Rune engraved brass mirror on snow

 

An amazing spiritual discovery at the L’Anse aux Meadows Viking settlement, the “Goddess Mirror” was remarkably well preserved. Made of rune-inscribed brass, it shows the name of twelve Asgardian goddesses who form the court of Queen Frigga in Norse mythology — as listed by Snorri Sturluson in the Prose Edda. Archaeologists have questioned the absence of Frigga’s name on its surface, but have come to the conclusion that the central design of a diamond with four equal arms in a circle is actually the long sought-after symbol for the All-Mother. Dubbed “Frigga’s Eye,” it is believed to stand for her all-seeing gaze that “knows all fate but speaks it not”, as well as representing a double set of arms to embrace all her children. The other side is smooth and seems to have been polished to act as a mirror.

Even more astonishing is that the artifact doubles as a religious calendar, assigning each divinity rulership of a month. This informs us that the worship of goddesses had far more importance in ancient times than was reported by Snorri with his meager two pages as the sum of their lore.

Anthropologists argue for the similarity of this item with so-called “shaman’s mirrors” found in Siberia, and may be the result of cultural exchanges between the Tungus people and Rus-Vikings. If that is so, then this mirror would likely have been used by priestesses to perform blessings as well as to repel evil spirits, using its smooth side to reflect “Sunna’s light” onto devotees.

Appealing as it is, the above story is unfortunately untrue. There are no ancient sky goddess symbols that survived to our time. Two pages of the Prose Edda by Snorri are all we have on the twelve goddesses of Asgard, whom he says are no less powerful than the Aesir gods. Often called “Frigga’s Handmaidens,” they have about a sentence or two as the sum of their lore. The guys who wrote down those ancient stories just weren’t that interested in women’s stories, unless they prominently featured men or male gods. The ones we have stories about are all married: Freya, Skadhi, Gerda, Frigga, Idunna, Sif, Nanna, Sigyn, and Sunna. Oh, and we also know some about the ones Odin seduced or raped, like Rind and Gunnlod, but they’re not usually considered goddesses.

The unmarried ones of Frigga’s court get nada, save Gefjon who performed a great service for Odin. This leaves modern Heathen women like myself in a bit of a quandary. Either we content ourselves with historical crumbs, or board the “U.S.S. make shit up.”

If we’re honest about it, there’s quite a bit of the latter already in modern Heathenry. We don’t have any surviving examples of full religious rituals, just some fragmentary teasers and hints. We makes things up and do the best we can with what we’ve got. So that’s what I did.

I’d thought to make this fake news the opener for my article, because “the more ancient, the more true” is a rule in religion. If you can’t find something ancient, make it up and claim it’s thousands of years old. Trust me, it’s traditional. Examples are abundant, but it’s considered bad manners to point them out.

History of the Asynjur Mirror

I started this project with the search for a religious symbol of my faith. Hearkening back with humor to my days of Dungeons and Dragons, I thought: “Clerics need a holy symbol to cast their spells. What can I use for that?”

Thor’s hammer pendants are common in Heathenry, and were worn during the Christian transition period to signify their faith. Amusingly, a mold was found of hammers and crosses that a jeweler used to sell to both sides. But I don’t really honor the gods much, I’m more about goddesses, so it seemed weird to wield that when praying to Frigga’s court. Lacking historical symbols, I decided to make my own.

But what would be a good goddess symbol? The keyring is a prominent tool that represents women’s control of the household, but it only applies to married women. The Handmaidens are those without husbands, so that wouldn’t work except for Frigga. No good. The distaff and drop spindle are also the quintessential women’s tool, but heavily associated with Frigga and the Norns. While I have a few of them, it didn’t seem like the right thing either. That’s when the idea came that a mirror would be the perfect goddess symbol. I launched into research and started drafting designs. This came after considerable time in devotion to them though, so I should catch you up on how that happened.

The Creation Process : Starting with Hospitality

Years ago, I decided this: what I most wanted was to revive or recreate the forgotten cult of Frigga’s Handmaidens, as spiritual role models for modern women. I didn’t have much to go on, but found inspiration at a conference given by Brendan Myers. He described the historical importance and meaning of hospitality, as well as the specific rules described in The Instructions of King Cormac:

“O Cormac, grandson of Conn”, said Carbery, “what are the dues of a chief and of an ale-house?”
Lights to lamps; Exerting oneself for the company;
A proper settlement of seats; Liberality of dispensers;
A nimble hand at distributing; Attentive service;
Music in moderation; Short story-telling;
A joyous countenance; Welcome to guests;
Silence during recitals; Harmonious choruses.

This struck a chord. Hospitality is one of the major virtues recognized in ADF a Druid Fellowship (of which I was a member for over a decade) and also part of Heathenry’s Nine Noble Virtues. It occurred to me that women-centered rites would likely have focused around the household’s hospitality, rather than the larger Mead Hall where men toasted and boasted. Men went to war and earned much glory, but women ruled the home.

Dumb Suppers

Among rites of hospitality, I found the dumb supper. Eaten in silence, a seat and serving was reserved for an invisible guest. In the middle ages, this was done by young women to discover the identity of their future husband. But in the early twentieth century, we find it was performed to welcome home dead loved ones on All Hallow’s Eve. Ancient Romans had feasts with straw effigies of the Olympians seated at their table. Having supper with spirits was a thing.

Spirit Suppers

Well, I told myself, if they can do that, why can’t I offer hospitality to these goddesses with a seat at my table? I’d had some experience with making deity offerings at my home altar, but it never quite worked out for me. To be crass, it seemed like the food I gave was divine take-out (take-away for you Brits). The offering was accepted but the spirit didn’t stay to chat. I really wanted them to stay and chat, so I could get to know them, so why not do it in the kitchen? Hospitality customs vary, but there are some very specific rules. If you accept, you come. If you come, you stay for the meal.

So in 2010 I started cooking supper for myself and the goddess I invited. My girlfriend and others eventually joined us, and this group became Lokabrenna Kindred.

The Calendar

With twelve goddesses to attend to, I had to figure out a plan. Would I spend a few months with each one? A year? No, that would take too long to get to them all. I settled on hosting once a month, and the goddess calendar was born. At first it was a lunar-solar calendar, with the blue moon dedicated to Frigga. I assigned goddesses to a month by what made sense to me in terms of seasonal mood and themes. That worked pretty well, and I enjoyed the mindfulness needed in keeping track of the moons. The first full moon was to Fulla, and I spent the time from new moon to dark moon communing with her as best I could — picking songs at random in the car for that month’s goddess, for instance, was surprisingly helpful in getting a feel for what she liked.

To make things simpler for my group’s ritual calendar, I later changed it to ignore moons and just have it by month, with a correlated astrological sign. Fulla in January as Capricorn, for instance.

So that’s how it came to be. For a more detailed look at the mirror and how it’s used, check out the next article, Sky Goddess Mirror — Holy Symbol of the Asynjur of Asgard.

Continued in Part 2: Sky Goddess Mirror, The Holy Symbol Instruction Manual!

All comments greatly appreciated.

 

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Comments
  1. Ly says:

    Very interesting article. Beautiful mirror too. All traditions need to come from somewhere.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. caelesti says:

    It’s beautiful! The mirror as a sacred symbol seems to pop up more in Asian religions- it’s associated with Amaterasu, if I remember correctly. Reminds me also of the prayers Raven Kaldera wrote for Frigga’s court that correspond with the Robert Graves tree/moon calendar. (totally not Celtic, but once again it’s modern gnosis that works for some folks!)

    Like

    • lofnbard says:

      Thank you! Mirrors are more *documented* in Asian religions. We have very little idea what Europeans did with their bronze mirrors. Here’s a page full of Celtic mirrors from around the first century C.E. They were produced there up to the Roman conquest: http://celticmirrors.org/

      Yeah, Raven’s Celtic tree calendar is similar and interesting, though I’m not sure if anyone’s actually using it. I’ve been using this one for five years. 🙂

      Like

  3. […] Norse Goddess Mirror […]

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