Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Save the Icelandic Goat

When the Vikings settled Iceland in the late 800s, they brought sheep, cows, horses, goats, pigs, hens, geese, dogs, cats, mice, lice, fleas, beetles … Archaeologists have found signs of all these in the detritus of a Viking Age house. 

Go to Iceland today and you can ride a Viking horse. You can buy a sweater made from Viking sheep's wool. You can eat cheese from the milk of Viking cows and--if you hurry--Viking goats. 

We could also talk about Viking dogs and Viking chickens, but it's the goats I'm worried about.

There's only one farm left in Iceland that specializes in raising Icelandic goats, and it's going on the auction block next month. Háafell in Borgarfjord--aka the Icelandic Goat Conservation Center, in foreclosure. Unless they can raise $90,000 in a month, their 400 goats will go to the slaughterhouse. That's about half the total population of Icelandic goats in the world.

If Háafell fails, we'll lose an important link to the Viking world.

Thor the Thunder god will not be happy. 

Goat is what Thor eats for dinner, according to Snorri's Edda. The two goats that pull Thor's chariot allow him to butcher and boil them every night. Provided that he saves every bone and wraps them up in the skins, unbroken, the goats will come back to life in the morning. 

The heroes in Valhalla will also not be happy. There, a magic goat produces endless vats of mead instead of milk for them to drink. 

And what, without goats, would make the goddess Skadi laugh? 

In one of Snorri's funniest tales, Loki was caught by a giant eagle who dragged him through treetops and bounced him on stony ground. "Stop!" cried Loki, "and I'll give you the goddess Idunn and her golden apples, source of the gods’ immortal youth." 

The gods began to grow old and gray. Forced to confess, Loki was ordered to retrieve Idunn. He borrowed Freyja’s falcon cloak and flew to Giantland. Learning the giant was out, Loki turned Idunn into a nut, clasped her in his talons, and took off for Asgard. When the giant came home to find his prize missing, he transformed into giant-eagle shape and went after Loki, "and he caused a storm-wind by his flying."

The gods stacked a great pile of wood in the yard of Asgard. As soon as Loki the falcon flew over the wall, they torched the stack. The giant eagle's feathers caught fire. He fell to earth, in giant form, and Thor killed him with one whack of his hammer. 

It's to compensate for this killing that the giant’s daughter Skadi was allowed to marry one of the gods. She also demanded they make her laugh; she considered it quite impossible. "Then Loki did as follows: he tied a cord round the beard of a certain nanny-goat and the other end round his own testicles, and they drew each other back and forth and both squealed loudly. Then Loki let himself drop in Skadi’s lap, and she laughed."

If that's not a reason to save the Icelandic goat from extinction, I don't know what is. Click here to go to the IndieGoGo site and get yourself a coffee mug:

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