Runic Art: 'Gods' Series by Thorskegga Thorn. [Under Copyright]Epona
Epona is the goddess of horses. She was adopted by Roman calvalry and charioteers, the only Celtic deity to gain Roman converts. Hence her name appears in Roman script.
Epona's symbols are the horse, dog, bird and cornacopia (fruit filled horn). The background shows the Uffington chalk horse from England which may have been carved in her honour.[You must be registered and logged in to see this image.]Bygvir
Bygvir is one of the two servants of Frey, his name means barley. The ale bowl, the yarrow, the hops refer to the art of brewing. Early brewers stirred the ale with a broom and left the broom out in the air for natural yeast to form. The broom above a door became the mark of a brewer and one of England's earliest pub signs. Pigs like barley too and they are one of the most prominent symbols of the Vanir gods and goddesses (Frey's household). Bygvir's partner is Beyla, an uncertain name meaning cow or bee.[You must be registered and logged in to see this image.]Frey
For an explanation of the symbolism, the ship, boar and sword are Frey's treasures mentioned in the myths, all of which can be seen as symbols of battle, while the boar also has strong fertility connections. An antler was used by Frey to defeat the giant Beli. The stars are Ursa Major, 'the wain', the wagon being another symbol of the god. As god of weather and fertility Frey can claim the oak tree along with Thor, especially as the wood is much used in shipbuilding and boars eat acorns. The sword bears the Anglo Saxon rune which is named after him. The harp is not typically associated with Frey but is added as a symbol of wisdom. The courting couple are copied from the border of the Bayeau Tapestry.[You must be registered and logged in to see this image.]Dragon of the Mound
This dragon has been taken from the famous Beowulf epic. The dragon that kills the heri is the guardian of the burial mound, or perhaps even the spirit of the deceased guarding his treasure. Beowulf's adversary invokes the image of the Nidhogg, the great beast of the underworld which devours the corpses of the dead, who would also inhabit the burial hall.
The skulls and the Anglo-Saxon 'Ear' rune (meaning the 'grave') are both symbolic of death and the afterlife.[You must be registered and logged in to see this image.]Heimdall
Heimdall gaurds the rainbow bridge that links Earth and Asgard in Norse Mythology. He is said to have the sight of an eagle hence the eagles on his shield. A poetic kenning describes a sword as 'Heimdall's head'. The bear and seal in the top corners refer to Heimdall's battle against Loki over Freya's necklace Brisingamen.
The three young men are Heimdall's children, the fathers of the three classes of men. The runes remind us that Heimdal is also the teacher of mankind and entrusted the knowledge of runes to the ancestor of the highest class.[You must be registered and logged in to see this image.]Loki
Loki the unrepentant cross dresser and shape-changer is shown as both male and female, with Odin's horse Sleipnir, the child of his most famous female role. Around him are the treasures he procured for the gods, Sif's hair, Thor's hammer, Odin's spear and ring, Freyr's ship and boar. He wears the falcon cloak that he uses to travel between the worlds. The mistletoe was used by Loki to kill the god Balder.
In the top corners, Loki's son Fenris Wolf chases the sun across the sky.[You must be registered and logged in to see this image.]Magni
Magni and his brother Modi are the sons of Thor the thunder god. His name means 'strength'.
He is shown here with the Uruz rune (the ox) and oak leaves.
Magni is the strongest of the gods in the Norse myths. He managed to lift a giant while still a very young child.[You must be registered and logged in to see this image.]Modi
Modi and his brother Magni are the sons of Thor the thunder god. His name means 'anger'.
He is shown here with the Thorn rune and nettles. The eagle is the moodiest of the birds of prey when in capitivity.
At the top a woman offers peace to a warband.[You must be registered and logged in to see this image.]Moon
For an explanation of the symbolism, the lady is Bil, a goddess recorded in the Norse Eddas who corresponds to Jill in the English nursery rhyme 'Jack and Jill went up the Hill'. The Scandinavia version of the story says that two children were stolen by the moon while fetching water. The marks on the moon are the children carrying their bucket between them, hence the bucket in the painting.
In the Norse myths Moon (Mani) is the son of Mundilfari a name meaning 'the one moving according to particular times' surely refering to the phases of the moon, and is probably another name for Mani himself. The corner designs are based on the runic calenders again refering to the passage of time.
Picking a sacred plant for Moon was difficult, but the seed head of the dandelion seems appropriate with its moon like appearance and connection with time in children's games.[You must be registered and logged in to see this image.]Sun
For an explanation of the symbolism, St John's wort is associated with the summer solstice in English folklore, wolves chase the sun across the sky in the Norse myths, while the shield protects the horses from sun's heat. Sun wears a bridal crown to emphasise her golden appearance. The equal armed cross, sun wheel, 's' rune and the sundail are all symbols of the sun.[You must be registered and logged in to see this image.]Njord
Njord is the god of the seashore. He is the father of Frey and Freya the god and goddess of fertility.
He is shown here with herring, gulls and the herb samphire beneath the cliffs of Dover with the Roman lighthouse.[You must be registered and logged in to see this image.]Thor
For an explanation of the symbolism, the hammer and goats should be obvious. Thor's fiery halo is a common motif from late medieval illustrations of the god, the firesteel is a Anglo-Saxon symbol of Thor as the god of fire as is the swastika, the star is Aurvandil. The plant between the goats is the houseleek which is grown on buildings to protect from lightning.[You must be registered and logged in to see this image.]Tyr
For an explanation of the symbolism: The horses at the top are copied from a lost hill figure, the Red Horse of Tysoe, which is often linked to the cult of Tyr. The wolf refers to the Norse myth in which Tyr sacrifices his right hand in order that Fenris the sky wolf can be bound, thus the god is left handed. The cauldren is from the Norse myth of the giant Hymir which is possibly an old myth of Tyr which has been reapplied to Thor. It has been suggested the Anglo-Saxon star name 'irmin' and the Germanic world pillar 'irminsul' are derived from one of Tyr's names. The 't' rune is named after Tyr.[You must be registered and logged in to see this image.]Weyland
Weyland is the divine smith of the English countryside. He is credited with ancient barrows, mazes and chalk figures. His history is told in the Norse myths where he is called Volund. He was crippled by a greedy king and forced to make treasures for his household. The crafty smith planned his escape by making a pair of birds wings. He took a terrible revenge by killing the king's children and making jewels and cups for his captor from their skulls and teeth.
He is shown here standing before Weyland's Smithy, a long barrow that bears his name. Below him is an image of the god Freyr on an Anglo-Saxon style brooch.[You must be registered and logged in to see this image.]Woden
For an explanation of the symbolism, ravens are sacred to Woden as god of battle, myths tell of him learning wisdom through self sacrifice on an ash tree. Woden's magical spear and the riding Valkyrie are also symbolic of power over the battlefield. The crowns are from the tradition of Woden being the father of the English royal family as well as several other royal dynasties. The three horns symbol is from a Scandinavian rune stone and has been attributed to Odin. The runestone is linked to Woden's role as god of the dead. He wears the ring of wealth mentioned in the Norse Eddas.[You must be registered and logged in to see this image.]Beyla
Beyla is one of the two servants of Frey, the exact meaning of her name is not clear, the academics disagree, Simek suggests 'cow' while Dumezil suggests 'bee'. Her partner is Byggvir, his name means 'corn'.
Some regard Beyla as the bee goddess with influence over sweetness (of the culinary variety!, mead and wisdom). In Locasenna Loki insults Beyla (her sole appearance in the Eddas):
''Be quite Beyla! Byggvir's wife
Likes to brew baleful poisons;
No one saw among the Aesir
A servant so foul and filthy,''
The first two lines mirror Loki's attack against Freyja and it is possible that they are both aspects of the same goddess. His other comments are probably a slurr against her low rank among the gods. Beyla is shown here with her mead cauldron, bee skeps and red clover which is one of the best native English bee plants.[You must be registered and logged in to see this image.]Eir
Eir is the goddess of healing from the Norse Eddas.
She is shown here with comfrey, the nine wands used early spells to fight disease, the 'need' rune, the apple and nut symbols of life and a horse rattle for driving off wicked elves.[You must be registered and logged in to see this image.]Freyja
For an explanation of the symbolism, the cats and the boar are the sacred animals of Freyja. The flowers are flax (Norse 'Horn', one of the names of Freyja) while the stars are from the constellation Freyja's Spindle (Orion). The feathers represent Freyja's magical cloak with which she can turn into a falcon. Freyja wears her necklace Brisingamen and as goddess of love is unashamadly naked. The rune staff and the ritual fire show her links with the magical arts.[You must be registered and logged in to see this image.]Frigg
For an explanation of the symbolism, the white orchid is held sacred to Frigg in Scandinavia folklore, as are the herons and heron feather crown. If anyone knows the original source of this folklore we would love to know it. The girdle hanger and crystal sphere in the top corners were worn as status symbols by women in Anglo-Saxon England. The loom is another symbol of womanhood the invokes the Anglo Saxon title for the fairer sex 'peace weaver'. The distaff and spindle are strongly associated with Frigg and may be linked to her knowledge of fate.[You must be registered and logged in to see this image.]Hela
Hela is the goddess of Hel, the dismal land where the dead who are not awarded a place in the halls of Asgard will live until the world's end. Hel is described as a place of misery and decay, at least one academic (Simek) has suggested that this image has been borrowed from Christian belief, and that Hela may not be a genuine heathen goddess.
The Norse literature describes Hela as half decayed, and living in a hall filled with rotten furnishings.
She is shown here with Garn the dog that guards the land of the dead (possible borrowed from Classical mythology?), the shears associated with fate and death, and snakes are a common motif in the Norse Hel.
Monkshood has been chosen for Hela's plant, because it is both one of the most beautiful of flowers and also one of the most deadly poisons. In folklore it is also associated with Cerberus the classical hell hound. Behind her the sun is in full eclispe, a traditional symbol of calamity represented in the Norse myths by the wolf Fenris who constantly attempts to swallow the sun.
The drinking horn shows Hela in the traditional role of the 'horn bearer' welcoming guests to her hall. The sagas describe a pleasant after life underground in the Hall of the Dead, as 'hel' and 'hall' have the same root, maybe Hela once had a more benevolent role, as queen of the afterlife.[You must be registered and logged in to see this image.]Holds
Holda is shown here in her aspect of the housewife/crone. She is shaking her feather bed and the flying feathers full to earth as snowflakes. At the top corners the flax stems and flax wooden flax knives represent Holda's ability to cause lightning.
Apples represent Holda's influence over human fertiliy. She is also beleived to waken the apple trees in the Spring and make them fruitful.[You must be registered and logged in to see this image.]Idunn
Idunn is the goddess of immortality. She looks after the sacred apples that protect the gods and the other folk in Asgard from old age.
Here she is shown amid the trappings of an Anglo-Saxon funeral offering an apple to the spirit of a dead man who appaers in the clouds behind. Her symbols apples and nuts appear in the foreground.[You must be registered and logged in to see this image.]Jord
The goddess Earth appears in the Norse myths as Jord the mother of Thor. Jord seems to be a memory of the ancient middle eastern fertility goddess, the mother of all creation symbolised by corn, snakes, birds, lions and swastikas. There is no evidence that Jord was worshipped in the late Viking Age but her ancient importance and strong connections with the thunder god are frequently shown in Norse poetry.
The poppy (thunder flowers of England) is sacred to both the earth goddess and the thunder god. The rowan is the sacred tree of the Lapp earth goddess Ravdna and is also sacred to Thor. Crosses made of rowan are also mentioned in the Anglo-Saxon field blessing which invokes the fertile union of god and goddess, possibly harking back to the heathen swastika symbol of Thor.
In the Norse myths the serpent Jormungandr encircles the earth with its tail in its mouth, until Thor destroys it during his famous fishing trip (see Thor and the Serpent)[You must be registered and logged in to see this image.]Lofn
Lofn is a goddess of love recorded in the Eddas. She specialises in difficult love affairs and is credited with bringing seperated lovers together.
She is shown here a couple blighted by the class divide, with the tokens of the seperated lovers, the broken tablet and willow leaves. Wearing willow is a common theme of English love songs.
The illustration behind is an Anglised version of the Chinese willow pattern design. In the Chinses story the outraged father chases the lovers over a bridge threatening to kill them, the gods turn them into birds so that they can live together.[You must be registered and logged in to see this image.]Nerthus
Nerthus is the Mother Goddess of the tribes of the Angles who give England its name.
Her image was pulled in an ox cart and was covered so that she could not be seen.[You must be registered and logged in to see this image.]Nott
Nott is the goddess of the night. She is descended from Loki the trickster god whose descendents are said to be dark, we have taken that literally but the Edda's probably meant dark haired. Nott is the mother of the god Dag/Day.
Night is the time of the trolls and the dark elves (dwarves). She holds the dark moon, the time when mortals most feared to travel. Comets are also a sign of calamity. Her horse sprinkles dew from its mouth.[You must be registered and logged in to see this image.]Ran
Ran is the goddess of the drowned. She drags down ships with a net. She is either the wife or daughter of the sea giant Aegir.
She welcomes drowned sailors to her halls providing the can pay her in gold. It was a tradition until recently in England for sailors to wear gold to pay for their burial in case they were lost at sea and washed ashore.[You must be registered and logged in to see this image.]Saga
The goddess Saga is one of the Norse goddesses of wisdom and divination and may be an aspect of Frigg, although Icelandic sources list them as seperate goddesses. Saga has here own hall among the marshes where she is visited by Odin and drinks with him out of gold cups. The nine gold rings are a reference to Odin's ring Draupnir.[You must be registered and logged in to see this image.]Sif
Sif is the wife of Thor from Norse mythology, her name means 'relative' and is connected to the English word 'sibling'. For an explanation of the symbolism, the rowan is associated with Thor's wife in Finland, the shorn hair relates to the myth of Loki cutting it in jest and fetching hair of real gold from the dark elves to replace it, hence the goddesses long golden tresses, the house pillars carved with Thor's image represent the heavenly hall Bilskirnir which they share, the weaving loom is a reference to her knowledge of fate (a tablet loom in this case for braid weaving as the full loom has already been used for Frigg), the cup symbolises kinship and peaceweaving from the tale of Loki's flyting.[You must be registered and logged in to see this image.]Siofn
Siofn is the goddess of love recorded in the Eddas.
She is shown here with honeysuckle and a wedding ceremony with a statue of Freya. The rune Pertho is associated with either joy or sex.
The horn and moon at the top refers to the 'honeymoon' a month in which newly weds drank mead for good luck.[You must be registered and logged in to see this image.]Thrud
Thrud is one of the valkyries and the daughter of Thor the thunder god. Her name means 'power'.
She is shown here with the swastica, an alternative symbol for Thor's hammer (lightning), the herb Datura or Thornapple, an ox the symbol of strength and a Dragon battle standard.[You must be registered and logged in to see this image.]Skuld
Skuld is one of the three Norns (fates) of the Norse myths. She is also a Valkyrie one of the goddesses that influence battle and choose who is to die. She is thus connected with death and the afterlife, hence the symbols in the picture, the memorial stone, the cremation urn, the apple (the food of the immortals) and the welcoming women bearing ale horns well known from ancient images of the afterlife.
She is shown beneath the World Tree which the norns protect. The swan is a symbol of the Valkyries and is a shamanic form of these goddesses.[You must be registered and logged in to see this image.]Verdandi
Verdandi is one of the three Norns (fates) of the Norse myths.
She is shown here beneath the World Tree which the norns protect. She is giving arms to a young prince. The swan is a symbol of the Valkyries who are closely connected with the Norns (see Skuld). The valknut symbol at the top is normally associated Odin by many modern heathens use it as a symbol for the Norns and fate.[You must be registered and logged in to see this image.]Urd
Urd is one of the three Norns (fates) of the Norse myths.
She is shown here among the leaves of the World Tree which the norns protect. She is spinning a life thread, a common theme in European fate myths which is occassionally mentioned in the sagas. The swan is a symbol of the Valkyries who are closely connected with the Norns (see Skuld). The rune staves at the top represent knowledge of the future. Before here is Urd's Well.[You must be registered and logged in to see this image.]Var
Var is the goddess who listens to oaths and ensures that they are kept.
The picture shows two men swearing an oath on a arm ring above a heathen altar. The wooden wands are rune staves recording the oaths. The dragon and snakes are a remindered of the heathen Hell reserved for oathbreakers.[You must be registered and logged in to see this image.]