Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Reinterpreting Bïfrost

Came across this in the 15th ISC papers:

This paper argues that while de Vries is probably correct in his interpretation of the etymological roots and literal meaning of Bifrǫst/ Bilröst, he neglects to recognise the most appropriate metaphoric connotation. This is because the key to unlocking the meaning of the names appears to lie in the realisation that they are actually poetic kennings which conform in form and meaning to numerous other kennings representing the same phenomenon : namely the trembling, shuddering, shaking movement of the sea or ocean. Evidence for this can be found by analysing the roots of the names Bifrǫst/ Bilröst. It has been speculated that name could denote a way, path, trail or road of some kind (e.g. Simek : ‘swaying road to heaven’), but what appears not to have been considered is the specific association of these concepts with the sea in Old Norse and skaldic poetry. This association is substantiated by one of the largest groups of sea kenning which denote the sea as a way, road, path or trail Within this group are a significant number of examples using rǫst - some examples being blárǫst (the blue trail); hafrǫst ( sea-way); lǫgrǫst (water -path); Gylfa rǫst (Gylfi’s road) and Huglar rǫst (Hugl’s (island) way

This is interesting to me in a couple of ways. Nordic geography saw the world as flat, Midgard encircled by the ocean. In Bïfrost legend, the Jotuns cross the bridge to enter Midgard. With Jotuns being those at the edges of Midgard and the sea being the edge of the world, Jotuns crossing the ocean makes total sense.

Another thing that fits in perfectly is Heimdall. He sits on Bïfrost, awaiting the Jotuns. And...he's the son of the nine ocean mothers.

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