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Rudolf Steiner

Germanic Mythology and Ancient Civilizations

Collected Works, Volume 92 by Rudolf Steiner: The Occult Truths of Myths and Legends. These are the listener’s notes only, unfortunately. The lectures were given in Berlin, Cologne, and Nuremberg, and translated by Paul King. This is Lecture Four, given in Berlin on July 15, 1904, entitled “Germanic Mythology.”

Root Races

Atlantis and Lemuria

  • Atlantis: The root race of Atlantis, whose empire now lies at the bottom of the Atlantic Ocean.
  • Lemuria: The Lemurian root race was completely different in its organization from our present root race and even from the Atlanteans.

If we go back in the evolution of the human race, we come to the root race of Atlantis, whose empire now lies at the bottom of the Atlantic Ocean. If we go even further back, we come to the Lemurian root race. This race was completely different in its organization from our present root race and even from the Atlanteans.

Lemurians

  • Lived on a continent extending southward from the Indian subcontinent and Southeast Asia.
  • Today, this land is also the floor of an ocean.
  • Few descendants of this population are still found in Australia.

The Lemurians lived on a continent that extended southward from the Indian subcontinent and Southeast Asia, and is today also the floor of an ocean. A few descendants of this population are still to be found in Australia.

Hyperboreans

  • Location: Inhabited the area around the North Pole, in Siberia, northern Europe, including areas that are now sea.
  • Characteristics:
  • High spirituality, not located in their heads but like a constant revelation from outside.
  • Wandered about like beings in a dream.
  • Wisdom was in the air, in the atmosphere.

But where must we look for the second root race? Here we need to bear in mind that the third race, the Lemurians, already looked completely different from us and also completely different from the Atlanteans. The Lemurians did not have what we would call memory, ideas, or intellect; they only had these in a seminal condition. The second race, on the other hand, was gifted with high spirituality, which was not located in their heads but can be pictured like a constant revelation from outside.

The people of this second race were called the Hyperboreans. They inhabited the area around the North Pole, in Siberia, northern Europe, including areas that are now sea. If you imagine this land with a kind of tropical temperature, you get a rough idea of what it was like at that time. It was originally populated by people who, as individuals, wandered about like beings in a dream. If they had been left to themselves, they would have been able to do nothing. There was wisdom, as it were, in the air, in the atmosphere. Only in the Lemurian age did a marriage take place between wisdom and the soul element. Before this, we need to picture all mental or spiritual awareness in humankind as fog-like. Here were the seeds of the misty mind and the seeds of the light mind. The spirituality that emerged as seed in the sons of the fire mist, which still appears familiar to us, must be sought in the southern regions in Lemuria.

Migrations and Races

Migrations

  • Twelve migrations occurred, gradually bringing the inhabitants of different regions into contact.

In the regions north of us lived peoples that had a dream consciousness clearer than Petri consciousness (Petri is spelled P-I-T-R-I). In general, we must not imagine that the peoples living up there in the north stayed there. They undertook migrations southward, and these migrations continued long into the times when the Lemurian race emerged in the south. There was a northern Lemurian race, so to speak, and a southern Lemurian race. There were twelve migrations. These great migrations gradually brought the inhabitants of different regions into contact. They also brought people into regions not far from our own—into regions we would call Central Germany, France, Central Russia, and so on.

New Races

  • Hyperboreans: Had a dream consciousness clearer than Petri consciousness.
  • Lemurians:
  • Described as giants.
  • Came into contact with people from the north.
  • Atlanteans:
  • Mixture of Hyperboreans, Lemurians, and later Atlanteans.
  • Foundation of present-day races.

We are talking about a time when higher animals already existed. The Lemurians were described as a kind of giant, and they came into contact with people coming from the north. Two races arose from this: one that became the foundation of the Atlanteans. All these peoples mixed at that time in present-day Europe. We must not imagine this to be as simple as it seems when put into words.

From this mixture of Hyperboreans, Lemurians, and later also Atlanteans, there emerged initiates who were different from the initiates we look upon as our teachers today. These latter stem essentially from the south, from the Lemurian continent. In the north, there developed what I would call a kind of mist world, and the three chief initiates that we must look for on this island of humanity were called, even still in the time when Christianity was first emerging, Odin, Vili, and Vé. These are the three great Nordic initiates. They trace their origin, in a very regular way, like the general populace, to the earthly realm in which everything was contained in an unmixed state that is now distributed among all people.

Mythological Realms

  • Niflheim: Misty region of the north, representing the Hyperborean root race.
  • Muspelheim: Contrasted with Niflheim.

One could say that, similar to the general populace, a race arose in this realm of the earth that was very dissimilar to present-day humanity. This race was governed by an all-wisdom. The teacher-priests called this all-wisdom the All-Father. Two realms were spoken of: Niflheim and Muspelheim. Niflheim is the misty region of the north, the dawning mist-filled conditions of the Hyperborean root race, in contrast to Muspelheim. Legend tells of twelve rivers which damned themselves often and turned to ice. From this arose a human race represented by the giant Ymir and also an animal species, the cow Audhumla. From Ymir arose the sons of the frost giants, human beings who were endowed with reason emerged later.

This accords also with the secret doctrine. And so the Germanic legend relates that the offspring of Ymir and Audhumla—Odin, Vili, and Vé—walked by the sea and created man. This refers to the human beings of the secret doctrine who only arose later and who were endowed with reason. There is an ancient truth in this primordial Germanic legend. We are also told how later there were two great migrations—from the Far East to the West and from the West to the East. We have to imagine that, first of all, there was a Celtic population which then established colonies. These original Celts were fully under the influence of their initiates. The initiates spread the original teachings about Odin, Vili, and Vé and their priesthoods. The Celts had priests we call Druids. The Druid woods were centered in a great lodge in the north. This is preserved in the legend of King Arthur and the Round Table. This lodge of the northern initiates really existed, the holy lodge of Cadwyn, the White Lodge of the north. Later it was called the Order of Bards. This lodge continued to exist into much later times and was only dissolved during the reign of Elizabeth I. Then the order withdrew from the physical plane entirely.

Germanic Sagas

  • Merddyn (Merlin): Great initiate preserved in the name of the magician Merlin.
  • Celtic Mystery Teachings: Indication of what initiates of the East had to give and what was given back by the Celts (e.g., the Balder myth).

This was the source of all Germanic sagas. All Germanic poetry can be traced to the original lodge of Cadwyn, which was also called the magic cauldron of Cadwyn. An individual who had the greatest influence right into the first centuries after the birth of Christ was the great initiate Merddyn, who is preserved for us in the name of the magician Merlin. He was called “the magician of the northern lodge.” This is all contained in ancient Celtic mystery teachings. There you find an indication of what the initiates of the East had to give, and what was given back to them by the Celts was the Balder myth, the myth of the god of light and the god of darkness. In this way, the initiates of the West gradually introduced these myths to the initiates of the East with a well-considered intention of telling them something of significance and in the belief that something must follow this. They added to this myth something that lay in the future, namely the fall of the gods. Balder could not withstand this fall, so a second migration was prepared for after the twilight of the gods. It was said that a new Balder would arise, and this new Balder foretold to the people is none other than Christ.

Northern and Southern Elements

  • North: Masculine gods were revered; warlike nature present.
  • South: Cult of beauty was predominant.

These things could not develop at the