This month, we focus on a hero of the folk by the name of Raud the Strong. To start out to tell his story and why he is important to the folk, we need look no further than the first virtue: Courage. These days are trying times with many outside pressures- men and women of courage such as Raud the Strong are needed now more than ever. Whether this be by our fighting men on the fore front of danger, or our fellow folk making everything work in our communities and families.
His deeds come to us in the reading of the Heimskringla (The Chronicle of the Kings of Norway) by Snorri Sturlason. He is described to us as a man astute in his dedication to Odin and Thor, whom was also a well-known practitioner of the art of Seiðr. Hailing from Godey in the Salten Fjord of Norway, he quickly became a target of King Olaf Trygvason during his reign as King Olaf had recently acquired control of Norway from Jarl Haakon. With his new-found power in Norway, King Olaf set out to convert and baptize by the sword whomever he could to consolidate control over the region.
Hearing of King Olaf’s plans, Raud quickly assembled a force of men on ship and foot to confront King Olaf whom was coming from the south in Halogaland, which he had previously proselytized. A good friend Thorer Hjort joined Raud’s host adding another ship and many more men. When the two forces met, a fierce sea battle ensued. Raud’s ship was renowned as a large ship, with a gilded head formed like a dragon. He sailed the ship with extreme skill which was attributed to his use of Seiðr and being a powerful Wizard. He and Thorer were forced to retreat however, with Thorer being killed. Raud was able to escape that day, but he stood up to King Olaf and confronted him on his own terms.
King Olaf continued onward to continue to search for Raud. Sailing into the Salten Fjyord where Raud was said to be, he encountered a terrible storm which delayed him for a week, of Thor’s doing no doubt. He then encountered a Bishop by the name of Sigurd, which gave him counsel and advised him to continue baptizing and of Raud’s whereabouts.
Coming to Godey where Raud’s home was, King Olaf and his men disembarked their ships and made for the home. Immediately upon entering Raud’s property and home everyone staying there, including Raud were bound and arrested. Some men and servants were killed by Olaf’s men, and some were not. Raud was spared and brought before King Olaf. King Olaf demanded that Raud renounce the Gods and be baptized- Raud would have none of this. Standing true to his faith and the Gods, Raud exclaimed against the Christ and made a mockery of the false God by saying he would never believe in Christ. Naturally, King Olaf did not take a liking to Raud’s proud defiance.
King Olaf ordered that Raud was to die by the most terrible means. He was bound on a beam of wood, and a pin of wood affixed in his mouth to keep it open. There are different versions of how Raud was put to death for his bravery resisting conversion, but the most popular was that an adder was fashioned to be put down his throat. It is said that the adder would not go into his mouth- and that a drinking horn was placed, and the adder forced down the horn with a hot piece of iron. Raud died from the adder chewing through his side after being forced down his throat. King Olaf took Raud’s property, baptized his men whom were willing, and killed the rest. For this martyrdom we know Raud the Strong as a hero to our folk.
This is a very important story telling the importance of standing true and strong to your convictions, values, beliefs and ultimately our faith in the eye of adversity. You will encounter many challenges throughout life where your values are tested- will we stand the ground as Raud did in direct opposition of the Tyrants in life such as Olaf? Life presents us with these challenges day by day. Live up to the example set forth by Raud the Strong and see what richness the power of conviction can add to your life. Let us all give remembrance to the courage in this example! The Gods expect no less of us, and the character of our folk deserves no less either!
Hail Raud the Strong!
Rocco Urman, Three Rivers Kindred