Fyrnsidic Cosmology- Gods & Ettins
Posted by Byron Pendason on , in Cosmology, Heathen basics, Heathen worldview, Heathenry, Reconstruction
I would like to preface this with a disclaimer. While Jotnar and ettins are cognates of one another, the way they are viewed by their respective religious traditions can vary wildly. While there might be Norse Heathens who would agree with my takes here, and Anglo-Saxon Heathens who may disagree with them, this seems to generally be the Anglo-Saxon view (at least, among those who self identify their religion as Fyrnsidu) and typically isn’t the modern Norse Heathen view.
This blog post will build upon my last blog post about Order and Chaos. The key take away from that is that the gods established the cosmic order, and that the Þing (assembly) of the gods maintains that cosmic order. A lot of what will be said here is much more eloquently stated in Wind in the Worldtree’s video What makes a god?, and further expanded upon in his video Gray Areas of Deity.
Before anything else existed, there was only chaos. From that chaos, emerged the gods and the ettins. (For most Anglo-Saxon Heathens, Gimm/Gyme/Ymir was the first to emerge from the chaos, and the gods and ettins emerged from him.) The gods and the ettins are typically seen as being the same kind of beings, more or less equal in power/abilities. This can be seen even in Norse mythology in stories in which a Jotun will join the gods, usually by marrying an Æsir. So what’s the difference between the gods and the ettins in Fyrnsidu?
As I stated above, the gods established the cosmic order of the universe. The Þing (pronounced like the modern English thing) is the Assembly of the gods (which according to our lore is headed by Tīw), and it maintains the cosmic order. Most Fyrnsideras then logically see the dividing line between the gods and the ettins as affiliation with the Þing. Those that are members of, or are otherwise affiliated with, the Þing are the gods. They each have duties that maintain the cosmic order, and are thus bound by the cosmic order.
Those god-like beings (for a lack of a better term) that emerged from the chaos that are not affiliated with the Þing are the ettins. They aren’t all necessarily evil, many are completely indifferent to the gods and cosmic order. Some do actively oppose the gods, and these are the enemies of the gods. But many are simply neutral in the order-chaos war.
Historically, the ettins were not worshipped (a really good video on this is Is Chaos Worship Historical?), with the exception of those ettins that joined the gods (which would have made them gods rather than ettins). They were sometimes propitiated, but that is not worship. Worship comes from the Old English and originally meant the state of being worthy; worthiness.
This brings us to the fundamental characteristic of a god in most polytheistic religions that separate them from other beings who are often seen as being more or less just as powerful as a god. That is, to be a god one must be seen as being worthy of worship. To most Fyrnsideras, the gods are worthy of our worship, whereas the ettins are not. It’s not because the ettins are necessarily evil, or even because they are chaotic. It’s because they do not support cosmic order. Cosmic order is what makes the universe habitable for physical life, and this is what makes the gods worthy of our worship.
The gods are bound by the cosmic order, whereas the ettins are not. The gods, then, are bound to honor reciprocity (the principle of a gift for a gift that is fundamental to Proto-Indo-European pre-Christian religions), whereas the ettins are not. This makes them risky to try to build relationships with. I’m not saying it’s impossible, only that it’s very risky.
So, for a quick recap, the first being to emerge from the chaos was Gimm (Gyme/Ymir). From Gimm emerged all the proto-gods (for lack of a better term). The gods are those beings who established and maintain the cosmic order with their affiliation to the Þing. All the other beings from this group are called ettins. They are all either neutral towards the cosmic order, or actively work to undermine it. Some of these beings (especially those who actively work against the cosmic order) could be considered evil, but others are just neutral.
Hail the gods, maintainers of the cosmic order!