Sleipnir | Norse Mythology


In Norse Mythology Sleipnir is the eight-legged horse of the god Odin.

It was named for its ability to "glide" on land and water as well as in the air. In the Eddic sources Sleipnir is depicted as the child of the god and giant Loki and the stallion Svaðilfari.

According to legend, Loki had to prevent the timely completion of Asgard's Walls, because an unnamed giant, the builder of that wall around Asgard, coveted the goddess Freya as his wife, as well as the moon and the sun, for the completion of the construction work.

Loki, in the form of a mare, kidnapped the giant's stallion, Svaðilfari, who helped his owner with the work, and fathered Sleipnir with him. Thus the stallion disappeared for a few days and the deadline for the completion of Asgard's wall passed, whereupon Thor, having just returned, slew the giant with his hammer Mjölnir. Loki later gave his child, Sleipnir, to Odin.

Interpretation of Sleipnir 

John Lindow theorizes that Sleipnir's connection to the world of the dead is a kenning in which Sleipnir appears as a term according to the skald Úlfr Uggason, who speaks of the "sea Sleipnir" in his Húsdrápa describing Baldr's burial. Lindow argues that Sleipnir's eight legs can be seen as an indicator of great speed.

Sleipnir, according to one legend, is also the reason why the Ásbyrgi Gorge in Iceland is shaped like a horseshoe. When Odin rode him across the deserts of the Arctic, it is said that the horse slipped and set foot on northern Iceland. Therefore, the gorge is sometimes referred to as Odin's footprint.

Esoteric interpretation of Sleipnir

Hilda Ellis Davidson writes that Odin's eight-legged horse is the typical steed of a shaman, and that on a shaman's journeys to heaven or the underworld, he is always depicted riding a bird or animal.

Davidson further states that while the creature may vary, the horse is usually common in regions where horses are found, and furthermore, Sleipnir's ability to carry the god is a typical characteristic of the shaman's horse.

The controversial religion phenomenologist Mircea Eliade calls the eight-legged horse the typical shaman horse. It is found, for example, in Siberia and among the Muria, and is related to the ecstatic experience of the god.