Indo-European Guide to Presidential Elections (excerpts, #3)

The continuation of the previous part…

Unforgivable Sins of President

…While sins of pride and lying for noble reasons are damaging to the King status, but are recoverable, what about other sins? What about sins against the primary functions, against Queen Medb’s rules, Alwyn and Brinley Rees write about in their widely acclimated study Celtic Heritage?

“Jealousy would be a fatal weakness in a judge, as would fear in a warrior and niggardliness in a farmer. The higher the status, the more exacting are the standards that go with it, and it is noteworthy that the most reprehensible sin in each class is to indulge in the foibles of the next class below it. Meanness may be excused in a serf, but it is the denial of the farmer’s vocation; fear is not incompatible with the peaceful role of farmer, but it is the warrior’s great disgrace; jealousy, as we have seen, is a trait of the warrior’s character, the correlative of his virtue, but it can undermine the impartiality required in a judge. A king must give the virtues of all the functions without their weakness”. (Rees 130-31)

“Indulging in the foibles” of the own and next classes, is, indeed, literally destructive to a potential King, myths of Scandinavia or Germania, India and Greece tell us. In these tales heroes, kingly hopefuls commit three sins against the virtues of three Indo-European castes – sacrilegious acts against the moral norms, cowardness, and venal or adulterous behavior – which lead them to a sudden or gradual (when a hero sequentially looses his splendor or sanity, might and looks), but total destruction at the end.

To illustrate this thesis Georges Dumezil chooses Scandinavian-German tale, told us in Gautrekssaga Islanding saga, and by Danish historian of XII century Saxo Grammaticus, about a hero named Starkadr-Starcatherus, who, despite his exemplary and brilliant record of serving as a general, tutor and regent for many kings, commits, first, a murder in disguise of a mock sacrifice, then, being a general, cowardly flees a battle, gravely endangering another king he now serves, and finally kills one more king as a contractor just for mere gold.

Another story of the similar archetype comes from Mahabharata, which tells us about king Sisupala who was born with strange abnormalities, with tree eyes and four hands. To the exaltation of his parents, who were about to abandon the monstrous child, Sisupala was miraculously cured by another hero, Krishna, incarnation of Vishnu. However, there was a prophecy that the one who normalize Sisupala will be executioner. Concerning mother asked Krishna to forgive her son one hundred times for his possible insults and assaults on Krishna. Krishna promised, but one hundred times is not a big number if you make insulting of somebody a purpose of your life, which, insulting Krishna, Sisupala did make his sole purpose. Once, during a festival honoring a great king, Sisupala was doing his usual business accusing Krishna in disrespecting honors of present kings, which was really most unfair. But this time it was one too many – one hundred first offence. Krishna explains situation to the kings, tells them about past insults, describing five most memorable, which fall in the category of three sins against three functions, and slays Sisupala on the spot.

Yet another similar set of sins, as Diodorus Siculus tells us, is committed by Heracles, who, first, ignores a divine command to go into the service of king Eurystheus, for which he is punished by madness resulting into killing his children. Overcome by his deed, Heracles resigns himself into doing these famous labors made up by king Eurystheus. With this work done, Heracles treacherously, not in a fare fight, kills an enemy next to him, and is stricken by a physical illness. Finally he “forgets” he is married and enters into illicit relationship, direct consequence of which is a bodily burning from the tunic soaked in blood of centaurs Nessos. (Dumezil 1983 1-3,7)

When we look at these tales closely, we’ll see an interesting circumstance that all heroes commit these sins almost not by their free will. They are influenced by particular divinities who are in a conflict with the proper god-protector of the kingly and warrior caste. Our heroes lured by the alien, for their function, divinities onto the path of their destruction, then staged and played like pawns.

Who are these divinities, and what is their domain, which Kings and Heroes must avoid wandering in?

Starkadr and Odin

 Starkadr had a very peculiar family history. According to the saga, his grandfather was a giant, named also Starkadr, the first Starkadr. He was killed by Thor, when he kidnapped a girl who mutually expressed her interest to Thor himself. After her disappearance her parents called Thor for help, who was eager to find and free her. However, when Thor found and killed first Starkadr, Thor’s girl was already pregnant with Starkadr’s son, Storvirkr. He had a normal human appearance, but very strong. Storvirkr married princes and become a king of a small domain. However, soon after our Starkadr was born, Storvirkr was slain by king of Agdir, Haraldr. He adopted little Starkadr as his second son, so his own son, Vikar, had a friend. Viking’s life is full of violence and uncertainty. After few years king Haraldr was also killed by another king of Hordaland, Herthjofr, who took both boys as hostages.

Here comes into play very interesting figure, a puppeteer who staged a spectacle for many years to come. He worked out a plan for both boys, one of whom was destine to be sacrificed, and another to be the sacrificer in Puppeteer’s honor. He takes an appearance of a common man Hrossharsgrani (Horse-hair Grani) and enters into the service of king Herthjofr, buys off the young boy Starkadr, and, for nine years, nurtures, trains and educates him. When time comes and Starcadr becomes a man, he takes on a mission to free his friend of childhood, and restore him on a throne, which is done brilliantly and successfully. No wonder that Starkadr remains a most trusted and influential person in king Vikar’s court.

Life of courts of Viking kings is preoccupied with banquets and, of course raids. During one of these raids king Vikar’s band was grounded by storms to an island for a better part of a year. Being embarrassed by such a long period of idleness without any great deeds of rampage, pillage and plunder, Vikings resorted to divination and found out the reason for their extended stay on the island is the Odin’s desire for a human sacrifice. They draw lots and found out that king Vikar is the Odin’s choice.

That was not exactly a humiliating act for a king to be sacrificed in the name of Odin.  That remained a core of Indo-European tradition that the sacrifice benefits more the sacrificed than the sacrificer. The death from hanging and spear throwing was as noble as the death in a battle, which any well-born Scandinavian or German was wishing for. Such a death would guaranty ascending to meadow-halls of Valhalla, where honored Einherjar (Lone Fighters) would enjoy bountiful feasts, interchanged by recreational fierce, but harmless, battles in Valhalla’s nearby fields. Such an honorable shortcut would be a matter of the last resort for old and sick, who would not able to participate in a battle anymore.

Despite such a noble perspective, king Vikar was still able to take a more routine, battle path, and sacrificing their king would mean a fiasco of the whole campaign for everybody else, after all these efforts and time invested into the enterprise. Confused by the turn of events, everybody took a recess for a night to come up with the mutually satisfying solution.

While everybody is either fast fell asleep, or share the sleepless night with comrades around campfires, Starkadr is getting visited by an unexpected guest – the mentor of his childhood and youth years, Horse-hair Grani. He invites Starkadr to make a short trip to a nearest uninhabited islet. After crossing fjord on a boat they make their way in the middle of dense forest growing on the islet, until they reach an opening with twelve high seats standing in the circle and surrounded by a crowd of figures of human appearance. Eleven seats were already occupied by Scandinavian gods. Horse-hair Grani quietly leaves Starkadr in the crowd under starry sky, and few moments later Odin comes to the podium and takes his seat. He declares that this gathering is convened to decide destiny of Starkadr.

“In fact, the event comes down to a magical-oratorical duel between Odin and Thor. Thor, taking the floor immediately, declares that he cannot bear good will toward a young man whose grandfather was a giant whom he had had to kill and whose grandmother, in her girlhood, had preferred this giant to him – to him, Thor, the ‘Thor of the AEsir’!

Concluding, he imposes a first fate, a bad one: ‘Starkadr will have no children’.

Odin formulates a compensation: ‘Starkadr will have three human life spans’.

But Thor rejoins: ‘He will commit a villainy, a nidingsverk, in each’.

And the duel continues: ‘He will always’, says Odin, ‘have the best arms and the best raiments’.

‘He will have’, says Thor, ‘neither land nor real property’.

Odin: ‘He will have fine furnishings’.

Thor: ‘He will never feel he has enough’.

Odin: ‘He will have success and victory in every combat’.

Thor: ‘He will receive a grave wound in every combat’.

Odin: ‘He will have the gift of poetry and improvisation’.

Thor: ‘He will forget all he has composed’.

Odin: ‘He will appeal to the well-born and the great’.

Thor: ‘He will be despised by the common folk’.” (Dumezil 1983 12-5)

Show is over, other gods sign off Odin’s and Thor’s predictions, starlight dims, gods and crowd vanishes, and Starkadr remains one-to-one with Odin-Hrossharsgrani.  He asks Starkadr to give him Vikar, to place the king in a position of sacrifice and everything else leave to Odin himself. Feeling in debt to Odin for his actions of “philanthropy” in defending his destiny, Starkadr agrees to do the job. Odin hands him over his spear, which turns into a stick of reed in Starkadr’s hands and brings him back to Viking’s camp.

In the morning, when the ting, Vikings’ counsel, is assembled, Starkadr offers to fellow men a plan of mock sacrifice. King Vikar would stand on a high stump under nearby fir three, with a noose on his neck tied to a small, easily breakable branch, and he, Starkadr will throw a stick at Vikar.

The plan is adopted with enthusiasm. A calf is gutted and getting prepared for the feast in anticipation of leaving the island. Starkadr ties a slender branch to the ground by calf’s guts, and sets the noose on it. King Vikar examines the scene, not without bad presentiments:

“’If this apparatus is no more dangerous than it looks to me, then I think it will not harm me, but if it is otherwise, then it is for fate to decide what will happen’.

Then he stood up on the stump, and Starkadr laid the noose around his neck and stepped down from the stump. Then Starkadr thrust his stick at the king and said, ‘Now I give thee to Odin’… The reed-stick suddenly became a spear and pierced the king. The stump fell out from beneath his feet, and the calf’s intestine became a strong withy, and the branch sprang up and dragged the king into the leaves, and there he died. Thereafter the place has been called Vikarsholmar, ‘Vikar’s Island’. From this deed Starkadr became much despised by the people, and was exiled from Hordaland”. (Dumezil 1983 16)

Odin acquires what he wanted and what the whole combination, and his play by Thor and Sarkadr was aimed at. Starkadr moves on along his three lives, committing ‘nidingsverk’ against next kings he serves…

To be continued…

Dumezil, Georges, 1983. The Stakes of the Warrior. University of California Press, Berkeley, CA

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