Defining the Elements
Describing the four elements as we have may lead some to think that we are heading in some ‘New Age’ direction or something like that. Nothing could be further from the truth. We are simply defining these materials as they are explained in our creation story, and how they can be presented in both realistic and spiritual terms. Because these forces are natural, as are our Gods, and not ‘supernatural,’ we can explain them in reasonable, common sense ways. The elements in their materials forms, as Water, Fire, Air, and Earth, are easy to define, and are recognized as purely natural since we interact with them on a daily basis, are subject to them, and are a part of them. If you prefer, you can classify them in more scientific terms as Liquids, Energies, Gases, and Solids.
Certainly each element can be regarded on a subatomic level, considering the various molecules that each are composed of, but this is not the point. Each of these has a specific trait that has been proven necessary in the formation and continuance of life. The great philosophers of Ancient (i.e. ‘pagan’) Greece knew this. Aristotle stated that the four elements were essential for life and all things, while Plato postulated a divine source that must have used them in the creation of the world. So, we are not going far out on a limb in recognizing them as vital within our view of the origins of the cosmic order. And when we use Water, Fire, Air and Earth in our ceremonies, this is to pay tribute to the role they have played in our existence and that of all creation.We see that ice has a prominent position in the creation story, for when it first formed the sacred mead fountain, called Hvergelmir, it became the layers upon which the first world developed, and it was the substance from which the first beings Ymir, Audhumla, and Buri were made. It is likely that the reason for this is the fact that ice is transmutable, beginning as a solid, which can be melted into a liquid (water) or evaporated into a gas (mist). The only thing it does not become is energy, which is why the flames of Sokkdalir must come from the south. After the two elements of ice and fire meet, steam and mists develop as the rime flows into Ginnungagap. Thence, in the north you have Niflheim ‘Mist-Home’ or Niflhel ‘Mist-Hel.'The only element that would be considered controversial to some is Spirit, which for us is connected to Air. We see this as a necessary force to bring the elements together, not through randomness, but through a natural, and collective, intelligence. The Spirit is a part of the natural universe and is connected to every living thing, which allows us to partake in it as a creative force. Its intelligence basically kick-starts a chain-reaction where each material builds on the other in a never-ending array of combinations, perfectly designed and perfectly instructed to strive towards higher existence. But in order for there to be a struggle, there must be an adversary or an opposing force that lets life grow through its conflict, which is the savage beauty of nature. When the Gods manifest the Spirit the results are beneficial to the order of the cosmos, when the Giants manifest it, the results are destructive and chaotic. But their conflict is necessary so that at each end of the cycle and beginning of the next a new stage of higher life develops until, supposedly, the order reached a state of perfected balance.
These same precepts can be applied to the Spirit of humans, which will be explored in the next chapter.As we continue to crack open the many underlying forces of the universe and look inside, we can only come to the conclusion that what we are seeing is something that has been designed. These weren’t random events that led to the impeccable synergy of the synapses in the human brain, or the delicate balances in ecosystems that will actually adapt and compensate for losses or additions that throw them off, or the relationship between the planets in our solar system to the sun and to each other, such as the larger Jupiter’s massive gravitational field, which protects smaller planets, including Earth, from devastating meteor strikes. These are the workings of the divine, of Gods with vast power and wisdom to manipulate all of the elements (including Spirit) and design their creation in a very real and scientific sense. We are not describing the nonsense of a ‘Genesis,’ in which some all-powerful entity blinked his eyes and in six days the universe was created; 10,000 years ago, mind you. Just as today we humans can build cities, fabricate human tissue, and actually use DNA sequences to design children, the Gods are the great scientists of the universe living on another plane of existence or perhaps another planet in this one. In the stories they never create something from nothing, but rather have to use organic materials built from the eternal elements such as Ymir’s body (which came from the primal creation) to build Midgard or Earth, and trees (which came from Ymir or possibly Yggdrasill) to fashion the first humans. None of this is at all far-fetched or fantastic when you start looking at it closely and dissect the symbolism in a reasonable sense.
So, think for a second that there are these ancient masters of cosmic manipulation, who know all the secrets of the universe when we have only begun to scratch the surface. They speak to us through poetic metaphor and allegory so that we can learn and explore the many layers of wisdom found in their stories. The very inspiration that prompted the development of this lore is thought to come directly from them. These beings created us and our world in a likeness similar to their own, for they may even be flesh and blood like us, or they could be spirits, or perhaps something else altogether. Would we not owe them some fealty for giving us the gift of life? What if all along we could communicate with them, they could hear our prayers, and will do everything they can to help their children in the battle against the forces of Chaos? They don’t have to threaten us with damnation or anything like that to get us to honor them, we simply know that this is the right thing to do.Recent science has uncovered the idea that human beings are naturally hardwired to believe in some form of divinity, but this would manifest innately as some form of polytheism or pantheism. This is because these are the ancient cultural expressions of peoples spanning across the globe, which developed from a genetic link to the Gods of their people as well as environmental factors. This spark, this bond that we have with these Gods exists within all of us, we only need to embrace them. We need to come home to the ways of our folk. The Gods and Goddesses are our parents, our Mothers and Fathers who had the intelligence and wisdom to design and create us and our worlds. Such awesome might is something we can only respect and revere, and our familial relationship with them can be seen as our true connection to the universe at large.The idea that Spirit is an all pervasive force that brings the other elements together is also recognized by some in the scientific community, albeit using different terminology. What is called the ‘morphogenic field’ by some, and ‘bioradiation’ by others are simply more technical ways of labeling the Spirit as the inner essence of all living things. They view this as an energy field wherein certain processes of transfer take place on a biological level which explains all manner of phenomena. Telepathy and psychic abilities are but mental energy exchanges on these fields, dreams manifest as actual events viewed through the fields from the one experiencing them to the dreamer, and life after death is but another energy transfer along the field to a world with a stronger one than ours.
The idea is that the field exists throughout all of nature, and like the gravitational field it is stronger or weaker depending on the planet you are located on. In viewing the afterlife we see that this acts as a catalyst for energy transfers and molecular reconstruction on various worlds. Thus, as one’s ‘thought’ transfers to another world and reconstitutes from an energetic to a material state due to the high strength of the new world’s biofield, the possibility of living after you die becomes a physical reality. Since the purpose of the field, or the creative Spirit element as we have labeled it, is to bring the other elements together, there is nothing fantastic or ‘supernatural’ about this explanation.The symbols we have seen tell a story of the beginning of our cosmos in a way that is both practical and profound. First off, we see that even the Gods are products of the natural world and are guided by the elements and by fate. Nothing in Odinism/Asatru is ‘supernatural,’ for even the elements themselves are a part of nature and keep the great cosmic orders moving along its natural cycles. The Gods are the purest manifestation of the Spirit element in its role in creating life, just as the Giants represent its destructive aspect.
Sometimes something must be destroyed in order for something better to be built in its place. The nature of our Gods is inherently good. Not ‘perfect’ (which is an absurd impossibility), but good and real. And that is the only way we would have it. How could any deity know and understand the trials we humans face if they lived in some fantastical utopian state some would call ‘perfect’? Isn’t ‘perfection’ a subjective idea in the first place, so there would be no way of determining whether or not something had truly attained such a state? And if Gods are perfect, why is their creation filled with so much suffering and pain and sorrow? As our work progresses we will continue to examine these concepts and look further into how we would answer these questions.The creation story of the Odinic faith delineates an event that is based upon natural observations coupled with poetic metaphor and religious belief.
The elements reveal themselves in Ginnungagap, then obtain stability in the three mead fountains which form and sustain Yggdrasill, the World Tree; then they give birth to the first Giant, then the first animal, then the first God. The Gods then become the great force for good and order, while the Giants always harbor their chaotic dispositions. At first they maintain a peaceful balance through an alliance, but eventually the struggle over the dominance of the elements comes about, which includes control over the Spirit of man. The Norns have risen out of the sea of Urdarbrunn to weave the fates of all beings. The heavens are established and the first form of technology is built in the form of a Giant Mill. Our ancestors knew well what is needed for life to begin and then evolve, and they expressed this in their poetic wisdom. The stage has been set, the clock is now ticking, and the cycle begins to move through the ages until this current era ends and a new one begins.
Odisbook: The Book of Odr