Goddess of the sea, married to Ægir, with whom she has nine daughters who personify the waves. Attested in The First Poem of Helgi Hundingbani 30; The Poem of Helgi Hiorvardsson 18; Lay of Regin. She is also attested in Sonatorrek, Skáldskaparmál, Háttatal, Völsunga saga and Friðþjófs saga hins frœkna. Snorri also refers to a work by Hofgarða-Refr Gestsson, where Rán is called ‘Gymir’s … völva,’ Gymir being another name for Ægir. Though this was just a fragment being referred to, this potentially connects her to the magic arts, supported by references to her as “spæ-wife,”spæ meaning to predict or foretell. She is listed among the goddesses in Nafnaþulur, much like Ægir is listed among the gods.
Scholar Rudolf Simek describes Rán as a goddess of an undersea world of the dead comprised of the drowned. He says that “Ægir personifies the sea as a friendly power, Rán embodies the sinister side of the sea, at least in the eyes of the late Viking Age Icelandic seafarers.”1 This appears corroborated by the etymology of her name, “plundering,” “theft,” or “robbery.” This may well refer to the sinking of ships and the drowning of sailors. She is often described as taking ships and sailors with her net, and those who narrowly escape destruction at sea are described as having escaped Rán’s hand or mouth.
While less is said about Rán directly, from all of this we can infer that she is the wild, untamable counterpart to Ægir’s hospitality and friendliness. In this divine pair, then, we see two fundamental truths about the sea: it can nourish through fishing and trade routes, but it can also destroy and bring grief. When the sea brings grief, this is laid at Rán’s feet, as in this passage from Sonatorrek (Nora K. Chadwick translation): “Greatly has Rán afflicted me. I have been despoiled of a great friend. Empty and unoccupied I see the place which the sea has torn my son.”
Furthermore she has some degree of magical ability as a völva, likely with powers of prophecy (which in the sagas and eddas are quite common to women). There is also commonly an association between the sea and gold, and sometimes between gold and Rán directly. We see in the Reginsmál that when Loki is sent to fetch gold, he goes to get Rán’s net, and many kennings for gold relate back to the sea, or to Rán and Ægir. It appears that the connection may be related to the sinking of ships carrying gold. This would fit especially with with the etymology of her name.
Given all of this, what might good offerings to bring Rán be? There’s always the usual—mead, beer, and wine. Due to the association with gold, if you choose one of these option I might err on the side of a drink that is golden in color. Otherwise, it may be appropriate to bring emotional offerings of grief to Rán. An offering of gold might be ideal, but many of us don’t have gold to offer up, or if we do it’s of great personal value. Though such offerings are potent, you could substitute coins or a piece of jewelry.
As with Ægir’s ritual, Rán’s would ideally be done near the sea, or near a body of water connecting to the sea. If this isn’t possible, any nearby body of water will serve well. Otherwise, a bowl of salt water will do to represent the sea.
Once you have your offering selected and the location and time of the ritual picked out and you’re ready to get going, go ahead and prepare your ritual space in whatever way best suits your practice. Kneel over your offering and place your arms/hands in a position of reverence and bow your head. While I personally always recommend approaching deities of any kind with a disposition of awe and respect, I especially encourage such an approach with deities that are known to be especially dangerous, and given the historical descriptions and associations with Rán I think it’s safe to say she falls into this category.
When you are ready, say:
“Hail Rán, Unbridled Sea Witch
Hail Rán, Völva of Gymir’s Hall
Hail Rán, Mother of Nine Waves
Hail Rán, Net-Wielder Hail
Hail Rán, Robber of Seafarers
Hail Rán, Wild Bride of Ægir
Hail Rán, Holder of Ægir’s Fire
Hail Rán, White-Faced Spæ-Wife of the Sea…
“I call on you Rán to receive my reverence and offerings of _____. I bring this gift to honor you and pray that it pleases you well.”
If you have a specific request of Rán, such as asking for assistance with sea-based magic or perhaps even processing difficult emotions such as grief or associated rage, now is the time do so. Please exercise caution and ensure that you are precise in your phrasing, for at its stormiest the sea can be unpredictable and it’s safe to assume the same of Rán.
When you are done speaking, it is time to start concluding the ritual. As always, I recommend against pouring alcoholic beverages out on the ground in the Americas. You may leave them out for a night and day cycle in an area where they’ll be undisturbed before disposing of them however you see fit, or you may call on Rán to enjoy the drink through you and mindfully consume it yourself. If you are offering coins or items of jewelry and you are able to hold your ritual at a body of water, you may gift that offering to Rán by tossing it into the water. Otherwise, you may bury it, or if you have an altar to Rán and Ægir you may choose to keep the offering there.
However you will dispose of your offering, for now lift it above your head and say:
“Hail Rán, the Storming Sea!
Hail Rán, Keeper of Shipwrecks!
Hail Rán, of the Icy Deep!”
Deal with your offering however you will, then bow to the ground. Press your forehead to the earth and stretch your arms out before you, palms to the ground. Ground out any extra energy that may have been raised in the process of this ritual as an additional offering. Express gratitude to Rán for her presence and bid her farewell.
With that, go ahead and clear and close the ritual space in whatever way your practice calls for. After wrapping up, make sure to take some time to get some hydration, snacks, and journal about your experience with the ritual.
1Simek, Rudolf. 2007 . Translated by Angela Hall. Dictionary of Northern Mythology. D.S. Brewer. p. 260.