If only we trust the Process – text

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Welcome, wakeful friends, both in here and out there, to this third and final instalment of our mythopoetic investigation of the Odinic pattern of initiation. As the first chapter was centered on the meaning of dedicated action as an early premise of initiation, and the second was dedicated to the necessity of acceptive passivity in the light of that which is not to be changed, this third part will, quite logically, be an attempt to unite these opposites in the indication of a third state of Being & Understanding – a thoughtless, yet conscious, and a conscious yet thoughtless, harmony of contrasts

To get us this far, we will approach the so-called end of the world, as it is known and foreseen in the mythic web of the North. In the sources this event is called Ragnarǫk. The word means something like the destiny of the Powers; that is, the destiny of the Gods, both of those, who shall indeed meet their rightful destruction and of the few ones, who are to step forward from the fire as inheritors of a cleansed kingdom – and thus as luminous icons for us to follow, as we approach our own transformation. 

To put it short: The focus of this third mythopoetic chapter will be to amplify & understand those figures that shall indeed survive and arise from the catastrophic fulfilment of our divine drama – if only we trust the process

As always, the objective is not to reconstruct and praise a special kind of Nordic spirituality, but to uncover and actualize a shared Wisdom of the World, as it is to be found among the shattered, yet sparkling, remains of the North. 

Those were the introductory remarks. Let us now step into our stream – and get the story flowing. 

We will start by moving gently forward, that is by following our mourning, raging father into a narrative sequence that seems to be located somewhere after the death of his splendid son and – as we shall see – entails a clear anticipation of the final destiny of our man.

It begins with a clash of titans. You see, one day the stormy Lord of Valhalla, felt like wrestling with the toughest guy in Jotun-town. His name was Vafþrúðnir. It is quite hard to unwrap but could – as far as I have been enlightened – mean something like The Mighty Weaver, the one who has a forceful way of weaving, or maybe of enveloping something in something else; that is, this Jotun figure is someone who is known for his sublimely accurate and unalterable Way of fabricating or tying someone into, for example, a piece of cloth – or a web of destiny

Obviously, the kind of battle you set out to do with a figure like this is not one of physical strength, but of mental subtlety and spiritual vitality – a deadly dual of words and riddles.  

The story is to be found in the poem Vafþrúðnismal / The Words of the Mighty Weaver. I give it to you as I have received, absorbed and understood it – with the license of a faithful poet. 

S0, please, withdraw into your inner imaginal landscapes to picture our opening with your own eye of Understanding: The royal spouses of our story, the loving Mother and ruling Father of the proud and noble Aesir, Frigg and Odin, stand facing each other in the halls of Valhalla. The one addresses the other. It is he who talks, for it is he who wants and needs something from her. At first it seems to be her advice he is in need of. At least he says so. 

Let’s hear it. 

I quote, just like last time, from the translation of The Poetic Edda by Carolyne Larrington – but, in all that is to come, with the small alteration that I say Jotun, when this is what it says in the original text, instead of ‘giant’, which is her choice:

 ‘Advise me now, Frigg, for I long to journey  
to visit Vafþrúðnir;  
I’ve a great curiosity to contend in ancient matters  
with that all-wise Jotun.’  

She looks at him and tells him what she thinks – and feels: 

‘I’d rather keep the Father of Hosts  
at home in the courts of the gods,  
for I know no Jotun to be as powerful  
as Vafþrúðnir is.’  

It really is quite simple: She is afraid that he will fail. She fears for his future and wants him to stay at home, to live happily ever after with her within the boundaries of Asgaard. His answer to her is, as we would expect it to be – completely true to his restless habit and decidedly contrary to her wish to keep him close: 

‘Much I have travelled, much have I tried out,  
much have I tested the Powers;  
this I want to know: what kind of company  
is found in Vafþrúðnir’s hall.’  

A straight up & unconditional no way, mam. Her answer to this is not an attempt to argue with him. 

From their years of married life as polarized elements it seems she is perfectly aware that nothing in the whole, wild world will ever change his mind when an urge of this kind has taken hold of him. No matter what she says and does, he will be going – to, once again, follow the commanding voice of inspiration, to risk it all in the pursuit of someday, somewhere, finding and claiming whatever it is he yearns for. 

Thus, knowing that nothing can alter her husband’s course, she decides to succumb to his will and gives him what he was probably fishing for from the beginning – her graceful blessing:

‘Journey safely! Come back safely!  
Be safe on the way!  
May your mind be sufficient when, Father of Men,  
you speak with the Jotun.’  

And so, he goes – he goes to push his luck, chasing an ever-shining victory of Wisdom:

Then Odin went to try the wisdom  
of the all-wise Jotun;  
to the hall he came which Im’s father owned; 
Odin went inside.  

As we all know by now: The names of the Nordic tales are not just empty, arbitrary clusters of sound to conveniently designate a figure, but important conveyors of organic meaning, as to who and – not the least – what that figure really is. 

The Mighty Weaver is here called the all-wise Jotun and Ím’s father. Who calls him that? It appears to be the voice of an implicit narrator – that is, a direct message from the poetic mastermind behind the story. 

This is the one and only place in the poem, where something like this happens – that is, it is the only place where someone else than the figures of the narrative has something to say about the figures of the narrative. So, we better listen well. 

We receive two pieces of information, two descriptions of our host, to carry with us, as we, just like our hero, are about to enter his hall. First, he is, by the very voice behind the story, called the all-wise Jotun,so we know, even before we meet him, that this guy really is a hotshot – and we should expect him to behave like one.  

Secondly, as we heard, the hall that we are about to enter, is said to owned by ìm’s father. As opposed to a lot of the other names we have been dealing with, the small word ím is, luckily enough, not a big deal to crack open on a basic semantic level. It simply means ‘dust’ or ‘ashes’, so what we have here is an alternative name for the Mighty Weaver, a mysterious title to further indicate who and what he is. For now, it is enough for us to know that this Jotun, whom Frigg fears shall take the life of her husband, not only goes by the name of The Mighty Weaver but is also called The Father of Dust, or The Father of Ash – probably because that is exactly what he is. What that implies, will become clearer, as we proceed. 

For now, we will just stick to our scene. We are now in front of the halls of this most dreaded sage of Jotunheim. Odin is ready. In the last line of Larrington’s translation of the stanza that I just quoted it simply says that ‘Odin’ went inside. In the Old Norse text, it does not say that Odin went inside, but that Ygg immediately went inside: inn gekk Yggr þegar – in went Yggr straight away.

This alternative name for Odin, Yggr, is quite common; it means something like, ‘the frightening one’, ‘the terrifying one’; the one bestows terror and fear upon those he meets – and it really makes sense, that this is what he is called, for an intimidating intruder really is right what he wants to be, right here, as he crosses the doorstep of an authority who is said to be mightier than anyone he ever came across.

Let’s see how it goes:

‘Greetings, Vafþrúðnir!
Now I have come into the hall
to see you in person;  
this I want to know first, whether you are wise  
or very wise, Jotun.’

We might picture it like this: In comes a stormy, boastful and un-invited stranger to meet and test the Mighty Weaver himself. He looks and understands what kind of man has come to meet and test him – and so he does what he has, probably, done so many times before and will do so many times to come. He gives the self-appointed opponent a counterquestion and clearly states the terms for a visit of this intrusive kind:

‘What man is this who addresses me in hostile fashion  
in my hall?  
May you not come out of our halls alive  
unless you should be the wiser one.’ 

Who are you? Who do you think you are? Why are you talking to me like someone with the right – and might – to challenge me? Who is this man throwing his words against me? Tell me your name, so I can know about your essence. 

And by the Way, your game is on: Verily, verily, I tell you, you shall not walk out of this self-selected standout with your heart pumping, if you cannot prove in deeds of words what you came here so hastily claiming – that you really are wiser than The Mighty Weaver

This was exactly what Odin wanted – to insult and entice his opponent for the drama to get going. His next move is to, just like we saw in his encounter with the seeress of the moisty grave, to present himself under a fake name, a title most telling, not of who he is, but of who he wants to be – and to be seen as:

‘Gagnráðr I am called; now I have come walking,  
thirsty to your hall;
in need of hospitality and of your welcome,  
I have journeyed long, Jotun.’ 

Gagnráðr – the name means something like ‘the one who rules, decides or advices in a beneficial manner’, which really is a most suitable name for someone with the self-image of Odin. 

He says that he is thirsty. I bet he is. He always is. His lust for knowledge and power never rests. Nothing can fill him up. Hunger is what he is. This is not something unique about him. For it is, and always was, the curse of those among the living who hold on to tightly – and therefore end up empty handed, with greedy, stiffened fingers painfully clenched around the nothingness of their desire. 

The Father of Dust, ready to pulverize the intruder, accepts the challenge and invites him to take a seat: 

‘Why, Gagnráðr, do you speak thus from the floor?  
Come take a seat in the hall!
Then we shall test which one knows more,  
the guest or the old sage.’ 

Odin’s answer to this is most telling – clearly signifying how pumped up he is for the encounter that is about to unfold. He says:

‘The poor man who comes to the wealthy one  
should speak when needful or be silent;  
to be too talkative I think will bring bad results  
when one comes to the cold-ribbed man.’ 

These really are words of wisdom. He is perfectly right. Knowing when to speak and when to be silent – that truly is the riddle of it all. The question is, off course, whether Odin himself actually understands and knows how to practice this delicate art of speech and stillness.   

The last part of the statement appears, like so much else of this, at the first glance to be quite enigmatic. What does it mean to come the cold-ribbed man, or, as it really says in the Old Norse text, the cold-ribbed one – and why should you abstain from overt verbosity when you go to see him? 

It sure helps to know, and I am very thankful for having been told, that the word here translated with cold-ribbed, kaldrifjaðan, derived from kaldrifjaður, is indeed, both in Old Norse and in present day Icelandic a fixed expression signifying what would in English, and other languages, be referred to as being cold-hearted or heartless

So, for once, the riddle really is quite accessible: Cold-ribbed simply is an equal to ‘cold-hearted’ and ‘heartless’, another just as creative, or maybe even more creative, way of grounding the same intuitively understandable bodily metaphors: If your ribs are cold, surely it must be because your heart is cold, or because you don’t have any heart – and if that is so, it must be because the heat of life has been replaced with the cold of death, or never was there at all. This is the imaginal logic of language. To enter and follow it is to walk the poetic path to enlightenment. 

For now, the bottom line is this: These are the words of Odin. It is him who calls his host a cold-ribbed one, not the narrator or the host himself. Keep that in mind, as we proceed.

What follows is a long exchange of cosmic questions and answers between the eager guest who has something he needs to know and the leaned back host – who simply plays his part.

The first thing that happens is that the host asks his guest a series of four questions about the basic structure of the Universe. Odin gives his answers straight away, and the Jotun seems to be satisfied. He says:

‘Wise you are, guest, come to the giant’s bench,  
and we will speak together in the seat;  
we shall wager our heads in the hall,  
guest, on our wisdom.’ 

In other words: Come closer, young one, and give me all, you’ve got. 

And so, he does – next follows the longest part of the poem, which consists in a series of 12 questions and their answers, with the last one of them containing multiple sub-questions and sub-answers, all asked by Odin and answered by the patient host of the hall, who – for some reason – allows his talkative guest to go on and on. 

Throughout this extended series of questions Odin seems to be determinately pushing forward from the same kind of foundational level of knowledge, that his host has just asked him about, to a less tangible and more existentially decisive kind of inquiries into that which is yet to come; that is, about the future, about the destiny of the world, of the Aesir and – not the least – of Odin himself. 

All of these exchanges of questions and answers are, naturally, of great symbolic importance for the understanding not just of the poem, but of the riddle of it all – the very Theatre of World. 

However, since both time and timing are of the essence, we will, for now, concentrate our attention on just a few sets of question and answer, that are all specifically concerned with the so-called end of the World. 

The first exchange goes like this – as Odin asks a question of very direct importance for all of us in here – and out there: 

‘Much I have travelled, much have I tried out,  
much have I tested the Powers;  
which humans will survive when the famous  
Mighty Winter is over among men?’  

And the answer – from the mouth of our helpfully informative host: 

‘Lif and Lifthrasir, and they will hide 
in Hoddmimir’s wood;  
they will have the morning dew for food;  
from them generations will spring.’ 

Which ones of humankind will survive the great winter of the end times and carry forth the existence of their kind? Who are they? What kind of life is it that will survive the deadly cold that is to come? The answer to this question is one of the sparkling centerpieces of it all – a recipe to study and embrace, if we ourselves want to live through what is to come. 

As we heard, the survivors are two figures called Lif and Lifþrasir. The first one, Lifis straightforward, it simply means means lifeLifþrasir is a bit more complicated to decipher. The first part of it is, off course, the same word as the very name of the other figure – Lif, Life

The second part þrasir seems to be derived from the verb þrasa, which has a quite contested meaning, but one way or the other is connected to a masculine activity within the spectrum of speedy movement, battle and self-assertion. Thus, Lifþrasir could mean, and is often translated as, the one who fights for life. Another option might be to understand the name as meaning ‘the one who is racing towards life’ – you know, just like a spermatozoon is racing towards the ovum to fertilize it. 

Hopefully you get the picture: The names of our apocalyptic survivors, Lif and Lifþrasir, clearly can be, and I believe they should be, approached and understood as conceptual representations of the archetypal feminine and masculine – that is, as Nordic expressions of that basic reality of apparent, energetic duality of passivity and activity that is termed Yin and Yang among the Chinese, Ida and Pingala in Vedic India and goes by other, locally fashioned, names in all other legitimate Traditions of the World. 

So, what the host does is to answer Odin’s rather straight forward question as to which human beings will survive the winter that will herald the consummation of the destiny of the World and the Gods, is to point out that what will really live through the deadly winter is not a specific set of brave survivors that can be named and honored, but the very, stripped down principles of feminine and masculine – of life itself as a resting, receptive phenomenon and the forcefully dedicated activity that makes this life live and grow. 

This is what survives the winter of the World: A joyfully vibrating union of opposites, a basic harmony of contrasts – embodying both the end and the beginning of all & nothing. It’s true. This really is all there is. 

And where does this intermingling of energetic principles survive? What does it take for this union to survive the impending death and darkness of it all? This too is revealed by the Mighty Weaver for those who have a mind to understand it: In Hoddmimir’s wood, he says. 

And, once again, the operation is simple, yet delicate, and delicate, yet simple – we’ll just cut right to it: ‘Hodd’ is a word pointing to the clever ‘hoarding’ of something, for example a winter storage, gathered by a variety of industrious animals in their cyclical instinctually fine-tuned preparation for what is to come. 

As a metaphorical extension of this basic designation of an observable phenomenon in the wheel of nature, ‘hodd’ also has another usage, that often shows up in the context of poetic language, where its’ standard meaning is that of a hoarded treasure – just like in English, where you find the same relation between an original meaning signifying the purposeful, periodic behavior of animals and a metaphorical extension signifying an often rather compulsive human activity of hoarding treasures that does not have much of the cyclical instinct in it that naturally fills the veins of the less confused animals of the World. 

Here, the intention clearly is to indicate a most reasonable behavior – a conscious human mirroring of the Wisdom of the Wood. Conscious, yes conscious – for this is what is implied by the other half of the compounded name Hoddmimir.   

We’ve been here before: Mimir – it’s the name of the bodyless, advisory head of Odin and means something like ‘thought, and in extension of that ‘the ability to think’, ‘the mental capacity’, or to put it simple, the mind

So, what do these two words mean when they are connected – hoddmimir, hoard and mind? Obviously, this is an open-ended symbol, the point is not to come up with any kind of strict translation to fix and determine a one and only meaning of this term, for that really is not how language works – or for that matter how the Universe performs its’ interplay of unity and multiplicity. 

Take my words for what they are worth – and think about it for yourself: As far as I can see and hear, the concept of hoddmimir is an unmistakably clear indication of the kind of mentality in which the energetic union of opposites can indeed survive and thrive: A treasure hoard of mind – that simply is, I believe, a well-assembled mental faculty, a wakefully gathered and steadfastly protected human mind.

wood – why is it the wood of the hoard mind the two of them are to live in? Well, first of all, the woods are one of the well-known natural scenes for the animal habit of hoarding, so it makes sense to have the hoard-mind located in one of them. Another, less self-evident but nevertheless possible layer of meaning could be connected with the fact that, back then, certain woods, or groves, were acknowledged as preferred and privileged places of worshipping and experiencing the divine. In that case, what we have here, could be a Nordic counterpart of an idea also known as part of the esoteric layer of numerous other religious traditions, namely the aim of intentionally moving and transfiguring the holy space from being an occasionally visited, outside location to a permanent inner condition – an unshakable state of mind. 

No, matter what – no matter, if we buy into this thickening of the plot, we still end up with the same basic meaning, the same basic formula – and it goes like this: 

According to our host of the hall, the only kind of humanity that is to survive the impending threats of death and darkness is the naked conjunction of femininity and masculinity, of passive egg and active sperm, tightly interlocked with each other in the wood of a mind that is stocked up, well-centered, safe-guarded and ready for the winter.   

Finally, we are told that “they will have the morning dew for food”. The image is unmistakable: They shall survive, thrive and procreate by living as those who receive – by accepting the water of the sky as their sole source of nourishment obtained from the plants and grass of the ground beneath them; that is, by being open and attentive to whatever comes around.  

All in all, gentlemen & ladies, this is the Yoga of the North – a locally flavored version of the one and only, age-old and ever young, recipe for the Awakening to the miracle of Union – from the worthy mouth of the all-wise Jotun, The father of Ashes and Dust himself.

For that is what Yoga means: Yoga means union. Just like the Latin word religion does in its’ original mystical meaning, where it is used to designate the happy joining of the mortal to the divine, the part to the whole, the microcosmos to the macrocosmos, which taken to its’ extreme and deliciously dizzying conclusion really means the all-encompassing act of blasting the entire illusion of separation by uniting everything with everything else – and ending up both crazier and happier than most people. 

At this point we really could wrap it all up, call it a day, and peacefully embrace the night. For this is the only conclusion, the living can ever reach – and should ever want to reach. But, as you already know, we will not do that. For, we still have an enjoyable story to tell and, not the least, a hungry hero to swallow. Be ready – for a change of pace

So, fast forward, numerous questions have been posed, and just as many, secretly multi-layered answers have been given – the raging guest and his leaned back host are now approaching the end of their encounter. 

Odin just has a few more questions left to ask. The first one of them goes like this: 

Much I have travelled, much have I tried out,  
much have I tested the Powers; 
which Aesir will rule over the gods’ possessions,  
when Surt’s fire is slaked?’  

Surt’s fire – it means the fire of the blackened one, for ‘Surt’ really just means black. According to several sources this dark figure is the one who, when the time is right, shall play a leading role in the drama of Ragnarǫby throwing his cleansing fire on the earth. So, what we get is this: Clearly, Odin already knows that shit is gonna burn – now he wants to know who will be there apocalypse to gather the belongings of those obliterated by the fire and end up living happily ever after as the owner of it all. Could it be him?

Well, The Father of Dust and Ashes gives him an answer, which might not be exactly what he was expecting to hear: 

‘Viðarr and Vali will live in the gods’ sanctuaries,  
when Surt’s fire is slaked;  
Moði and Magni shall have Miollnir  
and demonstrate battle-strength.’  

Viðarr & VáliMoði & Magni – these will be the divine survivors. All four of them belong to the younger generation of Gods. Viðar & Vali are sons of Odin, Moði & Magni are sons of Thor, and thus grandsons of Odin. 

We shall limit ourselves to Viðarr and Váli, not because Moði and Magni are unimportant, but because we need to cut to the core – so we’ll leave them floating in free air as concluding key figures of another story line centered on the initiatory journey of Thor that might someday, somewhere, be illuminated and understood.    

So, Viðarr and Váli – as brothers they have the same father, but different mothers – and none of them is Frigg. You see, both of these sons are the remarkable products of unions between Odin and females of Jotun-kind.

Of Váli we know from the poems Baldrs draumar / ‘The dreams of Baldr’ and Voluspá / ‘The Prophecy of the Seeress’ that he is born after the death of Baldr and – when only night old – fulfils the bloody promise of a deadly serious divine infant not to wash his hands or come his hair until he has avenged his dead half-brother Baldr by killing his other half-brother Hǫðr – you know, the blind warrior who, as the unchecked and repressed shadow figure of the splendid son was responsible for the death of Baldr, with just a little help of our cosmic catalyst, little miss Lóki. 

And the name, Váli. Its’ meaning is not entirely clear, but it is – so they say – something like ‘the dangerous one’, ‘the frightening one’, ‘the harmful one’ or, at the other end of the spectrum, curiously enough, the ‘mourning’, ‘the moaning’, ‘the whining one’. So, we have, it seems, two quite different possibilities – someone who destroys or someone who grieves. It could sound like a problem. But it is not. It really is a blessing in disguise, for this ambiguity captures exactly what Váli is – he is the mourning infant brother of Baldr, born to live out his grief by a deadly act of violence; by killing the killer – and thereby sending him to the same place as the one whose death he was responsible for.  

And Viðarr, the other surviving son of Odin – just like his brother Váli he has a Jotun woman for his mother and an important part to play. His name is most telling. 

It is derived from the common word víðr, which simply means broad or – as we can hear – wide. So, the meaning of his name is something like the ‘Broadener’ or the ‘Widener’; that is, the one who is engaged in the activity of broadening, of widening, of expanding something.

To understand what this something might be, it helps to know that he has two rather striking traits of character. One of them is that he is said to be constantly engaged in the – from an outside perspective – quite pointless activity of reinforcing, that is, of expanding, a certain leather shoe, not a pair of shoes, but one shoe, with the bits and pieces cut off and thrown away by shoemakers in the production of footwear, constantly sewing them on to this very special shoe, so it becomes thicker and thicker. 

The other is a yet more distinguishing way of acting, or rather of not acting. You see, Viðarr is known to be completely silent. He simply does not say a word. 

How these two peculiarities are to be understood, and how they add up, becomes a lot clearer, when we hear what comes next.

Odin, having now been told that it is his sons and grandsons who are to inherit all the properties of the Aesir, now finally asks the question we might expect him to have had on his mind for a while: 

‘Much I have travelled, much have I tried out,  
much have I tested the Powers;  
what will Odin’s life’s end be,  
when the Powers are torn apart?’ 

Did he already know this himself? Was he already aware of this impending fulfilment of his destiny – or, did he realize it just now, as a consequence of being told about the inheritors of the Aesir after the fires of the blackened one have cleansed the world? We don’t know. It does not say so in the text. The riddle is for everyone to crack – and be cracked by.

Of essence is the answer:

Vafþrúðnir said:

‘The wolf will swallow the Father of Men,  
Vidar will avenge this;  
the cold jaws of the wolf  
he will sunder in battle.’ 

Viðarr is the one – he is the silent, chosen son, who, as the father dies is consumed by exactly the kind of animal, he had thought to be a master of, does what needs to be done.

The cold jaws of the wolf he will sunder in battle – that is he will tear them apart and split the wolf open. And this is where the thickened skin boot comes in handy. Snorri, in his usual matter of fact style, says it something like this: 

The wolf swallows Odin. But right after Viðarr appears and steps with one foot on the lower jaw of the wolf. On that foot he has the shoe for which there has been collected in all eternities: It is the wedge-shaped leather pieces, which people cut of their shoes by the heel and toe. Therefore, the person who wants to be of help to the Aesir should throw away these pieces of leather. With the one hand he takes the upper jaw and tears apart the mouth of it, and that becomes the death of the wolf.

Now, what does this mean? Following all that has been said and seen so far, I dare to call the message quite clear: This simply is the only way to take out the wolf.

By being willfully silent and thus experiencing the kind of inner expansion which, next to the practical activity of seemingly ridiculous preparations involving the careful usage of what others regard as trash, is the only real way to prepare for what is to come. In short, this is yet another Yogic recipe of the North – a mythical instruction to follow the silent path of meditation as the workable technique for destroying the very beast of desire. 

Now, how would you – being the raging Lord of Inspiration and Verbosity – answer someone who just told you that your silent, wierdo son will be the one to finish the business that should have been your own life Work all along? 

Well, he uses what he really has, his sharp-witted tongue, and switches to aggressive attack mode – hissing a final question to bring the Jotun down: 

‘Much I have travelled, much have I tried out,  
much have I tested the Powers;
what did Odin say into his son’s ear 
before he mounted the pyre?’ 

What did Odin say to the dead body of Baldr before it was handed over to the fire? 

What’s in my pocket? Seriously, what have I got in my pocket? Can you guess it? No, you can’t. 

Does it frustrate you? Do you feel like Gollum, getting tired of these riddles in the dark? 

Not fair! Not fair! (…) It isn’t fair, my precious, is it, to ask us what it’s got in its nassty little pocketses! 

Well, The Father of Dust and Ashes is not Gollum. So his answer is as composed, clear-minded and pulverizing as ever:

Ey manni þat veit,
hvat þú í árdaga
sagðir í eyra syni;
feigum munni
mælta ek mína forna stafi
ok of ragnarök.
Nú ek við Óðin
deildak mína orðspeki;
þú ert æ vísastr vera.”

‘No man knows what you said in bygone days  
into your son’s ear;  
with doomed mouth I’ve spoken my ancient lore  
about the fate of the gods;  
I’ve been contending with Odin in words of wisdom;  
you’ll always be the wisest of beings.’ 

No, man knows what you yourself whispered to the corpse of your beloved offspring. In other words: I know who you are

The standard – and in my eyes superficial – interpretation is that this is the moment where the Great Weaver finally connects the dots, understands who stands in front of him and loses his head to Odin, who then comes out of the standout as the wisest being of the world. 

An understandable impression, given what it says right here in the text. It says – or The Great Weaver says – that he has spoken with feigum munni, with a mouth marked by death, and that Odin always will be wisest. So, what’s there to be in doubt about? 

Well, for one, there is the basic principle of narrative common sense, that the part cannot be understood without the whole; that is – for example – that the final words of a story are not be taken as making everything else that has been in said in it irrelevant but should be understood in relation to the rest of it. 

If we do that – if we consider what has been going on all the way up to this point –, another deeper, and higher, understanding will dawn on us.  

Let us, once again, ask ourselves what’s in a name: Íms faðir …

What does it mean to be the father of dust and Ashes? Does it mean to be someone who gets blown back by the simple trick question of a boastful intruder? 

No, it does not. 

Dust and ashes…

Odin calls him the cold-ribbed one. Might that be an indication to follow? 

What is it that makes the chest cold? 

Are you there yet?

I believe the answer is this: As far as Odin can see, and that is – on the contrary to what he wants us all to believe – not very far, this Jotun is death himself

The cold-ribbed one.

However, he really is a lot more than that – and this is where all the opposites beautifully cancel out and we arrive at our final and primal destination. 

In the holy Bhagavad Gita – the ever-shining jewel of Vedic India – Krishna, the Lord of it all, says it like this to the attentive inner ear of his self-composed servant:  

Just as firewood is turned

to ashes in the flames of a fire,

all actions are turned to ashes

in Wisdom’s refining flames

The Father of Ashes – do you see it? The answer was obvious all along, already indicated by the narrating voice at the very beginning of our story. Fire

The All-wise Jotun is both the cold hand of death – the pulverizing act of Time – and the primordial, creative Fire itself. 

Or, to say it with yet another verse from the Gita:  

Of letters, I am the first one, A:
I am imperishable time;

the creator whose face is everywhere;

death that devours all things  

This is actually what the word Jotun means – an ‘eater’, a ‘devourer’. For this really is what is to be seen from the perspective of an outsider looking at these original forces of the real.

From the inside, however, the feel of it is quite different. 

The forces that eat the skin of our bones and sucks the heat out of our chests are the very same that give us everything, if only we trust the process – and let them do it. 

The answer is to step out of the way – and let them have it their Way.

If we persistently refuse this, they simply leave us alone to walk the line of our vain to be the wisest and mightiest of all – until, some sunny, all to sunny, day we are consumed by our own hunger. 

I’ve been contending with Odin in words of wisdom;  
you’ll always be the wisest of beings.’ 

Well, Fate is, as they say, not without a sense of irony. The Universe is – a joke.

And that’s pretty much it

. . . . .

As an appendix to all of this, I would like to give you one final image to think about and live by. 

In Voluspá / ‘The Prophecy of the Seeress it is revealed that, besides the young Gods that are to step forward after the fiery transfiguration of it all, there will be one single survivor from the ranks of the older Aesir. 

His name, or rather its’ name, is Hœnir. He is, as already mentioned in the first chapter of this trilogy, Odin’s lesser known and – a lot less talkative – brother. The name is, as indicated back then, a compound of the common word for a hen, that is, female chicken, hœna, and the standard masculine word ending ir.  

And – mark my words – this is not the Old Norse word for a rooster, which is called hani. It is, an intentional creation and thus contains a hermaphroditical message for us to receive and be transformed by. 

In Voluspá its’ only one single sentence that gives it away. It goes like this:

Þá kná Hænir
hlautvið kjósa

It literally means – something like:

Then shall Chick-Man
lot-wood choose

Lot-tree, hlaut-við – the two words mean respectively lot, you know something you draw to receive an omen, a sign for what is to come, and wood, a piece of wood. So – lot-tree is a wooden piece inscribed with the signs of an oracular system, in a Nordic setting that would runes. 

So, this is what we get: The sole survivor of the founding figures of the well-ordered world of the Aesir shall be the figure, whose true Will it is to dwell and vibrate between the energetic opposites of male and female – of passive and active, as someone who at the same time acts out and receives its’ destiny by attentively picking up omens to live by and sitting tight upon its’ treasure to bring the Great Work of fertility to its completion by the natural transference of vital heat from its body through the shielding shell of the egg into the living fetus of what is to come.  

That’s all there is. 

Beyond this point the rest is a matter of personal consideration and practical enactment. The path is for everyone to find and walk alone – and for others to see the results of.  

There is a life to live. 

So, and this really is the end, I wish for all of us that we may do it; that we may, indeed, as individual manifestations of the One, follow our bliss, consciously throwing ourselves, again & again, into the murky stream of doubt to leave behind the guarded land of easy, oppositional solutions, so we may arrive in the domains of Ash-Father himself, and– when all comes to all – become what we are, in the undying fires of Wisdom, so everything can finally begin

And the rest is – BOCK!  

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