The Lesser-Known Sky Gods
Updated: Apr 18
Bear with me through the first paragraph for a 'business update.' The rest of this article will teach you all about the lesser-known sky gods I write about alongside citations from the sources I got the information from.
From dusk to dawn, day and night - A child's introduction to the Norse deities who travel through the sky to bring darkness and light. Learn all the information I sifted through to create a simple board book for our babies and tots.
I want to start by thanking everyone who helped make the board book, 'Who Is That in the Sky?' become possible by supporting the Kickstarter pre-order campaign. I am missing seven addresses. If you haven't received your books by December 11, 2021, you never gave me an address to ship to. Email me immediately to get this rectified. Now that the business side of the book is out of the way let's move forward to learning about the lesser-known Norse gods of the sky.
It all started with my second re-reading of The Poetic Edda when I noticed there was a deity for the different phases of the day. It was simple information I puzzled together. When I took a look at my summary, I realized how many layers of education it held and wondered why this wasn't already a children's book! I did some research and found more information from other poems. All together, these sources introduce the elements of the day: dawn, morning, day, sun, night and moon and star. Below you will learn about these different elements and their sources.
THE SOURCES Each section is summarized before a direct quote from the source. This read is a bit harder to get through than my others. To help, I summarize the sections of the poems to help simplify things.
Vafþrúðnismál This poem is taken from the Hovamol in the Codex Regius, the Arnamagnæan Codex, The Poetic Edda and The Prose Edda, where Snorri quotes eight stanzas of it in the Prose Edda. His prose text closely paraphrases many others. Stanzas 11-14 of this poem teaches us that the horse Skinfaxi renews the day (draws in the morning) with his bright mane, and Hrimfaxi is the horse that brings the night. Below are the stanzas from the Vafþrúðnismál sourced from Sacred Texts HERE:
Vafthruthnir spake: 11. "Speak forth now, Gagnrath, | if there from the floor
Thou wouldst thy wisdom make known:
What name has the steed | that each morn anew
The day for mankind doth draw?"
12. "Skinfaxi is he, | the steed who for men
The glittering day doth draw;
The best of horses | to heroes he seems,
And brightly his mane doth burn." Vafthruthnir spake:
13. "Speak forth now, Gagnrath, | if there from the floor
Thou wouldst thy wisdom make known:
What name has the steed | that from East anew
Brings night for the noble gods?"
14. "Hrimfaxi name they | the steed that anew
Brings night for the noble gods;
Each morning foam | from his bit there falls,
And thence come the dews in the dales." Vafþrúðnismál, stanzas 24-25 - Here we learn the father of day (Dagr) is Dellingr (dawn), and Nor brings the night. The moon (Mani) was created to help humans tell time.
24. "Third answer me well, | if wise thou art called,
If thou knowest it, Vafthruthnir, now:
Whence came the day, | o'er mankind that fares,
Or night with the narrowing moon?" Vafthruthnir spake:
25. "The father of day | is Delling called,
And the night was begotten by Nor;
Full moon and old | by the gods were fashioned,
To tell the time for men." Gylfaginning
This prose poem teaches us all about Dellingr, Nott, the sun and Sol, the moon and Mani, and their horses. We learn that Sol and Mani were named after the sun and moon and why they are in charge of steering the sun and moon. Below I quote stanzas 10-11 from the translation by Arthur Gilchrist Brodeur. If you don't have The Prose Edda book, you can follow the translation by Carl E. Anderson, whose material is provided free by Harvard University HERE.
10. "Norfi or Nari is the name of a giant who dwelt in Jotunheim: he had a daughter called Night; she was swarthy and dark, as befitted her race. She was given to a man named Naglfari; their son was Audr. Afterward, she was wedded to him, that was called Annarr; Jord was their daughter. Last, of all, Dayspring had her, and he was of the race of the Aesir; their son was Day: He was radiant and fair after his father. Then Allather took Night and Day her son, gave them two horses and two chariots, and sent them up to the Heavens to ride around the Earth every two half days. Night rides before with the horse named Frosty-Mane, and each morning he bedews the earth with the foam from his bit. Day's house is called Sheen-Mane, and he illuminates all the air and the Earth from his mane." 11. Then said Gangleri: 'How does he govern the sun's course or of the moon?" Harr answered: "A certain man was named Mundilfari, who had two children: they were so fair and comely that he called his son Moon and his Daughter Sun and wedded her to the man called Glenr. But the gods were incensed at that insolence and took the brother and sister and set them up in the Heavens; they caused Sun to drive those horses that drew the chariot of the sun, which the gods had fashioned for the world's illumination from that glowing stuff which flew out of Muspellheim. Those horses are called thus: Early-Wake and All-Strong; and under the shoulders of the horses, the gods set two wind-bags to cool them, but in some records, that is called 'iron-coolness.' Moon steers the course of the moon and determines the waxing and waning." Skáldskaparmál This poem can be found in The Prose Edda as well. In my book, I added Aurendil (AKA Aurvandill the Valiant) from Skáldskaparmál as a star that reintroduces the day cycle. Here we learn of Thor going to Aurendil's wife to get a hone taken out of his head. His wife is the witch Gróa. As she is casting the incantation, Thor feels the hone loosen. Feeling hopeful for her work, Thor rewards Gróa by telling her that he carried Aurendil in a basket through an Icy Stream in Jotunheim. His toe had stuck out of the basket and became frozen. Thor broke it off and threw it into the sky, where it became a star. Then he said it wouldn't be long until Aurdendil gets home. Gróa was so happy that she forgot her incantations. The hone never loosened and still sits today in Thor's head. The Skaldskaparmal can be found on pages 118-19 of The Prose Edda, translated by Arthur Gilchrist Brdeur. Below I quote Part 25: From Gróa Vala by Guden Jonsson HERE (which I further translated to English): Thor went home to Thrudvang, and the hone stood in his head. He came to a Völva, whose name was Gróa, the wife of the brave Aurvandil. She cast her spell on Thor to free the hone. When Thor felt it loosen, he thought the incantation would surely reach the brain. He wished to reward Gróa for the work and make her rejoice. He told the news that he waded north over Elivaga, carrying Aurvandil northwards from behind him, Jötunheimar. One of his toes had protruded from the man, and it was a freak, so Thor broke off and threw it into the sky and made it a star called Aurvandilstá. Thor said it would not be long before Aurvandill would come home, but Gróa was so glad that she would stop her magic. The hone did not become looser and still stands in Thor's head, and it is offered as a precaution to never again cast a hone over the floor; on the contrary, for then the hone stirs in Thor's head.
After finding all the information above, I put it in its most basic form to introduce children to these deities without exaggeration. Dellingr and his horse glow to bring the dawn. Dagr and his horse is bright enough to bring the day. Sol pulls the sun with her horse which shines brightly for the afternoon. Nott brings the dark evenings to the sky with her horse. Mani pulls the moon through the night sky, and Aurendil is the star that shines brightly to reintroduce the beginning of the book and therein the cycle of the day.
Don't forget to take advantage of the free 'In The Sky?' printables HERE.
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