A modern basis for Asatru

This Article is a reviewed version of the article published earlier on Nordisk Zen

worlds 4

I strongly believe that, if Asatru is to become more than a footnote in history, it should develop a new solid base or theoretical background, based into modern science, or at least not contradicting the fincings of moder science.
Re-explaining the ancient myths in view of modern scientific knowledge might give our religion an edge over other existing religions.
The main problem of many existing religions is the fact that, at least historically, they tend to contradict modern science. In order to continue to exist, they must either declare science to be part of the realm of the devil or maintain the position that religion and science are independent aspect of the same reality. Both positions cannot be maintained in the long run and must end with the destruction of one of the antagonists.
I strongly believe that Asatru is and should be a different religion. Most of us clearly accept that our myths are an interpretation of the universe dependent on the eye of the beholder in the early middle ages. Many of us also accept that the very basics of this religion can be traced back to the interpretions of reality by our ancestors in the bronze age.
The great antiquity of these interpretations is at present not holding the revival of the beliefsystem back. Nevertheless, if we wish our religion to appeal to more people it has to answer the existential questions that plague modern people. Thus, based upon our present scientific insights, we can redefine or reinterpret these old myths without attacking the core elements of our belief system. The advantage of this approach is that we can accept that myths of other peoples or cultures might also be equally valid as our own myth and thus also could be reinterpreted.
Of course we can only accept these reinterpretations in as far and on condition that they do not contradict the essential basics of our belief system.

In the following texts I will try to create a sound basis for modern asatru. Any thoughts or remarks are welcomed in order to complete the view.
As I see it, Germanic society was a society of free farmers, all with equal rights and equal right to their own opinion and interpretations. Thus no view or interpretation can be considered to be wrong, any view has its own intrisic value and must at least be taken into consideration as a valid interpretation of reality.

On the creation of the universe

In the beginning nothing existed except the vast void or emptiness of ginunga gap, the “great nothingness”, the basic void.
It was emptier than any emptiness we can imagine, since no matter existed in it at all.
Yet it would seem that outside of this nothingness two antagonistic forces did exist, the cold of Niflheim and the heat of Sutr’s domain. Of course these werent fire and ice. Mythology just chose 2 images that would be clear to our ancenstors. It did so in order to make clear that both forces were completely oppposite to each other, force and antiforce so to say.

As modern filosophy accepts, some-thing cannot be created from no-thing just by itself. At least 2 antagonists are required to interact in order to create a new element. The existence of only one element could never suffice in order to create the various kinds of matter we know. In order to differentiate in kinds of matter or in order to create a multitude of new chemical elements at least 2 distinct contradictory forces are required, so to say matter and antimatter. It is their grade of interaction that defines the different elements created.
Imagine adding just one drop of water into a glass of wine or adding a drop of wine into a glass of water, the taste of both would clearly by greatly different, Yet you use only two elements, and create a third and a fourth.
If only one force would exist, all some-things would by definition be identical and equal and oposite to no-thingness, they would all just be wine. Clearly this is not the case as proven by Mendeljev’s table.

Myth tells us exactly that. Two antagonistic forces (described as fire and ice, the most antagonistic powers known to our ancestors) met in the deep emptiness of ginungagap. Their interaction resulted in the creation of something new and primeval. This first element to be created is called Audhumla, the primeval cow. I believe the image of the cow was chosen as this animal represented fertility in the time of our ancestors. Of course it was’t a real cow. In reality it wasn’t even alive, at least not as we would describe life. It must have been the fertile source of energy that allowed everything else to spawn upon or from it.

Yet in another act of creation and other proportions a second element was created, Ymir, the first giant, .raw and untamed, source of all matter.

He can be considered to be the prime element of raw matter, the basis out of wich every new kind of matter would be created or derived from now on.

Then said Gangleri: “Where dwelt Ymir, or wherein did he find sustenance?”
Hárr answered: “Straightway after the rime dripped, there sprang from it the cow called Auðumla; four streams of milk ran from her udders, and she nourished Ymir.”
The myths tell us that Ymir needed to feed in order to grow. He drank from the four streams of the milk from the primeval cow. I consider these four stream to be the basic forces of physics, energy, gravity, the weak interaction force and the strong interaction. Thus Ymir could now grow and create new elements. Myth tells us he birthed a male and female element from the pits of his arms. Thus Male and Female must be considered to be an essential aspect of life, one of the first basic principles created. We mustn’t consider this to actually represent female and male gender. We should consider it to be another basic interpreatation of antagonistic powers, needed to create new things. An entity that fertilises itselve can only create a clone, never something new, a new entity or individual/

But creation didn’t end with the creation of Audhumble,Ymir and his offspring. The cow interacted again with one of her parent entities, mainly the cold of Niflhel, thus creating another element Buri.

and the first day that she licked the blocks, there came forth from the blocks in the evening a man’s hair; the second day, a man’s head; the third day the whole man was there. He is named Búri

Buri interacted with himself. As with Ymir, we must assume that he drank from the four basic streams of Audhumble in order to continue to develop himselve, thus creating Borr. Borr interacted in his turn with some part of the raw matter created by Ymir, namely Ymir’s daughter Bestla.
In other words, as the different kinds of matter increased so did the possible combinations available in order to create new things. Every new element could in its turn inteact with its parents and or equals in order to create somting new. This is a constant evolution, we must bare this in mind as we continue our lecture of the texts on the creation of the world.

The interaction of Borr and Bestla created 3 gods, Odin, Vili and Ve.
Thus the race of the Gods became into being. The interesting thing is dat basic raw matter of Ymir can be considered an essential part of the gods. Ymir still is their ancestor. Their divity is in effect partly an inheritance of raw untamed matter, whereas they themselves represent law and order.

The gods Odin, Vili, and Vé, sons of Bestla and Buri, wanted to end the unordered reign of raw energy of their maternal grandfather Ymir and descided to slay him. In other words, as more and more types or kinds of matter became to be, raw unordered chaos needed to be reorganised by laws of physics and the laws of nature.
The 3 sons of Buri took the fullfillment of this task upon them, and deceided to divide the raw primevil matter of Ymir into more usefull kinds of matter. Thus they fashioned the nine world. The saga tells us that Earth (elsewhere personified as a the godess Jörð) was created from his flesh, from his blood the ocean, from his bones the hills, from his hair the trees, from his brain the clouds, from his skull the heavens, and from his eyebrows the middle realm in which mankind lives, Midgard.
In addition, one stanza relates that the race of dwarfs was created by the gods from the maggots infesting Ymir’s rotting flesh and blood. As such, the dwarves are older than mankind. Perhaps this is a historical recollection of older races of men, met by homo sapiens in his conquest of the world. Just think of Homo floriensis or even Neanderthal, we know that myth doesn’t stick to a scientifical order, thus it is very likely that such things get mixed up timelinewise.

Of course we know that this description of which bodyparts were put to which use is merely a poetic description, but we can accept as truth the fact that raw matter, personified as Ymir, was rearanged by one or more powerfull beings, the fathers of gods and men. The interesting thing is that these gods themselves, including the one we now call allfather were themselves children of creation, they didn’t create the nothingness of ginungagap, nor the realms of Niflhel or Surts domain. These préexisted the gods. Even Surtr himselve is not subject to their creation. Odins power was limited to the fact that he appointed Hell as bailiff over Nifflhel. But in Surtrs domain he didn’t even get to that.
Surtr’s prexistence is becoming even more clear if we study the stanza’s on the end of the world. In these verses he appears as the cleansing force that will – so to say- reformat the hard drive of creation, preparing the reappearance of a new godly race and a new race of men.

All of this also implies that at least one more creator preexisted the gods. It’s the one called the Allfather in the Voluspa.
Voluspa clearly states that the Allfather was with the Gods after the creation of asgaard”.
Since not many gods existed at that time (only 3) and Odin was one of them it wouldn’t make sence to name Odin a second time as the Allfather who was with the Gods after the creation of asgard.

It is my conviction that the allfather in this case is to be considered as another more supreme creator.
Since Odin organised the second creation of our age, he was absorbed to the role of the allfather in later texts, written in Christian times. Text written by people that didn’t understand the basic premises anymore. People that couldn’t see anymore the difference between the first and the secondary creation.
We must remark that this distinction isn’t proper to the Germanic or norse Gods, we find the same basic creation system in other Indo-european religions, such as those of the Greek and Roman worlds

Myth continues to inform us of the creation of new worlds. As the second creation came to an end, 9 worlds had arisen. 7 newly created worlds and 2 preexisting worlds, Niflheim and Surtheim.
But as we continue to read our sources we discover that Midgard was created in the middle of the void of ginungagap, thus a tenth world, Ginungagap is recognised. An eleventh can be found in the saga’s. Even though the texts consider it to be just another hall, Gimle,situated within Asgard, will survive Ragnarok. Gimle wil be rediscoverd by the sons of the Gods. Gimle is to be considered a heaven above heaven, above Asgard.
Snorri seems to suggest there are 9 heavens above asgard

“there are nine further heavens, which are above Asgard. These are:

Vindlblain: Darkwind and Hregg-Mimir, Storm-Mimir
Andlang
Vidblain: Darkdistance
Vidfedmir: World-Encompasser
Hriod: Concealer
Hlyrnir: Twinlight
Gimir: fiery
Vet-Mimir: Winter-Mimir
Skatyrnir

Since they aren’t atested anywhere else I consider them to be an invention or interpretation of Snorri, perhaps inspired by poetry or Christian views .
Recently I read about a new theory that claims only 11 dimensions exist. I didn’t quite grasp the the theoretical basis of this theory, but it fits nicely into the vision mentioned above. In this view Midgard isn’t just the planet earth, it is our entire universe. The other universes are other dimensions.

Even if this new theory would proove to be wrong, this doesent nullify our reasoning. We have recognice that myth only tries to explain facts and repeat knowledge in order to explain the elements a certain society is interested in at that specific time. And we have to recognise that it isn’t always clear how to interprate the puzzle since our ancerstors only left us the myth. The dictionary allowing us to completely understand it has benn lost. As such we must accept that the fact that other interpretations are possible doesn’t nullify the story as such. Stories keep on changing.

Another interpreation might fo example be that the nine worlds represent the nine planets orbiting our sun. But recently science has reduced the number of planets in our solar system to eight, whereas most people have always learned there were 9. (Pluto has recently been degradaded to a microplanetary status) But in that cas, why could’t the sun just be muspelheim.

Back to Snorri and the eddas. Norse myth mentiones 9 worlds, but these worlds can be split up into 3 groups, the middle worlds, the upper worlds and the under worlds. It would seem that this representation is much older, In all Indo-European societies this representation can be found.
This doesn’t contradict the norse nine worlds, it simply means the earlier societies could suffiently explain their reality by these 3 levels. The nine worlds are clearly a further development of the initial 3. The initial 3 might represent the 3 dimensions we know we exist in.
The important thing to know is that the highest level represents the devine world, the second our world and the third the world of chaos.

Linking all of these levels is an ancient tree, known in many cultures, even cultures that cannot be considered Indo-European. This world tree represents both the fabric that binds these worlds together, it is also the conduit used by beings to travel from one level to another. Ratastosk runs up and down the tree as a flash of lighting in order to relay messages from the eagle high up in the tree to the dragon eating at the roots.

This world tree can be seen as the very fabric of the space-time-continuum that connects everything within the multiverse. It could represent the snares used by the snare theorie to explain how the universe or multiverse hangs together. It represent the basic particles that build up the entire multiverse. It even represents the space-time-continuum itself.

The myths of all these different societies also indicate that the world tree is under constant attack from many creatures. Harths eat away its bark and leaves, a dragon gnaws at its roots.
Will this in the end lead to the downfall and desintegration of the tree and the very fabric of the space-time-continuum?
This question remains unanswered by the myths. At the very least the tree, though badly damaged and shaken to its roots, must survive Ragnarok since a new universe emerges held by the same fabric.
Yet the myths do seem to suggest it will come to a final ending of our universe/multiverse.
Is this a mythological echo or predicition of a kind of big shrink which is to follow the present expansion of the universe, originated in the big bang?

It is clear that the multiverse/universe/world has alway been seen as a layered one. In the very nature of all these layers every, entity seems to have beginnings and endings. All that begins must end, at least within the space-time continuum.
Einstein has learned us that when we look at the space-time-continuum from the outside, it is constant and doesn’t change. Seen from the outside time is an illusion.
Thus everything within the space-time-continuum is also eternal. Everything that happens or could happen is so to say recorded upon the hard disk of space-time, to be preserved for eternity.
As such, the world tree does also represent the space-time-continuum itself. Starting from its trunk, which could represent the present it splits into roots and branches thus representing all possible pasts and futures, as Einstein has proven.
The fact that I use Ygdrasill as a mythological representation of all these different aspects which sciences consideres to be quite distict doesn’t nullify my interpretation of the myth. After all, our ancestors didn’t concern themselves with all of these “theoretical” considerations, and most of us still don’t.
The important thing is that a single representation, a world tree can be and has been used as a down to earth representation of a quite difficult reality throughout the ages. As such it is a very valuable symbol.
Whereas the theories on space time aren’t easy to grasp, any scientist trying to explain them to the public would have to use symbols in order to explain them. The world tree is such a valid representation.

Back to midgard, following the creation of this world/dimension, it proved to be empty.
thus Buri’s sons decided to create new inhabitants for this world, and created ask and emble from 2 pieces of wood found on the beach. These beings were differents from all other matter in that they possessed spirit. They became so to say rulers of Midgard’s creation. But the creation of man will be subject to a second chapter that will be published later on.

Mit navn er Pieter Jansens. Jeg er Flamlænder. Flamlændere er det folk som bor i det nordlige Belgien og taler flamsk, et sprog som er tæt belægtet med hollandsk. Vi er hvad man kalder sydgermanere. Vores fortidige guder var ikke Odin og Thor, men deres varianter Woden og Donar. Jeg har været asatroene i næsten 20 år. Jeg er ikke officielt medlem af en blótgruppe, jeg foretrækker at være uafhængig. Men det betyder ikke, at jeg ikke har mine kontakter og jeg deltager fra tid til anden ved blót. Dertil er jeg hobbysmed og tegner. Mine temaer er næsten altid norsk, germansk eller keltisk mytologi. Min uafhængighed er grunden til at jeg gerne søger mine svar “off the beaten track”.

Website: http://www.pieterschetsboek.blogspot.com