she seen by the men o’weirs4. They came to ask this weft-woman, “Why never afflicts you?” And she told the five purities5: I sweat Baldere’s gaze but may no return it. This be first. I lay in Sunna’s smile and ask she probe my innards with light, the dark moon chase, this the second. I sit the cold fast water until it is faster than my thought and rumbles out cares for three. Drink I only from skins I fill at the high stony brooks and eat not one day out of every month. I sit and do not ponder, do not do. Once it be wind in rushes – they sweep me clean. Again a brook rushed past and next was leaves before a storm. Last dusk, it was a thousand calling frogs. Into the shadow I gaze, where none will look, or to tan grasses, wind-rustled – they sweep me clear. Or in the babble of brook the play of Sunna’s greeting washes eyes as stone-speech cleanses ear, and this be five.”
This is one to study, during these pandemic lockdown days! The herbalists and medicine people tend to the sick. To stay healthy, the weaver follows the five purities: sun-gazing, sun-bathing, bathing in cold water, good diet and fasting, and meditation.
Notes on Sprëhhan 6
- Wright notes that “lady of small green things” implies an herbalist.
- Vitki means “wise-, learned-, conscious-man.”
- Ôstara is the Old High German translation of the Proto-Germanic root *aew-s, meaning “illuminate, daybreak.”
- O’weirs are woven dams built in rivers to catch fish; men o’weirs are fishermen.
- The five purities are folk methods to promote or maintain health:
- To sweat Baldere’s gaze indicates sun-gazing. Wright cites Hávamál 68: “Fire is best among the sons of men, and the sight of the sun. Delightful health settles if man takes hold of it – without which, life is flawed.”
- To lay in Sunna’s smile is to meditate in the sunshine.
- Fast cold water is bathing in cold water, a time-honored custom for health. “Cares for three” denotes the three aspects of being: inhaling breath, noble mind, blood and warm voice. Write cites the Völuspá 18: “They had no inhaling breath, no soul, nor had they inherited a noble mind, no blood or warm voice, no good colour or moral. Inhaling breath gave Óð, Noble Mind gave Hoenir, Blood and Warm Voice gave Lodur, and good hue.”
- Drinking pure water and fasting.