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.