Tag Archives: Nifelheim

Nifelheim: ‘Spaces and Pain 4/4’ The Nine Realms- Poems and Writing

16 Apr

nine realms8

The Nine Realms

9 months, 22 poets and writers, 22 Artists, 3 composers, 1 Viking boat: a magical reworking of Norse Mythology for contemporary audiences

 

Poems and Writing inspired by the Norse realm of Nifelheim (The Realm of the Dead

Featuring:

Karin Heyer and John Mansell

Choices

by Karin Heyer

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In the mists of time,
Hel, goddess of the dead
was the moon that
drew good or evil
across the water.
Her gigantic power
should not fall to abuse,
for that was Hel’s hell.

She ruled over men
on this sea of wagons
with fierce piercing eyes.
She could protect or destroy
the apple-tree of strife
under the miraculous moon’s hall,
so that the brutal blood-snake
would strike
not in thoughtless revenge.

She was master of
the dream-assembly for
the sick and old,
could prevent the slaughter-dew from flowing
over the ruthless river-fire
in the lone battle of life.

 

The translations of the kennings:

Sea of Wagons = earth; Apple-tree of strife = warrior; Moon’s hall = sky; Blood-snake = sword; Dream-assembly = sleep; Slaughter-dew = blood; River-fire = gold

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Nifelheim

by John Mansell

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The night stifles with moon and star-fall.
The skald saunters through the throng.
Arms aloft like antlers he shuffles words
on his rhythmic tongue,
full of soot and cinders, to fall upon
the eager warriors gathered in stately enclave.
The night ignited by the sparks of his recital,
spreading the gloaming like bleeding flame.

“We are such as gather before the camp fires of lore.
We are those who thrust to that glorious death.
Yet betwixt and between there are those
who crave infirmity and age.
Look and you will glance their shifting eyes
behind the slatted windows of hovels,
fearful and stripped of dignity.
No feasting halls for them.
Nothing but sullen Nifelheim awaits.
The mist-home.
The clutch of ice and cold upon ancient flesh.
The dread of the Rime Giants or the Children of the Mist.
We are such as will never see those spectres.

“And lo I tell you, Nifelheim is older than the first star.
It was created before earth, and at its centre Hvergelmir,
the Roaring Kettle, from which nine rivers flow.
That hoary land where Odin sent
defiling Loki’s grotesque child Hel.
That cruel daughter;
half sable as night, half as you in stippled wipe of fire.
And there with those whose usefulness has diminished
go the evil doers, the molesters of dream.
Helgrind, the Gates of Hell, ne’er more apt,
that edifice entrance; that hall called Eljudnir.
She strewed the minds of ambling man.
Her dish was that of Hunger.
Her knife the famine before her table.
Her slave a slender wraith call Lazy
and Slothful her serving wench in harlot stance.
We are such as will not fall to her peril.

“We are such as will not see before the quivering sun,
as it shudders beneath the end of the earth,
the sail of her ship of death afloat from its mooring
in that place that traps and spits her name as if both are one.
We are such whose eyes will not stoop beneath
the lowest horizon before that Mistress of Death.
That Mistress of the pusillanimous hand.
Not lest you be as brave Hermod
whose ride to her foreboding hall entreats all glory.
To release sad Balder from its mortifying hold.
None must weep she said
to show that he was truly loved.
None at all she said.
How harsh her condition as that sole giantess
with eyes of granite frowned and found no tear.
We are such as Hermod.
We are such as defy the impossible.
No Nifelhein for us.
No falsifier of Death to retch our glories.
For we will find the perfect deaths to attend our only Master.”

The fires had burnt low.
The moon had travelled along the sky.
The gathered warriors gripped in thought the silent blades.
And the skald with no hint of farewell
departs as if he had never been.

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Hvergelmir

Hermod

Balder

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You can read the overview of Nifelheim  here , and see some Nidavellir poems here

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Find out more about Karin and John here:

Karin Heyer

Contact ArtiPeeps

John Mansell

https://twitter.com/JohnMansell1

 

As always, thank you for your interest.

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Nifelheim: ‘Spaces and Pain 3/4’ The Nine Realms- Poems and Writing

9 Apr

nine realms8

The Nine Realms

9 months, 22 poets and writers, 22 Artists, 3 composers, 1 Viking boat: a magical reworking of Norse Mythology for contemporary audiences

 

Poems and Writing inspired by the Norse realm of Nifelheim (The Realm of the Dead

Featuring:

Ross Beattie and  Nat Hall

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Send Me to Hel

by Ross Beattie

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Become for me what you became for that world.
My sister is also a serpent.
You protect the gates of your name and I need not pass you as my only wish is to die beside you.
Many gods cannot bear how you look, eyes turn in disgust, fear creeps through the hearts of greater men than I. But I’m entranced by your beauty, your one half rotting and other already dead, it’s exactly the same as mine, but only eyes that see past surfaces can tell this when they see me.
Can you see me ?
I have to imagine you from what I read, but it’s not enough, I can wait no longer.
I beg to gods that I’m forever unlikely to believe in “Send me to Hel”
And then I catch a glimpse of my hopeless self and laugh into the mist covered morning.

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“Misty”

by Nat Hall

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Feel ice claws in the northern
plains.

Out of dark North,
out of blue-tainted icicles,
out of the antlers of the stag,

where the living comes out & back,
where dragon gnaws at the ash tree,

Níðhöggr
protects Hvergelmir;

out of her womb,
mother of eleven
rivers,

Svöl,
Gunnthrá,
Fjörm,
Sylgr, Ylgr,
Slídr & Hríd,
Fimbulthul, Vid, Leiptr & Gjöll –

Élivágar turned ice to
life;

Frost Giants,
children of the mist…

The go-between
fire & ice.
L’antichambre même de la vie.

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© Nat Hall 2015

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MP3 to come

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You can read the overview of Nifelheim  here , and see some Nidavellir poems here

.

Find out more about Ross and Nat here:

Ross Beattie

blackpoemblues.weebly.com

https://twitter.com/blackpoemblues

Nat Hall

nordicblackbird.weebly.com

 https://twitter.com/nordicblackbird

 

As always, thank you for your interest.

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Nifelheim: ‘Spaces and Pain 2/4’ The Nine Realms- Poems and Writing

1 Apr

nine realms8

The Nine Realms

9 months, 22 poets and writers, 22 Artists, 3 composers, 1 Viking boat: a magical reworking of Norse Mythology for contemporary audiences

 

Poems and Writing inspired by the Norse realm of Nifelheim (The Realm of the Dead)

Featuring:

Joanna Lee, Mina Polen

and Shirley Golden

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If all things should weep

by Joanna Lee

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even through the thickest ice, redemption
may bubble. don’t call it the realm of the dead.

say instead: that cauldron from which every man
springs, and will again return.

pull up fistfuls of last year’s leaf-
mould; wade the bitter waters;

sift the cold from the thaw.
this is not another poem

about what to feed your dragon.
serpent-sister, i no longer fear judgment,

have seen the green from your high walls.
atonement is made from yeast-drops

and pomegranate seeds, shimmers,
effervesces. remember

the life-beneath-frost, your  nascent
breakings, the roots planted in winter.

remember the strength in those you have loved,
the gentle rain lost to the mists.

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Don’t follow me

by Mina Polen

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Somehow I feel
that you mustn’t come
it is so cold over here
my feet are freezing
the snow is falling

my love
please, don’t follow me

somehow I feel
that I might be lost
the rivers are frozen
I am having nightmares
I don’t know what is this

my love
please, don’t follow me

somehow I feel
that this place is poisoned
the land stinks of cadaver
I feel threatened
I feel lonely I feel lost

my love
please, don’t follow me

somehow I feel
there is no end
the mist is overwhelming
I feel guilt and regret
this is all too much to bare

my love

please

don’t follow me.

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Cutting Out the Bad

by Shirley Golden

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They say we are sick and insist on a cure. I was hauled in when they updated legislation on crimes against beauty. For some, it’s ageing without correction or overindulging that secured them a stretch in here. Not acceptable, they say. Control it. Cover it. And if you can’t, we will. Our stay, as they call it, need not end in disaster. Consent screens flicker night and day, expecting the press of inmates’ fingerprints to smudge the surface of LCDs. And we will assent, they say, everyone caves in the end.

It’s worse than sub-zero winter, the cold bleeds into every bone and fibre. And the air is still, so still. We barely find the energy to speak or chew although she feeds us well enough. It’s a legal requirement. Some say the food is laced with drugs; others that they pump sedatives in through the vents. It explains our sluggishness and the fog which infects like gas climbing from corpses. The bad breath stench clings to the bed hangings. She calls us her children and says there are worse places, and it feels like a threat.

She’s black and white, precise, suit smart, exact. Guarding the right of her domain, she’s indifferent to protests. She acts with authority absolute. But under that veneer lurks a half-dead creature. For how could anything with a heart be immune to our pleas?

I’m allowed a mirror; it is encouraged. They say I must face my reflection, it’ll convince me to conceal the rough edges beneath a membrane, plump cheeks, smooth over corrugated flesh. It’s an old, old scar that started with a lump and ended under a surgeon’s blade; it took years to heal. I stare at discoloured tissue, the uneven track the scalpel was forced to carve; they call me offensive, offender. They fail to see it as an inscription: blunt. Integral.

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You can read the overview of Nifelheim  here , and see some Nidavellir poems here

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Find out more about Joanna, Mina and Shirley here:

Joanna Lee

the-tenth-muse.com

https://twitter.com/la_poetessa

Mina Polen

https://twitter.com/minafiction

aldebaranylosnarvales.blogspot.com

Shirley Golden

shirleygolden.net

https://twitter.com/shirl1001

 

As always, thank you for your interest.

 A ‘The Nine Realms’ update post will be coming out tomorrow with news of our forthcoming Indiegogo Campaign.

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Nifelheim: ‘Spaces and Pain 1/4’ The Nine Realms- Poems and Writing

26 Mar

nine realms8

The Nine Realms

9 months, 22 poets and writers, 22 Artists, 3 composers, 1 Viking boat: a magical reworking of Norse Mythology for contemporary audiences

 

Poems and Writing inspired by the Norse realm of Nifelheim (The Realm of the Dead

Featuring:

Jim C Mackintosh, Eleanor Perry

and Tom Murphy

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The Signal Keeps Breaking

by Jim C. Mackintosh

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I am trying to phone you from
the most hellish place there’s ever been
with the worst phone signal ever.

It has taken nine days to get here
but all the things I gave up to get here
will not buy me a fare for the nine days back.

There are so many things wrong
with this place, I am not sure what
to describe, or whether I should even try.

I will try texting you, that way, you will
have a record of this vile land but
it is no land I have dreamt of

or woken in the cold sweat of night
fearing my destiny. And should I not
return, I pray you will read my words.

There are so many people, dead people
some dying, or not but still wandering
stumbling in the sludge of putrid pools

pools that lap the edge of a cauldron
its crusted rim catching the unaware
pulling them into a depth I can only fear.

I tried to save an old man, grabbing his coat
but he was beyond the depths my shallow
cowardice would allow me to wade.

There is no sun, yet there is light enough
to pick out the pain, the shadows of scars
and marks across the strands of shore

where the keel marks of the dead, dragged
by their souls, lead to a dragon’s bowl
nestled on the bleach of suppers past.

There is no time, but there is order
in this terrible chaos. Despite the mists
that catch your throat like heated flints

tossed into the air by the sadness
of children, seemingly lost, wandering
with their blankets of belongings.

I have tried speaking to them but
they stare through me except one
attracted by the light of the phone

grabbed at it but when I pushed him
away, he dissolved into a puddle
leaving only rags and a scatter of baubles.

The other children, at least I imagine
them to be children, did nothing but pick up
the dissolved one’s rags and walk away

towards the dark mass of a tower,
ice-cold like a frozen heart, an island
of infinity drawing me towards its gate.

Down an impossible path, beaten
like a flattened vein, exhausted
under the burden of its purpose.

I can’t see beyond the gate but
I must go beyond the daubed sign ‘Hel’
I must not falter in my step, my courage.

Through the briar, and soft ash
of unspoken voices caught, discarded
in the unsettled mounds by the path

to an uncertain fate. I am weak yet
my resolve is strong, to face the dark
beyond the buttressed edge of Hel.

I will leave these words, this dying
signal with a child, to keep safe
from the poisoned mists that force me –

the signal keeps breaking –

I am entering Hel, alone –

breaking –

me

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5.
whorf hypothesis

insect noon, and this, the wishing element | we softly
saw ruin | the other wolf moon in the mouth | and it
seemed a lot of hurt | star meat sunk deep in neon sock-
ets | spoon-tapped atoms like those sea lilies which
drag themselves | in polished glass | since water is a
human learning | and the road hums so thick | we
would lung this tired space | even in obscene echoes |
and the words went light like bones | blue robot vague.

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Part 5

Nifelheim

by Tom Murphy

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galloping up the hill

knuckles knotted in the mane

Draumur leaping through the waves of grass

as if surging through salt foam sea

each of these a spell

a telling of path

the three moments

embracing under the waterfall

sitting in the dark cave of mist

floating on the milk blue pond

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the idea of north

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You can read the overview of Nifelheim  here , and see some Nidavellir poems here

.

Find out more about Jim, Eleanor and Tom here:

Jim C. Mackintosh

bigbaffy.com

https://twitter.com/JimCMackintosh

Eleanor Perry

 https://twitter.com/nellperry

Tom Murphy

https://twitter.com/sandcave

 

As always, thank you for your interest.

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Realm 6: Helheim – Overview and writing prompts, The Nine Realms, an ArtiPeeps Combined Arts Collaboration 2014-2015

12 Mar

nine realms8

The Nine Realms

9 months, 22 poets and writers, 22 Artists, 3 composers, 1 Viking boat= a magical reworking of Norse Mythology for contemporary audiences

Helheim

(the realm through which  men pass in order to die in Nifelheim)

 

Vikings Ahoy!

Here we are in the middle of March,  with the deadline for the poetry and writing for the 6th realm Nifelheim today! I shall be posting out more Nidavellir poems this week and next week, and then we’ll be onto the Nifelheim poems. This month we are outlining the realm of Helheim. The deadline for all writing, poetry and mp3s for this realm is Thursday 16th April 2015.

These monthly posts will draw from a range of primary and secondary source materials and focus on selected gods, themes and stories that circle around the highlighted realm. They will not attempt to cover everything, and writers can embrace any other stories and characters within their writing which is not covered. Month by month we will be building our own magical, contemporary norse world whilst exploring the themes of POWER, NATURE and RELIGION. The project’s overall intention is to embrace orality, translation, storytelling and rhythm all of which are inspired by the origins of the oral tradition of the Norse Sagas.

I may well put out little mini-posts intermittently focusing on orality and poetic form as necessary.  

What is presented below is designed to inspire, present basic information and offer a starting point for individual creativity within the project inspired by the themes, characters and spirit of the myths and stories.

Helheim

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1. A brief  Overview of Helheim

 

Helheim is the lowest realm of all ruled by Hel (see Nifelheim overview). In Grímnismál stanza 31, Hel is listed as existing beneath one of three roots of the world tree Yggdrasil. One of the other two roots leads to the frost jötnar and the third to Mankind. In the poem Völuspá in The Poetic Edda a völva (sybil)  states that Hel will play an important role in Ragnarök. As mentioned in the Nifelheim overview there is some greyness in terms of differentiation between Nifelheim and Helheim, but in the Vafþrúðnismál (the third poem in The Poetic Edda)  states that it is the place that evil men pass through to die again in Nifelheim.

It is also  the place where all men, who were not warriors and did not end up in Valhalla (the feasting hall of the dead), were decreed to go and condemned to a grim death by Hel. The myths connected to Hel and Helheim spread into cultural traditions, and loved people were buried near to their homes to keep a connection, and those who were cruel were buried far away. Their families fearing they might become the walking dead. In relation to the life/death dynamic there is even some evidence that some thinkers believed there was no life after death. In the Hávamál, for instance it states:

Wealth dies, kinsmen die, a man must like-wise die: but fame never dies, for him who achieves it well (Allan: 135)

You can find the full Hávamál text here

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1. Odin’s Consultation with the Völva

Baldr’s draumar  is another Eddic poem from within The Poetic Edda which tells the story of Odin’s ride to Hel investigating Baldr’s nightmares. (Baldr is the son of Odin and Frigg and is married to Nanna with a  child Forseti.  Baldr is responsible for the construction of the most wonderful ship known to man called the Hringhorni.   You can find out more about Baldr in the Nidavellir overview. )

The story goes that Odin, travels to Hel to find the grave of a Völva (sybil) so that he can resurrect her and questions her about Baldr’s future. She reveals Baldr’s fate: that Höðr (his brother) will kill him, but Vali  (one of his other brothers) will avenge him.

Apart from this description Baldr is known primarily for the story of his death. His death is seen as the first in the chain of events which will ultimately lead to the destruction of the gods at Ragnarök. Baldr will be reborn in the new world, according to Völuspá.

In Gylfaginning, Baldur is described as follows:

Annar sonur Óðins er Baldur, og er frá honum gott að segja. Hann er svá fagr álitum ok bjartr svá at lýsir af honum, ok eitt gras er svá hvítt at jafnat er til Baldrs brár. Þat er allra grasa hvítast, ok þar eptir máttu marka fegrð hans bæði á hár og á líki. Hann er vitrastr ása ok fegrst talaðr ok líknsamastr. En sú náttúra fylgir honum at engi má haldask dómr hans. Hann býr þar sem heita Breiðablik, þat er á himni. Í þeim stað má ekki vera óhreint
The second son of Odin is Baldur, and good things are to be said of him. He is best, and all praise him; he is so fair of feature, and so bright, that light shines from him. A certain herb is so white that it is likened to Baldr’s brow; of all grasses it is whitest, and by it thou mayest judge his fairness, both in hair and in body. He is the wisest of the Æsir, and the fairest-spoken and most gracious; and that quality attends him, that none may gainsay his judgments. He dwells in the place called Breidablik, which is in heaven; in that place may nothing unclean be
 Brodeur’s translation

In Baldrs Draumar, the sybil replies:

Here stands brewed the mead for Balder,

shining cups with shields for cover,

but the Sons of the Gods must suffer anguish….

(Ellis Davison: 185)

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You can find the whole of the Gylfaginning here

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Odin's Last words to Baldr

Odin’s Last words to Baldr

 

2. Odin’s Ride to Ransom Baldr

Baldr dies (see Nidavellir overview. )  and Frigg once again asks Odin to go to Helheim and entreat Hel to let him come back. He travels through ice and wind, crossing  the Gjoll torrent (which separates the living from the dead) via a golden- roofed bridge. Hel agrees that Baldr can come back only if everyone and everything agrees to weep for him. All things do weep for him: trees, stones, animals all except Thokk/ Þökk (who is thought to be Loki in disguise) ensuring that Baldr cannot return. In so doing Baldr has to remain in Hel; not to be released until after Ragnarök. Baldr and Höðr would then be reconciled and rule the new earth together with Thor’s sons.

 

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4. Ragnarök and Helheim

As Ragnarök unfolds an axe age, a sword age, a wind age and a wolf age reek havoc over the world.  Midgard is ridden with wars for three winters and fathers kill sons. A most ferocious  winter (Fimbulvetr)  covers Midgard. Three winters in succession will manifest with no summers in between.  The children of the giantess in the Iron Wood declaim themselves and the wolf Sköll  swallows the sun whole in his jaws, splattering Asgard with blood. His brother Hati  mangles the moon within his mouth, and the stars disappear.

The earth begins to shudder, mountains shake, and rocks roll, and Fenrir runs free.  Eggther, the watchman of the giants,  strums his harp. A red cock called Fjalar crows waking the warriors in Vallhala every day. A golden-combed cock crows to the gods, and a  red rust cock raises the dead in  Hel. The Midgard serpent writhes in anger, and high seas come in. Loki, free from his fetters sails the high seas towards Vigrid from the North with a deathly crew from Hel. The world is in uproar, and the Yggdrasil Tree trembles , and the gods take arms within Valhalla and March toward Vigrid/Vígríðr, (a large field which hosted a battle between the gods and the forces of Surt).

Odin rides upfront, and in the end Fenrir  swallows Odin and he dies.  Vidar/Víðarr (Odin’s son) kills Fenrir in return. Surt lets flames fly and Asgard, Midgard, Jotunheim and Nifelheim become furnaces burning to ashes. The nine realms burn and the gods die, men and women die, and elves and dwarves, monsters and animals die. The earth sinks into the sea.

BUT out of the dying earth a new one is born out of  ‘water, fair and green’.  (Crossley-Holland: 173-175).

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Themes, Relevance and Questions:

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Life,  Death and Transition: It could be said that Nifelheim and Helheim in combination represent a very powerful symbol of transition (from life to death and vice versa). Viewed in conjunction with Ragnarök, this makes for a very strong articulation of the force of life and rebirth.   Where through a conflict and a realignment of moralities life comes forth again ‘fair and green’, with dark forces in hand once again.

Through the creation of the figure of Hel we can see a centre and symbol of moral judgement has been created:  one that allows us to question what is right or wrong, and who is condemned and who is not ( exactly as Hel does). The sifting through that Hel undertakes as men pass through Nifelheim  (judging their morality and position in life) could be seen as a parallel to the sorts of judgements  many people and leaders and figures in power make today. To look at the role of transition and rebirth within the realms of Helheim and Nifelheim , I think can well serve anybody wishing to understand the nature of moral judgement and freedom.

 Exploration Point: What transitions of power can you see in play within these realms and their stories, and how could they be used to reflect upon modern contemporary life? 

 

Things of Interest:

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1.  The Relevance of Norse Myths in the School Curriculum:

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/culture/books/10622293/Get-your-fill-of-Norse-myths-before-Hel-freezes-over.html

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 2.  Filmpoem: Sonatorrek (Loss of Sons)

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A filmpoem by Alastair Cook of John Glenday’s ‘The Lost Boy’, a poem after Egill Skallagrímsson’s Sonatorrek *.

http://www.asnc.cam.ac.uk/resources/mpvp/?author=2

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* Egill Skallagrímsson/ Egil Skallagrimsson(c. 904 – c. 995) was a Viking-Age poet, warrior and farmer.

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Egil Skallagrimsson

Egil Skallagrimsson

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3. ‘In Old Norse mythology, poetry is a slippery substance….’ 

http://www.asnc.cam.ac.uk/resources/mpvp/wp-content/uploads/2013/02/An-Anthology-of-Responses-to-Skaldic-Poetry.pdf

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4. Sculptor:  Asmunder Sveinsson

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Who was born in 1893, and drew inspiration from The Prose Edda for some of his work.

See:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/%C3%81smundur_Sveinsson

Reykjavik Art Museum, of which one part is dedicated to Sveinsson

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 Optional Poetry and Writing Prompts:

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Rubai

The rubai (plural rubaiyat) is a Persian verse form. Each rubai stanza is a quatrain, in which lines 1, 2 and 4 all rhyme.

See here for more details.

Writing Word Prompts:  Light, Thousand, Knowledge, Capital, Fingers, Stars, Deep, Hate, Forest, Broken

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To confirm, the deadline for all writing, poetry and mp3s for the Helheim realm is Thursday 16th April 2015.

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 Thank you so much for your interest.

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References

 Allan, T (2010) Vikings, The Battle at the End of Time, London: Watkins Publishing

Crossley-Holland, K (1993) The Penguin Book of Norse Myths: Gods of the Vikings, London, Penguin Books

Ellis Davidson, H.R. (1990) Gods and Myths of Northern Europe, Penguin Books

Hollander, L.M. (1996) tr. The Poetic Edda, Austin: University of Texas Press

Larrington, C. (1996) tr. The Poetic Edda, Oxford University Press

Sturluson, S. (2005) The Prose Edda, Penguin Classics, tr. Jesse L. Byock

Realm 5: Niflheim – Overview and writing prompts, The Nine Realms, an ArtiPeeps Combined Arts Collaboration 2014-2015

12 Feb

nine realms8

The Nine Realms

9 months, 19 poets and writers, 22 Artists, 3 composers, 1 Viking boat = a magical reworking of Norse Mythology for contemporary audiences

Nifelheim

(the realm of the dead)

 

Vikings Ahoy!

Here we are in the middle of February,  with the deadline for the poetry and writing for the 4th realm Nidavellir today! I shall be posting out more Jotunheim poems this week and next week, and then we’ll be onto Nidavellir. This month we are outlining the realm of Niflheim, and the deadline for all writing, poetry and mp3s for this realm is Thursday 12th March 2015.

These monthly posts will draw from a range of primary and secondary source materials and focus on selected gods, themes and stories that circle around the highlighted realm. They will not attempt to cover everything, and writers can embrace any other stories and characters within their writing which is not covered. Month by month we will be building our own magical, contemporary norse world whilst exploring the themes of POWER, NATURE and RELIGION. The project’s overall intention is to embrace orality, translation, storytelling and rhythm all of which are inspired by the origins of the oral tradition of the Norse Sagas.

I may well put out little mini-posts intermittently focusing on orality and poetic form as necessary.  

What is presented below is designed to inspire, present basic information and offer a starting point for individual creativity within the project inspired by the themes, characters and spirit of the myths and stories.

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1. A brief  Overview of Niflheim

 Niflheim means ‘Mist World’ and lies to the North of Ginnnungagap, the huge void  from which the world grew. It originally had 9 frozen rivers attached to it and was filled with ice, frost and snow. The rivers bubbled up from a cauldron called Hvergelmir and their  waters flowed into Ginnungagap.

In the guise of three men Odin gives a lesson in norse mythology to Gylfi (the earliest recorded king of Scandinavia). 

It was many ages before the earth was shaped that the Mist-World [Niflheimr] was made; and midmost within it lies the well that is called Hvergelmir, from which spring the rivers called Svöl, Gunnthrá, Fjörm, Fimbulthul, Slídr and Hríd, Sylgr and Ylgr, Víd, Leiptr; Gjöll is hard by Hel-gates.

The Prose Edda, Section III of Gylfaginning, in translation by Arthur Gilchrist Brodeur (1916), p. 16.

Niflheim was said to be a nine day ride northwards and downwards from Midgard. At its centre was a towering place called Hel, whose gates were protected by a female of the same name. She is described in a variety of ways (pending on the source): as a half black-half-white she-monster and as a half living flesh and half rotting cadaver. There is also a distinction between Helheim and Niflheim:  men pass through Hel to die in Niflheim (Crossley-Holland: xxi).

Niflheim is also mentioned as the final  destination of the jötunn who was killed by Thor after he had built Asgard:

Now that the Æsir saw surely that the hill-giant was come thither, they did not regard their oaths reverently, but called on Thor, who came as quickly. And straight away the hammer Mjöllnir was raised aloft; he paid the wright’s wage, and not with the sun and the moon. Nay, he even denied him dwelling in Jötunheim, and struck but the one first blow, so that his skull was burst into small crumbs, and sent him down below under Niflhel [Niflheim].

The Prose Edda, Section XXXIV of Gylfaginning, in translation by Brodeur (1916), p. 55.

Rather than staying in Nifelheim the dead could also pass on to Nastrond/Náströnd* (the strand of corpses), where men must wade in poisoned streams before being cast into the Hvergelmir (cauldron) to feed Nidhogg the dragon. These ideas have affected Christian notions of fate and wickedness (Allan: 133).

*See Things of Interest below

Two other sorts of beings were said to come from Nifelheim the Hrímthursar, known as the Frost Giants (or Rime-Giants) and the Niflungar (“children of the mist”), a group of people who were treasure-seekers and hoarders. They are also known as  the Nibelungs.

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Gylfi and Odin

Gylfi and Odin

 

2. Gylfi’s Education:

Gylfi  meets ‘The Mysterious Three’ men mentioned above in Asgard, where, in search of wisdom, he questions them.  Each of the three men sit on a throne and guard the gates of Valhalla. The three are known as:  Jafnharr (Equally High), Harr (High) and Thridi (Third). He is unaware that the three are in effect incarnations of Odin.  

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a. Ice and Flames:

Odin (disguised as Thridi/Þriði)  tells Gylfi that Ymir was formed when the ice from Niflheim (Niflheimr) coalesced with the flames from Muspelheim (Muspelheimr), and thus began the creation of the world:

Just as cold arose out of Niflheim, and all terrible things, so also all that looked toward Múspelheim became hot and glowing; but Ginnungagap was as mild as windless air, and when the breath of heat met the rime, so that it melted and dripped, life was quickened from the yeast-drops, by the power of that which sent the heat, and became a man’s form. And that man is named Ymir, but the Rime-Giants call him Aurgelmir; […]

 The Prose Edda, Section VII of Gylfaginning, in translation by Brodeur (1916), p. 17.

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b. The Second Root:

Talking of the world tree Yggdrasill, Jafnhárr (Odin) tells Gylfi that Jotunheim (Jötunheimr) is located under the second root, where Ginnungagap once was:

The Ash is greatest of all trees and best: its limbs spread out over all the world and stand above heaven. Three roots of the tree uphold it and stand exceeding broad: one is among the Æsir; another among the Rime-Giants, in that place where aforetime was the Yawning Void; the third stands over Niflheim, and under that root is Hvergelmir, and Nídhöggr gnaws the root from below.

The Prose Edda, Section XV of Gylfaginning, in translation by Brodeur (1916), p. 27.

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c. The Story of Hel and Loki:

Gylfi is then told the story of how Loki had created Hel via his relationship with giantess Angerboda (‘she who offers sorrow’). Hel was the third daughter of this partnership and was sister to Fenrir (the eldest) and Jormungand (the second child, and a huge serpent).  Hel’s looks and grim demeanour were particularly disturbing to the Asgard gods. When the gods then heard that Loki had fathered these children, they felt that the three should best be captured. A group of gods gathered and went to Jotunheim to capture the siblings. They tied up Angerboda and took Hel to be cast into Niflheim by Odin (Crossley-Holland: 33). :

Hel he cast into Niflheim, and gave to her power over nine worlds, to apportion all abodes among those that were sent to her: that is, men dead of sickness or of old age. She has great possessions there; her walls are exceeding high and her gates great.

The Prose Edda, Section III of Gylfaginning, in translation by Arthur Gilchrist Brodeur (1916), p. 16.

In this way,  Hel became the mistress of the world of the dead including  all those in the nine realms who died of disease and old age.  Odin stipulated that she had to share out all her food with whoever came to her.  

You can find the entire version of the Gylfaginning here.

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3. Hrimthursar/hrímþursar

or Frost Giants

When Ymir was formed out of the primeval chaos of Ginnungagap a procreative sequence was instigated: out of Ymir’s armpits grew his son and daughter, and his two feet gave birth to another son (a six headed monster). Ymir’s son and daughter and the six headed monster created what is known as the Hrimthursar (the name given to the frost giants who populated Niflheim).  The gods, however, debated this latter scenario, saying that the Hrimthursar’s origins stem from Buri (the grandfather of Odin. Vili and Ve) instead. The story goes that when  Odin killed Ymir, all his blood/water flooded Niflheim and killed all the frost giants (jötnar).  Nearly all the giants were killed barring one: the giant Bergelmir and his wife. Together they repopulated the earth:

From Ymir’s flesh the earth was formed, and the rocks from out of his bones; the sky from the skull of the ice-cold giant, and the sea from his blood.

Orchard, translated by Andrew (2010). “Vafthrúdnismál”. The poetry of the Elder Edda. London: Penguin Classics

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Themes, Relevance and Questions:

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Morality, Wickedness, Religion: In the creation of Hel we can almost see embodied in her a metaphor for moral choice: who is bad and who is good. She has the power to cast men into to Nifelheim, or into to Náströnd or to stay in Hel. She is one of the main figures (along with the Aesir and Vanir gods) in norse mythology who controls morality. The idea of moral rectitude and fate is put in place here. The themes of which you can also see flowed into Christian doctrines (Allan: 133).

 Exploration Point: What type of morality is shown within the Eddas? How is the harsh, dark morality balanced? Through nature? Through mysticism? Through play within language?

 

Things of Interest:

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1. Arthur Gilchrist Brodeur  (1881-1971. author of the  famous 1916 edition of The Prose Edda):

 

Arthur Gilchrist Brodeur 1916 ed

Arthur Gilchrist Brodeur 1916 ed

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Brodeur, born in Franklyn Massachusetts, USA, was given the Royal Order of Vasa for his services to Scandinavian culture from the government of Sweden. He was also forward-thinking in terms of his politics.  He was one of three members of the Berekely Communist Faculty Group.  Brodeur also initially refused to sign the loyalty oath as required by the state in 1949. He ultimately did decide to sign and continue the fight from within.

W. E. Farnham and A. E. Hutson, Arthur Gilchrist Brodeur, English; German: Berkeley: 1888-1971: Professor of English and Germanic Philology, at Calisphere, University of California Libraries, retrieved February 22, 2012

You can read more about him here:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Arthur_Gilchrist_Brodeur

http://pulpflakes.blogspot.co.uk/2012/07/arthur-gilchrist-brodeur-professor-pulp.html

 

2.  Náströnd

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Click to enlarge the images

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Náströnd (shore of the corpses) is a place in Hel where Níðhöggr the dragon resides eating the corpses and sucking their blood. It is the place where those guilty of murder, adultery and oath-breaking (which the Norse considered the most terrible of crimes) go. Within the shores stood a castle filled with serpents. 

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From the  Völuspá  in The Poetic Edda:

Sal sá hón standa
sólo fiarri,
Nástrǫndu á,
norðr horfa dyrr.
Fello eitrdropar
inn um lióra.
Sá er undinn salr
orma hryggiom.
Sá hón þar vaða
þunga strauma
menn meinsvara
ok morðvarga
ok þannz annars glepr
eyrarúno.
Þar saug Níðhǫggr
nái framgengna,
sleit vargr vera.
Vitoð ér enn, eða hvat?

Völuspá 38-39, Dronke‘s edition
A hall she saw standing
remote from the sun
on Dead Body Shore.
Its door looks north.
There fell drops of venom
in through the roof vent.
That hall is woven
of serpents’ spines.
She saw there wading
onerous streams
men perjured
and wolfish murderers
and the one who seduces
another’s close-trusted wife.
There Malice Striker sucked
corpses of the dead,
the wolf tore men.
Do you still seek to know? And what?

Völuspá 38-39, Dronke’s translation

 

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/N%C3%A1str%C3%B6nd

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3. The Nine Worlds of the Ygdrassil:

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4. The three children of Loki:

A brief overview:

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 Optional Poetry and Writing Prompts:

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Epistle

Epistolary poems come from the Latin “epistula” for “letter,” and are poems that literally read as letters. They directly address a subject matter or person. They can be intimate, colloquial or formal and measured.

See here for more details.

Writing Word Prompts:  Blood, Insignificance, Guilt, Serpents, Ice, Fear, Judgement, Brittle

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To confirm, the deadline for all writing, poetry and mp3s for the Nifelheim realm is Thursday 12th March 2015.

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 Thank you so much for your interest.

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References

 Allan, T (2010) Vikings, The Battle at the End of Time, London: Watkins Publishing

Crossley-Holland, K (1993) The Penguin Book of Norse Myths: Gods of the Vikings, London, Penguin Books

Ellis Davidson, H.R. (1990) Gods and Myths of Northern Europe, Penguin Books

Hollander, L.M. (1996) tr. The Poetic Edda, Austin: University of Texas Press

Larrington, C. (1996) tr. The Poetic Edda, Oxford University Press

Sturluson, S. (2005) The Prose Edda, Penguin Classics, tr. Jesse L. Byock

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