A while ago I ran into the little book The Icelandic Rune-Poem (1998) by R.I. Page and later I bought his book An Introduction To English Runes (first published 1973, revised and republished in 1999). Page is a rune-scholar. In both books he writes about what he calls “cryptic runes”, runes in code. I have looked around a little and noticed that there is not much information to be found about this subject on the world wide web. There is a very short article about “Cipher Runes on Wikipedia and a handfull of references to it. The article does not say all that much though, nor does the rest of the information that I found on the internet. I do not claim to make a definate article about the subject, but I will at least give a bit more information.
In this article I want to say a thing or two about a few interrelated ‘processes’ in the Medieval Germanic society. How groups form and how they are maintained and how ‘mechanisms’ such as honour and feud work. These at first sight varied subjects will prove to be interwoven.
For this article I have used a few books that you will find listed at the bottom. All authors more or less treat parts of the whole, but from different perspectives and speaking about different societies. It seems as if all of these kinds of works owe a great deal to Willam Miller’s Bloodtaking and Peacemaking which is one of the books that I used. Miller is mostly concerned with Medieval Iceland. Another author I consulted is Jos Bazelmans who dived deeply into the Beowulf story and therefor Anglo-Saxon culture. Another Dutch author, Arnoud-Jan Bijsterveld wrote a book about gift-giving mostly concerning people and the Church in the late-medieval Netherlands, a period in which little empires started to arise and this lord-civilian bond is also very present in Bijsterveld’s book. Further I used two articles and last but not least, the inspiration to start this little investigation came from Han Nijdam’s excellent Lichaam, Eer en Recht which is about Medieval Frisian society, with many references to Medieval Iceland.
I am currently reading a very interesting book about “Compensation Tariffs” in medieval Frisia. Of course I will review the book when I finish it. The book speaks about the “feuding society” in which honour is of high value. The author explains the ancient idea of honour very well.
Compensation systems, of which the Old Frisian penalty lists are an example, appear in many societies. […] The meganism flourishes in a society without a strong (central) authority – in which the government has the monopoly of violence – and where free men form a constitutional state. Such a society is often typified as being a feuding society. In a feuding society an insult or physical violence (sometimes) leads to revenge and revenge (sometimes) to a feud. The state of enmity that rises between two groups of people can be reconciled, compensation plays an important part.
Many times I have thought about the subject and recently there has been discussions about it: does the focus of many European “pagans” not lie too much on the North? Does the term “Asatru” not refer to much to the god of the ancient Scandinavians? Why do we refer to “Odin” and “Thor” and not to the same gods in our own tongue? What actually do we really know about these local versions of the old faith? I have tried to to make some sort of inventarisation and initial investigation into a subject that proves to be quite difficult.
Der Germanische Schicksalsglaube by Walther Gehl (1939)
A couple of things made me want to have a look at the explanations that I was offered of the terms “Ørlögr” and “heilagr” and this book was suggested. I got a copy through my library, so I had only 3 weeks to study the book. The Germanic Belief In Fate is a very interesting work, offering tons of information about the subject. Gehl does not really work towards the explanations that I was after, but there are things to work with. I want to introduce you to this book and because this text is too lengthy for a book review, this turned out to be an ‘article’. Of course I read the book with a certain idea in mind, so this review may turn out to be a bit onesided.
I had plans to write about the subject for a while. There is a small group of people familiar with a particular line of thought. Current events (summer 08) make that these ideas may fall victim to forgetfulness, so I decided to speed up my plans somewhat. On the other hand, there seem to be people who think that Traditionalism and “paganism” is a combination growing in popularity in certain music scene circles. I personally have my doubts about that. In any case, what you will learn below is a hypothesis of its own.
we should not be allowing the voices we hear in this publication to be the only voices pushing the edge of philosophy in this age. They are, by our silence, representing us. I repeat this to make it clear: they are, by our silence, representing us…
Óðinssen seems to think that Tyr stands for a radical traditionalist form of “Asatru”, while in my own idea, Tyr is a “radical traditionalist” publication (as an umbrella term) with here and there a ‘pagan edge’. Óðinssen fears that Tyr tries to make some kind of extremist system of the ancestral faith. I doubt that this is the aim of the authors and I personally never saw the publication that way. The interest of the editors in controversial writers who either or not have had dealings with aspects of the Northern faith, combined with Dumézilian theories of a New Right thinker and all that under the monicker of the Norse god of Justice could indeed come on fiercely on some followers of the ancestral path. Again, in my eyes Tyr is a “radical traditionalist” publication and not a pagan one.
A few months ago I had a little talk about the story of Thor and Loki who travel to Utgarda Loki for a selected group. This little talk took a couple of months in preparation and I have yet to start working on the reworked version of the in depth analysis, but I thought it might be nice for you to show a few aspects of the story here.
The story in short goes that Thor and Loki (for an unknown reason), decide to travel to Utgarda Loki, which is both the name of a kingdom, as the name of its ruler. In the beginning of the story, Thor and Loki need a place to sleep and they find a farm with a family that is willing to let them spend the night. For dinner, Thor slays his two goats and tells the farmer to throw the bones on the skins that Thor laid on the floor. The son breaks a bone to eat out the marrow though. In the morning, Thor takes his hammer, consecrates the goats and they come back alive, one with a limping rear leg. Thor immediately realises what has happened, breaks a fury and threatens to slay the family. Naturally the farmer got scared, offered his excuses and his children as compensation. Thor agrees and he, Loki, Thialfi (the son) and Roskva (the daughter) leave behind the goats and use a boat to cross the ocean.
After coming on the other shore, they start to walk through a big forest and at the end of the day they search for food in vein, but do find a place to sleep: a large hall with a portal as big as the hall itself. When trying to get some sleep, an enormous earthquake and ear-shattering sound wakes our friends in fear and they find a smaller side-hall in which they take shelter. In the morning they find out that both phenomena were caused by a gigantic man sleeping a little ahead and Thor walks towards him with his hammer in his hand. The man awakes and Thor asks for his name, which is Skrymir and Skrymir immediately recognises Thor of the Ases. The party decides to travel together, but our four friends have a hard time to keep up with the giant. As evening falls the giant finds a tree to sleep under and tells Thor to get some from from the knapsack in which everybody put their food together. Thor proves to be unable to open the giants bag though; annoyed and hungry, they also go to sleep. As soon as the giant falls asleep, the loud snoring is back and Thor runs over to him, hitting him with his hammer. The giant awakes and asks if leaves fell on his head. The second time Thor takes his change, he walks towards the giant and hits him again, but again the giant just asks if a bird dropped something on his head. The last time Thor is sure that he will succeed, he takes one step, hits the giant, but again he wakes up with a silly question.
When morning breaks, the parties part, the giant continues North, our friends towards the East. Soon they find a gigantic castle, but are not let in. Fortunately they can squeeze themselves between the bars and they immediately walk towards the drinking hall where king Utgarda Loki has a feast with his subjects. Instead of being greeted and invited to join the meal, our friends are asked which feats they can perform. After this follow three tests. First, Loki has an eating contest again a man named Logi, but Loki looses. After this Thialfi runs three races against a man named Hugi, but loses all three. Then Thor fails to empty a drinking horn, doesn’tmanaged to raise the cat of the king and is forced on a knee when wrestling against an old lady. After this they receive a warm welcome with dinner, sleeping places and breakfast in the morning.
When walking outside, Utgarda Loki tells Thor that he has tricked him. Utgarda Loki was Skrymir and every time Thor tried to kill him, he put a mountain between his head and Thor’s hammer. The man that Loki had his contest with was called “Wildfire” (“Logi”) who not only ate the meat from the bones, but also consumed the bones and the trough on which the food laid. No wonder Loki was no competition here. A similar trick Utgarda Loki has with Thialfi, because “Hugi” as his “thought” and nothing is faster than thought. The horn that Thor tried to empty had it’s tip in the ocean, the cat was actually the Midgard serpent that encircles the entire earth and the old woman was called “old age” (“Elli”) and even Thor can’t fight that. After hearing this, Thor got angry, raised his hammer to smash Utgarda Loki and his men, but suddenly the castle and its inhabitents are gone and Thor, Loki and Thialfi find themselves in an open field.
On my article about Irminsuls I get comments which are mostly questions about the Externsteine. Since it would be silly to put the information and images in the comments under that article, I decided to make a separate piece about the Externsteine. Nothing in depth, but with a few images that you might not have seen yet. Most images are from a book that I also reviewed, so I probably make copyright violations. Risking that, here some images and short information. I have visited the Externsteine several years ago, probably before I had a digital camera, so nothing here is mine.
I have been working on a talk about the story from the Prose Edda in which Thor and Loki travel to Utgarda Loki. Since the talk was in Dutch, but the text is hardly available in that language, I translated the text for my ‘audience’. Maybe some Dutch speaking people will appreciate the translation to be available, so I decided to post it here. The translation is based on the English translation of Anderson (http://www.northvegr.org/lore/prose2/014.php). I decided to keep the ‘viscous’ writing style intact. I consider posting the result of my endeavors too some time.