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Íviðia::”’she who dwells in the wood’, witch, giantess”

we know not what we may be

This week I walk in the grey world, the liminal in between of a chronic illness flare. I follow the sacred waterways of etymology into a path of memory, back to and becoming she who dwells in the wood.

The attestation to this Old Norse word appears in the Völuspá, the Sayings of the Völva (my translation):

I remember yet the giants of beginning
Who fed me in the days gone by
Nine women I home, nine wood giantesses,
The Measuring Tree glorious before mold from beneath.
Ec man iotna, ár um borna,
þá er forðom mic fœdda hǫfðo;
nío man ec heima, nío íviðior,
miotvið mœran fyr mold neðan.

The witch speaks of origin, the witch and the root are the same.


I identify with íviðia, dweller of wood, daughter of witches and giantesses, and even when apart my soul is there — soul: a word so old there is no source. Wonder, too, like soul, is ancient: “Wonder, from the Old English wundor “marvelous thing, miracle, object of astonishment,” from Proto-Germanic *wundran (source also of Old Saxon wundar, Middle Dutch, Dutch wonder, Old High German wuntar, German wunder, Old Norse undr), of unknown origin.”**) The soul of wonder is in the roots of the underworld.


I’m also struck by the mention of mold in this ancient poem as I dwell beneath the soil, in the subterranean psychology of initiatory death. Mold is one of my challenges, this latest episode of underworld descent triggered by unexpected mold exposure. I have been here before, many times. A micro cycle of passage, mirrored in the ancient stories. In the between am preparing a return, to life, to health, though I know not when. With every initiation I am changed. In this ancient poem, a memory, a clue, an elegy, mold is present at the beginning of time. It is often translated as earth, mold, nourishing and holding the deep roots of all twelve worlds.


Today I am in death and initiation. Today I dream of empowerment, healing and the witch wound, today I claim again this word to root, to the sacred language of naming. Íviðia. We are all in the roots.

We are.


Etymology from the always useful Online Etymological Dictionary

Poetic Edda translation by me

Angrbo∂a illustration by me

Old Norse Resources from The University of Texas at Austin Linguistics Research Center

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