Who was and who is Ullr?

16 Feb

Ullr is a nordic god shrouded in mystery. He is most often associated with winter, snow skiing. There is a ski school in Germany named for him, and skiers sometimes invoke him in order to be blessed with bountiful enough snow to engage in their favourite sport. However, for all his wintery sporting adventurousness attributed, he is said to be a patron of agriculture.

Ullr is referred to on the scabbard found in Thorsberg, Germany as “owlþu“, meaning glory, translated to old Norse “Ullr”, old English “wuldor”. In Lilla Ullevi north of Stockholm, Sweden, a shrine to Ullr was discovered in 2007 containing rings used to swore oaths at the site.  Saxo Grammaticus describes “Ollerus” (the latinized name for Ullr) in his work Gesta Danorum as being able to cross the sea using “terrible spells” in a ship made of bone. Here, Ullr radiates a similar mysterious magic wielding ability as the more well-known nordic god Oden. I personally know people who choose to worship Ullr as the “all father” god in place of Oden, whom they attribute as being more warlike and “German” than Ullr, whom they say is more native Scandinavian, peaceful, and agricultural. My own experience and research has painted a different picture, though.

Some say Ullr is another incarnation of Oden. Indeed, both gods reportedly married Skadi, the giantess who, like Ullr, was very fond of skiing. Both gods are complex, Oden with his shamanic abilities and his presiding over battle, and Ullr and his love for the hunt, skis and the harvest. In comparison with a god like Freyr, who bears the energy of a happy household and guardian of domestic affairs, Ullr and Oden both foster a love for various  activities in a variety of realms.

Whereas Oden is seen as a father god, Ullr is said to be the son of Sif, and the stepson of Thor. In Snorri Sturluson’s Prose Edda,this and that he is one to invoke for victory in duels and battles is mentioned. Indeed, this is another resemblance to Oden.

As all written sources come from the Christian period, again it is important to take one’s own interpretation and relationship to the various gods. Visiting holy pagan sites, meditating in nature is a more personal way to come to knowledge and understanding. Written texts can provide a basis for inspiration, but in order to establish a personal connection one has to do his or her own work to come to the inner wisdom, in any form.

It is my feeling that Ullr is a personality in his own right, similar to Oden but more solitary and earthbound.  I feel the shamanic aspects of Oden and the various guises of Ullr are well harmonised together, as a glorious persona of the unconscious and the will to strive forward. Ullr combines magic, transport, mobility and glory and groundedness (a great combination of runes to call upon his energies with be raidr, fehu, and wunjo. To meditate upon these may bring greater wisdom of Ullr and his origins.)

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