Today is not my birthday. My birthdays happen when I’m not sick and can go places.
Therefore, it’s business as usual, and since Maris Pai posted this wonderful post on the nature of the Vanir, I decided to get off my butt and post something I’ve been meaning to post for a long time. (Seriously, go read Maris’ post, it is awesome.)
Njord doesn’t get a lot of exposure on the interwebs, IMHO. I only know of one blog run by a Njordsman, and last I checked, it had been taken down. I’m sure there are more Njordspeople out there, but he just doesn’t seem like one of those deities who is particularly eager to snatch people up the way some other deities (Hi, Loki and Odin!) do.I’m starting to think that there might be this perception (which I once had myself) that Njord is really just the “Norse Poseidon” the way Balder is “Norse Jesus” and Loki is “Norse Satan”.
It’s a shame, to put it mildly, because out of the “big four” Vanir, I’d say that Njord is easily the most approachable, friendly deity of the bunch.
And yet, so few are dedicated to him.
So, what do we know about Njord? He is probably best known for fathering Freyja and Freyr by his unnamed sister-wife (thought to be Nerthus by some) and for his divorce/separation from Skadi (more on this later). He has a hall in Noatun (“ship-enclosure” or shipyard) and fights with an axe (which he buries in the gate of Asgard. He is generous, freely bestowing his immeasurable wealth on one and all, and people pray to him to, well, spread the wealth around.
Unfortunately, there’s not a lot of material on Njord in the Eddas, save that most famous myth regarding his courting of Skadi. Skadi, seeking to avenge her father’s death, storms Asgard. The gods are scared shitless, so they negotiate a deal with her: she won’t pursue her vendetta if they can make her laugh, and if she’s allowed to choose a husband from their numbers. Loki makes her laugh by tying his balls to a goat (taking one for the team), and letting himself be yanked around (‘jerking off’ LOL) but the second comes with a catch: Skadi can only pick a husband by looking at his feet. Skadi, naturally, figures that the god with the nicest feet would belong to Balder, but she’s wrong, and the feet actually belong to Njord (seawater is good for the skin, apparently).
Unfortunately, things only go downhill from there when the newlyweds are trying to figure out where they’re going to be living. They try staying at Skadi’s hall for nine nights (previously belonging to her father) but Njord can’t stand the sound of the wolves howling at night. They do the same thing at Njord’s hall, but Skadi can’t stand the crying of the gulls.
So they separate, no doubt citing irreconcilable differences. There’s no cheating, no nasty custody battle, and neither partner ends up dying, just two deities deciding that it would be better if they just lived apart. Some like to end the story by saying that Skadi found a more compatible match in Ullr, but to my knowledge, this isn’t stated anywhere, but is based more on a shared affinity for snow, hunting, and winter sports (okay, maybe not winter sports).
Another source of information about Njord are a couple stanzas in the Lokasenna, where Loki insults Njord by bringing up a humiliating episode involving Hymir’s daughters (who, according to the notes in Larrington’s translation of the Poetic Edda, are rivers, not to be confused with Aegir’s nine daughters) who used him as a “pisspot” (in his mouth, in case you’re wondering) he refers to this as a “reward” when he was sent as a hostage, and is probably meant to be read as sarcasm. Later, in the same text, he defends his daughter when Loki accuses her of sleeping with everyone in the hall, by saying that a woman having a lover in addition to her husband is “a harmless thing”.
Let’s think about that for a moment. Someone accuses your daughter (assuming you have a daughter, if not, use your imagination) of sleeping around…a lot…do you get angry? Defensive? Want to punch the asshat who said it in the face?
Njord does none of these things. In fact, his response could pretty much be summed up as: “Meh.”
Njord: sex-positive proto-feminist? Eh, maybe not, but it’s interesting.
Moving away from Loreland into the uncharted territory of UPG, it’s interesting to me how writings from those who have encountered Njord tend to emphasize his tranquil side. The calm in the eye of the storm, , calm seas and clear skies. This Njord, in my mind, is the kind of person who speaks little and says much.
But, and this is based on my own experiences with Njord (which basically amounts to a few dreams) there’s this whole other side to him. I call him “Njord-the-Sailor”. Njord-the-Sailor is a bit of a prankster, he also drinks and swears and wasn’t shy about copping a feel when Skadi wandered by (she seemed kind of cross when he did it, though I wonder if she wasn’t amused). He called me ‘girl’ and ‘girlie’ but in less of a patronizing and more of an affectionate way, unabashedly sexual as well, but not in an overly aggressive way, more teasingly, almost in an over-the-top bawdy humour kind of way.
Njord is the quintessential father-figure, in my mind. He strikes me as the kind of person who likes kids and who wants a bunch of them (and, IMHO, he has very, very good genes). There’s UPG floating around that he adopted Sigyn, and that strikes me as something he would do, of course, being adopted myself, my bias is probably showing.
So yeah, Njord is basically the “Cool Dad”, as in “Why isn’t my dad this cool?” He’s the kind of parent who lets his kids have chocolate cake for breakfast (Skadi strikes me as more of the disciplinrian) but he’s also a patient teacher,(Someone had to teach Freyr how to sail.) and a shrewd negotiator.
Beware the Nice Ones, as the trope puts it though, because he is apparently no slouch in combat (as you would have to be to bury your axe at your enemy’s gates) and while I wouldn’t say he has quite the temper of, say, Thor, I would not want to see him angry. Well, I like my deities as happy as possible, you know? But Njord, I get the impression that you need to really fuck up to piss him off.
As far as offerings, things that would make him very happy, and such, I’d definitely say that he calls us to look at fishing practices and our consumption of seafood and other products that come from the sea (pearls, for instance) and how our actions affect the sea and its creatures. Support local fisherman, teach someone how to sail or fish (responsibly, of course), help out a sailor. If you’re really stuck, why not learn to build a ship in a bottle as an offering? (As a side benefit, new research suggests that learning a new skill is good for your brain cells.) He strikes me as a deity who would really appreciate that someone took the time to craft an awesome ship in a bottle. As far as food offerings, I’ve heard good things about ale, lemonade, and jelly doughnuts (yes, seriously). Altar/shrine decorations might include nets, representations of ships and other nautical things, lanterns, spyglasses, I’d save more “pirate” themed stuff for someone like Ran, though.
tl;dr version: Njord, he is awesome. Give him more love.
Hail the giving god! Hail Njord!