Joint Issue Faroe Islands - Greenland - The Huginn Mission
In 2023, ESA astronaut Andreas Mogensen will go on his new mission to the International Space Station, ISS. The mission has been named Huginn, named after one of Odin's ravens, and in connection with the mission, Posta Faroe Islands and Tusass Greenland are publishing a joint publication – a mini-sheet.
Andreas will go on his first long-term mission to the International Space Station in late summer 2023, where he will spend half a year on board. Here he will carry out a large collection of scientific experiments, including 10 experiments from Denmark, ranging from virtual reality and sleep to climate science.
When Posta was contacted by the University of Århus in Denmark, we were not asked to illustrate the exact purpose of the mission. Instead, we were asked if we could deliver an illustration of ravens, and Huginn in particular. We offered to make a stamp, based on the mission's title - Odin's mythical raven Huginn - and how it works as a symbol of science - the gathering of scientific information.
The stamp sheet is a greeting to Andreas Mogensen and his mission, from the two other nations of the Danish Commonwealth.
Huginn and Munin Fly every day
Over the grounds of theEarth. I fear that Huginn
Might not return
But am yet more worried about Munin.
This is how Odin refers to his two ravens in the Old Norse Edda-lay "Grimnirsmál." In Norse mythology, Odin is the main deity, the god of the sky, wisdom, and the art of poetry – ruler of the divine sphere, which includes the world of the gods, Asgard, as well as Midgard, the world of men.
Chaos vs. Cosmos
Old Norse mythology describes a constant alternation between Chaos and Cosmos. Cosmos, theorganized world, where gods and men rule and live, stands in contrast to Chaos, the unorganized world, which actually consists of the same components, just in chaotic disarray - and where "giants" and othercreatures of chaos have free rein. Chaos is represented by the borderlands "Udgard", whose inhabitants are most often anthropomorphic descriptions of the untameable forces of nature (the wild sea, wind, fire, volcanoes, etc.) as well as the things that lie beyond the control and knowledge of gods and humans.
Odin – the science
– the scientific exploration
Odin is the wisest of all gods. He constantly keeps informed about the state of the universe - and searches and explores the unknown. In his continuous quest of knowledge, he uses, among other things, his two ravens, Huginn and Munin. "Huginn" means "thought/the one who thinks" - the ability to think and observe - while "Munin" means "memory/the one who remembers" - the ability to remember and experience. (Here I must add that "hugur", in Faroese and Icelandic, still means thought/thinking. We even have a term: "hugflog" – the flight of thought, about thinking/imagining).
Every day Huginn and Munin fly over the lands and grounds of the Earth - and when they return home to Odin in the evening, they sit at his throne and tell what they have seen, heard and experienced. Based on the ravens' information, Odin draws his conclusions and increases his knowledge of the Nordic universe and its state.
The name "Huginn" for a scientific space expedition is particularly well chosen. In that context, you can see Odin as a symbol for science itself - and Huginn as an asset for increased knowledge. The expeditioncollects scientific results, which are passed on to science, which processes them based on existingknowledge and experience.
The astronaut is Odin's raven – and Odin himself, his employer, the science.
The Shaman – the Angakok
Greenland is a physical part of the Nordic countries. Culturally and linguistically, however, the Greenlanders do not belong to the Norse sphere, but rather to the Inuit cultural circle, which includes Greenland, Canada, Alaska and, in part, Arctic Russia. It therefore goes without saying that the NorseHuginn is not found in Greenlandic culture.
There is however a rather special common feature, shared by the Inuit culture and the old Norse culture - shamanism. When Odin sends Huginn and Munin out into the different worlds of the Norse universe, he appears as the shaman, who, via his animistic helper spirits, obtains information about the state of things. In the Inuit cultures, the angakok, the shaman, also uses his helper spirits to retrieve information about the big world outside the settlement.
At the beginning of the last century, the Danish ethnologist and linguist, William Thalbitzer, wrote down a traditional poem in Eastern Greenland, which describes a kind of ritual conversation between the angakok Akvkos and his helper spirit Qaartuluk, "the raven." In the poem, Qaartuluk has exactly the same function as Huginn, it flies out into the chaotic universe and refers what it sees and experiences to the angakok, at home in the settlement.
The line drawing on the left side of the stamp sheet, depicts the scene where the Greenlandic angakok communicates with the raven spirit Qaartukuk - while the illustration on the right side of the sheet depicts Odin in the process of receiving Huginn, at home in Asgård. Notice that both ravens have an ornamental eye on their body, which symbolizes that they are the "eye of the shaman" - and not ordinary ravens.
The large raven on the stamp has neutral ornamentation, so that it can represent both the Norse and the Inuit cultural circles.
We don't have any astronauts in the Faroe Islands and Greenland, but plenty of ravens – and stories about the mythical bird. The stamp is a greeting to our astronaut from the two other nations in the Danish Commonwealth. We are proud of Andreas Mogensen and wish him a good journey to space and good luck with his project!
Anker Eli Petersen