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Wednesday, October 29, 2014

The Ghost at Masåsen

Hattfjelldal, Nordland, 1923
Some time ago, there was a little place called Masåsen in the north of Norway. According to the legends, Masåsen was badly haunted, and being out after dark around these lands was terrifying. In the evening, people passing through could hear alarming complaints and cries from the smallest of children, which would pursue them for miles. They made the sign of the cross, they cast steel behind them and made use of all the advice they had been taught, but nothing helped. The cries would not be silenced.
But then one day there was a woman who were unfortunate enough to be out so late - the darkness came suddenly upon her. And with the darkness, came the ghosts. She was obviously very scared. Winter had come and it was bitterly cold; she wielded her skis the best that she could, she strained herself sweaty and exhausted, but it was no use. The ghosts were catching up with her​​, holding her back, and even though her life depended on it, she could not move. The ghost shrieked out in tears, wailing, and prayed: "Baptize me, baptize me!" She did not know her wit's end. Finally she asked: "Are you a boy, or are you girl?" But the ghost did not answer. Then she said: "If you are a boy, I will call you Brynnål, but if you are a girl, your name will be Brynnel."
At once the cries died away, and since then no one has heard anything about ghosts in Masåsen
The myling, also known as "utburd", is surely one of the most tragic and spooky creatures in Scandinavian folklore; they are the phantasmal incarnations of the souls of unbaptized children that had been forced to roam the earth, until they could persuade someone to give them a proper furnural.  

Already in the old norse society, newborn babies, mostly girls, were left out in the woods to die; either because the parents were to poor to keep it, or because the child were deformed or born out of wedlock. When Christianity were implemented into the Nordic lands, this practice was banned, yet did not eradicate as easily as planned. The social consequences for bearing a child out of wedlock was severe, and not seldom young, unfortunated girls tried to erase their misdeeds by taking the life of the illegitimate child, and disguise the body at remote places. The child was therefore either baptized nor placed in a consecrated ground, and therefor doomed to live its wretched life wherever it was laid. 

Utburden usualy made themselves known as a small, naked child, who wailed and cried when someone approached its resident. In Hardanger it was told: "Sometimes he groaned and shrieked like his mother when giving birth to him, scaring people completely out of their minds." Some mylings could also make upset accusations against their mother, even expose her for what she had done. In 1687 a housemaid named Nille Jensdatter from Steigen was executed because a myling allegedly exposed her name to the priest. From Lapland a similar tale is told about an utburd who sang in his mothers wedding. In the middle of the bridal waltz, some of the guests heard a child's voice singing in tact with the music. The bride confessed her crime, and the little skeleton was found, brought to the cemetery and buried. The best way of silencing the the myling was, in other words, to baptize it and bury the body in Christian soil. Some had even heard the utburd walk around and shout: "Give me a name! Give me a name!"  

In the Nordic legends, people like milkmaids, shepherds and travelers always risked an encounter with these beings, especially during the cold, dark winter nights.    

Eyolf Soot: Barnemordersken (The Child Murderer) (1895)

Source:
Ørnulf Hodne (2012) Vetter og skrømt i norsk folketro. Cappelen Damm.

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