Goddesses of the Germanic People
Goddess of the summertime, not recorded in the lore but honored by some heathens.
German: Berchta [BAIRCHH-tuh], sometimes anglicized Bertha, Perht [pairchht]
Goddess of household tasks, especially spinning, and patroness of the industrious who also punishes lazy housewives. However, she has a wild side; at Fasching, the German carnival, masked wild men called “Perchten” dash through villages and jump as high as they can over wells and springs—the higher the jump, the better the crops. In some places “dark” Perchten fight “light” Perchten. So clearly Berchta/Perht has a connection with fertility. Some heathens therefore identify her with Freyja/Fréo, whose name is not recorded in Germany.
The scholar who first investigated her and Holda/Mutter Holle believed them to be the same goddess, and so do I.
Norse: Eir [EY-eer or ey-EER]
Anglo-Saxon (reconstructed): Ár [ahhr]
Our goddess of healing, described in the Prose Edda as “the best of physicians.”
Anglo-Saxon: Eostre [EY-uh-streh]
Old High German (reconstructed): Ôstara [OH-star-uh]
Common Anglicization: Ostara [OSS-ter-ah, o-STAR-ruh]
Goddess of springtime and (based on her name) the dawn, only known from mentions of her festival in Anglo-Saxon England and Germany (the source of the words Easter and Ostern).
Norse: Freyja [FRAY-yuh], often anglicized as Freya
Anglo-Saxon (reconstructed): Fréo [FRAY-oh]
Also known as: The Frouwe [FRAU-wuh], modern appellation based on Middle High German used in The Troth
Daughter of Njörðr and twin sister of Freyr/Fréo, a member of the Vanir/Wene; she can be referred to as Vanadís [VAN-uh-dees], “Goddess of the Vanir.”
She came to the Æsir/Ese together with her father and brother as a hostage as part of the truce that ended the war between the two tribes of gods. At that time she and Freyr/Fréa were married; they were forced to divorce because brother-sister marriage, a Vanic custom, violated Æsic law. She is currently married to Óðr, one of the Æsir/Ese. However, in Lokasenna Loki accuses her of continuing to have sex with her brother. Whether or not this is true, her marriage has been interrupted: she possesses a great necklace called Brísingamen [bree-zing-guh-MEN], which is an important source of her power, but to obtain it she agreed to have sex with the four dwarves who made it, and as a result Óðr has left her. She wandered the worlds seeking him, weeping tears of gold.
It is evident that Freyja/Fréo is a goddess of both love and lust. But she is neither a passive love-object nor a victim. When a giant stole Thor/Thunor/Donar’s hammer and demanded her in marriage—and the sun and moon—for its return, despite Mjöllnir’s crucial importance to the defence of Asgard/Esageard (and Midgard/Middangeard and mankind), at the suggestion she go along with the terms she threw a towering fit of rage, breaking her necklace in fact. Thor/Thunor/Donar was forced to recover it himself instead, in drag in one of her gowns.
She is also a patroness of magic and the knowledge and power it bestows. She taught Óðinn/Wóden/Wodan seið [sayth, with voiced “th”], a Vanic form of magic (it includes the ability to kill remotely, to forsee others’ fates, to send out one’s spirit, and to transform into beings of either gender, among other things) that was deemed unsuitable for other males to learn and therefore otherwise taught only to priestesses. Many scholars and many heathens identify her with the witch Gullveig [GUHL-veyg with “u” as in “gull” and “h” and “l” run together or unvoiced “l,” or GOOLL-veyg with short “oo” as in “good” and “l” sounded twice as in “full-lipped”] (Gold-Frenzy) who was instrumental in the Vanir/Wene winning the advantage over the Æsir/Ese in the war between the two tribes of gods and whom they burned three times without succeeding in killing—rather, she transformed into the defiant Heiðr [heythrr, with voiced “th”] (Heath). She possesses a feather-cloak that enables the wearer to transform into a falcon and fly; Loki borrows it in one story.
She also takes half of those slain in battle to her hall, Sessrúmnir [sess-ROOM-neer] (Well Equipped with Seats) at Fólkvangar [FOHLK-vang-uhr] (People-Plains); she chooses first, before Óðinn/Wóden/Wodan. Hence some think of her as the Queen of the Valkyries; but she chooses for herself, not for him, and the valkyries serve only him, so this is a mistaken idea.
Freyja/Fréo is a complex goddess, and had a multitude of names in Old Norse, but she has left no apparent trace in any other Germanic language (Friday is named for Frigg/Frige/Frija, although Freyja/Fréo would have been a far more obvious equivalent for Venus, and some heathens do mistakenly think of it as Freyja’s Day), and the name we know her by means simply “Lady,” as her brother’s means “Lord.” Scholars have identified many other goddesses with her, particularly since she supposedly took on different names in different places on her wanderings in search of her husband. But none of these equivalencies is very persuasive.
She has two daughters, Hnoss and Gersemi; both names mean “Treasure” or “Jewel.”
She rides in a chariot drawn by two cats, and she loves cats. She is also associated with falcons because of her feather-coat. She is said to love offerings of gold, shiny golden things, and peppermint.
In modern heathenry she is sometimes symbolized with a heart shape, in particular an elongated heart shape alluding to a woman’s buttocks and genitals.
Anglo-Saxon: Frige [FRIH-yeh]
Old High German: Frija, Friia [FRIH-yah]
Common anglicization: Frigga
Óðinn/Wóden/Wodan’s wife; patroness of the household, a source of inspiration to wives and mothers, a goddess who loves order and encourages those who do the work necessary to keep things running well, especially in the home.
The home life of the gods would have shocked the Victorians or June Cleaver, and Frigg/Frige/Frija has a lot to put up with from her husband. The Prose Edda tries to depict him as a supreme deity and her as Queen of Heaven, and some modern heathens also find that a comforting view, but it doesn’t fit the lore, and she must be quite flexible.
Some of the stories told of her in one lore source are told of Freyja/Fréo in others, and indeed on the continent and among the Anglo-Saxons there seem to be no traces of Freyja/Fréo, so people seem to have run the two goddesses together by the time the texts were written down. A respected etymological theory also holds that they were originally the same goddess; but this is depending too much on the names. Freyja/Fréo’s name simply means “lady” and is actually just a form of address; if Frigg/Frige/Frija’s name is etymologically the same word, that does not mean they are the same goddess. And they aren’t. Frigg/Frige/Frija is of the Æsir/Ese; Freyja/Fréo is of the Vanir/Wene (is even referred to as Vanadís, “Goddess of the Vanir”). However, the fact they could be confused, and Freyja/Fréo’s distinct identity forgotten—there is even an Anglo-Saxon poem, Solomon and Saturn, in which Venus is said to be called “Frigg” in Danish—should tell us Frigg/Frige/Frija is not straitlaced.
Frigg/Frige/Frija tricked her husband into patronizing the Lombards. Since bestowing a name on a person by tradition required some degree of sponsorship, she turned his bed as he slept so that the tribespeople—then called the Winnili [WIN-i-lee] and in danger of being defeated by their long-time enemies—would be the first thing he saw when he woke. And she instructed the womenfolk to tie their long hair under their chins. He woke up when the rising sun hit his face, saw them, and exclaimed, “Who are these long-beards (Langobardi)?” (Both versions of the story are in Latin, since the Lombards are an Italian Germanic tribe.) That constituted a naming and obligated him to help them defeat their enemies.
Frigg/Frige/Frija can see more of the web of wyrd than any other god or goddess, but the other story about her illustrates the limits of foreknowledge. Her and Óðinn/Wóden/Wodan’s son Baldr/Bealdor/Balder, beloved of all the gods, came to her saying he had had dreams that he was to die. She sought to prevent it by requiring promises of everything animate and inanimate that they would not harm him. But she neglected to secure the promise of mistletoe, because it seemed so harmless. Loki fashioned a dart out of mistletoe and wrought Baldr’s death using it—at the hands of her other son, the blind Höðr. Höðr therefore had to die also, following the dictates of revenge, and Frigg/Frige/Frija’s attempt to secure Baldr/Bealdor/Balder’s release from Hel’s realm was also in vain; Hermóðr, the messenger of the gods, was sent to ask what ransom would be acceptable, and Hel told him everything and everyone must weep for Baldr; but the giantess Þökk (believed to be Loki in disguise) refused to weep. So Frigg/Frige/Frija has lost both her sons, until after Ragnarök.
The Prose Edda states that she keeps her own counsel regarding what she sees in wyrd; possibly her grief is one reason.
The Prose Edda assigns her a retinue of other goddesses, the “handmaidens of Frigg.” Scholars tend to see these as aspects of her; some of them may also be inventions of a courtly age that assigned the gods palaces (hers is called Fensalir [FENN-sah-leer], “Halls of the Fens”) and servants. But it is likely that at least some are goddesses demoted to a subordinate role by Snorri’s neatening up.
The Prose Edda says her father’s name was Fjörgvin, but the poetic phrase this is based on (Fjörgyns mær) is much more likely to mean that Fjörgyn could be used as a name of Óðinn and to be referring to her being his wife–mær is “girl,” which could mean “partner” as well as “child.” So we know nothing of how Óðinn/Wóden/Wodan of the notoriously wandering eye came to meet and marry the eternally loyal and family-focused Frigg/Frige/Frija.
The barred owl is her animal.
Norse: Fulla [FULL-uh]
Old High German: Volla [FOLL-uh]
A goddess described in the Prose Edda as a virgin with long, loose hair secured by a golden band; she carries Frigg/Frige/Frije’s “little box,” looks after her shoes, and is privy to her secrets. Nanna sends her a ring from Hel’s realm in addition to the token she sends Frigg/Frige/Frije.
In the Old High German Second Merseburg Charm, Volla is described as Frije’s sister; however in the charm Balder and Phol are used as names for the same god, and Phol and Volla look like a brother/sister or husband/wife pair. So Volla may have been thought of on the continent as Baldr’s sister, or wife. In the charm she contributes to the healing of Phol/Balder’s horse’s leg.
Her name means “Bounty.”
Norse: Gefjon [GEVV-yunn]
Anglo-Saxon (reconstructed): Géofon [YAY-uh-vunn]
Snorri gives two completely different accounts of Gefjon in the Prose Edda. In the list of goddesses, he describes her as a virgin goddess to whom unmarried women—presumably he means maidens—go when they die. He actually says they serve her. But at the very start of the Gylfaginning section, he already said that an ásynja named Gefjon was responsible for creating Zealand: when she was in his kingdom in the guise of a beggar woman, King Gylfi of Sweden promised her all the land a team of four oxen could plough in a single day and night, but she had four sons by a giant and they were the oxen she yoked up, so she was able to tear loose the land where Lake Mälaren is now, and have her oxen drag it off to Denmark; the strait still looks like a ploughed furrow. This is an odd combination, and our goddesses do not go in for virgin births, so she is probably patroness not so much of blushing virgins as of independent women.
Norse: Gerð [gairth, with voiced “th”]
The frost giantess (according to Snorri, daughter of Aurboða [ah-ür-BWOH-thuh or owr-BOH-thuh, with voiced “th”] and the human Gymir [GÜ-meer]) with whom Freyr/Fréa fell hopelessly in love and to whom he is now married. She put up fierce resistance and had to be threatened with a curse by his servant Skírnir [SKEER-neer]. She and Skaði/Scæðu are sometimes referred to as “the giant-brides” or “the etin-brides.”
Norse: Gná [gnau or gnahh]
According to the Prose Edda, Frigg/Frige/Frija’s messenger, much as Hermóðr is to the male gods: like him she rides a flying horse on these errands, but rather than borrow Óðinn/Wóden/Wodan’s Sleipnir, she has her own, called Hófvarpnir [HOFE-vahrp-neer] (Hoof-waver). We may also think of Skírnir, Freyr/Fréo’s “shoe-swain,” who borrows his master’s horse to go sue on his behalf for Gerð’s hand in marriage. But Snorri does not say those two are gods; he does list Gná among the goddesses.
Common anglicizations: Hela, Hella
Daughter of Loki by the giantess Angrboða [angrr-BWO-thuh or angrr-BOH-thuh, with voiced “th”] (Sorrow-Boder) and sister of Jörmungandr [YÖR-mun-gandrr], the World Serpent, and Fenrir [FEN-reer] the wolf; according to the Prose Edda, when the gods found out about the three children they were warned by prophecy that bad things would come of them, and so Óðinn/Wóden/Wodan had them brought to him. He threw Jörmungandr into the ocean, and he has since grown so large that he encircles the world, biting his own tail; Fenrir the gods kept for a time in Asgard, fed by Týr/Tiw/Ziû; but Hel he sent down to Niflheim, the underworld, and put her in charge of the dead (or at least those who die a “straw death,” of disease or old age—beliefs vary as to where we go after death) on condition that she be hospitable to all who came there. Snorri says that half her body looks black with rot, and that this makes her look grim and gloomy. He describes her hall, Éljúðnir [ell-YOOTH-neer, with voiced “th”] (Sleet-Damp) as surrounded by very high walls with huge gates and lists unpleasant details and names: her plate is called Hunger, her knife is called Famine, her man-servant’s name is Ganglati [GANG-lah-tee] (Slow-Moving), her maid-servant’s name is Ganglöt [GANG-lött] (Slow-Moving), the stone at the entrance of the hall is called Drop-to-Destruction, and she sleeps on a bed called Sick-Bed with hangings called Glimmering Misfortune.
Snorri does not list Hel as a goddess, but she is recognized as one.
Norse: Hlóþyn [HLOW-thünn, with unvoiced “th”]
Latin: Dea Hludana
Goddess worshipped by Roman soldiers who may be a local earth-goddess as Nehalennia is a local sea-goddess.
German: Holda, Mutter Holle [moo-tuhr HOLL-uh, with short “oo”], anglicized Mother Holle
Goddess of young children, particularly those who die young; she leads a troop of them through the air in a form of the Wild Hunt. She also has to do with household tasks, in particular spinning; she appears as Mutter Holle in one of Grimm’s fairytales, in which she rewards an industrious girl (and in which snow is said to be the feathers flying from her featherbed as it is shaken out). So some heathens see her as Frigg/Frige/Frija by another name. Others connect her with Hel on account of her name.
In South German folklore she is said to preside over pools from which children come, so some pray to her to conceive.
There is also one report from the witch trials of the renaissance of a Swiss healer attributing his herbal knowledge to a visit to “Frau Holle” in her underground cavern, a curious variant on the Venusberg legend. So Holda may also teach magic, as Freyja/Fréo does.
The scholar who first investigated her and Berchta/Perht believed them to be the same goddess, and so do I.
Anglo-Saxon: Hreþe [HREY-thuh, with “hr” run together or unvoiced “r” and voiced “th”]
Goddess whom Bede reports the heathen Anglo-Saxons honored by burying cakes in the fields in spring.
No satisfactory meaning for her name has been found, but one suggestion is that it is related to a Norse word for “fury,” which would make her a battle-goddess, and this is how some heathens regard her.
I prefer to see her as Jörð/Eorþe, the earth goddess, by another name–initial “h” having a tendency to come and go in English of all periods.
Norse: Iðunn [I-thunn, with short “i” and voiced “th”]; anglicized Idunna, Iduna
Keeper of the enchanted apples that keep the gods eternally young. The giant Þjazi [THYAT-see, with unvoiced “th” and “y” as in “yam”] abducted her; since Loki had connived in this (as a condition for his freedom after Þjazi had trapped him), he was required to go rescue her in Freyja/Fréo’s falcon cloak; he flew back gripping her in his claws in the form of a nut, pursued by the giant in eagle form.
She is married to Bragi.
According to one lore reference, she is an elf.
Norse: Jörð [yörth, with voiced “th”]
Anglo-Saxon (reconstructed): Eorþe [EY-uhr-theh, with unvoiced “th”]
Also identified with: Fjörgyn [FYÖRR-günn, with “y” as in “yum”] (Norse); Erce [AIR-cheh] (Anglo-Saxon); Hreþe [HREY-theh, with “hr” run together or unvoiced “r,” and unvoiced “th”] (Anglo-Saxon); Nerthus [NAIR-thoos, with unvoiced “th”] (Latin)
Our earth goddess, mother of Thor/Thunor/Donar; some Norse texts say his mother’s name was Fjörgyn, so she is generally taken to be the same goddess by another name. According to the Prose Edda, she is Nótt/Niht’s daughter by her second husband, Annar.
The world of mankind, as opposed to the dimension of the gods, the realm of the dead, or the lands of elves, dwarves, and giants, is Miðgarð/Middangeard. So Jörð/Eorþe must be the goddess of the physical world rather than the dimension of existence. In modern terms that makes her a “nature” goddess as well as patroness of the solid ground beneath our feet. (The ancient heathens did not distinguish human civilization from unspoiled and untamed nature in the same way Western thought has since the Romantic movement.)
The name most commonly used for her in modern heathenry is actually Nerthus, based on Tacitus’ account in Germania, his book describing the Germanic tribes of what is now Germany, the Low Countries, and parts of Denmark and Austria, of a tribe that seems to have been located in the Netherlands or Belgium and worshipped Mother Earth by the name of Nerthus on an island in “the ocean.” The cult involved parading the image of the goddess around in a cart, washing her and the cart, and then killing the slaves who had performed the washing and once more stowing away cart and goddess-image in their sacred (castum, “chaste”) grove. But the name Nerthus is etymologically identical with that of the god Njörðr, who is very much male, and of the Vanir/Wene rather than the Æsir/Ese like Jörð/Eorþe. So personally I believe Tacitus’ informant misunderstood a reference to Erth; the ritual is valuable information, but I do not myself call the earth goddess Nerthus. (See separate entry under that name.)
Hreþe is a goddess that Bede says the Anglo-Saxons honored. Since initial “h” has always come and gone in English, and metathesis with “r”—switching it in position in a word—is common, I think this is Eorþe with slight changes.
In the Anglo-Saxon charm called Æcerbót, the prayer for charming the plough begins: Erce, Erce, Erce, eorþan módor, “Erce, Erce, Erce, earthen mother.” Some see “Erce” here as a magical word like “Abracadabra,” but this part of the charm is addressed to Mother Earth–as the first furrow is being cut, the words to be said are: Hál wes þú, folde, fira módor, “Wassail to you, Earth, Mother of Mankind”—so Erce is more likely, in my view, to be a name for the goddess. After all, no source tells us the Anglo-Saxons worshipped Mother Earth by the name of Eorþe. They may well have had another name they used for the goddess, so some heathens, me included, regard Erce as an Anglo-Saxon name for her.
Norse: Löfn [lövnn]
The patroness of lovers kept apart by others. Snorri actually says she has Óðinn/Wóden/Wodan’s and Frigg/Frige/Frija’s permission to assist them in circumventing bans on their marrying, but the hierarchialism here is pretty clearly medieval rationalization. She just does it—pray to her to smooth the way for a forbidden love.
Anglo-Saxon: Mæginde [MAGG-in-duh]
Goddess of the evening and of fall, not recorded in the lore but honored by some heathens.
She is married to Séaxnet/Seaxnôt.
Norse, Latin: Nanna
Baldr/Bealdor’s wife (she appears in both the Prose Edda and in Saxo Grammaticus’ smear on the gods, where she is recast as Hotherus’ (Höðr’s) object of desire, and then wife, whom the demigod Balderus vainly lusts after.) Forseti/Fosite is their son. After Baldr/Bealdor is killed, she dies of grief at the immolation and her body is cremated with his; when Hermóðr visits the couple in Hel’s realm, she sends gifts back to Frigg/Frige and to Fulla/Volla. Like him, she remains in the hall of the dead.
Latin: Nehalennia [neh-hah-LENN-ee-uh]
A goddess of the area around the island of Walcheren in the Netherlands, known from dozens of Roman votive altars found in that area and a couple in Deutz, which is across the Rhine from Cologne in Germany.
Much of the iconography on the altars is conventionally Roman—she is depicted with Hercules and Neptune (but they are the only other divinities to whom altars have been found on the island, so they may be stand-ins for Germanic gods), and she is usually wearing a winged cap and a large clasped collar, which may be Roman dress rather than Germanic. But she is usually sitting on a throne with one or two baskets of fruit, the sides of the altars sometimes feature cornucopiæ and exotic plants, and in one case a woman leads a girl on the side of the altar, and in another a woman raises her skirts and has a basket at her feet. So Nehalennia is clearly a goddess of fruitfulness.
In addition, on three of the altars the goddess is shown not sitting on a throne but standing in a ship; in one case, on the rudder. This and folklore from the region suggest she is also a goddess of seamen and the plenty of the sea, and it makes eminent sense that people in this low-lying region of farmers and fishermen would sacrifice to her above all. The women on the sides of the altars may be priestesses, or simply reminders of the women’s wisdom she teaches.
On nine of the altars, a dog sits beside her, as if listening.
Latin: Nerthus [NAIR-thoos, with unvoiced “th”]
In Germania, his book describing the Germanic tribes of what is now Germany, the Low Countries, and parts of Denmark and Austria, Tacitus talks of a tribe that seems to have been located in the Netherlands or Belgium and worshipped Mother Earth by the name of Nerthus on an island in “the ocean.” The cult involved parading the image of the goddess around in a cart, washing her and the cart, and then killing the slaves who had performed the washing and once more stowing away cart and goddess-image in their sacred (castum, “chaste”) grove.
So many heathens refer to Jörð/Eorþe as Nerthus.
However, the name is etymologically identical with that of Njörðr, who is very much male. Some say this means Njörð’s unnamed wife and probably sister (since marriage of brother and sister was the old tradition among the Vanir/Wene) had the same name as him and we simply have the male half of the couple recorded in Norse lore and the female half in Tacitus’ account, by the vagaries of historical preservation.
But there are many references to Jörð, and to an earth-goddess Fjörgyn, in Norse lore; it is odd that there would not be a single one using a name we can relate to Nerthus. And Jörð is of the Æsir/Ese, not the Vanir/Wene.
So personally, I think Tacitus, who was using informants and didn’t speak any of the relevant languages himself, got the name wrong. In fact I suspect his Latin-speaking informant did. The only difference between the names Njörð and Jörð—Nerthus and *Erthus—is the initial “n.” And Germanic words often inflect with final –n. My guess is someone actually said “-n Erð” and the informant was of a different tribe, parsed it wrong, and thought the goddess’ name was Nerth rather than Erth.
So to me, the Nerthus account applies to Jörð/Eorþe, and hence this separate entry; to many heathens, Nerthus is the most commonly used name for that goddess.
Norse: Nótt [note]
Anglo-Saxon (reconstructed): Niht [nichht]
Goddess of the night. According to the Prose Edda, she is the daughter of the giant Nörfi or Narfi [NÖÖR-vee, NAAHR-vee], and hence dark-skinned, and is Jörð/Eorþe’s mother by her second marriage, to Annar. (Her first marriage, to Naglfari, produced a son called Auð.) The account continues that she then married one of the gods, Delling, who was light-skinned, and had a light-skinned son, Dágr/Dæg, the day-god; and that was when the gods took the two of them, gave them each a horse and a chariot, and set them to riding across the sky marking the two sections of the day. Nótt/Niht rides first (because the heathen day begins at sundown), and her horse is called Hrímfaxi [HREEM-fak-see, with “h” and “r” run together or unvoiced “r”] (Frosty-Mane). The morning dew is the foam from his bit.
Despite all these marriages—and Sól/Sunne’s to a man named Glen—with the sun and moon and night and day deities being opposite-sex pairs, it seems more than likely they are involved.
There is no evidence from ancient heathen times of Nótt or Dágr being worshipped, or being known as deities by their Anglo-Saxon names, but this does not mean the Prose Edda is wrong in calling them divine.
Norse: Rán [raun or raahn] or Ran [with short, soft “a”]
Female associate of Ægir in ruling under the sea and hosting drowned sailors. The lore states that she is his daughter, but she is generally believed to be his wife.
Norse: Saga, Sága
Goddess of history, lore, and story. Óðinn/Wóden/Wodan is said to love to sit drinking wine with her in her underwater hall, Sökkvabekk [SÖKK-vuh-beck] (Deep Bench).
Norse: Sif [siv]
Anglo-Saxon (reconstructed and not universally accepted): Sibbe [SIBB-ay]
Thor/Thunor/Donar’s wife—and also, prior to that, Ullr/Wulþor’s mother.
Sif has long golden hair; Loki humiliated her by cutting it off, and was forced to obtain a replacement, which he had dwarves forge and which magically attached itself to her scalp when she put it on; the same expedition to the dwarves produced many marvelous possessions of the gods, including Thor/Thunor/Donar’s hammer Mjöllnir.
Some but not all heathens accept a nineteenth-century explanation of the story of her hair as an image of golden fields of grain being cut at harvest time, and see her as a harvest and grain goddess. Others associate her name with the word “sib,” meaning “family,” and hence Anglo-Saxonize it as Sibbe and see her as a patroness of the kin-group.
Norse: Sigyn [SIH-günn or SIGG-inn]
Loki’s faithful wife; when he is punished by being chained to a rock deep underground, with a snake fixed in position to drip venom on his face, she remains by his side catching the venom in a basin; earthquakes happen when she has to turn aside to empty it and he writhes in agony.
Norse: Sjöfn [syövnn with “y” as in “yum”]
Our love-goddess. Much though many would like to assign that job to Freyja/Fréo, the Prose Edda states that Sjöfn turns people’s—both men’s and women’s—minds to love. So she would be the one for a lore-inspired heathen to pray to to get someone to notice them.
Norse: Skaði [SKAH-thee, with voiced “th”]
Anglo-Saxon (reconstructed): Scæðu [SHA-thoo, with “a” as in “hat” and voiced “th”] or Sceaðu [SHAY-ah-thoo, with voiced “th”]
Daughter of the giant Þjazi [THYAT-see, with unvoiced “th” and “y” as in “yam”]; she came to Asgard to exact vengeance after his death at the hands of the gods. Loki succeeded in calming her murderous rage; he tethered a goat to his testicles, and the resultant antics made her laugh. As wergild, her father’s eyes were set in the heavens as stars, and she was offered her choice of husbands from among the gods, but based only on looking at their feet. She wanted Baldr/Bealdor/Balder, so chose the whitest, most beautiful feet, but they belonged to Njörðr. The marriage was unsuccessful because neither was happy at the other’s residence. Njörðr missed the seashore and disliked the howling of wolves at Þjazi’s estate, Þrymheim [THRÜMM-hey-imm] (Storm-home); at his hall, Nóatún [NOE-uh-toon] (“Shipyard”), she pined for the mountains and the sound of the seabirds kept her awake. So most heathens believe that they have separated by mutual agreement and she is now married to Ullr/Wulþor. She is called the “snow-shoe goddess” (öndurdís [ÖND-uhr-dees]) and they clearly have similar interests. Many heathens call on her for snow for winter sports.
According to the Prose Edda, it was she who fastened the snake above the bound Loki’s head to drip agonizing venom on his face. But this would have been dishonorable after she had accepted wergild, so it may be a medieval detail from the demonization of Loki.
She is associated with wolves and owls.
She and Gerð are sometimes referred to as “the giant-brides” or “the etin-brides.”
Norse: Sól [SOH-ull or SOLE]
Anglo-Saxon: Sunne [SOONN-ay]
Old High German and common anglicization: Sunna
Our sun goddess is the moon-god Máni/Mona’s sister. She does not embody the sun; she stands in the chariot with the actual sun, a spark from Múspell, and urges on the two horses that draw it. The Prose Edda explains that she is trying to keep out of the clutches of a wolf called Skoll, who pursues the sun to eat it; in front of her runs another wolf that will eat the moon.
The horses drawing the sun-chariot are called Árvak (Early Waker) and Alsvið (All-Strong). To protect them from the sun’s heat, the gods have placed bellows under their shoulder-blades.
The Prose Edda tells a confused-sounding story that the gods were angry that the children’s father, Mundilfari, had named them “Sun” and “Moon” because they were so beautiful, and that was why they took them and forced them to drive the chariots of the sun and the moon. But the sun and moon already existed; the gods had put them in place to establish time, and in any case if they had not existed, why would Mundilfari have given his children those names? So the story is confused.
Dágr/Dæg, the day-god, and Nótt/Niht, the night-goddess, being the opposite sexes to Sól/Sunne and Máni/Mona, seem likely to be involved with them; however, Mundilfari had supposedly already married off Sól/Sunne to a man named Glen.
Norse: Þrúðr [throothrr, with the first “th” unvoiced and the second voiced]
Thor/Thunor/Donar’s daughter; her name means “Strength.” Rarely worshipped, and in the only story we know of her, she is a passive participant—her father deals with an arrogant dwarf named Alvís [AHL-vees] (“All-Wise”) who claims he has the right to marry her. But her brothers are gods, and will inherit from their father after Ragnarök, so she must be a goddess.
Norse: Vár [vowr or vahhr]
Anglo-Saxon (reconstructed): Wær [warr with “a” as in “hat”]
The goddess who witnesses oaths and promises that people make to each other, in particular marriage vows, and according to Snorri, the one who punishes those who break them.
Norse: Vör [vör]
Snorri describes Vör as a goddess of such wisdom and insight that nothing can be concealed from her, and relates her name to women becoming “aware” of things—in other words, to “female intuition.” It is possible she is the same as Vár.
German/Anglo-Saxon: Walburga [vahl-BOOR-guh, anglicized wahl-BER-guh]
Goddess of the ending and beginning year honored by some heathens on May Eve, identified by others with Hel; in German tradition, Walpurgisnacht [vahl-POOR-gis-nahchht, with hard “g”] is the major witches’ holiday, and maypoles may have been a Germanic as well as a Celtic tradition, and so some scholars and heathens believe the Anglo-Saxon-born St. Walburga is a memory of a heathen goddess.
German: Zisa [TSEE-suh]
Týr/Tiw/Ziû’s wife, in the belief of some heathens; her name is recorded in a German folk tale and Jacob Grimm made the connection.