Namejs Ring / Nameja Gredzens

for refugees past, present, and future.

Background notes:

King Namejs was (probably) an actual historical figure who ruled Zemgale (a region of Latvia) in the 13th century, and fought against the Teutonic Knights.

The (many variations) of the story of Namejs’ ring seem to originate with a jeweller, Janis Betins, in the early 1900s, around the time that Latvia was gaining independence from the Russian Empire. 

The version of the story I’ve retold here became especially important for Latvian refugees who ended up all over the world after World War Two.

And, here’s a film of someone making one:

When I was four I used to lie awake at night, brain spinning, as I tried to solve the questions that adults couldn’t, or wouldn’t, answer.


“Everyone has a mother,” I thought. “All the way back to Adam and Eve. They didn’t need a mother because God made them. But who is God’s mother? Who made God?”

“No one,” did not feel like an adequate answer.


I decided I didn’t believe in God.

Then attempted to convince my three year old brother to follow my lead.