Lore, Retellings, and UPG (checking your sources before teaching)

*Sorry this is another long one, but it is my brain and it likes to talk.

To start this entry, I would like to point out, and apologize for, an error I made in previous posts. In re-reading and studying the Eddas these past few months, I have realized that one of the points I made and believed about Sif and her hair was actually from common retellings of the story as opposed to what the myths actually said. That is the idea that she thought Thor would not love her with it gone, and tried to hide in shame. Though I do believe that she likely did try to cover it outside of the house, the lore does not actually tell us what her reaction was. It says simply that Loki cut it off and when Thor found out, he threatened Loki. And to be honest, it did actually say Loki did it simply for the sake of mischief. Again, my upg and that of some others is that there was more than just mischief involved; especially with the Aesir being the narrators of the stories. But that is still upg and retellings, not what’s stated in the lore. For this, I do apologize. But this leads me to a topic that has been on my mind for awhile. And I have seen many cases of this happening. The fact is, many people teach the myths and tales of the gods through retellings as opposed to summaries. Though that isn’t necessarily bad, it is still incorrect and does cause some misunderstanding if not actual arguments. 

I have always been one to support sharing UPG. But that is when it is not directly against what is clearly stated. I’ve said this before. There is a lot we don’t know and a lot of gaps we can fill in with our personal upg (like Sif hiding her bald head). But, we do have to be careful to point out when it is upg and retellings instead of directly from the myths themselves. If we neglect to do that, we are teaching it as fact when it is not. The problem is, when someone is new to the path and is wanting to learn what the path entails and what the myths tell us about a certain thing, they are asking what the path and lore says, not what personal opinion says. So they need to be told what is actually stated, and/or where to find it. You can always add “but I believe this” or “but many people also think this”, but still tell them what is actually stated. Let them know they can form their own interpretation of what it means. But do not tell them this path says a specific thing if it doesn’t. The other problem is that when these things are shared as fact repeatedly, people begin to believe it so strongly that some will actually fight with people for not agreeing with that view even if the view they do believe is from the lore. Take for example the constant argument over Valhalla. There are those who believe Valhalla is like christian heaven and Hel is a place of punishment. That just is not accurate. There is nothing in the lore that states that. But, they will fight over it. In a similar way, many people say that battle doesn’t mean war, but that battling cancer or abuse or other struggles in life count as battles that get you to Valhalla. This again, is not what the myths tell us, but people’s opinions. And as well meaning as it is, some people don’t want to go to Valhalla anyway, especially after struggling their whole lives. But, the problem here is, when someone says they don’t believe that and points out that the myths specifically say that death by old age, accident and sickness all go to Hela, they are often talked down on as if they are monsters for saying that. The same thing happens in many other cases. Frigg and Freyja are two of Odin’s wives. Many people say they are both the same goddess despite the myths saying specifically they are two separate women, with separate homes, and even both appear in the same tales talking separately. In the Prose Edda it even says that Freyja is second to Frigg. But, many will argue they are the same to the point of anger. The character and traits of Sigyn is another commonly held upg. Many people revere her as being a nurturing, loving, loyal, devoted wife and mother. This is often from the fact that her name translates to something roughly meaning a friend of victory, and the fact that she holds the bowl to catch the venom from dripping on Loki at his binding. But unfortunately, those are the only things the lore really tells us about her. We know that she was married to Loki, had a son by him named Narfi or Nari, and she held the bowl. The myths do not tell us anything about the kind of marriage they had, how faithful she was or was not, what kind of mother she was, or even what kind of person she was. We are told they married and had a son and then nothing else until the binding. But because of the bowl, it is assumed great loyalty. That does make sense. I can see how that idea was formed. But, we aren’t told enough to know for sure. And yet, some people and groups will fight you, and even remove you from their circles if you do not see her that way. And then, of course, there is Loki himself. Many tales of Loki are mostly accurate compared to the myths. Then again, many are not. Most commonly told is how he was sent to fix problems because HE caused them. But in actuality, many of the myths say simply that the gods assumed it was him even though he was not involved until the assumption was made. One most often told this way is the story of the wall of Asgard and the birth of Sliepnir. Many people fully believe that Loki caused that whole thing. They even use it as one of the many reasons to not honor him. The problem is, that isn’t how it happened. The myth tells us that when the Aesir realized the builder was infact one of the giants and was close to finishing on time, they assumed Loki must have somehow made him come offer to build the wall. Others go on to say that Loki was so ashamed of what happened that he just gave Sleipnir to Odin to get rid of him. That too is a retelling not stated. So not only are these cases causing arguments for no reason, but they also have lead to people being shunned for following Loki and other Jotun. So how do we address this issue? 

For starters, we need to remember the difference between a summary and a retelling or re-imagining. In a summary, you take the story and simply break it down highlighting the facts of the tale. A retelling or re-imagining is when you take a previous work and actively embellish and add little details and make changes for artistic and creative purposes. Most mythology books are by authors telling their versions of the tales. It’s storytelling, and entertainment. But novels and “myth-based” books are not the same as the myths themselves. Gaiman, as great as the writing is, is not the actual lore. Ironically, a lot of modern followers say they can’t trust the Eddas because Snorri was an author and a christian that likely altered the myths. Yet they also read modern authors’ retellings and treat them as if they are the actual myths from the Eddas. Why is the modern version somehow more accurate than the ones from a closer time to when the tales were put to paper? And why argue and tell people they are wrong to believe what the myths actually say? So, to fix this, when people ask about how to learn the lore and path and what books to read, suggest they read the actual myths and sagas first. Tell them they can interpret it as they wish, but to start there. Secondly, remember that UPG is for what the myths DON’T tell us. So just as you ask people to let you believe what you wish and your personal gnosis, you also can not fault others for choosing to follow and believe what they do based on the actual lore. That’s like saying “I’m heathen but gods aren’t real and you’re wrong to believe in them because the Eddas and Sagas don’t count”.  Don’t we call out christians for cherry picking and embellishing? So why should we do it? And finally, when sharing and teaching, check your sources and let it be known when what you’re sharing is from upg or retellings. In the end, even if you stick to your personal belief with or without the myths, (except for hate and bigotry) don’t fight others on it either. Especially when they are basing their belief on the myths. Let them be, just like you want them to let you be. That’s all for now. See you soon.

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