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Gerda and Queenship

I’ve been quiet this month, but I’ve had a lot of offline goings ons – I am teaching regularly at the Raven Faerie, and I have a class Saturday, August 31st from 10-12 on making your own rune set. We also have a psychic fair coming up on September 7th as well. Do ALL the physical work! during Pop’s month is not a huge surprise to me, given that the Vanir are about hard work leading to prosperity. The other pleasant surprise I got was that Mom came around – Gerda.

I have strong feelings about Gerda and Her lessons – she’s an Etin Woman among the Vanir, a stern Queen, and a keeper of healthy boundaries. She’s not a cuddly Mother, but She is fiercely protective of those She loves. I have more in common with Her than just Pop, and having an opportunity to reconnect with Her is a delight, like finding a long-lost relative. Truth be told, when I picked my nom de pagan, I considered the notion of using Heather Gerdasdottir, because not many use their mother's name for the surname *cough* Laufeyson *cough* and because I adore Her. Pop as a surname won out because He has pointed out, rightly, that I do much better with Disir ancestor work than I do with  my Alfar.

And I know some find the courtship of Freyr and Gerda problematic, especially in light of Freyr’s general characterization – He Who has never made a woman cry goes and curses a woman into marrying Him? What? It goes against both our notions of Them as Deities – the notion of subjugating Gerda amuses me; if you meet Her, She is not a shy, pliant maiden. Maria Kvilhaug of Freyja, Lady of Labyrinth has a fascinating take on this in her essay on Freyr and Gerda:

“4.11: The gifts and the threats

“She does not capitulate because he has frightened her, but because she sees some truth in what he says. (…) he has painted the alternative very well.” [15]

A few words on the gifts and the threats that the Maiden receives are perhaps necessary. Steinsland has shown how the gifts: apples and ring, and the wand that Skírnir uses to curse with, all resemble royal symbols that may connect the myth to kingship (and thus sacred marriage).[16]  Näsström, moreover, sees the three methods used to conquer Gerðr as representing the three Indo-European “functions” (as described by Dumezil) in society. Gold and riches represent the “third” function: that of the peasants, the sword he uses to threaten her represent the warrior function, while the magical wand and the curses represent the first, priestly function.[17] The curses are perhaps the most puzzling aspect of the myth: they take up a great part of the poem and are extremely aggressive. But as Ursula Dronke has suggested, Skírnir with his curses is only really summing up what Gerðr may in fact expect if she stays in the Underworld: separation from society, despair and longing, relations only to ogres and the world of the dead. With the curses, Gerðr is shown the two opposite worlds between which she may choose: the world of the dead with its devouring monsters and suffering, and the world of divine life, and love.[18] Also Clunies-Ross has argued that Skírni´s curse “functions to remind Gerðr of what is at stake in her refusal to cooperate.”[19] One image is particularly interesting to this study, since Gerðr, in St. 28, is told that she will be more famous than the guardian of gods, where she is gaping behind the fences of Hel. Thus she is imaged as a guardian of Hel – unless she lets herself be taken out of that realm.”

A few readers familiar with Sacred Queenship may be eyeing this and nodding. If you’d like to read the thesis in its entirety, she’s made it available here:

Kvilhaug’s thesis is a fascinating read in general, and her take on Pop and Mom is more like my personal gnosis, but even if you’re not that interested in Them, she has good stuff on Gullveig and Gunnlod as well.

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Lokean nun, writer, swamp witch. Heather is a Pagan monastic, writer, editor, and mother. She has written and edited for a variety of publications and social media, including science journals, romance novels, and technology blogs. She also holds degrees in education and speech-language pathology, and has a passion for historical linguistics.


  • nolongerhere
    nolongerhere Monday, 18 November 2013

    The Celtic story of Grainne and Diarmuid is relevant to the tone of your quotes. It has similar themes of an opposed love-match (with a gender reversal-- Grainne is the relentless pursuer, and already married unsatisfactorily to a king), which heavily implies to me that the context and understanding of why a "curse" of this type would be employed shifted with time.

    Dolmens-- stone tables-- in Ireland were also called 'Grainne and Diarmuid's beds' with legends attached to them; they often mark ancient grave sites.

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