by William Reaves, edited by Úlfgrim Vílmeiðson
Copyright © William Reaves
Pork seems to be the meat of choice among the gods. This is what the Einherjar (Singular-Heroes) eat in Valhalla. Gylfaginning 39 says "For meat, they all feast on the boar Saehrimnir (Sea-sooty), for, although the boar is boiled every morning, he becomes whole again every night. The cook is named Andhrimnir (Face-sooty), and the kettle Eldhrimnir (Fire-sooty).
Grimnirsmal 18: Andhrimnir cooks, in Eldhrimnir, Saehrimnir, the best of meats: Few know how many Einherjar it feeds.
Vafthrudnirsmal 41: All the Einherjar in Odin's court meet in sword-play each day; They choose the fallen and ride from the conflict, (they) drink beer with the Asas, eat their fill of Saehrimnir, and sit together in harmony.
Odin however abstains, partaking only of mead. Gylfaginning 39 adds: "Odin gives whatever meat is set before him on the table to his two wolves, Geri and Freki, for he himself requires no food. For Him, mead is both meat and drink." Gylfaginning 37 informs us that one of the duties of the Valkyries was to serve the Einherjar in Valhalla. "It is the duty of others to serve in Valhalla, to pour the drink, to tend to the tables and the drinking-horns. They are called Valkyries. Odin sends them to each battlefield, to choose the slain and to award victory. Gudor, Rota, and the youngest Norn, --Skuld by name--also ride forth to choose the slain and to turn the battle." Voluspa 24 also names Skuld as first among the Valkyries. The skalds know these maidens serve in Valhal.
Grimnirsmal 36: Hrist and Mist shall bear the horn. Skeggold and Skagul, Hlokk and Herfjötur, Hildi and Thrudi, Goll and Geirolul, Randgrid and Radgrid and Reginleif, These bear the horn to the Einherjar.
Freyja too serves mead among the gathered Asas, Skaldskaparsmal 7 tells us that once when Thor burst into Valhall to find the giant Hrungnir drinking there: "He was very angry and demanded to know who had permitted a giant to drink there, who had granted Hrungnir safe passage to Valhalla, and why Freyja should pour for him as she did at Aegir's." Freyja shares many of the characteristics of the Valkyries and takes special interest in the affairs of mortals, particularily of her mortal husband Odr-Ottar, as seen in Hyndlaljod. She too takes the sword-fallen into her hall, in fact, choosing half of those fallen in battle. This is probably a result of the settlement of the Van-As war.
Grimnirsmal 14: Folkvang 'tis called, where Freyja hath right to assign the seats; Every day she chooses half of the slain, and leaves half to Odin.
Although Freyja serves mead to the gathered gods, she is an equal among them. The equality of the sexes is an important part of our heritage. (This is why Ask and Embla are created together from "entertwined trees.") The Vans in particular represent the feminine attributes of the culture, as the Asas do the male. Heimdall who brought the knowledge of the sacrifice to mankind is associated with both of the god-tribes. Thyrmskvida 15 refers to him as the "Whitest of the Asas," who "foresees well, as all wise Vans do.." In ancient India, the Aryans poured the first sip of milk or mead into the burning hearth where it would be consumed by "Agni's tongue," the flames. Agni is the ward of the gods and mentor to man. It is he who brought the knowledge of the gods, how to worship and how to sacrifice to them. He is a symbol of the sacred fire. The Aryan Agni is an exact counterpart of the Teutonic Heimdall, who has drunk of the three wells in the lower world. (Hyndlaljod 38). It is he who arrives as the waif Scef to early man, in a ship laden with the gifts of culture and agriculture (as recounted in opening strophes of Beowulf, and supported by such sources as William of Malmsbury and Simon of Durham). As Righ, he establishs social order on mankind and produces the first king (Rigsthula). As an Asa, he watches the activity of the demons in Nifhel from his post at the apex of the Bifrost bridge. As in the Rigveda, an Old Norse skald likens the Mead drunk by the Einherjar with milk.
Grimnirsmal 25: Heidrun is the goat that stands over Herjan's (Odin's) Hall, chewing Laerad's (literally "Teachings"; Yggdrassil's) branches. She shall fill the vat with bright mead. That drink shall never fail.
The meat and dew of the leaves of Yggdrassil, whose sap is the water of the three world-wells, are strained thru the workings of the she-goat Heidrun, whose milk was mead. Several hymns to the Soma mead in Rigveda support this process as being of ancient Indo-European origin. The Asmegir, Lif and Lifthrasir, in HoddMimir's Grove sustain themselves on this same honey-dew as they bide in "Hodd-Mimir's Holt." (Vafthrudnirsmal). Yggdrassil is called both "Mimir's tree" and the "Mead-tree". It is also called Method, the Mead-Tree/The Tree of Fate, an epithet which the early Christians used to translate the name of their god. It is the life force of the universe. The water of these wells, Mimir's in particular bestows knowledge & inspiration. Among the magic drawn from Mimer's well are the Ale-runes.
7. "Ale-runes thou must know, if another man's wife in whom thou trust betray thy faith: Thou must rist them on the horn and on the back of the hand and on the nail mark "Need."
8. "Sign the full cup to guard against harm and throw leek in the lagar: Then I know thou wilt never have harm-mixed mead."
The skald thinks Ale-runes important enough to devote two full strophes to. This is unique among the runelore that "The Great Teacher (Mimir) first painted ....and the powerful Hropt (The Crier, The Chanter; Odin) risted." (Havamal 142).
138: "I know that I hung on the world-tree nine whole nights, pierced with a spear, offered to Odin, me to myself, on that tree whose roots no man knows.
140: "Nine Great-songs I learned from Bestla's father's, Bolthorn's, famous son (in other words from Odin's own mother's, Bestla's, brother, Mimir); And I got a drink of the precious mead drawn from Odhraerir (The Inspirerer).
141. "Then I began to bloom and be wise, to grow and to thrive: Word followed fast upon word with me, work followed fast upon work with me."
14: He (Odin) stood on the mountain with Brimir's sword (Mimir's head), a helmet on his head; Then spake Mimir's head --wise from the first word and speaking the staves true.
18: All were scraped off, those that were rist, and blended with holy mead, and sent out on wide-ranging ways; Some are with the Asas, some with the Elves, some with wise Vans. Mortal men have some.
19: There are Beech-runes, there are Help-runes, and all Ale-runes, and valuable Power-runes; Whosoever knows them with no err and with no corruption, has charms for himself --Use them if you understand ! --until the powers perish. The Gods are thought to take strength from this pure Mead, which quite possibly is only clear water. The word Veig, related to our modern word Vigor, is used to designate the mead served among the gods. The water of Urd's well particularily bears this title, being called "Udrar Veigr."
Hymirskvida 1: Early on, the Gods of the Slain (The Asas) took "strengths" and feasted together, before they discovered the truth; They shook twigs and inspected the blood. They ascertained at Aegir's a lack of kettles.
The presence of blood seems to indicate that a sacrifice had taken place. Other sources know of this drink.
Gudrunarkvida ii, 21: Grimhild handed me, in a horn filled to drink, a cool bitter drink, in order that I might forget my past afflictions; This drink was prepared from Urd's strength, Cold-Cool Sea, and the Liquor of Son.
We know that Son is the name of Mimir's well, around which the "reeds of poetry" grow. The Cold-Cool Sea is an appropriate designation of Hvergelmir (the Roaring-Kettle) whose overflow feeds all the waters of the world. It is the mother of waters. The Lower world can be accessed thru "the navel of the sea" which is the great Maelström churning off the Scandinavian coast. Sailors are drawn down into the Maelström and drown in the net of Rann, Aegir's bride. Hvergelmir is conceived of as the great ocean surrounding Midgard, which is once referred to as "the island called All-green" (Harbardsljod). Thus Aegir's realm is an antechamber to Hel. The Gods gather daily around Urd's well to judge the souls of men.. So too we can imagine them to drink of the warm waters of her well "which turns all it touchs the color of the inner lining of an eggshell." The gods are often described as being "hvit," white. The goddesses are described as "linen-white."
29: Kormt and Ormt and the twain Kerlaugar. through these wades Thor daily, in order to judge men beneath Yggdrassil. ....
30: Gladr, Gyllir, Gler, Skeidbrimnir, Silftoppr, Sinir, Gisl, Falhofnir, Gulltoppr, Lettifeti; The Asas ride these steeds every day when they go to sit in judgement beneath the ash, Yggdrassil.
Urd's well is "beneath the ash." She is the ruler of her own domain in the lower world, in Hel. Her realm and Mimir's form the places of bliss in the lower world. This is what the Old Skald's mean when they say that all men "come to Hel." The Solarljod skald, among others, knows that dead men come to Urd's well. He says "I sat in the Norn's seats nine days" (Solarljod 51). All men first come to Urd's well to be judged. Even Snorri allows "five fylkies," 5 military divisions, to pass over the Bridge over the river Gjöll before Hermod rides to find Balder. They are headed south to Urd's well, while Hermod on Sleipnir continues North to Heljarrann, "Hel's high hall." (Vegtamskvida) As a personal epithet Hel designates Urd, not Loki's daughter. The Younger Edda, written by a Christian 200 years after the conversion of Iceland, is the only source that makes this claim. Loki's daughter is not mentioned under the name Hel once in the poems of the Elder Edda. Rather they tell us that all men come to Hel, the traitors and the true, warriors and folk, all men came to Hel. There, by the Thing at Urd's well, is their eternal fate decided by the assembled gods.
Havamal 110: "It is time to speak from the rostrum (literally the "sage's seat") by Urd's well, I saw and was silent. I saw and considered. I listened to men's testimonies."
When Hakonarmal says that the Valkyries ride over "the green realms of the gods to tell Odin a great king has fallen," the poet speaks of the lower world, the beautiful, eternal fields of the lower world strewn with flowers even in winter. Voluspa speaks of this place as Idavoll, the "Plain of Activity (akin to Eddy referring to "active water"). There it says "unsown, the fields yield grain." Food and water are abundantly available. Here the Asmegir, Lif and Lifthrasir, pour "clear strengths" for Balder. Impatiently, they await his arrival. (Vegtamskvida 8). Hel is the Heathen paradise, and counterpart of the dreaded Niflhel, reserved for the worst sinners (Voluspa 38, 39). Havamal also speaks of this place. No wonder this word was used exclusively by the Christians to designate the Hell of the Church. The Christian conquerors made no distinction between Hel and Niflhel, as the skalds did.
Vafthrudnirsmal 43: "Of the runes of giants and all the gods, I can speak truly, for I have been in every world; In nine worlds, I came below Niflhel, where men's souls die thither from Hel."
Perhaps in a future article, I can speak on further instances of eating and sacrificing by the gods, (most notably of the "Asas remedy against old-age" kept by Idunn). But for now, I simply wanted to illuminate the nature of the food of the Gods.
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