30 DoA #19: Troubled Admiration

adoration femme

19. What quality or qualities of this god do you most admire? What quality or qualities of them do you find the most troubling?  So, clearly, this is a post that I’ve been having some trouble writing. It’s not difficult to find admirable qualities in Wayland, but by the same token, it’s also quite easy to find some glaring faults.

Obviously, I admire Wayland’s skill in crafting, and his devotion to the development of his art. He sets an example of practice, practice, practice. He makes 700 rings for his wife–just how much did he expand his knowledge of his craft through that project? For me in particular this is an important reminder that skill is not perfected with a single project. I’m cursed with fantastic beginner’s luck–the first time I try just about any new craft, the results are pretty darned good. But that second project…yeah, not so much! The trick is to move past the failures of those second, third, and even fourth pieces to build and refine my skills until they are consistent and I can predict the outcome of my inspiration.

And then…there are his less savory aspects. Some have justified his acts as being in line with a different culture in a different time, that his rape of Bodvild and murder of her brothers were acceptable weregild for his maiming and imprisonment. Yet this doesn’t entirely ring true as later period sources try to soften the tale somewhat by having Wayland return to Bodvild and marry her once her father has died (I can’t even imagine how that went over).  Or perhaps he was simply crazed by loss, but even that would hardly justify the severity of his revenge. I mean, seriously, “You took my (estranged) wife’s wedding ring and maimed me, so I’m going to kill your sons and rape your daughter.”  Seems a little, teensy bit out of proportion.

This is where some would argue that gods are not bound by the same rules as humans, or that because they are capable of great good, they are also capable of great wrongs. I really hate this argument for a number of reasons, not the least of which is that it whitewashes some pretty horrendous behaviors by “divine” beings.  I suppose the explanation that lets me sleep at night is the one which rationalizes the unsavory actions of the gods as “reverse morality tales,” that these were not necessarily qualities to emulate, but warnings as to how society could break down.

I’m still not entirely satisfied with the morality tale explanation for Wayland, though. As his story stands in the Edda, we don’t know if wyrd ever came ’round for him.  We’re left with an image of him flying away on wings of his own making, Bodvild distraught at her dishonor.  This hardly seems just to modern eyes.

So I’m left, questioning my devotion to a god who simultaneously embodies all that I wish to become and all that repels me.

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2 thoughts on “30 DoA #19: Troubled Admiration

  1. Hi Catriona, thanks for this thought provoking post considering the contradictory nature of Wayland’s qualities.

    I have considered and wrestled with similar issues with Gwyn ap Nudd. He’s a complex figure, intimately bound up with the cold dark seasons and the dead. He’s done some terrible things, in his abduction of Creiddylad, slaughter of Nwython and feeding his heart to his son, Cyleder, who goes mad. Yet on the other hand he also rescues the souls of the battle dead and those lost between the worlds and cares for them at his banquet / feast.

    I also think ‘the gods work by different rules’ is a cop out. I believe the darker sides of these myths point out the ‘crueler’ qualities that exist within the gods, and also within us, and the whole of nature. If we want to understand the gods, ourselves, nature, we need to understand it as a whole, including the ‘unsavory’ bits, no matter how nasty.

    I cover some of these ideas in relation to Gwyn in the following article, which may be of interest to you: http://lornasmithers.wordpress.com/2014/07/31/gwyn-ap-nudd-and-the-spirits-of-annwn-remembering-the-underworld-gods/

    And also in this poem ‘No Theodicy’, which directly represents my own struggle with Gwyn’s paradoxes. I haven’t blogged it yet, but it can be found on the Caer Feddwyd forum- http://caerfeddwyd.proboards.com/thread/1914/theodicy

    You’re certainly not alone in your thoughts!

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    • Great comments, Lorna, thank you! Yes, I was part of an ADF grove at one time where, after I mentioned that I felt a strong connection to Gwydion, the head druid was so repulsed and offended that I never really felt I could express my thoughts on the gods after that. And Gwynn, hoo boy, saying he has “baggage” is putting it mildly, so I feel your conflict there.

      I can’t wait to read your links, thank so much for posting them. 🙂

      Like

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