The Northern Hunting Deities

Another Blog Monday even if it is Labor Day. Allegedly, I am not supposed to be working today. I wish someone would tell that to my busy hands and restless mind.

As an update of the day to day things, I am back in my writing groove, doing about 10,000 words a week average. I am working through the final book of my current project, tentatively called the Wolf Lord Trilogy. At least once a week I add a new story to “Wanderings” as well. That book is going through quite an overhaul at the moment.

As for a spiritual update, everything I have been doing lately has been preparation for archery season. That fire for the hunt is back in my veins again, and this hit-and-miss onset of fall like weather certainly has not helped. I wake up to the cool winter mornings, and I wish I was out in the woods, tracking and waiting for the deer. It is so close, but seems like an eternity as well.

My wife and I expanded our spiritual space lately, and I set up a dedicated altar to hunting, for the gods, ancestors and spirits of the hunt. Will it help with success? I can hope, but success or failure is a complicated thing. A lot of variables. At very least it is an important place for meditation and communion with those I work with.

In that is the inspiration for this blog. I wanted to think about, via this writing, the Northern deities that are honored at my hunting altar. Please note, that some of the below is my own interpretations based my readings of the source material. Not all of it comes from the Sagas and Eddas.

Ullr;

God of skiing, winter and the hunt. Ullr dwells in Ydalir, the “yew dales.” Yew is one of the best woods for the making of bows, and this only strengthens his connection to the hunt. His is a fine archer and warrior, familiar with many types of weapons, and the Prose edda says he is good to call on in duels.

Ullr is the son of Sif and some unnamed man. This also makes him Thor’s stepson. Some theories (Rydberg’s being among them, though mostly discounted) propose that the father of Ullr was the archer-god Egil/Orvendal. This would account for his skill with the bow, as Egil is first among archers, among other things. Whoever the father might be, I think a safe interpretation is that Sif had him before her marriage with Thor, and the warrior god helped to “train” him to be the great warrior he became. Ullr also ruled Asgard for a time after Odin was banished during the Aesir-Vanir War.

Perhaps the most interesting story I have heard is his association with Skadi. I just came across this information recently, and it struck me as quite profound. I came across it first at elfwood.com (see below) when just looking up information about Ullr and Skadi. After the Skadi’s marriage failed with Njord, she returned to her homeland alone to hunt. During one particular winter, she met Ullr while he too was out hunting. The two of them soon fell in love over their shared passions, and we married.

Skadi;

Skadi is the goddess of skiing, hunting and winter, much like Ullr. She is the daughter of the giant Thjazi. There are several stories associated with her, and they can be found in other places.

An interesting note here I found on newwest.net.
“If you talk to folks in Breckenridge, Colorado, they’ll tell you that Ullr and Skadi left Norway and took up residence right there in Breck, blessing Summit County with “the best snow in the world.” In fact, to thank him, every year since 1963 Breck has hosted Ullr Fest, complete with a parade, snow sculpting contests, and parties. Lots of parties.”

The old gods have made their mark even in America.

Egil

Egil, is a bit of obscure god. The below story is from Thridek’s Saga.

Once Egil was captured by king Nidhung, who also captured Egil’s son and forced him to shoot an apple off of his son’s head. Egil pulls two arrows from his quiver and set them in the ground. He splits the apple square in two with the first arrow. The king asked him why he pulled two arrows and Egil says.
“If I had hit my son, the second arrow was for you.”

Thor

It is my belief that Thor belongs in this group, mostly because of his role of “giant hunter.” While the hunting of giants is more in the ‘warrior’ category then the ‘hunter’ category, the two have significant overlap. I like to say that the difference between a warrior and hunter is a choice of prey. One hunts animals, the other men (or man-like beings/giants). Thor is the son of Odin, a kind of hunter god, as well as being the step farther of Ullr. Quite a bit could be written about Thor here, but I think his connections with “giant hunting” as well as Ullr shall be enough at this point. A whole other post could be dedicated to Thor, and perhaps that will be the case in the future.

Odin

Odin belongs in with the hunting gods in his role as the Wild Huntsmen, the leader of the Wild Hunt. The Wild Hunt is a great host that rides across the sky and the ground, horsed and with hounds. While Skadi and Ullr are on foot (or skis) and solo hunters, the Wild Hunt is a great host often led by Odin, but sometimes by others as well. The Wild Hunt is an ambiguous practice, at once being a ritual for the hunting of demons, evil spirits or enemies. At the same time, it is sometimes a harbinger of catastrophe. The Wild Hunt is sometimes said to foretell of war or famine to come. Also, it is often fatal to mortals to witness the Wild Hunt. They can be swept up and carried away by the Huntsmen and the Host, or, and much to their dismay, they may become the prey. The Wild Hunt and Odin also have strong connections to the dead.

Sources;
http://www.elfwood.com/~aolson/Ull-Norse-God-of-Winter-Archery-Hunting-Skiers-Snowshoes.2531680.html

http://www.elfwood.com/~aolson/Skadi-the-Norse-Goddess-of-the-Hunt-and-Scandinavian-Winter.2531678.html

http://newwest.net/snow_blog/article/praying_to_ullr_and_skadi/C458/L41/

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About Nicholas Haney

I am a writer, author, hunter, craftsman, and student of anthropology/archaeology. View all posts by Nicholas Haney

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