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Indo-European Concepts of the Afterlife

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  • William P. Reaves
    Hej All, How well does this correspond to what you know of the journey of the dead in other Indo-European mythologies? The following essay makes a case for the
    Message 1 of 9 , Apr 2, 2007
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      Hej All,



      How well does this correspond to what you know of the journey of the dead in other Indo-European mythologies? The following essay makes a case for the road of the dead (the Road to Hel) as it appears in the poems of the Elder Edda.







      Going to Hel: The Consequences of a Heathen Life



      by William P. Reaves (c) 2007



      For a moral code to remain in effect in any religion, there must be consequences for not following that code. Since Heathenism has a highly developed moral code, it stands to reason that it also spoke of the consequences of leading a life in accordance with or in opposition to its own moral standards, yet according to popular belief there is no mechanism for that to happen - primarily because Snorri's Edda doesn't mention a court to judge the dead or any reward for leading a pious heathen life; warriors go to Valhalla and everyone else goes to Hel, a dreary, dismal place. Do the sources of Heathen belief confirm this view?





      Fáfnismál 10 informs us:



      því at einu sinni
      skal alda hverr
      fara til heljar heðan.



      "For there is a time
      when every man
      shall journey hence to Hel."



      Fáfnismál unequivocally states that all men eventually travel to Hel. It names no exceptions. Other sources confirm that in heathen times, this road and its features were well known.



      Gylfaginning 49 (A. Broedur tr.):



      "Frigg spoke, and asked who there might be among the Æsir who would fain have for his own all her love and favor: let him ride the road to Hel, and seek if he may find Baldr, and offer Hel a ransom if she will let Baldr come home to Ásgard."



      And later in the same narrative:



      ".Now this is to be told concerning Hermódr, that he rode nine nights through dark dales and deep, so that he saw not before he was come to the river Gjöll and rode onto the Gjöll-Bridge; which bridge is thatched with glittering gold. Módgudr is the maiden called who guards the bridge; she asked him his name and race, saying that the day before there had ridden over the bridge five companies of dead men; but the bridge thunders no less under thee alone, and thou hast not the color of dead men."

      ".Then Hermódr rode on till he came to Hel-gate; he dismounted from his steed and made his girths fast, mounted and pricked him with his spurs; and the steed leaped so hard over the gate that he came nowise near to it. Then Hermódr rode home to the hall and dismounted from his steed, went into the hall, and saw sitting there in the high-seat Baldr, his brother."



      The Eddaic poem Sólarljóð composed in the Christian era and freely combining both Christian and heathen elements, also knows this place. It speaks of a Hel-gate in the east (the opposite direction of the setting sun):



      39. The sun I saw,
      true star of day,
      sink in its roaring home;
      but Hel's grated doors
      on the other side I heard
      heavily creaking.

      And, as in Gylfaginning, the river Gjöll runs nearby:


      42. The sun I saw:
      she beamed forth so
      that I seemed nothing to know;
      but Giöll's streams
      roared from the other side
      mingled much with blood.







      In Book One of Saxo Grammaticus' History of Denmark, written a generation before Snorri Sturluson composed the Younger Edda, Saxo speaks of the same road. It is "a path that was worn away with long thorough faring" [O. Elton translation] or "a path worn away by long ages of travelers" [P. Fisher tr.]:



      "While Hadding was at supper, a woman bearing hemlocks was seen to raise her head beside the brazier, and, stretching out the lap of her robe, seemed to ask, "in what part of the world such fresh herbs had grown in winter?" The king desired to know; and, wrapping him in her mantle, she drew him with her underground, and vanished. I take it that the nether gods purposed that he should pay a visit in the flesh to the regions whither he must go when he died. So they first pierced through a certain dark misty cloud, and then advancing along a path that was worn away with long thorough faring, they beheld certain men wearing rich robes, and nobles clad in purple; these passed, they at last approached sunny regions which produced the herbs the woman had brought away. Going further, they came on a swift and tumbling river of leaden waters, whirling down on its rapid current diverse sorts of missiles, and likewise made passable by a bridge. When they had crossed this, they beheld two armies encountering one another with might and main. And when Hadding inquired of the woman about their estate: 'These,' she said, 'are they who, having been slain by the sword, declare the manner of their death by a continual rehearsal, and enact the deeds of their past life in a living spectacle.' Then a wall hard to approach and to climb blocked their further advance. The woman tried to leap it, but in vain."



      In Saxo's account, it is interesting to note that Hel is described as a warm, green place. Here, flowers grow when it is winter on earth.

      Notably, both Snorri and Saxo place warriors in Hel. Snorri tells us that five fylki ["companies", "military troops"] of dead men passed before, making less noise than Hermod alone on Sleipnir. Their numbers and arrangement suggest that they died together in battle. Similarly, Hadding sees "men slain by the sword" reenacting their battles in "the regions whither he must go when he died."

      That even warriors destined for Valhalla first came to Hel like everyone else is confirmed in the sagas.

      In Gisli Surson's saga (ch. 24) is mentioned the custom of binding Hel-shoes on the feet of the dead. Warriors in regard to whom there was no doubt that Valhall was their final destiny received Hel-shoes like all others, það er tíðska að binda mönnum helskó, sem menn skulu á ganga til Valhallar. ("It is custom to bind hel-shoes to men, so that they shall walk on to Valhall.)

      In several sources, we find examples of warriors killed in the line of duty who are said to come "to Hel". Thus, like all men, warriors too first travel "to Hel" before entering Valhalla.

      In the Egil's Saga chapter 45, we read how Egil saved himself from men whom King Erik Blood-axe sent in pursuit of him to Saud Isle. While they were searching for him there, he had stolen to the vicinity of the place where the boat lay in which those in pursuit had rowed across. Three warriors guarded the boat. Egil succeeded in surprising them, and in giving one of them a mortal wound before he could defend himself. The second fell in a duel on the strand. The third, who sprang into the boat to make it loose, fell there after an exchange of blows. The saga has preserved a verse in which Egil mentions this exploit to his brother Thorolf and his friend Arinbjorn, whom he met after his flight from Saud Isle. There he says:



      at þrymreynis þjónar
      þrír nökkurir Hlakkar,
      til hásalar Heljar
      helgengnir, för dvelja.





      "I do not boast overly-

      By sending three servants

      Of that tree of the valkyrie (i.e. the king)

      To the otherworld, to stay

      In Hel's high hall."



      [Bernard Scudder tr., 1997]



      The fallen men were king's men and warriors. They were slain by weapons and fell at their posts of duty, one from a sudden, unexpected wound, the others in open conflict. But the skald Egil, who as a heathen born about the year 904 must have known the mythological views of his fellow-heathen believers better than the people of our time, assures us positively that these men from King Erik's body-guard, instead of going immediately to Valhal, went to the lower world and to Hel's high hall there.



      [This is NOT to suggest that Valhalla is located in Hel, as we shall see, only that warriors pass through Hel on their way to Valhalla . We have every reason to believe that Valhalla is located within the city of Asgard located in the heavens. The context of Grímnismál 21-26 for example suggests a heavenly hall. ]



      In the Eddaic poem Baldur's Dreams, we find a more detailed description of "Hel's high hall". It says:





      3. Odin rode forth -
      the ground rattled -
      to Hel's high
      hall he came.



      4. Then Odin rode
      to the eastern gate,
      where he knew there was
      a Vala's grave.
      To the prophetess he began
      to chant a magic song,
      until compelled she rose.



      Odin asks her:


      6. "Vegtam is my name,
      I am Valtam's son.
      Tell thou me of Hel:
      I remember that from the world:
      For whom are those benches
      strewed o'er with rings,
      those costly couches
      overlaid with gold?"

      She responds:


      7. "Here stands mead,
      for Baldr brewed,
      over the bright potion
      a shield is laid;
      but the Æsir race
      are in despair.
      By compulsion I have spoken
      I will now be silent."



      Loki's daughter is not clearly identified as Hel in any of the existing Eddaic poems. In light of this, it's important to note that the description of "Hel's high hall" stands in stark contrast to the hall of Loki's daughter in Snorri's Edda (Gylfaginning 34):



      "Hel [Loki's daughter] he cast into Niflheim, and gave to her power over nine worlds, to apportion all abodes among those that were sent to her: that is, men dead of sickness or of old age. She has great possessions there; her walls are exceeding high and her gates great. Her hall is called Sleet-Cold; her dish, Hunger; Famine is her knife; Idler, her thrall; Sloven, her maidservant; Pit of Stumbling, her threshold, by which one enters; Disease, her bed; Gleaming Bale, her bed-hangings. She is half blue-black and half flesh-color (by which she is easily recognized), and very lowering and fierce."



      In the Eddaic poem Baldur's Dreams, whereas the benches in "Hel's high hall" are strewn with costly things and mead stands poured out in goblets awaiting a guest, the hall of Loki's daughter (whom Snorri calls Hel) is a dismal place with its dish called "Hunger" and its knife named "famine." One finds no costly things or sparkling mead here.

      In Snorri's Edda, written more than 200 years after the official conversion of Iceland to the new religion, the words Hel and Niflheim or Niflhel are seemingly used interchangeably; there, being sent to Hel or Niflhel is synonymous with death. Loki's daughter is thrown into Niflheim and makes her home there (Gylf. 34). Hermod rides "to Hel" to find Baldur and pleas with Hel, Loki's daughter, for his release (Gylf. 49). In Gylfaginning 42, when Thor slays the giant builder, he sends him down "to Niflhel". In Skáldskaparmál 17, when Thor kills Hrungnir, he says he knocked that giant "into Hel". In the older heathen poems Snorri quotes, however, a clear distinction between these realms is made.

      In the Eddaic poems, Niflhel is a cold, dreary place located in the northern part of the underworld, corresponding to Niflheim the original world to the north of Ginnungagap at the beginning of time (Gylfaginning 4). It is a place filled with terrors and an appropriate location for the hall of Loki's half-livid daughter. Völuspá 36-37 says:



      36. She saw a hall standing,
      far from the sun,
      in Náströnd;
      its doors are turned northward,
      venom-drops fall
      in through its apertures:
      entwined is that hall
      with serpent's backs.

      37. There she saw wading
      the sluggish streams
      bloodthirsty men
      and perjurers,
      and him who beguiles the ear
      of another's wife.
      There Nidhögg sucks
      the corpses of the dead;
      the wolf tears men.



      The Eddaic poems clearly distinguish this place from Hel, the realm where "all men" must eventually come according to Fáfnismál 10. Vafþrúðnismál 43 separates those that come to Hel from those that pass through Hel into Niflhel:


      43. Of the secrets of the Jötuns
      and of all the gods,
      I can truly tell;
      for I have traveled

      Over each world;
      to nine worlds I came,
      to Niflhel beneath:
      here die men from Hel.



      Here the world of Niflhel is as sharply distinguished from Hel, as Hel is from Midgard, the world of living men. The heathen poet says that men "die" from Hel into Niflhel, just as men die from Midgard into Hel. As we know from Völuspá, Niflhel is a place filled with terrors reserved for the souls of adulterers, murderers and their ilk.

      In agreement with this, paraphrasing the words of Vafþrúðnismál 43, Snorri himself states in Gylfaginning 3:



      "wicked men go to Hel and onto Niflhel; that is down in the ninth world"



      The poem Baldur's Dreams also distinguishes these two realms. It says:





      2. Up rose Odin
      lord of men,
      and on Sleipnir he
      the laid saddle;
      he rode down
      to Niflhel.
      A dog he met,
      from Hel coming.

      3. It was blood-stained
      on its breast,
      on its slaughter-craving throat,
      and nether jaw.
      It bayed
      and widely gaped
      at the sire of magic song: -
      long it howled.

      4. Odin rode forth -
      the ground rattled -
      to Hel's high
      hall he came.



      In this poem, Odin rides "down" from Asgard to Niflhel. From Niflhel, he rides toward Hel. At the border between the two realms, a dog "bloody about the breast" runs to meet him, howling and snapping at him. Once in Hel, he finds the well-decorated hall, described above, in which Baldur will reside after death. In Hel, the road "rattles" or "thunders" beneath the weight of a living rider on a living horse.

      The same is said of Hermod. When he later rides to Hel to converse with Baldur (as told in Gylfaginning 49), he is told by the guardian at the bridge that "five fylki" of dead men have passed quietly before him. Hermod on Sleipnir makes more noise crossing into Hel than these five "fylki" together. The Zoega Dictionary defines a "fylki" as a battalion or host in battle, and a fylking as a battle array. According to the Cleasby-Vigfusson Dictionary of Old Icelandic, "fylki" is a poetic term meaning "troops" or divisions of a military, from the term "fylki" meaning a "county," used especially in regard to a levy, as "from each fylki twelve ships of war were to be levied." A fylkinga-armr is a wing of an army, and a fylkiar-broddr is the vanguard of an army. The verb fylkja is a military term meaning "to draw up". Thus, five battalions of warriors passed over the bridge to Hel before Hermod. Despite their great number, these men made little noise. This description is consistent with other accounts we have of the journey to Hel.

      Consider the words of the Eddaic poem Sólarljóð:



      44. "The sun I saw
      seldom sadder;
      I had then almost from the world declined:
      my tongue was
      as wood become,
      and all was cold without me."





      The poet informs us that the dead cannot speak. This is consistent with several heathen accounts, where runes are required to loosen the tongue of a dead man allowing him to the power of speech. Odin employs speech-runes when he carves í rúnum, so that a corpse from the gallows comes and mælir (speaks) with him (Hávamál 157). According to Saxo (Book 1), Hadding's companion Hardgrep places a piece of wood carved with runes under the tongue of a dead man. The corpse recovers consciousness and the power of speech, he sings a terrible song. In Guðrúnarkviða in fyrsta it is told how Gudrun, mute and almost lifeless (gerðist að deyja), sat near Sigurd's dead body. One of the kinswomen present lifts the veil from Sigurd's head. At the sight of her loved one, Gudrun awakens, bursts into tears, and is able to speak. Brynhild then curses the being (vættur) which "gave speech-runes to Gudrun," (23) that is to say, freed her tongue, until then sealed as in death. Thus it follows that the dead who pass silently into Hel cannot speak. Their tongues are sealed by death, unless they possess speech-runes.

      The Eddaic poem Sigurdrífumál 12 describes these runes:



      12. Mál-(speech-) runes you must know,
      if you would that no one
      requite you for injury with hate.
      Those you must wind,
      those you must wrap round,
      those you must altogether place
      in that court (Thing),
      where people have
      to go into full judgment [í fulla dóma fara]



      This heathen verse tells us that speech-runes are particularly useful in "that court" where people go into "full judgment." What is meant by "full judgment" is not stated.

      Hávamál 77 speaks of just such a judgment. It informs us that everyone who dies is "judged" without describing the process. This judgment is eternal.



      "Your cattle shall die; your kindred shall die;

      you yourself shall die; one thing I know which never dies:

      the judgment on each one dead."



      Where and how this judgment takes place is of great importance to determining the heathen belief regarding the dead. Thankfully, the Eddaic poems contain clues that illuminate the process.

      In Sólarljóð, after traveling the road to Hel, the poet informs us that dead men must sit on "Norns' seats" for nine days. What they wait for is not stated.



      51. In the Norns' seat
      nine days I sat,
      thence I was mounted on a horse:
      there the giantess's sun
      shone grimly
      through the dripping clouds of heaven.




      In Hávamál 111, we find a similar scene:



      112. 'Tis time to speak
      from the sage's chair. -
      By the well of Urd
      I sat silently,
      I saw and meditated,
      I listened to men's words.

      113. Of runes I heard discourse,
      and of things divine,
      nor of graving them were they silent,
      nor of sage counsels,
      at the High One's hall.
      In the High One's hall.



      Here the speaker "sits silently" by Urd's well listening to discourse, just as in Sólarljóð, where a dead man sits silently "on the Norns' seats." Since Urd and her sisters are "norns" might this be the court where men go into "full judgment"?

      Without drawing any conclusions, let's restate what we have learned according to these heathen sources:



      1. All men eventually come to Hel, even warriors whose final destination is Valhalla.

      2. Every dead man is judged. The judgment is eternal.

      3. There is a court at "Urd's well" with a rostrum where discourse is heard. There, a person sits silently listening to Odin "The High One".

      4. Dead men "sit in Norn's seats" for nine days before moving onto their final fate. Urd and her sisters are Norns.

      5. Dead men's tongues are cold and silent, unless one possesses "mal-runes" which are particularly helpful in "that court" where men go into "full judgment."



      Based on this wide range of evidence, it is now reasonable to hypothesize that all the dead gather in Hel by Urd's well, and more specifically at a court found there, awaiting judgment, their final fate not yet determined. From our sources, we know that those who die on the battlefield will pass onto Valhalla, while "wicked" people will "die" again and be sent northward to Niflhel or Niflheim. Presumably, the rest will remain in Hel, the warm green fields surrounding Urd's thingstead. Saxo tells us these realms are "sunny" and Sólarljóð speaks of a "sun" shining grimly through the dripping clouds.

      At this point, the destination of the dead is not certain, apparently even for those who died on the battlefield. In Njáls Saga, ch. 88, of the heathen Hrapp, who had burnt a heathen temple and stripped the idols of their riches, Hakon says: "The gods are in no haste to seek vengeance, the man who did this shall be driven out of Valhalla forever." (Magnus Magnusson and Hermann Pálsson translation)

      If the purpose of the journey to Hel is to appear at the court by Urd's well and wait for judgment and even warriors chosen for Valhalla must stop here before passing over Bifröst to Asgard and Valhalla, we must suspect that the gods have some involvement in the matter, since ultimately it is Odin and Freyja who decides who enters their halls Valhalla and Sessrumnir. Grímnismál 14 states:



      "Folkvang is the ninth,
      there Freyja directs
      the sittings in the hall.
      She chooses half the fallen each day,
      but Odin the other half."



      Since Njal's Saga (above) tells us that the gods are in no hurry to seek vengeance against those who desecrate their shrines, this suggests they expect there will be a time for certain redress in the future. Such a view would give comfort to the faithful heathen who might see such men prosper in life, seemingly unpunished for their violations of heathen moral laws. They could take solace in their knowledge that the gods would act in the due course of time, if not in this lifetime, then the next.

      While other Eddaic poems speak of a judgment on each one dead, place dead men "on Norn's seats," and speak of a court at Urd's well, the Eddaic poem Grímnismál, verses 29 and 30, inform us that the gods ride over Bifröst "every day" to sit in judgment by Urd's well. What they judge is not stated.



      29. Körmt and Örmt,
      and the Kerlaugs twain:
      these Thor must wade every day,
      when he to goes to 'sit as judge' (daema)
      at Yggdrasil's ash;
      for the As-bridge
      is all on fire,
      the holy waters boil.



      30. Glad and Gyllir,
      Gler and Skeidbrimir,
      Sillfrintopp and Sinir,
      Gisl and Falhofnir,
      Gulltopp and Lettfeti;
      on these steeds the Æsir
      every day ride,
      when they go to 'sit as judges' (daema),
      at Yggdrasil's ash.



      That the gods consider this journey to be of the utmost importance is clear from the effort they make to get there. They ride from their homes in Asgard "every day" over the bridge Bifröst to "sit as judges" (dæma) by Urd's well. The journey is particularly arduous for Thor, who must walk, wading four rivers to arrive there "every day".

      Grímnismál 29 and 30 do not tell us which direction the gods travel when they leave Asgard, riding toward Urd's well. As we saw in the poem Baldur's Dreams, when Odin rode from Asgard to Niflhel, he rode "downward." But in Gylfaginning 14, Snorri interprets the Grímnismál verses to mean that the Aesir ride "upward" over Bifröst every day from their earthly city of Asgard, which he identifies with Troy, to Urd's well which he locates in the heavens. Snorri clearly states that Bifröst connects Earth [Midgard] and the heavens. He portrays the Aesir as human beings who cleverly built a bridge to heaven, and founded a court (not homes) there. Snorri depicts the human Aesir as riding their horses from their home in Troy "upward" to Urd's well in the heavens. That he used Grímnismál 29 and 30 as his source is clear in that he quotes verse 30 and paraphrases verse 29, reciting the list of horses the Aesir ride over Bifröst daily. Despite Snorri's direct statement that the Aesir ride "upward", we have reason to doubt that the heathen poet who composed Grímnismál meant this. First of all, no heathen poem portrays the Aesir as human beings or identifies Asgard with the earthly (and foreign) city of Troy. These are late Christian interpretations of genuine heathen concepts. Secondly, no other source places Urd's well in the heavens. The Grímnismál verses do not state which direction the Aesir ride. The word "up" is Snorri's addition.

      While we may doubt that ancient heathens conceived of Urd's well as being located in the heavens, we have little reason to doubt that they placed Asgard there. Snorri informs us that in Asgard Odin has a throne "from which he saw over all the worlds." The poem Skírnismál confirms that this was a genuine heathen concept.

      In the one place in heathen poetry where the location of Urd's well is indicated, we are told that it lies "in the south" (Skáldskaparmál 65 in a verse by Eilif Guðrúnarson). In this verse, Christ is said "to sit in the south at Urd's well". Thus in the words of a converted heathen poet, the primary figure of his new religion, Christ, sits where the primary figures of his old religion, the Aesir, "sit as judges" that is "in the south at Urd's well."

      This coincides with what Fáfnismál 15 tells us about Bifröst's fate. During Ragnarök, when Surt rides forth to battle the gods, the bridge Bifröst breaks under the weight of riders.



      Sigurd spoke:


      "Tell me then, Fafnir, for you are famed wise,
      And you know much now:
      How do they call the isle where all the gods
      And Surt shall mingle sword-sweat (blood)?"

      Fafnir spoke:


      "Óskópnir it is, where all the gods
      Shall seek the play of swords (battle);
      Bilröst breaks when they cross the bridge,
      And the steeds shall swim the flood."





      As we know, Surt dwells in a world of fire located to the far south. When Ragnarök approaches, Surt comes "from the south" (Völuspá 53), the same direction as Urd's well. Then, Bifröst (i.e. Bilröst), the path between Asgard and Urd's well, "breaks" under the weight of riders.

      In Gylfaginning 4, Snorri informs us that at the beginning of time there were two worlds: a world of fire and a world of ice on either side of a great abyss called Ginnungagap. The world of fire was located to the south of it, and the world of ice was located to the north of it. According to Gylfaginning, Surt dwells in the fiery south, while in the north is found one of the three world fountains: the cold well named Hvergelmir. In Gylfaginning 15, Snorri informs us that a second of the three world fountains, Mimir's well, is located "where Ginnungagap" once was.

      If one of the three world fountains, Hvergelmir, is located to the north of the abyss and the second world fountain, Mimir's well, is located "where Ginnungagap once was", one world fountain remains: Urd's well. We are told it lies "in the south", the same direction we find Surt's fiery realm. Thus we find an even distribution of the three world fountains among the three most prominent geographical features of the primeval age: Hvergelmir in Niflheim, Mimir's well in Ginnungagap, and Urd's well in the fiery south.

      Mimir and Urd are older than the gods and more powerful than them. Odin, the father of the Aesir, regularly goes to consult Mimir and must sacrifice of himself to drink from Mimir's well, nor can Odin thwart the will of Urd (Fate). As owners and guardians of two of the world's primeval fountains, logic dictates that Mimir and Urd had established their claim on them long before the younger gods led by Odin created Midgard and the upper worlds. This strongly suggests that Mimir's and Urd's wells are located in the first world. As giants, they must have been among the world's first beings. Vafþrúðnismál 33 tells us that "a man and a maid together" sprang from under Ymir's arm, while a three-headed monster was bred from his feet. This "man and maid" (whom are not identified) may well have been Mimir and Urd, the oldest and most powerful beings in the universe.

      In Hvergelmir to the north, we are told that icy rivers find their source. In contrast, we have reason to believe that Urd's well in the south is warm. Snorri tells us that swans swim in its water (Gylfaginning 16). In the same vein, Hrafnagaldur Óðins 2 tells us that when "wights confounded the weather with magic", Urd was appointed the protector of Odhrerir (one of the world wells) "against the mightiest winter." In Völundarkviða 1, three swan-maidens fly "from the south" to meet their lovers in the north. The same verse connects them with fate and weaving, the occupations of the Norns.

      According to Gylfaginning, when the ice floes of Hvergelmir flowed into the vast abyss and met the molten floes of Surt's home, a temperate region was created where life took hold. There, the giant Ymir arose. Later the gods slew Ymir and created Midgard from his bones and the stony vault of heaven from his skull. Thus, Midgard and the upper worlds must rest on the foundation of the first world, where we know for certain that at least two of the three world fountains are located. When the gods built Asgard and Midgard, they must have used the first world as their foundation. The Tree Yggdrasil itself is said to grow out of these three fountains.

      Grímnismál 29, 30 tell us that Bifröst connects the gods' home in Asgard with Urd's well. It does not inform us where Asgard or Urd's well is located. If we imagine that Asgard is located in the heavens (not on earth as Snorri says), then Urd's well, on the opposite end of the bridge, must be located somewhere below. This vision is supported in Snorri's identification of the Bifröst bridge as a rainbow. A rainbow forming a half-arc extends from its apex in the heavens down past the horizon. A rainbow forming a full half-circle, extends its two ends beyond the horizon in two opposite directions. If we imagine Midgard as a smaller plate suspended above the larger underworld, then Bifröst, the rainbow bridge, extends from its apex in the heavens (Asgard) past the edge of the earth-plate, with its end or ends landing somewhere in the underworld. The Poetic Edda informs us that at least one end extends to Urd's well, which the skaldic verse quoted above places "in the south". Thus at least one end of Bifröst extends from Asgard in the heavens downward to Urd's well in Hel, the southern portion of the lower world.

      If we imagine Bifröst as a full half-circle with its apex in heaven and one bridgehead in the south by Urd's well, then we must locate the other end to the north in Niflhel. That this is probably the genuine heathen conception of the bridge is supported by the passage in the poem Baldur's Dreams, where we are told that Odin rides from Asgard to Niflhel, and in several passages where we find Heimdall guarding one end of the bridge to prevent giants from crossing over it into Asgard. The gods ride over the southern half of the bridge daily to act as judges in Hel, while Heimdall guards the northern half from invasions from Niflhel. In support of this, the Eddaic poem Hrafnagaldur Óðins, verse 25, states:



      At Jörmungrund's

      northern border

      under the outermost root

      of the noble tree

      go to their couches

      giants and giantesses,

      dead men, dwarves,

      and dark-elves.





      When the Bifröst bridge breaks under riders shortly before Ragnarök, their horses are said to swim in the sea of air (Bilröst brotnar, er þeir á brú fara, og svima i módu marir - Fáfnismál 15); A horse does not swim as fast and easily as it runs. The solid connections which were used by the gods and which they built in space are thus necessary for swift movement. The valkyries, as well as the gods, have found solid roads advantageous. The Bifröst bridge would not have been built or established for the daily connection between Asgard and Urd's realm if it had not been necessary.



      Grímnismál 30 informs us that Thor cannot ride over the bridge, as the other gods do, but must walk, lest the "holy waters boil". The poem Haustlöng provides a reason, in its description of Thor riding in his goat-drawn chariot:



      15. "All the sanctuaries of the falcons [the skies] did burn, while down below, thanks to Ullr's step-father [Thor] the ground was kicked with hail, when the bucks drew the temple-deity of the easy-riding chariot [Thor] forward to meet Hrungnir. At the same time Svolnir's wife [Odin's wife, the earth] did split asunder." [Based on Richard North's translation]



      Thor cannot ride across Bifröst because his fiery chariot would damage the bridge and endanger Urd's well, the same fate that is to befall the bridge when Surt's men ride from the south during Ragnarök. Still, Thor's chariot requires a road. In the preceding verse, Haustlöng 14, that road is not Bifröst but Mána vegr (Mani's path):



      "Earth's son [Thor] drove to the play of iron [the battle], while Moon's path clattered beneath him." [Richard North tr.]



      Thus the atmosphere is seen as a great river or sea that is difficult to traverse without a solid path. This would seem to preclude the Valkyries from riding directly from Midgard with their charges to Valhalla in the heavens. In agreement with this theory, Grímnismál 21 informs us that the breadth of the atmospheric sea is too great and its currents too strong for those riding on their horses from the battlefield to wade across (árglaumur þykir ofmikill valglaumi að vaða - "Hard does it seem to the host of the slain to wade the torrent wild." [For further illumination of this verse, see http://www.hi.is/~eybjorn/ugm/grm21.html ].

      According to Grímnismál 29, 30 Bifröst connects Asgard and Urd's well. Its very name, Bifröst (Trembling Way), indicates that this connection is of such a nature that it quakes and trembles beneath the weight of horses and riders; this is confirmed in that Thor is forbidden from crossing this bridge on his thunder-chariot and it shall break under the weight of a host of riders led by Surt.

      As we have seen in the oldest heathen sources, all men come to Hel when they die, including warriors destined for Valhalla. The sources examined above make it probable that they gather by the Thing at Urd's well, where the gods gather daily to "sit as judges." If Valhalla is located in heaven, then logically, the fallen warriors, like the gods, must cross Bifröst to reach their final destination.

      We have at least one poetic example depicting the arrival of fallen warriors into Valhalla. The poem Eiriksmal begins:



      1. "What dreams are these? I thought I arose before daybreak to make Valhall ready for the host of the slain. I woke up the Einherjar. I bade them rise up to strew the benches and to fill up the beer-vats, and I bade the Valkyries bear the wine, as if a king were coming.

      2. I look for the coming of some noble chiefs from the earth, wherefore my heart is glad."

      3. "What is that clashing" said Bragi, "as if a thousand men or some great host were tramping - the walls and the benches are creaking withal - as if Balder were coming back to Odin's hall?"





      When King Eirik, with five other kings and their attendants come riding up to Asgard, the gods hear a mighty din on their approach, as if the very foundations of Asgard were shaken. All the benches of Valhall quake and tremble. Did the skald who composed this suppose that the chosen heroes came on horses that swam in the air, and that the movements of their horses in this element produced a noise that made Valhall tremble? Or was it a solid road which thunders under the hooves of hundreds of horses, and quakes beneath their weight? The poem provides a clue: The skald makes Bragi say that from the din and quaking it sounds as if it was Baldur who was returning to the halls of the gods. As we know, after his death, Baldur resides in Hel, i.e. in the lower world. If indeed King Eirik and his men arrived in the heavenly halls of Asgard (home of Valhalla) via Bifröst, we may reasonably suspect that they came from the direction of Urd's well, a warm place located to the south of Mimir's well "where Ginnungagap once was."

      Only one other source provides us information about the route the Valkyries take when they arrive in Valhalla with their chosen heroes. In the poem Hakonarmal 13, the Valkyrie Skogul says:



      Ríða vit skulum,
      kvað en ríkja Skögul,
      grona heima goða
      Óðni at segja,
      at nú mun allvaldr koma
      á hann sjalfan at séa."



      "Now we must ride to the green world [heim] of the gods to tell Odin that a mighty king is coming there to see him."





      Might this "green world of the gods" refer to Hel with its thingstead near Urd's well where the gods gather there sit in judgment every day?



      According to the poem Eiriksmal quoted above, Odin is not at the Thing by Urd's well when the fallen heroes arrive. He greets them in Valhalla. Thus it would seem that these warriors chosen for Valhalla were not required to stop at Urd's thingstead, unless, like Hrapp (Njal's Saga ch. 88), they had committed some nithing act that required judgment by the gods. However, even here, Odin does not act independently of the Norns. The Younger Edda (Gylfaginning 36) informs us:



      "There are still others, whose function it is to wait in Valhall, serve drink and look after the tableware and drinking vessels. Thus they are named in Grímnismál:



      "Hrist and Mist I desire should bring me a horn, Skeggiold and Skogul, Hild and Thrud, Hlokk and Herfiotur, Goll and Geirahod, Randgrid and Radgrid and Reginlief. These serve ale to the Einherjar.



      "These are called Valkyries. Odin sends them to every battle. They allot death to men and govern victory, Gunn and Rota and the youngest norn, Skuld, always ride to choose who shall be slain and to govern the killings." [Faulkes tr.]



      What Snorri says is confirmed in the Eddaic poem Völuspá. In verse 20, the norns who determine the fate of men are enumerated:



      20. Thence come maidens,
      much knowing,
      three from the hall,
      which stands under that tree;
      Urd hight the one,
      the second Verdandi, -
      on a tablet they graved -
      Skuld the third.
      Laws they established,
      life allotted
      to the sons of men;
      destinies pronounced.



      In verse 30, when the Valkyries, who chose men's fate on the battlefield, under the direction of Odin, are named, the youngest Norn, Skuld, is foremost among them.



      30. She saw the Valkyries

      coming from afar,
      ready to ride
      to the gods' people:
      Skuld held a shield,
      Skögul was second,
      then Gunn, Hild, Göndul,
      and Geirskögul.
      Now are enumerated
      Herian´s [Odin's] maidens,
      the Valkyries, ready
      over the earth to ride.



      According to both Eddas, Skuld, the youngest of the three Norns, is also the leader of Odin's valkyries which explains why warriors chosen for Valhalla are allowed to bypass the Thingstead at Urd's well. They are led past Urd's thingstead by one of the Norns themselves, thus not even the selection of Valhalla's heroes is free of Urd's oversight, underscoring the truth of Fjölsvinnsmál 47 which says: "No one can oppose Urd's decree," including Odin himself (further illustrated by his inability to prevent Baldur's death, as well as his return from the underworld).

      By placing inordinate weight on the words of Snorri's Edda and paying insufficient attention to what the older heathen poems say regarding the fate of the dead, we have been mislead into believing that the gods did not judge their followers and that only warriors were rewarded for leading a virtuous life according to the precepts of heathen morality. The oldest heathen sources, the Eddaic poems, make it plain that there are consequences for leading a life in accordance with or in opposition to heathen values. The gods judge the souls of all men and reward their actions accordingly.

      There is no need to interpret this judgment of souls as a Christian interpolation, since a similar court is found in most all Indo-European mythologies.





      Wassail, William



      Author of:



      Viktor Rydberg's Investigations into Germanic Mythology, Vol. II, Part 1: Indo-European Mythology
      Translated and Annotated by William P. Reaves
      (iUniverse, 2007)



      Viktor Rydberg's Investigations into Germanic Mythology, Vol. II, Part 2: Germanic Mythology
      Translated and Annotated by William P. Reaves (iUniverse, 2004)



      Our Fathers' Godsaga by Viktor Rydberg, Illustrated by John Bauer
      Translated by William P. Reaves (iUniverse, 2003)



      Available at bn.com and wherever books are sold.


      [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
    • A.
      ... the dead in other Indo-European mythologies? William, Sadly I m still working on the whole creation issue. I m awaiting the arrival of a 2 volume set on
      Message 2 of 9 , Apr 4, 2007
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        --- In PIEreligion@yahoogroups.com, "William P. Reaves" <wreaves@...>
        wrote:
        >
        > Hej All,
        >
        > How well does this correspond to what you know of the journey of
        the dead in other Indo-European mythologies?

        William,

        Sadly I'm still working on the whole creation issue. I'm awaiting the
        arrival of a 2 volume set on the Atharva Veda, then I should be able
        to complete a comprehensive file on the Vedic views.
        After that I may be purchasing some more Zoroastrian works.

        Beyond that, life is a little overly busy right now and I doubt I'll
        have time to read the remaining chapters of Rydberg's work, until
        after my May vacation.

        As to death and the afterlife, the only remarks I can make are that I
        agree with Jaan Puhvel, who viewed Odin as a correlate of the Baltic
        Pecullus/Patollo/Velnias, and the Slavic god Veles/Volos.

        For more on my personal views as they evolved from Puhvel (and those
        of Thor Heidrek Templin) ..if outrageously bored, you can find a
        rambling article here:
        http://www.geocities.com/xthanex/Odin_101.doc

        Be well,
        Aydan
      • mkelkar2003
        from Amazon.com Origins of Indian Psychology (Paperback) by N. Ross Reat (Author) Editorial Reviews Book Description A brilliant study examining the
        Message 3 of 9 , Apr 5, 2007
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          from Amazon.com
          Origins of Indian Psychology (Paperback)
          by N. Ross Reat (Author)
          Editorial Reviews
          Book Description
          A brilliant study examining the development of the ancient theoretical
          psychological thought in India, starting from the pre-Vedic period and
          its maturation up to the early Buddhist period. It outlines the
          concept of monism in the Vedas, the Vedic concept of afterlife, the
          Vedic concept of the human being, in terms of individual identity,
          vital faculties and the mental organs. It should be of enormous
          interest to the students of religious as well as modern psychology.

          "Appropriate for undergraduate and graduate libraries" Choice
          Product Details

          * Paperback: 360 pages
          * Publisher: Asian Humanities Press (August 1990)
          * ISBN-10: 0895819244


          Review: [Untitled]
          Reviewed Work(s):

          * The Vedic Origins of Karma: Cosmos as Man in Ancient Indian Myth
          and Ritual by Herman W. Tull

          Review author[s]: Frederick M. Smith
          Journal of the American Oriental Society, Vol. 111, No. 1 (Jan. -
          Mar., 1991), pp. 173-174
          doi:10.2307/603790

          M. kelkar
        • Ken Pfrenger
          ... Please excuse the pun but that was one Hel of a post William:) I read it when you first posted and it got me thinking and looking into what I could
          Message 4 of 9 , Apr 7, 2007
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            On 4/2/07, William P. Reaves <wreaves@...> wrote:
            > Hej All,
            >
            >
            >
            > How well does this correspond to what you know of the journey of the dead in
            > other Indo-European mythologies? The following essay makes a case for the
            > road of the dead (the Road to Hel) as it appears in the poems of the Elder
            > Edda.

            <snip>

            Please excuse the pun but that was one Hel of a post William:) I read
            it when you first posted and it got me thinking and looking into what
            I could find from the Slavic realm and after doing some not so
            satifying research I came back just now and read it again.

            I would love to comment on my research but honestly there is so little
            I can be sure of since many sources have no problem quoting the Book
            Of Veles as if there we no question of it's credibility. There are
            certain things that seem to be in common but I have yet to find a
            Slavic equiv of a Road to Hel...the Slavic Goddess Morena defnitely
            seems to be the cognate of Hel but I have much more to read before I
            start spouting anything here.

            ken
          • William P. Reaves
            Hey Ken, Thanks for the response. If you thought the post was thought-provoking, I would recommend reading my newest book. It s another translation from
            Message 5 of 9 , Apr 7, 2007
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              Hey Ken,

              Thanks for the response. If you thought the post was thought-provoking, I would recommend reading my newest book. It's another translation from Swedish. It contains several chapters of Indo-European comparisons regarding the afterlife, journey of the soul, etc. It runs $19.95 in paperback and can be purchased ay www.bn.com or www.amazon.com.

              Viktor Rydberg's Investigations into Germanic Mythology, Vol. II, Part 1: Indo-European Mythology
              Translated and Annotated by William P. Reaves
              (iUniverse, 2007)

              It's an early work on comparative mythology, written in 1889, and one of the first "modern" attempts, which did not rely on the nature-myth theory.

              The book mainly deals with Old Norse, Greek, Rigvedic and Avestan mythologies. I'd love to hear input and criticism from someone with a background in other IE mythologies, such as Slavic. I recently learned that Iranian influenced Slavic,so it would be great to the Slavic view and see how it compares with Rydberg's findings.

              The author mentions the Book of Veles, but doesn't make use of it in his comparaisons.

              When I read Marija Gimbutas, The Balts (1963), I was impressed by how well it tied in with Rydberg's findings.


              > would love to comment on my research but honestly there is so little I can be sure of since many sources have no problem quoting the Book of Veles as if there we no question of it's credibility. There are
              certain things that seem to be in common but I have yet to find a
              Slavic equiv of a Road to Hel...the Slavic Goddess Morena defnitely
              seems to be the cognate of Hel but I have much more to read before I
              start spouting anything here.

              In your opinion, what are the most credible sources of Slavic religion? I ask, because if we cannot be certain of the reliablity of the information, I think it's important to give it appropriate weight.

              And is there an English translation of the Book of Veles? I assume, from your words, that you consider it unreliable. I don't know much about it, other than it is considered fictional. What's your view?

              I immersed myself in Indo-Iranian, Greek and Old Norse mythologies/religions while translating and annotating the book, so those are the IE mythologies/religions I am most familar with.




              Thanks, William






              Author of:


              Viktor Rydberg's Investigations into Germanic Mythology, Vol. II, Part 2: Germanic Mythology
              Translated and Annotated by William P. Reaves (iUniverse, 2004)

              Our Fathers' Godsaga by Viktor Rydberg, Illustrated by John Bauer
              Translated by William P. Reaves (iUniverse, 2003)

              Available at bn.com and wherever books are sold.



              [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
            • William P. Reaves
              Hi Ken, I found one source of Slavic religion which you may or may not be aware of, which I d like to share. It comes from Book 14 of the Danish History (Gesta
              Message 6 of 9 , Apr 7, 2007
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                Hi Ken,



                I found one source of Slavic religion which you may or may not be aware of, which I'd like to share. It comes from Book 14 of the Danish History (Gesta Dancorum) of Saxo Grammaticus.



                There are 16 Books in all, and the first 9 are generally recognized to be reworked Old Norse mythology. Books 10-16 are historic in nature, although you still find some heathen elements. Saxo wrote in Denmark about a generation before Snorri Sturluson in Iceland.



                The following translation is from the appendix to the Oliver Elton translation of Saxo's first 9 books. It's not in many of the online versions of the text.



                I recognize elements in common with other PIE religions like Old Norse. I'm very curious what your impressions are.



                The Statue of Suanto- Vitus (Bk. XIV, p. 564 8qq.)



                [Waldemar I and Absalon lay siege to Arkon in Rügen, a city on a ness with precipice walls.]



                On a level in the midst of the city was to be seen a wooden temple of most graceful workmanship, held in honour not only for the splendour of its ornament, but for the divinity of an image set up within it. The outside of the building was bright with careful graving [or painting], whereon sundry shape were rudely and uncouthly pictured. There was but one gate for entrance. The shrine itself was shut in a double row of enclosures, the outer whereof was made of walls and .covered with a red summit; while the inner one rested on four pillars, and instead of having walls was gorgeous with hangings, not communicating with the outer save for the roof and a few beams. In the temple stood a huge image, far overtopping all human stature, marvellous for its four heads and four necks, two facing the breast and two the back. Moreover, of those in front as well as of those behind, one looked leftwards and the other rightwards. The beards were figured as shaven and the hair as clipped; the skilled workman might be thought to have copied the fashion of the Rügeners in the dressing of the heads. In the right hand it held a horn wrought of divers metals, which the priest, who was versed in its rites, used to fill every year with new wine, in order to foresee the crops of the next season from the disposition of the liquor. In the left there was a representation of a bow, the arm being drawn back to the side. A tunic was figured reaching to the shanks, which were made of different woods, and so secretly joined to the knees that the place of the join could only be detected by narrow scrutiny. The feet were seen close to the earth, their base being hid underground. Not far off a bridle and saddle and many emblems of godhead were visible. Men's marvel at these things was increased by a sword of notable size, whose scabbard and hilt were not only excellently graven, but also graced outside with [mounts or inlaying of] silver. This image was regularly worshipped in the following way. Once every year, after harvest, a motley throng from the whole isle would sacrifice beasts for peace-offering before the temple of the image, and keep ceremonial feast. Its priest was conspicuous for his long beard and hair, beyond the common fashion of the country. On the day before that on which he must sacrifice, he used to sweep with brooms the shrine, which he had the sole right of entering. He took heed not to breathe within the building. As often as he needed to draw or give breath, he would run out to the door, lest forsooth the divine presence should be tainted with human breath. On the morrow, the people being at watch before the doors, he took the cup from the image, and looked at it narrowly; if any of the liquor put in had gone away he thought that this pointed to a scanty harvest for next year. When he had noted this he bade them keep, against the future, the corn which they had. If he saw no lessening in its usual fulness, he foretold fertile crops. So, according to this omen, he told them to use the harvest of the present year now thriftily, now generously. Then he poured out the old wine as a libation at the feet of the image, and filled the empty cup with fresh; and, feigning the part of a cupbearer, he adored the statue, and in a regular form of address prayed for good increase of wealth and conquests for himself, his country and its people. This done, he put the cup to his lips, and drank it up over-fast at an unbroken draught; refilling it then with wine, he put it back in the hand of the statue. Mead-cakes were also placed for offering, round in shape and great, almost up to the height of a man's stature. The priest used to put this between himself and the people, and ask, Whether the men of Rügen could see him? By this request he prayed not for the doom of his people or himself, but for increase of the coming crops. Then he greeted the crowd in the name of the image, and bade them prolong their worship of the god with diligent sacrificing, promising them sure rewards of their tillage, and victory by sea and land. ... [The people keep orgy the rest of the day to please the god.] ... Each male and female hung a coin every year as a gift in worship of the image. It was also allotted a third of the spoil and plunder, as though these had been got and won by its protection. This god also had 300 horses appointed to it, and as many men-at-arms riding them, all of whose gains, either by arms or theft, were put in the care of the priest. Out of these spoils he wrought sundry emblems and temple-ornaments which he consigned to locked coffers containing store of money and piles of time-eaten purple. Here, too, was to be seen a mass of public and private gifts, the contributions of anxious suppplicants for blessings. This statue was worshipped with the tributes of all Sclavonia, and neighbouring kings did not fail to honour its sacrifice with gifts. ...[Even Sweyn gave a wrought cup, and there were smaller shrines. ] ...Also it possessed a special white horse, the hairs of whose mane and tail it was thought impious to pluck, and which only the priest had the privilege of feeding and riding, lest the use of the divine beast might become common and therefore cheap. On this horse, in the belief of Rügen, Suanto-Vitus -so the image was called-rode to war against the foes of his religion. The chief proof was that the horse when stabled at night was commonly found in the morning, bespattered with mire and sweat, as though he had come from exercise and travelled leagues. Omens also where taken by this horse, thus: When war was determined against any district, the servants set out three rows of spears, two joined crosswise, each row being planted point downwards in the earth; the rows an equal distance apart. When it was time to make the expedition, after a solemn prayer, the horse was led in harness out of the porch by the priest. If he crossed the rows with the right foot before the left it was taken as a lucky omen of warfare; if he put the left first, so much as once, the plan of attacking that district was dropped; neither was any voyage finally fixed, until three paces in succession of the fortunate manner of walking were observed. Also folk faring out on sundry businesses took an omen concerning their wishes from their first meeting with the beast. Was the omen happy, they blithely went on with their journey; was it baleful, they turned and went home. Nor were these people ignorant of the use of lots. Three bits of wood black on one side, white on the other, were cast into the lap. Fair, meant good luck; dusky, ill. Neither were their women free from this sort of knowledge, for they would sit by the hearth and draw random lines in the ashes without counting. If these when counted were even, they were thought to bode success; if odd, ill-fortune. [The king goes to attack the town and efface profane rites. His men make works, but he says these are needless] because the Rügeners had once been taken by Karl Cæsar , and bidden to honour with tribute Saint Vitus of Corvey, famous for his sanctified death. But when the conqueror died they wished to retain freedom, and exchanged slavery for superstition, putting up an image at home to which they gave the name of the holy Vitus, and, scorning the people of Corvey, they proceeded to transfer the tribute to its worship, saying that they were content with their own Vitus, and need not serve a strange one. [Vitus would come and avenge himself, so the king prophesies; the siege is related; the people trust their defences, and guard] the tower over the gate only with emblems and standards. Among these was Stanitia [margin, Stuatira], notable for size and hue, which received as much adoration from the Rügeners as almost all the gods together; for, shielded by her, they took leave to assail the laws of God and man, counting nothing unlawful which they liked. ... [the town is taken and fired] pg. 574. [The image could not be prized up without iron tools. Esbern and Snio cut it down] The image fell to the ground with a crash. Much purple hung round the temple; it was gorgeous, but so rotten with decay that it could not bear the touch. There were also the horns of woodland beasts, marvellous in themselves and for their workmanship. A demon in the form of a dusky animal was seen to quit the inner part and suddenly vanish from the sight of the bystanders. [The image of Suanto- Vitus is then chopped into firewood.]



                IV.



                The lmage at Karentia [Garz] in Rügen (Bk. XIV, p. 577).



                [Asalon goes against the Karentines; takes the town, and comes upon three temples of a similar kind to that at Arkon.] The greater temple was situated in the midst of its own ante-chamber, but both were enclosed with purple [hangings] instead of walls, the summit of the roof being propped merely on pillars. So the servants, tearing down the rear of the ante- chamber, at last stretched out their hands to the inmost veil of the temple. This was removed, and an oaken image which they called Rugie-Vitus [Rügen's Vitus] was exposed on every side amid mockery at its hideousness. For the swallows had built their nests beneath its features, and had piled a heap [of droppings on its breast. The god was only fit to have his effigy hideously befouled by birds. Also in its head were set seven faces, after human likenesses, all covered under a single poll, and the workman had also bound by its side in a single belt seven real swords with their scabbards. The eighth it held in its hand drawn; this was fitted in the wrist and fixed very fast with an iron nail, and the hand must be cut off before it could be wrenched away: which led to the image being mutilated. Its thickness was beyond that of a human body, but it was so long that Absalon, standing a-tip-toe, could scarce reach its chin with the little axe he was wont to carry in his hand. The people had believed this god to preside over wars, as if it had the power of Mars. Nothing in this image pleased the eye; its features were hideous with uncouth gravings [or painting]. [It is cut down, and its own people spurn it and are converted. The assailants go on] to the image of Pore-Vitus, which was worshipped in the next town. This was also five-headed, but represented without weapons. On this being cut down they go to the temple of Porenutius. This statue representing four faces had the fifth inserted in its bosom; its left hand touched the brow, and its right the chin [It was destroyed.]





                .







                Wassail, William





                Author of:

                Viktor Rydberg's Investigations into Germanic Mythology, Vol. II, Part 1: Indo-European Mythology
                Translated and Annotated by William P. Reaves
                (iUniverse, 2007)

                Viktor Rydberg's Investigations into Germanic Mythology, Vol. II, Part 2: Germanic Mythology
                Translated and Annotated by William P. Reaves (iUniverse, 2004)

                Our Fathers' Godsaga by Viktor Rydberg, Illustrated by John Bauer
                Translated by William P. Reaves (iUniverse, 2003)

                Available at bn.com and wherever books are sold.



                [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
              • Ken Pfrenger
                Hi William sorry for my delayed response, ... Sounds very interesting. I will put it on my long long list of books to get:) ... Please double check this
                Message 7 of 9 , Apr 20, 2007
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                  Hi William sorry for my delayed response,



                  On 4/7/07, William P. Reaves <wreaves@...> wrote:
                  > Hey Ken,
                  >
                  > Thanks for the response. If you thought the post was thought-provoking, I
                  > would recommend reading my newest book. It's another translation from
                  > Swedish. It contains several chapters of Indo-European comparisons
                  > regarding the afterlife, journey of the soul, etc. It runs $19.95 in
                  > paperback and can be purchased ay www.bn.com or www.amazon.com.
                  >
                  > Viktor Rydberg's Investigations into Germanic Mythology, Vol. II, Part 1:
                  > Indo-European Mythology
                  > Translated and Annotated by William P. Reaves
                  > (iUniverse, 2007)

                  Sounds very interesting. I will put it on my long long list of books to get:)

                  <snip>

                  > The author mentions the Book of Veles, but doesn't make use of it in his
                  > comparaisons.

                  Please double check this for me....I don't think the BoV was
                  discovered until well after this book was written. It would be a
                  fairly huge thing if he does indeed mention the book by name 30 years
                  or so before Izenbek claims ot have found them.


                  > In your opinion, what are the most credible sources of Slavic religion? I
                  > ask, because if we cannot be certain of the reliablity of the information, I
                  > think it's important to give it appropriate weight.

                  There are so few...period sources like the Primary Chronicle and the
                  Slovo to me are the best bets but they do not contain much at all. I
                  also like "Songs of the Russian People" and that can be found on the
                  Sacred Texts site. There are also the byliny to look at, these tales
                  have definitely been christianized but still contain quite a bit of
                  info that you might find interesting if not useful....there is little
                  doubt that Illya Muromets is not the Christian form of the ancient
                  Perun.

                  >
                  > And is there an English translation of the Book of Veles? I assume, from
                  > your words, that you consider it unreliable. I don't know much about it,
                  > other than it is considered fictional. What's your view?

                  There used to be several english translations of the text online but
                  they all seem to down right now. I htink i might have a partial
                  translation somewhere on my computer. I can add that to the files
                  section if you would be interested.

                  I do consider it unreliable but a fake, not sure, authentically from
                  the time it is said to be from, doubt it...the truth probably lies
                  somewhere in the middle and given that I am not sure where that is, I
                  don't really use the text for anything. As much as I would like for it
                  to be real, I will just have to wait until it can be proven. One
                  interesting point is that this was the first text to be said to have
                  been discovered written on planks...and the only one for some time but
                  in the 1950's they started finding birchbark writings from an early
                  period(not as early as BoV claims to be) that number over 1000 by
                  now...so something just may turn up that either proves or disproves
                  the BoV.

                  >
                  > I immersed myself in Indo-Iranian, Greek and Old Norse mythologies/religions
                  > while translating and annotating the book, so those are the IE
                  > mythologies/religions I am most familar with.

                  I have been concentrating on the Slavic studies for over a year
                  now...not making much headway but enjoying the struggle.

                  ken
                • William P. Reaves
                  Hej, ... discovered until well after this book was written. It would be a fairly huge thing if he does indeed mention the book by name 30 years or so before
                  Message 8 of 9 , Apr 20, 2007
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                    Hej,


                    >Please double check this for me....I don't think the Book of Veles was
                    discovered until well after this book was written. It would be a
                    fairly huge thing if he does indeed mention the book by name 30 years
                    or so before Izenbek claims ot have found them.

                    You are right, what I had in mind was the Bulgarian Veda Slovena compiled by Ivan Gologanav and written by Stefan Verkovic (1874). It too is considered a forgery. Rydberg doesn't use it, but alludes to it.


                    >There are so few...period sources like the Primary Chronicle and the
                    Slovo to me are the best bets but they do not contain much at all. I
                    also like "Songs of the Russian People" and that can be found on the
                    Sacred Texts site. There are also the byliny to look at, these tales
                    have definitely been christianized but still contain quite a bit of
                    info that you might find interesting if not useful....there is little
                    doubt that Illya Muromets is not the Christian form of the ancient
                    Perun.

                    Thanks for the information. I'll check this out.


                    >There used to be several english translations of the text online but
                    they all seem to down right now. I htink i might have a partial translation somewhere on my computer. I can add that to the files section if you would be interested.

                    That would be great. I am interested in at least reading the material, and comparing it against what I know.



                    >One interesting point is that this was the first text to be said to have
                    been discovered written on planks...and the only one for some time but in the 1950's they started finding birchbark writings from an early
                    period(not as early as BoV claims to be) that number over 1000 by
                    now...so something just may turn up that either proves or disproves
                    the BoV.


                    Sounds intriguing.


                    Thanks,

                    William





                    Author of:

                    Viktor Rydberg's Investigations into Germanic Mythology, Vol. II, Part 1: Indo-European Mythology
                    Translated and Annotated by William P. Reaves
                    (iUniverse, 2007)

                    Viktor Rydberg's Investigations into Germanic Mythology, Vol. II, Part 2: Germanic Mythology
                    Translated and Annotated by William P. Reaves (iUniverse, 2004)

                    Our Fathers' Godsaga by Viktor Rydberg, Illustrated by John Bauer
                    Translated by William P. Reaves (iUniverse, 2003)

                    Available at bn.com and wherever books are sold.



                    [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
                  • Ken Pfrenger
                    ... The Veda Slovena is pretty interesting....like the BoV it is seen as a forgery but really it does contain some really great material. if it was composed
                    Message 9 of 9 , Apr 22, 2007
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                      On 4/20/07, William P. Reaves <wreaves@...> wrote:

                      > You are right, what I had in mind was the Bulgarian Veda Slovena compiled by
                      > Ivan Gologanav and written by Stefan Verkovic (1874). It too is considered a
                      > forgery. Rydberg doesn't use it, but alludes to it.

                      The Veda Slovena is pretty interesting....like the BoV it is seen as a
                      forgery but really it does contain some really great material. if it
                      was composed completely by Verkovic then he definitely had alot of
                      talent, not impossible at all really but then again Izenbeck was not a
                      scholar and he may or may not have forged the BoV....blah, it makes my
                      brain hurt!

                      >
                      > >There used to be several english translations of the text online but
                      > they all seem to down right now. I htink i might have a partial translation
                      > somewhere on my computer. I can add that to the files section if you would
                      > be interested.
                      >
                      > That would be great. I am interested in at least reading the material, and
                      > comparing it against what I know.

                      I added it tot he files section...very incomplete but it is all I have
                      now. I do find it interesting that there are a few things that seem to
                      match what our concept of IE is in the text anda few things match
                      things in the "Songs of the Russian People as well. I would be
                      interested in really doing a close study of this if I could get a good
                      translation or drastically imprive my barely conversational Russian.

                      Ken
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