Shrines for Skaði: A Retrospective
I started doing devotional work for the huntress Skaði in 2004, started building shrines for Her in 2006, and started photographing these shrines in 2007. Here’s a chronological arrangement of various shrines I have built for Skaði over the years I have worked in Her service.
I have always wanted my shrines for Skaði to be magnificent, majestic, cold, and inspiring, like a tiny icy landscape that draws me in and hints at Her vastness, beauty, power and mystery. To that end, there are snowflakes everywhere, and the dominant colors are white and silver.
The two photos above feature one of the first shrines I ever built for Skaði specifically, and definitely the first that I considered worthy of photographing. (The original post I made about it — minus the original photos — can be seen at the LiveJournal pimp_my_altar community.)
The Viking drinking horn on the left has a gold metal piece at the top that features a design inspired by Viking-era archaeological finds in Gotland, Sweden. Since my ancestry is half Swedish — my maternal ancestral line originally hails from Småland and Östergötland in southeastern Sweden — this represents a connection to my heritage. Since I don’t drink any alcohol at all, the drinking horn has never been used for mead, but fortunately no one seems to mind if I drink only sparkling water or tea from it.
This shrine was built about a year after I first discovered gothic bellydance and received the vision that inspired my Shrine of Skaði devotional dance project, so there is a little round purple ornament in the center featuring a gothic bellydancer to commemorate this.
The clear round paperweight on the right side, and the amethyst and two tiny “ice crystals” just above it, belonged to my late father, who is of German descent, so there is another connection to my European ancestral heritage.
The black velvet box with lid was used to hold written prayers, and on top of it is a black mug with a spiral design, holding iced vodka as an offering to Her.
The opalite sphere resting on the black cloth was used for scrying (although not very successfully, I’ll admit. Eventually I learned that black obsidian works much better for me.)
The candle on the silver stand is surrounded by a silver coin bracelet that I wore around my ankle at the time whenever I did devotional dance for Her, and the sparkly silver scarf surrounding the blue mosaic candleholder was a piece that I tied around my waist for my first attempt at a bellydance costume.
Looking back, I’m not really sure why I decided to include the Ægishjálmr (“helm of awe”/”helm of terror”) or the Mjölnir (Thor’s Hammer) on this shrine. Probably because I was still quite new to all this Viking and Norse mythology stuff, so I was just winging it.
The print in the back, featuring wolves and birch trees in moonlit snow, was an eBay find that has made its way onto all of my shrines for Her.
Out of necessity, this shrine was located on a small nightstand next to my bed, so I incorporated the gothic-style lamp into the design.
The gothic hanging mirror has candles on it in the photos above, but I usually placed calling cards for my Shrine of Skaði project there. There is a crystal chain draped over the mirror — my original intention was to use this as a head drape over the black veil I often danced with, although in practice it never quite seemed to work that way until much later.
The art is Skade (1893) by Carl Fredrik von Saltza, and it has been featured on most of my shrines for Her. For many years, it was the only piece of Skaði art I was able to find that actually helped me feel more connected to Her.
In the bottom photo, there is a mouse pad that never got used for its intended purpose. It features Kalmar Slott, a Swedish castle, and I got it at the local annual Scandinavian Heritage festival. (Interestingly, when I bought that mouse pad, I had no idea that I also had an ancestral link to the Kalmar area. I later discovered, through reading some old letters that were handed down to my mother, that at least one of my maternal ancestors attended Mörlunda kyrka in Småland, a Christian church located in Kalmar county.)
The little round box with the snowflake print was used to hold written prayers and words of praise.
The silver bowl with the red lining was used for various offerings. In this photo it has crystal clear stones in it.
The bracelet in the foreground of the bottom photo was handmade by me, and features beads made of black tiger’s eye and snowy quartz crystal. For quite some time I wore it to bed every night and then placed it back on Her shrine in the morning, as a way of opening myself more fully to Her guidance in dreams. I also made a matching pendant of prayer beads with a snowflake charm. After I got the statue of Skaði (see photos below) I began draping this pendant over the statue, and placing it around my neck whenever I asked for special guidance from Her. I wore it as I put together this retrospective post.
The top photo features my 2008 shrine…with the former calling cards for my Shrine of Skaði project on the hanging mirror in the center, flanked by mini vases made of silver on either side, and a silver candle in each vase.
In the bottom photo, the shrine has been moved to a new location away from the bed, and the print of the art by Carl Fredrik von Saltza has been framed with silver crushed velvet fabric. Draped over the mirror are silver sparkly scarves, held in place with sconces.
In the background I used silver holiday wrapping paper with snowflakes, and it produces a lovely rainbow effect when photographed.
There are three altar cloths in the new location: the silver-grey velvet one on the bottom, the white faux-fur piece set on top, and a thin black-red-purple scarf draped in the front. In the foreground is a small black offering bowl.
The clear crystal stones now surround a white candle in the shape of a snowflake.
The star-shaped tray in the center was usually used for larger offerings, and items I found on hikes that reminded me of Her. I felt it was especially appropriate at times when I had a sense of my dearly departed father’s eyes watching over me from the realm of the stars, like the star-eyes of Skaði’s own beloved father, Þjazi.
As with the earlier shrines, the little round box held written prayers and words of praise for the Öndurdis (“ski-lady”).
The shrine for Skaði remained in the same location for the next few years, since it seemed to work well there, and also because my Hermitage is tiny and options are limited due to space constraints.
Only minor adjustments were made to Her shrine during this time, including the addition of a small white wolf (seen in front of the white candle in the top photo), and the placement of the beaded devotional “dream-bracelet” wrapped around the base of the tall white candle.
In late 2012, Skaði facilitated the acquisition of a statue for Her shrine, seen in close-up in the photo on the right. I had been searching for a statue of Her ever since I first started doing my devotional work for Her in 2004, and until 2012 I was never able to find one I liked, nor did I have the means to commission an artist to make one. While this one isn’t perfect — I don’t care for the green stone and flame in Her hand, for example — it’s the best I’ve found yet by a long shot.
I re-arranged the shrine such that the statue could take center stage, and added a few more pieces, such as the printout of the art on the left-hand side.
In front of the statue is a vial of botanical perfume for Skaði, made with love and intent by the amazing Incendiary Arts Aromatics. This perfume is very evocative of Skaði for me. It’s made with essential oils of Douglas Fir, Elemi, and Frankincense surrounding a heart-cone of Fir Balsam.
Since I have allergic reactions to almost every synthetic perfume out there, and a number of “natural” ones too, I am astonished and delighted to have found an all-natural ritual scent that doesn’t trigger my reactions. (I think Skaði, too, is pleased.)
In late 2013, my shrine for Her was completely relocated and redesigned, in keeping with the goals of my Endarkenment redecoration project at The Black Stone Hermitage, and in winter 2015 it was expanded to fill an entire wall of bookshelves. I would argue that the shrine must be seen in person — and accompanied by a devotional playlist of dark ambient music I selected for Her — to be fully appreciated, but here’s a little peek:
In many ways Skaði is a dark goddess, and I have a lot more work to do in learning how to properly honor Her darker aspects through my shrine-building endeavors.
As I learn to read Swedish better, I will also be doing some more in-depth research into place-names of labyrinths, groves, and cairns in Sweden that are linked to Skaði (She is also mentioned as “Skädja” in the labyrinth article I linked, and examples of place-names include Skadevi, Skädharg, and Skärike [Skädja‘s cairn]). I hope to model my future shrines for Her in ways that take into consideration the ways She was probably honored in pagan Sweden. According to John Kraft’s book Hednagudar och hövdingadömen — det gamla Skandinavien (Heathen Gods and Chiefdoms in Ancient Scandinavia), “The oldest place names are probably those containing a possible goddess Skädja (Skadevi, Skädharg, etc).”
In July 2015 I built a temporary shrine room for Skaði in my hotel room at Many Gods West, a new polytheist conference in Olympia, WA — complete with a carefully curated playlist of dark ambient music, of course. It was very well received, there were some lovely contributions to the prayer box, and I hope to build more shrine rooms for Her (and Others I serve) in the future.
I’ve also put together a devotional page for Her on Pinterest.
Have you built a shrine for Skaði? Please post a link or photo— I’d love to see shrines built by other devotees!
(Note: This was originally published on the Shrine of Skaði project website in 2014; it’s been lightly edited for publication on Medium.)
For more about my work, click on the image above to visit my main site — you’ll find links to almost everything I’ve published online!
(Thanks to Ilana Hamilton of Blackthorn Photography for the great photo.)
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