Mark Neumayer

author of the Valda & the Valkyries series

Tag: Norse myths

Thor’s Hammer

Thor_hammerI’ve been wanting to make some art based on various cool Thor’s hammer pendants that I have been seeing around the web. (This one and some of these, for example.)  I have started and stopped this project a number of times always ending up unhappy with the results. This week I think I finally have it. The base design of the face is mostly a riff on the first link above although I added a good bit of knot work into the mix along with the lightning bolts and one of Thor’s magic gauntlets. I’ll have to leave it to another week to go back and add some better colors and texture to it.

Loki’s Wives

Amazing artwork by Hellanim on DeviantArt

Amazing artwork by Hellanim on DeviantArt

I know that the Thor and Avengers movies, aided by the undeniable charm of Tom Hiddleston, have driven the popularity of Loki to gigantic heights.  I hope I’m not breaking any hearts, however,  when I tell you that Loki is married and had been married more than once. How many wives did Loki have? That gets a little tricky.

His latest wife and the one that stood beside him during his punishment is Sigyn. The Eddas list her as one of the Aesir, specifically calling her Asenjyur which is the goddess form of the Aesir. (The simplest way I have heard of describing the difference between the two groups of Norse gods is that the Aesir tended towards the power/war side of the spectrum and the Vanir tended towards the nature/fertility side.) The sagas also tell us that she is married to Loki. The language is quite clear “Sigyn, Loki’s wife…”She is the faithful wife who catches the poison that drips down from a serpent before the venom can harm her husband. Unfortunately, when the bowl she is using to catch the venom is full she must step away to empty it and Loki suffers incredible torment during those times. This story was fairly widespread and the skaldic poem Haustlong even uses “the burden of Sigyn’s arms” as a kenning for Loki.

Now it gets a little murkier. We know that Loki had three children with Angrboda but she is NOT mentioned as his wife in any references I could find. It is possible they were married at an earlier time period – marriage was not a “til death do us part” thing for the Norse but they also could have just been fooling around with each other. Like the gods of Greece and Rome, the Norse gods had some very human characteristics and were not always the most faithful of mates. Until I see some good research indicating otherwise I am going to operate under the assumption that they were fooling around.

H.A. Guerber made it even more confusing when he wrote “Loki’s third marriage was with Sigyn, who proved a most loving and devoted wife.” The loving and devoted wife part is fine, the part that has me scratching my head is “third marriage.” Especially since Guerber never mentions who the first or second wife were. I even did a word search on Loki and wife and could find no mention of either earlier mate.

While I wish that we had a clearer picture of the women in Loki’s life, a part of me imagines the Trickster himself would be quite pleased at the confusing state of this subject matter.

The Dwarf King

Dwarf_KingI have been playing around with some ideas for a project I have on the back burner. While I have produced a whole lot of artwork that I hate, I did manage to put this piece together. While I think it still has some weaknesses and needs a lot more work on the knots, it feels like I’m at long last heading in a good direction. What do you all think?

Rán, the Sea Goddess

The Norse sea goddess Rán has been portrayed as a cruel woman, filled with a greedy desire to drag ships full of men down to the bottom of the ocean so that she may steal their lives and their treasure. She, along with her brother/husband Ægir, are sometimes identified as being neither Aesir nor Vanir, but older beings than the actual gods.

In Fridthjof’s Saga the hero is caught in a storm and mourns the idea the he must soon lay himself to rest on “Rán’s bed.” This saga also has the following passage:

“Gold is good to carry  / When you go a-wooing,
Empty-handed no one  / Comes to sea-blue Ran.
Cold is she to kisses,  / Flee’th from embraces,
But the sea-bride yieldeth / Met with shining gold.”

This ties in with the idea of Rán’s greed, for the men of old would make sure to always carry at least some small bit of gold with them when they were in dangerous waters. This gold would be used to win the favor of the sea goddess should the sailors meet a watery doom.

It seems odd that a society that has such strong ties with the sea would view it in such a negative light. It is not as if the Vikings were afraid of the open waters. They would sail out of sight of the land (something the ancient Greeks would never do) and the Vikings sailed far and wide. They went to sea in ships that were amazingly well-adapted to traveling both on the ocean and inland waters but they also undoubtedly had a healthy respect for the dangers one could encounter when traveling Rán’s road.

I think the key point to remember is that death by drowning was not considered a noble thing, it would not earn you a seat in Valhalla but a place in the undersea hall of Rán.

The Return of Freya

Freya2I have another version of Freya for this week’s Norse-inspired artwork. Yeah, I just did a version of her a short time ago, but after all, today is Valentine’s Day so it is only proper that we offer up a little tribute to the Norse goddess of live, right?

Freya as a femme fatale

FreyaI’ve always thought it would be interesting to rewrite some of the Norse myths in the vein of a hard-boiled detective story. I used that idea as the springboard for this week’s Norse art. We have Freya, the goddess of love and beauty as a cold-hearted femme fatale.

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