Norse Goddess
Name means “Towering”

Woman on winged horse

‘The fourteenth is Gná; Frigg sends her on her errands. She has a horse that runs through the air and over the sea called Hoof-Tosser (Hofvarpnir). Once when she was riding, some Vanir saw her riding in the air and one said: “What is flying there, faring there and gliding through the air?”

She answers, “I fly not though I fare, gliding through the air, on Hófvarpnir whom Hamskerpir, gat with Garðrófva.”(1)

From Gná’s name it is said that anything that fares high in the air gnas.’ (from gnæfa, “towering above” ) (2)

 Who is Gna?

Messenger, errand girl for Frigga, what sort of lowly job is that for a Goddess? Certainly, pray to her if you need a letter to arrive quickly and safely, an email to be read and given consideration, or a package to reach you unscathed. If you’re running late, needing to get somewhere on time quickly and safely, she can help you find the best path through traffic. All good things, but do you not also want your prayers heard? Do you need an understandable answers from your Gods and Goddesses, with good “signal clarity” and minimal interference from your ego? She rules communication, both mundane and divine, and that is no small matter! Certainly, the other Handmaidens command great powers in granting love and healing, success and safety, clarity and learning. Yet when you need someone to hear you, understand and respond meaningfully, she is best. If you want her to carry a message, hand write it, pray to her, make an offering and then burn it. 

Dispatcher of the Spirits

You could even call her Goddess of mediumship, as the practice is all about receiving and giving useful messages. In some traditions, a medium is said to be the “horse” a spirit rides to speak with and interact with mortals. Do you know how to tame, groom, and train such a horse, with the skills and stamina for the course she is to run, preparing her to tolerate a saddle without flinching or fear? Do you give her time to run out, stretching and warming her muscles first so there are no injuries during the ride? Can you soothe her so she won’t try bucking the rider off her back? Do you know how to brush away sweat, feed and care for the horse afterward so the experience is positive and becomes easier each time? Gná knows all there is to know about mounts, pets, animal companions and their needs.

Pets and Companions

She loves animals, knows their language, and can help you communicate and care for your pets. Hoof-Tosser is the companion she loves and cherishes above all, considering his advice throughout their adventures, though she loves all horses and everything to do with them. Cats, dogs, rats, mice, guinea pigs, all those we often treat as little humans in fur coats, whom we care for in exchange for companionship are also under her protection. Be warned that she will judge your worth and honor by how you deal with these, and will not take kindly to their neglect. Farm animals (such as goats, pigs, sheep and cows) raised for meat, milk and wool are under another’s protection, but if you start giving them names and considering them part of your family, they’re also Gná’s. She shares some knowledge of veterinary medicine with Eir, at least in the basics of animal health care, breeding and feeding. She also knows much about tending to spirit animals. Her second favorite animal is the mouse, one of which is her trusty dream steed for faring forth at night. Sometimes, it is best to be small and unnoticed, for finding information, in getting past defenses, and listening when no one sees you there. Burrowing creatures know ways into the worlds below and secrets unseen on the surface. Even the smallest and most humble of spirit animals have ways to help and lessons to teach.

Hoof-Tosser is an intelligent stallion who speaks mind-to-mind with her. He sometimes appears as a flat drum with crossbars (much like the Irish bodhran) in her hands, no longer having the ability to take his original humanoid shape. He can gallops on air as if it were solid ground but does not have wings. Hofvarpnir is far more ancient and wise than he appears, and moderates Gna’s impulsive nature with his counsel.

Family

She is daughter to the East Wind — the breath of words — and an Alfar woman. As such, she has relations in Alheim, among the Sky Giants, control over the winds and skill with Alfar glamours. She also has connections with Hel-Maidens, Hela’s death messengers.

While she is a strong and independent woman, she always has a companion at her side to share ideas with. She is very sympathetic to those who suffer loneliness, isolation, and fear abandonment. If you’re stuck in such a place, unable to leave and utterly without friends, she will answer your call. Part of her role is being everyone’s friend, and she may take you in spirit to ride the skies with her.

Romantically, Gna prefers men but also enjoys feminine company. Most of these relationships have been brief affairs while on the road, but she has friends and lovers to return to in each of the Nine Worlds. Some of these relations are strained by her wandering ways.

Speed

Speed is her passion — no one wants a slow messenger! Talking to her on horseback is good, but skating, riding, driving, running, even a brisk walk, will help you achieve the speed you need to reach her. Some talk of elevating your vibrations to talk to spirits and Gods. She calls it speed. It’s in the Sufi’s ecstatic dancing, the mystic’s swaying, the shaman’s convulsions and in the runner’s high. It doesn’t matter how you like to achieve it, just get off your posterior and move! Start acting, putting things in motion, getting where you want to be. Even if you don’t know where that is, get moving anyway. You’ll find something just by going somewhere, anywhere. She can’t stay in one place long, cursed as she is with wanderlust, so go on a road trip adventure in her name. If you can’t run, drum. If you can’t drum, learn breath control. Get your heart pumping, your breath racing, and feel the rush of wind in your face. You think going around in circles is going nowhere? Sunna races through the sky each day as the earth races around the sun each year. We get back to the same place every Summer Solstice, yet everything has changed, including yourself. Should the Earth stop spinning and orbiting the sun, we would die. Motion is life, stillness is death. So if you need to fight inertia and get moving, let Gná inspire you. When you need to journey out of body or pathwalk, she can help shake you loose from this world… if you can reach the right speed to run up the World Tree.

Meeting Gná

Gna appear as a lithe athletic woman with a blonde braid and intense blue eyes. Though taller than most human women, she’s somewhat short for a goddess and may seem barely out of her teens. She often wears riding breeches, leather boots and a sky or royal blue gambeson coat (a diamond-quilted linen armor). While on official messenger goddess business, she wears a white tabard on top showing Frigga’s crest. On her belt may hang a small throwing axe, sometimes used to delay pursuers. She usually comes across as friendly, but may quickly becomes bored without something to do or places to go. When called on in matters of death, she may appear dressed in black, with the quilting done in silver rather than white thread and a short knife at her belt. One side of her can may appear shorn off, with a braid on the other side.

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Suggestions for Honoring Gnà

 Colors: Sky or royal blue, and cloud white (Frigga’s colors). Tan brown, the color of road dust, tanned riding leathers and boots.

Symbol: A horse, woman on a horse, half-human half-animal figures such as centaurs, Sagittarius pendant (even though she’s Gemini).

Altar Suggestions: A horse, winged horse, or horse rider figurine (preferably female); a fairy riding a mouse; miniature skates, car, motorcycle, bicycle, wheels; a spinning toy; a letter envelope, letter opener; crest of a messenger service, horse tail hair, a bone flute, ocarina, or harmonica. A mailbox for the messages you want to send; messenger bag; winged shoes; riding crop; horse tail with a handle (for brushing off concerns that slow you down), wind rose, wind chimes.

Music: Fast songs, songs about horses, racing, dancing, speed, and communication. She’s probably the only Handmaiden who’ll enjoy speed metal and understand all the lyrics! Ride of the Valkyries likely is a good tune to call her with. Likes Ani DiFranco’s music and slam poetry.

Herbs: Stimulants like coffee and guarana. Brain circulation and memory helping herbs that clear “brain fog”, such as sage, periwinkle and rosemary. Herbs that improve blood circulation such as ginger and cayenne; Heather; Mustard; Horseradish.

Weapons: Messenger is a dangerous occupation. She favors projectile weapons, anything that can be said to “fly through the air” to slow pursuers as she makes a quick escape. Dagger. Throwing axes.

Runes: Ansuz as messenger, Raidho for riding and as her signifier for readings, Ehwaz for her steed, Dagaz for understanding, and Os for communication.

Affinity: June, Gemini.

Food and drink: Unless you get her to sit down for a meal, give her offerings that can be eaten one handed at full gallop on a horse. A bowl of hot steaming soup won’t do… unless it’s in a watertight car coffee mug. Water and apples are good, she’ll give them to her horse. If you want her to drink it, it had better be stronger stuff than water though. Again, offering it in a sealed jar is better than in an open glass. She’ll probably drink it when she rests for the night. Wouldn’t want to drink and… ride, would we? She likes all sorts of unusual mushrooms. If you make her a sandwich, add lots of mustard — she loves all sorts of mustards. Pickles are good too. An apple for her horse Hoof-Tosser is appreciated, though he also like strong whiskey… in a wide bowl.

Attunement: See above. Read about the Pony Express and the history of messengers. Read about communication and methods for becoming a better communicator, for matching communication style, mirroring and improving rapport. Learn the ways various animals communicate. Keep an overnight travel bag ready with all your essentials. Trying to talk to her generally works better in motion than in stillness. Talk to the winds, make offerings and befriend them, especially the East Wind. Run, cycle, skate or drive when talking to her, speed makes it easier. Go somewhere unfamiliar and make some new friends.

Service offerings: Get certified as a ham radio operator (providing essential communication in major emergencies); learn Morse code; study sign language; take care of pets while their owners are away; pay for veterinary care or getting pets neutered; report animal abuse; learn about animal training and care, so you can help other pet owners; volunteer or donate to your local animal shelter; volunteer for simultaneous whisper translation at an event (for precise translations of books, see Snotra; Gná’s translations are done ‘on the fly’).

Offerings: The lighter the load, the faster the horse. Give or get rid of things you don’t need, that tie you down to one place, anything that slows and weighs you down. Do you really need all that stuff? If fear and doubt are stopping you, get therapy to work through them. Read her some Shakespeare, she’s fond of his writing.

Blessings: See above. If you don’t know who to pray to, you can ask her to get your message to the one who can best help you. Call on her for help with fears of being alone, friendless, or being trapped with reduced mobility.

Contra-indicated: Cruelty or neglect of any animals, especially pets dependent on human care.

Stories about her: Heartcleft Road. See the Story Index for a list of all chapters.

 

Suggestions for Organizations to Donate to in Her Name:

-SPCA International (http://www.spcai.org/)
-World Society for the Protection of Animals (http://www.wspa-international.org/)
-World Horse Welfare (http://www.worldhorsewelfare.org/)
-Guide Dog Foundation (http://www.guidedog.org/)
Mira (http://www.mira.ca/)

(1) John Lindow interprets Garðrofa as “fence breaker”. Skerpa means “to sharpen, increase.” Ham may refer to the rear part of the knee, home, or a village (as in “hamlet”) in Germanic languages.

(2) from Snorri Sturluson’s Prose Edda, everything below this point is personal gnosis.

This article was created for use as part of an online shrine to the Handmaidens of Frigga on northernpaganism.org. It is based on the author’s personal experience of her over years of devotion, rather than on what little historical lore exists. If you have personal experience of this Norse Goddess or have found an extra bit of lore, I would love to hear about it, even if it completely contradicts my own. The only way to gather corroborated personal gnosis (CPG) is to share our unverified personal gnosis (UPG) so we can find common elements. If the Gods are real independent beings, surely they can talk to us if they so choose. If not, then none of this matters anyway. Should you find the information here unlikely at best, I’d invite you to spend a few months in devotion to her and find out for yourself. 

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Comments
  1. Teka Lynn says:

    Hail Gná and Hooftosser!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Ly says:

    Thanks for this! I’ve found Gna has helped me out greatly in getting messages to hard to reach places, so to speak.
    I’m loving how the story is explaining some of the above things you’ve mentioned. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I have really been enjoying the story, but I also really appreciate this, too – it is really great to know there is Someone in the Norse pantheon Who has a really strong “messenger” role!

    I was running late, possibly too late, for something recently, and as I biked through one of the worst intersections, I threw out a hasty prayer to Gna that I get to my destination on time, and said I’d set up an altar in return. WELL LET ME TELL YOU. I got there with time to spare, faster than I thought literally possible, and after 3 or 4 near-obstacles/near-accidents (with a crow, no less) I had to alter my course around. (and 3 or 4 people at my destination had also had a run of chaos and problems in the preceding half hour or so, too)

    So later I hit the tchotchke aisle of Goodwill to find a suitable figurine for an altar – I figured a woman on horseback would be a likely find, and if not that, I could surely find something else. The first thing that caught my eye was not 1, not even 2, but 3 roadrunner figurines – like the actual bird, not the cartoon character, but I did think how the cartoon character was awfully good at moving fast and avoiding obstacles. One of them was in a pose that suggested it was about to move rapidly, but it had some damage.

    I tried to find a woman on horseback.

    I found 0 anything on horseback. Or anything else that would be similar.

    When I turned to look on another shelf, I came face to face with a fourth, even bigger, roadrunner, gave up on the horse idea, and then gave up on bringing home one of the roadrunner figurines that didn’t have any visible damage.

    Liked by 1 person

    • lofnbard says:

      Ha ha! Yeah, breakneck speed and arriving safely in the nick of time is her specialty, she loves speed! I’ve prayed to her with very good results when I needed to be on time… and Njord to find parking. So you got a road runner for her altar? Seems appropriate. It’s nice when the gods clearly answer. 🙂
      I thought you meant the cartoon… very cool that it’s the real bird. I realized this weekend I had to find which birds belong to each of the ladies so this is a big help! Thank you. 🙂

      Like

      • I was relieved when I got home to look up info about the real birds, and learned that the greater roadrunner (there is also a “lesser”) has the fastest running speed of any bird that can also fly. So there is a reason the cartoon roadrunner is speedy! (They can also strike prey fast enough that they are able to hunt rattlesnakes.) 😀

        Liked by 1 person

      • lofnbard says:

        I also did research since your post. Road Runners are a type of terrestrial cuckoos.

        Cuckoos are the Sacred Bird of Tir-nan-Og (the Celtic paradise, “land of the ever-young” = the Sidhe/Alfar/Fay or land of the blessed dead = Asgard). They are the messengers of the gods and it’s said they enter the fairy mounds when winter comes only to return in spring.

        Most of them don’t build nests, they lay eggs in other bird’s nests — They’re “cursed” never to have a home, and unable to raise their own children. Here’s a cool version of the Cuckoo folktale: http://www.dharma-haven.org/jesa/cuckoo.html

        Elven messenger of the gods who can cross worlds, fly, and has great running speed? I think we have a winner! You just saved me a ton of work and gave me a starting point for finding the other ones. 🙂

        I also thought of the cuckoo clock — Gna can slow time, and even stop it, to reach a destination on time. Plus, the cartoon character is popular enough for her to use it to get our attention. Brilliant.

        Meep meep!

        Liked by 1 person

      • O_O. Wow. That’s really great!

        Like

  4. sonyjalerulv says:

    Ooh I read the story but somehow I missed this. Thank you very much! This was very instructive. Some of what you wrote echoed strongly with me.

    Like

  5. Sarah Z. says:

    Why is Hoof-Tosser described as having an “original” humanoid form when he was born of two horses?

    Like

    • lofnbard says:

      Excellent question. Hamskerpir and Garðrofa are indeed his parents. We assume his parents are horses because he’s a horse, but there is no actual information about them other than this parenting in that quote. We have practically nothing of Gna or of him either, and you’ll notice that everything below note (2) is personal gnosis. The short bit above that is the entire sum of her lore. Now, if you have any other lore you know or personal gnosis to share, I would love to hear it. 🙂

      Like

      • Sarah Z. says:

        None that’s mine – however, I have someone quite close to me who believes through personal Gnosis (she has quite intense visions through what she believes to be her Disir) that the true story is that Hófvarpnir’s parents Hamskerpir and Garðrofa were formally Ljossalfar before they permanently adopted the forms of horses, and that the reason he bears Gna is because they are close cousins. He is a demigod in his own right.

        Liked by 1 person

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