tilly_stratford: (Vikings: Oseberg)
Now for the bit about the hierarchy of man! Apart from the whole "heralding the end of the world" thing this is the main mythological contribution from Heimdallr.

This bit is from a poem known as Rígsþula ("lay of Rígr"), which is found in a 14th Century Icelandic manuscript known as the Codex Wormianus.

Divine threesomes )

Sure it's a deterministic, prejudiced tale, but you gotta admire that even the (ugly, stupid, swarthy) thralls have a little bit of a god in them.
tilly_stratford: (Vikings: Oseberg)
Heimdallr has always been a favourite of mine. He easily makes my Norse Mythology Top Three, though it's hard for me to explain exactly why.

One of my theories is that when I was a child and heard about Heimdallr's keen senses -- particularly how he could hear "the fleece grow on a sheep" -- I decided that a god who would take time to do stuff like that had to be a pretty ace guy. ("This is a thing he can do", "this is a thing he usually does", what's the difference?).

I still dig him.

Duty, mysteries, and creepy swords )

I'll tell you one thing: It's really hard trying to google academic papers about "Heimdallr the white" after all those idiots blew a casket when Idris Elba was cast as Heimdal in the Thor movie. Dumbasses.
tilly_stratford: (Vikings: Oseberg)
One of my agendas continues to be refuting this common misconception that the vikings were an uncultured, unwashed horde whose main forms of entertainment were pillaging and violence. For one, only a percentage were part of the warrior forces that invaded elsewhere in Europe. Secondly, the vikings were uncommonly particular about hygiene. And thirdly, the vikings were fond of intellectual pursuits such as games of strategy.

And like always, the entries I mark as tangents have some surprising links to Norse mythology!

Kings and pawns )

Did I write this because I got a beautiful replica of Hnefatafl for my birthday? I might have.
tilly_stratford: (Vikings: Oseberg)
The second and final part of the story of where Thor's hammer came from! Also known as the part that contains the actual bet.

Recap: Loki's prank (cutting Sif's hair off) is exposed, and in penance he commissions the great dwarven blacksmiths known as the sons of Ivaldi for hair of gold, plus a ship (Skiðblaðnir) and a spear (Gungnir).

Loki being Loki, however, he can't leave well enough alone.

We're not leaving Svartalfheimr yet )

Fun fact: I grew up near the beginning of the route of the world's oldest paddle steamer still in timetabled service, which was named after Freyr's magical ship. I spent most of my childhood not realizing where the name originated.
tilly_stratford: (Vikings: Oseberg)
The gods have their legendary toys to play with: Odin has his spear Gungnir, which always hits its mark. Freyr has his magnificent steed Gyllinbusti, which can fly and light up the dark. And most importantly, Thor has his magical hammer Mjölnir, which has saved the gods from ruin countless times.

But these items didn't spring out of the ether, they all have their origin. And the whole thing started with a poorly-thought out prank by Loki. Of course it did.

Origins )

Next time: Shapeshifting, more smithing, violence, and the actual bet!
tilly_stratford: (Vikings: Oseberg)
First, a crash course in real-life runes: The runic alphabet is known as the Futhark (technically, the Fuþark) for the six first letters in the alphabet, and went through several changes; Personally I'm mostly familiar with the Elder Futhark (24 characters) and the Younger Futhark (16 characters).

The design of runes make them easy to carve into wood or stone, and though they initially were used by scholars, when the Roman alphabet was introduced to Scandinavia, the runes were claimed, as it were, by the lower classes. Runes were inscribed on pieces of wood and sent with thralls (a sort of early SMS), and we've found pieces like these saying things like "Gyda wants you to come home now" and "Ole likes to be fucked in the ass" (stay classy, vikings).

Also: The Futhark wasn't just used for writing. Each rune held powerful magic, and were for instance inscribed on sword hilts, ale cups, ship rudders - besides also being used for divination (inscribed on pebbles or pieces of wood).

And so back to mythology, and the origin of runes.

With parallels to a certain White Christ )

I like how almost every Norse myth helps you decode kennings, like why one of Odin's names is Hangatýr, "god of the hanged".

Also, this particular myth plays a large part in Neil Gaiman's wonderful novel American Gods. You should read it. Just throwing that out there.
tilly_stratford: (Vikings: Oseberg)
With Loki's rakish good looks and unmatched charisma, it's no wonder several women (and possibly some men - and let's not forget the stallion) had children with him. Today I'd like to focus on just three of them.

When Jotun and Jotun mix )

And that's why you don't set about trying to change prophesies!
tilly_stratford: (Vikings: Oseberg)
A tangent is where I don't talk about Norse mythology per se, but things that are closely related. The mythology didn't spring out of a vacuum, after all. And because you don't spend your formative years being obsessed with Norse mythology without picking up a few facts about the vikings.

So, pop quiz: What does the song 'Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas' have to do with viking worship?

Joyful joyful )

A common viking prayer at midwinter was Til árs ok friða; "For a good year and peace". In case you needed a cool toast on Christmas eve.
tilly_stratford: (Vikings: Oseberg)
Sickness finally defeated you? Caught in Old Age's dance? In short, you did not die in glorious battle (causes may include: Cowardice; Intelligence; Being a woman, child or indentured servant)? Tough break! Thankfully the mandatory Budget Hel Package™ was made for those in your circumstances.

What is the Budget Hel Package™? )

Happy dying!
tilly_stratford: (Vikings: Oseberg)
Way to go! That makes you eligible for our Premium Valhalla Package™!

What is the Premium Valhalla Package™? )

We at Norse Mythology Inc. hope this brochure has been helpful to you in this, your most glorious hour.
tilly_stratford: (Vikings: Oseberg)
High time to get back to the antics of the Norse gods!

I decided I wanted to tell the story of the mead of poetry early on, because I've always thought it's so typical of the Norse myths: It's a slightly vulgar story (lots of bodily functions) about noble goals; There's shapeshifting and trickery; It shows Odin can be a real prat sometimes; and it's kind of an action-comedy thing.

And you know how even to this day authors are constantly asked "Where does your ideas come from"? Well, here's the Viking Age skalds' answer!

Divine spit, essentially. )

The mead of poetry's got kennings as well, of course: There's "Kvasir's blood" (Kvasis blóð), "dwarf-drink" or "dwarf-fill" (dvergadrekku, dvergafylli), "skald-maker mead" (skáldskapar mjaðar), "mead of Suttungr" (Suttungmjaðar), or "liquor of Hnitbjörg" (Hnitbjargalögr), to mention a few. And now you know why!
tilly_stratford: (Vikings: Oseberg)
I haven't forgotten! I'm still as enamoured with Norse mythology as I ever was, but seeing as my books are packed in crates at the moment I thought I'd present something short and sweet.

Day and night )

Finally, in the poem Sigrdrífumál, the hero Sigurd recites this prayer:
Hail to the Day (Dagr)! Hail to the sons of Day!
To Night (
Nótt) and her daughter hail!
With placid eyes behold us here,
and here sitting give us victory.

Hail to the Æsir! Hail to the Asyniur!
Hail to the bounteous earth!
Words and wisdom give to us noble twain,
and healing hands while we live!
tilly_stratford: (Vikings: Oseberg)
I finally had the chance to watch The Avengers, and it gave me an idea for something a little different:

In addition to the myths described in the Eddas, I thought I'd also look at various reimagenings and modernizations of Norse mythology that may be a little more familiar to the non-mythology-obsessed man in the street! To what purpose? Why, padding to try to spot exactly which myths inspired the creators, how they used that inspiration, and to admire/ridicule the creations that turned out to be innovative/hokey!

This week: The superhero films Thor (2011) and The Avengers (2012)! Mild spoilers.

'What place is this? Elfheim? Niflheim?.' 'New Mexico.' )

And now the regular myth-retellings will resume, at least until another reinterpretation catches my eye!
tilly_stratford: (Vikings: Oseberg)
You know what?

Time for one of those plain fun myths! This one's got improbable bets, Loki shenanigans, hammer smiting, genderbending and beastiality!

What more could you possible want )

As we proceed, we'll get to similar myths, in which Loki does something stupid, cowardly or evil, but in the process of being punished he creates something good. Like the good little trickster archetype that he is!
tilly_stratford: (Vikings: Oseberg)
I've been told that my dad, upon hearing about my mythology blog project, inquired about Ratatoskr. Seeing as I've been meaning to do an entry on the world tree Yggdrasil, which Ratatoskr calls home, I'll use that as an impetus.

Yggdrasil and who lives in it )

Incidentally, my sister's been thinking about commissioning some sort of mythology-related mural for the nursery, and I suggested Yggdrasil. She likes the idea. It would be a pretty neat thing to have on a nursery wall, I thought.
tilly_stratford: (Vikings: Oseberg)
I'd like there to be a sort of narrative chronology to the myths we look at, but the Norse myths are very intricately intervowen with little sense of what happens when, so I realize I'm simply going to have to abandon that plan soon. Ah, c'est la vie.

But as for now, we're still talking about the time when the world was young, the Golden Age had recently ended, and the gods had to take arms in the first war there ever was.

And then they cheated )

Now that I've properly introduced the Vanir, I'll apologize in advance for when I'll undoubtedly start using "Æsir" as a collective term for all the gods in Ásgard. In my defense, the fact that certain gods hail from Vanaheimr doesn't ever really come up again. We have some fun stories ahead of us though, now that we've thrown a couple of fertility gods into the mix!
tilly_stratford: (Vikings: Oseberg)
Fans of Norse mythology, I haven't forgotten! In fact, now that I'm back in Bergen and have my books at hand (such as my precious Norse dictionary, the most expensive book I ever bought), preparing these entries is going to be a lark.


"With a dog?!"

So, Yggdrasil's roots! We've established that one reaches cold Niflheimr where the dragon Níðhöggr gnaws on it, one reaches Mímir's well in Jotunheimr; so let's go through the last one (that we know about, anyway) and who tend to it: The three Norns. (Sorry, it's not the one with the dog - we'll get to that some other day, I promise.)

The ones you blame when everything turns to shit )

Finally, I'd like to bring up a lovely 12th Century (two centuries after Norway was Christened) runic inscription found on a piece of wood from Borgund stave church in Norway that goes:
Þórir carved these runes on the eve of Olaus-mass, as he travelled past here. The Norns presented measures of good and evil - great toil they created before me.
tilly_stratford: (Vikings: Oseberg)
Because we might as well get to the subject of Odin's single eye sooner rather than later!

But first, a short personal anecdote:

I went to a primary school where the main entrance corridor had (has?) one wall decorated with coloured glass and metal, depicting some figures: There were some animals in a tree, and a lake, a dismembered eye, and two men in conversation (one of whom, if memory serves, had a tail). I walked past it each and every day for years and years and years, and I never particularly heeded it, never reflected on it, it was just big and slightly garish and there.

Then I entered my Norse phase, read every myth I could find, trawled the libraries for more. A year passed. One day as I was standing in that corridor, probably waiting for my best friend who was equally obsessed with Norse mythology, I leaned against the opposite wall and looked at that decor for the billionth time, and finally... IT CLICKED. I REALIZED. I probably squealed in surprise. That image, those characters - they were from this myth!

With some additional notes on early Æsir society and Odin's younger days )

Congratulations, now you know why some of Odin's many, many names are Hoárr ("one-eyed"), Báleygr ("flaming eye"), Bileygr ("shimmering eye"), and Blindi ("blind"), not to mention the kennings Vinr Lopts ("friend of Loki") and Vinr Míms ("friend of Mímir").

And if you're starting to ponder things like "Wait, so the Æsir and the Jotuns aren't just mortal enemies? It's not just a question of the noble, clever gods versus the ugly, stupid trolls?" you're doing very well.
tilly_stratford: (Vikings: Oseberg)
We could make it a drinking game: Every time Norse mythology throws the number 9 at you, you take a shot. Or the number 3. Even better; 3+3+3, that's when you down the whole bottle.

Yes, time to take a look at some mythological cosmology!

Also known as 'who lives where' )

Okay, now you've got a bit more of the basics down; I swear we're going to be done with the wishy-washy "how does that even work" elements of Norse mythology very soon! Also I apologize for how I'm not at all consistent with using either the Norse or anglicized names. My rule of thumb seems to be using the anglicized names for the heavy hitters (Thor vs. Þorr, Odin vs. Óðinn) and then (mostly) Norse spelling for the rest. You'll get used to it, I'm sure.
tilly_stratford: (Vikings: Oseberg)
Oh, and a sort of poisonous sludge. It's kind of complicated. You'll see.

In a way, the creation myth is my least favourite. For a mythology that has always struck me as very practical and definite, the physical realities (heh) of the Norse creation myth are surpringly hard to get a grip on (or illustrate, like I had to in primary school). It's the very essence of "Shush, Just Go With It".

But I'll let you decide for yourself.

It does set up the animosity between the Æsir and Jotuns, however )

And that's how the world, the Æsir, the Jotuns, the dwarves and the humans came to be, according to Norse mythology. There are still races and natural phenomena and geography I haven't adressed, but I'll get to them!

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