When writing my last post on Heimdall, I wondered if his name was connected to one of Freyja’s by-names, Mardoll. It’s usually translated as “Beauty of Light on Water”, perhaps inspired by the sun sparkling on the sea. It’s an appropriate name for Freyja, too, since her father controlled the waters, and she was the most desirable of goddesses.
The Scandinavians were a coastal people, who relied on the sea for food, trade and travel. Winter was when ice closed up harbour entrances and people stayed home; sun shimmering on the water meant spring had come and travel could begin again.
The first humans, in Norse myth, were made from two pieces of wood. Trees, humans and gods are closely connected, and the guardian god Heimdall and the world-tree Yggdrasil have a particularly strong bond. Humans, too, are a special care of his, as he intervened at time’s beginning to make them his kin.
Heimdall is the guardian of the gods, and of their home, Asgard. Why is it then, that the Eddic poem Rígsþula describes him wandering the earth and interacting with humans as if he had nothing else to concern him?
The Norse Myths: a Guide to the Gods and Heroes, by Carolyne Larrington, Thames and Hudson, 2017.
As the title suggests, this book is intended as an introduction to Norse myths, aimed at readers with little or no knowledge of the subject. The author, Carolyne Larrington, is an academic who has written several popular books, including a translation of the Poetic Edda. She has also written books on the green man and the women in Arthurian myth, and co-edited The Feminist Companion to Mythology.
In my post on the enigmatic Norse god Hœnir, I mentioned two goddesses, Frigga and Saga. I argued that Hœnir personified poetic memory and inspired speech. His partner, Mimir, was the god of memory, without whom he couldn’t speak at all. Like our gods, Frigga and Saga have access to the knowledge of fate and of history. And like our two gods, one of them tells about it, the other doesn’t.
Sheep and goats were both common food animals during the Iron Age, although oddly enough there are no images of sheep from the pre-Christian period. There aren’t a lot of goats, either, but there are a few among the rock carvings on the west coast of Sweden and the east central part. The same holds true for the myths: few goats, but no sheep.
This is one of those questions with a short and a long answer. The short answer is that it is the Norse goddess Freyja’s necklace. The longer answer is that the necklace, and its owner, were intimately linked. The jewel and the goddess were linked in the same way as Thor and his hammer: an attribute that could both symbolize the deity and embody their power.
In Skáldskaparmal Snorri gives a list of names for Loki. The last is “the wrangler with Heimdall and Skadi.” He also tells us that Loki and Heimdall will fight at Ragnarök, and kill each other.
As you can see from the picture above, Heimdall and Loki are enemies, opposed forces, order and chaos. I can see how Loki fits into this, but why Heimdall in particular? (Although considering what Loki gets up to in the Thor and Avengers movies, “mischief” seems a very mild description of his activities.)