Gnosis Diary: Life as a Heathen

My personal experiences, including religious and spiritual experiences, community interaction, general heathenry, and modern life on my heathen path, which is Asatru.

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Novel Gnosis part 32: Thor

Thor was the most popular of the heathen gods in historical times. His most notable possession, his hammer, is not only a weapon but also a useful tool. He is depicted riding a chariot pulled by goats; goats are a useful domesticated animal. He is married to Sif, whose major myth is a metaphor for wheat harvest. All these details point to a god of the common man, of farmers and workers. His role as protector of mankind from frost giants and other inimical forces made him one of the powers people relied on for basic survival.

In the Fireverse, Thor is enthusiastically manly, liking to eat and drink manly things, liking to adventure in Jotunheim and Midgard and to fight giants. At one point a character asks him what he likes on his salad and he says bacon, a very manly answer. He enjoys contests of strength. His manliness and physical strength does not really mean that he is in any way less intelligent than other gods, though, despite how he is sometimes depicted.

Thor uses his wits several times in the lore. In the Fireverse, the times when he is mostly a big strong puppy looking for adventure is when he is still barely out of his childhood, and he uses his brain power more and more as time goes on. The stories in the lore where he pits his brains against a wise dwarf, and against Odin-in-disguise, are relatively late in the story, after a lifetime of adventuring with Loki and learning from his example. Throughout the entire story, Thor is so secure in his masculinity that he travels extensively with his bi-pan gender-fluid best friend without a second thought.

Outside the Fireverse, online conversation made me realize that Thor’s notable drinking is a symbol indicating liver power.

Also outside the Fireverse, this insight is not really gnosis in the sense of inspired otherwordly wisdom, it's just a bit of literary analysis. The two stories of Thor vs. Jormungandr make many people think of the world's boundary serpent as a villain, but it's not necessary for the World-Serpent to be bad just to have a story where Thor fights him. Think of it like Superman Vs. Batman-- aside from whether you liked that story, the point is that the story got told. Two heroes fighting instead of a hero and a villain fighting is something we still have in our culture, and the heathen mythology has a full range of really gray stories and characters, where there isn't a pure good and pure evil character at all. Thor the strong fighter and his irresistible force the hammer versus Jormungandr, the power that keeps the world in and the void out and the two eternally separate, a kind of immovable object, is the story of the irresistible force meeting the immovable object, two great powers that are both good and necessary for humankind clashing just to see what happens.

For a more philosophical discussion of Thor's masculinity, see my prior post The Heathen Gods as Ideals.

Image: Thor and Loki on the road, by Hellanim, Creative Commons via Deviantart


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Erin Lale is the author of Asatru For Beginners, and the updated, longer version of her book, Asatru: A Beginner's Guide to the Heathen Path. Erin has been a gythia since 1989. She was the editor and publisher of Berserkrgangr Magazine, and is admin/ owner of the Asatru Facebook Forum. She also writes science fiction and poetry, ran for public office, is a dyer and fiber artist, was acquisitions editor at a small press, and founded the Heathen Visibility Project.


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