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On Níðhöggr

November 19, 2018 6 comments

A while back I was asked to share my understanding of Níðhöggr by a fellow Heathen. Vikings of Bjornstad lists the meaning for Níðhöggr’s name as ‘Malice Striker’. The first section of the compound name, níð, is related to malice, insult, and strife. The second is related to beheading, striking, blows, or chops. Not much survives on this dragon/serpent survives from the lore. Among the places to look for Níðhöggr are in the Prose Edda, both in Gylfaginning and Skaldskarpamal, and in the Poetic Edda Grimnismal and the Voluspa. While the lore refers to Níðhöggr as male, my interactions with Níðhöggr have leant me to understanding the dragon as female.

I relate to Her as a God of Rot and Death, and a God of the Gravemound as well, especially seeing interlinks between the rotting of death and the eating of poison. My family’s compost heap is dedicated to Hela and to Níðhöggr, as we see Níðhögg as eating the poison of Yggdrasil and the making of it into the healthy new earth that is renewed. The gravemound takes in the Dead and the new growth results within it, holding the power of the sacred items deposited within it and the new growth above.

Most of my understanding and beliefs regarding Níðhöggr is from direct experience of seeing Her and interacting with Her. When I was saw Her, She was chewing the corpses of the Dead, taking the poison of Their lives, Their misdeeds. She does the same with the root of Yggdrasil She chews on, not to damage it, but to prevent poison that is collected in Helheim and the Nastrond from killing It.

A powerful insight of dragon symbolism, at least in terms of how I see it in Norse/Germanic/Scandinavian culture/myth is that part of their destructive nature is what they sit on. In Fafnir’s case it is his bed of gold and the greed associated with it. In Níðhöggr’s case She is lying in the midst of traitors, oathbreakers, and is sitting with the rot and poison of Yggdrasil’s root. She chews on the traitors, oathbreakers, and outlaws, as well as the root of Yggdrasil. One of the passages in the Voluspa says She sucks the blood of the slain. I see Her doing similar, chewing and sucking on the poison in the root of Yggdrasil, removing the rot so it stays healthy. It also explains why Her/His hall is the Hall of Serpents dripping poison because that is Níðhöggr’s environment. My fellow Heathen likened it to a poison dart frog, and I think that’s a fair reading of Her too.

It is telling that the only time She emerges in myth is during Ragnarok and She isn’t destroyed, but takes up roost again beneath the ground. I find Her very purifying, as She has been in the midst of all that rot, poison, and uncleanliness, and yet, She has not lost Herself to it. She engages with this Work before and after Ragnarok. She is rejuvenating and dangerous, the Chewer of Corpses and Warder against Poison. As outlaws and traitors were among the worst one could be, and both were put into the utgard of society, I see Her as a boundary-keeper since She gives these dangerous and vile Dead a place to go to be contained, chewed, composted so they do not harm the community or rest of Yggrasil. She is the God that chews the rot beneath the Tree, rejuvenating both the root and the soil in which Yggdrasil’s root rest; necessary and holy.

Question 3: Odin and His Heiti

March 3, 2013 6 comments

From Loki’s Bruid:

I’d like to hear your perspective on Odin Himself actually, perhaps on some of His lesser known aspects. Lots of people get the Allfather or the Asa King, but what about some of His lesser known or called on heiti?

Truth be told, with anywhere between 188-200 heiti, (and I have seen the number bumped up to 300 in some sources) there’s no way I know Him through any more than a few of His lesser-known heiti.  Keep in mind that as I write this I am just starting to find heiti that might fit or fit best for my experiences of Him.  It may be that heiti are simply a hindrance for one person and a door to deeper understanding for another, and I leave that between the worshiper and Odin.  For me, the heiti are helpful in that they provide a door or window to understanding Him, to at least put a name or title to this part of Him that I have experienced.

In terms of Odin’s heiti I look at it very much as experiencing different aspects of the same God; Yggr (The Terrible) still is Odin, at the end of the experience, but He is a ‘face’ of Odin that I do not, mercifully, experience very often.  I could see Hóvi (The High) may have come to me while I was writing the November posts to Him in the Hávamál style.  When I experience the Alföðr (Allfather) it is, for me, Odin Who is primarily concerned with humanity and getting us where we, perhaps personally but more collectively, where we need to go.  Then there is Odin as my Father and Leash-holder, the heiti which sticks out to me that is most apt for this being Haptaguð (Fetter God).  These latter two are the aspects of Odin I see the most.

Yet, underneath all of these heiti is Odin, and all of these heiti are also not just descriptors, in my understanding.  Much as I am Sarenth Odinsson I am also the name given to me by my birth parents.  I am also ‘love’ and ‘sweetheart’ and ‘Dad’.  I am in a different role when I meet others as Sarenth, generally speaking, just as Odin-as-Yggr came to me when I was hanging on Yggdrasil a few years ago.  That is an aspect in which He has truly earned that heiti.  He is the Hanged God, and there was a sense of terror of Him in me that I can only describe as holy terror.

I will never truly know all of my best friends’ personalities.  I do not know my friends’ as child or mother, for instance, and there are personality dynamics that will never be ours, ways of seeing one another that will not be ours, at the least, in this lifetime.  Even as a friend I will never fully know them.  Our Gods will never fully reveal Themselves to us in Their totality.  I think to the tale of how Zeus revealed Himself to His lover and she burnt to ash at the power of His Presence.  I do not think we can handle the full-tilt power of the Gods revealed, at the least, not Gods like Odin.  Perhaps local Gods, i.e. of rivers or forests may be different, but in this too I have doubt.  Heiti, from my perspective, give us ways of understanding our Gods in different forms, functions, and relationships that They have to share with us, and that They take on.  With all that said, I’ll write about some of Odin’s heiti I have encountered, and my experiences with Odin in context of those heiti.

Karl: The Old Man

There are times where Odin comes to me and He is angry or grumpy with me about a misstep I have taken or a project I am lagging on.  There are times where I call Him, and I say this with all due respect to Him, jokingly, the Old Man.  Sometimes this is said in a more joking tone, others, a more serious, but there underneath it all is reverence.  I figure if I am getting scolded I am getting off easy.  It turns out that one of heiti translated to Old Man is Karl.  This is, for me, one of His less severe forms, and one He frequently shows to myself and others.  It is the Grandfather or Father Who, while annoyed with you and wanting to bat you about the head and legs, takes patience in stride and guides you along the right way.  Sometimes He gets you where you need to go by grabbing your ear and dragging you there  (or tugging my leash in this case), if you make yourself a nuisance.  I find this most often shows up with those who are just coming to know Him or have a familiar relationship with Him.  This is not to say that the Old Man cannot or will not be severe, but it is not the kind of severity and fear I have found with Yggr, for instance.

Yggr: The Terrible

The only time I have really encountered Odin in this form that I can remember is when I was hanging on Yggdrasil to take in the Runes as few years ago.  It was under His guidance that I do this, and that I fast for nine days, drinking only what would keep my body going and alive without sleeping into issues with my diabetes.  When I hung, especially long hours with the rope wrapped around my leg, there He was.  He stank to high hell, He was half-Dead, it seemed to me at the time. His voice was as cold as His body, both as the grave.  To get an idea of the fear I felt I feel I have to resort to poetic or expressive language because there is no real communicating the sheer fear He imbued in me, even as I was facing my own potential physical Death.  He is The Terrible, the Terrible sacrifice that must be made for power, for the Worlds to go on, that sacrifice of Self-to-Himself that is recounted in the Hávamál.  He is Dead and Living, has seen and experienced the Ginnungagap, and come back through, and yet, He is always there, Hanging eternally.  It makes me shiver just remembering.

Hóvi: The High

When I am writing poetry about Him, especially Hávamál-style verse, this is the heiti of Odin I tend to experience.  Sometimes it is the mere brush of His hand or cloak, sometimes it is Him standing over top of me like a master scribe to an apprentice doing dictation.  I do not tend to get as much sensory information, for lack of better terms/more descriptive language, than I have with Yggr or Karl.  It is more a feeling of Him standing behind me, or His hands or breath pouring into the crown of my head as I write, down onto the keyboard or onto the page.

Haptaguð: The Fetter God

This is a part of Odin that will probably never leave me.  Odin holds my leash, as I am His godatheow, and sometimes that hold is slack, and sometimes it is quite tight.  As with Hóvi, I do not experience this heiti of Odin’s so much with all of my senses, but as more of a Presence, and a tugging around my neck, particularly around my apple or at times along my crown.  There are times when I feel the Presence of this heiti stronger than others, such as when I may be wandering into danger and there is a sudden ‘jerk’ along my neck.  There are other times where His Presence in this heiti manifests as a word or a command, sharp and attention grabbing and I find myself following it before I ask “What?” or “Why?”  When this latter experience happens it is unmistakably Him, and I find myself compelled to obey.

Father

This, for me, is probably the hardest to write about because it is the most personal.  This is Odin at His most personable with me.  There are many ways where He shows me affection, some overt and some not.  Words of encouragement have come from Him when I have been at my lowest, from a much-needed “You can do this, son; this would not be in front of you if it were impossible” to just a feeling of His Presence that is nothing short of comforting and loving.  While Odin is, very often, a stern, rough, demanding God, just as Freya has Her aspects of Warrior, there are aspects of Odin that are less commented on or written about.  His sternness does not just ‘go away’ in His Father aspect with me, but it is not as severe as, say Haptaguð tugs my leash.  It is not the kind of holy terror I experience with Him as Yggr, or the master/pupil relationship of Him as Hóvi.  Just as Yggr contains this part of Him, so too does Odin-as-Father contain Yggr, and it is there, if I look hard enough or if He cares to show me it for one reason or another.  Regardless, I feel a love there of father for son.  There are times I wonder if this is even a taste of the depth of His fierce, powerful love for His Godly Children.

I find Him His most patient with me personally in this aspect of our relationship.  That is not to say the leash slackens or the demands do not grow; not at all.  There are times where words fail in the joy that I feel at the knowing I am one of His, not despite the challenges He puts before me, but because He feels I can handle them.  Or that particular lesson needs to knock me on my ass enough times for me to get that it is not for me.  Odin can be, and may well be in our personal relationship calculating, everything being pushed towards one goal or another.

There are times that His Presence as Father is just that: a Presence, one letting me know I am in His thoughts or that He is near.  Sometimes it is a vision of Him, sitting or standing with me, at times with a hat.  At times He wears His long white hair down, and at others it is braided in a tight style.  His mode of dress when He arrives sometimes seems to do with the whole message He is conveying, whether it is excitement, warmth, disappointment, anger.  Others times when He comes to me in one guise or another, it is there as a kind of convenience so I get the message and pay attention to it.

 

These words only touch what I experience.  I can no more give an accurate understanding of Yggr than I can of Hóvi.  The experience is, in the end, that of each and every one of us who experiences Odin, in His many heiti, or simply as He, Odin, presents Himself to us.  What I have written here may serve you, or someone you know no better than a signpost, or worse, a roadblock.  My hope is that the writing I’ve done here will help deepen others’ relationships with Him, provide signposts, show where there may be similarities in experience, or at the least provide comfort in that each and every day, every interaction, I am getting to know my God.

Sigyn Project: Day 27

February 28, 2013 Leave a comment

I am a Seeker

a month of writing to You

and I still do not know You

Your Presence is calm

Your Voice is gentle most times

Yet, I still do not know You

 

I do not know You as a Mother

not truly, though I can feel Your sadness

for Sons torn by rage and pain

 

I do not know You as a Wife

not truly, though I have seen Your cave

and toiling, emptying the great bowl

 

I do not know You as a Goddess

not truly, though I hail Your Name

and praise Your gifts

 

How could I know You?

I praise Your Name as true as any of the Gods I worship

 

How could I know You?

I pour out offerings and gift to You, sure as any of the Gods I hail

 

How could I know You?

I have held Your bowl in offering, and had but a taste of Your Work and pain

 

How could I know You?

There is so much more than story or word or song or dance or life could tell

 

How could I know You?

I pray, I offer, I sing, I dance, I play, I do

 

I do know You

If any mortal can know a Goddess

Who has blessed their life

Who has sat, waiting, for the mortal to comprehend

Who has held the ones I love as they weep

Who has stood by me when I thought I had few friends

Who spoke for me

Who touches my hands

Who speaks in my ear

Who hears

Who despite all, remains

 

Odin Project: Day 8

November 8, 2012 Leave a comment

Give gifts in good measure | sticks to flame,

Love for love and friendship true;

Power is found | in truth and work

Wherever your Wyrd is woven

 

Listen well when | wisdom is found

Seek with ceaseless searching,

Reckon mercy | and wrath

measure well each choice

 

Speak what must be | spoken in the moment

And silence when it must be kept;

Wisdom oft is heard | with an opening

And known when it is said

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