Cavalcade of chairs

So at this point in The Witch’s Spell, the world’s been created, the sun and moon have been set in motion (and with them, time as we know it), and the oldest gods are gathering together to regulate the new, temporal way of things.  I’m trying to come up with ways to describe their meeting, specifically where they’re sitting.  We’re told they go á rokstóla, which is frequently translated along the lines of “to the judgement-seats.”  You may notice that it’s a compound word, the first part of which is the same word that appears in Ragnarok itself, which is often translated as the Doom or the Fate of the Gods (or Twilight, if you’re Wagner).  Dronke points out that this term for the seats doesn’t appear elsewhere, and that while it refers to the authority of the gods who hand down rulings from these seats, it also implies that they themselves are fated to sit there and are themselves carried along on a tide more powerful than themselves.

It’s particularly important to get this bit right because the scene of the gods taking their seats is repeated throughout the poem in increasingly dire circumstances.

I’m trying to avoid using “judgment” itself because it’s going to be hard to find appropriate alliterating words; like “judgment,” many of them are from French or Latinate roots.  But it’s actually pretty hard to find workarounds for legal-type words because of the history of the English language and the Norman Conquest.

“Doom” is very appealing to me, as it carries (or used to, at least) a sense of both judgment and fate (as opposed to a word like destiny which carries only the latter) that isn’t necessarily negative.  The down-side is that a “Doom-seat” sounds like it should have flames and spikes on it, maybe with a smoke machine and throbbing bass.

In poking around on yon Internet looking for other ways to say judgment seat, I got to learn about a couple of Christian options, including the Judgment-seat of Christ referred to in Romans, where the faithful are questioned and forgiven, and the Judgment of the Great White Throne in Revelation, where the infidels get the boot into the lake of fire (where they fry).  That got me thinking of the Mercy-seat, which refers to the top of the Ark of the Covenant which doubles as God’s Own Throne, as well as a rad-as-all-hell Nick Cave song covered amazingly by Johnny Cash.  But mercy’s not really what we’re talking about here.

Paul Fry's Pieta

a throne from which i'm told all history does unfold (Paul Fryer's Pieta)

I spent a good long while looking for nice Germanic equivalents for judgment or council-type meetings, most of which have sort of fallen out of the language, but came across a doozy!  Anglo-Saxons used to get together in gemot, which became a “moot.”  Now, normally, that might be a little too obscure, but fortunately, Tolkien gave us the Ents, and with them, their longwinded Entmoot.  Ace reader Mordicai tells me that the term shows up in Harry Potter as well, so despite being antiquated, it’s safe enough to use.

And it alliterates wonderfully with “mete,” which is what they’re doing while they sit around!

The other idea I’m playing around with is tweaking the seats to make them benches, which the modern reader will hopefully associate with judicial functions.  At the same time, it’s not entirely out of place to have the gods sitting around on benches — we see it happen in Lokasenna, as described in the last post.  So perhaps a phrase like “mete from the Moot-bench” is in the right ballpark.



  1. mordicai said,

    January 15, 2010 at 5:29 am

    How do you feel about muddled poetic translations– like using “twilight” even though it is Wagnerian & not Norse? Like– theoretical example– “Twilight-Throne”?

  2. February 6, 2010 at 2:57 pm

    […]  I mentioned that I had a breakthrough with the chairs stanza that has been troubling me for a month, so I wanted to share that.  I ended up not wanting to use […]

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