Well friends I come now upon the final piece in the cosmic puzzle- the one that makes all the others fit- and I am delighted to find that, for me, this completing symbolic meme is MIMIR.
My mythic journey has led me, like Odin, to the roots of the World Tree, where Mimir dwells in a Well of either water (standard myths) or fire (Marvel Comics).
In this, my mightiest of magic Moments, I have faced Mimir and obtained his gigantic wisdom.
As Odin was, so I have become.
Mímir (Old Norse "The rememberer, the wise one") or Mim is a figure in Norse mythology renowned for his knowledge and wisdom who is beheaded during the Æsir-Vanir War. Afterward, the god Odin carries around Mímir's head and it recites secret knowledge and counsel to him.
Mímir is attested in the Poetic Edda, compiled in the 13th century from earlier traditional sources, the Prose Edda, written in the 13th century by Snorri Sturluson of Iceland, and in euhemerized form as one of the Æsir in Heimskringla, also written by Snorri Sturluson in the 13th century. Mímir's name appears in the names of the well Mímisbrunnr, the tree Mímameiðr, and the wood Hoddmímis holt.
MIMIR, WHOSE NAME IS COGNATE WITH "MEMORY," is a water-etin (a giant) of primal space and time. The horn he drinks from is the god Heimdall's (the warder of the bridge that leads to Asgard "the gods' garden") which he will sound when the gods' doom approaches. Mimir's well is the repository of the origin of all events and beings. The mirrored depths occult all wit and wisdom lest its sacred waters are drunk by fools incapable of understanding.
"Let those who have eyes to see -- see."
Mímir is mentioned in the Poetic Edda poems Völuspá and Sigrdrífumál. In Völuspá, Mímir is mentioned in two stanzas. Stanza 28 references Odin's sacrifice of his eye to Mímir's Well, and states that Mímir drinks mead every morning "from the Father of the Slain's [Odin] wager." Stanza 46 describes that, in reference to Ragnarök, the "sons" of Mím are at play while "fate burns" (though no further information about these "sons" has survived), that the god Heimdallr blows the Gjallarhorn, and that Mímir's decapitated head gives counsel to Odin. The single mention in stanza 14 of Sigrdrífumál is also a reference to Mímir's speaking, decollated head. Stanzas 20 and 24 of the poem Fjölsvinnsmál refer to Yggdrasil as Mímameiðr.
In chapter 15 of the Prose Edda book Gylfaginning, as owner of his namesake well, Mímir himself drinks from it and gains great knowledge. To drink from the well, he uses the Gjallarhorn, a drinking horn which shares its name with the sounding horn used by Heimdallr intended to announce the onset of Ragnarök.
Another aspect of Mimir is given in Vafthrudnismal. Mimir, called Hoddmimer, “Hill-Mimir” or “Mimir of the treasure,” is owner of a wood (“Hoddmimer’s holt”), and in it are hidden a human pair, Lif and Lifthrasir (“Life” and “He who holds fast to life”). They survive the terrible Fimbul-winter at the end of the world. Meanwhile they feed on morning-dew, and from them come the folk who will people the renewed earth. According to Snorri, who quotes this verse, this human pair lie hidden in the holt during the fire of Surt. Whether this holt or grove is identical with the world-tree is not clear. It may have been regarded as existing underground at its roots where Mimir’s fountain was.
With the onset of Ragnarök, "Heimdall stands up and blows the Gjallarhorn with all his strength. He wakens all the gods who then hold an assembly. Odin now rides to Mimir's Well, seeking council for both himself and his followers. The ash Yggdrasil shakes, and nothing, whether in heaven or on earth, is without fear."
In the Prose Edda book Skáldskaparmál, Mímir's name appears in various kennings. These kennings include "Mím's friend" (for "Odin") in three places, "mischief-Mímir" (a kenning for "jötunn"), and among a list of names for jötunn. Mimir’s head may at first have been nothing more than the source of the stream of which he was the guardian spirit or in which he dwelt, the source being the stream’s “head,” or “Mimir’s head,” and the name afterwards taken literally. An explanatory myth was then supplied, as well as stories of the wisdom-giving head which are not without parallels in Scandinavian custom and belief. In the Eyrbyggja-saga Freysten found a skull lying loose and uncovered on a scree called Geirvor. It sang a stave foretelling bloodshed at this spot and that men’s skulls would lie there. This was deemed a great portent.
Mímir is mentioned in chapters 4 and 7 of the saga Ynglinga Saga, as collected in Heimskringla. In chapter 4, Snorri presents a euhemerized account of the Æsir-Vanir War. Snorri states that the two sides eventually tired of the war and both agree to meet to establish a truce. The two sides meet and exchanged hostages. Vanaheimr are described as having sent to Asgard their best men: Njörðr—described as wealthy—and his son Freyr in exchange for Asaland's Hœnir—described here as large, handsome, and thought of by the people of Vanaheimr well suited to be a chieftain. Additionally, the Æsir send Mímir—described as a man of great understanding—in exchange for Kvasir, who Snorri describes as the wisest man of Vanaheimr. Snorri continues that, upon arrival in Vanaheimr, Hœnir was immediately made chief and Mímir often gave him good counsel. However, when Hœnir was at meetings without Mímir by his side, he would always answer the same way: "Let others decide." Subsequently, the Vanir suspected they had been cheated in the exchange by the Æsir, so they seized Mimir and beheaded him and sent the head to Asgard.
Odin took the head of Mímir, embalmed it with herbs so that it would not rot, and spoke charms over it, which gave it the power to speak to him and reveal to him secrets. The head of Mímir is again mentioned in chapter 7 in connection with Odin, where Odin is described as keeping Mímir's head with him and that it divulged information from other worlds.
I love how in the Marvel Comics version of things, Odin transmutes the head of Mimir into mystic flames which bind the oracle to the All-Father's will, making the Well something of a cage:
Carl Gustav Jung writes, in Symbols of Transformation (1912):
Mime or MIMIR is a gigantic being of great wisdom, an “elder nature god” with whom the Norse gods associate. Later fables make him a forest spirit and skillful smith. Like Wotan, who goes to the wise woman for advice, Odin goes to the fountain of Mimir in which wisdom and cunning lie hidden. There he asks for a drink (the drink of immortality), but no sooner does he receive it than he sacrifices his eye to the fountain. The fountain of Mimir is an obvious allusion to the mother-imago. Just as Bes, the dwarf and teacher, is associated with the Egyptian mother goddess, so Mimir is associated with the maternal fountain.
One of the wights that I work with—and have a lot of sympathy for—is Mimir. He is a living prophetic head, a cult object that happens not to have died yet. When I go into trance and prophesy, he is often the one who inspires me. Mimir came to me repeatedly in dreams, just a face calling to me from the depths of a well. At first I was terrified, but eventually I got used to him, I suppose you could say. He taught me a lot about being a votive object, which helps when I allow the Gods and wights to enter me and speak through me. I need to be able to move aside, to be a sacred place and sacred thing – with emphasis on thing– that does not get in their way. Mimir taught me how to do that.
Mimir is able to touch emptiness, the kind of emptiness that is beyond loneliness, beyond desolation. In order to reach it, you must go through those places, and come out the other side. He situation is a kind of ultimate archetype of the intrinsic set-apart-ness of an oracle. Being an oracle makes you other, takes you away from the comforting mass of people. You are never quite one of them again. To exist only as eyes to see and mouth to speak, down the hollow, echoing Well of Wisdom, kept company only by the dead, your only light and solace a sacrifice extracted from an unwilling questioner … this is the essence of what it is to be an oracle, if only for the short time you are experiencing it.
In the Voluspa Odin pledged his eye with Mimir, presumably to obtain secret knowledge from him.
The eye is hidden in Mimir’s well, and Mimir daily drinks mead out of Odin’s pledge. But in another stanza a stream is said to issue from this pledge and it waters the tree Mjotvid, which Snorri, in his reference to this verse, takes to be Yggdrasil. Mimir’s well is thus under the tree, the well which in verse 19 is called “Urd’s well.” The redactor of the poem which spoke of Odin’s eye given as a pledge and hidden in a well beneath the tree which was watered by it, has added a new and contradictory verse. The well is that of the Water-spirit Mimir, and he daily drinks from this eye. As Boer says: the redactor “replaces the clear nature picture (of Odin giving a pledge in return for something else; i.e., water, which falls on the tree) with a meaningless one, that of Mimir drinking from the pledge.”
The pledge, Odin’s eye, is generally regarded as the sun, the eye of the Heaven-god, seen reflected in the water or sinking into the sea — phenomena which may have given rise to the myth. Where the redactor speaks of Mimir’s drinking from this pledge, it is thought of as a cup or shell — a quite different myth from that of the eye.
I close with what a woman recently blogged about Mimir:
The concept of a vast shared human soul and it’s comparison to water is an old one. Jung himself says that over and over we find the Archetype of a water container or a well as an allegory for that shared human soul, that which contains all of the memories of human ancestry. In the Poetic Edda we find Mimir’s Well (Mimir literally means ‘The Rememberer’ in Old Norse’). Mimir, a Giant known for his knowledge and wisdom was beheaded by the Vanir (the gods of nature) in a feud with the Aesir (the gods of human nature and civillisation). The head was returned to the Aesir and Odin who embalmed the head with herbs to preserve it’s knowledge, threw it into a well where Mimir became an oracle, consulted often by the gods, but always demanding a sacrifice. Like the path of the questor, philosopher and thinker, the attainment of knowledge can be painful and is never easy. Odin sacrified his eye for it.
For me, Mimir himself is the water within the well, the power of memory itself and in particular, human memory. Within his body of water are my grandmothers, and grandfathers, the fragments of their lives bound up within that great water. He is the stuff that holds the coherency of the collective human song. He holds the stories, the writings, the kennings of the ancestors, all that has ever been written and imagined and lived. Mimir’s water is often a place I go to journey, for clarity, help or the comfort of knowing that this particular crisis or joy I am living has been lived before by another woman in another time and place. Through the magic of the human soul, it is possible to reach out to her and remember a story which is bigger than me, flowing like a current through our shared humanity. To share it makes it tolerable, we can cope with the pain and the crisis when we have company; in Mimir’s well we are never alone. The mouth of his well is a way into the churning waters of my ancestral soul. I don’t have to travel elsewhere to find that well for it is deep within me and the ocean of my blood.