The Norse heaven of Valhalla is a place for feasting. But what would you expect to have if you go there?
If you’re in Valhalla, I hope you like pork. Every night the cook Andhrímnir slaughters and serves up the boar
Sæhrímnir. He feeds the meat to the assembled Aesir gods and goddesses and to all of the Einherjar, those warriors whose bravery has earned them a place in heaven. Every morning the boar comes back to life and is served up all over again at that night’s dinner. There is a bit of confusion as to whether or not Sæhrímnir is a boar. Although the sagas mention him as a boar, his name translates more along the lines of “sooty sea-beast.” So this is a bit unclear. It is also unclear how Sæhrímnir feels about being the main course every single night.
The Norse love their mead (fermented honey for those of you who don’t know.) and you certainly need something to wash down all of that boar meat. Luckily for the Einherjar they have an unlimited source of mead – it comes from a goat. Yes, a goat. For whatever reason, the gods created a magical goat that produces mead instead of milk. This is just one goat that we’re talking about here and it supplies enough mead that all of the hundreds of warriors in Valhalla are able to drink their fill every night. That is one magical goat.
Mead of Poetry
You say you don’t want mead that comes from a goat? There is other mead available in Asgard – the Mead of Poetry. This particular stuff turns anyone who drinks it into a poet or a scholar. Pretty good, right? Except it is made from the blood of a man named Kvasir. At the end of the war between the Aesir and Vanir, they created a man named Kvasir as a symbol of the truce between the two groups of gods. He was a wise man, so wise that he could answer any question. One day he was visiting a couple of Dwarves. For reasons unclear to me the Dwarves killed him and used his blood to make some mead. The mead was taken from the Dwarves by a giant (The Dwarves were a pretty nasty pair and totally deserved it.) Odin himself eventually tricked the giant out of the mead, bringing it to Asgard where it was shared with the gods and goddesses and poets.
We’re talking about the gods of Norse mythology so you know there has to be a catch. This can’t be plain old water we’re talking about. It isn’t. Beneath one of the roots of the World Tree Yggdrasil, lies a well called Mimisbrunnr. The well contains “wisdom and intelligence.” It also is reported to contain Odin’s missing eye. Odin came to Mimir, the god who guards the Well of Knowledge and asked if he might drink from the well. Mimir said he could, if he was willing to sacrifice one of his eyes. Odin agreed and is reported to have been satisfied with the bargain.
Idun’s Golden Apples
An apple a day keeps the doctor away, unless the apples comes from the Norse goddess Idun – her apples keep old age away. The Norse gods were not immortal and needed this fruit to survive. Once, when Idun was taken away from Asgard the gods started to turn gray and wither until she and her apples were brought back. Although our picture shows the apples in a basket, Idun was said to keep them in a special box made out of ash wood.
I hope you’re enjoying this series on Norse mythology. If there’s any subject you’d like to hear about, let me know and I’ll see what I can do. You can also check out the other entries in this series.