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Observations placeholder

Poetic Edda - The Song of Rig [extract]



Type of Spiritual Experience


One of the most interesting poems which uses the inhabitants of a house to symbolise the characteristics of people is the List of Rig from the Edda.  This extract should show the symbolism used. 

A description of the experience

 It starts by introducing the main character Rig

Long ago, they say that along the green roads
a powerful, mature and knowledgeable god went walking
mighty and vigorous, Rig stepping along

Rig comes across the first house, a peasant hovel where there is little nice to eat 'coarse loaf thick and heavy and boiled meats', the occupants are grey haired and old fashioned.  Rig sleeps with the occupants and nine months later a baby is born 'wrinkled skin, crooked knuckles, thick fingers, ugly'.  They call the baby Thrall.  When he grows he occupies himself with peasant activities such as carrying brushwood and basket weaving.  Then a 'bandy leg girl, with mud on her soles, arms sunburned, nose bent' comes  and Thrall and this girl co-habit.

Children they had, they lived and they were happy
I think they were called Weatherbeaten and Stableboy
Stout and Sticky, Rough, Badbreath
Stumpy, Fatty, Sluggard and Greyish
Lout and Longlegs; they established farms, put dung on the fields
worked with swine, looked after goats, dug the turf
Their daughters were Stumpina and Podgy
Bulgy calves and Bellows nose
Noisy and Bondwoman, Great gabbler
Raggedy hips and Crane legs
From them are descended the race of slaves

The next house Rig comes to is a hall.  They were neater in appearance and working, the man whittling wood and the woman weaving.  He sleeps with them and nine months later a baby appears, it was called Farmer.  Farmer tamed oxen, worked the harrow, built houses and barns, made carts and drove the plough.  He marries and has children

Children they had, they lived and were happy
called Man and Soldier, Lad, Thane and Smith
Broad, Yeoman, Boundbeard
Dweller, Boddi, Smooth bard and Fellow
And these were called by other names
Lady, Bride, Sensible, Wise, Speaker
Dame, Fanny, Wife, Shy, Sparky
from them descend all the race of farmers

Rig continues in his journey along the straight roads and comes to a hall, where the doors looked south [towards the sun in other words].  There sat the couple looking into one another's eyes [so in love].  They too were busy – he making bows.  She was nicely dressed  and took pride in her appearance.  They welcomed Rig with a meal laid out on a nicely set table with linen and served in silver dishes.  They entertained Rig with wine and  lovely food 'light roast pork meat and roast birds'.  Rig sleeps with them too and nine months later a boy is born -  Lord, blond, with piercing eyes.  Lord has all the makings of a hero – brandishing shields, bending bows, hurling javelins, riding horses, wielding swords, swimming.

Then came Rig walking
walking out of the thicket, taught him runes
gave him a name, said he was his son
then he told him to get ancestral property
to get ancestral property, a long established settlement

Lord does as he is told and acquires property by force and war.  In the end he acquires wealth and eighteen settlements and is renamed Chieftain.  He marries a slender wise and beautiful girl called Erna.  They have children

Son was the eldest and Child the second
Baby and Noble, Heir and Offspring
Descendant and Kinsman – they played together -
Sonny and Lad – at swimming and chequers -
Lineage one was called, Kin was the youngest

The  story has a final added interest because Kin becomes the  'hero',  shaman and god, so in Nordic mythology 'gods' were the shamanic sons [or daughters] of the leaders.

then he gained and got the right
to be called Rig and to know the runes

The source of the experience

Poetic Edda, the

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