If we backtrack Hannibal across the Alps to Hungary, we find seated upon his golden throne, in his golden house, the old, white-haired, white-bearded god of eternity, the Great Heavenly Father, clad in black robes which sparkle from thousands of stars embedded in the cloth. Seated next to him, similarly attired, the Great Heavenly Mother; she having been “the ancient material from which everything was made.” The Heavenly Parents looked down “from the immeasurable heights” upon a roiling, foaming sea, the Earth not yet having been formed. Before them stood “their beautiful, golden, sunbeam-haired son, the Sun God, Magyar,” who asked his Dad when they will create the world of the Humans. After pondering, the Great Heavenly Daddy advised him to descend to the bottom of the sea, where he would find “sleeping seeds” and to bring these to the surface where they would become Humans and be his children. The Great Heavenly Youngster magically transformed into a golden, diving duck, and after one failed attempt, managed to collect the seeds and return to the surface where the seeds sprouted, grew and became living beings. It must be assumed that in his absence, Great Heavenly Pops created someplace for them to stand.
Farther north, the Universe’s origin was easily as complex as that of the ancient Greeks. Originally, there was no earth, nor sea, nor sky – only a great void named, Ginnungagap.
North of Ginnungagap (how does one determine North of a void?), lay the dark, icy realm of death: Niflheim. To the void’s South, lay the fiery realm of sparks and molten metal, known as Muspell. As a side note, at the border of Muspell resided an entity known as Surt, who guards the land with a flaming sword (one must wonder if Surt was related to the Cherubim who guard the Garden, whom we will later meet – possibly they both belonged to the Flaming-Sword-Wielding-Guardians Union), who, at the end of the world, will kill all of the gods and burn the world with fire.
Over time, sparks and molten material filled in the southern portion of the void, while a spring named, Hvergelmir, located in Niflheim, created the Elivagar, or eleven rivers, which froze, layer upon layer, until it filled in the northern half.
In Ginnungagap, where the ice, frost, wind, rain and heavy cold from Niflheim met the soft air, heat and light from Muspell, the Elivagar thawed, its drops forming a giant, evil frost ogre named Ymir. As Ymir slept, a male and female frost giant formed under his left arm, while Ymir’s legs had carnal knowledge of each other and produced another male frost giant- – from the three of whom, presumably, were descended all of the frost giants we know and love today.
Had enough yet? But wait, there’s more —
Shortly after, the same ice-melt produced a cow named, Audhumla, from which four rivers of milk flowed, feeding Ymir. Now to produce four rivers of milk, clearly the cow herself required nourishment, which she obtained by licking blocks of ice. Over three days of licking, Audhumla discovered first a head hair, then a whole head, and finally, a whole strong, handsome Man (a god-Man, not to be confused with a Human), named Buri, who somehow had a son, named Bor, who married Bestla, one of the frost giants, and the two had three sons: Vili, Ve, and Odin, the latter of whom is likely most familiar to us.
Hating Ymir, the evil frost giant, Odin and his brothers killed him. So much blood flowed from Ymir, it drowned all of the frost giants except two, Bergelmir and his wife, who escaped in a boat made from a hollowed tree trunk – an interesting twist on the flood story.
Odin, et al, made the earth from Ymir’s flesh, rocks from his teeth and bones, from his blood, the rivers, lakes and seas, and from his brains, the clouds. From his hollowed skull, they created the dome of the sky, flinging up sparks from Muspell to make the stars, the sun and the moon.
They gave one area, Jotunheim, to the remaining frost giants, then established the kingdom of Midgard, to be the home of future Humans, protecting it from the giants by fortifications made from Ymir’s eyebrows.
One day, strolling along the seashore, the brothers found two logs. Odin gave them breath and life, Vili gave them brains and feelings, while Ve gave them hearing and sight, thus creating the first Humans, from whom all of Mankind is descended. They called the Man, Ask and the Woman, Embla; as promised, Midgard became their home.
Above Midgard lies Asgard, the realm of the gods, where Odin (or Woden, as he was known in Angleland) sits on his throne and watches over all of the worlds. Midgard and Asgard are connected by a rainbow bridge named, Bifrost.
Now that’s imagination – Rome, take a lesson!
At one point in the legend, in order to somehow obtain certain magic spells that he had not previously possessed, Odin agreed to be hung from the World Tree, an ash known as Yggdrasul for nine days, while being pierced in the side with his own spear – does that have a familiar ring to it?
All of this must be true, mustn’t it? I mean, after all, it’s in the book —
Ingui Frea/Yngvi Freyr
After Odin, one of the most popular Northern European gods was without doubt Ingui Frea, a god of peace (except for defensive war) and fertility. Sacrifices to him took place in midsummer, a time when weddings were performed.
Ingui, or Yngvi, had a sister, Freyja (the “j”is silent), from whom we get our day of the week: Freyja’s day – or Friday (as in TGIF), just as Thursday was named after Odin’s son, Thor (Thor’sday?), and Wednesday from old Odin/Woden himself: Woden’sday. Always wondered why that unpronounced letter “d” was in there, didn’t you? See, I told you you’d learn something —
Freyja was portrayed as a goddess of love, beauty, and fertility and had a great love for cats, being normally depicted with one by her side.
What is known about Norse and early Germanic mythology – or religion, as it was known at the time – comes to us from two books: the Poetic Edda compiled in the 13th century from earlier traditional sources, and the Prose Edda and Heimskringla, written in the 13th century by Snorri Sturluson.
Early Christian missionaries, as was their quaint custom, sought to discredit Freyja by demonizing her, hence the best documented source of information about these gods, Norse Mythology, was altered by medieval Christian historians, claiming Freyja to be a witch and her cat, her familiar.
And that’s why witches have black cats to this very day. Next Halloween, don’t forget to ask your minister about that.