Poseidon has three main aspects: sea-god, earth-shaker, and giver of horses. As sea-god he could stir up the waves or calm them, while as the earth-shaker his power was terrifying. Only as the god of horses was Poseidon a clear friend to humans.
We know very little about the gods known as the Vanir, or their cult. One common thread, especially in the cult of Freyr, was taking the god’s statue for a tour in a wagon, so his worshippers could see their deity, and be blessed by them.
There was a discussion recently on the Mythology Stack Exchange about whether Poseidon had been the first head of the Greek pantheon. It’s an interesting question….
You can argue this one in a number of ways. While the name Zeus is clearly Indo-European (one of the very few that is), the name Poseidon, along with his title Earth-Shaker, appears in Mycenean texts from very early times. On the Messenian coast, at least, he seems to have kept his status, and like Zeus he is the father of kings and heroes. (Indeed, the number of his offspring is second only to Zeus’.)
Back in the spring I was inspired by Adam Hyllested’s ideas about the Hyldemoer to write my own post about the Elder Mother. This led on to two other posts, on rowan and birch. I assumed that I had exhausted the subject of feminine powers associated with trees, but I was wrong.
A week ago Neorxnawang passed on a link to a paper on the mysterious goddess Ilmr. She appears in a list of goddesses and another of kennings for “woman” in the Prose Edda. Her name also appears in poetry, mostly as – you guessed it – part of a kenning for “woman”. The paper, by Joseph Hopkins, suggests that Ilmr may be an elm goddess, connecting her name to the word almr, elm.
Hesper! Sweet Aphrodite’s golden light!
Hesper! Bright ornament of swarthy Night,
Inferior to the Moon’s clear sheen as far,
As thou outshinest every other star;
Dear Hesper, hail! And give thy light to me,
Leading the festive shepherd company.
For her new course today began the moon,
And is already set–O much too soon!
‘Tis not for impious theft abroad I stir,
Nor to way-lay the nightly traveller.
I love; and thou, bright star of love! shouldst lend
The lover light–his helper and his friend.
– Bion of Smyrna, 2nd to 1st century AD
My last post on Gefjun touched on the question of her status. She is counted among the goddesses, but so are Skadi, Gerdr and Jord, all of whom are giantesses by birth. John Lindow has argued that she was obviously a giant or other primal being, although others have seen her as an earth goddess.
The only real myth about Gefjun tells how she “entertained” the Swedish king Gylfi, and he rewarded her with as much land as she could plough in one day. Gefjun either already had four sons by a giant, or else went off and conceived and bore them for the occasion, turned them into oxen and managed to plough enough land to make the large island of Zealand.
This was the giveaway that the oxen were imbued with giant strength: they ploughed deeply enough to cut Zealand away from Sweden entirely, and Gefjun gave it to the Danes. Far from anyone being angry with her for this, Odin rewarded her with marriage to his son Skiold, king of the Danes.
I see on high the Milky Way,
But here’s a rougher road.
The Sacred Oxen shining stand;
They do not draw our load.
The Sieve is sparkling in the South,
But good and ill come through.
The Ladle opens wide its mouth,
And pours out naught for you.
At dawn the Weaving Sisters sleep,
At dusk they rise again;
But though their Shining Shuttle flies,
They weave no robe for men.
Translated from Chinese by Helen Waddell
Gefjun will be forever be famous as the goddess who gave Zealand to Denmark. The Danes immortalized her feat with a fountain in Copenhagen harbour, showing her and her oxen ploughing out the land.
She has many similiarities to Odin, as a goddess who travels between worlds, tricks mortals, and straddles moral and sexual boundaries. Far from being an earth and ploughing goddess, Gefjun is a magical and complex figure.
I don’t like it–
two massive Black Holes
each twirling at the core of
two merging galaxies
get close enough
to fuse together
then quick as a wink
just as they are melting into a New Black Hole Blob
they undergo something called a “spin-ﬂip”
they change the axes of their spins
and the fused-together Black Hole Blob
gets its own
quick as a cricket’s foot
Don’t like it at all
And then the new Black Hole Blob sometimes
bounces back and forth inside
its mergèd Galaxy
till it settles at the center
but sometimes a “newly” up-sized Black Hole
leaves its Galaxy
to sail out munchingly on its own
into the Universal It
I don’t like it
Nothing about it
in the Bhagavad Gita
the Book of Revelation
Shakespeare, Sappho, or Allen Ginsberg
This week’s post could easily have been called “fearsome deities“. Odin, whose name means “fury”, and the Morrigan, who steps out of the fairy realm to stir up war and slaughter. It’s not hard to see what they have in common.
Two previous posts compared each one to the benign goddess Brigit, and although I was forced to conclude that apart from being goddesses and having a cow, the Morrigan and Brigit had very little in common, the Leinster goddess and Odin shared a complex of myths about water, eyes, and insight.
I was partly inspired by this, and partly by other things I had read (see links at end), to bring the Irish war-goddess and the Norse battle-god together. And then get quickly out of the way.