A correction necessitating an apology

I would like to apologize for inadvertently misrepresenting the Goddess Vör in my post The History of the Sword. I wasn’t really familiar with her beyond Snorri’s brief mention in the catalogue of the Ásynjur from Gylfaginning, and so to flesh out her story I did some online research.

Much of the material I included came from the Northern Trad shrine to Frigga’s Handmaidens and from this page on her by Lofn’s Bard. I was a little concerned since both were short on primary sources or academic citations, and when I tried to verify the information elsewhere nothing came up, but I figured I’d give them the benefit of the doubt since the authors appeared to have more knowledge and experience of this deity than I do.

Well, upon waking this morning my wife explained (both in person and in this comment) that the material was not only pure UPG but borders on being insulting to  Vör since there is nothing to suggest she’s a Jötunn or aged, nor does she generally appear to people that way.

This is especially problematic since the entire reason I brought Vör into the story was so I could make a pretty obscure pun.

You see, there are a series of myths and folktales which scholars refer to as Bärensohnmärchen or Bear’s Son Tales. Although these are primarily Eurasian in origin, examples can also be found in North and South America, and elsewhere. For a number of reasons I’m not going to go into here I believe that Óðr’s lost backstory fits the archetype in certain ways (while also diverging from it in others.)

One detail that these stories often contain is the discovery of a magical weapon, usually a sword or walking stick. So in my version I gave Óðr an item that was both – a sword made from a walking stick.

The idea of this coming from a blind seeress resonated strongly – especially when the word for such an item is pāl and the seeress is named Vör.  Vör’s pāl = vorpal, as in the Vorpal Sword Lewis Carroll mentions in the “Jabberwocky” poem in Through the Looking-Glass

He took his vorpal sword in hand,
longtime the manxsome foe he sought
So rested he by the Tum-Tum Tree
And stood awhile in thought.

And later,

One, two! One, two! And through and through
The vorpal blade went snicker-snack!
He left it dead, and with its head
He went galumphing back.

Note that this is why Óðr’s sword has a propensity for beheading people (“Off with his head,” cried the Red Queen) and also why it is stolen by the cousin of Fáfnir (aka Frænir.)

Though I do not outright name this dragon, I do explain that it comes from “voluble fruit.” Although Carroll gave multiple (often contradictory) explanations for both vorpal and the Jabberwock I was going by the ones cited at Wikipedia:

When a class in the Girls’ Latin School in Boston asked Carroll’s permission to name their school magazine The Jabberwock, he replied: “The Anglo-Saxon word ‘wocer’ or ‘wocor’ signifies ‘offspring’ or ‘fruit’. Taking ‘jabber’ in its ordinary acceptation of ‘excited and voluble discussion’, this would give the meaning of ‘the result of much excited and voluble discussion’…” It is often depicted as a monster similar to a dragon. John Tenniel’s illustration depicts it with a long serpentine neck, rabbit-like teeth, spidery talons, bat-like wings and, as a humorous touch, a waistcoat. In the 2010 film version of Alice in Wonderland it is shown with large back legs, small dinosaur-like front legs, and on the ground it uses its wings as front legs like a pterosaur, and it breathes out lightning flashes rather than flame.


Alexander L. Taylor notes (in his Carroll biography The White Knight) that “vorpal” can be formed by taking letters alternately from “verbal” and “gospel.”

So, again, my sincerest apologies to the Goddess Vör, and to any of her devotees who may have been offended. While I have no problem taking liberties where there is no lore or it is ambiguous Vör is a real entity and therefore I have an obligation to present her in as accurate and respectful a manner as possible.

Maybe I’ll just stick with the sword being the legendary Crocea Mors (“Yellow Death”) wielded by Julius Caesar during his war with the Britons, according to Geoffrey of Monmouth (Historia Regum Britanniae 4.3-4) which you can read more about here. He certainly has lots of Bacchic associations, so him receiving Óðr’s sword wouldn’t be too far-fetched. 

Upon this motion, our cavalry on the left fell upon Pompey’s right wing. Meanwhile the clashing of armor mingled with the shouts of combatants, and the groans of the dying and the wounded, terrified the new-raised soldiers. On this occasion, as Ennius says, “they fought hand to hand, foot to foot, and shield to shield;” but though the enemy fought with the utmost vigor, they were obliged to give ground, and retire toward the town. The battle was fought on the feast of Bacchus, and the Pompeians were entirely routed and put to flight; insomuch that not a man could have escaped, had they not sheltered themselves in the place whence they advanced to the charge. (Julius Caesar, The Spanish War 31.8)

In honour of his victory the senate passed all those decrees that I have mentioned, and further called him “Liberator,” entering it also in the records, and voted for a public temple of Liber. Moreover, they now applied to him for the first time, as a kind of proper name, the title of imperator, no longer merely following the ancient custom by which others as well as Caesar had often been saluted as a result of their wars, nor even as those who received some independent command or other authority were called by this name, but giving him once and for all the same title that is now granted to those who hold successively the supreme power. (Cassius Dio, Roman History 43.44.1-3)

This refers unambiguously to Caesar who, as is well-known, was the first to bring the cult of Liber Pater to Rome; thiasus stands for dances, the round dances of Liber, which means the Liberalia. (Servius, commenting on Virgil’s Eclogues 5.29 which is about Daphnis, the inventor of the Bacchic triumph)

16 thoughts on “A correction necessitating an apology

  1. Nothing wrong with being a Jotun deitiy but we just have no evidence Vor is. Thank you so much for this post. Frigga and especially Her Handmaidens get so much dismissal and disrespect on one side and utter craziness masquerading as upg on the other well, I really appreciate this correction.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. In addition to it not being bad to be a Jotun, it’s also not bad to be old or blind (as you know and I’m sure you would have said, too!)…

      …says the person who is increasingly both old and blind…not that I’m biased or anything. ;)


        1. Indeed–it’s often how I console myself with my ongoing vision issues in my left eye and its (by Irish standards) “permanent disfigurement,” which should by those same standards also result in me getting all sorts of magical powers. (The left eye in particular was the evil and also magical eye, and so missing it or being blind in it was rather double-edged…luckily, I’m not blind in it at this point, and I hope I never will be, but one never knows!) I was telling this to my retinologist yesterday, before she plunged another needle into said eye: “I’m supposed to get magical powers for this, but they haven’t come in the mail yet!”


            1. I’d love to have what Valor’s evil eye had: the ability to strike people dead if I look at them too intently! It would certainly make faculty meetings more interesting if particular people “caught my eye,” as it were, for the comments they make or the suggestions they are pushing through…!?! ;)

              Or, failing that: just being able to do something cool that is sight-related. Passive night vision; heat sensors; x-ray vision.

              Or lasers.

              Liked by 1 person

              1. Sorry–not sure why that happened, but that should be “Balor,” not “Valor”…must have been autocorrect gone awry and I just didn’t notice it. Oh well…!?!


                1. (Though, of course, in certain circumstances, the “b” can be pronounced like a “v” in Irish…but generally, it still looks like and is written like a “b” even if it is pronounced that way…which is one of many things that makes Irish both frustrating but also interesting to learn!)


  2. While the connection to Caesar via Geoffrey of Monmouth, and thus also to Liber through Geoffrey’s latinizing, is interesting, and then would certainly fit with the “bear’s son” motif considering what Arthur’s name means, the actual origin of Excalibur etymologically is rather different from that…but it may be of interest to you for other reasons. Let me know if you’d like more info, I can explain it privately! Hint: it’s Irish via Welsh, and has more to do with horses than with bears…!?! :)


      1. Fair enough!

        I was imagining it more out of a matter of interest and curiosity than anything.

        Suffice it to say: I summarized this in a paper I gave a few years ago at the ‘Zoo by saying, “So, Excalibur is ultimately, via two other languages, an Irish dick joke.” And it is! ;)


  3. Finally! I’ve been waiting for years for someone to call bullshit on my UPG, and I’m surprised it took this long. So at the top of my page there’s a quote, then a footnote mark, which at the bottom of the page reads: “(1) from Snorri Sturluson’s Prose Edda, everything below this point is personal gnosis.”

    I don’t claim it’s anything other than my own personal experience of that goddess. People in my group have also experienced this aged version of her, but that’s not exactly objective. If there was more lore on her, I’d love to see it. If there was more personal gnosis by other people, I’d love to see that too and compare notes. But I haven’t found any. Have you? There’s only one book I know of by a lady who was in Hrafnar Kindred, and did ONE trance journey with each of the Handmaidens. Based on that single experience, she wrote a book on all of them. Which is cool, because there’s nothing else. But that’s not a large sample size either.

    I’ve being doing devotions to the Handmaidens for nine years now, with each month dedicated to one of them. Most of those years, there’s been a spirit supper each month to meet them, sometimes with trance possession. I’ve been feeding them, honoring them, and trying my best to get to know them so I could share what I got and compare notes with others doing similar things, to find what’s common and likely to be true. But I haven’t found any others. No one’s interested in the single goddesses who have no stories. So I’ve tried to share stories, from glimpses and impressions I get.

    So, do *you* have any better sources on Vor? Because I’ve put a lot of effort in, and I don’t. Aside from Freya, the goddesses hardly have a voice, and rarely have any agency in any of the stories. I’m trying to improve that, but I’m just a seer and story teller who’s doing her best.

    By the way, you know that Tyr is a giant, right? Sunna, Mani, Gerda, Skadhi are all Jotnar. Odin’s mom Bestla and his grandma are giantesses. Thor’s mom Jord is a giantess. So I’m confused how thinking she’s a giantess would be insulting.


    1. Finally! I’ve been waiting for years for someone to call bullshit on my UPG, and I’m surprised it took this long.

      I see.

      Well, that’s a real shame as I think we could have had an interesting conversation about interrogating sources, when and how to go beyond them or fill in the gaps, how to balance artistic license while working within the bounds of an established tradition, the need for discernment and methods of verification when dealing with UPG, and so forth.

      Maybe one day you’ll get that fight you’re so clearly looking for – but it ain’t going to be today or with me.

      I will say, however, that I am immensely grateful that my wife gave me the warning she did, so that I could disentangle my work from yours. I wouldn’t want folks to get the wrong impression.


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