Is it because the next holiday will be Scotland or some other reason, but I recently find myself fascinated by the so-called “Pictish stones”. The first time I saw the strange Pictisch symbols was about a decade ago in the fascinating book “Noord-Europese Mysterieën En Hun Sporen Tot Heden” (‘North-European mysteries and their traces to the precent’) (1970) by the Dutch author Frans Eduard Farwerck (1889-1969). He displays several stones, but the Golspie stone is the most fascinating. It not only contains (virtually) every Pictish symbol that we know, but also supports Farwerck’s theory about the symbolism. A theory that I have not found on the world wide web yet, so I figured my scribblings might add something to the information about the Pictish stones that is already available on the web, which is not little to begin with.
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.
All can understand how frightened the bonde became when he saw that Thórr let his brows sink down over his eyes. When he saw his eyes he thought he must fall down at the sight of them alone.
Prose Edda verse 45
Did you ever wonder why it is that many Thor’s Hammer symbols have eyes on the upper part? As you can read in the quote that opens this short article, there is something about those eyes of Thor. The sight of them alone makes the farmer whose son Thialfi broke one of the bones of one of Thor’s goats, think that he will faint. The only description that you get here is that Thor’s brows “sink down over his eyes”. Here we have a point that did not pass entirely unnoticed. Let me quote Georges Dumézil at length as he describes and compares similar events in different sources in his The Destiny Of The Warrior (p. 161/2/3):
A while ago I was paging through some book (that I cannot find anymore…) and my eye fell on the famous “Rökstenen”, the runestone named after the place where it stands: Rök. On top of the background and on the top of this stone are some very interesting bindrunes. I have seen similar symbols on a variety of places. Would this be coincidental or is there some kind of connection between the different findings? Or whatever their connection, could they possibly tell something about eachother?
Some time ago, a friend after reading my article about Odhinn, had a nice suggestion. What if the missing arm is supposed to be missing and what if there is a big significance in the fact that Odin misses his left arm, and Tyr his right hand? I was already aware of the ‘pair’ Tyr/Odin, but hadn’t given this idea a thought. The suggestion soon proved to be just a suggestion. Another image clearly shows breaking-traces on the arm and hip, so it is clear that this particular image of Odin originally has two arms. The start was there, though, because for some time I had the idea to write something about Tyr and Odin.
I remember yet the giants of yore
Who gave me bread; in the days gone by
Nine worlds I knew, the nine in the Tree
With mighty roots beneath the mold.
(Völuspa 2, translated by Ari Óðinssen)
This is the second verse from the Poetic Edda. “Nine worlds I knew, nine in the Tree”. The nine worlds come back in Northern mythology more often, such as in Alvíssmál 9 in which the dwarf Alvis says: “All the nine worlds I have travelled over” and also Vafthrudnir has travelled to nine worlds (VafÞrúðnismál 43). Because the concept is rather vague, it has been open to speculation what exactly these nine worlds are. Óðinssen writes in a note to the quoted verse:
A while ago I was reading a collection of articles by Karl Theodor Weigel. The man speaks about folkloristic habbits and symbolism that goes back to the prechristian religion. He gives symbols representing the years, such as I have shown you in my article “Odhinn, God of the year”. Towards the end there is an image of a Christmas-bread from Lauterbach Hessen, Germany (left) “that strongly reminds of the god in the wheel, in the course of the year”. That is the same symbolism as that I gave to Odin with his two arms on the hips. The Christmas bread made me think of the famous statue of Freya with a gigantic necklase, her Brisingamen, around her neck. Freya as Goddess of the year, not such a strange idea, because she is connected to fertility and therefor the cycle of the crops, death and rebirth, the changing seasons and thus the year. So might this be the reason that the Brisingamen has such enormous propertions? Let us see what is said about the Brisingamen.
The beginning of this tale is, that Balder dreamed dreams great and dangerous to his life. When he told these dreams to the asas they took counsel together, and it was decided that they should seek peace for Balder against all kinds of harm. So Frigg exacted an oath from fire, water, iron and all kinds of metal, stones, earth, trees, sicknesses, beasts and birds and creeping things, that they should not hurt Balder. When this was done and made known, it became the pastime of Balder and the asas that he should stand up at their meetings while some of them should shoot at him, others should hew at him, while others should throw stones at him; but no matter what they did, no harm came to him, and this seemed to all a great honor.
Gylfaginning 49, Rasmus Anderson translation
Fire, a concept that is very present in Northern mythology and also a concept that I have broken my head over for some time now. The symbology is multi-layered and however I still haven’t fully worked out the subject, I want to present some thoughts and come to an interpretation of some elements of Northern mythology.
There are two primal forces in Nordic myths, two forces that are known under the names, “fire” and “ice”. Before there was anything, there was Ginungagap, a “yawning gap”. In the south of it, fire ‘resided’ and in the north, ice. When these two came together, everything started. So, fire is the primal force, one side of the Divine. Some symbology!