The Elements of Man
The first three Gods created humans from the organic matter of trees, then each infused them with their own personal gifts. These gifts are inherent in every human being, and we believe that other peoples were given the same capabilities by their respective deities. Our Gods come to the pristine, virgin earth they had just created and decided to populate it with men and women who looked like them and who had the potential for greatness through the capabilities placed into them. From our creation came our very own orlog or destiny, placing us under the Norns' decrees, for the web they weave connects us all and manifests the karmic responses or consequences of our behavior. Each element given to us has a specific purpose in our existence, and should be viewed as beyond the earthly or organic matter of our bodies. No doubt, the vast complexity of the human body, working in perfect balance with each system meant to make it function (cardiovascular, respiratory, digestive, sensory, etc.), is to be seen as the amazing, wondrous design of Gods who could create such a mechanism from organic matter. But their gifts, the divine elements innate within us, are those items that form everything that we are as individuals- our identity, our spirituality, our consciousness, our genetics, etc. After the initial creation the process was continues through procreation, and each gift would be passed down to every generation, even to today. The lore states that these gifts are personally given to each individual child by the deities of childbirth, which may relate to our relation to the Gods through the act of procreation and through the Spiritual Collective.
Here are the elements of humankind:
Lik or Likami : This is the body, the actual organic material we are made up of. According to our lore, this was designed and created by our Gods, and is thus separate from the primal creation initiated by the Spirit element. It is interesting to note from the idea that we were created from trees thast we humans share with them many elemental compounds, including carbon, hydrogen, nitrogen, oxygen, iron, phosphorous, and potassium. In the ancient kennings humans are often associated with trees, such as when the warrior is called “Oak-of-battle” (LII.13), men are called “fjord-trees” (XXXII.13). Because plants and trees became food and healing agents for men, it would only be logical for our ancestors to conclude that this symbiotic relationship denotes one’s origins from the other.
It should be recognized that the Old Norse word lik or Old English lich, meaning ‘body’, also means ‘healer’, ‘doctor’, and its later form is leech. That this term is also applied to a parasitic bloodsucker comes from the fact that they have been used as an anti-coagulant in medicine since ancient times and continue to be used as such today. At the same time the practice of medicine is called leechdom. In the rune poems of our lore Odin states that the second rune he discovered is that which “the sons of men require who will live as healers [or leeches, to be more exact]” (V.13) and Hild explains that “Limrunar [“Limb-Runes”] you must know, if you would be a leech, and would know how to heal wounds. They must be risted on the bark and on the leaves of trees, of those whose boughs bend eastward” (LII.19). Thus we see that our ancestors saw this relationship between the healing power of trees in connection with the Gods creating us from them.
Ond: We have already discussed the spirit or ond and its role in the creation of the Gods, but now it is to be given to man as the first gift of Burr's sons. We are told in the lore that "Odin gave [man] a living spirit, called ond, and that will never die, even if the body rots to dust or burns to ashes." (V.2). Odin and his brothers were born from parents made from the primal elements, but Odin is able to breathe this most important element into us because he has drunk from Mimir's fountain, which empowered him with Spirit in a way that makes him highest of the Gods (i.e. strongest among the spiritual collective) and thus capable of imbuing this element into humans. In return for this, we use his gift in prayer, in thanks for the very thing that allows us to speak by using the breath and words to praise our All-Father with the very element he gave us for this exact purpose. He uses words and breath in the same way to answer our prayers, for it is said that "with words alone, through the powers of Mimir's runes he can quench fire, still the ocean in tempest, and turn the wind to any quarter he desires" (V.43). We also use the ond in meditation with the control of the breath and chanting the Galdur, as Odin does in his capacity as Galdrafodr, "Galdur Father", and Omi, 'He who makes beautiful sounds', and when he spiritually shape- shifts while "his body lies as if dead, or alseep" (V.43). All songs, chants, and communication comes from the breath, and this gift, along with the runes that are the characters of language, is of such a high degree that it distinguishes humans from all other life-forms on earth.
That the spirit element flows through us and thus makes us a part of its collective is shown through our own creative impulse. The Gods do not create galaxies and worlds and flora and fauna out of passing whims or some desire to be worshiped. They create because they have to, just as we do. As a part of the Spirit element, which in its creative aspect continuously seeks convergence, we need to design, build, create, and continue the progress of our technological advancement. This makes artistry, progress, and innovation spiritual practices. These are not things we choose to do, even though we may hoose which piece of the puzzle we will be a part of, for the urge to create is innate within all of us. This is because the creative element of spirit is within us and drives us with the same tendencies that brought about the ordered cosmos.
At the same time, there is the other side of spirit that drives us towards entropy, leading to destruction and eventually chaos. Although we usually tend to view this as negative and even evil, such isn't always the case. Sometimes something needs to be destroyed because it is no longer effective or it has been corrupted, so the spirit must be both destructive and creative. The old must make way for the new, and justice must prevail, so there will be times when we have to destroy in order to restore balance. In the earliest age the spirit's powers of convergence were dominant, while in the final age it will be entropy that will win out in order for a new cycle to begin. In the same way humans and even Gods have both a creative and destructive nature, as with everything else in the universe. From this comes an elevation in the symbolism of our lore, for no longer is there simply a struggle between Gods and Giants for dominance over the elements, but now comes the desire for each side to influence the heart of man. The old Gods were brutish and crude, pure symbols of force that attacked straight on with their negative powers of destructive lightning, whirlwinds, hurricanes, tidal waves, etc. Now comes the new Giants, namely Loki and Gullveig, who are as intelligent in their destructive natures as the Gods are in their creative. They scheme and plot and manipulate their way into the human consciousness in order to hasten the day when the powers of chaos would again rule over the worlds, however briefly. We will discuss his further in a later chapter.
Odr: This is Hoenir's gift, which signifies the 'soul' or possibly 'consciousness', and is basically our ability to think and reason. We can consider this to be the rational, conscious, left side of the brain, whereas Odin's gift would refer to the abstract, subconscious, right side. From the Odr comes both thought and memory (Huginn - 'Thought', and Muninn - 'Memory' are the names of Odin's ravens and companions, just as Hoenir is Odin's brother, co-creator of men, and companion on many of his adventures), as well as ego, fancy, and will. Any aspect of the rational, thinking mind is manifested by the Odr, which is probably why the word forms the kernel of Odin's name, for he is the God of inspiration and wisdom. But Hoenir gives the gift of odr because he is the representative of the Water element, which is always moving and flowing, as do our thought patterns.
In one story Odin, Hoenir, and Loki face Volund-Thjazi in the form of an eagle when they wish to cook a reindeer in an earth-oven. But Volund tells them that the meat will not cook unless one of them blows on the fire. It is then Hoenir who does this to cook the meat. Why? Because all three elements must come into play -- Hoenir = water, his breath is Air/Spirit, which he blows onto the Fire, to create a meal. This would relate in the same way to what we saw in the correlation of humans and trees above where sustenance and creation are closely united. The Gods are sustained on the elements they are made from (which came together in the sacrificial meals), as we are healed and fed by the fruits and limbs of trees. Something to keep in mind when we perform ceremonies to our Gods and Goddesses. However, at the same time, we can see the conscious mind (Hoenir's odr) and the spiritual, subconscious mind (Odin's ond) being employed to create a sacred feast in this story. Always keep in mind that whenever we find the Gods enjoying meals in the lore that this always refers to sacrifices made to them.
We must remember that the principal symbol of wisdom and intelligence in our faith is mead, a liquid. This wisdom can be either rational or spiritual, but in either case Hoenir represents the liquid as the first patron of the Water element. This may be why he is considered the priest or godi among the Gods, "the one who is able to choose the lot-wood" (V. 1, LIII. 88), and his other name, Ve, designates a sacred enclosure. The mead is the most important offering in the blot, and it may be recalled that in ancient Indo-European practices this was libated into the sacred fire while liturgical hymns were recited over it (e.g. Rig Veda Bk. 3. XXVIII). This completes the Water/Fire/Breath-Spirit connection. When we then relate the mead (taken in moderation, of course) to the conscious, rational mind or odr, we can see the vital role the drink plays in our faith. Its intoxicating nature can aid one in making the switch from left-brain odr to the right-brain ond and back, this making it a vessel for our spiritual practices. The fact that moderate usage of some alcoholic beverages has been proven to have several medical benefits also shows why we would view the mead as sacred and helpful to us. As long as we never fall into the downward spiral of alcoholism, which Odin warns us against (LXXX. 18-19, 24), we can use the mead properly in our blots and other services.
La with Laeti: This is the first of Lodur's gifts, which signifies "Blood with Motion," and could be considered the only material gift from Burr's sons. As Odin represents Spirit/Air and gave us ond, and Hoenir represents Water with the odr, here Lodur 'The Fire Producer' gives us elements that relate to his nature. Blood, while a liquid, is regarded as that which gives us the heat of our bodies, hence the term 'hot-blooded' and the relation to blood with the heat of passion. When combined with motion, which we have seen is the energy of fire made manifest, the correlation is easy to make. There may be some reference here to the sexual act as well, especially when we consider that Lodur is the God of the holy friction-fire, the Needfire, where a hard wood bores into a soft wood to create flame, an obvious sexual symbol. This relation to sex and procreation should be considered when we think of the blood as our genetics and heritage, which are so pivotal to Odinic beliefs. Thus, La with laeti brings with it desire and passion, the need for men and women to unite sexually, to have children and build families that continue the family line. Because you need sex to have families, and family is so important to us, it is only natural that we would view sex as as sacred and beautiful rather than something to be suppressed and reviled.
The fires of life burn within us all through our blood, driven by our minds (odr), and our hearts (ond) to create or destroy, but always to progress in one way or another. When we procreate we converge these elements to perform the holy, divine act of creating life. This is the power of the Gods and of the Spirit flowing through us. As we progress on our particular path this Spirit will either help us to grow and evolve, or it will harm or destroy us, whence we can be reborn. The children we have can then be affected by this in either a positive or a negative fashion, as the cycle continues moving forward. This is the 'motion' of life.Beyond this, 'blood' and 'motion' also relate to our senses, for we are told that Lodur's gift brings the first couple "form, speech, hearing, and sight" (XIX. 3). Each of these can, in one way or another, be related to the movement of the blood, while speech combines Odin's 'breath' element with the ability to move one's mouth. So, in more common terms we can say that Odin gave us our subconscious, Hoenir our consciousness, and Lodur our senses. Combined, all three of these gifts confer upon us a sense of perception and self-reflection that makes us human. It should also be noted that when we examine each of these phenomena within the human body they consist of electric pulses or energies that flow through a complex network of nerves and brain matter. Remember that the first law of thermodynamics states that energy cannot be created or destroyed, so if these energies carry with them our entire state of being, there is no doubt that we will continue to live after we move on from this life. While the lore states that "The earthly death consists of the earthly matter, the la and the lik, being separated from their higher elements" (XXIV. 9) there is no doubt that some stamp of our genetic inheritance would remain with us, so Lodur's gift would live on. Then, what we left behind on Midgard would live on in our descendants, who were propagated due to the la with laeti in the first place.
Litr Goda: If the body is the vessel for our internal organs, the litr goda or 'image of the Gods' is the vessel for our inner spiritual gifts. In the lore it is said that the litr can be exchanged with another without exchanging the other divine elements, thus changing appearances. The phenomenon is called skipta litum "exchanging of the litr." It is therefore an inner body that affects the outer, and after we die it becomes the form the dead fare to their next life in. That this gift would also come from Lodur may have something to do with stories or actual witnessing of 'ghost' phenomena, which would be a manifestation of the litr goda. If such entities do exist, the images of them from time immemorial appear to be in some type of energy state, which we would equate with the Fire element. It is likely that when we see them in our world that this is a remnant of the bioradiation that we perceive as the 'spirit,' which contains the other divine gifts as the deceased prepares to move on. In any case, that the litr would be given to us by Lodur 'The Fire Producer' is certainly fitting.
This also provides us with more evidence of our genetic link with the Gods of our people. If we are made in the 'image of the Gods,' then we must discern exactly what that image is. Since Odin is father of Thor who in some tales is viewed as red-haired or red-bearded (Raudskegg), while in others it is said that "his hair is more beautiful than gold" (XVI. 7) and Baldur, of whom it is said that "one plant is so white that it is likened to Baldur's brow. It is the whitest of all plants, and from this you can judge the beauty of both his hair and his body" (XVI.8), we can thus only conclude that the father of our folk and his brothers made us in the image that we know today as Nordic or Northern European. This is further proven when we were give a link to Heimdall, 'The White God' (Hviti As, XX. 105, XXXIII. 16, XLV. 14), when he blessed the sexual unions of the progenitors of the three classes (Thralls, Karls, and Jarls) with his divine presence. So it makes sense that our ancestors traced their genealogy straight back to Odin, since he is our father and creator who made us in his image using the gifts of his brother, Lodur. From this came the Indo-European people.
It is well known that the human body, like all living organisms, is made up of many different elements that work cohesively to continue the life of each being. Just as the universe contains a Spiritual Collective, so do we have millions of tiny organisms inside each of us, each with their own spirits, that constitute the collective that is ourselves. These organisms form a synergetic whole that can only be a part of some greater intelligence (i.e. the universal collective), since each is encoded with the exact information to keep us alive. Only through healthy, spiritual living can we strengthen our inner selves, as well as our connection to the great collective that exists throughout the cosmos. Since we view this as a gift from the Gods, we use our religion as a tool to build this connection, which is, in part, regarded as a familial relationship with the deities of our folk. As the lore tells us, "all serve [Odin] as children do their father" (V. 2).