by Rachel M.
Winter sacrifice? You’re doing it wrong.
There is a reason that Wikipedia isn’t an accepted source for academia – it is very capable of being wrong.
There are 4 main available works and many interpretive Norse guides based on those works. Those works include The Poetic Edda (10th – 13th century), The Prose Edda recorded by Snorri Sturluson (approx. 1220), The Chronicle of the Kings of Norway by Snorri Sturluson (approx. 1230) and Saxo Grammaticus’s The History of the Danes (approx. 1185).
After spending many hours reading through these, of the few references there are to Ullr, The Prose Edda contains the most. Basically, he is a great hunter, the fastest on snow shoes (or skis). He was recognized as quite an important god, but never given a proper “god of ….” According to the literature, it was important to call on him for a good hunt or combat.
The literature is littered with references to Skadi. A giant by nature and a goddess by marriage, her status is significantly more clear. The tale of her marriage to Njord (god of the sea) is told in all 4 works. Basically, she was pissed when her father was killed so Odin let her choose a husband from the gods by the appearance of only their feet. After 9 days at the sea, she despised the sea and headed back to the snowy mountains. Her and Njord parted ways and she continued to be influential in references to hunting and winter.
“Sleep could I never | on the sea-beds,
For the wailing of waterfowl;
He wakens me, | who comes from the deep–
The sea-mew every morn. “
In The Chronicle of the Kings of Norway the biggest game changer occurs. The story of Odin (referenced as Othin) is told in depth. In this story, it is said that “A sacrifice was to be made for a good season at the beginning of winter….” This first sacrifice was to Thor, there were 2 more Freyr and Odin. It then states that after Skadi’s failed marriage with Njorth, she married Odin and they had many sons. In a verse about one of their sons Skadi is directly referred to as “Ski-goddess.”
The Cliffs Notes of all this is that Ullr was cool but not cool enough to be remembered for what exactly it was that he did. Skadi on the other hand was an influential giant who preferred the calls of the wolves to the sounds of the swans and possibly married the guy whom sacrifices for a good winter were actually made to.
It seems questionable what a good winter would actually mean, but after some further reading it seems a snowy winter was somewhat important since they relied on the snow and ice for migration and travel. However, a fruitful summer seemed to be the main reason for sacrifices.
Modern times have brought on some alternative interpretations, of course. Over the span of 100 years, skiers decided that Skadi and Ullr got married and that Ullr was the god of snow and worth making ski sacrifices to. Ski journals, websites, blogs and even a Wikipedia pages mention Ullr’s importance in the ski community and how we should praise him hoping for a good season.
When you actually dig into Norse Mythology there’s little doubt that Skadi was the goddess of snow and that she is the one you should be praising and sacrificing to for a strong winter, not Ullr.
Note: if you would like to properly make a sacrifice to Thor it seems you’ll need some live pigs or horses… You may want to consider alternatives.