The Norse god Ull is a mysterious figure. We don’t know that much about him, because he somehow got left out of all the stories, songs and sagas that we rely on to learn about mythology.
Most of what we know about Norse mythology was written in several important books centuries ago. These books contain all the names, stories, poems and myths of the Norse gods and goddesses.
Unfortunately, most of the stories and poems about Ull were left out. There isn’t much mention of him in these writings. All the same, historians have done their best to dig out what they can.
So What Do We Know?
We know that Ull was an important god, but writings and stories about him have not been handed down the way writings and stories were told or written about the other gods.
We know that he was the stepson of Thor, the god of thunder, and that his mother was Sif, an earth goddess who presided over wheat fields and was famed for her long hair. There is a story that involves the trickster god Loki trying and failing to find someone with hair more beautiful than Sif’s. But sadly, we know about as much about her as we do about Ull.
What were Ull’s talents?
Here we have a few more nuggets of knowledge. Ull was known primarily for his ability to hunt and his ability to fight. He was a warrior god whom people prayed to before they went into battle.
Ull was also a great athlete known for his skills as a skier and snowshoer. The few paintings and drawings of Ull that exist show him on skis, shooting a bow. In fact, he’s considered the patron saint and guardian of skiers.
In some countries, members of the ski patrol wear medallions with a symbol dedicated to Ull. The city of Breckenridge, Colorado, has a yearly “Ullr Fest” where skiers celebrate Ull and pray for his divine protection.
He was also considered a handsome god who was favored by his father Thor and his chief god, Odin.
Ull is also known as Ullr, Oller, Uller, Volder, Vuldr and Ollanus.
An Important God
Even though we know little about Ull, most historians agree that he was a very important god in Norse mythology.
How do we know that? Several ways.
1. Many place names in Sweden and Norway include the name “Ull” or “Ullr.” There is evidence that there were many temples to Ull through these regions. This indicates that worship of Ull was widespread and common. There is also some evidence that the Vikings revered Ull.
2. The great epic poems that describe Norse deities and Norse myths are called the Poetic Edda. These books are where we get most of our knowledge about who the ancient Norse people worshipped and what stories they told about their gods. They are full of sagas, songs and poems that relate what these gods did.
In the Poetic Edda, there is a story where Odin, the chief god, promises to send the blessings of “Ull and all the gods” to anyone who will help him. This shows that Odin regarded Ull as the primary god above all the others.
3. Another ancient Norse poem, the Atlakvioa, describes the last and most serious oath as the one that’s sworn on Ull’s ring. In Norse mythology, the last oath you took was the one you meant the most.
4. According to Saxo Grammaticus, a Danish historian who lived in the twelfth century, Ull replaced Odin as chief of the gods when Odin was sent into exile. Odin eventually returned and reclaimed his position as head honcho, but it’s clear that Ull was highly regarded by Odin and the other gods.
Did Ull Have any Children?
That’s another thing we don’t know.
All we have are a few drawings of a god on skis with a bow, two or three references to his importance in Norse writings, and a long list of place names that carry his name. It’s clear that Ull was a key god who was revered for his athletic and hunting abilities, but for whatever reason, no stories about him were handed down. He remains a mystery, skiing away down a snowy hill, leaving only a few clues behind.