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.
Fate is an important part of Norse myth and culture, from the all-encompassing poem Völuspá with its vision of creation, end times, and rebirth, to the heroic sagas whose heroes and heroines are pushed by their fates into destructive acts and violence.
Fate was not just an impersonal force, but was often imagined as the norns, women who laid down fate for mortals and immortals alike. These women were present at the beginning of the world, and at births, but people’s view of them was not sentimental.
Before Christmas I wrote about Holda, Berchta and Perchta, who led the wild hunt and perhaps received children in the afterlife. For the new year, I want to look at another trio of goddesses, who oversaw birth, and the infant’s journey into the light of life.
Wolves occupied a very ambiguous place in Norse myth and thought. The best of dogs is said to be Garm, but everywhere else Garm is a wolf, and a dangerous one at that. Garm is the wolf that kills Tyr at Ragnarök, (Gylf. 51) and the similarly named Mánagarm devours the moon (and presumably Máni the moon-god):
Back in the ’90s I wrote a book called Asyniur, which attracted a certain amount of scorn because I named Freyja’s two cats as Bygul and Trjegul. Unfortuantely, this is not ancient lore but comes from a book by Diana Paxson, Brisingamen.
However, I did escape another trap that lies awaiting the newbie – I did not place Iðunn in Breidablik. But I feel the pain of anyone who did. Bragi and Iðunn should have a home of their own. Jack Kirby and Stan Lee obviously agreed with me, and gave them one.
The porch of an Anglican church might seem like a strange place to find an altar to a pagan goddess. In Lancaster, Co. Durham, however, a stone altar to the goddess Garmangabi coexisted with the established church.