Skadi | Norse Mythology


In Norse mythology, Skadi was a giant goddess associated with archery, skiing, winter, and the mountains. Skadi appears in the poetic Edda, compiled in the 13th century from traditional sources, as well as in the prosaic Edda and the Heimskringla saga, written in the 13th century by Snorri Sturluson, and in various scald works.

In all sources, Skadi is the daughter of the giant Þjazi, and Skadi marries the god Njord as part of the compensation received for the fact that the gods killed her father. In the Heimskringla saga it is told how Skadi separates from Njord and later marries the god Odin, with whom she has multiple children. In both the poetic and the prosaic Edda, Skadi is described as the one for placing the snake that pours poison over Loki when he's chained until Ragnarok arrives. There are also references to Skadi under the alternate names of Öndurguð 'ski goddess' and Öndurdís 'ski lady'.

Etymology of Skadi 

The etymology of the name Skadi is uncertain, but according to some researchers it may be connected to the original Scandinavian form. Some place names in Scandinavia, particularly in Sweden, refer to Skadi.

The name Skadi in Old Norse, along with Sca (n) dinavia and Skáney, may be related to Gothic skadus, Old English sceadu, Old Saxon scado, and Old High German scato. According to John McKinnell, this etymology suggests that Skadi may have been a personification of the geographical region of Scandinavia and associated with the underworld.

On the other hand, Georges Dumézil disagrees with the notion that Scadin-avia means etymologically 'the island of the goddess Skadi'. Dumézil indicates that the first element Scadin could have a connection to 'darkness' or some other unknown meaning.

It also indicates that it is the name Skadi that derives from the name of the geographical region, drawing a parallel with the case of the Irish goddess Ériu, from which she says that her name comes from Ireland instead of the name of the territory of the goddess. 

Another proposed alternative is that the name Skadi may be connected with the Old Norse noun skaði 'harm', source of the Icelandic and Faroese skaði 'harm', and contemporary of the obsolete English term scathe, which survives in the English terms unscathed. 'unharmed' and scathing 'fierce, cruel'.

Several researchers have also theorized about a potential connection between Skadi and the god UllrSkadi also inspired various works of art and representations, particularly in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

Skadi in the Poetic Edda

In the poem Grímnismál the god Odin (disguised as Grímnir) reveals to Agnarr the existence of twelve places. He mentions the place Þrymheimr in the sixth place in a single stanza. In this verse Odin reveals in detail that the Jötunn Þjazi lived in that place, and that now his daughter Skadi does.

Odin describes Þrymheimr as a place of "ancient courts" and refers to Skaði as "the brilliant bride of the gods". In the prose introduction to the poem Skírnismál, the god Frey feels broken-hearted by a woman, Jötunn Gerðr, whom he saw in Jotunheim. The god Njord asks Skyrnir, Freyr's servant, to go talk to him, and in the first stanza of the poem Skadi also tells Skírnir to ask Freyr why he is so upset. 

In the prose introduction to the poem Lokasenna, Skadi appears as Njord's wife, and is cited as one of the goddesses attending Ægir's feast. After an argument between Loki and Heimdallr, Skadi interrupts them, telling Loki that "it's not serious" and that he won't be around for a long time "playing freely with his tail", as the gods would tie Loki to a sharp rock with cold entrails like your son’s ice.

Loki replies that even so, he was the "first and foremost responsible" for Þjazi's death. Skadi replies that if so, "harmful advice" will always come out of its "sanctuaries and plains." Loki responds again by saying that Skadi was more friendly when she was in bed, an accusation she makes against most of the goddesses in the poem and which does not appear anywhere else in the text. After this exchange, Loki continues the discussion with the goddess Sif.

In the prose section at the end of Lokasenna, the gods catch Loki and tie him with the bowels of his son Nari, and turn his son Narfi into a wolf. Skaði places a poisonous snake on Loki's face. As the snake's venom drops, Sigyn, Loki's wife, has to pick it up with a bowl and empty it when it fills up. Then, when she removes the bowl and the poison drips down Loki's face, he fills in rage to the point of causing earthquakes. 

In the poem Hyndluljóð, the jötunn Hyndla tells the goddess Freya several mythological genealogies. In one verse, Hyndla states that Þjazi "loved to shoot [with a bow]" and that Skadi was his daughter.

Skadi in Skáldskaparmál

In chapter 56 of the book Skáldskaparmál, Bragi tells Idunn how the gods killed Þjazi, and how his daughter Skadi took a helmet, a coat of mail, and "all weapons of war" and traveled to Asgard, the home of the gods.

When she arrived, the gods wanted to repair the damage and offered her compensation. Skadi offered them the terms of the agreement, and the gods agreed that Skadi could choose a husband from among them, on the condition that Skadi should choose her husband by looking only at the feet. Skadi saw a pair of feet that she found particularly attractive and said, "I choose that one; there are few ugly things in Baldr." But the owner of the feet she chose turned out to be Njord. 

Skadi included in her terms that the gods should do something she considered impossible for them: make her laugh. For this, Loki tied one end of a rope to the beard of a goat and the other to one of his testicles. The goat and Loki pulled at each other as they screamed. Loki then dropped to Skadi's lap and she laughed, completing that part of the deal. Finally, as compensation for Skadi, Odin took Þjazi's eyes and projected them into the sky, becoming two stars. 

Later in Skáldskaparmál a work of the scald Þórðr Sjáreksson is mentioned. This poem refers to Skadi as "the wise bride-goddess" and indicates that "she could not love Vanir." A text below the quote clarifies that this is a reference to Skadi leaving Njord. Chapter 16 gives several names for Loki, including "adversary of Heimdall and Skadi". In Chapter 22, Skaði is referenced in the 10th century poem Haustlöng, and in Chapter 23 the scald Bragi Boddason refers to Þjazi as the "father of the ski lady".  In chapter 32 Skaði is named among the six goddesses attending a party organized by Ægir, and finally in chapter 75 she is included in a list of 27 deities names.

Skadi in Modern Culture

There are several modern works of art depicting Skadi, including K. Ehrenberg's Skadi und Niurd (1883) and E. Doepler's d Skadi (1901). J. Skaði also appears in A. Oehlenschläger's 1819 poem entitled Skades Giftermaal.

Art deco representations of Ullr (1928) and Skaði (1929) appear on the covers of the Swedish annual ski publication På Skidor, both skiing and holding a bow. E. John B. Allen stated that the deities are represented in such a way as to "give historical authority to this most important of the Swedish ski publications, which began to be published in 1893."

A moon of Saturn, Skathi, takes its name from the goddess, and the monsoon of Venus called Skadi also gets its name from this goddess.