Wulþur, Heimdallr, and Other Gods
(Ullr, Wuldor, Wulþus)
Although his name means "Glory", Wulþur is something of a shadowy figure among the Ases. He takes no part in any of the Eddic myths; the only tale we know of him is that, according to Saxo, he ruled the Ases during the years of Wodan's exile. When Wodan returned and cast Wulþur out, he was able to travel over the sea on a bone risted with spells; the kenning "ship of Ullr" speaks of a shield, so it is possible that he may have also been seen as sailing on a shield.
Beyond this, Snorri tells us that he is the son of Sif and the stepson of Þórr, that he is such a good archer and skier that none can match him; that he is fair to look on and has a warrior's accomplishments; and that he is good to call on in single combat. He is given the names öndur-Ás (snowshoe-Ase), boga-Ás (bow-Ase), veiði-Ás (hunting-Ase), and skjaldar-Ás (shield-Ase).
As spoken of under "Skaði", Wulþur and Skaði bear a close resemblance to each other, sharing many of the same traits and overlapping in function; Schröder's suggestion that they may even be brother or sister (or half-brother and -sister) is discussed in that chapter. The resemblance between Wulþur and the Finnish hunting/forest god Tapio is also quite close, as may be seen in this traditional song:
"Take me, forest, for one of your men,
for one of your fellows, Tapio,
wilds, for your arrow-fetcher...
Take a man, teach him
to look up at heaven's arch,
observe the Great Bear
and study the stars!...
Lead a man on skis...
lead him to that mound
where a catch may be made, a
prey-task carried out"
(Lönnrot, ed, The Kantelar, pp. 85-86).
Several references in Eddic poetry suggest that Wulþur held a higher place in religion and ritual than his absence from the myths would seem to show. In Grímnismál 42, Óðinn speaks of "Ullr's favour, and all the gods'"; in Atlakviða in groenlenzca 30, the oath-ring is called "Ullr's ring". His name is quite common as an element of Scandinavian place-names, being especially usual in Norway and the middle of Sweden. Turville-Petre compares this to the distribution of Týr place-names, commenting that, "It looks as if Ull in the north was what Týr was in the south" (Myth and Religion, p. 184). Turville-Petre also notes the place-names "Ullarfoss" (Ullr's waterfall) beside "Goðafoss" (the gods' waterfall) and "Ullarklettur" (Ullr's Cliff) beside "Goðaklettur" (p. 183), which hint that the formula "Ullr...and all the gods" was more than a poet's alliterative device.
Although there is little evidence for Wulþur south of Scandinavia, it is also possible that some memory of him lived through the English conversion: "Caedmon's Hymn" speaks of the wuldurfadur, which can be interpreted as either "Glory-Father" or, with the application of more imagination, "Father Wuldor". In either case, this poem seems to preserve several heathen god-titles and apply them to the Christian deity (Ström and Biezais, Germanische und Baltische Religion, pp. 102, 110), so it is not unthinkable, though not provable, that the Anglo-Saxons may have known this god. The Goths also had the word wulþus ("glory/majesty"), but we have no way of telling whether they knew it as a god-name.
Beside "Ullr", there is also a god "Ullinn", whose name is an adjectival formation meaning "the glorious one". This has often been compared to the Óðr/Óðinn doublet, most extensively by de Vries; there is no reason to doubt that they are the same god.
How and when our folk first learned of Wulþur is unknown. It has often been suggested that Wulþur may actually have been one form of the old "Sky-Father" or "Shining Father" of the Indo-Europeans; it has likewise been suggested that he was a Finnish god whose ways were learned by the Northerners. In the natural world, his might is thought to show itself forth in the "glory" of the Northern Lights. His hall is called Ýdalir, "Yew-Dales", which goes easily enough with his role as bow-god. It also strengthens the belief that he is a god of winter, for whom the evergreen yew would clearly be holy. This tie between Wulþur and yews also suggests that Saxo may have known of an older tradition when he says that Ullr was a sorcerer who could sail upon a bone. The yew was the most magical of trees, and four Frisian inscriptions were carved upon yew-wood, at least two of them specifically calling on the might of the yew - to make the surf submit, in one case; in the other, to ward off ill. This warding-might may explain part of the tie between Ullr and the shield, as well as his role as a god of single combat. The yew is also the tree of death, or rather of life in death; Wulþur may share this aspect, as well, with the winter-goddess Skaði.
The third-century scabbard from Thorsberg had the name wlþuþewaR, "Wulþur's Servant", suggesting either that the sword belonged to someone with that name or that the sword itself was hallowed to the god.
As well on faring on snowshoes and skis, Wulþur is also a rider, though apparently has no single steed with whom he is closely identified: the list of heroes' horse-names in Kálfsvísa ends with the line "Ullr (rode) various ones, but Óðinn (rode) Sleipnir".
Wulþur has been associated with the Wans several times. H.R. Ellis-Davidson notes that his place-names are often near those called after Wanic deities, and tentatively compares the shield-kenning "ship of Ullr" to the story of Scyld Scefing (Shield Sheaf-Descended) in Beowulf and William of Malmsbury's Gesta Regnum (Gods and Myths, pp. 105-106). De Vries also suggests strongly that Ullr had a special relationship with several of the Wanic deities: his place-names are paired with those of Freyr in Norway, Njörðr in Sweden, and there are also two Ullr-Hörn (Freyja) and two Ullr-Dísir pairs (Religionsgeschichte II, 157). These place-names are often formed with "meadow" or "cornfield", suggesting a fertility connection. In addition to these, there are three Óðinn-Ullr pairs where the names are associated either with an island or a lake; here, one might perhaps see a relationship to Saxo's tale of Wulþur taking Wodan's place for a time, then fleeing by water.
One explanation which has been offered for these pairings is the theory of an alternating Summer Ruler/Winter Ruler. Folk enactments of the battle between the personified Summer and Winter are quite common in the Germanic lands (though more usual at Ostara, when Winter/Death is driven out): it is not unlikely that in Heathen times, the might of particular god/esses could be seen in the two halves of the year, and the turning of the seasons as mirroring their cyclical conflict. Seen in this light, Wulþur would stand as the Winter King - the god of the woods and the snowy ski-pathways - while Fro Ing would perhaps be the Summer King. This pairing of Ullr and the Wanic deities is also especially interesting in the light of the separated marriage of Skaði and Njörðr: there, too, a summer-winter alternation may easily be thought of.
Wulþur's colours are the deep green of the yew tree's needles and the bright red of its berries.
Heimdallr is the watchman of the Ases' Garth, standing on the bridge Bifröst which links the Ases' Garth with the Middle-Garth. Snorri tells us that he is called the white Ase, Loki's foe, and the recoverer of Freyja's necklace. "A sword is called 'Heimdallr's head'; it is said that he was struck through with a man's head...and ever since the head has been called 'Heimdallr's bane'". He also goes by the by-names Vindhler (see below), Hallinskíði (etymology impossible), and Gullintanni ("Gold-Toothed"); his horse is called "Gulltoppr". He needs less sleep than a bird, and night and day are alike to him; he hears the grass growing on the earth and the wool on sheep. Snorri quotes a scrap from a poem Heimdallargaldr ("Heimdallr's Magical Song" - now lost), in which the god declares of himself: "I am son of nine maids, I am son of nine sisters".
The meaning of Heimdallr's name is disputed, but the first element is probably heimr ("world"). The second may be related to dallr (brightness); in this case, the name "World-Brightness" could be seen as a complement to the Frowe's by-name Mardöll, "Sea-Brightness". An alternate form "Heimdalr" also survives, and in this case, the second element could be dalr ("bow"), so that the name would mean "World-Bow" - that is, the Rainbow Bridge.
In Grímnismál 13, we are told that "Himinbjorg (heaven-mountains) are the eighth, and there Heimdallr rules over the wih-steads. There the warder of the gods gladly drinks the good mead in the restful house". Loki says that, "For you (Heimdallr), was an ugly life laid out in earliest days. You must ever have a wet back, watching as warder of the gods" (Lokasenna 48).
We know little of Heimdallr's elder kin. In the first line of Þrymskviða 15, he is called "whitest of the Ases"; in the second, it is said that "he knew well the future, like other Wans". However, the Heimdallargaldr description of the god as the son of nine sisters fits with the Hyndluljóð account of how a mighty one was born of nine etin-maids at the ends of the earth: "Gjálp bore him, Greip bore him, Eistla and Eyrgjafa bore him, Úlfrún and Angeyja bore him, Imðr and Atla and Járnsaxa. He was made greater with the main of the earth, the spray-cold sea and holy boar's blood". Nine etin-maids also appear as the daughters of Ægir and Ran, though their names are very different. Still, given Heimdallr's ties to the sea (spoken of later), the possibility of a connection is worth some thought. His father's identity is not certain: Snorri says that he may be called "son of Óðinn"; but he says the same of Týr, who is identified as the son of the etin Hymir in Hymiskviða 5, so this is at least a little dubious. Turville-Petre suggests that, since we know Heimdallr has been killed at least once and will die again at Ragnarök, it is possible that his ninefold birth is a sequential process of nine lives (Myth and Religion, p. 152).
However, though Heimdallr's origins are confusing, his younger kin are very well-known indeed: the whole human race. The Eddic poem Rígsþula begins with the tale of how "a certain one of the Ases, who was called Heimdallr, fared on his way and forth to a certain sea-strand, came to a house-dwelling and named himself Rígr". The title "Rígr" is probably derived from the Irish word for "king". The poem itself tells of how he fathered the founders of the three classes of humankind: Thrall, the father of slaves, Carl, the father of free farmers, and Earl, the father of rulers. The process is not simply one of separation, though: it is a process of growth on the part of the human race. Thrall's parents are called "Great-Grandfather" and "Great-Grandmother"; Carl's are "Grandfather" and "Grandmother"; Earl's are "Father" and "Mother" - Heimdallr is clearly sowing a seed and tending it through the generations. A form of this tale goes back at least to the time of Tacitus, who reports the Germanic belief of the god Mannus who had fathered the three great tribes, Ingvaeones, Hermiones, and Istavaeones. In this aspect, Heimdallr appears not only as the watcher of the Rainbow Bridge, but as its embodiment: he is the first of the living links between the god/esses and all humankind. The beginning of Völuspá bears this out: the seeress begins with the words, "Hearing I bid of all holy ones, both high and low of Heimdallr's kin". "Heimdallr's kin" must at least include the god/esses and humans; perhaps the etins as well, if one thinks on his mothers.
Heimdallr is also a teacher, wise in all crafts and willing to give them to those humans who are able to learn them. Rígsþula shows him coming to Earl to teach his son runes and spur him on to win his inheritance; when Earl's son Konr has learned the runes well enough, Heimdallr gives up the title of "Rígr" to him. Both this reference and the title of the lost poem Heimdallargaldr suggest that Heimdallr is a master of magic. Harry Harrison and John Holm (in The Hammer and the Cross - fiction) present "Rígr" as the god of human invention and technological progress, which fits well with the picture given by this poem. It might also be suggested that Heimdallr is a good god to call on for academic help - perhaps even better than Wodan in subjects where wild verbal inspiration is not particularly needed.
Despite this, many Ásatrúar see Heimdallr as being rather aloof, not a god who often brings forth the sort of love that is given to Thonar and even Wodan. It may be that Heimdallr is particularly a god of high and rigid standards, who will help those who are able to better themselves, but has little patience with those who do not live up to their highest potential - though he is not totally demanding; even he relaxes by drinking mead in his mountain hall. However, he is very much a serious god, who shows no sign of having a sense of fun - unless one counts his suggestion in Þrymskviða that Þórr be dressed as Freyja and take her place to reclaim the Hammer as an expression of humour.
It is, therefore, little surprise that Heimdallr should be Loki's mortal foe. According to Snorri, after Loki has stolen the Frowe's necklace, Heimdallr comes to win it back for her and he and Loki battle in the shape of seals (Flateyjarbók tells a different version of the reclaiming of Brísingamen, in which the Frowe arranges the Everlasting Battle of Högni and Heðinn; but since Snorri's version is supported and Flateyjarbók's is contradicted by Heathen skaldic poetry, it seems likeliest that Snorri preserves the truer tradition). He and Loki will also slay each other at Ragnarök. According to Brian Branston's interpretation, Heimdallr embodies the "good fire", fire as the useful servant, whereas Loki is the "bad fire", the dangerous wildfire: therefore they are deadly foes. Branston reads Heimdallr as a personification of the holy need-fire, seeing his name "Vindlér" as meaning "Turner" and referring to the process by which this fire is kindled (this is not etymologically correct - see below). He sees "Heimdallr" as a byname of Óðinn's brother Lóðurr, whose place in poetry he thinks Loki usurped during the later Viking Age (Gods of the North, pp. 137-147). Branston's argument for this, however, is based only on his firm and unsupported belief that Loki must always have been evil, and any helpful aspects Laufey's son had must have come from his assumption of Lóðurr's position.
Heimdallr owns a horn called Gjallarhorn (the Resounding Horn). He will blow it at the end of the age when Ragnarök has come, as said in Völuspá 46: "Mím's sons play, but the Doom is made known by the old Gjallarhorn. Heimdallr blows loudly, the horn is aloft; Óðinn speaks with Mím's head". Some have seen this aspect of Heimdallr as a Heathen interpretation of the Christian myth of Gabriel at Armageddon; however, the blowing of a horn at the start of a battle must have long been known in the North, so there is no reason to look for foreign models. In romantic artistic renditions of Heimdallr, he is shown with a Bronze Age lurhorn; Viking Age purists would insist on a cattle-horn, but since all that is, is in the moment for our god/esses, true folk may see the Gjallarhorn as they will. It has been suggested (somewhat in jest) that Heimdallr might be the patron god of tuba players.
The Völuspá seeress also says that she knows where Heimdallr's "hljóð" is hidden, "under the holy, brightness-accustomed tree; she sees it sprinkled by watery falls from Valfather's pledge". This can only be read as meaning that the item is in the Well of Mímir, or perhaps Wyrd. There is some doubt about what the "hljóð" is. Hollander translates it as "horn", and if it is understood in that manner, then its coming forth at Ragnarök is greatly meaningful: it acts as the embodiment of the ørlög of the worlds, lying hidden in the well until the time has come for all the turnings of Wyrd to be fulfilled. Turville-Petre, however, interprets the "hljóð" as "hearing", comparing it to Wodan's eye: as Wodan, who sees all, has one eye deep in the Well, thus Heimdallr, who hears all, hides his hearing (perhaps even one ear) in the same place (Myth and Religion, pp. 149-150).
According to Grønbech's reading, Heimdallr, as a god of kinship, is especially the embodiment of the "feast-frith"; and the Völuspá phrase "Heimdallr's kindred" speaks of the folk gathered at the blessing. He suggests further that, "The sanctity of the feast implied euphemia: ritual silence and devout attention, during the performance of the ceremonies and the chanting of the sacred texts; in the sacral language this euphemia is called hljóð, and hljóð is bound up with the horn of Heimdal, the symbol or incarnation of his authority" (II, p. 324).
Since Loki can take several animal forms, but Heimdallr is only seen as a seal, it is thought that he is especially associated with seals and/or the water. This association is strengthened by the possibility that his nine mothers may be the nine waves, together with the prevalence of folk beliefs about the ninth wave; the reference to him being strengthened by "the spray-cold sea" also upholds it. His by-name "Vindhlér" means either "Wind-Sea" ("Hlér" is a by-name for Ægir") or "Wind-Protection".
Turville-Petre argues strongly for the ram as Heimdallr's holy animal. The god's by-name, Hallinskíði, is a poetic word for "ram", and the ram is also called "Heimdali", a form which is seen for Heimdallr as well in a poem attributed to Grettir. The god may once have appeared in the shape of a ram, or it may be his beast as the boar was Fro Ing's and the goat Thonar's. Turville-Petre also mentions that the sheep may have been a particularly holy beast to the Germanic peoples (Myth and Religion, pp. 151-152).
Though he owns the horse Gulltoppr, there is no sign that the horse was thought to be one of Heimdallr's holy animals.
Plants associated with Heimdallr in modern times are angelica, ash, and yew. His colours are white and gold.
No traditional sign for Heimdallr is known, but the trefot may be associated with him. It is the sign of the Celtic Mannanan mac Lir, who has much in common with Heimdallr; it can also be seen as representing the three classes of humankind which he fathered - or the three realms of gods, humans, and etins which he brings together - or the three great roots of Yggdrasill which he, as warder of the Rainbow Bridge, watches over.
Bragi, whose name means "the best" or "the foremost", is said to be the god of poetry; Óðinn tells us in Grímnismál 66 that he is the most awesome of skalds. Since we already know Wodan to be (to a much stronger degree, as nearly all the skaldic references to "poetry" attribute it to him) the god of that craft, Bragi's function in that role is a little puzzling. However, the first skald of recorded memory was the early ninth-century Bragi Boddason inn gamli (the Old). This fits with traditional images of Bragi having a long white beard in spite of his marriage to Iðunn; it could also be theorized that a human who had been accepted among the god/esses would have more need of her apples than the other deities. We do know that humans were sometimes taken up among the ranks of the god/esses: when St. Ansgar came to convert Sweden, one of the godmen at Birka had a dream in which the Ases appeared and said that if the Swedes wanted more gods, they would take the recently deceased king Eiríkr into their company rather than having a foreigner among them. It is, thus, often thought that Bragi may be the deified skald.
Another suggestion has been offered: that Bragi was gotten by Wodan on Gunnlöð during the three nights in which he won the mead of poetry. There is no evidence for this in the sources, but it seems a nice interpretation, and some may prefer it to the idea of a deified Viking Age skald. Certainly Hávamál and Snorri give us the image of the man flying away and leaving the woman weeping behind which is also seen at the end of Völundarkviða; and in Völundarkviða the abandoned woman is definitely pregnant.
Bragi does not appear in any Eddic myths, but he does exchange words with Loki in Lokasenna; in fact, Loki begins by attacking him, adding to what is clearly a standard formula - "Heilir æsir heilar ásynjor / ok öll ginnheilog goð" (Hail the Æsir, hail the Ásynjur, and all power-holy gods) the contemptuous "Except for one Ase who sits within, Bragi, on the benches". Bragi, seeing that Loki is looking for trouble, offers to give him him sword, horse, and armring if he will sit down and shut up. Loki replies that Bragi has neither horses nor arm-rings, for he is the wariest of battle and the most frightened of shooting, to which Bragi answers that if they were outside he would swiftly have Loki's head in his hands, and Iðunn has to calm her husband. Loki then mentions that Iðunn had laid her shining arms over her brother's slayer; whether this is a deed of Bragi's we know nothing about, or whether Loki is speaking of another event altogether, there is no way to tell.
Bragi is seen in the skaldic poem Eiríksmál: he compares the sound of Eiríkr (Bloodaxe) and his troops approaching Valhöll to the sound of Balder returning (to which Óðinn replies, "Witless words should wise Bragi not speak), and asks Óðinn why the god had not given Eiríkr victory, if he was the braver man. Óðinn replies with the famous words, "The gray wolf gapes ever at the dwellings of the gods", - an answer which has inspired many skalds, then and since. He also appears in Hákonarmál, in which he seems to act as a sort of herald, being the first to speak to Hákon as the slain king comes to Valhöll's door and to offer him the friendship of the einherjar. His role in the latter poem also strengthens the idea that he was once a human who was taken up into the ranks of the god/esses, as it is the legendary heroes Sigmundr and Sinfjötli who carry out the same act of greeting for Eiríkr Blood-Axe in Eiríksmál.
In Sigrdrífumál, "Bragi's tongue" is listed in the category of objects on which runes are carved. The same list includes Sleipnir's teeth, the wolf's claw, the eagle's beak, the bear's paw, the bridge's end, the sledge-straps, and a host of other items. These probably do not literally have runes risted into them, but are, rather, items of the greatest might through which the power of the runes flow. Blithely ignoring everything we know about Norse tradition, with only this stanza to go from, Barbara Walker (The Book of the Crone , and other feminist rewritings of everything mystical) has recently invented a myth in which Iðunn, rather than Óðinn, was the original finder/keeper of the runes and carved them onto her husband's tongue. Since this contradicts all known sources and accords only with Walker's ideology, it can safely be dismissed.
The cup of oath-drinking is called bragarfull, which means "the best cup". Sometimes it is also referred to as "Bragi's cup", probably out of a false etymology which derives the adjective bragr, "the best", from the god's name. However, since songs and poems are often spoken at symbel, the "Bragi's cup" could indeed have gotten its name from the god.
(Fosite, Forseti - Old Norse)
Snorri tells us that Forseti is the son of Balder and Nanna; in Grímnismál 15, it is said that "Glitnir (Glittering) is the tenth (hall), it is supported with gold, and silver thatches it as well; and there Forseti dwells most of the day and settles all cases." "Forseti" is also used as a poetic name for a hawk in the þulur (lists of poetic names and heiti). He does not appear often in Norse myths or place-names, but in eastern Norway there is a "Forsetalundr" (Forseti's Grove), which hints that he was at least sometimes worshipped in Scandinavia (Schwartz, Poetry and Law in Germanic Myth, p. 19). Forseti's worship is unattested to in Old English sources, but as the Frisians invaded England together with the Angles, Saxons, and Jutes, it is a likely guess that he was known in at least some parts of England. Eric Wodening reconstructs his Anglo-Saxon name-form as *Forseta.
However, Fosite seems to have been the chief god of the Frisians, and we do have tales about him and his cult from that area. According to the legend "Van da tweer Koningen Karl ende Radbod" (of the two kings Charles [Martel] and Radbod), when the Frankish Charles conquered Frisia, he tried to get the Frisians to reveal their laws to him so that he could judge them. The twelve Foerspreken (fore-speakers) from the Frisian lands stall him twice, but then must admit that they cannot. They are set out to sea in a rudderless ship. Thereupon a thirteenth man appears in the stern, carrying a golden axe (a later, and rather weak, attempt to christianize the tale has been made at this point), with which he steers the ship to land. He then takes the axe from his shoulder and throws it to the earth. It casts up a piece of turf and an underground spring bursts forth. The twelve Foerspreken sit around the spring and learn the law from him. Schwartz reads the historical motivation as being a later interpolation, thinking it more likely that the Foerspreken are gods (corresponding to the traditional twelve Ases of Norse mythology) and that the legend was already old before the Frankish invasion of Frisia.
The association of this myth with Fosite is based on an event in the Vita s. Willibrordi. Willibrord is driven ashore on the island between Frisia and Denmark which is called "Fositeland". Everything there was hallowed to Fosite: the folk did not dare to touch the animals or disturb anything, and water could only be drawn from the holy spring in silence. The location, the special worship given to Fosite by the Frisians, and the description of an island with a hallowed spring all fit closely with the above legend. His spring itself may have been a place of capital punishment, as the "Life of Wulfram" states that condemned men were sometimes drowned in fresh or salt waters.
Schwartz also associates the spring as the font of law with the Well of Wyrd, where the Ases' deeming is done, and comments that "Both Frisian and Scandinavian accounts indicate that law is acquired by crossing over water...both the Frisian legend of the thirteenth god and Snorri's description of (the gods) crossing Bifröst indicate that a supernatural means is necessary to traverse water" (p. 23). Schwartz interprets the name Fosite as meaning "bridge-setter" (p.24), but the form "Forseti" seems to mean "he who presides" (de Vries, Wörterbuch, p. 139), as a judge over a court or a president or an assembly - a fitting name for a god the elder Heathens saw as goberning law, arbitration, and judgement.
Colours associated with Fosite in the modern age are red and gold; the rune we associate with him is raidho. It is significant to note Forseti's association with precious metals (the golden axe of Frisian sources and the gold studs and silver-thatched roof of Icelandic sources, which may reflect the tradition of paying recompense as a punishment among the Germanic peoples.
Móði and Magni
Móði ("Bravery") and Magni ("Main-Strength") are the sons of Thonar and his etin-concubine Járnsaxa. Magni is the strongest of all the gods; when his father was trapped under the leg of the fallen giant Hrungnir and none of the other deities could move the body, three-year-old Magni lifted it off and then said that if he had gotten there earlier, he would have struck the etin into Hel with his fist.
According to Völuspá, Magni and Móði will inherit Thonar's Hammer after Ragnarök.
Víðarr and Váli
Both of these sons of Wodan were fathered by him on etin-women (see "Skaði, Gerðr, and other Etin-Brides") for the purpose of the acts of revenge which will work towards bringing about the rebirth of Wodan and Balder after Ragnarök. Víðarr, the son of Gríðr, is called "the silent god"; his name may mean "the wide-ruling one". According to Grímnismál 17, "Bushes grow, and high grass, in Víðarr's land, the Wide; yet there the kinsman shall leap from the steed's back, bold, to avenge his father". Two Norwegian place-names, "Virsu" (from "Víðarshof") and "Viskjøl" (from "Víðarsskjálf" - Víðarr's Crag) may suggest that this god did have his own cult, but if so, it was not widely spread, and may not have been very old. Today, he is often seen as the silent warder of empty plains and uncut woods.
Váli is the son of Wodan and the etin-maid Rindr, who, when only one day old, avenges Balder. Völuspá says that he did not wash his hands nor comb his hair until Baldr's slayer was borne to the funeral pyre. This sort of oath was not uncommon for Northern heroes; it is similar to Haraldr inn hárfagri's vow that he would not cut nor comb his hair until he had brought all Norway under his rule, and also very like the oath of Tacitus' young Chatti warriors not to cut their hair until they had slain a foe. A place-name which may be derived from "Váli's Skjálf" also exists in Norway. "Váli" was also used as a man's name; a character in Landnámabók is called Váli hinn sterki (Váli the strong).
Vafþrúðnismál 51 tells us that "Víðarr and Váli shall dwell in the gods' wih-stead when Surtr's fire is slaked".
Eric Wodening, "Forseti" (previously unpublished).