• Jess

Ragnarok: Imperfect Gods at the End of the World

Updated: Jun 4, 2021

Perfect gods are unrelatable. What a comfort it was to me to discover gods motivated by hunger, desire, quests for knowledge, the ceasing of grief, the resolution of vengeance. It varies from one pantheon to the next, but none of my gods are perfect. Nor do they pretend to be. Not omniscient (all seeing), not omnipresent (all present), and certainly not omnipotent (all powerful).

They are wise and powerful and their personalities and attributes speak to me. Somehow, knowing that with all their skill and insight, they can no more guard against death or disaster than I can brings holiness and humanity closer together. In ritual, I ask them to lend me their courage or compassion, their strength or wisdom. Stories, like the runes, are portals, maps which help us find the best parts of ourselves and restore to dignity and respect the parts of ourselves we suppressed or disregarded.

For all Her considerable knowledge, Frigg could not protect Her son Baldr from death. With His impressive might, Thor was unable to protect His wife Sif from the indignity of having Her hair cut off by Loki. Consumed by desire, Freyr traded his sword for marriage to the giantess Gerd. At Ragnarok, the Twilight of the Gods, He fights with a horn instead of His formidable weapon, capable of fighting on its own.

Their shortcomings are not so different than our own, nor are their quests to repair and restore. In a quest to make things right after deception, Loki brings the gifts of the dwarves to Asgard-- including golden hair for Sif, Odin's spear and His armring, Freyr's golden boar and Thor's hammer, mjollnir. When Loki is held accountable for His misdeeds, His wife Sigyn is by His side, attempting to ease His pain. Were Baldr not stuck in Helheim at Ragnarok, He could not return for the rebirth of the world after Ragnarok.

I believe firmly in free will, that we have agency and the power to decide who we will be and the life path that we will choose. This is not the same as total freedom. I also believe in destiny, in wyrd and orlog. Sometimes, the dominos need to fall a certain way and all paths would lead to the same destination.

What good are our gods and our myths if they don't bring us inspiration, curiosity, healing, determination? In these times of continuing trial, we can sense a shift. It feels as though what comes after Ragnarok is inching closer. Now is the time to continue to feed our hopes and dreams, to be nourished by story, to hold fast to what we want to build and who we want to be in the wake of heartbreak and destruction.

We can read Ragnarok as hideous destruction. Three terrible winters, followed by the breakdown of the social order. The sun sinks into the sea. Odin, god of wisdom falls, as does Thor, Earth's protector, Freyr, god of fertility and peace. A world out of alignment, seemingly without the conditions for survival.

We can also read Ragnarok as the changing of the guard. The sun has been destroyed, but Her daughter rises. Two humans, Life and Life Yearner, have survived, hidden in a tree -- they repopulate the earth and life begins anew. Thor's sons survive. Baldr returns to rule a world that is abundant and peaceful. The asynjur (Frigg, Freya, Sif and other goddesses) survive. Great loss can temper us. It can also bring us to our knees and leave us forever changed.

Let the change move through you. Let your new story move through you, through dance or song or paintbrush strokes or whatever is the truest expression of you and the world you are longing for. One day, you will know it in your bones. In the meantime, if you forget it, lean on the stories and the powers that tug at your heart and stir your soul and shake up your perspective. It's only the end of one world. Another is on its way.

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