He is the boar of plenty, the beast of sustenance that feeds the warriors in Vahall. This boar is a sacred animal representing two of the most revered aspects of any religious belief: the sacred feast and regeneration. Here is what is stated in The Odinist Edda about Saehrimnir (XXV.7, using Grímnismál 18, Gylfaginning 38, Gunnars Slagr 23):
“There will never be such a large number in Valhall that the meat of the boar Saehrimnir will not be sufficient for them. It is cooked each day and is whole again by evening. The cook is called Andhrimnir and the pot Eldhrimnir. By Andhrimnir, in Eldhrimnir, is Saehrimnir boiled, the best of meats; but few know what the Einherjar eat. The heroes abide in the vast Valhall, drink of costly cups with the Aesir, and are sated with Saehrimnir at Odin’s feast.”
Within this passage lies the phrase “en þat fair vitu, víð hvat einherjar alask,” or “but few know what the einherjar eat.” This leads us to the conclusion that we are seeing some sort of riddle that can be deciphered. Using the etymology of the word -hrimnir, which can mean either “rime,” “hoarfrost,” or “sooty,” we can somewhat understand the riddle. But this can only come about if we reject the academic choice of “sooty” as the defining term, instead looking to “rime” as the origin, just as we do with the names Hrimnir and Hrimþursar, which refer to Frost-Giants. In this sense, the passage of Saehrimnir, who is cooked by Andhrimnir, in the pot called Eldhrimnir, takes on a new life. The words Sæ-, And-, and -Eld then become elemental in their nature, since they mean “Sea,” “Spirit,” and “Fire.” Thus, the meanings are “Sea-rime (Sæhrimnir),” “Spirit-Rime” (Andhrimnir), and “Fire-Rime,” respectively. These elements reflect what we see in the story of Ginnungagap, where the three fountains blend their elements to create life. The active force of Spirit, which becomes Mimisbrunnr (Mimir’s Well), combines the Fire of Urdarbrunnr (Urd’s Well) with the Ice or Rime of Hvergelmir (the origin of all waters). Thus, it is likely that what is described here is a relationship to the subterranean mead fountains and the food of Valhall.
This theme of Water/Spirit/Fire is often repeated in the etymology of our lore. Often times “Spirit” is replaced with Wind or Air, which we see were considered interchangeable by our ancestors. It’s why Odin is both God of the Wind and the giver of önd, the human spirit. We see this in the union of three characters often portrayed as either siblings or traveling companions. For instance there is Odin (Óðr= Spirit), Hœnir (“Stork,” a water-bird. Cp. his name Aurkonung “Marsh-King”), and Lodur “Fire-Producer.” Then there is Ægir (“Sea”), Kari (“Wind”), and Logi (“Fire”). This elemental triumvirate can be found in many stories and names.
One thing that interests us here is the idea that the boar is boiled, which is a sacred form of cooking probably due to this relationship with Ginnungagap and the holy foods. The vat or kettle can be used to make mead and boil the sacrificial meal, and is seen in many of our stories, including the kettle of Hymir in Hymiskvida, the boiling of food mentioned in Rigsþula, and various pots and kettles mentioned in the Sagas and histories. In the Saga of Hakon the Good (ch. 16) we see the use of kettles within the blot as a principle part of its practice. This boiling of meat would certainly be necessary for a rite where the symbolism of the kettle connects to the Underworld Fountains, and it should thus be noted that Hvergelmir means “Roaring Kettle.” Jacob Grimm noted that the names Askettil and Thorkettil probably refer to the sanctity of the kettle in holy rites and also deduced that this usage was later disdained by the Church and turned it into the witche’s cauldron (Teutonic Mythology p.63). In any case, the kettle is the most sacred form of cooking a holy meal and thus should be utilized in blóts and gatherings.
Of course, we can relate Saehrimnir to the other regenerating animals of sustenance, most notably Thor’s goats, who are sacrificed, eaten, then blessed with the hammer in order for them to be reborn. This idea of an ever-replenishing source of food is also found in Celtic sources, where they are also connected to cauldrons of plenty. In the Celtic poem Preiddeu Annwn “The Spoils of Annwn,” there is mention of a powerful cauldron of plenty that “does not boil food for a coward” (str. 17), which also relates to the cauldron of Ceridwen, who is called “The White Sow,” mentioned in The Mabinogian (bk.1). This cauldron of inspiration, which we would compare to Mimir’s Mead of Inspiration, was connected to Annwn (the Celtic Underworld) and to swine, as with the food of the Einherjar.
- The Asatru Edda, Second Edition, The Norroena Society, 2018
- Grimm, Jacob Teutonic Mythology ̧ James Stallybrass tr. Dover Publications, 1966
- MacCulloch, J.A., The Religion of the Ancient Celts, Studio Editions LTD, 1992
- Rydberg, Viktor, Investigations into Germanic Mythology, vol. 1, Rasmus Anderson tr., Norroena, 1891
- Sturluson, Snorri, Lee M. Hollander tr. Heimskringla: History of the Kings of Norway, University of Texas Press, 1991.
- Walton, Evangeline, tr. The Mabinogian Tetrology, Gerald Duckworth & Co., 2012
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