Rituals for Lost Jötnar: Ámgerðr

Ámgerðr is a jötunn attested in Nafnaþulur under the section “Tröllkonur” or “Troll-Wives.” This is a feminine name derived from Old Norse Ámr and gerd. Ámr means “black,” “loathsome,” “reddish brown,” and/or “dark.” Gerd, as many are already familiar with, means “enclosure” or “protection.”

Thanks to the Nafnaþulur, we have lists of many jötnar (also sometimes called thurses, trolls, or etins) who we have no additional stories or even kennings for. We know that many stories of entities whose stories weren’t widespread, who weren’t widely popular, or who otherwise didn’t play a major role in the primary “canon” of what would come to be known as the Viking religion (despite the fact that Scandinavia wouldn’t have had a universal or monolithic religion) have been lost.

Because of this, I do err on the side of assuming that the names presented in the Nafnaþulur record all that is left of deities and spirits who may have had regional but not geographically wide-spread importance, who may have played smaller roles in forgotten myths, or whose minor roles may have been edited out of surviving myths for the sake of simplicity. It is known that the regional variation and nuance of beliefs throughout pre-Christian Scandinavia was not preserved in the written record as Christianity spread, so it seems safe to assume that the memory many, many spirits, deities, and other entities were similarly not recorded.

Fenja och Menja vid Grottekvarnen by Carl Larsson and Gunnar Forssell. Two enslaved jötunn maids from Song of Grótti.

However—because some of the names listed provide so little context, and the greater context for the Nafnaþulur is of a list of name for various things, including gods and giants, that can be used in poetry, there are some which, due to the etymological similarities to others, I will assume are more adjective than name, such as Ámr, which is listed among the names of giants but is functionally identical in meaning to others listed such as Alsvartr. So bear with me, it’s a bit of a bumpy ride.

As is the case with almost all of these entities, with Ámgerðr we’re working strictly with what the etymology can tell us. The clearest part of that etymology is the aspect of enclosure or protection—she was likely associated with closed in places, just as Gerdr is associated with walled gardens. It’s safe to say that Ámgerðr is additionally associated with darkness or blackness of some variety—this could be a description of her complexion or it could be a reference to the kind of enclosure she’s associated with. Because Ámr has connotation of loathsomeness or unpleasantness, this could refer either to a location or type of enclosed space or to the personality of the jötunn in question.

I’m disinclined to believe “loathsome” necessarily refers to a character quality of Ámgerðr for a couple of reasons. It’s easy to imagine an enclosed place to be “loathsome” in nature. A dark, dank cave comes to mind, as does any form of imprisonment. In addition to this, however, the sagas on occasion do describe people—though typically men—of dark complexion, and tend to describe them as being rather physically unattractive. It’s important to note here that this isn’t portrayed as defining of their character, as these same individuals may be described as attracting plenty of praise, status, and romantic and sexual attraction as a result of their social status or accomplishments. So while the Norse did have ethnocentric beauty standards, their conception of race doesn’t appear to have been used as a reflection on the character or quality of individuals.1

For these reasons I lean toward interpreting Ámr here to reflect on something of a physical nature rather than character. The following is entirely speculative and should not be taken as hard fact: Ámgerðr may have been seen as a woman who was kept in a dark and unpleasant enclosed space of some kind, or who preceded over an enclosed space. She may or may not have been envisioned as someone of darker complexion. Without projecting modern American concepts of race onto the situation, it may be possible to imagine Ámgerðr as being associated with slaves or thralls, living in unpleasant, cramped, and dark living conditions.2 The conception of the class of thralls by Heimdall under the name Rig is described in Rígsmál, and the child who in this story is the the first of the class of thralls is described as “swarthy” or “dark.” So, though slaves and thralls were not determined by the color of their skin, and plenty of slaves in Viking and pre-Viking eras were just as white as the people at the top of the social hierarchy, it may not be too far a stretch to consider that “dark” in Ámgerðr’s name could carry with it an old social stereotype along these lines as well.3

“Rig in Great-grandfather’s Cottage” (1908) by W. G. Collingwood. Rig laid between Great-grandfather and Great-grandmother in this story, and nine months later Great-grandmother gave birth to a strong boy they named Þræll, who would father the class of thralls, serfs, or slaves.

I will remind you that all of this is my speculation based on my research and inferences. If any of this doesn’t feel correct to your own intuition, feel free to disregard it. At this point in our history, we don’t have Ámgerðr’s stories and lore, and no one person can claim to definitively know more about her than what little can be gleaned from her name.

That said, the ritual I’ve designed here rests on these inferences and my intuition. Please feel free to modify accordingly if your intuition tells you something different about Ámgerðr—these rituals are designed to be easily modified, and I encourage you to follow your intuition if it takes you in a different direction than mine.

As with all of these jötnar whose stories have been lost to us, I suggest a safe offering of mead, beer, wine, or liquor. If for any reason any of these aren’t available or safe for you personally, substitute simple buttered bread. This has a strong metaphorical resonance of nourishment and sustenance, and so makes another safe option for just about any entity. You can also easily jazz it up with extra add ons or “toppings” if you want.

Choose a space and time for your ritual, prepare your offering, and you’re ready to go. When the time comes for your ritual, clear and set the ritual space in whatever way best suits your needs and practice. Be sure to have a journal and pen or pencil, as well as your divination tool of choice, on hand. To begin the ritual, kneel over the offering, head bowed, and place your arms/hands in a position of reverence. Say:

“Hail Ámgerðr, Named Among Listings of Troll-Wives

Hail Ámgerðr, Whose Stories are Forgotten

Hail Ámgerðr, Whose Meaning is Lost to Time

Hail Ámgerðr, the Enclosed

Hail Ámgerðr, Red and Brown

Hail Ámgerðr, Lady of the Dark End of the Longhouse

Hail Ámgerðr, Lady of Enclosure

Hail Ámgerðr, Protector of Those In Small Dark Spaces

Hail Ámgerðr, Keeper of the Dark…”

“Ámgerðr, I call on you to receive my reverence, that these small and humble actions may uplift you. Ámgerðr, I call on you to receive this offering ______ which I bring to you to honor you. May it please you well, Ámgerðr of the Jötnar.”

A Viking longhouse. Image from YouVisit, which has a really interesting virtual tour of Viking longhouses.

As with previous rituals for forgotten jötnar, I suggest this ritual be used as a moment to try to connect directly with Ámgerðr and see if you can glean any personal gnosis. To do this, begin by stating: “All that remains to common memory of you, Ámgerðr, is your name. I wish to know more of you, Ámgerðr, and share what stories you may give me that your memory may be better honored. I implore you to share with me now, Ámgerðr. 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 Ámgerðr. If’/when you are confident that what you received was from Ámgerðr, 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! Perhaps this isn’t the way to commune with spirits and entities for you—you may want to try inviting Ámgerðr to speak to you through dreams, or use your preferred divination tool as a means of communication itself. Keep practicing 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, it’s time to wrap up the ritual. 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 Ámgerðr 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 and have some snacks!

The following is Unverified Personal Gnosis and should not be taken as hard fact, but rather with as many grains of salt as you feel comfortable with.

As I meditated, one of the first and clearest impressions I received was of Ámgerðr speaking of the reddish-brown color of some cattle, a fairly clear impression of “the russet of a red cow’s hide…” This was shortly followed by an emphatic, “I am real.” It had the feeling of wanting to be remembered and considered as others of the Norse Pantheon have been. At some point in the meditation, I had the impression of Ámgerðr speaking of having been forgotten as easily and swiftly as “the small people” of the world often are.

I got the impression that she considered herself a goddess in particular of hard toiling and injured women and children, and with this the enslaved jötunn maids Menja and Fenjia from the Song of Grotti seemed to be gestured to as an example. “I started out among the rock and the earth,” she impressed upon me, “I began as the dark spaces below the earth. I arose with the people, as many of us did. I came to those [in darkness and enclosure] because they called to me. That is all.”

She had a very ancient and heavy but gentle presence, it reminded me of the weight of shadows at night. At one point she impressed upon me that “the smell of livestock and hay is sweet to me” and I had the strong feeling that barns would be ideal places for shrines to her.

1Grundy, Stephan S. “Reconstruction and Racism in Modern Heathenry.” Paganism and Its Discontents: Enduring Problems of Racialized Identity. Edited by Holi S. Emore and Jonathan M. Leader. Cambridge Scholars Publishing, Newcastle UK. 2020. p. 135-151

2“Slaves and thralls in the Viking Age.” National Museum of Denmark. https://en.natmus.dk/historical-knowledge/denmark/prehistoric-period-until-1050-ad/the-viking-age/power-and-aristocracy/slaves-and-thralls/

3Rígsþula. v. 6.

Rituals for Lost Jötnar: Alsvartr

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.

1902 illustration by Elmer Boyd Smith

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.

Forest Troll by Theodor Kittelsen

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.

Troll Trouble by John Bauer

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.”

The Sea Troll by Theodor Kittelsen

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 Farm Troll by John Bauer

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.

Ritual for Jord

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.

Moder Jord (Mother Earth) by Stephan Sinding

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

Ritual for Rán

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.

Rán pulling a sailor under the waves using her net. Illustration by Johannes Gehrts, 1901

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.

Ögir und Ran by Friedrich Wilhelm Heine

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

Rán, Ship-Plunderer

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 [1993]. Translated by Angela Hall. Dictionary of Northern Mythology. D.S. Brewer. p. 260.

Ritual for Ægir

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.

Fountain Depicting Ægir and His Daughters by J. P. Molin

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).

Ægir, Rán and their Nine Daughters preparing ale; from a 19th century, illustrated version of the Poetic Edda

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

A Ritual for Surtr

Surtr is a fire giant who, in Voluspa 47, is described as passing from one world to another through Yggdrasil, functioning as a portal, which “shudders” as he passes. Attested again in the Lay of Fafnir 14. In Voluspa, Surtr is described as “moving from the south,” which indicates an alignment or association with the direction south. His name means “black” or “the swarthy one.” He is attested again in Vafþrúðnismál in which Odin and a jötunn named Vafþrúðnir question one another. They refer to Ragnarok, mentioning Surtr’s fire and part in the battle. It is in the Prose Edda that Surtr is associated with Muspelheim, being described in a manner which suggests he is the region’s defender. Surtr and Freyr are slated to meet in battle at Ragnarok, and to slay one another. Of note: Snorri’s descriptions have been criticized as bearing more similarity to the anti-semtic “Red Jews” motif than to the Voluspa source material,1 so (as is always the case with Snorri) it’s wise to take his rendering with a heaping scoop of salt, if you feel the need to take it into consideration at all.

The Giant with the Flaming Sword (1909) by John Charles Dollman

It is generally agreed by both scholars and practitioners that Surtr is a personification of fire. Surtr appears, however, to be specifically associated with volcanic fire, and there’s actually a placename associated with Surtr that demonstrates this. There is a volcanic cave in western Iceland which has long been called Surtshellir, having been recorded as such in a book which details the settlement of Iceland called Landnámabók, though it was only thoroughly documented in the 18th century.2 Place names are often indicators of locations of cultic activity. Though there doesn’t appear to be a plethora of evidence that this site was a site of cultic worship for Surtr, and it is worth noting that Christianity came to Iceland only about a hundred years after it was settled, it is interesting to note that there is a lot of superstition still attached to Surtshellir. Many locals believe that the cave is haunted, and legend says Surtr used to call this cave his home, and perhaps either created or caused the creation of the cave. Scholar Rudolph Simek has stated that he doesn’t believe the idea of Surtr as an enemy of the gods originated in Iceland, but rather that Surtr was simply a personification of volcanic fire.3 I’m not going to make any bold statements here, but this all is quite intriguing, and I for one wouldn’t rule out the possibility that Surtr was honored here in some capacity in the past—even if that capacity was offerings of sheep or goats with a plea to not destroy local villages.

The battle between Surtr and Freyr at Ragnarök, illustration (1895) by Lorenz Frølich

Less relevant to our purposes but still of interest are modern place names. A volcanic island that appeared in 1963 was named Surtsey, or “Surt’s Island,” while one of Saturn’s moons is named for him and a volcano on Io, one of Jupiter’s moons, is named for him as well. Even more delightful is a planet named for him which orbits a star named Muspelheim. Like I said, less relevant, but very fun!

Appropriate offerings for Surtr would include the basic safe options such as mead, beer, and wine, but could also include candles dedicated to him (especially red, orange, yellow, or white candles); matches could be offered to him, so that each strike of a match is in Surtr’s honor; or volcanic stones could be offerings to him, such as obsidian or pumice. If you, like me, just so happen to have easy access to raw coal, offering a chunk of this might also be a decent offering. When it comes to offerings, I encourage you to get creative but don’t push yourself beyond your means or feel bad if you’re limited in what you can offer. The best that you can offer is the best offering, no matter what it is.

Though I have a preference for performing rituals outdoors, performing them indoors is also great! Wherever you perform your ritual—this or any other ritual—you’ll want to ensure that you’re unlikely to be disturbed and will be relatively comfortable, so you can focus on the working at hand.

Once you’ve selected your offering and location and are ready to proceed, prepare your ritual space in whatever way is most appropriate to your practice/works best for you.

When your space is prepared, take some time to center. I like to center using mindfulness of my body and my environment—tuning in to my senses, what I can hear, what I can feel, what I can smell, etc. Focusing on the stimulus input from the environment brings me solidly into myself, into my environment, and into the moment. Once you’ve selected your offering, your location, have prepared your ritual space, and are ready to do so, say:

“Hail Surtr, the Charred

Hail Surtr, Overseer of Underworld Fires

Hail Surtr, the Swarthy One

Hail Surtr, Who Will Meet Freyr in Battle

Hail Surtr, Yggdrasil-Shaker

Hail Surtr, Flame-Blade Wielder

Hail Surtr, Freyr’s Doom

Hail Surtr, Herald of Fire

Hail Surtr, Muspelheim’s Defender…

“I call on you Surtr to receive my reverence and this offering of _______, which I bring to honor you. I pray it pleases you well.”

If you have a specific intention in this ritual besides simply honoring Surtr, you may state that now. My intention (as an example) was: “I call on you Surtr in gratitude for the furious power of fire lent to me in workings past. I call on you Surtr to humbly acknowledge that you’ve been with me before, and to ask that you continue to be with me in future workings. In gratitude and with due reverence/respect, I bring you this ________ in return for your assistance.”

In addition to this, I personally took a moment to offer specific gratitude for the creative power of fire in the form of magma. This particular force of nature is often only acknowledged for its power to burn forests and destroy cities, and sometimes for its cleansing power. Much of the dry earth on which we stand, though, is literally a result of magma activity beneath our feet: the movement of the mantle deep down below moves continental plates, grinding them into each other in ways that can uplift land, making it habitable, or recycle it down back into the mantle. Volcanic hotspots are responsible for the creation of islands such as the one in Iceland, and in the long-run these can also provide habitable ground. Gratitude for this might look like:

“Lastly, I wish to offer my endless gratitude, Surtr, for the movement of the continents that has created the land on which I live. I offer my humble gratitude for your creative forces, Surtr, which makes new land. I thank you, Surtr, for your long-term vision, and for the careful balance between destruction and creation you hold on the flaming blade of your sword.”

As you are preparing to bring the ritual to a close, hail Surtr one last time before bidding him farewell:

“Hail Surtr Who Has Heard My Call!

Hail Surtr Who Has Received My Offerings!

Hail Surtr of Magma and Lava!”

When you are done, properly dispose of your offerings in whatever way is most appropriate for you and your practice (though, as always, if you live in America I discourage the pouring of alcoholic libations directly onto the earth, for reasons previously outlined). If this must be done outside of the ritual circle, then simply bow your head to the earth, placing your palms down on the ground. Ground out any energy you may have raised in the course of this ritual as a final offering. I almost always use this moment to bid farewell to the entity I’m honoring in ritual, usually saying something like, “Thank you Surtr for being with me. With love and with gratitude, I bid you farewell as you go.” Something very simple but respectful and from the heart.

Lastly it is time to close the ritual and clear the space, in whatever way best suits you and your practice. As always, I strongly recommend taking some time after to hydrate, snack, and journal about the experience.

1Cole, Richard. “Snorri and the Jews”. Old Norse Mythology – Comparative Perspectives.

2Browne, George Forrest (1865). Ice-caves of France and Switzerland. Longmans, Green and co. pp. 244–6.

3Simek, Rudolf (2007). Dictionary of Northern Mythology. Translated by Angela Hall. D.S. Brewer. p. 303-304.

Rituals for Lost Jötnar: Hræsvelgr

Hræsvelgr is attested in Vafþrúðnismál (The Lay of Vafþrúðnir) 37 as: “Corpse-Swallower, he is called, who sits at the end of the world / a giant in eagle’s shape / from his wings, they say, the wind blows over all men.” Hræsvelgr is sometimes also translated as “shipwreck current.”1 In his article “Hræsvelgr, the Wind-Giant, Reinterpreted,” Terry Gunnel suggests that the Old Norse hræ here should be interpreted as shipwreck, with svelgr being literally interpreted as “sea swirl, maelstrom, water stream.” A connection to Thiazi, who also famously shapeshifts into an eagle, has been proposed. Evidence cited for this is a kenning for Thiazi from the poem Haustlöng, “vind-rögnir,” that roughly translates to “wind-divinity.” Because Hræsvelgr is explicitly described as originating wind in the form of an eagle, the proposal suggests that Hræsvelgr may be a heiti for Thiazi, or that otherwise these two have a lost mythological connection.2 He is additionally attested by Snorri in Gylfaginning, where is associated with the north and originates the wind from beneath his wings when he readies himself for flight.

If you know who the artist is, please let me know in comments as I couldn’t track them down. I found the image originally here

In this ritual I am going to assume that Hræsvelgr is, at the least, a distinct aspect of Thiazi that can be called on it is own right, though generally I err towards the assumption that these are individual entities. I do this because many modern scholars writing on polytheism of the past may be implicitly tempted to simplify pantheons by rolling similar spirits and deities together into one—just one of many possible side effects of the implicit bias that growing up in cultures of predominantly Abrahamic religious socialization.

That said, I find the suggestion that Hræsvelgr and Thiazi may the same being or otherwise connected quite interesting, and I find the evidence of the kenning when compared and contrasted with what is known of these entities to be compelling. Because I think there might be something to this connection, I’ve included a kenning to acknowledge this. Otherwise, for the purposes of this ritual I will assume they are distinct, but if you feel inclined to treat them as the same I say more power to you. There’s a lot more nuance and intricacy in the history of the faith we’re reviving, both remembered and lost, and it’s good to honor that in whatever ways we can.

Hræsvelgr has clear ties to wind and therefore air, but could also potentially have ties to the sea or other forms of water. Offerings associated with air in many modern forms of paganism includes incense, so you could consider offering Hræsvelgr a stick of incense (though if you’re doing this ritual outdoors, please plan to stay with the offering until it has fully burned away, which can sometimes take up to 45 minutes). Other offerings of smoke, such as burning something dedicated to Hræsvelgr so that the smoke make carry it into the sky, are also worth considering. Otherwise, good ol’ mead, beer, or wine are always trustworthy offerings to the Norse gods.

Of note for those unfamiliar with the different Nordic letters, æ sounds like “eh.” For this reason Hræsvelgr may be anglicized as Hresvelgr—just so you don’t trip over pronunciation during ritual!

Once you’ve selected the location for your ritual, you have a specific intent for the ritual in mind (this can be as simple as paying reverence, or it can be to make a petition to Hræsvelgr, or any other intent), and you have your offering selected, it’s time to begin. Prepare your ritual space in whatever manner best suits your needs and practices. Set out your offering and kneel before it, bowing your head and placing your arms/hands into a position of reverence. Say:

“Hail Hræsvelgr, Corpse-Swallower

Hail Hræsvelgr, of the North Wind

Hail Hræsvelgr, Shipwreck Maelstrom

Hail Hræsvelgr, Whose Current Ushers the Dead

Hail Hræsvelgr, Whose Stream Carries Crushed Ships

Hail Hræsvelgr, Wind-Divinity

Hail Hræsvelgr, Thiazi’s Mirror and Form

Hail Hræsvelgr, Progenitor of Winds that Blow Over All Men

Hail Hræsvelgr, Who Sits at the End of the World…

“I call on you Hræsvelgr to receive my reverence and this offering of _______. I pray that is pleases you well.”

If you have a specific intention in this ritual, you may state it now. Mine was approximately: “I call on you Hræsvelgr in gratitude for the strength of eagles and power of winds you’ve lent to me in workings past. I call on you Hræsvelgr to acknowledge how you’ve been with me before, and to ask that you continue to be with me in future workings. In gratitude and with due reverence/respect, I bring you this ________ in return for your assistance.”

If you’re a curious little being like I am, you may want to also ask Hræsvelgr for some gnosis on the potential connection to Thiazi: “I seek also knowledge from you, Hræsvelgr. I seek knowledge of your deep history, Hræsvelgr, that lost to the erasure of history and the erosion of time. Some speculate your connection to Thiazi, Hræsvelgr—and I seek to know from your own memory, words, and spirit, what this connection is, if there is any connection at all.” If you do this, plan to meditate for at least five minutes after asking. Keep a state of quiet mindfulness and listen to and feel your surroundings—including any thoughts or feelings that seem to impress themselves upon you rather than necessarily originating from within. Be sure you have a journal easy at hand to journal about whatever impressions you may have received.*

I am of the belief that sharing knowledge you glean about entities that have been mostly lost to time, especially if it is knowledge they themselves share with you, is a way of making offerings to them. Attention, be it in the form of just learning or thinking about an entity, or passive belief, or active worship and ritual, is something that I believe is important to the gods. Remaining within conscious memory feels vital to carrying forth and empowering the spirits of such entities, like food and drink is important for sustaining animal life such ours. For this reason, I feel it can be a powerful offering to share gnosis about Hræsvelgr you’ve received, if it feels right to do so. I’ve had my fair share of instances where it didn’t feel right to share a piece of gnosis, so if anything feels like a for-you-only thing, listen to your gut and do what you feel is right. If it feels right to share, you may promise to share that knowledge with others as an additional offering.

Depending on your offering and the location you’re doing your ritual, you may need to wait for a burning offering to be done burning. If you’re offering drink (and you’re doing this ritual in America) I strongly discourage pouring alcoholic libations directly onto the earth, for reasons I’ve outlined before. Offerings of drink may be left out in a safe, undisturbed place for a full day and night cycle before being disposed of however you best see fit.

Once you’re done and wrapping up the ritual, say:

“Hail Hræsvelgr, Corpse Swallower!

Hail Hræsvelgr, Whose Wings Stir the Wind!

Hail Hræsvelgr, Who Sits at the End of the World!”

Thank Hræsvelgr for hearing you and receiving your reverence and offerings. Bow to the earth, forehead to the ground and palms this time lifted toward the sky. This time let any energy you raised during this ritual lift from your palms and fingertips and drift away on the air.

Close the ritual space in whatever way best suits you and your practice. Once you’ve wrapped it up, this is the part where I recommend you have some snacks, hydration, and take some time to journal about the experience!

1Lindow, John (2002). Norse Mythology: A Guide to Gods, Heroes, Rituals, and Beliefs. Oxford University Press. p. 182

2Kodratoff, Yves. “Iðunn’s abduction: kenningar and heiti in Haustlöng stanzas 2-13.” https://www.academia.edu/36245394/I%C3%B0unns_abduction_kenningar_and_heiti_in_Haustl%C3%B6ng_stanzas_2_13

*I wanted to share what I received, in case you might be curious. Please note that the following is Unverified Personal Gnosis that came from the above ritual, and it should not be treated as gospel or hard fact:

Through the vaguest of impressions and some very crisp, clear images flooding my mind, I believe I received the following from Hræsvelgr: that he and Thiazi were indeed connected, but that now they are both entirely separate from one another and still through the faintest threads sharing some connection. “As the vulture and the eagle diverged,” he said, and though in most of the images that flooded my mind I saw a massive, powerful golden eagle perched atop a sharp stone in a gray expanse of rock and ice in the furthest northern reaches, I got the distinct impression that vulture was likely a more accurate word for the form he takes.

He also gave me the impression that he is very, very old. The story of Thiazi’s father divvying up his wealth among his sons was something I got the impression didn’t belong to Hræsvelgr’s memory, as it happened long after they diverged from one another. I got the distinct impression that Hræsvelgr was from a much earlier, much more deeply animistic stage of spiritual development in Scandinavia, prior to a conception of gods as we know them. Wealth wouldn’t have been much of a concept yet, outside of wealth in the sense of a group’s ability to feed and shelter themselves.

In trying to understand what exactly their connection was or what was meant by “as the vulture and the eagle diverged,” I was first given the impression of cells dividing, and then again the impression of speciation; a sense of what was once one now being two. I’m still not sure that that feels quite accurate to the impressions I was receiving, but I feel that it’s the best I can put into words.

Rituals for Lost Jötnar: Blith

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.

Imaged sourced from Wyrd Designs

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…”

Menglöð sits with the nine maidens, including Eir, on Lyfjaberg (1893) by Lorenz Frølich.

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.

Ritual for Ymir

All that is known of Ymir is that he was born from the fires of Muspelheim and the ice of Niflheim when they collided in a “great bang” in Ginnungagap. In this way, he can be seen as the anthropomorphize iteration of the chaotic but endless creative potential of the Ginnungagap. He took nourishment by nursing the primeval cow Auðumbla, who also came out of Ginnungagap. He also reproduced asexually, and as such became the ancestor of all the giants and many of the Æsir as well. Due to his asexual reproduction, many consider him to be hermaphroditic. His descendants in the form of Odin, Vili, and Ve slaughtered Ymir and from his remains (the pure, primordial stuff of creation) fashioned the world. His has at least three other possible names, Brimir, Blain, and Aurgelmir. Though he is described as being “evil,” there is no textual evidence for this and the concept may be of Christian influence, as there’s little to no evidence that the pagan worldview of the Norse really had a place for the binary construct of “good” and “evil,” though “chaos” and “order” may be more likely, amoral counterparts.

Ymir Suckling the Cow Audhumla. painting by Nicolai Abildgaard

Due to the nature of Ymir’s state in the mythology, this ritual will be much more about honoring the memory of a great and beloved ancestor, one who gave rise to all life on Earth (for without the pure, primal, creative force of his body, life could not have thrived). Nonetheless, bring an offering of milk to this ritual—if possible, the freshest and locally sourced milk you can find, but it’s okay if you need to stick to the basics. This ritual should be conducted outside with direct contact with the earth.

Pour your offering into a favored mug and set the mug directly on the earth. If your practice involves circle casting, cast your circle. 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. When you have centered yourself and are prepared:

“Hail Ymir/ Brimir/ Blain/ Aurgelmir

Hail Ymir, Mountain’s Bones

Hail Ymir, Earth’s Flesh

Hail Ymir, Sea’s Blood

Hail Ymir, Tree’s Locks

Hail Ymir, Skull Dome of the Sky

Hail Ymir, Ginnungagap’s Mirror

Hail Ymir, Element of Creation

Hail Ymir, Progenitor of Jötnar

Hail Ymir, First Ancestor…

”From you we have all come, to you we will all return. I honor you and all your names, Aurgelmir, Blain, Brimir. You, First Ancestor of Earth and all her progeny; first ancestor of all jötnar and of Æsir; you whose primal creative force enabled us to be—I offer you my greatest gratitude, honor, and love.”

Ymir being slain by the gods (Franz Stassen, 1920)

Lift the mug or cup of milk toward the sky, head bowed.

“Though I can give you nothing which does not already originate with you, I bring you this offering in loving spirit and gratitude for your unwilling and unknowing sacrifice at the hands of your grandchildren.

“Hail Ymir, Whose Bones are the Mountains!

Hail Ymir, Whose Flesh is the Earth!

Hail Ymir, First of Ancestors!”

Lower the milk, and pour it out directly onto the earth. If you are near a body of water, feel free to pour the milk out into this as well. If you are unable to conduct this ritual outside, I recommend simply pouring the milk onto the ground after the ritual when you are able to go outside, or otherwise leaving it on an altar for a day or so.

“And so I honor your spirit and your sacrifice today, Ymir, First of All Ancestors. I thank you, I honor you, and I bless your name.”

Set aside the mug and bow to the earth, laying your forehead directly against the soil with your arms stretched forward and palms face-down on the soil. If you’ve raised any energy during this working, ground it out into the earth as a final offering. Again, if you’re unable to do this outside, that’s okay — you can do this indoors as well, and just focus on sending that excess energy down to the earth below your home.

Sit up and thank Ymir for receiving your offering and being with you on this day, and bid farewell to his spirit. If you have cast a circle, begin to take it up now, or do anything else appropriate to your practice to close out the ritual.

And What About Loki?

While there is minimal and non-conclusive evidence of the historical worship of most of the Rökkr, it is good to once again remember that absence of evidence is not evidence of absence. While we may never find the conclusive smoking-gun evidence that many of us would enjoy, it continues to be valuable to dig deeper into the evidence that is available, continue critically assessing potentially outdated interpretations, and looking for further evidence to help us better understand the beliefs, practices, and cosmology of pre-Christian Nordic paganism. In the meantime, lack of historical evidence does not undermine the validity of worshiping the Rökkr within the new religious movement that is Norse neo-paganism and Rökkatru specifically.

There is one Rökkr for whom we have more evidence, however: the much-loved, much-hated, and always contentious Loki Laufeyson.

For those who love Loki, the love is fierce and passionate. For many LGBTQIA+ Heathens, Loki is embraced as representing genderqueerness, genderfluidity, or nonbinary gender due to his tendency for shifting not only form but gender. For those who have experienced degrees of abuse and trauma in their lifetimes, Loki as a deity of change is empowering, a source of strength and an assurance that while the good may not be forever, neither is the bad. Many who work with and honor Loki find a great degree of love and comfort in his lessons of self-honesty, speaking truth to power, and growing and learning through trial and ordeal.

Many who worship Loki see him as the vital instigator of change which prevents the entropy of stagnation, but just as many fear Loki for the chaos he is associated with and his role in Ragnarok. Those who fear, dislike, or mistrust Loki will point out the sheer number of times Loki creates trouble and mischief for the gods, while those who love him are quick to point out that Loki is the heart and spirit of much of the surviving lore and won the gods their treasures, including Thor’s hammer, through those same shenanigans.

To put it bluntly, Loki is a divisive deity—and he is one of the primary gods among the Rökkr. Just as Angrboda can be called the mother of the Rökkr, so too can Loki be called their father: of the primary Rökkr, Loki and Angrboda are parents to Hel, Jörmungandr, and Fenrir. A very contentious family within Heathenry to be certain, but also a very important one.

So let’s look at what evidence there is, starting with a ship burial uncovered in Bitterstad, Norway. A 2016 report from The Arctic University of Norway describes two pendants discovered in association with the burial. The pendants are nearly identical faces cast in silver depicting a man with a mustache, rounded eyes, and mouth that had been set with garnet, though most of the stone inlay no longer remains. “On the back of the two pieces of jewelry were a few remnants of preserved textiles, probably from the deceased’s clothing,” (1) suggesting that these pendants may have been worn as part of the finery in which the deceased was buried.

Bitterstad Pendants

What is particularly interesting about this, is that the authors of the report put forward the theory that these pendants represent Loki, drawing a comparison to the Snaptun Stone:

“I will present here the not un-problematic idea that these face pendants from Bitterstad can represent Loki. There are two primary things that can point to this. First, the garnets themselves. These have, as we have mentioned several times, historically often related to fire. Fire is something that Loki is often connected with…The other interesting detail is the wrought stone from Snaptun Jutland which depicts Loki after he had his mouth sewn by the dwarf Brokk (Jørgensen 2010, pp. 149-150). Again, we find the relationship between fire and Loki to be interconnected…the images that are on the stone and on the jewelry from Bitterstad are relatively similar. Both figures have a strong mustache, round eyes, sharp marked nose and image of hair. This idea can of course not be proven but may be left as a speculative interpretation of the jewelry from Bitterstad.” (2)

This is only one of several pendants that have been purported to feature Loki, including one found among gravegoods near Härad, Sweden and another found in Vejen, Denmark. The Vejen artifact was originally reported in a press release from Denmark’s National Museet, but the link no longer works, and I’ve struggled to track down information on the Härad piece as well. Nonetheless, photos of both exist, and it can been seen that both images bear a striking resemblance to the Snaptun Stone and Bitterstad pendant, with a mustache and lines across the mouth that have been frequently interpreted as the stitches from the Brokk myth. And of course there is the Snaptun Stone itself, commonly identified as Loki due to the presentation of the mouth, which appears to be stitched. (3)

Härad, Sweden Pendant

These and other similar depictions dating to the pre-Christian and conversion era would disprove the claims of some scholars and laypersons that Loki is little more than a literary figment created during pr shortly after the conversion. Furthermore there is evidence, albeit limited, of people and at least one place being named for Loki—something we wouldn’t expect to see if Loki were either a post-Christian figment or reviled in the pagan days of Scandinavia.

Let’s start with the people whose names appear to include Loki’s name. Axel Olrik, in his essay Loke in Younger Tradition, writes this:

“There is one thing that might surprise people who bear Loke from the ancient myths in mind…people actually have been named Loke or Lokke: Among the Norsemen in Northumberland in the 12th century, there was a man called Locchi. In Scandia, Lokkethorp (now Lockarp) was named after a man with a similar name. In Småland, Locke has been preserved as a hereditary surname. On a rune stone in Uppland, the name “Luki” (Loki?, Lokki?) appears…From Norway we know a settler called Þórbjørn loki, and a birkjebein called Þórðr loki.” (4)

Generally speaking Olrik makes the argument that regionally there may have been elemental or other supernatural spirits referred to with names deriving from Loki. Despite expressing the belief that these names likely refer to these spirits rather than the god, he does offer some thought to the contrary:

“In favour of the regard of the personal name as naming after the god Loke, we can mention, that contemporary with the birkjebein Þórðr loki, there lived a man called Auðunn býleistr (named after Loke’s brother). But if there is any connection between the two names (the form Loki isn’t quite certain here), it could be due to the fact that the nickname býleistr (he who is similar to or worse than Loke) was given to an opponent, just because the birkjebeins didn’t know the origin of the name.” (5)

In addition to this, the most common alternate name for Loki, Lopt, appears to show up in a very interesting place: the surname of Snorri Sturluson’s own foster-father. Jón Loptsson (6) was the son of Loptr Sæmundsson, who was born in the twelfth century. (7)

Vejen, Denmark Pendant

Due to the lateness of this name it cannot, in itself, be cited as evidence of naming conventions honoring Loki (this was more than a hundred years after the conversion of Norway, where he appears to have been born) it may well indicate that Lopt or Loptr may have had some history of use in Norwegian naming conventions. This is noteworthy given the name’s relative proximity to the official conversion of Scandinavia, as this would have been only about two generations removed from the official conversion and within a reasonable time span that we might expect to still find pockets of old worship.

Olrik also notes several place names that appear to be associated with Loki, in particular Lockbol or Lukabol, and Lockesta or Locastum. Unfortunately I’ve been unable to locate further information about these locations outside of Olrik’s references, but if anyone has any leads on these places I would love to hear them. There is one location I’ve been able to identify with more certainty, however, whose name bears a striking resemblance to Loki: Lokkafelli.

Lokkafelli is described as a point on Eysturoy, or “East Island,” in the Faroe Islands. It sits at an elevation of 281 meters above sea level and…that’s about all the information there is to be found about Lokkafelli. Even pictures are hard to come by. Nonetheless, paired with the fact that Loka Táttur, one of the most favorable of the tales about Loki, originates from the Faroe Islands, the apparent inclusion of Loki in a place-name is intriguing. Unfortunately the Loka Táttur is thought to date to the late middle ages, at least 300 years after the Islands were officially and forcibly Christianized. This does not, of course, mean that the ballad is not a remnant of an older tradition, but if that tradition existed we have no further information about it.

Location of Lokkafelli in the Faroe Islands from Google Earth

On that note, let’s turn to the written sources. Despite the heavy Christian influence of many of these sources, it is possible to glean information about old pagan beliefs from them with critical analysis, and there is no figure in Norse mythology more closely scrutinized than Loki.

One interesting piece of textual evidence to consider is Lóðurr. Lóðurr is an interesting figure who is identified in Völuspá as playing a role in the creation of man alongside Odin and Hœnir. He is said to have given the first men either blood or flesh (the translation is a bit troublesome) along with the color or hues of their skin. Aside from this, however, Lóðurr is only mentioned in original sources two other times: in Háleygjatal and Íslendingadrápa Odin is referred to as “Lóðurr’s friend.” The inscription logaþore / wodan / wigiþonar has been brought into discussions of Lóðurr as well, for while the second two names in this inscription have been cleanly identified as Odin and Thor, the first remain is elusive, and both Lóðurr and Loki have been proposed as possible translations. (8)

The reason this is important and intriguing is because, as some readers may already know, Lóðurr is sometimes identified as Loki. Cawley addresses this in his essay The Figure of Loki in Germanic Folklore, where he highlights an apparent “parallel with Loki and Lóðurr, which seems to be a byname of Loki in some Old Norse sources. This is corroborated by evidence from Germany in the name Logaþore on the Nordendrof brooch.” (9)

The identification of Loki with Lóðurr was proposed by Ursula Dronke in The Poetic Edda: Volume II: Mythological Poems. She argued that the occurrence of Odin, Hœnir, and Loki as a trio in the skaldic poem Haustlöng, the introduction of Reginsmál, and Loka Táttur establishes a sound basis for identifying Lóðurr, also paired with Odin and Hœnir, as Loki, and that the kenning “ Lóðurr’s friend” for Odin reinforces this interpretation. (10)

This is particularly important for those who work with and honor Loki, as his positive contribution to this creation myth flies in stark contrast to the depiction of Loki as a devilish or malicious figure. Here, under the name Lóðurr, he is credited for making a direct and vital contribution to the origin of man. This aligns him just as clearly with the forces of creation as his involvement in Ragnarok align him with forces of destruction.

Snaptun Stone

Though in and of itself, this piece of evidence isn’t proof positive of historic cultic worship, it undercuts the narrative which poses Loki as a definitive enemy of the gods and of humanity. Loki has never been a definitive enemy of the gods, as is proved time and again in the Eddas, and here he is not only not an enemy of humanity, but part of the divine trio which gave humanity life. Historically and in religious traditions worldwide, such myths are typically associated with deities who are recipients of cultic worship. Even Prometheus, the Titan credited for creating humanity in Greek mythology and bound for giving humans fire—a figure Loki as often compared to and identified with—had some degree of cultic worship in Athens. (11)(12)

Another interesting piece of textual evidence comes from Saxo Grammaticus, who was writing in the same time period as Sturluson. In the eighth book of his Gesta Danorum, he records the story of a king named Gorm who worships a giant by the name of Útgarða-Loki. Though this name should in theory identify a giant known from Gylfaginning, in which he challenges Loki, Thjalfi, and Thor to a series of impossible challenges. However, the description of Útgarða-Loki’s “dwelling” in Gesta Danorum bears a striking resemblance not to the Útgarða-Loki of Gylfaginning, but rather to Loki after his binding by the Æsir:

“Then he made others bear a light before him, and stooped his body through the narrow jaws of the cavern, where he beheld a number of iron seats among a swarm of gliding serpents…a foul and gloomy room was disclosed to the visitors, wherein they saw Utgarda-Loki, laden hand and foot with enormous chains. Each of his reeking hairs was as large and stiff as a spear of cornel. Thorkill (his companions lending a hand), in order that his deeds might gain more credit, plucked one of these from the chin of Utgarda-Loki, who suffered it.” (13)

Útgarða-Loki is here depicted chained in a cave, paralleling Loki’s binding, and there are described to be venomous snakes nearby, evoking the image of the serpent fastened by Skadi above Loki’s head. The only detail here that doesn’t parallel Loki’s imprisonment is the attachment of “Útgarða,” a word meaning means “outside” or “outyard.” This means Útgarða-Loki is “Outsider Loki.” This distinguishes the giant of Gylfaginning from Loki, who is counted among the Æsir and therefor is an “insider,” while the other giant is an “outsider.” In Gesta Danorum, Útgarða-Loki could be interpreted be a Loki post-binding, who has been cast out from Asgard and thus rendered outsider or Útgarða.

If this is indeed Loki, it is important because this tale describes him receiving worship in the form of devotion, offerings, and prayers. The king Gorm is depicted making offerings and praying to Útgarða-Loki to smooth a disastrous passage by sea, and this succeeds. When the character of Thorkill brings him news of Útgarða-Loki and the chin hair he plucked from the giant’s chin, Útgarða-Loki is referred to as the king’s “own god” for whom he was “zealous” in his worship.

Gesta Danorum is generally considered as depicting, to some degree, Scandinavian history, and in particular the history of Denmark. Given that archaeological artifacts potentially pointing to the worship of Loki have predominantly been found in Denmark and southern Norway, this is notable. These items taken together could indicate that there was localized cultic worship centered around Loki in the pre-Christian era.

With the archaeological evidence and literary evidence taken together, what we have in favor of the worship of Loki is significant, if not definitive. On this front, Loki has confounded historians and scholars just as much as he has confounded them with regards to his basic nature and role in the Nordic pantheon and cosmology.

If I’ve taken anything from this portion of my studies, I find it unlikely that Loki received no worship in pagan Scandinavia, though perhaps it was limited and localized. What I do find likely is that Loki has always been and always will be an enigmatic figure, ever eluding definition. This seems just as much an aspect of Loki himself as his trickster aspect, his connection to fire, his gender-fluidity and pansexuality—it seems a vital core of Loki’s essence and being, and is certainly one of the things that draw so many people to his altar.

(1)Cerbing, M., Lend, K., & Niemi, A. R. (2016). Arkeologiska urgrävningar av båtgravnar och gravhögar, Bitterstad, Hadsel kommune, Nordland [PDF]. Trosmø: Norges Arktiske Universitet. p.p.72

(2)Cerbing. p.p. 86

(3)Madsen, Hans Jørgen (1990). “The god Loki from Snaptun”. Oldtidens Ansigt: Faces of the Past. Det kongelige Nordiske Oldskriftselskab.

(4) Olrik, A. (1908). Loke i Nyere Folkeoverlevering (917288899 720864290 A. Eli, Trans.). Danmarks Folkeminder. p.p 15.

(5) Olrik. p.p 15.

(6) Wills, T. (n.d.). C. Jón Loptsson. Retrieved September 06, 2020, from https://skaldic.abdn.ac.uk/m.php?p=doc

(7) Sturlungasagans släktregister (Ættartölur), 1, Oddaverjar.

(8)MacLeod, Mindy; Bernard, Mees (2006). Runic Amulets and Magic Objects. Woodbridge: Boydell Press. pp. 17–19.

(9)Crawley, F. S. (1939). The Figure of Loki in Germanic Mythology. The Harvard Theological Review, 31(4), 309-326. Retrieved 2017, from jstor.org/stable/1508020

(10)Dronke, Ursula (1997). The Poetic Edda : Volume II : Mythological Poems. Oxford: Clarendon Press. In particular p. 18 and pp. 124–5.

(11)Lewis Richard Farnell, The Cults of the Greek States (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1896), vol. 1, pp. 36, 49, 75, 277, 285, 314, 346.

(12) Carol Dougherty, Prometheus (Routledge, 2006), p. 42ff..