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The discussion and analysis presented after these translated stanzas is our opinion.  Read the translations for yourself and our analysis, but also seek out varied sources and come to your own conclusions.


Auden & Taylor:

He who has seen and suffered much,
And knows the ways of the world,
Who has traveled', can tell what spirit
Governs the men he meets,


He alone is aware | who has wandered wide,
And far abroad has fared,
How great a mind | is guided by him
That wealth of wisdom has.


He knows alone who has wandered wide,
and far has fared on the way,
what manner of mind a man doth own
who is wise of head and heart.


He alone knows, who has wandered widely
and has fared over the fells
what mind stirs in each man
if he himself has wits.


Only he is aware who hath wandered much,
and far hath been afield;
what manner of man be he whom he meets,
if himself be not wanting in wit.


A man must go to many places,
travel widely in the world,
before he is wise enough to see the workings
of other men's minds.


He alone knows
who wanders wide,
and has much experienced,
by what disposition
each man is ruled,
who common sense possesses.


Coulter's translation of the Havamal is not shared on our website due to copyright protection.  But, here is his translation of Stanza 18:

Only he who has been many places,
and seen many things
Knows how to judge the people he meets-
If he himself isnít dull-witted.

Basically, only those who have traveled many places and seen many things, learn to judge other men's minds (intentions, character), unless you are a total fool.  I think it is pretty clear that the Havamal has very little good to say about fools.  LOL.  If you are a fool or dull-witted, you could travel around the world ten times...and see a life-time's worth of travel...and still have no clue.

Now, it might be tempting to interpret this stanza to be talking about learning about other cultures, and learning to appreciate them.  In a modern sense, you could interpret it in this way.  Learning about other cultures and learning to appreciate them is good and positive.  That's sort of the modern multicultural point of view.  And that is a good modern meaning to take from the stanza.  I think from a historical standpoint, that was not an original meaning for the stanza.  I think our ancestors were all about home...all about innangarth...all about gaining wisdom that would help you advance your families interest's forward.  They did experience other cultures and learn from them, and saw value in this.  But, the purpose was not to appreciate other cultures.  It was to borrow and steal and learn from everything they did and everywhere they went, and then this wisdom was brought home to bolster and improve their own culture...their own way of life.

It has also been suggested that this stanza is about gaining street-smarts, as opposed to book-smarts.  In modern heathenry, there is a certain segment of our numbers that seem to have forgotten that our ancestors didn't have books.  These modern heathens I'm talking about put more stock in books, than they do in experience.  They put more stock in their interpretation of an obscure stanza in the Eddas, or their understanding of a contemporary source, or their interpretation of something from a scholarly work...than they do in actual human interaction, religious expression, and practical experience.

Even though the archaeological record is very limited.  Even though the contemporary sources are limited as well, and very open to interpretation and bias.  Even though our ancestors put more stock in deeds than in words.  Despite all of this, they put more stock in their personal interpretation of these sources...than they do than learning from actual practice of our Folkway. 

They are certainly welcome to feel that way.  But, this segment of our numbers, has among them a small subset that attack anyone that doesn't do things exactly like they do.  After all, they have all the answers...because of their reported "book smarts."  I've never met one of these people at a gathering here in the Midwest, but you can certainly see their trollish behavior on-line on any given day.

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