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CHAPTER VI.

odinic free masonry.

ABOUT fifty years before the Christian Era, an event transpired on the western limit of Asia, which was destined many centuries after to change the whole aspect of Europe, and affect the destinies of the whole civilized world. The Roman commonwealth had arrived at the height of its power, and beheld all the then known world subject to its laws.* Its last formidable enemy, Mithridates, had fled before the victorious arms of Pompey, and sought refuge and new means of resistance in the forests of Scythia. He hoped to arm against the ambition of Rome all the barbarous nations, his neighbors, whose liberties she threatened. He succeeded at first ; but all those peoples—ill united as allies, ill-armed as soldiers, and still worse disciplined—were forced to yield to the genius of Pompey, and some of them were compelled to serve in the victorious army. Of this number was Odin, the great Mystagogue of the North. His true name was Sigge. The degrading position he was obliged to occupy, stung him to the depths of his soul. He could ill disguise his resentment, which broke forth beyond all restraint on receiving a blow from the Roman general. The insult burned in his heart like a coal of living fire. He fled into the wilderness, the idea of revenge being his supreme thought. He ran from nation to nation, exciting the people by his wondrous eloquence, and the indefatigable zeal with which he propagated the religion, of which he now claimed to be the minister. He assumed the name of Odin, who was the Supreme God of the Teutonic nations, either because he believed himself inspired by the gods, or because, as chief priest, he presided over the worship which was paid to that Deity. It was usual with many ancient nations to give their pontiffs the name of the god they worshiped.

* Vide Mallet. L'Introduc a l'Histoire de Den.

Sigge or Odin was the chief of the Æsir, whose country must have been situated between the Pontus Euxinus and the Caspian sea. Their principal city was Asgard. The worship they paid to their supreme god was famous throughout the surrounding countries. Odin having united under his banners the youth of the neighboring nations, marched toward the north and west of Europe, subduing, we are told, all the people he found in his passage, and giving them to one or other of his sons for subjects.

After having disposed of so many countries, and confirmed and settled his new governments, Odin

directed his course toward Scandinavia, passing through Cimbria, now Holstein and Jutland. These provinces made him no resistance ; and shortly after he passed into Funen, which submitted as soon as he appeared. He stayed a long time in this agreeable island, where he built the city of Odensee, which still preserves in its name the memory of its founder. Hence he extended his power over all the north. He subdued the rest of Denmark, and made his son, Skiold, king. Odin, who was apparently better pleased to give crowns to his children than to wear them himself, afterward passed into Sweden, where, at that time, reigned a prince named Gylfi, who, persuaded that the author of a new worship, consecrated by conquests so brilliant, could not be of the ordinary race of mortals, paid him great honors, and even worshiped him as a divinity. By favor of this opinion, Odin soon acquired in Sweden the authority he had obtained in Denmark. He enacted new laws, introduced the customs of his own country, and established at Sigtuna (a city now destroyed, situated near the present city of Stockholm) a supreme council, composed of twelve judges or pontiffs. Their business was to watch over the public weal, to distribute justice to the people, to preside over the new worship, and instruct the people therein, and to preserve faithfully the religious secrets which Odin had deposited among them. He established there the Sacred Mysteries, by the influence of which Scandinavia began to live a new life-emerged from obscurity, and gained a name and a place in history.

Gylfi himself, a reputed magician, and thousands of Swedes flocked to Sigtuna, to be made acquainted with the new instructions. The Prose Edda contains a full account of the initiation of Gylfi, an analysis of which we shall give hereafter.

After he had finished these glorious achievements, and feeling his end drawing near, he would not wait till the consequences of a lingering disease should put a period to that life which he had so bravely hazarded in the field; but assembling the friends and companions of his fortunes, he gave himself nine wounds in the form of a circle, with the point of a lance, and many other cuts in his skin with his sword. As he was dying, he declared he was going back to Asgard to take his seat among the other gods at an eternal banquet, where he would receive with great honor all who should expose themselves intrepidly in battle, and die bravely with their swords in their hands. As soon as he had breathed his last, they carried his body to Sigtuna, where, conformably to a custom introduced by him into the north, his body was burnt, with much pomp and magnificence.

Such was the end of this extraordinary man, whose death was as wonderful as his life. Whoever and whatever he was, it is certainly evident that he was one of those heroic geniuses which are sometimes sent into this world to stimulate the human race to sublime activities, and communicate to it a new element of progress. His influence on the life of the world cannot be measured. His shadow reaches down through centuries even to the present time. The whole of Europe felt and still feels today the power of his mighty life. With all his limitations, he read the future with the clear vision of a prophet, and in preparing his vengeance on Rome, which had insulted him, he laid plans which required centuries to put in execution. The ideal which he gave to the northern people continued to inspire them after his death ; the seed which he planted germinated with fearful productivenessand it was not long before the Scandinavian nations, overflowing with an immense vitality and moved by an uncontrollable instinct, began that career of conquest which changed all the aspects of Europe. One day his worshipers found themselves before the walls of the Eternal city, and hammering at its gates, which fell beneath their sturdy blows. The Odinic vengeance was executed. The imperial grandeur withered beneath the breath of the terrible Spirit of the north, and the might of Rome vanished before the storm of his wrath. And thus Odin became, by the inscrutable decree of Providence, the Nemesis of the empire.

According to the old chronicles, Odin resembled

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