How the Dwarves Botched Thor’s Hammer

Arkane Curiosities

Marvel Comics would have us believe that Thor’s hammer was forged in a collapsed neutron star somewhere in the far reaches of space. The actual myth is a bit more terrestrial (or Asgardian…?). The Dwarves were, indeed, responsible for the creation of the mighty Mjölnir, but the job was botched. And like most mistakes in the Norse pantheon, this one can be traced back to the god of mischief, Loki.

Loki’s Prank

Loki was constantly pulling pranks on the other gods (and then attempting to extricate himself from blame). Loki knew knew that Thor loved his wife, Sif, and her golden hair. On a lark, Loki waited for Sif to be asleep, took a pair of shears and snipped her golden off, every single lock. 

Naturally, when Thor learned of this, he seized his brother and threatened to break every bone in his body. Loki, always quick on his feet (and wanting to save his own skin) promised he could return Sif’s golden hair. 

Forging the Magical Treasures

Loki journeyed to the land of the Dwarves, Nidavellir (the dark fields, also sometimes called Svartalfheim). He pleaded with the two sons of Ivaldi (never named on their own) to fashion a new head of hair for Sif. These master craftspeople ended up creating three stunning treasures to please the gods:

  • For Sif, they crafted hair spun from actual gold with the magical ability to grow upon her head.
  • For Freyr (Lord of peace and fertility), they built the ship Skidbladnir (meaning assembled from thin pieces of wood). This was the best of all ships, always catching the most favorable wind. As a bonus, the ship could be folded up and put in a pocket. 
  • For mighty Odin, chief of all the Norse gods, they forged Gungnir, a deadly spear that always hit its mark. 

The items were so wondrous, Loki declared the sons of Ivaldi the most skilled crafters in the realm. However, two brothers, Brokk and Eitri overheard the boast. Never one to miss an opportunity, Loki taunted the brothers, claiming they lacked the skill to create anything equaling the creations of the Ivaldi brothers. 

The Wager

What’s a wager without a prize? Loki was so sure of his victory, he bet his own head as the prize. The brothers promptly accepted. 

Loki now had to make sure he won the bet or he’d lose his own head. He transformed himself into a fly and heard the brothers talking. Eitri worked the forge and reminded Brokk that the bellows must be worked without pause to ensure the required heat. 

As Brokk pumped the bellows, Loki buzzed around his head, tormenting him as only a fly can. The dwarf was able to maintain focus through the first two items, Gullinbursti (a golden boar) and Draupnir (a golden arm ring). 

The Mistake

The last item was to be Mjölnir, a war hammer for Thor. Loki, determined to keep his head on his shoulders, dived into Brokkr’s eyelid and bit so hard he drew blood. The dwarf stopped for a moment to wipe his eyes.

The hammer emerged from the forge, a weapon of unsurpassed might, able to always hit its mark and then return to the owner’s hand. But it was flawed. Most warhammers were meant to be wielded with two hands. But Mjölnir’s handle was too short and could only be held with one hand. 

Despite the mistake, Brokk was certain he and his brother had won the wager. Together with Loki, they traveled to Asgard. They laid their works before Odin. 

  • For Freyr, they presented Gullinbursti, a living boar with golden hair. This could outrun any horse and had the strength to pull Freyr’s chariot, even through water or air.
  • To Odin they gave Draupnir (the “Dripper”). This was an enchanted golden ring that created eight new golden rings every ninth night. 
  • To Thor when the hammer Mjölnir (meaning lighting). 

Loki Escapes on a Technicality

All the gods concluded that Brokk and Eitri had won the wager and Loki owed the dwarves his head. Ever the cunning one, Loki agreed to give over his head. Except, he had never promised his neck. 

Brokk decided that since Loki’s head was his, he could at least shut the god up for a while. Using Eitri’s awl, he sewed Loki’s lip shut with a leather thong. Satisfied, the brothers returned to their forge.

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Superstitions of the Undead (Or How to Keep the Dead in Their Graves)

Arkane Curiosities

Every culture fears that the dead will return to haunt and terrorize them. Throughout the centuries, different superstitions regarding death and burial arose to help keep the dead in their graves, where they belong.

Haitian Lip Sewing

The religion of voodoo is a mixture of several different practices originating in Africa. The main fear is that a deceased person might rise as a zombie. This isn’t the flesh-eating ghoul introduced by George Romero’s Night of the Living Dead. These are bodies animated by a sorcerer (bokor) and forced into an eternal slavery.

One common practice is to sew the corpse’s mouth shut. A bokor could only raise the dead by forcing the deceased to answer its name. Thus, sewing the lips shut prevents the dead from speaking. 

Another way to keep the dead from talking is to bury the corpse face down with its mouth against the earth. A dagger is also given to the deceased so they can stab any bokor who disturbs them. 

Finally, you can distract the dead with trivial tasks. Leaving an eyeless needle that can never be threaded or sprinkling a handful of sesame seeds to be counted will keep the deceased busy so they won’t hear the bokor call their name. 

How Death Got His Scythe

In Eastern Europe, many corpses were found buried with a sickle or scythe positioned across their necks. The idea here is that if a corpse rose from its grave, the sickle would slice the head off. 

People finding these bodies in the Middle Ages associated the sickle and scythe with the apparition of death. 

The reason we see burial stones in the shape of a cross is yet another way to keep the dead where they belong. The sign of the cross was thought to deter an evil spirit. Even a sword, with its cross-like hilt, stabbed into the he grave soil will do the job.

A Coin is Your Ticket to the Afterlife

One superstition, dating back to the ancient Greeks, is to place a coin in the mouth of the deceased. The name for this offering is “Charon’s obol”. An obol is a measure of currency. The Greeks believed that the dead spirit traveled to the underworld where it needed to cross the River Styx. Charon was the ferryman tasked with taking souls across the river. But he didn’t work for nothing. The coin was a bribe to make sure your loved one reached the afterlife. Otherwise, they might return as an evil spirit. 

Greeks are obsessed with the idea of keeping at least one coin on their person at all times. Your pocket or purse should always have at least one coin. Even your bank account needed a little something. This superstition was meant to ensure that you always had money. 

Never Dress Your Corpse in Red

Apparently it’s a difficult journey from the grave to the afterlife. The Chinese believe that a soul travels through the ten Magistrates of Hell, where they face faces trials and torments (one for each sin they committed in life). To ease this journey, monks chanted around the deceased to get them through the Courts of Hell as quickly as possible. There would also be a group of people gambling. The idea being that the corpse must be guarded day and night and the gambling kept the people awake and alert. 

The color red signifies happiness. After a death, all statues of deities in the house should be covered with red paper, to protect them from the corpse. Mirrors are also removed because to see the reflection of a coffin means that you will shortly die. 

The deceased is never dressed in red because this will cause the corpse to return as a ghost. 

Dead Flesh Chewing Gum

In Turkey, gum chewing is perfectly fine so long as it happens during daylight hours. If you chew gum at night, it transforms into the flesh of the dead. The color of Turkish gum is very similar to skin tone and can be mistaken as flesh. 

Additionally, you are not supposed to trim your nails at night otherwise a djinn will paralyze you.

Tim Kane

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Did Dionysus Have Dissociative Identity Disorder?

Arkane Curiosities

Mortals aren’t the only ones who can manifest dissociative identity disorder — many deities from ancient times had multiple personas. People with dissociative identity disorder (previously known as Multiple Personality Disorder or incorrectly as “split personality”) have a system of individuals all working within a single host (or body).

The core is the original child and the first identity born to the host. Some view the core as the owner of the system and is often the part with the most power. There are multiple alters (or other personalities) that fulfill specific roles, such as Protector, Persecutor, and Memory Holder. A Gatekeeper often allows the different alters to front (or take control of the host).

Different deities from across the world’s pantheons have different aspects that front for various purposes. In Celtic mythology, there is the Morrígan, who has three aspects all related to war and death. In Hindu belief, the trimurti has three gods in one body each in charge of one aspect of creation.

Perhaps the most intriguing of these personality swapping gods is Dionysus — the Ancient Greek diety of wine, drunkenness, frenzy, suffering and madness. 

Dionysus (also known as Bacchus) is known for having a dual persona. He is a bringer of joy and merriment, but sometimes goes into a blinding rage to terrorize hapless victims. 

Twice Born

Dionysus was born twice. Zeus, always the player, seduced Semele, a princess of Thebes. His wife, Hera, was naturally not pleased and planned revenge. A mortal could not view a god in their true form. Thus Hera, in disguise, convinced Semele to make Zeus prove his godliness by revealing his true form. You can guess what happened… Semele made Zeus promise to do as she wished and then asked to see him in all his glory. Zeus was honorbound to comply and revealed his true form, blasting the pour mortal woman to ashes. However, the unborn Dionysus, being part god, survived. Zeus sewed the baby inside his thigh, allowing him to gestate until birth. Since Dionysus was born from a god (in this case, Zeus) he was granted immortality. This could qualify as the traumatic event that often ushers in dissociative identity disorder. 

God of Fun

Dionysus was portrayed as beautiful and joyful. He discovered the cultivation of vines and taught others how to ferment grapes into wine. His worship is often connected with the idea of partying and having a good time (under the influence of wine, of course). He was connected to such mythological creatures as satyrs and centaurs. Dionysus was depicted riding a panther or in a chariot pulled by pumas (way to make a grand entrance). 

Terror Frenzy

Some Greek cities attempted to ban the wild rites of the maenads (followers of Dionysus). The most notorious case came with King Pentheus of Thebes (written about by Euripides). The king attempted to imprison Dionysus, but the prison doors would not close and the shackles simply slipped off. 

Despite fearing this new worship, the king was also fascinated by it and wanted to learn more. His own mother, Agave, had been lured in by the rites of Dionysus. The wine god allowed Pentheus to observe the secret rituals firsthand, but only if the king disguised himself as a woman. Pentheus did as instructed and spied on the maenads from behind a tree. 

Dionysus had driven the women into a frenzy and they seized upon any small animal they could find, ripping it apart. Soon they discovered the king and, thinking he was a lion, the maenads tore him limb from limb. Even his mother, Agave, carried off his head thinking she had slain a lion. Thus the Thebans were punished for having resisted the rites of Dionysus. 

The terror-frenzy that Dionysus creates in his followers feels very much like the protector alter of the dissociative identity disorder. A Protector might lash out to defend the host from physical or other kinds of abuse. 

Dionysus remains a complex deity with many facets. He was beloved by the Greeks and went on many more adventures. Whether the Greek myths utilized him as a way to explain individuals with different personas remains to be seen. One thing is certain, if you upset Dionysus, you would suffer the consequences.

Consider the last lines of the Homeric Hymns to Dionysus

“And the Nymphs followed in his train with
him for their leader; and the boundless forest was filled with their outcry…”

Tim Kane