A relatively minor deity in the Pantheon of Norse Mythology, Sif is a goddess that is often associated with the earth, nature, and the harvest, although some scholars suggest she might also be associated with family and/or wedlock.
Referenced multiple times throughout the Poetic Edda, the Prose Edda, and in various poems of the skalds, Sif is known as the wife of the thunder god, Thor, and often revered for her long, golden hair. Mother of Thurd through her union with Thor, Sif is also the mother of Ullr, although the father of this child is unknown.
Thurd is sometimes referred to as a goddess and at other times is referred to as a Valkyrie, or one of the women who chose which warriors perished on the battlefield; Ullr, a minor god, is the personification of the concept of glory and is closely associated with archery. Some scholars even believe that an allusion to Sif is included in Beowulf, the most well known of the Old English poems. Although Sif is mentioned many times throughout multiple texts, very little is known about her that doesn’t directly relate to her marriage to Thor or her beautiful hair.
Sif and Thor’s Hammer
Most importantly, Sif plays an instrumental, if unintentional, role in the creation of Thor’s hammer. In an particularly mischievous mood, the trickster god Loki takes it upon himself to shear Sif’s beautiful locks, leaving Sif devastated and her husband, Thor, enraged. Having lost her most distinguishing feature, Sif grieves. Thor threatens to kill Loki for his actions until Loki convinces the thunder god that he can provide Sif with an even more magnificent head of hair. Thor agrees to spare Loki as long as he can fulfill his promise and present his wife with hair equal in beauty to her lost locks. Unfortunately, Loki fails to find another head of hair as beautiful as Sif’s and, concerned for his life, conscripts dwarves to craft a golden headpiece to replace Sif’s lost golden hair. In the process of creating Sif’s gold headpiece, the dwarves, also known as the Sons of Ivaldi, were tasked with crafting Odin’s spear, known as Gungnir, as well as his multiplying ring, known as Draupnir, and the ship Skioblaonir. To add to these mystical artifacts, the dwarves are eventually asked to create Freyr’s boar Gullinbursti and Thor’s iconic hammer, Mjollnir. Thus, it is through Sif’s loss that her husband comes to own the hammer for which he is famous.
Sif as a Fertility Goddess
In fulfilling her role as the wife of Thor, Sif is believed to be a goddess of fertility and the earth. The union of a sky god and and earth goddess is common trope across the mythologies of various different cultures; thus, Sif’s relationship with Thor, god of the sky, rain, thunder, fair weather, and agricultural abundance, signals her own role as the earth that is fertilized by the rains and sunny skies. Additionally, scholars suggest that Sif is specifically associated with vegetation, as they draw a connection between plant life and her golden locks. In some cases, her hair is believed to be representative of fields of ripe, golden grain ready for harvest, while in other cases, scholars point to a species of moss called haddar sifjar, or Sif’s hair, as illustrative of her connection to vegetation and role as a goddess of the earth.
Other References to Sif
Some other references to Sif are notable, although relatively insignificant. Appearing in the poem Harbaroslijod in the Poetic Edda, Sif is claimed to have taken a lover in Thor’s absence. However, this assertion comes by way of Odin, disguised as Harbaror, during a flyting, or insult match, with Thor and may not be entirely credible. Additionally, in the poem Lokasenna, Loki asserts that the Sif has had an affair with him, but Sif does not dignify this claim with a response. In the book Skaldskaparmal of the Prose Edda, Sif is the subject of Hrungnir’s desire. Hrungnir, a jotunn, claims that he will kill all the gods and take Freyja and Sif as his brides; however, this drunken boast enrages Thor, who quickly kills Hrungnir in a duel. Additionally, Sif is mentioned multiple other times throughout these texts, but is generally just