We all are Heimdall’s children
For ages, humankind existed and lived a life similar to the one of cavemen, i.e. in a civilization made of many small isolated groups, each one submitted to Nature changes, they inducing regular decimating food shortages. When the climate would become somewhat steadier, the population increased quickly and the gods became aware that it was time to ensure the stability of this growing society by hallowing some of the rules already created by humankind, the most stable ones able to stand the need for change of those creative individuals. They delegated the god Heimdall on Midgard to choose the best shaping rules for a primal civilization. When this episode of their history is told, people call Heimdall: “Rigr (Rígr - the ‘lord’, the ‘king’)” because of his structuring role.
The Norse name of the poem telling Heimdall-Rigr’s story is Rigs-thula and a thula is a kind of harp. This is why we start with harp music.
God Rigr observed at first how fared Midgard. He knew that these troublesome persons succeeded in surviving many disasters, a throng of diseases and ailments. The gods themselves owed respect to them and Rigr came to rig up the civilization following the best of their past evolution without vain words or incantatory gesticulations. No, he wanted to merge in their life and exert his influence by acting.
He thus wanders through Midgard and observes that humankind, all by themselves, have developed three main ways of life, a careless one, an active one and a thoughtful one. He does not want to force anyone into one given way, but he wants to use these existing ways of life as a structure for society. For this, he enters the life of human people by impregnating three women, careless Greatgrandma, active Grany and thoughtful Mother. Each one of these women will have a son who will find a mate and they will have children who all are Heimdall’s grandchildren. They will generate three human streams according to their inlaid feature. This why we may belong to the careless, active or thoughtful stream, but we all directly originate from Rigr-Heimdall. In each one of us, a divine spark twinkles, including those ones our society regards as useless or monstrous.
I repeat that Rigr observed the human ones, he did not seek to improve them. You may like or not the existence of these three classes, they are a human factor and are not resulting from a divine decision. I am so sure of that because another god, Odinn, describes himself observing humankind when he wants to teach runic knowledge. He says:
“sá ek ok þagðak,
sá ek ok hugðak,
hlýdda ek á manna mál;
I watched and kept quiet
I saw and I thought,
I heard the word of humankind.”
Our gods do not bring any “divine revelation” to humankind, they observe humankind and they adapt to it. Much of what some persons feel as shocking in our society is not the fact of the gods, but of humankind itself.
As it has been already said, Rigr wandered on the roads of Midgard and met three different types of human persons.
Careless and lazy people existed much before Rigr would walk along the rainbow connecting the world of the gods to Midgard. When he met Greatgrandma and Greatgrandpa, their door was open, it was a simple wooden board pushed on side, and they were warming themselves at the hearth.
At that time, humankind had already invented slavery. Many slaves do not have any right and any hope in the improvement of their condition, they are thus forced, by their social status, to belong to the class of the careless ones. This is why Rigr gave them the name of thrall, that of all the non-free people whose fate sentences to slavery, but also the careless workers, the drug addicts and anyone living at the expense of their neighbors.
Caution! None of them must be ‘sub-human’ for us, even if some are more despicable than others. The divine spark which exists in each one can be re-ignited at any moment. For example, a saga describes Erlingr Skjálgsson who constantly kept some thirty slaves but allowed them to work for themselves after dusk. It is said that most of them could purchase back their freedom in less than three years. Those who won their freedom had thus been temporary ‘thralls’ who, during their slavery time, felt the need for regaining their freedom in spite of their past bad luck or errors.
Hard-working and courageous persons also existed before Rigr would walk along the rainbow connecting the world of the gods to Midgard. When he met Grandma and Grandpa, their door was opened, raised to the ceiling by pulleys. Grandma spun wool on her spindle and Grandpa worked a new weaving framework. He gave them the name of carl, that of free human beings. These carls, in a well-balanced society, should constitute the most populated class of the society.
Thoughtful and intelligent persons also existed before Rigr would walk along the rainbow connecting the world of the gods to Midgard. When he met Mother and Father, their door was closed but not blocked. It had been raised with the pulleys and it could be blocked by a ring standing beside it. Father and Mother sat nearby, each one considering the other and making use of their fingers. He gave them the name of jarl, who must thing of the future of their clan, of which they are accountable. These leaders are often hated in our current culture, this might be because we met so many irresponsible ‘jarls’!
Three times, Rigr left his trace in the life of these who were going to become thralls, carls or jarls. He settled on their premises and shared their meal. At the careless ones’, he was served a loaf of well-raised bread mixed with bran, together with a broth served in a common bowl. At the active ones’, he received a barley flour loaf, together with a slice of delicious boiled calf. At the thoughtful ones, he had loaves of white corn flour, together with various meats, game, pig and poultries, all washed with a good wine.
The meal finished, they went to lie down and, several things occurred in same way at the three places. Rigr bestowed them with plenty good advice as, following the current habit of the time, they lay down all three in the same bed, Rigr in the middle between husband and wife.
They slept thus during three nights and then Rigr left them. Nine months later, the wife gave birth to a healthy boy who was sprinkled with water, i.e. acknowledged as a family full member and having the same the rights and duties that each other family member. In the careless family he was called Thrall, in the active family, he was called Carl and in the thoughtful family, he was called Jarl. After this moment, the destinies of the three families were going to diverge completely while becoming the three classes of the primitive human society. Without being created by Rigr-Heimdall, they were consecrated by him as being characteristics of the groups of human and all members of the three social classes are “Heimdall’s children.”
One day, came at Thrall’s a somewhat chaser girl who sat down nearby him. After an evening of merry chatter, they lay down together. They had a house and many children and were happy. The destiny of these children is not complicated: they are in charge of the unpleasant tasks no one else does. They were used to living in grime and were very happy to get food enough for their work. Their bodies were hardly harmonious but they attached little importance to that. Their men were quite burly and their wives very craggy women and that were their pride and beauty criteria. Here is an example of the work they had to perform: “they built barriers, spread manure in the fields, dealt with the pigs, supervised the goats, gathered the peat.”
One day, Grandfather and Grandmother brought a girl to the house. She carried the keys in her belt and they married her to Carl. After she had been under a crude bridal veil, they were husband and wife. They had a house and many children and were happy. The destiny of these children is a little more complex than that of the thralls. They had of course manual duties such as “drawing up oxen, manufacturing the wooden ploughs, building houses and barns, manufacturing carts and driving the new iron plough.” But they also had “to distribute rings", what is called now to give wages to their free servants.
Father’s and Mother’s child, Jarl, was raised in the silk. His toys were weapons, he learned “to wield lime-shields, to string the bows, to curve the elm-bows, to shape arrow-heads, to fly the shafts, to quiver the spears, to ride a steed, to launch the pack of hounds, to draw sword and practice swimming.”
Rigr waited for him to grow up and he came back to teach runes to him, to tell him that he would become king (rigr), adopted him as his son, asked him to conquer territories.
After becoming owner of eighteen estates, king Jarl thought of marrying. He sent emissaries to another rich landowner to ask his daughter’s hand. In this way, he met his wife, fine fingered, white and luminous skinned, and well-trained to thinking. When she had been under the fine linen bridal veil, they were then married. They had a house and many children and were happy.
All Jarl’s children became warriors able to manufacture and use their weapons except the last born: He learned runes as his father did, the “everlasting and immutable runes of time.” He also learned other powerful magic, to deliver babies, to blunt swords, to calm seas, to smother fires and to understand the chirping of birds. He disputed about runes with his father and bettered him at it. This is why he was also called ‘Rigr’ and was meant to carry on his father’s task.
Note that none of the elder sons is suggested as his father’s successor: the youngest seems to be fated to it. Besides he has been shaped to become the most knowledgeable person and the best warlock, which is necessary to stand the load of the royal charge. This may explain why hereditary leadership fell into such a discredit: the heir to the title is generally either the elder or the most skillful to eliminate his competitors instead of being the wisest at controlling knowledgeable jarls, at leading active carls and at getting something from careless thralls.
Acknowledgements: The melodies have been composed by Rowan Fontaine Kodratoff. The musicians are members of Cardiff group “Glanfa Nantgarw.”