My last post looked at the Norse goddess of death, Hel, who shared her name with her abode, the home of the dead. Norse poetry from the Viking and high medieval eras frequently describes death as “going to Hel”.
But many of the dead weren’t about to go anywhere. In Norse myths and sagas, anyone who wished to communicate with the dead went out and sat on their barrow, or in some cases actually entered it. Clearly, people thought the dead were still powerful in the world, just waiting in their graves to help their families or those who left offerings.
In my first post on Rosmerta, I focused on her as a goddess in her own right. This time around, I want to examine the ideas put forth in Michael Enright’s thesis Lady with a mead-cup, which argues that the cult of Rosmerta and Mercury was the basis for the later cult of Odin and various prophetic, mead-serving goddesses (and others) associated with him.
Fensalir, Frigga’s home, has sad associations. Its only mention in Eddic poetry is a verse in Völuspá, which tells us that she weeps at Fensalir after her son Baldr dies. Snorri Sturluson expands on this – he says that it was at Frigg’s home that Loki tricked her into revealing Baldr’s weakness.
In my post on the enigmatic Norse god Hœnir, I mentioned two goddesses, Frigga and Saga. I argued that Hœnir personified poetic memory and inspired speech. His partner, Mimir, was the god of memory, without whom he couldn’t speak at all. Like our gods, Frigga and Saga have access to the knowledge of fate and of history. And like our two gods, one of them tells about it, the other doesn’t.
Although Hoenir was a companion to Odin and Loki, two well-publicized Norse gods, very little has survived about him, and he does not seem to have had cult places or worshippers.
Which is surprising in a way, because in Völuspá he is the one performing the old rites after the world is reborn, so you automatically think “priestly god”. Several scholars have decided that his role was in fact a priestly or vatic one, based on this.
Nantosuelta was a Gaulish goddess, although traces of her worship have turned up in Germany, Luxembourg and Britain. She can be identified by the little house that she often carries, which looks like a birdhouse on the end of a long pole.
No other deity carries it, so we always know it’s her when we see it. No one really knows what it is supposed to represent – perhaps she was a goddess of home and hearth?