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Jarnsaxa – The Wolf Riding Jötun

There are a lot of lesser known Goddesses and Þurs, Giants and Giantesses which I consider Gods and Goddesses as well, in the tales of Norse Mythology. One of my favorites is the tale of Jarnsaxa, lover of Thor and mother of Thor’s son, Magni the Norse God of strength. Now many would argue that she is not a Goddess and only a Jötun from the realm of Jötunheimr. However I have always said that all of the Þurs are indeed Gods and Goddesses because of the complex and close relations they have with the tribes of the Vanir and Æsir but we can leave that for a future blog post. So now let us dive into Jarnsaxa and her lesser known great importance within the Norse pantheon.

Jarnsaxa or Iarnsaxa was mother of Magni and Modi (Refer to Note 1), by the Aesir Thor. Not much is known about Jarnsaxa, except that she was Sif’s rival for Thor’s love. All references to Jarnsaxa have to do with either Thor being her lover or Magni being her son. Her parents are unknown. Her name means “iron sax”. Her name appeared in Sturluson’s list of giantesses, and in a couple of Eddaic kennings.

Every difficulty increases Jarnsaxa’s wind in Olaf’s father, so that praise is due. Here, Jarnsaxa’s wind means “courage”. He reddened with gore the chops of the dark-looking steed of Jarnsaxa…. In this kenning, the dark-looking steed of Jarnsaxa indicates her steed was a wolf. SOURCE

NOTE 1: Some believe that Modi is actually the some of Sigyn but it is also said that his mother is unknown.

We know a little bit about her and what she does. Her name is a portmanteau of the Swedish words for iron, axe, and scissors (jarn, yxa, and saxa, respectively). In the Poetic Edda (considered one of the oldest texts of Norse culture), we learn that she is one of The Nine Mothers (Refer to Note 2) of Heimdall. These Wave-Maidens were responsible for turning the mill which runs the wind and the waves. After Heimdall leaves his mothers to seek his fortune, Jarnsaxa disappears from the Eddas for a while.

She reappears as Thor’s lover. Like before, as a Wave-Maiden, she is a giantess. We learn that she is a Jotun, the same race as Loki. She is also the mother of Thor’s sons, Magni and Modi [Refer to Note 1](respectively named for physical strength, and the desire to fight and kill). It is prophesied that Modi and Magni will eventually inherit Mjölnir, Thor’s hammer, when it is thrown at the end of Ragnarok (the Old Norse apocalypse). We also know from other places in the Eddas that Thor’s official wife is Sif, the goddess of fertility. Read full blog post HERE.

NOTE 2: There are actually two theories on who the “Nine Mothers” of Heimdall are and the other is that his nine mothers are actually the Nine Daughters of the sea Goddess Rán. I will expand on this in a future blog post.

Járnsaxa “Iron-cutlass” is often depicted riding her giant Wolf and carrying a sword. Credit: Artist unknown

Further Resources:

Jarnsaxa the lesser known Giantess

SKÁLDSKAPARMAL

The Nafnathulur in English Translation (Nafnaþulur)

Trollkvinna

Völuspá: The Völva’s ProphecyA Study Guide

The parentage of Magni and Modi with brief mention of Jarnsaxa by Norse Magic and Beliefs

2 thoughts on “Jarnsaxa – The Wolf Riding Jötun

  1. Hi! Thank you for linking to my writing about Jarnsaxa, she’s a huge inspiration for me.

    1. You are very welcome!I really like what you had written about her.

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