Nanna is attested in the Prose Edda, the Poetic Edda, in skaldic poetry, and on the Setre Comb, a 6th century archaeological artifact. She also appears in the Gesta Danorum, although in a bastardized form.
Her name means “Daring.” Nanna is understood by modern Norse pagans as a goddess of joy and devotional love. Although little has been passed down to us in the lore, she is counted as an important Æsir goddess by Snorri. She is said to be the daughter of the Æsir god Nepr, possibly a son of Óðin, and alternately she may be the daughter of Máni, god of the moon, and the younger sister of Iðunn. Others still say she is the sister of Sigyn. Everyone seems to agree that she is the mother of Forseti, god of justice.
Nanna is revered alongside her husband Baldr, for her undying love and unwavering loyalty. In Ásgard, she is said to dwell with Baldr in his celestial hall, Breiðablik – a court of stars, in folklore associated with the Milky Way. Nanna and Baldr are Ásgard’s sweethearts, and paragons of courtly love in Northern Tradition.
She joins Baldr in life, death and rebirth. At his demise, she dies of a broken heart and is placed on his funeral pyre with him. In other sources, she throws herself onto the pyre, and dies with him, a known custom practiced among grieving wives of great lords in the heathen North. In either case, her death is hallowed and made sacred by her brother-in-law, Thor. Nanna journeys with Baldr, and his twin bother Höðr, into Hel where they abide, safe and sound, until their emergence at the end of Ragnarök. While in Hel, she receives Baldr’s brother, Hermóðr, and gives him a gown to take back to Frigga, and a ring for Fulla, to console and reassure her mother-in-law.
In the Gesta Denorum, Saxo Grammiticus’ Nanna is a human princess, not a goddess. She is desired by and fought for by both Balderus (Baldr) and Hotherus ( Höðr). In Saxo’s tale, her heart belongs to and is given to Hotherus, and their inevitable union is the source of Balderus’ nightmares and heartbreak. If Saxo’s take is true (which from a scholarly point of view is unlikely, at least in any literal sense), Nanna, along with Hotherus and Balderus, becomes an ancestor spirit, who also receive veneration in modern Norse paganism.
Thoughts on Nanna
Modern Heathens revere Nanna as a goddess of love, romantic tenderness, sweetness, and devotion. While Baldr is a god of Heavenly beauty, Nanna is a goddess of undying love and it’s power beyond the grave. As a goddess of soul-mate love, she is not well understood or appreciated apart from her spouse.
She is thought by some to represent the heliotropic nature of flowers, which bloom with glee at the sun’s light, and seem to follow it into death, withering away when it goes, but returning anew with the rebirth of Spring. She bears some Archetypal points in common with Caer, of Irish myth, Psyche of Greco-Roman tradition, and Mary Magdalene, beloved of Christ.
Signs and Symbols
As Nanna is not worshiped apart from her husband, Baldr’s symbols are appropriate for her – specifically Spring and Summer, and all flowers. Sunflowers, who most dramatically face the sun might be most appropriate. Modern symbols may include wedding rings, wedding gifts, and ballads of lost love.