Sunday, May 26, 2013

Mean Swings and Big Beards

Like all great pantheons that arose from Indo-European religions, Norse religion is fairly... well, how does one say 'awesome' without downplaying it? 'Awesome' is so over used... Grand? Magnificent? Striking? Impressively, mind-blowingly, stupendous? Yes... I think the latter will do just fine.

When one says, 'Greek Mythology' or 'Roman Mythology', there's not one person I know who wouldn't be able to name at least a few gods from either. After all, we have movies that have been derived from the mythologies. Albeit, they're usually terrible, but fun nonetheless. (I'm looking at you, Clash of the Titans). We love them, we learn about them from infancy, and we are endlessly fascinated by the myth, legend, and lore that surrounds them. With the rise in popularity of the Marvel superhero/demi-god Thor, I'm willingly adding in Norse Mythology in with Greek and Roman. A bold move, I know, but I'm willing to bank on the evidence that I'm about to present. (Or at least the limited knowledge I have of Norse Mythology. I'll be the first to admit, I don't know everything.)

Alright, for this post, I am going to mainly focus on Thor and Odin. "Why?" You might ask, after all, there are plenty of gods and goddesses to chose from, along with giants, valkyries, norns, dwarves, dísir, elves... why just Thor and Odin, eh? "Don't question me." I might reply.

Thor, a god ruling the sky, dictating thunderbolts, wind, rainstorms, sunshine, and crops. *Yawn* Sounds fairly typical for a post Indo-European pantheon God. Well, not only was he considered as mighty as his father Odin, but in some cases even more powerful and more important. (according to Adam of Bremen's descriptions of Old Uppsala). Thor is from the dynasty of the aesir, and had the job of protecting cosmic order. Now, I don't know about you, but cosmic order sounds fairly large. I mean, I've managed a pet store, and that could be hard. COSMIC order. Thor had a fairly heavy burden. Although- the myths never really define what that all means. So, after all, cosmic order could just be making sure the planets are going in circles... while traveling in larger circles... like they do. But I like the former better.

Thor also battled with giants and the world serpent. Though technically this battle with the world serpent endangered all human life... so, uh, way to go there, buddy. With so many towns and people named after him (with the prefix Tor), he was obviously in the spotlight quite a bit in Viking Age Scandinavia.
Check out that beard. I mean, seriously, that beard makes goats jealous.

But Odin... Thor may have a mean swing, battle giants, serpents, and be in charge of weather, but Odin has magic. That's right. Let me type that again. Odin has magic. Or, more technically, Odin has seidur. (it translates to magic. It says so in textbooks. Don't worry yourself on the facts here, just trust me. MAGIC). To any nerd who happens to like anything Norse- a god who is said to also control magic is fairly awesome. (wait- no... moving, wondrous, astonishing...). Let me elaborate. Odin can predict fate, inflict death or misfortunes, deprive people of their strength and wit - then give it to another, and if that were not fearsome enough, Odin can transform himself into an animal and travel to far off places while his 'body slept'. Uh, take a minute and read that again. I'll wait... Got it? Odin works with circumpolar shamanism. He can travel by letting his spirit leave his body, and enter another's. Its like Skyping- but AWESOME. (that word is seriously far too easy to use). Odin also has pets- two ravens: Huginn and Muninn (meaning thought and memory), as well as an eight-legged horse, Sleipnir, or sliding one. His ravens are thought to be used as an extension of himself. Which- if you think about it- if Odin was your god, every darned time you saw a raven, god was watching you. That'd be quite distressing, especially because ravens are, well, not sparse in Scandinavia.

And what about said eight-legged horse? Oh, Sleipnir is also known as 'shamanic horse par excellence'. If I, one day, gain a title that miraculous, I have succeeded. Don't know that definition? Don't understand it? Let me be more clear: Shaman's means of transport between worlds. Alright- I don't know about you, but I don't care if he has eight-legs- that horse can give Shadowfax a run for his money. (Did Rohan use money? Was it just gold? I'm fairly sure they traded in horses.)
Anyone NOT intimidated by that? Giant spear notwithstanding, that horse looks irate. 

Also- seidur (magic, remember?) was predominantly practiced by women. It was considered shameful for men to practice it. So why did Odin? No idea. It's ritual?

Thor and Odin: Fairly supreme gods. Have I made my point yet? If not- uh, read it again. I guess.

More to discuss later- when I've... learned more.