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Reflections of Zeus, Jove, Odin, Thor, Loki Upon Past and Future War: 11/24/21
© 2022 James LaFond
Today, resting eyes and washing dishes after writing combat advice, I listened to the first legend of the Poetic Eddas. This legend, mined by Tolkien for dwarf names, is purported to be the recollections of a giantess of yore who has been consulted by Odin in his quest to overcome Fate through acquisition of knowledge.
One of Odin’s chief undertakings is the bringing of slain warriors to his hall so that they might be resurrected to fight in the final battle. This element we will return to. What really grabbed my attention was that Odin appears very much as a fallen Zeus or Jove as an inverted Christ.
Where Zeus and Jove, earlier versions of an Allfather, of the “sower and reaper of men and gods” have very technological trappings, including Hephastius and Vulcan designing wondrous machines, to include machine helpers, and who rule over gods that bleed a petroleum-like toxin, and eat and drink things other than earthly foods, and are repaired mechanically, Odin is the primitive magician, seeking a higher form of knowledge. If one suspects—as I do—that much of ancient pagan myth was a memory of a fallen, perhaps ante-deluvian civilized order, then the vision of Odin at the end of heathen time seeking knowledge beyond his ken, echoes as a more devolved mirror on such an age.
As the giantess recounts the follies and sins and oath-breaking of the Gods, in the reading, her statements are repeatedly punctuated by the following refrain: “Have you learned enough yet, Allfather?”
This is of interest in light of some recent views of Odin among resurgent heathens, that he sacrificed his eye for deeper knowledge, that rather than submit to fate he hung himself from a tree of knowledge. The giantess reminds him that the well of knowing that he sunk his eye into drowns him, that he is not able to discern from these waters of time what she brings, that this is why he awakened her after all.
These poems were written for fighting men, by fighting men. As a fighting man who lacks the use of my right eye at night and in other circumstances where lateral light poses a debilitating danger I have noted a profound effect while wearing the eye-patch—lack of depth perception. From this vantage, the vantage of the hand-to-hand fighting man, this verse and the refrain echoes a different trade than the modern non-combatant’s mind might perceive. It seems that Odin traded depth of perception for access to powerful knowledge.
Of interest here is the chief Aryаn god has over some 2000 years been demoted from thunderer and oath-keeper to spell-weaver and oath-breaker, feeder of the death birds and wolves who return to feed with the fall of each human order. Zeus had been “oath-keeper” now, the chief god of the last Aryаns is the spell-weaver, his honor-bound son chaffing under the weight of sullied honor.
Thor retains the oath-keeping and thundering aspects of Zeus and Jove and he is beloved by the working class Norse, and by the die-hard heathens of Greenland, Iceland and Vinland. When the King of Norway was forcing his folk who would not become Christians to swallow serpents, these were not Odinists, but Thor cultists. The Odinists lead the conversion to Christianity. The men of Thor resisted. The way of Thor, of honor and war, was the eldest Aryаn way. The way of Odin suggests the sibilant
way of the serpent of immortality in Gilgamesh and of the serpent in the Garden of Eden. The giantess does remind Odin that the world-gird serpent’s venom drips from the rafters of the house of power he has sought to build against Fate and Time.
Might Odin’s tragic plight hold a whisper of Plato’s Atlantis as well as Milton’s Paradise Lost?
Of further interest is that just as Zeus “held Time” defeating Time for a space, and was, according to the “giant” Prometheus, fated to by swallowed by Time in his term, that Odin sought to defeat the very gravity of fate—of Time and the cycles of the cosmos—by resurrecting human warriors, veterans and casualties of past wars, to fight in some future war. This, coupled with Odin’s defining obsession with acquiring knowledge for power, makes him sound like a metaphor for the archfiend military architects of two world wars, who mined the aggregate data pool of all former known wars to be combined into a body of lore that would become total war, in an information—knowledge-based way—essentially scouring the battlefields of previous ages, of “feasts arranged for wolves and kites” by yore powers to learn the secrets tried as tragic means by some hundred millions of butchered men.
We might further note that the most prominent participants and chief casualties in those two world wars, were Nordic, central European nations, the every nations that have accounted for more than half of all ground-breaking scientific inventions. [1]
Further, does not this trading of perception—particularly of binocular depth perception in the context of warfare, meaning combat—speak as much to man’s march of folly into the maw of war, in which it is fairly axiomatic that the lessons of the last war set the wagers of the next war up for failure as often as not?
How many times did Odin find the secret to building his Maginot Line only to face blitzkrieg?
How many times did Allfather master industrial war only to end up strangled in the jungles of some Vietnam or stifled in the high deserts of an Afghanistan?
And, is not Odin’s pursuit of knowledge as power in order to stave off Fate and Time not congruent, in a root sense, with Zeus “Time-holder’s” rage at Prometheus at arming mankind with fire? [2]
Also, as to the recent industrial past reflected in the Forge of Vulcan and the silver-tongued automatons of Olympia, might not Odin’s quest, and the muddled distortion of his findings due to his “sacrifice” of perspective in return for power, not reflect the great lessons in myth addressed to us by those war-torn souls of literary genius such as Tolkien, Junger, Eddison, Lewis and Peake who wrote of such an all-consuming and self-corrupting quest? [3]
And finally, as to the lost present and sought future, does not the headlong rush to maintain perpetual increases in economic activity and evermore surgical, media and pharmaceutical experimentation upon our Own Kind, in a bid to defeat aging and death, does that not make of us a wretched band of young Aesir and our Corporate wonder-workers but reflections of Odin’s doomed quest and Loki’s crooked bequest?
-1. See Pickover, Archimedes to Hawkins, in which inventions that were not derivative but stand as unique discoveries of new scientific fields of knowledge upon which thousands of other scientific adjustments were derived are named and defined. The author lists these foundational fields of knowledge as being mostly European across history and predominantly Germanic in the Modern Era, marking an essentially ancient Hellenic to modern Germanic line of knowledge discovery, which does take us almost directly, in mythic terms, from Prometheus in the Caucasus [font of the Aryаn races] to the current German and American developers and purveyors of the latest medical life-extension technology.
-2. 1945 comes to mind.
-3. Were not the Eddas earlier tellings of a kind?
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