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Ragnarok – Old Norse for “Fate of the Gods”

English: Title page of a manuscript of the Pro...

Title page of a manuscript of the Prose Edda, showing Odin, Heimdallr, Sleipnir and other figures from Norse mythology (Photo: Wikipedia)

In Scandinavian myth, Ragnarok is a terrible final battle in which the gods are destroyed, along with most of creation and mankind.

According to the story, Ragnarok is preceded by lawlessness and anarchy. There are only two survivors of the cosmic catastrophe : The descendants of Lif and Lifthrasir.

The tale comes to us from two main sources.

  • The 13C Poetic Edda (a compilation of earlier traditional sources)
  • The 13C Prose Edda by historian, writer and statesman Snorri Sturluson (which makes frequent reference to the Poetic Edda)

The mythographer Stuart Gordon notes similarities among the idea of Ragnorok, the Book of Revelation by St. John, the Hindu yugas, and Plato‘s account of Atlantis.

The story is by no means some lost fable. Marvel comics has reimagined the Ragnarok cycle in The Mighty Thor¹ and other Thor comics. Several blockbuster films have also merged Thor with other more contemporary heroes like Captain America and The Avengers.

I always find it ironic when some Europeans claim that we have a dearth of culture in North America. These backward folks pride themselves on their crumbling old buildings and statues, turning a blind eye to what’s happening in arts and culture today.

The Ragnarok myth continues… very much alive for those with eyes to see.² And with weapons of mass destruction becoming increasingly sophisticated in the 21st century, this myth is even more relevant now than in the past.

German publication about WW-I.

¹ The Mighty Thor

² Two days after writing this I became aware of a new Thor: Ragnarok film slated for release November 2017.

Related » Aesir, Apocalypse, AsgardBible , Fenris, Loki, Thor, Vanir


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Freyja – Afterlife goddess still alive today

English: The goddess Freia stands under a tree...

The goddess Freia stands under a tree of apples with her cats by her feet. Note that Wagner’s Freia merges the Norse goddesses Freyja and Iðunn. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

In Norse mythology, Freyja is the goddess of love, sex, fertility, wealth, war and the afterlife, roughly parallel to the Greek Aphrodite. Young women consult her on matters of love. She and her brother, the fertility god Frey, are the offspring of Niord, god of the sea.

Half of all warriors slain in battle enter her heavenly hall, Fólkvangr. The other half go to Odin’s great hall at Valhalla. Wikipedia tells us

Freyja is attested in the Poetic Edda, compiled in the 13th century from earlier traditional sources; in the Prose Edda and Heimskringla, the two latter written by Snorri Sturluson in the 13th century; in several Sagas of Icelanders; in the short story Sörla þáttr; in the poetry of skalds; and into the modern age in Scandinavian folklore, as well as the name for Friday in many Germanic languages.¹

Freyja is an old goddess, historically speaking, often equated with Frigga, the wife of Odin. However, some scholars suggest that Frigga and Freyja are two different versions of the same Germanic pagan deity.

The following image shows how Freyja, far from being some distant mythic memory, continues to inform the mythological and artistic imagination of many Northern Europeans.

The statue of Freyja on the Djurgårdsbron bridge in Stockholm (Sweden) in the late evening.


Related » Vanir



Athena Varvakeion, small Roman replica of the ...

Athena Varvakeion, small Roman replica of the Athena Parthenos by Phidias. Found in Athens near the Varvakeion school, hence the name. First half of the 3rd c. AD. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Athena is the sagely and powerful Greek goddess of war and strategy, daughter of Zeus and Metis.

Uranus and Gaia warned Zeus that if Metis had a daughter, she would bear a son who would rob Zeus of his heavenly kingdom. Zeus responded by swallowing the pregnant Metis so as to be Athena’s sole progenitor. Athena sprang fully armed from Zeus’ head at birth to become the goddess of War, known more for her strategizing and encouragement of heroes than mere blood lust.

In Homer’s Illiad Athena often intercedes, bestowing advice and strength to Greek mortals during the Trojan war. As the protectress of Athens, she was venerated in three temples at the Acropolis and celebrated during numerous festivals, the main festival being Panathenaea.

In the 5th century BCE she is also worshiped as a goddess of philosophy. She’s also a patroness of craftsmen, especially weavers.

Athena’s warrior shield was called an aegis, which she shared with her father, Zeus. And the phrase, under the aegis of derives from the legends of Zeus and Athena.

Athena’s Roman parallel is the goddess Minerva.

In 1982 the British rock group The Who wrote a song called “Athena” on the album It’s Hard.

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Arjuna's Chariot

Arjuna’s Chariot (Photo credit: code_martial)

Arjuna is a renowned Indian culture hero and Krishna‘s charioteer in the Bhagavad Gita. Arjuna arguably has the status of a demigod among of much the Hindu-Indian populace. In the Gita he is prodded by the god Krishna to fight kith and kin.

Despite his initial reluctance, Arjuna overcomes the chronic procrastination that Shakespeare‘s Hamlet cannot—that is, the crippling fear, self-doubt and excessive thinking that can lead to inaction.

Krishna philosophical rationalization for killing can be summed up as follows: He instructs Arjuna that the body dies but the soul is immortal. Moreover, the sacred duty (dharma) appropriate to Arjuna’s kshatriya caste demands that he fight.

According to a literal interpretation of the Gita, it is better to do one’s dharma – even if it means killing – than to ignore it.

Today the Gita is cherished for its psychological and spiritual value. Arjuna’s “killing” is usually interpreted as the death of negative attitudes and actions which otherwise would bind the eternal soul (atman) to worldly pleasures and desires.

Politically, however, the Gita may be taken as similar to the Christian idea of the Just War and the Muslim idea of Jihad. Most religions, even Buddhism, try to justify “unavoidable” war somewhere within their teachings. For this and other reasons, religion in general has been challenged by some pop stars (e.g. Elton John and John Lennon) and by other prominent figures throughout history.¹

¹ See



Krishna and Arjun on the chariot, Mahabharata,...

Krishna and Arjun on the chariot, Mahabharata, 18th-19th century, India. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The Bhagavad-Gita [Sanskrit: The song of the Lord] is a central scripture holy to Hindus that belongs to book VI of the epic Mahabharata. Believed by many scholars to be a more recent insert within the Mahabharata, the Gita synthesizes different, previously existing forms of yoga.

The main plot line revolves around Krishna urging Arjuna to fulfil the dharma (sacred duty) appropriate to his warrior caste (kshatrya). Taken literally, in the Gita this means Arjuna must slay kith and kin in the battlefield.

Krishna outlines additional dharmas appropriate for other castes, but Arjuna’s sacred task is to kill. Krishna further instructs Arjuna that his relatives will not really perish because the soul (atman) is eternal.

A gentler, psychological interpretation of the Gita sees the ‘killing’ in terms of the destruction of bad karma accumulated over past lives. These attributes manifest as outward aspects of the personality in the present life, not unlike that which Carl Jung terms the persona. Thus the ‘killing’ could be seen as the elimination or, perhaps, redirection of superficial and negative personality components that obscure awareness of the immortal soul (atman)

Lord Krishna instructing the Bhagavad Gita to ...

Lord Krishna instructing the Bhagavad Gita to Arjuna in Kurukshetra. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Because God’s grace is said to be central in overcoming negative past karma, some scholars believe that the Gita was written as late as 2nd-century CE, influenced by the teachings of Jesus Christ. Regardless of the precise date, Arjuna’s dharma seems to lie somewhere between Old Testament ideas concerning the problem of social justice (“an eye for an eye”) and the New Testament emphasis on spiritual salvation (“turn the other cheek”).

While some Christians may argue that the Gita’s message is clearly inferior to the New Testament’s prescription to love one’s enemies, this claim is complicated by the additional teaching of the so-called “Just War,” a teaching which is explicit or, perhaps, implicit to many Christian belief systems.

Having said that, it seems that a valid distinction may be made between what Jesus of the New Testament says we ought to do vs. what will happen.

English: The Pandava prince Arjuna chooses to ...

English: The Pandava prince Arjuna chooses to have the unarmed Krishna as his charioteer rather than the reinforcement of Krishna’s large army. The Krishna’s large army is chosen by the Kaurava prince Duryodhana. As the sky turns from gray to azure, and the army begins to wake, Arjuna confirms his decision by a solemn vow and water is poured over his hands as ritual witness. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Jesus of the New Testament says his followers ought not to be violent, nor to even think violently, even though conflict and war will inevitably break out among some members of the population. By way of contrast, the Krishna of the Gita essentially says killing is okay in certain circumstances. And this is something that Christ never advocates in the New Testament.

As intimated above, however, the discussion need not end here. For more on this see The Bhagavad Gita in a Complicated World and comments.

Related Posts » Alchemy, Ramakrishna (Sri), Theosophy