A UPG is an Unverified Personal Gnosis. What that means is that a person has an experience with a god, whether it’s in a dream or in real life, that cannot be perpetuated by the Lore or historical precedent.
It’s pretty difficult to corroborate a UPG as they are unique experiences.
For me, the UPG I had was a physical one.
About a month ago, my sister bought a new puppy and couldn’t decide on a name for him. She bounced ideas for names around between me and her boyfriend.
When she asked me, the first thing that popped into my mind was Loki. Just looking at the puppy made me feel like that name was appropriate, but I couldn’t give you a reason. I’ve gone off gut instincts like that for years.
I suggested the name, of course, and it took her a few days to decide. I made sure to tell her, when I gave her the suggestion, that naming an animal after a god can have repercussions. I’ve always believed in the power of names.
She laughed it off, which is typical for the relationship we have with each other. She’s aware that I’m Heathen, but doesn’t particularly care as she has no religious leanings at all. Her response was that she didn’t believe in names holding power like that and I just shrugged it off.
My sister ended up choosing to name the puppy Loki. That puppy was mischievous and playful but there always seemed to be just a little something other about him to me.
After a couple weeks of having the puppy around, my sister’s friend offered to fly her and her boyfriend out to California to live. He said he’d support them by renting them an apartment and he’s wealthy enough to do it. She decided to take him up on the offer and ended up returning Loki to the Humane Society.
Loki, more than any other god, is the god of change. He is a natural shapeshifter, so it makes sense to me that my first physical experience with him occurred in this way.
My sister’s presence in my life has been a difficult one for various reasons I’ll not share, but the quick in-and-out Loki made has given me the opportunity to change everything.
Some people would write the event off as coincidental or accuse me of assigning meaning to things that I shouldn’t.
As to the first, I don’t believe in coincidence.
And to the second? A pup named Loki blows into my life for a few weeks. While he’s a part of it, my sister’s friend offers to move her to California. She agrees. Change for the better in my life occurs. Loki leaves.
It’s pretty hard not to assign meaning to something that blatant. And for me, it’s the event that has put to rest all of the remaining doubts I had about the existence of the gods.
They are very real, present, and accessible. The gods take care of their own. And that is something to cherish.
The Eddas and the Sagas, to me, are stories. Stories written by men in ages long past. Some were written to conserve poetic forms. Others were written so that the knowledge of the gods might not be lost.
And that is great. I love that we have access to the Eddas and the Sagas and that there are people out there who have done extensive historical research into the practices of the days long past.
But I don’t believe in following the practices of the long dead. Not because I feel their ways were invalid– in fact, I’d argue that the methods they used to honor the gods are some of the strongest because they were the closest to the gods.
The truth, however, is that copying someone else’s methods without understanding them just leads to confusion and spirals into arguments about what is or isn’t correct.
Most of the arguments I’ve witnessed in that vein have the same flavor. Person A knows all about the historical evidence supporting the method they’re using and wants to prove to Person B that it’s the best method to use, completely undermining the fact that Person B finds it easier to get close to the gods doing something unsupported by historical research.
Arguing over how to worship the gods is stupid, pointless, and disrespectful. Rather than argue over how to worship the gods, let each person honor the gods in their own way. What works for Person A won’t work for Person B.
I have a personal dislike for following practices based on historical research because historical facts based on archaeological digs come from guesswork. Educated guesswork, sure. But it’s still guesswork.
And there’s no way to prove that the gods want to be honored in the same way today as they did in the past. I’m sure even the gods get bored of hearing and seeing the same thing all the time.
That brings me to the second part of the unconventional view I hold towards the Lore.
To me, the Eddas and Sagas are stories. Just stories. Allegorical stories, perhaps, but still just stories.
I don’t like relying on books to tell me what to do, how to feel, or what to think. I’m capable of making those decisions on my own.
And the Lore, by itself, is harmless. Because stories are, for the most part, harmless. It’s when people start taking those stories and making claims like “Well it says this in this part, so it must be the best thing to do!” that gets to me.
There are a lot of Heathens out there who do this. I don’t know if they’ve forgotten, but the Sagas and the Eddas were written by Christians and therefore have a Christian flavor.
That, to me, makes them even less reliable. I turned away from Christianity when I was 12 years old (I’m now 26) because I couldn’t abide the idea of an exclusive God who punished and played with his “flock.” Not to mention the abject humiliation of being referred to as a “sheep.”
The truth is, I love the stories in the Eddas and Sagas. I love the insight they provide into the gods’ personalities. Their thirst for knowledge, their lust of adventure, their enjoyment of conflict both physical and verbal. It’s a great collection of stories.
But stories are meant to be told in new ways. They are meant to be rewoven, rewritten, respun. The gods have always adapted to the world as it changes around them, so I see no reason to refuse to adapt my practices to fit the world around me.
I’d rather change with the times than be stuck in the past, because it’s in the present that my life occurs. Present events may unfold because of the web my past has woven behind me, but it is still in the present that I must face the decisions I make and the actions I take.
My vision of the Lore is a simple, though unpopular one. The Eddas/Sagas give me a glimpse into the personalities of the gods I follow, but they don’t dictate the way I live my life.
The gods are complex. They are people, like us, on a much larger scale. There is no human being on earth that is exactly the same as another human being. Most humans share qualities with each other and that’s what creates relationships.
Gods are like that, too. They can be similar to each other, different from another, love each other, hate each other…they are people and they are complex.
Trying to limit a god to the personality they have in the stories stored in the Eddas/Sagas is, in my mind, disrespectful.
Everyone has a life story, but we are all more than our stories. The same holds true for the gods. Stories can only tell you so much about a person. And gods are people.
The gods are our family. We don’t force our family members to exist within the stories that other people tell us about them. And I will never understand why there are so many Heathens out there that think trying to constrain the gods to their Lore personalities is anything but rude.
This is my attempt to modernize the Norse Creation Myth. It is also written in a way that I feel would be accessible to children. I read, somewhere, that if you can’t explain something to a six year old, you have no business trying to do so.
And stories are supposed to be alive. They are meant to be spoken. They are meant to be told. I think, sometimes, that people forget that, and put too much emphasis on telling ancient stories in ancient ways.
But it is my sincere belief that stories, like people, are meant to grow and evolve into new shapes and forms. It is, in this way, that we keep the Gods alive. By bringing them from the past into the present by using the forms of the present to access the past. A little like the working of wyrd, interestingly enough.
Anyway, on to the story!
In the beginning, there were three worlds. The first of those worlds was the world of the void. In this world, nothing existed. There was no life of any sort and everything was still. Not even the wind blew within its borders.
On its northern border there was the second world, the world of ice. In its midst lay the Roaring Kettle. From the Kettle all the rivers of life poured forth, slowly making their way southward into the world of the void. The water from the rivers were empty of life. The temperature in the world of ice was too low for any life form to survive.
On the southern border of the world of the void lay the third world, the world of fire. The temperature of the world of fire was so great that only those born natively into the world could bear its heat and live. Due to the immense heat it gave off, it began to warm the southern part of the world of the void that lay beyond its borders.
The rivers from the world of ice slowly trickled into the world of the void. Where the rivers stopped, they froze into blocks of ice and rime, a type of poison.
As eons passed, the heat from the world of fire slowly reached the blocks of ice that had formed in the middle of the world of the void. Where the heat reached the ice, the world of the void became moderate in temperature. It was not too hot or too cold. The warm temperature made it possible for life to emerge.
The heat from the world of fire slowly began to melt the blocks of ice. As it did so, the first frost giant, Ymir, came into being. Ymir was unique, because he was able to produce children through his sweat glands. While he slept, two more giants came into existence, formed from the sweat under his arms. Their names were Mimir and Bestla. It is from them that the few good frost giants are descended.
Ymir had another son, created by the sweat produced when he rubbed his feet together. That son was born strange, with three heads, and the three-headed giant had another son named Bergelmir. It is from Bergelmir’s line that all the evil frost giants are descended.
Ymir, however, wasn’t the only life form to spring into being when the heat from the world of fire melted the ice in the middle of the world of the void.
From the second block of melted ice there came Audhumla, the great cow. From her udders flowed four rivers of milk which sustained the frost giants and allowed them to live, as the rime from the blocks of ice were like poison to them.
But for her, the rime from the ice was food. She licked the blocks of ice for sustenance. The first day that she did this, she discovered the hair of a man in the block of ice she’d chosen. By the end of the next day, she’d uncovered his entire head. She kept licking the ice the next day, and by the third day, she’d uncovered an entire man!
That man was Buri, and he was the first of the gods. Buri fed from the rivers of milk that Audhumla provided and that fertile milk gifted him with a son named Burr. Burr took Bestla, the frost giant, as his wife, and the two of them gave birth to Odin, Vili, and Ve.
Now, when life emerged in the world of the void, a new fountain sprang up. Mimir, the wisest of the wise, laid claim to it and, to this day, it bears his name. Mimir’s well is said to hold the water of wisdom, a place where all knowledge can be found.
It is into this well that a golden seed fell and from that seed, a great tree grew. That tree was Yggdrasil, the great World Tree. It has three great roots, one that can be found underneath Mimir’s well. Another can be found under the Roaring Kettle, where a dragon named Nidhogg does its best to gnaw through the great tree’s root. The third root of the great tree is found under the Well of Wyrd, where the Norns reside and preside over the fates of men and gods alike.
As the tree grew, more and more worlds came into being in its branches. The great tree serves as a great pillar, keeping the worlds from falling into the world of the void below.
Yggdrasil is a beautiful tree that cannot be seen by human eyes. Its trunk, branches, and roots are all silver-white, and its root-threads, foliage, and fruits are red-gold. It produces apples that the gods eat when they grow old in order to keep themselves young.
Despite its beauty, Yggdrasil suffers greatly from the creatures around it. The dragon that gnaws on one of its major roots is just one of the difficulties it faces. At the very top of it sits an eagle and a squirrel runs between the dragon and the eagle, carrying cruel messages between the two. When the dragon receives a message from the eagle, delivered by the squirrel, it becomes more vicious in its assault on the great tree’s root.
There are many serpents that gnaw on it, never seeming to tire in their pursuit of destruction of the great tree. Four harts run along its trunk, feeding off the foliage at the top of the tree. For all the destruction caused by the animals, there is another difficulty-the trunk of the great tree is slowly rotting. It is said that eventually the dragon that gnaws on its root will be successful at cutting through it and that the great tree will become unbalanced.
But no one knows what will cause the great tree to fall. It cannot be felled by either fire or iron and, while the dragon will someday unbalance it, there is no way to know for sure if that will make the great tree fall.
Starting with the Völuspá, I’m working on creating a more Modernized version of the Poetic Edda loosely based off the Henry Adams Bellows translation.
I am doing this in order to increase my own understanding of the material. Since I am unable to read the text in its original language, I have to rely on translations.
This is not meant to be a scholarly project, but a personal one. So keep that in mind when you’re reading these posts.
I’m not going to introduce the poems before-hand, so here are my versions of the first 5 verses of the Völuspá.
1. I ask that the holy races listen to me,
those high and lowborn sons of Heimdall.
You’ve asked me to speak, Valfather,
and tell the stories of men from the past.
2. I still remember the ancient giants,
who’ve sheltered me throughout the years.
I knew of nine worlds nestled in Yggdrasil,
whose roots possessed an unmatched strength.
3. It’s been aeons since Ymir lived
and back then there were no waves or sand.
Earth did not yet exist, nor did the homes of the Gods–
Just the yawning void, Ginnungagap, where no grass grew.
4. But then Borr’s sons used Ymir’s body
and crafted Midgard from it-a mighty world.
The fire from Muspellheim–the sun–warmed the stones
and the ground was soon covered with greenery.
5. The sun, sister to the moon, from Muspell in the south
cast her glow over the lands of the Gods.
She didn’t yet know where she should live.
The moon didn’t yet know what strength he held,
and the stars hadn’t yet discovered their course.
There is a lot of information packed into these first 5 stanzas. The Nine Worlds and Yggdrasil are mentioned and Creation is discussed.
THE NINE WORLDS
Asgard: The World of the Aesir Gods
Vanaheim: The World of the Vanir Gods
Alfheim: The World of the Elves
Midgard: The World of Men
Jotunheim: The World of Giants
Svartalfheim: The World of Dark Elves
Nidavellir: The World of Dwarves
Muspellheim: The World of Fire (primordial)
Niflheim: The World of Ice (primordial)
I’ve seen Helheim mentioned as one of the nine realms instead of Nidavellir where others group the Dwarves and the Dark Elves together in Svartalfheim.
Hel, the Goddess of Death, rules Helheim, which is located in Niflheim. I’m more inclined to believe this than grouping Dark Elves in with Dwarves.
Yggdrasil is the Cosmic Ash that holds the 9 worlds together. It is the framework of the multiverse we live in. One of its three roots is in Asgard, the second in Jotunheim, and the third in Niflheim. I’ll talk more about Yggdrasil in a later post–it’s too significant for a paragraph or two to do it justice.
Before the world existed, there were only two realms–Muspellheim and Niflheim–and the void between them known as Ginnungagap. There were eleven rivers that flowed out of Niflheim into the Ginnungagap that congealed and thickened into ice. Soon, the entire Northern part of the Ginnungagap was frozen.
The heat from Muspellheim in the South traveled through the Ginnungagap and where the heat from Muspellheim and the ice from Niflheim met in the middle, the temperature was moderate and perfect for the quickening of life.
The heat from Muspellheim slowly melted some of the ice from Niflheim and Ymir emerged, the first of the frost giants and an androgynous being. When he slept, a male and female giant were born from the sweat of his left armpit while one of his legs fathered a son on the other.
Some more of the ice from Niflheim melted and Audhumla, the cow, emerged. Four rivers of milk flowed from her and it was from her that Ymir took sustenance, as the rime from the ice was too poisonous for him to eat. Audhumla, on the other hand, feasted on the rime.
And as she did so, she licked free the first of the Gods, Buri. Buri bore a son, Borr, who married Bestla–a giant–who in turn bore three sons–Odin, Vili, and Ve.
Odin and his brothers were disturbed by the ever-increasing population of the giants, as Ymir never stopped giving birth, and the three of them ganged up on Ymir and killed him when he was asleep. It took all of their strength and the blood from Ymir’s wounds resulted in such a flood that nearly all the Jotuns were destroyed. Only Bergelmir and his wife survived.
Odin and his brothers took Ymir’s body and used it to create Midgard. They used his blood to make the oceans, his skin to make the soil, his hair to make the vegetation, his brains to make the clouds, and his skull to make the sky. They put four Dwarves under each cardinal point (one named North, one named South, one named East, and one named West) so that Ymir’s skull would stay in place above the earth.