Norse Myth Part 1: Norse Cosmology

Caption reads "The Ash Yggdrasil". T...

"The Ash Yggdrasil". The world tree Yggdrasil and some of its inhabitants. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Sorry about the post being late, homework got the better of me this weekend, but here is the beginning of my series on Norse myth!

The cosmology in Norse religion consists of nine worlds held together by Yggdrasil, possibly one of the coolest names ever for a tree, otherwise known as the World Tree. What kind of tree Yggdrasil was varies from interpretation to interpretation, but a common version is that Yggdrasil was a gigantic ash-tree.

Yggdrasil has numerous important functions in Norse myth beyond holding the universe together, a fairly

important function in and of itself. Yggdrasil connects the nine worlds as well as holds them up.

Many creatures call Yggdrasil their home. In the branches at the top of the tree lives an eagle and underneath the tree reside numerous snakes, who eat its branches, and the dragon Nidhogg, who eats corpses and gnaws at the roots of Yggdrasil. A squirrel named Ratatosk acts as a messenger between the eagle and Nidhogg. There are also four deer named Dain, Dvalin, Duneyr and Durathror live on Yggdrasil and eat its leaves.

The gods used the base of the World Tree as a place to go gather and take care of their “things.” A thing was an assembly where the gods made judgments and discussed their affairs.

Yggdrasil has special significance for Odin, the leader of Aesir gods. He hung himself from the tree while impaled by his own spear for nine days and nights in order to gain wisdom in the form of nine powerful songs/spells (for future reference nine is a very important number in Norse myth in case you could not tell).

It is not totally clear what happens to Yggdrasil during Ragnarok (the final battle between the Aesir gods and the giants, the end of the world), but two humans do survive Ragnarok by hiding within the World Tree, or at least there is a reference to a location called Hoddmímis holt that may be the same as Yggdrasil. I will say more on Ragnarok in a later post.

The Nine Worlds:

1. Muspellsheimr: World of Muspell (fire, realm of Surtr)

2. Alfheim: World of the Ljósálfr (‘light elf’)

3. Vanaheimr: World of the Vanir (the less known group of gods)

4. Asgard: World of the Æsir (the more well known group of gods including Odin and Thor)

5. Midgard: World of the Maðr (‘human’)

6. Jǫtunheimr: World of the Jǫtunn (‘giant’, home of the giants)

7. Svartálfaheimr: World of the Svartálfar (‘dark elves’, aka Dvergar ‘dwarves’)

8. Hel: World of Hel (the realm of the dead)

9. Niflheim: World of Nifl (arctic ‘mist’ and ice, where the giant named Hel rules from)

(List comes from Wikipedia and information from Lindow)

I will describe the nine worlds in greater detail later, but if you have any questions feel free to ask me and I will try to answer. If there are any topics you would like me to discuss in particular, then let me know. The topic for this next week will be the creation story, where I will also talk about at least a few of the nine worlds in greater detail.

Until then have a good week and DFTBA!

Matt

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Here Come the Vikings! (an Introduction to My Series on Norse Myth)

Hey everyone!

Like I said in a previous post, I’m going to do a series of posts about Norse mythology. I’m not exactly sure how long it will be, probably as long as I can think of fun things to write about and you guys are interested in reading them. Come on though, it’s Norse myth! You’ve got gods, giants, goats that exude alcohol, and so much more! What’s not to love about that?

The posts will be posted once a week over the weekend, hopefully sometime on Friday, but definitely during the weekend. I will also post other content when I can, on different days than the posts about Norse myth, for those of you who don’t want to just learn about Norse myth for the next several weeks.

Much of what we now today about Norse myth comes from two literary sources, the Poetic Edda and the Prose Edda. Norse myths have been incredibly influential on fantasy literature, particularly in J.R.R. Tolkein’s The Hobbit, The Lord of the Rings and The Simarillion, and as we will see in future posts Nordic religious customs and beliefs have wormed their way into several important places in modern society. You may be surprised about where some traditions originated.

It’s going to be fun, so stick around! The first post, this coming Friday will be on the cosmology. Specifically the foundation on which Norse myth stands, literally the glue that holds it all together: Yggdrasil, the World Tree that holds up the Nine Worlds. More on that subject on Friday though!

Have a great St. Patrick’s Day everyone, be safe, but have fun!

Matt

Note: As a disclaimer the content in my series, and most of the information I know about Norse myth, will come from John Lindow’s Norse Mythology: A Guide to the Gods, Heroes, Rituals, and Beliefs. It is a really good book for those who do not know a whole lot about Norse myth, but want to start learning because Lindow covers a wide range of subjects in an encyclopedia style format only in a very readable writing style. If you want to learn more about Norse myth, you can check him out, but there are other works out there on Norse myth. I’m definitely looking to expand my collection. No copyright infringement is intended. I just wanted to note this upfront.

Extra note: This is my fifteenth post! Huzzah for milestones! Thanks to everyone who is reading my posts and/or is following the blog. I can’t tell you how much it means to me.

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The Truth About Creativity (Also Honey Badgers and The Matrix)

Hey everybody, we need to have a sit down talk about creativity and productivity.

This is important for everyone, including myself, especially myself in fact. I am writing this just as much for myself as a reminder of the truth as I am trying to remind you.

Many writers suffer from what they think is lack of creative power. “Writer’s block” they call it. Many writers shudder at the mere mention of the dreaded plague. If you feel the need to grab some comfort food now, a blanky or even a cute soft stuffed animal now is the time before we face the dragon head on, the bane of so many writers, the plague of the human mind. I myself am hiding myself under no less than four blankets in a not so well hidden attempt to create a thick enough layered shield of warmth to imitate the skin of a honey badger, which apparently can stop bullets, but more on honey badgers in a minute.

Are you ready? Because if not now then when are you going to face your case of “Writer’s block?” They make it sound like some kind of horrible disease. Want the truth? It is.

It’s an insidious disease of the worst kind in fact. It’s an imaginary disease. It’s made up. It doesn’t really exist. It’s only real in your mind.

But like in the Matrix, it’s mind over matter. What your mind thinks is reality, becomes reality. No, I’m not saying that if you think you’re a honey badger, and we all wish we were more like a honey badger sometimes, then you will actually become one. However, you might actually start believing you are one and that basically makes you one.

Strange, huh? Yeah, but that’s how the mind works and “writer’s block” takes full advantage of it. If you think that you can’t write, even subconsciously, then you won’t be able to write a single word. It’s that simple, mind over matter.

So how do you break out of this habit? Follow Neo’s example from The Matrix. Screw the rules. Don’t get shot full of bullets by Elrond in a suit and sunglasses monologuing about the evils of humanity. That’s not a good strategy. It worked for Neo, but to each his own. I’m guessing it won’t work for the rest of us.

So becoming the One won’t work, but you can follow the same idea in your life. The secret to writing is believing that you can. Like I said before, if you believe you can’t write something, a story, a novel, a blog post, whatever, then you won’t be able to write it.

Here’s the truth about writer’s block. You are its creator, defender and enforcer. If you don’t let yourself think that you have writer’s block then you won’t have it. You have that power. I know you do. Know why? Anything you create, you can destroy. Writer’s block is an excuse your mind uses to escape the guilt of feeling afraid of writing or some other part of the writing process. It’s a defense that cripples you in its efforts to protect you from your  fear. It’s like the medicine that cures stomach pain, but have as side affects breathing pains, heart disease and death. It’s just not worth it, but so many of us, myself included, continue to inflict this horrid disease on ourselves. We sabotage our own efforts.

But we can stop writer’s block. We can beat it by remembering one simple fact: we are creative.

I know what you’ll probably say. “But… but Matt, I can’t be creative! I have such horrible writer’s block I just can’t break out of it! I need to stop trying to write for a week or two, and then come back and try to pick up where I left off.”

Don’t give me that crap. Come back from your vacation to Serialprocrastionville. Get off the bed. Sit in your work chair at the computer and write. “I’m just not able to be creative right now!” Honestly, cut the crap.

Listen to me, you are always creative. You are more than likely a human being. Human beings have this amazing body part called a brain. The human brain is a pretty miraculous machine, and trust me when I say there is no moment in your life when you are not being creative. Here’s why I know this:

1. How many of you have ever written a letter to a grandparent? How about an email to a friend? A tweet? That Facebook status you just had to share with everyone about how depressing it is that your mother wouldn’t let you get your significant other’s name tattooed onto your body? Guess what. Creativity! Every time you write anything with words at all you are being creative. You have to use creativity to form sentences from words and paragraphs from sentences. They don’t form themselves. They have to be created by you and your wonderful brain. So if you can string words together at all, then you are creative. It’s amazing how many of us, again myself included, forget this. How do you know what to say in an email to your friend? You have to use your creativity. We write things other than our stories and novels while we supposedly have been infected with “writer’s block” all the time. Something’s not right with this picture and it’s that you are creative and you can write anything you want, but you have to actually want to and you have to get over the fact that you think writing your story, novel or whatever you’re writing is any harder than writing a letter to a friend. It’s the same thing. It’s no harder. Really, it isn’t. You just think it is because it’s longer and scarier and society has conditioned you to believe writer’s block is real and that writing a novel is just about the hardest thing you can ever even imagine doing. Boo on you society. Break free, my friends. Embrace your creativity. It’s always there. Don’t give it the cold shoulder when you should embracing it!

2. Ever said anything, even a word? Creativity. Same principle as before. You have to use creativity and thought to form the words you speak. They aren’t created from a vacuum. It’s your creativity. Thought is deeply related to creativity here, by the way, because you need to have creativity to form thoughts, just like dreams and daydreamed scenes. If you can think, imagine, dream, or speak then you are creative and can write anything you want to write. So go do it.

So, how do you defend yourself against believing in writer’s block? Become like a honey badger.

The Honey badger eating an African adder snake after killing it.

The honey badger is really tough. It’s utterly fearless. It doesn’t care. There are plenty of youtube videos about them and their badassery. They just don’t take anything’s crap. You have to become a honey badger in the face of writer’s block. Trust me, writer’s block will cower before your intense ferocity and general toughness.

For more information about the honey badger watch this Vlogbrother’s video: http://youtu.be/x9Jr9JKpsX8

I hope this post has helped you. I know that it has been something I have been wanting to write for a while, I just hadn’t taken my own advice in the post sat down and written it, which is why I say this post was written for myself as much as for all of you. Also it’s helpful for writing my WIP.

Anyway, I’ve said enough for now.

Have a wonderful day everyone and DFTBA!

Matt

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A wonderful, inspirational post about the nature of the universe and the Christian God or rather the idea of a benevolent Supreme Being.

The Responsive Universe

 

We live on a unique planet of modest size, orbiting an average star in a galaxy that contains several billion other stars. Further, littered across the vast Cosmos are billions of other galaxies home to billions more stars.

Everything tangible and intangible in the Cosmos is made of energy. Everything seen and unseen within this grand Universe is composed of particles and waves of light that are interconnected.

A Universe boundless in periphery; its energy and form immeasurable; everything connected at the sub-atomic level weaves this complex tapestry that is everything.

Despite the immensity of the Cosmos; despite the far-reaching realm of space and time, there is a connective quality to all that exists. Everything is linked to this responsive field of energy. It is here in the quantum Universe that actions create reactions and energy can’t be destroyed, it simply changes form. In an interstellar dominion of noble…

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Bits of Stardust

Today I’d like to share with you a short story I wrote for my girlfriend around Valentine’s Day. I hope you like it, so let me know what you think!

Bits of Stardust
Her leg twitched slightly, brushing up against his. His hand rose and fell with her stomach, the cotton fibers an ocean of purple on which his palm floated. Her arm twitched again and punched his bicep involuntarily. She was a boxer in her sleep. He grinned at the sweet look on her face, her eyes fluttering wildly under the lids and her mouth slightly open. Her body expelled a cloud of deadly carbon dioxide gas through her jungle of bed head hair. His hand sunk into the ocean as her stomach dove.
His body rarely allowed him to sleep in late nowadays. He had woken near dawn, but could not bring himself to wake her. He had contented himself to lie beside her, she in his arms and him in hers.
The fabric of her pajamas ran across leg again, pushing aside his and grazing his leg hairs. He clenched his teeth and desperately tried to keep himself from crying out with laughter and flailing his whole body. He did not want to wake her. He tensed his body until the tickling stopped. God, why did he have to be so ticklish?
His other arm rested behind her head, his fingers just inches from her neck. They begged him to give them free reign on the open fields of skin. He reluctantly held them back, secretly longing to touch her soft skin. Caress the skin, the tiny hairs she hates to admit cover her body. Treat her as if God himself handcrafted her body and gave her to him to keep safe and unblemished. Make love to her skin with his hand.
The pressure of her body on his arm’s arteries caused his arm to scream for air. How could he remove his arm without disturbing her? Carefully, he slipped his arm free of its prison. Inch by inch, more of his arm cried out in thanks as it began to breathe freely again.
He was almost free, his wrist sliding through the tunnel of neck and pillow, when a piece of dust flew up his nose. Pressure built in his nasal cavity. His hand jerked slightly as he plugged his nose with the other. She stirred. For a moment, he sat there, heart pounding like a drum solo. She sighed. He took a short breath. She rolled over onto her side and off his hand. The sneeze faded away.
The boy sat with his book of blank pages and began to write. He wrote every day. Otherwise, his work would never be finished, and would still be unfinished when he returned to the dust of stars that made him.
After finishing, he gazed back over to her, peaceful and quiet. He saw the love in the look of her closed eyes.
He felt the familiar twinge in his chest. He had a headache.
He grabbed a cup and filled it with water from the bathroom sink. He brought it back and stood by the bed. A single ray of morning sunlight broke through the window shades. It crawled up the side of her head, just barely walking across her face. He held the cup too loosely in his hand and water spilled over the edge, onto her shoulder, chest and neck. He froze.
Her eyes blinked open once, twice, three times before she turned and saw him. A smile made of granny-smith apples and maple syrup played across her face.
“I’m so sorry,” he said. She grabbed him by the collar and pulled him to her lips.
Women in charge were hot.
**
Dust and boxes, that’s all that was in the attic. Her cat meowed at the door. The girl, crippled by time’s embrace as she now was, opened the door to the room of forgotten memories. “What’s in here, Beethoven?”
The cat waltzed into the room as if he owned the place. He ran to a stack of boxes and began to rub his side against one of them. The woman reached for the box, but her hand shook with the effort and the box fell to the ground. “Beethoven, look at what you’ve made me do,” she said sarcastically. She bent to pick up the box, but stopped when Beethoven meowed again, impatiently.
The cat jumped into the hole between the boxes. “Beethoven!” She tried to move some of the boxes to get to the cat, but he jumped back out, an old book clasped in his mouth. “You nearly gave me a heart attack, silly cat!” Beethoven dropped the book at her feet and purred proudly.
The woman picked up the book. She had never seen it before. Curious, she opened to the first page. She recognized the meticulously handwritten print, though she had not seen it in many years. In her mind, she read his words in his deep, slow voice.
“Love is a story of two. Two actors perform on a stage, for all to see, but never know. Two members sit in the audience, whose minds’ council never uttered. No one else can understand their love story. They only see a shadow playing across their eyes and guess at its wonders. For the story contains no words, no great epics nor ballads, only memories of lost moments in a sea of emotion and forgotten dreams. Such is life; life, the story of love.”
The woman sat and read his thoughts from days in their youth, until they parted and he wrote on alone, but always for her. She read without pause, until the final page and the final passage.
“I grow weary, love, though I have enjoyed sharing our memories with you. I can barely write now, I must be growing old. Keep this book of no words. I wrote it for you, us, our memories. I’m moving to a new place soon. It’s considerably smaller than my apartment, but it’s in the country and there’s acres of grass for us to lay in. I would really like to see you. I know many leagues and years separate us, but I would like to see you again. I have missed you all these years.”
The woman choked on her own tears. She had seen him, many times in the past years; the first time on a trip to see her mother.
**
Hours later she knelt by his home. His tomb was not made of marble or gold, but of earth and the dust of stars. She laid a bit of mistletoe on the stone above him, mistletoe he had given her as a Christmas present so many lifetimes ago.
“Oh, look, love,” she said, “mistletoe.” She bent and kissed him, sucking on his lips until they were red and bruised.
She read the engraving at the bottom of the stone, which he wrote in a notebook of words he never meant to publish. “There is no life in this universe but that of stars, and we, in all our wanderings and pains, are no exception. We are all, every atom, every molecule, and every soul, not but stardust shining in the void of space, and some shine brighter than us all; glittering in every atom there ever was or ever shall be.”
She rose and atoms coalesced around her, embracing her, kissing her, making love to her skin. She melted into his fingers again. Two stars, made one, shining brighter than all the rest. No one but the universe saw them, and no else could understand.

© 2012 Matthew Elkin

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A very funny post with ideas for a fun stag Valentine’s Day.

Reasonably Ludicrous

A handy list of Do’s an Don’t’s!

DO

Wander around your apartment in your underwear. Or, if you’re feeling ‘ballsy,’ completely naked! Your girlfriend was the one who always wanted you to “put some clothes on, for god’s sake.” You thought that was counterproductive–she was just going to take them off anyway! Well now’s your chance to feel those hard-to-reach spots get caressed by the winds of freedom rather than by someone who demands you come to every single one of her interpretive dance recitals. Enjoy it!

DO

Watch at least 5 episodes of Entourage or any other show that makes relationships look worthless and singleness seem awesome. Don’t you want to be those guys? Well, if you were dating, you couldn’t be.

DON’T

Watch The Notebook or Love, Actually, or anything that’s not about rampant casual sex or a lot of killing. Be careful. In some of those movies…

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A Belated Valentine’s Day Gift

Happy belated Valentine’s Day everyone!

Yes I know I’m a bit late, sorry. I have a rather long research paper and, of course, I had to celebrate Valentine’s Day with my girlfriend.

I have some mixed feelings about Valentine’s Day.

On the one hand, Valentine’s Day is a wonderful holiday that celebrates a wonderful emotion: love. On the other, it has been hijacked by the capitalist system to squeeze money out of people who think they have to buy their significant other gifts to make them happy. Trust me, if that’s true, you should not be celebrating Valentine’s Day with that person.

Also, why only one day a year for the celebration of love? Doesn’t love deserve at least two or three days? Doesn’t love deserve to be celebrated every day? Maybe it is by some people, but others seem to to think it should not be. There is more than one kind of love, my friends. Romantic love is great, but friendship and family love are just as important, perhaps even more important in the long run.

You are all my friends, my readers, and friendship is a necessary component to human life, at least for me. So thank you.

All human beings are brothers and sisters. We are all human. It’s important to remember that, and remember to love everyone, even those who do not love you back because they are the ones who need your love the most. Love the ones that no one else does, who live life without knowing love, because they deserve it the most. Every day should be Valentine’s Day (and I’m not trying to wiggle out of not posting on Valentine’s Day, promise)

As a thank you and a belated Valentine’s Day present for you writers out there who may need some inspiration and a kick in the pants to get going, I’m going to send you to a great site for writers. More specifically to the page that tells you how to download the site owner’s Writer’s Manifesto. Simply put, it is the best eye-opener I have ever read for getting started with my writing, and it’s short and to the point. So please check it out here: http://goinswriter.com/writers-manifesto/

This post was inspired by this post on a new blog, Pandemic Love: http://thelovepandemic.wordpress.com/2012/02/14/every-love-day-instead-of-valentines-day/

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