So as I have mentioned previously, it would seem a new phase of my spiritual journey is beginning. For better or worse, it would seem that Skaði has picked me up as her apprentice. For whatever reason, she shows as interest in me and wants me to learn from her. She has been a regular staple of my journey work, even when I am not specifically looking for her. She is watchful and keen of eye, and whether I like it or not, quick to correct and criticize.
As I have said before, she treats me as a moron, or perhaps more accurately, as a child. I feel like one around her. Her mastery is impressive, I will be the first to admit. She does by instinct and memory things that take me a whole lot of concentration, head-against-wall bashing, focus, and general cursing with some frustration thrown in. Frankly, I have a lot to learn, and she has a lot to teach. I just hope she doesn’t lose patience with my general moronic ways.
Being as I am starting a study program with her, I guess the most reasonable place to start is with the old lore concerning Skaði. I will work through and survey each source individually, because the oldest sources, the Eddas, tend to contradict one another.
So, her name is properly spelled Skaði, (pronounced Skath-ee), though it may also be anglicized as Skadi (Skad-ee), Skade, or Skathi. I have a habit of switching between Skaði and Skadi. With that part out of the way, let’s move to the primary sources.
The Poetic Edda
A good introduction the Eddas can be found over at Reading Heathenism.
Here is Lokivinr’s introduction to the Prose Edda:
“Usually the term “Poetic Edda” refers to a specific manuscript, the Codex Regius, which was not discovered until 1643 in the back of another book… The Codex Regius is usually dated around 1270.”
It is the product of several different poets, from several different times and locations. It is a compilation of poems.
That being said, let us examine the poems that have anything to say about Skaði. I will be using Larrington’s Translation.
A very brief version of Skaði’s story is presented in the introduction. ” Skadi, daughter of the giant Thiazi, comes to Asgard seeking compensation for her father’s death. She agrees to make peace if she can conclude a marriage with one of the Aesir. Skadi hopes to marry Baldr, but she is tricked into marrying Njord. The marriage is not successful and the two separate.” (Pg xvi.)
There is a brief reference to Skadi in the prose introduction to Skirnismal, yet no details about the goddess herself are given. She is only said to be speaking. (Pg. 61)
The next reference to Skadi appears in the Grimnismal, the Grimnir’s Sayings. Grimnir is really Odin in disguise. The reference is in regard to the dwelling of Skadi, and her dead father, Thiazi.
“Thrymheim the sixth is called, where Thiazi lives,
the terrible giant;
but now Skadi, the shining bride of the gods,
lives in her father’s ancient courts.” (pg 53.)
Her next appearance, and as far as the the Poetic Edda is concerned, one of the most detailed, appears in the Lokasenna. In this poem, Loki is excluded from a feast at Aegir’s Hall, where all the other gods have gone. After forcing his way inside, he proceeds to insult most of the gods and goddesses present. Skadi is one of those present. Loki’s exchange with Skadi begins at stanza 49.
You’re light-hearted, Loki; you won’t for long
play with your tail wagging free
for on a sharp rock, with your ice-cold son’s guts
the gods shall bind you.
You know, if on a sharp rock, with my ice-cold son’s guts,
the gods shall bind me,
first and foremost I was at the killing
When we attacked Thiazi.
You know, if first and foremost you were at killing
when you attacked Thiazi
from my sanctuaries and plains shall always come
baneful advice to you
Gentler in speech you were to the son of Laufey
When you invited me to your bed
we have to mention such things if we’re going to reckon up
our shameful deeds.” (Pg 93.)
Then Loki turns to Sif, and thus concludes Skadi’s part. Not only does Loki confess to having a part in Skadi’s fathers death, he also boasts of sleeping with her. Larrington rightly points out in her notes that this claim is not corroborated in any other known source.
Skadi’s last appearance in the Poetic Edda is in the Song of Hyndla. Here she is again listed as Thiazi’s daughter. Thiazi is also said to have “loved to shoot” indicating as well that Skadi’s father was also an archer. (Pg 257)
The Prose Edda
Once again, Lokivinr’s introduction is a fine one.
“Snorra Edda (Snorri’s Edda) or “Prose Edda” was written around 1230 by Snorri Sturluson: a lawyer, politician, and poet from Western Iceland who served in the Norwegian royal court. This book is essentially a manual for skaldic poets, written to keep alive traditional Norse poetry and to make mythological references in those poems intelligible for a contemporary audience.”
However, as Lokivinr also points out, the Prose Edda needs to be taken with a grain of salt, as Snorri took liberties with his sources; “However, scholars also feel that Snorri may have guessed about or created his own myths from other content to explain references which were difficult or obscure, making this source not extremely reliable when it comes to understanding pre-Christian belief.”
From this source comes our most detailed account of Skaði. I will not recount them at length here, as it can be found in many other places on the internet. A couple of links are given in the references below. Also, a very brief version of the story was given above.
The stories in the Prose Edda recount the death of Thjazi, Skadi’s marriage to Njord, and other events as well. Curiously, I find in the Skaldskaparmal, possible other members of Skadi’s family. Thjazi is listed as the son of Oldvaldi, along with two others, Igi and Gangr. These could possibly be the names of Skadi’s uncles and grandfather.
Skadi also appears in Snorri’s Heimskringla, as mother to Odin’s “many sons.” Here is a selection from Northvegr.org, from the Laing translation.
“9. OF NJORD’S MARRIAGE. Njord took a wife called Skade; but she would not live with him and married afterwards Odin, and had many sons by him, of whom one was called Saeming; and about him Eyvind Skaldaspiller sings thus: — “To Asa’s son Queen Skade bore Saeming, who dyed his shield in gore, — The giant-queen of rock and snow, Who loves to dwell on earth below, The iron pine-tree’s daughter, she Sprung from the rocks that rib the sea, To Odin bore full many a son, Heroes of many a battle won.” To Saeming Earl Hakon the Great reckoned back his pedigree. ”
This is another case of information not being corroborated anywhere else that we have sources for. Also, the Heimskringla as a source is focused the historical kings of Norway, not the mythology. It is questionable, on many levels, when it comes to mythology and history.
That concludes my general survey of the sources, each with its respective problems. Yet, this is the oldest known information about Skaði. In the next part of this survey, I will focus on more modern interpretations.
Larrington, Carolyne. The Poetic Edda.