Nykken and Bear


SKU: OMM2109 Category:


Traditional songs and original poems from Minnesota, Norway and Sweden about water sprites and shape shifting bears.Nykken and Bear CD cover

“… a collection of folk songs, stories and original poems about the musical water spirit and the shape-shifting Bear.” — Huffington Post (August 2013)

This recording was supported by a Kickstarter project that was named a “staff pick” and raised over $7000.

Kari says: “This is a collage of poems, songs, and
stories about the Nykken (a water spirit) and the Bear (in all its forms) that help me tell some of the story of my Norwegian American heritage. I have finally recorded Villeman og Magnild (a longdans) as an American folkrock gallop and Runarvisa (heard as a medieval ballad on my Rune App) as a courtly lovesong in English. We have styled our Heiemo og Nykken after Kirsten Bråten Berg’s aching version but with eerie e-bow dulcimer and creepy vocal effects. Another song comes from Sweden, a polska, reinterpreted. The Bear section has a waltz, a longdans, a German children’s game and a ritual dance.”

Joining Kari on this project are:

  • Drew Miller on bass, dulcimer and baritone ukulele; founder of legendary Celtic rock band Boiled In Lead and Omnium Records. He initially suggested funding the project via Kickstarter.
  • Scott Nieman (Felonious Bosch) at dubNemo Studios is a brilliant producer, musician and composer, having worked on Kari’s two previous Nordic recordings (the Volva Songs EP from 2008, and Live At The Capri from 2009.
  • David Stenshoel (Boiled In Lead) on fiddle has family roots, like Kari, in Norway’s Sognefjord. He enjoys playing many different styles, from “hot club” swing to Persian classical music.
  • Aneesa Erinn Adams (cover painting) is a Minneapolis artist, teacher and Staver in the House for the new millennium.


About this Recording

Part of Kari’s Norwegian heritage comes from Nykreim on the Sognefjord, home of the Nykken, a male water spirit haunting the edge of deep water and estuary.  Human women who can sing nature’s songs such as kvad or runo often summon this spirit. Harp and fiddle players who have been granted power by the Nykken can play in trollspel or magic tunings.

The Bear is a favorite fyglia (animal spirit) following Kari all her life. Bear is the slumbering memory of ancient songs. The mountain, Nedbergo in Aurlandsfjord, Sognefjord Norway is the root of Kari’s mitochondrial lineage and a UNESCO world heritage site. This is the bear that follows Kari!

The CD is 12 Tracks including these original poems:

“Nedberge til Nykkenheim” was written for this project. I live on the edge of a boundary as a Norwegian-American, being at once from here and not from here. This poem is a plea to my ancestors and the very land on which they were born, to guide my process.

Seljefløyte – Willow Flute” was written in 2009 after a workshop with Arna Rennan at the North House Folk School. I was interested in the connection of the overtone flute and toning runes into runos. The flute I made achieved every expectation and I was rewarded with an audience of two white tailed deer.

Beginnings” came from the final pages of the journal I kept while filming Alt for Norge in 2009. My final episode (four) took me to Gudvangen. It was so painful to be in the Næroyfjord knowing that Nedbergo was right around the corner. It was a deep grief and separation that I felt on the night I wrote this poem.

Bjønndans ein Rituel fra Trysil
I first heard about this song from Mads Bøhle whom I met while filming Alt for Norge, Season One at Rudi Gard in 2009. He saw me using staff rhythm and told me of an ancient bear hunt song, dance and ritual that specifically requires staff rhythm. I didn’t see him again until 2011 in Trondheim where he gave me a copy of Martin Myhr’s article (the source of the story). My friend Sonja Lidsheim had performed this ritual song and dance with members of Norway’s Asatru community and helped me with pronunciations and interpretations.

The story is a dramatic telling of one in the Martin Myhr article. I have done the song as call and response with harmonies. I have no idea if they would actually do it this way!