Myths and Legends
The lotus grows quietly in the garden pool. The ibis curls one foot beneath him and blinks. It is too nice a day to spoil with words.
In the wind I hear what I see ~ a low hum of vitality, the bell of flowers ringing. I pass in and out of time, eons press against my skin. I rest in a place within a place, a meadow of myself that is the world pressing close. The river flows on. Tall, thin reeds rock against the current, and the wind like a woman envelops me.
Life is liquid, cleansing, nourishing. I lie in the white mind of universe; knowing what I know, it knows me.
The fruits of the land are abundant. With the quick, bright blade of spirit I turned new ground, planted seed. I struggled with the donkey. Beneath my hand things happened ~ grapes and wheat. In time I drank wine and ate bread.
The field ploughed feeds a man, the spirit cultivated nourishes. I keep one eye on heaven and one on earth, following the seasons, walking the rhythm.
I lie on sweet hay. The sparrow’s song cuts the silence. I hear it now as I heard it ages ago. The birds are Gods. I carry their song in my belly. I am carried in the egg of silence. Even now in the long pause of possibility, quiet beneath its shell, there rises a wild honking, long flights against an autumn moon, smooth eggs waiting to be laid. An old may lying in a field feels embryonic.
Learning peace itself is a struggle. More often I know the air as it whips my face. When the wind is still, I forget the wind. Walking through town, I turn longingly to the mountain. On the mountain I gaze back on the town. When there’s much talk I withdraw into silence. When it is quiet I strain to hear some song. Having no trouble, I create some to keep the day interesting. We misunderstand the quiet. In the heat of the day I seek shadows. At night I praise the light of stars.
The moon grows legs and wanders through an old man’s heart seeking some dark corner to inspire. At midday the Gods walk through town invisible as cats. Only children and wise old men know the difference.
Even night and day struggle, make peace between themselves. We call that beautiful sunset and dawn. In the spirits of men we call it a state of grace. Unless the earth enveloped the seed and the seed struggled against the darkness, there would be no corn.
The moment we are born we begin to die. In each death we are born again. We take in the air and the air escapes us. Call it the breath of life. I no longer call loss disaster. It is the empty heart waiting to be filled. From the act of love, two bodies straining against each other, there rises the star of children. After opposition comes unity. Knowing that removes the sting of failure.
What God wants God shall have, and so I say, make it easy on yourself. The Divine Will asks only that things happen, that what it asks to exist comes to pass. My desire, my little will gives it form. If I struggle it comes anyway, malformed, a lesser power than it should be. If I give myself to it, it passes through me and I nourish it as it nourishes me.
The difference is in the knowing of it. If there is confusion, I have not allowed life, the will of God, to change me. If I know it, I am changed by it. I have ferried myself across the churning waters of emotion. I go with the current; I rock to and fro in the tide. I come to a place I never knew I was bound for. There is a reason for accidents.
When I open my mouth I let the Gods speak and it is like sparrows singing. When I open my heart I find the way, a gap through the wall of mountains. Through me I allow the world to unfold. I have the magick of earth, wind and flame.
Though the future lies shrouded in veils, if I give my will to what I know not, I shall see it all come to pass. No sorrow. No sweat. Knowing the world is as the world should be, I enter the fields of peace.
~From: Awakening Osiris
There was a day when darkness gathered itself into a hungry snake and crawled upon the earth. On her belly she crept toward the city of light, swallowing whatever lay in her path: Men and women, beasts, vegetables and Gods. And no thing that touched her lips escaped her, for all matter was lost in the darkness.
That was the day, or rather the night, that Ra left the sky and took his shape in the cat. To fool the snake, he slept under the leathery leaves of the laurel, holding in his strength, stirring only once for a single languid lick of his paws to brush against his whiskers.
Seeing the cat ~ that tasty bit of flesh, the snake slithered over and opened its mouth. On the other side of her teeth swelled the void, the abyss, the great nothing, and from it issued the cries of all the lost things of creation. Their voices were a wailing wind that beckoned from the darkness.
Then the soul of Ra in the form of a tiny cat leapt up beneath the shade of the laurel and, with teeth of iron and gold, he snapped off the head of the snake and sliced its body into a thousand pieces and swallowed them up.
Blood from the snake’s mouth spilled onto the ground. In that manner Ra’s creations returned to earth. The blood seeped into the ground and was taken up by the thirsty laurel, which burst into bloom with the souls of the dead in the shape of yellow flowers.
Now leaning down from the east edge of heaven, the God of words had witnessed the battle. He had felt each puncture of the snake’s teeth upon his own throat and praised the cat which had given its shape to Ra.
“How like the God that made him is the radiant cat. How he slew the darkness with his mouth!” And Mau became the cat’s name and the God gave him words of power.
I have stood on the eastern bank beneath that flowering laurel ~ it is old now; its roots gnarled but still bursting with life ~ and I have gazed at the sky seeing daily the same battle. The sun rises. Light overcomes darkness and the high pink clouds of morning are tinged with the blood of the snake.
I am like that cat, overcoming my own darknesses. The soul duels fear and doubt and inertia, for these are the children of the snake, the worms hidden in the clay of being that would gnaw a man to death even while he lived.
I am that cat. I stand up and fight. I struggle with the evils of my own petty insistence. The battle of old Gods wages in my. I am a creature of history ~ human and divine. I am the scroll of numerous myths, one teller of a single story.
Now the sun rises as the gold egg of God, whole light of the world, saffron cake of being. Ra shines from his disk in heaven. He rises up ~ a golden wonder, a bead on the throat of sky. Gusts of wind issue forth as warm breath of his mouth and drive the boats along the water, sails the sun over a river of sky and enlivens the nostrils of his people.
He rises, making plain the two worlds of heaven and earth. I see myself by the light of my becoming.
~ From Awakening Osiris
I flew straight out of heaven, a mad bird full of secrets. I came into being as I came into being. I grew as I grew. I changed as I change. My mind is fire, my soul fire. The cobra wakes and spits fire in my eyes.
I rise through ochre smoke into black air enclosed in a shower of stars. I am what I have made. I am the seed of every God, beautiful as evening, hard as light. I am the last four days of yesterday, four screams from the edges of the earth ~ beauty, terror, truth, madness ~ the phoenix on his pyre.
In a willow I made my nest of flowers and snakes, sandalwood and myrrh. I am waiting for eternity. I’m waiting for four hundred years to pass before I dance on flame, turn this desert to ash, before I rise, waking from gold and purple dreams into the season of God.
I will live forever in the fire spun from my own wings. I will suffer burns that burn to heal. I destroy and create myself like the sun that rises burning from the east and dies burning in the west.
To know the fire, I become the fire. I am power. I am light. I am forever. On earth and in heaven I am. This is my body, my work. This is my deliverance.
The heat of transformation is unbearable, yet change is necessary. it burns up the useless, the diseased. Time is a cool liquid, it flows away like a river. We shall see no end of it.
Generation after generation, I create myself. It is never easy. Long nights I waited, lost in myself considering the stars. I wage a battle against darkness, against my own ignorance, my resistance to change, my sentimental love for my own folly. Perfection is a difficult task.
I lose and find my way over again. One task done gives rise to others. There is no end to the work left to do. That is harsh eternity. There is no end to becoming. I live forever striving for perfection.
I praise the moment I die in fire for the veils of illusion burn with me. I see how hard we strive for truth, and once attained, how easily we forget it. I hold that fire as long as I can. My nose fills with the smell of seared flesh, the acrid smoke of death, so that years from now I might look on that scar and remember how it was to hold the light, how it was to die and come again radiant as light walking on sand.
I change and change again, generation after generation. I find anguish then peace.
I am satisfied with my birth and the fate to which it led me. I do not regret the discomforts and terrors of my mortality any more than I regret the company of angels. I have entered fire. I become invisible, yet I breathe in the flow of sun, in the eyes of children, in the light that animates the white cliffs at dawn.
I am the God in the world in everything, even in darkness. If you have not seen me there, you have not looked. I am the fire that burns you, that burns in you. To live is to die a thousand deaths, but there is only one fire, one eternity.
~From Awakening Osiris
Ægir was the ruler of the ocean, and his home was deep down below the tossing waves, where the water is calm and still. There was his beautiful palace, in the wonderful coral caves; its walls all hung with bright-colored seaweeds, and the floor of white, sparkling coral sand. Such wonderful sea-plants grew all about, and still more wonderful creatures, some, which you could not tell from flowers, waving their pretty fringes in the water; some sitting fastened to the rocks and catching their food without moving, like the sponges; others darting about and chasing each other.
“Deep in the wave is a coral grove,
Where the purple mullet and goldfish rove;
Where the sea-flower spreads its leaves of blue,
That never are wet with falling dew,
But in bright and changeful beauty shine
Far down in the green and glassy brine.
The floor is of sand, like the mountain drift,
And the pearl-shells spangle the flinty snow;
From coral rocks the sea-plants lift
Their boughs where the tides and billows flow.
The water is calm and still below,
For the winds and waves are absent there,
And the sands are bright as the stars that glow
In the motionless fields of upper air.”
In that ocean home lived the lovely mermaids, who sometimes came up above the waves to sit on the rocks and comb their long golden hair in the sunshine. They had heads and bodies like beautiful maidens, with fish-tails instead of feet.
One day the gods in Asgard gave a feast, and Ægir was invited. He could not often leave home to visit Asgard, for he was always very busy with the ocean winds and tides and storms; but calling his daughters, the waves, he bade them keep the ocean quiet while he was away, and look after the ships at sea.
Then Ægir went over Bifröst, the rainbow bridge, to Asgard, where they had such a gay party and such feasting that he was sorry when the time came to go home; but at last he said good-by to Father Odin and the rest of the Æsir.
He thanked them all for the pleasure they had given him, saying, “If only I had a kettle that held enough mead for us all to drink, I would invite you to visit me.”
Thor, who was always glad to hear about eating and drinking, said, “I know of a kettle a mile wide and a mile deep; I will fetch it for you!”
Then Ægir was pleased, and set a day for them all to come to his great feast.
So Thor took with him his brother, the brave Tyr, who knew best how to find the kettle; and together they started off in Thor’s thunder chariot, drawn by goats, on their way to Utgard, the home of the giants.
When they reached that land of ice and snow, they soon found the house of Hymir, the giant who owned “Mile-deep,” as the big kettle was called. The gods were glad to find that the giant was not at home, and his wife, who was more gentle than most of her people, asked them to come in and rest, advising them to be ready to run when they should hear the giant coming, and to hide behind a row of kettles which hung from a beam at the back end of the hall.
“For,” said she, “my husband may be very angry when he finds strangers here, and often the glance of his eye is so fierce that it kills!”
At first the mighty Thor and brave Tyr were not willing to hide like cowards; but at last they agreed to the plan, upon the good wife promising to call them out as soon as she had told her husband about them.
It was not long before they heard the heavy steps of Hymir, as he came striding into his icy home; and very lucky it was for Thor and Tyr that the giantess had told them to hide, for when the giant heard that two of the Æsir from Asgard were in his home, so fierce a flash shot from his eyes that it broke the beam from which the kettles hung, and they all fell broken on the floor except Mile-deep.
After a while the giant grew quiet, and at last even began to be polite to his guests. He had been unlucky at his fishing that day, so he had to kill three of his oxen for supper. Thor being hungry, as usual, made Hymir quite angry by eating two whole oxen, so that, when they rose from the table the giant said, “If you keep on eating as much at every meal, as you have to-night, Thor, you will have to find your own food.”
“Very well,” said Thor; “I will go fishing with you in the morning!”
Next morning Thor set forth with the giant, and as they walked over the fields toward the sea, Thor cut off the head of one of the finest oxen, for bait. Of course you may know that Hymir was not pleased at this, but Thor said he should need the very best kind of bait, for he was hoping to catch the Midgard serpent, that dangerous monster who lived at the bottom of the ocean, coiled around the world, with his tail in his mouth.
When they came to the shore where the boat was ready, each one took an oar, and they rowed out to deep water. Hymir was tired first, and called to Thor to stop. “We are far enough out!” he cried “This is my usual fishing-place, where I find the best whales. If we go farther the sea will be rougher, and we may run into the Midgard serpent.”
As this was just what Thor wanted, he rowed all the harder, and did not stop until they were far out on the ocean; then he baited his hook with the ox’s head, and threw it overboard. Soon there came a fierce jerk on the line; it grew heavier and heavier, but Thor pulled with all his might. He tugged so hard that he broke through the bottom of the boat, and had to stand on the slippery rocks beneath.
All this time the giant was looking on, wondering what was the matter, but when he saw the horrid head of the Midgard serpent rising above the waves, he was so frightened that he cut the line; and Thor, after trying so hard to rid the world of that dangerous monster, saw him fall back again under the water; even Miölnir, the magic hammer, which Thor hurled at the creature, was too late to hit him. And so the two fishermen had to turn back, and wade to the shore, carrying the broken boat and oars with them.
The giant was proud to think he had been too quick for Thor, and after they reached the house he said to the thunder-god, “Since you think you are so strong, let us see you break this goblet; if you succeed, I will give you the big kettle.”
This was just what Thor wanted; so he tightened his belt of strength, and threw the goblet with all his might against the wall; but instead of breaking the goblet he broke the wall.
A second time he tried, but did no better. Then the giant’s wife whispered to Thor, “Throw it at his head!” And she sang in a low voice, as she turned her spinning-wheel,—
“Hard the pillar, hard the stone,
Harder yet the giant’s bone!
Stones shall break and pillars fall,
Hymir’s forehead breaks them all!”
Yet again Thor threw the goblet, this time against the giant’s head, and it fell, broken in pieces.
Then Tyr tried to lift the Mile-deep kettle, for he was in a hurry to leave this land of ice and snow; but he could not stir it from its place, and Thor had to help him, before they could get it out of the giant’s house.
When Hymir saw the gods, whom he hated, carrying off his kettle, he called all his giant friends, and they started out in chase of the Æsir; but when Thor heard them coming he turned and saw their fierce, grinning faces glaring down at him from every rocky peak and iceberg.
Then the mighty Thunderer raised Miölnir, the hammer, above his head, and hurled it among the giants, who became stiff and cold, all turned into giant rocks, that still stand by the shore.
Ægir was very glad to get Mile-deep; so he set to work to make the mead in it, to get ready for the great feast, at the time of the flax harvest, when all the Æsir were coming from Asgard to visit him.
Before the day came, all light and joy had gone from the sacred city, because the bright Baldur had been slain, and the homes of the gods were dark and lonely without him. So they were all glad to visit Ægir, to find cheer for their sadness.
There was Father Odin, with his golden helmet, and Queen Frigga, wearing her crown of stars, golden-haired Sif, Freyja, with Brisingamen, the wonderful necklace, and all the noble company of the Æsir, all except mighty Thor, who had gone far away to the giant-land.
As they all sat in Ægir’s beautiful ocean hall, drinking the sweet mead, and talking together, Loki came in and stood before them; but, finding he was not welcome, and no seat saved for him, he began saying ugly things to make them all angry, and at last he grew angry himself, and slew Ægir’s servant because they praised him.
The Æsir drove him out from the hall, but once more he came in, and said such dreadful things that at last Frigga said, “Oh, if my son Baldur were only here, he would silence thy wicked tongue!”
Then Loki turned to Frigga, and told her that he himself was the very one who had slain Baldur. He had no sooner spoken than a heavy peal of thunder shook the hall, and angry Thor strode in, waving his magic hammer. Seeing this, the coward Loki turned and fled, and Asgard was rid of him forever.
As the years passed Wainamoinen
Recognized his waning powers,
Sang his farewell song to Northland,
To the people of Wainola;
Sang himself a boat of copper,
Beautiful his bark of magic;
At the helm sat the magician,
Sat the ancient wisdom-singer.
Westward, westward, sailed the hero
O’er the blue-back of the waters,
Singing as he left Wainola,
This his plaintive song and echo:
“Suns may rise and set in Suomi,
Rise and set for generations,
When the North will learn my teachings,
Will recall my wisdom-sayings,
Hungry for the true religion.
Then will Suomi need my coming,
Watch for me at dawn of morning,
That I may bring back the Sampo,
Bring anew the harp of joyance,
Bring again the golden moonlight,
Bring again the silver sunshine,
Peace and plenty to the Northland.”
~Kalevala / Rune 50 (John Martin Crawford translation)
In the very earliest of times,
When both people and animals lived on the earth,
A person could become an animal if he wanted to
And an animal could become a human being.
Sometimes they were people
And sometimes animals
And there was no difference.
All spoke the same language.
That was a time when words were like magic.
The human mind had mysterious powers.
A word spoken by chance
Might have strange consequences.
It would suddenly become alive
And what people said wanted to happen
Could happen ~
All you had to do was say it
Nobody could explain this:
That’s the way it was.
~An Old Eskimo story found at Feathers and Bones
From the “Poetic” Edda, one of the primary written sources for Norse mythology, here is one translation of the Havamàl which speaks about the runes and runic power.
Do you know, how to carve them?
Do you know, how to read them?
Do you know, how to color them?
Do you know, how to understand them?
Do you know, how to pray?
Do you know, how to sacrifice?
Do you know, how to send?
Do you know, how to discard?
Better not to pray at all,
than to sacrifice too much.
A gift requires a gift in return.
Better not to send at all,
than to counteract too much.
Thus carved Thund before time,
when he rose, when he returned.
The Havamàl is part of the Elder or “Poetic” Edda, which is one of the primary written sources for Norse mythology. This excerpt from the W. H. Auden and P. B. Taylor translation of the Havamàl contains Odin’s telling of how he obtained the runes and runic power.
Wounded I hung on a wind-swept gallows
For nine long nights,
Pierced by a spear, pledged to Odin,
Offered, myself to myself
The wisest know not from whence spring
The roots of that ancient rood.
They gave me no bread,
They gave me no mead,
I looked down;
With a loud cry
I took up runes;
From that tree I fell.
Nine lays of power
I learned from the famous Bolthor, Bestla’ s father:
He poured me a draught of precious mead,
Mixed with magic Odrerir.
Waxed and throve well;
Word from word gave words to me,
Deed from deed gave deeds to me.
Runes you will find, and readable staves,
Very strong staves,
Very stout staves,
Staves that Bolthor stained,
Made by mighty powers,
Graven by the prophetic God.
For the Gods by Odin, for the Elves by Dain,
By Dvalin, too, for the Dwarves,
By Asvid for the hateful Giants,
And some I carved myself:
Thund, before man was made, scratched them,
Who rose first, fell thereafter.
Know how to cut them,
know how to read them,
Know how to stain them,
know how to prove them,
Know how to evoke them,
know how to score them,
Know how to send them,
know how to send them.
Better not to ask than to over-pledge
As a gift that demands a gift.
Better not to send
Than to slay too many.
In the beginning was Muspell, the realm of fire. It is a place of dreadful light and heat. Only its natives, the Fire Giants, can tolerate its flames. Surt, a Fire Giant, guards Muspell’s border, armed with a flaming sword. At the end of the era, at Ragnarok, Surt and his companions will destroy all the Gods and and their world with fire.
Outside of Muspell lies the void called Ginnungagap, and north of Ginnungagap is Niflheim, the world of awesome dark and cold. In this world are eleven rivers flowing from a great well. The rivers are frozen and occupy Ginnungagap. When the wind, rain, ice, and cold meet the heat and fire of Muspell in the center of Ginnungagap, a place of light, air, and warmth is born.
Where fire and ice first met, thawing drops appeared. Beneath the melting ice lay a Frost Giant named Ymir. Ymir slept, falling into a sweat. Under his left arm there grew a couple, male and female Giants. One of his legs begot a son with the other.
The melting frost became a cow called Audhumla from whose udders ran four rivers of milk that fed Ymir.
After one day of licking salty ice blocks, she freed a man’s hair from the ice. After two days, his head appeared. On the third day the whole man was released from the ice. The man’s name was Buri. Buri had a son named Bor. Bor married Bestla, the daughter of a Giant, with whom he had three sons. Odin was the first, Vili the second, and Vé the third. Odin, in association with his brothers, is the ruler of heaven and earth. He is the greatest and most famous of all Gods.
Odin and his brothers killed the Giant Ymir. They carried Ymir to the middle of Ginnungagap and created the world, called Midgard, from his body. Ymir’s blood became the sea and and lakes. His skull became the cover of the sky which was set over the earth. Ymir’s brains were tossed into the air, and became clouds. Then sparks and burning embers from Muspell were placed in the middle of Ginnungagap to give light to Midgard. They named the stars and set their paths. Ymir’s skeleton became the mountains of Midgard. His teeth and jaws became rocks and pebbles. His flesh was ground into dirt in the great mill Grottekvarnen. Ymir’s hair became trees. Maggots appeared in Ymir’s flesh became Dwarves, who had human understanding and the appearance of men, but lived in the earth. Under each corner of the sky the suns of Buri put a Dwarf. The four Dwarves are called Austri (East), Vestri (West), Nordri (North), and Sudri (South).
Midgard was surrounded by an enormous ocean. Odin, Vili and Vé gave lands along the coasts to the friendlier Giants, the Etin, for their settlements. From two trees they created a human man and woman. Odin gave the man and the woman spirit and life. Vili gave them understanding and the power of movement. Vé gave them clothing and names. The man was named Ask [Ash] and the woman Embla [Elm]. Ask and Embla are the ancestors of all humans in Midgard.
Next they built Åsgard, the home of the Gods. In a hall named Hlidskjálf, Odin sits on a high seat from which he can look out over the whole world. Odin married Frigga, the daughter of the Giant Fjörgvin.
Yggdrasil, the World-Tree, the tree of fate, arises in the center of the Midgard. Its branches reach up over Asgard. The entire universe is dependent on the World-Tree. The tree has three three roots. One reaches into the underworld Hel, another to the world of the Frost-Giants, and the last one to the world of human beings. Beneath the tree is the Urda well, guarded by the Norns, the three Goddesses of Fate. Two other wells also feed Yggdrasil. One is called Hvergelmer, and the other is Mimer’s well. The dragon Nidhog lies in Hvergelmer and gnaws on the roots of the tree. Mimer’s well is the well of wisdom, guarded by the wisest of all beings, Mimer. Odin once gave his right eye for a drink of the water from this well.
The Gods built a bridge called Bifröst from Asgard (heaven) to Midgard (earth). They ride daily over the great rainbow bridge. Bifröst is guarded by the God Heimdall. Heimdall sleeps lighter than a bird, sees one hundred travel-days in each direction, and has such sharp ears that he can hear the grass and the wool grow. But as strong as Bifröst is, it will collapse when the when the Frost Giants ride out over it at Ragnarok. There is nothing that can be relied on when the sons of Muspell are on the warpath.
Gods & Goddeses
The Norse deities are divided into two major groups, the Aesir and the Vanir. The Vanir, the “Earth Gods”, symbolize riches, fertility, and fecundity. They are associated with the earth and the sea. The most important Gods of the Vanir are Njord, Freyr, Aegir and Freya.
The Aesir, the “Sky Gods”, symbolize power, wisdom, and war. They are long lived, but not immortal. Odin is the leader of the Gods, with magical skills. Thor, with his magic hammer, is the God of Thunder who presides over working men. Loki is a Giant who is an Aesir by adoption. He and Odin made a vow of friendship and became blood-brothers. Loki is a trickster, a shapeshifter, and a troublemaker.
In the distant past a fierce war was fought between the Aesir and the Vanir. The conflict between the Gods began when Odin and Thor refused to recognize the full status of Godhood to the Vanir. The Vanir sent a beautiful woman, Gullveig (gold-drink), to the Aesir, who tried to destroy her. She came back to life three times, and led to their corruption. War then broke out. After both sides were exhausted, each side exchanged members of its group with the other; the Vanir sent Njord and his son and daughter Freyr and Freya, the Aesir sent Mimir and Hoenir. The truce was celebrated by a meeting at which all the Gods spit into a bowl, creating a Giant called Kvasir, who is the sign of peace and harmony among the deities. Kvasir was later sacrificed and from his blood became a potent drink which inebriates deities and gives inspiration to poets.
Balder, one of the sons of Odin, appeared as the essence of intelligence, piety, and wisdom. Both Gods and men came to him to settle legal disputes, and his judgments were reconciling and fair. Balder had a dream in which his life was threatened. Upon reporting this dream to his mother, Frigga, she exacted an oath from fire, water, metals, earth, stones, and all birds and animals. They swore they would not harm Balder. Because of his immunity, the Aesir used Balder as a target in games, throwing darts and stones at him. When Loki saw this, he disguised himself as a woman and asked Frigga why Balder suffered no harm. Frigga told him of the oath. Loki tricked her into telling him that mistletoe was the only being that did not agree to the oath. Loki immediately took mistletoe and created arrows. He took the arrows to the Blind God Hoder, brother of Balder, and volunteered to direct his aim so that he would participate in the game. When the mistletoe struck Balder, Balder fell dead.
Because Balder was not a warrior and did not die in battle, he did not go to Valhalla, the hall of slain heroes, but into the domain of Hel, Keeper of the Dead. When Odin begged his release, Hel (Loki’s daughter) responded that if everything in the world both dead and alive wept for Balder, then he could return to the Aesir. If not, he would remain with Hel. The Aesir sent messengers throughout the world asking all to weep for Balder. All responded except a Giantess, Thokk (Loki in disguise), whose refusal to weep forced Balder to remain in Hel’s domain. The Aesir succeeded in capturing Loki. To punish him for his many crimes, they chained him beneath a serpent, which dripped venom onto him, causing terrible pain.
The Ragnarok, or end of the world, has been prophesied. When Mirmir no longer guards his well, Yggdrasil’s root will begin to rot. The Nidhog dragon will finally succeed in knawing through the root that ends at Hvergelmer well. The Norns will be alarmed at the pollution of the Urdh well and the yellowing of the leaves of the world tree. Odin’s sacrificed eye lies in Mirmir’s well and sees what is to come. He knows that nothing can stop Fibulwinter, three years with endless winter, which will be followed by Ragnarok.
The days will grow colder until even Urda well freezes solid. Storm and sleet will pound the World-Tree. One of Yggdrasil’s branches will break and fall, striking Jormungand, the world serpent, which immediately will let go of its tail. The Hel ship Naglfar will become visible in the mist. The wolves Skoll and Manegarm will get closer and closer to Sun and Moon, which they have chased for eons. Fenrir wolf and and the Hel-wolf Garm will break their chains. Giants will release Loki from his fetters on the mountain. Nidhoggr will leave the roots of Yggdrasil and head toward Asgard. Behind him will march all the Giants. Heimdall will see all this, and will take up the Gjallarhorn to blow the warning.
Loki will lead monsters and Giants to attack the Gods in the great battle of Ragnarok on Vigrid plain. The leader of the Fire Giants, Surt, will attack Freyr, who will be armed only with a deer’s antler. Freyr will stick his deer horn through Surt’s eye, but then Surt will kill him with his flaming sword. Thor’s son Magni will send a killing arrow toward Nidhoggr’s head. Side by side, Odin and Thor will fight Fenrir and Jormungand. Odin will put his spear, Gungnir, in Fenrir’s chest, but the wolf will crush Odin to the ground. Thor will kill Jormungand with his hammer, Mjollnir, but then will take nine steps backwards and fall down, poisoned by the serpent’s venom. Tyr will kill the wolf dog Garm. Vidar will take revenge for Odin. The enemies Loki and Heimdall will their spears at each other at the same time and both will die. Modi will be surrounded by Giants, but Magni and Vidar will rescue him.
The winds will increase and blow Yggdrasil from every direction until the great World-Tree falls. The Dark Elves forge will tip and the World-Tree will burn. The Bifrost Rainbow Bridge will collapse and one by one each of the Worlds will fall. The remaining Aesir will escape in Freyr’s ship, Skidbladnir. It will be almost taken by the Hel-ship Naglfar. Midgard will then be destroyed by fire, and will sink back into the sea.
This final destruction will be followed by a rebirth, the Earth reemerging from the sea. Seven sons of the dead Aesir will return to Asgard and rule the universe.
As we saw in a previous post, the Seven Macaw was getting way too full of himself.
Here we have the beginning of the defeat and destruction of the day of Seven Macaw by the two boys, the first named Hunahpu and the second named Xbalanque.
Being gods, the two of them saw evil in his attempt at self-magnification before the Heart of Sky. So the boys talked: “It’s no good without life, without people here on the face of the earth.”
“Well then, let’s try a shot. We could shoot him while he’s at his meal. We could make him ill, then put an end to his riches, his jade, his metal, his jewels, his gems, the source of his brilliance. Everyone might do as he does, but it should not come to be that fiery splendor is merely a matter of metal. So be it,” said the boys, each one with a blowgun on his shoulder, the two of them together.
And this Seven Macaw has two sons: the first of these is Zipacna, and the second is the Earthquake. And Chimalmat is the name of their mother, the wife of Seven Macaw.
And this is Zipacna, this is the one to build up the great mountains: Fire Mouth, Hunahpu, Cave by the Water, Xcanul, Macamob, Huliznab, as the names of the mountains that were there at the dawn are spoken. They were brought forth by Zipacna in a single night.
And now this is the Earthquake. The mountains are moved by him; the mountains, small and great, are softened by him. The sons of Seven Macaw did this just as a means of self-magnification.
“Here am I: I am the sun,” said Seven Macaw.
“Here am I: I am the maker of the earth,” said Zipacna.
“As for me, I bring down the sky, I make an avalanche of all the earth,” said Earthquake. The sons of Seven Macaw are alike, and like him: they got their greatness from their father.
And the two boys saw evil in this, since our first mother and father could not yet be made. Therefore deaths and disappearances were planned by the two boys.
And here is the shooting of the Seven Macaw by the two boys. We shall explain the defeat of each one of those who engaged in self-magnification.
This is the great tree of Seven Macaw, a nance, and this is the food of Seven Macaw. In order to eat the fruit of the nance he goes up the tree every day. Since Hunahpu and Xbalanque have seen where he feeds, they are now hiding beneath the tree of Seven Macaw, they are keeping quiet here, the two boys are in the leaves of the tree.
They are now hiding beneath the tree of Seven Macaw. In this classic Maya vase painting from the lowlands, Seven Macaw is shown perched in the top of a fruit tree. The tree itself is portrayed as animate, with a face and ears at its base. Hidden behind the tree is Xbalanque, whose pawlike hand protrudes above the tree’s left ear. Crouching at the right is Hunahpu, in the act of shooting Seven Macaw with his blowgun. (The presence of a scorpion beneath the tree remains unexplained.)
And when Seven Macaw arrived, perching over his meal, the nance, it was then that he was shot by Hunahpu. The blowgun shot went right to his jaw, breaking his mouth. Then he went up over the tree and fell flat on the ground. Suddenly Hunahpu appeared, running. He set out to grab him, but actually it was the arm of Hunahpu that was seized by Seven Macaw. He yanked it straight back, he bent it back at the shoulder. Then Seven Macaw tore it right out of Hunahpu. Even so, the boys did well: the first round was not their defeat by Seven Macaw.
And when Seven Macaw had taken the arm of Hunahpu, he went home. Holding his jaw very carefully, he arrived: “What have you got there?” said Chimalmat, the wife of Seven Macaw.
“What is it but those two tricksters! They’ve shot me, they’ve dislocated my jaw. All my teeth are just loose, now they ache. But once what I’ve got is over the fire- hanging there, dangling over the fire- then they can just come and get it. They’re real tricksters!” said Seven Macaw, then he hung up the arm of Hunahpu.
Meanwhile Hunahpu and Xbalanque were thinking. And then they invoked a grandfather, a truly white-haired grandfather, and a grandmother, a truly humble grandmother- just bent-over, elderly people. Great White Peccary is the name of the grandfather, and Great White Tapir is the name of the grandmother. The boys said to the grandmother and grandfather:
“Please travel with us when we go to get our arm from Seven Macaw; we’ll just follow right behind you. You’ll tell him: ‘Do forgive us our grandchildren, who travel with us. Their mother and father are dead, and so they follow along there, behind us. Perhaps we should give them away, since all we do is pull worms out of teeth.’ So we’ll seem like children to Seven Macaw, even though we’re giving you the instructions,” the two boys told them.
“Very well,” they replied.
After that they approached the place where Seven Macaw was in front of his home. When the grandmother and grandfather passed by, the two boys were romping along behind them. When they passed below the lord’s house, Seven Macaw was yelling his mouth off because of his teeth. And when Seven Macaw saw the grandfather and grandmother traveling with them:
“Where are you headed, our grandfather?” said the lord.
“We’re just making our living, your lordship,” they replied.
“Why are you working for a living? Aren’t those your children traveling with you?”
“No, they’re not, your lordship. They’re our grandchildren, our descendants, but it is nevertheless we who take pity on them. The bit of food they get is the portion we give them, your lordship,” replied the grandmother and grandfather. Since the lord is getting done in by the pain in his teeth, it is only with great effort that he speaks again:
“I implore you, please take pity on me! What sweets can you make, what poisons can you cure?” said the lord.
“We just pull the worms out of teeth, and we just cure eyes. We just set bones, your lordship,” they replied.
“Very well, please cure my teeth. They really ache, every day. It’s insufferable! I get no sleep because of them- and my eyes. They just shot me, those two tricksters! Ever since it started I haven’t eaten because of it. Therefore take pity on me! Perhaps it’s because my teeth are loose now.”
“Very well, your lordship. It’s a worm, gnawing at the bone. It’s merely a matter of putting in a replacement and taking the teeth out, sir.”
“But perhaps it’s not good for my teeth to come out- since I am, after all, a lord. My finery is in my teeth- and my eyes.”
“But then we’ll put in a replacement. Ground bone will be put back in.” And this is the “ground bone”: it’s only white corn.
“Very well. Yank them out! Give me some help here!” he replied.
And when the teeth of Seven Macaw came out, it was only white corn that went in as a replacement for his teeth- just a coating shining white, that corn in his mouth. His face fell at once, he no longer looked like a lord. The last of his teeth came out, the jewels that had stood out blue from his mouth.
And then the eyes of Seven Macaw were cured. When his eyes were trimmed back the last of his metal came out. Still he felt no pain; he just looked on while the last of his greatness left him. It was just as Hunahpu and Xbalanque had intended.
And when Seven Macaw died, Hunahpu got back his arm. And Chimalmat, the wife of Seven Macaw, also died.
Such was the loss of the riches of Seven Macaw: only the doctors got the jewels and gems that had made him arrogant, here on the face of the earth. The genius of the grandmother, the genius of the grandfather did its work when they took back their arm: it was implanted and the break got well again. Just as they had wished the death of Seven Macaw, so they brought it about. They had seen evil in his self-magnification.
After this the two boys went on again. What they did was simply the word of the Heart of Sky.
From: Popol Vuh: the Mayan Book of the Dawn of Life
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