For years after I first became a Heathen, I struggled with the meaning of Yule: as a child, Christmas had been my favorite holiday, and research into Christmas customs had led me, eventually, to Heathenry. Yet as a Catholic child, I knew what Christmas meant. I had no such understanding of Yule, and that caused me a great deal of angst.
Thus, one of the most important moments in my religious education was when I read about sacred time in Eliade’s “The Sacred and the Profane”, and that end-of-year holidays across cultures draw most if not all of their meaning from end-of-world myths. I immediately began to see connections between the customs that I had studied and the general schemata of celebrations occurring at the end of the year/world in a vast number of cultures the world over. Thus, I drew connections between Yule and the myth of Ragnarǫk.
(I know that there are those who think that the myth of Ragnarǫk, even the entirety of both Eddas, have little if anything to do with Germanic religion as it was practiced and understood. I am aware of their arguments and, respectfully, I differ.)
So here is something that I wrote in Old Frisian, borrowing freely from both the Old Icelandic Vǫlospá, and the Old High German apocalyptic poem Muspilli. This is one of the hymns that I sing on Mothernight, the first night of Yule.
(Originally published on Ordgeþanc 12/10/2016)
Thet hêrde ik rêda· thâ riuchtwîsa
thet Winter skal kuma· thi wunderlang
ône Sumur ênich· ne sefte weder
swart skal thâ skîna· Sunne therefter.
Thâ skal thi hund jella· fora helledore
bende skal bersta· blôdiga renna
thâ dâda mugun alle· diâpithe ûtrunna
âk on hrêwei kuma· hellewenere.
Brôthera skelen hiâ bēra· âk tô him bana wertha
swesterlingar· sibbe skelen forderva
herd is thet in hâmum· hôrdôm mizil
skathatîd, skefttîd· skeldar send klovene
windtîd, werchtîd· êr thiu warld falleth
ne mei ênich mann· ôthere sparia.
Thet bâm warlda· biviath mith windum
este skeddath· all ondrêdath
Etenar mith orloge· tô Êsum farath
Hâga mith hâvde· hâmelîke rêdeth.
Sâ thet himelisk horn· jihlûded wirdith
and him thi warldwaldere· on thene wei urhevith
thanne hevith him mith· herana mêstera
thet ist all sâ frevellik· thet him nâmann jifiuchta ne mei.
Thâ Wêda with wolf· thene wilden rîdeth
Walfeder falleth· in warges maga
wîdere steppeth· wrêzelik sunu
bodeme twisk and himile· balmûla rendeth.
Thâ skal thi warldslanga· mith Wîthuner strîda
thi werch ist jewêpned· under him wîch forbilgth
kampum send sô kreftlik· thiu kâse ist sô grât
skel hî in thêra wîchstede· wund bifalla
and in thâm sîthe· sîlâs wertha.
Wîchthuner with werm· thene wrêthen strîdeth
dâthslachta driupith· mith duriga hamre
bana hî wirthith· thes baluwermes
hwande nêdra êttere· thâ nitherfalleth.
Thach wênath that manich· werthige godamenn
thet âwerded werthe· in thâm wîge Thuner
sô thet Êsathuneres blôd· on erthe jesîpith
sô urbarnath thâ bergar· bâm ne jestandith
ênich on erthe· â ordrukniath
foraswelketh hit môr · swilath logum thi himel
môna falleth· middeljerd barneth
stên ne jistanth· thane stêringedei hider farith
farith mith thâm fior· ferch tô ofbarna
thâ ne mei thanna mage ôthra· helpa thâm muspille fora
thanne thî brêdlik brand· forabarneth all
and fior and luft· urfurviath hit all
hwêr ist thanne thiu merke· thêr jâ mann mith magum sînum facht?
Erthe skal rîva· âk uphimel
Sunne tâwath hia swart· sîgeth Folde in mere
hwirvith of himele· hêdere stêra
springith hâch hête· with himel selven.
Eft skal up kuma· ôthrere tîde
erthe ût thēra â· âmmêrgrēne
thâ water fliâtath· waldar blôiath
âk unsiâde· ekkerar waxath.
God skelen samnia· et gadringelôch
âk mêna thêr· on meindômar
erva skelen wenia· in Alfederis hove
and thêr skelen walda· wathemar goda.
Uppa hrênere erthe· mith hâgere froude
menn skelen wenia· in morgen nîa,
Sunne skal rîsa· sê skal walla
bâm skal blôma· men balu wilia.
That I heard the right-wise say,
that the wonder-long Winter shall come
without any Summer nor soft weather,
the Sun shall then shine black thereafter.
Then shall the hound bay before Hell-door,
fetter shall burst, bloody-one shall run,
then may all the dead flow out of the depths
and the Hell-dwellers come on the corpse-way.
Brothers shall threaten each other and become each other’s banes
sisters’ children shall ruin kinship,
that is hard in the homes, great whoredom,
scathe-tide, shaft-tide, shields are cloven,
wind-tide, warg-tide, before the world falls,
nor may any man spare others.
The tree of worlds shakes with winds
branches shudder, all are in dread
etens fare to the gods with war
High One secretly speaks with a head .
As the heavenly horn is sounded,
and the world-ruler heaves himself onto the way,
then heaves with him the greatest of armies
that is all so bold that no one may fight against it.
Wóden rides against the wild wolf,
Walfather falls in the warg’s maw,
Wider steps the vengeful son,
between ground and heaven rends the bale-maw.
Then shall the world-serpent against Wîthuner strive,
the warg is weaponed, the battle will begin between them
the fighters are so strong, the cause is so great
he shall fall wounded in the battle-stead
and become bereft of victory in the way.
Fight-Þunor strives against the wroth worm
drops death-blows with brutal hammer
becomes the bane of the bale-worm
then falls down from the adder’s poison.
Though many worthy gods’ men ween
that in the fight Thuner becomes wounded,
so that Êsathuner’s blood seeps onto the earth,
so the mountains burn up, no tree stands
any on earth, waters dry up
the moor consumes itself, heaven burns with flames
moon falls, middleyard burns
no stone stands, the day of destruction fares hither,
fares with the fire to burn lives away
then may kin not help the other before the Muspille
for when the broad brand burns up all
and fire and wind sweep it all away
where is then the march where before a man fought with his kin?
Earth shall split and up-heaven
Sun shows herself black, Earth sinks in the sea
the clear stars whirl in heaven
high heat springs against heaven itself.
Afterwards up shall come, another time,
earth out of the water, ever-green
then water flows, forests bloom
and unsown acres grow.
Gods shall gather at the gathering-lea
and think there on mighty dooms
heirs shall dwell in Allfather’s court
and there shall rule the gods’ holy places.
Upon the clean earth with high joy
men shall dwell in a new morning,
Sun shall rise, sea shall well
tree shall bloom, but bale fade.