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CHAPTER 1

THE HOUSE OF ODIN

CHAOS: ODINIC MYTHS

For the ancestral home of the Orcadian Jarls we must voyage to the Norwegian Uplands, fitting cradle for this primeval line, noble even beyond the breath of tradition. It was in those lofty regions that we learn from the pre-historic Eddas, our Scandinavian forefathers attributed not only the creation of their race, but the origin of mankind. For when we refer to the mythology preserved in the Eddas we are told: -

From The Normans in Europe:
In the beginning of time when yet there was nought, two regions lay on each side of chaos, To the north Niflheim, the abode of mist and snow, and cloud and cold. To the south, Muspell, where it is so hot and bright that it burns, and none may tread save those who have a heritage there.The king of that country is Surtr, who guards the land with a flaming sword. When the hot blasts from Muspell met the cold rime and frost that came out of Niflheim, the frost melted by the might of Surtr, and became a great giant, Ymir, the sire of all the frost giants. But besides the giant, the ice-drops as they melted formed a cow, on whose milk Ymir fed; and as she licked the rime-covered stones, a man named Buri arose, who was the father of Odin and his brethren. These are the Aesir, or good gods, and between these and the frost giants war arose, till at last Ymir was slain and all his race but one. From this one sprang the later race of frost giants.

With the body of the giant Odin made the world. The sea and waters are his blood; earth his flesh; the rocks his bones; pebbles his teeth and jaws; his skull was raised aloft and the heavens were made of it; the clouds are his brains. But the sun, moon, and stars are formed of the fires which came out of Muspell. These Odin fixed in the heavens, and ordered their goings. Odin, the father of all (Allfadir) next made man, and gave him a soul which shall never perish, though the body decay.

Odin was the greatest of the gods.
Next to him comes Frigga, his wife, who knows the fate of all men, though she never reveals it.
Then Thor, his first-born son - the Thunderer - the chiefest of gods for strength, the sworn foe of the old frost giants, the tamer and queller of all unholy things.
Next Baldr, of fairest face and hair, the mildest spoken of the gods, type of purity and innocence.
These, with Freyr, who rules over, rain and sunshine and the fruitfulness of the earth; and Freyia, the goddess of love; and many others, live in Midgard, the centre of the earth.
Here they have built themselves a castle, Asgard, high above the earth, whence they can see all that goes on among mortals. Here shall the good live with Odin after death, while the wicked shall go to Niflheim (hell), the place of darkness and of cold.

But these simple myths were mingled with those of a more savage and sterner character.

Odin is not the All-father alone, but the God of Battle (Valfadir) as well, and as such is worshipped by bloody sacrifices. Instead of the peaceful after-life in Midgard, men look forward to Valhalla - the Hall of the Slain - where those who die in battle shall feast with Odin. There, their pastime shall be to fight with each other from dawn till mealtime, when they ride back to Valhalla and sit down to drink. Those who die of sickness or old age shall go to hell; the murderers and the foresworn to Na, a region formed of adders' backs wattled together, whose heads spit venom and form streams in which these shall wade for ever.

Meanwhile among the gods there is strife and woe. Of the children of the old frost giants, one Loki had been fostered by Odin, and brought up among his children, to their ruin. Fair of face is he, but a traitor, ill-tempered. deceitful, and of fickle mood.

With the rise of the traitor the golden age of the Aesir, or the good gods, is at an end, and the old quarrels between them and the frost giants are resumed. Yet so long as Baldr lived, sin and wickedness could not prevail on earth, nor could the ancient race triumph over the Aesir. To kill Baldr, therefore, was Loki's constant aim, and by treachery he succeeded. The gods, warned by the soothsayers that Baldr was doomed to die, made him free from death by sickness, or stones or trees, or beast or bird; and rejoicing in their triumph, found harmless pastime in shooting at Baldr and smiting him with stones, while he remained unharmed. One tree, the mistletoe, they had not named, and Loki, making arrows of it, gave them into the hands of Hodr, the blind god. Armed with these weapons he joined his brethren in the sport and shooting, slew fair Baldr, who went to hell. Loki indeed fell before the vengeance of Thor, but the doom of the gods was sealed; and, heralded by three winters with no summer in between, "the twilight of the gods" drew on. Then Surtr, the primeval god, should at last come forth, and hurling fire over the world, destroy the gods, both good and bad. Then should arise another heaven, where the worthy dead should dwell with Surtr, and Balder the Beautiful should thither return from hell.

From Odin and his sons most royal families in the North lands loved to derive their descent. The elder sons seemed to have remained for generations in the home-land, but the younger branches issued forth in search of empire, and we presently find several scions of the deified hero of Scandinavia leading the Saxon invaders of Britain and establishing themselves permanently there. Of these the line of Cerdic of Wessex, ninth in descent from Baeldaeg, [Lappenberg] son of Odin, finally survived the rest, only to surrender to William of Normandy, a descendant, though a bastard, of the senior and more puissant line of Thor. The course of descent receives illustration in "Fundinn Noregr", [Orkneyinga saga] from which the following is a citation: -

"Now shall be told the proofs how Norway was first inhabited, how kingly stocks began there, and why they are called Skjoldings, Budlings, Bragnings, Odlings, Volsungs, or Niflungs, from which the royal races have come.

There was a giant, King Fornjot, [one of the numerous alternative names for Thor] who ruled over the regions called Finland and Kvenland, lying to the east of the Helsingbight (Gulf of Bothnia), which goes northward to meet the White Sea. He had three sons named Hler, or Aegir, who ruled over the seas, another Logi, ruler of fires, and the third Kari, who presided over the winds, and he was father of Jokull, father of King Snaes the Old, whose children were these - Thorri, Fonn, Drifa, and Mjoll. Thorri had two sons, Non and Gorr, and a daughter Goi. He was a noble king, ruling over Kvenlaud and Finland, observing sacrifices annually at mid-winter, whence called Thorri's sacrifice, and from that the month took its name. The Kvells sacrificed to him to ensure snow and good travelling on the shoes. That was their harvest. One winter, Goi, his daughter, was missed, and when the month had passed Thorri enjoined sacrifice to divine her location, but without success. Thus originated the month Goi. Four winters after her brothers made vow to search for her, Norr on the land, and Gorr to search the outscars and islands with vessels, each having many men.

Gorr held on with his ships out along the sea-bight, and so into the Allans-haf, and after that he searched the Swedish skerries far and wide, and the isles in the East sea, and then the Gothland scars, and thence to Denmark, where he viewed the isles, and found those of his kinsmen who were come from Hler the Old, out of Hler's isle (Laesso in the Cattegat}, and he then still held on his voyage, but hearing nothing of his sister.

Norr had bided till the snow was on the heath and suitable for shoes, after which he issued forth from Kvenland and inside the sea-bight, when he met a party of Lapps from the hinder-land of Finmark, who wished to stop his passage; so a battle ensued, which ended in the flight of the Lapps, for might and magic were with Norr, and his foes became panic-stricken as swine when they heard the war-cry and saw weapons flash. Norr and his party now went west on the Kjol, and were a long time foraging in and traversing unpeopled parts, proceeding till they came to where the water turns westward from the fells. It directed them to a sea where was a firth as large as a sea-bight. There were there great tilths, and great dales came down to the firth. Norr and his men gave battle to the people, whom they overcame as weeds over cornfields - all fell or fled, and Norr became king, remaining there all summer until it snowed on the heaths, when he shaped his course up along the dale which goes south from Dronthelm firth. Sending a detachment coastwise round Maeren, be reduced all to subjection. He continued his course over the fell to the south of the dale-bight, then still south along the dales till he reached great water, called Mjosen, when he received advice of a defeat to his men by King Sokni, which caused him to turn west again towards the fell, and he arrived in the Valders district, whence he passed sea wards, entering the Sogn, a long and narrow firth, where he engaged Sokni in battle. It was hard fought, because their witchcraft had no hold on Sokni, Norr pressing hard forward, came to hand strokes with Sokni, who fell with many of his men. Norr then fared on into the firth that goes north from Sogn, where the vanquished leader had ruled. It is now called Sokni's Dale. Norr stayed there a long time, and now it is known as Norafirth. He had great battles west of the Kjol, and these kings fell before him; Vee and Vei, Hunding and Heming, and be laid under him that land all to the sea.

The brothers met in Norafirth, Norr went up the Kjol to Ulfa-moar, thence to Estridale into Vermeland, and along the lake Vaener, and so to the sea, and laid under him all land west of those bounds, and it is now called Norway. At midwinter they came into Heidmark, meeting Hrolf of Berg, son of the giant Svadi, from north of Dofrafell, by Ashilda, daughter of King Eystein, who had long ruled over Heidinark. Hrolf had abducted Goi from Kvenland, and on hearing of his approach, they advanced, together to meet Norr, to whom Hrolf offered single combat. They fought long without wounding each other, and at length Hrolf became Norr's man, and banqueted him and gave him to wife his sister Hodda, Svadi's daughter.After that Norr returned west to the sea, meeting in Norafirth, Gorr, just back from the Dumbs-baf (Frozen Sea), who had seized as his own all the isles on that way.Then these brothers shared the realm between them, so that Norr should have all the mainland from Jotunheim in the north to Alfheim in the south, which is now called Norway. He ruled that realm while he lived, and his sons after him, and they shared the land amongst them, and so the realms began to get smaller and smaller as the kings got more and more numerous, and so they were divided into provinces. (A list of his descendants is given).

Gorr, all the other hand, was to have all those isles which lay on the larboard of his warship as he shaped north, between which and the mainland he could pass in a ship with a fixed rudder. Gorr having the isles was for that called a sea-king. His sons were Helti and Beiti, Meltir and Geitir; they were mighty sea-kings and overbearing men. They made many inroads on the realm of Norr's sons, and had numberless battles, in which now one, now the other, won the day. Beiti ran his war-galley into Drontheim and fought there, lying where it is now called Beit-sea and Beitstede. He placed a ship-sledge under the galley, and had also deep snow and good sledging. He then took the helm, hoisted sail, and had the ship dragged from the innermost bight of Beitstede over the Ellida-eid, or Galley-neck to Naumdale, and claimed for his own all the land lying to larboard, which is many tilths and much land. Beiti, the sea-king, was father of Heiti, the sea-king, father of Svadi, and Geitir was the father of Glammi and Gylfi; Meiti, the sea-king, was father of Maevil and Myndill, which latter was father of Ekkill and Skekkill.

Helti, Gorr's son, was father of Sveidi, the sea-king, the father of Halfdan the Old, the father of Ivar, Jarl of the Uplands, the father of Eysteinn Glumra, the father of Rognvald Jarl, who was called the mighty and wise in council, and men say both were true names"

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