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Ullr- Really the God of Snow?

Ullr is a name that many avid skiers throw around. When there is a lack of snow, they pray to Ullr. When it starts dumping snow, everyone claims that Ullr must be happy. To most skiers, Ullr is the God of Snow known from the Viking era. But, what is Ullr really? Being the curious person that I am, I decided to take a deeper look into Ullr.


(From whitegrass.com)

What I found was actually surprising. I did not find any historical evidence that Ullr is the God of Snow. That’s right- no evidence. Sure, there are Ullr festivals in many ski towns, including Breckenridge, and these festivals claim that Ullr is the God of Snow. There is even a Facebook page for Ullr, Snowgod. But, when looking into the history of Viking and Norse Gods, there is no connection to Ullr and snow. Here is what I did find….

From miscellaneous dictionary sources including Dictionary.com
Ullr – noun (Norse mythology) one of the Aesir known for his beauty and skill with bow and skis; son of Sif and stepson of Thor
Norse mythology – the mythology of Scandinavia (shared in part by Britain and Germany) until the establishment of Christianity

Other Names for Ullr
Ollerus, wulþuz, wuldor, Ullar, Ullin, Holler, Vulder, Ull, Ullur

If Ullr is not the God of Snow, then what kind of God is he?
Sources all agree that the Ullr still remains a mystery. Historical sources pointing to this Ullr God are rare, so there is still some debate about what role he played in the pagan religions of northern Europe. However, most sources agree that Ullr is the god of justice and dueling, the patron god of agriculture, bow(archery)-god, hunting-god, and shield-god. Sources also agree that Ullr plays a mythological warrior in historical legends and that his name originates from translations of “glory” or “glorious”.

But, skiers need not be devastated. While historical evidence does not support that Ullr is the God of Snow, there are several indicators that point to Ullr being the God of Skiing. Ullr is often depicted as a figure with skis on his feet and a bow and arrow in his hand. Could he have been the world’s first biathlete? ;)

Depictions of Ullr


(From the 18th century Icelandic manuscript in the care of the Árni Magnússon Institute in Iceland, downloaded from wikimedia.org)


(An illustration of the Norse god Ullr, from an Icelandic century manuscript created in 1680, from Skaldic Arts)


Depicted on the Böksta Runestone in Balingsta, Sweden, thought to be created in the 11th century. Many believe this figure represents the Norse God Ullr.

Ullr’s place in Norse Mythology
For those who care about the structure of the Gods, sources largely agree that Ullr was the son of Sif (mother) and that Thor (God of Thunder) was his stepfather. Who Ullr’s real father was is still a debate. However, In Viktor Rydberg’s idiosyncratic Teutonic Mythology Ullr is the son of Sif and Egill-Örvandill. His father, Egill, was the greatest archer in the mythology, and Ullr follows in his father’s footsteps.

Evolution of a God
So, is Ullr really the God of Snow on top of being the God of Skiing, Bow, Hunting, Agricuture, Shield, Justice, and Dueling? Historical evidence does not support this. However, American skiers continue to playfully-ritually pray to Ullr as if he were the Snowgod. Perhaps we are first-hand witnesses to how Gods are morphed over time to fit the needs and perceptions of the populous. This morphism has happened to religions and Gods across the world- Maybe Ullr’s resurrection as a God-like figure has caused him to undergo a slight make-over! Nevertheless, I will continue to ask Ullr for good snow. If he’s a skier too, he’ll deliver :)

If you like Ullr, you may like these things
Ullr T-shirt
Viking Medallions

Resources:
What the Heck is Ullr?
Dictionary.com
AbsoluteAstronomy.com
The Viking Answer Lady

19 Comments

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  1. Hello looking for references for Urll for my own blog (http://fegrig.blogspot.com/) and this entry amongst other things was flagged up. Not a skier myself but can appreciate the enjoyment you get from your skiing. Good blog. Best of luck with your pursuit of the 14teeners. Cheers.

  2. Thanks so much for the share. I was just about to dive in to this for the same reasons and you summed it up. I appreciate you doing the research.
    a.k.

  3. It’s not that we see him as the “god of snow” we see him as what he was the god of skiing. And (by all accounts I’ve read) the right hand man to the god king. And so no he doesn’t bring / make snow. But he can sure tell the higher up to make more snow. But yeah anyone who is educated about Ullr does prey to the god of skiing for a good ski trip and all that stuff. But not so much for more snow per say. Though we’ll always take more snow and ask for it from any god we can.

  4. Noah- Yes, Ullr is the “god of skiing”. That was the point I made in my blog post. However, many skiers themselves think of him as the god of snow, incorrectly so, which again, was the point I was making in my blog post.

  5. What do colorado skiers know about snow??!? it BARELY ever snows there :) smilely face. you said it yourself, Ullr is a skier, he’ll make it snow!! I’m going to drink a fifth of Ullr Schnaps just to counteract this blasphemy!!! PRAISE ULLR!!!

  6. Üllr was married to Skaði, who is the goddess of of skiing, winter, mountains, and bowhunting. Most references to the two of them come from Sweden. They bowhunted on skis, one wrapped with cord for traction. Üllr is the god of skiing, among other things.

  7. Love this post on Ullr! I wanted post Ullr in reference to praying for snow, and so I thought a link would be good for my not skiing friends. I’m linking to your cool post. Thanks Brittany. You can check out my blog on Tuesday if you want (11/6) – that is when my post will go live. Cheers to a beautiful, snowy winter!

  8. He actually is considered to be the god of snow in most academic circles, as well as by skiers. I wrote a thesis on him in high school and at the time spoke and emailed with various college history professors that specialize in Norse and Germanic mythology. It is true that he is never specifically called the “god of snow”, but that is how he is depicted in many of the story’s he is in, more specifically he would be called the “god of winter”. And its through vocal folk lore that he has become the modern god of snow.

    I suppose it is worth mentioning that I did grow up in Breckenridge and attended Ullr Fest for the first 20ish years of my life and have always had an interest in where it came from, so I do have a lot of research into it.

    Just to clarify one point, Ullr fest has been taking place in Breckenridge, CO since 1962 and there is not another festively of its kind anywhere (at least not in the US)

  9. Oh and too those saying it doesn’t snow in Colorado, we have been in a severe drought since the late nineties, when I was little we used to get upwards of 6 feet at a time at my house and we still get that much at our current house but its at like at 10k

  10. Most people don’t understand norse mythology and you sure can’t find the information you are seeking online. You actually have to crack a book. Ullr is the God you will call for a good hunt and a safe ski. Wouldn’t hurt to ask him for some good snow while you’re out there. Yelling ULLR at the top of your lungs is not a new thing. Ullr has been associated with ski clubs and hunters for hundreds of years and you can see this in iconography, logos and idols made to him. Wikipedia is not a good place to learn about mythology!

  11. That’s really interesting. Iwas surfing the net for info about vikings, and Ullr came up. Your info was helpful. Thanks!

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