I went to the British Museum a while back and took some pictures. I was looking for Anglo-Saxon and Old Norse artifacts to give me a feel for the way people were living
Part of the reason for writing the blog below regarding the big bang is the comparison with the Old Norse version of the creation and their subsequent view of existence. At the beginning of the Prose Edda, one of the first things we read the following account of the universe’s beginnings.
(By the way, I’ve cut and pasted most of this from here: www.sacred-texts.com For those parts of the text which come from older poetic sources (The Sibyl’s Prophecy) I’ve added the newer Penguin version as an alternative. This is because the newer text is more readable and the meaning feels slightly different. The older one has a poetic power, though. This distinction in use of language is significant in itself, with regard to my project, I think. The bits from the Penguin edition are in italics.
The older translation is from 1916 and is by Arthur Gilchrist Brodeur
The newer one is from 2005 and is by Jesse L. Byock)
I drew Hugin and Munin on the walls as I wanted them looking over everything that was going on in the gallery. I quite like the idea of them making a similar appearance in the final piece. They could hover round the edges of the action.
The scratchiness of the drawings appeals to me too. I think I’m going to start out with a similarly scratchy approach when I work on making the finished thing.
So I said I’d write a separate post about the Prose Edda, concerning its ambiguities and its interesting journey from myths and stories told by Norse poets to its status as an important document of northern European history.
The first thing that really grabbed me about the Prose Edda was the ambiguity of it. It was written by an Icelandic chieftain, Snorri Sturluson, who seems to have been a pretty Machiavellian guy. His life was defined by his desire to be the most powerful man in Iceland. To this end, he got cosy with King Hakon of Norway. Some scholars have suggested that this was in order to bring Iceland under Norwegian rule. His failure in this was eventually the death of him. He was murdered by his son-in-law at the order of King Hakon.
I recently finished reading the Prose Edda which is one of the major sources of information about Norse mythology. All has its roots in Germanic/Danish languages. I thought Norse myth would be a useful insight in to the way the Vikings saw the world and ‘all’. Indeed it was. Below is an excerpt from the Penguin edition, concerning itself largely with the ‘Yggdrasil’, or, the ‘World Tree’.
In describing different places in the cosmos, the Edda often employs the imprecise word heimr, meaning ‘home’, ‘world’ or ‘land’, and we must guess at the locations of many of the described areas. In addition to the realms of the gods, men and giants, the Edda speaks of geographically disparate regions such as Ginnungagap in the north, an empty place filled with ice, and Muspell, a burning place of intense heat to the south. So also there are several heavens; one is called Andlang and another, ‘further up’ is where light elves live.