Bodies Become Stars

Bodies become stars: numinous transformation of physical damage in Heathen cosmology

This study is grounded in the recognition of a pattern in Old Norse mythology where figures lose a body-part but gain a positive responding power. The classic example is Óðinn giving his eye for wisdom. The introductory section deals with previous scholarship that attempts to understand Old Norse cosmology, from a thorough discussion of current methods, models and theories I define several parameters that allow a study of a complex body of religious stories. Having established a ground for discourse, my analysis section lists a number of major instances of body-damage in the myths and interprets these events in emic terms. My observation is that there are several variations of a transformatory pattern of physical to spiritual. There are two main appearances of this motif. Firstly; fólginn– an emic concept of physical loss which leads to a change in the soul-types (hugr, hamr) of the individual. Secondly; transpersonal empowerment- whereby physical damage of one individual gives power (megin) to another individual. Finally, I conclude that there are several possibilities in which this religious language could be expressed in Old Norse cosmology, and that fundamentally it serves as a means to understand communication between the material and the numinous.

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