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Leofric
Monday, October 17th, 2005, 04:42 AM
I just finished reading the Lokasenna in Hollander's translation. He maintains that "it is impossible to believe that the 'Lokasenna' was composed in any spirit of serious propaganda, or even with a faith in the gods" (page 90, footnote 1).

I don't know whether Hollander is a believing heathen, but I got the feeling that he was imposing his own scholarly view onto our ancestors' religion. After all, how does he know whether our folk did or did not take the Lokasenna seriously?

That got me wondering: how do our folk today who practice our ancestral religion view the Lokasenna? Do you find anything in it that strengthens your faith? Does it help you to be a better heathen and a better person? Do you believe what it says about the gods? Do you think it's just a poem that got thrown into the Poetic Edda without being spiritually valuable?

What are your thoughts?

Edwin
Monday, October 17th, 2005, 05:24 AM
Lee M. Hollander was one of the most well regarded Old Norse scholars of the last century.

The Lokasenna is a sort of flyting, a ritual form of argument in which an instigator challenges someone, and that person must respond in defense of himself, and then, if necessary, challenge the instigator. You can find a formal flyting in the Beowulf, when Hrothgar's thule Unferth attempts to determine for his king Beowulf's motivation for coming to Heorot and offering to slay Grendel. In bringing up a remarkable story, laden with rumour, from Beowulf's youth, Unferth tries to discover if over-wheening pride might be Beowulf's motivation.

Therefore, Loki's accusations need not contain much if any truth. This is what Hollander means.

Leofric
Monday, October 17th, 2005, 05:59 AM
I know about flytings, and I am aware of Hollander's value as a scholar. But neither was really the point of my question, which I guess I need to clarify.

Faith and scholarship don't always match up. Hollander offers his view as a scholar when he implies that the compositor of the poem had no religious intent. But I am interested in knowing how believing heathens today view the poem. Regardless of the scholarly view of the poem's value or of the poet's original intent, is there anything in the poem taken as a whole (not just Loki's accusations, but the whole text) which contemporary heathens derive spiritual benefit from? If so, what and why?

Edwin
Monday, October 17th, 2005, 06:41 AM
I think you will find that most believing heathens of today are not actually studying the material, and if they are, then they see it all, especially the "Elder Edda", as accurately reflecting the actual pagan world view of ancient times. But most scholars agree that the mythic poems of the "Elder Edda" are the least valuable source, determining that even the Völuspá, so valuable to Snorri, is mostly worthless.

Siegfried
Monday, October 17th, 2005, 01:23 PM
What sources would you recommend, Bennet? Do you have an opinion on the work of H.R. Ellis Davidson?

Edwin
Monday, October 17th, 2005, 03:52 PM
I have not read Davidson's work, but from what I have heard her specialty is the archaeology, etc. of the myths. She is valuable for that aspect, but is not so much a scholar of them. This is according to John Lindow in:

Old Norse-Icelandic Literature - A Critical Guide, edited by Clover and Lindow
(not to be mistaken for the one by O'Donoghue, which is meant for classrooms)

His large article Mythology and Mythography in that title is one of the best ever written in the field, and is a brilliant survey of much of the important literature up to its time. It also has a full bibliography to 1984. But, one should first read the standard introduction to Norse mythology:

Myth and Religion of the North, by E.O.G. Turville-Petre

One must know this book before anything else. Also beware of the fact that Turville-Petre's style seems to be to offer a variety of opinions of certain figures spread out over different sections. He has at least three or four opinions and estimations of Thór.




What sources would you recommend, Bennet? Do you have an opinion on the work of H.R. Ellis Davidson?

Wayfarer
Saturday, October 22nd, 2005, 01:57 PM
I think the Lokasenna is actually a clever text. At first sight it seems perhaps as an attempt to ridicule the Aesir, by having Loki uninvited to a feast at Aegir's Hall force his way in and in their own hall he insults them and thus undermines them.
Witht he coming and rise of Christianity and the threat that had on the Ancient Ways then a cryptic text like Lokasenna that would at first sight seem like an unserious and comical text but with closer scrutiny would be quite revealing would be important in preserving that knowledge. Wether it was for this purpose or not i dont know.

Take for example Loki's insult to Odin v22

"Be silent, Odin, you never know ho to
apportion honour in war among men;
often you've given what you should'nt have given,
victory, to the faint-hearted."

This looks like Loki is insulting Odin by saying that sometimes he lets the weakest in battle win, the "faint-hearted" and the best or strongest lose. For a God of War he is quite useless.
However it is revealing because, well for me anyway, it can be interpreted that Odin, by letting the strongest lose and die in battle, would have his halls Valhalla, populated with his favourites and the best fighters amongst men. It shows that Odin is much more interested in keeping Valhalla full of great warriors for the coming of Ragnarock than the petty minor scuffles of Men.
Great men may lose in battle but it will because Odin wants them to join him for such a great cause as the preparation for Ragnarock.
So is it really a ridicule of Odin?

It is only when Thor returns and threatens Loki with his hammer does Loki leave and thus showing Loki's wimpish and mischevious character and at the end the only one really humiliated is Loki.

"I spoke before the Aesir, I spoke befpre the sons of the Aesir,
what my spirit urged me,
but before you alone I shall go out,
for i know that you do strike."

Leofric
Friday, October 28th, 2005, 04:36 AM
Yes, Wayfarer, when I read it that was exactly the feeling I got — that the occasional grains of truth in Loki's insults were enlightening and that even more enlightening were the responses of the other gods to the insults.

Are these thoughts shared by all the heathens here? Can anyone add more than this to an understanding of how heathens today view the Lokasenna in their spiritual lives?

Sifsvina
Tuesday, November 1st, 2005, 02:56 AM
I think you will find that most believing heathens of today are not actually studying the material, and if they are, then they see it all, especially the "Elder Edda", as accurately reflecting the actual pagan world view of ancient times. But most scholars agree that the mythic poems of the "Elder Edda" are the least valuable source, determining that even the Völuspá, so valuable to Snorri, is mostly worthless.

I beg to differ as most everyone I know of who considers themselves heathen (or whatever they want to call it) studies "the lore" at least to some extent and none consider it a "holy book" to be believed unquestionably, they know most of it was set down by christians. This is alot of what drew me to the religion in the first place, you have to think for yourself and study, truth is not dictated to you from outside but something that you must find. I'm sure the type you refer to exists but most actually revel in critical thinking and anthropology. But I can really only speak for myself and I don't want to lump myself in with all the "heathens" I know as far as the conclusions we draw from our research:-)

If the "Elder Edda" is so worthless what would you recommend as more valuable sources? I like anthropological findings the best myself. Unfortunatly I'm stuck with things in English.
I agree with Leofric about the grains of interesting information. They are at least likely to shed light on how those gods were seen at the time if nothing more.
:valkyrie

Edwin
Tuesday, November 1st, 2005, 04:13 AM
The "Elder Edda" is far from worthless, but the world view it offers is mostly worthless. For example, the Norse story of "creation" as presented in the Völuspá is of great value, but the theme of the poem, in the Decline and the Ragnarök, is of no value. A story of creation does not present a world view. Genesis presents no world view.

What we find for the most part in the mythological poems is a fully degenerate tradition. Even Indra in the later Hindu tradition never is mocked and lied about so fully as is Thór. The recent head of the Norse pantheon is not even allowed the status of a demon, as is Indra in the Zoroastrian tradition, by the lowly-born creators of several of the poems in the "Elder Edda".

For sources, Snorri's Gylfaginning offers the most pagan information, and is indispensible, even though much of what he relates is clearly degenerate or innacurate. But he offers no pagan world view. That must be found in the sagas, especially in the fully pagan Eyrbyggja Saga, and in the great corpus of skaldic poetry, alot of the (surviving) best and oldest and most pagan of which is compiled by Snorri in his Skáldskaparmál.

I will admit that I am not yet familiar with Saxo Grammaticus' Gesta Danorum. This apparently offers a great deal of pagan narrative, but which is mostly euhemerized. And it is in Latin. I have read criticism dealing with it, but can place no value on it from that. Perhaps I should finally purchase a copy.

Leofric
Tuesday, November 1st, 2005, 04:17 AM
I agree with Leofric about the grains of interesting information. They are at least likely to shed light on how those gods were seen at the time if nothing more.

It sounds to me like you're saying, Sifsvina, that the poem's primary value is that it tells us bits here and there about how our ancestors viewed the gods. The rest of your response seems to corroborate this, since it sounds to me like you and Bennett are saying the same thing about the value of the Poetic Edda — it's just archaeology and not the best archaeology at that. Does it do anything to tell you how to view/worship the gods? Does it change the way you personally view the gods? Is it of any relevance in your own personal spiritual life?

I guess what I'm wanting to know is, what is the relevance of the Lokasenna in the spiritual and religious lives of contemporary heathens? It seems from the responses I've gotten so far — or rather from the lack thereof — that the relevance is pretty limited. It also seems that perhaps the contemporary spritual relevance of all the lore is pretty limited in the lives of most heathens today, that its primary importance is historical rather than spiritual and that it's not too good as a source for historical information. This seems to fight against what I had thought to be the case in contemporary Germanic heathenism, and I guess I need to go back to the very beginning in my understanding of the religion.

Maybe I should rephrase my original question within the context of another. What is the value, if any, of the Poetic Edda in the religious lives of heathens today? (And if you would be so kind, answer personally about yourselves, as Wayfarer has done — you don't need to be the voice of all heathens to be the voice of a heathen.) And within that question comes the other: what is the value of the Lokasenna within the spiritual value of the Poetic Edda?

Edwin
Tuesday, November 1st, 2005, 04:32 AM
I can say with confidence that the least authentic of the sources, the so-called "Elder Edda", is the most revered by modern heathens. If only I could somehow magically separate its unfortunate mythological half from its much shinier heroic half, and have them distinct as separate compilations.

Sifsvina
Tuesday, November 1st, 2005, 10:46 PM
It sounds to me like you're saying, Sifsvina, that the poem's primary value is that it tells us bits here and there about how our ancestors viewed the gods. The rest of your response seems to corroborate this, since it sounds to me like you and Bennett are saying the same thing about the value of the Poetic Edda — it's just archeology and not the best archeology at that. Does it do anything to tell you how to view/worship the gods? Does it change the way you personally view the gods? Is it of any relevance in your own personal spiritual life?

Yes, it's just a second hand historical/poetic text but as long as one keeps that in mind it can be quite interesting. The Lokasena itself is not that useful to me but I'm sure it contributed small pieces to my view of the gods but it is hard to interpret it as there is not much way to tell if what Loki says is believed to be true or if he is making things up (even accusing them of things they never do just to piss them off) or twisting situations where they did what they did for higher reasons. And there seem to be alot of reference to lost stories that it is assumed the reader/listener knows. It says more about Loki than anything and Loki does not play much of a part in my practice. It is interesting when taken with the other writing in chronological order, seeing how Loki changes. This could be how he was seen by the people changing (possibly the christian influence) or as the story of how he changed, from one of the boys fooling around to the enemy.


I guess what I'm wanting to know is, what is the relevance of the Lokasena in the spiritual and religious lives of contemporary heathens? It seems from the responses I've gotten so far — or rather from the lack thereof — that the relevance is pretty limited. It also seems that perhaps the contemporary spiritual relevance of all the lore is pretty limited in the lives of most heathens today, that its primary importance is historical rather than spiritual and that it's not too good as a source for historical information. This seems to fight against what I had thought to be the case in contemporary Germanic heathenism, and I guess I need to go back to the very beginning in my understanding of the religion.

I think the difference is that we (me and my fiancé and those I have had in depth conversations on the subject with) know the lore is just lore not a sacred text. Even things put down by people we know believe it only gives us insight into what THEY believe/d. While we do try to understand and get back to a more healthy (natural) relationship with nature and others and we find certain clues to that in "the lore" we do not try and just copy the beliefs of our ancestors word for word -we would be sure to get the essence wrong that way. I think the line between historical and spiritual is not so clear, I find great spiritual joy in feeling I am getting a clearer understanding of how my ancestors lived and thought, what their motivations were, so that I may myself learn to live in a more "natural" way. (To live and to worship is all part of the same thing, I do not divide the two) I do not keep separate the info I have gotten from the Elder Edda from the saga's, Tacitus, Saxo, anthropological findings, etc. It all gets mixed together in my mind to make a bigger picture. I do however like the "older" poetry better, they are arranged with those believed to have older sources first in the Elder Edda, I like the mythological stuff more than the heroic stuff as the later style is annoying to me.
:valkyrie

Sifsvina
Tuesday, November 1st, 2005, 10:59 PM
I can say with confidence that the least authentic of the sources, the so-called "Elder Edda", is the most revered by modern heathens.

It is also the easiest to find and read. And it's closer to the historical source than alot of the contemporary writings, especially on the net;-) I'd rather read something written by a christian in Iceland hundreds of years ago than some blog where they prattle about the night they had with Odin and what crystals align him with. A few less layer to peel off;-)
:valkyrie