The goddess Litavis or Litavi presents us with a dilemma. If we follow the etymology, her name connects to the Hindu earth-goddess Prithivi, and means something like ‘the Vast One, the Broad One’. On the other hand, the Romans may have equated her to Bellona, the fierce companion of Mars.
Two weeks ago I wrote about the goddess Eostre, who gave her name to the Easter festival. In Anglo-Saxon times, Eostre’s festival was in April, while March belonged to another goddess, Hretha.
If we know very little about Eostre, we know even less about Hretha. The only source we have for either of them is the Venerable Bede‘s book on the calendar, where he lists the names of the Anglo-Saxon months in England, with brief explanations of each name. I think you’ll agree his descriptions are terse:
You’ll sometimes see Cisa or Zisa listed among the Germanic goddesses, usually with some statement to the effect that she is the partner of Tiw/Ziu, a god the Romans saw as similar to Mars. Nigel Pennick mentions her in his works, calling her an earth-goddess, and Jacob Grimm devoted several pages to her in his Teutonic Mythology.
Urglaawe, a branch of Heathenry that incorporates Pennsylvania Dutch folklore, considers Zisa one of their deities, with the 28th of September as her day, and the pinecone as her symbol. They draw their inspiration from the legend of a goddess Zisa or Cisa who gave her name to the city of Augsburg and protected it from an attack by the Romans.
The Norse sea-god – if he reminded you of anyone in the Graeco-Roman pantheon, wouldn’t it be Neptune/Poseidon? And yet, when the medieval Icelanders were copying out Greek myths, they explained the god Saturn/Kronos to their readers as “Njord”. What did the two have in common, that Njord would stand for Saturn to an Icelander?
The main star in Scorpio is the 15th brightest star in the sky. Its name means “Rival of Ares” or “Equal to Ares”, because of its brightness and red colour. And its size – Antares is a red supergiant, 3 000 times the size of our sun. (If we switched our sun for Antares, its bulk would extend out to Mars.) A clould of reddish metallic dust surrounds it, five light years in diameter, which makes it look even larger in the night sky.
(This post is adapted from material in my new book on Njord and Skadi.)
One of the great puzzles of Norse mythology is the problem of Nerthus and Njord. The Germanic goddess Nerthus, whose cult is described by the Roman historian Tacitus, in the first century AD, is not attested in any other source, but her name is linguistically the same as that of the Scandinavian sea-god Njord, who appears in sources roughly 1 000 years later.
Since Snorri tells us in the Ynglinga saga that Njord had a sister who was his wife, the mystery seemed solved: Nerthus was his sister, just as Freyja was Freyr’s.