Newsletter of The Retrospective Network

The Retrospective Methods Network is published annually by the Folklore Studies at The University of Helsinki.

The RMN Newsletter originated as a development of the Retrospective Methods Network, a coalition of academics who launched the journal at a conference for the organization, New Focus on Retrospective Methods (September 13–14, 2010). The newsletter is published by Folklore Studies at the Dept. of Philosophy, History, Culture, and Art Studies, University of Helsinki, Helsinki.  RMN Newsletter is a peer-reviewed and open access academic journal published on a bi-annual basis by the University of Helsinki’s Department of Folklore Studies. The newsletter was recently relaunched in connection with departmental changes at the University of Helsinki.
Editor-in-Chief is M. Frog.

RMN Newsletter 2016–17, Double Issue.

Ed. by Helen F. Leslie-Jacobsen, Joseph S. Hopkins and Robert W. Guyker Jr.

Published in both digital and print editions, RMN Newsletter’s focus is interdisciplinary: the journal covers topics relevant to folklore studies, linguistics, history, archaeology, and philology, especially in the areas of Scandinavian, Germanic, Baltic and Finno-Ugric studies. The publication places particular emphasis on what the journal refers to as “retrospective methods”, a research method that compares material recorded in differing periods.

List of contents:

Cover of RMN Newsletter from Helsinki UniversityIcelandic Folklore, Landscape Theory, and Levity: The Seyðisfjörður Dwarf-Stone
By Matthias Egeler

This paper discusses the relationship between a folk tale about the Dvergasteinn [‘Dwarf-Stone’] on the fjord of Seyðisfjörður in Eastern Iceland and the details of the tale’s landscape setting. It argues that storytelling for storytelling’s sake might have been neglected in current theorising on the conceptualisation and narrative use of landscape. This, as well as the intensity with which landscape is used in Iceland for the construction of narratives, might also affect the use of place-lore for retrospective approaches.

The Lithuanian Apidėmė: A Goddess, a Toponym, and Remembrance
By Vykintas Vaitkevičius

This paper is devoted to the Lithuanian apidėmė, attested since the 16th century as the name of a goddess in the Baltic religion, as a term for the siteof a former farmstead relocated to a new settlement during the land reform launched in 1547–1557, and later as a widespread toponym. Apidėmėhas been researched by linguists, historians, and mythologists. An archaeological perspective is applied here for the first time.

Freyja’s Bedstraw, Mary’s Bedstraw or a Folkloristic Black Hole?
By Karen Bek-Pedersen

This article reviews the sources behind the alleged tradition that the plant galium verum, commonly known as ‘bedstraw’, was associated with Freyja in pre-Christian times. All references to this link ultimately go back to the same Latin document from ca. 800. Unfortunately, the relevant section of this document is unintelligible without textual emendation and, of the three commonly suggested emendations, ‘bedstraw’ is the least likely.

Goddesses Unknown III: On the Identity of the Old Norse Goddess Hlín
By Joseph S. Hopkins

Like previous entries in the Goddesses Unknown series, the present article focuses on heretofore little-studied goddesses in the Germanic corpus, in this case the obscure Old Norse goddess Hlín and her association with the widely attested Germanic goddess Frigg.

Sámi Religion Formations and Proto-Sámi Language Spread:
Reassessing a Fundamental Assumption
By M. Frog

Any historical study of Sámi religions links religion to the history of the language. Here, Proto-Sámi language spread is reviewed and the fundamental (and often implicit) assumption that religion spread with Proto-Sámi language is challenged. An alternative model that language spread as a medium of communication adopted by different cultures is proposed and tested against the Common Proto-Sámi lexicon.

Forgotten Laxdæla Poetry: A Study and an Edition of Tyrfingur Finnsson’s Vísur uppáLaxdæla sǫgu
By Ilya V. Sverdlov and Sofie Vanherpen

The paper discusses the metre and the diction of a previously unpublished short poem composed in the 18th century about characters of Laxdæla saga. The stanzas are ostensibly in skaldic dróttkvætt. The analysis shows them to be a remarkably successful imitation of the classical metre, implying an extraordinarily good grasp of dróttkvætt poetics on the part of a poet who was composing several centuries after the end of the classical dróttkvætt period.

How Did the First Humans Perceive the Starry Night? – On the Pleiades
By Julien d’Huy and Yuri E. Berezkin

This study applies phylogenetic software to motifs connected with the Pleiades as identified in Yuri Berezkin’s database, The Analytical Catalogue of World Mythology and Folklore. The aim of analysis is to determine which, if any, of the analysed motifs, are likely to have spread in conjunction with the earliest migrations out of Africa and to America. The Pleiades analysis is compared to an analysis of Orion motifs

The Ecology of ‘Eddic’ and ‘Skaldic’ Poetry
By Helen F. Leslie-Jacobsen

Scholars have traditionally reflected on the Old Norse cultural area’s poetic output on the basis of a binary classification of the poetry into two types: the categories are labelled as ‘eddic’ and ‘skaldic’. This paper explores the formation of the dichotomy and how the application of these categories in scholarship may obscure rather than clarify the nature of Old Norse poetry

The issue also presents comments, notes on conferences and events as well as a review of recent publications.

Finally, it offers short presentations of five PhD Dissertation projects:

Mediaeval Transfer, Transmission, and Reception of the Latin Culture in the Saga of the Romans (Rómverja saga, AM 595 a–b 4o and AM 226 fol.)
By Grzegorz Bartusik

Berserkir: A Re-Examination of the Phenomenon in Literature and Life
By Roderick Thomas Duncan Dale

Runes, Runic Writing and Runic Inscriptions as Primary Sources for Town Development in Medieval Bergen, Norway
By Elisabeth Maria Magin

Between Unity and Diversity: Articulating Pre-Christian Nordic Religion and its Spaces in the Late Iron Age
By Luke John Murphy

The Birth of the Iamb in Early Renaissance Low Countries
By Mirella De Sisto


RMN Network


Dwarf Stone – Dvergasteinn- near Seydisfjordur. From the Visit Iceland Website (and the plaque near the stone): “According to an ancient legend, the rock originated on the other side of the fjord but moved across the sea on its own accord as the local church was shifted to the other side of the fjord. And indeed it is quite different from all surrounding rocks. According to the famous legend, the rock is a site of prayers for the local dwarfs and the idea of staying behind became unacceptable to them, when the Christian church was moved to the other side.