Mothers of might – The victorious feminine

An exploration of the sacred feminine and its initiatory function in Germanic paganism

There are several ways we can distill the mythic wisdom in the myths examined in this series of articles and use it as nourishment for our own spiritual growth. One such level of analysis is to see the different heroes as an individual, the female initiator as the divine feminine force – nature, and their quest as an universal initiatory formula. As such, we can all strive to emulate it, and set out on a heroic journey ourselves. In this way, the hero in exile is a symbol of the soul: the divinity of the human soul being disguised in physical matter – a spiritual being in exile in the world of becoming, which in its natural state is unaware of its true, spiritual nature, which in the myths ar symbolizes by the quest to strange lands, or the heroes’ lack of knowledge about their divine patronage. Our job, are we to seek out the heroic initiation, is thus to travel to the edges of the known and confront the “dark forces” of our own minds and the external world. This passing over the threshold from the safety of the home and into the unstable borderlands can here be seen as a metaphor for transcending the limitation placed upon us, to conquer our own, often limited, notions of who we are. To grow through challenges. To willingly undergo hardship and seek out what frightens us, in order to extract over divine essence, capable of transcending the limitations of mind and body. It is that undertaking that invokes the aid of the goddess of initiation. The incantation that summons her is the prayer of heroic labour. The imperative we are left with is thus to travel to the precipices of our selves, to confront the unabalanced forces of our selves and the world, as then await the aid of maiden with the mead.

Athene by Gustav Klimt
Athene by Gustav Klimt

Athena, goddess of the heroes

Another known divine figure that embodies the theme of our examination is Athena, the patron deity of heroes. Athena is often actively involved in the adventures of the Greek half-gods, the heroes, and functions as their guide on their transformation from mundane to spiritual beings. Athena gives the hero Perseus the tools he needs to defeat Medusa, and functions as a consultant during the building of the Argos, the ship Jason sailed to retrieve the Golden Fleece. Athena is also intimately involved in the 12 labours of Hercules, wherein she aids him directly: when Hercules is sent to fetch the golden apples of Hesperides, he persuades the titan Atlas to retrieve the apples, while Hercules relieves him of his constant task – to hold up the sky. While Atlas goes to retrieve the apples, Athena actively helps the hero lifting the heavens, as depicted in one of the metopes at the temple of Zeus at Olympus. Even more noteworthy is the fact that several artistic depictions of Hercules’ apotheosis show him being driven from the earth to mount Olympus by Athena in her chariot. This symbol is harmonious with the northern imagery, where the valkyries ride with the falles heroes to Valhalla. Again, we see a divine female figure actively functioning as an heroic initiator and guide. The below depiction of Athena is also completely artistically cognate to the other female initiators we’ve examined, where she pours the seated hero a drink. Athena bestows divinity to the heroes through the agency of nectar and ambrosia. The etymology of those words are interesting, as they both mean “deathless” or “conquering death”(1), just as the sanskrit amrita, which is another word for soma, the elixir of the gods. She fills Achilles’ body with the divine draught before he unleashes his otherworldly fury onto the Trojans. She as such performs the exact same function to Achilles as that which Sigdrifra performed for Sigurd.


Athena, as we can see, follows the same pattern as the feminine initiator in the Germanic myths examined: she empowers and aids the heroes on their mystic quests, and initiates them into divine status upon their success. Athena, as all versed in greek mythology are aware, is the goddess of knowledge: born from the union of Zeus, king of the gods, and Metis, or wisdom. She as such is a symbol of the divine knowledge that arms the heroes and allows them to conquer their adversaries, just as the knowledge imparted from Sigrdrifa to Sigurd, Gunnljód to Odin and from Gróa to Svipdag paves the way for their triumph. We here see that the feminine element, as well as being initiatory in nature, is also something arming the heroes, and gives them divine power. She, quite literally, pours ambrosia and nectar – the substances granting immortality – into mortals worthy of her patronage. It should also be noted that Athena, in the greek world, was associated with kingship prior to the advent of democracy. Hence, her sacred sites are almost always located in the centers of the polises, the natural location of the royal palace. Athena is as such also a goddess of kingship, another theme recurrent in these myths.

Ödets gudinnor (The goddesses of Fate) norse mythology art print by swedish painter John Bauer
The Goddesses of Fate by John Bauer
Freyja norse goddess of love, fertility and magic represented by John Bauer
Freyja by John Bauer
De goda hexorna (the good witches) norse folklore art print by swedish painter John Bauer on Mythopoetic
The Good Witches by John Bauer

The victorious feminine

It is often said that behind every strong man, there is a strong woman. In this essay, we have seen that the above statement also has a mythic element: behind every great hero, there is a goddess. The indoeuropean religion, and its different branches, is heavily infused with hyper-masculinity. In Grece, we have the immortal heroes and in the north, the warrior-culture of the germanic tribes. Amongst all this bravado and fondness for war, one can easily fail to pay heed to the feminine element of the tradition. The feminine, however, is as we have seen a vital part in the heroic initiations we have examined. One can almost term it the driving force and the greatest power of the heroes we have met. The feminine is, in the indoeruopean context, the principle of initiation.


As should be obvious by now, the likeness of the myths surrounding the sacred brew and the key points of its legends are stark, as is the role played by the mystical woman who bestows apotheosis. All of the myths concerning the brew points to a time when what later became greek, norse and vedic mythology was the same, unified mythology. The meta-myth, is that of a hero or a god in disguise travelling to a distant land to recover a sacred drink made by the union of opposites. The drink is given him by a divine female figure of great power, who by doing so deifies the initiate. This drink then imbues the heroic figure with sacred speech, the ability to alter physical reality by way of articulation. The female figure is as such a goddess of initiation. This figure, in the northern sphere, is an avatar of Freyja, the Great Goddess. In Greece, she is Athena, the goddess of victory, intelligence and justice, and in India, she is a manifestation of Vak Devi, or divine speech. This goddess, of feminine force of initiation, is active on several planes at once. Being a spiritual force, she functions accross all spheres. In the world of matter, she is nature herself, who initiates life and rules the cycle of the seasons. In the social sphere, she is the mother, the lady of the house who initiates guests, through hospitality, into the sacred sphere of the home. She is the queen, incarnation of the land, who initiates the king into his regal power, and she is the great goddess, the true holy feminine, who initiates the hero or heroine by apotheosis. The feminine stands at the threshold of every gateway we traverse in the universe, where she plays the role of a guide, an empowerer, and a bestower of divine grace. She is mother, wife, priestess and goddess in one. She is life itself: the form taken by the divine in-action in order to experience itself. She is vak and ljód, sacred speech: whereby the divine is made manifest, whereby chaos is transmuted into order. She is the great mediator that gives life and takes it away. She is the force that veils our spirit in matter, and the power whereby we loosen the same shackles of the soul. She is timeless and formless, yet the reality of her being is evident in all.


Jai mata di!

  1. “Nec” in nectar is from the same root as “necrophilia” and “necropolis”. “Tar” means “to overcome”, and is found in the sanskrit particle “तार”, “taar”, “to pass through/overcome”.
    Ambrosia is composed of “a”, a negating particle found in almost all indoeuropean languages (Hindi “a” as in “adharma”, “untruth”, English and German “un” as in “unholy” and “unheimlich”) and “mrbosia” which is cognate to “mort” in latin and “mryt” in sanskrit, i.e. “death”. Ambrosia is as such “deatlessness”.

related artworks

About the author

Henrik Lysøe - Norse Tradition

Norse Tradition is a Norwegian non-profit organization working to promote and convey the rich Norse spiritual tradition. We regularly host lectures, private training and rituals, and retreats centered around seasonal celebrations. We work according to a reconstructive method based on Indo-European syncretism. This means that in order to better understand the Norse heritage and tradition, we see it in the light of its roots in the proto-Indo-European culture.

We do not practice historical reenactment, nor do we intend to invent a modern spiritual practice spiced with Norse words and symbols; we transmit a living tradition. All lectures and rites by Norse Tradition are founded on recognized academia or historical sources of Norse, Vedic, Anglo-Saxon, Greco-Roman, or other Indo-European origin. We are thus not innovators; what we teach and practice has ancient roots. 

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit. Ut elit tellus, luctus nec ullamcorper mattis, pulvinar dapibus leo.

Do you want to add your reflexions?

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *