Skadi, Skade, Skathi (Norse), Sceadu (Anglo-Saxon)
Skadi (Skaði) is a female jötunn (giant) and goddess of winter, snow, mountains and the hunt. She is also associated with independence, wilderness and wisdom. Skadi lived in the highest reaches of the snow-covered mountains. She was described as being tall and beautiful with long black hair, silver armour, showshoes, skiis and a bow and arrow.
Her name means ‘shadow’, however could also mean ‘harm’. She is also known as the “snow-shoe goddess”, Öndurguð (“ski god”) and Öndurdís (“ski dís”, often translated as “lady”). Many place names refer to Skadi, particularly in Sweden, and some even say she could be the origin of the name Scandinavia (“Skadi’s Island”).
Many stories in the Poetic Edda, Prose Edda and Heimskringla mention Skadi. She is known as the goddess of justice, vengeance, and righteous anger. It is Skadi who places the serpent that drips venom onto Loki when he was bound underground to face payment for his many crimes.
Skadi is the daughter of Þjazi (Thiazi), who kidnapped the goddess Idunn for her apples of youth. Þjazi was slain by the gods for his actions, and an enraged Skadi set out to take her revenge. She was instead persuaded to marry one of the gods as compensation. None of the gods desired her as a spouse, so they devised a plan where she was only allowed to see the feet of the potential candidates. Hoping it was the handsome god Baldur, Skadi chose the most beautiful pair of feet she could find (it is thought that the bare foot is an ancient Norse symbol of fertility). Instead, the feet belonged to Njord, god of the sea.
Their marriage was an unhappy one, as Skadi preferred to live in the mountains in Thrymheim, while Njord preferred to live in his palace by the sea. Splitting time between the two localities proved unsuccessful, and the pair eventually separated.
Skadi is later associated with the god Ullr, god of winter and skiing. However, Heimskringla mentions she marries Odin and they produced many children together.
Skadi was frequently worshipped by the Norse, and came to be a patroness of winter activities. Some say she could be responsible for inspiring the Hans Christian Anderson’s tales The Snow Queen and The Ice Princess.
Skadi is the embodiment of winter, and given that she is a giantess, her association with the forces of darkness, cold and death are strong. However, she teaches us to be independent and assertive, and could be thought of as a source of inspiration as we struggle in our own darkness.
© The New Pagan (2016)