Epic Weekend 2012

Some time since writing, and one thing that has occupied much of my time and thought was preparing for and enjoying the Epic Weekend in April 2012. We told the Norse Epics, and when we were done, we were very tired! Or I was anyway. But two of the tellers, Allison Cox from Vashon Island in Washington State (www.vashonislandgodlendoodles.shutterfly.com) and Nan Gregory of Vancouver, B.C.(www.cwill.bc.ca/search/member_detail/117) sat down after sleeping some and wrote open letters to the group of 25 or so tellers that had participated. I asked if I could publish them here and they graciously agreed. If you came here from SC-CC’s newsletter, Le Raconteur, by the by, I’d love it if you left a comment so we could see who used the link. Enjoy; the letters give a great sense of both being in the Epic Weekend in Vancouver, and the Norse myths told this year. My thanks to all the tellers who came, some from great distances, to tell their piece of the epic this time.

From Allison, slightly edited for clarity by me:

Hail to the Epic list!

I am still thinking WOW (wonders of wonders) about this past weekend [Vancouver Epic Weekend, Norse Myths]. All the thoughts bubbling up in memory (that old raven floating the skies of our minds) Some were questions:

Why is fire god Loki depicted [as] so creative, quick and smart but also so malevolent in such cold climates, where the heat source was so crucial to survival? Was it because their homes were often destroyed by fire? (burning and pillaging) Was it exposure to volcanic action in Scandinavia or Iceland that needed personification?

Were Loki and Thor part early Smithy gods as well – a thundering hammer and fire? If so, no wonder they were often partnered together.

Why are wolves usually considered evil in these Nordic stories? Was there such competition for food that the wolves were thought of only as raiders of stock? Maybe because the wolves are pack animals they are considered a bigger threat (or more like us). I could hardly bear to hear of the spearing of Fenrir through his jaw and snout with a sword while he already [lay] in chains. All because he was born – the gods did not yet know the role he was to play in Ragnorok. I had to remind myself these tales were about nature elementals.

And lots of thoughts and memories…

I have been telling people about the term “bone houses” and Priscilla and Doreen’s story about the gods aging when Idun and her golden apples suddenly were not around. Seldom have I felt so conflicted during a tale – wanting to laugh out loud and squirming in my seat as I recognized many of the gods ailments of age as already mine. Somehow it seemed more horrifying and hilarious that it was happening to these magnificent and superior gods.

I have been looking but I am still not clear – was Idun an Aesir who married a Vanir? Did she just grow the apples on trees in the back yard and keep them in her box to distribute to the gods? Anyone found more to her story than her kidnapping and her being Bragi’s wife?

I was drawn in by Melanie’s telling of Utgard-Loki, the magician shapeshifting king of the giants who tested his opponents’ strengths with magic but then treated them fairly for their efforts and told them truthfully how he feared them and then whisked away the entire city of giants from sight as if it had all been a dream. It reminded me of the trip to the land of giants taken by the Irish master builder and his son.

And I was struck by the details in Philomena’s, Faye’s and Rachel’s and so many of the stories when simple objects – gloves, a gate, a lock – were all given names and individual powers that went along with that given name. It is a different time from much of our experience. [Everything] that one used had to be wrought from scratch or handed down – truly these objects carried a reverence for the crafting and the power gained through continual use over time.

I loved the details of how the dwarves made the magical gifts for the Aesir – the fascination of golden hair [made of metal] that became real, the amazing boat that fit all but could be folded up in your pocket, the arm ring that birthed more arm rings every 9 days. Allice’s ending [of her story] of Loki beginning to become more twisted and dark after the humiliation and pain of his mouth sewn shut sat right with me and helped me in [my own] telling of and listening to his demise.

Along with all this wonder was a consistent harsh and brutal edge that was often hard for me to bear listening to. I would be afraid too if any of these gods came knocking at the door, because something bad seemed to happen when they did! I needed to hear Nan’s comment about how the Aesir were so distraught and blinded by their grief that more horrible atrocities were being committed – beating the giantess’ wolf to death to subdue it while she pushed Baldur’s boat/pyre off to sea, [The dwarf Thor kicked out of his way, who landed on the burning pyre with no escape and with no one caring.] I again needed to hear Nan say it “was horrible,” for it was so hard for me to keep listening, no matter how beautifully told.

[….] I thought I would never make it through all that carnage. So I want Abegael, Patricia and Traudi to know that the music helped me get through some of this pain. [It] felt like all of us rowing a great boat, pulling oars to the rhythm, and breathing with the rounds. It was hard enough when I heard about people having to eat each other, of Odin … going to meet Fenrir to be swallowed (at least there was no chewing!) but when Thor killed the serpent and shouted “all is not lost” to the gods, only to die from the serpent’s poison nine steps later, something broke in me and I wanted us to howl like wolves for all these terrible losses. Tears and wailing needed to happen, so thank you, Abegael, for your tears!

As I drove home [in Washington State], I wondered how [the] survivors went on after so much loss. How did they let go of all that grief? How did they embrace “life” and yearning for life” (the names of the two humans who hid in Yggdrasil until it was over)? It does not matter if you are alive if you no longer care to live. To remind myself again, I looked up in Wikipedia who the Poetic Eddas say the survivors were:

In the Poetic Edda poem Völuspá,
The völva sees the earth reappearing from the water, and an eagle over a waterfall hunting fish on a mountain. The surviving Æsir meet together at the field of Iðavöllr. They discuss Jörmungandr, great events of the past, and the runic alphabet. In the grass, they find the golden game pieces that the gods are described as having once happily enjoyed playing games with long ago (attested earlier in the same poem). The reemerged fields grow without needing to be sown. The gods Höðr and Baldr return from Hel and live happily together.[18]

Hod and Baldur return! I missed that entirely … and that is important to know — how they gathered together to go on…. I found the following at http://dailymythogies.wordpress.com/2011/04/11/the-gods-remaining-after-ragnarok/

I’ve always wondered why the gods that are left after the “end of the world” were the ones chosen to survive.
Lif and Leifthrasir are the two humans left – Life and Yearning for
Life. Those cannot truly die so they continue on to repopulate the earth. That makes sense.
Mjollnir, Thor’s hammer, also remains. It is thunder and lightning so it should survive to bring those to the new world.
The daughter of the sun also survives and lights the new world. That’s fairly obviously important.
Baldr is the god of beauty, fertility, light and peace. These are all qualities that should be desired in a new and better world.
Vidar is the god of silence, strength and justice. These are also desirable qualities for a new world.
Vali is associated with justice and death. Death is a necessary part of life, therefore it shouldn’t cease to exist.
Modi and Magni are the sons of Thor and save Mjollnir. They are “Anger” and “Strength.” The two of them together embody the late Thor’s qualities. This is important because Thor was a very central figure in the religion and mythology.
Hodr is the blind god of poetry. Poetry was widely valued in Norse culture surprisingly. The runes and writing were often considered magical or could bring luck – whether good or bad.

For me I think one answer to how one copes with all this is time. These stories make no pretense about how very [far] they reach back into time. I could not even entertain all these thoughts circling in my head until I got home, spent all night and all day sleeping and having amazing dreams that also continued processing all this input, and then another day to think more. No choice about whether this was coming up – it was an intense experience to hear these tales all told out loud versus taken in snippets or just close the book when it seems overwhelming. It helps that I come home to the edge of the rain forest, with such amazing green to soothe me outside my window – it is good that we choose to tell these stories in the Spring!

And to just put this down in writing I needed to read and reread Faye’s note to us:
…the important thing is that when we experience Ragnarok, we are reminded that things will begin anew. There is life and hope within the skeletal remains of whatever has happened. Hvelgemir, the stream of creative beginnings will flow again, no matter the immensity of the gap we may feel.
Of course I was also reminded that there are lots of ways to laugh, and that it is good to gather in a hall with friends old and new.

Thank the gods for that and for all of you. I am amazed at how much our shared experience has enriched my life year after year.

Finally – Here is the resource I promised to share that provided the frame tale for my story of “Ottar’s Woods”.

The Storyteller’s Goddess: Tales of the Goddess and Her Wisdom from Around the World by Carolyn McVickar Edwards

Hugs to you all!

And now from Nan, in response also lightly edited by me:

Dear Allison,

Thank you for all your deep thoughts and feelings and for taking the time to express them to us. I love what you bring to everything I’ve experienced with you, openness, love, intelligence, seeking, honesty, and a willingness to traverse pain.

Here’s me.

I slept well and woke refreshed. What I took away from our weekend was more based on us than the story. We did it, and it was wonderful. We put our hearts into our stories and prepared our heads off. Watching teller after teller pace the garden or the hall as their stories came up reminded me I’m one of a tribe and gave me courage to try. Sometimes our stories fit well, the telling shines, sometimes not so much (I still don’t know what the heck I was saying in the Conference of the Birds) [an earlier Epic Weekend was Persian myths] but it doesn’t matter to the fabric: we pick up and knit back stitches for each other.

For me the weekend was a time away from the terrors, horrors and guilt-inducing inequities of the real world. It was creation and co-operation and friendship. And when elements of the story weighed me down, I thought to myself “Hey, that’s them. Not me. And hey, guess what, I’m alive and so is the world and isn’t it a gorgeous place to be?”

Thanks to Anne and Faye for asking me to tell Loki at his worst. I loved exploring my own darkness–very cathartic it was indeed, and such a gift to express the evil of jealousy-let-loose in a way that harms no one.

So that’s me, uncharacteristically sunny . . . Maybe just a reaction to a place I didn’t want to go. Still, the place I got to is very sustaining. My heart is still shining.

I wish the same for all.

Thanks, everyone!


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