Thursday, May 06, 2010

Love is Strong

She is strong and resilient, master of warriors [1] , and when her anger is aroused, the very halls of the Gods themselves shake [2]. She is patient and kind, and seeks out Soul whenever it is lost and wandering [3]. She is Love in all its myriad forms [4], and her love stretches across distances [5] and bridges separations when all else have given up hope [6]. She is an enchantress who teaches a kind of magic [7] that allows one to know, in one's very bones and blood, the inner nature of another, as well as all the potential that has yet to be laid down for them [8]. Such deep, rich knowledge allows one to beget health, embrace of ancestral strength, and even life itself for another, or to take them away [9]. It even allows the consciousness and inner virtues of one person to be shared with another, so they partake of them as well [10]. Such power exposes one to tremendous vulnerability, and has the capacity to so soften one's hardness that those concerned with machismo often shy away from it [11]. Odin refers to this level of sharing in Havamal 124 as sifjum blandat, a "merging of affinity", and in Havamal 44 as geði blanda, a "mixing of minds", somewhat akin to the modern science-fiction concept of a mind-meld.

This blending of hearts through love may be extended towards the spirits of nature, who come to the sound of her voice and gladly share their secrets [12], and in turn, some of the nature-spirits may, in turn, share their powers and take love where she needs to go [13]. Through love we may explore the cosmos and come to know the secrets of nature, if our minds and hearts will stretch widely enough. Such is true magic.

Through Love, even the strongest curses may be overcome [14].


[1] Grimnisal 14 :hálfan val hún kýss hverjan dag, "half of the fallen She chooses every day...".

[2] Thrymskvida 14: Reið varð þá Freyja ok fnasaði, allr ása salr undir bifðisk, stökk þat it mikla men Brísinga... "Wroth then was Freyja and snorted with rage, all of the Aesir's halls shook from below, sprang apart that mighty Brising jewel...".

[3] Gylfaginning 35, Óðr fór í braut langar leiðir, en Freyja grætr eftir, ... er hon fór með ókunnum þjóðum at leita Óðs, "Odr fared away on long roads, and Freyja weeped after him ... when she travelled amongst unknown nations searching for Odr." Odr, as we have discussed before, means the poetic mind or soul.

[4] In Skaldskaparmal 20, she is called the ástaguð, "Goddess of Love". This is love in all of its forms, from romantic to familial.

[5] Gylfaginning 35, hon fór með ókunnum þjóðum, "she faired amongst unknown nations". The Wife's Lament, A ic wite wonn minra wræcsiþa. ærest min hlaford gewat heonan of leodum ofer yþa gelac; hæfde ic uhtceare hwær min leodfruma londes wære. ða ic me feran gewat folgað secan, wineleas wrecca, for minre weaþearfe, "Ever I suffer pain in my travel through foreign lands. First my lord departed hence from his people over the tossing waves ; dawn-cares I had on where in all the lands my prince was. Then I set out to depart, seeking a retinue, a friendless pilgrim, for my woeful tribulations."

[6] She has a handmaiden named Lofn, hon er svá mild ok góð til áheita, at hon fær leyfi af Alföðr eða Frigg til manna samgangs, kvenna ok karla, þótt áðr sé bannat eða þvertekit þykki (Gylfaginning 35), "Lofn, she is very mild and good to call upon, for she obtains leave from All-Father or Frigg for people to come together, women as well as men, even though before it seemed banned or outright forbidden." This is most certainly bridging separations when others have given up hope! Additionally, she continues to search for Odr even when he seems hopelessly lost.

[7] This Art was customary amongst the Vanir, and dear to them, and Freya was the first to teach it amongst the Aesir. (Hún kenndi fyrst með Ásum seið sem Vönum var títt, Ynglingasaga 4.)

[8] Ynglingasaga 7, seiður heitir en af því mátti hann vita örlög manna og óorðna hluti, "It is called enchantment, and from this he was able to know the original nature of men and their unordained lot..." It allows you to know who they are in their very nature, as well as what their potential is, what has not yet been set down for them. This is knowledge in bone and blood, sea and ocean and sunlight, a deep, powerful kind of knowing. Snorri in fact calls it a fjölkynngi, "full knowledge".

[9] Ynglingasaga 7, að gera mönnum bana eða óhamingju eða vanheilindi, "he could arrange men's death or falling out of their family luck or waning health." By the very nature of archaic magic, the ability to give death, unluck, and ill health is also the ability to grant life, luck, and health. From such powerful knowledge, one may prepare life or death, ancestral embrace or exile, and good or ill health. In Hyndluljod, Freya travels deep into the underworld to obtain secret knowledge that will re-unite one of her followers with his ancestral heritage. In Hyndluljod 10, she says, skylt er at veita, svá at skati inn ungi föðurleifð hafi eftir frændr sína, "it is necessary to provide assistance, so that the young man may have his paternal inheritance after his kinsmen." In this way, Love finds a way to connect us to all of our loved ones, including those who have come before.

[10] Ynglingasaga 7, svo og að taka frá mönnum vit eða afl og gefa öðrum, "so he could take wit or strength from a man and give it to another". There is here the ability to transfer knowledge and virtues from one person to another.

[11] Ynglingasaga 7, En þessi fjölkynngi, er framið er, fylgir svo mikil ergi að eigi þótti karlmönnum skammlaust við að fara og var gyðjunum kennd sú íþrótt, "But such mighty flames of passion followed from this full-knowing that it was not thought without shame for males to fare with it and the priestesses were taught this Art." (Ergi always implies a kind of nymphomaniac lust.)

[12] Eiríks saga rauða describes a ceremony, Slógu þá konur hring umhverfis en Þorbjörg sat uppi á seiðhjallinum. ... þá kvæðið svo fagurt og vel að engi þóttist fyrr heyrt hafa með fegri raust kveðið sá er þar var, "The women struck a ring around Thorbjorg while she sat up in the Hill of Enchantment ... then chanted so fair and well that no one thought they had heard before a voice singing so beautifully". Hún hafði margar náttúrur hingað ... En mér eru nú margir þeir hlutir auðsýnir, "She had brought many nature-spirits hither, "And now many things are easy for me to see."" The women gather in a circle, perhaps dancing in the round, and begin to chant beautiful songs which draw the nature-spirits forth, and when they are present, many things become clear which before were obscure.

[13] Ynglingasaga 7 describes this process of hamfaring, which allowed one to skipti hömum. Lá þá búkurinn sem sofinn eða dauður en hann var þá fugl eða dýr, fiskur eða ormur og fór á einni svipstund á fjarlæg lönd að sínum erindum eða annarra manna, "shift one's skin, laying there on one's back as if asleep or dead and he was then a bird or beast, fish or serpent and fared in the twinkling of an eye to far-off lands for his own purposes or those of someone else." Örvar-Odds saga, Chapter 2, speaks of a völva ok seiðkona ok vissi fyrir óorðna hluti af fróðleik sínum. Hún fór á veizlur ok sagði mönnum fyrir um vetrarfar ok forlög sín. Hún hafði með sér fimmtán sveina ok fimmtán meyjar ... en völva fór til náttfarsseiðs með sitt lið, "prophetess and witch-woman [who] foresaw unordained lots from her magical wisdom. She fared to feasts and told men about the course of the year and what life had stored up for them. She had with her fifteen young men and fifteen maidens ... and the prophetess fared to the night-faring enchantments with her retinue." Here we learn explicitly about náttfarsseiðs, "night-faring witchcraft", which involved travelling out by night in spirit. Freyja has a valshams (Skaldskaparmal 1), "hawk-coat" or fjaðrhams (Thrymskvida 3), "feather-skin", with which she may fly through the air. Hawks are renowned for their visual acuity, which is many times that of a human.

[14] Hyndluljod 50, "Orðheill þín skal engu ráða, þóttú, brúðr jötuns bölvi heitir;" "Thy threats shall amount to nothing, Jotun's bride, although you threaten misfortune."

All translations copyright 2010 by Siegfried Goodfellow.


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