in Philosophy of Tracking

The First Murder

norse ymir wolf fenris fenrir


According to some tellings of the tales of the Norse Knights of the Round Table, also known as the Aesir, or “the Norse Gods”, in their Camelot fantasy land of Asgard…

Let’s start again.

You may have heard this story, one way of telling the Creation of the World. I believe every Creation story speaks the truth, and really happened, though you may have to dig into the details. Often times the story tellers don’t want you to know what they really did, and where the bodies are buried, but they can’t brush away every track. If you stay on the trail, and while away the years waiting for them to make a mistake…you’ll catch them. Eventually.

One more try.

In the beginning, you could see nothing, hear nothing, smell nothing, feel nothing, taste nothing – an expanse of nothing, a grassless void. The Ginnungagap. A waiting womb.

Then two powers emerged, or came into the perception of the Ginnungagap. The freezing fogs of Niflheim, and the spinning fiery maelstrom of Muspellsheim. A kind of primeval marriage between the two spilled ice and fire into the abyss of the Ginnungagap, and out of this dark space, this blackest of black holes, emerged two beings of overwhelming vitality.

The great giant-of-giants, giantess-of-giantesses, the two-spirited trans great-grand-parent of all before any All-Fathers (whether Odin or Zeus or Yahweh or pick your poison), Ymir, of ice and stone and bone before such things even had forms. After ze (meaning neither him, nor her, nor it, but yes, third-person animate of some sort, as Ymir originated animacy, sentiency, soul, and self-awareness aeons before any human sat in judgement of such things), emerged the adoptive Great-Grand-Mother of all modern gods (meaning the young amnesiac gods of the last 10,000 years of second-growth human cultures) and their humans. This Mother: Audhumla the Cow. THE Cow. But let’s not get ahead of ourselves.

Though grassless the abyss, Audhumla feasted with her rasping, scouring, glacial tongue on the salty hoar-frost that formed on the edge of the Cosmic Ginunngagap (maybe shares Indo-European root with the Latin “cunnus” for vulva – “Cunni-gap”? The world may never know. Someone check on that), and from this nutrition, rivers of milk flowed from her udders, feeding Ymir.

A Glacier* Mother, nursing Ymir’s transgendered bodyscape with glacial milk.

Already we have an array of powers, an array of parents and grand-parents, but almost all mothering powers – no guys in sight to show up and start bossing folks around to get some pyramids built. Hold that thought.

Ymir, the great frost giant-giantess, the ineffable man-woman, mother-father, grandmother-grandfather, but earthy, sweaty, stinky, being of life, gives birth to a diversity of frost trolls and giants. Squish! Out from zir armpit comes a male and female giant couple. Squich! Out from between zir legs comes entire clans of trolls, laughing, roaring, and rolling into life.

They immediately begin finding each other, some celebrating that their bodies fit together in such magnificent ways. And so more giants, trolls, and earth beings emerge, dancing on the body of their magnificent place, their diversity of watersheds, their identity, Ymir.

Meanwhile, Audhumla the Cow, another grand mothering being, continues licking the ice – and what do you know, but a warmed cheek appears as the ice recedes. Then an eye. Then a nose. Then a forehead. Then the entire shining face, the glimmering handsome form, of the perhaps first domino (or maybe the one before that?) to fall towards the worst thing to ever happen to any living being, any being native to this sweet spinning world. The sticky-sweet nightmare of a world enslaved to – what? I don’t know. To an idea?

The grand generous-hearted Cow, at his request, adopted this handsome man, Buri, took him as her child, and fed him too with her rivers of milk. Buri, one of the first wandering kings of the steppe, before anyone even called Cows sacred, he called her mother, and he had a son (how? with whom? don’t know), Bor, who who courted Bestla, the beautiful daughter of Bolthorn, proud father and frost giant.

Perhaps Bor no longer saw the Cow as his mother, but still considered her a sacred being, if not a relative. Who knows for sure.

They had three children. Two of them you almost certainly don’t know – Vili one, Ve another. But the third, Odin, you almost certainly do know, and for many good reasons, one of which will happen right now, since this Odin certainly did not consider the Cow his grand-relative, nor did he see the road of life leading through his mother Bestla leading into the ancient body of Ymir. Odin talks Vili and Ve  (or perhaps the three of them conspired together, or maybe, just maybe goaded by their father Bor? That seems madness. Certainly Bestla must have wept and fought against this) into the first murder.

Really, perhaps, we could call this the murder. The murder by which we measure all others. What do you call the original patricide, matricide, the original locking-away-of-your-elder-in-a-purgatorial-nursing-home, the original hatred and denial of wild-willed-ness?

However, or whatever, the three great-grandsons of the licking-into-life-act by a Cow who birthed all cowboys (this Cow who, knowingly or not, freed an idea of spiritual violence from the primordial ice of human past, who freed the beauty of this form that all must fawn over and genuflect to), these three sons of a frost-giantess named Bestla who must have begged them and pulled at her hair and clawed her face in horror, these three killed their greatest-grandparent Ymir, the original land on which they all lived.

They killed their own land.

So much blood came from those wounds, rivers, oceans of blood. This salty brine filled the bottomless Cunnus-Gap to the brim, the blood from this being, the first being to love children, drowned the world.

All the parents and grandparents drowned in this cataclysm. All the cousins and relations, including the Cow herself (clearly for the best – to honor a Cow as your great-grand-mother seems difficult for swaggering gods with work to do).

Only the three brothers – Odin, Vili, and Ve – and a frost giant couple, Bergelmir and his wife, clinging to their bobbing dowry box, survived.


Many things happened then – the brothers took Ymir’s body and “built” their world, bones into mountains, blood into rivers, teeth into great boulders. They took sparks from Muspellsheim (watch this space for good news/bad news depending on your partisanship to civilization or lack thereof) to make the stars, to “make” the Sun (placing her in a great chariot) and the Moon (and him in his too).

Clearly they must do this, because though before we had all these things, Odin didn’t control them. So he killed the free-willed originals and replaced them with slaves. Something Monsanto has probably perfected at this point.


Some ages passed. Or maybe just a few minutes. Because something important happened.

In the East the old one lives
in Iron Wood
and there she bears
Fenrir’s brood
From all of them comes
one in particular,
the ruin of the moon
in the shape of a troll.

He gorges himself on the life
of doomed men,
reddens the gods’ dwelling
with crimson gore.
Dark goes the sunshine,
for summers after,
the weather all vicious.
Do you know now or what?

-The Sibyl’s Prophecy, 40-41, trans. Jesse Byock

The old one in the East, from whence this fleeing tribe of felonious divinities come off the Indo-European steppe of vanishing ancient memory, some call her Baba Yaga, and in other stories they speak of her sons Night (on his black horse) and Day (on his white horse) and Twilight (on his red), and behind all stories as Bear Mother of the World.

This old one sends her children, troll-giants, in the forms of great black Wolves.

One of these Wolves falls behind the Sun, nipping at her heels, and her chariot lurches into motion, tracing the now-familiar path across the sky.

One of these tireless children falls behind the Moon, causing him to shriek and his horses to roll the whites of their eyes as they bolt forward.

From then on the modern story goes like this:

Fear shall drive you awake with the sunrise.

Fear shall chase you into your dreams as the sun flees into the belly of night.

Fear shall govern the tides within you.

You shall wake up in the night, as the horses of the Moon pull him ever on in a panic, and feel hot breath on your neck, and know the tireless chase shall not end, until you atone for what your grandparents, your gods, your cities, the ruin of your mad culture has done to the world.

Because the largest giants, globe-spanning and ancient, come in the form of memories, ensnared with guilt and shame. Impossibly large, remembered by billions of human hearts.

With blood on your hands you watched the wild world drowning – the act of killing itself killed the soulfulness of the world, drowning it in sorrow and denial.

Now would make a good time to finally weep over this. I’ll wait for you.

From all of them comes
one in particular,
the ruin of the moon
in the shape of a troll.

He gorges himself on the life
of doomed men,
reddens the gods’ dwelling
with crimson gore.
Dark goes the sunshine,
for summers after,
the weather all vicious.
Do you know now or what?

The viciousness of the weather has already begun and only worsens as spinning wind giants continue to rake their earth with their massive hands, flood the earth with their wet rolling bodies, parch the earth with breath so hot the air warps and bends and shimmers and soil cracks into endless labyrinths that lead nowhere and anywhere.

But remember – when Baba Yaga’s son and daughter, great black wolves, devour the Sun and the Moon,  remember they are just devouring the impostors.

Though dark goes the sunshine, for summers after, the weather all vicious, we may still find a world, if we cleanse long-clouded eyes with sufficient weeping, if we relearn to become children in a mother’s lap, and hide nothing from our enemies, most of all our greatest enemies – ourselves –

If we do all these things, we may find the original one who first loved children waiting for us on the other side.




*Thanks to my partner Jana who shared her insight of the Glacial Cow Mother.

Photo Credit: Steve Courson via Compfight cc

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  1. Dear rememberer,

    Thank you with ardent springs that gush forth sweet and salt waters, rising as a new tide to meet your own blessed flow of old hope. Thank you with all the strange sprouts that spring up and overgrow the taken landscape with Life. Thank you with all the disparate sparks that gather together and kindle themselves in their clamor to hear the forgotten whisper good words.

  2. Your kindness, no different than the kindness of Spring evenings, when rain plays with westering sun, racing each other to the night – your kindness remembers me, and keeps my story alive. Thank you Paige.

  3. well, no way can i come up with a response so eloquent and perfect as paige has (thanks to her, as well, must be given)…what a story-telling and what a response. i am moved and stunned all at once. what an offering, what mind-opening imagery. i feel the fear – and a kind of dirtyness; i want to feel the hope.
    i am thankful and yet somehow made lower than before i read/experienced this.

    much to hold.
    much to release.

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