The Disir: Freya, Idun , Sif, Eir – Part 2
Freya: She is the daughter of Frigga and Njord and mother of Hnoss, Gersemi, and Asmund with Odur. Freya is the most beautiful of all the Goddesses, and is thus the epitome of female loveliness. Her skin is the whitest of white, her eyes the most vibrant blue, her hair is as fine as spider web and shines like the sun at its zenith. It is said that "Freya has nine beauties, where her daughters have inherited by one each, at most three," which means that even the most beautiful woman who has ever lived on earth still only had a third of Freya's enchantments. But Freya is much more than a pretty face. She holds half of the chosen dead heroes in her hall Sessrumnir, is a Goddess of healing, and will aid any who seek her care. She helps Frigga in delivering the Manna Mjotudr and is thus a Dis of fertility as well. Most importantly, Freya is the Goddess of Love, and represents the bonds that men and women forge—physically, emotionally, mentally, and spiritually.
As her brother Frey teaches us of a man's love towards his woman, Freya's spiritual lesson is of the woman's love for her man. Again, this devotion manifests itself in the sacrifices made toward the relationship, and the acceptance of the duty we have for one another. Higher love is about so much more than dalliances in the dark, whispering sweet nothings to one another, or that tingly feeling you may get in each other's company. A real relationship, which will forge a marriage, is a constant effort towards the betterment of the union, which is greater than the two individuals involved. Selfishness is the primary reason why people get divorced—because people want what they want, or are constantly looking for what they are getting out of the union, rather than making sacrifices for the greater good. An imbalance will occur when one is sacrificing and the other is not, which will eventually lead to resentment and detachment. People go into a relationship with expectations, only to find the other person falls short and then they feel slighted in some sense. Expectations and resentment, spawned from the selfishness of either party will lead to the demise of any relationship. Freya teaches us to act beyond ourselves and accept our obligations to one another so that problems can be prevented before they occur. A strong and healthy bond between a man and a woman is the greatest blessing of our most beautiful Goddess.
Sif: She is the daughter of Sigtrygg and mother of Ullr with Egil and Thrud and Modi with her husband, Thor. Her name means 'Affinity,' 'Familial Relations' and is related to Sib, which was a designation of a family or clan. Whereas Frigga represents motherhood and Freya the love between spouses, Sif is matron over the bonds of the entire family unit and watches over it as such. In the lore, Sif plays a pivotal role as Thor's wife, but also as Odin's stepmother, who sent him on his famed quest to rescue Freya from the Giants. In this capacity she is seen as a powerful seeress who can foretell the great campaign of her stepson, and asked him to allow her son Ullr to join him. Sif's position as Goddess of the family/clan and of prophecy eventually put her in a high place in Asgard as Thor's wife, where she continued his line with their daughter, Thus, she is the mother of Odin's grandchildren, which is no doubt a very esteemed title among the Gods as well as among our people.
Sif's spiritual lesson to us is to always look to the future when developing ideas and making choices in the present, most especially when this comes to our family. Sif looks out for the best interests of those she loves, even when this is not readily apparent. When she sent Odur on his quest he originally thought she was plotting against him because he did not think he was capable of such a feat. It was not until his deceased mother, Groa, told him that Sif's intentions were pure (then she gave him charms to build his confidence), did Odur realize that Sif was always on his side. Sometimes we have to make tough decisions for those we love, but as long as we are working for them and their betterment, we must stay the course even when they have their doubts. The spiritual principle is in planting seeds for the future, which is just as important as honoring the ancestors of the past. It is in recognizing the family unit: past, present, and future, as something greater than yourself, and something that we must always seek to advance.
Nanna: She is the daughter of Mani and Sol, and mother of Forseti with Baldur. The primary story we have of Nanna is in the conflict that arose over her between Hodur and Baldur. Upon seeing her bathing in a lake, Baldur became enflamed with passion for her and soon married her. Later, after witnessing how devoted Nanna was to her husband, Hodur wished that he could have a wife like her. One night, while hunting, Hodur got lost and came into the dwelling of a sorceress (Gullveig in disguise) who enchanted him and got him to swear an oath that he would wage war on Baldur for Nanna's hand. But Baldur won his brother over with his love and compassion for him, ended the conflict, and made their bond stronger than ever. This event is why Loki later chose Hodur as his victim to trick him into killing Baldur with the mistletoe—their previous conflict gave Hodur culpability and thus blood-revenge was demanded. Upon seeing her husband dead upon the funeral pyre, Nanna died of a broken heart and followed Baldur to the Underworld. This act would influence a form of self-sacrifice where women would volunteer to die and be burned with their husband or master to prove their devotion and join him in the next life. Thus Nanna became the archetype for dedication and loyalty to one's spouse.
Nanna's spiritual lesson is in staying true to your chosen path. If you decide to take on a spiritual discipline, you must stick with it, even if at first you cannot readily see its benefits. Devotion to the Path of Power is necessary if you are to grow and evolve as a person. Sometimes you may encounter difficulties; you may even seem on the verge of failure, but you have to keep working at it in order to yield results. This principle is obvious when working out or developing one's self physically. You have to keep going to the gym, maintain your discipline, and stay focused on your goals to actually achieve what you have set out to do. If you give up because your progress is not as fast as you would like it to be, or because you lose interest, or because you can make up a thousand excuses why you cannot do it, you will end up right back where you started. Nanna represents devotion to those you love, as well as to yourself in walking the Path of Power.
Idun: She is the daughter of Ivaldi and mother of Skadi with her brother, Volund. She later became the wife of Bragi. Idun is more widely known as the keeper of the Ellilyf Asa 'The Gods' Remedy Against Old Age," which is the same as the Manna Mjotudr only here the fruits are consecrated for a different purpose—to keep the Gods and Goddesses young. In both instances we see the fruits as containing the essence of youth, for in the one instance this quality is bestowed upon our divinities, and in the other it is the force that brings children into the world. Idun was granted the ability to consecrate and distribute the apples by Volund, who discovered the formula for this and would only give it to his sister/lover. Volund later turned against the Gods for what he felt were injustices committed against his works of craftsmanship, and for a spell Idun and her sister swan-maids, joined Auda and Sif, joined Volund, Egil, and Slagfin in the Wolfdales where they plotted their revenge on Asgard. But the maids were not happy there, for they grieved the loss of their divine status, exchanged their swan-guises for wolf-skins to keep warm, and transformed their demeanors so that they delighted in guile and harm for the worlds. But after eight years of this they began to long for their former lives, and on the ninth they left the Wolfdales to return to Asgard. But Idun's love for Volund was great, and she later made her way back to him, only to then be captured by Loki and brought back to the Gods, whence Volund died chasing after what had been taken from him.
This duality of natures, in dealing with the swans that swim in the waters and fly in the sky versus the wolves that howl at the moon in the ice-cold mountains, has the same theme in the story of Idun's daughter Skadi and her marriage to Njord. The two were married but each longed to be in their own home, which are more in tunes with their natures. Njord even said: "Hateful for me are the mountains, I was not there long, only nine nights. The howling of wolves sounded ugly to me after the song of swans" (LV.12). Skadi, in turn, could not stand living near the sea and said as much, so the two ended up making a compromise because we we find that they are still married later in the lore (LXXVII.1). The lesson here is that even though we cannot deny our true selves, we can always find ways to make it work with the ones we love. If we compromise our realm of possibilities lies wide open.
Idun's spiritual lesson is in the invigoration of the Spirit. We must always be in search of ways to strengthen our spirits so that we can live as spiritually healthy beings. This is done through both internal and external processes, stimulating our minds, bodies, and spirits through eating right, exercising, relieving stress, regular doctor visits, meditation, religious service, or any practices that might aid us in uplifting our önd. Besides the work put into this, remember also to have fun, to enjoy life and laugh as often as you can, for the Gods themselves love laughter and know that we must cherish this gift of life and celebrate it every day we are alive. Spiritual practice is not about being serious and moody all the time, it's about retaining your youthful exuberance and experiencing the world with a constant sense of wonder and joy. So take a bite from Idun's apples and embrace your life and your world and all of its mysteries, fears, and pleasures as if today were your last day on earth, and no matter how old you are you can always stay young at heart.
Eir: There is not a great deal of lore on Eir. In fact, all we can say of her is that her name means 'Help,' she is one of 'Njord's Nine Daughters' with Frigga, that she is an attendant of Freya, and that she is said to be "The best of physicians" (TAE XIV.3). We are also told that "Every summer, in which men offer to Njord's nine daughters, no evil can happen that is so severe that they cannot help them out of their distress" (XIII.8). As a healer, Eir is connected to Lyfjaberg "The Healing Mount" in Freya's realm of Folkvang, "...and long has it been the joy of the sick and wounded: each woman becomes healthy, although she has had a year's disease, if only she ascends it" (LXIV.48). Eir's aspect of healer has made her a popular Goddess among Asatru/Odinist women who connect to this role as mothers who take care of children every day. From kissing boo-boos to minor First Aid and the occasional rush to the hospital, no doubt being a parent involves a great deal of healing and prayers to our Goddess of medicine.
Eir's obvious spiritual lesson is to help and heal others. Any of us can be a healer in some sense, even if it is just to help soothe emotional wounds or clean the scrapes and cuts of everyday living. In fact, several of our Gods and Goddesses are said to be master healers in the lore, Odin being the greatest of them all. One of his rune charms states that it is "what the sons of men require who will live as healers [leeches]" (V.13), while another passage speaks of Odin's healing of Baldur's horse when the Goddesses (Nanna and Frigga) could not: "Bone-sprain, like blood-sprain, like limb-sprain: bone to bone; blood to blood; limb to limb; like they were glued" (LIII.2). However, Eir is the only deity said to specialize in medicine and is thus the matron of this science. To heal is to act as a catalyst for the natural powers of convergence, which regenerate cells, close wounds, and restore life. Thus, as with the act of procreation, the act of healing is a sacred and powerful force that we view as a gift from the divine and we thus wish to continue to see it develop and advance for the sake of improving our species and making our world better and safer.