The myth of the City of Vineta and the redeeming word

By Ole Fogh Kirkeby

It is said that in the early Middle Ages there was a large wealthy city in the Southern Baltic, named “Vineta,” perhaps belonging to Rügen, which sank into the sea. The cause could have been anything from a tsunami to a displacement of tectonic plates, yet legend says that it was a punishment for the depraved behavior of its inhabitants. The legend also says that on rare occasions a lucky sailor can see it lying on the bottom of the sea, and that once a century it’s given permission to rise to the surface. If a traveler passes by, walks through the city, and using a small coin buys a single object at one of its many markets, he or she can remain in the world of living. 

However, it’s rarely the case that a traveler has the coin that Niels Holgersen lacked when he unavoidably had to walk through the city, but instead find a solution by saying the redeeming words that will protect us from the curse of the water. Yet however this word – this audible coin – sounds, thwarting the triumph of the sea, it’s the task of every human being to find out and, in faithfulness to life on Earth, whisper it to each other. 

 

Selma Lagerløf

Ole explains his choice of myth: 

“I have chosen this myth because so many people seem unaffected by the message about the dangers encompassing the earth. Like  the use of word or “kerygma or “proclamation” in Christianity, there may be a word that goes straight to our hearts and we thereby understand its meaning, causing us to change our ways.