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Feb. 9th, 2009

I am beginning to pursue relationships with Sjofn, Lofn, and Var. And I keep running into them being handmaidens, but I can never find the actual source of that information. Can anyone point me in the direction of where the list of handmaidens comes from?


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Feb. 10th, 2009 05:28 am (UTC)
I'm just going to copy/paste here from Simek's Dictionary of Northern Mythology (basically its an index of mythologically important deities, people, places, and items in the lore). Of course it's not an index of ALL of the lore, but specifically those pieces sourced from the Norse. Plus it also features some scholarly gleanings and theories thrown in as well on some items and it's always clear what information is from where. Since some of our lore comes from other cultures, it may not sync up with other traditions elsewhere. That's why Odin is the origin of Santa in some places, and its Thor in others, etc. But I also have to say I've seen ALOT of misinformation out there too about our gods. Freyja for instance, isn't the queen of the Valkyrie.

Also, translations vary. So while these goddesses are definitely protective goddesses not quite matrons or disir, some translators see them as being like ladies in waiting to Frigga. They're probably looking at the "court" of the Aesir with Odin as King, Frigga as queen, and all the other deities falling in where it makes sense in that sort of framework. This would also apply to some of the scholars who first penned these tales as the court as they knew it from medieval europe was a form and order more familiar to them then older courts. I wouldn't personally focus on the 'handmaiden' bit. Until about 20-30 years ago, most academic analysis assumed a European colonial or Emperialistic world view (British Empire, French Empire, Spanish Empire etc.) when analyzing the ancient cultures that honored the Aesir, and well it obviously caused some things to be misunderstood.

    • VAR (also Vor, ON, 'beloved') A Goddess in Old Norse mythology. Snorri (GYLFAGINNING 34) relates that she was responsible for contracts between men and women. In this Snorri was led astray by the word "varar" (contracts) into making an etymological interpretation. The meaning "beloved" is highly probably for "Var" (cf. Svolnis Var 'Odin's Beloved' = 'earth' in Eyvindr). Even Snorri's explanation still suggests this. In Pyrmskvida 30 it is Var who dedicates marriage. Thus Var is a goddess of marriage and of love.

    • Sjofn (ON). A goddess whom Snorri (GYLFAGINNING 34) tells that she turns people's senses to love, and therefore love is also known as sjafni. Thus, Snorri interprets this goddess's name etymologically (either from sefi 'sense' or from sefi 'relation'); the few references to Sjofn as a mythical figure in skaldic poetry do not allow any better explanation; accordingly then, Sjofn is a goddess of marriage nad love, or else one of relationships, and is one of several goddesses named by Snorri who are matron-like guardian-goddesses.

    • Lofn (ON, 'the comforter, the mild'). A goddess whom Snorri (GYLFAGINNING 34) lists as one of the Asyniur commenting: "Lofn is so mild and benevolent to pray to that she receives permission from the Father of All (=Odin) and Frigg to bring together men and women whose marriage was previously forbidden. The expression 'permission' (lof)derives from her name. It also suggests that she is much "praised" by men.' Snorri used kennings to compose a short mythical tale, combining several etymologies with the female personal name Lofn. Lofn as a goddess is otherwise only found in the Pulur.

    Anyway the main source to these ladies in the lore is GYLFAGINNING 34 according to whatever specific text Simek was referencing, though I personally find it in section 35 (XXXV) of the GYLFAGINNING.

    So keep in mind as you research, don't always take anyone's word that its true, and always ask yourself, is this an accurate translation? Does it represent the pre-Christian, pre-Medieval world view of this culture?

    Hope that helps!

    Edited at 2009-02-10 05:37 am (UTC)
  • heartofmoon
    Feb. 10th, 2009 03:18 pm (UTC)
    Thanks a bunch!

    I have actually been reading Gylfaginning, and that was what started up my questions about the handmaiden thing. I see it all the time in reference to these three (and the other nine), but had never seen where it came from, because Snorri doesn't list them as such, he lists them in his list of goddesses. And it doesn't make sense to me if they're all handmaidens of Frigg, because I definitely get the sense (from Sjofn at least), that she is closer to Freyja than to Frigg.

    Your medieval court explanation makes sense to me as the source of that list. But the list itself doesn't make sense to me. I don't think deities have to be handmaidens to other deities.
    Feb. 15th, 2009 07:22 pm (UTC)
    Hi, sorry for the belated reply, but here are my notes of Sjofn.

    Sjofn: She who opens the heart

    Snorri, Prose Edda: "Seventh is Sjofn. She is much concerned to direct people’s minds to love, both women and men. It is from her name that affection is called siafni."

    An obscure Goddess, her name may be related to ON sefi, a poetic term which can indicate either a feeling or a family relation

    Paxson: Goddess who inclines the heart to love. Her power extends far beyond the simple attractions of lust and romantic love. When one meditates on her functions, it is clear that she governs the whole web of loving relationships by which women maintain family unity, friendship and community.

    Krasskova: She helps smooth the way for productive interaction between people, not just in love, but in all dealings. She opens the heart so that we may appreciate those relationships which nourish us. She opens the heart of love: be it romantic love or friendship.

    Britt-Mari Nasstrom: Sjofn classified with the “unknown” Goddesses, only mentioned briefly by Snorri or referred to in poetic kennings.

    Sjofn is connected to Var, the guardian of the marriage oath. Sjofn turns men’s and women’s thoughts toward love, which alludes to Freyja’s functions. Her thesis: one Great Goddess is concealed behind these various named aspects of her functions.

    Lunaea Weatherstone exercise:

    Blank index cards, take as many as you need and write down your beloved ones. Can be people, ancestors, Gods, animals, pursuits like art and travel, writing, music, etc.

    Turn cards over, hold them gently in your hands. Close your eyes, breathe deeply and calmly and bless all your loves with gratitude for their presence in your life. When you feel peaceful and centered, mix the cards in your usual way, then lay them face down in a pyramid, one card at the top, then two cards below that, then three cards, and so on till all your cards are laid out. Put any remainders in the bottom row.

    Turn over your top card. This is where your primary love and bliss wish is to be directed right now. Turn over your next two cards: these are your next priorities, in order of the urgency with which your heart’s desire needs to be expressed. Turn over the cards in their turn. Where do you resist the message? Where do you anticipate challenge? Where will you find support and encouragement?

    Meditation question to Sjofn: Show me how I may open my heart.

    Homework: perform an act of loving kindness in Sjofn’s name

    Feb. 15th, 2009 07:26 pm (UTC)
    Here are my notes of Lofn

    She who gives us permission to follow our dreams

    Snorri, Prose Edda: "Eighth is Lofn: she is so kind and good to pray to that she gets leave from All-Father or Frigg for people’s union, between women and men, even if before it was forbidden or refused. Hence it is from her name that it is called lof [permission], as well as when something is praised [lofat] greatly by people."

    Skaldskarpamal: in a kenning for woman: "The spirited Thrud who keeps the mash-tub [woman] cultivates every good quality, and the comber-flame [gold] Lofn, firm in friendship, rejects vices."

    Paxson: Patron Goddess of forbidden love

    Concept of permission important even beyond area of love. Lofn may help us give ourselves permission for all those things that our own mental blocks or society’s opinion discourages us from doing, including developing or exercising our own spiritual power. She is the door to freedom and access to joy, the opener of the way. Her token is the golden key.

    Krasskova: She gives solace in troubled relationships

    Meditation: Ask Lofn to show you the key to your heart’s desire and ask her permission and blessing to unlock this desire

    Meditation question: Show me the key to my heart’s desire

    Feb. 15th, 2009 07:39 pm (UTC)
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