Vikings lived in long communal houses built of cedar and pine. These lodges would house up to forty people, who all slept in beds along the walls. Down the middle of the structure, a long slab of pavement was laid out and used as a fireplace. As the furnace burned, ashes would be pulled two or three feet from the fire, coming to rest in between the flames and the beds. Young men would sometimes lie down in the space between the fire and the piles of ash, remaining there for years. They would be seen as silhouettes, crouching over the fire, dirtying themselves in the soot, eating the ashes, and neither caring to employ themselves in the work of the day or keep themselves in a state of cleanliness. Some even chewed on cinders and were dubbed the cinderbiters. These young men were going through a ritual, a rite of passage, and the elders of the group allowed it. One cinderbiter of the eleventh century, remained in the ashes for several years, only coming out once his father invited him on an expedition. Once called, he stood up, shaved, dressed, and became a magnificent warrior and poet.
Cinderbiters don’t seem to exist much anymore. There is pressure to finish high school, go to college, find a good job and the right spouse. If a person chooses a different route, a period of ashes where he rolls in his own filth, attempting to discover who he is, society often casts him out, calling him unsuccessful, naive or plain stupid. I often feel like a cinderbiter. I have not been called yet, and I sit in restlessness. This blog exists as a place to challenge the status quo, to play with ideas, to find passions, be silly, and eventually be called from the ashes and sent into the world.