Wednesday, March 17, 2010

History of Nordic Mythology IX: Freyr and Gerd, the giant

Dear 'Hyperborea Exists' followers, I am here again with you to continue with this basic history lesson about northern mythology. Today, I wanted to fully dedicate this update to the tale of Freyr and Gerd, the giant, which I'm sure you'll find as interesting as I do.

The tale of Freyr, Gerd and Skirnir is told in the poem 'Skirnismal', found in the Edda. Snorri Sturluson tells us a shorter and more idealized story in Gylfaginning. This tale begins in Asgard. Freyr, god of wealth and fertility, rests in Hlidskialf, Odin's house, from where he contemplates the rest of the worlds in the universe. Watching over the giants' world he sees Gerd, a beautiful giant, in his father's property courtyard, and instantly falls in love with her. Freyr sighs for her love.

Wild boar and wolf. by Friedrich Gauermann (1807-1862). In the northern mythology, many gods are linked with animals. Freyr's cart is pulled by two wild boars: Gullinbursti, whose hair shines in the dark and Slidrugtanni. In battle, warriors consecrated to the cult of the wild boar fought in wedge formation with their two paladins on front, forming the rani (snout).

They sent Freyr's servant, Skirnir, to ask him what's wrong with him. Freyr tells him, but he believes that his passion is doomed to be left unsatisfied. Skirnir offers himself to travel to the land of the giants and to woo Gerd in his name. He borrows Freyr's magic sword and his horse. After travelling across mountains and skipping a fire ring that surrounds the land of the giants, he reaches Gerd's home, but he finds his way blocked by fierce guardian hounds. Gerd, nonetheless, decides to greet him in his canopy.

 Skirnir tells her about Freyr's love and gives her as incentives golden apples and Draupnir, a golden magic ring that multiplies on its own, but Gerd has all the gold she needs and refuses to accept the presents. Skirnir then threatens her (and also her father, the giant Gymir, if he dared to intervene) with killing them with Freyr's sword, but Gerd resists. Skirnir tells her about the curse he will bring down on her if she insists on rejecting Freyr's generous love offer.

The curse will be engraved in runes in a 'taming rod', and according to its terms Gerd will be doomed to a dead life in the land of the giants. Skirnir describes her life under the curse as a mock about the life she would have if she accepted Freyr's hand. She will live in the border of his world, as Heimdall, the keeper of the gods in Asgard does; but whereas Heimdall watches his world to prevent an attack, Gerd will be a prisoner. She will always be looking at the outside, dreaming of an escape that can only lead to her death.

Fro, statue of fertility, Sweden, XI century. The main nordic gods of fertility wre Freyr (Fro) and her sister Freya. They arrived to Asgard with their father after the defeat of the Vanir against the Aesir. It is often said that in Ragnarok, Freyr will be the first to fall, because he lended Skirnir his magic sword in gratitude for his help in achieving Gerd's hand.
Her only beverage will be goat's urine, a prescription with will be even more severe when she remembers that the gods get an excellent mead out of the udders of the goat Heidrun, who browses the tree's leafs all around the world. In this nightmarish world, everybody else will see Gerd as a freak, and if she decided to marry, the best man she'll be able to get will be a three-headed giant called Hrimgrimnir. Her days will be neverending, and she will always be haunted by trolls, who will be her only companions. Tears will come flooding, and desire will take over her with an uncontrollable force.

Gerd only collapses when Skirnir begins to engrave the runes that will make this horrific panorama real. She agrees to find Freyr nine nights after that day in Barri, a place described as a 'tranquil grove'. Skirnir comes back with the news and the poem ends with the god complaining about the amount of time it took Gerd to accept their union.

Although there are many different interpretations, perhaps the most widely accepted is a symbolic reading about the fertility in the fields, according to which Freyr, known before as the god of fertility, represents the Sun, and Gerd, the unfertilized land. Skilnir would be the intermediary whose name means 'the shiny', and represents the rays of the sun, which allow the crops to germinate.

With all this we have reached the end of this chapter dedicated to Freyr. In our next 'Hyperborea Exists' update we will bring in Thor and his hammer, Mjölnir, and his relationship with the Germanic warriors. And, after having taken this step, we will focus on the longest of the related myths about Edda in prose, the one about Thor's expedition to Utgard.

As always, I wanted to thank you for your support and for telling to your friends about 'Hyperborea Exists', we are constantly increasing our numbers and with every new reader I feel more and more energy to keep this project going.

Thank you very much for your support, 'Hyperborea Exists' followers!!!!

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

History of Nordic Mythology VIII: Descendant of the gods

Dear Hyperborea Exists followers, I’m here with you again to bring you another chapter of the history of Nordic mythology, to complete this cycle of updates in the blog step by step. Today I’m going to make an introduction to the so-called descendants of the great gods, a series of tales about some of the most relevant mythological Nordic figures after the great father, Odin.

Many Germanic tribes had myths that they linked its reign with the gods. Often it was Odin, the most powerful of them all. One of the most antique and well-known Germanic myths reaches us through the Long Bard historyographs (?) in the VI and VII centuries, and tells us a battle between two Germanic tribes: the Wandali (Vandals) and the Winnili. The Wandali asked their main god, Godan (Wodan or Odin), to grant them victory. On the other hand, the Winnili were led by Gambara, the wise and old mother of their bosses, Ibor and Aio, who prayed to Godan’s wife, Frea (Frigg).

Frea advised the Winnili warriors to stand on the East in the morning of the battle and that their women went with the men to the front, and put their long hair across their faces. Godan had planned to grant victory to the first army he saw at dawn. The next morning, after looking through his favorite window that overlooked the East, he saw the Winnili already set up and asked: “who are these Long Bards?” After he named them, Frea said that he was obliged to grant them victory, and after that name they built their kingdom in what was to be known as Lombardy, on the north of Italy.

Angel, on an altar of the Lombard king Rachis, VIII century. The Long Bards originally came from the south of Sweden, but they established themselves in Italy and gave name to the region of Lombardy. Some tales explain that, when they became too big in number, the Winnili divided between three groups and draw between them to stay in their territory. The group headed by Ibor and Aio lost, so they left in search of a new land.
In this tale, the authors reveal some influences on their interpretation of the classic couple that governed the gods, Zeus and Hera. But this tale, undoubtedly old, proves that even halfway through the first millennia of our era, Wodan or Odin and his wife Frigg already were the powerful ancestral deities from which the royal Germanic families, along with entire tribes, wished to born.

Although it is Odin the one who always appears as the divine ancestor in the Germanic royal families’ genealogy, at least in Sweden they honored the god Freyr, as ancestor and as guardian and protector of the royal house of the Ynglingar, house of which the Norwegian royal family deducted a while later.

Even when he was often considered as the god of fertility, mostly because the statues in the Viking era and the pocket-held talismans represented him with an erect dick, in reality he was considered as the archetype of the Swedish royal family, represented by the kings of the antique Uppsala (center of the Swedish power in the VI century and later on, and even nowadays a religious and cultural focus). His characteristic virility was surely related to that image of a young and powerful king, just as his attribute, the wild boar, another symbol of strength and wealth.

The soldiers that formed the Swedish royal guard in the VII and VIII centuries had helmets decorated with a metallic wild boar. Their link to the Ynglingar house could be seen even in the nickname they gave to Freyr. Yngvi-Freyr, that maybe is a very antique name that comes from the Germanic tribes mentioned by Tacitus, who they called themselves Ingaevons.

And with this we reach the end of this chapter, the next will have as protagonist the tale of Freyr and Gerd the giant, that is a part of the Skirnismal poem from the Edda in prose by Snorri Sturluson.

I want to use this also to share with you that the Hyperborea Exists page has already gone over the 100 fans. See how every week more and more people show their interest in knowing more about our history and the mythology is something really rewarding.

Thank you so much for your support, Hyperborea Exists followers!

Note. You can find some of the info included in this series of chapters in the book Mythology/: Myths, Legends and Fantasies/ by Global Book Publishing, a great work to introduce yourselves into the general mythology of every culture in the world.

Monday, February 22, 2010

History of Nordic Mythology VII: The Source for Poetic Inspiration

Dear “Hyperborea Exists” followers, we’re here again to keep up with our lessons about the history of Nordic mythology and, finally, we go into expanding some of the legends of Nordic mythology, specifically in this extended update we’ll speak about the origin of poetic inspiration and the myth of Odin and the honey mead.

The myth of the poetic honey mead appears in the part of “Edda in prose” made by Snorri Sturluson called the “Skalds-kaparmal”, formed by some episodes that form a cycle and that it is very complex. The myth speaks about the poetry as the fruit of the divine inspiration, which gives us an idea of the importance that was given to it and the prestige the poets in the Scandinavian world had.

In the dawn of time, after a war between the Aces and the Vanes, both declare a truce by spitting on an ink that, using the accumulated saliva, an already-adult man, named Kvasir, is born. He knows everything and has the knowledge of both the Aces and the Vanes.

In Midgard, where humanity lived, Kvasir became famous thanks to his ability to answer any question without mattering how wise was the one that asked. Those that needed advice knew that he would come just by calling him. In one of those trips he meets two dwarves, Fialar and Galar, who invite him to eat deep in their caves. There they murder him and empty his blood in two pots made of mud and a boiler, where they mix it with honey until they obtain a honey mead that turns everyone that drinks it into a poet or erudite.

The giant Baugi, convinced by Odin, drills the chamber of his brother Suttung. This picture represents the giant Baugi making a hole in the cave where the honey mead is hidden. The drill has magic powers: it gets larger every time it is used; there is no place it cannot reach. The dwarves tell the gods that Kvasir has died, after choking with his own knowledge after being unable to find anyone that can compete against him in wisdom.
Afterwards, they invite Gilling, a giant, and his wife, to their lair. They carry Gilling in a rowboat, but it crashes against a rock and knocks over. As he can’t swim, Gilling drowns, but the dwarves manage to turn the boat again and getting back home to tell the giant about her husband’s death. The dwarf Fialar asks her if looking back at the place where he drowned would ease her pain, but it’s all a fallacy. As soon as he crosses the door, Galar throws a stone at her and kills her. When the son of the giants, Suttung, finds out what has happened, he locks the dwarves up and abandons them in an island that ends up covered by the flood tide. Dwarves beg for forgiveness and they offer him the honey mead as compensation for his parents’ deaths. Suttung accepts, takes the valuable honey mead, hides it inside a mountain called Hnitbiorg and puts his sister Gunnlod as guardian.

Odin in search of the honey mead

Next, history revolves around Odin’s efforts to obtain the honey mead from Suttung. Dressed as a peasant, Odin starts his mission. One day, he walks into nine serfs that are harvesting hay and with his sharpening stone he sharpens their sickles. The serfs are so impressed with the result that they decide to buy it from him. Odin accepts under the condition that the price is fair. After that, Odin throws the stone into the air and, anxious, the serfs fight for it. In the melee, they end up cutting each other’s throats with their sickles.

Odin stays in with a giant called Baugi, Suttung’s brother, to whom he hides his true identity telling him that his name is Bolverk. The nine serfs were working for Baugi, who needs to search for new workers for the harvesting. Odin offers himself to make the work of the nine men in exchange for a swig of Suttung’s honey mead. Baugi doubts that his brother accepts to share a single drop of the honey mead, but he promises to help Odin to get it after finishing the job. Odin completes the harvest and he goes to see Suttung with Baugi, but he refuses to share the honey mead. Odin draws a drill called Rati and tells Baugi to dig a hole and gets through Hnitbiorg until reaching the honey mead. Baugi drills the mountain where the honey mead is kept, but Odin makes him to get into the cave.

Necklace or amulet, IX century, Sweden. The figure, maybe a priest of the Odin’s cult, holds a sword and two spears and has an ornamented helmet. Odin is a very complex god; although he is a god of war he is also the god of wine and inspiration, although many see in his multiple faces a common perk: the evasion of oneself, by means of death or drunkenness.
After transforming into a snake, Odin glides through the hole. Baugi, on his last attempt to change his opinion he tries to drill the snake’s tail when he is about to disappear, but fails. Once inside the mountain, Odin seduces Gunnlod, who guards the honey mead, and spends three nights with her. He persuades her to allow him take three swigs of the honey mead, one for each night with her; that is everything Odin needs to empty the three recipients. After that, he turns into an eagle and flies through Asgard. Suttung watches him escape and follows him, also as an eagle. When they see Odin, the Aces bring recipients to Asgard’s yard as they were told. Odin vomits the honey mead, but Suttung follows him closely and excretes unnoticing some of the liquid. That part isn’t picked up, it is left for whoever wants it.

Odin offers the gods the picked up honey mead, and whoever tastes it becomes a consummated poet; but whoever tastes the excreted honey mead only composes bad verses. And with Suttung, some versions say that, after reaching Asgard’s walls, the sun rays touched him and took his eagle disguise away, making him fall to the floor. In others, the gods light a fire that burns his wings, he falls to the ground and dies.
That’s all for today, Hyperborea Exists followers, for the next update I have prepared an introduction to many tales about the descendents of the gods like Freyr or Thor.

Note. You can find some of the info included in this series of chapters in the book Mythology/: Myths, Legends and Fantasies/ by Global Book Publishing, a great work to introduce yourselves into the general
mythology of every culture in the world.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

History of Nordic Mythology VI: Odin, Overlord of all gods

Dear “Hyperborea Exists” followers, another week I’m with you with my lesson about the history of Nordic Mythology. Today, at last, we begin my favorite part of this series of updates, speaking of the most important Nordic gods and, of course, Odin, the Great Father, is the chosen one to start this series of updates which will trigger the end of this cycle in “Hyperborea Exists”.

Odin, Overlord of all gods

The god Odin was the most popular of the Germanic gods during the first millennia of the Christian era. Known as Woden by the Anglo-Saxons,  Wodan by the German and Saxon tribes and by the Long bards (?) as Godan, he was considered as the mythical ancestor of most Germanic tribes, as well as of some early Middle Age royal Anglo-Saxon  families. In fact, if we take a look at the present day, the word “Wednesday” comes from Odin (Woden).

Thor fights against the Jotun, by Martes Winge (1825-1896). Thor leads the fight against the giants (the Jotun). Echoes of thunder accompany the cart, driven by magic goats. He uses his Belt of Strength and often he wears iron gauntlets on his wrists which allow him to use his hammer.
In spite of this, he was long before considered as a god of healing, magic, runes and knowledge, and also as the god of death, war and destiny, but on top he was known as the great father of the Nordic gods. Anyways, his followers also knew of the ambiguities of this god, because they knew that in the battle he could lead those who worshipped him to victory or death.

Odin and the Runes

The poem Hávamál, from Iceland, which as was written wasn’t picked up until the XII century, along with the “Edda in prose” from the XIII century, bring us a poetic although powerful version of how the god Odin became the first to acquire the knowledge of the runes, that is to say, with the power and use of writing. In both works, Odin himself speaks and declares that he got the runes hanging from <>. As a result of these nine days of fasting, he learned the nature of the runes better.

Rune, Uppsala, s. XI, by Gamlta Torget. Germanic mythology gave great valor to the writing, which was runic. This knowledge was acquired with suffering. Odin, father of the gods, suffered nine days of fasting and pain to reach is knowledge. 
This episode, known as the self-sacrifice of Odin, is similar, although only on the surface, to Christ’s sacrifice, by having remained hung and also by the wound of the spear. According to some, this could suggest an early adoption of the main Christian myth by the ancient Nordics, maybe through the British islands. Despite this, numerous similar forms of sacrifice in the initiation in numerous archaic cultures can be found. Its origin might be linked with more clarity to the shamanistic initiation rites in the learning of poetry and magic.

Viking stone engraving found in Gotland, Sweden, s. VIII. This stone represents the god Odin (Wodan) assisted by the Valkyries, on his eight-legged hose Sleipnir, the most magnificent of all horses. He is the one who takes the brave fallen to Valhalla.

A little more about the Runes

Germanic tribes had an alphabet made up by 24 “letters” called runes. The most antique findings of runic inscriptions come theoretically from the II century, I mean theoretically because it’s possible that they were being used from long before that (and more with special attention to investigations which will be published this year). Since the Germanic people didn’t know the scroll, the runes were carved in wood, stone and bone, which could explain its angular form. They can also be found in ornaments, swords, armors and coins.

Runic stone found in Rok, Sweden, IX century. This stone was carved by Varin as a memorial of his dead son Vemod and contains an ode to Theodoric, King of the Goths. The runs have a meaning by themselves, combined and following a certain order. In the myths, eighteen runes were revealed to Odin. 
It’s been suggested that the Runes could have evolved from the Latin tongue after contact with the Romans, but there is no proof of that. The word “rune” means “mystery” or “secret” in old Nordic, and that’s why it has been associated often with magic, along with profane and religious purposes.

With this explanation finishes today’s update, which I hope has been useful to you in knowing Odin and the Nordic runes. In the next “Hyperborea Exists” update, I will focus myself in telling you one of the most fascinating tales about Odin and the Nordic gods: The myth of the honey mead.

See you soon, “Hyperborea Exists” followers!

Note. You can find some of the info included in this series of chapters in the book Mythology/: Myths, Legends and Fantasies/ by Global Book Publishing, a great work to introduce yourselves into the general
mythology of every culture in the world.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

History of Nordic Mythology V: From gods and giants

Dear “Hyperborea Exists” followers: one more week I come to you with yet another chapter of the Nordic Mythology. Concretely, this will be the first chapter of what I consider to be the most important part in this
lesson: history of the most important deities of Nordic mythology. To begin with, there’s nothing more important than going inside the relationship between gods and Nordic giants.

Gods and giants are ancestral enemies and most of the myths tell the story of the skirmishes between them. Thor, with his mighty hammer, is a warrior god, the most feared foe by the giants. Myths assure that one
day that enmity will end up in a final battle known as “Ragnarök”, on which the entire universe, along with most of its inhabitants, will be destroyed. Nonetheless, sources announce a new beginning: some gods and
men will survive, and they will altogether begin the rebuilding and repopulation of a better and more pacific world.

Miollnir (Mjöllnir), Thor’s hammer, amulet, 10th Century, Sweden. Thor used his hammer, associated to thunder, to defend the gods and their world. It always went back to his hand after throwing him away. This amulet, decorated with Thor’s penetrating eyes, would act as a protector fetish.

A huge Builder

The next tale is related in a section in “Edda in prose” by Snorri Sturluson called the “Gylfaginning”, and makes reference to the tales King Gylki heard during her visit to the city of Asgard, mentioned in a
previous update. This history speaks of the dishonesty of gods on their treats with giants, which some consider a moral defect of divine society which will lead them to destruction in Ragnarok.

This myth goes through the principles of mythological past, after the gods created Midgard and raised the big Valhalla hall. A Builder introduces himself and offers to build up a fortification effective against the mountain giants’ attacks and the frost, even if they break through Midgard itself. As pay he requests goddess Freya in marriage, and the Sun and the Moon also.

The gods accept under the condition that he finishes his job in just one winter without the help of any other man, or he’ll not receive pay. The Builder accepts, but he asks for permission to use his stud horse
“Svadilfoeri”, something that is granted to him, taking the advice of the mischievous god Loki. The treaty is made with solemn promises made by both parts. The Builder begins working. “Svadilfoeri”, who works
during the night dragging stones, has twice the strength of the Builder, and at the beginning of the Summer everything indicates that work will be made on time, moment on which gods realize of the terrifying panorama
that opens on them: not only they can lose Freya, but also the sources of light from the world. They blame Loki by his bad advice and force him to think up the way of impeding the Builder to finish his work on time.

Loki’s solution to the problem is simple: he transforms into a mare. That night, when the stud horse begins working, he takes him to a place far away. The two horses frolic in the foresta ll night, which delays the working of the fortification. The Builder, on the perspective of losing his pay, enrages so terrifyingly that the gods notice that he’s no man, but a mountain giant. They forget the treaty and summon Thor, who raises his hammer Miollnir (Mjöllnir) and destroys the giant’s skull.

This is the end of the story, but an epilogue exists: Loki, in his mare form, has mated the stud horse and breeds a magnificent eight-legged colt that will end up becoming “Sleipnir”, the best of all horses and
Odin’s mount.

That’s all for today, in the next Hyperborea Exists update we’ll give way to a deeper approach on Odin and the main tales that revolve around one of the most influential figures in the Germanic tribes and who nowadays has a big presence in traditions, languages and people in Europe.

Till next time, dear Hyperborea Exists followers!

Note. You can find some of the info included in this series of chapters in the book Mythology/: Myths, Legends and Fantasies/ by Global Book Publishing, a great work to introduce yourselves into the general
mythology of every culture in the world.

Saturday, January 30, 2010

History of Nordic Mythology IV: Germanic Creation Myths

Dear ‘Hyperborea Exists’ followers:

Yet another week, I’m here with all of you with my basic lessons about the history of Northern Mythology.

Many will ask themselves why am I “losing my time” with these basic notions instead of going straight to the point. The answer is quite simple: it’s important to know the basis, the source of what we believe
we know, for the better appreciation of what I expect you to discover with me. So, I’m giving way to today’s chapter: the myths of Germanic creation.

You’ll remember that in the previous chapter I was talking about Tacitus and how he had written a work about ‘Germania’ in which he made inexact interpretations about a feminine deity. Tacitus offers us one of the
most antique references to the Germanic myths. In his “Germania” he mentions that the Germanic tribes commemorated humanity’s origin in the “old songs” dated to >. That is, these three sons were considered the ancestors of the most important Germanic tribes which lived on the East, Center and West of northern Europe.

Even though these mythical Germanic ancestors only appear in Tacitus’s writings, the name “Mannus” clearly refers to the Germanic “Mann”. The Scandinavian cosmogony, according to sources as the two “Edda” is
diverse, but it seems clear that they share a few concepts.

Tales of the Cosmos by Ancient Nordics 

Unlike the myth of Tuisto as the first father of the Germanic tribes as Tacitus explains, according to the Scandinavian tales, cosmos had its origin in mysterious but dynamic interactions such as water, ice and
fire, which had as a result many well-defined sub worlds, many of them inhabited by specific beings. It is true that the northern sources do not always offer a systemic or consistent vision of the structure of the
universe, but some aspects are quite clear: in Midgard, conceived as a continental mass surrounded by the sea, live the gods and the humans.

Inside of Midgard rises Asgard, the city of the gods presided by Odin, lord of all of them. Beneath lies the world of the dead reigned by the goddess Hel. Giants have their own world too, vaguely situated in the
outskirts of cosmos, perhaps beyond the all-surrounding sea. The different sub worlds of the Scandinavian myths are dominated by the tree of the world, Ygdrasill, which rises among all of them, while its roots
sink in all three: Asgard, Midgard and Hell.

Hel, Loki’s daughter and goddess of Hell, by Johanned Gehrts (1855-1921). Some say that Hel was born after Loki ate the heart of a female giant called Angerboda. Hel was relegated to the lowest level by Odin to rise again in the final battle. Her room was Elvidnir or Misery, and her reig, Nifheim (Hel).

According to the old Nordic myths, the first living creatures were the giants. All living beings came from the “protogiant” Ymir, whom had a son, Buri, bred by the legs of Ymir, who also had a son named Burr. This
one fathered three children with a giant, the gods Odin, Vili and Vé. The gods evolved from them, and they created the first man and woman using two trunks dragged by the current that they found at the shores of

When the protogiant Ymir died, his dismembered body was used to create the world: his blood became the sea; his head, the firmament; his brain, the clouds, and his bones, the stones.

In spite of the different names, the three descendants of the protogiant Ymir – Odin, Vili and Vé – seem the ancesters of the main tribes in the Germanic lands, as described in the myth of Tuisto, which suggests a
common origin of the myth, especially when from Scandinavia to Great Britain and Lombardy Odin is considered as a mythological ancestor of the Western Germanic tribes and the royal houses. In the case of the
three (?) that Tacitus mentions, a relationship could also be found. In Scandinavian tradition we could associate the ancestors of the Ingaevons to Yngvi, name granted to the god Freyr, protector of the Swedish royal dynasty of the Ynglingar.

Two families of gods

In this world created from Ymir, there were two different families of gods: the Vanes and the Ases. In the beginning of the universe they had fought between themselves; but when the first myths begin to create, they have long ago forgotten their differences and live in harmony in the reign of Asgard. The main members of the Vanes are Niord and his sons: the goddess Freya and his non-identical twin, Freyr. All of the Vanes are closely linked to love, fertility and opulence, mythological and religiously. The rest of the main deities – Odin, Thor and Tyr – are Ases, despite the sources do not emphasize too much on the difference between the two families.

And with this today’s chapter has come to an end! For the next update, we’ll go into the myths of Nordic gods and giants. It’ll be the first of a series of updates on which I hope to reveal to you some of the main
deities like Odin, Thor, Freyr or Bald with some of their main deeds.

I encourage you all to stay tuned to Hyperborea Exists in the next week, because some interesting updates await!

Note. You can find some of the info included in this series of chapters in the book Mythology/: Myths, Legends and Fantasies/ by Global Book Publishing, a great work to introduce yourselves into the general
mythology of every culture in the world.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

History of Nordic Mythology III: Myth Sources and History

Dear followers of 'Hyperborea Exists', another week I address you to share with you my knowledge in history, archaeology and mythology. Once said this let continue with my lessons about History of Nordic Mythology. This week we will talk about the myth sources and It's history. From where we have taken what we think we know about mythology and who where the main actors that allowed us to know about rites and cultures that existed centuries or thousands of years in the past.

Yggdrasill, the world tree. The big world tree embrace all universe layers: heavens, earth and hell. Bifrost bridge, that humans see as a rainbow, links the real world with the supernatural one. Close to the tree roots live the Norns, the fate.

A great part of the information that is hold by scholars about Pagan mythology from ancient Nordics comes from a relative small number of written sources. One is the compilation of hero and mythology poems known as 'poetic Edda' that was gathered by unknown authors from different sources, probably around beginning of 13th century. The second source is 'prose Edda', written by Iceland politician Snorri Sturluson (1179-1241), just after finishing of 'poetic Edda'.

Sturluson had a busy politic life, and earned great sums of wealth and influence. His 'prose Edda' it's a guide for the conventions followed to create traditional Iceland poesy, written to take profit of the wannabe poets. From his four parts, the two most important sources of information are the 'Skaldkaparmal' and the 'Gylfaginning'. In this last one, a fiction king, Gylfi, arrives disguised to Asgard, the god's city, to learn from them and their wisdom. Odin appeared in front of the king Gylfi with three different disguises and tells him the history of god's tales. Snorri Sturluson was really inspired from 'poetic Edda'  to gather some of the myths included in 'prose Edda'.

Only occasionally we are offered small views from the Germanic mythologic tales outside Scandinavia, but in this case we have to take into account too that they were normally gathered by Roman writters with a limited knowledge of the Germanic specific nature or by Germanic writters converted to Christianity.


Roman historian Gayo Cornelio Tácito (c.56-120) offers us one of the most ancient references to Germanic myths. He wrote a brief ethnographic studio, called 'Germania', about Germanic people that lived outside Roman Empire in these times. In his argument about the different goddess it's clear the problem of gathering another culture from which you have small knowledge.

Mannus, the first Germanic king, from 'Origin of the first twelve kings and princes of the German nation, 1543. According to Tácito writings, Mannus was the father of the three Germanic tribes of the Ingaevons, Herminons and Istaevons. In the oral popular tradition; god Heimdall created three social classes after passing three nights with a different couple. Childs born from these unions were slaves, free men and noble men.
As an example, in chapter 9th, Tácito concludes that the Suevs worshipped a goddess similar to Egyptian goddess Isis because seemed that ships were part of the cult.   It's more probable that the goddess was Nehalennia, who was worshipped particularly by Frisian in the Frisian islands of the Northwest coast of Germany in the third century. Nehalennia appears in some votive stones in remote places like Cologne, west of Germany. Some of the inscriptions talk about her sponsorship to trade trips, that describes her as a the trade trips goddess for Frisian. Suevs lived far away of coasts, so they have nothing to be with a goddess related to the sea. However, Tácito gave us a lot of useful information, and this mention to the goddess, despite being wrong, its valuable thanks to being rare.

With that we arrived to the end of this issue, for next one we will go deeper in the Germanic creation myths following the information gathered by Tácito among others and will check the Ancient Nordic Cosmos Tales and introduce the two families of Nordic gods.

As I told you last week I'm still really busy, I have almost no free time to breath or think, just the opposite of what I need as I should focus in my biggest investigation, but I will have to delay it until I can pass this stage of work and social compromises.

See you soon 'Hyperborea Exists' followers!

Sunday, January 10, 2010

History of Nordic Mythology II: Christianity and It's impact

Dear followers of Hyperborea Exists, another week I'm here with another issue of our class about History of Nordic Mythology. This time we will go deeper with the Christianity and it's impact.

Germanic tribes embraced Christianity in different moments. When the information about their beliefs was started to be retrieved, most part of it was already lost, be that tribes spread or well moved to new territories. Most of Christians writters used shards and local memory, and then redid the myths with a Christian interpretation that discredit the paganism.

Despite all of that the Goods were already Christians at 4th century, Germanic tribes from North were still apart from the evolution of center Europe, so they were able to keep the biggest number of original myths than any other group. The ancient Nordic tribes, the current Scandinavians -Denmark, Sweden, Norway and Iceland- moved into Christianity during the 10th and 11th centuries. Paganism was still available in Sweden until end of year 1100.

Main Germanic tribes. Since 2nd century, Goods, Saxons, Francs and other tribes already did their raids against Romans, only slowed during the arrival of Huns, around year 350. One hundred years after, after the falling of Roman Empire, there were already many Germanic Empires well defined over all Europe.

That different evolution, together with a more or less contact with other groups, makes that the available sources are really different either in quality or in distribution. The richest ones are stored in the Scandinavian tales , specially in the Iceland stories of 13th century known as 'Poethic Edda' and the little bit late 'Edda' in prose written by Snorri Sturluson (1179-1241).

This Scandinavian mythologic body it's bigger and uniform than the ones from Central and East Germany. Previously, most of Scandinavian, like all Germanic tribes, were politheist Pagans that worshipped a vast number of gods, most of them were equals to other Germanic tribes but having different names.

The most known Nordic gods were Odin, Thor, Freyr, Freya and Niord; however, despite we know their names we have few information about what kind of worship they got. Archaeological findings aim to that they received Pagan rites, but it's meaning is unknown at most. Ocassionally, Scandinavian place names had Pagan gods names, so we can know that they were worshipped in several zones of Scandinavia; however, they say nothing about the Pagan rites and that, increases even more the mistery aura around these gods. It seems like their worshippers didn't wanted that the secret of their cult was known by the people that had to come.

From 13th century and forward, the Island's sagas of the two 'Edda' include tales about these rites, but the late date of these sources -started 300 years after the conversion to Christianity of Iceland, around year 1000- makes that we doubt that they can be trusted. They have the mark of the classic Iceland tale told by their Middle-Age Christians authors, and these sources could show us a picture soo much instructed and sistematic, as these tales show more literary features than religious ones.

Some evidences -quotes in the poems saved from Pagan Nordic poeths from 9th and 10th centuries, and images sources like paintings and runic inscriptions- proof that these Middle-Age Iceland tales could be true, but we have to be cautious before we can assure that they are valid sources from a more extended Nordic mythology.

That's all for today, in the next issue I will talk about the sources of myths and the story behind the Nordic mythology.

If I was already bussy checking all the data from my mates at NTNU in my last visit to Oslo now I have to add that I have to prepare some conferences in Madrid to talk about the Submarine Archaeology and it's potential to find out the misteries of forgotten civilizations. No worries, I won't neither forget you nor his blog as I already have many issues ready abour the History of Nordic Mythology.

See you in the next issue followers of Hyperborea Exists!

Note. Part of the information incluided in this update can be found in the book 'Mythology: Myths, Legends and Fantasies' from Global Book Publishing, it's a great book to be introduced in the mythology from all around the world.

Monday, January 4, 2010

History of Nordic Mythology I: Introduction

Happy New Year 2010 followers of Hyperborea Exists!

Image of the Valkirie, from The Cicle of the Ring, from Richard Wagner (1813-1883)

As I promised you in my last update today I'm going to start a new series of chapters where I will introduce you to the origin and history of Nordic mythology. Some could think that has nothing related to Hyperborean myth, but believe in me when I say you this: they share a very important link between them. That's the reason I think its important to introduce you to these basic info before we go deeper in my investigation. Part of the information included in this update and the next ones can be found in the book 'Mythology: Myths, Legends and Fantasies from Global Book Publishing, it's a great book to be introduced in the mythology from all around the world.

To speak about Nordic mythology, we have to talk about the Germanic one, as they are very similar. Both of them include the myths and religious believes from the Germanic tribes from North Europe raised from the pre-history to the beginning of the Iron Age, that's the year 500 A.D. It's origin keeps being a reason to discuss but there were well differentiated groups when they had contact with Roman Empire for first time. In north there were the Anglos, Saxons, Juts, Danish, Swedish; in Northwest , the Francs; in the South west, Suevs; in the North-east, Vandals; and in the East, the Goods. Tribes spoke different languages  and weren't based always in the same group, they could be formed by different smaller tribes. For instance, Germans probably were Suevs or were splited from them, and their language, the Germanic, its the dialect of the high Deutsch that is spoken in Suabia (from Suevs), current Germany.

During the first millennia after Christ, mainly during the decay of Roman Empire, Germanic tribes-most of them remain as semi-nomads- extended across all Europe. The Goods  that were divided between Ostrogoods and Visigoods, moved to the South running from the Hunes raids, and finally they settled in Spain.

In general terms, and despite that few is known about their religion, Germans were pagan people that worshipped tons of gods. Due to the geographical dispersion, religion evolved in different way either for local needs or expositions to external influence (specially pagan Roman and the Christian, but Slavic and Celtic too). For all that, it doesn't seem to exist an unified German mythology.

With the exception of several runic inscriptions or draws in stones, the writing didn't evolved as a way to store the historic achievements, were the poets and minstrels or scalds, as they were known in the Scandinavian countries, were the ones in charge of transmit the myths following oral tradition. For that, in great way, German myths were retrieved by others.

For today this is all, despite I returned to Madrid just to enjoy the end of the year with Maria's family I'm still busy checking all the date compiled in Oslo with my mates from NTNU. I'm very excited with what we have find out but it's still soon to make any public statement about it. That's the reason that in the following weeks I'll be focused on that and meanwhile I'll be posting the new chapters about the Nordic mythology that I had already prepared.

In the next chapter we will follow the Christianise and it's impact in the Nordic mythology.