Balladeer’s Blog’s previous looks at neglected deities from the Norse pantheon of gods have been pretty popular, so here’s another one.
GEFJUN – This fertility deity is one of the most misunderstood goddesses from Norse myths and that’s saying something. Gefjun is sometimes referred to as a virgin, but her four sons might disagree with that notion. (Most likely it’s another misunderstanding about how ancient goddesses were often called “virgins” simply because they weren’t married, not because they were celibate.) Those sons were the product of Gefjun mating with Jotuns (Giants).
In the same way that the Korean goddess Halmang was a localized “Mother Earth” for just Jeju Island, Gefjun filled a similar role for Zealand, the largest island in Denmark. By one account Gefjun convinced (or tricked) the Swedish King Gylfi into granting her as much land as she could plow and cultivate for herself.
The goddess then grew to giant size and transformed her four giant sons into oxen, harnessed them, and first plowed then dragged all of Zealand away from Sweden and to its present Danish location. With her as its patron deity Zealand thrived, becoming the most populated and most prosperous region of Denmark for its time.
By another account Zealand was landlocked and the gigantic goddess Gefjun urinated around the perimeter of Zealand, with her liquid waste permanently separating it from the land surrounding it. This too is similar to Halmang, whose urine severed Jeju Island from mainland Korea (or just from nearby Udo Island in some versions).
When the demigod Skjold, one of the god Odin’s many illegitimate children, was exiled Gefjun invited him to make his home on Zealand, and the two got married. (Thereby eliminating the OTHER reason she might have been referred to as a virgin.) Eventually Skjold’s heroics in war prompted the people of Denmark to make him their king.
He and Gefjun’s children would start the Danish Skjoldung Dynasty.
In the Lokasenna, Loki accuses Gefjun of having slept with “a light-skinned man” in exchange for a piece of jewelry and implies she’s as promiscuous as the love goddess Freya.
FOR MY INITIAL LIST OF NEGLECTED NORSE DEITIES CLICK HERE
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