Sunday, 26 July 2015
Divine Canines: Geri and Freki
This is the fourth post of a series about divine canines, gods and goddesses who are dogs, spirits in dog form and other magical canines. Years ago I did a few posts about wolf goddesses but found in my research too many male canine gods and beasts, or non-wolf canid goddesses that I couldn't include. So I promised to do something on the wider subject of myth and canid species linked to ancient legends, spirits, deities and folklore.
The fourth post on the subject is of Geri and Freki, the two wolves of Odin. Both in Norse mythology, legend is that the two wolves belong to the All Father god Odin and accompany him during the Wild Hunt. They often eat corpses of dead warriors on battle fields, and eat entire plates of food on the dining table of the gods. Odin allows them to feed as he only drinks wine.
Geri's name means "ravenous one". Freki's name means "greedy one". Both wolves can't stop eating. They attend Odin on hunts for beasts such as elk and bison, and when not hunting, they scavange for food on battle fields. Two messenger ravens belonging to Odin, named Hugin and Munin, locate food for the two hungry wolves. Sometimes the ravens will fly out and lead the way, as the two wolves follow. If they discover food, they each share it. The myths suggest that Geri and Freki don't hunt but rely on Odin and the ravens to find game.
Besides being so greedy, the wolves have a distinctly magical side that's often overlooked. Too much background information and write-ups on the wolves eating non-stop, but little on anything else about their spiritual purpose. First of all the two wolves Geri and Freki played a very important role in human origins! The legend goes that the two wolves nurtured the first humans and acted as both foster parents and teachers. The early humans grew up looking upon the wolves as their leaders, guides and even family mmbers. It helped humans understand how to survive in a harsh world, how to prepare food, cook, search for water underground, understand the seasons and climate, how to make uses of hunted animals for meat, clothing and tools, how to build shelter, how to swim, how to communicate.
The earliest human beings respected wolves and therefore had a special bond, which science is struggling to come to terms with. It's simple, this gives us a clue about the possible first domestication of the wolf. Or did the wolf domesticate itself?
Odin was considered a wolf god, not just because of the two Geri and Freki, but also because he took on wolf form and was leader of the Ulfhednar warriors. In wolf's form he fathered human children who were called the Volsungs that were able to shapeshift into wolves.