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The Power of the Word: The Mead of Poetry

Updated: Jan 12

By Karen Gummo

Karen Gummo
Karen Gummo

A poet, dancer, and visual artist, Karen Gummo has been performing as a storyteller for almost 40 years in schools, libraries, museums, churches, seniors’ lodges and in the fields and forests. 

She has travelled across Canada and as far as Iceland to share her favourite invented and real family and historical sagas, along with myths, folklore and legends. 

Each of the Norse Myths has elements of magic, of questing, of violence, of torment and of triumph. The struggles are told to represent the immortal realm but illustrate through metaphor the failings and grandeur of human behaviour. It took me years of reading and rereading (from sources such as Crossley Holland’s The Penguin Book of NORSE MYTHS; Gods of the Vikings) to come to love these myths and to discover their depth. I continue to find new layers. The myths have enduring power as they continue to be retold today in all manner of media. Through storytelling on the street, songs, movies, video games, and graphic novels, the youth of today are still captured by the power of these stories.

Based on the extensive work of Snorri Sturlusson and many others, The Mead of Poetry is the 6th in the series of 32 myths carved in symbols by the Vikings on their shields. It caught me in its web through the title and the mystique of the Mead.

Mystical Mead in Norse Mythology
Mystical Mead in Norse Mythology (Photo credit:

I love to cook and to bake. I wondered, how do you find or make this magical Mead?  What is this drink brewed by dark dwarfs and made of honey and the blood of wise Kvasir, a character created from the spittle of the Gods as they pledged their friendship after a long time of battle. What about Kvasir’s model for listening and problem solving? How could this elixir, made in ancient times, help humans gain “a command of words so that wisdom would be loved and remembered”? I believe we need it again.

In this presentation, I will retell The Mead of Poetry, reflect on the truths that we can find within, and invite participants to consider where and when they have been inspired by any poetry.  Which poetic words do you find on the tips of your tongue? How is it that “the word” can be so powerful both in starting a feud leading to war and equally for deep inspiration and healing. What more can we take to our grave than brief snatches of memory shared through our words? How will we tell the story?

There is so much to discover in the Norse Myths.  I hope this powerful story whets your appetite! You may view the webinar recording here.

Please join Icelandic Roots on January 11, 2024 for a webinar featuring Karen Gummo. She will perform a Norse Myth followed by reflection. Check the Event Calendar on the Icelandic Roots website for more details and how to join the webinar.


Email us your questions or join the conversation on our Facebook Group.

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