from: Viking: Hammer of the North; M Magnusson & W Forman; Orbis 1976
The Vikings; Graham-Campbell J, Kidd D; BCA 1980
The Vikings; Pendlesonn K R G; Windward 1980
The Viking World; Jacqueline Simpson; BCA 1980
Follow the Vikings; Carlsson D, Owen O, eds; Viking Heritage, Visby 1996

Odin, Thor and Frey. Or pieces for eg hnefatafl. Why do they grip their beards?
These little fellows do not exactly exude celestial might and power.
They seem well on the way to turning into the garden gnomes they finally became.


with Brisingamen ?
Freya seems pregnant with potential.
She is wearing a necklace, or possibly several.
So what is the large circle surrounding her?
Brisingamen must signify Life and the Lap of Nature, as well as the Sun. Freya is also both Earth and Moon.
earth's vaults   eorþan sceatas   jordens sköte


Ingemar Nordgren informs me that: "Brisingamén means 'sunglow' and is merely another name for what is also called 'Draupnir', etc. This is a ring, or a necklace, which in fact is the sun. Freja, in her capacity as earth and moon goddess, takes possession of it during the winter, and returns some of its light during this dark time of year. When Heimdallr and Loki fight for the ring in the shape of seals it is a battle between day and night, with Heimdallr representing light, and Loki representing darkness." On another occasion Loki cut off the locks of Siv's hair, as he relates in Lokasenna. Dr Nordgren sees this as a total eclipse of the sun. He adds that "Siv was an earlier sun goddess before she became one of the Aesir, and Thor's wife. She had previously been the wife of the elf Ivalde, as his second consort after Groa, and foster mother to Sviþdagr, the sun god who later espoused Freja, as well as the mother of another sun god, ÚllR." Myth is fluid; it slips your grasp and glides away.


These objects were found in Iceland. Can the left-hand figure really be the Thunderer with his mighty Mjöllnir? His oddly divided beard, terminating in an inverted trefoil, doesn't look much like a hammer to me. I suppose it's identified as one because of the amulet, centre, sometimes called the wolf-cross. And who is the mournful chap on the right? Pious C19th folk-lorists might suggest he was "a fool, opening his heart to the devil". See here or here. In fact he seems close kin to the recently popular Sheela-na-Gig, of various explanation. Put "Sheela-na-Gig" into Google for a cauldron of conceptions.

The one here on the right is the best-known. Click picture for source. However, I see this figure as directly descended from the Hagebyhöga Freya, by virtue of her splayed legs, her bulbous head (triangular?), and her akimbo arms, which seem to derive at several removes from the large ring encompassing the Freya. A 6th century date is suggested for the brooch (?), about 600 years earlier than the Sheela, which is a corbel on a church.


The White Goddess
Hagebyhöga, Östergötland
Silver brooch: "Seated Woman"
says Jacqueline Simpson

The Sheela-na-Gig
of Kilpeck Church, 1140 AD
Herefordshire, England

A comment from a website [here]: "Some scholars link the Sheela to the goddess Brigit, who presides over the spring festival. It could be that she is the split off, sexual aspect of this otherwise virginal goddess (who was absorbed into the Church as an emblem of chastity: a nun who became a saint)." [Jack Gray Crow]. In The White Goddess, 1948, ("through which scholarship and inspiration walk, for once, hand in hand"; James Laver), Robert Graves says this: "In mediaeval Irish poetry Mary [the mother of Christ] was ... identified with Brigit the Goddess of Poetry ... In Gaelic Scotland her symbol was the White Swan, and she was known as Bride of the Golden Hair, Bride of the White Hills, mother of the King of Glory. In the Hebrides she was the patroness of childbirth. Her Aegean protoype seems to have been Brizo of Delos, a moon-goddess to whom votive ships were offered, and whose name was derived by the Greeks from the word brizein, 'to enchant'. Brigit was much cultivated in Gaul and Britain in Roman times ..." (p 392).

Who could resist linking Nordic Brisingamen with Aegean Brizo, derived from brizein, to enchant? Graves does not seem to know much about Nordic mythology, being an out-and-out classicist (and adoptive Welshman), and only refers to the northern pantheon in passing. It is possible, however, to see Rydberg's Teutonic Mythology, 1889, as a precursor of The White Goddess, in the sense that it also attempts a pan-European unification of prehistoric myths and concepts. T.G.E.Powell, in The Celts, Thames & Hudson 1959, notes: "There must have been a shading off of cultural, linguistic and political affiliations from one major natural region to another, and the process must go back to a time when there could be defined neither "Celt" nor "Teuton" but only zones of "Old Europeans". (p.165.) The vague term "Celt" is more and more coming to be seen as a rather meaningless ethnic concept, comparable perhaps with "African", "Asian", "Indian" or "Native American". A Celt was, approximately, a non-Roman European, since the average centurion was not too pedantic about the individual traits of the tribes he was bludgeoning into his Empire.

Another Sheela-na-Gig
Kiltinan Castle
Fethard, C. Tipperary
see here
or click picture

Cemetery Stone, Gotland
När Parish, Smiss (3); see
Stones, Ships and Symbols
or click picture
don't bother: the link was hijacked by a nasty

"Snake-Witch" or Freya (?); Gotland

The Sheela-na-Gigs are "usually found on Norman churches", but also on castles and other buildings. They occur over most of the British Isles, but predominantly in Ireland. Although stated to be of "Celtic" origin, they all seem to be post-Conquest; vestigial memories of pre-Christian concepts, transformed and/or demonized by the Church. Erik Nylén remarks of the Gotland "snake-witch" that it is unique for the island. "But the snake motif was popular as symbol and decoration ... The snake plays an important role in the transition from paganism to Christianity ... The motif has been associated with early Celtic art ... it is an example of how long popular motifs can live on through the centuries, different in style but basically identical in design." (p.40). To use Professor E.G.Stanley's phrase, the "search for Anglo-Saxon paganism" in the text of The Seafarer may perhaps be regarded as misdirected, rather than as utterly misguided.

Said to be Ereshkigal.
Appears to be the mother of the others.


bird   divide  man   other   sea   ship   sun
next goddess

theme index
index of picture collages
main index