During the Viking Age, the Vikings from the Scandinavian North saw goddesses as deities and worshipped them. Thanks to archaeological discoveries and ancient texts, we can compile a list of the various Norse goddesses that existed and understand how they influenced the social patterns and development of the region.
In ancient times, female power manifested in goddesses was greatly venerated. Norse Goddesses have been linked with virtues such as sexuality, love, fertility, motherhood, beauty, and creativity. All in all, they were female deities that played different roles in Norse mythology and co-existence patterns across the Scandinavian countries. According to Nordic mythology, goddesses reflect matriarchal power and actively represent the societies that they come from. The goddesses were assigned archetypal characteristics based on their distinctive personalities. These women were considered to have natural psychic abilities which were reflected in some of their roles as seers and shamans for their tribes. In addition, Norse goddesses married and had relationships with different magical beings identified in Norse mythology, such as dwarves, giants and the gods. What more should you know about the Norse goddesses? Read on to find out!
Norse Goddesses List
Our Nordic Goddesses list contains everything you need to know about the most influential goddesses in Scandinavian History. They are:
Freyja had numerous names, including Vanadís, Mardöll, and Gefn, among others. She was a goddess associated with virtues, such as sex, gold, love, fertility, beauty, and war. She rode a chariot pulled by two cats, possessed a cloak of falcon feathers, and owned the Brisingamen necklace created by the dwarves. She married Óðr and sired two daughters known as Gersemi and Hnoss. She was a member of the Vanir and had a twin brother known as Freyr. Unfortunately, her husband was often absent, which is why she constantly cried tears of red gold every time she searched for him.
Most Jotnar were constantly after her feathered cloak because it is invoked in envied matters of love and fertility. She was the ruler of Fólkvangr, her heavenly field where she waited to receive half of those who die in Viking battles after the other half goes to Valhalla (Odin’s hall.)
In Southern Sweden and several other parts of Scandinavia, there are several plants named after Freyja. However, during the process of Christianization, her name was replaced with the name of the Virgin Mary. Despite the name changes, the rural Scandinavians still acknowledge her presence amongst themselves and use her as an inspiration for their artwork and illustrations.
Frigg was a female goddess associated with motherhood, prophecy, marriage, and telepathy. She was the wife of Odin and dwelled in the wetland halls of Fensalir (Sea Halls/Mist Halls). For this reason, she was worshipped as the Queen of the Aesir gods. Also, the Vikings worshipped her as the goddess of the sky. They recognized that she had the power of divination but was very secretive about her vision. She gave birth to the gleaming god, Balder, and she is connected to many other goddesses, including Freyja, Fulla, Lofn, and Hiln. Her son died a tragic death, and her psychic abilities played an essential role in it at the time.
During her reign, she was the only person who was allowed to sit next to Odin, her husband. Unfortunately, she had several extra-marital affairs, but this did not tamper with her position in her dwelling place as she never betrayed Odin.
After the process of Christianization, her name continued to reign in Scandinavian folklore and homes. Currently, she is mentioned in popular cultures and is the main subject of art in Germanic Neopaganism. In modern times, there is a narrative that the weekday name ‘Friday’ originated from her name, and it means ‘Frigg’s Day’.
Gefion was identified as the Norse Goddess of Unmarried women. She made a conscious decision to remain a virgin and was revered by women who died unmarried. She was associated with ploughing, foreknowledge, and virginity. Additionally, she was associated with the Skjoldr, the Danish king, and Gylfi, the Swedish King. Most Nordic sources also identify that she ruled Sweden and eventually created the land of the Zealand Islands.
Supposedly, she took 4 oxen from the north of Giantland and yoked them to a plough. Unfortunately, the plough went in so deep into the ground and loosened the land. When this happened, the 4 oxen dragged the plough towards the west side of the sea where it stopped with a loud bang. When Gefion went to check what was happening, she found a new land. She set the piece of land for good and called it Zealand, an island in Denmark.
While she is known as the Goddess of unmarried women, certain controversies have come up. Some sources claim that the 4 oxen were her sons that she had sired with a giant, while others identify that she married the Danish king at some point and they lived in Denmark hence could not be a virgin. Currently, in the land of Zealand in Denmark, you will find a fountain depicting Gefion pulling her 4 oxen.
Sif was revered as a goddess of the earth. She had blue eyes and golden hair. The Vikings and Norse people associated her hair with fertility, wedlock, and family. Everyone believed that every time Sif traveled over the Northern world, and wherever there were families, she would cause the crops to grow, and there would be a plentiful harvest that kept everyone fed. She married Thor, the god of thunder, and gave birth to Thrud, who later became the goddess of trees, power, grass, and flowers. Sif had a mysterious lover with whom she had a son. The son was known as Ull, who became the Norse god of hunting.
Thor regularly boasted about her hair, which made everyone jealous. One day as she went to sleep, Loki (god of mischief) cast a sleeping spell on her and sheared the hair off her head to anger Thor. When this happened, Thor forced Loki to find a golden headpiece for his wife to replace her hair.
Sif Monds, a volcanic mountain on the planet Venus was named after Sif. Also, she has been a character portrayed in films such as Thor and Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. and fictionalized novels like the Magnus Chase and the Gods of Asgard.
The name Sigyn means ‘victorious girlfriend’ in Old Norse. She was married to Loki, and she lived among the Aesir gods. She and Loki had two sons, namely Vali and Narvi. When Loki caused the death of Balder (Frigg’s son), he was detained using Narvi’s intestines. After her two sons died following her husband’s mischief, she was heavily overwhelmed with pain and sorrow. However, she chose to stick by her husband during his punishment. She held a bowl over Loki’s face to catch the poison dripping from a serpent that the Goddess Skadhi secured right above Loki’s head. For this reason, Loki is given the name ‘burden of Sign’s arms’. Many people see this as a very selfless act because she did it out of the love and care that she had for her husband. Because of her sacrifice, she is associated with the virtues such as nurturing, fidelity and grieving.
Sign’s sacrifice is captured in so many paintings and illustrations; such as the Loke och Sigyn by Nils Blommer, Marten Winge, and Oscar Wergeland) across Scandinavian countries, and different objects and places such as the Norwegian stiff-straw wheat varieties (Sigyn I and Sigyn II) have been named after her.
Idun is identified as the goddess of immortality and rejuvenation. She was married to Bragi, who was the god of poetry. She kept the magic apples of everlasting life, which the gods had to eat to preserve their youthfulness. There was a jotun known as Bjazi, who promised Loki that he would give him fairer apples than the ones Idun had. The ultimatum was for Loki to lure Idun out of Asgard. When she left Asgard and made her way to the forest, giant Thiassi seized her while Bjazi took the apples and took them to the realm of the giants. The gods immediately began to grow old and realized that Loki was the cause of the damage.
To avert punishment by the Aesir, Loki changed into a falcon and changed Idun into a nut so that he can return her to the gods. When Bjazi found Idun gone, he turned into an eagle in search of Loki only to find himself in a pyre in the courtyard of Asgard. He fell into the fire and died.
In the modern era, she has influenced a popular Swedish magazine known as Idunn that was published from 1887 to 1963.
Nerthus was considered Mother Earth and part of the Vanir. In Germanic Paganism, she is venerated as the goddess of fertility. German folklore identifies that she had hermaphroditic elements, which are clearer in the current Germanic religion. A tale is told by the Roman historian Tacitus that Nerthus was worshipped by 7 tribes, among who were the angels who invaded England later on. She dominated a temple in a sacred grove on an island in the Baltic Sea. She rode on a chariot pulled by cows as she visited her loyal subjects. The Norse people believed that when she was around, they were more peaceful and full of joy.
The remote Suebi tribes from Germania were united through the worship of Nerthus. The people maintained a sacred grove on an island where the priests would engage with the goddess. The priests would attend her cart and call for celebration. They would also lock away all objects made of iron to prevent anyone from going away during that peaceful time. During the holy procession, the slaves would help the priests cleanse the chariot in a special lake. However, once the slaves finished up, Nerthus would drown them in the same lake.
In Skaldic poems, her name is used to mean ‘land’, ‘soil’, and ‘earth’. Because she doesn’t play an active part in several Germanic tales, Jord is seldom mentioned among giantesses and goddesses in Norse mythology. She was the mother to Thor (the god of thunder) and a lover to Odin (the war god). She was considered the goddess of the wild earth, the uncivilized and uncultivated. She was the daughter of the goddess of Night (Nort) and had a second husband known as Annar (an island giant). Even though a giant, she was greatly welcomed by the Aesir.
Jord is often described as an earth-giantess, and her main concentration was fertility and individuality. She lived in the area of Jotunheim (the land of the giants), and she caused tress, fruits, and flowers to sprout. Her skin was darker than most Jotnar, and she had very long hair. She had various lovers and was often pregnant by at least one of them. Most gods and giants fell in love with her because of her lushness, generosity, and soft motherly embrace and characteristics. Before Odin took an official Aesir wife, he had Jord as his consort. She and Odin had a son named Meili, but not much is mentioned about him either.
Hel was the goddess-giantess that ruled over the underworld where the dead dwell (Hel). The name Hel meant ‘Hidden’ which was attributed to her dwelling which was buried beneath the ground. She was the daughter of Loki and Angrboda. Her brothers were Fenrir (the wolf) and Jormungand (the world serpent). Out of fear that she causes trouble in the human and god’s world, Odin appointed her as head of Nilfheimir (the underworld).
Hel is considered cruel, greedy, and fierce. Snorri describes her as a half-black, half-white creature that always has a grim on her face. In some myths, her appearance is said to be half-corpse. She prominently features in the Death of Baldur, a great myth in Scandinavian history. Baldur (associated with glamor) was slain by Loki, then the Aesir gods sent Hermod to the underground world to retrieve his soul. Hermod had to plead with Hel, but she didn’t care. In fact, she claimed that she would only release Baldur if everything in the universe wept for him. The gods then commissioned everyone to do so, but only one giantess refused to do so. Because of that single refusal, Baldur was kept in Hel’s cold clutches, and she never changed her mind ever again.
Since ancient times, Gullveig has been perceived as a personification of gold itself. She was speared by the Aesir, burnt about 3 times, and was reborn thrice. During her third rebirth, her new name became Heidr (which means bright and skillful). In the Poetic Edda, her figure is said to be similar to Freyja’s. Her death was connected to corruption by way of gold and witchcraft. Unfortunately, she was the cause of the biggest conflict in Norse mythology – the Aesir-Vanir War.
She symbolized gold and wealth and vices such as greed. Because of her existence, the Norse people see wealth as a great thing to pursue but a disruptive and dangerous aspect if one isn’t too careful. She was a witch and practiced Seidr. Seidr is a special type of magic associated with foretelling the future but involves shaping the outcome to match the magician’s will. Because of this practice, she was worshipped and feared by many.
Centuries later, people in Europe and North America adopted the witch-burning trials. They stack witches with spears and burn them alive, the same thing that happened to Gullveig. Also, the myth of resurrection in Germanic paganism is heavily borrowed from Gullveig’s recurrent rebirths.
Skadi was the wife of Njord (sea god). Her father was a giant, known as Thiazi, and she was sometimes referred to as the god of snowshoes, hunting, and skiing. She is the personification of endurance, courage, and strength among the Nordic people. To avenge her father, she assembled arms and went to Asgard to attack the Aesir (the rival tribe of the gods). To appease her anger, the Aesir gods offered her a husband from their tribe. During the scrutinization process, she could only choose a god by his legs and shoes alone (the main reason why she is known as the snowshoe goddess). She always wanted to marry Balder (god associated with glamor), so she hoped that he would be her choice. Instead, she ended up choosing Njord.
Unfortunately, their marriage did not work out because the sea god always spent most of his time by the sea while his wife, Skadi, preferred to love in Thrymheim (mountains where her father’s home was). When Loki was detained after Balder’s death, Skadi placed a vile snake into the cave. She fastened it to the top part of the cave in the darkness, right over Loki’s head so that its venom can pour into Loki’s face. Every time the venom splashed, it would be so painful that an earthquake would happen.