Volume 1, Number 3
Help Will Come from On High

Now my looks have I lifted aloft to the gods: help will come from on high, from all the Aesir which in shall come... "

The words are Óđinn's as he sits bound between two fires in Geirrśth's hall in Grímnismál, following his offer to those in the hall, "Ull will befriend him, and all the gods, who first the fire quenches" Help arrives in the form of the norns, who Óđinn tells Geirrśth are angry, identifies himself, and exclaims that Geirrśth will soon be drinking in Ygg's hall having lost the favor of Óđinn who has been his patron deity. The king stumbles as he rushes to release Óđinn and falls on his sword, fated to die as a result of his lack of hospitality and ignorance.

Thomas DuBois, in Nordic Religions in the Viking Age,
summarizes the Old Norse view of the gods, "The dominant astral gods of all Nordic pre-Christian religions evidence similar, widespread characteristics and fall into several recurrent categories. They reside in an upper world much parallel to the world of humans and connected to it by a route represented as a rainbow, a pole, a tree, or the Milky Way. This bridge is traversed by gods, ritual specialists, and the souls of the dead. The male gods are often depicted as powerful chieftains or rulers, such as the Scandinavian Óđinn, Týr, or Freyr… They are engaged in the shaping of the world, the fighting of cosmic battles, the ordering of human society, the control of weather, and the impregnation of the earth." But more, they are friends of mankind.

Du Bois gives examples of the relationship between men and the gods and goddesses and provides an explanation of the Old Norse term, fulltrúi, as "a deity with whom an individual enjoyed an especially warm or confident relation." The word means literally, fully trusted, someone who one has complete faith in. The faith in even one's fulltrúi is not one of submission and humility, but one of reciprocity, honor and trust. In Víga-Glúm saga we find ţorkell offering an ox to Freyr and the words of his prayer reveal this confident and comfortable relationship. "Freyr, you have long been my fulltrúi and have received many gifts from me and have rewarded them well…"

The importance of sacrifice or offerings as part of an expectation of receiving help echoes the wisdom and advice of the Hávamál. There it is clear that gifts are necessary to friendship as well as less congenial relationships, but of most importance between those who one can trust and who will offer aid, and as it is with men, so it is with our relationships with the gods. The relationship between sacrifice and an expectation of help is also found in the Edda, in the exchange between Svidag and Fjorlsvith in the Svipdagsmál concerning Lyfja Mount and the supernatural women who dwell there with Mengloth who is often identified as Freya.

Svipdag said, "Tell me, Fjolsvith, for I fain would know; answered thou as I ask; do they help award to their worshippers if need of help they have?" Fjolsvith said, "Ay they help award to their worshippers, in hallowed stead if they stand; there is never a need that neareth a man, but they lend a helping hand."

Even though we may receive aid or a helping hand during a time of need from the gods without sacrificing we should show appreciation for such help afterwards, in the form of sacrifice and friendship with them. We can perhaps apply the advice of the Hávamál that it is not necessary to give a large gift, even the small things can be of value, particularly when shared or offered often. Excess is something to be avoided, whether in offerings or in the things asked for.
Betra er óbeđit
It is better not to offer,
en sé ofblótit
than to offer over much,
ey sér til gildis gjöf
a gift always looks for a gift,
betra er ósent
it is better that it be not sent
en sé ofsóit
than over sent.
It is the simple things that are most appreciated by the gods and the many spirits that inhabit our lives. A bowl of oatmeal with a pat of butter; a libation of mead and bread; possessions and even money are all appropriate. Our time spent on the behalf of gods and others is also an important sacrifice. We offer, not just because we want help, but out of friendship, but are assured that when we do sacrifice that help will be forthcoming.

[1] The Poetic Edda, translated by Lee M. Hollander, University of Texas.
[2] DuBois, Thomas A, Nordic Religions in the Viking Age, University of Pennsylvania Press, 1999, pg. 54.

© 2001 Susan Granquist - Published by the Irminsul Ćttir - All rights reserved.

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