Norsevember is an event organised and created by Alex at Spells & Spaceships. Check out his blog for the full Norsevember hub, where you can find Norse book reviews, articles, and a schedule for all that’s to come.
Norse female Goddesses played an integral role in The Viking’s beliefs and way of life. We already know so much about the likes of Odin, Thor, and Loki but what of the lesser-known female deities? How do their influence and stature relate to our own beliefs? Today’s Britons have adapted and made their aspects of the Norse way of life, they have taken on some nuances, developed core aspects of farming but how does their idea of Valhalla, god and goddesses, and their view of Midgard and the Tree of Life (Yggdrasil) differ from our own? How do they differ?
Starting with one of the lesser-known Goddesses, Idun. The Goddess of Spring and Youth. She was the wife of Bragi, the God of Poetry. She is most associated with apples and viewed as the keeper of eternal youth. Many sources are depicting Loki kidnapping Idun and giving her to the Giants in Jotenheim, the gods quickly began to age from the loss of Idun and her youth rejuvenating apples.
We can certainly take this aspect of Mythology and apply it to today’s society. We much on a daily basis do we read in especially social media about the importance of looking young, advertising the newest and best skincare products, how celebrities are losing the pregnancy weight only mere weeks after giving birth. Even in the foundations of Norse Mythology, beauty and youth have always been a standard that they aspire to, it is no different in today’s Britain.
Frigg is synonymous with Odin. She was the goddess of love, marriage, and motherhood. Freya and Odin had two children together, Balder and Hodr. I wonder what life with Odin would have been like, for Odin wasn’t exactly known for his one woman – one man ethos. Some myths have depicted her as a weeping mother that would do anything for her children, the myth of her going to every living thing on the planet and getting them to agree to never harm her child seems to match up with this view but, some talk about how loose her morals are.
Taking the legacy of Frigg and applying it to a modern-day visage highlights the discrepancies between man and woman. There are still inequalities today between the two sexes, especially regarding sexual tendencies. Even in Norse mythology, Odin was likely seen as a player but if Frigg did the same we have the same narrative as today and was seen as some kind of hussy.
In Norse, it translates as “old age.” Thor and his servants, Þjálfi were testing their strength in the hall of the giants. They were met with extremely difficult tests of strength. Many humiliations and successes later, they challenge the giant Loki to a fight. Instead of fighting them himself, he sets them up with Elli. She depicts the visage of an old cron, wrinkled and weak, or so they thought. She humiliates them.
It is an interesting take on the gods being old and makes the myth of these powerful beings having to consume Idun’s youth defying apples to keep them young and powerful. It pays homage to how you should never judge a book by the cover because you don’t know what could be hidden within.
Hel is the daughter of Loki and the Giantess, Angrboda. She was the Goddess of the Underworld. When the existence of her and her brothers was discovered and the resounding fact that they grew up in Jotunheim, they expected trouble from them. The other gods then banished the trio. She ruled over the realm of Helheim (located under Nilfheim) this is the realm that those that did not go on to Valhalla passed onto. So those who died from illness or who did not die in battle would spend eternity in Hel (not to be confused with the Christian idea of Hell).
Interestingly her appearance was described as half flesh and half blue. Just like her blue hue she was said to be cold, harsh, and unyielding. Odin was the one to see her as the threat she could be. He banished her into the harsh depths of the underworld. It was Hel herself that crowned herself Queen of the Underworld. Did Odin create something more dangerous at the hands of his own making?
The Gates to Helheim is located within Gnipahellir cave where a hellhound howls every time someone new enters the realm. It has been suggested that the hellhound could be Fenrir. The realm also has its own dragon, known as Níðhöggr who chews on the roots of Yggdrasil. Upon the howling of the hellhound, the dragon will enter the cave and suck out the blood of the dead.
It is here where it gets interesting. After the dragon has sucked out the blood of the dead, Hel has an easier job of recruiting an army of the dead. This army will at Ragnarök board a ship and set sail for Vigrid where the final battle to end every battle will take place.
I think this is a lesson in that we should not judge people on looks, race, or parentage. Hel was banished for her where she grew up and how she came to be. She and her brothers were discriminated against and banished to a world where the dead belonged, but not full of those who gained honour and prestige in battle, no, a place where the lowest went. How often do we read about the discrimination of people today, regarding their birthplace, parentage, or race? We could learn a lot from Norse Mythology.