Tuesday, November 27, 2007

The Saboteurs

What a missed opportunity for mainstream heathenism to not get the underlying saga of sabotage that Gullveig and Loki represent!! (For heaven's sakes, large amounts of heathens insult our Vanadis by identifying her with her arch-enemy!!)

Gullveig and Loki take part in a tragic tale of folly and sabotage, a story which understood correctly brings wisdom.

Each of them represents types, types of men and women we will each meet throughout our lives. Most people, in fact, will follow Gullveig or Loki unless they gain in wisdom and worth themselves out of that drag of sin. Many, many women you will meet will be a thrall to Gullveig, and probably most men you will meet will be a thrall of Loki. (Hint : even the ones who think they are friends of the gods. Remember, these saboteurs install themselves in the very heart of the gods' garth, "befriending" them, and work their terrible woe from within, all under friendly guises.) Is it pessimistic or realistic to diagnose that many one will encounter will be liars, self-serving charmers, thieves, seducers, back-biters, cursers, traitors, and strivers (literally strife-ers)?

A good portion of Havamal represents Odin's reflections on his bitter experience with Loki, as well as his warnings about Gullveig.

Warnings Against Gullveig :

115. I counsel thee, Loddfafnir,
to take advice,
thou wilt profit if thou takest it.
In an enchantress’s embrace
thou mayest not sleep,
so that in her arms she clasp thee.

116. She will be the cause
that thou carest not
for Thing or prince’s words;
food thou wilt shun
and human joys;
sorrowful wilt thou go to sleep."

120. I saw mortally
wound a man
a wicked woman’s words;
a false tongue
caused his death,
and most unrighteously."

Warnings Against Loki :

119. I counsel thee, etc.
A bad man
let thou never
know thy misfortunes;
for from a bad man
thou never wilt obtain
a return for thy good will."

124. I counsel thee, etc.
Words thou never
shouldst exchange
with a witless fool;

125. for from an ill-conditioned man
thou wilt never get
a return for good;
but a good man will
bring thee favour
by his praise."

(Thorpe translation)

Odin has learned the hard way that when you enter a hall, even a seemingly friendly one, even your own, foes may lurk therein, and that is therefore the first lesson he passes on :

1. All door-ways,
before going forward,
should be looked to;
for difficult it is to know
where foes may sit
within a dwelling."

Modern heathenry doesn't get that tremendously friendly advice is being given, along with poignant warnings about these types. Gullveig, Freya's adversary, will seem as Freya to many at first, beautiful, seductive, gold-admiring, enchanting, magical, and powerful. Loki, Odin's adversary, will imitate the crazy wisdom of Odin and seem mercurial, playful, humorful, full of jokes. But "trickster" is not the right word for this brother-sister pair : saboteurs are the right word. They are lovable in their own right, be certain of that, and that is part of their charm ; they have immense charm, but that charm has an inherent tendency to turn ill in the end, and as things progress, and one gets more and more entangled with such people, they tend to become more and more monstrous.

It is the people you invite into your very home as friends who you must be most wary of. Many appear to shine at first. They have either the charm of the sociopath (Loki) or of the borderline personality disorder (Gullveig). But after a short time, one begins to see signs that not all is right. Such saboteurs, however, have an amazing ability to dissimulate and explain away all the red flags that continue to pop up. Anomaly after anomaly, one bad thing after another --- just reports, rumors, suspicions, feelings, intuitions --- all dismissed, explained away, with amazing persuasive force and acumen, but after a time, it is simply too much to wave away. For five-sixths of the friendship, it seemed as if they were fast friends, but too late, almost it is revealed that they are really wolves in sheep's clothing :

51. Hotter than fire
love for five days burns
between false friends;
but is quenched
when the sixth day comes,
and friendship is all impaired."

This is why

81. At eve the day is to be praised,
a woman after she is burnt,
a sword after it is proved,
a maid after she is married,
ice after it has passed away,
beer after it is drunk."

While the second line of the stanza in general means that one should not praise a life until it has reached its end at the funeral pyre (and then one can fully evaluate), there is yet an underlying, powerful, and bitter allusion to Gullveig here as well : up to her burning she seems to be all charm, but it is only after one has decided to burn her that one begins to see the kind of strife she has caused. (Gullveig brings strife between the Aesir and Vanir clan ; Loki brings strife between the Dwarf and Elf clan.)

This is not advice that everyone has to take, and indeed, Gullveig remains invisible, hidden within identifications with Freya, but as far as this advice and warning go,

Profit thou hast if thou hearest,
Great thy gain if thou learnest..."

One should not be fooled by their charm, for it wraps around ill, and an ill that will not allow itself to be healed, which is the worst kind of ill. They must be recognized, and told that

“Thine evil words shall work no ill,
Though... bitter thy baleful threats" (Hyndluljod 35, Bellows translation)

and cast out of one's house. Saxo puts the matter quite nicely. After Odin returns from
the exile imposed on him by the Vanir during the Van-As War, he

"qui per absentiam suam caelestium honorum titulos gesserant, tamquam alienos deponere
coegit subortosque magorum coetus veluti tenebras quasdam superveniente numinis sui
fulgore discussit."

"Those who during his absence had carried on the honor and distinction of
heavenly gods he rounded up and cast away as strangers to the family, and
the gang of sorcerers that had risen up he scattered like darkness before the
brightness of his divinity." (Hint : this gang of sorcerers and practitioners
of praestigiarum (deception, illusion, tricks, hoodwinking) are not the Vanir,
but Mithothyn and his kin. We instantly know who Mithothyn (means : With Odin,
one known as his companion) is when we are told that "Mithothyn quidam praestigiis
celeber", "Mithothyn who was celebrated for his tricks." This is Loki and his sister
Heid. They had dressed themselves up like gods, but they were no friends of the
family, and had acted as a gang of sorcerors, and thus they were exiled.

Is Odin here referring to Gullveig when he says :

"84. In a maiden’s words

no one should place faith,

nor in what a woman says;

for on a turning wheel

have their hearts been formed,

and guile in their breasts been laid"


"a flattering prophetess,

a corpse newly slain ... let no one trust" ?

But lest we focus all on those women thralled to Gullveig, let's
remember how many men follow Loki :

"91. Openly I now speak,

because I both sexes know:

unstable are men’s minds towards women;

‘tis then we speak most fair

when we most falsely think:

that deceives even the cautious."

Indeed, Odin himself was drawn into such deception in one of the worst deeds of his life, a deed thought so unworthy of him that it was one of the main reasons he was exiled, the seduction of Rind. This seduction was urged on him by both Loki and Gullveig. Saxo says,

But Odin, though he was accounted the chief of the gods, began to inquire of the prophets and diviners concerning the way to acomplish vengeance for his son, as well as all others whom he had beard were skilled in the most recondite arts of soothsaying. For godhead that is incomplete is oft in want of the help of man. Rostioph (Hrossthiof), the Finn, foretold to him that another son must be born to him by Rinda (Wrinda), daughter of the King of the Ruthenians; this son was destined to exact punishment for the slaying of his brother. "

Hrossthiof is the brother of Heid. (Hyndluljod 32 : "
Heid and Hrossthiof were of Hrimnir's race.") "Hrossthiof" means "horse thief". It is obviously a heiti for the one who stole Svadilfari from the smith who built Asgard's walls, and that was Loki.

So on the one hand, Odin had Loki urging him to seduce Rind, while on the other hand, Gullveig-Heid was urging him on the other side to do the same thing :

16. “Rind a son shall bear,
in the western halls:
he shall slay Odin’s son,
when one night old.
He a hand will not wash,
nor his head comb,
ere he to the pile has borne
Baldr’s adversary." (Vegtamskvida)

That this is Gullveig-Angrboda is made abundantly clear in the poem, as Odin tells her :

" rather art thou the mother
of three Thursar.” (Vegtamskvida 19).

Tricked into thinking this was the only way to set things right after Baldur, he entered into this seduction, producing Vali upon Rind, and Vali killed Hodur. But Hodur was innocent! Loki, in fact, was the radbani of Baldur's death, and thus, Odin was horribly tricked, as all the gods discover in Lokasenna. For that seduction, Odin tells us in Havamal 102, he had "contumely of every kind ... heaped upon me." Indeed, Saxo says :

"But the gods, whose chief seat was then at Byzantium, (Asgard), seeing that Odin had tarnished the fair name of godhead by divers injuries to its majesty, thought that he ought to be removed from their society. "

All of this was brought about by that
magorum coetus, band of sorcerors, who he promptly
cast off upon his return from exile.

Odin teaches us, through hard lessons he learned personally, see through the charms of false friends, and do not welcome them into your life, no matter how seductive or entertaining they may seem. "Everything is better than being with the deceitful." (Havamal 126).

A word to the wise is sufficient.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Well said, Siegfried... I can attest to this one.

Wish I'd known the lesson earlier; I might not have had to learn it the hard way.

I do very much enjoy your thoughtful writings... please keep posting. :)


9:58 AM  
Blogger SiegfriedGoodfellow said...

Thank you for your encouragement ; I appreciate the support. I think a more general awareness of these lessons embedded in the myths, and discussion about them, would indeed help many people to avoid "hard ways" in their learning curves with saboteurs. In the heathen and larger pagan communities, there is sometimes discussion of how to avoid "trolls", and this problem is obviously an ancient one, because the myths themselves speak to the ill that can result from not recognizing them soon enough. Monsters can be birthed! However, the gods were able to either exile or bind those forces of ill, and one might say that the only reason they await till Ragnarok to finally finish them off is to build their forces through the help of those humans willing to engage in heroic sacrifice for the good and holy (for it is those humans, and not just any bully with a sword who dies on the battlefield, who join the Einheriar).

4:13 AM  

Post a Comment

<< Home