Mythic Time


Of late, I've been pondering the concept of "mythic time" as opposed to our linear perception of it. Framed against the background of Einsteinian (and post-Einsteinian) physics, time is obviously not quite what our ancestors made of it. Is anyone else game for identifying Ginnungagap with that moment-that-was-no-moment immediately prior to the Big Bang? Perhaps we could speak of entropy and the second law of thermodynamics in association with the chaotic inhabitants of Jotunheim? If the Eddaic narratives weren't so rich in symbology they'd be static set-pieces from which it would be difficult to pluck new and relevent meanings. I'm not so woolly-minded as to suggest the people who wrote the Eddas were in any way privy to mystical revelations about these contemporary concepts, but I do find it intriguing to find ways to relate the ideas of the past and the present.

The problem of how to speak or write of the myths themselves presents itself. Do we discuss them in the past tense, assign them to Urdh as it were, as though they have already occurred? This seems to work in most cases, yet fails utterly when we speak of Ragnarok, if it is to be viewed as "the end of the world as we know it." In one sense, though, it already has occurred, if we can confidently assert the heathen world-view that originated the myths came to its end some time during the middle ages. But this isn't quite correct either, since Heathenism in its revived form does not deal only with Baldr, et al, but with those deities which would be dead and gone if Ragnarok were a foregone conclusion. While one could conceivably honour dead gods as one would one's ancestors, I'd feel like a right prat propitiating them.

So is the present tense more appropriate? Asatruar interact directly or indirectly with our deities in such a fashion which makes entities and events we read about vivid and immediate. Could it not also be said that the myths are still unfolding as different people encounter the myths for the first time? As new insights and new inspirations are gleaned from them, are they not in the truest sense still "that which is becoming?" The present tense is the standard form of literary reference, and in this case it seems not without reason that it should be so.

By extension, if we can place the context of the myths continually in the present then they could also occur perpetually in the future tense, since all the stories are meshed however imprecisely with events which will result from them, most notably in the case of Ragnarok, mentioned above. Or perhaps we ought to think of all three of these things occurring at different levels simultaneously. With such a frame of reference it is entirely feasible to accept that Loki can borrow Ran's net, something which he himself will not invent until shortly before his binding after Aegir's feast. Such a triplicity of temporality would also make it possible to envision Loki as a continuing force and presence in the world, something his binding would seem to make more difficult, if not impossible.


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