Sigyn | Norse Mythology


Sigyn or Sigunn (Old Norse: victorious girl) is an Aesir goddess of Norse mythology, second wife of Loki, with whom she had two sons: Narfi and Vali.

Sigyn is mentioned in poetic Eda, compiled in the 13th century from historical sources, and in prose Eda, written in the 13th century by Snorri Sturluson.

In the poetic Eda, there is little information about Sigyn beyond her attribution in helping Loki while he was in captivity.

In the prose Eda, Sigyn is associated with her myth in helping her husband during the time he was imprisoned.

In it, Sigyn uses vessel to retrieve the venom of the serpent, which drips onto her chained husband's face, with the intention of alleviating his suffering.

However, Sigyn is forced to regularly empty the container whenever it fills completely, briefly allowing the poison to drip onto Loki. The pain caused by the poison makes Loki squirm violently, generating earth tremors.

The goddess is mentioned several times in kennings and twice in the goddess status.

Sigyn is also reported in the Gosforth Cross dating from the 10th century, and her earliest mention comes from the 9th century Scaldic poem Haustlǫng which is preserved in the prose Eda, suggesting that she is an ancient Germanic goddess and not a recent creation.

Etymology of Sigyn

The etymology of the name is uncertain, but it is assumed that the term Sigyn is a compound formed by the words (in Old Norse) sigr meaning "victory" and vina, "friend", which therefore literally means "friend of victory". Another name attributed to her is Sigunn.

Sigyn's History

According to the epilogue of the poem Edda Lokasenna and Völuspá 35, Sigyn is referred to as the wife of the god of mischief, Loki. In the prose Eda, Sigyn is mentioned in chapter 33 of the Gylfaginning part that besides being Loki's wife she is also the mother of Nari or Narfi.

Chapter 16 of Skáldskaparmál, a kenning (a type of circumlocution typical of Norse poetry) ends up designating Loki as "Sigyn's husband".

Sigyn appears as an Asyne only in Snorri Sturluson's Eda. In the Skáldskaparmál part she is mentioned among the Aesir who share a feast as a feast for the visit of the giant Ægir. She is also mentioned as Asyne in the Nafnaþulur poems preserved in Snorri's Eda.

The scaldic poem Haustlǫng attributed to Thiodolf of Hvinir is dated to the 9th century, preserved in Eda prose, in which the author employs in the seventh stanza a kenning referring to Sigyn to describe Loki as her ordeal: farmr Sigvinjar arma (weight on Sigyn's arms) which proves the antiquity of the goddess and the associated myth.

Sigyn in the Poetic Edda

In stanza 35 of Eda's poem Völuspá in verse a völva tells Odin, among many other things, that she sees Sigyn sitting and quite unhappy with her chained husband, Loki, in a "grove of hot springs."

Sigyn is mentioned a second (and last) time at the end of the prose section of the poem Lokasenna. In this, the malicious god Loki utters insults against the leading Æsir during a banquet.

The epilogue tells that after such behavior, Loki hides in a waterfall and metamorphoses into a salmon.

In the poem, the Æsir find Loki and bind him with the viscera of his own son Nari; his other son Váli is described as having been turned into a wolf, and the goddess Skadi binds a poisonous snake over Loki's face, upon which the poison splashes.

Sigyn is again described as Loki's wife, who holds a vessel under the poison that pours.

The vessel becomes full and she deflects the container from the dripping, unable to stop the poison from continuing to fall on Loki, causing him to squirm so violently that earthquakes eventually ravage the entire planet.

Sigyn in the Prose Edda

Loki's ordeal is described in chapter 50 in the Gylfaginning part of Eda in prose. The mention of Sigyn is repeated in Skáldskaparmál. In Gylfaginning, Sigyn is introduced in chapter 31, where she is introduced as the wife of Loki, whose son is named "Nari or Narfi."

Sigyn is mentioned again in Gylfaginning in chapter 50, in which the description of these events differs from that of Lokasenna; in it, the motives leading to Loki's punishment stem from his having orchestrated the murder of the god Baldr and preventing him from returning from the dead, Helheim.

In this chapter, the author describes in more detail the capture of Loki metamorphosed into a salmon, hidden in a waterfall. In addition to Loki, the gods also capture his two sons, indicated as Váli, described as a son of Loki, and "Nari or Narfi", the latter previously described as also the son of Sigyn.

Váli is turned into a wolf by the gods and mutilates his brother "Nari or Narfi". The entrails of "Nari or Narfi" were used to bind Loki to three stones, and are eventually turned into iron. In the meantime, Skadi places a serpent on top of Loki.

Sigyn stands next to him and holds a bowl to collect the poison from the drip. However, when the bowl fills up, Sigyn goes to pour out the poison.

As a result, Loki is depicted having contorting acts of such violence that it makes the planet tremble, and this process is repeated until finally Loki is able to break free, beginning the march of Ragnarök.

Sigyn in Popular Culture

The scene of Sigyn helping Loki has been depicted in several paintings, including "Loke och Sigyn" (1850) by Nils Blommér, "Loke och Sigyn" (1863) by Mårten Eskil Winge, "Loki och Sigyn (1879) by Oscar Wergeland and the illustration "Loki und Sigyn; Hel mit dem Hunde Garm" (1883) by K. Ehrenberg.

Sigyn's name is attributed to several objects and places in the present day, such as the Norwegian winter wheat, whose varieties are named Sigyn I and Sigyn II, a Marvel Comics character of the same name (1978), and the Swedish ship MS Sigyn, which carries nuclear fuel named in allusion to Sigyn holding a bowl under the poison dripping on Loki, and the Arctic Glacier Sigyn.

Sigyn is introduced as a goddess, an Ásynja, in the prose Eda in Skáldskaparmál, where the gods hold a great celebration in correspondence to Ægir's visit, and in Loki's kennings: "Sigyn's husband," "the burden [Loki] of enchanted fetters in [Sigyn's] arms," and in a 9th century quote from Haustlöng, "the burden in Sigyn's arms." The final mention of Sigyn in Skáldskaparmál is found in the list of ásynjur in the appended part Nafnaþulur, chapter 75.