The Poetic Edda of Iceland

From the Poetic Edda of Iceland (13th century)

Out of Ymir’s flesh was fashioned the earth,
And the mountains were made of his bones,
The sky from the frost giant’s skull,
And the ocean out of his blood of ice.

This narrative from the Norse Viking account of the making of the world from the flesh of the ice giant Ymir shows how our ancestors viewed the world. It was through the poetic or mythical lens of the “inner eye” that these poets and shamans saw the landscape, the realm of mist and imagination that once was the world to Humankind.

In our Modern World we are trapped. We have lost this “vision” or ability to see what lies beyond the “mists of myth”, or even acknowledge the mist itself. When we watch Game of Throne or some fantasy movie filled with CGI-created beasts, dragons, and Giants we are missing something vital that’s been lost. We crave the mystery and the myth but its not there. Instead these creatures become flesh on the screen and seem used as but tools for Mankind’s political wars, religious hate, bigotry, desires for money, relationship problems, or power struggles.

But the Norse saw their cosmology and myths as something beyond themselves and their desires. They saw the world as a “multidimensional, spiritual landscape” that encompassed the deeper religious themes of their culture. And so they re-imagined the world through the eyes of their deeper imagination and cosmological view, the tragedy of the end that was Ragnarok, and the strange cycling of birth, death, and rebirth that seems so self-evident in Nature.

Ymir is not just an anthropomorphic construct of the earth. He represents the primeval belief that the world and all matter itself is here because it once lived and now has died. Ymir is a form of sacrifice too, a living being whose essence now lives in us. For we too are part of the “flesh” of the earth. We were once part of Ymir and thus heavenly like everything born from the earth. It’s the mystery that your mind instills in images of Nature that hides the spiritual truth. For what lies in waiting in the mountain themselves is the source of the myth of Ymir.

And so these myths should remind Modern people of the fact that our shallow story book views of giants need not be tools to further repetitive narratives of inter-family strife, love interests, power struggles, and protagonist victories in novels and Netflix dramas. Instead they should be used for spiritual exploration……the long search for the Ymir that lives in us…..the search for the connection to the earth that the Ymir stories once engendered in the young minds that first heard them.

These myths don’t exist anywhere else in the world but in the depths of our mind’s darkest imaginings. They will never live in a book, a movie screen, or even in imagery, though those things may bring them to light. If we have lost touch with that spiritual connection to them, making them into forms to sell books, create video games, or make money, then we can no longer see or visit or witness the mysteries and myths that that lie beyond ourselves and that still live in Nature.

For our global culture is using mythology now constantly in media, searching, desiring something from Myth and even faith that is lost or no longer relevant. Myth as Joseph Campbell has show remains a vital part of our global myth, the global archetypes shared and still desired by Mankind all over the world.

That to me is what we should all work towards in the decades ahead as the world closes in around us, and the globalization in conflict with money and political will increases. We should all work to regain what has been lost spiritually in our views of our faith, our cultures, and our ancient mythology.

– the Author

Created July 17, 2017, 10:04 AM

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