Only four Norse goddesses have homes of their own. Out of these, two are given to Frigg and Freyja, who are the preeminent goddesses of the pantheon and might be expected to own their own property. The other two are Saga and the giantess Skadi.
The latter is extremely interesting because we know that she inherited her home, Thrymheim, from her father, the giant Thiazi. What little we are told about the Aesir’s homes suggest that they created them from scratch – that Skadi inherits hers tells us that the giants are older beings than the gods. This is why the giants were often shown as knowing the history and layout of the cosmos so well that Odin would come and quiz them about it.
(This post was inspired by one written by Nancy Marie Brown at God of Wednesday: A Viking Fairy Tale. She in turn was inspired by a question from a reader, and a paper by Takahiro Narikawa. And on it goes.)
Long before I began this blog, just plain long ago in fact, I did a degree in Medieval Studies, with a specialty in English. This taught me how to dig into a text for its meaning, but we rarely considered the political or historical aspects of the texts. In some cases it would have been difficult to do so.
Who wrote Beowulf? We can guess at his (probably his) politics, and what was happening around him while he was writing, but we know very little about him. Even much later texts have similar problems, such as Gawain and the Green Knight. The poet Simon Armitage hypothesized that the author was from northern England, based on some of the words used, but we don’t know for sure.
Women in power in the Middle Ages had a problem. Women weren’t supposed to rule (remember Eve? and St. Paul?). If they did take the throne, they were expected to marry, and their husband would then exercise power. So the choice was simple: marry and lose power, or stay single and keep it, but rule alone and die childless.
The meykongr, or maiden king, romance was born out of this dilemma.
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.
I have been intrigued for some time by a bit of lore that I’ve run across on several websites, without any credit given. It connects the Norse goddess Skadi and magpies, and makes several rather large claims about a “magpie clan” and a priestesshood, and it usually runs something like this:
When you think of gender-bending in Norse myth, the trickster-god Loki springs to mind. Would you be surprised to know that Odin and Thor have also dragged up, albeit not very successfully in Thor’s case? (One of the areas they did not compete in during the flyting in Hárbarðsljóð; imagine how that would have gone.)
Incidents like the tug-of-war in the Njord-Skadi myth, the various humiliations meted out to Thor (being peed at by giantesses, having to hide out in a giant’s glove, forced to disguise himself as Freya, and being seriously cheeked by Odin in Harbardzljod) and of course the insult-fest that is Lokasenna has made many people wonder how on earth anyone took these gods seriously.