Heimdall Discussion

HEIMDALL  by Eric Smith

 

 

The Shining Æse, carrier of Gjallrhorn, also known as Rig, was the watchman of the Norse Gods. He is less well known than a number of others and much of his lore was lost. Let’s explore what can be found about Heimdall as well as a few things that can be implied and what in the watchman may appeal to parts of us. Come share what can be learned from this most perceptive of gods.

The enigmatic “guardian of the gods”

     A.Limited source material
     B.Heimdallrgaldr (primary story) lost, only fragments
     C.No central myth other than the Lay of Rig with Heimdall as protagonist

What is in a name?

  • Hama (Anglo-saxon)
  • Heimdallr, Heimdalr, Heimdall, Heimdal
  • Rig / Rigr {King}
  • Hallinskidi {Ram}
  • Vindhler {Protector from the wind}
  • Gullintanni {Golden Teeth}
  • White god
  • Guardian of the gods
  • Watchman of the gods

From the Deluding of Gylfi (Gylfaginning), Prose Edda ==

“Heimdallr is the name of one: he is called the White God. He is great and holy; nine maids, all sisters, bore him for a son. He is also called Hallinskídi and Gullintanni; his teeth were of gold, and his horse is called Gold-top. He dwells in the place called Himinbjörg, hard by Bifröst: he is the warder of the gods, and sits there by heaven’s end to guard the bridge from the Hill-Giants. He needs less sleep than a bird; he sees equally well night and day a hundred leagues from him, and hears how grass grows on the earth or wool on sheep, and everything that has a louder sound. He has that trumpet which is called Gjallar-Horn, and its blast is heard throughout all worlds. Heimdallr’s sword is called Head. It is said further:

 

Himinbjörg ‘t is called, | where Heimdallr, they say,
Aye has his housing;
There the gods’ sentinel | drinks in his snug hall
Gladly good mead.

And furthermore, he himself says in Heimdalar-galdr:

I am of nine | mothers the offspring,
Of sisters nine | am I the son.
IV. From the Skaldskaparmal (Language of Poetry), Prose Edda:

How should one periphrase Heimdallr? By calling him Son of Nine Mothers, or Watchman of the Gods, as already has been written; or White God, Foe of Loki, Seeker of Freyja’s Necklace. A sword is called Heimdallr’s Head: for it is said that he was pierced by a man’s head. The tale thereof is told in Heimdalar-galdr; and ever since a head is called Heimdallr’s Measure; a sword is called Man’s Measure. Heimdallr is the Possessor of Gulltoppr; he is also Frequenter of Vágasker and Singasteinn, where he contended with Loki for the Necklace Brísinga-men, he is also called Vindlér. Úlfr Uggason composed a long passage in the Húsdrápa on that legend, and there it is written that they were in the form of seals. Heimdallr also is son of Odin.

From the Hyndluljod (Short Voluspa)

35. A certain one was born in days of yore, With greatly increased power, of the race of gods; Nine bore him, a man full of grace, Giant maidens on the edge of the earth.

….

37. Gjalp bore him, Greip bore him, Eistla bore him and Eyrgjafa, Ulfrun bore him and Angeyja, Imdr and Atla and Jarnsaxa. 38. That one was increased by the might of the earth, Of the wave-cold sea and the blood of a sacrificial boar.

The Lay of Rig and the opening of the Voluspa

The Lay of Rig describes how Heimdall leaves Asgard to travel to the land of men. There he fathers children with three families, and thus the creation of the three social classes. It is not exactly clear why it is Heimdall who plays this role and not Odin, who, according to the mythology, created the first man and woman.

From the Voluspa:

I ask for a hearing of all the holy races
Greater and lesser, kinsman of Heimdall.

The Lay of Thrym

(Thor’s hammer is stolen and the giant king Thrym wants Freya’s hand as ransom for it)

Heimdall, the fairest of the gods and one of the prophetic Vanir, foretold the future:

“We shall dress Thor in bridal linen, and adorn him with the necklace of the Brisings. Let him wear a woman’s clothes with a bundle of housewife’s keys dangling about him and with bridal jewels at his breast and on his head.”

The Lokasenna

An excerpt pertaining to Heimdall:

Heimdallr: “Loki, thou art drunk, and hast lost thy wits. Why dost thou not leave off, Loki? But drunkenness so rules every man, that he knows not of his garrulity.” Loki: “Be silent, Heimdallr! For thee in early days was that hateful life decreed: with a wet back thou must ever be, and keep watch as guardian of the gods.”

Review and next steps

  • The above is not all but most material we have on Heimdall
  •  What can we learn from it?

The duties, sacrifice and calling of the watchman

  1. Being on duty when all others are “partying” or just being distracted
  2. Staying out in unpleasant weather and at unpleasant times when others are inside
  3. Staying awake when all others are asleep
  4. Loneliness
  5. Putting community before oneself
  6. Accepting that your task is unlikely in most cases to be glamorous or exciting most of the time
  7. Knowing the rewards are often few
  8. While capable of fighting, concentrates more on knowledge of events

The mind and wisdom of the watchman

  1. Observation
  2. Planning and preparation
  3. Caution
  4. A slight hint of paranoia
  5. Alertness/watchfulness
  6. Pragmatism
  7. Thoughtfulness
  8. The abilities of the watchman
  9. Sight
  10. Hearing
  11. Need for less sleep
  12. Resistance to the elements
  13. Endurance

Warrior versus watchman versus king/shaman

  • Heimdall vs. Thor
  • Heimdall vs. Odin
  • Heimdall vs. Tyr
  • His relationship with Loki

 

Insult of the Lokasenna

 

  1. Slayers of each other from the Gylfaginning: Loki shall have battle with Heimdallr, and each be the slayer of the other.
  2. Hints of battle over Brisingamen and a shapeshifting contest as seals
  3. Order vs. Chaos? Lawman vs. Criminal? (Brisingamen theft could have made Loki an outlaw)
  4. Loki enters and leaves Asgard without apparent need for following the rules
  5. Heimdall sworn to defend Asgard and Aesir, Loki counts as such for much of the myth cycle
  6. Heimdall arguably mothered by Jotun (giants) but denied his blood ties to them
  7. Loki’s worst insult from the Lokasenna is to upbraid him for his duty and task

 

Gjallrhorn

  • A horn that can be heard throughout the worlds
  • A horn that will signal Ragnarok, the final battle

From the Gylfaginning: When these tidings come to pass, then shall Heimdallr rise up and blow mightily in the Gjallar-Horn, and awaken all the gods; and they shall hold council together.

Communication

  • The imprecision of mythology
  • Different sources have different comments
  • There were likely multiple myths for different locales and we only have pieces
  • Issues like Heimdall being Vanir or Aesir are undecided and may differ by translation

Eric’s take on Heimdall

The devotion of the watchman
Guardian, in all of its meanings
Pragmatic wisdom over mystical wisdom (Disguising Thor)
Duty before pleasure, where needed
Needs of the many before yourself
Attention to detail
Watching for larger trends, threats and issues that others do not see
Being prepared for contingencies
Stoicism and self control (not often Norse values) – “Moss backed one”
A sense of order and responsibility to society
A dislike of rebellion to no apparent purpose and “limit testing”
Ties to mankind and civilization
Some similarity (distantly) to Prometheus (without the violation of divine intent)
Communication and the duties of a watchman in real life (Examples)

 

Runic associations

  • Runes less a mystical concern for Heimdall, think communication
  • Mannaz as it ties to man and mankind

Working with Heimdall

  • Meditate on how he ties into your life
  • Identify areas where you think his inspiration would be of value
  • Consider what things you might learn to honor him or follow his ideals
  • Think more in terms of inspiration and example than mysticism

Tying your life to Heimdall

  • Find hobbies and areas of work that fit the role of the watchman (Examples)
  • Determine who you see as the group(s) you are protecting/watching for
  • Know that you may not find many kindred spirits (Eric knows one and he is online). Heimdall is obscure to many, even fairly knowledgeable practitioners.
  • Monitor current events and the things that happen around you that could affect those you seek to protect
  • Take inspiration but remember not to become so lost in the examples of Heimdall that you lose yourself
  • Just because Heimdall and Loki oppose each other does not mean you need to translate that directly into your personal relationships or use it to color your perceptions in life.

Bibliography/Recommended Reading

  • Norse Mythology: A Guide to Gods, Heroes, Rituals, and Beliefs (Paperback) by John Lindow
  • The Prose Edda: Norse Mythology (Penguin Classics) (Paperback)
  • by Snorri Sturluson (Author), Jesse L. Byock (Contributor, Editor, Translator)
  • The Poetic Edda (Paperback) by Lee M. Hollander (Translator)
  • Myths of the Norsemen from the Eddas and Sagas (Paperback) by H.A. Guerber
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