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Fireverse 6: Mythology is Subjective

Mythology is stories, and stories reflect the mind of the storyteller. We acknowledge that when we talk about how a given mythological tale reflects a culture and its level of scientific and social advancement. The individuals who told the stories also projected them through their own personal lenses, not only as members of their culture but as people with internal psychology.

One of the things I learned while writing Some Say Fire, in which I retold as much of the heathen lore as I could find along with original material inserted interstitially, is that it is impossible to write objective fiction about the gods no matter how hard I try. Even though I relate to the gods either as people with personalities or as nature, when I wrote fiction about them they inevitably turned into archetypes. For example, the ways that Fireverse Odin differs from traditional Odin all turned out to be about my real life deceased father. I didn't intend to do that. I didn't even realize that until after I had enough of a draft completed to show it to someone else and my critique partner pointed it out to me; I knew I had turned my problems over to my higher power by giving them to Loki, but I hadn't realized how much that distorted all the other characters in the story.

Only after I had dealt with those issues was I able to get past them and reach the real Odin. In mythology or fairy tale, the father figure is your father, the road is your path, and the mountain is whatever obstacle you yourself must overcome. Everything turns into dream symbolism.

This same phenomenon must surely have happened when the lore that we have received in written form was first written down. The lore contained in Snorri's Edda must therefore reflect Snorri the individual as much as it reflects the lore as he had heard it in his lifetime, and as much as it reflects his culture and the times he lived in.

Fireverse Odin turned into my father and Fireverse Loki my wounded inner child because those are the personal issues I needed to resolve through my creative writing. Snorri's Odin turned into Yahweh and his Loki turned into the Devil. As a Christian with recent heathen ancestors living in the time of conversion, watching his culture be destroyed by the very thing he most passionately believed in--the Church-- resolving the cognitive dissonance between his Christian beliefs and his love of the stories of his culture must have been his greatest psychological need.

The subjectivity of story, even mythology from an oral tradition, is something to keep in mind in interpreting the lore. Some of my fellow Asatruars treat the Eddas as if they were the word of the gods. The Eddas were written by men; men have human needs, including psychological needs. The storyteller shapes the story even if he tries not to.

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A is for All-Father (Pagan Blog Project)

I've decided to participate in the Pagan Blog Project again this year, but in a more focused way than in my previous attempt at it in 2012.  (Actually, I'm not sure if I kept with it for that whole year or not, and I skipped 2013.)  This year, the focus is going to be entirely on Odin, specifically on His heiti, the epithets or by-names used to refer to Him throughout the surviving northern literature (known to heathens as “the lore”). Odin has so many names in these sources that I could count only about 5 letters of the alphabet for which there are no established heiti, and for those letters—assuming I can't come up with a suitable modern epithet to fill the gap—I will discuss some other aspect of His historical or modern worship.  It remains to be seen whether I'll write something for each week, or just one post for each letter. I've been seeing online a tendency to stereotype Odin into just one or two roles: as the aged patriarch of the northern pantheon, perhaps, or as a remote patron of mystics and kings.  In my many years of living and working closely with Him, I have seen many of His faces, some of which I hope to share here, at the same time as I hope, though delving into His many names, to reach an even deeper understanding of Him myself.

We'll start off with one of the most well-known and frequently used names for Him: All-father.  I don't gravitate towards this name much myself in my own practice, because I don't have a father-daughter relationship with Him, but the name itself doesn't refer to personal relationships so much as to His overall status as the father of gods and men.  In Snorri Sturluson's Edda (often called “the prose Edda,” the primary source text that's probably best known to the vast majority of heathens), Alfodr is used more or less interchangeably with Odin in referring to Him.

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