The Masks of Odin — Elsa-Brita Titchenell

Chapter 5

Terrestrial Creation

The creation of our planet is depicted in several ways. The terrestrial deity is Frey, the valiant. He is the son of Njord and brother of Freya, and he owns a magic sword which is said to be shorter than the customary weapon but invincible when its wielder is courageous. It must be earned by each of Odin's warriors who would gain Valhalla.

The soul of the earth is Idun, guardian of the apples of immortality which she serves the gods at certain specific times, nor will she yield to any entreaties between meals. Idun is the daughter of the giant Ivalde — "oldest of his younger brood" of children. Nanna, the soul of the moon, one of his "older brood," died of a broken heart on the death of her husband Balder, the sun-god. (Cf. Vagtamskvadet, p. 258.) This may be a way of suggesting that our living planet sees a different sun, another aspect of the solar being, than did its predecessor. The sons of Ivalde are the elements which compose our planet; they are life forces which once formed the dwelling of Nanna but after her death began to form that of Idun. According to the theosophic teachings, each planet, including our own, as well as the sun, comprises several unseen globes along with the one we know; they also regard our earth as the fifth in a series of seven imbodiments of the planetary deity the moon having been the fourth; our planetary system is therefore one step more advanced than the moon's former composite world.

Many traditions regard the moon as parent of the earth and say that its substances and vital essences are still being transferred to its successor. Some support is lent to the myths by the fact that the visible moon is slowly diminishing, particularly the side facing the earth. One figure of speech pictures the moon as a mother circling the cradle of her child, the earth. The popular nursery rhyme, Jack and Jill, originated in the Edda where their names are Hjuke and Bil, and they go to the moon to fetch of its substance and bring it back to earth. When they are there, we can see their shapes silhouetted against the lunar disk, much as we see the man in the moon. American Indian traditions refer to the earth as "mother earth" and to the moon as "grandmother moon," which carries out the same theme of succession.

In one tale, the Edda relates the building of the earth as a contest between two factions: one consisted of two of Ivalde's sons, the dwarfs Sindre and Brock (the vegetable and mineral kingdoms); the other of Dvalin (the unawakened human-animal soul) assisted by Loki (mind). The contest was to determine who could produce the most appropriate gifts for the gods.

Brock and Sindre create for Odin the self-renewing ring, Draupnir, from which eight like itself drop off every ninth night, ensuring the cyclic renewal and perpetuation of life forms. They made for the earth god Frey a golden boar. This symbol for the earth is found also in the Hindu Puranas, where Brahma in the shape of a boar lifted the earth from the waters of space and supports it on his tusks. For Thor the dwarfs fashioned the hammer Mjolnir, the pulverizer. This is the "thunderbolt" in popular versions which, as we have seen, represents electricity and magnetism, hate and love, destruction and creation and, in the form of the svastika, eternal motion. It has the property of always returning to the hand that sent it forth, completing a circuit; in addition to its physical meanings this is one way of expressing the law of justice ruling universal nature on all its "shelves." We readily recognize in it the Oriental doctrine of karma which rules on every level of life, restoring harmony whenever it has been disturbed and, on the grand cosmic scale, causing the cyclic reappearance of worlds. Thor's hammer is somewhat short of shaft, however, for during its forging, Loki disguised himself as a bee and inflicted a vicious sting on the dwarf who was wielding the bellows. The dwarf faltered only an instant but it was sufficient to flaw the gift and accord the victory to Loki and Dvalin. Still, the gifts of the dwarfs are the best that can be produced by the vegetable and mineral kingdoms for the divine (Odin), vital (Thor), planetary spirit (Frey). It is to be noted, however, that these gifts, produced as they are by the minerals and vegetables, are limited to physical properties that concern their creators: Odin's ring clearly denotes the cyclic progression of events with perpetually recurring parallels, whereof the changing seasons are characteristic; Frey's boar with shining golden bristles draws his chariot through the heavens; while the creative and destructive hammer of Thor represents the life force and the powers we associate with the elements — thunder and lightning, seismic stresses and motions, and the interplay of gravitation and magnetic fields.

In competition with these, Dvalin with the aid of Loki creates for Odin the magic spear which never falls its mark when wielded by the pure in heart. This is the evolutionary will, often symbolized by a spear, sometimes by a sword. It is the inborn urge in every living being to grow and progress toward a more advanced condition. There is in this a mystic implication of sacrifice as Odin, transfixed on the Tree of Life, is also pierced by a spear. The spear thrust has been inflicted on other crucified saviors as well.

For Thor, Dvalin and Loki restore the golden hair of Sif, his wife (the harvest), which had been stolen by Loki — human misuse of earth's bounty? — possibly having reference to more than the physical grains of earth. The gift of reseeding and the infinite potential of evolutionary growth on every level of matter and consciousness brings great promise for the world about to be formed. Frey receives as his gift the ship Skidbladnir, which contains all seeds of every kind of life, yet can be "folded together like a kerchief" when its own life is ended.

While the physical, astral, vital, and all other requisites for the new planet are being assembled and re-formed in this manner, the spiritual principles, Lif and Lifthrasir (life and survivor, the latter meaning "hard to kill" or indestructible), are "concealed in the memory hoard of the sun." These are the quasi-immortal part of the planet, the deathless spirit-soul of the human kingdom, the solar essence of humanity which endures throughout the lifetime of the sun. Allegorically we learn in this tale that though the elemental kingdoms produce good and useful gifts for the imbodying deities, human ingenuity is of a superior order and wins the contest.

The name given to our physical planet, Midgard, means "middle court." This placement of our globe in a central position corresponds strikingly with the theosophic description of our terrestrial home as composed of a series of globes, the central one of them being the sphere we inhabit. The number of its ethereal companions varies in different mythologies; because the highest of them are so spiritual, so far beyond human comprehension as to be unimaginable, they are omitted altogether in some mythic cosmogonies, or else only vaguely suggested. The Edda's twelve enumerated in Grimnismal suggest a pattern where six increasingly material globes culminate in our own, followed by six increasingly spiritual spheres culminating in the divine apex of the terrestrial system. Our globe is the Edda's giant Trym and rests on the most material of the shelves that accommodate and provide the substances for the twelve mansions of the deities.

Like other mythological histories, the Edda has its floods, both universal and terrestrial. We have seen how Bargalmer, the end-result of a cosmic cycle of activity is "saved on a boat keel" to become a new system of worlds at the beginning of the next period of manifestation. Similar patterns emerge on a smaller scale within the life span of the earth. Here giants succeed one another and, within each gigantic period, a series of briefer but still immense giantesses, their daughters, follow one another, reflecting analogically the greater planetary ages of life.

There are always similarities between the first of one series and the first of a subordinate series, between the second of one and the second of another; sometimes they are given the same name or one that is very similar, which may lead to confusion but which also serves to reveal a design. As an example, there are clear analogies to be drawn between the giants Ymer, Gymer, Hymer, and Rymer, which represent different phases of a series of cosmic events.

As concerns our planet, we know it is subject to gradual changes all the time, in addition to which there occur occasional cataclysms. One reason for this is the depredations of the inhabitants who over a long period violate the laws that govern the ecology; when human destructiveness becomes intolerable, nature rebels, bringing violent change and restoring the balance of forces. This is part of the normal processes of the living earth's restorative system and of its healthy recovery and recuperation.

The greatest upheavals, however, which cause radical alterations in the disposition of continents and seas, are governed by the rhythmic pulse of the planet's own life currents, and they take place at intervals whose length far surpasses any secular histories. During the four and a half billion years of earth's present lifetime to date, only four such major catastrophes are recorded in the theosophic traditions. Lesser events are of course more frequent.

Mythologies unanimously relate stories of floods and the repopulating of the globe after its being all but denuded of human life. Some Amerindian traditions tell of a series of "suns" succeeding one another. Each sun endures while the governing elements, air, fire, and water, are in equilibrium; gradually however, one or another gains ascendancy causing an increase of stress until a critical point is reached, when violent relaxation restores the balance, radically altering the configuration of land massifs and oceans. The inhabitants of the "new world" see the sun taking a different path in the sky. According to the Nahuatl traditions as well as those of the Hopi, we are now in the fifth sun. The Zuni state with greater detail that we are in the fourth world but with one foot in the fifth. Compare this with the theosophic teachings: that we are in the fourth of seven courses round our earth's series of globes and also in the fourth of the seven globes of the series (called a chain), but in the fifth humanity on this globe.

Theosophical University Press Online Edition