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THUNDER ISSUE 5 Winter 1997/1998

Greetings

Welcome to the fifth issue of Thunder, a journal dedicated to the thunder
gods of Northern Europe. This journal is the joint venture of two organisations
from opposite sides of the Atlantic. Thunderway Hall in America which promotes
the revival of the Anglo-Saxon Thunor cult, and Thorshof in homely
Buckinghamshire which encourages research into the Teutonic religion as a whole
(though with an emphasis on the cults of Thor, Frey and the Teutonic goddesses).

Thank you to everyone who sent in their comments about what they want to
see in this journal. It is now clear that the readership is divided between the
‘neo-pagan’ and the ‘academic’, so the editors will endeavour to please both
camps. We will try to concentrate on academic articles on the historical
thunder cults which should be of interest to everyone. We have also had a lot
of interest in the thundercults from non-Teutonic areas. Articles on
thundercults from Finnish, Russian, Baltic, Celtic or any other European culture
would be most welcome. Please be aware that the editors’ knowledge lies mainly
within the Teutonic religions so this subject will dominate unless others help
out!

We have also been asked for more practical articles covering rituals or
magic. Thorshof is running a competition to encourage submissions on this
subject, see penultimate page for details.


THORIST STAR LORE

Thorskegga Thorn

Thor is frequently connected with stars in both literature and art. I have
produced this article as a summary of all the Thorist star lore I am aware of,
however it is likely that not all of these constellations were attributed to
Thor at the same place and at the same time. As with many other symbols the
star constellations would have been dedicated to different gods, as today we
have different familiar names for the larger constellations. It would make
sense if the main constellations were given to the worshippers own patron (if
possible). In the northern sky the two most obvious are probably Ursa Major and
Orion, the former was given to a numerous gods while the latter was claimed by
Frigg, Freyja and the Virgin Mary.

I have used the Latin names for the stars as they are the most universally
known.

Ursa Major

This is the saucepan shaped constellation which points to the pole star. It
is most frequently known as the Plough in England and the Big Dipper (i.e. a
deep spoon) in the USA. All across Scandinavia and in Germany this
constellation is known as the Wain. This constellation seems to have been
ascribed to at least three of the Norse gods, Odin, Irmin and Thor. When given
to Thor the constellation is called ‘Karl Wagen’, Karl being the familiar title
given to the god in Scandinavia, normally translated as ‘the Old Man’. This
name is found in Denmark, Sweden and Iceland. It is highly likely that the
Wain was given to any prominent deity who travelled in a chariot, which would
also include Freyr, Freyja, and the old earth goddess Nerthus. The name Irmin
is interesting as this elusive god may be Tyr.

R H Allen (1) quotes an old rhyme describing the god figures at Upsala which
describes Thor as follows:

The God Thor was the highest of them,

He sat naked as a child,

Seven stars in his hand and Charles’s Wain.

Prudence Jones also quotes a similar source from Messenius (2) stating that
this writer believed the seven stars to be the Pleiades, but as these are a
considerable distance from Ursa Major, she suggests Ursa Minor instead.
Following this logic Jones suggests that Ursa Minor represents Thor’s hammer. I
drew the cover illustration based on this theory, with Ursa Major forming the
wagon and Ursa Minor the hammer, Polaris is doing a most untypical star of
Bethlehem impression over Thor’s head.

Again the link between Thor and stars is very strong. Charles’s Wain is yet
another name for the plough and is derived from Charlemane. Thor is often
described as racing across the sky (part of the job for a Thundergod) so the
stars are very appropriate symbols for him, and especially for his wagon. In
the Haustlong poem (4) this idea comes across very strongly:

‘The son of Jord (Thor) drove to the game of iron (battle) and the
moon’s way (sky) thundered beneath him.’

Ursa Minor

This is a smaller version of Ursa Major which lies much closer to the pole
star than its larger image. This constellation is probably best known in
England as the Little Bear. Early Scandinavia’s called it the Small Chariot, or
Freyja’s Wain or the Throne of Thor.

The constellation is roughly chair shaped. Chairs were very unusual in the
early middle ages and symbolised high authority. Common folk sat on benches or
stools, hence the modern term ‘chairman’ for a leader, the only person
important enough to be seated in comfort. The only obvious god figure of Thor
that survives is seated on an elaborate decorated chair or throne, and larger
god figures may have had similar thrones.

Thus both the images and the star constellation show Thor as a dominant god,
this name for the constellation was probably not recognised outside the cult of
Thor.

Gemini

A bit of guesswork here! Two stars are mentioned several times in the Eddic
myths called Thiassi’s eyes, which are probably the bright twin stars of Gemini.
They best known from the story of Skadi, an enraged giantess who demands
compensation from the gods after Thiassi’s death. As part of the payment Odin
made two stars out of her fathers eyes.

However the Lay of Harbard (3) contests the Skadi story. Thor describes how
he was responsible for this constellation…..

‘Strong Thjatsi, the thurs, I overthrew in battle,

and the awful eyes of Alvaldi’s son

I cast on the cloudless sky.

Those be the mighty marks of my great works’.

Again the stars can be claimed by several gods but here there is a marked
difference in their meaning, Odin’s act was meant as an apologetic memorial
while Thor’s resembles a hunter mounting a trophy. The battle Thor boasts of
does not tie in with the Skadi story where all the gods kill Thiassi by burning
him in a great fire, but both tales seem to refer to Gemini.

Aurvandil’s Toe

No this is not a Latin name, I don’t claim to know where this star is. The
Whetstone story gives a fragment of another myth, where Thor carries Aurvandil
back from Giantland in a basket. One of Aurvandil’s toes froze on the journey
and broke off. Thor tossed it into the sky and made it into a star. The name
Aurvandil is well known in the north and is found in Anglo-Saxon as Earendel.
It may also be connected to the Gloucestershire story of Wandil the giant.
Wandil stole the spring but the gods defeated him and threw his body into the
sky, where his eyes stare down as the Gemini stars (2).

However it is unclear whether these connected myths refer to the same stars
or even if the names describe a single star or a constellation.

Polaris

Polaris is the pole star, if you walk towards it you are travelling north.
For early sailors this star was invaluable and the Anglo-Saxons called it the
Ship Star.

The Scandinavians knew this star as the ‘God’s Nail’ which again suggests
the cult of Thor. The article on the Symbolism of the Whetstone in Thunder 4
pointed out the belief that Thor has a fragment of stone or iron in his forehead
representing the god’s control of fire. Nails were also hammered into
housepillars dedicated to the god which supported the centre of the house, so
the link between the god’s nail and the axis of the heavens is very tempting.
Furthermore in northern Scandinavia Polaris is nearly overhead, adding to the
link between the nail and the world pillar.

Thor’s Halo

In later artwork from the late middle ages to the turn of the century, Thor
is often shown with a halo of stars. This symbolism may stem from the
descriptions given above of the godfigures at Uppsala and it is in
representations of the Uppsala images that the stars are most obvious. One such
image was used on the cover of Thunder 3.

Overall these myths show two things very clearly, Thor is primarily a sky
god and the stars were obvious motifs to use in his myths, and secondly Thor
dominates the other gods in star folklore proving his popularity among the
Teutonic peoples.

(1) Star Names Their Lore and Meaning, Richard Hinkley Allen, Dover Pub Inc
1963 (reprint from 1899).

(2) Northern Myths of the Constellations, Prudence Jones, Fenris Wolf 1991.

(3) The Poetic Edda, Trans. Lee M Hollander, Texas Univ Press, 1987.

(4) Edda, Snorri Sturluson, Trans. Anthony Faulkes, Everyman, 1987.


THORR’S ROOTS

Stephen Pollington

Tina Deegan’s interesting expose (Thunder #4) of the Celtic thunder-gods
Taranis and Sucellos prompted me to put together some thoughts about the origins
of the Northern European Thunder God. His best-known guise is of course Old
Icelandic Thorr, the familiar figure from the tales of Asgard. This aspect of
the god is, however, late and specific to one tradition (the Icelandic, a
mixture of Scandinavian and Irish elements). What do we know about the original
of whom Icelandic Thorr is a later re-casting?

First the name. Deegan mentions the Gallic Taranis, from which modern words
for ‘thunder’ are derived in certain Celtic languages, e.g. taran. Taranis is
not necessarily the original form, however: a variant Tanaris is recorded, and
here we begin to move into familiar territory, since a presumed Celtic (1)
*tanaros would – or at least could – equate to a Proto-Germanic *thun(o)raz;
this proto form became in Old English thunor (and in modern English this becomes
‘thunder’), in some German dialects ‘donar’ (modern ‘Donner’) while in Norse it
became variously thurr and thorr. Therefore, the god’s name is not ‘thunderer,
(he who wields the thunder)’ but ‘thunder’ itself. The Germanic word is not
derived from the Celtic, however, they are a shared inheritance from the
Indo-European language which is the origin of both.

So why the change from ‘taranos’ to ‘tanaros’ or vice versa? It is not so
much a question of one form becoming another, as of the two forms existing
side-by -side, as far as I can see. Such variant forms can result from
metathesis, as when OE byrd ‘bride’ has the -r- slip out of place to form the
modern dialect ‘bird’ meaning young woman, or when some dialects use the
pronunciation ‘ax’ for ‘ask’, ‘gurt’ for ‘great’, ‘purty’ for ‘pretty’. They
both exist in the language at the same time, until the need for standard written
forms makes one the official and correct word, and the other a mere variant.

It is perhaps appropriate at this point to bring some history of a slightly
older date than we would normally find in the pages of this periodical – longer
ago and further away than Asgard itself. The Hittite Empire throve in Anatolia
(modern Turkey) during the time of the pharaohs. The Hittites themselves were
speakers of a language of the Indo-European type, though much older than any
other we have so far been able to read. This means that Hittite linguistic,
social and cultural structures were broadly similar to those found in ancient
Europe, sharing as they do a common ancestor. During the middle of the second
millennium BC (or should that be BCE?) the Hittites’ supreme god appears to have
been Teshub, a storm god who was worshipped by the indigenous Hurrian peoples of
the Near Eastern area; however, after the Hittite Empire itself began to decline
in 8th to 7th century BC, there was a resurgence of worship for the Hittites’
own storm god, rejoicing in the name of Tarhunzas (2). So here we have a ‘god
of storms’ worshipped by an ancient people having close structural and
linguistic links to the equivalent cultures of Europe, with a name suspiciously
close to the ancient forms which stand behind both the Germanic and the Celtic
thunder-gods. The name Tarhunzas may well be the earliest recorded form of the
word which turns up variously as Thorr, Thunor, thunder.

(1) Scholars can often reconstruct words in ancient, unrecorded languages
by ‘triangulating’ from forms which have survived into more recent periods.
Because these reconstructed words are not recorded (and the reconstruction may
have to be changed in the light of new evidence), they are marked with an
asterisk

(*). These reconstructed languages are designated by the prefix ‘Proto’ as
for example ‘Proto-Germanic’ for the language form from which all the later
Germanic languages are derived.

(2) In the name Tarhunzas the -h- represents a laryngeal consonant of
uncertain pronunciation. It may not have been continued into European forms,
although it would nevertheless have ‘coloured’ the following vowel by affecting
its pronunciation.

Thunorrad

An Old English word Thunorrad exists with the meaning ‘roll of thunder’, it
occurs once only, to my knowledge, in the writings of the ecclesiastic, Aelfric.
The first element thunor is of course the normal Old English word for
‘thunder’, the atmospheric phenomenon, and was once the name of the high god of
their pantheon. The second element -rad is the word for a ‘road’, but
originally it meant ‘the act of riding’, and the sense ‘place where one rides’
developed by extension of meaning. The two elements together therefore mean,
possibly, ‘thunder-road’ which doesn’t seem particularly apt for ‘thunder clap’,
but what of the alternative possibility? Imagine you are an early farmworker,
huddled in your timber house as the sky darkens overhead. The light goes livid,
the clouds swirl and billow like thick smoke, then in the distance, but still
frighteningly loud, a grumble of deep-throated thunder booms out. You look to
your children, shrinking into the gloom of the space behind the benches, and say
‘Thunor’s riding!’ Thunorrad may have had just such resonances for the early
English, though if Aefric knew this he would never have admitted it!

The imagary of the god’s huge chariot lumbering across the sky-paths surely
inspired this Old English compound. Perhaps the noise of thunder was supposed
to be the rumbling of the wheels and the lightning was sparks thrown off their
iron felloes.


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THE THORSHOF RAGNAROK DEBATE

On 27 September 1997 the friends of Thorshof met to discuss the meaning
of Ragnarok, a prophecy foretelling the death of the gods, the end of the world,
and the birth of a new era. With hindsight it would have been better described
this as the ‘meaning of life’ debate. It would be impossible to summarise our
differing opinions so we have all written a short article on our own views.


What is Ragnarok?

Thorunn Freyrfriend ROT(E)

This was an interesting discussion which, before the event, I had envisaged
being argued mainly between those who did not believe in Ragnarok as an original
heathen belief at all, those who took Snorri Sturluson’s account of Ragnarok in
the Prose Edda to be a true report of our forefather’s heathen beliefs in all
its aspects and those who took Snorri’s account to have been influenced (to a
greater or lesser degree) by the prevailing Christianity.

However it did not go at all according to my expectations for not all felt
that the original beliefs were extremely important. Also, and as it turned out
extremely logically, the discussion also seemed to quickly veer onto discussions
of various aspects and views on life after death and how did we see things
happening after our death.

Questions were raised as to whether we saw Ragnarok as a true heathen
event?, whether it was still to come or even whether a version had already
occurred (such as the conversion of the north to Christianity)?, did we think
that Loki was still bound and was Snorri’s account of him merely a propaganda
job, should he simply be seen as a trickster god for as the blood brother of
Odinn, the chosen travelling companion of Thor and the means by which the
treasure of the gods (including Freyr’s wonderful ship Skidbladnir and his gold
bristled boar Gullinbursti), he could hardly be unworthy and evil? These ideas
were not agreed within the group by any means – some felt it showed his later
evil all the more clearly.

There was even an argument on what was or, even is there, evil? Life is not
simple and I do not generally believe in someone blaming an outside agency –
‘the devil made me do it’. My personal contribution was that I believe there
appear to be certain people for whom the sheer obsession with hurting people or
wanton destruction of people or lives cannot simply be put down unfortunate
childhood experiences or difficult personal circumstances – such people are
flawed in the way that some animals have dreadful temperaments despite training
and are just ‘bad’. A lot of unpleasant events which cause great distress to
people, even ruin their lives, are unfortunately natural events and although the
effects could be said to be ‘evil’ it is not a personally inflicted state of
affairs or through an outside agency of malevolent intent (unless you intend
taking giants such as the frost giants somewhat literally).

Personally, even listening to the different views put forward (very
interesting), my particular interest in Ragnarok still came from a personal
viewpoint and how the Vanir are involved – So is Snorri’s account true? I agree
with the idea that Ragnarok IS a heathen concept but that Snorri’s account has
changed some of the original parts of the tale – which to me are very important.
When looking at the Voluspa (which even Snorri quotes) for an earlier account,
it is noticeable that the only death specifically stated is that of Odinn by the
wolf: ‘Frigg’s husband will fall lifeless’ (1) and even then a quote was found
in Brian Branston’s ‘Gods of the North’ to the effect that Vafthrudnismal
(Poetic Edda) talks about Vali, who takes revenge for Odinn’s death, as ‘he will
sunder the savage jaws’ (which together with the tales of his shoe which was
said to be made from the leather of all the left-over strips which are thrown
away) suggests this method was to ensure that he could tear the wolf apart –
i.e. to let Odinn spring back out again.

The verse in the Volsupa after the world has ended have the Aesir discussing
‘the great world doom’ on Itha plain before Balder comes back from Hel with Hod
although accounts sometimes imply that Balder is let out to bring the gods back.

From the Vanic viewpoint the account of Ragnarok is especially problematical
– if it is an account of the entire worlds, why is it said that Njord goes back
to his tribe but the Vanir are not mentioned as fighting or dying on either
side? Freyja, who is known to have the first pick of the fallen warriors for
Sessrumnir, is not mentioned with her dead at all – where are they supposed to
be? Even Freyr, who Snorri recounts as dying by Surt, is listed as going to
fight Surt in the Voluspa but not as dying in the battle.

Despite problems in the Prose Edda account, and even in the poetic lay the
Voluspa, Ragnarok seems entirely feasible as an event of the world requiring
renewal for which the old order must be cleared away. There are cycles in most
timelines. It seems rather sad to contemplate the earth’s beauty being
destroyed, and the end of the good elements of human society today, but to me it
is not so much a case of Mother Earth being destroyed as being cleansed and
that, as shown even in the Christianised version of the end of time, the
physical existence of humans is not destroyed.

(1) The Prophecy of the Seeress, L Hollander, The Poetic Edda, pg11.


After Ragnarok: A Prophecy Fulfilled

Math Jones, ROT(E)

A thousand winters ago, the Gods died. Swallowed by wolfish missionaries,
burnt by unholy fire, poisoned by Troth-breaking. The Rainbow Bridge, linking
Heaven to Earth, was shattered, and the halls of Asgard broke. There followed a
sword-age, a wolf-age, where brother slew brother, oaths were tossed out and
tossed aside, and Jord was drowned in a flood of watery baptism. As was
foreseen be a seeress, who, noted the progress of White Christ, and prophesied
the fall of the Holy Gods.

Now Wyrd may turn as stated in Voluspa, or not. Readings of the Ragnarok
range from fundamentalist literalism to psychological metaphor, and this is all
very well. But something happened to the Gods at that time and I’d like to know
what. Myth should hold the inner truth of events and phenomena. I’m wondering
whether the events seen in Voluspa have already happened.

What if the Gods did die: Odin, Thor, Freyr? We know they can. Did their
wives follow them – Frigg, Sif, Gerd – onto their funeral pyres? Were Freya and
Idun taken into slavery by etin and thurs? Looking at the world in bleaker
moments, I sometimes feel this is true. Does Jormungand no longer encircle the
Garth? Remember the Earth is now round, where once it was flat, and so has a
boundary no longer.

And how have the Gods returned – which certainly they have – to our hearts
and memory? I have no sure knowledge, only a nagging in my mind. Some thoughts
have come to me. Try them against the anvil. See if they hold:

Thor did not die. Yes, he faced the Wyrm and slew it, threw it perhaps
into the darkness of space, staggered back nine paces, poisoned by mistrust, the
loss of troth. He has survived in our memories as Tor Trollbane, weakened but
cared for by Sif, set to return after 900 years. Whilst his daughter and sons
have kept safe the girdle and gloves, have hammered out the thunder.

Freyr did not die. If Freyja is Gullveig and can survive three burnings,
surely her brother can cope with one from Surt. He and his kin have returned to
the Vanir, have kept troth with true folk, the hedgewitches and wise, remembered
still as the Lord and the Lady. Now perhaps, a new truce must be forged.

Odin was swallowed by the wolf, engulfed in gaping and ravenous maw. If he
roams free now, it is because his son, Vidar, has pulled him from Fenrir’s
ripped and bloody jaws. Welcome again, Odin – shaper and healer.

Loki is loose, free of his children, honoured even, by Loptr-men and women.
Is he still the threat he was cast as, now that Gimli is being built?

For are we not now in Idavoll, finding again the runes and the gaming
pieces, recalling the lore and the sagas. The waters of the Nailed One ebb
away, fields of knowledge grow again as if by themselves. Wrongs can be
righted. And we walk with Gods again – Balder, Hod, Honir – telling new tales
and new myths, facing new perils, new etins and thurs, the sibs of dead Fenrir
seeking revenge.


Ragnarok

Stead , Odinic Rite

Aside from the myth of Odin’s self sacrifice upon the World Tree, Ragnarok
may not only be the most significant myth that has come down to us, but also the
only directly religious myth, whose events necessarily affect our lives. It
speaks of the destination of this world and of the continuance of ourselves
beyond the decay of our bodies. I cannot think of any other myth that speaks so
pointedly of the future and thus of how we are to live the present.

At the moment two thoughts dominate my conception of the Ragnarok.

There is hope of a perfected world, transcending mortality, of that age when
Baldur shall return; and that we have a unique part to play in its realisation –
both individually and as a people.

I think we have a unique part to play because we alone of the divisions of
humanity are the kinsfolk of Baldur, and it is only we who can humanly restore
divine order after the infamy of his killing, who can validly avenge the murder.
The restoration and avenging can only be brought about by disposing of the
cause and sustaining infamy – by disposing of Loki and his influence. This, I
believe, can only be achieved by people who are both the kinsfolk of Baldur and
of Loki, thus it can only be achieved by us, who alone are in that relation.

Thus we always have something to do: to identify the influence of Loki
within us and then remove it; and to identify it outside us and then remove it.

I cannot recall another myth that similarly implies an action on our part,
and one that has general benefit, going beyond the selfish. Without something
that one is supposed to be doing, and for a purpose, I do not think that a
religion can be said to exist. Like a game that has no way of winning.

Here of course I am assuming that we are living at a considerable time after
the murder of Baldur, since I find it hard to imagine any historical period when
there was not wickedness in the world, when there was not intelligent
intentional evil as opposed just to that disregard for human values which the
giants represent, and which may be encountered in the forces of Nature, and in
its substances and inhabitants.

Given that the ultimate destination is a perfected world, this world is then
destined to be shorn of all those features which make us do what ideally we
would not, and make us not to what ideally we would. Therein lies its
imperfection, and I believe the Gods take account of this in Their wishes for
us. They would have us do things now that I think They would not have us do in
another time. And so Odin the Grim can change to Baldur the Beautiful. That, I
think, is the meaning of the death of the Gods at Ragnarok.

I believe that one’s merits on earth will determine one’s deserts in heaven
or upon a new earth.

What will happen to those Northeuropeans whose lives are not good enough for
the Gods to invite them to dwell in Asgard in preparation for the final battle?
Obviously, I do not know, but as my ideas about the question may affect how I
live, it is worth having an opinion on the matter. If they are genuinely
unpleasant, then I think they will fight on the side of Loki; and if they are
just mediocre or merely not lived well enough to be chosen, then I think they
will wait in the realm of Hel, to be released when Baldur returns. What about
the Non-North-europeans? None can bring about the restoration of justice by
taking part in the avenging battle, so I think they will likewise wait in the
realm of Hel, though perhaps the evil ones will also join with Loki and the
demons.


Mythinformation

Thorskegga Thorn ROT(E)

‘Among the brave warriors of Odin was a mighty prince and warlord.
Odin’s son he was named and maybe this was true for the god loved him. Slain in
battle he was given a grand hero’s funeral, even the gods attended to honour his
passing. He took his place in Asgard, seated beside his father’s mighty throne.
Waiting for the day when he could prove his courage again and fight beside the
god of battle himself.’

These were the words of an old traveller, an aged veteran warrior who had
proved himself a wise weaver of tales. The farmer’s children crowded around
him, warmed by the hearth’s embers, elders sat on the benches, listening
intently, contemplating the divine.

‘When will Odin fight?’, the feisty children demanded. The
traveller smiled at his eager audience and gave his answer.

‘There will be a great battle, Odin and his champions will ride against
all the enemies of men and drive them to the very boundaries of the nine worlds.
Thus it is the hope of every warrior to go to Odin’s hall, and ride victorious
in celestial battles beyond imagination.’

…………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………

Time passed, the Christians came with their eastern faith. The old gods
waned and were abandoned for the shining saints. But the tales were remembered
and loved, and told and retold, improved and changed. Odin had lost his power,
and his great battle could no longer be won, but his courage was still
acknowledged, every monster from the old lore was pitched against him, that he
might die a hero’s death against overwhelming odds.

But this is only Odin’s world, there are other gods. Those who fight alone
against the enemies of men, strengthened by the spirits of mortal friends. As
the old faith faded, they too were drawn into Odin’s battle. Freyr the great
slayer of giants, Beli’s bane, is killed. Tyr battles his ancient adversary,
the wolf who swallows the sun each winter, but Tyr can no longer prevail. The
World Serpent, vanquished when the world was young and men first ventured into
the open seas, is resurrected, and the ever victorious Thor is slain.

Yes, in our own time Ragnarok is the most important myth. It has coloured
the perceptions of historian and heathen alike. The myth’s message of failure
and unchangeable fate permeates the whole religion. It is a great shame that
this late, Christian era adaptation of the myths, comes across more strongly
than the ancient gods. The only genuine message in Ragnarok is the admittance
that the old faith has been defeated by Christianity. The doom of the whole
pantheon is not a heathen dream of the future, but the admission of a loss.

Ragnarok is so convincing a prophecy, because the details in the myth are
very heathen. Tyr and the Wolf, Loki battling Heimdal, the heavenly hall for
lovers of alcohol. However like Lokasenna and the Havamal, it is not an ancient
myth but a collection of miscellaneous traditional lore, and in this case used
misleadingly out of context.


Ragnarok: A Vision of Hope

By J M Robertson. Odinic Rite

To many Ragnarok is the Wagner-like twilight of the Gods, the end of all
things, and a reason for renouncing a faith that cannot offer hope! Yet for me
Ragnarok is a vision of hope, a reason for my faith and linking my life here on
Midgard with that eternal dream of destiny that alone makes sense of my life.

First it is necessary to separate Ragnarok the epic tale, from Ragnarok the
message: to remember that any author or skald has certain obligations and
conventions to obey. Such obligations as making the tale such that it will
excite the audience; too they cannot leave loose ends, so the various mythic
beings must be accounted for; and allowing Thor or any other God to die of old
age cannot be allowed. Too the author will be influenced by their age, and
write in a way that suits that time: not to mention drawing on common images: so
is it so strange that Ragnarok resembles the Christian Apocalypse?

This leads to my contention that it is necessary to separate myth the tale
from myth the message: for myth the tale will be influenced by all sorts of
factors that might have no bearing on the message. However if it is possible to
identify the message, then our myths contain the very roots of our faith. Now I
must stand up and be counted, probably accept a few brickbats too: I do not
spend ages musing over who fought who at the final battle, or the mechanics of
Odin’s doom, for they might or might not be the tricks of the writer: my
concern is with the inspiration within the myth!

Ragnarok tells me certain vital things about my faith and my relationship
with it. In the first instance it links Gods and men in a doom: a message that
all things must end, be they the realm of the Gods or even my life; Midgard too.
In this message I can see portent of my own death: imagine the battle between
disease and age, and my fading bodily strength: is that not a personal Ragnarok?
However there is another message: after Ragnarok there will be a new place, and
Gods and men will survive: not of necessity in a way that I could now envisage,
but that continuation is made clear. Possibly it is Balder who survives in the
myth, for having met his doom before Ragnarok, it was not necessary to account
for him at the final cataclysm, but it shows that the Gods of our faith are not
all doomed. A survival not just for some new race of Gods and man: but a
personal survival beyond the personal Ragnarok

There is another aspect of comfort: Ragnarok makes it clear that all things
will change: be they Midgard, great nations and empires or whatever. However it
also shows that something, will go on: so even now when the British Empire I was
raised in is vanishing: I can see it is not the end, nor should I or mine
despair at inevitable change.

A further epiphany of my faith: Ragnarok by showing how my doom is linked to
that of both the Gods and Midgard, demonstrates beyond all doubt the
relationship between myself and all things- be they in heaven or earth. So my
Gods are not some distant figure, they share my life, just as I share my life
with Midgard and all things pertinent to it.

So whilst Ragnarok does not offer some vision of a permanent heaven, or even
of what will become of me and mine for there are some things far beyond
comprehension. It shows clearly and without equivocation that for all things
there is a hope and a future. That future could be personal reincarnation, it
might be as a great thought, or maybe as some strange entity in a far galaxy:
but whatever, it tells me to hope and work for that unknown future for all
things.


FROM THE DEPTHS OF THE THORSHOF ARCHIVES:

The Finnish Thundergod

Ukko or Pitkänen is the ancient Finnish thundergod, who like Thor is
associated with agriculture. The name ‘Ukko’ means ‘old man’ while ‘Pitkänen’
means ‘thunderbolt’. Ukko’s wife is Rauni, the Earth Goddess who controls the
winds and lightning. Rauni’s sacred tree is the rowan and her name is connected
to the Swedish ‘ronn’, ‘rowan tree’. Koppana suggests a link between the title
‘Ukko’ and the Norse Allfather. (see also Thorist Starlore: Ursa Major above).

The Finnish Gods, K M Koppana, Mandragora Dimensions 1990.

Festivals of Ukko involved the sacrifice of a cock or a sheep. A chest of
birch bark was packed with sacrificial meat with beer and spirits and carried to
a mountain held sacred by the worshippers. The chest was left untouched
overnight to allow the god to take his share. The following day a feast was
held with the remaining food and portions of the drink were poured into the
ground to ensure fertility.

Funk & Wagnalls Standard Dictionary of Folklore, Mythology and
Legend, Edited by M Leach & J Fried, Harper Collins 1984.


COMPETITION

We have been asked for Thor rituals and magic workings etc. We hope to be
able to include a practical article in each issue of Thunder. To encourage
submissions we are offering a 10 year free subscription for the best
ritual/magic working received!

As an alternative for our more academically minded readers, we will also
welcome fictional descriptions of Dark Age rituals based on historical evidence,
but please note, they must reflect the thunder cult theme. All competition
entries must be received by 1st May 1998.


VANIR CORNER

Thorunn Freyrsfriend

At Yule one of the important traditional images in England is the boar, or,
to be more precise, the boars head. I know there is even a boar’s head carol
which I believe was used to sing in the boars head at a Christian feast at one
of the Oxbridge Colleges.

This to me brings to mind one of the Vanir’s sacred animals; the boar. Both
Freyr and Freyja in the myths have boars. Freyr has the dwarf forged
Gullinborsti (Goldern Bristles) which shines in the dark but Slidrugtanni
(Cutting Tusks) is also mentioned for him – I don’t know whether he has two
boars or Gullingborsti has cutting tusks. Freyja has Hildisvin (Battle Boar)
which brings to mind two images: the boar with which the Anglo- Saxon Warriors
graced their helmets, and Freyja riding out to the battle-field to collect her
dead.


BACK ISSUES:

Please note all back issues of Thunder and the Wain are available from the
Thorshof Website. Print outs of the back issues can also be ordered by UK
subscribers for 50p each (plus 50p to cover postage etc.)

Thunder 1: Thunor-Rainman or God of Thunder?, Gautrek’s Saga, The
Asgardsreien, Blind Mans Buff.

Thunder 2: Thor and the Goddesses, Old Frisian Thuner Biad, The Folks Noisy
Friend, Hill Figures.

Thunder 3: Perun, Latvian Solstice, Tor Trollbane, Perkunas/Perun, The
Holy, Thorolf’s Holy Mountain.

Thunder 4: Taranis, Thor Folk Belief & Folk Magic, The Holy,
Whetstones, Costume Notes, Thorcake.

Wain 1: The Riddles of Gestumblindi, Freyr in England

Wain 2: Fro of the Dance (song), The Most Glorious of the Aesir and
Asyniur, Freyja the Spinner, The Origin of Elves, Ritual Costume.


NEW WEBSITE ARTICLES:

The Cult of Thor, Then and Now, Thorskegga Thorn The Marriage of ‘Freyja’
(the Lay of Thrym retold), Thorskegga Thorn Print outs are also available from
Thorshof for 25p each + postage.


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NEXT ISSUE:

Thor Tales from England, The Relationship between Thor and Loki,
Inspiration from the tales of Hercules.

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