I interpret the Norse creation myth as telling the story of nature (jotnar) and true people (elves) being oppressed by civilization (Asir, Vanir). It was with great pleasure that I found this website, which espouses a similar viewpoint: http://shadowlight.gydja.com/rokkr.html
Do you care to explain more? I am interested, but from the link you posted I wasn’t able to get a concise framing of events and I don’t understand how Norse mythology has civ/anti-civ strife in the narrative.
What I can relate to though is your talk of elves. You refer to them as the “true people.” I’m not sure about that. They are ancestral spirits, like little people often are around the globe, be they leprechauns, or trolls, nisse (gnomes), etc. In Norse mythology there’s two kinds, dark elves and light elves, and they are dualistic.
One of the reasons that I’m interested in elves is that I’ve met them and battled them in the dreamtime. They are my ancestors, so I have privy access to them. I’ve been given their story in a golden book, but I rejected it. The elves I met are not invested in the earth, but rather in its destruction. Perhaps they were dark elves. I don’t know. But they sing songs of sleep and death. They are invested in machinery and industry.
Elves are my literal ancestors. My surname is Elfers and we were placed at the mouth of the Elbe river, which is the same word at root. Elfers (low German form of Elbers) means people of the Elbe. Elbe means “river,” “white,” and “elf.” Elves being spirits of the dead, they have a strong association with the watery underworld. Hence the word elf means both river and also refers to the elven little people.
Like many indigenous groups, people often refer to themselves as the true people. The people of the Kalahari desert in Africa call themselves the Ju’hoasi, meaning “good people.” Everyone who is not them is called a different word meaning “bad people.”
Though I was born into the tribe of the elf, I’ve rejected that spiritual ancestry in the dreamtime and now am a wandering orphan spirit with no lineage to claim me. I don’t think there is any singular “true people.” I think we choose our alliances in the spirit world upon birth. We can switch teams, so to speak, later in life but most people don’t. Maybe that makes me a character more like Loki, always fighting the gods, insulting them, and showing irreverence. Again, I don’t know. I’m not well versed in Norse mythology.
As far as rewilding Norse religion goes, I think if you put it back out in the wild… make it alive again, and growing and moving thing… then you’re rewilding it. Live it. Love it. Rewild it.
When I used the term “true people,” I likely meant what you mean when you call them ancestors. The story is that dark elves carved the first humans out of driftwood, so they are our ancestors. Elves seem to be a mythological symbol for the commoners in society. Many German stories tell of them converting to Christianity, for example. The god groups, to me, represent the upper classes and their embrace of the newer ways of life, which is why Odin was quickly identified (as a warrior prince) with Jesus during conversion attempts, whereas Elves were never identified with Christian analogues, such as angels. The commoners were more intimate and familiar with Elves and certain Jotnar, such as Holle, and therefore the stories about them were slower to change. The whole narrative, as told in late Norse literature, is that the Vanir (fertility gods) made war with the Jotnar (giants), then entered a three way war with the Asir (war gods) and Jotnar. It is not mentioned what the Elves were doing, I dont think, but post war, the Elves seemed like essentially a servile class, along with the Jotnar. There are stories of Thor killing Jotnar, but no story of a Jotun killing a god. To me, these say that humans are worshiping the power of technology and more broadly, humans, as the new deities. Jotnar are shapeshifters and Loki uses this skill to take on the likeness of a god, in order to live amongst them. Loki is, as they say, Odin’s half brother. Odin (insanity) was born of Earth herself (a Jotun) and also had a son by her - Thor. Thor (thunder) is three quarters Jotun, yet makes sport of killing Jotnar. His sons, Bravery and Strength are prophesied to inherit his hammer and I have hope that they are the rewilders of the gods, realizing their ancestry and setting things right.
Elves are typically inclined to craftsmanship of any kinda and, reflecting human society, seem to have become adept at handling machinery, especially the “dark” elves. Dark elves are the ones that live under ground and light elves live closer to Valhalla - there is nothing in the lore saying that there is any more difference than that. However, elves are individuals and make different choices to one another. You may encounter elves that are less machine-inclined at some point.
Thanks for your response! The elves I met lived on a hill, and they never showed their faces directly… sounds like dark elves. Reading through what you wrote it sounds like in Norse understanding there is a tripartite world: an “underworld” of little people, a middle-earth with human beings, and an “overworld” with giants. (I know there are technically nine worlds in Norse understanding, but talking about just three worlds is easier for me.) The Jotnar are very interesting. They sound much like giants in other tales, too. For example, the giant Humbaba in Sumerian mythology is a great spirit of the cedar forest, and also a shape shifter. Even today, we still have stories of shapeshifting giants who live in deep wilderness areas… like Bigfoot accounts in the high Sierras. To me, these shapeshifting giants are powerful nature beings and ancestral spirits to the place as it is, not to any individuals within the space. Thats why they appear so large and powerful. Note how Lightning (Thor) and his sons Bravery and Strength are descended from Jotun. This is saying something almost like that Bravery and Strength are qualities that we learn and receive from nature. To be brave, and to be strong, you have to go out into the world and experience the power of Lightning. Am I making sense?
The little people, on the other hand, are the ancestral spirits of individual people or races, like your grandparents and great grandparents and so on. They have different kinds of powers and are smaller because that in the interaction of all the spirits that is our world, that is the size allotted to them.
Anyhow, I think I’m rambling on at this point but I find the topic interesting. I love stories of little people and giants because I find so many parallels in them. All the traditions say the little people guide the humans and make sure they are raised right (ancestors). They are mischievous and playful. The traditions all talk about the Giants as powerful and shapeshifting and representative of aspects of nature, and they are often hunted by warrior humans who seek to steal their powers. And the traditions always involve some kind of trickster character you subverts the plans of the gods or of the humans and is always playing an oppositional part, be it Loki or Coyote.
I think Norse mythology and other world traditions are speaking the same language and themes of animism. In my experience animism isn’t abstract, but more like an actual description of reality. When we get the opportunity to meet ancestral spirits, whether they be our own or larger nature spirits outside us (giants), then it starts to make real sense.
I would offer to you that the truth may be more complicated than that, in a positive light, and that it might be a key to us walking our way out of civilization.
There’s a couple of places where I’ve noted in my studies where wilded societies attempted to adapt to the new technology of cities. Daoism would be one. Shinto. I believe the druids were an attempt but the Romans saw the druidic power structure (which was highly political in nature) as a threat to their own rule.
The brothers who helped Odin with Ymir; their names represented the kind of will / intelligence needed to overcome a threat and the strength to carry it through. However, it was Odin, the divinely inspired poet, who won the day and I’m sure you noticed that he did this by re-framing everything. If it stopped there, then yes, I’d see him as a colonizer, but the old stories include him adopting the son of a giant, having sex with giants, marrying Vanir. He wanted that relationship with the earth, even as he recognized that their way of life was at war with it. I think, in that context, Loki was his greatest success.
One of Loki’s children was an apology to Odin for messing things up, which likely enabled some of Odin’s greatest deeds (like discovering a universal language / writing).
Loki’s more infamous children were the Great Wolf, the World Serpent and the One who Watches the Dead. They’re the ones I’m thinking about.
His sons: Fenris, the threat to Asgard, who represented heavenly wrath and anger and righteous fury gone awry, only able to be stopped (temporarily) by sacrifice and the power of dreams. Later, only the master of poets could defeat him, but at the cost of the death of words.
Jormungandr, who represented the dangers of the material world. Consumption so profound that it spanned the world and could not be stopped. A monster familiar to those fighting the “black snake” in North Dakota today (sideline). Unlike Fenris, they couldn’t figure out a way to contain it so they ignored it. Only the power of the storm ultimately overcame it.
Then there’s the daughter. Never fully born. Half dead. Hel, in charge of those who lived half-a-life, who never fully embraced their spirit, their own individual fates. She took care of their anger at being judged, at wasting their time in the Middle World. She contained their memories and desires to be made whole. And when the time came, she released them to work their own kind of judgement on the world. She was never overcome. Then again, she was the gatekeeper.
In the wake of Loki’s critique of Odin’s world made flesh, the carefully constructed balance was shattered and then re-born. Another chance given.
I’d like to think somewhere, the trickster loves the new world, out of his control and those of Asgard and has reconciled with his adopted father, still reeling from being eaten by a wolf.
I was talking with my kids and reflecting on how Ymir had to die, for time and the universe to start. But that was also a horrible tragedy.
Odin won by tricking Ymir into death, by naming Ymir out of existence. Ymir’s sons reflected Ymir’s power but only Loki, Ymir’s grandson, reflected Ymir’s death. He was in the form of Odin. And in that form, he both honored his grandfather, avenging Ymir’s death, and his adopted father, by setting the stage for a different world from the last.
He’s the villain in the story because the skalds recognized that you can’t -encourage- that behavior because it will lead to disaster 9 times out of 10. But I think they preserved it, hidden there, for us to find it when we looked.
I suppose I’m posting this because I see an opportunity for us and hope we can further the discussion by pulling in what is, what was and shape it into what will be.
I’ve read over your response to this thread a couple of times. I’m interested in why you’d reject your ancestry. Would you be willing to talk more about that? For instance, in my life, I hold my ancestors (recently dead) and my Ancients (wild ancestors) as two different things. I strive to be worthy of the Ancients in my life.
Lovely - rewilding Norse mythology! Here’s my take:
Nice version! Cunnus isnt related to Ginnungagap, though. I favor the simple explanation, that “ginn-” is related to “begin” https://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/Ginnungagap
Thomas, my experience with “ancestors” is detailed in the Dreams thread (Dreams). Upon reflection and discussion with some folks, I understand the Moira to be elves in a nominal sense, and the reason I had access to their dwelling and golden book is because they are a part of my spiritual ancestry. I’m “of” them, so to speak, though errant. I wouldn’t say I reject all my ancestors, just these particular ones.
And thank you for sharing your thoughts in this thread! They are illuminating and helping me to understand.
i’ve read the eddas & a number of the old sagas trying to find an understanding of norse culture. to me, the jotnar are the earth as it was meant to be. the aesir & vanir are civilizers, oath-breakers, and their time of dominion is limited. the jotnar are incredibly powerful, are place-based, and only wreak havoc when the ‘gods’ specifically come and mess with them.
i look to the children of loki & angrboda with hopes for the future. they were stolen from their parents by odin, set into endless roles without their consent.
fenrir, chained down and mouth propped open with a sword (because of what he Might do, because of what he’s capable of), is forever salivating, and his drool forms the river hope. hope for whom? there is hope for civilization as long as he remains bound. once his bonds are loosed, the natural destructive forces of the world won’t be controlled or reined in anymore.
jormundgand, the world serpent, thrown out to the edges of midgard by odin to form the boundary of odin’s contrived world. constantly renewing theirself but always swimming the same loop, tortured by thor for sport, will only break free when the world ends, will only release the oceans, the world, from its artificial ‘boundaries’ when the gods are defeated.
and hel, goddess of the underworld, set there as a child to offer her hand to all those who aren’t taken by oden or freyja after death in battle, to all those who die of old age or sickness. she receives them all, gives them a home, provides for them, in her solemn way. she is ageless and timeless, because she was never allowed a childhood or a life. when ragnarok begins, she’ll sail out of the underworld to fight on the side of the jotnar and her siblings.
i see the writings about ragnarok as a knowledge that civilization is temporary, and that the machinations of the gods (trying to tether the sun and moon, build their own world on the sweat of unpaid others, reign supreme not just in their own worlds but in all worlds, visiting unwelcome violence upon the spirits/embodiments of the natural world) will eventually be negated.
i wrote a poem about this, based on what came to me when i asked angrboda for words. she’s the mother of fenrir, jormundgandr, and hel. loki is her consort but not the only one, nor is she subservient to him. she’s considered a jotnar and sometimes a ‘troll’ and lives in the ironwood, where she has other wolf-children.
asking for words from the mother of sorrow