The Mead of Inspiration was made from Kvasir's Blood; Kvasir was created when the AEsir and Vanir made peace and sealed the pact by creating a human who was the original knowledge. Kvasir came to two dwarves, Fjalar and Galar, and these dwarves slew him and let his blood run into two crocks - Son and Bodn - and a kettle - Odroerir. There the dwarves mixed his blood with honey and brewed from this the Mead of Inspiration. The dwarves then slew a giant in an accident at sea, and then his wife, and thus Suttung the Giant seized them, took them out to sea, and chained them to a skerry covered by the tide. They begged for their lives and agreed to give Suttung the Magic Mead of Knowledge. Suttung took it home and hid it in the inner recesses of his mountain dwelling - Knit Mountain - and appointed his daughter Gunnloth as its guardian. From this tale we can see that the original owners of the mead were the Gods, and from there the dwarves stole it, and then the giants.
Woden sets out on a quest to regain the Sacred Mead, trekking into Jotenheim to the dwelling of Suttung, Knit Mountain. There he finds nine giants cutting hay in a field. Offering to sharpen their scythes, he tricks them into a position where they slay each other, then seeking their employer, Baugi, his service to do the work of these nine giants in return for a draft of the Sacred Mead. Baugi's brother was Suttung, so although he agreed in principle it was not his to give. Woden did the work and was taken to Suttung, who bluntly refused the request. Woden then took out a hand-drill called Rati and told Baugi to bore into the mountain, which he did. Woden suspected a trick and blew into the hole; when some chips flew back at him he knew that the drill had not gone right through and he forced Baugi to finiosh the job, which he did. Shape-shifting into a Serpent, Woden flung himself into the hole and into the mountain.
Rati is a title given to Hama (Heimdall), and it is also part of the name Rata-tosk which is the squirrel that runs up and down the World Tree. Since we find that Agni, the Vedic equivalent to Heimdall, has a similar role in regaining the lost Mead by breaking open a mountain, then we can assume that it is Hama-Heimdall who helps Woden get into the mountain.
Whilst in the mountain Woden gets drunk, very drunk when he lay in Gunnlod's house; he also states that he was in the same condition at the 'wise Fjalar's', one of the dwarves that created the Sacred Mead by adding honey to Kvasir's Blood. It is not clear what he means by this, but it may be that he became drunk through the use of the Sacred Mead. In the Words of the High One we find this statement, which seems to bear this out -
Gunnlod sat in the Golden Seat,
poured me precious mead:
ill-reward she had from me for that,
for her proud and passionate heart,
her brooding foreseeing spirit.
What I won from her I have well used:
I have waxed in wisdom since I came back,
bringing to Asgard Odroerir,
the Sacred Draft.
This is a most important piece of information which tells us so much about the role of Woden. The poet comments - 'Odin, I am sure, had taken the oath on the ring: who shall ever believe his word again? He swindled Suttung out of his mead and left Gunnlod to weep.' The breaking of an oath was a serious thing in Germanic society, and in doing so Woden would be deemed to be dishonourable. But we have to look more carefully at this, since in reality he did not 'swindle Suttung out of his mead' because it was not originally his, but was taken from the dwarves, who had slain Kvasir to get it. And Woden tells us why he had undertaken the quest to regain the stolen mead, so that he could wax in wisdom when bringing to Asgard the Sacred Mead. In a sense the end here justifies the means, but Woden had to work outside the law to regain it.
Woden tells us - 'The fraud-got mead has profited me well and the wise-man lacks nothing now that Odroerir is come up into the midst of men on earth.' This is clearly the reason why Woden undertook such a dangerous quest, in order to gain the Mead of Inspiration for men on Middle-Earth. In doing so Gunnlod had obviously fallen in love with Woden, and he deceived her; this seems clear since she aided his escape from Sutting when Woden shape-shifted into an Eagle.
This was a Tantric Love Rite in which Woden transforms from a Serpent (Earth-Bound) into an Eagle (Heaven - Divine). This is akin to eastern Tantra which results in the rising of the Fire-Serpent which produces a kind of 'nectar' which floods the body, as found in so many accounts of this type of work. Hence the Golden Seat that Gunnlod sits in, and the Sacred Mead which is the Nectar of the Gods. Here the work of Hama-Heimdall (Agni) is also made clear, since he is the Fiery-Serpent.
Woden here works outside of the norms of the society, he is thus, in a sense, an 'outlaw', working outside the laws of his society. But he has good reason to do so since the end result is that mankind has the Sacred Mead of Inspiration which is needed to defend themselves against the Giants. Not only does he trick Gunnlod and steal back the mead from Suttung, but he also acts as a trickster-figure in slaying the nine giant-workers, using cunning rather than the usual warrior way.
In the last post I mentioned that Tiw had to sacrifice his hand in order to balance the trickery of the gods in binding Fenrir; again, trickery, deceit and magic had to be used in order to fend off the destruction of the Gods, even though this had to come in the end when Fenris broke loose again. In many cases it is Loki the Trickster who uses his wits to aid the gods, mostly when the gods force him to do so after his cunning gets them into trouble. Unlike Loki's tricks and mischief, Woden uses his trickery, cunning and magic to aid the Gods and Men by gaining knowledge and wisdom which holds them in stead for Ragnarok.
In The Lord of the Rings we find a similar case in the way that the Battle of Pellinor Fields is won; this would have been lost had it been fought as it 'should' have been. However, Aragorn in a sense 'cheats' by raising the Army of the Dead who are 'oath-breakers' and not the usual warrior-type used in warfare. In this way Aragorn acts as the Wild Hunter-God, the Leader of the Army of the Dead, and in the book it clearly states that they bore the Black Banner which is symbolic of this phenomena. We have here yet another case where the 'norm' is not adhered to in order to achieve the end result needed.
Another case can be found in the Legend of Sigurd who rather than sticking by the Warrior Code slays the dragon Fafnir through trickery, in this case aided by Woden who shows him how to do so. Sigurd then cooks the heart of the dragon, eating the heart and drinking the blood, thus attaining an enlightened state of consciousness. He then slays Regin (his mentor) who represents sovereignty (Regin mean 'sovereign') and fecundity (Regin is a blacksmith). Sigurd here breaks the sacred rules of society in order to achieve his aims.
The Archetypal Hero violates the rules of each caste of society -
- Disobeys a ruler or a priest.
- Uses trickery to defeat and opponent.
- Acts out of lust or deceit against a producer.