Gefjon – Dancing up the ladder you made

Posted: September 9, 2014 in Aesir & Asynjur, Gefjon, Handmaidens, Jotnar
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Gefjon – Dancing up the ladder you made
Norse Goddess
Name means “The Giving One.”

Gefjun ploughing off an island with her four oxen sons

‘The fourth is Gefjon; she is a maiden, and women who die unmarried serve her.” Also spelled Gefion (anglicized) and Gefjun (Old Norse).
Note: It makes more sense to interpret ‘maiden’ as ‘unmarried woman’ or ‘independent woman’ than as ‘virgin’, considering she has four sons.

Gefjon’s Origin

Imagine you were a working class woman who dreamed of becoming a Goddess in a new land — a barefoot graduate of the “school of hard knocks” who’d left home with a single brown dress to her name, a strong lass skilled only in ploughing fields for a father who’d already promised you away in marriage. “Your dreams are impossible,” he’d tell you, “be content with your lot in life. You’re a farmer’s daughter. You’ll marry a farmer, plough his fields and bear him sons. Be reasonable.”

But what if you weren’t reasonable? What if you decided to leave home and walk all the way up to Asgard from your home in… Jotunheim. Ah yes, there’s the rub. You’re also a Giantess and the lily-white Aesir don’t care much for your proud race, except for a night of fun or to mother a son for Asgard. Those of the White Land atop the World Tree Yggdrasil have little interest in your big boned beauty, mighty shoulders and powerful hips envied by many women in your homeland — dark skinned from working fields in the sun, clever at the market, cunning in haggling, but possessed of no special powers aside from exceptional stubbornness. They seemingly prefer fragile fair-haired women that might break like saplings under a strong wind, strange as that may be.

Gefjon’s Story

Gefjon is the only one among Frigga’s Court with a full story in the lore. It serves to frame the entire telling of Gylfaginning in Snorri’s Prose Edda. Below is the summary of her story (expanded by personal gnosis) called Running Up the World Tree. I suggest you read the full story first or just jump to the Suggestions For Honoring Gefjon, as what’s below has all the spoilers. If you just want the summary, this is it:

Gefjon reached Asgard, trading hard work for passage aboard Vanir ships, for food and for shelter. Odin was curious enough to meet the foolish Giantess who would be a Goddess.

“What powers have you? What skills? What riches?” he asked, but she had none.
She offered to farm the lands of Asgard, to reduce their dependence on Vanaheim for food.
“We are Gods and heroes,” he laughed, “not peasants playing in the mud.”
“What if I bought some land in Asgard,” she asked.
“With what? You have nothing to offer us.”
“What do you want, great Odin? What do you desire to pay for this land?”
He dismissed her but she pressed on and finally said: “I want land in Midgard, as much as fast horse can cross in a day and a night’s riding. Give me this and I shall give you land to muck about in Asgard.” He knew it couldn’t be done… but still, either she would go away, or he would get what he desired. Always shrewd in bargains, the Allfather couldn’t lose.
Deflated, she despaired as he left her with shattered dreams on the docks. She might even have given up if it hadn’t been for Njord’s encouragement. The Father of Ships saw in her something rare: a Giantess willing to work peacefully with the Aesir, a business woman and bringer of plenty. He gave her counsel, and she formed a plan.

She returned to Vanaheim and worked a season to purchase a green dress fit for a princess. Then in Jotunheim she had four sons with the man she was promised to. From there she went with her fine dress to woo a king in Midgard, first with seductive dancing and the clatter of ankle bells, then more privately in his chambers. For that entertainment, he promised her a boon. She asked for as much land as she could plough in a day and a night, and he agreed. Yet he did not know of her four sons who could become giant oxen, and with them she ploughed an island off the king’s land (that island is Zealand, where Copenhagen is located in Denmark).

Odin was surprised to get his land, to say the least, and she was given fields in Asgard. Yet none of the Gods cared for the plough, nor the heroes for the fields. Freya was sympathetic but her chosen dead in Sessrumnir were no more interested, and Gefjon couldn’t farm that much land by herself. A lesser woman would have been satisfied with living in proximity to the Gods at the top of the world. She was not yet a Goddess, nor had she solved Asgard’s dependence on Vanaheim’s crops for food beyond what mortals offered to the Gods. That would leave her as Asgard’s token Giantess, living proof of Aesir tolerance toward “lesser beings”. It was amid taunts and ridicule that she left, reminding Heimdall she was a citizen now and claiming the right to use the Rainbow Bridge Bifröst to reach Midgard. None were sorry to see her leave, save the Vanir among them, Freya, Frey and Njord, for they too valued the wealth of the land.

Much time passed before she returned afoot with a veritable army of women, all of them dead, courtesy of Hela’s unexpected generosity.

“They are my people,” she patiently told Heimdall, “Odin said he would allow any who so wished to join me in working the land. Here they are, all willing,” she said ever so sweetly, “so please let us pass and we will be about our business.” Odin recognized Hela’s snub, but could do nothing. Having abducted the Death Goddess and her siblings in their youth, there was no love between them. Queen Frigga was impressed and invited Gefjon to become part of her court, finally to become one of the Asynjur Goddesses. And to Gefjon’s estate go unmarried women willing to work the land in their afterlife.

Meeting Gefjon

Gefjon comes across as a jovial woman who likes to work hard and party hard while having fun with both. She is dark skinned, brown haired, big-boned and very sensual, though she also has an Asa aspect that is skinny, blonde, fair-skinned and graceful — the stereotype of the frail princess, movie star and beauty queen rolled into one — which she uses as needed or to make a point about social expectations (sometimes she fills in for Freya). In both shapes she is Goddess of Dance, as well as of raising your position, breaking the “glass ceiling” which women and other groups face in achieving their dreams. She looks kindly upon working class women as well as those facing prejudice in rising through the ranks of an organization — be it because of gender, ethnic background, or other reasons.

Suggestions for Honoring Gefjon

  • Colors: Brown for land and hard work, green for trade and business, white for Asgard and administration. Sky blue and cloud white (Frigga’s colors).
  • Symbols: A plough, ankle bells, bare feet.
  • Altar Suggestions: A miniature plough, four oxen figurines, three doll dresses (one in each of her colors), ankle bells, a figurine of an exotic dancer (or gypsy) in green or an elegant dancer in white (perhaps a ballerina), a tambourine, a container of fertile soil (kept moist), a list of your life dreams.
  • Music: Dancing music! But no songs about a woman needing a man, she detests that (expect gagging sounds if you play those for her). She also loves drumming. Play music for her that makes you want to tap your foot or sway your body to the beat.
  • Herbs: Sorrel, Barley, Beans, Broom, Burdock, Dandelion, Daisy, Lambsquarters, Oats, Thistle.
  • Runes: Gefion’s name means “giver,” and so her signifier rune in a reading is Gyfu. With Fehu she sells the harvest of Jera’s work, and Uruz is her bull-headed determination to succeed and Need to prove herself. GFJUN can be made into a bindrune for her. Wynjo can also be used for her as the As-white dancer.
  • Affinity: May, Taurus.
  • Food and drink: She likes hearty meals you can tear off a piece of and eat with your hands. A roast chicken, potatoes and bread does nicely. Whatever came from your garden; porridge; beer, ale, or whatever else is cheap and plentiful. Try putting away the cutlery for her feasts to make it a more sensual experience. You could also go with the Indian or Ethiopian style of eating which uses soft flat bread to scoop up hummus and paste-like dishes.
  • Attunement: Learn how a small farm is run; where your food comes from and how much it costs to reach you; Go for a jog or a walk, do manual labor, play outside — anything that lets you enjoy your body’s strength and stamina. Walk barefoot, be it on grass or floor, and harden your feet. Eat with your hands and enjoy how it feels. Dance for a lover before sex, or go dancing, alone or with friends.
  • Service offerings: Plant a garden and learn how to make it prosper, making sure to eat, share and trade some of your harvest. Support local farmers and try to buy local produce. Learn belly dancing, exotic dancing or any other form of dance. Encourage someone to pursue their dreams, give them good advice and support.
  • Offerings: Buy or make her ankle bells. Dance for her. Choose to walk every day, being mindful of your body, especially legs and feet. Decide not to use a vehicle to run an errand, and appreciate what a gift your body’s mobility is (if you have that much mobility, which not everyone does).
  • Blessings: Success, achieving your dreams, at the cost of hard work and overcoming setbacks; starting your own business, getting your ideas taken seriously, selling yourself to customers (including but not restricted to sex work — we’re all selling some part of ourselves); inspiration in dance and agriculture; patience and stubbornness; support from women’s communities. She offers help in dealing with racial discrimination, integrating into a new social group or workplace, and body image issues — especially for bigger women and when the problem is what others think of you (when it’s what you think of yourself, anorexia, or believing your body is hideous, Syn may be more helpful). She is also good to pray to when you have a difficult relationship with food.
  • Contra-indicated: Shoes on her altar (those are Fulla’s symbol) except dance shoes, as she prefers to be barefoot; mirrors or symbols of prestige and privilege that were not earned through hard work (unless they are made ridiculous in some way). And by all the Gods, don’t serve her beef (remember her children are oxen).

Suggestions for Organizations to Donate to in Her Name:

  • Grameen America ( Helping women start small businesses with micro-loans and training.
  • Thistle Farms ( For getting out of sex work, sexual abuse and addiction.
  • International Sex Worker Foundation for Art,Culture and Education ( An organization run by sex workers for sex workers (Gefjon apparently supports both sides of the sex work debate, letting sex workers make their own choice about the kind of help they want to get).

A prayer to Gefjon:

“Brown Gefjon of the plough, may I be steadfast — working for what I want.
Green Gefjon of deals, may I find cunning — trading fairly for what I need.
White Gefjon of bells, may I dance my worries away — being true to what I am.
Ever may I strive in my goals — and dreams!
Whoever says it can’t be done — take a hike!
Or I shall make them smell my feet — and faint!”

(If you’re sniggering at the thoughts of your naysayers passing out, you’re in the right mindset for this prayer)

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  1. Fantastic. As always. 🙂 I really resonate with an “own your shit” kind of air about her, from my own dealings with her…”doing”…

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Teka Lynn says:

    Hail Gefjon and her sturdy sons!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. sonyjalerulv says:

    Filling in for Freya eh? Interesting….
    Following your suggestion, I read the story first. Thank you for doing this. Your stories and shrines are really making Frigga’s Handmaidens come alive.


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