On the 8th July the Grove enjoyed the hospitality of D2 (nee Zhukov) at his place in deepest, darkest Nottingham (it must be deep and dark because my satnav froze on me, refusing to tell me how to get there; it had to be coaxed into giving me the final directions – and I encountered several neanderthal drivers en route). We were pleased to welcome Greenfingers to our gathering, but we were not prepared to divulge the role of the radishes in initiation for him. Lord Locksley, unusually, was not present for he was elsewhere following his thespian bent, but the rest of us were treated to a talk on the Norse Gods and their mythology – a multi-media presentation, no less, with video and whiteboard and stuff. Wondering how to condense such a vast subject into one short evening, D2 chose to structure his talk with reference to Yggdsasil the World Ash (looking remarkably like a traditional German Christmas Tree, with pointy bits and everything). Upon this D2 showed us and then explained how the ‘nine’ worlds were arranged, and how these related to the various ‘peoples’ of Norse mythology.
I won’t repeat the whole of D2’s interesting talk, first because then those who weren’t there would otherwise reap the benefit with no effort on their part, and second because I’ve forgotten a lot of it (not D2’s fault, just my faulty memory), but here’s a sample. At the top of Yggsdrasil lies Asgard, the home of the Aesir (gods). This is where Odin and Frig rule, and where Odin’s mead hall Valhalla is to be found. Because we are the kind of people who have spent much of our lives reading ‘historical’ works of dubious provenance, comics and fairly awful D-movie retellings of tales, we all ‘knew’ that Valhalla is where all the warriors who died in battle go, there to fight all day and, restored to a full complement of arms, legs and heads, to eat, drink and be merry in the evening (thereby prefiguring re-enactment by many centuries). What we didn’t know, and this was the first of several surprises, is that it is Frig who gets first dibs on the dead, and therefore the cream of the crop, and Odin gets the rest. Frig’s warriors get to lounge about in a field in Asgard, chillin’, catching a few rays, and, as a bonus, they even get to have their families with them. It’s only the meatheads that go to Valhalla. There’s an interesting thought to ponder; what might be the mythological ‘truths’ buried in that small detail? It just further reinforces my view that ‘warrior heroes’ are little more than meatheads.
There is also a second cohort of gods and goddesses known as the Vanir who live in Vanaheim (or Vanaheimr), located a little below Asgard. These two, the Aesir and Vanir, have a long history of grudge, duffing each other up in futile wars, which they then conclude with treaties and exchange of hostages. It was at this point that D2 introduced the cunningly wrought audio-visual aid in form of a heroically orchestrated short film. Marvellous! Then D2 explained that the Vanir are the ‘old’ gods of the Norse, although the two clans are also contemporaneous with one another. However, where the Aesir are certainly embodiments of power and war, the Vanir are more related to fertility and cultivation. In fact the Vanir are related to fertility, wisdom, nature, magic, and the ability to see the future. D2 explained that the Vanir are Bronze Age gods and the Aesir are Iron Age. It makes me wonder if the mythological fisticuffs between the two clans is actually a mythologised memory of the uneasy changes that occurred in the transition between the bronze and iron ages.
D2 told us a lot more, including the nature of Midgard (where we live), Heimdall and the Rainbow Bridge (which Strider suggested was really a wormhole created by Dr. Who) the Giants of Jotunheim, the Dark and Light Elves, Nidhug the serpent coiled around the roots of Yggsdrasil who drinks the blood of us mere mortals (presumably not warriors) so that we may join the army of the dead and help attack Asgard at Ragnarok, the roots of Yggsdrasil which are located oddly in the canopy, and the curious offspring of Loki: Fenrir the wolf, Jormungand the world serpent (who lies coiled around Midgard and has a long standing enmity with Thor), his literally half dead daughter Hel and the eight legged horse Sleipnir (of whom he is the mother). Loki had some seriously confused DNA there! Again, what to make of it mythologically? It was amusing to hear how Loki made a ‘gift’ of Sleipnir to Odin; Odin, it seems, decided it would be a gift whether Loki liked it or not.
I’ve left a lot out, and so did D2 because there was the powerful need of drinks and refreshments and use of the facility to take into account. But D2 will have his arm twisted to deliver part two sometime in the future.
It was a splendid evening, a great talk, and wonderful sausages. We concluded it all by chanting the ‘sacred vow’ and the Awen, and after gassing for another prolonged period, we left to wend our various ways back home, happy and satisfied.
I don’t know what you think of Wikis, but the following have some useful information on the subject if you feel like following it up.