Wednesday, November 23, 2011


In Norse Mythology Sif is the wife of Thor and as such one could justifiably expect her to hold a high position among the Asynjur. To the contrary Sif is bearly mentioned in the Eddas. In Snorri Sturluson's 'Gylfaginning' she is not even mentioned in his list of the Norse Goddesses. Sif's name means 'relative', presumably an abbreviation of 'wife of Thor' and on this evidence some historians consider that she was invented by the late pagan poets to fill a gap in the Aesir's family tree.

However two myths survive which suggest that Sif had a more important role than simply an ornament in Bilskirnir. In 'Skaldskaparmal' (The language of Poetry) Snorri Sturluson explains why the kenning 'Sif's Hair' is used in place of the word gold. In this famous tale Loki cut off all Sif's hair for a joke but Thor became very angry and threatened to kill him. To save his own life Loki promised to get the black elves to make Sif a magical wig which would grow like her own hair. Loki succeeded in obtaining the gold wig and by trickery managed to commission many treasures including the hammer Mjolnir and the spear Gungnir. If this kenning was well established in Snorri's time it suggests that this tale is of some antiquity.

The cutting and restoration of the golden hair suggests a representation of the corn harvest, a golden crop which is cut and grows anew. If one was to read between the lines even further Sif would become a fertility goddess, similar to Demeter of classical legend. There is however a further concept to consider. It is common in early polytheistic religions for a sky god to be coupled with an earth goddess so that the two together bring fertility. Thor is the most obvious sky god among the Aesir and lightning was believed to make the fields fertile. It would therefore make sense for the remnants of the sky/earth union to exist in the marriage of Thor and Sif. It is worth remembering that the last vestige of the Earth Mother in Norse Mythology, Jord, is only mentioned in connection with her son Thor. On this evidence I consider it safe to assume that Sif is a fertility goddess, although it is unlikely that she was actively worshipped during the late Viking period.

In the second myth Sif takes a more active part. In Locasenna from the Elder Edda, Loki returns to the god's banquet after being banished for killing one of the hosts servants. Eager for revenge Loki insults the gods and goddesses, accusing the men of being cowards and the women of being flirtatious (including Gefjion goddess of virgins!). In the poem Sif approaches Loki with a mead cup saying that as she is being civil towards him, he can say no evil against her. In return Loki calls her a 'man hating woman' and accuses her of making Thor a cuckold. Whether Loki was supposed to be spreading lies or referring to lost myths is unclear, but it is interesting that Sif takes a major role in this tale when she is mentioned so little elsewhere.

Sif is described as the mother of the god Ull in several sources and he is definitely not numbered among Thor's children. Why this reference exists is a mystery, either a myth once existed to explain Ull's birth or Snorri and his colleagues were equally confused by this reference after several hundred years of Christianity.

A passing mention is made to Sif in Snorri's Skaldskaparmal where the giant Hrungnir threatens to kill the gods and drag off Freyja and Sif to his own home. Freyja is often included in the myths as being highly desirable to the giants but it is the only such reference to Sif. Freyja and Sif are both noted for their great beauty and Ellis Davidson has suggested that they are manifestations of the same goddess. I consider this to be highly unlikely as they belong to different households among the gods, the Aesir and the Vanir. These probably resulted in a merger of two different tribes of similar religions, long before the Viking Age. Far greater confusion exists over the attributes of Frigga and Freyja for the same reason.

More evidence for a cult of Sif survives in the old Lapp religion which was recorded in the seventeenth century. The Lapps worshipped a thunder god called Hora Galles, a corruption of the Norse 'Thor Karl' meaning 'Old Man Thor'. Hora Galles had a wife called Ravdna, a name which seems to be borrowed from the Norse word 'raun' the rowan tree. The Lapps believed that the red berries of the rowan were sacred to Ravdna. The use of Norse words among the Lapps is surely evidence that they were originally titles of the equivalent Norse deities. This is supported in Thor's case as the Scandinavians have used the expression 'the Old Man's out riding' to describe thundery weather to this century. The rowan is also held sacred to Thor and was named 'Thor's Salvation' as he was said to have been saved from drowning by grasping a rowan branch. It is also interesting to note that Thor's sacred colour red is also sacred to Ravdna.

Sif appears to have partly filled the gap left by the Germanic earth goddess, Nerthus. She was possibly worshipped on a small scale as a patron of the harvest but to a lesser extent than Frey and Thor.

Poetic Edda, Snorri Sturluson, Trans. A Faulkes.
Poems of the Elder Edda, Trans. P Terry.
Myth and Religion of the North, Turville-Petre.
Scandinavian Mythology, H R Ellis Davidson.
Dictionary of Northern Mythology, Rudolf Simek

From: here
In Norse mythology, Sif is a goddess associated with earth. Sif is attested in the Poetic Edda, compiled in the 13th century from earlier traditional sources, and the Prose Edda, written in the 13th century by Snorri Sturluson, and in the poetry of skalds. In both the Poetic Edda and the Prose Edda, Sif is the wife of the god Thor and is known for her golden hair.

In the Prose Edda, Sif is named as the mother of the goddess Þrúðr by Thor and of Ullr with a father whose name is not recorded. The Prose Edda also recounts that Sif once had her hair shorn by Loki, and that Thor forced Loki to have a golden headpiece made for Sif, resulting in not only Sif's golden tresses but also five other objects for other gods.

Scholars have proposed that Sif's hair may represent fields of golden wheat, that she may be associated with fertility, family, wedlock and/or that she is connected to rowan, and that she may appear or be referenced in the Old English poem Beowulf.


The name Sif is the singular form of the plural Old Norse word sifjar. Sifjar only appears in singular form when referring to the goddess as a proper noun. Sifjar is cognate to the Old English sib (meaning "affinity, connection, by marriage") and in other Germanic languages: Gothic language sibbia, Old High German sibba, and German sippe. Sifjar appears not only in ancient poetry and records of law, but also in compounds (byggja sifjar means "to marry").[1] Using this etymology, scholar John Lindow gives the meanings "in-law-relationship", scholar Andy Orchard provides "relation", and scholar Rudolf Simek gives "relation by marriage".[2]

Poetic Edda

In stanza 48 of the Poetic Edda poem Hárbarðsljóð, Hárbarðr (Odin, father of Thor, in disguise) meets Thor at an inlet of a gulf. The two engage in flyting, and Hárbarðr refuses to ferry Thor across the bay. Among numerous other insults, Hárbarðr claims that Sif has a lover at home. In response, Thor says that Hárbarðr is speaking carelessly "of what seems worst to me" and also lying.[3]
Lokasenna (1895) by Lorenz Frølich.

In stanzas 53 and 54 of the poem Lokasenna, after pouring Loki a crystal cup of mead during his series of insults towards the gods, Sif states that there is nothing Loki can say only in regard to her. In response, Loki claims that Sif has had an affair with him:

Then Sif went forward and poured out mead for Loki into a crystal cup and said:

Welcome now, Loki, and take the crystal cup
full of ancient mead,
you should admit, that of the children of the Æsir,
that I alone am blameless.

He took the horn and drank it down:

That indeed you would be, if you were so,
if you were shy and fierce towards men;
I alone know, as I think I do know,
your love beside Thor,
and that was the wicked Loki.[4]

Sif does not respond, and the exchange turns to Beyla.[5] Sif is additionally mentioned in two kennings found in poems collected in the Poetic Edda; Hymiskviða (where Thor is referred to as the "Husband of Sif" thrice[6]), and Þrymskviða (where Thor is once referred to as "Husband of Sif"[7]).

Prose Edda

In the Prose Edda, Sif is mentioned once in the Prologue, in chapter 31 of Gylfaginning, and in Skáldskaparmál as a guest at Ægir's feast, the subject of a jötunn's desire, as having her hair shorn by Loki, and in various kennings.

Sif is introduced in chapter three of the Prologue section of the Prose Edda; Snorri's euhemerized account of the origins of Norse mythology. Snorri states that Thor married Sif, and that she is known as "a prophetess called Sibyl, though we know her as Sif".[8] Sif is further described as "the most loveliest of women" and with hair of gold.[8] Although he lists her own ancestors as unknown, Snorri writes that Thor and Sif produced a son by the name of Lóriði, who "took after his father".[9] Lóriði is attributed an extended genealogical list of descendants, including figures such as Godwulf and Odin (though outside of this continuity Odin is described as the father of Thor).

In chapter 31 of the Prose Edda book Gylfaginning, Ullr is referred to as a son of Sif and a stepson of Thor (though his father is not mentioned):

Ull is the name of one. The son of Sif, he is the stepson of Thor. He is so skillful a bowman and skier that no one can compete with him. He is beautiful to look at, and is an accomplished warrior. He is also a good person to pray to when in single combat.[10]

As reported in the Prose Edda book Skáldskaparmál, Thor once engages in a duel with Hrungnir, there described as the strongest of the jötnar. Prior to this, Hrungnir had been drunkenly boasting of his desire to, amongst other things, kill all of the gods except Freyja and Sif, whom he wanted to take home with him. However, at the duel, Hrungnir is quickly killed by the enraged Thor.[11]

Further in Skáldskaparmál, Snorri relates a story where Loki cuts off Sif's hair as a prank. When Thor discovers this, he grabs hold of Loki, resulting in Loki swearing to have a headpiece made of gold to replace Sif's locks. Loki fulfills this promise by having a headpiece made by dwarves, the Sons of Ivaldi. Along with the headpiece, the dwarves produced Odin's spear, Gungnir. As the story progresses, the incident leads to the creation of the ship Skíðblaðnir and the boar Gullinbursti for Freyr, the multiplying ring Draupnir for Odin, and the mighty hammer Mjöllnir for Thor.[12]

Sif also appears in Skáldskaparmál listed as a heiti for "earth",[13] appears in a kenning for a gold-keeping woman,[14] and once for Hildr.[15] Poetic means of referring to Sif calling her "wife of Thor", "mother of Ullr", "the fair-haired deity", "rival of Járnsaxa", and as "mother of Þrúðr".[16]

From: Wiki
Sif is the Norse Goddess of the grain, who is a prophetess, and the beautiful golden-haired wife of Thor. Thor is the thunder God and frequent companion of Loki, as He makes the perfect patsy, being not too bright. Sif is of the elder race of Gods or Aesir. She is a swan-maiden, like the Valkyries, and can take that form.

By Her first marriage to the Giant Orvandil, Sif had a son named Ullr ("the Magnificent"), who is a god of winter and skiing. By Her second husband Thor, She had a daughter, Thrudr ("Might"), a Goddess of storm and clouds and one of the Valkyries, and two sons, Magni ("Might") and Modi ("Anger" or "The Brave"), who are destined to survive Ragnarok and inherit Mjollnir from Thor (though some say the Giantess Jarnsaxa "Iron Sword" is their mother).

Sif is famous for Her very long, very golden hair. One night, Loki, who just couldn't resist a little chaos and mischief, snuck into Her chamber and chopped it all off. A sobbing and horrified Sif went straight to Her husband, who in His rage started breaking Loki's bones, one by one, until finally He swore to make the situation right.

So Loki went to the dwarves and persuaded them to make not only a new head of magic hair for Sif from pure gold, but also a magical ship and a spear. But Loki could not resist pushing His luck, and made a wager with two other dwarves, Brokk and Sindi, daring them to make better treasures. Loki was so sure of the outcome that He had let His own head be the prize. Underestimating the dwarves' skills (or the depth of their hatred for Him), He suddenly realized with a shock that Brokk and Sindi were winning! In desperation He changed Himself into a horsefly, biting and pestering the dwarves while they worked. In spite of this they managed to produce several treasures, the most famous of which was Mjollnir, Thor's Hammer.
The Gods were then called to arbitrate and declared Brokk and Sindi the winners. Loki promptly disappeared. When He was tracked down He was again given to the dwarf brothers, but this time Loki agreed, yes, they had a right to His head, but the wager had said nothing about His neck. Frustrated with this "logic", the dwarves had to content themselves with sewing His lips shut.

The new head of golden hair was given to Sif, where it magically grew from Her head just as if it were natural. Her golden hair is said to represent the wheat of summer that is shorn at harvest-time.

From: here
Goddess of corn and fertility(?). She was goddess with beautiful golden hair. Not much is known about Sif. Sif was possibly a Vanir goddess originally, like the goddess Freyja.

Sif was the wife and consort of Thor. She had a son named Ull.

Originally, Sif was probably a prophetess known as the Sibyl, which Snorri Sturluson mentioned in the prologue of the Prose Edda. This Sibyl married Tror (Thor), who she had met in the realm of Thrace, which Sturluson called Thrudheim. If this is truly the case, then she became the goddess of prophecy and divination, though in the usual Norse mythology, she doesn't appeared to have any gift with divination.

One story told about her, tell how Loki had cut off her hair as practical joke. In a rage, Thor would have bash Loki to death, if the trickster did not restore Sif's hair.

Loki went to the dwarves, sons of Ivaldi. The dwarves made a wig with hair made of finely spun gold. The magic in the wig, allowed the gold to grow like natural hair. The gift was only just one of several that the dwarves had made for the gods.

From: here
Other Sites:
Odinic rite for Sif & Thor

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