I read somewhere–I can’t recall where–that someone prayed to Ægir (pronounced eye-year), a sea god-giant, for good travels. The logic was that the Norse people traveled almost everywhere by water and said a prayer to Æegir before they left, so by extension he prayed to Ægir whenever he went traveling–by boat, car or plane. This logic worked as well as any to me, so I invoked Ægir before heading for Norway. My main request was that we could see the Northern Lights, and I promised him a candle if we saw it.
He now has a candle. I’m looking for a second. The Northern Lights were supposed to have mild activity while we were in Tromsø, with a high chance of not being able to see them at all due to cloud cover. Undaunted, TheScott and I drove north for about an hour to a point overlooking the sea…and got an hour long display of awesome. What started with a silver band grew into a green band. It faded and then came back in shimmering green curtains and pulses that danced over the water. After we thought it was over and headed back into town, it started again with spirals and more curtains over the mountains as we drove by them. I even saw a spinning ring, which we were told by the locals was a rare sight. We got a couple pictures, though they don’t show how incredible it was. I feel lucky and blessed to have had such an awesome experience.
So I’m writing about Ægir as a thank you.
Ægir is likely a jotun (an elemental creature usually at odds with the Æsir), though he aligns himself with the gods of Asgard and generally seems to have a good-nature in the Lore. He’s the best ale-brewer of the gods (there’s a brewery named after him in Norway) and is always hosting parties. The Lokasenna, one of the more popular stories from the Lore in which Loki spends dinner trading insults with the gods, happens in Ægir’s hall.
Ægir is married to Ran, a more forbidding figure as she has a habit of netting sailors and dragging them under the waves to live in her halls beneath the sea.
They have nine daughters, each one named for a description of waves: Himinglæva (transparency–literally “heaven vision,” i.e. you can see the heavens through water) , Dúfa (pitching wave or hidden one), Blódughadda (bloody hair), Hefring (heaving wave), Udr/Unn (frothing wave), Hrönn (sucking wave), Bylgja (breaker), Dröfn/Bara (foam-fleck/big wave), and Kólga (cold wave). Like their mother, most references to them are more about their ability to destroy or at least to cause difficulty.
The lords of the sea are vastly wealthy, as they own all the treasure that goes down in sunken ships. In fact, in Viking times, gold was nicknamed “Ægir’s fire” or “fire of the sea” because, according to the Skaldskaparmal, “Ægir had bright gold brought in onto the floor of the hall, and the gold gave forth light and illumined the hall like fire: and it was used there for lights at his banquet, even as in Valhall swords were used in place of fire.” Sailors would occasionally throw gold into the water before sailing in an attempt to curry favor. (They’d also occasionally throw captured enemies into the water for the same reason. Ah…the bad old days of human sacrifice.)
This contradiction of affable host and bloodthirsty sea-god makes Ægir an interesting figure, but also captures the dynamic of seafaring travel in the Viking era–both deeply dangerous and profitable. Now that I’ve done a bit more research on him, I’m not sure if Ægir is a perfect fit for a god of travel that’s not through the water, but it seemed to have worked out well for TheScott and I anyway!
Do you have a figure you pray to when traveling? Who and why?
Featured Image: Ögir und Ran by F. W. Heine