January 30, 2022. 69°F/20°C
Viking’s ocean ships are full of obvious stories: shelves of books, displays of art and artifacts, and even the entirety of the Bayeux Tapestry as wall decor on the staircase landings, stretching 9 floors.
But there are less obvious symbols hidden in the ship’s decor.
Let’s start with the 2 sets of decorative pillars on the Aquavit Terrace. Passengers have guessed that they are everything from giant “tiki torches”, to heaters, to decorative cable management, but they are none of those things – especially not the latter, since peeking in through the metalwork reveals that they are empty.
Our General Manager Johann, who has spent time with the ship’s designers, directed me to the correct name of the pillars: Boaz and Jachin.
According to the Bible, Boaz and Jachin were two copper, brass or bronze pillars which stood on the porch of Solomon’s Temple, the first Temple in Jerusalem. They are used as symbols in Freemasonry and sometimes in religious architecture.
In Freemasonry, Boaz, the pillar on the left side, symbolizes strength. Jachin, the right pillar, symbolizes wisdom and creation. Together they are the pillars of “stability.” The pillars often represent two spheres: celestial and terrestrial, and are said to support the canopy of heaven.
I learned that “To begin with, these pillars were either brass or bronze. In either case they came from a combination of “Sun” metal, that being copper and “Moon” metal that being either tin or zinc. This mixture of Sun and Moon expressed harmony and balance. Passing through these pillars represents a chance for a new beginning. The fact that these pillars were hollow made an opportune vehicle to store one’s baggage of the past, as the lodge does not regard or remember the faults of a novitiate prior to joining the lodge.”
On Viking’s ships, the designers use the pillars to combine those ideas with Norse ideals, and the concept melds beautifully. Navigators use the sun and moon as directional aids. Notice that only one of the pillars has a light on it, since normally only one of those celestial bodies is lighting the sky. The cut-out design on the pillars are Nordic runes – they look a lot like the pattern on Nordic ski sweaters, in fact.
I love the idea that passing between the pillars allows me to leave my baggage behind. Isn’t that what cruising around the world is all about?
The other symbol I found so interesting on the ship is the gorgeous wooden “tree” that canopies the Wintergarden.
Yggdrasil, in Norse lore, is an immense and central sacred tree. Around it exists all else, including the Nine Worlds.
Odin, the god of both war and death (also the one-eyed All-Father, who sacrificed his eye in order to see everything that happens in the world) threw himself on his spear Gungnir in a kind of symbolic, ritual suicide, and hanged himself in Yggdrasil, the tree of life, for nine days and nine nights in order to gain knowledge of other worlds and be able to understand the runes.
We don’t need to go to those extremes to gain knowledge of other worlds. We just need to get on a Viking ship and open our eyes and minds to all the learning opportunities.
Odin’s two ravens Hugin and Munin (thought and memory) fly around the world and report back what they see. They’re perched in two corners of the Wintergarden. If they’re observing us, I wonder what they’re reporting.
Today was an especially intense food day on board, featuring a stunning Sunday brunch. I’ll put that into a separate post. Hugin and Munin might be watching our buffet behaviour….