top of page
  • Writer's pictureNorse Norn

Fenrir: The Norse Wolf & Natural Power

Updated: Sep 13, 2022

Wolves are a powerful symbol in Viking culture and Norse mythology. They represent forces in nature that should be feared and respected but which can also be harnessed to do great things. Wolves also represent the most potent and dangerous aspects of our personalities. They are with us always and need to be controlled, but they can also be a great source of power.

The most famous wolf in Norse myth is Fenrir, one of the children of the trickster god Loki. He was one of the things in the universe most feared by the Aesir gods, so they bound Fenrir and imprisoned him. But in doing so, the gods helped seal their own fate with the prophesied end of the world in Norse mythology, Ragnarok. At this time, Fenrir will fight Odin, killing the chief Norse deity.

Fenrir can be called on to help you identify your strengths and weaknesses, which are often closely related, and how to leverage them in your life. He can also be called on as a source of strength and a spirit of vengeance, especially against betrayal.

Fenrir the Norse Wolf
Fenrir the Norse Wolf

Origins in Norse Mythology

In Norse mythology, Fenrir is one of the children of Loki with the giantess Angrboda alongside the world serpent Jormungandr and the giantess Hel. The mighty wolf quickly grew to such an enormous size that he could open his jaws, and they reached from the ground to the sky.

The gods so feared these three beings that they decided to place them in locations in the universe where they could do the least harm. They threw Jormungandr into the waters surrounding Midgard. There he grew to such an enormous size that he can encircle the entire world and hold his tail in his mouth. The gods sent Hel to Niflheim to oversee the underworld. This was an appropriate place for her as she was born a hideous figure half living and half dead. They decided that the monstrous wolf Fenrir should be imprisoned.

Howling Norse Wolf Design
Howling Norse Wolf Design

Imprisonment & Betrayal of Fenris Wolf

The name Fenrir means "fen dweller" in old Norse. He is often called Fenris as his name is also often given as Fenrisulfr, which literally translated to "Fenrir Wolf" (e.g. Gylfaginning ch. 34 of the Prose Edda).

The imprisonment and betrayal of Fenrir are recounted in the Gylfaginning of the Prose Edda. Imprisoning Fenrir was no easy task since the giant wolf was so strong that he could break free from any chain. The gods initially tried with an incredibly strong chain that they created themselves and called Leyding.

Unable to approach Fenrir to try and imprison him, instead, they tricked the wolf. They suggest that he put on the chains and break them as a show of his strength. Fenrir, who liked to show off, agreed and broke the chains easily. They then made a chain twice as strong, which they called Dormi, and tried the same tick. But again, Fenrir kicked the chain off with ease.

Desperate for a solution, the gods turned to the dark elves (commonly referred to as dwarves), the craftsmen of the Norse cosmos. They asked them to create a chain that the Norse wolf could not break. They made Gleipnir, a chain that resembled a ribbon but was made from impossible things, which also made the chain impossible to break.

The chain was made from the sound of a cat’s footfall, the roots of a mountain, the sinews of a bear, the beard of a woman, a fish’s breath, and a bird’s spit.

This time the gods invited Fenrir to an isolated and sacred island called Lyngvi, and again challenged him to don and break the chains. Fenrir was suspicious, considering the seemingly fragile nature of the chains. He only agreed to do so if one of the gods agreed to put their hand in his mouth as a sign of good faith so that he would be able to bite it off if they betrayed him.

The gods, knowing that this was indeed their plan, were not keen. But eventually, the god Tyr, who had known Fenrir from a pup and had some affection for him, agreed and placed in hand in Fenrir's mouth.

Consequently, Fenrir allowed himself to be chained to the rock Thviti by Gleipnir. When the colossal wolf could not break the chain, Fenrir realized that the gods had tricked him and that they had no intention of setting him free. Swiftly, Fenrir bit off Tyr’s arm but was still imprisoned. From this time, the wrist joint, where Try lost his hand, was known as the wolf joint.

Howling in anger, the gods were able to wedge a sword in the wolf’s jaws. This silenced him but also created a continuous flow of drool that created a river known as “expectation”. in Old Norse. The gods chose not to kill Fenrir because the island that he is on is sacred, and it would be unthinkable to spill blood.

The Norse Volva and practitioners of Seidr Magic believe that special ingredients can turn the mundane into the magical. Binding personal ingredients into magical tools, such as candles and incense, can increase their potency.

Fenrir in Chains
Fenrir in Chains

Fenrir Will Kill Odin at Ragnarok

According to the Poetic Edda, Fenrir is destined to remain imprisoned until Ragnarok, which means "twilight of the gods" in Old Norse. Then, the tremors that destabilize the world will allow Fenrir to break his chains to rampage through the nine realms of the Norse cosmos, wreaking havoc. He will join his father Loki and siblings Jormingandr and Hel in an assault of vengeance upon the gods.

Fenrir will also be joined in the battle by his two children, Skoll and Hati, who have been chasing the sun and moon across the sky for an age. At Ragnarok, they will finally catch and devour their prey and plunge the universe into darkness. The Poetic Edda suggests that it is Fenrir and not his offspring that will capture the sun.

As Fenrir approaches Asgard for the final battle, he will rampage through the world, devouring everything before him, with his mouth still wedged open by the sword of the gods. When he meets Odin and all the dead warriors of Valhalla, Fenrir will devour all of them.

The sources note that Fenrir did not pay the same respect to sacred places when he killed Odin in Asgard in front of the altar of Thor, Odin's son.

The death of the leader of the gods will be avenged by Odin's son Vidar, who has a pair of special leather boots that will allow him to stand in Fenrir's mouth without being devoured. He will use his strength to rip Fenrir’s jaws apart and kill him. But Fenrir will already have contributed to the destruction of the universe.

Fenrir is often associated with spells and rituals of vengeance and harnessing the anger of betrayal into action. His children Skoll and Hati can be called upon to help break cycles of behaviour that regularly result in the same outcome.

Depiction of Ragnarok with Fenrir and Jormungandr
Depiction of Ragnarok with Fenrir and Jormungandr

Geri & Freki

Fenrir is the most famous and important Norse wolf. He is sometimes called by the name Hrodvitnir, which means "fame wolf". But he is nicely contrasted by Geri and Freki, whose names mean greedy and ravenous, some very different wolves mentioned in Norse mythology.

In Norse mythology, these are companion wolves of Odin who accompany him wherever he goes. They represent the most challenging personality traits of the god who covets knowledge, which he must always keep under control.

But they also represent great sources of strength for the god if he can harness the properly. Fenrir represents something similar. He could have been a strong ally for the gods, but instead, in their fear, they betrayed him and hid him away. This is a warning of what can happen when we don’t know ourselves and take active steps to control and harness our powers.

All the Norse wolves can be called upon to help us know ourselves better, identify our strengths and weaknesses, and learn how to make the most of them.

Howling Fenrir in Chains
Howling Fenrir in Chains

Fenrir at the Altar

Fenrir is often represented at the altar by wolf symbols, which were very common in Norse art. The body of the wolf was often dramatically elongated and twisted around itself to create elaborate patterns.

Meat and animal bones can be included on the altar as offerings to the wolf. Practitioners can also channel Fenrir by finding pain since the imprisoned wolf is in constant pain. But it is important to remember that there is a fine line between controlled pain and completely losing control.

Chains are also closely connected with Fenrir and can be included as part of an altar. Ritually breaking the chain can be the climax of a ritual when you want to invoke the essential change and “break free”.

Running water can also represent Fenrir in his capacity of lying-in wait in expectation. Pouring water between vessels can be done while ruminating on what is holding you prisoner or holding you back. Releasing the water can represent your own release and change in course.

32 views0 comments
bottom of page