Thursday, 18 June
Between my flat and the old royal graves the roads (vägar) are named after Nordic gods and goddesses. We have Torsväg, (Thor). Odensväg (Oden) and the goddess of fertility, Frej (Freisväg) although strangely enough no road for Ull, Thor’s stepson, a good archer, skater and skier, who is otherwise popular in these parts (he does have a “quarter” (block) named after him elsewhere). Perhaps the city fathers thought that he was doing well enough already with all the place names starting with Ull around the river, which may have been cult places for him.
Close to where I live is Hugin’s road, one of Oden’s two ravens who flew out in the morning to check the state of the world and came back by breakfast to inform Oden of what was going on. The other more shadowy raven Munin has a street too. And there is one for Balder, Oden’s second son, who all animate beings and inanimate things had promised not to hurt except for mistletoe. Loki, father of the Midgard serpent and the Fenris wolf and of dubious repute, deceived the blind god Hodr into throwing the mistletoe at Balder, who was killed. I can’t quite envisage how a soft and yielding plant could do such damage even if it were toxic. There are odd echoes of Achilles heel in the “toe” but here it’s just a confusion and the name derives from twig.
There is also a road named after Snorre, the Icelandic scholar and after arrangements associated with the pagan period so that we have Holmgångsvägen and Envigsvägen, both of which seem to mean single combat (I must check the difference). When these streets were named in 1948, the city council was concerned that they might stimulate fights but they were assured by their naming committee that “holmgång” was not just any old dust-up but a test of strength subject to very strict rules and codes of honour. I haven’t seen anything awry when I’ve passed by just the odd person washing hisher car. Once we’ve stopped keeping our social distance, I’ll pop over and ask “Excuse me, but do you ever go berserk?”.
My favourite is Idunsvägen. Idun is the goddess that guards the apples that the gods and goddesses have to eat to stay young. I’ve been along that road and believe that there are apple trees in the gardens, unknown whether the denizens just like apples or are playing along with the myth.
I shall check again when the apple are in fruit. If there aren’t any apples in these roadside gardens, there should be so I will take a bag with me to eat and discreetly throw the cores into the gardens.
At the very top of the district is Greta Arvidssons väg, a prominent archaeologist and then below past my house all the names are of literary figures, especially those with a Finnish connection. This is fun too but I’ll save these for another blog post.
Sources: Nordiska Gudar och Hjältar, Anders Baeksted (1986); Dictionary of Northern Mythology, Rudolf Simek (2000) and Uppsalas gatumamn, Mats Wahlberg (1994)