Ullr is supported in the archaeological record by the Thorsburg chape, and through Lilla Ullevi. He is attested in the Poetic Edda, the Prose Edda, Skaldic poetry, and the Gesta Danorum.
The Thorsburg chape (a chape is a metal fitting from a sword scabbard) inscription dates from around 200AD, by far one of the oldest mentions of Ullr specifically. Owlþuþewaz niwajmariz roughly translates to “Well honoured servant of the Glorious One,” or “Servant (or priest) of Ullr.”
Lilla Ullevi (“Little Shrine of Ullr”) is an actual preserved shrine that was unearthed just north of Stockholm. The shrine was in a remarkable state, with beautifully preserved wooden and stone structures, as well as 65 oath rings strewn about the area.
Very little is actually said about Ullr in the Eddas. The Poetic Edda mentions Ullr’s hall, Ýdalir (“Yew Dales”) and makes a couple of references to obscure ceremonies involving the god. One reference is to “Ullr’s ring” which is thought to coincide with the rings found at Lilla Ullevi. Snorri’s Prose Edda lists Ullr as the son of Sif, and Thor as his step-father, but remains frustratingly silent on the matter of Ullr’s actual father.
Snorri’s assessments are confirmed by Skaldic poetry, where Thor is mentioned several times as Ullr’s step-father. They also agree with Snorri’s kennings, such as several warrior and skill kennings for Ullr, and especially the popular name for a shield as “Ullr’s ship” (Ullr once sailed across a lake on his shield!)
Saxo Grammaticus, in a surprising turn-about, remains very close to the Ullr descriptions elsewhere, though of course he couldn’t resist plumping up the drama. His euhemerized Ullr, in the Gesta Danorum, sails across water and through the skies on a rib bone. He also rules in Óðin’s place for ten years before being run out of town as an usurper (fuck you, Saxo.)
Ullr is often mistakenly married off to Skaði, though there are no attestations of this, and many attestations of Skaði’s enduring marriage to Njörðr. More likely, since they are both associated with Winter, they would be hunting companions and sporting competitors. Ullr is also mistakenly made a son of Óðin, Njörðr, Thor, or even Freyr and Freya.
One interesting theory of Ullr’s parentage, proposed by Viktor Rydberg (Teutonic Mythology) is that Ullr is the son of Sif and Egill-Örvandill, half-brother of Svipdagr-Óðr, nephew of Völundr and a cousin of Skaði. In this scenario, his father Egill-Örvandill was the greatest archer in all the realms, and Ullr follows in his father’s footsteps.
Our Thoughts on Ullr
Ullr is a very ancient god who is known to us today as one of the men behind the mask of the Celtic deity dubbed “Cernunnos” or “The Horned God.” Many deities are horned gods, which is more of a title rather than a name. Images of gods with antlers, horned helmets, or carrying antlers have been found all over northern Europe, representing Óðin, Freyr, and Ullr. Not to be confused with the modern image of the Viking horned helmet, images of these gods may have contributed to the misconception, but are a completely different thing altogether.
Images of the Horned God that can be found in ancient bronze age art work, such as the Gundestrup cauldron, depict him as a mature, virile man, with a full beard holding a torc or an oath ring: an emblem of divine authority. It is common to refer to all such gods as Cernunnos, and it is probable that whether you were of Celtic, Gaulish, Germanic or Norse culture, different tribes called upon the Divine Hunter for similar needs and worshiped him with similar awe and appreciation.
Modern Heathens tend to depict Ullr with predatory, rather than prey animals; artistically portraying the God of the hunt with the wolf rather than deer. Somewhere along the line, he has developed a distinctive outfit – a wolf skin, arm bands, and little else.
Ullr’s name means “Glory” and he is the god of hunting, archery, and survival. Ullr ranges through his forested realm whenever he’s not watching the High Seat for Óðin. Ýdalir, “Yew Dales,” is his hall. He is the patron god of archery, and protector of hunters and rangers through the wilderness. As the God of all ranged activity, Ullr is also considered the God of games, whether of hunting or of sport: darts, billiards and even board and video games may be considered his modern day provinces. He presides over any activity requiring focus and hand-eye coordination.
Wildnerness survival requires a considerable amount of independence and self-reliance, as well as knowledge of your environment. Anyone who lives, works, or plays within a wild forest or protected parkland treads in Ullr’s realm. He is the ultimate “You do it” god, supporting you in developing your own personal skills, and developing your own relationship to nature. Whether heterosexual, homosexual, or bisexual, Ullr represents the masculine impulse to provide for and protect one’s mate and family unit. He is the god of camping, hiking and the wilderness.
Among his attributes, Ullr is described as being especially attractive. As a god of hunting and all sport requiring dexterity, he is ubiquitously depicted as lithe. Ullr provides a prototype for men who are naturally lean, looking to express their physical attractiveness and manly appeal. Ullr is more of a wolf than a bear, like his step-father Thor.
Worshiping Ullr is bound to increase your mastery of all crafts and skills requiring manual dexterity. He is a god of the woods, wild animals, and untamed places, and can help you to understand animals, plants, and their relation to you and your survival. Honour him by pursuing excellence in any of the solitary woodsman sports, or by your efforts in conservation and forestry. He would be particularly thrilled to see responsible hunters, avid skiers and skaters, and lots of manly hand-to-hand dueling. Ullr is the God of single combat and duels.
Ullr is a rotating ruler deity, a chieftain who takes turns. He rules over the Æsir whenever Óðin goes wandering, and he ruled the Vanir during the early wars with the Æsir. He represents just and responsible democratic systems and shared power. Call upon Ullr for any issue concerning government and politics, as well as for guidance when shouldering responsibility and authority. It was said that his oath ring would shrink to sever a limb or finger if you went back on your oath to him, so honour him by keeping your promises and really making your word your bond.
Ullr is a God of winter and death, and as a hunter, is a chooser of the slain. It is possible that he is the Saami interpretation of Óðin. Like Óðin, Ullr is a leader of the Wild Hunt. As such, his holy days include the traditional commencement of the Wild Hunt: the date of the first frost – sometime between October and November in the Northern Hemisphere, marked in modern times with Halloween.
Signs and Symbols
Bows (especially yew) and arrows, arrow heads, hunting axes and hatchets, yew trees, and all ever-greens. Oath rings and torcs. Wolves, wolf skins, snow and ice. Skies (both water and snow) and snowshoes, shields, and rib bones. Skates, snowboards and skateboards. Winter, snow and ice. The Northern Lights. Campfires, the great outdoors, and all rugged men. Animal pelts, especially wolf. Dark green colours. Venison, and all game meat. The runes Úr and Eoh.
Uller, Ull, Ullur, Wulþuz, Wuldor, Ollerus, Holler, Herne, Tapio, Father Wuldor, Jack Frost.