Sunday, April 26, 2015

Gefjon, Goddess of the Boundary

Gefion Fountain in Copenhagen
I may have a slight obsession with boundaries.  In my defense, it seems the Indo-European peoples did as well; motifs and themes of the liminal occur throughout the mythology of these many diverse culture groups.  I have written before about the deities in Norse mythology that wall and encircle, that erect protective boundaries (ironically they seem to mostly be Jotuns)!  So today I will focus on Gefjon, a Goddess that appears both in the Prose and Poetic Eddas, and has some very interesting mythology associated with Her.

The story goes like this: Gefjon spends a night with a Swedish king, "entertaining" him.  Afterwards, he offers Her all the land She and Her oxen can plough up in a day and a night (not realizing that She is a Goddess).  She travels to Jotunheim, births four sons in the form of oxen, and brings them back to Sweden to plough up some land.  They pull up the land so deeply that a lake is left where the land once was, and the oxen pull the land out west into the sea to become Zealand, now the most populated island in Denmark.  She erects a boundary and takes as Hers everything within it, much more than the kind originally expected.

There are historical traditions that may have come from, or may have a common source as, this myth; walking or ploughing the boundary of your land in order to claim it - especially on the part of women - is found in both Celtic and Germanic cultures.  This boundary-making and claiming seems to me to have been a very important and sacred function to ancient Germanic peoples, found even in the sixth century in the Anglo-Saxon plough-charming rite.

I have recently had cause to explore some inner work related to boundary-setting and claiming my own pieces of myself and my life.  I have found Gefjon to be an invaluable ally to work with on these things - She has helped me in understanding exactly what is mine to claim and what it is that I need to let go and let others take care of.  Perhaps the most important thing about claiming and taking a piece of land is not to bite off more than you can chew - if you can't adequately farm your piece of land, it becomes almost a waste.  If I claim more things than I can handle, more things than I can reasonably accomplish and stay sane, my life begins to break down.  If I don't claim enough and let others take from me things that I love and enjoy, that also has very negative consequences.  For me, Gefjon has become the Goddess of the Boundary.

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