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.
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)