More on Máni and Sól

Foreword

Worship of Moon and Sun is one of the oldest practice by humanity, it exists as far as animistic religions. I will not give myself into accademical comparisons between Norse worship and the Roman one, the Celtic one and so on, I leave this stuff – even if I know these – to those who study worships as they are Airthmetic or Geography at school. So I’ll skip directly to deepen what concerns Mán (the Moon) and Sól (the Sun) in Old Norse religion:

Máni

Máni is the son of Mundilfœri. As his sister Sól, he was taken hostage by the gods – because his father was so presumptuous to call his children “Moon” and “Sun” and put in the sky in order to tow the Moon’s chariot. Unlike his sister, Máni kidnapped in turn two young mortals, Bil and Hjúki, in order to help him with lunar paheses, and some norsemen did believe that these two boys were the planets Jupiter and Mars, other instead did believe they were the spots on the Moon.
Máni keep on run around the Earth beacuse, as his sister, he is chased by a wolf, Hati, son of Hróðvitnir, also called Mánagarmr, who will, according to Ragnarǫk’s prophecy, vore him on the final day. Differently to what will happen to Sól, it seems that no-one will take Máni’s place, thus according to Ragnarǫk’s prophecy the Moon will fade completely from the sky after the End of Days.

The word “máni” in Old Norse means “Moon”, and is usually considered to be masculine, anyway, having regard of his etymology, it is neuter. In fact, the Proto-Germanic “mēnan”, evolved in the Proto-Norse “mánan” and then in the Old Norse “máni”, is femminine, whilst “mánan” is neuter. Some divinities relatives to Mánan are even female: Mano for Sámi people, for example, is a woman, and worship of the Moon is one of the most practiced still today within Sámi people (Sámi people are the indigenous of Scandinavia, bordered in Lapland after the arrival of the Germans).

Worship of Máni was widespread among norsemen, although not as – it seems – in the other religions less “evolved”, as the Sámi one. Anyway many Mánagoðar (goði(s), priests, of Máni) are documented, as well as many blótar (sacrifices) to Máni: the Moon, indeed, allowed nocturnal raids, the wolves didn’t chase with New Moon; and so on, so mankind has tried since ever to be in the favor of the god or goddess between the Moon.
Old Norse epithets for Máni are Mylinn (reddish), Hverfandahvél (spinning wheel), Skyndi (pushed), Skin (light), Ártal (count of the years).

Sól

Sól is the daughter of Mundilfœri. As her borther Máni, she was taken hostage by the gods – because her father was so presumptuous to call his children “Moon” and “Sun” and put in the sky in order to tow the Sun’s chariot. Since the Sun is extremely hot, to protect her and the world there is the shield called Svalinn, without which the heat of the Sun would be so hot to burn the entire world (and Sól herself). Differently by her brother Máni, Sól is married with a man named Glenr, with whom she will have a daughter who she will give birth shorlty before she will be vore by the wolf Skǫll during the Ragnarǫk.

Precisely because of Skǫll son of Jarviðr, Sól keep on running around the Earth, towing the Sun’s chariot, indeed, the wolf always try to vore one and only her. In other sources (the Vafþrúðnismál just to quote one of them) there is Fenrir to vore Sól instead. Even in this case, she will give birth to a daughter who will take her place in the sky.

Worship of Sól was enormously widespread, both among blótar (sacrifices) both among simple invocations and prayers, because sunlight is both benign and malignant, because it makes the vegetable grow, it helps to not freeze, it gives life, but also it dazzles, it saps, it burns and so on. Usually people try to propice the Sun in the blótar for Freyr and other fertility’s gods. Farmers had a particular blót for Sól and Freyer among the end of heyannir (14 August) and the beginning of þvímánuðr (15 August), called Vérblót, or Freysblót, or Sólarblót. This blót is typical of countrymen and shows how much the worship of the Sun was important for norsemen, indeed, the “most famous” blotar are only for the “most important” divinities: Þórr, Óðinn, Freyr, Freyja, Elves (álfar) and Sól.

Old Norse epithets of the Sun are Sunna (Germanic variant of Sól), Álfǫðull (Elves’ glory), Dvalinsleika (Dvalinn’s mate), Eygló (eternal flame), Fagrahvél (beauty wheel), Alskir (resplendent).



Sources

Vǫluspá, Vafþrúðnismál, Alvíssmál, Reginsmál, Gylfaginning, Skáldskaparmál.

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