Exploring Our Gods & Goddesses: Sinthgunt [Revised & Expanded]

Our only (specific) surviving reference to the Goddess Sinthgunt comes from the Old High German Second Merseburg Incantation (also known as the “Horse Cure Charm”), which dates to around the 9th or 10th Century. The Merseburg charms are the only examples of pre-Christian Germanic belief recorded in the Germanic language.

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In the source, She is described as being a sister to the Goddess Sunna, who is the personification of the Sun. Within the context of the story, Baldr’s horse has been injured, and so the Gods and Goddesses present (Odin, Frig, Fulla, Sunna, & Sinthgunt) render healing aid to the horse. Literally the story tells us only 3 things about her:

  1. her name
  2. she is the sister to Sunna
  3. she has affinity with healing

Since we know her name there have also been explorations into the etymology of Her name to try to tease out some additional information. Etymological analysis is an inexact science, often times scholars start to deal with theorized languages based on word roots (sometimes word roots can connect to multiple ideas, and not just singular ones too). Etymological analysis is further complicated by the fact spelling conventions at the time when this text was penned, was not yet formalized. In texts throughout Europe, spelling could vary widely for the same word within even the same body of text. This has prompted a few different suggestions from scholars. Using the spelling of Sinhtgunt, scholar Sophus Bugge finds the etymology renders as “the night-walking one” and thus theorized She may be meant to be the Moon. However, we know that elsewhere in Northern Tradition cosmology, the Moon is a masculine force embodied by the God Mani. However, by switching two letters in the spelling of Her name, so that it now reads as Sinthgunt, the proposed etymology changes. Scholar Rudolf Simek suggests the celestial theme of “heavenly body, star”, but scholar Stefan Schaffner suggests something more martial, “fight”. (While there is a contested scholarly theory out there she may be a valkyrie, I personally do not believe she is. A Goddess can have martial or defensive components in their story or name without being a valkyrie: see Hlin, Syn, Skadhi, Sigyn, etc.).

The Second Merseburg Charm is our only clear reference to her, but there’s another tantalizing clue that may also be relevant and point towards her as well.

If we look to her counterparts in the Second Merseberg Incantation, we find that ALL the other Gods and Goddesses mentioned (Odin, Frigg, Fulla, Sunna, and Baldr) are specifically named in the Eddas. Yet, we don’t have a clear specific reference to the goddess Sinthgunt surviving among Norse sources. The fact her fellow deities are attested elsewhere should give some extra credence to her own appearance. So if we don’t have a specifically stated appearance, do we maybe have something more suggestive of her instead in those Norse sources? Possibly.

In the Poetic Edda, specifically within the Volupsa it states:

Sól það né vissi
hvar hún sali átti,
stjörnur það né vissu
hvar þær staði áttu,
máni það né vissi
hvað hann megins átti.

The sun knew not
where she had her hall,
the stars knew not where they had a stead,
the moon knew not
what power he possessed.


Here we see Sol/Sunna, Mani, and the “Stars” being written about by means of personification, and therefore most likely deification as well. This to me, strengthens the concept of a possible connection between Sunna and Sinthgunt, and suggests this may be a trio of siblings. Cosmologically, Sunna and Mani’s father, and in my opinion most likely Sinthgunt’s as well, is Mundilfari the time turner. His name etymologically refers to “periods of time”, and it makes sense that his children would be the references we use to count time. Today we still mark time by the progress of the sun, the moon, and the stars. Although due to light pollution, most of us don’t notice the stars as much as we once did.

How Modern Light Pollution Impacts the Amount of Visible Stars

So if she is tied to the stars, we’re left with the question of which star, or constellation. The most visible objects in the sky visible from earth to the unaided human eye are in order of brightest to less bright:

  1. Sun
  2. Moon
  3. Venus 
  4. Jupiter
  5. Mars 
  6. Mercury 
  7. Sirius 

While Polaris (the North Star, lode star leiðarstjarna, Wagon star vagnstjarna) may be visible anywhere in the Northern Hemisphere (and it’s critical for navigation north of the equator), there’s 49 objects more bright in our sky. Based on sheer order of brightness and the ranking of brightness, the fact we know elsewhere within the Indo-European umbrella we do see worship tied to the Venus star, and the fact Venus is so bright it’s actually visible at times in its orbit even during the day, I speculate that Venus may be the star associated with Sinthgunt. However, very little information has survived about the pre-Christian beliefs and names tied to the Stars from Northern Tradition cultures.

Most of what star lore that has survived, is unclear as to what specific star or stars it may reference. Though the stars, especially certain stars associated with the constellation of Ursa Major/Big Dipper/vagn in rotation around Polaris, may very well be the origin for the sunwheel symbol (aka fylfot, swastiska), a symbol we see on finds from the Oseburg Ship Burial (bucket, tapestry), on the Snoldelev Stone, on various objects in the Sutton Hoo burial finds, on the Anglo-Saxon North Elmham urn, and so many other artifacts. There is a suggestion the Wagon constellation and the Wagon’s central star was tied to Odin (Odin’s Wagon/Óðins vagn). Sirius which is the 7th brightest object in the sky, has connections with cultic worship. Al-Tartuschi (aka Ibrahim ibn Yaqub) records seeing worship connected to the Sirius star in what is today Hedeby, Denmark. The star is known as Lokabrenna, (Loki’s Torch) so may be evidence of Loki worship. I mention this because it does show there is evidence that cultic worship was in some cases tied to stars within the Northern Tradition in antiquity.

If we look at what scientists have determined are the brightest objects in our sky visible to the naked eye here on earth, they go in decreasing order of magnitude from: the Sun, the Moon, and the planet Venus (which looks like a star to us). Unlike the daily certainty of the sun, Venus’ orbit in relation to our own (13:8) around the sun means that at certain times Venus is more of a morning phenomenon leading to it being called morgenstjernen (the morning star), other times more of an evening phenomenon where it’s called kveldsstjernen (the evening star), and then there are times we may not see it for quite a period of time too.

It can be the first star of the evening visible when it is out, and can be the last star visible during the morning when it’s out. While rare, there are documented occasions of it very much being visible during the full brightness of the day too, such as during the inauguration of U.S. President Abraham Lincoln. The Venus star whenever it appears, seems most striking at the twilights (and perhaps that is most particularly what Sinthgunt may be associated with). 

Cleasby & Vígfusson’s An Icelandic-English Dictionary, shares with us the suggestion from Clements Saga that the Venus star may be understood to be Frigg’s star Friggjarstjarna. But in the case of Clements Saga the original source used the names of the Roman Gods, and when the manuscript was translated into Icelandic the goddess Frigg was merely used in lieu of Venus so it’d be more familiar to an Icelandic audience. (Similarly, all of the other Roman Gods mentioned were replaced with the Icelandic Gods most like them in function). Thus, this attestation does not necessarily sync up with pre-Christian belief.

We see Old English documents (ex: poem Crist I by Cynewulf) touching upon Christian subjects that the Venus star might be Earendel (whose Norse cognate Aurvandill is a figure mentioned in Skáldskaparmál). [As an aside, yes, that is the inspiration for Tolkien.] We do know the tale shows us a female power (Groa) that Thor has gone to for healing. But the healing goes awry because Thor tells Groa that her husband lost a toe, thus breaking her concentration. This is a star/constellation story here for “Aurvandill’s Toe”, but we don’t know what star it actually referred to (though some scholars presume it being a blue appearing star due to the frostbite of the toe in the tale). Even if this was meant to be the Venus Star, it doesn’t rule out Sinthgunt also being attached, because different geo-specific cultures or tribes may have had different beliefs.

Personally, I believe Sinthgunt to be sister to both Sunna and Mani, and therefore another daughter of Mundilfari. I also believe that She is personified by the Star(s), perhaps specifically Venus. But of course any connection to a specific star is pure speculation. I see her tied to the twilights. Still, while we have but a mere reference to Her, that doesn’t prevent us from trying to learn more. She is a Goddess whom I worship, I venerate Her, and I give offerings to Her.

Note: A prayer card featuring Sinthgunt is available within the “House of Mundilfari” prayer card set at Wyrd Curiosities on Etsy.