Monday, July 4, 2011

Skadi - "Destroyer" Goddess

From Barbara G. Walker's The Woman's Encyclopedia of Myths and Secrets


The Celto-Teutonic Goddess in her "Destroyer" aspect. Like the Greek Persephone, "Destroyer," she was Queen of the Shades, Mother Death. Her name was the root of Gothic skadus, Old English sceadu, "shadow, shade." She was the Shadow into which all the gods went at doomsday, called Gotterdammerung, or Going-Into-the-Shadow-of-the-Gods.(1) As Scotia, she was the Dark Goddess - like Black Kali, the Caillech - after whom Scotland was named.(2)

Like Kali, Skadi had to be propitiated each year with an outpouring of male blood in primitive sacrificial rites. Her annual victim was assimilated to the god Loki, who became a "savior" by fertilizing Skadi with his blood. Loki's genitals were attached by a rope to a goat, and a tug-of-war ensued, until Loki's flesh gave way and he fell into Skadi's lap, thus bathing her loins in his blood. The gods watched anxiously to see if Skadi smiled; and when she did, it means spring could return once more to the land.(3)

Similar blood-rites were practiced all over the ancient world, when men sought godhood by giving their blood to the Goddess, before animal sacrifices replaced human ones, and even afterward. It was not uncommon for priestesses representing the Goddess to bathe in sacrificial blood, like the women who sacrificed Apis the bull-god in Egypt, hoisting their skirts as they dismembered him so his spurting blood would quicken their wombs.(4)   Like many death-goddess figures, Skadi collected the penises of her castrated heroes, and in this character she was named Mornir, "troll-woman."(5)

Remnants of the bloody sacrifice of Loki and the goat could still be found in Norway and Sweden in the late 17th century. Churchmen vainly denounced the masquerades, sexual promiscuity, and "goat games" associated with Easter and other religious festivals.(6)

Skadi was a dark twin of Freya, therefore virtually identical with the underground Goddess Hel. She was once all the Earth, birth-giver and devourer of her children. The entire land mass of Scandinavia was named after her. Originally, it was Scadin-auja, the land of Skadi.(7)

A variation of her name, Skuld, was given to the third of the three Fates, or Norns, in the role of destroying Crone. Naturally she became the patroness of witches, whose activities came to be called "skulduggery."

To the Celts, she was Scatha or Scath. Her underground realm of the dead was "the Land of Scath." Like Persephone's underworld within seven loops of the Styx, the Land of Scath was a city of seven walls.(8)   It was variously located under the earth, or in heaven, or far away over the sea on a western island, the land of "Sky." Cu Chulainn and other Celtic heroes learned magic skill in martial arts from a visit to Queen Scatha's island of Skye. She kept the hero for a "year and a day," the usual mythic image of the old 13-month lunar year with its intercalary day. When she had taught a man all she knew, she sent him back to earth a fey man, set apart and sacer, fated to do great deeds and die a sacrificial death.(9)   The legend suggests that the real island of Skye was a cult center of the Goddess, and warriors went there to be initiated into their heroic profession.

Skadi is still invoked by place named in Sweden, such as Skadave (Skadi's temple) and Skadalungr (Skadi's grove).(10)


1.  Turville-Petre, 164.
2.  Graves, G.M. 1, 72.
3.  Oxenstierna, 213.
4.  Graves, G.M. 1, 255.
5.  Turville-Petre, 257.
6.  Oxenstierna, 216.
7.  Branston, 164.
8.  Lethuly, 163.
9.  Goodrich, 187.
10.  Turville-Petre, 165.

See also Walker's entries on Scotia and Caillech:

Latin form of the "Dark Aphrodite" after whom Scotland was named; in her native land she was the Death-goddess Scatha, or Skadi.(1)  She was the mother of Caledonia; some said she was identical with the Caillech, or Crone, who created the world.


1.  Graves, G.M. 1, 72.

Old Celtic name for Kali-the-Crone, the Great Goddess in her Destroyer aspect.  Like Kali, the Caillech was a black Mother who founded many races of people and outlived many husbands.  She was also a creatress.  She made the world, building mountain ranges of stones that dropped from her apron.(1)

Scotland was once called Caledonia: the land given by Kali, or Cale, or the Caillech.  "Scotland" came from Scotia, the same Goddess, known to Romans as a "dark Aphrodite"; to Celts as Scatha or Scyth; and to Scandinavians as Skadi.(2)

Like the Hindus' destroying Kalika, the Caillech was known as a spirit of disease.  One manifestation of her was a famous idol of carved and painted wood, kept by an old family in County Cork, and described as the Goddess of Smallpox.  As diseased persons in India sacrificed to the appropriate incarnation of the Kalika, so in Ireland those afflicted by smallpox sacrified sheep to this image.(3)  It can hardly be doubted that Kalika and Caillech were the same word.

According to various interpretations, caillech meant either an old woman, or a hag, or a nun, or a "veiled one."(4)  This last apparently referred to the Goddess's most mysterious manifestation as the future, Fate, and Death - ever veiled from the sight of men, since no man could know the manner of his own death.

In medieval legend the Caillech became the Black Queen who ruled a western paradise in the Indies, where men were used in Amazonian fashion for breeding purposes only, then slain.  Spaniards called her Califa, whose territory was rich in gold, silver, and gems.  Spanish explorers later gave her name to their newly discovered paradise on the Pacific shore of North America, which is how the state of California came to be named after Kali.

In the present century, Irish and Scottish descendants of the Celtic "creatress" still use the word caillech as a synonym for "old woman." (5)


1.  Rees, 41.
2.  Graves, W.G., 131.
3.  Squire, 413.
4.  Joyce 1, 316.
5.  Frazer, G.B., 467.

I am pretty sure I read some time ago that Scatha/Scotia was closely associated with the practice of finger divination by the Celts.  I will see if I can find my notes - I know they're on one of my three computers (geez!) 


Unknown said...

...skadi=kathy=Ecatl(N/2 Tonalamatl)=
...Caillech=George Carlin, oops,
Caille=veil=grail. lech=tleco(N)=trek,
rise, Cail=Ca/being heaven or sea/
h/th/te ven/uentli(N)=the offering,
or, ilhuicaatl(N)=ocean=ceatl(N)=sea.
also known as Beira, comes from
Iberian Llewelyn(Wales) bear worship, e.g., iueli(N/adj)=iber=hibernate/
Beara Peninsula(county Cork=acoquetzi
(N)=co(n)quer(E), the same for Bere
Island. much older than Calli(N/3),
Beira/Caillech is calli ue=cave, old
house, none other than Neandra Promethea tlatla-tzol-teotl, in
chinese nomenclature, grandmother
of the west.

Jan said...

Hola Carlos! Happy holidays. During this time of year, many peoples celebrate many different traditions, but at the root they are all the same. Those of us who live in the northern climes and spring from the western European tradition are fighting off the cold and the darkness with much feasting, lights, fires, and tales of old!

George Carlin, LOL! That made me laugh out loud. You are so clever with how you put the words and their origins together. The Bear - Shardik. Great novel. Yes, I do believe you are right when you trace so many things back to Neanderthal and their great foes/fierce gods, the cave bears.

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