The Gods and Goddesses of Odinism
Copyright © 1996 The Circle of Ostara
Published with the kind permission of the Circle of Ostara.
This article must not be republished or reprinted in whole or
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In the mists and distances of the All and Forever Audumla has her being, a shadowy figure, the first Great Mother. She stands at the gateway of Change.
In each of us there is a deep unconscious knowledge of this Great Spirit, the essence of maternal love, the love that gives all without condition, that releases without constraint and that welcomes back without question. It is to her we cry at those times when we long for death.
All symbolism is weak when we try to express in words our knowledge of Audumla. She is not a “creative” spirit such as the Vanir or the Æsir whose minds we can to some extent comprehend and who are intellectually accessible to us. Rather, she is that which preordains creation, a spiritual catalyst, and without her no change in the World-Substance could take place.
In the old Nordic mythology Audumla is referred to as if she had existed long ago in some far distant past, where she performed her tasks and then passed out of our ken. The “time” which is symbolised in this myth, however, is that Primal Time we have noted before. The work of Audumla never ends: she walks the void now and always will, that void which lies beyond the Worlds, the infinite space within the microcosm.
The mystical insight of our ancestors symbolised Audumla as a great cow, a figure that seems strange to us, although the peoples of other races and cultures have also seen her in this guise. To the person brought up in the artificial environment of the “great city” this symbol will appear ludicrous. To such a person a cow is a mindless, lumbering animal seen in pictures, the term “cow” a derisive insult to hurl at a stupid woman. Yet even now, to anyone who has had experience of close contact with cattle, not as items in the stock of an agri-businessman but as part of an organic farmstead, will at once recognise that the symbol is appropriate. The cow is a noble animal, gentle and loving, a perfect mother, the supplier of nourishment to man and beast alike.