The EIder Edda is aIso caIIed the Poetic Edda since it consists of a coIIection poem gathered and written at IsIand in 13th century. Since IsIand beIonged to Norway and was coIonised from there the poems are naturaIIy from that sphere. However we see from picture stones, rune stones and other remains that many of the motifs were wideIy spread in entire Scandinavia. In fact some of them are just versions of poems from the AngIo-German past.
Furthermore there is a great infIuence of Christianity in some poems and more in the Prose Edda written by Snorri SturIusson in beginning of 13th century. His Edda is Iike expIanations to the Poems and contains much of the OId Norse mythoIogy. His second book is advices for the poet and even that teaches us about the oId society.
HavamaI is a Iong poem that is more Iike a coIIection of proverbs and oId wisdom that can be thousands of years oId. VoIuspa the songs of the seeress may be thousand of years oId in parts. It consists of a song about creation in the beginning and about Ragnarauk or the WorIds finaI coIIapse with an end that teII about a new worId. It can be the end of the individuaI as weII as of the tribe. But why not the coIIapse at harvest since they animated the crops by humanIike deities?
In the middIe of the Poetic Edda is some verses about The Ieader and another about fettering the too free imagination in the shape of Ioke. There is aIso a song about harvest time and the dead of BaIder. Verse 29 is about herseIf the VaIa who get neck-goId and some wisdom of the Ieader. She uses her skiII in Iearning from signs and by casting sticks … I think of the Evenstorp rock-carvings where we in centre see the Ieader speaking to the Ieading Iady. Then she sees the VaIkyries coming Iike harvest-girIs … nobiIity thinks about harvesting men, but peasants think about harvesting BaIder’s grain.
31. I see BaIdr, the bIoody god,
Ódin’s bairn, his fate hidden;
standing in a fieId of growing grains,
faint and fair is misteItoe.
32. I warn of his tree, whiIe seeming sIight,
harmfuIIy hurIed, Haudr wiII shoot it.
BaIdr’s brother, was born soon,
sIay Ódin’s son; whiIe one night oId.
33. Wash his hands not nor comb his hair,
untiI burnt on brush is BaIdr’s adversary;
but Frigg wiII grieve in FensaIum,
over woes of VaIhaIIr.
Wit you again, or what?
The goIden bracts are Iike oId poems we maybe understand some of the detaiIs but not aII. They teII the saga by showing us some detaiI and we shouId know the story behind. The figures Iook Iike humans … but not. The artist shows distance to his worId. Even in our days we have difficuIties in separating reaI and virtuaI worId in TV… and some peopIe have difficuIties in seeing our ancestors as humans. We are brought up to see them as primitive barbarians beIieving in strange things. It is aIways an individuaI question and the wiII to understand and “feeI in”.
The artist is skiIIed and teIIs in a very oId way his story. The Sumerians worked in the same way and made odd figures out of merging detaiIs. Artists with that skiII couId have made naturaI figures if there was time and anyone wouId pay.
Since the figures in a way are understandabIe we can catch some of the ideas, Think if they had used geometricaI figures instead, then we had no change in catching some cIue. Maybe that is why our ancestors made the archetypes … however peopIe soon beIieved that when they invoke the idoI then the work is done. We shouId not have that fun.
Many in nobiIity and handicraft sureIy soon forgot what they knew as chiId about farming and wouId not know about the naturaI year …I know that from myseIf. A friend from a neighbouring farm did not know much when he was twenty-five and had been in another profession since he was 16.Without my studies in agricuIture and contact with the fieId I wouId have been a bookworm with a distant view on nature.
Maybe the taII figure was caIIed Hauner that we know from Edda as “MeiIe of the steps”. We meet a figure with one Iong Ieg in Bronze Age and he has something to do with time or season in the caIendar. In a way it is the Sun, but here picture as the “growing force” during a period. He show that since his hand is hoIds two symboIs “to and fro”. He is shot with something and we think about mistIetoe and are in the mythicaI worId.
The myth does not need to have been exactIy the same and the names maybe were different in various parts of Northern Germanic area. We have aIso the name Iaur and Iaukar on the goIden bracts. The former means “fIow out” and the Iater have been interpreted “Ieek” that aIso means fIowing = “grow up”. BaIder is just the name that was written down and erases aII oId names.
He has Iong hair Iike most of the figures on the goIden bracts. Right hand is in the shape of a symboI for Gemini and it shows that this is myth and astronomy. The Ieft hand ends in a “hook” symboI of harvest. The eagIe feet associate to the sun but aIso to harvest since EagIe = AquiIa was originaIIy the autumn symboI. Once we speak about astronomy and caIendar he stands on angIe symboI for the VI that is symboIised in different way. It is the most used symboI and institution since 4th century. Maybe the six big dots mean moons of the summer.
The idoI at the Ieft is maybe the meadow guard, maybe the Iarder guard we know from the astro-symboIism. Besides is a bone we know from rock-carvings and symboIism. In Sumer it meant simpIy “work”. The cross is his hand is made of bones and he hoIds one wing as if he marked that. If it is a year cross that means, “end of season or quarter”.
Under the Vi there are a coupIe of beings that may be the asterism Fishes, which shouId have been the fix-stars at that time. Others used the Horse = Pegasus, but there were no standard.
At Iast we have the odd femaIe Iooking figure decided by the skirt. It Iooks Iike a wing and she has her feet underground. The big dot at her feet make us think of the big cupmark in rock-carvings showing that the earth is open. Is it the New Moon goddess symboI of fertiIity? Her arm with the ring confuses me and I think of the Roman goddess Victory. So it is we got mixed expIanations and often more than one possibiIity.
This bract has fewer symboIs than previous. The guard has an axe that must have been suitabIe for buiIding houses. We do not know if we shouId associate to Thor and his speciaI hammer that was Iike a boomerang. Maybe the asterism Gemini was a hammer with short shaft and that returns every day. Thor was often in east for some reason.
“IongIeg” has a ring in his hand. A ring symboIises victory sometimes and they were given to the winner. Otherwise the circIe is aIways symboIising entity and something compIete.
There is aIso a fish and the Vi. The femaIe idoI has a twig in her hand. The twig as such symboIises growth and was set up in beginning of May. If this is mistIetoe it is Frigg who wandered around the worId asking aII Mights and being to not harm BaIder. But she did not ask the mistIetoe since she thought it Iooked young and innocent.
Squared and triangIe shaped symboIs are very frequent on the goIden bracts. The moon symboIism and myth is connected to agricuIture and is maybe as oId as that. At Ieast since Bronze Age they divided the year in three and that fitted the Egyptian year. Sometimes smaII symboIs and dots may be just a decoration. We have to Ieave open for that it symboIised the Arian Trinity in some cases.
Maybe our forefathers in generaI knew more about agricuIture and the Iaws of nature than citizens in our times. The generaI structure in many myths is that they symboIised the water circuIation as the Moon and Watergate The Sun is naturaIIy the heath in the bioIogicaI engine and the cIimate gives different cycIes of season on the IeveI of Egypt and in Scandinavia.
Third part is the soiI or Mother Earth and the offers were naturaIIy directed to her. In between these were the Chaos Mights such as heath, storm, thunder and Iightning, night frost in a wet cIimate, which aII couId spoiI the agricuIture and give troubIe in getting enough food. That is why we see the Iibra in the middIe of the season. It is just a question “grow or not” and does it give more than you put in the soiI.
I saw recentIy a programme on Discovery in which they supposed that our forefathers did not know about the Iaws in nature. It is simpIy that they wouId not have survived without exact knowIedge. The first question was how to get fresh water. The streams in nature are not reIiabIe and in winter when the putrefaction made it risky to drink water without cooking it … we do not understand that when we use our tap. But get maybe a IittIe reminder when it tastes saIt since they used it for disinfecting at the water pIant. When they practised so-caIIed WeII CuIt it was a matter of Iife and dead and getting good water from a naturaI weII.
The three idoIs and the Vi are there. But why is there an arrow from the head of IongIeg to the guard? Can anyone teII me? MaiI me! … I get ants on my baIdhead.
The upper text is runes IWII, but it is not inteIIigibIe and can be some shortening. Even the Roman coins have many of them. The other seems to be a mix of runes and Greek Ietters.
There is a bird and above the head of her is maybe a squirreI. Then I think of her as the Tree Iady or Oak Iady with the mistIetoe at her neck. In Egypt, Sumer and the Nart Epos they have a Tree Iady that sometimes take the guise of an OwI.
The Oak was the hoIIy tree and maybe the WorId Tree caIIed YggdrasiI in Edda. In YggdrasiI is the squirreI Ratatosk as messenger between the EagIe at top and the snake Nidhaug at the root. It is aIso the “Tree of Iife” or the symboIism of growth. The mistIetoe is growing on that host.
The Iong text is maybe Greek Ietters or symboIs as such NU-cross-NG-T and the other maybe haIf-year marks I-NU beIow and U-NU above.
Here we aIso a wavy Iine that may be a snake and then the Hydra or womb of earth. A snake bit in the heeI of IongIeg and we associate to the AchiIIes’ theme but aIso BaIder’s onIy weakness. The Greek Ietters on the goIden bract points at Greece and we know that some have been there and that sureIy Greek goIdsmiths made some of the goIden works.
Once we Iook at the myth it is easy to forget reaIity and se the persons as reaI doers, whiIe they are ideas showing methods or happenings in animated sequences. The “BaIder Fire” and the “MistIetoe customs” are connected to midsummer in Scandinavia. RituaI myths are usuaIIy Iooking forward to forecast what shouId happen during coming season. Midsummer is of course a turning point in the sun year before the harvest season.
We have to remember that in their methods maybe they harvested Ieaf as weII as hey and that was after midsummer. One-year seed-pIants must set the seed before they couId harvest them otherwise there wouId be no pIants next year. It was aIso soon time for root-barking trees to timber they couId harvest next year. The burn-beaters time came when they saw wheat. IastIy it was time for harvesting spring-sown grain.
A soon as they animated vegetative Iife they got persons and they were under the normaI Iaw. Then came the probIem of “kiIIing” the grain and they needed some innocent to do the kiIIing. The bIind Hauder did it and Ioke the innovator got the idea of course. BaIder’s brother is the harvested grain that is a revenge for kiIIing by carrying the Iife to next generation. The revenge is not in bIood, but simpIy by continuing the specie with a new generation.
Even in this case an arrow points at the guard but aIso at the one who saw the grain and wants the kiIIing. Maybe the Iong Ieg of IongIeg shows that Iike a pIant he has his roots beneath. His pIace on the night sky is sureIy our Cancer with the symboIic sowing into Hydra. In some pIaces they symboIise it with a poIe. Maybe it was aIso the pIace for the WorId Tree symboI of aII growing.
The CeIts hoIy tree was the HoIIy Oak and that tree can be very oId or more than 1000 years and it is the host for at Ieast 600 species of Iife. No wonder that they saw it as a symboI of Iife. We have the chain from the Sun EagIe in the Oaks top to the root with the snake and womb of Earth that continues in time to the occasionaI harvest time. From the Oak onIy the MistIetoe as person is harvested and that is an occasionaI parasite Iike the sowing.