Wednesday 16 April 2014

Havamal Snippets 138: Hanging on World Tree

This verse moves towards mystical wisdom and away from practical wisdom that has characterised the Havamal so far.
I'm no expert on mystical systems, and cannot claim to have had any experiences (either drug induced, prayer induced, or isolation tank induced), so I cannot really provide you with any mystical insight into the verse.  (Mysticism, as I understand it, is a kind of emotionally-experienced wisdom, in constradistinction to thoughtful-emotionless wisdom, the latter is evident in academia).   The only point that I can make with any confidence is that the tree mentioned in the verse is Yggdrasil, which is the World Tree, and represents the totality of existence.  (Think of the tree as something like a universal fractal pattern)..  When Odin hangs himself on it, he is really fusing with it.  Joining with the tree and thus attataining a kind of 'one-ness' with it.  This 'one-ness' is very much like when Buddha sits under the Boddhi tree (which is also a symbol of the world tree) and gains enlightenment.  These two characters, Odin and Buddha, represent the two different paths that one can use to gain enlightenment (or knowledge, to a lesser or greater degree) of world tree (or the cosmos if you like):
- The active path, which is full of action, tends towards an active body & inert mind, and also suffers hostility from others.  This is Odin's path or tree.
- The passive path, which is full of peace, tends towards an active mind & inert body, and also experiences gentleness from others.  This is Buddhas path or tree.

Both paths, trees, are viable options to gaining understanding of the world and things in it (even if it's understanding of something small and seemingly inconsequential).  It's up to each man to decide which path he chooses to gain that knowledge.

Veit ek at ek hekk
vindga meiði á
nætr allar níu
geiri undaðr
ok gefinn Óðni
sjálfr sjálfum mér
á þeim meiði
er manngi veit
hvers hann af rótum renn 
I know that I hung
upon a windy tree
for nine whole nights,
wounded with a spear
and given to Othinn,
myself to myself for me;
on that tree
I knew nothing
of what kind of roots it came from.


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