It provides a sophisticated hierarchy of the development of new forms. We start with cosmic principles – fire and ice, and the pregnant magical void ginnungagap which separates them. The next level of organization to arise is that of the androgyne Ymir and the cow Audhumla. From Ymir grows the race of giants. Among these giants are the etins, wise immortals who appear to us a little like the laws of the universe. In parallel, Audhumla licks and shapes the matrix of ice and salt where a proto-man is growing. These new forms interbreed to form the first truly conscious beings – Odin and his two brothers Vili and Ve. The brothers dismember Ymir, the old universe, and build a new one which reflects their conscious state. Consciousness is carried forward from the gods into the stream of organic life when the three brothers endow two trees with that spark and give rise to the first man and woman.
We can see that we are living in a layered universe, each layer of novel development stacked on top of another layer of completed development. All the structures that our awareness is built on top of are still visible. All the ancient layers are still with us. I have hung the tales and ideas onto that robust old story, understood as a sequence of nine stages.
Preamble, Or Act 0: The Seeress.
She sits in a cave at the centre of all edges, in the twilight of morning, in the red dusk behind closed eyes. In her gaze the universe around her creates and destroys, harvests and sows, cherishes and abandons, emits and absorbs, spins the moon’s emptiness and fullness… The soundtrack is a timeless music, as if you just walked into a performance that has been going on for forty thousand years. A single eye blazes out from under the traveller’s broad-brimmed hat. He leans forward. ‘So how did it begin?’She takes a long, silent breath. Her eyeballs roll up under closed eyelids, as if she is brimming with something.’It happened in stages. Each stage led to the next, with no possibility of it happening any other way.’
Act 1: Fire And Ice
In the polarity of cosmic Ice and Fire arises the spring Hvergelmir, rivers of venom roll, frost fills the gap, thaws and drips…We are in a moment before life appears, in the presence of the most primal layer of power.
Act 2: The Cow And The Androgyne
He lives on the melting ice, always has done. In the frost-covered void he meets the cow Audhumla and feeds from the streams of milk that flow from her four udders. She too is always there, a child of the Gap-frost. She smells salt and moves away from the hot place. She blends into the mist, through which occasionally emerge glimpses of an icy void, her world ending just over there. She follows the bloody scent to the edge of the ice sheet. She lives on an eternal edge, on a shrunken border between two unlivable extremes, two universes of death. The air is always wet.