A Supernatural Journey Into Scandinavian Culture And Folklore


Emely Salguero, Reporter

Members of the community lined the pews of Samuelson Chapel Friday evening and Saturday afternoon, Feb. 7-8 to hear traditional Nordic tales with mystic elements during “Magic, Creatures and Legends: A Journey Into Nordic Folklore,” California Lutheran University’s 21st annual Nordic Spirit Symposium.

“I was expecting [the presentations] to be more like straight and dry but they were both super funny and engaging,” Thousand Oaks local Heidi Biersborn said. 

The annual event held in partnership between Cal Lutheran and the Scandinavian American Cultural and Historical Foundation, invites distinguished scholars and experts in the field of Nordic folklore to give presentations to the community.

Among the eight presentations were retellings of  “The Wild Ride” which includes mystical creatures riding horses through the night sky on a crusade, explanations of various Scandinavian super-natural beings, a Lutheran cleric’s misadventures with the devil and a performance of traditional Nordic folk songs.

The presenters used gestures and elevated tone to capture the audience’s attention, ushering laughter and interaction. Biersborn said she  attended both presentations and said it was lots of fun.

Thomas DuBois, graduate professor of Scandinavian studies and folklore at the University of Wisconsin, Madison gave presentations about Finnish spells, chants used in everyday activities and joiks, or traditional songs sung by the Sami people to remember events and people in history. 

“When [my students] study [Nordic] folklore, they suddenly see all the treasures that they have in their own family,” DuBois said.         

“They come to really value the culture that is around them, there are treasures in people’s daily lives and that’s what folklore helps people appreciate.”

DuBois said he felt that a unique aspect of the symposium was the opportunity for students and community to learn more about Scandinavian culture in a learning environment. This was DuBois’ first time speaking at the symposium since his appearance in 2010.

Dianne Swenson, Cal Lutheran class of 1993, has come to the symposium in the past and said she likes “hearing about my history,” coming from a Scandinavian family herself.

In addition to engaging in her own cultural traditions, Swenson said she values learning about cultures  aside from her own, and felt this event gave attendees the same opportunity.

“What I think is very cool about events like this is that you can see the Scandinavian-American and Nordic-American community trying to get that Nordic element in this big universe and to share it and celebrate that,” DuBois said. “That’s how we get to know each other as a world community, by sharing our cultures and sharing our experiences, we see the commonalities and the value in the diversity that is our world.”