The Ancient Norse travelled Northwards from an unknown point of origin identified as being Central Asia and the Russian Steppe and they settled in Scandinavia, conquering the indigenous people. Human settlement in Scandinavia dates back 7,000 years but they arrived maybe two thousand years ago, and only a few archaeological remain date back to this ‘Migration Period’.
Their language was ‘Proto-Norse’, which much later evolved into ‘Old Norse’. The Proto Norse Language belongs to the North Germanic branch of the Indo-European Languages and it is the much earlier form of the languages now most commonly spoken in Scandinavia. The early development around the year 200 AD of this language branch is attested through Runic inscriptions.
Much, much, much later they became the Vikings. The culture of the Norse was actually already 1000 years or older when the Viking age began.
The Norse believed that their forebears were led to the Northern Lands by their great Warrior Magician God, Odin. On the way there, Odin hung upside down in the World Tree, Yggdrasil, and he seized the magic of the Runes, their distinctive sacred alphabet.
The Norse Folk encountered an indigenous people when they arrived in the North lands, called the Vanir – and they conquered them. The Vanir had a rich spirituality that was characterised by wealth and fertility principles.
The Norse had their own pantheon of Gods called the Aesir, who were really quite similar to the pantheons of the ancient Greeks and Romans, and it was led by Odin. The Aesir Gods inhabited a God Realm of great nobility and splendour, called Asgard. The Gods had to be propitiated by correct sacrifice.
The Aesir organised their territory into the Nine Worlds of Yggdrasil or the Nine Worlds of Asgard. The Nine worlds of Yggdrasil are:
1. Menn (humans): Midgard.
2. Aesir (gods): Asgard.
3. Vanir (gods): Vanaheim.
4. Jötnar (giants): Jotunheim.
5. Álfar (elves): Alfheim.
6. Náir (corpses, the world of the dead): Hel.
7. Dvergar (dwarves): Svartalfheim.
8. Primordial element of Ice: Niflheim.
9. Primordial element of Fire: Muspellheim.
However, the Norse found they could not actually subdue the native population. The war resulted in stalemate. They tried three times to kill the Goddess of the Vanir, called Gulveid. They tried burning and spitting her, but each time the Goddess survived untouched, and she is then recorded as going on to teach Odin tantric magic and systems of divination deemed unmanly by the Norse. Odin was seen thereafter with two power animals, the two Ravens, Huginn and Muninn: Thought and Memory. The Norse spirituality also admitted enriching indigenous shamanic strains of spiritual practice into its consciousness at this time.
Soon, a dreadful unease began to undermine the might of the Aesir. Things started to go wrong from the very point of their arrival.
The first thing to go wrong was that Odin and his two brothers slew Mimir. Mimir was the First Being and he existed in unity consciousness which they did not understand. They mocked him for ‘always sleeping’ and slew him. Terrible consequences were to follow from this murder. They dismembered his body and out of the bits they created the landscape of the nine worlds.
And then they set out to confine the giants. They confined the giants to just one part of the territory they had formerly roamed and Thor created undying hostility from the giants by keep making raids against them.
Another part of the problem was Loki. Loki was their trickster spirit and he became more and more demonised by the Aesir because he could not stand their rigid codified culture and way of life. In the end, Loki left his Aesir wife and formed a relationship with a foul hag in the Ironwood called Angrboda, and terrible consequences followed from their mating: he had terrible children by her. One of these children was the devouring Fenris Wolf whom the Aesir barely managed to contain, and only when the War God Tir used trickery against Fenris and lost one of his hands – his sword hand- thereby. Another of the children of the foul union was a serpent who grew immeasurably huge and had to be consigned to the encircling ocean. A third offspring was the unutterably foul Hel who was ‘bought off’ by Odin by making her Queen of Hell.
Here is the Creation Belief of the Old Norse:
In the beginning, there were two regions: Muspelheim in the south, full of fire, light and heat; and Niflheim in the north, full of arctic waters, mists, and cold. Between them stretched the yawning emptiness of Ginnungagap, and into it poured sparks and smoke from the south and layers of rime-ice and glacial rivers from the north.
As heat and cold met in Ginnungagap, a living Jotunn or Giant, Mimir, appeared in the melting ice, the first being. And Mimir was fed by the Cosmic Cow Audhumla, who also appeared. She is similar to Aditi in the Vedas.
“Straightway after the rime dripped, there sprang from it the cow called Auðumla; four streams of milk ran from her udders, and she nourished Mimir.”
Later, from Mimir’s left armpit, the first man and woman were born. From his legs, the frost jötnar were born, making Mimir the progenitor of the jötnar. Mimir fed on the milk of the cow. She licked the blocks of salty ice.
Later three gods were born: Odin, Vili and Ve (a tripartite form of Odin). The three slew Mimir. From Mimir’s body, they made the world of humans: his blood the seas and lakes, his flesh the earth, his bones the mountains and his teeth the rocks. From his skull they made the dome of the sky, setting a dwarf at each of the four corners to hold it high above the earth. They protected it from the jötnar with a wall made from Mimir’s eyebrows. Next they caused time to exist, and placed the orbs of the sun and moon in chariots which were to circle around the sky.
Odin, passing through the world of the jötnar, found two beautiful young giants named Sol and Mani, sun and moon. They were brother and sister, and their father had named them after the beautiful lights in the sky. Odin decreed that Sól and Mani should drive the chariots of the sun and the moon across the sky, and to ensure that their journey was always constant and never slowed, he created two great wolves. These wolves were called Hati and Skoll, and these are the Nodes of the moon, and they were placed in the sky to pursue the chariot and devour the luminaries if they caught them.
Sensing the mortality of the Aesir Gods, three Giantesses turned up before the Bifrost Bridge, the Rainbow Bridge that led upwards to Asgard, guarded ever by the faithful Heimdall. These Giantesses were called the Norns. And ever thereafter they daily chanted the Orlog, the law of sacred cosmic balance, and ever they anointed the World Tree from where Niddhog or ‘Malice Striker, the dragon who endlessly gnaws at its sustaining roots. Can they prevail over the attrition?
But following the slaying of Mimir and the problems with Loki, such was the unease now felt by the Aesir Gods following these unacceptable developments, that it was gradually realised that a dreadful doom hung over them. They sensed that they were doomed to be annihilated.
As a result Odin travelled all the known worlds to discover the truth of the matter, and whether the terrible fate could be averted. How could the beauty and strength of the Aesir Gods possibly be destroyed?
In desperation Odin raised a Seeress from her Grave Barrow and commanded her to prophesy. And he was utterly appalled when she uttered Prophecy and she indeed confirmed that the Aesir Gods were doomed. She prophesied outright that the destruction of the Aesir Gods would come: this would be Ragnarok (the twilight of the Gods).
It would be preceded by Fimbulwinter: three successive winters where snow comes in from all directions, without any intervening summer. During this time, there will be innumerable wars and ties of blood will no longer be respected: the next-of-kin will lie together and brothers will kill brothers.
The Seeress stated boldly to Odin that the forces of Chaos and evil would overcome the Gods. She prophesied that then the nine worlds of the Aesir would be destroyed, and only Mimir’s Grove would survive, and there two children would shelter – a boy and a girl. And they alone would alone survive the cataclysm. At the end of the world, they would find protection from the First Being, Mimir in Mimir’s Grove, and they alone would survive – and they would found a new race – and the cycle would repeat. And the two children are called Lif and Lifthrasir.
Of course you will note that it was said earlier that Mimir had been killed by Odin and his two brothers, but of course Unity Consciousness cannot be destroyed. Those who destroy it think it has ceased. But it is eternal.
And so what went wrong? Why were such heroic, beautiful and surpassing Gods doomed?
Well, the reasons are as follows:
1. That they had the mentality of conquerors.
2. That their world was too formal and over-organised, and so they marginalised the creative trickster spirit, Loki, and thus he became malign instead of being the needed catalyst for evolution and development.
3. That they did not understand Unity Consciousness, and so their conquest, organisation and spiritual ritual was all like a fortress that could not be defended. It was empty and not connected to God.
4. They engaged in dualistic polarity, and so they split off their shadow side and it festered there and eventually turned upon them like an earthquake and extinguished them.
5. Only unity consciousness is eternal. Everything else must die and be reborn.
In my novel, ‘Rune Magic’, I tell how two young people, Declan and Magda, are taken by Odin in his attempt to survive the destruction of the nine worlds: they are to be Lif and Lifthrasir in the cycle. Here is a passage from towards the end of the novel: the moment of the destruction of the Norse Gods:
‘You must not fail me,’ Odin’s words grew sonorous and indistinct as the chaos sounds roared vaster. ‘I will live on in your world through you,’ Odin seemed to murmur. ‘You will be my torch bearer, Declan. You will be my magic carrier.’
Declan opened his mouth to protest his love and devotion and loyalty unto death to his magnificent brave and doomed warrior magician shape-shifter Aesir father, but Odin raised his hand to acknowledge his son’s loyalty-oath. ‘In you I defeat the Seeress’ prophecy!’ came the final murmur, and Odin turned away and hurled gungnir, his great spear and the battle began: the Aesir gods on one side, and the forces of destruction and chaos on the other side, finally joined in fated final battle. Would you know yet more? And what?
The four of them looked on aghast from the claws of the dragon as the shining Aesir and Vanir gods and the brave Einheriar charged hopeless towards the hideous hel-fiends, Loki at their head.
But even as Loki charged towards the gods, Loki, too, looked up at Declan and gave a lascivious smile and his gaze stripped Declan and pierced to Declan’s very bones. ‘Honour me or your world too will see the same f-up as the Nine,’ Loki called.
Declan blinked in amazement.
‘You know this, Declan. You will carry me to you own world, too, Declan. You have no choice. It is the Orlog. It is inevitability. I am owed that, Declan. I shall live on. Until we meet again, Declan,’ Loki leered.
Then Fenrir wolf, Loki’s vicious son, sprang forward ahead of his Trickster father and landed, scoring the very rocks with his claws in front of Odin, trailing his ignominious broken chain. The precarious balance of the Aesir age broke at last; the torrent of hate was loosed: restriction now reaped its own revenge.
Declan and Magda watched in tears as Fenrir open wide his jaws and engulfed the High One, Odin. Odin struggled as the jaws closed on him and opened and closed and opened and closed. Odin uttered his mightiest spells as the blood spurted forth and drooled upon the field, but to no avail and he was chewed and torn and killed. The Ravens dropped like stones, but Declan sent his mind and saved them and dragged them upwards, back towards him, inconsolable, clinging to his shoulder. Declan became their new master. Fenrir killed and swallowed Odin before their very eyes. Declan moaned at the horror and the grievous loss.
Meanwhile, Thor, the Thunderer, advanced to attack the serpent, Jormundgand. Thor attacked Jormundgand with his hammer, smashing him with the full force of his mighty bulging muscles, and Thor hurled Jormundgand broken, but this, strangely, was not victory. Thor threw Jormundgand, but this was not before the worm’s venomous breath had entered Thor’s lungs, just as he raised his arms and cheered the victor’s boast. Thor staggered, reeling nine steps backwards, and fell writhing and poisoned and gasped out his lungs on the ground of Vigrid Field and died.
Would you know more and what?
Frey closed on Surt, the fire giant of Muspelheim. Frey fought him heroically, but it was hopeless: Surt’s burning sword burned him to a cinder. The flower of the Aesir now lay dead or dying, ignominious in the mud.
The god, Vidar, joined the fray. With his two hands, he tore Fenris’ jaws apart ’til the wolf’s jaws were torn asunder, then he stamped on Fenris, killing him – but too late. It was too late to save the High One.
Would you know more and what?
Heimdall closed on Loki, but it was to no avail; gentle Heimdall too fell dead as Heimdall and Loki killed each other.
Tyr closed on Garm the hell-hound, but Tyr the war god had but one hand left to fight with: the other he had sacrificed at the binding of the Fenris wolf, and Tyr had not a chance. Tyr and Garm, too, killed each other.
All the Einheriar by now had fallen.
Would you know more and what?
….. Declan and Magda are then taken by the Dragon to Mimir’s Grove as the rest of the Nine Worlds are destroyed, and there they live in Mimir’s Dream Time and the chid Magda bears is called Ronin. Read the book!
Rune Magic by Michael James Conneely: The Seeress prophesied at the beginning of time that the Gods of Asgard will not survive the final battle; the Nine Worlds are heading to destruction; beauty and order will fail. As the forces of chaos and darkness gather, Declan and Magda, two young people who have never even seen each other before, suddenly find themselves seized by Odin. He takes them from their own world to work together to save the magic of the Runes and create a new future for the gods. Caught up in the end of the worlds, they choose love, courage and even cunning, and they themselves undergo the awesome magic tests where Odin first won his great powers. But can the prophecy of the Seeress be averted? Can a new world be created? And what will be their place in it? ‘Heimdall has sounded the Gjallarhorn. The forces of chaos are invading Asgard,’ Magda said urgently.