Sacred Texts  Legends/Sagas  Celtic  Iceland  Index  Previous  Next 

ODIN'S BOOTY. THEFT OF THE HOLY MEAD.<br> (¼ actual size.)
Click to enlarge

(¼ actual size.)

p. 17



My first illustration 1 (fig. 1, p. 16) is from the handsome cross on the steps at Michael Church gates. The inscription recites that "Joalf, son of Thorulf the Red, raised this cross after Fritha, his mother." On one face, above the head of the cross, we find the figures of two birds flying--an eagle chasing a falcon; referring, I suggest, to Odin's adventure in the recovery of the Holy Mead--the Soma-draught, source of Inspiration and Poetry.

Once, in order to commemorate a treaty between the Anses and the Vanir, a being was formed by them in the shape of a man called Quasi, who was so wise there was nothing he could not unfold. Certain Dwarves--Fealar and Galar--treacherously slew him and let his blood run into a kettle or cauldron--Odrearer (spirit raiser)--and two cups--Soma and Bodn. They mixed honey with it, and so brewed the sacred drink--origin of Poetry and of Wisdom. Long afterwards these Dwarfs, by way of sport, drowned a Giant named Gilling by upsetting a boat, and afterwards let fall a millstone on the head of his wife because, they said, "her shrieking was most horrible to hear! "When their son, Suftung, heard these tidings, he caught the Dwarves and set them on a reef the tide ran over. Then, for weregild, they offered the precious mead, which

p. 18

was accepted, and the Giants kept it for ages in the centre of a mountain. At last, Odin, under the name of Bale-work, in order to procure the precious drink, took service under the Giant Baugi, Suftung's brother, asking only for one draught of the mead as his wage. At the end of the term they sought Suftung, who denied them even a drop. So Odin gave Baugi an auger, and told him to bore through the hill, and so he did. Then Balework turned himself into a serpent and crept through, but Baugi treacherously stabbed at him with the auger, missing him, however. Now Gundfled, Suftung's daughter, kept the mead in the centre of the hill. Odin made friends and persuaded her to let him have three draughts of it. He drank it all up, and, returning to the surface took on him his falcon's coat and flew away as hard as he could. But Suftung spied him and, taking his eagle skin, flew after him. When the Anses saw Odin coming, they set vessels out in the court, and, as soon as he got to Asgard he threw up the mead into the vessels. So Poesy is called Odin's booty or find, his drink or gift.


17:1 In describing the carvings, I feel bound to follow the usual custom of speaking of "right" and "left," as viewed by the spectator, not as it really is on the stone. I think it wrong, but to do otherwise in a small pamphlet dealing only with local sculptures would but cause needless confusion!

Next: II.--Odin Carries the Hero to Valhall