The bow and arrow were so useful that the Norse had two different deities associated with them: Ullr and Skadi. Ullr skiied, travelled across the ice, and shot game with his bow. The giantess Skadi also skiied and lived in the mountains, like the indigeneous Sami, whose lifestyle was so different from that of the sea-faring and farming Norse.
Hunting with a bow was a Sami trait, along with the use of magic. Norse sagas don’t come right out and condemn archery, but in Norse myth Tyr and Thor use close-combat weapons, although Odin uses the arrow’s near relative, the spear.
Back in the spring I was inspired by Adam Hyllested’s ideas about the Hyldemoer to write my own post about the Elder Mother. This led on to two other posts, on rowan and birch. I assumed that I had exhausted the subject of feminine powers associated with trees, but I was wrong.
A week ago Neorxnawang passed on a link to a paper on the mysterious goddess Ilmr. She appears in a list of goddesses and another of kennings for “woman” in the Prose Edda. Her name also appears in poetry, mostly as – you guessed it – part of a kenning for “woman”. The paper, by Joseph Hopkins, suggests that Ilmr may be an elm goddess, connecting her name to the word almr, elm.
These Greek, Nordic and Celtic gods may not seem to have much in common at first glance, but they resemble each other in several ways, all of which illuminate aspects of their characters. All three are intellectual, associated with the arts, and have magical or oracular powers in addition to an unforgiving nature.
Celtic goddesses went in for divine polyandry (multiple husbands) in a big way. For every Rosmerta or Nantosuelta who kept to one god, there were several like Damona and Ancamna who doubled or tripled up with Gaulish, Roman, or “blended” gods like Apollo Grannus or Mars Smertios. (While it is true that the Roman gods Mercury, Mars and Apollo take on different names and partners, they are the ones who take on Celtic by-names, while the goddesses keep their own.)
The god Ullr is another of Norse myth’s enigmatic gods, along with Heimdall. Both seem to have faded in importance by the time that the myths were being written down, although people in Sweden and Norway worshipped Ullr, and we know that invoked him when they swore oaths. He is clearly a god of winter and winter pursuits, which has led to a rebirth of sorts in the Ullr Fest held in Colorado each winter.