Snippets of Norse Mythology: The Creation and The World Tree, Yggdrasil

In the beginning there was nothing but a void. Then two regions appeared. The southern was Muspelheim, full of fire, light, and heat. In the north Nifelheim came to be. It was made of arctic waters, mists, and cold. In between the two realms stretched a yawning emptiness, Ginungagap. Sparks and smoke from Muspelheim spilled into the gap and met layers of rime and frost. Out of the melting ice, Ymir, the giant, emerged. The cow Audhumla suckled him, and he grew fast and strong. Then Ymir gave birth to man and woman out of his left armpit. The first Jötnar sprang from his legs.

Audhumla licked the salty ice and released Buri.  His son, Borr, begat three sons: Odin, Vili, and Ve. When they were ready, they killed Ymir and the Jötnar, except two.

Odin, Vili and Ve used Ymir’s body to make the land, his blood became the sea. Then the three Vanir raised his skull to create a dome, they called the sky. His bones became mountains, his hair grew as trees, but Odin used his eyebrow as fence against the Jötnar.

Thus, the world came to be. The brothers Odin, Vili, and Ve caused time to begin. They placed two orbs in the sky: the sun and the moon and made them orbit the world.

Then Odin found two young giants, Sol and Mani. They were beautiful, and Odin decided to let them drive the chariots, belonging to the sun and the moon. To make sure they’d keep a steady pace Odin set two wolves to pursue them across the sky, and devour them if they caught them.

Yggdrasil, the World Ash, holds the world together: the roots envelop all the spheres. They also keep different areas separated. At the bottom is the realm of the dead, called Helheim. Hel, who is Loke’s daughter, reigns. Her region is dark: a realm of shadows and hunger, covered by one of the big roots. A wellspring, Hvergelmir, which is infested with snakes, bars the way to Nifelheim. Here the dragon Nidhogg gnaws Yggdrasil’s root. The gods convene at a place known as Domsted. The Norns, Urda, Skulda and Verdandi, live at Domstead. They tend the tree and spin the threads of fate. The root, which runs beyond Domsted supports Midgard, where humans live. The third root supports Jotunheim, the realm of the Giants.

The earth is a circle of land surrounded by ocean. In the ocean resides the world serpent, Midgårdsormen. In the centre of the land stands the World Tree, Yggdrasil. Its roots descend to the underworld, and its branches support the sky.

It is well known that Valhalla forms the playing ground for death heroes. Shield maidens carry the dead from their battles and give them new life. This is where the cauldron of resurrection comes into its own. Each day the heroes fight their old battles again, and each evening the shield maidens submit the dead to the cauldron. This way, they can feast through the night, drinking mead from the goat Heidrun’s udder. She stands atop the roof of Valhalla and feeds from the leaves and branches of the tree.

The gods, the Aesir, live in Yggdrasil’s top branches: their realm is known as Asgaard. Their greatest foes, the Vanir stay in Vanaheim.

The Giants, the Jötnar, have their abode in Utgaard in Jotunheim, which is placed beyond the ocean that surrounds Midgard.

© HMH, 2017

 

Invitation

If you like my blog or Hanne Holten Writes (Facebook), you might like

Snares and Delusions.

Why not take a peek on Amazon?

 

Author pages UK, US, and Germany:

https://www.amazon.co.uk/HM-Holten/e/B076CJP47N/ref=ntt_dp_epwbk_0

https://www.amazon.com/author/hm_holten

https://www.amazon.de/HM-Holten/e/B076CJP47N/ref=dp_byline_cont_book_1

Dreams and nightmares take Hedda to hell and back.

The combined forces of opium and pain brings her face to face with her life. From rural Sweden in late nineteenth century, over Silkeborg to the Danish Capital, and during the Great War, she experiences love and loss, poverty and betrayal.

Hedda gives up everything to win independence. She soon discovers that this is one thing to wish for, but another to achieve. Life handles her roughly, but can she develop strength of character? Will she pay for her freedom in ways she doesn’t anticipate?

©HMH, 2017

Caricature

 

Hiding under upturned stones,

Crawling out of the woodwork

Everywhere you find them:

Native bottom dwellers

Piteous scum on fetid waters

Cowardly pitiful spine-less creatures

That ever drains life-force from foes as from friends

Why do we need them?

Nobody knows.

Regardless of that, they invade our lives

They make themselves wanted,

Respected and cheered:

Once that is achieved

They withdraw to their shell

And prompting or arguments

Send you to hell

And back

Over and over again unless you get wary

Decide not to tarry…

Of course, that can easily start them again

They woo you and wed you

Until you’re sucked dry

But never commit or sustain you in life

 

FromWimps and Pimps’

©HMH, 2015

Eating Habits in Old Copenhagen

1: Festive Occasions

In the ‘season’ from October to March, wealthy burghers and upper classes spend a large amount of time giving dinners and balls, and accepting invitations to similar events.

The housewife would perform a full-time job to control a household’s festivities but, obviously, she’d look after the general household too. She wouldn’t do this alone: in an average upper-class household there’d be a cook, one or two maids, and, possibly, a coachman. The servants would have to work hard in order too keep the residence presentable, always overseen by their mistress.

It was up to the lady of the house to arrange the season’s festivity and make sure that nobody in the family’s circle was overlooked. To do this she’d have to keep strict accounts of every party, who was invited, what food was served, on what date the event took place, and sometimes the seating order. She’d also keep books regarding invitations, and other events, like theatre evenings etc.

At dinner parties the number of guests could vary from three to twenty or more. Gentlemen’s dinners would have fewer participants to allow an intimate atmosphere. In most families the close family would figure in most invitation lists, but it was also important to include such people as political contacts, cultural personalities, and or colleagues.

It wasn’t unusual to invite between fifty and sixty guests for balls.

All in all, around hundred to two hundred persons from perhaps ninety-five different families would be represented during a ‘season’.

Below I have entered examples of menus for festive occasions.

DINNER PARTY

Menu with wines

Turtle soup

Pike                                                White Wine (Rhone, Bourgogne, Rhein)

Cutlets with vegetables              Red Wine (decanted)

Venison                                          Champagne

Cheese                                            Red Wine

Ice cream                                       Madeira, Port

Dessert (Pralines, Marzipan)     Tokay

GENTLEMEN’S DINNER

Menu with wines

Oysters                                              Sparkling White Wine

Soup w egg dumplings

Fish rolls in lobster sauce             Sparkling White Wine

Fillet of Beef with Tomatoes        Champagne/Bourgogne

Cauliflower Gratin                         Champagne/Bourgogne

Partridge                                          Champagne/Bourgogne

Pineapple Blanc Mange                Madeira, Tokay

Fresh Fruit                                       Madeira, Tokay

SOUPER AT BALLS

Buffet with Champagne

Croustades                                         Champagne (sweet)

Venison Ragout

Pineapple Jelly

Open Sandwiches

XMAS DINNER

Cod

Goose

Rice a la mande

SUNDAY LUNCH

smoked eel with scrambled eggs

honey-roasted ham, rolled sausage

various garnishes

boiled eggs

liver pâté with fried mushrooms and bacon

pickled herring

cheeses: Havarti, Camembert, Samsø, Gammel-Ole

Rye bread.

Wheat bread

Savoury biscuits

 

©HMH, 2017

Master’s Right

In Denmark, according to the Servants’ Statutes of 1854, anyone, seeking employment or wanting to leave his or her birthplace, should be able to prove he or she had been confirmed. All servants had to present a servant’s conduct book, which should be authorized by the local clergy or, in Copenhagen, by the police. In this book the employer should chronicle for how long and in what capacity the servant had worked. It was optional whether he would add a testimonial. Should he give a gloving reference that could be proved incorrect, he could be sentenced to pay retribution to a third party, aka the new employer. But, likewise, he was liable to pay retribution for damaging a servant’s losses, should he lie about the quality of the servant’s work. It is notable that it wasn’t allowed to pass a servant to another employer.

So far so good: there isn’t much to say against such a law.

If one reads on, through the 77 clauses certain points stick out. The employer has the right to submit servants to domestic discipline and chastisements can be given until a male servant is eighteen. The female servants get off a bit better: they can only be corporeally punished until they’re sixteen.

It is interesting to read that the master could dismiss any servant that ‘seduced the children of the household to corrupt actions’, ‘if the servant has a contagious or repulsive illness’ or incurs such illness during his or her service. Fornication with a member of the household would lead to instant dismissal. And, last but not least, a pregnant servant out of wedlock would face getting sacked without recommendation.

It stands to reason that a servant, who had a complaint against his or her master, would find it problematic to win a case against the employer. The proprietor would be backed by his status, and a servant would have to prove the case against a skeptical if not prejudiced judge. Should a young woman in such a position become pregnant, she would have nothing left: if her seducer was a part of the household, she could even be punished for corrupting the male who got her pregnant.

I can give an example. August Strindberg was a virile youngster in 1873. He is as discreet about his habits as is usual in that period, but, in The Red Room, he reveals some of his habits. He and his male friends, have an easygoing companionship, they share clothes as well as ‘girls’ — such girls that can be visited late in the evening. Strindberg writes about them in the same way as he’d mention a late-night snack.

In 1873, Strindberg initiated a relationship with a young woman, Ida Charlotta Olsson. She was a servant, but she was known to be available for young men from the upper echelons, without expecting marriage. The relationship lasted for two years but, during this period, Strindberg tried to donate her to a companion. In 1875, she became pregnant, but Strindberg denied responsibility. Later, in The Servant Girl’s Son, he gives his personal version of the matter, claiming that Ida Charlotta was a married woman and seduced him. As his career takes off she tries to blackmail him and, eventually, she’s unfaithful.

It is unclear, whether Strindberg was the father, but Ida Charlotta gave her son one of Strindberg’s Christian names, a clear suggestion of the actual situation. Anyway, Strindberg breaks up the relationship, and begins to court a young girl of the middle classes.

Years later Strindberg’s friend Carl Larsson seeks Strindberg’s assistance. He has been accused of getting a ‘girl’ with child. Strindberg writes Carl Larsson a letter, advising him to ‘give the girl fifty Kroner’: that should last her a year. Also, he adds, ‘that will save you paying for a children’s home, which would cost more. Don’t forget, there is a chance that the child doesn’t survive.’ As Post Scriptum he includes this piece of advice: ‘Next time you want to fuck a girl, don’t forget to put something on!’

To me, this portrays a society that has hardly moved on from the droit du seigneur, the right of the lord, or the medieval Ius Primae Noctis. No wonder that we still struggle against sexual harassment.

© HMH 2017

Equilibrium?

How do you balance your time between writing and the business of being an indie author? Well, today I spent my free time interacting with people on Facebook. It may not sell books directly, although a strong presence on the internet should boost my career. But regarding balance, it is a tricky question. How does one find a balance? If one doesn’t write one can’t publish, and if one doesn’t publish, there isn’t much point in vying for an audience. Without an audience there isn’t much point in writing in the first place, and so the ring closes. One has to promote, or there won’t be any sales. But, most independent authors have no choice but to hold down a job to pay the bills. That reduces writing and promoting time, as does looking after the household, balancing the accounts, filling in the tax returns, being a competent hostess, guide, teacher, and muse, feeding the cat, the baby, or whatever livestock might be dependent on a poor overworked author. Still there must be a balance somewhere in the whirl of tasks.

It is important to have talent for writing, but it is vital to have a talent for organizing big productions. Women are said to be masters at multitasking, but do they hold a candle to authors? They say that female writes of old had to hide their manuscripts under their embroidery, or in the mending basket, and sneak in a few words whenever the head of the family wasn’t looking. Are we that different? We are certainly stretched thin, when we propose to be authors, publishers, parents, workers, teachers, housekeepers, laundry persons, cooks, and still manage to have a reasonable output.

I know it is difficult, but it is doable. It must be doable. In one of my life periods, I took care of a baby, a teenager, sixteen rabbits, a Shetland pony, three sheep and a ram, a family of goats, twelve hens, a family of dwarf poultry, a cat, and a dog. At the same time, I taught singing at a music academy, toured with a children’s opera, made costumes for three productions, and had a small business writing out sheet music for various composers. If I could do that I should be able to juggle almost anything? I’m still confident that I will develop a method to balance my time between writing and the business of being an indie author. I just haven’t quite got there yet.

© HMH 2017

Triptych

The Casting Couch

Seventy-five and still going strong

Boasting his penchant for rating a thong

Old head on old shoulders wishing for luck

Using his chutzpah to push for a suck:

Elderly pig, wanting firm and young flesh

Romance and lust but with somebody fresh

Offering infamy as his sole bargain

Sure, she won’t dare drawing down the old curtain

That which would sever her last claim for fame

Should she so dare he is willing to maim

 

Second Proposition

Strange how repetitive fortune can be

The first one was never so easy to see

But this time the message was clear and so cold

The bargain was: either comply or be sold

 

Another Variety

Mostly those people with power are subtle

They pull on the strings and thus, making you scuttle,

You never take in what they carry in mind

You must pay for the jobs that you do, but in ‘kind’

Maybe it takes you some time to consider

But make one mistake and the upshot is bitter

Revenge or oblivion always transpires

Don’t wonder at all re the crossing of wires.

If you find you’re trapped with your hair in a mailbox

No reason, my friend, for climbing a soapbox

Divulging the sickness won’t heal any rift

It merely must warn any would-be to drift

Escaping the casting couch is a rare talent

And unwary people slip into abasement

But this doesn’t mean you must give up the fight

Make sure that your bark isn’t worse than your bite

Only so you can surely prevent all that grief

Unaware of the dangers you’ll find this path brief

A career must be nurtured: don’t let in any thief

Take warning, my dear, and turn a new leaf

 

From ‘Wimps and Pimps’

 

© HMH 2015

The Little Old Table

My great grandmother had a sewing table, a real beauty. I remember it from my granny’s flat when I was a child. Later it came to me. It stands in my home now and has followed me from Denmark to England, and later to Bremerhaven. I think I’d bring it with me, wherever I might go.

This table always held a strange attraction to me. Without a doubt, it inspired certain scenes in my debut novel, Snares and Delusions.

What is so special about it? Apart from the high polish and stylish legs, it contains small treasures from long ago. Under the lid that hinges on the back of the table, little compartments, each with a cover, hides old lace, crocheted gloves, a tatting shuttle, and a mysterious photo of a man I don’t recognize. This photo is enclosed in a narrow gold frame. It was probably taken by a professional photographer. The man in the photo looks distinguished, he wears formal clothes of a bygone time. The sepia coloured picture is fading, and would probably have disappeared completely, if it hadn’t been hidden in the table. Underneath the table is a large drawer, which was full of lace-making bobbins. I took them out, when I was trying to learn lace-making. I didn’t get far, but I still remember the basics. I believe it was made by a Danish cabinet-maker around the turn of the century, but there is no manufacturer’s placard to help identify its origin.

Whoever owns it anon, and hears it, will never know what a history hangs upon this creak from long ago. Thomas Hardy

© HMH 2017