sansaromanoff asked me about my impressions of the Old Man and the Father of the Wolf in this context, and I think the important thing to state is that I’m a hard polytheist here. The gods and spirits and other wights aren’t archetypes, or simple personifications of natural forces. Nor are they metaphors – they are beings in and of themselves, just as we are.
The reason I’m stating this right at the beginning is so no offence is created when say, I point out that much of the lore we have regarding the gods is folk-lore and poetry which, while recountings of the gods, ancestors and heroes and their deeds, is composed for humans, by humans. The depiction of sacred reality is not without its political and social agendas. In fact, a distinction should be made that everything I write from here on is not to be regarded as the Truth. Words and language are only methods of transportation and conveyance, tools for changing awareness and transmitting ideas.
(“Make your lies into truth, and your truth into lies.” This I was once told, and it is that what I do.)
Some of you may have read an answer I gave about Odin, a while ago. The whole thing is here, but I’d like to reproduce a section of it:
The Old Man aint like us. That’s the first thing to bear in mind. We’re talking about, even on the simplest level, a god who ripped out his own eye for a chance to drink from Mimir’s well. We’re talking about a god who stabbed himself with a spear, and then while wounded and bleeding, hung himself from a tree for nine whole nights, with no bread, no water, no nothing. Just his pain and the intention that it be made holy – that everything he was be given as a sacrifice, so he could become Something More.
This is a god who will raise up a hero, so that they may lead armies and have songs sung about them forever, and then turn the tide of battle against them so they are violently slain,and gathered up by the Valkyria.
This is a god who will throw a spear over a battle to make it his own, so that the battle itself is his to manipulate, regardless of what side wins. This is a god who, with a sly wink and tip of his broad-brimmed hat will go about the worlds, proudly bearing the name Bolverk – Worker of Evil. A god who will, according to lore, be willing to commit genocide and murder in order to create the worlds we now inhabit.
Yet for all that, this is a god who is a healer, who sought knowledge so that he might manipulate the inevitable end of existence into a better form for all of us. This is a god who is fiercely kind, who wears ten thousand faces and forms – who gives the gifts of inspiration to poets and artists. This is a god who sees the potential in the worst of times, the wonder in the darkness and the beauty in the most horrific of situations.
If anything, this is a god who embraces non-duality. This is a god who leads us into darkness so that we may see the relentless, restless nature of creativity – who teaches us that all materials can be used for the furtherance of who we Really Are.
Remember, this is a god who is very old, and very much a giant in some senses – unflinching and uncompromising in the expression of his Being.
This is the Master of Fury we’re talking about here. Woðanaz. The one who gave breath to humankind. Lord of Inspiration. This is the one who pulls back the curtain, and reveals to us that change is the only constant in the whole kosmos – and that it is literally impossible to remain static. This is the god who shows us that everything – literally everything – is interconnected, that everything affects everything else.
This is Oski – the fulfiller of wishes. This is One Eye, Weak-eye – he who nonetheless sees more than any except Frigga. A disabled god who binds himself, wounds himself and starves himself. He accumulates his weakness to its most terrible extent and yet emerges triumphant. This is the Deceiver, the Masked God. The one who tells the Truth even as he spins lies.and tells tales.
He bears all these names, you see. For a moment, take yourselves out of the lore context which Snorri laid down. See these names, and understand the fact that each one is an expression of the same being.
Can you feel the hunger, the way it catches your breath? The way there is an excitement there, of the kind you might feel as you crawl to the edge of a cliff and look down into a vast abyss? The way a grin shoulders its way up from your heart to tug your lips into a fierce smile of Hell. Fucking. Yeah!
And more than that, for you cannot tell me that you have forgotten the joy in that moment when you finally understood something, or the suddden realisation that one thing leads to another and another?
Not just a simple adrenalin shot, is it? No, that sense of wonder, of sudden limitless possibility, of witnessing just how much variety of experience spreads out before you. How far it takes you from what you thought the world was…
Myth tells us that it was Odin and his brothers who slew Ymir. Who carved the worlds from the bones and flesh of that great jotun. But even before the Father of All did that, let’s consider his father and grandfather. Because here is where things become interesting – for Buri emerged from the ice, freed or shaped by Audhumla’s tongue as she licked the salt.
From whence did he come, this man of ice, emerging from the primordial ice. For all can know that there was only Fire & Ice at the beginning, yes? Just as all know that the lore is written to suggest that another world shall arise from Ragnarok. And whether that beChristian interpolation or not is irrelevant – it matches the cyclical structure, does it not – the cycles of ages spoken of by the Hindus?
For there’s jotun-blood in Odin’s veins, and something more. Something alien to the body and blood that waxed and spawned and died in Ginunngagap, and was rendered into worlds.So buried there in the ice, was perhaps a kind of primordial intelligence, which passed along and down the ancestry.
And as we’ve already suggested, perhaps the blood with all its salt andd womb associations, is yet another vehicle of Soul? The jotuns were all but wiped out in the surging roiling ocean of Ymir’s blood, were they not? The tale says only a pair survived, to spawn the jotuns anew.
All this is mythic language, a drama to evoke certain thoughts – and it’s these thoughts which we may view from a Gnostic perspective. After all, for all his foresight, why should the Allfather choose to mingle blood and soul with Laufey’s son? For despite some folks insisting that he is the Old Norse version of Satan, let us consider that it is he who obtains weapons and treasures for the gods. That he provides the distraction which aids the reconstruction of Asgard after the Aesir/Vanir war – which its heavily implied that Odin kicked off. Loki is the Mother of Sleipnir, best of all horses – and you wouldn’t give that kind of gift lightly. It is Loki who travels with Thor to retrieve his hammer, amongst other journeyings they have.
In classical Gnosticism, Sophia (wisdom) is the one who falls into ‘creation’. Even when she is ‘rescued’, her divine nature has been passed on to humans by the unwitting demiurge. She is, in a very real sense, the mother of the gnostic spark which remains in all things, waiting to be awakened.
Could this be related to the concept of the anima mundi,or World-Soul?
This has quite a few implications, not least when one considers the fact that the mead of poetry is watched over by a giant-maid who dwells inside a mountain. It is she who Odin woos – and rather than assuming her a passive participant, one might look at her name which is anglicised as Gunnlod – roughly translating as ‘war-foam’.
The notion of the lady within a mountain or under the earth exists in many forms, and nor is it limited to a male protagonist. If we examine the concept of the dwarfs in Norse myth, we find that they are described as maggots which existed in Ymir’s corpse.
It’s clear that they inhabited the deeper parts of the earth, and it is to them that Loki goes to obtain the gods’ weapons. Yet it is also said that the goddess Freyja won the Brisingamen by spending the night with several dwarfs. Further it’s suggested that Odin learnt the ways of Seidr from Freyja. Traditionally, seidr was held to be womanly magic, unsuitable for proper men – a fact that Loki brings up in reference to Odin during his bitter flyting written of in the Lokasenna:
24. “They say that with spells | in Samsey once
Like witches with charms didst thou work;
And in witch’s guise | among men didst thou go;
Unmanly thy soul must seem.”
But what brings on this? A similar accusation levelled at Loki in the previous verse:
23. “Though I gave to him | who deserved not the gift,
To the baser, the battle’s prize;
Winters eight | wast thou under the earth,
Milking the cows as a maid,
(Ay, and babes didst thou bear;
Unmanly thy soul must seem.)”
Both blood-brothers, it seems, are not beyond transgressing social gender boundaries for specific purposes. For the Jungians, one could argue that the uniting of anima and animus is obvious here, but it goes deeper than mere symbolism.
If the motif of being under or within the earth is important, then we quite clearly are presented with Heraclitus’ words again “The path up, is the path down”. Could this hold a hint – that a coming-together with the chthonic and worldly, perhaps even the Other/Underworldly is vital in obtaning Gnosis?
Is it perhaps something like katabasis a descent into the world beyond the world one usually inhabits? Considering the story of the meed of poetry, Odin’ entrance into the mountain by means of turning himself into a serpent, and subsequent escape from Gunnlod’s enraged father as an eagle seem to illustrate a classic initiation.
One only has to look at the medieval romance built up around Tanhauser, who comes across the goddess Venus in a mountain bower filled with faerie courtiers and or/souls of the dead, to realise that such themes provide potential keys to gnosis, despite distances in time. Even the general legends around the Venusberg mountain provide a wealth of materials. Check out my esteemed colleague theheadlesshashasheen‘s post entitled Hi ho, Hi ho, it’s off to the Venusberg we go for more info there
For this reason, those of us with a Gnostic perspective might do well to pay attention to the particulars of the myth of Ragnarok. Many blame Loki for this, citing the apparent murder of Baldr, the birthing of monstrous children on Angrboda, and many other episodes of shit-stirring.
Leaving aside questions of origin, the fact remains that Ragnarok is the point at which the maintanence functions of the norse cosmology begin to fall over. However, it’s my contention and experience that it should be viewed with the awareeness that the Norse knew everything ended. Mortality was going to happen. Things change. That’s the fury of Being. Without the siring of the children on Angrboda, there would be no Jormungandr to mark the boundaries of the ocean, no Helja to care for fallen Baldr, allowing him to remerge unscathed.
There would be no reset. No new beginning.
(April 13 2010: The water pours down as I close my eyes in the shower. Amidst the roar of the shower, there’s the sly smile and the shaking of someone deep within the earth. Something twitches and scarred lips touch my ear: “We begin worlds, and we end them.“
Ravens call, a wolf pads over earth. Eyes open.
In the corner someone stands, a familiar dark shape with broad-brim hat. It nods at someone who must be standing next to me. I know there’s no-one there, but you try telling these two that.
A singular gaze, then, from the corner. Another voice, just as familliar, speaking without words:
“Beginnings and Endings. Endings and Beginnings. All the same. We make worlds. And we break them.”)
This then, is why we call Gnosis a disruptive thing. It can destroy your old world. Suddenly the boundaries and restrictions placed upon us by archontic forces are broken apart – the structures which enable discrete piecemal experience of existence are blown apart when the beacon of the soul begins to burn, when the deeply buried and bound powers elect to stretch out and break the chains that kept them bound. Except of course, they were never really bound to begin with.
Some call Loki Worldbreaker, and feel the rage of of a bound god’s suffering. Some call Odin the God of Battle. The Wanderer. The Fetterer. The Loosener
The Gnostic in me sees a pair of cunning escape artists, more than willing to teach you their tricks. Your mileage, may of course vary.