Tuesday, October 30, 2018

Homer’s Detailed Ancient Ritual To Summon The Dead

If you have a copy of Homer’s masterful epic poem, The Odyssey, on your bookshelf, you may be surprised to know that the poem contains a powerful ritual to summon the spirits of the dead. Yet, before you attempt try it out, this ritual will not work in your back yard. According to Homer, the spell will only work if performed at the borderlands of the underworld.

The Story
The ritual in question is mentioned at the end of book 10 and the beginning of Book 11 in The Odyssey. In regards to plot, this scene takes place after Odysseus blinded the cyclops, Polyphemus, a child of the sea-god, Poseidon. From the land of the Cyclops, Odysseus then sailed to the island inhabited by Aeolus, keeper of the winds, who gave the adventurer a bag of air that would ensure that the sailors had favorable weather on their journey home. Yet, Odysseus’ crew opened the bag, releasing the wind and consequently blowing the ship off course. The wind-blown sailors eventually washed up in the territory of the giant, man-eating Laestrygonians. When it became apparent to Odysseus that the locals wanted to have his crew for dinner, he quickly set sail and eventually anchored his ship at Aeaea, the island called home by the goddess-witch, Circe.

Odysseus sent out half of his crew to scout the island of Aeaea and these unlucky men found Circe’s polished-stone palace. Circe greeted the sailors and managed to lure all but one member of the party into her hall, where she fed them a feast of cheese, barley-meal, honey and wine. The goddess, however, had added a secret ingredient to the food and drink—all of the men who ate from her table were transformed into swine. Luckily for the pig-men, their captain, Odysseus, was on his way to save the day. Using a magical antidote dropped off by Hermes, Odysseus entered the stone palace, and after some intimate negotiations with Circe in her bedroom, Odysseus convinced the goddess to turn the crew back into humans. Interestingly enough, Odysseus’ crew and Circe became the best of pals after the incident, and Odysseus decided to party with the goddess on Aeaea for an entire year.

When that year was over, however, Circe told Odysseus that he needed to consult with the spirit of the dead prophet, Teiresias, to have any chance of returning to his home in Ithaca. In addition to this advice, Circe gave Odysseus instructions on how to reach the border of the underworld, as well as instructions for a ghostly summoning ritual and the supplies needed to perform that spell. Thus equipped with knowledge and provisions, Odysseus set sail toward the land of the dead.

Thursday, October 18, 2018

The Fatal Curse Over The Yngling Dynasty

King Harald Finehair brought all of Norway under his influence in the later half of the 9th century and continued to rule over Norway until his death around the year 940. His successors are often labeled as the Finehair Dynasty, but Harald supposedly claimed lineage from an even more ancient line royal line, which was said to link all the way back to the Norse gods.

According to Scandinavian tradition, Harald Finehair was a member of the Yngling Dynasty. The Icelandic scholar, Snorri Sturluson (1179-1241), wrote an account of this peculiar family in his Yngling Saga. He began with pure myth and gradually moved through legend, semi-legend, and finally folklore-laden history to reach the more factually-grounded time of Harald Finehair. According to legend, the first two members of the family were gods and, if calculations are correct, Harald Finehair was supposedly the thirty-fifth ruling member of the Yngling Dynasty. Yet, despite the supposedly divine origin of their family, the Ynglings were very, very unlucky—according to the saga, twenty-five of Harald’s thirty-four predecessors died violent, accidental, or simply unnatural deaths.

The Yngling Saga begins with an interesting theory that suggests Odin and the Norse gods migrated from a location near the Black Sea and eventually traveled across Europe to ultimately settle Sweden, where Odin founded a kingdom. After a long reign, Odin handed the control of his kingdom over to another god from outside his family. The successor’s name was Njord and he was technically the founder of the Yngling Dynasty. The dynasty, however, was actually named after Njord’s son and successor, Frey, a popular god who apparently also went by the name Yngvi, hence the family name of Yngling. In the saga, the reigns of Njord and Frey were portrayed as golden ages of prosperity, as would be expected from gods. The personal luck of these two god-kings were said to have been very positive during their time as rulers over a Swedish kingdom and their aura of good fortune spread over the entire kingdom during their reigns. Of course, Frey was prophesied in the Norse religion to eventually fall during the apocalyptic battle of Ragnarok, but that did not stop his mythical days as a monarch from being considered the epitome of good fortune.

After the reign of Frey, however, the Yngling Dynasty suffered an unbelievable fall from grace. Here are the bizarre fates of the Yngling Dynasty members, beginning with Frey’s son and ending with Harald Finehair’s father, Hálfdan the Black. Enjoy the stories, but keep in mind that the Yngling Dynasty is considered mythical or extremely legendary, with Harald Finehair, and to a lesser extent, Hálfdan the Black, being the only members of the dynasty generally accepted as historical figures.