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Skadi is the huntress and spirit of winter

Skadi (Skade; Destruction) Wintry goddess and daughter of a giant.

Daughter of the Hrimthurssar Thjazzi and wife of Njord, the Vanir god of the sea and of sailors and fishermen. Skadi was the goddess of winter, skiers, and hunters. After her father’s death, she went to Asgard, the home of the gods, to choose a husband from among them. She chose Njord, but she and Njord found that they could not live happily together, for Skadi did not like Njord’s seashore home, Noatun, and Njord did not like the bleak cold of Thrymheim, Skadi’s home.

In the story “Loki’s Punishment”, Skadi placed a venomous serpent over the head of the trickster god. She is the personification of the cold-hearted northern winter that can be touched only briefly by the warmth of the summer sun (Njord) and the cheerful hearth fire (Loki).

Skadi and Njord

In Snorri Sturluson’s Prose Edda, the story of the marriage between Skadi, goddess of winter, and Njord, the god associated with the seas and seafarers, immediately follows “Idunn’s Apples”, in which Thjazzi, Skadi’s father, is killed by the gods after stealing the apples. At the news of his death, Skadi was full of rage. She put on her shining armor and her weapons and strode across Bilrost to Asgard, the home of the Aesir.

The gods were at peace, glad to feel young again now that Idunn was back with her magic apples of youth. They asked Skadi if she would take gold in payment for her father’s death, for such was the custom of the Norse.

Skadi scornfully replied that she had all the gold she needed. When Olvaldi had died, he had left much gold to his sons, Thjazzi, Gang, and Idi, and now she had all of Thjazzi’s share. Instead, she demanded a husband from among the gods.

The gods conferred and agreed it would be wise to let the icy giantess have her way. There was one condition: Skadi must choose her husband by the look of his feet, not by his face. Skadi agreed, but she, too, had a condition. The gods must make her laugh, for she was full of rage and her heart was cold.

The strange bargain was struck, and the gods stood barefoot behind a curtain that hid all but their feet. One pair of feet at once struck Skadi as more beautiful than the rest. They must belong to the beautiful god Balder, she thought. She announced her choice.

Out stepped Njord, the Vanir god, lord of the seas and of seafarers, and the father of Frey and Freya. Skadi was disappointed. Bitterly, she asked the gods to make her laugh.

Loki, the trickster god who had been partially responsible for Thjazzi’s death, had set his quick mind to work as soon as he had heard Skadi’s requests. Now he led forward one of Thor’s rambunctious billy goats, and the two played such lively and hilarious antics that Skadi and all the gods laughed until their sides ached.

As a wedding present for Skadi, Odin took Thjazzi’s eyes from his pouch and hurled them into the heavens, where they shone brightly as twin stars. Njord took his new wife to his home, Noatun, by the seashore. Skadi did not like the sunshine, the sea, the sound of the waves, or the cry of the gulls. Njord then went with Skadi to Thrymheim, her sunless, freezing mountain home, but Njord did not like the howling of the wolves, the wind, the bare mountains, or the terrible cold.

The two tried to divide their time between the two homes: nine days in Njord’s Noatun and nine in Skadi’s Thrymheim. But Skadi spent more and more time in the cold mountains, a dark shape speeding over the snow in her snowshoes, bringing death to wolves and bears from her quiver full of arrows. She is the goddess of skiers and hunters.

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