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Nordic Mythology


Preface

 

Norse mythology is more than just an esoteric interest among scholars or a neo-pagan religious belief, it is the inheritance of the ancestors of all Germanic and Nordic people of the world.  Our understanding of this mythologic theology has often been the lesser to the more literary and better understood ones of Greece and Rome, and the more recent and dominant one of Biblical Christianity, however all the peoples of Greater and especially Northern Europe, as well as the emigrants from there who populated the world, share a heritage that arises out of the common ethnic past and the traditional beliefs that are embodied within what is known today as Norse and Germanic mythology.  This is perhaps lost on the modern population and in Western civilization, that it has been relegated even among the educated into a place of little significance, quite forgetting that this defined the beliefs of the earliest ancestors of all people who originate from the European continent.

 

The source of mythology arises from an attempt to explain the world, usually through simple comparisons, and it is hardly anything approaching the belief or faith accepted in today’s religions.  There is nothing that arises out of the lack of knowledge the earliest humans had of their world (call them pagans if you must) that has not been greatly improved over the years towards our current understanding of the universe and ourselves.


Introduction

 

Most theories about Eddic or Norse mythology presented in books and published journals provide mostly speculations and guesswork about the meaning and source of the mythology.  Most internet sites relating to Norse myth have developed consistent errors and many Wikipedia entiries are entirely mistaken.  The purpose of this page is to provide accurate explanations of the entire mythological tradition to aid scholars and to benefit anyone else who is interested in understanding the sources and development of the mythology.  For this reason it should act for now as the most valuable source on the subject available.

 

The 12 papers on this website about Nordic mythology arise from a recent study on the subject that began in 2003 and continued for about three years culminating with a book presenting the collected findings.  This research was all based upon a library of books about mythology that I have accumulated and no internet research was done or sources used.

 

Normally the term Norse myths is used, or more misleading Viking myths, but which does not apply to mythological traditions that extend back into a time before the Norse arose.  However, what became Norse mythology would have extended back in recognizable form through to the beginning of the Iron Age, and with certain elements extending back even to the Neolithic and beyond.  Thus for this reason Nordic myth or Germanic myth is perhaps more appropriate, although even so not entirely inclusive, but it at least indicates the reliance upon the use of Norse/German myth as the source from which the rest is derived.  (It could be that Northern European or Indo-European myth ultimately be preferable.)

 

As my breadth of expertise is somewhat limited in the global scope of European soceity, my hope is that more thorough research and study will follow from these first few papers.  Although most of the theories and speculations about Norse mythology have been replaced by them, this should open the door to completely new lines of research along this frontier that I am incapable of pursuing thoroughly or to completion.

 

(A note about dating:  In every case I use AD and BC to distinguish years, quite against the trend to use CE and BCE more and more into books and within academia.  This is a disturbing trend in light of the fact that dating and naming systems arise arbitrarily and are perpetuated because they arise out of tradition.  The Christian distinction of years, the pagan Roman names of the months, the pagan Anglo-Saxon names of days all arise out of the accumulations of our past.  Our calendar of years, like our celebration of Christmas and Easter, would still be as they are even if there were no Christians today, since they are part of our national heritage.[1]  While we might well command the choice of the naming we use for what is newly discovered, it is against our heritage to scar and undermine it through any ideological purges.)

 

[1] Christmas trees, wreaths, mistletoe, yule logs and gift giving around the winter solstice, easter eggs and rabbits in the spring are known to predate Christianity anyway and arise from Yuletide or the god Mithras and the goddess Eastre.

 

 

Here are copies of the individual books from the volume as completely as they could be rendered, which predate the papers but are arranged differently and contain additional information not contained within the papers.

Norse Gods
Northland_09revision_book1.pdf

Norse Myths
Northland_09revision_book2_notes.pdf

Discussions
Northland_09revision_book4.pdf

Bibliography
Northland_09revision_bibliography.pdf

 

NorseMythPapersIndex_v3.pdf


Nordic Myth Papers - 2006

 

Ancient Skies of Northern Europe: Stars, Constellations, and the Moon in Nordic Mythology

 

Nordic mythology from 13th century Iceland contains descriptions that provide traditional depictions of the night sky, constellations, and the Moon.  These were not only incorporated within the mythology but also formed the basis for their gods: Odin was a god whose eyes were the Sun and Moon, and Heimdall was a god of the Moon.  Images that can be seen on the Moon’s face establish the proof of this: the image of two swans said to swim within the Well of Fate and the profile of a face said to have sliced into Heimdall, are both visible.  Further to be seen are Mimir, Hiuki and Bil, Heiddraupnir’s skull and Moongarm.  The mythology also contains reference to the twin stars Castor and Pollux, known as Thiassi’s Eyes, and Venus, known as Aurvandil’s Toe.

 

Article01-NightSky.pdf

 

 

The Nordic Otherworld: Interpreting the Tängvide and Ardre Stones

 

The Tängvide and Ardre memorial stones give us a pictorial glimpse of the Nordic Otherworld during the Scandinavian’s Viking Age.  Often incorrectly interpreted in the past the stones show similar scenes of a fallen leader astride an eight-legged horse that may be either Odin’s horse or the horse of death.  Also depicted are human sacrifices made at his funeral feast.  Horse, mound, and sacrificed figures are being led by a winged spirit (possibly the leader’s fylgia).  On the Ardre stone the area before the mound is taken up by a procession of his relatives, leading his horse to his new home, while the winged spirit is bringing along a suttee victim as well.  The Tängvide stone depicts a popular image of the Otherworld: a woman greeting the fallen warrior with a full drinking horn.

 

Article02-Stones.pdf

 

 

Odin and his Brothers: Common Threads of the Odinic Tradition

 

Within the Poetic Edda Odin, Lodur (Loki) and Haenir are responsible for the creation of humanity in Nordic mythology.  Odin can be seen in an early form as a god of the sky, Loki as a god of fire, and Haenir as a god of water.  These gods of creation can be connected to Syrian myth in the case of Vili and Ve (Eilli and Ea) and to Indian myth in the case of Loki and Haenir (Agni and Soma).  These associations are reinforced through parallels relating specifically to similarities of the myth of the mead of poetry with that of the soma in the case of the Indian and in the Baldric tradition in the case of the Syrian.  There is some potential of establishing a latest possible date for the origin of the myth, as well as an original form of the myth, when common details are identified.

 

Article03-Odin.pdf

 

 

Brother Gods of Light and Darkness: Origins of the Baldr Myth

 

Baldr is a god of light and his adversary Hod is associated with darkness.  Their story of fratricide is present in four forms in Northern Europe; however in only the Eddas is Loki made responsible for the deed, so his presence must be a late addition.  The gods’ names are common throughout Europe and western Asia and down in the Middle East.  The evidence points to an agricultural myth that arose during the Neolithic in Syria then moved into Europe as the knowledge of agriculture spread northward.  Balder corresponds to the Syrian sky god Bel and Baldr’s wife Nanna is equivalent to the Syrian goddess Inanna, who’s descent into the underworld is similar to that of Baldr and also Idunn.  Condensing it into a simple naturalistic explanation: the two brothers of Summer (Baldr) and Winter (Hod) fought over the Earth (Nanna) and Winter was always vanquished upon Summer’s return.  The Norse myth of Baldr’s death may be a combination of two independent stories attested in Beowulf.

 

Article04-Baldr.pdf

 

 

Lady of the Elves: The Great Germanic Goddess

 

The prominent goddess of Europe was known in Germany as Berchta and Holda, who appear as goddesses of the bright and the gloomy.  These pairings might be represented as Berchta and Holda, Frigg and Hel, and Freyia and Hyndla.  The bright goddess arose as a goddess of the sun and sky and the gloomy one appeared as representative of the earth and underworld, but with Berchta and Holda they encompass both aspects and were largely interchangeable.  She received the souls of the dead who rode along the path of the Milky Way in a wagon to the underworld.  As ‘lady of the elves’ or ‘queen of the fairies’ the huldren, elves, and dwarfs, thought to be spirits of the dead, would appear with her on earth from time to time.  The goddess held her position until the appearance of the sky god, which subsequently caused her to take on the role of an earth and fertility goddess.  The necklace of Freyia may have initially arisen from either the view that vegetation was the clothing or girdle of the earth or as the rainbow.

 

Article05-Lady.pdf

 

 

The Lineage of Norse Mythology

 

Several traditions are represented in Norse mythology as recorded in the Eddas.  The earliest were Bertha, Heimdall, and Lodur (Heimdallic tradition).  Then there arrived the god of light Baldr and the god of darkness Hod from Syria (Baldric tradition).  Nanna came with the Baldr myth, but the identical goddess Idunn had already made her way into another tradition.  Next came the gods of the sky represented by Tyr (Tyrric tradition) and Thor (Thorric tradition).  After this Odin (Odinic tradition) made his way into different regions, taking over for Tyr as the most important god.  Then the trinity gods adapted though time into the Vanir Freyia, Frey and Od and as the Aesir Frigg, Fricco <Friggo> and Odin.  Meanwhile in the north, the god Niord was introduced and became the father of Frey and Freyia.  Then there was a final combination of the Aesir with the Vanir that is thought to have occurred during the Migration Age.  The indigenous gods Forseti, Ull and Skadi lingered around, each adopted into one of the other traditions.

 

Article06-Traditions.pdf

 

 

Odin, the Well, and the Mead: The Theft of the Drink of the Gods

 

The two principle myths from the Odinic tradition are the Mead of Poetry and the Well of Mimir, which are also related to the theft of the soma from Indian mythology.  The drink attained is one of inspiration encompassing immortality, poetry and wisdom.  The basic elements being the creation of the liquid, its theft with the killing of its source, then going to a giant who is beheaded and the secret of the liquid is revealed.  This is also associated with the explanation that the eagle brought this drink of the gods down to mankind.  The basic purpose of the myth was to explain the Moon.  In myth the round shape of the Moon is explained as being Odin’s eye; the phases are either a well, a bowl, or a drinking horn; while images on it are seen as Mimir with his drinking horn, Heiddraupnir’s Skull, or Dadhyanc’s horse head.  The liquid revealed is a real intoxicating drink in the Indian tradition, while in the Nordic it appears only as a metaphor for inspiration, albeit a mead.  At some point then this mythical drink was equated with intoxicating drinks.

 

Article07-Mimir.pdf

 

 

Reconstructing Rig: The Missing Page of Rigsthula

 

In the Norse poem “Rigsthula” Heimdall plays the role of progenitor of mankind’s three classes under the name of Rig.  In Saxo Heimdall (Humbli) is the father of Dan and Angul, the first of the line of the Danes and Angles.  In Snorri Rig is used as the name of a king who was father of Danp, Danp himself (the father of Dan), but Rig was also Dygvi the father of Dag.  The basic intent of the poem establishes the line of descent of the Daglings.  The account of Dag in Heimskringla thus might be used to continue the story of Kon in “Rigsthula”.  The reference to Danp and Dan, the use of the name Rig, and an equivalence between King Dag in “Ynglinga Saga” and the figure of Kon, who both understand the language of birds, attest to their similarity.  Dag is considered the first of the line of the Daglings: a Swedish line from Domar that became combined with that of the Danish king Danp.

 

Article08-Rig.pdf

 

 

Thor and Tyr: Revealing the Indo-European Sky God

 

The Norse god Thor is a god of thunder and Tyr is a god of the sky, yet both appear to be linked back to the original Indo-European sky god Tiwaz (who also led to the thunder gods Zeus and Jupiter and the Indian sky god Dyaus).  Thor’s hammer and wagon relate to his role as god of thunderstorms, wherein he did battle with trolls and fought back the frost giants to drive back the winter.  There is also an association between the thunder god and the elves, who were thought to reside within mountains, as was the wind.  In this relation to the elves, Thor is also connected with the goddess Bertha through the giantess Grid (Brid/Brith) and the giantess Iarnsaxa.  Tyr himself is the same as Dyaus, who was consort of Prithvi, a goddess also equivalent to Bertha.  Tyr’s single hand may be a reference to the Sun as a shield, while his adversary, the dog Garm, may appear upon the Moon.  The contest between the sky god and a serpent or wolf might imply some distant connection, but specific details that would link the gods together are otherwise lacking within the mythology.

 

Article09-Tyr.pdf


Nordic Myth Papers - 2007

 

“The Thunderstorm” and “The Morning Star”: Rediscovering Two German Myths

 

The Norse myth of Freyia’s Necklace and the Grendel episode in Beowulf are variations on original naturalistic Germanic myths.  The first explains the sequence of a thunderstorm and the second explains the Morning Star.  Each exists in only a single reliable telling but enough ancillary evidence exists to be able to identify their original inspirations.  In the case of Freyia’s Necklace the characters of the Sun (Freyia), Moon/Water (Heimdall) and Fire/Lightning (Loki) contend, while in the case of the story of Grendel the poem is too far removed to provide every episode that must have comprised an original myth.  That it involved the Sun and her child the Morning Star is sure, but whether the character of Beowulf was originally represented by the Moon, the thunderstorm or a bear-hero cannot be resolved.  Assuming that the myth was exclusively related to heavenly bodies the Moon would be the obvious hero, so if this is correct the myth would have involved Bertha, Orvendil and Heimdall or a proto-Heimdall.  An illustrative recreation of the myth can be generated to show how the story as originally told could have eventually led to its subsequent forms today.

 

Article10-TwoMyths.pdf

 

 

Source of the Primeval Giant: Recreating the Mimir Myth

 

The giant Mimir/Mim might be equated with Brimir, who himself is seemingly identical with Ymir.  The giants Ymir, Mimir and perhaps even Hymir would then be variants on the primal giant, the first mortal being, and the first forger of swords.  Then killed so as to form the world he became king of the underworld where he drinks mead and sits under a tree, which recalls both the Moon and the night sky.  That the giants of Creation and of the Soma are distinct in Indian tradition suggests that if Mimir/Mim and Ymir/Brimir were identical it must have been well before the Odinic and Indian traditions split.  The myth of Mimir, which has not survived as a single work in Norse myth, can be suggested from bits and pieces and from matters relating to the primal giant.  An illustrative recreation of the myth can be generated to show how the story as told could have eventually led to it subsequent forms known today.

 

Article11-MimirMyth.pdf

 

 

Yggdrasill and Ymir’s Skull: The Cosmologies of Nordic Myth

 

The several traditions of Norse myth each contain cosmologies that arise from a past understanding of the universe.  Although, set like moving targets, changing through time with changes in thinking and experience as well as communications with other societies, the different cosmologies are similar in terms of how closely they relate, but may also pick up various descriptions and assemble them differently.  However, it is not sure when the traditions might have brought in new stories or adapted through time.  The Vanaric and the Odinic traditions are closely related and so share some similarities.  For the same reason, the Tyrric would match the Thorric to some degree.  The Well of Urd, closely related to Mimir’s well, would appear to include Yggdrasill and its constellations.  The Baldric itself is entirely unknown, despite the significance of the story of the death of Balder in Norse myth, but if it can be traced back to the Syrian then it can be reconstructed somewhat.

 

Article12-Cosmology.pdf


Nordic Myth Papers - 2010

 

The Prophetic Moon: Eve, Pandora, and Gunnlod

The Pandora story from Greek myth contains the essential explanation for the hardships of men.  Although the remaining gift, often translated as ‘hope’ could also mean ‘premonition’ and thus could represent an even stronger power of prophecy.  The image of Pandora can also be found on the Moon, which is also the Norse giantess Gunnlod from “The Mead of Poetry” myth from the Eddas.  The two myths surrounding these figures resemble one another enough to suggest that they derive from a single original.  This myth of the woman in the Moon could have then been incorporated into the soma/mead myth found in Indian and Norse myth to produce the Mead myth, yet this is not the only possibility.  The Pandora myth is also close to the Biblical Eve myth, enough again so to suggest that they derive from a single original.  They both contain similar tales about the violation against a god to attain a heavenly gift, and in both cases there is some form of divine retribution.  All variants include such a gift to mankind, usually relating to some form of expansion of mental capacities suggesting a form of drug, the same as that of soma/hoama which is believed to be based upon Ephedrine.  In the myths the powers of the Moon are associated with prophetic powers, and the Moon itself played at least a partial rule in divinistic practices and magical power.  All of these various myths thus appear to have arisen from a very ancient, perhaps Neolithic myth, that associated images on the Moon with an apparently mind-expanding drug found on the earth.

Article13-PropheticMoon.pdf


The Theft of Fire: Prometheus and Loki

Similarities between the binding of Prometheus and the binding of Loki hint to a common origin.  While the giant Loki is not known for having stolen fire, he is the Norse god of fire.  The similarities between the two grow when the details of the apportioning of the sacrificed ox between man and Zeus, through their intermediary Prometheus is near in form to a rather obscure episode in “The Theft of Idunn’s Apples” myth from the Eddas.  In this case Loki must share a part of his ox with an eagle, the giant Thiassi (Zeus), in order for it to grant in return the heat of the fire necessary to cook the ox.  The eagle takes its portion, but Loki is dissatisfied and striking at the eagle ends up being carried away, forced to secure his release must bring Idunn and her golden apples (an episode absent from the Prometheus version).  The apples bring eternal youth and are much needed by the gods, so despite Loki’s escape he is compelled to return to release her, and Thiassi chases him in the form of an eagle and is burned.  It is telling that fire used to burn the eagle, which likely explained why an eagle’s wings are “burned” at the tips.  The white-tailed eagle (Haliaeetus albicilla) commonly found throughout Eurasia shows such markings.  The sudden appearance of Thiassi’s daughter Skadi could be related to the birth of Athena; Loki and Prometheus are each accredited with the attack causing her manifestation.  The mythical ensemble also appears to imply an association between the theft of fire and the need for humans to sacrifice a portion of an animal (what was inconsumable) back to the god of the sky through the use of fire (that sent its smoke up into the sky).

Article14-TheftFire.pdf


Explaining Hrafnagaldr Odins (Song of Odin’s Ravens)

All stanzas of the poem Hrafnagaldr Odins (Song of Odin’s Ravens) are explained and its meaning revealed.  In summary, a foreboding dream leads to some consternation and the gods seek a sign as to whether Ragnarok approaches.  Idunn drops into Niflheim and Odin sends the gods Heimdall, Loki, and Bragi down to inquire of her what she knows, to see if she can reveal their fate.  Going to her there she is so stricken with sadness that she reveals nothing to them; they return to a feast Odin has prepared only to tell him as much.  They adjourn and all go off to bed.  Heimdall rises on the next day.  From its content there is no reason to presume the poem is fragmentary, but presages Ragnarok, the details of which might have come from a separate poem.  The details of Ragnarok are well represented within Eddic sources.

Article15-OdinsRavens.pdf