As I have previously illustrated, it now seems that Snorri Sturluson’s accounting of the Mead of Poetry is drawing from, and perhaps inexpertly seeking to summarize materials that are far older. That are Indo-European. That have likely been passed down since the points roughly at which the Vedic and the Eddic religious canons were broadly one.
I have shown this via a close comparison of the ‘functional’ elements in Sturluson’s treatment of the Meath – with a particular focus upon the linguistic elements therein, and how they have retained their meanings even though their place within the myth, their understanding in other words, may have become reverse-euhemerized. A good example of which being the term ‘Hnitbjorg’ – which means ‘clashing rocks’, and which has been recalled in Germanic mythology as some sort of mountain that opens and closes … but which should be better understood as a direct correlate of what we know from the RigVeda as the ‘Press-Stones’ (often even themselves referred to as Parvats – mountains); hard devices made use of to ‘press’ the Mead or the Soma empowering ingredient out of its otherwise hidden home. There are, of course, other examples – and I would thoroughly advise interested readers to consult the previous two articles in this series. One of which is even, itself, in summarized form!
So if we can identify particular close-correlates between the Myth of the Meath on the one hand, and the Rites of the Soma on the other … it therefore follows that there is serious probative value to be found in analyzing *other* potential quandries when it comes to our comprehension of the Mead of Poetry upon exactly the same basis. To look for the possible Vedic correlates for the terms and the concepts within the Eddic referencing of this structure that have hitherto proven somewhat intractable to clear interpretation. And therefore to more properly comprehend the otherwise enigmatic qualities of these obscurated terms.
The area I have turned this lense to, is the naming of the Three Vessels of the Mead – Óðrerir, Boðn, and Són. For while ‘Odrerir’ is reasonably clear in its interpolation, ‘Bodn’ has produced quite an array of interpretations that are, to my mind, often unfeasibly mundane or simply outright confused … and ‘Son’, is similarly poorly understood.
A THIRD DRAUGHT OF SOMA-KVASIR – THE RECONSTRUCTION OF THE MEANING OF THE MEAD – THE SPIRIT RISING: ON ODRERIR
‘Odrerir’ is, in many ways, the key. For it tells us that the Names of the Vessels are not to be understood as simply terms for … well … vessels within which such a brew might be housed. But rather, that they are intended to be ‘Functional’ designations – words that tell us something about what the liquid housed therein is supposed to *do*.
As for ‘Odrerir’ itself – it clearly derives from ‘Odr’ … a term for fury, frenzy, but also (Divine) Inspiration; and as I have previously argued in this year’s MahaShivRatri tribute piece ( ‘ MahaShivRatri And The Mytholinguistics Of War [Part 3] – The Mind, The Mania, The Manyu ‘ ), not only are ‘Furor Teutonicus’ and ‘Furor Poeticus’ fundamentally the same thing (just somewhat differently expressed – the sword in the tongue, or perhaps the pen, relative to the sword in the hand), but these have an abundantly clear pan-Indo-European expression.
They are known to us here in the Vedisphere, as the ‘Manyu’ – a term which derives from the Proto-Indo-European for an ‘Active Mind’, as well as for the imparted mental state or element (such as Sanskrit: ‘Mantra’) ; and which is also, entirely uncoincidentally, a Vedic Theonym for an Aspect of Rudra. The Manyu, the Berserk Fury, the Unstoppable Mightiest of the Vedic War Gods.
As Rudra-Shiva is Odin, it therefore makes multiple layers of conceptual sense to regard the Manyu and the Odr to be fundamentally one and the same.
This is especially the case when we note that Odin, and Shiva as Soma, Soumya, are closely identified with the provision of the Empowering Elixir in question. The Qualities under Their – or, more properly, *His* – Command, are bestowed out to the chosen Devotee in just such a manner. And, in the way broadly commensurate with how we ‘become more like That Which We Meditate Upon’, so too do we seek to emulate via imbibification , the admirable qualities of the Great God therethrough.
So, what is Óðrerir, then? It is the ‘stirrer’, the ‘stirrer up’ of this mystical quality of ‘Odr’. It is the Kettle, the largest and most important of the three vessels – precisely because it is the essential quality that makes the other two possible. It is from there that the other two, more properly, should be conceived of as being filled.
It is called Odrerir, because of the manner in which the brewing takes place therein – and thence which we emulate when we feel the furor, the manyu that is Odrerir well up also inside us. The ‘furor’ qualities of Boðn and Són are what are also imparted in just such a manner – almost as ‘steam’ rising up from the heated brew. And that goes also with the well-founded Indo-European conceptry on the ‘smoking-breath’ [also of anger] being the signifer not only of fury but also of *life itself* and of spirit, of inspiration. But more upon that, perhaps, some other time.
In terms of the actual and direct ‘Odr’ quality imparted to us – it is as I have already stated. That essence of ‘Inspiration’ which grants the spontaneous knowledge and insight, the initiative of the active-flow of the Poet’s tongue-stream. That guides and shapes upon a veer-y instinctual level our men-tal efforts and our proper, pious output via the wrath of the Pen.
The Vedic co-expression of this is, largely, as I have already set out: the Odr concept itself is expressed as ‘Manyu’, as well as the various Vedic attestations around the Rsi [‘Sage’/’Seer’] being guided in their verses and their perspective illuminated via the empowerment of the Soma Brew and other such Divine uplifting to their perspective and elocution. It may also have correlate in the RigVedic mention for the quality which makes a man a Rsi under Vak’s aegis of empowerment being Ugra – ‘Fury’, ‘Anger’, and of course, another Shaivite ‘functional’ theonym into the bargain.
A THIRD DRAUGHT OF SOMA-KVASIR – THE RECONSTRUCTION OF THE MEANING OF THE MEAD – THE BREW OF BODN AND BUDDHI
So this brings us on to Boðn – a term that has been straightforwardly interpreted as, effectively, just another term for a storage container: akin to modern German Bütte. However, this does not seem quite right. After all, why bestow upon the first vessel the undeniably mighty and mentally / metaphysically empowering title of ‘Odrerir’ if the next in the sequence was simply to be termed what amounts to ‘barrel’.
No, I rather suspect that there is another relatively straightforward and much more *insightful* term meant here. Not ‘Barrel’ (or the etymologically not-that-related ‘Bottle’), but rather a Germanic equivalent for Sanskrit बुध्, बुद्धि ‘Budh’, ‘Buddhi’.
‘Bodn’, ‘Budh’ – it is not hard to see how just such a parallel etymological derivation may have occurred. In this case, both from Proto-Indo-European ‘Bhewhd’ [the same chain of derivation arrived at by Axel Kock when analyzing Boðn, albeit for other reasons], meaning ‘Awake / Aware’ [functionally somewhat equivalent to the Odinic theonym – Vak, Vakr; the ‘Awake’ or perhaps ‘Wakener’, presumably not ‘the Woke’]. These clearly inform the Sanskrit ‘Budh’ and ‘Buddhi’ – wherein the sense being conveyed is one of ‘perception’, ‘wit’, and ‘wisdom’. The ability to see things and thence to process and comprehend what is seen, thus producing an insight as to their nature and a declaration as to what it is that must be done therefore about them. ‘Intelligence’ not so much as the ‘being’ of a spirit – but the facility which enables that spirit to mediate and process the external realm. ‘Sapience’, we might perhaps call it. Or even ‘cunning’, especially in relation to ‘ken’, ‘kenning’.
Exactly what we should expect from the fabled Meath of Poetry, and also what is supported in the Vedic hymnals around the positive impact for the imbibing Rsi upon their perspicacity, their knowledge, their mental faculties and powers all up.
And *also*, entirely uncoincidentally to my mind, how we might interpret the effects of both the drinking of *another* empowering brew – the blood of the dragon consumed by Sigurd that grants him the comprehension of the Language of the Birds … as well as the ability to understand said Language, itself. Which grants Sigurd the perception of the intended future by he who would wish him ill.
However, there is a slight complication. Many of the directly descended Germanic terms we have from Proto-Indo-European Bhewhd have gone down a more narrow range of derivations of meaning than we should perhaps otherwise expect. Proto-Germanic ‘Budona’ and ‘Beudana’, for instance – which come to mean a ‘proclamation’ and a ‘bid’ (another descendent – although this has also been reconstructed as deriving from PIE ‘Gwhedh), respectively; ‘Buda’ – a message (which informs ‘ Boð ‘), whence ‘Budilaz’ – a messenger (‘Budo’ means much the same thing); or even ‘Beudaz’ – meaning a space upon which something is offered such as a dish or an altar.
But is this fatal for our prospective identification of the Mead of Boðn as bestowing ‘awareness’ , enhancing and augmenting the powers of perception and critical insight? I do not think so. For after all – what is a ‘messenger’ ? One who makes you *aware* of something. In just such a manner as we have seen from those Birds and their Language speaking unto Sigurd. They ‘showed’ – or, more aptly, ‘told’ him, of something that was going to happen … if he did not take moves to prevent it. “He who sees his own doom can better avoid its path. He who sees the doom of others can deliver it “, indeed.
A similar phenomenon, after a sort, is visible in the Rigsthula, wherein Kon (the ‘Young King’) is provided with critical guidance via the mouth of a Crow; and, of course, Odin’s Ravens providing reconnaissance [‘Thought’ and ‘Memory’ bringing ‘Intelligence’, you might say, in multiple senses of the term] are a further well-known element of the relevant mythology.
It may be possible to interpret this figuratively, in the manner of divination [and consider also the similarly descended Old Norse ‘Bysn’ – a wonder or a portent]; and certainly, perceiving patterns in the flights of birds is a well-known form of such an augury: Romulus & Remus settled their contest in just such a manner.
But I do not think that that is quite what is being communicated here. On one sense, it is quite plausible that the kind of super-comprehensive insight needed to interpret signs and wonders out there in the natural world and then key them to the unfurling of one’s own or one’s tribe’s impending narrative … would be something that should benefit from a consciousness-altering elixir or other such mental power and prowess. On another, it could even be interpreted more euhemerically – in the way that my favoured Sanskrit ‘Vacam Garjit Lakshanam’ [‘Thunder bearing the characteristics of Speech’] has occasionally been explained as the fact that if you can hear thunder, it is ‘telling’ you that rain is taking place somewhere. So, too, if one can see or hear birds being disturbed somewhere – it indicates that somebody is likely approaching through such a vector. Or birds and other such creatures fleeing a place where an earthquake or other natural disaster is shortly to be impending; Crows and Ravens gathering above the site of impending bloodshed (and even acting as ‘scouts’ for wolves that then take down prey for them to join the feast upon). But I do not think that it is these, either – not entirely, at any rate.
Rather, it is the role of these Birds as *speaking*, and with the Voice of the Divine, or at least a Divinely Intended Message, that is the more useful sense and concept here. Something which we can certainly see in the Crow’s communique unto Kon aforementioned – wherein its sage counsel is for the Young King to ride out in conquest against other humans rather than merely catching birds for his prey. Perhaps there may have been a certain note of self-interest in the Crow’s words … and perhaps Kon was quite glad to no longer be afforded the prospect of ‘eating Crow’.
But in terms of the Corvidae in particular, we so often encounter these as the ‘messengers’ and the ‘accompaniers’ of particular deities of the Indo-Europeans. Odin, Athena, Apollo, Yama, Shaani, Shiva (in particular as Bhairava), and of course, the MahaVidya [‘Great Revelation’] Dhumanvati have such associations. I would also include Varuna, not least upon suspicion that the ‘Spies’ He has all about may be just such black-feathered emissaries. Among we Hindus, the Corvid is directly hailed as ‘Yamadhuta’ – the Emissary of Lord Yama; and is also frequently regarded as a returned Pitr [‘Forefather’/’Ancestor’ spirit].
The commonality of all of those deific-expressions aforementioned ought be obvious. In most of these cases, there is a strong association with Death and/or the provision of Insight. These faculties have long been most closely aligned – consider the ‘vision-quest’ style katabasic jaunts of Aeneas and Odysseus into the Underworld in pursuit of the necessary Wisdom of the Dead. They *became*, if you like, the Messengers, the Heralds. And they made active use of a different kind of ‘awareness’ in order to perceive and to comprehend what was going on ‘midst the Sepulchral Realm.
So, again, we are left with the sense that the ‘Awareness’ in question means the facility, the faculty, the capacity to ‘see’ and to ‘hear’ the wisdom that comes to us from perhaps ‘hidden’ sources [recalling the Proto-Indo-European ‘Kel’ particle, meaning a ‘Veil’ that informs Sanskrit terms for ‘Death’ like Kaal – connoting the notion of ‘Death’ and the After-Life being something that is ‘hidden’, ‘beyond the veil’] ; as well as the conception that this wisdom is delivered unto us , if we are so disposed to hear it and able to bid it to come to us , via Messengers. ‘Budh’, ‘Bhehwd’, you might say – all the way down.
However, there are two other meaning-stems from a different Proto-Indo-European term (the aforementioned ‘Gwhedh’) that we ought consider before bringing things back full-circle to the ‘Bodn’ that I believe to be ‘Budh’. And these are the sense of ‘Bid’ (and its various closely related Germanic-Continental cousins; including, in the opposite sense, ‘forbid’, ‘verboten’ etc.) and ‘Bede’ (which is, itself, also potentially derived from PIE ‘Bhewdh’) – both modern English terms, albeit with the former nowadays only really retaining its ‘commercial’ sense of an offer (rather than a declaration, an invitation, a proclamation, a welcoming), and the latter largely un-known (it means ‘to pray’). Such is the spirit of the age.
Why do I suggest these might be relevant? Well, consider just what it is that is happening when the Soma is prepared, and therefore almost certainly what the Mead of Poetry’s preparatory rites and purpose must have correspondingly entailed. Certainly, we are producing an elixir that, when consumed, empowers the imbiber – we are ‘bidding’ that the power in question come inside us. And we are hoping that the brew in question shall give us serious potency when it comes to the power of poesy – of speech, proclamation, prayer. We are *also*, press-uming the Soma comparative is correct, carrying out a proper sacrificial rite. And hence, we are engaged in a form of prayer … an *offering* , wherein it would only seem appropriate for the God or Gods relevant to have first taste, drink of the brew that has been prepared, alongside of and ahead of us. This may partially resonate with that Proto-Germanic ‘Beudaz’, speaking of a table or a dish made use of in a sacral, offering context.
‘Prayer’, in other words, may here be understood not simply as saying something up to the Heavens … but as more of a two-way communicative street. Inviting, by politely asking [‘bidding’ – as in, bid you answer, please], the Guidance, the Inspiration, the Insight, the Odr to come down from Above as ‘Answer’ … and which would also conveniently situate this within the ‘Guest’ model of Indo-European sacral conduct [wherein we do quite literally this: we bid the Deity in question to come down among us and partake of the sacral rite in Their Honour as Honoured Guest .
Something that would, now that we think upon it, make quite some sense for a certain ‘Wandering God’ …
Speaking of Whom, it is interesting indeed to note that the Interpretatio Romano of Odin – Mercury – is also directly relevant here, and twice over. For the planet Mercury is also referred to within Hinduism as the Graha of Budh / Budha (बुध). This Budh is also a lesser-known deity, presiding over the linguistically associated (as in, what is meant by the other ‘Budh’ term) qualities of the alacrity and swiftness of mind , the empowerment and the impartmant thereof; as well as the linguistic, communicative *expressions* of those powers through eloquence and articulation. He is also occasionally referenced *as* such a ‘messenger’/’communicator’ figure, acting as such for The Gods in part due to the swift and speedy motion across the skies.
And Budh-Var, that is to say, Wednesday [Odin’s Day], is also referred to as being Soumya’s Day. Soumya, of course, being Soma – the Deity presiding over the Empowering Elixir of the Vedic Aryans. Now, Soma is often identified with Chandra, with Shiva … and it should therefore come as no surprise to find that this Budh is also similarly related. Related, that is, in a rather direct sense – as Chandra’s Son, either by Rohini or by Taraka; with Taraka being linked to Brihaspati as His Consort. Brihaspati, of course, *also* being Shiva in one of His many masques , and having a pretty direct figurative linkage to the Odinic theonym of Galdrfodr. Father of the Songs of Prayer, a most *eloquent* figure, indeed!
This would therefore presumably place Budh as being a Son of the Sky Father, in much the same manner as Heimdall, or Hermod (or, to a degree, Hermes/Mercury). But one that is veer-y much following in His Father’s foot-steps in terms of the associations and portfolios of same. The main reason for His citation here, other than the comparative interest, is to further elucidate the direct proximal connexions of Soma and Budh and the relevant locative materials for Odin. And to show that the concept for Proto-Indo-European ‘Bhewdh’ in later Germanic languages … that of something that makes us ‘aware’ of something, also has comparative expression in the East. As well as demonstrating the specific linkage of the communicative, the expressive faculties that are positively empowered via the Soma-Kvasir brew – with the presiding actions and essences of Budh(-Graha).
All of which is a lot more compelling and useful than simply ascribing the name of Boðn to the designation for a mere vessel for the brew.
Something that is particularly the case when we consider that the identification of Boðn as a ‘vessel’ would effectively make it the *only* one out of the three names (Óðrerir, Boðn, and Són), that would be so mundanely mean. Són is a fantastically difficult term to pin down, itself, but almost certainly must have had a similarly ‘functional’ and pointedly ‘sacred’ meaning to it as well. It is to this that we shall now turn.
A THIRD DRAUGHT OF SOMA-KVASIR – THE RECONSTRUCTION OF THE MEANING OF THE MEAD – SON, SONAR, SVAHA
Now, the major linkage that has been previously proposed is to Old Norse ‘Sonar’ – as is prominently featured in the Sonargoltr boar-sacrifice. Although it should be noted that this particular identification comes with some controversy, as the actual meaning of ‘Sonar’ in this context has been proposed to go in a number of potentially relevant ways. The older interpretation is that the ‘Sonar’ in ‘Sonargoltr’ should mean ‘Atonement’ or perhaps ‘Sacrifice’; although this has seemingly been cast into doubt via the resurrection of a newer rendering supported by Lombard explication upon the matter – that instead holds the ‘Sonar’ of ‘Sonargoltr’ to mean something more akin to ‘the biggest’, or the best … something that would make immense logical sense when considering the customary selection of animals for divine offering in other Indo-European myths and cultures. There is also a rather less likely suggestion that the ‘Son(n)ar’ of ‘Sonargoltr’ ought mean ‘Sun’ , however while there is perhaps some conceptual resonancy for this in light of the Freyr associations of the boar, I do not consider it to be entirely sound.
Yet curiously, if we consider the matter etymologically – and most particularly , in light of the potential Vedic comparative , it actually appears that our quandry is not between different words of entirely different meaning … but rather between broadly the same terms, with figurative *shadings* of meaning that may have lead to artificial obscuration of the actual sense being conveyed. Especially when it comes to the potentially somewhat forced extrapolation of the ritualine saliency of the ‘Sonar’ of ‘Sonargoltr’ to the ‘Son’ that is the third vessel, or perhaps quality of the Empowering Brew.
You see, “Atonement” is almost exactly on the mark for what is meant by ‘Son’ – it is just that we have forgotten what is right in front of us when it comes to that term. It literally means “At-One-Ment” – the making whole of something. And while the Proto-Germanic that this likely descends from – Swono – also can be interpreted as the forming of accord or agreement between men (another form of bringing together to make ‘one’ out of formerly divided or less-complete parts), which may help to inform why Freyr is linked to the Sonargoltr boar (other than, of course, it being a boar) … this would be somewhat curious to have as the name of one of the qualities of the Mead of Poetry in this sense. Not impossible, it must be said, and you could perhaps read the last draught as bearing the quality of comradeship, the unification of men into common purpose, in light of the traditional role of alcohol in binding together fellows, for example via the Sumbl rite … but I suspect that other meanings of the ‘rendering complete’ are more plausible.
Particularly that *other* well-known toast when quaffing a beverage – “to good health!”
For this is rather closer to the mark of the Proto-Indo-European ‘Swan’ from whence Proto-Germanic ‘Swono’ derives. A sense also preserved in the directly cognate Latin ‘Sanus’ (likely the origin of modern English ‘Sane’), as well as the various Germanic ‘Gesund’ style terms that are somewhat coterminous etymologically, to name but a few. Making somebody whole – at-one-ment – as the provision of health and vigour, the healing of injury, the removal of imperfecting disease. There is also some tantalizing hints around the use of the ‘Sonar Dreyri’ in two Nordic texts for the provision of somewhat differing forms of ‘health’/’wellbeing’/’completeness’ – but more upon that at some future date. We’re still doing the research!
However, there is a further sense to ‘Sonar’ that ought be considered, again potentially not exclusively to the above aforementioned, before we examine a potential Vedic cognate.
This is the notion of ‘Sonar’ as ‘Sacrifice’ – which, beyond its obvious application in the Sonargoltr rite, may concord with the Proto-Germanic ‘Swono’ having the sense of ‘atonement’, or perhaps the more general notion of ‘proper’ and ‘whole-some’ conduct. implied in the Proto-Indo-European ‘Swa-n’ and its subsequent derivatives. Certainly, in some small way, the pious act of sacrificing contributes to the making whole, hale, and healthy of the World entire – the strengthening of the tapestry of Rta’s immanence here in our universe, and the further energizing of our ‘concordat’ with The Gods. Indeed, in the sense of ‘Sonar’ implying a coming together of various parties in good spirit and shared purpose, particularly to hallow oaths, the fact that Indo-European sacral rite conduct tends to hinge around the concept of The Gods arriving as honoured guests (or, vice versa – us as Guests in Their Residence, if we should be visiting a Temple) , Swono, Sonar, and their relatives are *exactly* the right terms to use.
The reason that this is relevant, is threefold. First and foremost, because if my theory does in fact hold water (or any other vitally empowering liquid substance, for that matter), then the Mead of Poetry would have been a sacrament, an offering, prepared in a sacral context much like its Vedic co-expression of Soma. We must *always* keep this in mind!
What that may mean, is that viewed in terms of the ‘functional’ labelling of the Vessels, the designation of the third draught as ‘Son’, may suggest that it is the Power of Piety and the strength of as well as sense of one’s connection to The Gods (an acknowledgement of Heritage, as well as learning to see the world differently, flowing out therefrom that) which comprises the third Investiture, the third Quality granted by the imbibification of the Mead of Poetry. So just as Odrerir would grant ‘Odr’ – the Furor Poeticus and/or Teutonicus that represents eloquence on the battlefield or in verse as well as a powerful, raging spirit which may also correlate with Will; and just as Bodn would grant the ‘Budh’ style boons of superior ‘insight’ (critical thinking, mental acuity) and external ‘sight’ (sensory perception, perspicacity) ; so, therefore, should ‘Son’ bestow something connected to the term’s intrinsic meaning. However, we shall consider that, along with another possibility, shortly.
The second potentiality is that the ‘Son’ in question does, in fact, mean ‘sacrifice’ – and that this may refer to the third vessel’s intended destination. Not as something to be (initially) consumed by the sacrificer – but rather, to be offered up to The Gods, Whose Mead after all, it actually is. This would also therefore underpin the earlier conceptualized ‘Son’ as a shared occasion – as it is precisely the offering to The Gods which renders this veer-y much more than but a ‘one-way street’ (which, you could argue, the ‘fourth drop’, the one that engenders bad verses, which was inadvertently jettisoned by Odin in eagle form as He flew back to Asgard with the Mead … pretty much was – insofar as it turns up with no offering made and no reciprocity, and dire and improper are the resulting outputs in consequence). A parallel to this is easily findable in the Vedic Soma rites – wherein offering of the Elixer thusly produced to The Gods (Who are in attendance) is absolutely integral to proceedings.
This may also inform the third dimension to ‘Son’ amidst Odrerir and Bodn – wherein it is the carrying out of such a sacrificial portion of the Mead’s derivation which renders things ‘complete’, ‘whole’, ‘right’, and ‘proper’.
Another probability is that the ‘Son’ of the Third Vessel is meant in a perhaps more ‘sociable’ functionalist sense. That is to say , that it may provide preternatural powers of charisma and the ability to bring men together in shared, common purpose through inspiration and insight (Odr and Bodn, respectively). This would plausibly fit with what we know of the miraculous potency of the Mead, and would be an absolutely vital skill for many of the would-be heroic and mighty figures who would seek to benefit from its imbibification. On one end of the spectrum, it is the veer-y stuff of which kingships and empires are made ; and in another part, it is the natural, indeed quite literally log-ical result of an excellent story-teller working his magic upon an audience in a darkened fire-lit feast-hall.
But let us move on to the potential Vedic cognates, of which there are also three. ‘Svadha’, ‘Svaha’, and ‘Svasthya’.
The first is a rather intriguing term for our purposes, insofar as it encodes the sense of an ’empowering imbibification’; for example, in its use in RV I 144 2, wherein it is Agni Who is the one to take the power via drinking of this offering. A transmission that is curiously rendered in the Brereton/Jamison translation of the relevant hymnal as being an implicit act of self-sacrifice, a sort of self-contained cycle wherein Agni comes to gain and benefit from powers already somewhat innate to Him via the making and then drinking of the offering to Him(self); and which has direct linkage also to The Waters – something which would also fit, perhaps, with the hypothesized role of the Well of Mimir in my reconstructive interpretation of that myth. In particular, the mediative role of Saraswati as both ‘gatekeeper’ and ‘expression’ of that which lies beyond The Waters, and therefore the empowerment, the knowledge and wisdom, that can flow therefrom.
However, I consider this somewhat less likely in a direct sense to be the meaning of ‘Son’ – as apart from noting that all *three* of the Vessels of the Meath are ’empowering beverages’ to be drunken, the etymology is also somewhat more remote. ‘Svadha’ either derives from ‘dha’, and would therefore mean something akin to ‘drawing to one’s self via sucking’; or it derives from Proto-Indo-European ‘Swe-Deh’, in which case we have the more interesting ‘Self Placing’ as the original meaning. And I say this is ‘more interesting’ because it grants cognate terms in Ancient Greek of both ‘Ethos’ and ‘Ethnos’ – that is to say, Custom/Habit and Culture/People. The Germanic cognate, meanwhile, would be ‘Siduz’ (giving us the Old Norse ‘Siðr’ – in which the term has usefully also come to mean ‘Religion’), although it is also possible that ‘Siduz’ is slightly differently derived, from PIE ‘Sehy’ meaning ‘To Bind’. In any case, the meaning of ‘Svadha’ as ‘Power’ and also ‘Custom’, is interesting and resonant; as are the broader Indo-European cognate terms for ‘Svadha’ wherein this ‘Power’ is the power of Principle and culture – that which is right, proper, and correct, because it is ‘the done thing’ for one’s folk. Which would, as applies the ‘folk’ connection, also link back to one of the manners in which Germanic ‘Sonar’ has been interpreted. But there are better potential options for our Sanskrit functional cognate, I think.
The most obvious of which being ‘Svaha’ – a remarkably common and also resonant Sanskrit liturgical phrasing , the effective meaning of which in directly literal terms is ‘Well-Said’; although with the better understanding perhaps being akin to ‘Hail!’ – as it is the injunctive phrase which sanctifies and ‘completes’ a ritual expression and the correspondent offering. It is the final ‘ingredient’, if you like, to rendering something holy and properly empowered. Interestingly, Svaha also occurs as the name of a Wife of Agni, a Mother of Kartikeya, as well as the name of a Wife of Shiva (and it should be noted the effective unifying thread of these three occurrences is Him; in the first case, the Svaha in question is a Daughter of Daksha, as is Lady Sati; in the second case, the principle Mother of Kartikeya is Parvati; and in the third case, Shiva’s bride of the fiery (self) sacrifice is regrettably rather coterminous with the domain of Svaha over the offerings consumed via flame).
If ‘Svaha’ were the correct Vedic ritual cognate for ‘Son’, then it would imply that this third Vessel of the Mead is the one which renders the bestowal of the blessings of the Meath to be ‘complete’, to be ‘good’. It may also, in a figurative sense, imply the bestowal of the Skaldic potency for which the Mead of Poetry is, after all, named – ‘Well-Said’, remember? A somewhat logical final step following the preceding ‘raising of spirit’, the linkage of the ‘spirit’ implied by Odr, Odrerir with the outside world via the perceptiveness of Bon – the ability to then express what has been formented, ‘stirred up’ via the preceding two impartments or investments via the power of Speech.
Although the parallel formulation we ought consider, in light of the customary way with which a toast is to be drink even today, is a further possibility – “Good Health!”
Or, as we might say in Sanskrit – Svasthya. Which, in addition to its sense of ‘Health’ can also connote ‘Well-Being’ in other ways, including happiness and contentment, as well as the state of ‘being at peace’. That last one, in particular, may not sound entirely in keeping with the Nordic/Germanic ‘spirit’ of things – but consider the Proto-Germanic term ‘Swono’ which I had raised earlier. It means, in addition to an offering or a sacrifice, the bringing about of a concord or the reconciliation of men. Exactly the sorts of things one expects to see as correlate with the bringing of peace – the atonement (at-one-ment) of parties, consecrated with a ritual offering, and in the case of the Sonar-Boar, hallowed with oaths. A restoration of the ‘health’ of the community via the amelioration and removal of strife and discord.
I therefore have little hesitation in suggestion that the ‘Són’ of the Third Vessel, is broadly equivalent to the ‘Sunn’ of modern Norwegian – ‘Health’, in a sense comparable to how we would say ‘of Sound Mind’, ‘of Sound Body’ in modern formalized legal English, ‘Sound’ in this sense being etymologically cognate.
However, while we have identified direct Odinic theonyms related to the qualities being imparted for each of the first two Vessels – Óðrerir and Odr, Boðn and Vakr; which should be expected, given the prominent mythological associations and ‘possession’ for Odin with the qualities in question; we reach a minor obstacle as applies Són. Odin is more usually regarded as the inciter of strife and inceptor of conflict, than the negotiator of the peace which restores an equitable balance post-bellum. Although the main instance in which Odin must have been involved in a peace-treaty is, of course, also the one which produces Kvasir in the first place – the resolution of the Aesir-Vanir conflict. In terms of theonyms, ‘Thror’ and ‘Throttr’ may have some relevancy. The latter refers to ‘Strength’ (providing modern Icelandic ‘throttur’ – also meaning energy and vigour), the former to the quality of ‘Thriving’ (which, interestingly, Tolkien had potentially linked to a boar in his Legendarium’s use of the name). And is also the name Odin gives for Himself in the context of Council Assembly – exactly where we should expect the active participants to come together in positive spirit and concord. My colleague, Tristan Powers, has also alerted me to the mythic account of Odin healing Baldr’s horse, mention of Odin’s healing power occurrent in the Havamal, and the Odinic theonym of ‘Kjalarr’ – ‘Nourisher’ – although he also adds that it is possible this is meant … rather specifically, to refer to ‘nourishing the Crows’ via the dead bodies of the battlefield.
A THIRD DRAUGHT OF SOMA-KVASIR – THE RECONSTRUCTION OF THE MEANING OF THE MEAD – THE EMBERS OF EMPOWERMENT OF HUMAN
The best justification for the Third Vessel providing ‘Health’ or ‘Bodily Vitality’, though, is to be found in a perhaps less-expected source – the Völuspá.
To quote from the Old Norse:
“Ǫnd þau né átto, óð þau né hǫfðo,
lá né læti né lito góða.
Ǫnd gaf Óðinn, óð gaf Hœnir,
lá gaf Lóðurr ok lito góða.”
A full-scale exploration of the three sets of qualities being imparted here (as well as the perhaps curious specific names bestowed upon the Givers thereof) is beyond the scope of this piece; but suffice to say the three terms are generally rendered as follows. ‘Önd’ – as ‘Breath’, or Soul, Spirit [linking, as we have previously seen, to the strong alignment of ‘Spirit’ and ‘Air’]; ‘Óð’ is customarily translated as ‘Sense’ [the ‘Active Engagement’ of ‘Spirit’ with the world around it, perhaps]; ‘Lá’ and ‘Lito’ variously translated as ‘Heat’, ‘Film of Flesh’, ‘Blood’, and ‘Colour’, ‘Hue’, ‘Appearance’ [think of the essential qualities of the living being as opposed to the corpse – life seen in living temperature and the lack of the corpse-like pallor of death], respectively. These are the qualities imparted to the first humans – Ask and Embla – in order to render them truly alive, human.
As we can see, these align closely with the three ‘qualities’ which should be imparted by the Meath of Poetry. Óðrerir pertaining to the ‘Spirit’, Boðn linking to the ‘Sense’, and Són referring to the ‘Health’. Which does not seek to imply that the Mead of Poetry was required for the formulation and life-giving of Man. Only that the qualities already present in man and provided to us by The Gods , are significantly enhanced in their scale and scope via the imbibification of the Brew. In a similar manner, perhaps, to the way in which ‘Amrit’ in Sanskrit [another rendering for ‘Soma’, contingent upon the context] means ‘Opposite-to-Death’ – i.e. ‘Life’ – and therefore refers to the sine qua non essential quality (singular) of Human (Living) Existence. And, in a similar manner to the way in which Amrit is referred to as the Elixir of Immortality or Lengthening of Life – so, too, should the Empowering Brew of the Meath be viewed as taking that which already exists, is already in us, and massively enhancing it. Enhancing us, in fact – rendering us Superhuman via the further augmentation of those subtle ember-sparks of the Divine with which we have previously been brought to ‘life’.
There is a further potential line of inquiry which I mean to address in a future piece, which also links to my aforementioned reconstructive cosmological speculation around the Well of Mimir and the Vedic concept of The Waters (more specifically, What – and, for that matter, Who – lies Above the Sky Therein), pertaining to what Ask and Embla are said in the Völuspá to be pointedly *without* prior to these three Investments – Orlog, Supernal Law – But we shall leave that for another time. Probably not as a *fourth* installment of this series, for reasons which ought be mythologically obvious …
Now in terms of the implications of all of this – and the ritualine applications – it should be noted that the broad array of functional roles for Soma in the Vedic Indo-European religion likely should inform how we think about the Meath of the Eddic Indo-European religion being employed. That is to say, the fact that we have the mythic accounts for the use of the Elixir by Gods, does not mean that we lack good grounds for presuming ritualine usage of the Elixir – or its simulacra – by Humans. Indeed, the two go side by side, hand in hand – with due offering of a pressing or pressings to the God or Gods in question being followed up via the drinking of the Soma by the human agents involved in the relevant rite. Becoming more like Gods , closer to Them in some small ways, via the Mythic Recurrence, the Eternal Return, the Mythic Resonancy of the ritual.
In a similar manner, just as Soma and to a lesser extent Amrit turn up with some frequency in various mythic situations amidst the Vedic canon, so too may what is represented by the Mead of Poetry find similar diversity of wellsprings (potentially quite mythic-literally) amidst the Norse mythology and accompanying cosmology.
The essential point, for our (somewhat Neb-ulous) purposes is to highlight the Qualities of the Mead, via our reconstructive and Vedic-Sanskrit comparative approach , as a way of thinking about the Potion and its Portion; shedding new light upon matters which had previously proven remarkably stubborn if not downright enigmatic to prior scholarship.
And, in so doing, helping to demonstrate that not only is encoded within the Old Norse sources available to us a much more coherent mythoreligion than previously realized by many – with less outright ‘invention’ by Sturluson than is perhaps presumed; as well as, once again, the fundamental and underlying unity of the Indo-European mythoreligion.
We all, it would appear, have drawn from the same well.