Angrboda is one of the primary Rökkr—the mother of the Rökkr, in fact, to whom Loki is consort. By Loki, she is the mother of Fenrir, Jormungandr, and Hel. She is known as “Mother of Monsters” and though there’s little textual evidence, she is frequently identified by practitioners as the unnamed narrator of the Völuspá, a völva who states that she is “born of giants.” She is also identified by practitioners and scholars alike as the old, unnamed woman in the Ironwood mentioned in Völuspá 40. She is also attested in Gylfaginning and Völuspá hin skamma, and her name means “The one who brings grief” or “she-who-offers-sorrow.”
Not much else is known about Angrboda from the historical record, and much of what is known about her to practitioners today is community and peer-confirmed gnosis, or otherwise extrapolated from what little is recorded about her. For instance, she’s very closely associated with wolves thanks to her parentage of Fenrir and, according to Gylfaginning, many other jötnar in the shape of wolves. Because of her identification with the völva, she’s often associated with witches and primal magic.
The combination of these two factors also often lends to her association with shape shifting, and she’s generally regarded as being a fierce, harsh, aggressive deity. Many report her to be difficult to connect and work with due to high and sometimes demanding expectations on her adherents. In a very literal sense she is a mother goddess, but she is a far cry from the New Age conception of the mother goddess that is so prevalent in more popular forms of paganism today.
Angrboda is one of my patrons, and it coming to work with her was a long and trying road. I’ve conducted one intensive community ritual for her in the past. That’s not the ritual I’m going to share here. It feels important to include a smaller, simpler ritual for her here so those who don’t have access or ability to perform longer and more physically and psychologically taxing ordeals.
Appropriate offerings for Angrboda include the classics: food, alcohol, milk, etc. Once you’ve selected your offering and the time and space for your ritual, prepare the space as best suits your practice and lay out your offering. Place your arms/hands in a position of reverence and begin:
“Hail Angrboda, She Who Offers Sorrow
Hail Angrboda, Witch of the Ironwood
Hail Angrboda, Mother of the Wolf
Hail Angrboda, Mother of the Serpent
Hail Angrboda, Mother of Hel
Hail Angrboda, Consort of Loki
Hail Angrboda, She Who Brings Grief
Hail Angrboda, Foreboding
Hail Angrboda, Mother of Monsters…
Lift your offering above your head and say: “Angrboda, I call on you to receive my reverence, that these small and humble actions may uplift you. Angrboda, I call on you to receive this offering ______ which I bring to you to honor you. May it please you well, Angrboda of the Ironwood.”
If you’ve never called on or worked with Angrboda before, I suggest using this ritual as a means of simply introducing yourself to her, rather than necessarily asking anything of her. If this is your first attempt to work with Angrboda, take some time now to introduce yourself to her: Who are you and where do you come from, in a spiritual sense? What brought you to a pagan path from more mainstream spiritual and religious options? What is your interest and intent in working with/honoring the Rökkr and/or jötnar? What is your interest in Angrboda specifically?
If you’ve worked with Angrboda before but don’t quite have a working relationship with her, this may be an opportunity to request or attempt to initiate such a relationship if that’s something you desire or suspect you’d benefit from. If you have a working relationship with Angrboda, you may want to treat this ritual as an offering to her in exchange for any help or support you may have received from her in the past. Otherwise, if there’s something you want to ask of her, you may do so now.
For my part, I undertook this ritual with the express intent of simply paying back some small part of any debts I owe to Angrboda for the ways in which she’s worked with and helped me. I dedicated time to voicing these things and my gratitude for them before pouring out my offering of milk onto the earth in libation to her.
When you’re done, you may begin wrapping up your ritual. If you asked anything of Angrboda, take some time to divinate and journal on what you received. Deal with your offerings as is appropriate given your setting and practice.
Bow your head to the ground and stretch your arms out in front of you, placing your hands palms down. Ground out any additional energy you may have raised in the course of this ritual. Thank Angrboda for attending your ritual and receiving your reverence and offerings, and bid her fairwell.
Clear your ritual space in the way that best suits you and your practice, and don’t forget to have some snacks and water when you’re done!
Angeyia is attested in Song of Hyndla 37:3, Gylfaginning, Heimdalargaldr, Skáldskaparmál, and Völuspá hin skamma. She is listed as a one of the nine mothers of Heimdall with her sisters Gjalp, Greip, Eistla, Eyrgjafa, Ulfrun, Imd, Atla and Jarnsaxa. The meaning and origin of her name is unknown but some possibilities include ‘harasser’, ‘bark’, and ‘of the narrow island.’
Some scholarship links the nine mothers of Heimdall with the nine daughters of Ran and Aegir, otherwise known as the nine waves, as both sets of women are described as nine jötunn sisters. Some scholars point out that the names of these two sets of women don’t match,1 while others point out that the mismatched names may just reflect two differing traditions about Heimdall’s parentage.2
Nothing else is known about Angeyia from the lore, so there’s no other hard evidence we can use to support either interpretation. There are plenty of modern heathens who believe Heimdall’s nine mothers to be the same as the nine daughters of Ran and Aegir, but as knowing for certain isn’t possible, it’ll be up to you to suss out what you believe on the matter. This small ritual to honor Angeyia could be a good opportunity to ask her input on the matter.
With little information to go on, it’s good to fall back on our staple safe offerings: alcohol or food. Once you have selected your offering and a time a place for your ritual and you’re ready to get started, set up and open your ritual space in whatever way suits you and your practice. Be sure to have a journal, writing utensil, and your favored divination tool at hand. Kneel over your offering, head bowed and hands/arms in a position of reverence and say:
“Hail Angeyia, One of Heimdall’s Many Mothers
Hail Angeyia, Mysterious of the Nine Jötunn Maids
Hail Angeyia, Sister to Atla and Eistla
Hail Angeyia, Sister to Eyrgjafa and Imðr
Hail Angeyia, Sister to Gjálp and Greip
Hail Angeyia, Sister to Járnsaxa and Ulfrún
Hail Angeyia, Magni’s Auntie
Hail Angeyia, Sister to the Slain of Thor
Hail Angeyia, Of the Narrow Island…
“Angeyia, I call on you to receive my reverence, that these small and humble actions may uplift you. Angeyia, I call on you to receive this offering ______ which I bring to you to honor you. May it please you well, Angeyia of the Jötnar.”
Here you may wish to ask Angeyia to share information about herself with you, in particular clarifying her relationship to the nine waves, if any. If you wish to do this, ask your question(s) and meditate or otherwise sit in receptive mindfulness as I’ve described in other rituals. Do so for at least five minutes. If you receive any impressions or messages, take a moment with your divination tool to confirm that these were from Angeyia. If/when you feel confident these messages were truly from Angeyia, take time to write them down in your journal.
Once you’ve taken the time to meditate, divinate, and jot down any notes, you can begin to wrap up your ritual. Bow, placing your forehead and palms to the ground, and ground out any extra energy that may have been raised through the process of doing this ritual as one last offering. While you’re doing this, thank Angeyia for joining you to receive your offerings and reverence. Bid him farewell, and rise.
Now close and clear your ritual space in whatever way best suits you and your practice. Don’t forget to take time after to hydrate and snack!
The following is UPG and should be taken with as large a serving of salt as you feel comfortable doing.
When I inquired about any connection to the nine daughters of Ran and Aegir, I received an emphatic “No” and the impression of stark, rocky mountain points against the blue sky. The message was fairly clear, even if I couldn’t catch all the words accompanying it: “We are of [mountain stone and sky]. The place where the mountain meets the sky—that is where Heimdallr was born.”
Curious if I could find other connections, I inquired for any other names of family members and was given another resounding no, this time with, “You do not have [their names] in your head. That is all.”
1Simek, Rudolf (2007) translated by Angela Hall. Dictionary of Northern Mythology. D.S. Brewer
2Lindow, John (2002). Norse Mythology: A Guide to the Gods, Heroes, Rituals, and Beliefs. Oxford University Press.
Alsvartr is a male giant attested in Nafnaþulur whose name means “All Black.” There is a common theme in getting to know the jötnar this way—they are often associated with blackness, darkness, and ugliness. Alsvartr’s name in particular is believed to refer to the perceived dirtiness and ugliness of jötnar in medieval folklore.1
He certainly wouldn’t be the first jötunn primarily described as hideous, strange, or ugly. Tyr’s father, a jötunn named Hymir, is described as ”misshapen” in the Hymiskviða (The lay of Hymir) while in the same poem Tyr’s own grandmother is described as “very ugly” with “nine hundred heads.” Indeed, throughout the lore and the sagas, jötnar are described in a wide variety of ways. For every beautiful and clever jötunn maid, there is at least one (though probably several) jötunn described as hideous, twisted, and strange as a mark of their otherness.
To this day the association with darkness as bad, ugly, or other persists. From the fear and derision of animals that aren’t cute or pretty, however important they may be to the functioning of a healthy ecosystem, to the fact that black dogs and cats are less likely to be adopted,2 to the way we treat other human beings based on skin color, the association of dark or black with bad has very real consequences. The global subjugation of people with darker skin, through colonialism, slavery, and more continues to plague our world. Colorism is a problem not only in white-majority locations, but also in places where darker complexion is the norm. This was well explained by actress Lupita Nyong’o, who has in the past talked about wanting to bleach her skin when she was younger. Calling colorism “the daughter of racism,” she described it saying, “I definitely grew up feeling uncomfortable with my skin colour because I felt like the world around me awarded lighter skin…We still ascribe to these notions of Eurocentric standards of beauty, that then affect how we see ourselves among ourselves.”3
Or, as associate professor of counseling at Arizona State University Alisia (Giac-Thao) Tran puts it: “Historically, a lot of communities have held ‘blackness’ as a bad thing and there are lots of connotations of [people who have darker skin tones] being ‘dirty’ or ‘less educated’ that people have culturally transmitted across time, within and outside of their groups.”4
I’m sure all of this sounds incredibly strange to be discussing in the context of revering the jötnar and getting to better know them. From where I’m sitting, it feels necessary to confront these aspects of society that have been normalized through the ages—especially where they present themselves in our lore and mythology. Especially where they are made manifest in the very names of the spirits and deities we work with.
For those who have felt excluded from the greater Heathen community because of their work with the jötnar, I believe this confrontation has the potential to be a powerful one. It feels prudent to note that in Heathenry, some of the language that has been used to undermine or dismiss those who openly work with the jötnar mirrors racist language of our everyday world.5 I’m not going to try to make the claim that racism of the everyday world in any way a direct parallel to derision shown to the jötnar or those who work with the jötnar, but the linguistic parallels are interesting. I can’t help but wonder if it reflects a pervasive, unconscious bias, especially in Heathen groups known for their fetishization of race.
So…what exactly does this have to do with Alsvartr, the mysterious giant who we remember only from a name which likely refers to the perceived hideousness of giantkin? Well, as I mentioned, the jötunn are described in some truly diverse and fantastic ways, though the more fantastic the description the more the reader is expected to identify the entity as “other.”
But for those of us who work with the jötnar, this othering often appeals to our own sense of being other. We’ve been excluded from Heathen spaces, many of us are queer, disabled, people of color, speak English as a second language, are mentally ill, or some combination thereof. In American and English society, all of these things mark one as “other” and often come with some degree of stigma and social bias.
Alsvartr, and other jötnar who are similarly described as hideous, monstrous, or bad for their physical presentations rather than their character, are ones who can remind us of the little appreciated beauty of the other. They can also remind us that, at their root, the jötnar are spirits of the natural world—which can often be strange and frightening, but which also can remind us of the incredible strength to be found in diversity. This is true in a corporate world, even6—but nature reminds us that survival often means the ability to adapt. Diversity is the key to effective adaptation, both genetically7 and intellectually/creatively.8
Given all of this, I believe Alsvartr is a wonderful jötunn to honor with regards to remembering the beauty and vitality of the other, and the necessity of the other in a world which suffers from homogeneity.
For the purpose of this ritual, because of the connotation of Alsvartr’s name, I want to focus on the unseen beauty of the other—though this and the intrinsic value of the other are likely to be ongoing themes in later rituals. For now, I want to take the assumption that Alsvartr’s very name and thus, very meaning, is a reflection of dirtiness and ugliness, and I want to turn that on its head.
As to offerings, there’s always the safe and traditional fare to choose from: alcohol, food offerings, candies (I went with dark chocolate). If you have the income to do so, it may be worth considering donating to an organization that serves and uplifts othered populations in Alsvartr’s name and honor. That could be an organization fighting racism, queerphobia, ableism, or otherwise supporting and uplifting people affected by those issues. If you choose to go this route for an offering, find a cause that speaks to you.
When you have your offering selected, a time and place picked out for your ritual, and you’re ready to begin, prepare your ritual space in whatever way best suits your needs and practices. When this is done, kneel over the offering and bow your head, placing your hands/arms in a position of reverence and say:
“Hail Alsvartr, Named Among Listings of Giants
Hail Alsvartr, Whose Stories are Forgotten
Hail Alsvartr, Whose Meaning is Lost to Time
Hail Alsvartr, Mysterious Dark One
Hail Alsvartr, Called Hideous and Monster
Hail Alsvartr, Keeper of Dark Things
Hail Alsvartr, Holder of Dark Spaces
Hail Alsvartr, of Unseen Beauty
Hail Alsvartr, Of Besmirched Giantkin…
“Alsvartr, I call on you to receive my reverence, that these small and humble actions may uplift you. Alsvarts, I call on you to receive this offering ______ which I bring to you to honor you. May it please you well, Alsvartr of the Jötnar.”
In this ritual, before moving on to asking Alsvartr to share some information about him, say: “I offer you my gratitude, Alsvartr, for serving to remind me of the beauty and vitality of the other. Thank you for reminding me that beauty cannot be held and kept in a box, for it is too great, too powerful, and too strange to be contained. Thank you for reminding me of the my power to recognize unseen beauty, and for reminding me of the power inherent in unseen beauty.”
Close your eyes and reflect on darkness, whatever that may mean to you. What beauty can be found in darkness? This might be the beauty of a deep, dark cave where life thrives regardless of the lack of light, and evolves in astounding and fantastic new ways. It could be the dangerous beauty of the forest at night, and all the vital aspects of life that happen there outside of our range of vision. Maybe its the blackness of the night sky that allows us to see the stars. Maybe it’s the fertility and richness of black soil that gives life to microbes and plants and sustains ecosystems. It could even be darkness of sorrow and grief, which are painful but part of a full range of living, vibrant human emotions and which can, sometimes, offer a great deal of learning and growth.
Speak these reflections aloud to Alsvartr—it doesn’t have been neat, tidy, or pretty. It can be a messy stream of consciousness monologue that you trip and stumble through, so long as its from the heart and meaningful to you. By extension, it will be meaningful to Alsvartr to whom you’re offering these sentiments.
Next take time to reflect on your own otherness, but specifically the aspects of your otherness that are beautiful—however you may define beauty. What makes you other? What gifts do you receive from this otherness that you wouldn’t otherwise receive? What does this otherness allow you specifically to offer to those around you that you might not otherwise be able to offer? How has this otherness colored your experiences, and what beautiful things have you experienced as a result of this otherness that you might not have otherwise? For me, this was a reflection on my mental illnesses, my bisexuality, being a member of a minority within a minority religion, even just being the black sheep of the family. For some it may be hard to find blessings in your otherness, but if you can speak them out loud and take time to appreciate and feel gratitude for those blessings. Speak all of this out loud to Alsvartr.
When you have no more to say, take a deep breath in. Take a deep enough breath that you feel your diaphragm stretch to accommodate it. Then, breathe out through your mouth—a deep, cleansing exhale. Squeeze up your diaphragm to clear out as much stale air as you can, then take in a normal breath.
Having cleared your mind, say: “All that remains to common memory of you, Alsvartr, is your name. I wish to know more of you, Alsvartr, and share what stories you may give me that your memory may be better honored. I implore you to share with me now, Alsvartr. I am listening.”
Sit in receptive mindfulness as I’ve described in previous rituals, for at least five minutes. If you receive any impressions that seem other to your own mind, or any direct messages, take time to do a divination to ensure that what you were receiving was truly from Alsvartr. If’/when you are confident that what you received was from Alsvartr, take time to jot it in your journal while it’s still fresh in your mind.
As always, if you don’t receive anything or aren’t confident in what you did receive, don’t feel bad! Keep practicing, experimenting, and exploring until you find something that works for you, and don’t hesitate to adapt these rituals accordingly!
When you’re done meditating, divining, and journaling, bow to place your forehead and palms on the ground. Ground out any excess energy that may have been raised in the course of this ritual and as you’re doing so, thank Alsvartr for attending the ritual and receiving your reverence and offerings, then bid her farewell.
Sit up, and begin clearing and closing the ritual space in whatever way suits your needs and your practice. As always, be sure to take some time after to hydrate, have some snacks, and journal about your experience with the ritual.
The following is UPG and as such should be taken with however many grains of salt you’d prefer:
During my ritual, I felt a great impression of quiet, unassuming love. When I asked Alsvartr to share with me, I received vague impressions, but they added up to an image of a large, lumbering, quiet, and gentle entity I might compare to the beings in Shadow of the Collosus (they always gave me big jötunn energy anyway). I saw Alsvartr as jet black, large, with a sort of smooth roundness that reminded me of weathered boulders. I got the impression of him being a “small” god of dark places, like caves, or perhaps that these were the kinds of places he likes to occupy. There was also an impression of familial ties, perhaps as being related to Nött or even a son of Nött (but remember, this isn’t evidenced in the texts, these are just my impressions from the ritual). There was no impression of partners or consorts, or of children, though. In some ways I was getting a bit of an ace/aro vibe from him. I did get the impression that the old stories about trolls turning to stone in daylight was important to him, and wondered at possible connections.
1Rudolf Simek: Dictionary of Northern Mythology (1993)
2Nakano, Craig. “Black dog bias?” 6 December 2008.
3“Lupita Nyong’o: Colourism is the daughter of racism.” BBC. 8 October 2019.
4Brishti, Basu. “The people fighting ‘light skin’ bias.” BBC Future. 18 August 2020.
5Nikitins, Tahni. “The Demonization of the Jötnar.” Huginn’s Heathen Hof. 4 September 2017.
6Clarke, Lauren. “8 Amazing Benefits of Cultural Diversity in the Workplace.” 6Q Blog.
7Lynch, Abigail J. “Why is Genetic Diversity Important?” USGS. 26 April 2016.
8Nwachukwu, Tony and Mark Robinson. “The role of diversity in building adaptive resilience.” Arts Council, England. May 2011.
Her name quite literally means “earth,” and she is the personification of the earth. Hlóðyn could be another name for her (from the Voluspa) as well as Fjörgyn being generally considered by most scholars to be another name for Jord, serving an indentical function in both lore and in skaldic poetry.1 She is attested in Gylfaginning, Skáldskaparmál, and Lokasenna. Because the word jord simply refers to earth, not all instances of this word necessarily indicate Jord the embodiment of earth.
She is consistently referred to as the mother of Thor by Odin, both by the name Jord and by the names Hlóðyn and Fjörgyn. She is also regarded to be the daughter of Nöt or night by Annar, which simply means “second” or “another” (though her father’s name can also be found in the variant form Ónar or Ónarr, meaning “gaping”). In Skáldskaparmál she’s additionally referred to as the “rival of Frigg and Rind and Gunnlod,” though no stories are preserved about Jord so it can only be inferred that this is in reference to her status as one of Odin’s many lovers.
Due to the lack of lore about Jord, many scholars believe that she may not have been worshiped as a deity, so much as passively recognized as the personification of the earth. The lack of surviving stories about Jord is hardly an indicator that there were never stories about her, however. We know that much of the lore was lost through history and the conversion, and it is possible that this included lore around Jord, perhaps even stories detailing Thor’s conception and birth.
Because so little is known about Jord, it’s a little hard to pick out what might be a good offering to her. Since she is the personification of the earth, instead of offering something tangible in this ritual I strongly suggest making a donation in her honor to an environmental organization which focuses specifically on soil health. Here are a list of 15 possible organizations to look into: https://foodtank.com/news/2019/12/15-organizations-creating-healthier-soil-to-save-the-planet/ I ended up donating to Soils, Food and Healthy Communities for its hands-on assistance of small farms and independent farmers. Bonus: in their donation form they have the option to dedicate the donation, which is a nice perk when donating as an offering!
If money is too tight for this to be an option, then I might try to stick with making a simple food offering, such as buttered bread, which can be buried and subsequently integrated into the soil. If your ritual space is indoors and you have minimal outdoor access, then a simple offering of milk, mead, beer, or wine to be left on your altar for a day and night cycle before being disposed of in a manner appropriate to your practice (or mindfully consumed at the end of the ritual, whichever works best for you).
When you have your offering, ritual space, and time picked out and you’re ready to begin, go ahead and ready your ritual space in whatever way best suits you and your practice. When you’re ready, kneel over your offering to Jord, bow your head and place your arms/hands in a position of reverence and say:
“Hail Jord, Floor and base of winds’ hall
Hail Jord, Mother of Thor
Hail Jord, Sea of the animals
Hail Jord, Daughter of Night
Hail Jord, Daughter of Onar
Hail Jord, Rival of Frigg and Rind and Gunnlod
Hail Jord, Mother-in-law of Sif
Hail Jord, Sister of Aud and Day
Hail Jord, Earth’s Body…
“I call on you Jord to receive my offering of reverence, gratitude, and love. Today I bring to you this gift of _____.
“I come bearing great reverence for the majesty of your body which sustains us—this earth which is both Jord the Bride of Odin and Ymir’s flesh. I come bearing great gratitude for all of the gifts you have given me Jord. I offer you my gratitude for [list the gifts you have received from the earth here—this should be earnest and from the heart]. I come bearing great love for you, Jord, for all of this and more.”
If you have anything you wish to ask of Jord, be it to share wisdom with you, to assist you with something, or anything else, you may do so now. In my own ritual, I took time here to thank make specific thanks to her for assisting me in other ritual and magical workings in which I’ve called on her for aid.
When you are done, if you have a physical offering, lift it over your head. If you don’t have a physical offering, lift your hands over your head and say:
“Hail Jord, Odin’s Bride!
Hail Jord, Mother of Thunder!
Hail Jord, Giver of Life!”
If you have an intangible offering, vow that offering to Jord here, such as: “In your honor I will gift a token of my time, energy, and resources to the health of the soil which is your body. May you receive this gift, may it please you well.”
If you have a drink which you will be ritually and mindfully consuming, do so now. If you will be burying a food offering, do so now. Otherwise, place the offering on the altar where it will be staying for a day and night cycle.
Bow, placing your forehead on the ground with your arms outstretched before you, palms down to the ground. Thank Jord one more time as you are grounding out any extra energy raised in the course of this ritual as one final offering, then rise and bid Jord farewell.
Ritual complete, you may now go about clearing and closing out your ritual space in whatever way best suits you and your practice. As always, be sure you take some time after for snacks, hydration, and journaling about your experience with the ritual.
1Lindow, John (2002). Norse Mythology: A Guide to Gods, Heroes, Rituals, and Beliefs. Oxford University Press. p. 117
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.
Referred to as “mountain-dweller,” Ægir is a giant attested in Hymir’s Poem. He is the husband of Ran, also attested to in Lokasenna, First Poem of Helgi Hundingsbani. Known for often hosting the Æsir for magnificent feasts and having a friendly relationship with them. His name, simply meaning “Sea,” may be have its origin in a Proto-Indoeuropean word (Cleasby, Vigfússon (1957:758).
Ægir is additionally referred to in the 10th century Icelandic poem Sonatorrek, as well as repeated attestation in the Prose Edda.
He is the husband to Ran, with whom he had begotten the nine daughters Blóðughadda, Bylgja, Dröfn, Dúfa, Hefring, Himinglæva, Hrönn, Kólga, and Uðr — the Nine Waves. He has two servants, Fimafeng and Eldir, one of whom is killed by Loki in Lokasenna. Scholars Jan de Vries, Rudolf Simek, and John Lindow have pointed out that he is often regarded as the same as the sea giant Hlér, being mentioned in both “How Norway Was Settled” (contained in Flateyjarbok) and “Saga of the Orkney Islanders” as the son of a giant named Fornjót. In these accounts he is called both Ægir and Hlér. Here he is identified with the sea, and has the brothers Logi (fire) and Kári (wind), positioning him firmly as associated with the element water, and in particular the waters of the seas (though certainly this was already clear).
Due to his friendliness with the Æsir and Ran’s listing among the ásynja, Ægir’s nature as a jötunn has been questioned by some. It is important to remember that animosity to the Æsir is not a qualifying factor in identifying an entity as jötunn, as plenty have friendly relationships with one or more Æsir and other female jötnar whose nature isn’t questioned have been ranked among the ásynja due to their allegiances with the Æsir.
He is also known as Gymir (sea-engulfer). Because of this some scholars believe he is the farther of Gerdr, wife to Freyr. This connection is unclear, however, just as is the etymology of the name. It had variously been translated at “the earthly,” “the wintry one,” “engulfer,” or “protector.” It is unknown if this name being associated with Ægir is a mistaken attribution of kennings.1
Community/Peer Verified Personal Gnosis indicates that he is a generous and jovial but demanding god who may expect offerings in exchange for safe passage on the sea. He is additionally known for brewing beer or mead.
There is a possible place name associated with Ægir, potentially indicating pre-Christian cultic sites. This is the modern day Læsø, which was historically called Hléysey or Hlér’s Island (recall that Hlér was one alternate name for Ægir).
Due to his association with alcohol, wine, beer, or mead seem exceptionally good offerings to bring a ritual for Ægir. If it is possible for any such ritual to be done at the ocean, that would be ideal. However, the reality for most of us is that the sea is not so readily accessible. Any natural body of water can act as a substitute, especially if you know that the water eventually reconnects to the sea. Otherwise you can opt to have a bowl of salt water to represent Ægir in your ritual or skip the need to physically connect with the sea altogether. As always, do what feels most appropriate to you and best suits your practice, needs, and ability.
Once you have settled on a place where you will conduct your ritual and you have your offering ready, it’s time to begin. If casting a circle is an element of your practice, do so now as you see fit. (I call on Jord for Earth, Ran and Aegir for Water, Surt for Fire, and Hræsvelgr for Wind/Air.)
Set your offering on the ground or on a ritual altar if you’re using one. Kneel before the offering and bow your head, moving your hands and/or arms into a position of reverence, and say:
“Hail Ægir, Mountain-dweller.
Hail Ægir, Sea-Engulfer.
Hail Ægir, Husband to Ran.
Hail Ægir, Læsø’s Ancestor.
Hail Ægir, Fimafeng and Eldir’s Master.
Hail Ægir, Logi and Kári’s Brother.
Hail Ægir, Fornjót’s Son.
Hail Ægir, Father of the Nine Waves.
Hail Ægir, Who is the Sea…”
If you have a specific intent for this ritual outside of simply honoring Ægir, state it now. Ægir is often depicting as hosting the gods, so he might be called upon in advance of a gathering in which you are hosting. Being the embodiment of the sea, he might be called on for any sea-based magic you seek to do. If you are to be traveling over the sea, perhaps you specifically want to ask for his protection as you cross the sea. These are only a couple of examples though—it’s your practice, so be creative with it!
Otherwise, proceed with the following: “I call on you Ægir also called Hlér to receive my honor, reverence, and offering.”
If you have anything to ask of Ægir, be it a boon, aid, wisdom, etc. ask for it now.
Raise the offering over your head and say
“Hail Ægir of the sea!
Hail Ægir of Læsø!
Hail Ægir friend to the Æsir!”
If you are at a body of water, you may pour your offering into the water now if this feels correct. In the Americas, I recommend against pouring alcohol out onto the earth, as this feels disrespectful to the spirits of the land whose people have been ravaged by trauma-based, generational substance-use problems. You may also call Ægir to receive the drink through you—plenty of traditions around the world avoid waste by having the practitioners themselves ritually consume offerings of food and drink, and if this feels appropriate to you, you may do so. My only guidance on this is to ensure you are practicing a mindful consumption, not just slogging the drink down as quickly as you can but taking your time to experience the scent, texture, and taste of it. Otherwise, if you are in your home, you can leave the offering out (in a safe place where animals or children can’t fuss with it) for a full day and night before disposing of it.
Bow to the ground, pressing your forehead and your palms to the ground. Any energy you have felt raised through the process of this ritual, ground it out as an additional energetic offering, while thanking Ægir for his presence and bidding him farewell. (If you’re doing this ritual in advance of a party or gathering you are hosting, you might want to save this part until after the gathering has departed, taking time to consciously gather and ground out the energy of the gathering.)
When this is done, close your ritual in whatever way best suits you and your practice.
1Simek, Rudolf (1996). Dictionary of Northern Mythology. D.S. Brewer. p.126-127
Blith is only known from one source, and all that is known about her is that her name means “friendly one” or perhaps “happy” or “blithe.” It has been proposed that she is jötunn but we don’t have much evidence for this, except that she is with Mengloth, apparently in Jötunheim, who was guarded by Fjölsviðr, who has been identified by some scholars as a giant.
Regardless, in modern Heathen traditions Mengloth is considered a minor goddess of healing, with her nine handmaidens also being healing goddesses with various specialties. Blith is generally accepted to be jötunn and is considered to specialize in issues of the brain, especially mental health issues. As more and more research suggests that more mental illnesses are influences by traumatic experiences than previously thought (including personality disorders and mood disorders and even schizophrenia), I think it is safe to assume that Blith would be a good goddess to appeal to for healing and recovering from trauma.
Because there is so very little information about her that has survived to the modern era, you can be quite flexible with how you conduct this ritual. I always recommend bringing offerings, and offerings of food and drink are always safe. Especially with the Nordic gods, offerings of mead, beer, and wine are good ways to go. For this ritual, I dedicated jars of psychologically medicinal herbs to her.
Once you have settled on an offering an a place where you will conduct your ritual, and you have your intent in the ritual clear in your mind, it’s time to begin. If casting a circle is an element of your practice, do so now as you see fit. (I call on Jord for Earth, Ran and Aegir for Water, Surt for Fire, and Hræsvelgr for Wind/Air.)
Set your offering on the ground or on a ritual altar if you’re using one. Kneel before the offering and bow your head, moving your hands and/or arms into a position of reverence, and say:
“Hail Blith, Handmaiden of Mengloth
Hail Blith, Mysterious Healer of the Mind and Heart
Hail Blith, Fellow of Hlif and Hlifthrasa and Thjodvara
Hail Blith, Handler of the Moods of the Brain
Hail Blith, Fellow of Bjort and Bleik
Hail Blith, Keeper of the Weather of the Mind
Hail Blith, Fellow of Frith Aurboda and Eir
Hail Blith, Knower of Sacred Healing Arts
Hail Blith, Mount Lyfjaberg’s Favored Heart Healer…”
If you have a specific request for healing, you may outline your request here. In example, my request was: “I call on you for this favor, Blith: that you may walk the lines of my blood and heritage with me, that you may lend your healing arts to my endeavor to heal the generational traumas I find there…
“In gratitude, I bring you this offering of ______.”
If you brought an offering of food and are conducting your ritual outside, bury the food now where you are conducting the ritual. If you brought an offering of drink and are conducting your ritual outside, pour the offering now as a libation on the ground.
If you are conducting your ritual inside, either leave the offering on your altar or in a safe place where it wont be disturbed for at least twenty-four hours before disposing of it in the way that is the most appropriate to your practice.
If you are pouring or burying an offering, chant the following as you do so. Otherwise, simply position your arms/hands in a pose of reverence to chant:
“Hail Blith as she heeds my call
Hail Blith as she takes this offering
Hail Blith and may she be ever honored.”
Bow to the ground, placing your forehead and palms directly on the ground. Ground out any extra energy you may have raised in the course of the ritual as a final offering.
If it is appropriate to your practice, you may now begin closing the circle as you bid farewell to Blith and to any other spirits you may have called on in your casting.
As always, take some time now to hydrate, snack, and journal as needed.
Prepare three offerings, or to make three offerings. Ideally this would be a piece of fiber-art handiwork of your own creation to sacrifice in a ritual fire or traditional tools of the Nornir to consecrate and dedicate to them in the ritual. Alternatively, a bonsai tree to dedicate to them, including dedicating every act of caring for the tree to them, in representation of their care for Yggdrasil (this would mean an ongoing conscientious, mindful care of the bonsai tree, including watering it only with naturally collected water, not tap water). Yet another option would be to ritually clean your home—dust, sweep, mop, etc—and dedicate that time and energy to them as an offering. If all else fails, an offering of mead or wine and buttered bread is always a safe offering.
Ensure that you will not be disturbed during this working.
Bring at least three offerings—one for each of the Nornir. Optional: bring a fourth offering for the Nornir as a collective. Set up your ritual altar in your selected space. If casting a circle is part of your ritual practice, do so in whatever means suit your practice. I like to call on Jord for Earth, Ran and Aegir for Water, Surt for Fire, and Hræsvelgr for Wind/Air, and in addition I typically call on Angrboda (my patron, whom I view as a goddess of witches and völvar) to oversee my working.
Kneel at your altar and bow your head. Bring your hands and arms into a position of reverence which feels correct to you, and begin to call upon the Nornir to join you and be honored in your ritual. To do this, begin with calling Urðr by name, then chant nine kennings for her.
“Hail Urðr, Keeper of the Well
Hail Urðr, Spinner of Thread
Hail Urðr, Life Alotter
Hail Urðr, Crafter of Fate
Hail Urðr, Eldest of the Nornir
Hail Urðr, Most Mysterious Sister of Wyrd
Hail Urðr, Progenitor of History
Hail Urðr, Knower of All That Has Been
Hail Urðr, Overseer of All That Has Transpired…
“I hail you and call you to receive my reverence. May you be ever honored, Urðr, Spinner of Wyrd.” Place your offering for Urðr on left side of the altar. “I bring to you a humble offering of ________, and pray that you sit it fit to accept.”
Repeat with Verðandi:
“Hail Verðandi, Maker of Laws
Hail Verðandi, Weaver of Threads
Hail Verðandi, Setter of Fates
Hail Verðandi, Constantly Becoming
Hail Verðandi, In the Making
Hail Verðandi, Knower of All In Making
Hail Verðandi, Keeper of What Is
Hail Verðandi, Ever Present
Hail Verðandi, Who Precedes and Overtakes the Immediate…”
“I hail you and call you to receive my reverence. May you be ever honored, Verðandi, Weaver of Wyrd.” Place your offering for Verðandi in the center of the altar. “I bring to you a humble offering of ________, and pray that you sit it fit to accept.”
“Hail Skuld, Claimer of All Debts
Hail Skuld, Snipper of Threads
Hail Skuld, Holder of Shields
Hail Skuld, Decider of Battle
Hail Skuld, Who Will Claim the Dead
Hail Skuld, Who Numbers Among the Valkyrie
Hail Skuld, Youngest of the Nornir
Hail Skuld, Seer of All Futures
Hail Skuld, Knower of All Fates…
“I hail you and call you to receive my reverence. May you be ever honored, Skuld, Who Cuts the Threads of Wyrd.” Place your offering for Skuld in the center of the altar. “I bring to you a humble offering of ________, and pray that you sit it fit to accept.”
Depending on what you have brought to offer, either dedicate the items to them (a simple process of cleansing the items within the ritual in whatever manner best suits your practice, followed by engraving the items [or pot, if it’s a bonsai tree] with the name(s) of the Nornir the item is to be dedicated to, and a statement of dedication. If it’s a bonsai tree, this statement should include the specific dedication of each action of care as a dedicated offering to the Nornir), burn them in a ritual fire if this option is available to you, or move to the next part of the ritual. If your offering is an action, such as cleaning, do that now, and return to the altar when you are finished.
When your offerings have been appropriately made, next hail all three Nornir as a collective:
“Hail the Nornir
Hail The Fates
Hail the Wyrd Sisters
Hail That Which Has Been, Is Becoming, and Will Be
Hail Keepers of Yggdrasil
Hail Tenders of the Tree
Hail Those Who Carve Runes in Yggdrasil’s Bark
Hail Measurers of Destinies
Hail Most Powerful Jötunn Maids
Hail Those Who Have Ended, Are Ending, and Will End Ages…
“I hail you, Sisters of Wyrd and Weavers of Fate. I call on you to receive my reverence and be honored.” If you have brought a fourth, physical offering, place it at the top of the altar now and say: “In gratitude, I humbly offer you this ________ and pray that it pleases you well, you Keepers of the Threads.” If you intend to dedicate a non-physical offering, such as the energy and time of cleaning house, wait to do this until after you have stated the intention of your ritual.
Next, state the specific intent of the ritual. Write this out beforehand so you can word it precisely and recite it when the time is right. This may simply be, “I bring you here to honor you, to remember your names, and to pay you homage,” or it may be a request such as, “I bring you here to humbly request [whatever it is you seek].” These are only examples—the intent can be whatever you need it to be, just be certain—as with any ritual or magical working—that you are thoughtful and precise in your wording.
If you are dedicating time/energy/or some other non-physical offering, conduct this offering in a mindful, meditative state now, stating, “In gratitude, I humbly offer you this ________ and pray that it pleases you well, you Keepers of the Threads.”
Once all offerings have been appropriately made, take this opportunity to conduct a divination is this is a part of your practice, otherwise meditate mindfully and listen to/feel your environment. Take note of any thoughts or emotions that seem to impress themselves upon you rather than to originate from within, and record these or the results of your divination when you are done.
When you are ready close the ritual, raise your face to the sky and call:
Spinner of Wyrd!
Weaver of Wyrd!
Who Cuts the Threads of Wyrd!
Hail the Nornir
Wyrd Sisters and Weavers of Fate!”
Bow your head and hold your hands/arms in a position of reverence that feels right to you.
“I offer you my sincerest gratitude
And I thank you for your presence here.
I pray these humble offerings have pleased you
[And await what wisdom you might share]*
And now I bid you farewell
So much as one can to those
Who weave all Fate and Time.
Honor and Blessings to your names—
*Modify/change this to acknowledge your request, if you made a request. Otherwise, you may leave this line out if you so choose.
Place your hands and forehead to the altar or to the ground and let any excess energy that may have built up in you through the ritual flow out of you and into the altar/earth as an closing offering. Once you have grounded out that energy, stand and close the circle if you cast one, or otherwise “close down” the ritual space. If you have laid out offerings such as drink and food, leave them on the altar for at least 24 hours before burying them or otherwise disposing them according to your practice. If you have dedicated specific objects to the Nornir, place these on an altar (either a general altar or one specific to the Nornir, but preferably not on an altar that is already dedicated to another, specific deity) or another place of reverence. If applicable/appropriate, you may consider designing the ritual altar with the intention of it being a permanent fixture, but this is up to what feels right for you.
When you’re all done, have a snack, hydrate, journal about the ritual, and take a little rest.
Note: the following is a person story about my efforts to de-center myself during a time when we all need to prioritizing community. It’s an account I share in the hopes that it might be meaningful and helpful for others who are similarly realizing that they need to engage in a sort of “ego death” to better de-center themselves and prioritize community and movements that aren’t about them, but which they can support. I don’t discuss it explicitly but this is also a story about me beginning a path toward healing from recent traumas and mental health problems. It’s not going to be perfect, and I understand that. I only hope that it might be valuable to other imperfect practitioners seeking to improve in deeply personal ways.
This holiday post is a little bit different. For many of us time has ceased to have meaning during quarantine, and I’m no exception. If you’re interested in my take on how to celebrate Litha in a way catered to Rökkatru, check out last year’s post. Today, I want to tell you about my inadvertent solstice ritual for myself, for Jörmungandr, and for the world at large.
I’ve recently seen an uptick in people seeing a lot of activity from Loki and his kind in recent meditations and divinations. I recall seeing at least one person getting the distinct impression that Loki was well at work—and that the entire pantheon was behind him. It only makes sense that the Breaker of Worlds would have a hand not only in a pandemic that had shaken the entire world to its core and in the process us unveiled many ugly truths about our societies, but also in a simultaneous uprising that has laid bare a deep vein of corruption and oppression in a particularly potent system of power. This has been laid so bare that #BlackLivesMatter protests have been staged across the globe.
Now is a time for endings. Now is a time for beginnings.
It occurred to me recently that my own ego was getting in my way, preventing me from more effectively supporting the cause from the sidelines, where I’m stuck due to COVID-19 and close friends and chosen family who are immunocompromised or have loved ones who are. I had to prioritize my community and my ego was throwing a hissy fit about it.
I’m not sure why it struck me then that Jörmungandr could help me with this, but that notion struck me hard and felt right.
I’ve not worked with Jörmungandr much, though not for lack of trying. Jörmungandr is a deity of the liminal. The concept of the ego is itself a bit of a wishy-washy thing, certainly much more in the realm of the mind and psyche than anything solid and tangible. This made sense to me—and if I wanted to shed my ego like a snake sheds its skin, then it made additional sense that it was the Midgard Serpent that I should petition.
The ritual itself was, fittingly, rather nebulous in my mind. I would go to a body of water, for greater connection with Jörmungandr, and I would enter the cold waves as a minor ordeal. I would cut off my hair—which I’ve been growing out for years and which I had a certain amount of pride in—as a physical symbol of the ego I would be sacrificing to the Great Serpent. I might try to sing, might chant, but I did not know what words.
From the day that I decided to do the ritual, I counted out nine days of preparation for the ritual, which largely took the form of working on undoing energetic blockages associated with recent trauma and mental health problems. That put me at the 21st of June—the summer solstice, though again I didn’t realize that until the day of. Additionally it ended up being the first day of my menstruation, which I wasn’t particularly stoked about but which lent an additional, um….flavor? to the ritual.
I went to an inlet connected to the ocean. I stripped down to my underwear and walked into the water. It was late morning and the sky was overcast. The water was biting cold, and I immediately began to shake and shiver as I began casting my circle, calling on Jord of Earth, Hati and Skoll of Air, Surtr of Fire, and Ran, Aegir, and their Nine Daughters of the Sea. At last I faced west and knelt in the water and called on Jörmungandr.
“Let my blood call out to you
Great Serpent, the Circumscriber of the Seas
Let my blood call out to you as it calls to all hungry
Come find me Jörmungandr of magick and liminal spaces
Where the sea meets the soil.”
For all my attempts to sing these words, my voice was shaking and my teeth chattering as the cold settled into my flesh. My voice was weak but I gave it a try, having been told that Jörmungandr is quite fond of singing.
“Come to me you who encompass Midgard
You whose hide is emblazoned with
The constellations of the Milky Way.
Come find my sacrifice, Jörmungandr
And may it please you well.”
Putting the scissors to my hair, pulled into pigtails for the occasion, and I began to cut.
“Let me shed my ego
Like the serpent sheds its skin.
Come take this ego as offering ad sacrifice
Consume this ego and all its pride and self indulgence
Feast on this sacrifice, Jörmungandr, and feast well.”
I pinned the locks between my knee and took the scissors to the remain pigtail.
“As the snake sheds its skin
So I shed my ego.
As I shed my ego
So let this world shed all its old fetters
Of cruelty, of fear, and hatred;
Of tyranny and terror and oppression.
Let the world shed that heinous skin
And be born anew of all its cold viscera.”
While I spoke, my eyes closed and my face turned out across the water, I felt the waves rise around me. They rocked me, my whole body moving back and forth under the gentle force of their push and their pull. Along with the waves, the wind rose as well. A tree leaned out over the water beside me, and I could hear the wind whispering through the leaves just as I could feel it stirring my now cut-loose hair. For most of the ritual I was too enraptured by the cold of the water to get a good spiritual sense for what was happening around me, but in this moment I felt a great swell within me as I felt the swell of the water around me. I felt and heard my voice becoming strong, commanding, and forceful as the scissors snipped through my hair.
With my hair cut, I dug into the silt and rocks beneath the waves. “Take this sacrificeJörmungandr,” I half prayed and half pleaded as I pressed the locks into the bottom of the hole and began to cover them with rocks and silt. “Take this sacrifice and take this ordeal—may it please you well Jörmungandr, and I plead you hear our words.”
It struck me then that I wasn’t quite done. My hair was cut, my sacrifice was made, but something felt incomplete about the ordeal (however minor). Another swell rose up in my chest—an impulse or impression. It felt right to do, and so I dunked myself and my freshly cut hair beneath the cold waves, feeling the shock roll through my body from the top of my head and down my spine. I dunked myself nine times over my buried sacrifice in the waves that were beginning to calm.
After the ninth dunk I stood shakily up. Shivering, I put my hands together and began to thank Jörmungandr and bless their name before bidding them farewell. I thanked Ran, Aegir, and their Nine Daughters, Surtr, Hati and Skoll, and Jord for baring witness to my sacrifice, and bid them all farewell.
When I scrambled out of the water, shaking and covered in goosebumps to where my fiancee was waiting with a towel, I did feel lighter. It had been a sort of catharsis, leaving me less burdened with my own nonsense. More clear of vision, and ready to keep showing up for the fight—however I can, in whatever capacity best serves the community, regardless of my own ego or preferences.
As we cycle our way through the harvest season, we move on to Mabon, the holiday marking the middle of the harvest cycle. Traditionally this is a feasting, reaping, and thanking mother earth, and often include foods such as apples, root vegetables, squash, and pomegranates.
Last time we celebrated Jord as the Fertile Earth and Angrboda as the Mother of Monsters. Now, as we move through the harvest season, it seems only fit to turn our eyes to Gerd, wife of Freyr and goddess of the Walled Garden.
Much like Jord, Gerd is closely associated with the earth. She is theorized by many scholars to represent the frozen soil in the myth of her “courtship” by Freyr (which looks a lot more like a coercion to our eyes, of course) while Freyr is theorized to here symbolize the return of the summer sun’s fertility. The heat of the sun, therefore, warms the frozen earth and brings her back to a state of fertility.
Gerd is associated with the earth and soil in a much different way than Jord, however. While Jord represents a more generalized version of Earth — in her fullness, roundness, and original wild state — Gerd is more closely associated with the soil of farms and gardens. She has been called the Lady of the Walled Garden, and for many has a strong association with cultivated herbs in particular. I myself had a lovely altar set up to her in my garden at my old residence, where she oversaw my strawberry patch, huckleberries, kale, tomatoes, green onions, and a fig tree.
Given this background, it seems only appropriate to honor Gerd this Mabon day. As with the other holidays, I recommend doing a small ritual or blot to go with whatever other traditions you might hold. Additionally, if you have the space and ability to do so, dedicating a small patch of earth or even some windowsill planting pots to Gerd makes a good devotional gift.
If you are able, holding your ritual or blot in a place where you touch the earth is ideal. Bringing Gerd an offering of a share of the day’s feast as well as a serving of mead or wine can serve as the central focus of this ritual. If possible, sourcing this meal from local farmers via a farmer’s market is ideal — not only does it support independent, local agriculture, these farms are often more sustainable than those that produce the food bought in your average grocery store. Both of these elements are good and viable ways of honoring Gerd. And, because Gerd is wed to Freyr but not often seen as having aligned with either Æsir or the Vanir yet isn’t often paid much heed by those honoring the jötnar either, taking this time to acknowledge her jötunn nature and blood might be especially courteous and powerful.
Even those of us who honor the old, primal gods of nature have come a long, long ways away from the the wilderness and the close relationship with nature that our ancestors had. Meditating on Gerd’s jötunn nature as a goddess of gardens and horticulture can provide an interesting look into the transitional areas between the primeval and society: how and where the wild can be tamed or befriended for mutual benefit, and ways in which “darker” and wilder forces creep in and encroach upon spaces we might otherwise think of as light and tame. Perhaps this is one of Gerd’s mysteries — the value and necessity of this mingling, something I think many Rökkatru can attest to and appreciate.
As always, I am interested to hear how your Mabon goes, especially if you try out these ideas for centering your celebrations around Gerd. If you try something else or have other ideas for how to adapt Mabon to Rökkatru, feel free to comment and let me know.