Old Norse Mythology Midterm Study Guide (SCAN 3202)
On the Syllabus, it states, “These exams will test your knowledge of our assigned readings and lecture/recitation discussions. Each exam consists of multiple choice, true/false, fill-in-the-blank, kenning identification, and short essay questions. The midterm exam is in class Wednesday March 1st…”
This study guide includes power point overviews, a kennings list from those power points, and recitation questions from Taylor Budde. If you want to learn more check out Does personality predict behavior?
Pptx. Week 1:
- Odin is a one-eyed Aesir (connoting wisdom) and has two ravens which leave every morning, see what is happening with all, and comes back to Odin at sundown to tell him all they have seen. Their names are Huginn and Muninn
- Period of Scandinavian Expansion and Exploration
- Viking is actually originally a verb, as in, “He went out Viking” - Christianity conversion beginning in the 8th c. and took many generations o Many years of religious hybridity (Christianity and Paganism practiced at the same time in the same place)
- Scandinavia = Norway, Sweden, and Denmark
o Not to be confused with the Nordic Region
We also discuss several other topics like What is the platt amendment?
o Large land settled from the 8th c. - 11th c.
How do you use the word “myth”?
∙ a myth is a narrative of the creation of the cosmos (story becomes an explanation) If you want to learn more check out What is cell division?
∙ Myth vs. Religion:
o Myth – narrative/story
o Religion – ritual practice
Why study mythology?
These are stories that can engage you and can be related to.
o archaeology (rune stones; those these have their limits as to what they can tell us)
o Place names
o (mostly) written sources
From Pagan Oral society or Christianity and the written word
∙ Literacy came with Christianity Snorri = Christian writer, writing about mythology (which brings to mind the question of bias…)
o But it turns out Snorri was not as biased as others, and was rather sympathetic
The Poetic Edda – 1270 AD
∙ Comes from the Codex Regius which was lost and then rediscovered and given to a Danish King in 1662
∙ Returned to Iceland in 1971
∙ This contains anonymous poetic material from pre-conversion (to Christianity) Scandinavia (years of composition are unknown) If you want to learn more check out What is fiber-temper ceramics?
o Also contains wolves and volcanos in a time/setting when they are unknown; this might suggest the Edda was written later in
Scandinavian history OR that it was updated later
∙ Some poems also extant in other manuscripts
Snorri’s Edda – Snorri (1179 – 1241)
∙ Snorri = lawmaker from 1215-1218, 1222-32
∙ Iceland began as a self-governed land with many families intertwined and ruling together families began fighting Nordic King stepped in ∙ Norway King – King Hakon Hakonarson
o Title and influence; Heimskringla
∙ In Iceland, Snorri becomes the Kings spokesman, and is not liked; eventually the Nordic King has Snorri killed
- Based on Poetic Edda
- Oldest copy dates back to 1300
- 7 manuscripts/fragments
- Most complete in the Codex Regius
o There are still some gaps and inconsistencies
- Sympathetic account of Pagan beliefs (“rational but misguided” is how Christians saw the pagans)
- The only contemporary analysis
Why write it?
∙ Poets of this time gained prestige (because there was very little literacy at the time)
∙ This was a well-crafted version of events
∙ “words of praise that love forever”
∙ Skalds, Icelandic art
∙ Difficult Skaldic poetry supplanted by prose (because skaldic was so hard)
∙ “textbook” Prose Edda
o Gylfaginning: the tricking of Gylfi
o Skaldskaparmal: the language of poetry
o Hattatal: list of verse-forms
o Norse and Anglo-Saxon poetic device
o Compound word metaphor, circumlocution
o Often mythological
Pptx. W2 Monday:
Poetry and Mythology
Snorri and Poetry
Wrote the Snorri Edda
∙ Poetry and prestige
∙ Well-crafted versions of events
o “words of praise that live forever”
∙ Skalds, Icelandic art
∙ Difficult Skaldic poetry supplanted by prose (because skaldic was so hard) ∙ “textbook” Prose Edda
o Gylfaginning: the tricking of Gylfi
o Skaldskaparmal: the language of poetry
o Hattatal: list of verse-forms
Why do we need to know Norse Mythology to understand Norse poetry? Kennings
∙ Norse and Anglo-Saxon poetic device
∙ Compound word metaphor, circumlocution
∙ Often mythological
o Whale-road: the ocean (I traveled the whale-road to the ends of Iceland…)
o Battle-sweat: blood (Many men drown in battle-sweat during these wars)
o Wound-digger: a sword
o Feeding the Eagles: Dying in Battle
o Wolf’s father: Loki (because he father’s the wolf Fenrir)
o Sif’s Hair: Gold (because Loki took all of Sif’s hair and made her new hair of gold)
o Baldr’s bane: mistletoe (Baldr was killed by a twig of Mistletoe) o Ymir’s skull: the sky (refers to the beginning of the cosmos) o Slayer of Giants: Thor
o Wolf’s joint: the wrist
∙ This is why we must understand mythology to understand Norse poetry, and Snorri’s Edda helps you to do this
o Sail-road: ocean
o Ring giver: King
o Forest of Oaks: warriors
o Freyja’s tears: gold (again)
o Destroyers of raven’s hunger: warriors
o Scabbard- icicles: swords
∙ Context/organization/frame of reference we use to make sense of information
o Time Periods (The Viking Age – people of the time weren’t living in the Viking Age, this is a title given to the period later to contextualize it) o Economics, “supply” vs. “demand”
o National Borders (invisible lines, imposed and not natural)
∙ Frameworks = imposed from the outside, not intrinsic (we will not know what our time period will be called…)
∙ Useful but not absolute (Ex. When did the Roman Empire end? With Christianity becoming the recognized religion or with any of the many sackings of Rome?)
∙ The process by which mythological events are re-interpreted to have been historical evets, and mythological figures have been mortal humans
∙ Snorri, and others, did this in an attempt to (sometimes) respectfully explain Pagan material but not compromise his own Christianity
∙ Supposes that myths are exaggerated with retellings, remarkable people become gods
∙ Have you done this? (smaller scale)
o Idealizing the past
o This is similar to “ret-conning” (retroactive continuity) – when you add context or information to change the interpretation (Ex. Star Wars changed Han vs. Grito scene to make Han look more heroic in the remaster 90s version of the movie)
∙ Why does this happen?
o You want to add more legitimacy to your ideas, so perhaps you exaggerate significance of people
o Snorri was sucking up to Kings of his time; he Euhemerized Norse Mythology so that it fit with the Christian World View. But then he made these Gods great men and kings to compare his Kings to them and suck up to them
Snorri’s Euhemerism (This is Snorri making the Gods into men)
∙ Genesis of the Norse (as told by Snorri): In Troy (Turkey), grandson of Priam Tror Thor
o Story began in Troy for legitimacy
∙ 18 generation later: Odin (and Trig)
o They leave Troy to follow a prophecy which states if they go to the North, they will be praised
o Echoes the values of the Viking Age
∙ Every country they passed through, they gained more Kingdoms and glory and seemed Gods
∙ Establishes Kings in Scandinavia
o Kings cam claim divinity
Framework witin Snorra Edda
∙ Snorri writing as 13th c Icelander
∙ Snorri’s Euhemerism (prologue) explains contradictions between Pagan and Christian Norse
∙ Snorri states King Gylfi contemporary to euhemerized Odin
∙ Euhemerized Odin (in the prologue) =/= Mythological Odin (Odin was a man, so he was historical and not comparable to “the God”)
∙ Snorri writes down what King Gylfi learned from High, Just-as-high and Third about pagan Norse myths (Snorri is using Gylfi as the narrator in Gylfaginning)
***The euhemerizing is ONLY IN THE PROLOGUE to the Edda, just so Snorri can tell his Christian audience, “I know who God is! The people I am writing about, the Pagans and their God’s, did not, but I still will write about them because they are interesting.”
Pptx: W2 Wednesday:
Gefiun the Aesir Oxen (her 4 sons) plow King Gylfi Zealand (Copenhagen; West of Denmark)
Norse Cosmology, Mythic Time
Quick Note: Identified Kennings in this week’s readings
∙ Snorri’s Edda – “eight brow-stars” = eight eyes
∙ Remember, in the prologue of Snorri’s Edda, Snorri euhemerizes the Pagan Gods and the mythology (here Gylfi, is a historical figure/king) ∙ In the mythology, Gylfi is a narrator, a vessel for Snorri to get his information on mythology out
∙ Kind of miffed about Gefiun’s land gain, Gylfi goes north to the Aesir
∙ Disguised as Gangleri (which is seen through Prophecy by the Aesir, so he’s fooling no one)
o Gangleri wished to find out if there was any “learned” person there… this is a challenge of whit and knowledge
o “High said he would not get out unscathed unless he were more learned” – If you don’t know more than us, you will be
hurt/punished in some way
∙ Gangleri meets 3 kings and challenges them: High, Just-As-High, and Third
What kinds of questions did Gangleri ask?
Gangleri asks about the Gods but also asks about Genesis and the Beginning of all things
Gangleri asks, “what was there in the beginning”
∙ First, they say, there was the world of Muspelheim all ash and fire in the south (and later all who could live there were the fire giants and Surtr) ∙ There was also Niflheim
∙ Between the two (dichotomy’s) was Ginnunga-gap
o Frost of Nifheim met with heat of Muspelheim
o Out of the ice Ymir, the father of all giants (including the giant Surtr) o Sweated out a male and female from his armpits
o His legs also mate
∙ Next there was the cow Audhumla she produced milk to sustain Ymir ∙ Audhumla licks the ice and reveals Buri (the first Aesir)
o Buri begets Bor Bor marries Bestla their sons were Odin, Vili, and Ve
Creation of the Earth
∙ First conflict between Gods and Giants: Vili, Ve, and Odin kill Ymir o His blood drowns most of the frost giants (except one, Bergelmir, who escapes on an ark with his family)
∙ Ymir’s body the land, bones the mountains, blood the sea, skull the sky
∙ Giants separated from us (humans) by the blood sea
∙ Fortress of Midgard from Ymir’s eyelashes
First Man and Woman
∙ Pieces of Driftwood became the first man and woman, Ask and Embla ∙ Given life by Bor’s sons
o 1st (Odin?) Life and breath
o 2nd (Vili?) Consciousness and movement
o 3rd (Ve?) Face, speech, sight, and hearing
∙ Given realm beneath Midgard
There are several ways to view time. But…
∙ Linear (is what we’re most used to) vs. Cyclic chronology (what we see in Norse mythology)
o Cyclic – based on ages (ex. golden age) which repeats after a while (in a cycle!); idea that fate cannot be changed
∙ Snorri describes cyclic Norse Myths through his linear Christian understanding o This creates confusion and contradiction (this is ok, to see
contradictions as long as we understand them and why they’re there) ∙ Mythic Past: Ginnungagap, Ymir and Audhumla, creation of the world ∙ Mythic Present: Stories about the Gods (where we will mostly be talking about)
o We can do some relative dating
Odin myths towards the beginning, Baldr’s death towards the end (because this is a pre-cursor to Ragnorak)
∙ Mythic Future: Ranorak (doom of the Gods), new Gold Age
Pptx. W3 Monday:
Saga of the Ynglings/ Ynglingasaga
∙ Snorri Sturluson, ~1225
∙ Part of Heimskringla, history of Norse Kings
o Written partially to impress Norwegian Kings
∙ Euhemerized account of human Aeisr settling/ruling Scandanavia o Ancestors of medieval kings
∙ Also contains a brief account of the Aesir v. Vanir War
We have 3 sources for this war…
∙ Voluspa 22-4: Gullevig (Freya) tormented/ burned by Aesir, reborn 3 times. Aesir losing, offer tribute to Vanir?
∙ Snorra Edaa: talks little about the war, but rather how they found peace (both sides spitting into a vat) creates Kvasir
o Kvasir = the source of poetry
∙ Ynglingasaga (euhemerized): Kings of Aesir and Vanir warred stalemate exchange of hostages
o Vanir gave hostages in good faith; the Aesir tried to trick them (sent Mimir and another)
o Vanir beheaded Mirmir and sent it back to the Aesir = Well of Urd Mirmir?
This is all we know! So the important thing to know is (1) there was a war between Vanir and Aesir (2) there are three sources for it and (3) Ynglingasaga is the EUHEMERIZED VERSION (where both races of Gods are human)
∙ Fertility/Agriculture vs Warfare? may represent a human conflict that was later mythologized
∙ Lower classes vs warrior/upper class?
∙ Different Vocabulary
∙ After the war, Vanir are incorporated into the Aesir
o Aesir: old Norse term which describes all gods, even those who were Vanir
o Àsynjur: female Aesir
o Às: singular Aesir
After the war, Asgard was “a bit of a mess”; the fortifications and wall were in shambles. The Gods were lazy and did not want to build the wall up themselves. A builder appears, and says he will build their wall if he can get the sun, the moon, and Freya. The Gods do not want to give up any of these things…but Loki convinces the Gods, “We should give him one season to build the wall. It is not possible! So we will not need to give up anything”.
The Gods agree and tell the builder. The builder asks, “Can I use my horse?” The gods agree, surmising it was simply a horse. But, the builder being a giant (somehow the Gods don’t notice this right now), his horse was magical. With three days left in the season, the wall was built almost to completion, missing only the gates. The Gods are furious and blame Loki because he got them to agree to this builder and his horse. Loki goes to fix it by changing into a mare (female horse) and getting the attention of the builder’s horse and leading it off. The builder realizes he has been tricked, and the Aesir realize the builder is a giant! So Thor comes and kills the giant…because that’s what he does.
Loki comes back some months later with a cute baby horse – an eight legged baby horse. He gives this horse to Odin, which is called Sleipnir.
∙ Odin, Odinn, Othin, Othinn
o d = “th” sound
∙ Anglo-Saxon Wodan or Woden, related to the Old High German word Wuotan ∙ Over 175 attested names
o Including Kennings
o Including disguises
∙ Old Norse Odinsdagr to Old English Wodenesdaeg Modern English = Wednesday
∙ Roman Tacitus identified Odin with Mercury
∙ Interpreted foreign gods as Roman gods via their attributes/characteristics o Staff, hat, psych pomp (guided the souls of the dead), and a wanderer ∙ 6th century English records Odin as ancestral English King (euhemerization?) ∙ Mentions of Folk Poetry
Attributes of Odin (how to identify him)
∙ Prophecy, sorcery, seidr magic and runes
∙ Wanderer in cloak and hat
∙ 2 Ravens named Huginn (thought) & Muninn (memory)
o Fly the world and return each night to tell them what they’ve seen ∙ Wolves Geri & Freiki
∙ Weapon = spear named Gugnir (made by the dwarves)
o Power = once it is thrown, it’ll never miss its target
∙ Sleipnir (8 legged horse from Loki)
∙ Resides over mead, poetry, and wisdom
∙ War and Death
∙ One Eye
∙ Shamanic – crosses mortal/worldly boundaries for higher purpose ∙ Odin’s higher purpose is always to gain knowledge (usually into Ragnorak) ∙ The only other God that can cross these mortality lines is Loki (why is it ok
that Odin crosses these lines but Loki gets in trouble every time he crosses them).
∙ Odinnic attributes:
o On horse Slepnir (8 legged(
o Shield and Spear
o Hood or hat
o One eye (if face is visible)
o Has two birds
o Fighting with/ being eaten by a best or wolf (because this is how he dies in Ragnorak)
∙ Detail of Tangelgarda Stone (8 legged horse)
∙ Funen Bracteate, 5th c (Raven, and a horse)
∙ Vadstena Bracyeate, 6th c (Raven and horse again)
∙ Pre-viking age helmet (2 ravens, shield and spear, BUT no eight legged horse) o Euhemerized?
∙ Thorwald’s Cross (carved on the Isle of Man
o Right hand figure is Odin getting his leg chewed by a wolf at Ragnorak
o Left hand figure is Christ defeating Satan
o Cross over both figures
o Showcases time of religious hybridity
o Ledberg Stone
11TH C. STONE IN Ostergotland, Sweden
o Andre VIII Rune stone
Pptx. W3 Wednesday:
Odin and Vafprudnir
Vafprudnismal (The Poem from Snorri’s Edda we see this interaction)
∙ Means “The Sayings of Vafprudnir”
∙ Complete (only) in the Codex Regius. Partial in several other sources o Experts think their might be a common source/archetype for these poems
∙ 10th Century (guessed composition time)
∙ This poem relays a wisdom contest, question and response o Performed as dialog? Religious right? Or entertainment?
Odin moves quite a lot in this poem, which would work with theatrical blocking
∙ Poetic meter Ljodahattur
Is there a modern take on this?
In the Hobbit, between Schmegal and Bilbo, or in today’s gameshows The Characters
∙ Disguise (Gagnradr)
o “The Disputant”
o “One who councils victory
o Snorri switches the letters to “Gangradr”, the Wanderer
∙ Quest for wisdom
∙ Wins by deceit
∙ “The One who is Powerful in Riddles”
∙ Jotunn (giant)
∙ Known as the “All-wise”, cunning
∙ Host of the contest
In class, close reading…
∙ Aesir vs Jotnar
∙ Larger conflict in Norse Mythology
o Mix of hostility and hospitality
∙ Fantasy of how Odin wants all conflicts to end
o Arrogance of Jotnar (9) leads to downfall (55)
∙ Odin learns nothing new in this challenge
o Merely confirming what he heard elsewhere?
∙ Shows value of cleverness, craftiness, knowledge
Pptx. W4 Monday:
Kvasir and the Mead of Poetry
At the end of the Vanor and Aesir war, the Vanir and Aesir wanted to make peace. To make peace, each of the beings spit into a vat and created a being named Kvasir. He was said to be so wise, none could be wiser or out smart him.
Kvasir traveled the world dispensing knowledge and came to the house of 2 dwarves – Fjalar and Galar. These dwarves kill Kvasir and make mead (beer) from him. The dwarves also happen to kill two giants, the parents of Sutung. When Sutung realizes what the dwarves have done he demands compensation and is given this mead of knowledge.
Odin hears of this and goes to Sutungs layer in disguise as “Bolverk”. (Short version) Bolverk charms and sleeps with Suttung’s daughter – Gunnlod – and gets her to feed him this mead for three nights. After three nights, Odin has drunk all the mead, turns into an eagle and escapes Suttung’s mountain. Suttung sees this, also turns into an Eagle and gives chase. Odin (in Eagle form) flies back to Asgard and the Gods, seeing him returning, places out pots and bowls to catch the mead that they also want. Odin spits up the mead into these pots and, with Suttung still on his tail, craps out poetry over the human side of the Asgard wall. This is the explanation for where we get crap poetry.
Kennings for mean poetry
∙ Kvasir’s blood – because the mead was made from Kvasir’s blood ∙ Dwarf’s Drink – they turn Kvasir into mead
∙ Liquid of Bodn/Son/Odriir
∙ Suttung’s Mead
∙ Hnitbjorg’s Drink
∙ Odins Drink/Gift – he obtained and (threw up) gave poetry
∙ Wisdom is often coded/hidden in poetry
∙ Only survives in the Codex Regius
∙ Gnomic Poetry – social wisdom, codes of behavior
o Large genre because it’s easier to remember
∙ Narrated by Odin
∙ Five Sections:
o 1-79 Guest Secion (Gestapattr)
o 81-110 On Women
o 111-137 Loddfafnismal
o 138-145 Rune Speech (Runatal)
o 146-164 Charms (Ljodatal)
o Imparts wisdom throughout but, moves from social wisdom divine/magical wisdom as you continue
∙ Norse values, teaches how to behave
∙ How to treat others
∙ Hospitality, moderation in speech/wisdom, friendship (34-52), preparation, mortality
∙ Familiar wisdom
o 77. Cattle die, kinsmen die, The self must also die; I know one thing which never dies: The reputation of each dead man.
Section on Women, 81-110
∙ Odin does not give a great look on women here very cynical ∙ Stanza 81 – pretty much don’t count your chickens before they’re hatched OR don’t praise things until they are tested (you’ll jinx it)
∙ Stanzas 85-89 – lists things that are untrustworthy (including the bed-talk of a woman)
o Very insightful into Norse culture (for example: tells us they had slavery)
∙ Stanzas 96-102, “Billing’s girl”
o Story otherwise unknown, probably a giant
o Uses wits/words to outsmart Odin (says come back later and when he does, there’s a dog on her bed)
∙ Stanzas 104-110, Gunnlod and Mead of Poetry (the story lecture started with Loddfafnismal, 111-137
∙ (back to) Gnomic Poetry
o Similar themes to Gestapattr, but more supernatural implications o Things for which common sense is insufficient
∙ 132, “Never hold up to scorn or mockery a guest or wanderer” (Odin to Fafnir) ∙ 134, “…at a grey-haired sage you should never laugh! Often what the old say is good; often from a wrinkled bag come judicious words…”
o These both serve Odin! Since he’s always in disguise, as an old man, and a wanderer
∙ Story of Odin discovering the Runes
∙ “windswept tree” is Yggdrasil
∙ Runes as alphabet vs runes as source of vehicle for magic
∙ “charms” or “songs” – spells
∙ Odin showing off?
∙ Charms to solve problems addressed earlier
Pptx. W4 Wednesday:
Odin, Yggdrasil, and Sacrifice (Runes, Grimnismal, Gestumblindi) Story Time:
We all know Odin likes to wonder in search of knowledge. One day, this quest led him to the tree Yggdrasil, impales himself with a spear and hangs himself in the world tree (this is why one of his Kenning’s is “God of the Hanged”). For nine days and nine nights, Odin hangs like this, bleeding from the spear wound, no food and no water. He looks down and sees roots turn into what we know as runes. Yggdrasil grants him these runes for his nine day sacrifice. Odin screams in achievement.
“I know that I hung on a windswept tree
Nine long nights,
Wounded with a spear, dedicated to Odin,
Myself to myself,
On that tree which no man knows
From where its roots run.”
“With no bread did they refresh me nor a drink from a horn,
Downwards I peered;
I took up the runes, screaming I took them, then I fell back from there.
The practice of entering an ecstatic trance, state, or altered state of consciousness, often through some ritual or physical sacrifice or ordeal, in order to contact spirits
and travel through spiritual worlds with the intention of accomplishing some specific purpose
∙ Ecstatic (out of body) trance
∙ Ritual/physical ordeal
∙ Otherworldly knowledge
∙ Specific purpose
Havamal (139, again)
“I took up the runes, screaming I took them,
…Then I fell back from there.”
∙ Now understanding shamanism, this last line could mean he was falling back from his trance/near death/out of body experience to the land of the living
Vikar and Starkad
∙ Sacrifices to Odin involved hanging
∙ Saga of King Gautrek
∙ King Vikar sacrifices to Odin for advice
o Draws the short straw
∙ Grani Horsehair gives Starkad advice
o Tells Starkad to use “mock” sacrificial items (not a noose but animal intestines, etc.)
∙ “mock” sacrifice becomes real Horsehair turned out to be Odin…of course Grimnismal
∙ Know this poem from the Codex Regius
∙ Contest between Odin and Frigg
o They each look over/foster two brothers
o Frigg fosters Agnar (the brother who got screwed over)
o Odin fosters Geirrod (the brother who screwed him over)
Geirrod had a son also named Agnar (after the brother)
∙ Frigg’s accusation against Geirrod?
o Frigg says King Geirrod is stingy with food when it comes to his guests o Why is this so insulting?
o It told us in another poem, (Havasmal?) how important hospitality is ∙ How does Frigg set up Odin?
o Frigg sends down a prophecy to King Geirrod saying a wizard will come and he needs to die – you’ll know him by the fact that no dog will attack him
∙ Geirrod tortures Grimnir (Odin in disguise) 8 nights
o Geirrod’s son Agnar is the only one who gives him food or water o Odin grants Agnar the kingdom
∙ 11-17: dwellings of the Aesir
∙ 18-26: life in Valhall
∙ 27-30: catalog of rivers
∙ 31-35: Yggdrasil
∙ 36: Valkyries
∙ 37-41: Sun, Moon, and Ymir
∙ 42-44: the best things
Riddles of Gestumblindi
∙ Most complete list of Norse riddles
∙ From Hervarar saga ok Heidreks (The Saga of Hervor and Heidrek) ∙ Why does Odin take Gestumblindi’s place?
o Gestumblindi sacrificed to Odin and Odin might find this king very knowledgeable and able to help with Ragnorak
∙ Does King Heidrek ever suspect?
o Throughout he seems to question Odin with, “I wouldn’t expect that from you…”
Pptx. W5 Monday:
∙ Harold Finehair (first time Norway was unified under one king) o ON Haraldr Harfagri
∙ Unified Norway under his rule 866-872 AD
∙ Reigned 872-930 AD
∙ 11-20 sons named in sources
o Once Harold dies, the kingdom began to split
Erik Bloodax/Eirkr blodox
∙ Harald’s favored son and heir
∙ Ruled Norway for a short time, 931-934 AD
∙ Killed 5 brothers to reign (epithet/name origin?)
∙ Driven by half-brother, Haakon, to England
∙ King of Northumbria 947-8, 952-4
∙ (Picture of a coin on Power point for Monday, week 5)
∙ Two words written on the pictured coin, “Erik” and “Rex”; this was Latin…Why use Latin?
o Some connection to Christianity? Maybe
o More likely he was drawing inspiration from Romans and minted coins in Latin to connote power with his name
o Also depicts a sword on the coin: I know how to use this, don’t screw with me
Northumbria and the Danelaw
∙ Erik moved to Northumbria and ruled again for a short time
∙ Where Danish law held sway Danelaw
∙ There’s a lot of antagonism between Danish lands, English Kings, and Northumbria
(Erik’s lineage and claim to Kingship)
Erik Harald Ynglings of Uppsala Frey (told by Snorri in Ynglingasaga) Stainmore, 954
∙ Erik died at the Battle of Stainmore in 954, but it is unclear if it was by a battle wound or assassination
What to know about Erik
Not well liked, driven out of Norway, fierce warrior
∙ Composed after 954 (after Erik’s death)
o Perhaps commissioned by Odin Gunnhild
∙ Incomplete, we only have the beginning
∙ Dialog between Odin, Bragi and hero Sigmund (from Volsungasaga) and Erik (Eric)
o Bragi Boddason, 9th c skald (may have inspired/ deified into the God Bragi seen in this poem)
∙ Odin anticipating and greeting slain Eirik
o Looking for great warriors to fight with him at Ragnorak
Pptx. W5 Wednesday:
Story Time: Freyja is out and about one day and goes to see what some dwarves are up to (4 dwarves whose names we do not need to know). She sees these four dwarves are making a necklace named Brisingamen and wants it really bad! Freyja asks and offers for what she can give to the dwarves for the necklace. The dwarves say sleep with us each for one night and the necklace is yours (pervs). Loki sees this transpire (perv!), and then Loki tells Odin. Odin gets pissed and says they must take the necklace, but Freyja keeps the necklace on her person even when she sleeps. Loki steels into Freyja’s room when she is asleep by changing into a fly and flying through her doors lock. Loki then changes into a gnat and bites Freyja until she turns on her side, Loki can unclasp the necklace, and walks out of the room (making it obvious he was there). Freyja wakes and realizes Loki has stolen from her and that he must have told Odin about the dwarves.
Freyja goes to Odin and they squabble over their transgressions and the necklace. Finally, Odin gives in to giving Freyja the necklace IF she were to bring two Kings with twenty kings following them and were (blood) brothers to war against each
other. Freyja looks to two Kings – Hogni and Hedinn – who were loyal blood brothers. Freyja, to get them to fight against each other, disguises herself as Gondul and bewitches one man to kill he wife and steal the daughter of the other man. This indeed begins a war and at the end of the night, when both men have died from fighting, the Gods resurrect them to begin the fighting again the next morning. This continues for 143 years until a Christian king Olaf Tryggvason and his next in command Ivar Gleam-bright come to this battle, kill the kings and their armies and save them from this eternal battle.
∙ Flateyjarbok, late 14th c Iceland
o Christianized society
∙ Part of saga of Olaf Tryggvason
∙ Hogni and Hedinn, sworn blood brothers
∙ Gondul (Freyja in disguise)
∙ Friends fight and die and are doomed to repeat this for 143 years ∙ Olaf Tryggvason, Ivar Gleam-bright and Christian army
o The fact that only a Christian man can end this fighting suggests this part of the story could have been added post-Christian conversion o Freyja and Odin seem petty and selfish in this story and do not inspire confidence
The only part of this story originally seen in Pagan lore was
Brisengamen and Freyja getting the necklace
Attributes of Freyja
∙ Rides a cat-drawn chariot
∙ Daughter of Njordr, and has a twin brother Freyr
∙ Field Folkvangr, Hall Sessrumnir
∙ Choose half the slain in battle (Odin gets the other half)
∙ Married to Odr, who is often away, and she weeps tears of gold when longing for him
∙ Sought-after by giants as a prize
∙ Loki: infidelity?
∙ Love, beauty, song, fertility, war, Seidr magic
Kennings for Freyja
∙ Njord’s daughter
∙ Freyr’s sister
∙ Odr’s wife/girl
∙ Fair-tear goddess (she cries tears of gold)
∙ Giant’s prize (they often seek her
∙ Kennings for gold:
o Freyja’s weeping/tears, riches of Freyja’s cheeks
∙ Common source for Freyja and Frigg?
o Linguistic/cult sites
o Commonality of husband – Odr/Odin, husbands often traveling away Song of Hyndla/ Hyndluljod
∙ Freyja questioning giantess Hyndla
∙ Ottar (made many sacrifices to Freyja) vs Angantyr
o Ottar needs to know his genealogy to win back his belongings/wealth from Angantyr
o Freyja goes to Hyndla to find out this genealogy and disguises Ottar as a boar and brings him along to hear (Hyndla sees right through the disguise)
∙ Ends with insults
o An important insult is one that shows up again and again – Freyja is a bit sex-crazy
Pptx. W6 Monday:
Nornir, Disir, Valkyries
Women in Norse Society
∙ Scarcity of sources – we don’t know much
∙ Patriarchal society
o Most stories are told by men and of men
∙ Legal rights and restrictions (more than you’d think)
o Could instigate their own divorces (though harder for women than men)
o Pre-marital sex might have been ok
o Rape and assault were VERY harshly punished
o Women could own land
o Women could state how to distribute land to their children
o We only know about upper class and free women though
o Kept from violence – killing a woman was harshly looked upon ∙ Exploration and Settlement
o Unnr/Audr the Deep-Minded, Freydis Eiriksdottir
o No evidence seen (yet?) that women fought alongside men as Vikings o Latest evidence is women found in raiding sights buried (some with swords) but Raiding vs. settlement (these raid sites were also settled, so we can’t jump to conclusions); grave goods
o Olga/Helga of Kiev
Story Time: Olga of Kiev was a queen in modern day Ukraine. A warring nation came and killed her husband (the Drevlians) and then tried to force her to marry their prince. She slaughtered those who were in her kingdom, won a battle against more Drevlians (slaughtered them), and enslaved the rest. Any that survived remained in their kingdom and Olga asked for a tribute of pigeons from the people. Happy to comply (and live), they give her their pigeons. Olga straps poisonous sulfurs to the pigeons and let them go. The pigeons fly home (as pigeons do) and burn down the city. She later became a saint.
Oseberg Ship Burial
∙ Treasures were uncovered almost completely in tact
∙ Suggests the women buried in this ship with these treasure were very high class (or Seeresses)
Norn (singular)/ Nornir (plural)
∙ Snorri: declared faits of men, stay at base of Yggdrasil
o Past (Udr), Present (Verdandi), Future (Skuld)
o These names only listed in Voluspa, Snorri sources Gylfaginning from Voluspa
∙ Poetry: they choose/make one’s fate, can be blamed for it
o Unclear if they are just reporting someone’s fait
∙ Different meanings in different cultures
∙ NOT time (happens over time) or causality (why things happen) ∙ Old Norse conception of fait
o The fact that what happens has happened (not what should’ve happened, but what is)
o Internal truth about oneself that can only be expressed by one’s actions
Cannot escape your own nature
Cannot escape the inevitability that you will act as you do
o Your fate is to live with the decisions/actions you make, have made, will make
∙ These are all ideas hypothesized by historians through studying sagas and such
Norn/ Nornir (cont’d)
∙ Responsible for emotional cost of death
∙ Transitions: death, birth
∙ Do not appear in person, are usually referred to as a collective (“The Nornir did this to me”), are unnamed (except for the three named by Snorri), unapproachable, and inevitable
∙ Dis “woman/lady” – trouble with translation (a person or those women?)
∙ Birth, death, fertility
∙ Present in human life, “protective” spirits (though not always) o Not always life-affirming
∙ Approachable(ish): more so than the Nornir, received sacrifices (diablot), solicited for advice, intercession
∙ Never named, present in one’s life
o What do the disir do?
o Great storm outside, the guests are warned not to go outside. Thidrandi, being a good host though, hears knocking at the door and goes to open it. He sees dark cloaked women on dark horses coming from the North and they mortally wound him. (very condensed version)
o Havamal also warns “Don’t get up at night” which always seemed more supernatural and could be a reference to these women
∙ Valr = those slain on a battlefield, kjosa = to choose
∙ Armored, ride into battle
∙ Named in skaldic poetry
o Skogul (“Shaker”), Gunnr (“War”), Hildr (“battle”); Geirhod (“spear fight”), Rangdrid (“shield-truce”) – usually violent names/ names referencing war
o Could swear off feminine life to live the life of a warrior but once/if they found a husband, they would return to a feminine life
∙ Heroic poems, Sigrun and Brynhildr
∙ Sometimes attached to individual warriors
∙ No cult
∙ 12 women (Valkyrie) weaving, not with wool or yarn or fabric, but human intestines and using skulls as loom weights
∙ From Brennu-Njala
∙ It has been speculated that this poem could be the Irish Battle of Clontarf, 1014?
∙ Combination of death and textile imagery
o Weaving the fate of battle
Volva (singular)/ Volvur (plural)
∙ “wand carrier”, seidr practitioner
∙ Seeress from Voluspa was this
∙ Human woman, powerful and dangerous
∙ Position of high esteem
o More approachable intermediary to nornir
∙ Dedicated to Freyja? (but no evidence for that yet)
So perhaps, again, the women in the Oseberg Ship Burial were Volva, since they were held in such high esteem.
Pptx. W6 Wednesday:
Baldr is the most beloved God. But Baldr begins having bad dreams; Baldr, in his dreams, begins dreaming he will soon die. Everyone is upset by this, because they love Baldr so. Odin goes to Hel and raises a dead Sadr woman who confirms Baldrs imminent death. Frigg is so distraught by this idea of her son dying that she goes around to every living thing and makes them swear not to hurt Baldr. Every living thing agrees. Frigg, feeling safer for her son, talks to a woman (probably Loki in disguise) and the woman asks, “So you truly got every single thing to swear not to harm Baldr?” Frigg replied, “Yes, all but mistletoe. For mistletoe is too young”.
The gods took pleasure from then on throwing objects at Baldr, for nothing could hurt him. As they were enjoying themselves, Loki saw that Hodr (the bling Aesir) was not joining in on the fun. “Why aren’t you joining in Hodr?” Loki asked. “I’m blind, I’d only miss anyway” he replied. Loki suggested he would guide Hodr’s hand so that he could still join in and Hodr agreed. SO Loki grabbed a sprig of mistletoe, handed it to Hodr, guided his hand, and the minute the mistletoe hit Baldr, he died.
This is known as the greatest misfortune among God and Men.
The gods sent an obscure god to Helheim (the place) to ask Hel (the person/ one of Loki’s children) what ransom she required for Baldr. Finally, it was said that Baldr’s soul could return if every living thing shed a tear for him. So Frigg and the gods went around to every living thing and asked them to shed a tear for Baldr and they all did EXCEPT for a giantess (maybe Loki in disguise).
∙ Snorri: Highest of the Asynjur
∙ Poetic Edda: Voluspa, Vafprudnismal, Grimnimal, Lokasenna ∙ Odin’s wife, Baldr’s mother
o Kennings: “Beloved of Odin”, “Friggs first sorrow” (Baldr’s death), “Frigg’s second sorrow” (Odin’s death by Fenrir)
∙ Gift of prophecy
o Vafprudnismal, Grimnismal
∙ Similarity with Freyja
o Similar names, similar names of husbands
∙ Poetic Edda: Harbardsljod, Lokasenna, [kennings in Hymiskvida and prymskvida]
∙ Snorri: Guest at Aegir’s feast (learn about this when learning about Loki), victim of Loki’s pranks and slander
o Loki’s wager with Brokk
∙ Porr’s (Thors) wife, mother of Ull and Prudr
o Kennings: “fair haired deity”, “Ull’s mother”, “Sif’s Hair”(Gold) Idunn
∙ Poetic Edda: Lokasenna
∙ Snorri: Bragi’s wife, keeps the apples of youth (keeps Gods from aging), abduction by giant pjazi (Thiazi)
o Thiazi captures and tortures Loki so that Loki will give Thiazi Idunn and her secrets of youth
o Haustlong by Norwegian skald pjodolfr of Hvinir
o Loki caught by pjazi, gives Idunn, retrieves her
∙ Kennings: “Keeper of the apples”, “Keeper of the Aesir’s old age cure”, “Pjazi’s prize”, “Bragi’s delight”
∙ Wife of Baldr, mother of Forseti
∙ Snorri: dies of grief at Baldr’s funera;, put on Baldr’s pyre
∙ Lindow: “nanna” = Norse for woman?
∙ Post VA sources: human woman sought-after by gods
∙ Setre comb, runic inscription
o Charm-rune alu, nanna (archaeological evidence)
∙ Goddess (Hel) and the place she lives (Hel/Helheim)
o Snorri: those who die of sickness or old age go to her
∙ Daughter of Loki and Angrboda
∙ Kennings for death: “taken by Hel”, “sent off to Hel”
∙ Snorri: Half-alive, half-dead or half flesh, half blue/black; her plate is called “Hunger”, her knife = “Famine”, hall Enjudnir = “rain-damp”, threshold = “Stumbling-block”, bed = “sick-bed”, curtains = “Gleaming-bale” ∙ “Hel” vs “Hell”
o Christian “hell” from Anglo-Saxon hel, helle aboad of the dead o Pagan concept/word fitted to Christian usage?
Pptx. W7 Monday:
Story of Thor vs. Odin
Insults and Bragging
∙ Porr (Thor) opens with ironic observation
o “Who is that lad of lads”
o The man he is referring to has a name that actually means
“Graybeard” – Thor is being snarky
∙ Harbard (Greybeard/Odin) challenges Thor in stannza 8
o How does Porr respond; Harbard?
o Thor responds in a prideful way, trying to wow Harbard
o Harbard is not impressed, “I seldom conceal my name.” = ironic ∙ What do each brag about?
o Thor: his strength and how many giants he has killed
o Harbard: all the women he has slept with and/or stolen away from their husbands/battle of wits Harbard may have won
Harbard also brags about his violence
∙ The brags start becoming more insulting and direct the farther you read (24, 26, 27)
o 24 “Odin owns the nobles who fall in battle/ and porr owns the race of thralls”
o Ragr/argr, coward/effeminate, required immediate/violent response o Harbard doesn’t feel threatened
∙ Violence against women (32-33 vs 37-30)
o Sexual violence? (18, “to hold the linen-white girl”)
o Violence against women shameful (38)
Not if they are giants?
∙ Use reactions to interpret insults
o “arm-ring” offered to settle the affair Thor is noticeably upset by this offer (why???)
∙ Porr repetitive, Harbard doesn’t rise to his bait
∙ Who wins?
o Popular thought – Harbard won (Thor didn’t even get over the river on the ferry)
∙ Harbard as Odin
o In Grimnismal, “Harbard” is a name stated as one of Odin’s alias’s o Might also be Loki it’s a bit mean for Odin; Harbard also says that Sif has been unfaithful to Thor, something only Loki has ever said
Will be a word bank but there will be more words than needed. There is one Kenning that can be identified 2 ways: if you get both you get one extra credit point.
- Feeding the eagles
- Wolf’s father
- Sif’s hair
- Baldr’s bane
- Ymir’s Skull: “the sky”; Ymir is killed by Odin, Vili, and Ve during the Creation story of the Earth. Ymir’s body = the land, Ymir’s bones = the mountains, Ymir’s blood = the sea, Ymir’s eyelashes =
Midgard/fortress, and Ymir’s skull = the sky
- Slayer of Giants
- Wolf’s joint
- Sail road: “by the sea”
- The ring-giver: “king”
- Odin’s forest (of oaks): “soldiers/army”
- Freyja’s tears: “gold”
- Feeding the wolves: “their work as warriors/killing/slaying”
- Destroyers of raven’s hunger: “warriors”
- Scabbard-icicles: “swords”
Kennings for Mead Poetry
- Kvasir’s blood
- Dwarf’s Drinking
- Liquid of Bodn/Son/Odrerir
- Suttung’s Mead
- Hnitbjord’s Drink
- Odin’s Gift/Drink
*Wisdom is often coded/hidden in poetry
Kennings for Freyja
- Njord’s daughter
- Freyr’s sister
- Odr’s Wife/girl
- Fair-tear goddess
- Giant’s prize
Kennings for Gold
- Freyja’s weeping tears
- Riches of Freyja’s cheeks
Kennings for women in Norse Mythology
- Beloved of Odin: Frigg
- Frigg’s first sorrow: Baldr’s death
- Frigg’s second sorrow: Odin’s death by Fenrir
- Fair Haired deity: Sif
- Ull’s mother: Sif
- Sif’s hair: gold
- Keeper of the apples: Idunn
- Keeper of the Aesir’s old age cure: Idunn
- Pjazi’s prize: Idunn
- Bragi’s delight: Idunn
- Wife of Baldr: Nanna
- Mother of Forseti: Nanna
Kennings for death
- Taken by Hel
- Sent off for Hel
1. What are some of the problems with using oral traditions as a primary source? What considerations do we need to make in order to better understand them and assess their validity?
Oral sources tend not to same the same from one telling to another. The written sources e have today for these consistently orally told myths are most likely different from the original story.
We need to understand an oral stories biases, and their context. If a Christian author wrote this poem, would certain references make more sense as Christian euhemerization?
2. We discussed how the Adam of Bremen text had a certain biased view of the Scandinavians. What are some of the biases, how can we recognize them, and why might we still analyze this text today.
A few of Adam of Bremen’s biases are the following:
He has never physically traveled farther than Denmark (second/third hand knowledge); Has never met these pagans; this was written as a guide to Christian missionaries.
We still analyze this text because it gives us great info on Christians and their views on paganism.
3. From the McKinnell text, what are the specific uses he mentions Christians might have for the Norse pre-Christian material and which ones does he consider more likely to be true? What is special about Iceland in this regard as compared to the rest of mainland Europe?
- Takes 3 points and disproves them
- Iceland schools were secular, not run by the church
- People were educated who were not associated by the church - Icelanders could explore hypotheticals through Norse myth but not through Christianity
- Also idea that “ancestors were Pagan and we don’t believe but we want to celebrate”
1. That you are able to recognize kennings in the texts we are reading. I highly recommend going through and underlining all the ones you see and marking what they mean in the margins.
2. How are we able understand the primary sources we are using as they are often incomplete, fragmentary, contradictory, or biased? What are some things we can do to "complete the picture"?
(Unsure of this one) By holding context on poems we can better determine what authors are talking about.
N/A (not posted)
1. Be able to describe Neumann’s framework that Auld uses as the basis for his argument.
2. Be able to describe Auld’s argument about Odin. Why did he set out to write this essay and what does he hope to accomplish?
The human psyche is dualistic/divided in two, therefore we receive the world in dualities
- Conscious (masculine, rational, living)
- Unconscious (feminine, irrational, dead)
Auld argues that past scholars gloss over certain parts of Odin (the feminine and non-hero) for the parts they want/understand. Auld wants to use Neumann’s theory has to balance out the conscious and unconscious. He wants to bridge the two worlds to make a better world, better people, and prevent two halves from destroying (conflict in general)
- Auld talks about the division between the Aesir and Vanir; Odin is the bridge between these two factions + feminine and masculine, light and dark, life and death, etc.
- Odin drinking Kvasir’s blood/ the mead and therefore bridges the difference between Aesir and Vanir
- Odin transcends gender norms, does runic magic (masculine) and Sather magic, this is OK, argued by Auld, because he is the bridge between the masculine and feminine, Auld argues Odin hanging on the tree is Feminine while impaling ask masculine, seen as the synthesis for fertility - Could there be better arguments for this???
- Also states shamans bridge the gap as well they gap things that aren’t usually transcended
- Slay Ymir and build the Earth (feminine), from the Earth he creates Thor (masculine/Earth is Thor’s mother)
All of this synthesis gives Odin knowledge and “longer view”. This makes sense if Odin is to already know about Ragnarok and is working with knowledge we do not.
Auld’s argument: Odin’s contradictions make sense if he has a special reserve of knowledge that humans do not.
We do not know who knows what Odin knows: no one, other Aesir, select Aesir?
3. How does using Neumann’s framework limit what Auld is trying to do?
He doesn’t give evidence to civilizations that didn’t survive because they didn’t have a bridge (an Odin)
Also, see above.
4. Even if you do not fully agree with Auld’s argument, what is useful about it? For example, if you were to use this article in your paper what would you want to use from it? How would you adjust his ideas to better fit your argument?
Personal opinion. Use above answers as evidence.
1. What is the paradox of Odin Solli wants to explain?
Odin is the masculine God of War but also practices the feminine art of Seidr magic.
2. How does Solli "solve" or explain this paradox? (Focus on Odin as shaman)
Why is Seidr associated with ergi?
- “Firstly, was seid associated with ergi because men behaved like women, changed sex, and/or were involved in homosexual acts”
o “I am of the opinion that male shamans, when transgressing gender borders, were allowed into a female cosmology from which ordinary men were excluded. The shaman, dressing and acting as a woman, as a queer (cf.,Bjørby, 2001), situated himself in an ambiguous position which enlarged and strengthened his
o Yes, she agrees with this
- “Secondly, was seid ergi because it involved uncontrolled ecstatic acts?” (feminine act of hysterics as opposed to masculine act of control) o No, she doesn’t believe there is enough evidence of women acting hysterically in old norse
- “Thirdly, did ergi concern the painful, partly sexual, ecstatic side of seid?”
o Odin hanging from the tree is painful and erotic which grants him knowledge
Why do we care
- The fait of the world depended on Odin attaining this knowledge society needs sadr to survive
- “Eliade has put it this way: “This idea of universal bisexuality, a necessary consequence of the idea of the bisexual divinity as a model and principle of all existence. [. . .] For basically, what Queering the Gods is implied in such a conception is the idea that perfection, and therefore Being, ultimately consists of a unity-totality. Everything that exists must therefore be a totality, carrying the coincidental oppositorum to all levels and applying it to all contexts” (Eliade, 1965, 108). I conclude with Jenni-fer Terry that “[i]n an ironic way, ‘deviance’ is central to the narrative history of normal” (Terry, 1991, 70–71).a”
1. What is the symbolic meaning of eyes and blindness according to Lassen?
Eyes = masculinity, strength, superiority, reasoning
Blindness (Hodr’s blindness specifically) = symbol for passivity and moral blindness (blindly used by Loki, which he should have known better than to do)
2. Using her symbolic meaning of eyes and blindness, what can this tell us about Hodr, Odin, and Thor?
Hodr’s blindness = symbol for passivity and moral blindness (blindly used by Loki, which he should have known better than to do)
Notes Hodr is already an “outsider” in the Aesir community (because of his blindness)
Fratricide (killing his brother) puts him even further out of the
Odinn’s eye = straddles masculine and feminine again
Giving up his eye is sacrificing masculinity for knowledge OR showing his femininity by giving up one of his eyes
Thor’s (Porr) eyes = hyper masculine character as exemplified by his sharp brooding eyes
His eyes being THE EPITOME OF MASCULINE allows him to do feminine things and not be shamed for them (wearing a wedding dress)
3. What are some counterpoints we can provide to her interpretation of eyes?
Author’s argument is that in Old Norse culture, blinding and castration are used interchangeably as punishments (for rape, for example) THEREFOR eyes were symbolic castration and takes away masculinity; eyes are a symbol of masculinity
As the author’s writing continues, her arguments seem weaker and heavily based off of each other (if you poke a hole in one, you’ll ruin the rest too). Talk about her stretches with Thor and Odin and her lack of good poetic evidences.
Don’t forget to study poems for stanza identification all of that content should be found in the power point section!