Did you know that Loki has a wife? If not, don’t feel bad. Loki’s wife, the goddess Sigyn (SIG-in), is only mentioned at any length in one story, the Lokasenna, and even then, it is more about Loki than her. For the most part, she’s either called Loki’s wife or Loki is called Sigyn’s husband.
Beauty and Loyalty
If we look at the Norse stories of goddesses, we’ll see two common attributes for these women–they are beautiful and they are loyal to their husbands. It tells us a lot about Norse culture and what people, or at least the storytellers, valued. Considering the skalds were typically men and Snori Sturlusson, the person who wrote down the stories centuries later, was a man, then this informs us as to what these men valued in wives.
In a previous post I wrote about Sif, the wife of Thor and how we know her only in that she was his wife and the mother of the god Ullr. As well as being a wife and mother, Sif was beautiful with magnificent golden hair.
Other goddesses fared the same fate as Sif in the stories that come to us. Known only as loyal wives, mothers, or beauties–that is their lot.
Sigyn (SIG-in) is known for her role as Loki’s loyal wife. She has no identity of her own, only her relationship to Loki and what she did for him. This goddess’s claim to fame comes from the story of Loki’s punishment after he insulted the gods and goddesses.
Aegir, the sea god, holds a feast and many of the gods and goddesses attend. They are having a good time eating and drinking until Loki becomes annoyed that the gods keep praising the servants for doing their job well. He is jealous and kills one of the servants! Talk about a rotten guest at a party. It gets worse.
The gods do not take kindly to this action, and they throw Loki out. But he comes back with a vengeance. He returns and insults every one of the gods and goddesses in attendance. He calls Freya a “whore” and tells Odin that he judges the battles of humans unfairly. Naturally, no one takes this well.
The final straw is when Loki insults Thor’s wife, Sif, by accusing her of being unfaithful. Thor, who had been gone, returns just in time to hear this. He threatens to bash in Loki’s head with his hammer, but Loki escapes.
The gods find Loki, who has transformed into a salmon and is hiding in the water. They catch him and bind him with the intestines of one of his sons–a gruesome fate! To make it even worse, the goddess Skadi, whom Loki had insulted by telling everyone she wanted to sleep with him, ties a serpent over his head. That serpent continuously drips its venom into Loki’s eyes. The Norse gods do not mess around when doling out punishments.
We return to Sigyn, the loyal wife. She stands by her husband and holds a bowl over his face to catch the poison before it lands in his eyes. But, of course, the bowl fills up after a while and Sigyn has to empty it. When she does, the poison drips onto Loki’s face again. It is incredibly painful, so Loki thrashes on the rock to which he is tied. When this happens the world shakes and trembles with him. Hence, that’s why we have earthquakes!
We can learn from this story. One, don’t insult the gods! But, more seriously, it shows us the role and duties of a wife in Norse culture. No matter what Loki did or how badly he behaved, and no matter how awful his punishment, his wife, Sigyn, stood beside him to ease his suffering.
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The following two books are the translated source material.
In these books, Neil Gaiman tells the stories in his own words. He narrates the audiobook.