Wednesday 28 May 2014

Havamal Snippets 143: Odin's opinion on Gods, Elves, Dwarves and Giants

This verse seems to be just a list of four of the different races of the Norse Mythology and their ruler.  I'm not sure what to make of it so I'll post the thoughts of the man who runs THIS website again.  (I don't like constantly deferring to others, but as needs must):

You remember that the adjective óðr meansfuriousand that the substantive óðr meansintelligence’. In our civilization, we tend to confusefuriousandangry’. The feelings are certainly similar but anger blinds you while fury enlightens you; for example it will help you to see a truth that someone tries to hide. Poetry and runes are practiced with creative fury, if not they remain style exercises. We can thus carve the runes in an inspired fury, a mystical fury, and even a desperate fury. We then involve our body, our heart and our spirit into the task to be achieved. The other uses of the runes, the games inspired by the runes are at best ineffective.

The word dáinn means eitherimpotentorfilled with wonder, ecstatic’. By giving this name to the first elf carver of runes, Ódhinn shows that he somewhat despises elf magic. For a god of action as Ódhinn, an impotent person (we speak here only of the incapacity to act) is a lower being since he/she is lítt megandi as explained in the comment of stanza 141. The added meaning of being ecstatic as well shows that Ódhinn has little respect for ecstatic people because they are unable to act, and they vaticinate without taking their problems in hand.

The word dvalinn means 'who waddles' or 'who is unable to decide when to act'. Dwarf magic does not interest Ódhinn much more than the one of the elves.

As opposed to this contempt, the name of the giant magician is more intriguing. The word ásviðr (ás-viðr which is read áss-viðr) means “one of the Æsir-tree.” Ódhinn thus exposes his respect for giantsmagic, which carries no surprise, as stanza 140 taught us. This stanza, even in its most prosaic and rational version possible, explicitly states that Ódhinn inherited nine magic songs coming from his maternal uncle. If we recall stanza 138, we understand that this ásviðr strongly evokes Yggdrasill which is “the tree of the gods Æsir,” to which Ódhinn has been hung. Moreover, as an initiator of giantsrunic magic, Ásviðr name qualifies to be his uncle’s one.

In an even more significant way, it shows that runic magic is related to a worship of the tree of world, something left implicit in 138.

Óðinn með ásum
en fyr álfum Dáinn
ok Dvalinn dvergum fyrir
Ásviðr jötnum fyrir
ek reist sjálfr sumar            
Othinn among the gods,
Dainn for the elves
and Dvalinn for the dwarves,
Asvithr for the giants
-- I myself carved some.


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