Getting about

Gods often travel long distances, and they do so swiftly and efficiently, even as pedestrians. In several of the Hittite mythological texts gods are said to complete a journey 1-anki, an adverb formed from the numeral 1 and in such contexts understood to mean 'at one go', as if with one enormous step.107 In Vedic literature Vishnu is celebrated for the three cosmic strides with which he traverses the universe, the third taking him to a transcendental region.108 In Homer Poseidon crosses the sea from Samothrace to Aigai in four giant strides, and Hera springs from peak to peak to reach Lemnos from Olympus. Pindar lets Apollo get from Delphi to Thessaly in a single step.109

Some gods have special footwear that makes it even easier. Several times in the Song of Ullikummi, and in at least one other Hittite text, a god or his messenger, on starting a journey, puts the swift winds on his feet as shoes. Zeus' messenger Hermes puts on ambrosial, golden sandals that carry him over earth and sea with the speed of the winds, and so does Athena on one occasion.110 Snorri (Skdldsk. 35) relates that Loki too had shoes that enabled him to run over air and water.

More often gods ride horses, or travel in vehicles drawn by horses or by some other creature.111 Indra, Varuna, and other Vedic deities go in chariots, as in the Iliad do Hera with Athena, Iris with Aphrodite, Zeus, and Poseidon, and in the Hymn to Demeter Hades. Odin and other Norse gods ride horses; Thor drives in a car drawn by goats. The Irish Lug has his horse Aenbarr, who is as swift as the wind and crosses the sea as easily as the land. The Slavonic Svetovit rides a horse, as do the Latvian Sons of God.

Or again, as gods generally have the ability to transform themselves into bird or animal form,112 they sometimes fly down from heaven, or back up to

107 Hoffner (1998), 50, 53, 58, 86, translated as 'in one stage'.

108 Macdonell (1898), 37-30; Oldenberg (1917), 229-33; Hillebrandt (1927-9), ii. 316-20; Oberlies (1998), 219 f.

109 Il. 13. 20 f.; 14. 225-30; Pind. Pyth. 3. 43. Cf. also [Hes.] Scut. 30-3, and West (1997), 113, where two Ugaritic texts are also cited.

110 Hoffner (1998), 57-62, 86; Il. 24. 340-2 = Od. 5. 44-6; Od. 1. 96-8.

111 Cf. Grimm (1883-8), 328 f., 1381 f. Lists of Indian and Nordic gods' steeds are given in Brhaddevata 4. 140-2, Grimnismdl 30 (which is the source of Gylf. 15), and the fragment from Porgrimspula quoted in Skdldsk. 58.

112 Cf. Grimm (1883-8), 1380 f., 1385 f.; J. A. MacCulloch, Celtic Mythology ( (Boston 1918) London 1992), 56 f. Animal transformations play a particular role in myths where a deity has sexual congress: Prajaapati and his daughter have intercourse as a stag and doe (Aitareya Braah-mana 3. 33); Vivasvat and Saranyu as a horse and mare (Yaska, Nirukta 12. 10); Boreas became a horse to impregnate the mares of Erichthonios (Il. 20. 224); Kronos mated with Philyra as a horse, as did Poseidon with Demeter Erinys; Zeus made love to Europa as a bull, to Leda as a swan, to Nemesis as a goose; Loki took the form of a mare to seduce the stallion Sva5ilfari (Gylf. 42).

it, as birds. In the Rigveda, where the approach of deities is not a mythical datum but a liturgical desideratum, there is, I think, no reference to their taking the bodily form of birds, but there are a number of similes in which their coming is likened to the descent of birds.113 In Homer Poseidon, Apollo, and Athena do fly up from or down to earth as birds,114 and on other occasions gods perch in trees in bird form so as not to be observed (Il. 7. 58-60, 14. 289-91). In some of these passages the god has been conversing with a mortal in human guise and then flies away as a bird. This has an exact parallel in the Hervarar saga (10 ad fin.). At the end of his riddle contest with Hei5rek, during which he has maintained the identity of a stranger called Gestum-blindi, Odin vidbrast i vals liki, 'made off in the form of a falcon'. However, it seems that this faculty was not automatically available to all the Norse gods, as Loki, in order to go flying, has to borrow a special 'feathered form' or 'falcon form' (fiadrhamr, valhamr) from Freyja or Frigg (Prymskvida 3-5; Skaldsk. 18).

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