Tag Archives: Denmark

Why Is Tyr Such an Unimportant God?

Some Norse gods are famous – Odin, Loki and Thor, for example. Others, like Forseti or Magni, are only known to the cognoscenti. Tyr isn’t quite as obscure as those two, but he can’t compete with the big three. It seems strange that a god whose name means “god” should be so little-known. Did he fade away, or is there another explanation?

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Gefjun: outside the boundaries

Gefjun will be forever be famous as the goddess who gave Zealand to Denmark. The Danes immortalized her feat with a fountain in Copenhagen harbour, showing her and her oxen ploughing out the land.

She has many similiarities to Odin, as a goddess who travels between worlds, tricks mortals, and straddles moral and sexual boundaries. Far from being an earth and ploughing goddess, Gefjun is a magical and complex figure.

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Mother-Goddesses and the juno: reproductive power

The Roman idea of a genius, the divine nature inherent in a person or place, can be traced back either to the word gens, tribe, or to the Latin word “begetter”, indicating a fertility spirit.

Women seem to have had their own form of genius, called a juno. (This is a contested idea: the Wikipedia article on Juno denies it completely, while the Brittanica site and the Dictionary of Roman Religion are for it.) However, enough scholars seem to accept the idea that I’m willing to see it as valid. I’m sure even in a society as patriarchal as ancient Rome women took pride in their children and their lineage, and those feelings found their own religious expression.

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The Norse sun-goddess: a comparison

The Norse sun-goddess, far from being some sort of Northern aberration, is very similar to other Indo-European sun deities. This shouldn’t come as a surprise, since “basic” deities like the sky, earth and rivers tend to keep their characteristics across a very wide swathe of Europe and Asia.

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Sheep and Goats in Norse Myth and Life

Sheep and goats were both common food animals during the Iron Age, although oddly enough there are no images of sheep from the pre-Christian period. There aren’t a lot of goats, either, but there are a few among the rock carvings on the west coast of Sweden and the east central part. The same holds true for the myths: few goats, but no sheep.

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Manannan mac Lir (and some Norse connections)

Manannán is in many ways like a more benign version of Oðin. Like the Norse god, he is the patron of many heroes, is skilled in both battle and magic, moves easily between the worlds and has many lovers as well as a wife. On a more fantastic level, both have horses that can travel over land and sea, and a boar or pigs that renew themselves after being eaten.

He seems to have been one of the old gods, rather than the Tuatha de Danann. Unlike them, however, he seems to have made his peace with the new order, as he appears in their adventures. (He was close enough to them to be foster-father to the young god Lugh.) When the Milesians (humans) came, and the TDD went into the hollow hills, Manannán divided up the otherworld into parts for each.

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1. Rock Art, Myths, and Ships.

Geography made the Scandinavians a marine people, and not surprisingly ships of various kinds played an important part in their lives. It’s not surprising that they turn up in myth and art as well.

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