I haven’t done one of these in awhile so I thought, since yesterday was the anniversary of my Mani devotional, that I would look at one of the few references that we have in the lore pertaining to Mani. There really aren’t many and in some respects, that’s an incredible freedom in figuring out how to venerate Him. On the other side of that, I do wish we had just a bit more, a prayer, a hymn, something for Him because given how important agriculture and farming were to our ancestors, the House of Mundilfari must have had Their share of devotion, and more so than They receive today. We forget in our urban lives how important seasonal cycles – governed by Mani and Sunna – are to a farmer.
Of course, that’s not how I personally connect to Mani (through farming or agricultural cycles) but it’s something I’ve come to recognize and respect over the years of my devotion to Him. Now, onto the reading.
The passage I chose for today is from the Vafþrúðnismál stanza 23:
"Mundilfari heitir, hann er mána faðir ok svá Sólar it sama; himin hverfa þau skulu hverjan dag öldum at ártali." (1) He is called Turner of Time, He is Moon’s father and also thusly of Sun (2); They (dutifully) journey round the canopy of heaven every day to determine for people the liturgical year (3).
I do augury in the mornings and today’s message was that today is ok, but it’s one that will require patience in many little things, especially the early part of the day. That being said, I hope y’all will be patient with me as I pick my way through this verse. Also, I’m reading devotionally and to some degree theologically, not as a literature major. Do keep that in mind too! So, once I sat and translated this passage to the best of my ability, I noticed a few things.
Firstly, the word “it” may at times imply a dual form, which means it refers to two of something. Some languages have special forms for a pair. Ancient Greek is like that, for instance. If you’re referring to a pair of something, the verb takes a special form. Modern English doesn’t have a form like this. We would just use second- or third-person plural depending on the grammatical case required. If I’ve interpreted this correctly, then it stands out for me. When I read this, that use of the dual, while absolutely grammatically correct also creates a unique connection linking Mani and Sunna. They are a pair; They work together; and devotionally, I have to say this is true. When I think of One, the Other is not usually far behind in my thoughts. When I engage devotionally with One of Them, I often sense in my soul, echoes of the Other far more so than with any of the Other Powers Whom I venerate. While the lore doesn’t say anything about it, I’ve often assumed that They are twins. Regardless, They work hand in hand and the holiness, goodness, and journey of One reinforces the same in the Other (4).
The word himin or ‘heaven’ may actually be translated as “canopy of heaven” which immediately brings to mind, not the heaven of Christian religion but the dome of Ymir’s skull, the gleaming circlet that formed the space-making division between sky and land. When the three creator Gods Oðinn, Hoenir, and Loður slew Their primordial ancestor Ymir, They skillfully formed the scaffolding, the framework of creation with his blood, bones, and viscera. From Ymir’s skull these Gods created the vault of heaven, the sky, the galaxy, the cosmos – all that is above us. The verb skulu denotes obligation and duty (it’s where the third Norn Skuld gets Her name. In the case of skulu though, Cleasby/Vigfusson notes that it carries a relatively positive connotation), so here one might read it that “they must journey everyday around the canopy of heaven.” The word “at” when connected to a verb of motion carries a sense of traveling around the borders of a space or thing (5). So, Mani and Sunna each day have the duty of traversing or circumnavigating the great vault of heaven, the canopy of Ymir’s skull. In doing so, They are reinforcing creation, reifying the moment the three Creator Gods brought the whole structure into being and set it in motion. That means that Mani and Sunna, and by extension the House of Mundilfari, are absolutely essential cosmologically to creation, the ongoing sustenance of that creation, and the fabric of being.
Moreover, the text reads that they are doing this to determine for the people —öldum (6), that is humanity, ártali, not “fate” as I have seen several translations render this passage, but the cycle of the year. I would go so far as to say the liturgical year. This word can be used poetically as a gloss for the Moon, specifically because the Heathen year was partly lunar (7). This makes sense agriculturally– and we have a lot of folklore in Germany, England, Appalachia, and amongst the PA Deutsch about planting according to the phase and/or sign of the moon. Likewise, there are names are given to each month’s moon that often tie into the month’s agricultural happenings, and while the winter and summer solstice are important liturgically, so are the autumnal and vernal equinoxes. Here is an interesting article that mentions why so many calendars are “luni-solar”. Basically, both Mani and Sunna play Their part.
Despite being something of a misanthrope, I think it’s important to note that humanity is mentioned in this cosmological equation too. It is for the good of humanity that the cosmic cycles are thus delineated. We were created, carefully crafted. Our place in the architecture of the worlds was not an accident. Of course, neither are we at the apex of that architecture and piety demands that we know our place to be one of reverence for the Powers, but we matter to our Gods. We matter to our Gods, and They continually bless us in ways large and small and have from the beginning.
The next question I ask myself when reading something like this, after looking at the words in both English and ON is this: what do I do with this? What impact will I allow this knowledge to have on my devotional practice. Every word in this passage has opened up a world and we have so little written on our Gods, especially those in the House of Mundilfari, that each word is a treasure.
- I snagged the Old Norse text from this site. The English translations are mine unless otherwise noted.
- My translation. Dutifully is implied in the use of the it. My Old Norse is pretty basic, but I have to disagree with many of the translations I have read. The translation is usually given “flaming sun” and to the best I can determine, there is just nothing in this sentence to indicate that there is any attribute of Sunna mentioned, other than that of being Mundilfari’s daughter.
- “Sol” is another name for Sunna. Sunna seems to be the more poetic form of Her name. I personally prefer “Sunna”. See entry here. There’s a very interesting note in the Cleasby/Vifusson definition that in Iceland children would greet the sun every morning. If this is a hold-over from Heathen times, which it reads as though it is, then it further reinforces the cosmological importance of the House of Mundilfari in our tradition.
- I never connected Sunna to holiness in quite the way that I do now until I watched an historical special with historian Ruth Goodman. I think it was either her Tudor Farm series or Edwardian Farm series. I can’t recall. What I do recall is that she was showing how a traditional dairy worked and noted that the wife or dairy maids would not only scrub out the churns and other vessels but would let them dry in the sun because it sanitized them. The sun brings wholeness and healing, but also purification. It opened up an entire avenue of exploration for me in how I honor Her, in meditations, and even offerings.
- See Cleasby/Vigfusson here.
- From the noun alda, which in poetry can mean “people.”
- See Cleasby/Vigfusson here.
I have been meditating quite a bit on Mundilfari, our God of time. He is the Father of Mani, Sunna, and Sinthgunt. He governs the flow of time. That is pretty much all we know about Him. While the lack of concrete information is frustrating, it’s also an opportunity to throw oneself into the experience of devotion in a way we may not when there is substantial lore.
With our crazy schedules, we’ve been talking about time a lot in my house lately. Is it oppressive or is it a guard and guide? I tend to fall into the latter category – nothing makes me happier than a watch, a day planner, and a nice calendar. As we were discussing these things, I had an epiphany about Mundilfari with respect to time. What follows is my own experience of Him. There’s almost nothing surviving in the lore.
Firstly, I think a clock is a perfect reliquary for this God, likewise a pocket watch. They have something of His understated elegance and also, well, time. My impression of Mundilfari is that He rides the flow of time as though He were surfing a wave. He wraps us up in it, protecting our boundaries, allowing us space to do what we need to do–if we recognize and utilize the gift. Far from being a harsh taskmaster, His gift is one that makes Midgard habitable.
I think about what time means in our tradition and how it is the thing that makes it possible for us to be yoked to wyrd. It’s a container for the unfolding of the material world and as such, a container for the unfolding of our hopes and dreams. It guards our day, supporting us and allowing us some control over the expenditure of our energies. It also allows and even helps us in the unfolding and nurturing of our wyrd. That is a grace and a gift.
I know there are problems with time and time management, but I think those are of our making. The three creator Gods crafted Midgard and indeed all the worlds, gave us this magnificent infrastructure and the first thing that happened after that, was that Mundilfari and His children established cyclical time, allowing us to orient ourselves in our world. This flow of Their power : day into night into day again, the turning of the seasons, the cycle of years is a sacred thing, something that sustains that divinely crafted multi-world infrastructure, allowing it the flexibility it needs (to rest and refresh itself) to be self-sustaining. I am coming to think that Mundilfari’s blessings do the same for us too and hopefully, over the next couple of years, I will learn to honor Him more fully and well.
If any of my readers pay cultus to Him, I would love to hear about what y’all do.
The Astronomical Clock in Prague
Grant H. recently sent me some lovely prayers to our Moon God and I’m delighted to share them with you today (with Grant’s permission). Mani has been so incredibly lovely of late and such a gracious and protective presence in our lives. It is right and fit to honor Him always and I love hearing from people who do. 🙂
Mani, still shining The lesser lights of man have stolen the Stars from the sky; That is what it appears to be, at least. In truth, the Star spirits are still there, simply hidden away by modern light pollution. (Modern Life pollution?) And I weep for the Star spirits I can no longer see. But I still see Mani shining bright in the night sky. And that does put a smile upon my face. So I smile and wave to Mani, And - though I cannot see it with my two mortal eyes - I do see that he smiles back. To Mani Mighty Mani, shining bright; Only celestial body I see tonight. I give you this offering in honor of your sacred light. The tides flow because of you, and I am grateful for that. Life is possible on this planet because of you, and I thank you for that. I thank you Mani I thank you Mani, shining bright; Only celestial body I see tonight. I give you an offering, as is my duty and your right; Only celestial body I see tonight. I thank you for the tides, Mani shining bright; Only celestial body I see tonight. I thank you for the glowing tides, that grant the planet flowing life; Mani shining bright; Only celestial body I see tonight. White gold moon I see Mani in the sky, shining bright; Only celestial body I see tonight. He is the white gold moon Golden and bright, shining in his fullness with the moon’s blessed light. Hail the white-gold moon! (All prayers/poems copyright Grant Hodel 2021).
Mani shows His glory. I went outside tonight to drop some letters in my mailbox and looked up and saw this. It was like a punch in the gut. It really just took my breath away. I’ve never seen this before ever and I go out to look at the moon often. I understand the science behind the moon ring (I looked it up) but for me, this is a wondrous expression of Mani’s glory and power and I am so grateful for having been gifted a glimpse, unexpectedly tonight. Ever and always shall He and His kin be praised in my home. Of course, after dragging my husband out to see too, I ran inside and got Him an offering libation and went outside and prayed, giving thanks for the gift of His presence, power, and beauty. I’m so intensely grateful for everything He has given us and for Him alone. Hail to Mani, our glorious moon god.
(the idea liberally stolen from Aleister Crowley)
- Facing east upon rising (which ain’t gonna be dawn, Aleister).
Hail to Dagr, herald of the Sun, Who storms across the sky paving the way for Sunna’s light. Hail to Glenr, Husband of the Sun, Who parts the clouds to show Her glory. Hail to Mani, Glorious Moon God, Who cedes the sky to His sister’s command. Hail to Sunna, wondrous Power, Whose blessing makes the world anew. From the Abode of Night I greet Thee. From the Abode of Night, I pay homage.
- Facing south at Noon
Hail to Sunna at the height of Your Power. Hail to You, Who triumphs over darkness. Hail to Your strong hands, oh Mighty Goddess, to Your mastery of Your fire, to Your force and the luck You bring. Hail to You as You instantiate order and rightness in our world, and all the worlds upon which Your blessings fall. From the Abode of Morning, I pay homage.
- Facing West at Sunset
Hail to Sunna in joy and power. Hail to Sunna, and Her mighty steeds. Hail to Sunna, ceding the sky to Her brother. Hail to the Sun Goddess and Her duty rightly done. Hail to Mani, riding out gleaming and glorious. Hail to Mani, Who intoxicates and teases. Hail to Mani, sharp-edged fighter, ensuring divine order as fiercely as His sister. From the Abode of Day, I pay homage.
- Facing north, at midnight
Hail to Nott, Whose wise beauty blankets the sky. Hail to Sinthgunt Who orders the stars in Their gleaming. Hail to Mani, wondrous Power, radiant splendor. Hail to this God, generous with His blessings. Hail to the House of Mundilfari. From the Abode of evening, I pay homage.
I feel like we’re getting into a nice rhythm with our Sunwait rituals. I’m really loving this gentle and ritualized progression toward Yule, and as I said the other night to a friend, I’m really, really glad that we decided to incorporate Sunwait into our hearth cultus this year. Since we decided to do our rites on Fridays, it’s also a lovely way to cap off the week (a particularly significant transition since we tend to immerse ourselves in ritual and devotional work over the weekends).
So, last night, as is our norm, we began by bearing fire around our space, chanting the fire cleansing song that I learned more than twenty years ago, and asking Thor to cleanse, purify, and bless our space. I wrote about Thor before here. He may specifically be invoked as “Guardian of the Shrine” before rituals to consecrate the space and rite. Thor is awesome. Then, I explained the purpose of the ritual – we all knew, as we’d agreed as a household to do this, but stating that intention was one more way to center our minds and allow for a smooth transition into the appropriate headspace for reverent veneration. After that, I offered the following prayer to Sunna and lit the three candles (the candles for weeks one and two are only about half way burned down):
Prayer to Sunna Force and fire, that is what You are, Swift precision as You plough across the sky, Driving back pollution, and cleansing the path that Day must tread. Force and fire, bringing the light that restores our souls, bringing Your glorious brightness to our world. You are force and fire, gleaming and fierce. Battle ready, You are indomitable. There is no obstacle You cannot surmount, No enemy You cannot conquer. You drive forward the rhythms of the world. You smite malefica, wickedness, evil, and all that stands against the order created by our Gods. These things You obliterate with the force and fire of Your passing. That order is Your order, blessed and structured by Your holy hands, and always will You defend it. Teach us, oh Sunna, to stand courageously no matter how afraid we might be, in defense of that order too. Hail to You, Glorious Goddess of the Sun, May You grant us bravery in our devotions, as You move across our world leading us to Yule.
After this, I galdred thurisaz which came so joyously (there’s really no other word for it). It was like the force of a storm wind hitting the house. That’s how it felt to galdr this rune. He came immediately and with such a tremendous kinetic energy that it left me wired for hours afterwards. We passed a horn filled with sparkling apple cider and hailed Sunna, Her family, Thor, Odin and the runes, our ancestors, and more. After this, we sat down in sacred space, in holy space, and brought out our divination materials. We had been talking earlier about the small asteroid orbiting the moon, and had wondered if it was a physical representation that Mani had had a child. We meant no impiety by divining, but if He had, we wanted to know how or even if we should include that child in our veneration of the House of Mundilfari. We stumbled into epiphany and mystery and I am still shaken by it.
Sunna wanted this story told or I would not speak it. The holy order of the heavens will not fall. She and Mani were joyous and the rune that fell was wunjo: Joy, perfection, a blessed gift. They had a child, star of heaven, Himinstjarna,* A glorious daughter (fehu tells us how to honor Her: Song and beauty, art that elevates the soul, Land and life and glory, freeing the world of its disorder). I thought it lovely and we were moved to tears, Then I realized what a terrible omen it was, but what a powerful hope too. The sun and moon will not fall: Their continuity is ensured by Their child. She will bring Them back from the darkness. A magical gift, hope for our world. Mani prepares to go to war. Taking up His scimitars again, For He was a warrior in days of old. But the holy order of the Gods will endure. Himinstjarna: praise Her.
We closed the div session and then sang Sigdrifa’s Prayer, which is our way of closing almost every ritual. After that, we staggered off to get food, because after the spiritual work that was done, we were ravenous. So, that’s where we are and I think the House of Mundilfari will play a far larger role in our devotions from here on out.
*this is Her name to the best that we could translate with divination, and an ON grammar.
I’m posting these two days together since my answers are fairly succinct.
- what are some Symbols and icons of this deity
Well, the sun, obviously in that it represents day replacing night, but also because Dagr is Sunna’s herald. I think the two of Them are inseparable in that regard. One could give Him images of a galloping horse with a fiery mane and I suppose one could use reproductions of the Trundholm Chariot, but I tend to ascribe that more to Sunna. There are scholars who associate Dagr with the rune dagaz, so one could also use this rune. I don’t, because for me, Dagaz is Loki’s rune and when I wear it, I do so for Him. Still, Rudolf Simek notes the possible attribution of Dagaz to Dagr, based obviously on the etymology of the two words, in his entry on the latter God (1).
- See Simek, Rudolf. Dictionary of Northern Mythology. Cambridge, UK: D.S. Brewer, 1993, p. 55 (entry on Dagr).
(Trundholm Sun chariot — I actually have a replica of this on my shrine for Sunna)
4 . Share a favorite myth or myths of this deity
Sadly, none of His sacred stories have survived.
Several years ago, I did this 31 Days of Devotion to Odin and then to Mani. I found it very fruitful and personally fulfilling, so I’ve decided to do it for a third time. This time, I plan to focus on the Norse God of the Day: Dagr. Now, by rights, I should just wait and post question one on August 1st, but I don’t want to wait. So, I’m going to do the thirty-one days, starting today, July 11. Lol. If any of you decide to join me, please post links to your own blogs in the comments section. I encourage everyone to do this for the Deity of your choice. I have found it to be a lovely and low pressure way of learning more about one of our Gods, and of edging more deeply into devotion. You may find the full set of questions here.
Now, to begin…
1 – A basic introduction of the Deity
Not much is known about this God, though His name opens one of the most famous of Heathen prayers—stanza two of the Sigdrifumal begins what we call “Sigdrifa’s Prayer,” with the line “Hail to the Day! Hail Sons of Day!”(1). While we may not know Who His Sons are, we do know that Dagr is the Norse God of the day and His name is the Old Norse word for “day.” He’s part of the House of Mundilfari, being the Herald of the Sun Goddess Sunna (2). Actually, He belongs to the House of Mundilfari twice over: His father is Dellingr, a God of the dawn and husband either of Jorð or one of the Husbands of Nott, Goddess of the night and the Aunt of Mani, Sunna, and presumably Sinthgunt (3).
As the Herald of Sunna, Dagr rides a horse with a mane of fire (well, the name Skinfaxi actually translates as “shining-maned” or “bright-maned” but I’m being poetic here. I have this image in my head with Dagr riding this shining horse with its mane an orange stream of fire that trails out wildly as They run, setting the sky ablaze with light). In the Vafþruðnismal, stanza 12, Skinfaxi is said to draw day over the sky for mankind (4). In the cycle of day and night, Nott rides Her own horse Hrimfaxi (Frost Mane) before Dagr, and foam from his bit falls upon the earth as dew.
Dagr isn’t mentioned very much in the surviving lore. He turns up in Vafþruðnismal stanzas 12 (well, His horse does), 24-25, Sigdrifumal, stanza 2, Gylfaginning, stanza 10, Skaldskaparmal, chapter 24 and 64, the latter of which notes He fathered a line of mortal kings. He‘s also mentioned in the Hrafnagaldr Oðins, stanza 24. In this latter stanza, we learn that Dagr makes sure Skinfaxi is “well adorned with precious jewels” (5). Later, this same stanza refers to Dagr riding in a chariot, rather than astride His horse. The Gylfaginningalso mentions a chariot, Dagr having been given horse and chariot by Odin. We know likewise from this lay that Dagr is beautiful and fair, as was His father (6). Finally, the Hyndluljoð, stanza 18 notes that the hero Ottar is descended from a line of kings that includes Dagr and a human woman Thora, mother of heroes. This also lists several of her children, all noted as “the bravest of fighters.”
To the best of my knowledge, that’s pretty much all we know based on surviving sources. Everything else must be discovered through devotion, prayer, and contemplative engagement of this God.
- Heil dagr. Heilir dags synir…Hail Day, Hail the Sons of Day
- The House of Mundilfari is called so because of the God of Time, Mundilfari, Who is the Father of the Moon God Mani and the Sun Goddess Sunna, as well as the Goddess Sinthgunt. In modern practice, it may be said to be comprised of these Deities and Nott, Dellingr, Dagr, Hjuki and Bil, and Sunna’s husband Glenr, at the very least. Their areas of specialization, such as Gods often have, all have to do in some way with cosmic cycles, turning of seasons, and time.
- The Goddess Nott has three husbands: The first was Nagilfari and they had a son named Auð This makes Auðr the uncle of Thor! Nothing more is known about Nagilfari than His name. Zoega’s Old Norse dictionary gives ‘empty, void, desolate, uninhabited’ as a possible meaning for the adjective auðr, so perhaps this gives some indication of what this God’s sphere of influence might be. Nott’s second husband was to Annar, and They had a daughter: the Goddess Jorð, the Goddess of the earth. Annar/Ónarr may also mean “gaping’ or ‘void.” It’s also the name of one of the duergar listed in the Voluspa, but whether this is the same Annar as the God Nott wed is unclear. Finally, Her third husband was Dellingr, one of the Aesir. At least one manuscript changes Dagr’s genealogy somewhat, presenting Him as the child of Dellingr and Jorð, making Him the grandson of Nott. I’ve also known several spiritworkers today who believe Dellingr and by extension His Son Dagr, are Ljossalfar rather than Aesir, or part Aesir. I actually have no opinion on the matter, but linguistically, I think an argument could be made for Dagr being part Ljossalfar, via some of the vocabulary used to describe him.
- Skinfaxi heitir, er inn skíra dregr
dag of dróttmögu; „Shining Mane“ he is called, who through the sky draws the day over mankind;
- Dýrum settan|Dellings mögur | jó fram keyrði | jarknasteinum; – Delling’s son drove forward his horse, having adorned it with precious jewels. (Now, my Old Norse is not great. I find poetry in any of the languages other than English that I have very vexing to translate, and I only had a semester of Old Norse. I’m reading this as the horse having been adorned with jewels, not Dellingr’s son. The adornment is emphasized, the stanza beginning with Dýrum – precious and concluding with jarknasteinum-jewels, a rather elegant little bracketing there.
- Gylfaginning, stanza 10. Var hann ljóss ok fagr eftir faðerni sínu. He was bright and fair after his father.
(image of Dagr by Grace Palmer, available as a prayer card here.)