Kalevala or Finland is the land where Lönnrot (1802-1884) compiled folklore songs of ancient times. From these songs he made a more or less continuing story in 50 parts. To improve readablity Inge Ott made a ‘prose-version’ and of this version I have got a Dutch translation from an Antroposophical publisher. The Kalevala reads as a real myth with superhuman heroes doing supernatural things. Of course there are the underlying themes of creation and the like, but this symbology is not always easy to find. If you -like me- are looking to collect the most important Northern European myths, the Kalevala cannot lack from your bookshell. This illustrated Dutch translation is a nice one, I am sure there are also good versions in English.
Many people will think me crazy, but I highly enjoyed reading this book. The title suggests that it is about Northern mythology (it means “between Wodan and Widar”) which is true, but also it isn’t. This happens to be an Antroposophical book. Antroposophy always had its interest in the traditions of our ancestors. It is not for nothing that the Antroposophical medicine brands are called “Wala” and “Weleda”. Also the ‘inventor’ of Antroposophy Rudolf Steiner (for more info go to the ‘seekers dept.’) frequently spoke about Northern mythology. The myths of the North are even taught on Waldorf schools today. Still this book may be a little unexpected, because it pretents to explain the Northern religion in Antroposophical terms, which naturally leads to very unorthodox explanations.
As a good book about Norse mythology ought to, the writer speaks about creation, the first giants and several of the Aesir, Vanas, giants, dwarves, etc. The meaning of the book is totally opposital from those of the other books about this subject that I reviewed. In the case of creation, the Norse version is laid alongside the way Steiner saw creation with his clairvoyant investigations. Herewith the metaphores of the myths get another depth. Later with the evolution of mankind and the roles of the different Norse gods many people not familiar with or opposed to the Antroposophical worldview will drop out. Personally I have no problems with this Antroposophical worldview. As a matter of fact, it were Steiner’s books that put me on my ‘spiritual path’ many years before I started to study the traditional religion. Laying the Antroposophical ideas next to the metaphores of the Norse mythologies definately made the last more vivid to me. A big point for comment is that Woutersen uses the her Antroposophical worldview as starting point and literally rams the Northern stories therein. Often her conclusions are very prepossessed or fabricated, but the writer does not shy to leave answers or possibilities open when she isn’t convinced about certain things herself. Another point of comment is that Woutersen pays but little respect to the order of things in the Eddas and other sagas and makes strange jumps throughout the texts to pick the best comparison for her ideas.
There are also good points about this book though. Woutersen used a Dutch scholar who can read old Icelandic and not blindly sailed on the existing translations of the Eddas. Woutersen often opens a subject with a compilation of texts about a certain subject. Herefor she combines different translation of (for example) the Eddas like that of De Vries or Otten (reviewed elsewhere), but also German translations or the translation of ‘her’ Icelandic scholar. Then the metaphores, images, etc. are explained in an Antroposophical way. Like I said, the result is mostly extremely unorthodox. I often disagree with the writer or think that her conclusions are premature, but the great thing about this book is exactly that the unorthodox explanation sheds a totally different light on stories that I keep reading (about). Even better: Woutersen forces me to think my own explanations of these stories over again which is of course the best thing that can happen to get a better understanding.
All in all “Tussen Wodan And Widar” gives the creation and evolution of mankind in images of the Norse myths, but in line with the Antroposophical worldview. You will -for example- read about Mimir and the development of memory, Odin and the development of speech, Thor and the development of the individuality, the meaning of Balder’s death and Ragnarökk and eventually the (not too convincing) part Vidar/Widar (the son of Odin/Wodan who avenges his death during Ragnarökk) as the ‘new Christ’ (as a matter of speaking). According to this book the pre-Christian belief was a state in the evolution of mankind and Odin was the ‘folk-mind’ of the Northern tribes (and an archangel). Gautama Siddarta and Christ were clearly indicationable peaks where new stages in this evolution where started. In such a matter Woutersen leads you towards the time of Widar (which she discerns from “Vidar”, the son of Odin).
Unorthodox, strange maybe, but interesting and definately giving you another view on certain things than you are used. Maybe this ‘culture shock’ with cause a total re-evaluation of your own implementation of our ancestral religion which can never be a bad thing. You may come out stronger in your convictions and/or weak spots will become more solid. At the end there is some information about the Antroposophical worldview for people who are not familiar with it.