Fólkvangr

24 Sep

Shrine 4

High above the Goyt Valley in the Peak District lies a shrine. A tiny stone round house built as a memorial to a Spanish School Teacher by the owners of the estate where she taught. It lies on the steep slopes of a hill behind Err Wood, the ancestral seat of the the Grimshawe family a walk away from the ruins of their home, Errwood Hall. My friend, Dave and I chose to walk together around the valley in golden autumn sunshine yesterday in deference to our mutual interest in sandwiches, conversation and rambling (both the talking and the walking kind).

Goyt Valley

Shrine Err Wood

Upon entering the shrine we were met by St. Joseph depicted in ceramic tiles holding the infant Jesus and this Spanish inscription:

Munca se le Invoca evano a San Jose prueba de gratitud’ which translates to – No one asks in vain of St Joseph, a token of gratitude.

Shrine 2

Underneath St. Joseph is pictured holding the infant Jesus, and below them on the tiny votive alter are many tokens of gratitude. Candles, coins, a toffee, postcards memorialising deceased grandparent and a beloved husband. All of them asked for our prayers for the deceased.

Joseph, being the patron saint of the working class, meant that neither Dave nor I had any difficulty leaving our tokens of gratitude to the man who, like those of us who work with our hands, had quite literally carried the King.

I am not a religious man in the conventional sense, but I am no atheist either. Agnosticism is the only defensible position for a skeptic, for in the absence of hard evidence, it is just as ludicrous to me to believe that there is no God as it is to believe in a particular version of God.

This tranquil little sanctuary suspended above the flooded Goyt valley fairly hums with sadness and loss and yet, as Dave and I read the the quiet requests for our prayers which had been faithfully left behind, we were uplifted.

In old Norse the ‘House of the Slain’ or Valhalla is ruled over by Odin, half of those slain in battle are chosen to reside here, the other half go to an eternal meadow called Fólkvangr (field of the host) ruled over by Frey- the Norse god of love . Fólkvangr is poorly understood, but since Frey traditionally has the first pick of fallen warriors – men and women who have died a noble death – I am tempted to suggest that it is this hall and meadow where the most effective dead champions are to be found. We are familiar with the concept of Valhalla – beer, more beer, singing, boasting, fighting, getting very drunk and so on, but not the alternative Norse Heaven. I know which I prefer, and I am glad that I discovered it.

Dolores’ sits in Fólkvangr.

Fólkvangr

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