Sunday, March 13, 2011

Surprised Me Too

Grendal and I don't have access to cable in our place and after months without it I don't know why I ever enjoyed it.  Scratch that, yes I do!  My favorite channels are History Channel, Discovery Channel, TLC, SyFy, and NatGeo.  I honestly can't get enough of those 'educational' channels.  My father and I watch shows on the military and wars, as well as anything to do with ancient civilizations and the occult(we LOVE watching things on 2012).  We don't bond over much but it is our love of odd knowledge that brings us together.  He told me about the book Chariots of the Gods after I talked him about the show Ancient Aliens, and how one of the authors was on the episode.  My father also told me about people working at Area 51, even though it doesn't exist but it moved somewhere else and the military is still closely guarding the place.  Yeah, my father is a well of information and I love every bit of it.

So yes, my love of informative tv shows, no matter how odd and possibly misinformed, knows no bounds.  There was a series called Clash of the Gods that quickly grabbed my attention.  They were to take myths and talk about them and show the real life similarities.  I was excited!  Their first episode was about Zeus and while I may not like him, the show was rather interesting and had some tidbits I didn't know.  Sadly this was also around the time that we got rid of cable.  I couldn't see myself going to my parents' house to watch the show because it takes 30 minutes to get there.  So it just fell to the side until I could get a copy of it.  I was happy!  They had an episode on Hades, Medusa, Thor, and even the tale of Beowulf!  It took a little convincing but I got Grendal to watch some with me.

Tonight we had watched the Beowulf and Thor episode.  Its been a while since either of us read the tale of Beowulf but things seemed off.  The people on the show REALLY wanted to tie the story into some christian allegory.  O_o  Apparently Grendal(uh, the character) represented the Pagans, so when Beowulf killed him it was a metaphor for the ending of the Pagan beliefs.  What?  I must've missed that during my read through.  I highly doubt that during the story's oral tradition that the story tellers wanted to bring down the Pagans.  Not to mention they seemed to royally screw up the meaning of the word Pagan.

We brushed off our misgivings about that episode and continued on to the episode about Thor.  Now, I think I need to say something before I continue.  Grendal isn't a Pagan or a Wiccan.  He's more of a polytheistic-agnostic....or something.  He came up with a decent word.  Anyway, if Grendal ever did settle into the realm of Pagan worship and picked a pantheon, he would quickly pick up the Norse pantheon.  He studies the Norse tales, enough to hold lengthy conversations, and even has a pendant with Mjöllnir on it.  To our friends Grendal is known as the viking or the Norseman.

Anywho, Grendal went into this episode a little nervous.  Things started out fine, though my first gripe was the "actor's" lack of a beard.  The narrator couldn't decide on whether or not to call the jötunn giants or ogres, referred to Loki as Thor's servant, and completely screwed up the trials of Útgarða/Skrymir.  What got us was the story of Ragnarok.  Grendal and I never read the complete 'tale' of Ragnarok but we know what it is: essentially the end of the Norse pantheon.  It had always bothered me that the Norse pantheon had a tale of their own demise, seeing how none of the other pantheons in the world seem to have them(please correct me if I'm wrong).  The show went through the gist of Ragnarok, of coursing focusing on Thor since he was the episode's star, but then it took a christian bend that Grendal and I hadn't expected.

Through out the episode Grendal was constantly flipping through a book I bought him called 'Norse Mythology: A Guide to the Gods, Heroes, Rituals, and Beliefs' by John Lindow.  When they started talking about Ragnarok he quickly read it and made a surprised sound.  I asked him what was up and he just told me to watch, he wanted to see something.

Here is what the book says, which is pretty much what the episode said in an odd, round about way:

But Ragnarok has two parts, and the second involves rebirth.  the earth arises from the sea, and a new generation of gods inhabits it.  They have reminiscences of their forebears and some mysterious gaming pieces that link them to what went before.  Hod and Baldr are there, reconciled, and Hoenir too has survived the conflagration, for he "chooses lot-sticks," that is, he performs some sort of ritual activity.  According to the Hauksbok redaction of the poem, "the powerful one" then comes, and this looks like a reference to the christian deity.

Snorri paraphrases these verses and adds a few details, of which the most salient is the presence of Odin's sons Vidar and Vali and Thor's sons Magni and Modi, who will possess Thor's hammer Mjöllnir, in the new world that follows Ragnarok.  Snorri also, following Vafthrudnismal, says the humans will survive into the new world, through Lif and Lifthrasir.

I knew about Baldr and a few of the other gods surviving but I was shocked about the whole human race pulling through thanks to a man and a woman.  The show pointed out the similarities to Genesis in the Bible and even referred to Ragnarok and the Norse mythology as the prequel to the Old Testament.  WHAT?  I was shocked and, honestly, rather pissed.

Grendal and I did some talking and came to our own conclusions.  Now, the book doesn't really tell how old the Norse beliefs are via artifacts but it does mention that in 1000 b.c.e. some rock carvings were made that could have had a religious purpose.  My point, though, is that the christianisation of the area didn't really get underway until about 1000 c.e.  This means that the Prose Edda, the go-to for Norse mythology and written in the 13th century, was constructed when christianity already took up residence.  Churches were built over old temples before which made Grendal and I wonder if it wasn't too far fetched to create a bridge, story wise, to have people go from Pagans to Christians.  There has been no other reference to "the powerful one" that Grendal can find.  As for the Lif and Lifthrasir, I find it just odd.  Yes, in the beginning of Norse mythology Ask and Embla (Ash and Elm) are the first humans, but they were found washed up on a beach(or possibly created by the dwarves) by Odin, Vili, and Ve and given life/what was needed to live.  You can't really point to the Bible on that one because, hell, it sounds similar to the Hawai'ian creation myth.

So yeah, Grendal and I are a bit perturbed by the whole thing and firmly believe that Ragnarok was either completely created to bring people to the 'new religion' or modified to do so.  I guess it also doesn't help that the show made it sound like becoming christian brought peace to the world and made everything better.  :|

Okay.....enough of my ranting.  Despite the OBVIOUS christian bend Clash of the Gods has the show is enjoyable.

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