**My apologies for the late post! I’ve been having some technical difficulties. The irony that I’m late with a post about discipline is not lost on me…**
It might be hard to tell from my spotty posting in April, but in my on-blog life, I’ve been pretty disciplined! I’ve submitted a book, gotten my taxes done, kept the house reasonable. I’ve also gotten food poisoning, and the DH got sick the week after. It’s been a crazed couple months ‘round these parts. But I promised a post on a god that represented discipline to me, and I realized today is my last day to do that. I decided to look at Sól (Sunna), and that got me thinking about feminism and my life as a writer and house frau.
Sól is the sun in Norse mythology (Sunna in German). She’s rare among mythologies because she’s, well, a she and her brother Máni is the moon. As an English major, I was taught that the sun represents masculinity–strong, steady, constant, a provider–and the moon femininity–moody, changing, reflective, with a 28 day cycle of fertility. Most mythologies follow that trend. Norse mythology does not. (GG, in her post on sun worship through the Pagansphere pointed out Amaterasu from Shinto, another female sun with a brother moon, but that’s the only other pair like I that I know of. I’m not saying there aren’t others, I just don’t know them.)
At first it took me awhile to get used to this switch, but from a historical perspective I think the sun as feminine and moon as masculine makes more sense. The John Donne poem “A Valediction: Forbidding Mourning” is what helped me shift my thinking. Donne wrote it for his wife before he had to take a business trip. If you’re unfamiliar with it, Donne compares the deeply committed relationship he has with his wife to a math compass, the kind with a pencil and a point that allows you to draw a circle. It’s a strange but lovely comparison. He speaks of how she stays at home–the point of the compass–while he leaves to conduct business–the pencil end. But no matter how far he goes, they are one instrument that moves together, leaning as one with the motions of life, and she remains the fixed center that he returns to. The last two and a half stanzas are:
Thy soul, the fix’d foot, makes no show
To move, but doth, if th’ other do.
And though it in the centre sit,
Yet, when the other far doth roam, 30
It leans, and hearkens after it,
And grows erect, as that comes home.
Such wilt thou be to me, who must,
Like th’ other foot, obliquely run ;
Thy firmness makes my circle just, 35
And makes me end where I begun.
Reading this again a few years ago made me think of life in ancient Scandinavia. Men would spend summers traveling back and forth as merchants (or vikings!), while women stayed home to tend the farms and raise children. In this life, men waxed in and out like the moon while women stayed home, the constant center that sustained the village. Without the women, their civilization would fall apart.
Of course I don’t think traditional gender roles should be enforced. Women should be able to travel the world and be the moon to their spouse’s sun. Or to not be married and do whatever they please within the bounds of law. There are a lot of ways to make a successful family and a successful life. And I certainly don’t want to sound like I’m making the old hackneyed argument that men need women to civilize them. I don’t think so poorly of men. But I also refuse to feel bad that I work from home and do most of the child-rearing while my husband works out of the home. Yes, we conform to traditional roles, but we don’t do it because it’s tradition. It’s what works best for us. And Lady Sol reminds me that the work I do is important. I hope any man in my position would be able to find strength in her as well, just as I find strength in male deities like Bragi, the poet of the gods, and Freyr, a god of harvest and prosperity.
Sól is consistent–the epitome of discipline. She is the center of the solar system around which we all turn, just like in Donne’s compass. Her heat and light are the foundation of life for our planet. In Norse myth, she rides across the sky in a chariot, moving quickly as she is always chased by Sköll, the wolf (or Fenrir, depending on the myth). Eventually, at Ragnarök, she will be caught–but we are told her daughter will carry on with her duties, providing heat and light for the world. Just like one day I too will be caught by death, but should I live my life with purpose, somebody else will continue the good work I’ve done.
I’ve touched on a lot of different topics here, Realm. What do you think?
+ Featured Image: Far Away and Long Ago, by Willy Pogany from the book Children of Odin. I love the style of this image, but if you look you’ll see that the artist follows traditional gender associations and renders the sun as a man and the moon as a woman!