Myth Study: The Lay of Skirnir

One day, Frey went and sat on Hlithskajalf looking over all the worlds. He looked into Jotunheim and saw a beautiful woman walking from her father’s house so shining that light shined from her arms across the land and sea. It was Gerd, the daughter of the giant Gymir. Frey was so struck by her beauty that he instantly became lovesick for her. And he was so distraught by the fact that he couldn’t have her, that he went home and stayed to himself in his room not talking to anyone. This behavior worried everyone. But he hadn’t told anyone what happened that day so no one knew what was bothering him. So Skadi went to Frey’s servant, Skirnir, asking him to please go and talk with her son and find out who had angered him so much that he stayed in this condition. Skirnir went to Frey and asked him to tell him what was bothering him. Frey responded asking “why should I tell you?, The sun shines all day but it doesn’t soothe my longing”. Skirnir replied “I doubt there is any longing that you can’t tell me. We were young together. We can trust each other”. So Frey told Skirnir of the beautiful woman he saw saying she was more desirable than any young maid from his youth. So Skirnir told him “Give me a horse that will carry me through the dark and flame. And give me your sword that fights by itself”. Then Frey agreed and gave Skirnir the horse and sword. Skirnir took the horse and sword and headed to Jotunheim determined to bring Gerd back to marry Frey. When he arrived at Gymir’s home, he saw fierce dogs chained outside the fence. So he rode over to where there was herder sitting on a mound and said to him “Tell me herdsmen, how to get past the dogs that guard Gymir’s house for a chance to speak with his daughter”. The herder looked at Skirnir saying “Is this the day you die or are you already dead? You’ll never get to talk with Gymir’s daughter”. Skirnir replied “There is always a chance for someone who is prepared to die. When my life was shaped my fate was already set”, and he rode back to Gymir’s home. Once he was there, Gerd heard some noise outside and asked her serving maid “What is that noise I’m hearing inside our walls?”. The serving maid said there was a man outside stepping off his horse and letting it feed. So Gerd told her to go and ask him to come inside and drink some meade, though she fearedthis man may be the one who killed her brother. When Skirnir was inside Gerd asked him “Are you Aesir, Vanir, or Alfar? Why have you come over the flame to our home?” Skirnir told her he was neither Alfar or Aesir or Vanir, though he came there with this offer. “I have eleven apples made of gold that I will give you if you pledge to marry and live with Frey”. But Gerd said she would not accept the apples from any mortal in exchange for her love, not even for Frey and she would never marry him. So Skirnir told her he would give her the gold ring that Odin had placed on his son’s funeral pyre that would drop eight more gold rings from it every ninth night. Gerd told him she would never accept gold for her love either because she lacked no gold with her father. At this, Skirnir began to threaten her. He showed her the sword and said he would cut off her head if she did not agree to marry Frey. But Gerd told him her father would kill him first if he tried. Then Skirnir began to get even more threatening. He told her he would kill her father and beat her, and then cursed her. He said she would be sent to a place where she would never be seen again. She would sit on an eagle’s nest and turned away from the world and never get any food. She would be forced to crawl on her knees humiliated and crying, and would be bound to three-headed Thurs or else never have a mate at all. Then he says Odin and Thor and Frey would all hate her and even the Jotun would hate her and some translations include being given sexual shame. He shouts the curse out loud and tells her “I have already cursed you, but I will lift the curse if you agree to come and marry Frey”. At this, Gerd agreed she would marry Frey. So Skirnir said he would only leave after she proves she will do it by telling him when she will come to marry Frey. She told him she would meet them in a grove called Barri in nine nights. Then Skirnir went back home and told Frey what Gerd had said. Frey complained that it would be difficult to wait nine whole nights. But, (according to the Prose Edda) he did wait until the set time and did marry Gerd.

Discussion: 1) When Skirnir arrived at Gymir’s home Gerd asked if he was Aesir, Alfar, or Vanir which would seem to indicate he wasn’t Jotun. But he said he was none of those. So who is he? Since Gerd said she would not accept these offers from any “mortal”, is Skirnir the same one that Gerd feared had killed her brother? Is this the same one or of the line as the tale involving Andvari’s ring and the deaths that came from that? If so, how did he and Frey grow up together? Was he adopted by the gods? Or a human servant like the children that follow and help Thor or other human children who were taken as servants by the gods?.. 2) Was Frey told what all was done and said to make Gerd agree to marry him? If not, would he have married her if he knew it was that coerced?… 3) In this threat and curse that Skirnir put out, Thorpe’s translation says that he carved runes into the wand to make it happen, but he also called to not only the Aesir and their allies, but the Jotun as well. So with or without the runes, would the Jotun have even honored and brought forth this kind of curse on their own kind for something like this? Would they have actually fought for her against the curse? Or would they remain uninvolved?

What do you think? What thoughts or questions do have about this tale? Feel free to comment and discuss if you like. And I will respond as I am able. That’s all I have for this enrty. See you soon.

Faces of Loki 6: Chaos and Calm

This entry of the faces of Loki is one that will be a bit more personal than usual. And though there may be some mention of the myths, much of it will be UPG and personal experience. 

For many people, Loki is associated with chaos. This is understandable given his role in Ragnarok and the way he often causes change and solves problems through unconventional means. Both in the lore, and in the lives of many followers, he is known to bring lessons and needed results through very trying, or even painful, experiences. I have known many Lokeans (myself included) who have had terrible things happen that lead to a needed result. And in the majority of those cases, they were later able to see how that chaotic experience led to something they had known, or suspected, they needed to change or address in their lives and just hadn’t done it yet. Often times, this was after asking Loki for signs or help and them admitting later that they had ignored the signs until the result got forced on them. I have seen people ask for help in making decisions but still put off the decision once they had more insight until something drastic happened and removed all the “wrong” choices from the equation. I knew of a person who had asked Loki’s guidance in choosing a potential new job or staying with their current job. They weighed pros and cons and still decided to just stay at the job they were at until they got a clearer sign. Suddenly they found themselves fired from their current job for some unusual happening that they weren’t even involved in. Then they had no choice but to go to the other one but at that point had to take a slightly lower position than they would have gotten had they went on in the first place and work into the position they had wanted. I, personally, had prayed and made offerings begging Loki to help me get away from some toxic people I was living with and get a place of my own. The toxicity got more frequent and I would leave and stay with friends a night or two tops, and then I’d give in and go right back. I kept thinking I had nowhere to live and just had to tough it out until I did have something. I wouldn’t risk leaving without certainty of where I’d go. Then one day, the toxic behavior became physical and I had to flee. At that same time, my best-friend who I usually turned to for advice was not talking. So I had no choice but to just go and trust it would be ok. I got a tugging feeling to file a report when before I never even considered that. And I went with it, but that also meant an immediate no contact order and I could not go back to the house because they were the owners instead of me. I ended up in a motel room with my children for two months. And as crazy and chaotic as that all was, somehow it still worked out better. I was able to keep the motel paid for and food coming in due to generosity of others I never expected. Then I randomly got a phone call that someone had a small apartment I could rent cheap and happened to be affordable for me. And these were all people I had already known and simply didn’t ask because I assumed they couldn’t or wouldn’t help. So, in hindsight, I can see that it was chaotic but worked out for the best. And yet I can also see that had I used that calm and trust to begin with, it may not have had to come to that severe of a case to get me where I needed to be in the first place.  It was this event that made me stop and think about how even though Loki is known to be a god of chaos, he is also very often the calm inside the chaos that can guide us through. And in a way, this was somewhat the case even in the lore. Yes, there were times things got chaotic because of Loki. But, there were also times things went wrong that weren’t Loki’s fault and he was just the one that got blamed and/or sent to fix it. In either case, even when he was fearful, he remained clear-headed and cunning enough to find a solution. And although it was often unusual or even bizarre solutions, we have to consider the fact that it takes a certain level of calm to think on our feet and outside the box. When Loki cut Sif’s hair, Thor threatened to crush every bone in his body. But Loki very quickly thought of a way out and said he would get the dwarves to make new hair for Sif. Then there was the time Thor dressed as a bride to get his hammer back. Though it wasn’t Loki’s idea, when Thor said he couldn’t do it, Loki did explain that was actually the best option they had and volunteered to go along with him. Then at the wedding feast, when the giant questioned Thor’s appetite and appearance, it was Loki that quickly and calmly came up with a response to lower his suspicions. And there are quite a few other examples of Loki finding a way to get things done when no one else could or would. So though he can cause the chaos, he can also be a guide to the solution. If we are still and quiet within the chaos, and consider the options and possibilities without letting the chaos in to cloud our thinking, we can often find the answers faster and save ourselves a lot of stress. Unfortunately, many of us often get clouded first and then have to make ourselves calm in order to do that. Either way, Loki is one that can be called on or meditated on to help somewhat center and think clearly to get through the troubles and chaos that are outside of our control. Because Loki is the chaotic storm, but he is also the calm inside the storm that finds a way out, or at least rides it out safely. Hail Loki. 

That’s all I have for now. See you soon.

Voluspa Study: stanzas 25 -26

25. Then sought the gods their assembly-seats,

The holy ones, and council held,

To find who with venom the air had filled,

Or had given Oth’s bride to the giant’s brood.

26. In swelling rage then rose up Thor

Seldom he sits when he such things hears,–

And the oaths were broken, the words and bonds,

The mighty pledges between them made. 

This segment, although short, does still have a few questions and debates surrounding it. The first question is what exact event this portion is referring to. Some people assume this is just continuing on from the Vanir war and them still questioning (or seeking blame for) who started it. Though that was discussed in previous stanzas, since it does flow right into this from Gullveig and the war, it is possible that they were still at this point debating who had caused the Aesir to become greedy and kill Gullveig and the whole war starting. And if you read the other myths much, you know that it is not uncommon for the Aesir to find someone to blame when they do things that are somewhat unsavory. So there is the possibility that this is still in relation to that story. However, it also mentions the question of who gave Odin’s bride to the Jotun. There isn’t mention in relation to the war about Odin’s bride being given to the giants. Of course, there isn’t much told about the war to begin with. With that being the case, is it possible that during the war someone stole away the bride of Odin? Or is this an entirely different event altogether? One possibility is the threat of Freyja being given to the Jotun, though she never actually was given over. This has happened twice that we know of. One such case being Thor’s adventure to regain his hammer while disguised as Freyja in bride’s clothes. Another example of possibly losing Freyja is the wager made when building the wall around Asgard. The wager was if the builder could finish on time, he got the sun and Freyja. To tie it in further, when he got close to finishing the job on time, the Aesir started to assume that he was sent on purpose to do this and even blamed Loki for being the one to make the builder do this. This would also fit with the idea of the Aesir assembling to figure out who put tension in the air to send Odin’s wife to the Jotun. Another slight possibility that some people suggest is that they may be referring to Idun and her apples. This idea mainly comes from the fact that some translations say “maid” instead of bride or wife, and because Idun is the one that we do know was stolen by a giant. However, based on the line up in the previous stanzas, it does still seem as if this is likely just another event that took place during the Vanir war. Maybe the Vanir arranged the taking of the wife as a strategy against the Aesir in the war. Who knows?

The second discussion related to this segment of Voluspa is oaths being broken. We see Thor angry and in a rage, and then are told of broken oaths. There is some debate over the meaning of this section as well. For some, this is simply saying that Thor was angry about Odin’s bride being given to the Jotun and oaths and agreements being broken. That is a good possibility. Thor was known to get angry rather easily, and especially when the giants were involved. But, it should be noted that it says Thor was angry and then said oaths were broken. The wording in Thope’s translation seems to tie the broken oaths to Thor’s anger. After telling of Odin’s maid given to the Jotun, it says “There alone was Thor with anger swollen. He seldom sits, when of the like he hears. Oaths are not held sacred; nor words, nor swearing, nor binding compacts reciprocally made”. In this way, it seems to say that once things are done to make Thor that angry, all oaths and agreements go out the window. This, too, has been seen in quite a few of the myths. Again in the story of the builder and the wall, oaths were broken. After the giant lost his wager and got angry and raged, the Aesir broke their oaths and agreements and called Thor up to take him out. And there were other times that oaths were broken out of anger or restitution for a wrong done or perceived wrong. So from this standpoint, it is easy to see how this stanza could be interpreted as Thor got angry and broke oaths himself. And, of course, it could also be that broken agreements are what angered him as suggested earlier. We may never know. 

So, what do you get from these stanzas? Is the bride being sent to the Jotun part of what happened during the Vanir war, or a different event? Regardless of when it happened, which bride or maid was it? Who broke what oaths and agreements? What other questions or thoughts do you have about these stanzas? Feel free to comment your thoughts and I will respond as soon as able. That’s all for now. See you soon. 

Why pour from cups? : A different look at self-care and relations

When talking about the need for self-care, the most often heard phrase is “you can’t pour from an empty cup”. It’s generally accepted that this saying means when you give and give and don’t stop to recharge and take care of yourself, you’ll be too “empty” of energy to take care of anyone including yourself. For the most part, on the surface, this is a good example of what happens when a person is completely drained. However, when it comes to care and mending, it is still a bit faulty in its logic. Think about it. What cup have you ever seen refill itself? It doesn’t. Someone has to pour from the pitcher into the cup. And someone has to brew the tea to fill that pitcher. And someone had to pick the tea leaves to brew the tea with. It goes on and on. The cup is not solely responsible for refilling itself and neither should we be. Yes, people should be able to take care of themselves as best they can and not rely solely on others. But that is not the point of the saying. Even in the context of self-care, this saying and message is still focusing on getting yourself better so you can pour out to others more again. That is not what interpersonal relationships are about. It doesn’t matter if it’s romantic relationships, or friendships, or business relationships, or family or any other type of relationship. Relationships are not about one person doing all the pouring. They are a team effort with all involved working together and pouring for each other from what they have. If that’s not happening, you’re draining yourself unnecessarily for no reason and your cup will never be filled no matter how much self-care you give yourself. Stop emptying your cup for people who expect you to refill it yourself or only share a fraction of their cup’s contents with you. In fact, get rid of the cup and find yourself a fountain. 

When you think of a fountain, you can see the waters flowing on and on and never ending. You know that it will keep going and it doesn’t run out and go empty. But what makes that continue that way? It is the pump and the body of water around it working together to keep it flowing. The water goes from the pool into the pump, then out the top and back down into the pool. It cycles. No matter how much water goes into the pump the pool does not empty because the fountain pours it back down into the pool. And no matter how many times the fountain pours out, it doesn’t empty because it’s going back into the pool it came from and is given back into the pump. It is reciprocal. Just as our relationships should be. There is still a chance of gunk getting into it and needing maintenance and cleaning. But that too is normal and healthy. Yes, be careful. In a fountain analogy you should still keep away anything (or anyone) that will add pollutants to the water and clog the pump like toxic or abusive behaviors and actions. And keep away those who take away from the fountain instead of putting back into the collective pool like those who don’t give their fair share into the relationships. But, as a whole, the fountain is still a better suggestion than pouring out your cup and refilling it yourself just so you can pour yourself into others again without others pouring into you. Self-care is important. And sometimes we just need to be left alone and to ourselves for a while to rest. But that should not be for the purpose of being able to serve others over and over. It should be simply because it is the healthy thing to do with or without others. And most importantly, stop telling people to take care of others but only them take care of themselves. If someone is giving of themselves and gets to a point where they need to take a break and “self-care”, before leaving them to care for themselves, offer to give to them for a change by seeing if they need anything. How about instead of your loved one taking self-care by giving themselves a soak in the tub, you go and ask them (before they’re completely worn out) if they want you to draw up a bath for them so they can take a break. Or instead of your co-worker going off on edge needing a break, if you have a moment, go ask if there’s something you can help them get done faster. And make sure the people in your life do those things for you consistently as well. Stop giving more than you get. Don’t empty your cup and refill yourself just to pour out more over and over. Smash the tiny cup that no one wants to help fill, and get yourself a pond full of only those who are willing to put themselves into making the fountain work continually. You deserve for them to do things and pour out for you too. If they choose not do for you as much as you do for them equally and consistently, they are not for you. Don’t blame yourself for being drained and not doing enough self-care when there are people who should be caring for you too. Again, self-care is important. But, receiving care from others is too. So, now I ask you, why pour from cups when you could have a beautiful fountain?

Voluspa Study: Gullveig and the Vanir war

*This entry has two different translations shown for this section of the poem that will be discussed. Whereas I usually show Bellows Translation alone and only mention Thorpe or others as needed, in this case, the two poems have separate information with Thorpe having extra stanzas not included in Bellows translation. So, this one is quite a bit longer than usual but I tried to narrow it down as much as I could. Enjoy.

21. The war I remember, the first in the world,

When the gods with spears had smitten Gollveig,

And in the hall of Hor had burned her,

Three times burned, and three times born,

Oft and again, yet ever she lives. 

22. Heith they named her who sought their home,

The wide-seeing witch, in magic wise;

Minds she bewitched that were moved by her magic,

To evil women a joy she was.

23. On the host his spear did Othin hurl,

Then in the world did war first come;

The wall that girdled the gods was broken,

And the field by the warlike Wanes was trodden. 

Thorpe Translation

21. Alone she sat without, 

when come that ancient dread Aesir’s prince’ 

and in his eye she gazed.

22. “Of what wouldst thou ask me?

Why tempest thou me? Odin, I know all,

Where thou thine ey didst sink in the pure well of Mim”

Mim drinks mead each morn from Valfather’s pledge.
Understand ye yet, or what? 

23. The chief of hosts gave her rings

And necklaces, useful discourse, and a divining spirit:

Wide and far she saw o’er every world.

24. She the Valkyriur saw from afar coming,

Ready to ride to the gods’ people:

Skuld held a shield, Skogul was second,

Then Gunn, Hild Gondul, and Geirskogul.

Now are enumerated Herians maidens,

The Valkyriur, ready over the earth to ride.

25. She that war remembers, the first on earth, 

When Gullveig they with lances pierced,

And in the high one’s hall burnt,

Thrice burnt, and thrice brought her forth, off not seldom;

Yet she still lives. 

26. Heidi they called her, withersoe’r she came,

The well-foreseeing Vala:

Wolves she tamed, magic arts she knew,

Magic arts practised;

Ever was she the joy of evil people.

27. Then went the powers all to their judgment-seats, 

the all-holy gods, And thereon held council, 

whether the Aesir should avenge the crime,

Or all the gods receive atonement.

28. Broken was the outer wall of the Aesir’s brugh.

The Vanir, forseeing conflict, tramp o’re the plains.

Odin cast his spear, and mid the people hurled it:

That was the first warfare in the world. 

This passage is focused on the death of the “witch”, Gullveig, and the world’s first war which followed. While we know the war was between the Aesir and the Vanir, there has been quite a lot of debate about which specific characters were involved and what exactly started it. A big part of the discussion revolves around the questions of who was Gullveig, was she actually guilty, what was the real reason for the war, and who started it. One reason for this is variations in the translations including injection and omission of details between them. For example, as seen above, Bellows’ translation has a lot less information than is in Thorpe’s translation. In Bellows’ translation the poem goes straight from the Norns to this first war and Gullveig being burned. The way it plays out with Gullveig being speared and then saying Odin speared the host, many interpret this as one spearing, and solely Gullveig. However, Thorpe’s translation adds that the Aesir were discussing whether to avenge the crime or just get atonement for it, when the Vanir rushed in. What stands out to me here, is the way it says that the Vanir did this after “foreseeing conflict”. We know from other references that the Vanir were at times said to be able to foresee future events, and Freyja (who is also of the Vanir) is well known for that ability as well. So with that considered, it seems the Aesir were planning to attack and “avenge the crime” but the Vanir simply attacked first to stop them. It is also worth mentioning that though it is hinted about Gullveig bewitching people, the myths don’t say for certain if that is what happened or, if so, how she bewitched them. In other sources, it says that the Aesir became greedy in gaining things from her magic, and they assumed she had bewitched them to make them greedy. So though there are different views on who actually started the war and why, the lore doesn’t actually tell us enough to know definitively. 

One of the biggest questions people have about this tale is who Gullveig actually is. The two most often assumed to be Gullveig are Freyja and Angrboda. As mentioned earlier Freyja is from the race of the Vanir and is well known for seeing the future and strong magic. Thorpe’s translation of Voluspa (as seen above) mentions that Gullveig or Heidi was very widely known for those skills. Because of this, many believe that Gullveig may have been Freyja and that the war came from her being speared. However, others point out that Freyja came to be with the Aesir as part of the hostage exchange after the war and is very much alive whereas Gullveig was burned three times and died. In other sources we’re told that after she was burned, Loki ate the heart that was left and from that gave birth to the “witches” or trollwives. Because of this, some speculate that Gullveig may be some variation of Angrboda and that Angrboda as we know her could have been a rebirth of Gullveig spawning from this event. And while Freyja could be another incarnation or version of Gullveig as well, there isn’t an account in the lore of how exactly that could have happened. The poem also states that this woman tamed wolves. That is something we also know that was done by Angrboda as she was also the mother of wolves. However, once again we have the problem of the lore not telling us enough information to know for certain. It could be neither Freyja or Angrboda. She may have been her own person and that is simply the end of it. It is one of those mysteries that, unless we discover more writings or artifacts, it is left up to one’s own interpretation and UPG to decide. So that is where we leave this section. What are your thoughts on this? What really caused the war? Who was Gullveig? Feel free to share your thoughts and discuss in comments. That’s all for now. See you soon.

Myth Monday: The Lay of Thrym – Thor is the Bride

*All direct quotes are italicized and taken from Thorpe’s translation of The Poetic Edda.

The Lay of Thrym: Thor is the Bride

One morning, Thor woke and found his hammer missing. The first thing he said was to Loki “Hear now, Loki, what I now say, which no one knows anywhere on earth, nor in heaven above; the As’s hammer is stolen”. The two went to Freyja and asked to borrow her feathered garment so that they could find the missing hammer. Freyja agreed and Loki flew out to Jotunheim. He found Thrym, Lord of the Thursars, sitting on a mound plaiting gold bands and smoothing his horses’ manes. He asked Loki “How goes the Aesir and the Alfar? Why have you come to Jotunheim alone?” Loki replied it is not well with the Aesir and asked Thrym if he had hidden Thor’s hammer. Thrym replied “I have Hlorridi’s hammer hidden eight rasts beneath the earth; it shall no man get again, unless he bring me Freyja to wife”. So Loki flew back to the courts of the Aesir and told Thor what he discovered. “I have had labour and success: Thrym has thy hammer, the Thursar’s Lord”. And he told him what Thrym said about only giving the hammer back if Freyja is brought to him for a wife. He went to Freyja and told her to put on a bride’s clothes and ride with him to Jotunheim. Freyja was so angered by this that the hall beneath her trembled and her famous necklace shivered and flew. So the Aesir immediately held council to determine what to do. Then Heimdall suggested they send Thor dressed as bride and to let him wear Fryeja’s necklace, and place stones on his breast and go pretend to be Freyja to get the hammer back. Thor said he would not do that because the Aesir would think he was womanish if he wore bride’s clothing. But Loki told him that the Jotun would take Asgard if he didn’t get his hammer back. So they dressed Thor in the bridal raiment and the necklace and Loki said he would dress as a servant-maid and go with him to help. As the two headed toward Jotunheim, Thrym told the other Jotun to deck the hall with decorations because Freyja was coming to marry him. He said he had many treasures, and many necklaces, and Freyja alone is all he lacked. Thor and Loki arrived early in the evening and the Jotun were served their beer. Then Thor, still disguised as Freyja, ate a whole ox, eight salmon, all the sweet meats given to women, and drank three salds of meade. Thrym asked about this voracious appetite so unusual for a woman. But Loki, still dressed as the serving-maid told Thrym “Freyja has not eaten for eight nights because she was so eager to come to Jotunheim”. Then Thrym peaked through the veil to salute Freyja but jumped back exclaiming “Why are her eyes so piercing? I believe fire burns from them”. But again, crafty Loki answered saying that Freyja had also not slept in those eight nights either because of her eagerness. Eventually, the time came for the wedding to take place. Thrym demanded, “Bring the hammer in, the bride to consecrate; lay Miollnir on the maiden’s knee; unite us each with other by the hand of Vor”. Then Thor’s soul laughed when he recognized his hammer. “He first slew Thrym, the Thursar’s lord, and the Jotun’s race all crushed;” the he slew Thrym’s aged sister. And that is how Thor got back his hammer. 

Thoughts: In this tale, 1) Thrym is referred to as the Lord of Thurs and the Jotun. But other places in the lore have named other Jotun as the essential king of the Jotun such as Thiassi, and Utgard-Loki. But not all the Jotun named as Lords in the various tales were necessarily related. This makes me wonder, what is the process of determining who takes over when one “Lord” of the Jotun is killed or dies?  2) Many people tell this story as part of Loki’s craftiness and how he came up with the idea. However, the myth tells us it was Heimdall that came up with it and Loki just offered help. So what is the reason people make this a Loki story? 3) What did it mean when it said he crushed all the Jotun’s race? We know there are still plenty of Jotun still left after that, so was this meaning that specific Jotun’s bloodline finishing off Thrym’s line? 

As always, feel free to discuss and comment and I will respond as able. That’s all for now. See you soon.

Voluspa stanzas 19 – 20: The Norns

* As usual, this section of Voluspa is taken from Bellows translation. This segment is only two stanzas and tells of the Norns.

19. An ash I know, Yggdrasil its name,

With water white is the great tree wet;

Thence come the dews that fall in the dales,

Green by Urth’s well does it ever grow.

20. Thence come the maidens mighty in wisdom,

Three from the dwelling down ‘neath the tree;

Urth is one named, Verthandi the next —

On the wood they scored, — and Skuld the third.

Laws they made there, and life allotted

To the sons of men, and set their fates. 

This small segment focuses primarily on the Norns where Yggdrasil seems to be mentioned just as a way of showing where they are from in the layout of the tree. One of the interesting things about the Norns is how these three are mentioned in such a primary role even though many sources agree they are not the only Norns. Not only are there other Norns, but they are also not all of the same race of beings. In Gylfaginning of the Prose Edda, it says “There are also other norns who visit everyone when they are born to shape their lives, and these are of divine origin, though others are of the race of elves, and a third group are of the race of dwarfs”. The question then is, would Norns be considered something like practitioners of a particular type of magik in the way a person may be a Volva, Healer, Seer, etc? Or are they something more like spirits of these various races that have taken on this particular job the way some may view ancestors as doing? And in either case, are these particular three, then, the first of the first and that being the reason they reside at that particular place by the well?

Another interesting aspect of the Norns is the way they are shown carving into a tablet on the tree, and elsewhere. With them being writers of fate, is this an unchangeable fate, or are the fates written in these materials where they could be changed if it were needed or the person did something that changed their lot? As we’ve mentioned before, it was often what one did to stop their fate that caused it to happen, as when Odin took Loki and Angrboda’s children to try and prevent Ragnarok. So we are again facing the question of is this a set destiny or self-fulfilled prophecy? Or perhaps, with some accounts of carving into the roots and Yggdrasil itself, maybe it could be a bit of both. And then, what of the “laws” they wrote? We know that the Aesir have their rules and laws just as the Jotun and dwarfs and others have their own sets of rules and laws. Yet there are some customs that are relatively accepted across most of the races. We also know there are laws and customs set for everyone by Odin and the Aesir. So are these “laws” the customs of the times that were incorporated as divine law much like the commandments in the biblical Old Testament? Or, with them being ancient and written into Yggdrasil, are they referring to something more like the laws of nature or universal laws? 

There are many other topics that could be discussed and debated where the Norns are concerned in the myths. However, for the purpose of this entry, I will stop here with just this segment of Voluspa. What are your thoughts on this section, or the Norns? As always, feel free to comment and discuss and I will respond as able. That’s all for now. See you soon.

Myth Monday: The Lay of Hymir

It happened one day that the gods were out fishing and became thirsty but had no drink. So they tried to see how to get some through some form of divination. They shook rods and inspected blood to do this. In doing so, they discovered that Aegir’s hall had kettles. They went to Aegir and Thor gazed into his eyes and told him he should give feast to the gods. Aegir was not pleased with this treatment and so told them he would do it only if Thor could bring him a kettle big enough that he could brew enough ale for all the gods. But they could not find one until Tyr spoke. He told them his father, Hymir, had a vast cauldron a mile deep but they would have to be cunning and careful. So Thor and Tyr rode out to where Hymir lived. They happened upon Tyr’s grandmother who he “greatly loathed” (Bellows) who had 900 heads. Then another “Fair with gold came forth”, the “bright-browed one”, Tyr’s mother. She hailed Tyr and told both him and Thor to hide under the kettle because Hymir is “wrathful” and harsh to guests. Then, after they had been hidden, Hymir came home from hunting with his beard frozen so much that the icicles on it rattled and made noise as he walked. Tyr’s mother spoke to Hymir, “See our son has come to your hall after all this time”, and goes on to tell him that their adversary, Thor, is with him and they are hiding under the gable behind the beam. With a single glance from Hymir, the beam broke. Eight kettles fell and shattered, but only the one hard-hammered one they were after remained intact. And when Hymir saw Thor was still there, his heart was sorrowed. But he ordered three steers be boiled and Thor and Tyr be fed. Thor ate two whole oxen by himself before retiring. So Hymir told them that if the three of them were going to all eat the next night, they would have to go fishing for more food. Thor said he would row out to fish with Hymir if he would supply him with bait. So Hymir told Thor he could go find his herd of oxen saying “I expect that thou wilt bait from an ox easily obtain” (Thorpe). So Thor took off through the woods and found an all-black ox. Then he grabbed it by its horns and took off its head. At this, Hymir said it was far worse than what he had seen of him just sitting and eating as much as he had earlier. But still Thor took this ox head as his bait and they rowed out. Thor encouraged Hymir to row much further out but Hymir would not go to deeper waters. Then with his hook, Hymir caught two whales while Thor cunningly made him a hook and line and fixed it to the boat. And Thor “the serpent’s slayer” threw the ox’s head out to bait the midgard serpent. Jormungandr took the bait and rose up out of the water with venom dripping. Thor struck him in the head with his hammer. “Icebergs resounded, the caverns howled, the old earth shrank together” (Thorpe)  and, at last, the serpent sank back into the sea. Hymir was upset by this and sat quietly rowing back home not saying a word. Once they docked the boat, Hymir told Thor he must do half the work. Either take the whales to the house, or tie up the boat. Thor picked up the boat without draining any of the water. He lifted the whole thing and carried it through the woods to the Jotun’s home. Hymir was still angered by the whole ordeal and challenged Thor in strength. He told Thor that no matter how fast he could row, no one was strong enough to break his cup. Once the glass cup was given to Thor, he tried to break it against a stone. The stone broke, but the cup remained. Then he threw the cup through the wall and broke the pillars, but the cup was brought back to him still unbroken. But then the beautiful woman, Tyr’s mother, told Thor a secret she knew. She said “Strike at the head of Hymir, the Jotun with food oppressed, that is harder than any cup” (Thorpe). Thor then rose on his knee and threw the cup at the giant’s head. This shattered the glass and Hymir knew he had lost. So he told Thor and Tyr they could have the kettle if they could carry it out from the house. Tyr tried twice but could not make the vessel move. Then Thor grasped it by the brim and carried it off with the kettle over his head and the rings jingling at his heels. They had traveled a long way before Thor turned to look back and saw that Hymir was coming after them from the East with a troop of many-headed giants. Then, he tossed the kettle off his back and “mjollnir, the lover of murder, he weilded” and killed the whole horde. Not long after this, they came across one of Thor’s goats lying half dead. It had a broken leg, and Loki was the cause of this. Here the poem says that all of heard the story of how from this happening Thor took the children of the wilderness-dweller. And from here, Thor took the kettle on to Aegir and from then on, Aegir served ale to gods once a year. 

* Thoughts: This particular poem is interesting because it combines some pieces of tales seen elsewhere, like the Prose Edda, and some that were not. Because of this, some scholars speculate that it was written by compiling multiple poems and myths into one.  It also has some elements that are likely references to myths not connected to this story in other writings such as Loki and the goat’s leg. On one hand, one could speculate that maybe Loki for some reason didn’t want Thor to succeed. And that could be possible since this was a case of Thor telling a Jotun what he had to do and the Jotun having to wager with him. Not to mention, we know that drinking in Aegir’s hall is where the feast takes place in Lokasenna. On the other hand, this the only mention of Loki anywhere in the poem, and usually when he’s involved, he is more present. It also says that Loki caused the goat’s leg to be broken and all know how this lead Thor to getting the two children to accompany him. However, that is what we were told happened in the journey to Utgard which Loki was present for instead of Tyr, and was also the children that had broken the leg as opposed to Loki. So the question here is was this an insert that got mistold? Or was Loki trying to stop Thor from forcing Aegir to have to give the gods feasts? Another thought that stands out to me is the giants with many heads. The troop of giants were many-headed and Tyr’s grandmother had 900 heads. We also know that back in the beginning of creation Ymir had a son with six heads. What is the significance of certain giants having multiple heads? It makes me wonder. What are your thoughts? What can we take away from this tale? Feel free to comment and share. That’s all for now. See you soon. 

Voluspa Stanzas 9 – 18 of Dwarfs and Men

9) Then sought the gods their assembly-seats,

The holy ones, and council held,

To find who should raise the race of dwarfs

Out of Brimir’s blood and the legs of Blain.

10)There was Motsognir the mightiest made

Of all the dwarfs, and Durin next;

Many a likeness of men they made,

The dwarfs in the earth, as Durin said.

11) Nyi and Nithi, Northri and Suthri,

Austri and Vestri, Althjof, Dvalin,

Nar and Nain, Niping, Dain,

Bifur, Bofur, Bombur, Nori,

An and Onar, Ai, Mjothvitnir.

12) Vigg and Gandaf, Vindalf, Thrain,

Thekk and Thorin, Thror, Vit and Lit,

Nyr and Nyrath, now have I told —

Regin and Rathsvith– the list aright.

13) Fili,Kili, Fundin, Nali,

Heptifili, Hannar, Svirur,

Frar, Hornbori, Fraeg and Loni,

Aurvang, Jari, Eikinsjaldi.

14)The race of the dwarfs in Dvalin’s throng.

Down to Lofar the list must I tell;

The rocks they left, and through wet lands

They sought a home in the fields of sand.

15) There were Draupnir and Dolgthrasir,

Hor, Haugspori, Hlevang, Gloin,

Dori, Ori, Duf, Andvari,

Skirfir, Virfir, Skafith, Ai.

16) Alf and Yngvi, Eikinskajaldi,

Fjalr and Frosti, Fith and Ginnar;

So for all time shall the tale be known,

The list of all the forbears of Lofar.

17) Then from the throng did three come forth,

From the home of the gods, the mighty and gracious;

Two without fate on the land they found

Ask and Embla, empty of might.

18) Soul they had not, sense they had not,

Heat nor motion, nor goodly hue;

Soul gave Othin, sense gave Honir,

Heat gave Lothur and goodly hue. 

Starting at stanza nine, we see the gods assembling to discuss the making of the race of dwarfs. In this translation by Bellows we’re told the dwarfs were made from “Brimir’s blood” and the “legs of Blain”. Thorpe’s translation doesn’t include names but says “from the sea-giant’s blood and livid bones”. So though these names aren’t used much, it is generally accepted that these are just various names for Ymir. With some translating a relation to the sea, and the Prose Edda containing stories of the dwarfs being made from Ymir’s blood or from the maggots that came out of him, that does seem to be very likely the case. But we also see here and into the next stanza that the Aesir were deciding who would be essentially the leader of the dwarfs. At the end of stanza nine it says they talked  “to find who should raise the race of dwarfs”. Thorpe’s translation says to see “who should of the dwarfs the race create”. Then we see in stanza 10 that Motsognir is made the mightiest of dwarfs and Durin second. Then “many a likeness of men they made, the dwarfs in the earth”(Bellows) or “There in man’s likeness they created many dwarfs from earth” and then Durin named them. So though the Prose Edda says simply the gods made the dwarfs, with them naming who would “raise”  or “create” the race of dwarfs, is that to say that they made the first dwarfs and then set into order the two that would make the rest like with the first humans? At this point in the poem it gives a long list of the many dwarfs and some of them notable names that come up in other myths such Andvari who had the cursed ring and Northri, Suthri, Austri, and Vestri who are often associated with the directions and holding up the sky. And this list goes down to Lofar and says that it was important to tell this for all “sons of men” to know the names of the dwarfs and the “forbears of Lofar”. Finally, we come to the creation of people. Here it says the three gods Odin, Honir, and Lodur come down and find Ask and Embla. We’re told these two had no soul or spirit because they lacked heat or blood, motion, and “goodly hue”. Then Odin gave them spirit or soul, Honir gave motion, and Lodur gave blood and color. Now, in the Prose Edda and elsewhere, we’re told that Odin breathed life into them or gave them breath. But all other accounts do agree that movement came from Honir and blood and color from Lodur. This could be the “breath of life” we see in other creation stories where the breath is life and therefore could be associated as “soul”. However, it also says they had no soul because they didn’t have motion, and blood. So in this case, we see that body and soul are separate but connected. For many people, this is also proof that life and soul begins at the point of breath. That is, of course, up to individual interpretation, but is worth noting. One final point of interest people bring up here is the brothers of Odin who help in this creation. In the Prose Edda it says that Vili and Ve were the brothers. However, this version and a few others list Hodnir and Lodur almost exclusively. And these three also appear together in other stories as well. It is also theorized that Lodur may be another name for Loki. Some people have associated the name Lodur with Loptr which is also a name known to be one of Loki’s. Not only this, but Loki is seen in a few stories in the company of Odin and Honir even with the name Loki, like in the journey that leads to Thiassi and the kidnapping of Idun. So what I personally find interesting is if Lodur actually is Loki, then that would mean Loki gave us blood which is essential to life. It is the blood that takes the oxygen (ie: breath) through the body. And this seems to be, in my opinion, a nice tie in with the blood-brother idea and the idea that “blood-brother” could have meant brother by relation. Again, this is theory and even upg for some. But, there is at least some small evidence for it in this case. What are your thoughts? What other things stand out to you in this section of the poem? Feel free to discuss in the comments. I will respond as soon as I can. That’s all for now. See you soon. 

Myth Monday: The Lay of Vegtam (or Baldr’s Dreams)

This poem opens with the Gods and Goddesses holding council about the troubling dreams Baldr has been having. In Thorpe’s translation it says that then “They the Jotun questioned, wise seers of the future”, what the dreams meant, and that they were told the dreams meant Baldr was destined to die. So the Aesir went out to all the species to have them oath not to harm Baldr. This portion isn’t in many other versions and transitions of the poem. But from this point on they all remain pretty consistent. After this council session, Odin feels uneasy about it and saddles up on Sleipnir and rides out towards Niflhel to consult with a dead wise-woman or prophetess. As he rode, he met a dog from Hel who was blood-stained on its chest, throat and jaw. And the dog howled so loudly it was still heard into the distance as Odin rode on. Odin came to the house of Hel and then rode toward “the eastern gate, where he knew there was a Vala’s grave(Thorpe). Once there, Odin used magik to raise the volva from death in order to speak with her. In Bellows’ translation it says “Magic he spoke, and mighty charms, till spell-bound she rose, and in death she spoke”. Thorpe’s translation gives a bit more description of  how he did this saying “he began a magic son to chant, towards the north looked, potent runes applied, a spell pronounced, an answer demanded, until compelled she rose”. From this description, it can be seen that this particular session of necromancy was done through galdr instead of the herbs and almost potion-like approach that he had used with Mimir’s head. When the old one rises, she asks who has risen her because she has been dead a long time. Odin, as usual, gives an alternate name to conceal his identity by saying his name is Vegtam and then begins to question the old witch. The first question he asks is Who is the hall there in Hel decorated in gold for? She says it is for Baldr, mead is brewed, a shield lays over it, and the Aesir are in despair over his death. So, realizing Hel is already making preparations for his death, his next question is who will be the one to kill Baldr. She tells him that Hodr would be the one to kill Baldr with (depending on translation) either a branch or spear. Odin then ask who will take vengeance for Baldr’s death or bring his killer to the pyre. The Volva replies that Rind will bear a child by Odin, named Vali, and that when he is one night old he will not wash his hands or comb his hair “Till the slayer of Baldr he brings to the flames(Bellows). The next question Odin asks her is what maidens or women will weep at Baldr’s death. And this, she suddenly realizes that, as she thought, this was in fact Odin in disguise and she calls him out on it. “You are not Vegtam, as I thought before; You are Odin”. And he in turn calls back at her “You’re no wise-woman, you’re the mother of three Thurs”. Other translations used various terms there. But all equate to Thursar, giants, or monsters. Either way, there are three “monsters” that she is the mother of. Though it doesn’t tell us for certain by name, this is one of the reasons some people speculate that this Volva may be Angrboda. Here she ends her speech with him saying “Go home Odin” and tells him that no man will wake her again until “Loki wanders loose from his bonds, and to the last strife the destroyers come”(Bellows). Thorpe’s translation says “until Loki free from his bonds escapes”. And that is where the poem ends. 

Thoughts and Discussion: The extra lines in Thorpe’s translation and the one version of the poem that includes the Aesir asking the Jotun what the dreams mean before Odin went to the dead prophetess, it mentions in someway being “seers of the future” or otherwise having some form of wisdom in this area of wisdom. And saying they went to as many as they could seems to indicate it was more than just one or two who were well known for being wise seers. So it gives a little more credit to the idea that Jotun weren’t all bad, hated, primal beastly things as many people seem to think. But what really stirs in my mind here is the way she mentions Loki at the end. She says she wouldn’t be disturbed again until Loki was free from his bonds for Ragnarok. So if Loki is already bound until Ragnarok and Baldr hasn’t been killed yet, that would fall in line with the idea that he was not bound for killing Baldr but for the insults at the feast like it says it happened in Lokasenna. So it is possible that, whether it was for the flyting or something else entirely, he was still already bound before Baldr was killed and therefore not responsible. Presumably, one could also guess that its possible she saw Loki being bound for it and just threw it in as part of that last statement. But there doesn’t seem to be any reason she would want to give them that idea to use on him either. And, it was Skadi in Lokasenna that stated what was going to be done to him. So, that’s all I have on this one for now. What are your thoughts? As always, feel free to comment and discuss. See you soon.