View Full Version : Rígsþula and the image of men

Saturday, March 11th, 2006, 07:23 PM
From The Birth of Thrall

Great-grandmother bore a swarthy boy;
with water they sprinkled him, called him Thrall.
Forthwith he grew and well he throve,
bur tough were his hands with wrinkled skin,
with knuckles knotty and fingers thick;
his face was ugly, his back was humpy,
his heels were long.

From The Birth of Churl

A child had Grandmother, Churl they called him,
and sprinkled with water and swathed in linen,
rosy and ruddy, with sparkling eyes.
He grew and throve, and forthwith 'gan he
to break in oxen, to shape the harrow,
to build him houses and barns to raise him,
to fashion carts and follow the plough.

From The Birth of Earl

Then a boy had Mother; she swathed him in silk,
and with water sprinkled him; called him Earl.
Light were his locks, and fair his cheeks,
flashing his eyes like a serpent's shone.

The highest and most worthy of them all is a light person: light hair, light skin, just as his mother ("Her brow was brighter, her breast was fairer, her throat was whiter than driven snow.").

Racial purity in the Edda, lightness as symbol of the "higher ones"? But why then are some Gods, for example Thor, not depicted in that special light way?

Tuesday, March 14th, 2006, 09:39 PM
Racial purity in the Edda, lightness as symbol of the "higher ones"? But why then are some Gods, for example Thor, not depicted in that special light way?

Because the indo-european functions are each related to a specific color : white for the first sovereign function, red for the second (war) and black for the third one (fertility).

The Rigsthula is more about the foundation of the social system following the indo-european ideology than race purity.

Thursday, March 23rd, 2006, 04:55 PM
Because the indo-european functions are each related to a specific color : white for the first sovereign function, red for the second (war) and black for the third one (fertility).

Thats interesting, where did you come across that?

Saturday, March 25th, 2006, 10:14 PM
Thats interesting, where did you come across that?

Its a theory that comes from Georges Dumézil, its detailed in his "Gods of the Ancient Northmen" if I remember well.

I found this about it (i've not read the whole article, only this quote) :

There is also important mythical support for Dumezil's thesis that Indo-European society was based around a tripartite social structure, here the myths are used to support a sociological thesis. Most important in this regard is the Eddic Rigsthula [4], a myth reinforcing the threefold division of society into that of Thrall (slaves), Karl (freemen) and Jarl (nobles) [5]. Some commentators have treated this narrative with critical caution claiming that it is merely a justification for aristocratic rule. This criticism has some force, and indeed the poem could not be seen as a discourse free of value judgements about the merits of the various estates. But we are not here interested in the value judgements that the poem contains, rather we are interested in the social structure it reflects - which is indeed tri-partite. This poem itself seems to be a reflex of an older narrative and may be connected to the earlier continental narrative of the three sons of Mannus, as described by Tacitus, who Dumezil associates with the Indic Manu[6] (See Table 6)[7]. The social stratification has also been preserved in the colour symbolism of Indo-European societies, where Indian, Iranian, Latin and Celtic cultures all associated the priestly or sovereign group with the colour white, warriors with the colour red and peasants with dark colours[8]. Such a schema finds its expression in Teutonic culture where in the Rigsthula the poet mentions the hair colour of Rigr’s three sons, the first Thral has “dark” hair (strophe 7), the second Karl was “ruddy” (strophe 21) and Jarl whose hair was “flaxen” (Strophe 35) [9].


Ryan Kirk
Sunday, March 26th, 2006, 04:19 AM
I would also have to say that this probably has very little or nothing to do with any concept of racial purity. White and black were common descriptions used in Norse society and had nothing to do with skin colour. Black was commonly used when talking about people who had dark hair, even just brown instead of blond or red. White would be anyone with blond hair.

The description white was even used of Christ by the pagan Norse. The White Christ was a negative description of him as being weak and soft.

Edit: Also in support of the poster who mentioned the three colours for different attributes is the fact that Thor was often associated with redness.

Wednesday, March 29th, 2006, 08:06 AM
Agree that racial "purity" is a dangerous territory to step into when examining ancient texts or creeds for it. It appears in Indo-Aryan culture because there were literal differences between Dravids and fair invaders and those divisions are still seen in the Brahmin admiration of a light skinned and especially blue or green eyed person. An Indian I know has told me that the lighter the skin in her cuture the more status the person has, so often light skinned partners are sought after for the fairness their children will bring to the line. It is a social/status thing with them. I have been told that although marrying actual Europeans is not encouraged as the culture is invasive and the line foreign this is often tolerated for the skin lightening that will be seen in the offspring. It would seem that this has degenerated into a status oriented superficial practice and now has little or nothing to do with "race" and more to do with snobbery and class.

I also agree that descriptions of "black", "dark" and "swarthy" in mythology have to do with things other than racism. There are two kinds of dwarves, the light and the dark and in Scots mythology two kinds of faerie, the "light seelie" and the "dark seelie" and these have to do with their existence above or below ground. Wights of the underworld are often described as black or earth coloured. Skin is often described as leathery when it pertains to wights or people who work closely with the earth, or who work under it. The sky faerie species or the Valkyrie type Vanir and elves of the air, the sylphs and so on are described as light and fair because they live in the realm of the sun. When they are angelic they are described as literally fiery gold and shining.

I agree with the red, white and black designations of the Indo-European warrior groups in terms of their relation to priest, warrior and worker classes, not races.

The preoccupation with lightness is often a result not only of a people's actual fairness but also of their relation to the sun iconology in religion. Leonine characteristics, eagle symbology and intellectual and warrior prowess are associated with brightness and sun-being. Darkness, the moonworld of the night, the ground, the underworld and roots world are associated with certain elves and dwarves and with a certain kind of instinctual, intuitive and deep and ancient wisdom that is centred on ideology of underground water and rivers, wells and bogs.

Thor is associated with fire and redness. He is not as much of a peasant god as is popularly thought. He is a half Thurs child, a fire giant type, a very powerful force and he is the antithesis of the Midgard serpent who represents gravitational force that holds things to the earth. The serpent's tail is in its mouth and nothing escapes this force. Thor has a belt of strength. I like to see him as the Holy Power that enables us to escape the gravitational force of the Serpent and move beyond the earth's field into space. Our rockets are like Thor's belt. They propel us beyond the grasp of gravity. Many people see Jormungandr as evil. I do not. This snake is part of the natural world, a giant force and when its tail slips from its mouth at Ragnarok things that were held together are unbound, including the force of Loki and chaos rules while the gods, the forces of civilization and nature struggle against the might of creative/destructive power.

We have a wonderful mythology that has only been nudged in its potential to replace Christianity and give us back our worldview.

Sunday, April 9th, 2006, 03:13 PM
Here is an article by the OR which interprets the Rigsthula in terms of spiritual development. This is probably the interpretation which would be the most meaninful to us today.

Rigsthula: Evolution Of Spiritual Awareness (http://www.odinic-rite.org/Rigthula.htm)