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“Re-heathenizing “Sólarljó?”
by Ingeborg Svea Norden





“Sólarljó?” is a poem included in one manuscript of the Poetic Edda (which of them, I forget). Most translations omit it because of the blatant Christian content, so you would be extremely lucky to find an English version. My Swedish version of the Eddas, however, does include Sólarljó?: Here’s a line-by line translation. Some stanzas have such basically Christian ideas of morality and the afterlife, that we might as well compose a new poem altogether. I’m quoting Erik Brate’s Swedish translation here, then giving my own literal English:

10. Lustans makt varit mången till sorg,
ofta kommer kval från kvinnor.
Till men de bli, fast mäktige Gud
dem skapade till köttets kyskhet.

(The power of desire has caused sorrow for many;
often torment comes from women.
They become harmful,
though the mighty God created them for chastity of the flesh.
[”Women were created for chastity” is certainly not an Asatru idea, even if promiscuity was considered a bad thing among the pre-Christian Norsemen.])

60. Många män jag såg
ned i mullen gångna
som ej nattvard njuta fingo.
Hedna stjärnor stodo
över huvudet på dem,
ristade med fördärvets runor.

(Many men I saw gone down into the soil,
who did not get to take Communion.
Heathen stars stood above their heads,
carved with runes of destruction.
[THIS stanza would definitely have to be deleted in an Asatru-friendly version.])

65. Män jag såg som mycket ogärna
helgdagar hålla ville.
Deras händer voro på heta stenar
naglade fasta med nödtvång.
(Men I saw, who were very unwilling to keep holy days.
Their hands were nailed fast,
with/by compulsion, to hot stones.
[That “keeping the Sabbath holy”, and punishing people by hurting the hands they used to work, seems VERY un-Heathen to me!])

The rewards described for the righteous in heaven would have to be totally redone throughout that part of the poem: angels reading holy books over people’s heads or bowing before people, innocent people driving wagons through the sky to meet God, ornate rooms balanced on beams of heavenly light. Not to mention the list of virtuous acts themselves:

71. Män jag såg som mycket illa
farit hade genom fasta....

(Men I saw who had fared very badly through fasting...
[Unlike Catholicism, Asatru does not require all people to fast-even though some voluntary rituals might involve doing so.])

73. De heliga möar hade rentvagit
själen från syndens smitta,
av sådana män som mången dag
sig själva plågat och pinat.

(The holy maidens had cleansed
the soul from the contagion of sin,
for such men as had tortured
and tormented themselves many a day.
[Asatru teaches neither the doctrine of “cleansing from sin”, nor the need for mortification of the flesh.])

75. Allsmäktige fader, lika mäktige son,
och du himmelens helige ande!
Dig beder jag oss skilja, du som själv oss skapat,
från allt, som ont är.

(Almighty Father,
equally mighty son, and you Holy Spirit of heaven!
I pray that you,
who yourself has created us,
separate us from all that is evil.)
[Another definite “delete this” stanza in the Asatru edition...]

82. Må vi här skiljas och mötas åter
på folkens fröjdedag!
Du, Herre, giv den hädangångne ro
och dem hjälp, som på jorden leva!

(May we part here and meet again
on the peoples’ [sic] day of rejoicing!
Lord, give the departed one peace, a
nd help to them who live on earth!)
[An obvious allusion to the Resurrection and the usual “rest in peace” sentiment; my Old Norse professor said this verse is a common inscription in modern Icelandic cemeteries. The idea of a general resurrection day is foreign to Heathen belief though; how would we rewrite that?]

Please let me know if you can come up with good Heathen alternatives for the problem stanzas I cited....

Ingeborg Norden

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