The Goddesses and Ragnarok

I was ruminating over the subject of Ragnarok recently. In the various bits of lore that talk about Ragnarok, while we have a great deal of detail about what male forces and male gods are doing, there’s hardly more than a peep about what the females/Goddesses are supposed to be up to.

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Battle of the Doomed Gods” by Friedrich Wilhelm Heine (1882)

If we look at Ragnarok, the Goddesses aren’t mentioned at all except that Frigg will know sorrow (from Odin’s death) in Volupsa, and in Vafþrúðnismál that Sol/Sunna will bear a daughter that will take her place when she is killed during Ragnarok. That’s it. The only other female mention is the Giantesses will sink.

So here we have a major part of our mythos (which I’ve always had significant issues with as being authentic to the pre-Christian belief structure), and the women aren’t really there at all, it’s all about the men. When they talk about the continuation of the Gods, it’s in pairs of male gods: Hodr and Baldr, Modi and Magni, Vidar and Vali. Only the mortal human pairing that continues on after this massive destruction has a male/female pairing, which is to my mind reminiscent of Adam and Eve. The only female deity specifically mentioned as carrying on, is Sunna’s unnamed daughter.

Here you have a culture that gave us shield maidens, valkyries, and even Goddesses like Freya connected with war and the war dead, and yet these female powers are not more actively involved?

Ridiculous is what it is.

We have more active roles for animals (three roosters, an eagle, etc.) in Ragnarok than we do any of the female powers.

The lack of female involvement is yet another reason why I am personally suspicious of the events as foretold in the stories concerning Ragnarok as evidence of tampering of the mythos by the Christian scholars that wrote the tales.

Does not the actions in Ragnarok support the destruction of our Gods both directly via the war, and indirectly through an euhermistic process? If they can be killed off, isn’t that a convenient thing for Christians to want to show their God is better?

I’ve seen a lot of scholarship (from outside of our community) debating the authenticity of the events in Ragnarok to the pre-Christian beliefs.

The term Ragnarok comes from the Old Norse ragna, genitive of rögn “gods” + rök “destined end” or rökr “twilight.”

It’s hard to say how old the concept of Ragnarok really is. Since we dont know when exactly the term was first used, we can at best point to the earliest references surviving in the written record. Those appear from late in the Viking Age in a predominantly Christian Europe. In fact Ragnarok as it appears in written sources is entirely Icelandic.

Our written sources for Ragnarok comes to us from the Eddas which are Icelandic sources. What we think of as the Eddas are a series of stories from various manuscripts. One of the best accounts of Ragnarok in the Eddas comes from the Volupsa, but we have two versions of the Volupsa, one from the Codex Regius manuscript and one from the Hauksbok.

While both Volupsa accounts talk about what happens, the Hauksbok manuscript has what I and other scholars believe to be a clear sign of Christian tampering, in that it concludes that there is a “powerful, mighty one” that “rules over everything” who will arrive from above the home of the Gods.

Meaning that the story of Ragnarok may not only represent the euhermistic process of subjugating the old religion to make way for Christianity, but it’s also uniquely Icelandic in its symbolism.

Themes of conflict between fire and ice mirror the geography of Iceland, which sets across where the tectonic plates of North America and Eurasia diverge, creating the Mid – Atlantic Ridge which created Iceland. The ridge runs straight through the holiest ancient site of Thingvellir. Iceland has glaciers and volcanos, both in antiquity and today. That dichotomy may not mean as much in other cultures under the Northern Tradition umbrella.

The archaeological record does have a few stones such as the Gosforth Cross, and Thorwald’s Cross which represent some aspects of the Ragnarok myth, but it’s also in juxtaposition and context with Christian motifs and symbolism.

Do I think there was a pre-Christian concept of some sort of apocalypse or cyclical renewal? Yes. Do I think Ragnarok as it survives in the Eddas would have been an accurate depiction? No. The lack of female involvement is as absurd as this:

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