With the grain harvest underway already in some parts around South Australia, the Norse Goddess of the Grain, Sif, often comes to mind around this time of the year.
The drinking horn is filled and empowered
Who offer toasts as they drink from the horn.
To Sif who feeds the people of the land
To Sif’s husband who protects the farmers ...
(“Drunk on the Mead of Inspiration" by Jim Davis)
Little information remains today despite her being one of the Aesir, the Gods of the Norse sky. What does come down to us about Sif tends to stem from the Poetic Edda, which was compiled in the 13th century from earlier sources, as well as the Prose Edda written by Icelander historian, poet, and politician Snorri Sturluson (also dated to the 13th century).
In stanza 48 of the Poetic Edda poem "Hárbarðr" (Odin, father of Thor, in disguise) met Thor at an of a gulf. The two engaged in flyting (a contest where insults are exchanged) as Hárbarðr refused to ferry Thor across the bay. Among the insults, Hárbarðr claimed that Sif had a lover at home. In response, Thor accused that Hárbarðr was speaking carelessly “of what seems worst to me”, that being of lying.
In stanzas 53 and 54 of the poem "Lokasenna” (“Loki’s Quarrel”) after pouring Loki a cup of mead while he is busily insulting the Gods, Sif advised him that she alone was blameless, to which he responded:
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.
It is from Sturluson’s work that Sif’s marriage to the Norse God of Thunder, Thor, is mentioned. She is also said to be the mother of Ullr (whose name means “magnificent”), a handsome huntsman who is skilled in crossing vast frozen stretches in snowshoes as well as winging game with his arrows. As there is no indication of Thor being Ullr’s father, it appears that the name of Sif’s first husband has been lost.
When Odin, the leader of the Aesir, was banished from the heavenly realms for employing unworthy methods in “overcoming the resistance of a maiden”, it was Ullr who was elected to take his place as the chief amongst the Aesir. Ten years later when Odin reappeared, Ullr took refuge in Sweden where he gained the reputation of being a powerful enchanter. Sturluson also recorded Sif as being known as “a prophetess called Sibyl, though we know her as Sif”. She was said to have the gift of prophecy which enabled her to see into the future.
Pagan writer, Ed Fitch, described Sif as being famed for her long, golden hair with which she preferred to work her magic and enchantments. Sif’s name was the singular form of the plural Old Norse word siffar, that was associated with the Old English word sib meaning “affinity, connection, by marriage”, Sif is also connected with marriage. By the 19th century she was described as the one who “betokens mother earth with her golden sheaves of grain; she was the Goddess of the sanctity of the family and wedlock”. She was also said to be the “Mistress of Battles” as well as that of luck.
Sif is thought to have wielded a special sword that was enchanted to her by Odin, which enabled her to pass between the dimensions, primarily the Aesir and earth, by a special pattern of swinging motion. She preferred the world of the Gods to the mundane world of mortals and after attempting to live on earth on a number of occasions, she returned to the Aesir to live with her husband, Thor.
Within modern Paganism, whilst often associated with harvest time and Autumn, Sift is also considered to be a Goddess of both Spring and Summer as she is strongly associated with the land, overseeing the earth’s fertility. For this reason, Sif is considered to be a Goddess of fertility, as well as also being associated with wealth. This wealth, however, is more connected with that which comes from an abundant and bountiful harvest. A dried corn cob on the altar can remind us of Sif’s “wealth” as well as the inability of planting and planning appropriately with any under formed cob.
The above information is an extract from In Her Sacred Name: Writings on the Divine Feminine. Details of how to order your copy can be found here.