Jan. 26th, 2014

transemacabre: (Rose Red)
Let me state from the onset that I am well aware that the ancient Norse myths were hardcore Hijacked by Jesus. Pretty much everything written about them was written during the Christian era, obviously that's had an impact. But what I'm talking about can only be partially explained by Christianity, I think; my knowledge of comparative ancient Indo-european folk religion is not exhaustive, but from what I do know it seems that Norse religion was undergoing some major transformation about the time that Christianity moved in and fossilized it in an intermediate form, so to speak.

Odin/Frigg and Od/Freya: Let's start here. So we have Odin, king of the gods, who's something of a dark sorcerer and magnificent bastard. Frigg is his wife and a wise, motherly type.

Then there's the other couple of Od and Freya. Freya is a goddess of war and love and other badass things. Od is her husband and a rambling man. The similarities between Freya and Frigg are immediate: their names stem from the same root word (basically meaning "lady, wife"), they both had magic necklaces and magic cloaks, they were both the chief goddesses of their respective races (Frigg for the aesir, Freya for the vanir).

And whaddya know, Odin and Od's names also come from the same root (meaning something between poetry and frenzy). They are both noted for going on long journeys. Something funny is going on here. It seems to me like Odin/Frigg and Od/Freya were one godly couple slowly splitting into two.

Also, this may be reaching, but I see some resemblances between Odin and the Greek god, Dionysos. Both seem to be relatively late additions to their pantheons. Both have something of the strange and foreign about them, as well as being seekers/knowers of forbidden knowledge, mysteries, and magic.

Loki and Utgarda-Loki: It gets weirder. So there's this story in the Prose Edda where Loki and Thor encounter a Jotun named... Loki. He's called Utgarda-Loki, after his castle, to distinguish him from the more famous trickster Loki. Anyway, Utgarda-Loki basically fucks with their heads for the whole story. He also pops up again in the Gesta Danorum, where he's shown bound and stinking.

Aside from the obvious fact that they have the same name, Loki and Utgarda-Loki are both Jotuns. They are both portrayed as bound and fettered. I kinda wonder if the Utgarda-Loki story in the Prose Edda started out as original flavor Loki, but somewhere along the line someone got confused and split the Loki character into two.

Also, isn't it a little weird that Loki the trickster god was basically unknown in Anglo-Saxon era England? The other Norse gods are worshipped, under AS names of course, but there's no places named after Loki (as there are for the other gods) nor have any artifacts been dug up featuring Loki, aside from one stone found depicting a man wearing fetters on his hands.

Tyr. Tyr is one of the oddest things about Norse mythology.

Tyr's name literally means 'God'. It's from the same Proto-Indo-European root from whence sprang Zeus (Greek), Jupiter (Roman), Dyaus Pitar (Vedic), etc. Thing is, unlike his name would suggest, Tyr isn't the chief sky-god of the Norse pantheon; that's Odin. Tyr was once important enough to have a day of the week named for him (Tuesday) and numerous towns and suchlike across Scandinavia; but his role as sky-god seems to have been entirely usurped by Odin. By the time the myths were written down, he had very little to do in them.

Baldr. Baldr seems to have undergone a complete personality transplant; Snorri describes him as a meek and almost Christ-like figure, while Saxo Grammaticus tells us "Balderus" was a ferocious warrior. Snorri's Baldr is accidentally slain with a mistletoe spear by his brother Hodr. Saxo's Balderus is killed by his rival H√łtherus with a magic sword named... Mistletoe.

Njord and Nerthus. If Baldr got a personality transplant, Nerthus seemingly got a whole new gender.

We know of Nerthus from Tacitus, who tells us that the ancient German tribes worshipped her as Mother Earth (Terram matrem) with great ceremony. Nerthus' name appears to come from the same root as that of the Vanir god Njord -- a sea-god and the father of Frey and Freya. It seems bizarre that an earth goddess would morph into a sea-god. Perhaps Nerthus and Njord are actually a brother-sister pair, like Frey and Freya, but Njord gradually eclipsed Nerthus in importance and her domain (the earth) was eventually overtaken by other goddesses (Jord, who's name literally means "earth", seems to be a likely candidate).

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