The Gods of the Hunt: Skadi and Ullr
When it comes to the approaching autumn, two gods I constantly associate with the cooling weather is Skadi and Ullr. Skadi and Ullr are two very powerful gods in our Northern pantheon, which is why it befuddles me that not a lot has survived when it comes to stories about these two gods.
Let’s Talk Skadi First
We know more about Skadi than Ullr, so I’ll talk about her first. Skadi is a Frost Giant (or Jotun) turned goddess and is the daughter of Þjazi. Skadi has a single story (although she and Loki argue in Lokasenna) on how she sought justice for the death of her father, Þjazi. Þjazi was the Jotun who tricked Loki into stealing Idunn and her Golden Apples from the gods.
Skadi demanded to marry the god of her choice, plus someone had to make her laugh to fulfill the blood debt. Her demands were agreed on if she would choose her husband by looking at their feet only. Thinking she would choose Baldr, she chose the most beautiful feet–which belonged to Njord. Skadi couldn’t abide by the dreary coast, and Njord couldn’t stand the high mountaintops. So, theirs is an unhappy marriage.
Some Heathens have claimed that Skadi divorced Njord and chose Ullr, who would’ve been a better consort, but I haven’t seen anything in the literature to suggest that.
Ullr, the International Man of Mystery
Now we come to Ullr, and by the gods, there isn’t a lot written up about him. Which is a shame, because Ullr was an important god in the Northern countries. Ullr is the god of wintertime sports and hunting. He is also the god of oaths; our ancestors swore on Ullr’s oath ring. Ullr was called on in duels, presumably to oversee the contest or to grant favor. He was also the head of Asgard when Odin was in exile for ten years.
Beyond being handsome and fast on skis, the only other thing we know is that his home is called Ýdalir, meaning “yew dales.” This has given rise to the belief he was an archer, since bows were frequently made from yew. He is believed to be the god of winter sports and hunting. Nowadays, you can celebrate Ullr in December at Breckenridge, Colorado during Ullrfest, which celebrates snow, skiing, and the god, of course.
There has been some conjecture that Ullr may be another name for Tyr. The association is somewhat sketchy but you might be able to draw the conclusion due to people swearing their oaths on Ullr’s oath ring. And Tyr, who is often depicted more as the Aesir‘s second-in-command would be a more likely candidate to take over the throne of the All-Father while he was in exile, rather than Ullr. But even with these two examples, there aren’t any other obvious association between the two. In other words, we don’t know.
Unverified Personal Gnosis Time with Skadi and Ullr
Before I go further with this, I want to caveat this by saying these are my experiences with these gods, and like anything, Your Mileage May Vary. I’ve had plenty of dealings with Skadi, but not Ullr. Back when I competed in a certain winter sport, Skadi and I held an uneasy truce. I was a lot more wary of her then, and while I know she is a very dangerous goddess, over the years I’ve come to understand her. She doesn’t suffer fools in her territory, so every time I am out in the backcountry, I am aware she could take me out.
Still, Skadi has been a friend to me and my husband. (She smiles on him with a lot with animals.) Even so, I think I’ve gained some favor. I have had animals wait patiently while I get my equipment ready and even wait for me to shoot them. My offerings/blots go primarily to Skadi and Tyr, whom I consider my primary gods.
Ullr is still a concept to me. Maybe because I have gods that fulfill the roles he seems to have, I haven’t quite made the leap to adding him to my main gods. I do, however, remember him in my blots. So, maybe that’s good enough for him at the moment.
So, let me know about your own experiences with the hunting god/goddess in the comments!
A quick shout-out to Sarah Keene, who has helped make The Rational Heathen possible with her continued support!