Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Vis-Kari: The Norwegian Mystic

A large oil painting of Kari Pedersdatter (of Sevre) hangs in the narthex of the church in Flaa (mid-19th century). How cool is that? One normally finds paintings displayed in a church narthex of Jesus in the Garden or with the little children. It is indeed compelling because Vis-Kari (Wise Kari) was not only, God Forbid, a female, but she was a lay preacher even to kings, long before it was acceptable for such unheard of practices. Her preaching brought about great religious fervor against the backdrop of the Pietistic Haugean lay movement that swept Scandinavia. Kari spoke out strongly against the use of alcohol and such frivolities as music and dancing.

But the tale gets stranger still: Kari was called Vis or Wise because she was a mystic: Norway's only known mystic. Kari had "spells." When she awoke from one of her spells or unconscious periods, she spoke of visions. And the crowds became quiet; they listened to words speaking truths that they were were not accustomed to hearing. Hundreds of men (get that????) obeyed her call to give up drink and to burn their musical instruments.

Reading about Vis-Kari brings to mind mystics ranging from Hildegarde of Bingen, St. Teresa, St. John of the Cross - to Dag Hammerskjold, one of our modern day mystics. What exactly is the definition of a mystic? Wikipedia: "A mystic is one who believes in the existence of realities beyond human comprehension." I suppose the same can be said for schizophrenics. Not all mystics have visions either; some speak of an existential experience of the immanent or transcendent God that is life-transforming; yet, words fail them as they try to describe an encounter with "Something." They don't hear words or see visions, but they comprehend and grasp the deeper realities of God's presence among us in wondrous ways.

Kari's story is intriguing to me as a Lutheran clergywoman who witnessed the difficulties women faced entering ministry in the first ten years following the ordination of women in the Lutheran Church. Yet, here is an uneducated farmer's daughter who experiences "call" to ministry over a hundred years earlier than the ordination of women in the US and she is not only accepted, but she walks hundreds of miles to preach to the king, and he not only receives her, but he listens to her. She preaches to men and they obey as though God Almighty was speaking directly to them. She has visions at a time it was certainly not politically correct to hear from God apart from the written word (in Norwegian). And the people are so amazed they call her Vis-Kari. Who can help but stand in awe and wonder at the mystery of God using a young woman to bring such changes?

Vis-Kari lived at the same time and in the same place as my great grandmother, Brynhild Engebretsdatter; no doubt they knew each other because Brynhild's aunt Kristi was Kari's stepmother. She was a Sevre - as was her mother-in-law, Anne Olsdtr. Sevre/Sefre.

While I cannot agree that her fervor against dancing or burning musical instruments was the Word of the Lord- I can rejoice to see her image displayed in the church at Flaa knowing she was a community treasure.

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Saturday, June 16, 2007

Flaa Church, Norway

The church of Flaa, Norway was built about 1859 to replace the old Stave Church. The Vold farm is across the road - about where the photographer was standing. In 1860, Ole Halgrimsen walked across the road to make his vows to Brynhild Engebretsdatter. In May of 1861, Ole and his bride of one year got the "Amerika Fever." Ole sold the Vold gaard and set sail for America to join three of his siblings, Margit, Truls and Sever, who were already in Rice County, Minnesota. Ragnild stayed behind in Norway. For me, it was an exciting moment to step into the high pulpit of this church and imagine the mixed pride and horror that my great grandparents would have felt knowing their great granddaughter was a member of the clergy.

Ole and Brynhild set sail out of Drammen, Norway in May on the ship, Flora, bound for London and then embarking onto Quebec, Canada where they landed in August. They journeyed onto Wisconsin for supplies and prepared to move by covered wagon to Rice County, Minnesota near Nerstrand where they farmed for eleven years before settling permanently in Worth County, Iowa.
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Gandrud Clock

1996 photo of cousin Nils Kolbjorn Skinnes and me (Cynthia) taken in front of the grandfather clock that has been in the house and family since 1837. The clock belonged to our shared ancestors Engebret Kolbjornson Gandrud and his wife, Gunhild Knudsdatter Hilde. I had the clock reproduced in Norway by a master woodcarver and a rosemaling artist. Photos of my clock will be on the blog later.
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Stor Gandrud - Lake View

The photo of the Stor Gandrud lake view was taken in 1996 by Cynthia standing in front of the Gandrud farmstead facing the lake.
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Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Stor Gandrud (large Gandrud farm) c1920

Photo was taken c1920 by unknown photographer. The farm has been in the Gandrud/Gulsvik family since commoners could own land - about 1150 AD. At one point Gulsvik was a very large area; as sons and daughters married the land was divided. A large lake is in front of the farm (about the bottom edge of the photo), although not visible in this photo. Behind the farmstead (top of photo) are hills that became well-known during WWII when the Norwegian Resistance fired down on a German U Boat in the lake. It was the only place in Norway where the Norwegian Resistance had an open battle. The German U Boat fired back causing some bullets to land in the children's playhouse. The bullets are still embedded in the playhouse.

My great grandmother, Brynhild Engebretsdatter (Gandrud), was born 7 September 1837 on this farm as were all of her Gandrud ancestors for centuries. Her father was Engebret Kolbjornsen Gandrud b. before 29 November 1807. Her mother was Gunhild Knudsdatter Hilde, b. before 22 February 1801 on North Hilde. Later, I will post photos of the farm today taken of me with cousin Kolbjorn Nils Skinnes. Kolbjorn owns the farm now; he is a descendant of Brynhild's brother who took over the Gandrud farm when Engebret died.

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The Stabbur on the Vold Gaard

The photo of the stabbur (storehouse) on the Vold farm was taken about 1952 by Laura Vold. The building has been replaced by a newer stabbur. The Vold farm is located across the street from the church in Flaa, Norway. It, too, is centuries old and was originally part of the Gulsvik farm. My great grandfather, Ole Halgrimson Vold (Wold) was born on the farm on 19 March 1832. Ole's father was Halgrim Syversen Wold who was christened 1790, September 26. Halgrim's Parents: Syver and Ragnild Lie Wold. Test (witnesses): Ragnild and Embret Ganderud, Gunild and Syver Wold, Levor Olsen. (Parish record 5/57 Nes and Flå).

Marriage: 17 Feb. 1816. Bachelor, Halgrim Syversen Wold. 27 years old, and Anne Olsd. Sefre maid 23 years old. Best men: Ole Olsen Onsgaard and Parish Clerk Paulsen. (Parish record 7/394 Nes and Flå). Anne was the daughter of Ole Knudsen (Maelum) Sefre and Margit Trulsdatter Kolsrud.
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The Gandrud Gaard, Flaa Norway, 1996

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