We’re glad to have Bjørn Andreas Bull-Hansen join us as a guest blogger! He is a Norwegian novelist, screenwriter and blogger, as well as a skilled craftsman and wilderness survivalist who builds bridges between the Viking Age and today. Here is his fourth blog post exclusively written for Grimfrost and there will be more exclusive content to come.
We have all heard of Odin’s two ravens, Hugin and Munin. But did you know that they actually symbolize the human mind? They do, and as it often is with Norse mythology, there is wisdom here that is more relevant than ever.
Traditionally, Hugin symbolizes the thought while Munin represents memory. However, we have good reason to believe that Munin is derived from munr rather than minni (memory). And while many like to translate munr into desire, the truth is that we don’t really have a word for munr today. It embodies desire, will, passion and enthusiasm. Munr is plans and ambitions, wishes and hopes.
So while the húg or hugr (thought) is the more objective, sensible part of your mind, it is pretty useless without a good portion of munr. If you lose your munr, you lose your «drive», your desire. I believe that’s what often happens to people who depend too much on the so-called modern society, and we tend to call it depression. That being said, depression is not necessarily linked to our industrialized society – even our ancestors struggled. In the poetic Edda (Benjamin Thorpe’s translation), Odin says:
Hugin and Munin fly each day
over the spacious earth.
I fear for Hugin, that he come not back,
yet more anxious am I for Munin.
I personally believe Odin here says that he is worried about being isolated from the world, which would be the result if Hugin didn’t return. But Odin is even more afraid of sad or disheartening news from the human world, news that could make him lose his desire, his passion and his hopes for a brighter future; that his munr, Munin, will not return. Keep in mind that what we call Ásatru and the Norsemens’ way of life was threatened by Christian hordes like the Franks for a long time before Scandinavian kings finally managed to suppress their own people, the local democracies and the old faith with them. Could the stanca above be about Odin worrying that the humans would forget him and that the Norsemen and their Viking spirit with them would be tamed?
I like to think that we all have two invisible ravens, one on each shoulder. And it is our duty to keep them both well fed and healthy. If one of them starves, it will fly away. This means that while we need to stay sensible and thoughtful of our life choices, we also need passion, desire and dreams for the future. Both Hugin and Munin whisper in our ears, and we need to listen to them both. There must be a balance. We can’t rush towards whatever looks tempting to us at the moment, this would mean acting without listening to Hugin. But we should not always choose the logical, safe and sensible option, that would make Munin fly away.
So while we should never live each day as if it were our last, we should realize that life does not go on forever. Pursue your dreams before it’s too late, but do so while keeping both ravens on your shoulders.
Be on the lookout for more blog posts by Bjørn Andreas here on Grimfrost. More blog posts can also be found on his website: www.bull-hansen.com