Book Review: Goddess of the North by Lynda C. Welch

Welch, Lynda C. Goddess of the North. York Beach, ME: Weiser Books, 2001.

The Goddess of the North is an in-depth look at the female aspects of the Norse pantheon and cosmology, drawing on primary research, mythology, and personal interpretation. Welch focuses on the divine female as the triple goddess of Mother, Grandmother, and Daughter, and discusses other divine female figures such as the Valkyries, Norns, Giantesses, and Disir. In the introduction, Welch explains that the book was written in part to address the lack of literature on the Norse goddesses, as well as the common (and erroneous) perception of the Norse tradition being male-centered. She ultimately argues the case for a primordial goddess found in the Norse tradition, hidden from the history books but clearly seen within the mythology and cosmology; and the necessity for bringing the primordial goddess back to the forefront of these studies and spiritual practices.

Overall, I found this book incredibly helpful in providing a general overview of the concepts and figures of the Norse tradition, as well as describing the cosmology in a cohesive way. Welch clearly put a lot of research, thought and care into writing it. Yes, she does include her own personal interpretations (Welch is a Norse polytheist), but it is generally presented as anecdotal to the research.

Welch begins with a comprehensive overview of the Norse pantheon – she includes a brief overview of the Norse gods and giants, and then goes into a more in-depth discussion of the giantesses, divine seeresses and guardians, and the Asyniur (goddesses). She touches on their characteristics, associations, mythologies, symbolism, and more, while keeping the information succinct and easy to follow. It’s effective in representing the rich, complex, and multifaceted mythologies and concepts of the Norse pantheon. She also includes a chart displaying the attributes and associations of each goddess, which may be helpful for those who wish to incorporate them into their rituals and magickal workings.

Along with this overview of the Norse pantheon, I would also recommend this book for those wishing to better understand the Norse cosmology, particularly as is it represented by the World Tree, Yggdrasill. This cosmology is so incredibly complex and nuanced, I feel like one could write an entire book on this subject alone, but Welch manages to cover the most important aspects within a chapter, and then weave the concepts and symbols from it throughout the remainder of the book. These include the worlds contained within Yggdrasill, the animals that participate in it, as well the aspects of the tree itself. Welch provides an illustration of the World Tree, but for anyone wanting to further absorb and comprehend it’s complexities, I’d recommend drawing/mapping out your own World Tree, and/or doing some visualization practices with it.

The only part of the book that I take issue with, is where Welch attempts to categorize everything into triads, beginning with the Mother/Daughter/Grandmother, and then applying it to the goddess pantheon in general, as well as symbols and concepts discussed earlier in the book. While it’s an interesting exercise, I simply can’t accept that everything within the Norse tradition could fit into these neat and tidy categories.

To her credit though, Welch does acknowledge the impossibility of drawing any hard lines, when she says, “A wonderful example of this intertwining is the Grandmother’s dark night being replaced by the Daughter’s brightening of dawn, and then by the Mother’s clarity of day, and then again by the Grandmother’s colorful tapering into dusk. These three aspects are constantly enveloping, embracing, and enhancing each other, aptly demonstrating the beauty and magnificence of the Goddess of the North.” (p. 171)

These were my key takeaways from the book – overall I would give it 4/5 Broomsticks.

4/5 Broomsticks

If you are looking for a succinct yet depthful look at the Norse tradition, with a focus on the divine feminine, this is your book. I have personally read it twice now, and will probably re-read it again at some point. It is a great resource if you are interested in mythology in general.

I hope you find this review and helpful, and if you have read this book, let me know your thoughts!

Blessed Be,