Monthly Archives: June 2013

The Nine Homes

In this post, I want to talk about the use of the word “heim.” According to the all knowing and wise wikipedia “heim” means; “Heim is the German and Norwegian equivalent of the English word home. It is a common German and Norwegian suffix in place names.” I have read in other sources as well, that “heim” or “heimr” is much closer in meaning to home or at greatest extent, “homeland”, instead of the common usage as “world.” Interpreting the “heim” of Nordic myth in this way, creates an understanding of the Nordic world very much grounded in the real world, in Scandinavia

A close reading of the sagas and eddas only seems to reinforce this view, as we get the nine homes as each a homeland for a certain kind of spiritual or physical being. I will not be recapping the individual stories at this time, but they are most certainly available elsewhere online.  Taking these each as very localized in context, it is possible to see each of the homes as they were seen through the eyes of the Norse, closely reflecting their homelands.

Asgard; The only home without “heim” in its name, the home of the Aesir-gods.

Alfheim; the home of the light elves, which I think of as semi-divine ancestors. Alfar and Disir

Vanaheim; The home of the Vanir

Mannheim (Midgarde); the home of man

Jotunheim; the home of the ice giants, curiously also a mountain range in Norway

Muspelheim; The primordial home of fire

Nifelheim; The primordial home of mist and ice

Svartalfheim/Dvegarheim; The home of the black elves/dwarves

Helheim; Hel’s Home

There is no widely accepted way in which to configure the Nine Homes, but I generally lay them out as follows

In heaven are Asgard, Alfheim and possibly Vanaheim (This one seems to move between heaven and earth)

In the middle world are; Mannheim (southern Norway/Sweden, Northern Denmark, The mild areas near to the sea. ) , Jotunnheim (North and east of Midgarde, Mountains between Norway and Sweden). Nifelheim (Far to the north, beyond the Arctic Circle), Muspleheim, somewhere south of Scandinavia, in warmer lands. Alternately, in the underworld to the south. I.e magma/lava and fire.

In the underworld are; Dvegarheim (Below Mannheim/Midgard and parts of Jotunnheim) and Helheim (farther to the north below Nifelheim and maybe pasts of Northern Jotunnheim.)

While I could certainly make a stronger case with examples from the sagas, I want to say these are generally my own personal interpretations, as I am sure counter examples could be found as well. This is because the myths of the Norse did not arise singularly and fully formed. There are contradictions and inccoherenices as the sagas and eddas developed from local stories over generations, sometimes moving around and changing based on local context. Perhaps an excerpt from one of my upcoming books will help bring my point heim;

“Nine worlds? Mmmmmmmmmm no that is not right….. Asgard, Nifelheim, Muspelheim, Alfheim, Dvergrheim (Svartalfheim, also Nidavellir), Helheim, Vanaheim, Jotunheim and Midgard (Mannheim)….. Mmmmmmm…. Most end with heim yes?……… Mmmmmmmmm…. This means “home” or “homeland” more so that it means “world”…… Yes?………. Yes I think so…. So there are not nine worlds then, but nine homes. The homelands of the nine people of the north. Nine homes, nine peoples, all in the place you call…. The North…. Scandinavia….. The homeland of the nine peoples….. For it is not right to say your nine homes cover all the world? I do not live in one of your nine homes, for my home is in the sky…. Skyheim, that is a tenth world…. And what of the Celts, which your people have fought many times? Is there is Celtheim? How many homes are within Celtheim? Do their gods have a home? Celtgodheim? Sidheheim perhaps?………. Mmmmmm… How many homes is that? There are many others besides…. What of the Hellenes? Their gods live on Olympus, that is another home….. Perhaps their middle world is call Hellenesheim? Where the mortals live? Mmmmmmmmm…….. Then would Nordheim be a better name for Midgarde, since it is the home of the North Men…… How many homes do you think there are in all, on this one world?”

My Foundations

I think I need to do more regular updates, even if they are short ones. Much to my dismay, I have been on hiatus from this blog for a while. Been doing a lot of writing, got two new books coming out soon, and general chaos in my life. There has been a contemplate.

I want to become more involved in what at least my local community, and maybe even engage more with others outside of it. This has been prompted by a recent experience, where a friend of mine described me as “a leader among my peers.” Something I don’t consider myself to be. Perhaps this is something I have to accept for myself.

That being said, I feel the best starting point, is to be honest with myself, where I stand philosophically and in relation to things beyond myself. To put this another way, I want to define my boundaries and my limits.

First off, I am an animist, that is to say to me the whole of the cosmos in endowed with spirits, with life, in numerous, discreet and individually conscious spirits. That tree has a spirit has a spirit, as does the squirrel outside my window. This extends beyond “living” things in the biological sense, as I have encountered, rocks and even artifacts that have spirits. My bow on my altar has a spirit, a name, and a story that goes with that name. It is animate, alive in a broad sense. This is not to say all things have spirits however, just that all things potentially can. The Head and Shoulders bottle in my shower, I can sense no spirit within in. It may have had one in the past, and may have one in the future, but there is not one now.

Also, I do not generally subscribe to the “all are one” school of thought. Spirits to me are individual, autonomous beings, that can freely associate amongst one another. Community and culture do play a role in my beliefs, as spirits, like ourselves, can be social beings. While “all are not one”, communities and cultures (group-spirit) can and do exist among spirits. I like to think of it in terms of the ecosystem. They forest where I hunt is a spiritual community, a social agreements among most (not all, allowing for exceptions) of the trees, plants and animals of that area to exist together. Each tree, each animal, each spirit has a story it contributes to the whole, along with more mundane things like oxygen, or water, or biomass, ect.

So do I think there is an overall “mother earth?” Not in the strict sense. I do not believe there to be one overarching earth spirit, any more than I think there is one kind of tree in the world. Spirits can exist in isolation, in groups, and can feel towards one another, love, indifference or even hostility. They can feel the same way towards humans. As for a personal example, oaks are in charge. They are the oldest trees on my family land, and one ancient oak in particular fills the role of chieftain. Are all spiritual societies of this type, no of course not. This is only one example, and the interactions between spirits is incredibly diverse.

As another example, spirits are also centers of social networks, of alliances and even enemies. The spirits I work with, allied with, have made me enemies as well. I work with Thor, as such I am not likely to make friends with a Jotunn any time soon. I like to work with a wolf, deer does not seem to want to have anything to do with me. Working with spirits is diplomatic work, and can be very political. Making friends with x, makes you an enemy of Y, or makes Z suspicious of you. Being the enemy of Y, makes A interested in you, because they are also enemies of Y. “The enemy of my enemy is my friend.” And all that.

Now as to the nature of the spirit itself, I draw the concept from Norse folklore. In Scandinavian folklore, the spirit is called the hugr. And to me the hugr is the sum total of a person’s thoughts, feelings, wills and desire. It is also intimately integrated with the body. So the common division among spirit workers, mind, body, spirit, are all manifestations of the hugr. Deliberate and willful manipulation of the hugr in the basis of all magic. I could go on and on, because there is a lot more to this, and much more I have to learn.

Suffice to say, these are the very foundations of my spiritual beliefs, very grounded in the Nordic heritage I inherited. And this is only the tip of the iceberg, but I hope I have explained enough to demonstrate how complicated and integrated my worldview is.

The universe as we know it exists, because of the wills of the spirits. They built the stars and planets and galaxies. At the same time their enemies brought the decay and death of stars, and so goes the great drama of spiritual cooperation and competition in the cosmos.

You can read more about these ideas in my books “The Wanderings of Dekokla ( Wise-One)”.