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From Emi comes this topic:
“Could you do a discussion topic on Jörmungandr?”
Like many of our Gods there is precious little on Jörmungandr, the Miðgarðsormr (Midgard/World Serpent), in our sources. Völuspá, Hymiskviða, and Húsdrapa are among them. Their Wikipedia page is not bad as summations go. There is also the The World History Encyclopedia entry for Them, but I think a good chunk of its commentary is reaching beyond the boundaries of what is in the myths, especially as Jörmungandr is the boundaries of the seas.
I find that, like a great many things he touches, Lecouteux actually has some interesting information that he goes over in two of his books. These are The Tradition of Household Spirits, and Demons and Spirits of the Land. To sum up the most relevant parts to my thoughts here on Jörmungandr: serpents have been found buried in the threshold or in the walls, and understood, as with other animals and people buried in such a way, to be part of the spirit of the home and/or a guardian. Given Óðinn enchanted Them to encircle the seas and essentially become a great barrier unto Themselves, it would seem to me that Jörmungandr serves this function on a larger cosmological scale for us here in Miðgarðr. So, I think it is a good and honorable thing to worship Them and wear/bear iconography in honor of Them.
Jörmungandr is a child of Loki and Angrboða, sibling to Hel, Fenrir, Narvi, and Vali. They have presented to me as male, female, neither, both, and beyond. In respect, I default to They as the pronoun I refer to Them as until and unless They make it clear which pronoun is appropriate.
In demeanor I find Them generally patient with humans. They are utterly aware of how great They are, both in terms of size and power. I do not think it is coincidence that Their name has a number of translations with deep meaning. The first part, Jörmun-, including great/vast/huge. The second part is -gandr, and among the interpretations of it are spirit, magic snake, fjord, and staff. It is worth pointing out that gandr, as explored in The Viking Way by Price, “forms yet another distinct category here, with origins that go back much earlier than the Viking Age. The basic sense of the word is often argued to mean simply ‘magic’, and deVries has suggested that it can be related to the concept of Ginnungagap. This is important, as it suggests gandr to be one of the primal forces from which the worlds are formed, and thus implies that this form of sorcerous power was of considerable dignity.” (Price, 35-36) He then goes on to relate how gandr was also referred to in conjunction with seiðr (Price, 36), another source of and use of magical power.
So, whatever way we undstand the gandr in Their Name, Jörmungandr is a being of great power, and due Their respect. In that regard I consider supporting reptile sanctuaries, rescues, and the like to be ways of making offerings to Them. I also consider prayers, offerings of food and drink, and offerings of herbs, incense, and the like, much as we might make to any of our Gods, good offerings to make.
One thought on “Patreon Topic 68: Jörmangandr”
Very interesting–thanks for this!
Germanic linguistics is not my forte, but when I see the element “-gandr,” I can’t help but think of the English word “gander,” not as a male goose, but as a verb. Thus, I wonder if there might not be a sense, if Jormangandr surrounds the world and is essentially the “outer limit” of it, if They are thus also the supreme “watcher” of it as well from that vantage point. Perhaps I am mixing in some ideas from popular culture (i.e. Critical Role’s Ukotoa, who while not exactly a “world serpent” also combines having lots of eyes across its vast body), but it does raise a question in my mind, at least. Any Germanic linguist could shoot that right down, of course, but nonetheless, I wonder if there is some utility in folk etymologizing it and thus brining something out that would not otherwise “be seen,” as it were. 😉
I’m also reminded of the fact that oftentimes, some of the serpentine creatures from myth are also canid in association–another of the brood of various creatures in Greek myth are Cerberus, Orthus, and the Hydra, which has some canid characteristics. As several of the siblings of Jormangandr are also canid or canid-related, I wonder if there is any trace of this present as well? But of course I would think that…or, at least, ask about it! 😉
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