Archive for August, 2012

The Mead Of Poetry

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The Mead of Poetry (Old Norse skáldskapar mjaðar), also known as Mead of Suttungr is a mythical beverage that whomsoever drinks becomes a skald or scholar, imbued with wisdom, able to recite any poem and answer any question. The drink is a vivid metaphor for poetic inspiration, often associated with Odin the God of ‘possession’ via berserkerrage or poetic inspiration.
A Word On Odin in the context of Poetry;
Odin ; The Old Norse noun Óðr may be the origin of the theonym Óðinn (Anglicized as Odin), and it means “mind”, “soul” or “spirit” (so used in stanza 18.1 of the Poetic Edda poem Völuspá). In addition, Óðr can also mean “song”, “poetry” and “inspiration”, and as noted has connotations of  ‘possession’.
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The Mead of Poetry

Mead of Poetry                     all men makes wise.
Mimir’s Knowledge          harbours secrets.
Odin by charms                  calls insights forth
The dew of knowledge   and destiny.
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Aesir Vanir                             abjure their war
In bond of Gods                   good Kvasir sired.
Wielding Knowledge        he wisdom shares,
Traveling far                         teaching freely.
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Fjalar Galar                            two ghastly Dwarves.
Resentment grew              into darkness…
They killed Kvasir            but kept his blood,
With honey brewed         poetry’s mead.
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Fjalar Galar                            a Giant’s bane
His wife they slayed         bloodthirsty brood.
Sutting the Giant               weregild Dwarves mead,
Three barrels hid               beneath mountain.
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Without delay                      departing hence,
To  taste the mead            inspiration…
Odin he sought                   Sutting’s brother,
Baugi his name                  mead will bring him.
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Odin intent                            inveigled plan,
Workmen discord            will die fighting.
Baugi becalmed                 Odin burst in,
As Bolverk garbed            he was disguised.
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Bolverk struck deal          Baugi defray,
Harvest he’d take               for taste of mead.
Once work was done        Bolverk’s demand,
Sutting refused                    mead denied him.
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Odin inverse                          initiate,
The mead to man              poetry’s gate.
Bolverk with wiles            wheedled Baugi,
Into Mountain                    he drilled a hole.
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Odin stole in                          with stealth of snake,
As quiet as snow                 heartbeats halted.
Gunnlod asleep                   as mead she guards,
Sutting’s daughter            should be watchful. 
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Odin moon-eyed                 found magic mead
Then Gunnlod gasped    in her waking.
Odin had changed             handsome young giant,
Under his charm                she was heedless.
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Odin thrice kissed            three barrels quaff,
And Gunnlod lost             the magic mead.
Sutting startled                  by Gunnlods scream,
As Odin flew                         with his treasure.
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Odin escaped                      on eagles wing,
Riding the winds              to his country.
Sutting he seethed          searching he flew,
Chasing Odin                      into Asgard.
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When eagle saw                Aesir approached,
Odin’s return                     would bring blessing.
Down Odin flew               in flash arrived,
With barrels three         he would share them.
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On Sutting shone           sun rays of dawn,
His eagle fell,                     to stone transformed.
And Odin spake               So Shall It Be,
Sunlight Strike Down Those Darkness Leads!
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No silent gold                     nor silver grasp,
To wisdom voice            shall insight see.
They then rejoiced       themselves to drink,
The magic mead             of poetry.
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The Mead Of Poetry c Celestial Elf 2012.
A new poetic account of an ancient Norse tale, inspired by Tolkien and written in the old Norse form of Fornyrdislag.
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Odin with wings, he thinks of things.

About The Mead Of Poetry;

After the Aesir-Vanir War, the Gods sealed their truce by creating a man named Kvasir to share their blessings. He was so wise that there were no questions he could not answer. He traveled around the world to give knowledge to mankind.


The Fellowship of Kvasir

Unfortunately two dwarves, Fjalar and Galar, who were jealous of Kvasir’s wisdom and thought to profit by Kvasir’s death, killed him. They then mixed his blood with honey and created the magical mead of inspiration which endowed anyone who drank it with the gift of world-renowned poetry and wisdom. They explained to the Gods that Kvasir had suffocated in intelligence..

These same dwarves also took it upon themselves to drown a Giant named Gilling, and when they told his wife of the dreadful accident, to silence her wails of grief they killed her too.

When Gilling’s son Sutting learned what had happened, he went to take his revenge on the dwarves. To save their lives they offered him the magical mead in compensation for his father’s death (a compensation payment for death was known at this time as ‘weregild‘ and was employed to reduce socially destructive family feuds that could plague generations). Sutting accepted the mead because he knew of its magical properties and that the Aesir would want it. He kept the three barrels of the precious mead in his halls beneath Hnitbjorg mountain where his daughter Gunnlod was locked in to guard it.

Mimir’s head

When Odin found out about the existence of the magic mead through the head of Mimir, he set out the next day to obtain it. He came to Sutting’s Castle and planned how to recover the mead. First he set Sutting’s brother’s nine farmers to argue amongst themselves with the result that they killed each other, which left Baugi without enough hands for his harvest. Then Odin disguised himself as ‘Bolverk’ a wandering workman and offered to do the work in return for a taste of the mead, to which Baugi agreed.

However after the harvest, Sutting did not agree to Baugi’s deal with Bolverk and refused to give a taste of the mead to the workman. Bolverk then tricked Baugi  into boring a hole through a wall of the treasure chamber where the mead was kept without his brother’s knowledge. Once the hole was made, Bolverk turned into a snake and went through the hole. Realizing his mistake Baugi tried to kill the snake but failed.

Bolverk convinces Baugi to drill a hole

Now inside the treasure chamber, Odin found Gunnlod, Sutting’s daughter. He turned himself into a handsome young giant and with three kisses coaxed her into allowing him to drink the three barrels of mead.

 Odin drinks the Mead of Poetry with Gunnlod

Then Odin  got her to open the door of the chamber, whereupon he immediately turned into an eagle and flew away. Realizing that she had fallen into his trap, Gunnlod screamed and Sutting hearing her came running. When Suttung discovered the theft, he turned himself into an eagle and chased after Odin.

When the Aesir saw Odin’s eagle approaching, they took out three large barrels for him. But Suttung was so close to Odin that he let some mead fall away, which anybody can drink this part is known as the ‘rhymester’s share’. Odin then landed with a  flash and emerged with the three barrels full of the magic Mead Of Poetry. As the rising sun rose its beams touched the wings of Sutting’s pursuing eagle, which immediately turned into stone and plummeted down to the ground.
Then Odin said, ‘So shall it be with all the Giant kind. If the sun shines upon them in the holy land of Asgard, the evil that is in them shall weigh them down, and they will turn into stone.’

And so the Aesir celebrated as they each took a drink of the magical mead, Odin’s gift to the Gods and to  men gifted in poetry, the mead of poetry.

This story survives both in fragmentary form in the Havamal, and in a more complete form in Snorri Sturluson’s Skaldskaparmal. The story is old, picture stones illustrating the story existed more than four centuries before Snorri wrote the story down.

About Norse Poetry; & The Fornyrdislag Form.

Poetry played an important role in the social and religious world of the Vikings. In Norse mythology, Skáldskaparmál  tells the story of how Odin brought the Mead of Poetry to Asgard, which is an indicator of the significance of poetry within the ancient Scandinavian culture.

Old Norse poetry is conventionally split into two types, Eddaic poetry (also known as Eddic poetry) and Skaldic poetry.  Eddic and Skaldic poetry are meant for oral delivery and as such, more meaning is contained in the sounds and rhythms of the voice than may be apparent on the page.
Eddic poems are usually mythological, or heroic in content. Most are in the Fornyrðislag form (pronounced FORT-near-this-lahg), while málaháttr ( speech meter ) is a common variation. The rest, about a quarter, are composed in ljóðaháttr. The language of the poems is usually clear and relatively unadorned. While Kennings are employed, they do not rise to the frequency or complexity found in Skaldic poetry. Kennings are a poetic rewrite of a word ( i.e. a corps’ sea = blood, wound-wand = sword ). They could be even more complex, with rewrites of rewrites and no limits to the words that were used to describe a single word…
Skaldic verse is usually created as a tribute to a specific Jarl or King, follows very strict rules and employs many Kennings which can make them hard to understand.
By contrast, most English poetry is dominated by a single form, the ‘end-rhyme’ in which the final word of each line rhymes with one or more other lines; the exact lines in a stanza which are paired or grouped in rhyme differ according to the specific form, giving us such end-rhyme forms as doggerel, limericks, and sonnets.

Fornyrðislag has two stressed syllables per half line, with two or three (sometimes one) unstressed syllables. Its name means ‘the metre of ancient word’ and it is an old Norse poetic form introduced in Snorre‘s Old Norse Poetic Eddas. The Norse poets tended to break up their verses into stanzas of from two to eight lines (or more), rather than writing continuous verse after the Old English model and used used Alliteration instead of rhyme (syllables alliterate when they begin with the same sound). The loss of unstressed syllables makes these verses seem denser and more emphatic. The Norse poets, unlike the Old English poets, tended to make each line a complete syntactic unit, avoiding enjambment where a thought begun on one line continues through the following lines; only seldom do they begin a new sentence in the second half-line. Often these poems also use ‘Heiti‘, which is a poetic word (synonym) that was used when other words could not fit into the strict form (some times they also made up new words).

J.R.R. Tolkien, Author, philologist and expert on Anglo-Saxon and Middle English also made use of the Fornyrðislag in his narrative poem The Legend of Sigurd and Gudrun, based upon the poetry of the Elder Edda and written to retell the Norse saga of Sigurd and the fall of the Niflungs.

The Legend of Sigurd and Gudrun

”When ancient German, Norse, and Anglo-Saxon bards sat by the hearthfire of a night-dark hall, holding their harps and singing of heroes, monsters, and gods mastered by fate, this is the style that they used. And just as Tolkien loved the ancient Germanic tales, so also the world he created echoes them: Tolkien’s Middle Earth, like Norse Midgard, is a realm ruled by fate, a world of Elves and dwarves and men…”
( Forgotten Ground Regained ©1999, Paul Deane ).
Tolkien’s sources of inspiration also included Norse sagas such as the Volsunga saga and the Hervarar saga, the Poetic Edda, the Prose Edda, and numerous other culturally related works.

By Stone and Star
Blessed Be ~

Freyr

My hand-carved Freyr charm

Freyr, Frey -Old Norse Mythology lord of the sun, rain and harvests,
He is a shining god, bringing fertility and prosperity to all.
Freyr was one of the Vanir gods that went to live in Asgard after the War between the Æsir and Vanir.

He is the noblest of the gods. Together with his sister, Freyja, he brings peace and prosperity to men and the blessings of fertility to the home and the field. The Norsemen made sacrifices to Freyr ’til árs ok friðar’ (for frutifulness and peace).

Left to right: Njörðr, Skaði, Freyr. From the book The Elder or Poetic Edda; commonly known as Sæmund’s Edda. Edited and translated with introduction and notes by Olive Bray. Illustrated by W.G. Collingwood.

His home is Alfheim and he is known as God of the dead: those interred in the kin mounds and Lord of the land of the Alfs (Elves). This place was later called Elfhame and Elphame, and in more modern times Elfland or Elfenland.
Symbolism, Stags antler, Ship, Wagon, Boar, Rays of the sun, Phallic symbolism (and consequently the modern suggestion of a horn of plenty)
Sacred Animals, Boar, Horse, Stag.
* A Freyr idol with a priestess (or the god’s “wife”) would go on procession round villages to bless the fields during harvest.
* His holy places could not have weapons or outlaws within them and no blood shed.

The possible connections of Freyr with Ingui and their similarities have been noted.
It is known that, according to Norse mythology, Freyr was closely linked with the Sun. He was the god of peace and fertility. His parents were the sea god, Njord and the giantess, Skadi. He translates as the most prominent and most beautiful of the male members of the Vanir, and is often referred to as ‘God of the World’. Subsequent the merging of the Aesir and the Vanir, Freyr is known as ‘the Lord of the Aesir’. Freyr is also called upon by common folk to grant fertile marriages.

Ingui, or Ing, is the rather obscure name of a god in the Anglo-Saxon heathen tradition who was the god of sun and rain, and the patron of bountiful harvests. He was both a god of peace and a brave warrior. He was also the ruler of the elves.

If as many schools believe, he is one and the same as the Norse god, Freyr, then Ingui’s social standing as a god among the Anglo-Saxon heathens could have been one of great veneration.

Evidence connecting the Anglo-Saxon Ingui to the Norse Freyr is that another name for Freyr is Yngvi or Yngvi-Freyr, the Yngvi element is phonetically cognate with the Anglo-Saxon Ingui. It’s possible that the Anglo-Saxon Yngvi-Freyr may have been called Ingui-Frea, Frea being the Anglo-Saxon cognate of Freyr.

Freyr’s Return;

As important for the individual
and development of the world
as the revival of the Divine Feminine
in all Her myriad forms,
is the retrieval of the Passionate, 

Vibrant Masculine.

We might rediscover the caring masculine energies
to be a vital part of the cosmological balance
of universal and interpersonal forces.

Praise Be To Freyr!

Praise Be To Freyr!
To Life, to Spirit, to Freedom!
Praise be Green Hills and Verdant Valleys Forever!
Fertility to the Fields and Flowers!
The Birds and Bees!
The Deer and the Does!
Praise to Dancing and Drinking!
To Frolicksome Freols!
Lifter of Hefts and Hafts!
Unbinder! Lord of the Elf Fields!
May my life be a tribute to the Freedom you o’ersee!
May my life be filled with your festivity and frith!
Praise Be to Freyr!
The Mighty Elf Lord of Freedom!
© Siegfried Goodfellow 2005

In heathenism and paganism, poetry becomes prayer through which we enter into the magic of being in touch with all the holy powers that make this life a sacred blessing.

May You Be Blessed ~

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