Iðunn – Norse Goddess of the Apples

While it may not feel like autumn yet in Texas, I always in particular venerate Iðunn (or Idunna), an ásynjur (one of the Norse Goddesses). Her most well-known story involves her abduction by a giant, which causes the gods to age thus revealing her important ties to vitality. Iðunn is known within Skáldskaparmál as the Gods’ Lady, and indeed this is because the vitality (and therefore immortality) she provides is gifted to all of the Gods and Goddesses. While she is part of my regular praxis throughout the year, I always feel her most strongly in autumn through the winter. I decided to do an exploration into her heiti and kennings. There’s a lot to unpack here, and I feel like there’s much more that I’ll be musing upon for a long time to come too.

Iðunn in the Lore: Poetics & the Cycle of Life

In Snorri’s Prose Edda we find mentions to her in both Gylfaginning and Skáldskaparmál. In Gylfaginning we are briefly introduced to her, the eski (or wooden casket) she carries with the apples of immortality, to her husband Bragi and teased about the story of her abduction. In Skáldskaparmál, Snorri provides us with the tale of her abduction, (Snorri in part referencing the poem Haustlöng) with not only the intent to share the story, but to more specifically explore and spotlight the artistry of the poetry, something we in part understand because he uses Bragi, god of poetry to provide our introduction to the tale. While Snorri’s work is far easier to read and has a more robust narrative, it is the older Haustlöng which I believe encapsulates pre-Christian culture far more closely.

Haustlöng is a Skaldic poem attributed to the Norse skald Þjóðólfr of Hvinir in the early 10th Century (a time where heathen custom was still in contemporaneous practice albeit in increasing marginalization as Christian conversion ramped up, and I cannot stress how important this fact is. All other written accounts come centuries after conversion). The name of the poem translates to ‘autumn long’. It’s the earliest surviving literary source of the story of Iðunn‘s kidnapping by the giant Þjazi (whose name means Corpse Swallower, he is the father of Skadhi) who transforms into a great eagle. We know from the tale that during her abducted absence, the health and vigor of the Gods falter as they are faced with old age. She is the rejuvenator of the Gods, in both the etymology of Her name (Iðunn has been suggested to mean ‘rejuvenator’, ‘ever young’, ‘protection provider’ or ‘again love’ by various scholars) as well as in her function. Jacob Grimm posited a connection between her name with the word Idis, which was a collection of female numinous powers (Matrons, Disir, etc.)
We have several poetic references to the Goddess Iðunn in the Haustlöng poem, which I sourced from Yves Kodratoff’s paper “Iðunn’s abduction: kenningar and heiti in Haustlöng stanzas 2 – 13“. These kennings and heiti are nuanced with far more hints about her role and function beyond what most modern practitioners are aware of, and are mostly overlooked by those who focus more on the plot of her abduction (that appears in various bits of lore).

  • sorgeyran mey (the pain alleviator maid).
  • dísi bekkjar brunnakrs (disir goddess of the brooks of the source of harvest). This evokes to me similar imagery from Völuspá of the Norns sitting at Urd’s well giving life giving water to Yggdrasil.
  • öl-Gefnar (ale Goddess, beer waitress).
  • mun stœrandi mæra mey hapta (famed maiden who increases the gods’ love).
  • ásu leikum (Gods’ delight). This refers to the goddess, but may also point to a tie of her role as a hostess overseeing entertainments including those involving performing artists known as leikarar (entertainers, jugglers, musicians, etc). For the curious, you may want to read and ruminate on Terry Gunnell’s “The Rights of the Player” or some of his other writings that explores the role of leikarar. There is also inherent in this heiti possible sexual nuances too, with delight also touching upon physical pleasure. This combined with her kenning dísi bekkjar brunnakrs starts to suggest fertility of the land is part of her role too.
  • ellilyf ása (the gods’ herb of old age). This refers to the goddess as being like a medicine that keeps the gods young, and thus might be an allusion indirectly to her apples too.

Þjóðólfr truly was a master of artistic linguistics, I wanted to spotlight this stanza:

Urðut brattra barða 
byggvendr at þat hryggvir; 
þá vas Ið með jǫtnum 
nýkomin sunnan; 
gættusk allar áttir 
Ingvifreys at þingi 
(váru heldr) ok hárar 
(hamljót regin) gamlar.

Haustlöng, Stanza 10

Note the bolded text, in it we see (what I surmise was intentionally done by the skald) the Goddess Iðunn’s name is visually rendered by a combination of words intended to look like her name, and unnr, bisected by the jǫtnum (giant) that stole her. To me it is a visual outline (not a literal one) of the story: Iðunn with the gods, stolen by the giants, and eventually returning to the gods. By splitting what looks like her name visually in this way, the poet has also given us another kenning of and unnr, or Ið unnr. It appears the skald was very clever, because with the context of this stanza and the next ones there’s lots of water imagery happening too. According to Zoëga’s “A Concise Dictionary of Old Icelandic”, unnr means wave. Kodratoff translates Ið unnr as ‘swirls of the billow’, or ‘waves swirl’, as another poetic name for Iðunn.

The translated English phrase ‘swirls of the billow’ by itself evokes in me the visual of tree growth rings and branches moving in the breeze. But there’s no blatant reference to a tree in this poetic identifier. It is water that is here present in this name, and water echoed in the following stanza as well. Her abductor is referred to as hund hrun-sæva hræva öl-Gefnar. The exact translation of this is confusing because of the poetics at play, so instead I’m going to break it down and re-arrange things a bit to provide context (basing it in part on Karstoff’s work). The giant is the ale-Goddess’ wolf who is the wave beachcomber of the corpses. In this case the word wolf is believed to refer to her captor giant Þjazi, and he is thus (in this analogy) associated with the destructive power of sea and waves, causing the detritus (including the dead) that is washed up upon the shore from shipwrecks. The sense that it is more than just an ordinary shore, but that it’s the shores of Hel is suggested by Karstoff. This turn of poetics points to mythical cycles of life and death. (To be clear Iðunn is not mentioned here as being an owner of the figurative wolf, but rather that this is the giant that has hounded and stolen her away from her home and thus they only ‘belong’ to one another as two characters in interaction within the story.)

Usually, her role as a provider of life (youth and vitality) is the primary focus of modern-day worshippers, many who never look further. But as we start to peel back the nuances of her stories in the overarching span of the Northern Tradition cultural umbrella (those cultures with a common worship to Odin/Woden), we do begin to see her tied to the cycles of life & death, as well as the seasons. When Loki goes to save her from the giant in Skáldskaparmál, he transforms her into a nut. On the surface, a nut makes sense as it’s a small object easily carried, but there’s probably a much deeper meaning to it. In Gods and Myths of Northern Europe, well respected scholar Hilda Ellis Davidson sees a connection with the grave good finds of apples and nuts is the Oseberg ship burial with the Goddess Iðunn. Davidson also references the phrase “the apples of Hel” in the 11th century poem of skald Þórbjörn Brúnason giving us yet another connection between apples and the dead.

In ancient Icelandic laws, as well as Bede’s description of the Anglo-Saxons, we see that the year is clearly divided into only two seasons: Summer and Winter. Many of the religious observances go hand in hand with the agricultural cycles, and thus the cycles of the seasons. We can think of the Summer half of the year (spring & summer) embodying growth, and the Winter half of the year (autumn & winter) as the end of the growing times and thus it starts with the harvest and preparations not only for food stores, but seed stores for the spring planting too. When you consider that (tree) nuts, like apples, can be a source of nourishment, that they fall to the earth, and both contain a seed (or seeds) that can lie dormant during the winter before growing into new life when conditions are right. Thus, it is a cycle of life and death.

In the late appearing poem Hrafnagaldr Óðins (whose age is contested by scholars, but most believe it dates to the early 17th century or later, and thus may have been written half a millennia after conversion), Iðunn is described as being both an elf and one of Ivaldi’s children. We know of Ivaldi’s children from earlier works, where his sons are identified as dwarven (aka dark elf) smiths who created Odin’s spear Gungnir, Frey’s ship Skíðblaðnir, and Sif’s golden hair. In Snorri’s Skáldskaparmál, her father Ivaldi’s name is rendered as Ölvaldi (Ale-Ruler), and thus Iðunn‘s heiti öl-Gefnar (ale Goddess) may indeed suggest a familial connection (or may merely be proof of Snorri trying to make that connection).

While this passing detail may be of some mild interest in terms of trying to build a family tree, it’s the content of Hrafnagaldr Óðins that to me is more interesting, and it’s important to note there’s a few different versions of the tale across dozens of manuscripts, falling into five main variant groups. In some Iðunn is named at least once, in other versions she is never specifically named and so there’s been scholarly debate on whether they may be referencing other goddesses such as Urd, or Hel instead. And in some variants of the poem, it seems she is present, but perhaps Urd or Hel may be present too.

We find in the work a variety of heiti and kennings for Iðunn. Dís forvitin (the knowledge hungry goddess), and in this guise I perceive aspects of the type of knowledge the Norns have access to in the guise of orlog and wyrd, but it also evokes the concept that is more Abrahamic in nature of the fruit of knowledge (a contamination that may have come by the fact it was written centuries after Christian conversion). She is also called Frá Yggdrasils (Seed of the World Tree) in the work. If we recall in our cosmology, Yggdrasil ties to the 9 worlds (Svartalfheim, Jotunheim, Asgard, Vanaheim, Alfheim, Midgard, Helheim, Muspelheim and Niflheim), the 3 wells: Urdabrunnr, Mimisbrunnr, Hvergelmir. So essentially the great world tree roots to the wells of life, death, and wisdom/memory across all the worlds and the beings that reside therein. This to me makes sense to how some scholars wonder if Urd or Hel may be present in this tale. With this being so late a tale, it may also be representative of syncretization, but I think our Gods and Goddesses are multifaceted and complex and we’d be doing Iðunn a disservice to think that she couldn’t have some overlap with functions we might associate more with Urd or Hel. In a sense Iðunn‘s vitality stands between Life and Death.

The story commonly told in Hrafnagaldr Óðins, is that the world has grown cold, and in it Iðunn (like an apple) has fallen from the world tree Yggdrasil, and is lying mute in the darkness among its roots. A wolf skin is gifted to her by sigtívar (‘victory Gods’ that are otherwise unidentified, though I’ve seen a theory before that this may refer to her brothers: the sons of Ivaldi). Odin decides to send the three gods of Heimdall, Loki and her husband Bragi to visit her. They seek out Iðunn, identified most likely by the kenning Giallar sunnu gátt (‘the doorpost of Gjöll’s sun’, ‘tree of gold’). Ivaldi is tied to gold in his tales, so having Iðunn also tied to gold would make it something of a family trait, and perhaps evocative of yellow autumn foliage, or the golden apples we find elsewhere in the Indo-European umbrella. (We have in Skirnismal a reference to the apples in the tale of Freyr’s wooing of Gerdr). We also have the kenning veiga selja (the server of drinks), which is reminiscent of Haustlöng’s öl-Gefnar (ale Goddess).

Arriving among the roots of Yggdrasil, the trio of Gods asks questions about heaven, the world, Hel (the realm) but the goddess merely weeps. Bragi stays behind to watch over her (and thus why most feel it’s Iðunn) and the other two gods leave. After Heimdall and Loki return to tell the other gods of their visits, night falls. At dawn Heimdall then blows his horn. While this is undoubtedly a late tale from centuries after conversion and clearly authored from a different era, we see in it a belief by the author that symbolically Iðunn is tied to concepts of the changing seasons, a belief that may have easily carried through the centuries and the possibility exists that the author had access to other tales sense lost too.

If we look back to the Prose Edda stories, written around the early 13th century, we learn that the giantess Skadi, was the daughter of the giant that stole Iðunn. So, if we think of Iðunn‘s story when she’s away from the gods with the giants explaining winter, we then see Skadhi come down from the mountains and she weds the Vanic god Njord who is now dwells with the other gods of the Æsir (Odin, Thor, Frigga, etc.). I see in Skadhi’s story the swinging of the pendulum back and forth between summer and winter, between the giants and the gods. A theory exists that perhaps the wolf skin she is gifted may represent that she has been transformed by the primal forces associated with the giants and thus winter. In many other places in the lore, wolves are symbolically associated with both giants and destruction.

The Apple Wassail: Drink, Song and Trees

We see wide spread folk traditions of singing to the apples (Howling, the Apple Howling, or the Apple Wassail) survive especially in southern England, areas that had been home to Anglo-Saxon culture in, around or in neighboring areas to the Kingdom of Wessex (Westseaxna Rīċe). Wessex’s borders changed across centuries so the map below is but one moment in time showing it around the apex of its size.

Map of Saxon Britain c. 800 CE

The timing of this practice typically falls either during Yule (especially on Twelfth Night) or to a period shortly after Yule during the month of January. A remnant of this tradition can be seen in songs like the Apple Tree wassail. In some of the traditions, people took their wassail bowls to the orchards, along with offerings of bread. After singing to the trees the offerings were left, sometimes trunks were beaten with sticks too to wake the tree. Folk traditions are the carriers of culture and practice, but are notoriously hard to pen down. One of the earliest written surviving records of this practice dates to the 1500s. While this record is centuries after conversion, there’s absolutely no reason for this custom to be rooted in the Christian church, and so I find it reasonable to presume this is a carrier of pre-Christian folk tradition.

The Rhymes of Apple Wassail

Wassail the trees, that they may bear
You many a plum, and many a pear:
For more or less fruits they will bring,
As you do give them wassailing.

Ceremonies of Christmas Eve by Robert Herrick ( b.1591 – d.1674 )

For the interested you can find some of the apple tree wassail songs and rhymes recorded in Ronald Hutton’s “The Stations of the Sun.”

If you’ve ever heard the Christmas carol “Here we come a wassailing among the eaves of green” that’s where the wassail tradition comes from–the wishing of good health and the drinking of wassail (a specific type of beverage imbibed for good health) during the yuletide celebrations). Today we see that there seems to be two types of wassailing folk traditions field-visiting (such as singing to the trees) and house-visiting (singing to those at home). In some specific areas, those from lower socio-economic tiers would go singing to those of greater wealth, and the higher socio-economic household was supposed to give wassail to the carolers. One of the earliest written references to wassailing in general dates back to the late 1400s CE, as we have records of payments for wassails at the New Year at St Mary De Pre Priory in St Albans (England).

Wassail is an alcoholic beverage, and that alone reminds me of the heiti for Iðunn referring to her as öl-Gefnar, ale Goddess. Part of me wants to do a deep dive exploration here of ale, beer, mead, wine, and wassail–all alcoholic beverages we know of from the Northern Tradition umbrella. But it would require tremendous research to carefully sift through because you can’t rely on the translations of alcoholic terms, but have to pay attention specifically to the terms in the source manuscript. You have to carefully evaluate the documents from their authors. Do we know who the author was? Were they heathens writing about their own culture? Was the author an eye witness to the custom but from outside the culture, how certain are we he’s using that cultures term or his own? Plus, what was the age of the document, and how did those terms and customs change accordingly over time. We also have to realize that the words were starting to become synonyms and switched out amongst each other too.

While this is an over simplification (and there’s probably some exceptions), you can generally consider that at one time it appears ale referred to malted grain alcohol, beer would have been sweet and fermented from fruits like pears or apples and would have been more analogous to what we think of as ciders today, wassail is typically perceived as being a type of alcoholic cider with spices added, wine referred to alcohol made from grapes that weren’t native to Scandinavia and so would have been imported and only enjoyed by the wealthy, and mead which used fermented honey. Gulaþing Law made it clear it was a legal requirement to brew for the rituals at Winternights, Yule, and Midsummer (by having specific persons designated to do so for the community). We also see references in Heimskringla about ale being tied to ritual custom too, and there was a fine if it wasn’t available. Edwin Teale’s The Golden Throng tells us it was a legal requirement to brew drink for the wedding feasts, but also enough of the wedding-ale for the honeymoon as well, (and yes the term honeymoon derives from the practice of brewing enough mead for the new bride and groom to enjoy over the first month or so of their marriage). Ann Hagen’s A Second Handbook of Anglo-Saxon Food and Drink: Production and Distribution informs us that by the Medieval era, especially in England, many criminal fines, taxes, and guild fees were paid with honey because of the ubiquitous currency it had in society (no doubt influenced by the sheer prevalence of mead).

In England we have a drink known as lambswool, a light colored alcoholic beverage that had a frothy appearance. This is a drink we see traditionally associated with some wassail customs. It was an alcoholic beverage made from a combination of apples, sugar and sweet spices. In the 1786 work “Collectanea de Rebus Hibernicus, Vol. III,” Charles Vallencey writes of his belief that the term lambswool was probably corrupted from la mas ubal (pronounced lamasool) and meaning “Day of the Apple Fruit”, which is apparently a pagan Celtic religious observance (alternatively known as Lamas Ubhal). This is also later referenced in The Curiosities of Ale and Beer by John Bickerdyke. (We know there’s some degree of syncretization between Germanic and Celtic cultures, so I find it relevant in our exploration).

Next crowne the bowle full of
With gentle Lambs wooll,

Adde sugar, nutmeg, and ginger,
With store of ale too,
And thus ye must doe,

To make the Wassaile a swinger.

Oxford Night Caps written by Richard Cook in 1835 CE

As a brief aside, swinger here is being used in reference to swinging blows at the tree trunk.

If we think of Iðunn‘s heiti of ásu leikum (Gods’ delight) and the hostess connotations of it, combined with what we know is the importance of the Lady with the Mead Cup in structure at the great sumbels, you could make an argument for any alcoholic beverage served tying to Iðunn‘s heiti of öl-Gefnar (ale Goddess). Having a drink like wassail used in what appears to be ritual praxis to me only ties the custom of the wassail beverage (sometimes made from an apple cider), the custom of wassailing the orchard, and the Goddess together. But beyond the sheer presence of the drink, it’s also the custom of song tied with the drink that is important too.

Music oftentimes is a carrier of poetry lyrically brought to auditory delight. I find it no coincidence that we have apples which are symbolically tied to the Goddess Iðunn being sung to when you consider that poetry (as well as music) also appears connected to her heiti of ásu leikum (gods’ delight). Recall that Leikarar were performing artists including entertainers, jugglers, musicians. We can take this connection further when we understand that her husband is the god Bragi a god of poetry, and poetry is part of the tools used in music.

The etymology of his name roots to the word bragr, which connects to concepts of poetry, melody & music, as well as wisdom. And the same root can be found in related words connected to the description of leaders and kings. Another related word is the bragafull, the sacred mead cup used in special ceremonies and occasions, especially for vows. In ritual when we speak over the cup or horn, what we speak is to come from a place of troth and frith (specifically Friðr), because we are speaking into the well of wyrd.

I see a connection here to the rhymester’s share of the mead of inspiration. That Bragi’s function is as a vehicle to make manifest inspiration so it can impact our worlds and wyrd. In other words, that there is an efficacious quality to the speech, of how once spoken it comes to be. Keep in mind that men proved their worth, not just by heroic feats on the battlefield, but also in their ability to speak extempore within the Northern Tradition umbrella. The great Sagic hero, Egil Skallagrimson even saved his life by the composition of a heroic poem honoring King Eirik. This reverence for poetic and rhetorical skill was ingrained in the saga tradition, where warriors celebrate their kills with finely crafted verses replete with masterful kennings.

Iðunn and Bragi’s connections dovetail nicely together, the interplay of their relationship manifesting partly in the Apple Tree Wassail tradition. The tree tying intimately to Iðunn, and symbolically to a vast tradition of trees within Northern Tradition cosmology, starting from Yggdrasil and expanding outward. In the story of Ragnarök we see our cosmological creation story mirrored. We started with two humans in our creation story, and here we are starting over again after Ragnarök with two human survivors: Líf and Lífþrasir. Where we again get a male/female combination said to repopulate humanity on midgard. In this case (unlike the first humans crafted by the gods) they came from the vast human population, and the two of them hid in the trees and managed to survive Ragnarök. Specifically, they hid in Hoddmímis holt, which is believed to be another name for Yggdrasil. In Germanic folklore we see the Moss People or Wood Folk with folklore tied to them with trees as their salvation. Among them is the Buschgroßmutter (Shrub Grandmother), who we think is an aspect of Frau Holle/Huldra or Perchta. In surviving folk tales of Walpurga, we see stories where she is pursued by the Hunt, and sought refuge in woods and fields, and sometimes also with farmers who would save her. This to me is a continuation of some of the lore we see with the moss wives who also ran from the hunt, and they could only take shelter in trees that the farmers had felled and marked the sigils of protection on. Some of this you’ll find mentioned in Grimm’s Teutonic Mythology, and other Germanic folklore collections and studies:

Nine nights before the first of May is Walburga in flight, unceasingly chased by wild ghosts and seeking a hiding place from village to village. People leave their windows open so she can be safe behind the cross-shaped windowpane struts from her roaring enemies. For this, she lays a little gold piece on the windowsill, and flees further. A farmer who saw her on her flight through the woods described her as a white lady with long flowing hair, a crown upon her head; her shoes were fiery gold, and in her hands she carried a three-cornered mirror that showed all the future, and a spindle, as does Berchta. A troop of white riders exerted themselves to capture her. So also another farmer saw her, whom she begged to hide her in a shock of grain. No sooner was she hidden than the riders rushed by overhead. The next morning the farmer found grains of gold instead of rye in his grain stook. Therefore, the saint is portrayed with a bundle of grain.”

Drei Gaugöttinen: Walburg, Verena und Gertrud, als deutsche Kirchenheilige. Sittenbilder aus germanischen Frauenleben. by E.L. Rochholz

I have made connections before to how the wild hunt in part ties to the cycle of seasons, or life and death in my exploration of Yule traditions. When you consider all the references to sacred groves, trees, poles and idols I think understanding that trees are incredibly sacred within our cosmology becomes apparent. Trees, especially deciduous trees are clear indicators of the seasons. Symbolically the names of Iðunn as Giallar sunnu gátt (‘the doorpost of Gjöll’s sun’, ‘tree of gold’), and Frá Yggdrasils (Seed of the World Tree) tie her clearly to trees.

If we look to her name dísi bekkjar brunnakrs (goddess of the brooks of the source of harvest), and also Ið unnr (waves-swirl) I am reminded of the story of Urd and the other Norns sitting at her well, watering the world tree. When you take these four poetic referents to Iðunn tied to both tree and water, we see a motif echoed with the tradition of the apple wassail, and echoed thematically with a connection with fertility of the land (and even with people), and the supposition that harvest might refer to apples. We see that themed echoed in the 13th century story, Völsunga saga where Frigga gives an apple to King Rerir as he sits on a death mound. He bestows it to his barren wife, and once she consumes the apple she finally becomes pregnant. In Freyr’s courtship of Gerdr in Skirmnismal, he tries to woo her with gifts of Iðunn‘s golden apples, both Freyr and Gerdr are deities associated with fertility.

If we consider that the tale of her abduction can be understood as being somewhat mythically synonymous to the explanation of changing seasons and winter that we see in Greek culture with the story of Persephone and Hades, (and how winter has ties to death) then the custom of apple wassail, and even burial goods seem to me to reverb and amplify this association of the seasons with death and life cycles.

The Goddess Iðunn‘s principal function is to provide vitality to the Gods, and for the rest of us her fruit (the symbolic apple) represents the nutrients that can help keep us in good health. Think of her blessings like an immuno-boosting shot of vitamin C and zinc, or the colloquial ‘apple a day that keeps the doctor away’. When vitality fails or weakens, health can falter. Her expertise does not appear to be connected with treating illness, disease, or injury per se, but she does have the means to influence the overall health of a person. Having good vitality before illness or injury can help boost your body’s means of combating an illness, and during an illness can help you recover faster. Living an active and healthy lifestyle can help stave off some of the effects of aging, by keeping people vital longer. The kenning referring to her as ellilyf ása (the gods’ herb of old age) certainly implies a concept of vitality as an aspect of health too. Her heiti of sorgeyran mey (the pain alleviator maid), certainly seems to suggest more connections with healing. Personally, I believe this is more the concept of easing the pains of old age, possibly with the thought that in the afterlife there’d be relief from aches and pains. But this is of course highly speculative, and something I need to reflect upon longer.

Devotions to Iðunn

While all of the above is certainly interesting, as a Heathen I think it’s also important to showcase examples of how the information from the past can be used in today’s devotions and our religious practice.

As part of my own practice of devotions and veneration, I have created an invocation to Iðunn. For anyone who has difficulty reading it in the image, I have it quoted below as well:

Hail to thee Idunna,
Lady of the Dale,
through the coming winter,
keep us whole and hale.

by Wyrd Dottir

Idunna Invocation by Wyrd Dottir

"Hail to thee Idunna
Lady of the Dale,
through the coming 
keep us whole
and hale."
Idunna Invocation by Wyrd Dottir

The sheet music for this original invocation, can be found inside Skalded Apples: A Devotional Anthology to Idunna and Bragi. There is also an accompanying invocation by me to her love, the Norse God Bragi in the book too. Unfortunately, the book is currently out of print, so you’ll need to track it down via re-sale outlets and used book vendors.

Below is a photo of a bowl I commissioned years ago from Katy (aka Shrew) from Shrewwood, depicting the story of Iðunn and her abduction to be used as my blot bowl, or wassail bowl in ritual. We see Iðunn on the left picking an apple from the tree. We see in the bottom center a container holding the apples already gathered. In the bottom right we see the giant Þjazi, in his guise as an eagle, stealthily entering the scene waiting for his moment to capture the goddess.

Iðunn Bowl carved by Katy at Shrewwood

Last but not least, here is a photo from a past Winter Nights altar of mine. As you can see not only are apples present as offerings (in addition to seasonal squashes and chocolates), but I also have an artistic depiction of Iðunn framed on my altar from artist melulikan on deviantart.

Winter Nights Altar with an art print of Iðunn

In the art print we see the goddess holding a bowl of golden apples. Above her are two birds, one presumes they represent the giant Þjazi, in his guise as an eagle, as well as Loki in his bird form he used to rescue Iðunn. She is flanked by two trees, each one shows a person hidden in the tree: a male on the left, female on the right. I suspect they’re meant to represent Líf and Lífþrasir.

13 thoughts on “Iðunn – Norse Goddess of the Apples

  1. I could see that, especially with the praise name of ‘ásu leikum’ (gods’ delight) and the tease of her connection to the leikarar (entertainers). That’s a new revelation to me one I want to sit and ponder more.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Very much so. Her role as a Goddess of Entertainers opens up aspects of Her I previously only suspected could be true of Her. Honestly it could use an essay in and of itself to discuss


    2. ganglerisgrove

      This also makes me remember that when our House did the div for the year, we were told that Idunna governs this year. All the more reason to pay Her special homage now. 🙂 I really love the work you did here.

      Liked by 2 people

  2. Reblogged this on Pattys World and commented:
    This, is wonderfully done.
    If you’re a lover of history and mythology this is a post you’ll want to read.
    Though long, I feel it has a lot of amazing information within.
    I’d also like to credit the blogger for their efforts in making certain the graphics were accessible.


  3. Pingback: Idunna – Norse Goddess of the Apples #Historical #Mythology – PattysWorld

  4. Thank you for this fascinating article. I hadn’t heard of Idunna before. For me she bears some resemblances not only to Persephone but to Creiddylad who has a similar role in the Brythonic myths – she is abducted by Gwyn ap Nudd, King of Annwn/Faery, and this explains the coming of winter. There is also a similar story in Sir Orfeo where his wife, Heurodis, is abducted from beneath an apple tree by the Fairy King.


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