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Saturday, 17 November 2012

BRAGI (Poetic Skald) by Ron McVan

"All great poets, said Socrates, epic as well as lyric, compose their beautiful poems not by art, but because they are inspired and possessed. And as Corybantian revelers when they dance are not in their right mind, so lyric poets are not in their right mind when they are composing their beautiful strains; but when falling under the power of music and metre they are inspired and possessed; like Bacchic maidens who draw milk and honey from the rivers when they are under the
influence of Dionysius but not when they are in their right mind. And the soul of the lyric poet is the same, as they themselves say; for they tell us that they bring songs from honeyed fountains, culling them out of the gardens and dells of the Muses; they, like the bees, winging their way from flower to flower. And this is true. For the poet is a light and winged and holy thing, and there is no invention in him until he has been inspired and is out of his senses, and the mind is no longer in him; when he has not attained to this state, he is powerless and unable to utter his oracles."
.................................Ion

In Norse mythology, it is known that the first maker of poetry was the wise and long white bearded god Bragi. Of all the skalds, Bragi was the eloquent master supreme in the highly esteemed art of word craft and equally gifted as a minstrel of the highest caliber. In his day skaldic song was compared with a fountain which does not easily gush forth from a sorrowful heart, and the liquid of the fountain is compared with the "Thrigge's kinsmen's find, the one kept secret, which in times past was carried from Jotunheim into Nokve's ship, where Bragi, unharmed, refreshed himself." The brew of this fountain was a magical mead (skaldic mead) of poetry which was known to secure the vigor of life, not much different than that divine mead which was to be found in Mimir's Well. The powers of this sacred mead have always been kept highly secret and virtually unattainable by the undeserving. Bragi was free to partake of this inspired beverage at will, drinking it at full strength to refresh his powers. Bragi was the patron of the skalds; his conversation was distinguished by its nobility and ease. He served as chief poet at the court of the gods. "White-bearded bard, ag'd Bragi, his gold harp sweeps---and yet softer stealeth the
day." ............... (From Viking Tales of the North) R.B. Anderson

It has been handed down through Norse legend that Bragi was born in the same cave where Wotan had won Gunnlod's (Bragi's mother who was a giantess) affections. This was the glittering stalactite cave, where Bragi's mother guarded the sacred Mead of Poetry. The dwarfs, knowing of the great skills that Bragi would soon possess gifted him with a magical golden harp. The dwarves set him adrift on a boat which eventually touched shore at the edge of a large secluded forest. As he walked through the woods the sound of his music as he played carefree on his youthful journey greatly stimulated all the living plants and trees and they began to bud and bloom with countless flowers. There in the forest the young handsome god Bragi, son of Wotan and Gunnlod, met the fair young beautiful goddess of immortal youth, Idunn, daughter of Ivald and both were soon to be married. Bragi's poetic verse was quick to gain fame and the world would soon recognize him as the greatest poet ever. Other aspiring poets to Bragi's honor would be awarded the title of either Braga-men or Braga-women. Both Heimdall and Bragi shared the honor of welcoming heroes to Valhalla. The poetic and music-loving and gentle natured Bragi shared a very close similarity with the god Apollo and Orpheus right down to the magic mead of inspiration which were much akin to the Olympian Waters of Helicon.

"It takes three to make music: one to create, one to perform, one to appreciate. And who can tell which is the most important.” ....................Robert Haven Schauffler

In the Prose Edda there is a part known as "Bragaroedur" (Bragi's Talk). It speaks of the powerful sea god Aegir and that he like King Gylfe had heard reports concerning the wisdom of the Asa's, (gods of the Aesir) and resolved to visit them. He eventually comes to a place where the Asas receive him with all of the magic arts, and conduct him into a hall which is lighted up in the evening with shining swords. There he is invited to take his seat by the side of Bragi, where there were twelve high seats in which sat the high gods and goddesses of Asgard. The hall was splendidly decorated with shields. The mead passed around was exquisite, and the talkative skald Bragi instructed the new guest Aegir in the traditions concerning the Asa's art of poetry. Wotan after engraving the runes on Bragi's tongue decreed that he should be the heavenly minstrel and composer of songs in honor of the gods and heroes received into Valhalla. Engraving runes on Bragi's tongue was Wotan's poetic manner of saying that his skill in composing poems was unrivalled. Bragi was known to be boastful of himself and his talents and it was from Bragi's name that the word brag and bragger had developed. It was Loki who first coined Bragi with the name bragger, whereupon Bragi threatened to twist off Loki's head as the only sure method of stopping his lies.

"Since the creation of a paradise of Beauty on this earth is the highest interest of the race, it is easy to establish the degree of beastiality or criminality of a man---by the amount of degenerating things and acts he has contributed to swell the ugliness of this world." ..........................F.W. Ruckstull

Aegir possessed a glistening underwater palace from where he directed the swirling waves through his nine daughters, who were known as the billow maidens. The hissing, seething Nordic sea was called "Aegir's Brewing Kettle". Aegir's sister-wife, Ran was famous for her drowning net, which she used to snatch unsuspecting sailors from the decks of ships and drag them down to the seabed. She entertained them in her coral caves, which were lit by gleaming gold and where mead flowed as freely as in Valhalla. At a later time the sea god Aegir was entertaining the gods of the Asgard in his own grand hall were Loki arrives unbidden to the banquet to mix bitterness with their gladness. He puts forth his demand that he either be presented with a place at the feasting table or be turned out of doors. Bragi who refused to salute Loki, steps forth in answer and states to the arrogant Loki that the gods will never grant him a seat at the table for they know well for whom among beings they are to prepare a banquet and drink of revenge. Loki left Aegir's hall but not before insulting each of the gods personally with terrible words. Soon afterwards Loki was captured and bound with a venom-spitting serpent fastened above his mouth. Loki's horrible fate was justified for he had kidnapped Bragi's wife Idunn and tried to make off with her golden apples which were highly cherished and coveted by the gods and it was the eating of Idunn's apples that kept them from aging.

"All art---whether it be music, painting or poetry---seeks to enter into contact with eternal beauty which it dimly perceives through the natural objects which hide it from view, and each art renders this vision in its own idiom, in its own language, although the experience is identical in each case." ................Enid Starkie

There is not as much background to be found on Bragi as with the other Norse deities yet his position as master poet and musician are firmly rooted in the Norse mythological lore and he remains revered as one of the principal gods in Asgard. The foremost gods of Asgard are essentially Wotan, Frigg, Thor, Njord, Frey, Freyja, Balder, Loki, Tyr, Bragi, Idunn, Heimdall and Ull. The knowledge and craft of the Skalds throughout the ancient Euro-tribes, led to their being held in highest respect, and we find them all through history allotted the first place at the courts of Kings. "Bragi's Favour" holds its position among mortals and gods alike. The true Skalds possessed a keen inherent knowledge of present, past and future. Wotan and Bragi both were highly inspired poets and associated with the cult of the dead. When a King died, a feast was held and a cup or horn, called Bragarfull (cup of Bragi), was drunk from in his honor. Each guest pledged some great deed at the time. Drawings and paintings of Bragi often depict him holding his trademark golden harp. Our European forebears in Iceland have been great keepers of our ancestral language and literary heritage through the many centuries. Add to that the highly poetical gifted Celts, and Northern Europe unfolds unto all Aryan peoples as something of a spiritual holy land. In the introduction to the Vulsunga Saga translated by Wotanist, William M. Morris, it states: "Iceland has always borne a high name for learning and literature; on both sides of their descent her people inherited special poetic power. Some of the older Eddaic fragments attest the great reach and deep overpowering strength of imagination possessed by their Norse ancestors; and they themselves had been quickened by a new leaven. During the first generations of the "land-taking" a great school of poetry which had arisen among the Norsemen of the Western Isles was brought by them to Iceland. The poems then produced are quite beyond parallel with those of any Teutonic language for centuries after their date, which lay between the beginning of the ninth and the end of the tenth centuries. Through the Greenland colony also came two, or perhaps more, great poems of this western school. This school grew out of the stress and storm of the Viking life, with its wild adventure and varied commerce, and the close contact with an artistic and inventive folk, possessed of high culture and great learning. The infusion of Celtic blood, however slight it may have been, had also something to do with the swift intense feeling and rapidity of passion of the earlier Icelandic poets. They are hot-headed and hot-hearted, warm, impulsive, quick to quarrel or to love, faithful, brave; ready with sword or song to battle with all comers, or to seek adventure wheresoever it might be found. They leave Iceland young, and wander at their will to different courts of Northern Europe, where they are always held in high honor." These words were written in the late 1800's but it all still holds true. Both
Teutonic Wotanism and Celtic Druidism united, form the total package of Euro paganism at its finest!

"Every great poet is heroic. By that quality we measure his greatness. There is something more than a secret affinity between the hero and the poet; there is a vital connection. The one sustains the other, and is sustained by him. They are two flowers from one sap; both are born of the same yearnings of mankind for an ideal nobleness. Almost always there is a poet in the hero, and a hero in the poet. For both of them, life and work are an eternal self-dedication to the bettering of the race. Bestowal of oneself, love of one's fellows, deep pity, disdain for material enjoyments, suffering borne to make the future glorious, these are common features of hero and poet." ....................F.W. Ruckstull

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