The forgotten gods of Norse

Not many have heard of the Norse gods. They are ‘dead’ for several hundred years, with their lore lost in the sands of time. Today, only traces of their legacy is left, spattered across the world of music, literature, cinema, sports, but hidden from the obvious. Thor from the Marvel comics, the ice giants in World of Warcraft, the mask of Loki in The Mask, the elves in The Lord of the Rings—countless creations have Norse blood in their veins. Not just that. Even the days of the week are named after Norse gods. But how many people know about it? Not many.

Poetic Edda and Prose Edda are the few remaining manuscripts on Norse that were written around 13th century CE. In their pages lies the magical world of Norse gods. Their mythology is not just a read but a flight of imagination that one takes to ‘see’ their world. After all, nothing is as complex yet as enchanting as the cosmos where the Norse mythology unfolds.

It was then Odin realises the ill fate of the world when the spirit tells him: Ragnarök, would bring the end of the immortals and everything they had created.

The enchanting universe of Norse gods

To begin with, Norse’s universe, was made up of two realms—fire and ice. It was the primordial stage before the Norse gods were born. Due to unknown events, the stream of ice collapsed with the fire that gave birth to Ymir, the first creature of the Norse mythology, and Audhumla, a cow. As Ymir drank Audhumla’s milk, each drop he spilled gave birth to other gods such as Odin, Vili, and Ve. These gods laid the foundation of seven other realms and their inhabitants that completed the Norse universe.

According to the mythology, the nine realms in the Norse universe were located on an enormous tree, called Yggdrasil. At the summit of the tree lay Asgard, the abode of the greatest gods, whose king was Odin. A one-eyed god, Odin was considered the father of the entire Norse pantheon, and the fiercest warrior of all time. Vanaheim, also located in the upper branches, was the other clan of the gods that was at war with the Asgard for ages. Midgard, the realm of mortals or humans inhabited the middle part of the tree. Along with Midgard, other realms—Alfheim, the world of the elves; Svartálfheim, home of the dark elves; Nidavellir, the world of the dwarves; and Jotunheim, the world of the giants—were also located near the middle region. Niflheim, known as the underworld or hell, and Muspell, the world of Surt, a fire-breathing monster took the roots as their dwelling place.

From the 21st century perspective, the world of Norse gods seems like a setup of a visually acclaimed, high-budget fantasy-fiction movie. But it is not just the rendition of the Norse universe that is extraordinary. Even their stories are as captivating as any piece of fiction. For instance, the conversation between Odin and a spirit—as described in the Poetic Edda—where the king commands the spirit to reveal the future of Asgard and the cosmos to him. It was then Odin realises the ill fate of the world when the spirit tells him: “Ragnarök, would bring the end of the immortals and everything they had created.”

Ragnarök or the twilight of the gods is the final story of the Norse gods. According to the mythology, the war begins when the dead from Niflheim attack Asgard, Vanaheim, and other realms from all corners. When this happens, Heimdall, the mute guardian of the Asgard blows his horn to alert the pantheon of the imminent attack. The gods, aware of their destiny, bid farewell to their wives and children before mounting their horses and marching towards the battleground. What ensues is a battle so chaotic and vicious that it ends with the destruction of every living being on the planet and in heaven.

For hundreds of years, Vikings fought their wars with the battle cry of the Norse gods, until they were overrun by the enemies that stripped them from their lands and their faith

The Renaissance

Even though the mythology concludes with the war, for Vikings, Ragnarök wasn’t the end of the Norse gods. According to Prose Edda, the Vikings believed that the fall of Norse gods ushered in a new era from the ashes of the old ones— “In that time the earth shall emerge out of the sea, and shall then be green and fair; then shall the fruits of it be brought forth unsown.” This new world was predicted to be more beautiful and peaceful than the realms of Norse, where humans and gods thrive once again and live together in peace. Perhaps, it was the Vikings’ way to say that death was not the end of life.

Just like Norse gods, Vikings were warriors, and war was their destiny too. Like Ragnarök, they fought many great battles, some they won, some they lost. But every defeat and death reminded them of rebirth, a new beginning which they learned from their gods. For hundreds of years, Vikings fought their wars with the battle cry of the Norse gods, until they were overrun by the enemies that stripped them from their lands and their faith.

Today, people rarely sing their songs or tell their stories to children. But looking at the wheel of time, it seems the forgotten gods of Norse are rising again. First, the Icelanders opened a shrine, for the first time since the Viking age, where people can worship the Norse gods. Secondly, they have become a household name, thanks to the Avengers franchise. Elves and dwarves need no introduction either. Thirdly, many artists are reopening the pages of Edda to find inspiration. Given such a keen revival of interest in Norse mythology, perhaps, in the coming years, Norse gods will regain their lost kingdom and reclaim their place in the hearts of humans.

Advertisements

An ode to boredom

The feeling of boredom is quite boring. There is no joy in the moment; no excitement, no enthusiasm, no impulse. Just a vast expanse of nothingness that makes you exclaim “I’m so bored” repeatedly. It is not like you have run out of things to do all of a sudden. You live two lives after all, one real and the other virtual, yet boredom can turn you into a living carcass. Come to think of it, it is quite ironical to feel bored in this digital age, where you are surrounded by things that are designed to make you feel otherwise, but you feel bored anyway as if your life runs on autopilot.

Unlike various emotions humans can feel or choose not to, boredom is something no one can escape from. It is a moment robbed of the colours of life and replaced with shades of grey. The great German philosopher, Arthur Schopenhauer took his perception of boredom to a new direction by calling it the enemy of human happiness. But the truth is, boredom is anything but an enemy or an unwanted emotion. For starters, it’s a mirror that can show you what you are missing in your life. Boredom is also a spiritual experience that reiterates the need to find joy in your own company—which is all you have when you are bored. As Slavoj Žižek, a Slovenian philosopher says, “boredom is the beginning of every authentic act… Without boredom, (there is) no creativity.”

In short, boredom is the new excitement. It gives an opportunity to add something new and valuable to your daily grind. A 2019 study, published on Academy of Management shows boredom as an experience that can fuel productivity and creativity in people. But you can’t reap the fruit of boredom if you are unaware of its existence. Instead of spending hours on social media, going through stories of random people, let your imagination fly and your dreams soar when you feel bored.

She says when you sit idle, you use knowledge, experience, and memories in a single moment that could lead you to your eureka moment.

Dr Sandi Mann, a professor of psychology at the University of Central Lancashire has seen the brighter side of boredom earlier than others. In an interview, Mann explains about the veil of smartphones and internet that conceal the benefits of boredom from us: “We’re trying to swipe and scroll the boredom away, but in doing that, we’re actually making ourselves more prone to boredom, because every time we get our phone out we’re not allowing our mind to wander and to solve our own boredom problems.”

It doesn’t mean that people who spend less time on smartphones don’t get bored easily. The world is filled with distractions, enough to separate you from yourself. In her book, The Upside of Downtime: Why Boredom Is Good, Mann writes, “When we are busy, occupied and fulfilled, we rarely stop to ponder on our abilities, attitudes, and qualities; it is only when we have the luxury of being bored that we have time for such introspection. Of course, this is assuming such self-reflection is a good thing and leads us to become better people, with better ideas, qualities, and attitudes.” Electronic distractions and responsibilities keep our minds occupied. This is why boredom is important, as it gives your mind time to relax, unwind, and get back to work at its full potential.

History has it that countless people have used boredom to their advantage, to achieve their goals and fulfil their responsibilities. Bill Gates and Warren Buffet, two of the most successful people of the modern age often make time to just sit and let their minds wander. Jerome Singer, who has studied Positive-Constructive Daydreaming for years, says mind-wandering helps you access memories and come up with ideas using your unconscious mind. Amy Fries, the author of Daydreams at WorkWake up your creative powers, drew a similar conclusion from her research. She says when you sit idle, you use knowledge, experience, and memories in a single moment that could lead you to your eureka moment.

The most effective way to deal with boredom is by embracing it—not by eating potato chips the whole day or playing online games to kill time, or worse, by resorting to drugs or alcohol. In such a case, you must seek help, as your boredom has taken an ugly turn. For the most part, however, the feeling of boredom remains what it is, just a boring experience. But it is this lifeless experience that has the potential to bring you your moment of glory. The vault of boredom is deep like an ocean. Tap into this vault, and you will realise, the feeling of boredom is, actually, quite fascinating.

What is love without sacrifice?

Salil froze when he saw the text. That was the one message he hoped he’d never receive ever since he left home as a 19-year-old.

Despite all these years abroad, Salil had always been very connected and attached to his family. He would call his parents diligently every week on Saturday mornings to update them about his life. They would celebrate his achievements over video calls and inspire him to do even better. His parents were a rare breed with no demands for him to return to the country, get married or take family holidays together. They believed once they had given him the wings to fly, he was the master of his own destiny.

And, flown he had, across the seven seas to unravel the mysteries of the human brain. His research and findings were world-renowned and that’s why people from the world over wanted to pick his brains. On one such trip to Iceland, he made his usual video call home and his father answered.

“Where’s ma, Papa?” asked Salil. “She’s frantically looking for her wardrobe keys all over the house. She can’t seem to remember where she kept them,” he said. Both men laughed and pulled her leg a little more when she finally came to say hello. For the first time, she was distracted when speaking to Salil. He noticed but didn’t voice it.

In the following weeks, Salil got very busy and couldn’t call up his parents for almost a month. This was the first time in years he hadn’t spoken to them. He had faith they were both doing well until he got the dreadful text: “We need you back home.” His father hardly ever sent a message, leave alone such an abrupt one.

Salil immediately called his father. The septuagenarian spoke with a quiver in his voice, “It’s the onset of Alzheimer’s, son. She is losing track of things and having trouble remembering names, too.”  Salil felt guilty for the first time for not going back home in the last seven years. He was so engrossed in his own life.

He boarded the first available flight to India. When he reached home, he saw his mother standing with a blank look on the face. Instead of hugging him, she just stared at him with a faraway look. Salil broke internally.

Ironically, there was little he could do even as a neuroscientist, but a whole lot of good as a son. This was his chance to repay his debt of gratitude towards his mother. All this while, he had only received from his parents—their love, understanding, and unconditional support. It was time to give.

Just like that, he wrapped up his life in the US and moved back home to take care of his mother just like she did for her son all these years.

Secrecy: The winning weapon

Think before they think—that is the rule of warfare. Even in the game of chess, every move of the opponent is studied, analysed, and carefully thought upon before making any move. If you are the first one to move, have a plan.

And it is this plan that needs to be protected from prying eyes. It goes without saying that, for this, businessmen should be alert—very alert. While taking up new projects or while executing projects in hand, a high level of secrecy should be maintained.

Kautilya advice“Others should not know about any work sought to be done by him. Only those who undertake it should know (about it) when it is begun or even when it is actually completed.” (1.15.17)

What you are doing, what you are thinking, and all your moves should not be known to others. One needs to create an aura of secrecy around himself to move ahead, before the rest. In professional and powerful organisations like the army, the Central Bureau of Investigation, etc till the last moment, no one knows what the next order would be. Only a handful of people are there who work on a strictly-enforced ‘need-to-know’ basis and it is these people who, in turn, call up others supposed to execute subsequent orders.

The call is made at the last moment and is quite sudden for those being asked to go into action. Till the moment of passing on the orders, the seniors keep the plan entirely to themselves. A golden rule to remember in business is that there is a big difference between planning and execution. Make your plan perfect, then execute without delay. There is no point in planning when the time has come to execute.

But let’s face it—keeping secrets is a tough thing to do. However, there are some tips that can help one:

The biggest danger in revealing your plans is that you give the opponent an added advantage to think before you.

Postpone

Whenever you feel like disclosing a plan to someone, remember to postpone the same. Give yourself at least a day. Once you have done that, you will improve your self-control. By practicing this, you will slowly but surely get the confidence to keep things to yourself. Also, learn to observe silence at least half an hour every day to help your thought power rule over your talkative nature.

Execute and then speak

Do not speak and then execute. It should be the other way round. The biggest danger in revealing your plans is that you give the opponent an added advantage to think before you.

Think ahead

On achieving success in any endeavor, we feel like talking about the same to others. Rather, we feel like bragging! The best way to avoid this is to start new projects immediately. Always keep yourself busy with newer plans.

Swami Shivananda, a dynamic saint and the founder of Divine Life Society, put it best when he said, “The only way to keep yourself productive is by having at least a month’s work in front of you.”

Follow this advice …!

HOMEOPATHY AND ITS ‘VITAL FORCE’

 

WHY DO WE SMOKE?

A few years ago, researchers from the Max Planck Institute, Silke Allmann and Ian Baldwin, discovered an interesting fact about hornworm caterpillars. They found these creatures write their own death sentence while feeding on tobacco. Some would say the scientists might have gotten their inspiration from Alice in Wonderland. In the story, a tobacco-smoking caterpillar blows colourful clouds of smoke, while speaking to Alice.Allmann and Baldwin’s finding is just as captivating as Lewis Carroll’s fairy tale. Their study says that when hornworm caterpillars chew tobacco, their saliva reacts with a chemical substance in the air and releases a signal in their surrounding environment. This signal is intercepted by the predatory insects, who then track the caterpillars and devour them in one bite.Of course, if it were a story of a predator threatening human’s existence, we would have turned the table on it. We, humans are a cognitive species, far more superior than caterpillars in terms of intelligence and ability to survive! But the truth is, when it comes to tobacco, we are no different than the tiny insects.Every year, millions of people around the world succumb to their long-standing tobacco addiction, falling prey to the diseases that come along with it. Unlike the inane caterpillars, people who smoke tobacco know they are digging their own graves with every cigarette they light! This, despite their exposure to advertisements, statuary warnings, awareness campaigns, and decades of research cautioning them against the blight of tobacco addiction. Still, the number of smokers and their deaths is only skyrocketing.Why can’t we quit smoking, even though we are aware of the dreadful consequences? And why is smoking tobacco so commonplace amongst young adults? On the occasion of World No Tobacco Day, Soulveda speaks to experts, smokers, and former addicts to find answers to these questions, and see if there is a way out of the pit.Karan is a 29-year-old engineer at a leading IT firm in India. He had been a smoker since his college days. “It was something that everyone was doing in my social circle,” Karan says. “And when one of my hostel roommates gave me a half-burned cigarette to try, I didn’t realise, that one will become two, and two will become four. And soon, I will become an addict, smoking a pack every day.”But a few years later, when Karan started to see a decline in his health—shortness of breath, dizziness, and fatigue—he knew it was time to quit. “I knew if I want to quit smoking, I have to start hating tobacco. So, I changed my attitude towards cigarettes and started reducing the count by one every day,” he recollects. It took him four months, a few nicotine patches, and a strong will to completely overcome his addiction. At first, the withdrawal caused irritation and anxiousness. But in hindsight, Karan says it was worth it. Because his dedication not only broke the shackles of tobacco from his life, but also inspired one of his friends to rise above his tobacco addiction.Such is the strength of will and perks of having positive influencers in life. But strangely, not everyone looks for a way out. Especially people in the early stages of their addiction who think cigarettes are no pits but trenches. Archita Reddy, a psychotherapist, sheds some light on this misinterpretation. “Many people make cigarettes their defence mechanism to calm nerves in the event of stress or anxiety. It could be because of competition at school or work that only grows fiercer every day, or due to the issues in personal life,” she says. Reddy explains that instead of sharing these problems with loved ones or seeking professional help, most smokers continually turn to tobacco in order to escape reality.Rahul—an analyst at a US-based firm—wants to quit, but unlike Karan, his efforts and willpower always fall short of the finish line. He says his problems exist due to peer pressure. “I have three flatmates and all of them are chain-smokers. I rarely smoke when I’m alone, but with my friends around, I’m not able to hold myself back,” he confesses.Perhaps, Rahul’s predicament stems from what Jim Rohn, the famous American author, once observed: “You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with.” It means if all your close friends watch English movies, your interest in those movies would increase too; if all are vegan, you would be more likely to attempt being a vegan too; and if all smoke a pack every day, your two-cigarettes-per day habit might turn into a pack real fast!Reddy believes if people in the same boat as Rahul aspire to quit, they not only need to dig into their own minds. “The gnarly roots of tobacco addiction lingers deep in the subconscious mind. Try to remember the first incident that led you to your first cigarette. Figure out what made you pick it and why cigarettes succeeded in overpowering you,” Reddy advises. For some it could be the influence of television, and for others, it could simply be because no one told them tobacco is fatal before they could get take their first drag.Having a torchbearer in life can make a big difference. It is parents’ primary responsibility to be the moral compass for their children and navigate them in the right direction, according to clinical psychologist Dr Joy Banerjee. He observes, “It is indeed a responsibility that goes without saying, but not all parents understand this. In my experience, I have seen parents complaining they have no idea what their children do at school and what kind of company they keep,” Dr Banerjee observes. When parents think their fundamental role is to be a provider first, it eventually derails them from taking interest in their children’s lives. And when no one is there for them to separate the bad from the good, children often end up mirroring their close friends, and that is usually how many addiction stories begin, he says.Don’t smokers already know where their addiction is leading them to? In all probability, they do. Perhaps, their very addiction renders them powerless, blinding them to the reality. This is where loved ones can give them a push to take the first step in the right direction. With the help and support of parents, friends, spouses, and colleagues, smokers can climb out of the addictive pit and win the battle. Smokers don’t have to be like the caterpillars that write their own death sentence; we can help them flutter freely, like butterflies.Why do we smoke? | Soulveda

AYURVEDA: MORE THAN JUST A HERBAL MEDICATION SYSTEM