For a long time I have wanted to read the myths of the North, but it was only until recently that I got so far. As you may have noticed in the book reviews section, I have gotten myself the poetic Edda and some other famous sagas. Also do I have one of these cheap-bookshop-books about Viking mythology. When I read the short version of the Viking tale of creation, I was struck by the likeness it has with some of the Hermetic creation-myths that I gave in my “Hermetic concepts” article. I couldn’t place the information of John Grant’s little book in my own library though. A quick investigation proved that most of the Northern mythology that we know comes from the so-called prose-Edda, also younger Edda (and the poetic Edda the older Edda) or Snorre/Snorra-Edda. This prose-Edda is the famous work of the Icelander Snorri Sturluson (1178-1241) with much more information than the later compiled (!) poetic Edda. For some reason this more important Edda is not available in my native language, BUT, I found two translations in English on the internet (see bottom of article) in order to make me able to make the correct references.
As you probably know, the so called “Renaissance” started in Italy around 1400 and the Renaissance in Northern Europe followed a few decades later. The Renaissance is characterised by a renewed interest in forgotten beliefs and cultures, a rapid development in the current beliefs and cultures and a disengaging from the scholastic Middle Ages. “A rebirth of paganism” or similar expressions you will run into frequently. Indeed, for the Southern Renaissance this is very clear. The libraries in the South of Europe were stuffed with ‘pagan texts’, classical mythology and ancient philosophers. These were rediscovered and however Christianity was stronger than ever, art, architecture, literature and philosophy used the pre-Christian imaginary like never before. So what happened when the Renaissance found its way to the more Northern parts of Europe ? Well, we usually hear that not only the styles of art, but also the imaginary of the Southern Renaissance were taken over. So also here Jupiter, Apollo, Venus and Mars.
When I read about Johannes Thomae Agrivillensis Bureus (latinisation of Johan Bure, 1568-1652), for the first time I realised that in Northern Europe during the Renaissance there actually hàs been a mix between pre-Christian religion/mythology and typical Renaissance magic (such as Hermetic, Kabbalah, Medieval magic, etc.). I started to look for information about this interesting character and his ideas and took up the idea to find out if there were more people in which these two interesting elements came together. I noticed that not only information about Bureus is quite scarse, but that the subject as a whole is very under lighted. The writer of the article The First Northern Renaissance (in the second volume of the Tyr magazine) Stephen Edred Flowers has released on his own Rûna Raven Press a small booklet about Bureus’ most famous work Adalruna Rediviva (first version 1605), which I of course got. It is reviewed in the book reviews section. Other information is in Swedish, but I noticed that Bureus was spoken about at length in the book Rose Cross Over The Baltic by the Swedish investigator (who fortunately writes in English) Susana Åkerman (Brill 1998, also reviewed*). Looking further it proved hard to find information about other people interested in Nordic mythology and Renaissance magic, but I kept running into Åkerman. Since the works of Flowers and Åkerman appear to be the only descent information about the Swede Bureus in English, but both are hard to get (a small publisher and a scholarly and very expensive publishing for universities) and there is also no proper information on the internet, I decided to write an article about Bureus as first introduction. This article may be regarded as advertisement for the book(let)s of Flowers and Åkerman since it is mainly built on the information that they found. If this article catches your interest, I suggest you contact mr. Flowers to order his small but highly informative booklet. The work of Åkerman you will probably have to get through a library. This book is available, but very expensive, like most of the Brill publications. More information on the bottom of this article.
Earlier I reviewed a book about Bureus’ booklet Adalruna Rediviva and wrote an article about the man himself. If you haven’t read that article, I suggest you do before you start with this one. This time I want to say a bit more about Bureus’ wonderful runic hieroglyph.
Bureus’ furthark consists of 15 runes. More about that in my other article. The rune-cross consists of all 15 runes, thus representing All or Totality. Bureus saw his runic system as the mediator between the divine and human worlds. The creative word of God is the mediator between Him and His creation. Consequentally Bureus saw the runes as the divine or original language.
It is strange how things can go. Several months ago I was writing an article about the different Corpus Hermeticums and the Hermetic scriptures. Just having finished that article I buy a brandnew book appears and the writer also has a list of Hermetic texts. Jacob Slavenburg found Hermetic texts among the so called Greek magical papyri; are the texts in the papyri in which Hermes is named. Only weeks later I was in my usual second-hand bookshop (that I visit every week) looking through the ‘theology’ section that I didn’t visit often before and my eye fell on the backs of two books saying “Abrasax”. Already figuring that these books were a bit misplaced in the section, I hoped for something Gnostic. Yet, the covers say: “Ausgewählte papyri religiösen und magischen Inhalts”, or in English: “selected papyri with religious and magical content”. You can imagine that I had to think of the Greek magical papyri and indeed!! The work is coverage of lectures and is divided in two books. It has selected texts from the Papyri Graecae Magicae (PGM) in the original language (Greek of course), German translations and a lot of elucidation, resulting in a very scholarly work. Unfortunately the texts are only an “Auswahl”, so not all papyri are included and of course none of the Hermetic texts are in my books. The two books are written by Reinhold Merkelbach and Maria Totti (1990) and based on the complete publishing of the papyri by a Richard Wünch and Karl Preisendanz (published 1928-1931). My two books are called “Abrasax” to both link with and discern the work from the book about the PGM of “Abraxas” by Albrecht Dieterich from 1891.
An old article from my ‘Theosophical period’, but still republished, since it opens for the ‘series’ about the esoteric systems of the West.
To make a start with these series about the esoteric tradition(s) from the west I will go back a long way in time, even before ‘our periode’, the times of Atlantis and farther back. The best basis to build on is the quite well-known (and controversial) theory of the globes and races of Helena Petrovna Blavatsky (often abbreviated to HPB) (1831-1891) which she wrote down in her monumental work “The Secret Doctrine” from 1888*1.
The first branch of Western esotericism that I want to write about is alchemy. Of course there are different explanations to give to the word in the sense of tradition, but I will use the word “Alchemy” to refer to the ages-old tradition. When I write “alchemy” without a capital, I refer to what most people think off when hearing the word “alchemy” being ‘early science’, but more about that later.
The ancient tradition has received different names in different times by different writers. Some people use the word “Hermeticism” to refer to it, but in the article about hermeticism that will follow some time, I will say how I use that word myself. Maybe “Ars Regia” (royal art) would a good term, but I prefer to say “Alchemy”.
In the Renaissance there was an occult revival and many people were interested in different cultures and philosophies. In 1439 Cosimo de Medici (1389 – 1464) founded his “Platonic Academy” in Florence (Italy) for these studies.
Then in 1460 the monk Leonardo of Pistoia (?? – ??) came back from his journey through Macedonia bringing a Greek handwriting which he handed over to De Medici. The scripture contained 14 tracts/treaties and De Medici was thrilled. He told his brilliant pupil Marsilio Ficino (1433 – 1499) to stop his translations of Plato to start translating the new found texts. De Medici and others believed the texts to be written by the most ancient teacher of mankind, the Egyptian wiseman Hermes Trismegistos. In the times of De Medici they were not completely sure when Hermes would have lived, either in times a long, long time ago, around the time of Moses or a few generations after Moses. This also sets the idea behind this article. Sometimes Hermeticism is regarded as the oldest esoteric tradition descending from the earliest dynasties of Egypt, at other times originated in Alexandria, the Greek city in northern Egypt somewhere around the beginning of our counting of years.
As most articles about the subject, I will start to say that “Gnosis” (say, “no sis” as if your little sister is not allowed to do something) is a Greek word meaning “opinion”, “view”, knowledge”. Most of the time the word is used for deep, ‘direct’ knowledge as in a revelation. However the word “Gnosis” can therefor be used in all times and for every tradition, it is mostly known for a pre-Christian movement that has also existed after the start of our counting of years. It is this movement or tradition that I will speak about in this article.
In the article about Alchemy I wrote that the upcoming religion of the Islam brought a saveguard for many western occultist that had to flee the rage of Christianity. After the destruction of Alexandria and in particular it’s libraries, many alchemists, hermeticists, gnostics, Jews, etc. fled to the regions where soon the prophet Mohammed would start his quest. The ‘pre-Muslims’ and later the Muslims treated the immigrants with respect and both parties learned a lot from eachother.
When the Muslims reigned southern Europe a fruitfull environment for mysticism and occultism existed in Spain. Muslims brought alchemical and hermetic texts that had come to them by the fleeing occultists of 1000 years earlier and translated them (back) in western languages.