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Thread: Beowulf (The Poem)

  1. #21
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    In the symbolic poem Beowulf, the giant Grendel and his mother are two forms of the dragon or demiurge, which also represents the regnum and the ancestral path; the father then is the sacerdotium.* In the heroic tradition, battle symbolizes the initiatic trials, the success of which produces the kingdom proper as a reunion of Sky and Earth, male and female, sacerdotium and regnum, as is seen in the marriage rite. The kingdom is of one‘s own mind, in which there are two selves, the mortal and immortal parts of the soul; life itself is a recurrent death and rebirth, or becoming, which is escaped by the sacrifice. We are the food of the gods insofar as heaven and earth are separate (in a fallen state) but attain the Shower of Wealth through correct performance and understanding of the rites. Beowulf and Grendel are thus two aspects of the same person, the latter as the mortal, outer self, the former as the immortal, inner self. Such is the evil brotherhood in which we are at war with ourselves.

    In the first battle, Beowulf must face Grendel who was angered by the singing at the mead hall. This singing was the chant, like the Hindu mantra, which started the rite. The dragon, which is also the mountain and the World Tree, must be dismembered as a tree is logged and then reassembled. As significant of the ancestral path, Grendel eats the warriors who sacrifice unto him; the act of swallowing represents the outer man. It isn‘t until he faces Beowulf that we see the full significance, where Grendel‘s arm by which he does battle was ripped off by Beowulf to signify that his is an inner battle. Beowulf thereby successfully performed the first sacrificial rite, inwardly not outwardly; it is the evil which is cut out of the self.

    The second battle against Grendel‘s mother shows a further symbolism of the dragon as the mountain, the cave of which is accessed through the lake; for water is a symbol of life, and the lower waters of formal manifestation. There Grendel and his mother are slain, after which the hero claims their treasure and distributes it to his followers. Of special mention is the cup which represents the heart as the seat of the soul. The cup is placed at the intersection between the horizontal and vertical planes. Filled with blood, as it boils, so produces the ascension, or with wine, as the alcohol evaporates from the water (formal manifestation), so to symbolize the spirit from the soul.

    At this point, the primordial state is attained, the Sky and Earth are united, which is the marriage of the sacerdotium and the regnum. The king is immortal (meaning in the mind one is beyond duality rather than living forever in the body). Having slain the dragon and taken its treasure Beowulf then becomes the dragon; he reigns for many years until the
    grail is stolen by his successor. The father on his deathbed initiates the son, so that his spiritual lineage truly does continue. But for Beowulf, the last battle against the dragon in which he himself suffered a mortal blow and his subsequent funeral pyre represents the completion of the greater mysteries. Death has been conquered and all bonds have been destroyed; breaking out of the cosmos, there is no more individual self, the Supreme Identity is attained. The throne is resumed by his heir.

    ____
    * While this might sound strange since it is a tale of the heroic tradition, we must keep in mind the functions of each, which is to say, the sacrifice is a sacerdotal art, and the true king must successfully perform it in order to assume the crown. Hence, the regality held the dual powers of the spiritual and temporal.


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    On a side note, certain people have a wish that I adopt the academic style and cite resources, but for me to do so to satisfaction would require listing of hundreds of books many of which are out of print or as of yet unpublished. This is tedious, monotonous, and for me rather pointless.

  2. #22
    Senior Member Ajaxhan's Avatar
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    I first read Beowulf when I took a myths and legends course in high school and since then have bought it. I'm not sure about the one I read in school, but the one I bought is the "Barnes & Noble Classics" edition, translated by John McNamara. If you're a bargain hunter and don't already have a copy, I'd recommend it. It only costs $4.95!

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    Beowulf can be a tedious read for the modern Heathen, but considering its primary importance as an essentially Heathen story and the oldest text known in Old English, it is a precious document.

    "Beowulf was written in England, but is set in Scandinavia. It has variously been dated to between the 8th and the early 11th centuries. It is an epic poem told in historical perspective; a story of epic events and of great people of a heroic past. Although its author is unknown, its themes and subject matter are rooted in Germanic heroic poetry, in Anglo-Saxon tradition recited and cultivated by Old English poets called scops." Wikipedia

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    Quote Originally Posted by wolfwickham View Post
    Beowulf can be a tedious read for the modern Heathen,
    The Seamus Heaney translation is not bad at all.

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