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Heming and Gyvri

The ballad Heming and Gyvri in the form we know today, dates from the late middle Ages. It is one of Norway's many medieval ballads. This ballad has far older roots, and is originally pagan. We do not know how old it is, but it was written down in the thirteenth century. It was probably hidden from the Christians, and kept this way - because there is no Christian elements at all in this ballad. Only paganism. Similar to all our fairy tales, legends and myths, Heming and Gyvri rests on the same foundation and patterns.


The Norwegian text is translated into English below each verse, and at the end we will dissect the poem.


Heming tog bogjen på sin bak, og pilekorgi ved side. So mundi han seg åt fjølle gå, han visste eit bjønnehie.

Hemingen unge kunne på skiom renne.


Heming took the bow on his back,

and the arrow basket by side.

To the mountain he went,

he knew of the bears cave.

Heming the young could on skis go.


Han rende bå' bratt og flatt,

so lett han på skio flyge.

Då blei han var i bergje inn,

Bjartan elden lyse


He went steep and flat,

and so easy he flew on his skis.

Then he inside the mountain came,

the fire of bright lighted.


God eftan, du Gyvramor,

som karar med nasen i eldi.

Vil du låna meg hus i nott,

så seint om joleftans kvelli.


Good evening, you witch-mother,

that digs with your nose in the fire.

Would you lend me house for the night,

so late on the solstice evening.


Gjønne ska' du få hus hjå meg,

men steikje ska' eg dinnom felle.

Hot er du fer ein horeson.

så seint om joleftans kvelle.


You may hold house by me, but I will make you fall.

Who are you, a son of a whore,

so late on the soltice night?


Eg er ingjen horeson,

slikt må du inkje tru.

Eg er Heming den Unge,

i berget med deg vil eg bu.


I am no son of a whore,

such a thing you must not believe.

I am Heming the young

in the mountain with you I will live.


Å er du Heming den Unge,

som i berget med meg vil bu,

då må eg av andre fjølli,

og til våres bryllaup bu.


Oh, so you are Heming the young

who in the mountain with me will live,

then I must off other mountains,

and to our wedding live.


Gyvramor tok kjortillen på,

ar i atten oksehuder.

Det var Heming den Unge,

da tok han til å grue.


The Gyvra-mother took the robe on,

of eighteen bulls skins.

It was Heming the young,

he began to dread.


Tok dei gangaren av stallen ut,

var atten alen under nio.

Gyvramor i sadlen sprang,

og beina dei slepa te jord.


They took the horse out of the barn,

was eighteen cubit under nine.

The Gyvra-mother in the saddle ran

an the legs dragged to the ground.


Det var Heming den Unge,

glodde seg opp ifrå.

Så fekk han sjå kor dei nykla heng,

der hand bå'e store og små.


It was Heming the young,

he stared up from there.

Then he saw where the keys hang,

he saw both big and small.


Så let han opp den eine døri,

igjennom den andre han tro:

Fann han der den vene jomfru,

ho skjein som gull i ro.

Så tok han så mykji gull

som han var kar om å finne.

Tok han jomfrua på sin arm,

og sette på skio sine.


Then he opened one of the doors,

through the other he went:

Found there the fair maiden,

she shone like pure gold.

Then he took as much gold he could find.

He took the maiden on his arm,

and put her on his skis.


Så løyo han av dei høge fjøll,

og nedan ivi dei låge.

Der møter han ho Gyvri,

med atten av sin måge.


Then he went off the high mountain,

and further down below.

There he met the Gyvri,

with eighteen of skins.


Høyre du Heming den Unge,

hot eg vil deg volde.

Må eg få att den vene møy,

og gullet må du beholde.


Listen, Heming the young,

I will threathen you.

May I have the maiden back,

and you the gold keep.


Og det var Heming den Unge,

vende han augo åt øster.

Der kjem opp den venaste møy,

ho skal deg full trøste.


And it was Heming the young,

turned his eyes towards east.

There the fairest maiden up comes,

she will give you all comfort.


Gygri seg mot aust munde snu,

soli ho skein i augo.

Då blei ho i flintestein,

standane neri haugo.


Gygri had to turn to the east,

the sun shone in the eyes.

Then became flint stone,

standing down in the mound.



What is this ballad all about? What is all this symbolism? Let us dissect the different components, and set them in a pagan pattern;


The name Heming

Heming is a Norse name, and it consists of two components;

Hem (of Norse ham/hamr) meaning skin, container, and Ing (equivalent to Freyr) mening the ancestor/the seed. This name alone gives a clear hint of what the meaning of this ballad is.


He is a "flying skier", and he knows where he is going. He is the ancestor, he is the spermatozoa - the skiing Freyr.


The Gyvri

A Gyvri is the same as the Norse Gýgr, namely a female Ettin (Jötunn). She is the symbolic sorceress, she is the bear. Because Heming is going not only to a bears cave, but to a mountain, to a womb. She keeps and guards the fair maiden. In this way, she is also Hél. She dresses up in a robe of eighteen bull skins. The number nine is sacred in all our mythology - with a nine months lenght of a pregnancy (9X2). We also recognize the symbolizm with the bull itself, representing the fight, the ancestral power.


She has a long nose, stirring the fire... Symbolically this always means the witch, with the long nose connected to fire, and fire is always equvalent to blood. Heming comes on the solstice night, the night of change, a turn, and the beginning of a new cycle on every level.


The horse

Heming gets a horse. Yes, he rides it. He rides the "wessel of the spirit", like horses and ships in our myths and fairytales represent the same. He rides the placenta. He fights his old self - like the Gyvri becomes the horse in this poem, with the feet dragging to the ground after she has jumped the saddle. In the same way the two sided placenta, with the one devouring side on the mother. Heming rides it down, and "meets the Gyvri" making him aware of that it is of great threath.


The gold

As always, the gold is "eternal metals", they reflect the sun. In other words, they are an avatar and a symbol of ancestors. The blood memory. The ancestral spirit. It is spiritual, and it becomes clear that it is eternal, when the Gyvri tries to bargain the fair maiden back, and that Heming could keep the gold.


The fair maiden

She is the egg (Freyja), that re-unites with the skiing Freyr (the seed). Heming even puts her on to his skies... This is the eternal marriage. The wedding. He has to melt togehter with the female egg to re-incarnate in a new shape. This fair maiden gives him comfort, when he turns his eyes to the east. The meaning of this is that he sees "the light / the sun", when he comes out of the womb. He is re-born, with all the accumulated ancestral memory.


The destiny of the Gyvri

The Gyvri also, after Heming, have to turn the eyes to the east. She therefore comes out after Heming, sees the light / the sun - and as for every Jötunn becomes stone. But, connected to the mound, still. Yes, the tree of life is connected to the wells, the underworld. If you look up in your Norse dictionary and read what Fylgja means, you will see that this is the after-birth, and the spiritual follower.


The symbolism with turning to stone also relates to the process of lithopedion in some cases. In this way, the Gyvri stays in the mound (the "afterlife") awaiting.... still. Not only does the Gyvri turn into a stone, but a flint stone - that would re-kindle the ancestral fire. This destiny is not unusual. We see the same in several other fairytales and myths. In Alvíssmál, where Þórr (in the same role as Heming) gets re-born, and Alvíss ("all knowing") turns into stone when the all night lasting quiz is over, and the rays of Sól hits the Jötunn.

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