Just a quick reminder that I have started a second blog, on this site, under the heading of ' The Asatru Nation ' . This blog will be dedicated to short informative stories, and points of interest that one can read in under a minute. It does not always take a book, or a chapter, or even 1000 words to educate. Sometimes getting directly to the point is a better way of getting the information out there, especially in this fast paced, multi - tasking, too many things to do world that we now live in !
Of all the creatures created by the Gods the Dwarfs without a doubt have the lowest, and most disgusting of beginnings. They are described in the Eddas, before the Gods changed them, as being like maggots in flesh. And there are very few things in this world that can freak people out more than the sight of maggots wriggling through and eating flesh ! Well, maybe I should start at the beginning.
Then the Gods seated themselves on their High - Seats and held for themselves a counsel. They remembered how Dwarfs had multiplied in the earth,( which is of course actually Ymir' s flesh ), and under the soil like maggots in flesh. Dwarfs had at first emerged, and come to life in Ymir's flesh, and at that time were as maggots in the flesh of the dead. The Gods, however, by holy decree, that the Dwarfs acquire human understanding, and the appearance of men, even though they lived in the earth and amongst the rocks. The two most famous Dwarfs were Modsognir, and next was Durin.
Once again we find a more poetic version of this story from the Sibyl' s Vision :
" All the Gods sought then,
their judgement seats,
Powers that were supreme,
decided how Dwarfs
should be brought into being,
from bloody surf,
and the legs of Blain.
There many Dwarfs,
they made in the earth,
as Durin said."
- The Sibyl's Vision
Below is a listing of all the Dwarfs from the Eddas :
Those that live in the earth :
Nýi and Nidi,
Nordri and Sudri,
Viggr and Gandálfr,
Thekkr, Litr and Vitr,
And these also are dwarves and dwell in stones, but the first in mould:
And these proceed from Svarinshaugr to Aurvangar on Jöruplain, and thence is Lovarr come; these are their names:
Go with Odin's wisdom, Freyja's love, and Thor's protection !
Arbor Day is all about trees, and their importance here on our tiny blue world. I am not sure how many trees are planted on this day worldwide, maybe millions, but none can compare to the greatest tree that was ever planted, Yggdrasil. Arbor Day is another one of those secular celebration days that I have borrowed, and use to honor something, or someone, in our great pantheon of Gods and Goddesses. Today for me is Yggdrasil Day. A day to honor our Great World Ash for all that it does and means to us Midgardians. If you consider it to be an actual tree, or just some cosmic force that holds the nine worlds together is a matter for a later discussion. Either way it is to us, who follow the Old Ways, the great tree of life that binds our nine world cosmology together as one cohesive structure.
Let us not forget also that we here on Midgard have another very strong connection to trees in our lore. I quote from Voluspa, " Until three of the Aesir assembled there, strong and benevolent, came to the sea. They found on the shore two feeble trees, Ask and Embla, with no fixed fate. " Gylfaginning finishes the story, " And they picked these up and created men from them. The first gave them spirit and life, the second understanding and power of movement, the third, form, speech, hearing and sight. They gave them clothes and names. " The Gods gave life to the trees, and mankind was therefore born.
Voluspa gives us a wonderful description of the Great Ash Tree : " There is an ash tree, its name is Yggdrasil. A tall tree watered from a cloudy well. Dew falls from its boughs down into the valleys. Ever green it stands beside the Norn' s spring. " The importance and sacredness to the Gods is shown in Gylfaginning when Gangleri asks : " Where is the chief place, or sanctuary of the Gods ? " High One replies: " It is by the ash treeYggdrasil. There every day the Gods hold court. " Just As High then goes on to give the best description of Yggdrasil. " The Ash is the best and greatest of all trees, its branches spread out over the whole world and reach up over heaven. The tree is held in place by three mighty roots that spread far out. One is among the Aesir; the second among the Frost Ogres, where once was Ginnungagap; the third extends over Niflheim, and under that root is the well Hvergelmir. But Nidhogg gnaws at the root from below. Under the root that turns in the direction of the Frost Ogres lies the Spring of Mimir, in which is hidden wisdom and understanding. The third root of the ash tree is in the sky, and under that root is the very sacred spring called Urd. There the Gods hold their court of justice. " High one adds later on : " There is a great deal to tell about it . In its branches sits an eagle, and it is very knowledgeable. Between its eyes sits a hawk called Vedrfolnir. A squirrel named Ratatosk springs up and down the Ash and conveys words of abuse between the great eagle and Nidhogg. Four harts leap about the branches of the Ash and eat the shoots. And along with Nidhogg there are so many serpents that no tongue can count them. "
I honor the Great World Ash Yggdrasil every year on Arbor Day, the last Friday in April, with a full ritual, and by placing a new Valknut, Thor's Hammer, or rune stone necklace on the branches of my artificial 6 ft. white ash tree that I have sitting next to Odin's altar in my living room. I think it is very appropriate that the Great Ash sits next to the All - Father's altar because of his many connections to Yggdrasil. I do not celebrate Christmas so to me this wonderful 6 ft. ash tree, with all its shining jewelry hanging in the branches, evokes the same emotions of joy and wonder that I used to experience as a child on Christmas morning. The best thing is I get to experience it 365 days a year because I never take down the tree. It honors me with its presence, and I honor it with my presents, day after day, year after year. I found the 6 ft. ash at Amazon. com for about $ 300.00. It was definitely worth the money !
This year I am going to present the Great Ash with not one, but two offerings ! I have a little Thor's Hammer that I picked up at the Scandinavian Festival in September of last year, and a Viking Longship necklace that I found on - line this year. No amount of gifts are too much for our wonderful tree of life Yggdrasil. To honor Yggdrasil is to honor life itself !
Coming just a week after Jord's Day, ( Earth Day ), it is fitting to have a day to honor Yggdrasil, and to re- seed the earth with seedling trees. Planting trees is not only a great way to honor Mother Jord, and Yggdrasil, but it is also a wonderful gift for future generations of mankind. I cannot imagine a world without trees, and there would be no nine world universe without Yggdrasil the Great Nine World Ash !
Go with Odin' s wisdom, Freyja' s love, and Thor' s protection !
In Gylfaginning Gangleri asks the High Ones a simple question : " What family do the wolves come from ? " High One then answers the disguised king this way : " To the East of Midgard in a forest known as Iron Wood lives an ancient Giantess. Troll women live in this forest who are known as Ironwoodites. The aged Giantess gave birth to many Giant sons all of whom were born in the shape of wolves. This is how the first two wolves came about. It is said that one of their descendants, a wolf called Managarm became the most powerful member of this family of wolves. He gorges on the flesh of all who die and he will one day swallow the moon and spatter blood in the air, and stain the sky. Because of this attack the Sun will lose it brightness and the winds will then become wild and rage in every direction, and the first Fimbulvetr will begin ! "
A more stylized version of this can be found in the Sibyl' s Vision :
"The ancient one lives in the East,
In the wood of iron,
And there gives birth,
To Fenrir' s brood,
And of them all,
In the form of a troll,
will seize the Moon.
He is gorged with flesh,
Of the death doomed,
And with red blood he reddens,
The dwellings of the Gods,
Sunlight of summer' s to come,
Will be black,
and all weathers bad,
Do you want to know more or not ? "
Wolves are talked about much in our religion. Fenrir probably is the best known of the wolves because of his binding story and of course his major role in Ragnarok. Managarm is not as well known, though in Grimnismal the beast is called the " best of hounds ". Managarm, or just Garm, also plays a role in Ragnarok, by as we have already discussed, swallowing the moon and causing the first Fimbulvetr, and of course by battling the God of War Tyr. You have to feel sorry for poor Tyr, in one story, the binding of Fenrir, he loses his hand to the great beast, and in another, Ragnarok, he loses his life to Garm at the end of times. Makes you not want to have a pet !
Of course on the other side of animal disposition, we have Geri ( Ravenous One ) and Freki ( Also Ravenous One ), Odin's faithful wolf companions. In Grimnismal we get our only glimpse of his wonderful wolves :
Geri and Freki the ones accustomed to battle feeds,
And on wine alone the weapon noble
Odin ever lives.
- Grimnismal ( 19 )
Go with Odin' s wisdom, Freyja's love, and Thor's protection !
........Now there was a man named Munilifari who had two children, a son and a daughter. They were so fair and beautiful that Mundilifari called one of them, his son, Mani, and the other his daughter he called Sol ( Sunna ). The Gods, however, were angered by Mundilifari' s brash arrogance and took his wonderful children away from him and placed them up in the sky. They made them drive the horses which drew the chariots of the Sun that the Gods had made to light the worlds from the sparks which flew out of Muspellheim. The horses are named Arvak and Alsvid, and they become so heated and sweaty that the Gods placed a bellow under the shoulders of the horses to cool them. The kenning which is used for this in some poems is Iron cold. Mani decides the journey of the moon and decides also the time of the waxing and waning. ( The moon' s cycles )
The Gods also took from Midgard two children known as Bil and Hjuki, as they were walking away from the spring known as Bygir, and made them accompany the children of Mundilifari as they encircle the Earth, as may be seen from Midgard at night. The father of Bil and Hjuki was a man named Vidfinn, and he is greatly honored that his children were chosen to ride among the Gods.
Sol goes around the Earth at great speed because she is pursued by a great wolf called Skoll who runs across the sky to catch and kill her. Her great fear of being caught is what drives her to race hard. There is another wolf who runs in front of Sol called Hati Hrodvitnisson, and he is in pursuit of her brother Mani, and he wishes to kill him as well.
There is a wonderfully poetic stanza from Voluspa about Sol and Mani :
" The Sun climbed, the Moon' s companion,
raised it's right hand over heaven' s rim.
The Sun did not know where it's hall would stand ,
The stars did not know where they would be set,
The Moon did not know what would be it's might,
Then all the Gods met to give judgement,
The Holy Gods took counsel together,
They named night, and night' s children,
Gave names to morning and noon,
Afternoon and evening, as well,
Gave order to time by years. "
Next : So where did the big bad wolves come from ?
Go with Odin' s wisdom, Freyja' s love, and Thor's protection !
One day ( I have always wonder how long that is to the Gods ? ) as the sons of Bor , were walking along the shore of the sea they spotted there two trees. The Creator Gods picked up the trees, and fashioned them into the likeness of a man and a woman. Then the Eddas tell us :
The first gave them spirit and life,
The second understanding and the power of movement,
The third gave form, speech, hearing, and sight.
The Gods gave these humans names. The man was called Ask, and the woman was named Embla. All of mankind has sprung forth from them, and they were given the newly formed Midgard to live in as their home.
There is another version of this creation of mankind as well in the Eddas :
Until three of the Aesir assembled there,
Strong and benevolent came to the sea,
They found on the shore two feeble trees,
Ask and Embla with no fixed fate.
These did not breathe, nor think or speak,
They had no hair, no fairness of face,
Odin gave life' s breath,
Hoenir gave mind,
Lodur gave hair, fairness of face.
You may have noticed that the creator Gods are in one book Odin, Vili, and Ve, while in the other they are referred to as Odin, Hoenir, and Lodurr. It is possible that Hoenir and Lodurr / Vili and Ve, may simply go by more than one name. Let us not forget that Odin has many, many names. Or it could be that the stories came from two different creation stories written originally by separate writers. Which ever the case may be they are in my opinion connected to the great tree of life Yggdrasil. No one can know for sure but there is the possibility that these two trees grew from seeds that fell from the great tree itself.
Now at this point Midgard was still lit by the embers and sparks of Niflheim, and at night by the stars that the Gods had placed in the heavens. The Gods, however, decided to do something about this and this is the story told to us in the Eddas about how days became days and nights became nights :
There was a Giant living in Jotunheim called Norfi, or Narfi, who had a daughter named Nott. ( one version has Nott as Thor' s grandmother ) She was dark in complexion like the family to which she had descended. She was married first to a man named Naglfari, and they had a son who was called Aud. Later she married a man named Annar, and by him had a daughter called Earth ( yes this is the version where mother Earth is the daughter of Nott, and Nott is the grandmother of Thor ). Her final marriage was to Dellingr, who was of the family of Gods. Their son, Dagr, was so bright and beautiful, just like his father's family.
All - Father Odin took Nott, and Dagr and gave them two carts, and placed them up in the sky. Every 24 hours they ride around the world. Nott rides a horse called Hrimfaxi, and every morning dew falls to earth in the form of foam from the horses' bit. Dagr' s horse is called Skinfaxi, and the whole world is brightened by his mane as he flies overhead.
I was going to write about the sun and moon creation tonight also, but I am afraid you will have to forgive me I have a touch of the flu and need to rest.
Go with Odin's wisdom, Freyja' s love, and Thor's protection !
One night while Ymir slept he began to sweat. Under his left arm there grew a man and a woman, and one of his legs grew a son. It is said that this is where the families of Frost Giants come from. Ymir and his new family were fed by a great cow which thawed from the ice. The cow's name was Audhumla, and from her teats run four rivers of milk. The proto - cow fed itself by licking the salt off of the ice blocks. At the top of one of these licked ice blocks, by the end of the first day, there appeared a man' s hair. By the end of the second day the man' s entire head was revealed sticking out of the ice block. At the end of the third day, however, the man stood alone free from his prison of ice. He was given the name Buri. This manis described in Gylfaginning as being tall, handsome, and very strong.
Buri had a son who was called Bor who married a Giantess named Bestla . She was the daughter of the Giant Bolthorn. They had three sons together, Odin, Vili, and Ve. Bor's sons killed the Giant Ymir and as he fell so much blood flowed from his open wounds that they drowned all of the Frost Giants except for one named Bergelmir, and his family, who escaped a watery death by climbing up onto his lur. It is through his family line that the Frost Giants still exist to this day.
Then the brothers three took Ymir' s body and carried it into the center of Ginnungagap, and made the world from his body, and his "salty blood " became the seas, and lakes. His flesh was used to cover the land, and his bones became the mountains. His jaw, teeth, and broken bones became the rocks and stones that lie about this new world. The brothers then took Ymir' s skull and made from it the sky, and placed it above the earth. The Gods placed a Dwarf under each of the four corners to hold up the sky.
Odin, Vili, and Ve then gathered up the sparks and embers that were floating around after having been blown out of Muspellheim, and placed them in the middle of Ginnungagap to give light to the heavens above, and the earth below. They fixed some of these new stars in the sky, while they allowed others to wander through the heavens. From this moment on sprang forth the understanding of days and years.
The Gods were still not done fashioning the new world and used Ymir's eyebrows to make a stronghold that extended the whole length of the world. This stronghold was to keep out the Giants who had become hostile. ( Probably because the Gods killed Ymir ). They took the Giant' s brains and flung them up into the air and made them into clouds to bring life giving rain to this new world.
Next : A Sun and a Moon, and a Son and a Daughter.
Go with Odin's wisdom, Freyja's love, and Thor's protection !
One of the most famous lines from the Eddas is about what there was before the beginning of all things :
Nothing was there when time began,
Neither sands, nor seas, nor cooling waves,
Earth was not yet, nor the high heavens,
Only a gaping emptiness, no where green.
In Gylfaginning " Just as High" tells Gangleri that : " It was many aeons before the Earth was created that Niflheim was made." In the middle of Niflheim was a well called Hvergelmir, and from it flowed the rivers Svol, Gunnthra, Fjorm, Fimbulthal, Slid, Hrid, Sylg, Ylg, Vid, Leipt, and Gjoll. The river Gjoll runs right along Hel' s gate. This world of Niflheim was not, however, the first world to come into existence. That great honor went to Muspellheim in the southern hemisphere. It is a world of light and is hot, and it is said that this place flames and burns . Those who do not belong to this place cannot stay there for very long. This land of heat and fire is guarded by a Jotun named Surtr, who wields a flaming sword to guard its borders.
Then these rivers known as Elivagar flowed far from there source, they became yeasty, and hardened like slag into a thin ice. When the ice formed, and became solid, a drizzling rain began to fall, pouring over it, and cooled into a rime. This rime began to layer itself one on top of the other throughout Ginnungagap. The northern part of Ginnungagap which faced Niflheim became thick with ice, and great hoar frosts. Drizzling rains and great gusts of were common and the land was without light. The southern half of Ginnungagap, that which faced Muspellheim, became light as the sparks and embers from Muspell floated over this part of the land.
( This is one of my favorite lines from the Eddas ) Then as cold and all harsh things emanated from Niflheim, everything from the vicinity of Muspell was warm and bright. Ginnungagap was as mild as windless air. When the soft air of the heat met the frost warming and thawing the rime, it dripped, and by the might of that heat, life appeared in the drops of running fluid. Over time it grew into the likeness of a man. We call him Ymir, but the Frost Giants call him Aurgelmir, and from this proto - being come all the generations of Frost Giants.
Next : Ymir is used to make the earth and the skies.
Go with Odin' s wisdom, Freyja's love, and Thor's protection !
Veit ec at ec hecc vindga meiði anetr allar nío,geiri vndaþr oc gefinn Oðni,sialfr sialfom mer,a þeim meiþi, er mangi veit, hvers hann af rótom renn.
I know that I hung on a windy tree nine long nights,wounded with a spear, dedicated to Odin,myself to myself,on that tree of which no man knows from where its roots run.
Við hleifi mic seldo ne viþ hornigi,nysta ec niþr,nam ec vp rvnar,opandi nam,fell ec aptr þaðan.
No bread did they give me nor a drink from a horn ,downwards I peered; I took up the runes, screaming I took them, then I fell back from there.
The life of Kvasir begins in the aftermath of the great war between the Aesir and the Vanir. At the peace meeting the Aesir and Vanir made a truce, exchanged hostages, and as a gesture of unity they all spat into a crock to seal the treaty. As they were about to leave they decided it would be a shame to waste the truce token ( the spittle ) and decided to make a man of it. They molded the spittle into the likeness of a man with spells and named their divine creation Kvasir. Kvasir became so wise that no one could ask him a question that he could not answer. He traveled all over the worlds to teach men the great wisdom he had learned.
His wisdom was a great help to the Gods as well. When Loki went into hiding, after his role in the killing of Balder was found out, he hid himself on the top of a tall mountain. Loki built there a house for himself with four doors so he could see out in all directions. During the day, however, Loki would often times change himself into the shape of a salmon, and hide himself in the waterfall that is known as Franang. The trickster tinkered with what sort of a device the Aesir would use to capture him in his fish shape. One day while sitting in front of a fire he took some linen and twisted it into meshes and wove them into the very first net. When Loki realized that the Aesir were closing in on him he burned the net in his fire.
The first of the Aesir to enter Loki' s house was Kvasir the Wise. When he spied in the fire the white ash to which the net had burned, he instantly understood that this was an invention to catch fish. Following Kvasir' s instructions, the Aesir made a similar net and took it down to the river . After several failed attempts at catching Loki in his salmon form, Kvasir' s ingenuity allowed them to catch the elusive Loki - fish. Loki was then taken into a cave where he was bound to three flat stones, and tied with his own son' s entrails.
Once when Kvasir was traveling he came upon a feast that was being held by some Dwarfs. Two Dwarfs, Fjalar and Galar, called him inside for a word in private and killed him. They then let his blood run into two crocks and a kettle. The kettle was called Odrorir, and the crocks were known as Son and Bodn . They mixed his blood with honey and it became the mead which makes whoever drinks it a poet or a wise scholar. The Dwarfs then lied to the Aesir, and told them that Kvasir had choked himself on all his learning because there was no one well informed enough to compete with him in knowledge.
Now you would probably think that with his death the story would end. With every ending, however, there is a new beginning.
The Dwarfs Fjalar, and Galar invited a Giant and his wife to their home. The Dwarfs asked this Giant, who' s name was Gilling, to go out rowing on the ocean with them. Gilling thinking it a good idea agreed to go. When they were far from shore the Dwarfs rowed onto a rock and rocked the boat until it capsized. Gilling flailed around in the waves, but he could not swim and soon slipped beneath the surface and drowned. The Dwarfs, however, flipped their boat back over and then rowed for shore.
When they told Gilling' s wife about the "accident" she was so overcome with grief that she wept aloud continuously. Fjalar, wishing to cease her wailing, asked if she would be calmer in her mind if she faced out to sea in the direction that her husband drowned. She agreed that this was a good idea. Fjalar then turned to his brother Galar, and told him to climb up above the doorway as she left, and drop a millstone on her head. Galar did as he was told and climbed to the top of the doorway. As Gilling' s wife walked through the doorway he dropped the millstone on the Giantess' head killing her.
Gilling had a son whose name was Suttung, and when he heard of the treachery that these Dwarfs had done to his parents, he quickly traveled to their home to confront them. Seizing them he took them out into the sea and placed them on a skerry which would soon be covered by the incoming tide. The Dwarfs begged Suttung to spare their lives, and offered Suttung as compensation for his parents all of the mead of poetry. Suttung accepted the mead, and took it home with him and hid the mead in a place called Hnitbjorg, and put his daughter Gunnlod in charge of guarding it.
The story continues from there that Odin tricks Baugi, Suttung's kinsman, into helping him bore through the mountain and into the chamber where the mead is hidden. Odin sleeps with Gunnlod and steals the mead flying back to Asgard in eagle form, while being chased by Suttung who had also changed into eagle form. Odin then spits it out into vats that are placed inside Asgard and they kill the eagle / Suttung. For a more detailed description of Odin' s role in this story go to my article : Odin : The will of the Master, 2/25/2013 in my archives, to see how Odin reaquired the mead.
Go with Odin's wisdom, Freyja' s love, and Thor's protection !