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On Níðhöggr

November 19, 2018 6 comments

A while back I was asked to share my understanding of Níðhöggr by a fellow Heathen. Vikings of Bjornstad lists the meaning for Níðhöggr’s name as ‘Malice Striker’. The first section of the compound name, níð, is related to malice, insult, and strife. The second is related to beheading, striking, blows, or chops. Not much survives on this dragon/serpent survives from the lore. Among the places to look for Níðhöggr are in the Prose Edda, both in Gylfaginning and Skaldskarpamal, and in the Poetic Edda Grimnismal and the Voluspa. While the lore refers to Níðhöggr as male, my interactions with Níðhöggr have leant me to understanding the dragon as female.

I relate to Her as a God of Rot and Death, and a God of the Gravemound as well, especially seeing interlinks between the rotting of death and the eating of poison. My family’s compost heap is dedicated to Hela and to Níðhöggr, as we see Níðhögg as eating the poison of Yggdrasil and the making of it into the healthy new earth that is renewed. The gravemound takes in the Dead and the new growth results within it, holding the power of the sacred items deposited within it and the new growth above.

Most of my understanding and beliefs regarding Níðhöggr is from direct experience of seeing Her and interacting with Her. When I was saw Her, She was chewing the corpses of the Dead, taking the poison of Their lives, Their misdeeds. She does the same with the root of Yggdrasil She chews on, not to damage it, but to prevent poison that is collected in Helheim and the Nastrond from killing It.

A powerful insight of dragon symbolism, at least in terms of how I see it in Norse/Germanic/Scandinavian culture/myth is that part of their destructive nature is what they sit on. In Fafnir’s case it is his bed of gold and the greed associated with it. In Níðhöggr’s case She is lying in the midst of traitors, oathbreakers, and is sitting with the rot and poison of Yggdrasil’s root. She chews on the traitors, oathbreakers, and outlaws, as well as the root of Yggdrasil. One of the passages in the Voluspa says She sucks the blood of the slain. I see Her doing similar, chewing and sucking on the poison in the root of Yggdrasil, removing the rot so it stays healthy. It also explains why Her/His hall is the Hall of Serpents dripping poison because that is Níðhöggr’s environment. My fellow Heathen likened it to a poison dart frog, and I think that’s a fair reading of Her too.

It is telling that the only time She emerges in myth is during Ragnarok and She isn’t destroyed, but takes up roost again beneath the ground. I find Her very purifying, as She has been in the midst of all that rot, poison, and uncleanliness, and yet, She has not lost Herself to it. She engages with this Work before and after Ragnarok. She is rejuvenating and dangerous, the Chewer of Corpses and Warder against Poison. As outlaws and traitors were among the worst one could be, and both were put into the utgard of society, I see Her as a boundary-keeper since She gives these dangerous and vile Dead a place to go to be contained, chewed, composted so they do not harm the community or rest of Yggrasil. She is the God that chews the rot beneath the Tree, rejuvenating both the root and the soil in which Yggdrasil’s root rest; necessary and holy.

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Prayers for the Abused

April 2, 2014 5 comments

Allmother, Holy Frigga, You hear the cries of a million million children

The vile threads that weave

The million million choices that could have undone the tragic tapestry

May the new threads woven

By these survivors and their families

Be clean and comforting

May the children know peace

Hail Frigga!

 

O Tyr, Judge and Lawspeaker

Bring Justice

To those who betray their oaths

To those who have done wrong in silence or support

To those who harm the young

Help those harmed to find their voice

Help those harmed to be heard

Help those harmed to have their justice

Hail Tyr!

 

Angrboða, Ferocious One

Clanmother

Help us to protect our people

Help us to remove the abusers

Help us to heal those harmed

Help us to speak harsh truth

That our people be protected

That our people be safe

That our communities be whole

Hail Angrboða!

 

Gerda, whose arms encircle

Help us to protect our young

Speak for those without voice

Strike for those without force

Walk for those without way

Gerda, please, help us

Place your thorns on abusers’ paths

Bloody their feet, and show them for who they are

May they never know peace.

Hail to You.

 

Niðogg, Eater of Poison

Niðogg, Chewer of Roots

Help teach us to chew the bitter roots

To drive the poison from us

To make the hard choice not to turn

To make our people and communities whole

Help us to cast aside the venom

That would poison us all

Hail Niðogg!

 

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