*

RAGNARÖK

Joseph Campbell

The voice of the prophetess Völva, summoned by Othin to rise from the earth and discourse of the doom of the gods: 

On a hill there sat, and smote on his harp,
Eggther the Joyous, the giants' warder;
Above him the cock in the bird-wood crowed,
Fair and red did Fjalar stand.

Then to the gods crowed Gollinkambi,
He wakes the heroes in Othin's hall;
And beneath the earth does another crow,
The rust-red bird at the bars of Hel.

Now Garm howls loud before Gnipahellir,
The fetters will burst, and the wolf run free;

Much do I know and more can see
Of the fate of the gods, the mighty in fight.

Brothers shall fight and fell each other,
And sisters' sons shall kinship stain;
Hard is it on earth, with mighty whoredom;
Axe-time, sword-time, shields are sundered,
Wind-time, wolf-time, ere the world falls;
Nor ever shall men each other spare.

Fast move the sons of Mim, and fate
Is heard in the note of the Gjallarhom;
Loud blows Heirndall, the horn is aloft,
In fear quake all who on Hel's roads are.

Yggdrasil shakes, and shiver on high
The ancient limbs, and the giarit is loose;
To the head of Mim does Othin give heed,
But the kinsmen of Surt shall slay him soon.

How fare the gods? how fare the elves?
All Jotunheim groans, the gods are at council;
Loud roar the dwarfs by the doors of stone,
Masters of the rocks, would you know yet more?

Now Garm howls loud before Gnipahellir,
The fetters will burst, and the wolf run free;
Much do I know, and more can see
Of the fate of the gods, the mighty in fight.(72)

The dissolution at the end of time of the shadow-play of the pairs-of-opposites: Armageddon, the biblical version of that day, of which Jesus also prophesied, when "brother will deliver up brother to death, and the father his child, and children will rise against parents and have them put to death," (Mark 13:12 et al.). Even the crowing of the cock, thrice, which Peter heard to his shame. . . . (Matt. 26:73-75; Mark 14:66-72, et al.)

On that day, the wolf Fenrir is to swallow the sun and with gaping mouth advance on the land, his lower jaw against the earth and upper against heaven. The World Ash, Yggdrasil, will tremble, trees shatter, crags fall to ruin. The sea will gush upon the land, and the ship Nagifar (made of dead men's nails) steer landward, bearing Loki aboard and the Rime-Giants. The Midgard Serpent that surrounds the earth will be at Fenrir's side, blowing venom, with all the champions of Hel following. And the heaven will be cloven in their din.

Then Heimdallr, who sits at heaven's end guarding Bifrost, the Rainbow Bridge (he sees equally well by night and by day, hears the grass grow on earth and the wool on sheep, needs less sleep than a bird, and sits snug in his hall, drinking gladly of good mead), will sound mightily the Gjallarhom; when the gods, all waking, will in council meet, don war weeds, and venturing, 800 through each of Valhall's doors, 432,000 join the fiends of Hel in a festival of mutual slaughter.(73)

"My hypothesis proposes," states the Icelander Einar Palsson, of his treatment in seven volumes of "The Roots of Icelandic Culture,(74) "that the world picture of pagan Iceland the universe of the Vikings was the SAME as that of the Romans and the Greeks, modified by time, a Nordic language and Christian currents. . . . What I have NOT found during 35 years of study into the roots of Icelandic culture is anything which points to a separate 'Nordic' or even 'Germanic' religion in the sense that it is different from that of the cultures of Sumer, Egypt, Greece and Rome."(75)

The Nordic settlement of the island during the six decades A.D. 830-890 was by Viking families of two separate strains: a Celtic Christian from the British Isles and a pagan directly from Norway. Palsson's recognition of a context of late classical (Neo-platonic) ideas in the Celtic Christianity of Iceland has been recently corroborated archaeologically, by the sensational discovery at Dagvertharnes, in the west of Iceland, on the shores of the Breithafjordur, or remains that have been described as "strongly reminiscent of Celtic dwellings excavated in Britain," together with "ten carved stones. . . including a pyramidal stone [a tetrahedron] and what seems to be a stone cross. "(76) The excavation was conducted by the archaeologist Thorvaldur Fridriksson of the University of Gothenburgh at a site that had been already identified by Palsson as having the significance of the tetrahedron in Celtic Christian ideology, namely, as connoting a hallowing in the settlement of land. The date as first announced was nearly two centuries too early but as corrected is in perfect accord with Palsson's, after A.D. 870.

The Celtic Christianity which had been thus carried to Iceland was a direct continuation of the Mission of St. Patrick, the traditional date of whose arrival in the British Isles is A.D. 432 (!). The year before that date, at the Byzantine church council at Ephesus (the most important Near Eastern temple-city at that time of the Great Goddess of Many Names), Mary had been declared to be, indeed, Theotokos, the "Mother of God." And within half a century of that epochal date the Christian Roman Empire collapsed; all of Europe except Ireland was overrun by pagan Germanic tribes (Britain's invaders were the English); and for the next three to four centuries the task of re-Christianizing Britain and the Continent was the high concern of Irish monks. St. Columba's founding on the island of lona, in the Inner Hebrides, A.D. 563, of a church and monastery dedicated to the pursuit of the work in Scotland, and the ambitious mission to Switzerland, Burgundy, and Italy of St. Columbanus with twelve companions, ca. 598-614, are the two best known of these undertakings. Two centuries later, at the court of Charles the Bald, near Laon, the Irish monk John Scotus Erigena (ca. 810-877) was translating out of Greek the writings of pseudo-Dionysius the Areopagite, St. Gregory of Nyasa, St. Epiphanius, and St. Maximus the Confessor, besides composing two philosophical treatises of his own: De predestinatione (in 851) and De divisione naturae (862-866), both of which were promptly condemned for implications, not only of pantheism, but also of reincarnation.

For the church of St. Peter, in Rome, had meanwhile recovered authority, and already in the year 664, at the Synod of Whitby in Northumbria, the Irish monks with their Neoplatonic theology based on the Book of Revelation and Gospel According to John, supported by their own mystical experiences in a tradition of meditation unmatched for severity save in India, had been required to retire from England, yielding to the Roman party the field which they there had tilled. Erigena's works, therefore, composed two centuries later, in the period just preceding the settlement of Iceland, was of a tradition which on the Continent had already gone underground, to be represented covertly in the symbolic language of alchemy and, most notably during the twelfth and early thirteenth centuries, in the Manichaean (Albigensian) heresy and the fundamentally Celtic legend of the Holy Grail. Not until Cosimo de' Medici's founding of his academy in Florence would the Greek language, bearing its heritage of Neoplatonic and Pythagorean thought, return to recognition in the Latin West.

What Erigena had preposed in his De divisione naturae was a reconciliation of the Christian doctrine of creation by a personal Creator-God with the Neo-platonic doctrine of emanation; a syncretization elegantly epitomized in his definition of four cosmogonic principles:

1. The uncreated creating
2. The created creating
3. The created uncreating
4. The uncreated uncreating

whereby the first and last are of God, as beginning and end, while the second and third are of the two modes of existence of created beings: the intelligible and the sensible. For man, according to this Gnostic view, is a microcosm of the universe: with his senses perceiving the sensible world, with reason examining its intelligible causes, and with the intellect knowing God. Through sin, the animal sensual nature predominates. With release from sin, the return to God begins; and with physical death, reunion with the uncreated.

Among the first of Erigena's Celtic Christian contemporaries to arrive in Iceland (as chronicled in the Landnamabok, "Book of the Claiming of the Land") were two brothers and a sister, who, sailing presumably from the Hebrides, put to shore along the south coast in the delta area now known as Landeyjar, "Land Islands," where there is a triple hill called Bergthorshvoll, which they evidently regarded as a holy spot. An earlier, pagan settler, Ketill hoengr by name, had already recognized, "claimed," and settled this whole part of the island.

In the western quarter, meanwhile, a second Christian company put to land in the neighborhood of Dagverthanes, where there have now been found the remains of what appears to have been a Celtic monastery. The leader of that group was Authr djuputhga, widowed queen of King Oleifr the White of Dublinshire, a daughter of Ketill flatnefr, a chieftain of the Hebrides. Four of her brothers and sisters are named also as leading settlers of Iceland: Helgi bjolan (at Kjalarnes, near Reykjavik), Bjorn austraeni (at Snaefelisnes, in the middle west), Thorunn hyma (at Eyjaf)orthur, in the north), and Jorunn mannvitsbrekka (in the southeast, at Kirkjuber, where Landnama states Christian Celtic hermits had lived before the advent of the Norsemen). Orlygr Hrappsson, a nephew of this family, brought up by a Bishop Patrick in the Hebrides, had been told by his bishop to settle where he would find "three stones raised upright,"(77) which suggests that Bishop Patrick must have had in mind a lithic monument already known from accounts of earlier Celtic Christians.

The appearance anywhere on the landscape of a suggestion of the number 3 - in particular 3 rocks - was for these people a feature of significance, betokening a holy and appropriate site for Christian settlement. For the sense of the term landnam, "land claiming," was of a spiritual claiming as well as physical occupation of a newly discovered land. By recognizing in its natural conformations features symbolically suggestive, the settlers were enabled to inlay upon a visible landscape the outlines of an intelligible, otherwise invisible one, reminiscent of the mythology that they had brought with them in their heads; so that when the work was done, the whole of their settlement would have become for them an icon of the New Jerusalem.

And so we learn that some thirty miles inland, northeastward of the Landeyjar, there is a mountain showing 3 peaks, which was revered in the earliest period as a holy mountain by analogy with Golgotha and its three crosses: each cross to be associated with the five wounds of Christ, and the 5 X 3 = 15 wounds, with the 15 mysteries of his Virgin Mother Mary: 5 joyous mysteries (the Annunciation, Visitation, Nativity, Presentation in the Temple, and Finding of the Child Teaching in the Temple); 5 sorrowful mysteries (the Agony in the Garden of Gethsemane, Scourging, Crowning with Thorns, Carrying of the Cross, and the Crucifixion); 5 glorious mysteries (of the Resurrection, Ascension, Pentecostal Descent of the Holy Ghost upon the Apostles, Assumption of the Virgin Mary to Heaven, and her Coronation there by her Son).

The name, Thrihymingur, of the holy mountain, means "Three Horn," which, according to Palsson, may be understood also to mean "triangle." "Most modern Icelanders," he adds, "have taken it for granted that the name meant "three peaks."(78) "Three Horn" suggests a lunar association, which in the earlier Celtic pagan period would have carried a reference to the great Celtic triple goddess of innumerable forms and names Danu/Anu/Ana; Morrighan/Badhbh/Macha; and so on - who in folklore is known as Queen Mab of the ubiquitous Fairy Hills.

The Celtic imagination readily associates the silence of hills with the mystery of eternity (Erigena's "uncreated creating" and "uncreated uncreating"), out of which arise and appear the ephemera of space-time and back into which they disappear. A number, of the best-known legends of the Middles Ages are of adventures into mountain fastnesses, those of Tannhauser in the Venusberg, for example, or of Parzival at the mountain-castle of the Grail. Palsson points to an association of Mount Thrihymingur with the Grail keeper and Grail legend.(79) Mythologically, such holy mountains have served as images symbolic of the axis mundi, that universal still point around which movement originates, and in every part of the ancient world they have been associated in this function with the being and presence of one or another of the forms of the Great Goddess: the mighty Cretan goddess on her mountaintop; Ki and Ninhursag of most ancient Sumer; Parvati in India, as the bride of Shiva and daughter of the snow-topped Himalaya. The image of the upward-pointing triangle is implicit in such a prominence, and this, in turn, suggests an association with the Pythagorean tetraktys and the upward-pointing tantric yantra, symbolic of the triad out of which the 9 unfolds, with a tenth point, the bindu, at the center.

The original abode of Ketill hoengr, the first pagan settler of the southern area, was at a site named Hof, meaning "Temple," which became then the point from which symbolic measurements of the land were counted. A line drawn northeast-southwest through Hof, toward the point, northeast, of midsummer sunrise (June 22, summer solstice), and the opposite point, southwest, of midwinter sunset (December 22, winter solstice. Yule or Christmas), extends northeast to a place called Stong, the "Pole," the "Stick," or "Staff," and southwest, across and beyond the triple hill Bergthorshvoll, out to sea to a triple rock, Thridrangar, uprising from a volcanic shelf that is still active and associated mythologically with the gate or portal to the timeless sphere of the primum mobile, or ninth heaven.(80)

Now from Bergthorshvoll to Stong, the distance measured in Roman feet (as Pilsson has found) is 216,000 feet, or half of 432,000 (I Roman foot = 29.69 cm: 216,000 Roman feet = approximately 64 kilometers, or 40 miles). At the center of this span is Steinkross, where presumably there was at one time a stone cross around which an immense geographical circle was envisioned, 216,000 Roman feet in diameter, as an earthly replica of the heavens.* Steinkross in the center was thus a counterpart of the pole star, the hub of the universe, while the circle itself, as a counterpart of the Zodiac, was divided in 12 "houses."

Known as the Wheel of Rangarhverfi, this schematic reflection of the heavens supplied the model for the spiritually grounded social organization that is represented in the original Icelandic constitution of A.D. 930, whereby a body of 36 "priest-kings," or Gothar, 3 to each of the 12 "houses," governed the island as at once its secular and spiritual authority. Kingship, in this view, had "a sacral character," as Palsson declares, "it was part of the total universe. . . it reached unto the hidden depths of nature and the powers that rule nature. It was the king's function to 'maintain the harmony' of the integration between Man and the Cosmos."(81) Which, as we have already found, was the whole sense of the old Sumerian, as well as later Pythagorean, attention to the ordering mysteries of number.

*Note that 216,000 = Mfl, confirming Joseph Campbell's thesis with another Babylonian/sexagesimal affinity. C.M.

 

 

FIG. 4. Ketill Haengr's "Measuring Tree of the Universe," uniting the two original Icelandic settlements, south and west, showing Thingvellir between Steinkross and Alftaros, midway of a line of 432,000 Roman feet. Ninth century. Reconstruction by Einar Palsson, Raetur islenzkrar menningar, 7 vols. (1969-85).

From Steinkross, accordingly, a line projected 432,000 Roman feet north-westward touched the rim of a second symbolic circle, 216,000 Roman feet in diameter, by which the region was enclosed of the original, western, Celtic-Christian settlement. And precisely midway of this symbolic line, there is Thingvellir (a magnificent setting of volcanic landscape and adjacent plain), where the central place of assembly was fixed of the Althingi, the governing body politic of the whole inhabited quarter of the island.

The historical source of this concept of a society as a meso-cosmic coordinating force attuning human life to a natural order mathematically structured is not to be sought for in any of the primal Indo-European tribal pantheons, where, as Georges Dumezil has demonstrated, mythology and religion reflect the tripartite structural pattern of the basic Indo-European social hierarchy of (1) priests, (2) warriors, and (3) producers (cattle breeders and agriculturalists). What we here find, in contrast, is not a mythology reflecting the social order of a nomadic tribe, but a social order reflecting the Pythagorean concept of a mathematically structured macrocosm. For over a century and a half, Germanic scholarship has been arguing the opposed claims of those who interpret Germanic myth as a creation sui generis and those who view it as significantly influenced by Hellenistic and even early Christian models. Einar Palsson's uncovering in ninth-and tenth-century Iceland of the indubitable signs of a mathematically structured Pythagorean philosophical ground that was identical in all essentials with that of Cosimo de' Medici's fifteenth-century Florentine academy confirms the case, once and for all, of those who with Alfons Dopsch, Wirtschaftliche und soziale Grundlagen dereuropaischen Kultwentwicklung aus der Zeit von Caesar bis auf Karl den Grossen (2 vols. [Vienna, 1918-20; 2d ed., 1923-24]), and Franz Rolf Schroder, Germanentum und Hellenismus (Heidelberg, 1924), Die Parzivalfrage (Munchen, 1928, Altgermanische Kulturprobleme (Berlin, Leipzig, 1929) had recognized that for centuries the Germans had been profoundly in touch with and influenced by the civilizations of Greece, Rome, and the Near East.

Specifically, the chief centers of contact were in the West, along the Rhine, where, from the period of Caesar's conquest of Gaul, continuous Gallo-Roman influences, first pagan, then Christian, played into the German culture-field, and in the East, the north shore of the Black Sea, where, from no later than the second century A.D., the Goths were sharing with Iranians and Greeks the rich heritage of Hellenistic art, science, philosophy, and religion. By the fourth century A.D., until shattered ca. 370 by the Huns, a Gothic empire extended from the Black Sea to the Baltic. Ulfila's fourth-century translation of the Bible into Gothic was made for the Visigoths along the lower Danube. There exist fragments of a Gothic commentary on the John Gospel, as well as of an exchange of letters concerning textual interpretations between Gothic Christians (who were of the Arian heresy) and Hieronymus (St. Jerome, ca. 347-419). Schroder calls attention, also, to a discovery in the Egyptian desert of a bilingual (Gothic/Latin) page from the Bible, possibly of a Gothic officer in the Roman army; or if later, in the period of the Christian empire, either an Arian heretic in exile or some Gothic monk who had retired in meditation to the desert.

Even earlier than the Gothic East, the Christian mission had flourished in the Rhineland. There were established sees in Treves, Metz, and Cologne already in the third century. Moreover, nearly all of the pagan, classical and Oriental, mystery religions had been by that time long established and flourishing in both the Gallo-Roman and Germano-Roman zones. Egyptian Isis and Serapis, Syrian Attis and Cybele, Persian Mithra, Thracian Sabazius, Orpheus, Jupiter, Dolichenus, and many others were represented. Entire communities had exchanged their native deities for these, in whose worship they experienced profounder satisfactions. And the native cults themselves had meanwhile been gradually transformed by influences from these sources.(83)

I ween that I hung on the windy tree,
Hung there for nights full nine;
With spear I was wounded, and offered I was
To Othin, myself to myself,
On the tree that none may ever know
What root beneath it runs.

None made me happy with loaf or horn,
And there below I looked;
I took up the runes, shrieking I took them,
And forthwith back I fell.
Then began I to thrive, and wisdom to get,
I grew and well I was; '
Each word led me on to another word,
Each deed to another deed. (84)

What has been described as the "Christian-Pagan Syncretism" of the earlier Middle Ages antecedent to (or, as in Iceland, beyond the ban of) the intolerant creedal edict of Theodosius I the Great (issued February 28, 380; confirmed 381, at the second ecumenical council, ten years before the burning of the Alexandrian Mouseion) is explicit in this image of Othin, hung 9 nights on the "windy tree" of the World Ash Yggdrasil (Christ, 3 hours on Holy Rood); a sacrifice, himself to himself (the Son to his consubstantial Father); pierced by the Lance (of Longinus). Identified with Mercury, Othin (Wodan) was named as tutelary of the fourth day of the Alexandrian planetary week, in the series, Sol, Luna, Mars, Mercurius ( = Wednesday: Wotan's day), Jupiter, Venus, and Saturn, and was thus identified, not only with the crucified Christ, but also with Hermes/Mercury/Thoth, Hellenistic Hermes Trismegistus (patron of the hermetic sciences, alchemy and the like) as well as with a celestial sphere.

Similarly, in the Irish Book of Kells (late eighth to early ninth century), the symbolically illuminated, so-called Tunc page, bearing the text of Matt. 27:38 (Tunc crucifixerant XRI cum eo dues latrones, "Then there were crucified with him two thieves"), adds to the idea of the crucified Christ a number of mythological themes of a distinctly pagan, Neoplatonic, and perhaps even Oriental tantric cast. The "ornamental animal style" of the illumination itself is identical, for example, with that of the pagan Norse, which in turn is but the northern reflex of an Old Germanic development of a Sarmatian-Scythian animal style of the Gothic Black Sea domain, the origins of which have been traced, on one hand, through Assyria back to Sumer and, on the other hand, into Turkestan, whence, when carried eastward, it evolved into the animal style of Shang China's It is therefore not by coincidence (or by what anthropologists call "convergence") that the same dual and triple yin-yang symbols that appear on the heads of two drums flanking the altar in Tokyo of the Shinto Yasukuni Shrine (dedicated to the Japanese war-dead) also appear on certain pages of the Book of Kells.

 

 

The all-enclosing, feline-headed serpent of the Tunc page, shown swallowing fire from its own tail, is a counterpart of the Norse Midgard Serpent as the bounding power of the macrocosm, both as space (water) and as time (fire). Plato, in Timaeus, in his bewildering discussion of the four elements, identifies fire with the form of the tetrahedral pyramid (Timaeus 55b) and writes of fire as the beginning and end of creation. So we find it here represented as at the beginning and end of an eon. The discovery in Iceland of a stone pyramid among the remains of what appears to have been a Celtic-Christian monastery confirms what Palsson had already predicted as a likely symbolic form to be found associated with such a site, signifying creation by fire, destruction by fire, the end of one era, the beginning of another, and the hallowing by fire of the land.

The all-enclosing serpent's folds support 3 panels containing 5 persons each, recalling the 3 x5 = 15 crosses that are in Iceland associated with the 3 summits of Mount Thrihyrningur and the 5 joyous, 5 sorrowful, and 5 glorious mysteries of the Virgin; while the convoluted animal at the head of the page, representing Christ as a microcosm, matching the macrocosmic uroboros, appears to be either swallowing or disgorging two animal-headed snakes, one with the head of a fox, the other, of a cat. In color, one is blue, the other, red. Can these possibly correspond to the ida and pingala nerves of the tantric lunar and solar breaths?

In Monasterboice (county Louth) there is a monumental Irish stone cross known as the Cross of the Abbot Muirdach (who died in 844), which bears on one side a caduceus-like engraving of two serpents, one upward turned, the other downward, whose interlacing coils enframe three human heads (such as might refer to Chakras 4, 5, and 6), and with a large human right hand above, reaching up to rest upon a halo. Known as Dextra Dei, "the Right Hand of God," such an ornament appearing on the cross of Christ Crucified cannot have been without meaning. But who shall now say what the meaning might have been?

 

Fig. 6 Dextra Dei.  Cross of Muiredach, Monasterboice, Ireland, Tenth Century   

 

Othin hung 9 days on the "windy tree," by virtue of which sacrifice he gained knowledge of the runes: Christ, 3 hours on Holy Rood, by virtue of which sacrifice he gained for mankind redemption from the mortal effects of the sin of Adam and Eve. Elaine Pagels, in her illuminated and illuminating book The Gnostic Gospels, interpreting a body of Jewish and Christian Gnostic texts recently discovered in a ceramic jar unearthed from the Egyptian desert (where it had been buried for preservation, apparently, about the time of the destruction of the Alexandrian Mouseion), points out that the gospel of the Gnostic Jesus, like that of Gautama Buddha, had to do, not with sin and redemption, but with illusion and enlightenment (maya and bodhi).

Othin sacrificed one eye for knowledge of the runes. One socket ever thereafter gazed inward, the other, ever outward, held to the world of phenomenality. The two interlacing snakes, red and blue, of the Tunc page of the Book of Kells are evidently of like meaning: one, of the knowledge inward of eternal life, the other, outward, of temporality; in tantric terms, respectively, "solar" consciousness (the nerve pingala) and "lunar" consciousness (the nerve ida), the "still point" and the "turning world," nirvana and samsara, which are to be known in the way of one "released while living" (jivan mukta) as one and the same, nirdvandva, non-dual. 

This is the mystery symbolized in its simplest geometrical form as a dot in the center of a circle; also, as a dot in the center of a triangle; or, as Gimbutas found in her Neolithic goddess figurines, a dot within a lozenge of four angles. The Christian designation in the year 431 of Mary as Theotokos, the very Mother of God, represents the continuation into a later, patriarchal context of this same idea of a nondual goddess-creator of the gods and all things, "bisexual, absolute and single in her generative role," creating (like the spider its web) her world from her own substance. The idea is represented in Indian (Jaina) art in the image of the universe as of a woman's form, with the earthly plane at the level of her waist, heavens in series to the crown of her head, and purgatories to the soles of her feet.

In the Musee de Cluny, in Paris, there is a lovely little Vierge Ouvrante of the young mother seated with the Christ Child on her arm.(88) Her body can be opened as a cabinet to reveal a vision within, not only of her son already crucified, but also of the visage of God the Father, as well as God the Holy Ghost as a dove, together with the heavenly choir of saints and angels. And from the same period, in the late-medieval (Marseilles) Tarot deck (of which the earliest preserved examples are from an elegent deck prepared about 1392 by the artist Jacquemin Gringonneur for King Charles VI of France), the culminating symbolic image, displayed on trump card number 21, is of "The World," Le Monde, as a dancing nude female (the alchemical female androgyne), framed in a mandoria of 3 colors, yellow, red, and blue (Father, Son, and Holy Ghost), and showing in each of the card's 4 corners one of the Zodiacal signs of the 4 Evangelists. Compare the twelfth-century west portal of Chartres cathedral, where, however, it is not the dancing Goddess Universe who thus appears as the culminating spiritual symbol but Christ of the Second Coming, at the end of time.

Two contrary points of view are represented in this contrast: that of the eye and mind of phenomenality and temporality, anticipating the end of the world as a historical event, and that of the Gnostic transformation of consciousness, whereby the world as normally perceived dissolves in the way of Blake's realization announced in The Marriage of Heaven and Hell: "If the doors of perception were cleansed every thing would appear to man as it is, infinite." We find a similar statement of Jesus in the Gnostic Gospel According to Thomas (which, like a jinni of the Arabian Nights, has come out of that buried Egyptian jar): "His disciples said to him: When will the Kingdom come? Jesus said: It will not come by expectation; they will not say: 'See, here, ' or 'See, there.' But the Kingdom of the Father is spread upon the earth and men do not see it" (Logion 113). And again: "For the Kingdom is within you and it is without you" (Logion 3).(89)

Othin, by virtue of his sacrifice of one eye, therefore, was enabled to summon from the earth an apparition of the prophetess, from whom he learned not only of the end of his eon of 432,000 years but also of the whereabouts of both the Gjallarhorn (by whose sounding the moment of dissolution was to be announced) and the eye that he had given in pledge to Mimir, spirit of the waters, for the gift of insight.

I know the horn of Heimdallr, hidden
Under the high-reaching holy tree;
On it. there pours from Valfather's pledge
A mighty stream: would you know yet more?

Othin, I know where thine eye is hidden,
Deep in the wide-famed well of Mimir;
Mead from the pledge of Othin each morn
Does Mimir drink: would you know yet more!(90)

The sounding of the Gjallarhorn is to be understood in Gnostic/Pythagorean terms as the harbinger of an awakening, and Heimdallr, from whose breath the tone proceeds, is the Awakener. "He is called the White God," says Snorri. "He is great and holy; 9 maids, all sisters, bore him for a son [compare the 9 Muses with Apollo as a 10th]. He is called also Hallinskidi [the "Ram"] and Gullintanni ["Golden Teeth"]; his teeth were of gold; his horse's name is Gold-top; and he dwells hard by Bifrost [the rainbow bridge from earth to Valhall], in the place called Himinbjorg ' [Heaven-mount]."(91)

He is, in other words, the Nordic Anthropos. Schroder likens him to Mithra, the Iranian lord of the victory of light, born the night of the winter solstice from a virgin mother rock.(92) One may liken him also to Christ, the "Sacrificial Lamb" or "Ram," born that same night of his virgin mother in a cave. The implied association of Heimdallr as Ram is with the first sign, Aries, of the Zodiac and the spring equinox, namely, Easter. Palsson makes the point, quoting as authority Ernest G. McClain in The Myth of Invariance, that Claudius Ptolemaeus (fl. in Alexandria, A.D. 127-148), correlated the 12 signs of the zodiac with the 15 of the Greek 2-octave "Greater Perfect System" in such a way that the Ram (Aries) stood for the ground tone, Proslambanomene (see Gafurius's chart, fig. 2,) as well as the "limiting tone," Nete hyperbolaion, two octaves higher.(93)

Now, in the Pythagorean reckoning, the number of vibrations of Middle-A, Proslambanomene, is 432 (modern tunings are generally higher). One octave lower is 216; two octaves lower, 108. These are all numbers of the Great Goddess, born, so to say, out of 9.

"At the end and presumably at the beginning of the world," states Palsson, "Heimdallr blows his horn. . . . The sybil knows where the sound of Heimdallr is hidden:

                Under the high-reaching tree.
The sound of Heimdallr is hidden under the measuring rod of the
universe. . . the Ash Yggdrasil. . . .
        Voluspa clearly gives one to understand that the sound
resounds in the old tree:
                Yggdrasil shakes, and shiver on high
                    The ancient limbs.

"It would seem the ancients knew," Palsson continues, "that a certain note causes a thing to resound through the same number of vibrations in an object. If so, it would give a perfect answer to the question why the Ash resounds ("ymr") when Heimdallr blows his horn. It is the resonance of the numbers 108-216-432 which defines the physical world from beginning to end."(94)

Let us here recall the idea already noted from the Indian Vedas of sound, sabda, as generator of the perceived universe. "It shouts out the universe, which is not distinct from itself. . . This is how it is nada, 'vibration.' This is what is meant by the saying: 'Sound (sabda), which is of the nature of nada, resides in all living beings."' And from the Confucian philosopher, Tung Chung-shu: "Tuned to the tone of Heaven and Earth, the vital spirits of man express all the tremors of Heaven and Earth, exactly as several citharas, all tuned on Kung [the tonic], all vibrate when the note Kung resounds. The fact of the harmony between Heaven and Earth and Man does not come from a physical union, from a direct action, it comes from a tuning on the same note producing vibrations in unison. . . In the universe there is no hazard, there is no spontaneity; all is influence and harmony, accord answering accord. (95) Which is exactly what in the West is known as the Harmony of the Spheres, as represented in Gafurius's design by the lute held extended in Apollo's left hand while his right points to the Graces.

And so we find, indeed, as Palsson has claimed, that "the world picture of pagan Iceland the universe of the Vikings was the SAME as that of the Romans and the Greeks." It was the same as that of India and China as well: a world picture of harmony and accord in the living body of a Mother Universe, who, as Marija Gimbutas's work has shown, was represented in the earliest Neolithic arts of Old Europe, 7000-3500 B.C., as the one "Great Goddess of Life, Death, and Regeneration."

The recognition of a mathematical regularity of 60 X 432 = 25,920 years in the pulse throughout the body of this universal being (as it were, the great diastole and systole of her heart), which appears to have been first registered in Sumer, ca. 3500 B.C., had by 1500 B.C. given rise, from the Nile and Tigris-Euphrates to the Indus and Huang-ho, to four structurally homologous, monumental civilizations, shaped to mythologies metaphorical of a sublime indwelling life informing all things; which in the sixth century B.C. became associated by Pythagoras (a Greek contemporary of the Buddha) with the mathematical laws at once of music, geometry, astronomy, and meditation.

Both the pagan Nordic and early Celtic-Christian theologies of Europe were informed by the scientistic insights of this fundamentally Gnostic, Pythagorean way of understanding and symbolization, which elsewhere in the Latin West was systematically and most viciously suppressed by the champions of a historical institution that James Joyce has somewhere characterized as a "conspiracy of morbid bachelors." Irrepressibly, notwithstanding, the larger view from time to time broke through in the Celtic, Pelagian heresy, Scotus Erigina's ruminations, Arthurian romance, the Grail legend, even the fortune-telling Tarot deck. In Dante's Divina Commedia it is boldly represented, and in the Neoplatonic Florentine academy of the Medicis it gained the field simply by way of a recognition that all the forms of theological discourse are metaphorical of spiritual values, not to be understood as things-in-themselves.

"Man's last and highest leave-taking," declared the mystic Meister Eckhart, "is leaving God for God, "(96) leaving the historically conditioned idea of God of one's faith for "that [to quote the Upanishad] to which speech goes not, nor the mind" (Kena 1.3). Within the field of mythic thought, however, both metaphorically (as one's nature knows) and historically (as Gimbutas(97) shows) the God beyond God is God's Mother.(98)

 

In All Her Names

 

Mindfire