Wednesday, 18 September 2013
The Power of Idun
Idun is a lesser known goddess of Germanic mythology but she happens to be the most important and possibly the most significant one. Her name Idun is also spelled "Idunn" and sometimes "Idunna", but this was an Anglicised version of the ancient PIE and Norse/German cross "Ithun". The "D" is a "recent" pronunciation of the of the letter "ð" that was pronounced as "th". Her name was pronounced "Ee-thun-a". Many people compare Idun with Eden as they sound similar. Eden itself is a name of a Biblical garden paradise but possibly rooted in ancient Arabic "edinnu" that means plain or a flat land suited for plants and water. This is unlikely the cause of Idun's name but the Germanic goddess is rooted far back in time than the arrival of Christianity. Idun Goddess' name would've sounded closely like "Athena" to the ancient Greeks. PIE myths have a link going back to the first beginnings of agriculture during the change sweep after the Ice Age. Idun was born from a time when people became farmers. The goddess is a symbol of agriculture and immortality.
Idun is a goddess of apples. She guards the sacred golden apples of youth and immortality. It must be noted that way back in ancient Europe, there were no juicy apples that we have today growing on trees all over. Apple trees originated from the Far East but these apple types were wild. It was people like Alexander the Great who introduced the first apples to south Europe and the Middle East. The Romans started bringing cultivated apples to the rest of Europe.
Idun the goddess of apples was written by Snori Sturluson in the 13th century, basing it on apple celebrations among the Norse people. To understand the powerful goddess, one has to bury into the ground and find apples and treasure. Once, people from England, to Scandinavia, Germany, the Baltic, Russia, Celtic lands and along the Mediterranean buried their dead with apples and nuts.
Apples are associated with longer and healthier life, a long journey, fertility, a spiritual journey and wisdom. In Norse myths, apples are also responsible for creating newborn babies! Don't forget that to the ancient Europeans, apples were considered a foreign fruit. To the Greeks in the sunnier regions of Europe, apples were symbolic fruits of love. To the Christians the apple was a fruit of sin and evil but the origins of this tale are unknown and could be a confusion of languages. Apple pips are a poison as they contain small amounts of cyanide.
Iduns' apples are golden. Golden apples appear in many myths and legends. In Greek myth, golden apples are guarded by three girls (nymphs or goddesses) in a secret garden orchard named "Hesperides". It is owned by Hera the queen goddess and wife of Zeus. The apple trees were also protected by a dragon. Avalon, a mythical island that appears in the Arthurian legend, is Welsh for "Apple Island".
The golden apples that gave immortality and eternal youth to the gods cannot be just ordinary apples, wild or cultivated. The apples are something else. The very sign of them being "golden" is a symbolic colour and metal of the divine, the sun and eternity. Apples represent the sun, the heart and fertility. What kind of being, other than the gods themselves, could have long lasting eternal youth and can live forever? The Turrytopsis nutricula (immortal jellyfish), bacteria, Bristlecone Pine trees of the Great Basin and the freshwater Hydra species. Life forms such as that are biologically equipped to form and reform and alter and so on. The myths suggest that the gods need to eat something to stay immortal and young. That suggests too that the gods were mortal men and women before that!
In the fairytale of "Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs", the princess Snow White is given a poisoned apple. She dies, and a prince's kiss wakes her from death. The originator of the apple was her step mother, the wicked queen. Who was that supposed to be? A darker version of Idun? Step mother queens in fairytales, who appear as powerful deadly sorceresses, are actually goddesses who control destiny. These step mothers have been demonised over the centuries but they were given bad traits. Look at it another way. The powerful queen (goddess Idun) gives Snow-White one of the sacred apples to make her immortal!!!
In Norse mythology, Idun is kidnapped by an eagle, and Loki has attempted to remove her from the garden of golden apples, so that the gods lose immortality. Loki seeks the destruction of the gods. It seems that there is a different story of an eternal battle going on. And Idun is the key queen on the chess board, sat beside her husband Bragi.