by Melinda Marton
My first meeting with the Goddess
I moved to Copenhagen in January 2009, to live together with my Danish boyfriend. One evening I walked with him to Kastellet, to see the Little Mermaid, one of the most famous Danish tourist attractions. On the way, I saw the Gefjon fountain made by Anders Bungaard in 1897-99). It was breathtakingly beautiful and so alive!
I asked my boyfriend about the fountain, and that is how I heard that according to the myth, Gefjon was the founder of Zealand (the largest county in Denmark, called Sjæland in Danish) also known as “the devil’s island” – I wonder why!
I began to research and meditate on Gefjon because I felt welcomed and blessed to do so. It was as though a great path opened in front of me. A journey I was so glad to take, and so far it has not ended, as every day I discover more about her:
Gefjun dragged from Gylfi,
gladly the land beyond value.
steam rising from the swift footed bulls.
The oxen bore eight
moons of their forehead and four heads,
hauling as they went in front of
the grassy isle’s wide fissure.
Braggi Boddason, 9th century
‘Tell them that once I was a powerful goddess: beautiful, powerful, dancing and singing over my fields! I loved my people, and they loved me! I, the virgin goddess, knower of mysteries! Over the sea, over the fields, I danced and sang! Fishermen prayed to me, and women, with beautiful, long hair, offered me songs and poetry! I was a powerful Goddess. Tell them about my beauty, about my joy, about my power.’
(extract from a recorded meditation, December, 2009)
As H.E. Davidson tells us in “Roles of the Northern Goddess”*, the Goddess Gefjon uses four oxen to drag away a fertile piece of ground near Uppsala, to form the fertile island of Sjæland.
According to Snorri, Gefjon was sent north by Odin to King Gylfi in Sweden, who agreed to give her as much land as she could plough with four oxen in a day and a night.
Gefjon had mated with a giant and borne him four sons, so she turned them into mighty oxen with which she ploughed out a piece of land down the Baltic to Denmark and named it Sjæland. She dwelt there with her husband Skjold, founder of the Danish Dynasty.
A ceremony dedicated to Goddess Gefjon, 29 July 2011
In 2011, I finished a beautiful online Goddess course, taught by Geraldine C. To mark the ending of this course, I planned a ceremony dedicated to Gefjon, in Glastonbury, together with Geraldine.
I went to Glastonbury to participate to the Goddess Conference – celebrating the Water Goddess, which I thought would be an appropriate celebration of Gefjon, also.
I met with Geraldine for lunch, to talk about the main points of the ceremony, discussing how I envisaged the ceremony and about my meeting with Gefjon. We met in a cafe opposite the Town Hall in Glastonbury. I remember clearly how excited I was, but also how nervous – about the whole ceremony!
Geraldine was to invoke the Goddess, and we agreed that she would also invoke the four bulls as the four elements. I prepared a reading of the goddess’s qualities, of what Gefjon means for me.
Then I planned to mix the earth and the water I bought with me from Denmark, and the water I received so miraculously from Sweden, from Lake Mälaren. (See note, below).
I met with Geraldine later that day, at the White Spring. I was wearing raincoat and wellies, on top of my blue dress (celebrating the water goddess) and a pair of jeans. It had been a rainy, cloudy day, that day (perfectly fitting for Gefjon, Geraldine noted).
We started the walk towards the Tor and soon left the main path and found a lovely spot with whitethorn bushes, an apple tree, and a solitary sheep watching us quietly. The perfect place!
We made the circle from twigs and placed the main candle at the centre, with the four candles, representing the four elements and the four bulls, around it. I placed my offerings at the middle of the circle: two stones I bought from the Danish shore: a white quartz stone, and a black one. I also picked some daisies on my way. To these, I added the lovely wheat heads I received from the Goddess Conference–a beautiful blending of presents from Mother Water and Mother Earth!
South of the altar we had Geraldine’s cloak to sit on. At the north side I made a small ‘lake’, with the water and earth I had bought, and I placed a stone in the middle, symbolising the island.
Geraldine invoked the four elements through the four bulls (Gefjon’s helpers: her own sons), the four goddesses of the four quarters: in the South West, Ker, Madron, and Demeter; in the North West, Cerridwen, Hecate and Hel; in the North East, Brigid and Gefjon, and in the South East, Rhiannon, Aphrodite and Freya, with Gefjon at the centre.
She came and she told us about the importance of the land, and of seeing, noticing the nature around us and understanding the language of nature: she told us about the birds, and other creatures of the land. She told me to look for signs, even in the city; in places I would not expect the Goddess to manifest (She knows how much I wish I could live in the countryside, not in the middle of Copenhagen).
She explained that the number eight mentioned in the description of the story of Gefjon meant that the bulls were dragging two ploughs behind, so that they could plough even more land! She told us that she was a beautiful, beautiful goddess, beloved by the gods, who gave her jewels in exchange for her favours – which she granted, but only if she felt like it, of course.
She sounded joyful, happy and so much alive!
I gave thanks for the welcome I had received when I moved to Denmark, two and a half years earlier, and for all her blessings. I read her names and attributes as I see her, what she means for me:
‘Goddess Gefjon, Earth Goddess
Goddess of ploughing
Goddess of water
Goddess of magic: the one who knows the future
Spring Goddess with primroses in her hair
Goddess of Spring, dance, joy’.
Then I read the verses recorded by the 5th century skald, Braggi Boddason.
Gefjon asked me in return if I would like to know the future: when I said yes, she said, it is better for humans not to know their future, but she told me anyway.
I thanked her for her presence. And made three little rounds from the mixture of earth and water: one, I left at the place of the circle, on the Tor; one I took back with me, to Denmark, and one I prepared for my Swedish sister, for her to take back to the place where the whole story of Goddess started. In this way, this three places remain connected, the spirit of the Goddess connecting them. Her spirit, so strong, filled with so much power and life.
At this point, our quiet spectator, the sheep, left us.
Geraldine closed the ceremony, and I received a beautiful present of a miniature, carved bull.
After the ceremony I felt like I contributed to something important, so important.
Her love, support and blessings are with me every day.
Another Ceremony dedicated to Goddess Gefjon
This year in July I visited my Swedish sister in Stockholm, it was great that her apartment overlooked Lake Mälaren, and we could sit and enjoy the beautiful view of the lake from her balcony, talk about the old goddesses of Scandinavia and share the stories of our individual paths that had led to finding the goddess! At the end of that weekend we made together a ceremony dedicated to Gefjon, this time at the shore of the lake which plays such a big part in her story.
Note: Water from Lake Mälaren
Last year, we celebrated the Goddess of Water at the Glastonbury Goddess Conference. All participants were invited to bring water from their home country. K. came from Sweden, and brought water from the lake close to her home: Lake Mälaren.
She added her water to all the others, during the special ceremony. But when she returned to her room, she realized with surprise that the water she brought with her, the Mälaren water, was still in her room.
Next day I talked to her about Gefjon, and my plans for the ceremony dedicated to Gefjon. Whereupon K, so kindly, suggested she should give me the water she brought from Lake Mälaren, which was just the right water for the Gefjon ceremony. What a magical ‘coincidence’!
* H. E. Davidson, Roles of the Northern Goddess, Routledge, London, 1998: p. 65 (back)