1.1 Consider the importance of Auðumla in the creation myth. How does having a cow feed the first being play itself out in what was, essentially, a cattle-culture? How does the importance of cattle to our ancestors impact us in the modern day? Write down your thoughts.
Auðumla is a reminder that the universe is not all about humans.
The anthropomorphic deities may be orders of magnitude beyond humans and may sometimes embody paradox, but with their humanlike motivations and humanlike relationships and roles they are a certain amount of graspable. This similarity is how we can talk and give gifts and enter into devotional relationships with them. But there are principles of the universe more fundamental than those deities.
Ymir, for one, has much more distance from the familiar. Solitary, e cannot be monarch, servant, parent, child, sibling, or even male or female: all those things only make sense inside a humanlike society. Ymir, the foundational matter of the world(s) is described with a humanlike body at the very least. Auðumla is even less familiar than that.
Similar to the Kemetic Coronation of Heru (in which every member of the nobility and the trained clergy is rejected – in favor of a literal falcon – to act as the earthly presence of Heru) Auðumla forces a person to look into nonhuman eyes and see the power and will and transcendence of a god. One must put aside the idea that humans are the crowning achievement of evolution, or the greatest of Earth’s species. Auðumla is at least the equal to Ymir, and is a being on which e is dependant.
Without a understanding of history as linear progression, iron age cattle culture would not have the 1900s-style understanding of cattle domestication as “something humans did”, and they definitely would not have the modern-genetics understanding of domestication as an evolutionary relationship that changed both humans and their ally species, but they would recognize that among the species of the natural world – where there are allies and enemies of different degrees of hostility and friendship – the cow is one ally that is almost uniquely close with humankind.
Auðumla defines Ymir by contrast. The first relationship is not one between male and female, or monarch and servant, or youth and age, or hot and cold, or chaos and order, but between the humanlike and the nonhuman. It reminds us that the rights and obligations of relationship exists not only between humans and humans, but between humans and other wights as well.