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Sunday, February 23, 2014

The Day of the Woman - First Day of Góa

Today is the first day of the old Nordic month Góa.  Góa is thought to have been a goddess is the old Nordic religion, but nothing is known of her other than the first day of her month is dedicated to women.
The name is konudagur in Icelandic, but kona is the word used for both woman and wife.

Similarily, the first day of Þorri, the previous month, is dedicated to men or husbands.  The name is bóndadagur, and bóndi means farmer or man as in the ending of the Icelandic word for husband, húsbóndi.

Those days are still celebrated here and they are much more traditional than Valentines day, mothers day and fathers day, all of which are imports by flower merchants.  Both days are celebrated gratulating the wife or the husband on the occasion of the day and it is now traditional to give flowers as a present.  In the olden day the husbands were supposed to hop around the farm on one leg, wearing only their shirt, but dressed in one pant leg, draging the other behind.  No similar feat was required of the women, as far as I know.  Not surprisingly, few (if any) men keep to this tradition today.

But anyway, today I get flowers from my hubby and a cake from the bakery.  All of which I am grateful for.  But I have to admit that I am a bit more excited about the flowers that I am in the process of making myself.  The wonderful flower borders for the national costume.  I had a hard time deciding on a pattern and ended up drawing my own, using elements from older patterns.

I really wanted to have flowers that I know and like and most of the patterns were too stylized to be recognizable.  Haveing been brought up by my biologist parents and taught about plants from an early age, I didn't want that.  So I searched for flower patterns that were recognizable and made a sketch of those.  The flowers I chose were Eyrarrós / Dwarf fireweed (Epilobium latifolium) at the top.  It is a member of the Evening primrose family and the national flower of Greenland.  It is quite magenta in colour and I used Cochineal to dye the embroidery silk pink.   I also love the tiny blue flowers of Gleym-mér-ey / Forget-me-not (Myosotis arvensis) and Woad blue captures the hue of those beautiful little flowers perfectly.

I also wanted to use Holtasóley /Mountain avens (Dryas octopetala) a member of the rose family, with eight white petals and a fairly large yellow middle.  It is the national flower of Iceland, but since white is never used in the special embroidery, that posed a problem.  I toyed with the idea of making it yellow, but gave that up altogether.  Instead I settled for two indistinct half opened buds from and old pattern.  That could be the common buttercup and I dyed a strong yellow with Weld and a darker one using lichen.  And at the bottom I put a half opened Eyrarrós again to repeat the pink.  The flowers are emerging from a flower pot, a well used symbol of the 18th century and a very common feature in many of the older patterns.  For the flower pot I intend to use both gold embroidery and the lovely golden yellow from the lichen Parmelia saxatilis (Shield lichen, or Litunarskóf in Icelandic).  It is the one that gives the lovely aroma.

I really like the outcome and look forward to starting to embroider this.  Dyeing all the colors wasn't as much trouble as I had feared and I love the outcome.  They are just gorgeous.  And since I also plan to knit a traditional triangular woolen shawl, I used the opportunity to dye the very fine wool for that, since the tiny amount of embroidery silk left me with plenty of dyeing liquor left to use.  Those colours also came out beautifully.  I have to admit that now I am getting really impatient to get the full costume.

The process of embroidering is the same as is used in Gold embroidery.  The Icelandic tradition uses both silk and silver and gilded silver thread.  I love the colorful silk and it was used on the older types of costumes and it really pops with the background of black velvet.  I have been attending a course in learning to embroider in this way and it does take a lot of time and practice.  The process of making the flower borders is also quite involved and laborious.  But hopefully well worth it once it's all done.


Anne-Marie said...

What a beautiful tradition. I enjoyed learning more about it =)

Ede said...

Wow this is very interesting and I didn't have any idea about it!

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I’m a fun loving person who loves to do things, make things, grow things, repair things. I love it when my husband gives me power tools as presents! The next best thing is getting ingredients. Any type of ingredients, oils, pigments, building materials, old pieces of wood or used textiles, especially. I love the fact that anything can be made. Need glue? Well, go to the kitchen and make some! Don’t have a recipe for glue? Google it! (Isn’t the internet a fantastic invention) Need lettuce? Grow it! On a window sill if you don’t have a garden . I have two daughters, two dogs, one son in law and one husband. Born and bred in Iceland (I think that was a horrible mistake, I like warm weather and sun). Still live there though and of course I like it, really. But the weather could be better. I read a lot. Some fiction, but mostly factual books. I have an oppinion about most things. They may not be the right opinions, but I’ll stick to them unless you convince me otherwise. And I will change my mind give new facts and strong logic! I generally like my life. I like most people and love the fact that nothing that really matters to me can be taken away.