Friday, April 20, 2012
April 20th R Day
Also known as "weed-day" to pot smokers across the USA and Hitler's birthday to historians and, I suppose, neo-Nazis, everywhere. Unlike P and Q, R actually is a significant letter in Old Norse so I may actually end up cutting some stuff for space, but since my minivan died, I have more time to work on this today, so maybe not.
R is for Ragnarök, we may as well get the big one out of the way first, eh? First off this represents "the outcome of destiny" rather than "the twilight of the gods", it is more the completion of one cycle of events than the end of everything. New Gods arise, mankind is renewed, things will be rebuilt. Secondly, it arrives very late in the corpus of Germanic lore, so it is very likely to have been heavily influenced by Christian tales of Armageddon. I have issues with the idea of a Norse apocalypse just because setting it in motion changes the character of Loki from well meaning, but occasionally foolish or weak, Trickster and friend of the Aesir to Norse Satan and 5th Columnist for the Jötunn; I don't see it. Sure, I can see Loki having the monster children with Angrboða, pretty much every one of the Aesir is boning some Jötunn chick, but Odin is a little more savvy than to keep Loki on staff if he can see what's coming, and he can.
R is for Runes, a big number two on the Norse significance list. They are both an alphabet and a mystical symbol system used for magical purposes. I kind of covered them under Futhark a bit and under Galðr some. There were actually a number of different variant runic alphabets in use across the Germanic world, mostly pretty similar to each other but always adapted to the languages of the people that were using them, the Anglo-Saxons used a runic alphabet called the Futhorc for instance, there were Frisian runes and Norse runes and the ever popular, and I am not really sure why, except that it is "ancestral" to other runic alphabets, the Elder Futhark- often referred to as "The Viking Oracle" or some such nonsense; especially considering the Vikings were using the Younger Futhark when the were using runes at all, and there is very slim evidence that the Norse used them in any kind of oracular way.
R is for Rune stones, which, unlike what purveyors of necklaces at renaissance festivals would have you believe, were actually more like commemorative stones, usually bigger than a headstone for a grave, they were carved with runes telling, briefly, the reason why they were there. This might be because someone important built a bridge and wanted everyone to know it for posterity, or it might be to remember that your fallen comrades died bravely in a far away land and you wanted to make sure no one forgot who they were or what they did.
R is for River Travel, which is what made the Norsemen the bloody threat they were. Not only could their ships cross the sea, but they could sail right up river too, striking deep inside your country, coastal defenses were not enough. The Vikings attacked Paris this way. They conquered Russia this way. Let's look at it from an ancient/medieval perspective, water makes the best defensive barriers and it makes a good way to ship goods. Even today most countries on the map have some sort of impassible barrier as a border between them, and that barrier is either water or mountain most of the time. The Vikings turned the defensive advantage into a critical defensive flaw.
R is for Rus the name the Greeks called the Vikings, and it stuck to Russia.
R is for Raids and Raiding, and isn't that what everyone really remembers about the Viking Age? I am not going to play Devil's Advocate here and point out all the good things the Vikings did for Europe too, the raids were bad, at least from the point of view of the people being raided. The "Dark Ages" weren't a particularly nice time to live in for anyone, anywhere on Earth.
R is for Riddle Games, Tolkien didn't invent this for Bilbo and Gollum, he was using a pattern established by none other than Odin in Vafþrúðnismál.
R is for Rán, a Jötunn woman who is nevertheless considered the Goddess of the Sea Bottom. She is the wife of Ægir, who is also a Jötunn and considered a God of the Sea. Both are friends and allies of the Aesir, and they have nine daughters, who may be the mothers of Heimdall.
R is for Ratatosk, a Squirrel that lives in the branches of Yggdrasil and carries insults between the dragon at it's base and the eagle at it's peak.
R is for Rind, a Goddess of the Aesir, who will become the mother of Vali, the avenger of Balder. The stories of how Odin convinces her to bear him a son to avenge his dead son Balder are slightly conflicting, but unsavory in any case. He either uses seið magic to strip her of her will to resist (and seið magic is the kind of gay lady's magic) or he just attempts to seduce her several times, fails, then poisons her and rapes her. Odin is an ends justify the means kind of a God.
Oh, and I got this stuff in the mail today-
I already had Commander's SSD Book #2, but it came with Captain's Log #1 and they were dirt cheap.