Last week, one of the runes I drew was Ingwaz – the Rune of the god Freyr and I mentioned that Freyr surrendered his sword to his friend and servant Skínir so that Skínir would get the giantess Gerðr and bring her to Freyr to be his wife. What I didn’t tell you was how exactly Skínir accomplished that ask. He used Runes. Today, in the sixth installment of my Runes in Mythology series, I will, because it shows how Rune magic was perceived in the mythology.
You see, one day, although he wasn’t supposed to, Freyr sat in Hlidskjálf, Odin’s high seat in his hall Valaskjálf. From this seat, Odin can see everything in the nine worlds. As Freyr sat in Odin’s seat, he looked to the north and spotted a great hall in Jotunheim, a hall which belonged to Gymir. Coming out of the hall was a beautiful maiden – Gerðr. Immediately, he was love struck and Skínir, at the request of Freyr’s father Njörd and step-mother Skadi (also a giantess) got Freyr to confess the reason for his mood.
Freyr told him about spying Gerðr and then asked Skínir to go to her and convince her to meet with him. He agreed to give Skínir his sword and the horse that that would carry him through the darkness and over magical, flickering flames. With these items in hand, Skínir set off on his journey.
When he arrived at Gerðr’s hall, two hounds stood guard at the gates. Skínir asked a local herdsman how to get past the dogs, but the man was unwilling to help him. Determined and realizing his fate was set long ago, he rode to the hall, set his horse to graze and Gerðr, hearing all the noise of the barking dogs and the yelling between Skínir, told her servant to invite him in.
Once inside, he presented her with eleven apples of gold and told her of Fryer’s desire for her. She refused the apples and assured him she would never settle down with Freyr.
Next, Skínir gave her Daupnir, the magical arm ring. Eight rings, just like it, dropped from it every ninth night. Again she refused Skínir’s offering.
When gifts didn’t work, he resorted to coercion. Brandishing the sword from Freyr, he threatened to slit her throat with it if she didn’t agree to meet Freyr. She didn’t cave to his threat of force against her.
Skínir set down Freyr’s sword, grabbed his own magical staff and began to cast Rune spells on her. He told her he would tame her, she would go to a high tower where no man will ever see her again and just sit there looking through bars out over the world. All food would seem vile to her. Unbearable desire, rage, and longing would torture her. No matter what she did, she wouldn’t be able to escape her fate. Spiteful spirits would pick at her. Then, she would creep through the halls of the frost giants without choice, her body would shake as she cried and she would be very sad. She would spend her life with a three-headed giant and never sleep with a man. She would be driven crazy by her unfulfilled lust and sadness and then cast away like a thistle at the end of the harvest.
Skínir told her how he traveled into the forest to get a potent branch to fashion a wand and showed it to her as he proclaimed that Odin and Thor were mad at her and Freyr would hate her; she had unleashed the gods’ fury. He began to chant to the frost giants and forbid them from pleasuring Gerðr. Hrimgrimnir was the giant who would have her near the gates of Hel and she would have only goat urine to drink. Then, he carved three Runes on her – unbearable desire, loathing and raving. Once the Runes were carved, Skínir told her he could erase them if she gave him a valid reason for doing so.
By this point, Gerðr was trembling with fear and conceded. She offered Skínir mead and assured him that she would meet Freyr at the forest called Barri in nine nights and give herself to him then.