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The Golden Age

"These things are thought the best:
Fire, the sight of the sun,
Good health with the gift to keep it,
And a life that avoids vice."
                                            (The Havamal)


11. Heimdall, the Culture Bringer and First Patriarch.

 Shortly after his birth, the god of the pure and holy fire, Heimdall, was appointed to be mankind's teacher. The circumstances of his birth are related above. He is reckoned among the race of the Vanir, since he was brought into being through nine mothers at the handle of the mill, on the other side of the ocean, near the western edge of the underworld, where the Vanir live.

  For his important calling, the child had to be equipped with strength, wisdom, and fortitude. Therefore, to drink, he was given the same three liquids that water the roots of the World-Tree, namely the liquids of the three underworld wells.

  Urd's well has silver-white waters, in which swans swim beneath a canopy of Yggdrasil's ever green foliage. Everything that comes into contact with this well's water becomes shining white in color and remarkably strong, because the water gives everything in the world its physical life, and therefore it is called "the power of the earth." Here, the boy received his first drink.

  From there, he was taken to Mimir's well, adorned with a sevenfold border of gold. The seeds of poetry grow around its reed-encircled rim. Mimir gave the boy a drink of his well's mead, which contains creative power, poetic inspiration, and wisdom.

  The child was taken from there to the well Hvergelmir and received a drink of its cool fortifying water.

  By the shores of Vanaheim, a boat was prepared for Heimdall's journey to Midgard. The boat was adorned with gold rings and other ornaments, and the boy was placed aboard, asleep after receiving the three drinks. His head rested on a sheaf of grain, from which all of the grain on Midgard originates. The fire-auger, with which the holy friction-fire could be kindled, and tools for every kind of handicraft were laid around him, as well as weapons and jewelry.

  Afterwards, the boat was pushed out into the ocean, free to seek the course that the dises of fate had plotted for it. Some say that it was pulled along by a pair of swans, and that no swan existed in Midgard before those that came with Heimdall. All swans descend from the pair that swim in Urd's well.

  One day as some people stood on the coast of Aurvangaland, they saw a boat approach the shore, not propelled by oars or sails. The boat landed in a small bay nearby, and soon they discovered the young boy sleeping in it and the many peculiar and beautiful things, unknown to the people, that it contained. They adopted the child and looked after him with great love and tenderness. The sheaf and the other objects were safeguarded, even though the purpose of these things was difficult for them to guess.

  They did not know who the boy was or where he had come from, but, since he had arrived with a sheaf, they called him Skef ("sheaf"). He grew up among them and, while yet young in years, became their teacher and instructed them in agriculture and in all handicrafts, as well as in the runes of time and the runes of eternity (worldly knowledge and religion). When he had grown into a young man, they made him their ruler and called him Rig ("chief").

  Heimdall taught mankind to plough and to bake, to craft and to forge, to cut runes and to read. He taught them to tame domestic animals and to ride horses, to build dwellings of timber, and to knit family ties and communal bonds. He taught them to use the bow, the axe, and the spear to hunt and to defend against the wildlife of the primeval age. He instructed them in the laws of the Norns in order that they might lead upright lives, and in what they should do to win the favor of the powerful, benevolent gods. The Moral Code is as follows:

If they have conducted themselves in accordance
 with the wishes of Odin and his associate judges:
 if they have lived lives free from deceit, honourable, helpful,
and without fear of death. This, in connection with
 respect for the gods, for the temples, for their duties to
kindred and to the dead, is the alpha and the omega
of the heathen Teutonic moral code, and the sure way
 to Hel's regions of bliss and to Valhalla.
He who has observed these virtues may, as the old
 skald sings of himself, "glad, with serenity
and without discouragement, wait for Hel" (Sonatorrek 25):

Lies uttered to injure others, perjury, murder
(secret murder, assassination, not justified as blood-revenge),
adultery, the profaning of temples, the opening of grave-mounds,
treason, cannot escape their awful punishment.
Unutterable terrors await those who are guilty of these sins.
Those psychopomps that belong to Niflhel await
the adjournment of the Thing in order to take them to the world of torture,
and Urd has chains which make every  escape impossible.

  From Heimdall, mankind received knowledge of the gods' names and their different functions. He had them build altars and temples to the gods, and, with the fire-augur, produce the holy fire, which alone is worthy to burn in their service. He dictated the prayers and holy songs sounded on human lips ever since in praise of the powers.

  Once, when Heimdall walked on green paths along the shore, he came upon a cottage occupied by Ai and Edda. He was received hospitably and stayed there three days. Nine months later, the son Thrall was born to the couple. Heimdall then visited Afi and Amma's well-kept home; when nine months had passed, a son Karl was born to them. From there, Heimdall went to an affluent estate, where dwelt the ancestors of the race, renowned thereafter, who were called the Skilfings or Ynglings, Skjoldungs, Hildings, and Budlungs. Heimdall stayed there three days. A son with radiant locks, rosy cheeks, and keenly searching eyes was born in the home nine months later. In time, he became a chieftain and the people's judge. The people called him Borgar ("the protector") and Skjold ("the defender").

  In this manner, Heimdall sanctified and established the three classes, the serfs, the freeborn, and the highborn. All three were honored with divine parentage, yet were born human. Through Heimdall, they were half-brothers and bound to treat one another kindly and equitably. For this reason, the three classes were called "Heimdall's holy kindred."

12. Heimdall's Holy Runes.

  Mimir originally possessed the sacred knowledge of runes, which Heimdall taught mankind and which is so useful for them to know. Mimir, however, did not intrinsically possess this knowledge, but had gathered it from the well of wisdom that he guarded under the World-Tree's central root. Through self-sacrifice in his youth, Odin, as has already been told, received a drink from it and nine rune songs, called fimbul-songs, that contain secret beneficial powers. Among the fimbul-songs, the following should be noted:

1- Mind-runes that aid in knowledge and wisdom;
2 - Help/Healing-runes that ease a child's entry into the world and allay sorrow and worry; and grant curative power;
3 - Runes that free the limbs from bonds;
4 - Surf-runes that cleanse the air of harmful beings and give power over wind and wave when sailors need to be rescued at sea and power over fire when it threatens men's homes;
5 - Runes for protection against witchcraft;
6 - Speech-runes which return the power of speech to the mute and the silenced;
7 - Victory-runes which are sung when facing an enemy army. Then, the warriors lift their shields level with their upper lips and sing in low tones, so that their many voices blend together in a dull roar, like breakers on the shore. If they hear Odin's voice join in with their own, then they know that he will grant them victory. Then "he sings under their shields," and they become victors on the battlefield;
8 - Runes that take the strength from the love-potions;
9 - Runes that extinguish enmity and hate and produce friendship and love.
  Mind-runes are of various types and comprise both earthly and spiritual knowledge. Both men and women, whether highborn or lowborn, strive for them and likewise for healing-runes, which are inherited within some noble families. Here is a prayer requesting healing-runes: "Hail to the Aesir! Hail to the Asynjes! Hail to the beneficent Earth (the earth-goddess Frigg)! Eloquence and wisdom grant to us, and healing hands while we live!"

 The fundamental character of this rune-lore bears distinctly the stamp of nobility. The runes of eternity united with those of the earthly life can scarcely have any other reference than to the heathen doctrines concerning religion and morality. These were looked upon as being for all time, and of equal importance to the life hereafter. Together with physical runes with magic power - that is, runes that gave their possessors power over the hostile forces of nature - we find runes intended to serve the cause of sympathy and mercy.

  Measures were taken in the early days to spread these beneficial runes among all races of beings. Odin spread them among the Aesir; Dain and Dvalin, the sons of Mimir, spread them among the Elves and the Dwarves. Through Heimdall, they came to mankind. The good gift was blended with holy mead and sent out far and wide. Therefore, "they are with the Aesir and with the Elves, some are with the wise Vanir, and the children of human beings have some." Even the giants received a share. Since they also took part in the peace compact, Mimir sent them runes which formed the basis of that knowledge found among the tribes of Jotunheim, and afterwards put to ill use by the giant race.

 Culture is in complete operation. The people are settled, they spin and weave, perform handiwork, and are smiths, they plough and bake, and Heimdal has instructed them in runes. Different homes show different customs and various degrees of wealth, but happiness prevails everywhere. Because of these contributions Heimdal is considered the first patriarch of our race.

13. Heimdal Marries Sunna.

 We must remember that the lad who came with the sheaf of grain to Scandia needed the help of the Sunna, the sun-dis, for the seed which he brought with him to sprout, before it could give harvests to the inhabitants. But the sun-dis had veiled herself, and made herself as far as possible unapproachable. Her beauty was such that her appearance could make one blind if she was seen without her veil.

 She was watched by two dragons. Suitors who approach her in vain get their heads chopped off and set up on poles. Heimdal conquers the guarding dragons; but at the advice of her mother Sunna takes flight, puts on a man's clothes and armour, and becomes a female warrior, fighting at the head of other Amazons. Heimdal and Borgar search for and find the troop of Amazons amid ice and snow. It is conquered and flies to "Finnia". Heimdal and Borgar pursue them thither. There is a new conflict. Borgar strikes the veil from Sunna's head. She has to confess herself conquered, and becomes Heimdal's wife, whereupon a happy marriage between him and the sun-dis secures good weather and rich harvests to the land over which he rules.

  For a long time, Heimdall lived as a human being among our primal ancestors and after living for centuries, resigned himself to old age and death, the fate common to all human beings. He gave instructions for his corpse to be carried down to the small bay where he had landed as a child. It was wintertime. When the mourning people arrived there with his body, they were amazed to see that the same vessel which bore Heimdall as a baby to Aurvangaland had returned. The ring-decorated boat rested there glistening with rimefrost and ice, ready to return to the sea. The grateful human beings placed Heimdall's body in the boat and heaped precious objects around it, no fewer than those with which he arrived. When this was complete, the vessel drifted out into the sea and disappeared over the horizon. It returned to Vanaheim, where Heimdall cast aside his aged human form and became a radiant divine youth. Odin received him into Asgard and into his family circle.

14. Borgar - the Second Patriarch.
(The Beginning of the End of the Golden Age)

 Heimdal's son, Skjold-Borgar, succeeded him as the ruler and judge of Aurvangaland. He was the hero of peaceful deeds, who did not care to employ weapons except against wild beasts and robbers. But he was also equipped with courage and strength, the necessary qualities for inspiring respect, and had abundant opportunity for exhibiting these qualities in the promotion of culture and the maintenance of the sacredness of the law. Borgar fought with the gigantic beasts and robbers of the olden time. At one time he fought breast to breast with a giant bear, conquering him and bringing him fettered into his own camp.

 Borgar is remembered as wearing a beard reaching to the belt, and becomes 250 years old. Already, during Borgar's reign, we have of men of violence who visit the peaceful, and under the reign of his son, Halfdan, third patriarch, begins the "knife-age, and axe-age  with cloven shields," which continues through history and receives its most terrible development before Ragnarok.

 The clan of the Frost-Giants, Ýmir's foot-brood living in Niflhel and Jötunheim, passionately hated mankind, which the Gods created and protected. They also hated the holy rune-poems, which Óðin learned from Mímir, and all the benevolent knowledge that Heimdal brought mankind. The purpose of the Giants is to bring the world to ruin, and recreate the chaotic anti-existence of Ginnungagap, out of which they were born. As has already been told, two beings of giant descent were accepted into Asgard during the age of innocence. Their names were Loki and Gullveig.

 Loki and his brothers Helblindi and Byleist are the sons of the hurricane and thunder-giant Farbauti ("wielder of destruction"). The downpour and the violent rains of the hurricane, which espouse the sea through the swelling flood, gave rise to Helblindi, who married Ran, the giantess of the ocean's depths. The hurricane's whirlwind gave rise to Byleist ("the eastern storm"). A lightning bolt from the hurricane brought Loki into the world. His mother is Laufey ("leaf-island," i.e. a treetop struck by lightning during a windstorm). The violence of Farbauti's character did not outwardly manifest itself in his son Loki, as long as he went unrestrained in Asgard. Loki secretly plotted the coming conflagration of the world. He was attractive in appearance and ingratiating in his manner. He was an excellent judge of character, and when he discerned a person's weakness, he knew exactly how to exploit it. When laying his plans, he thought far ahead, designing them in such a way that even his most wicked plans seemed advantageous and for the best. Wit, viciousness, and endless spite were united in his nature.

 Gullveig is Loki's match, yet even more evil and, in essence, more dangerous. They work in unison for the ruin of the gods and the world.Gullveig and Loki were the giants' secret agents in Ásgarð. Gullveig devised a perversion of the lore of Heimdal, the evil sorcery (seiður) and powerful black magic runes. In Ásgarð she was one of Freyja's handmaidens, and she actually tried to convert the Goddess of Love over to her unique type of evil sorcery. Fortunately the gods found out, and judged Gullveig to be burned to death. When the holy white fire of the Gods touched Gullveig, it became contaminated by her vileness, and choked by smoke, so that it was not powerful enough to burn her heart.

 Loki found and swallowed the half-burnt heart of Gullveig, became pregnant and bore the Midgard Serpent, whom he threw into the ocean. The serpent, Miðgarðsormur grows in direct proportion to the evil in the world.

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