“Loki” by Mårten Eskil Winge (1890)
“Loki” by Mårten Eskil Winge (1890)

Sigyn (pronounced roughly “SIG-in”) was the wife of the wily trickster god Loki. Eddic and skaldic poetry are peppered with passing references to this role of hers, attesting to her existence in the Germanic pantheon from early times. The medieval Icelandic historian Snorri Sturluson listed her among the Aesir gods and goddesses.[1] With Loki, Sigyn had one son, whose name was variously rendered as either Narfi or Nari.[2]

The name “Sigyn” is probably formed from the Old Norse words sigr, “victory,” and vina, “female friend.”[3] Her name therefore apparently means “Friend of Victory.”

Due to the fragmentary nature of the primary sources for Norse mythology, only one scrap of lore regarding Sigyn survives that gives any indication of her personality and mythological roles: the tale of Loki’s punishment for killing Baldur. In that tale, when the gods captured Loki, they turned one of Loki’s sons, Vali (not to be confused with the Vali who avenged Baldur’s death), into a wolf. The wolf then ripped apart Narfi/Nari. The boy’s entrails hardened into an iron chain, and the gods used this grotesque fetter to bind Loki in a cave deep beneath the earth. The gods also placed a snake above Loki that would drip venom onto his head.

Like a model of a traditional, dutiful wife, Sigyn sat by Loki’s side with a bowl to catch the drops of venom so that they wouldn’t touch her husband’s head. Every so often, however, she would have to leave the cave to pour out the bowl. In her absence, a few drops of poison would fall onto Loki’s forehead. This caused him to writhe in agony, which in turn caused earthquakes on the earth’s surface.

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[1] Simek, Rudolf. 1993. Dictionary of Northern Mythology. Translated by Angela Hall. p. 284.

[2] Turville-Petre, E.O.G. 1964. Myth and Religion of the North: The Religion of Ancient Scandinavia. p. 133.

[3] Simek, Rudolf. 1993. Dictionary of Northern Mythology. Translated by Angela Hall. p. 284.

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