In Norse mythology, Sjöfn (or Sjǫfn in Old Norse orthography) is a goddess associated with love. Sjofn is attested in the Prose Edda, written in the 13th century by Snorri Sturluson; and in three kennings employed in skaldic poetry. Scholars have proposed theories about the implications of the goddess.
Sjofn is among Love Goddesses the one most interested in children, not as a mother figure but as a companion. From them she receives love and offerings to this day, and to them she offers comfort in times of emotional need. When girls do tea parties with their dolls, it is she who receives the offered cookies and milk. At a children’s pic nics, she is Mr. Snuggle Bear, growling and demanding more cake and cuddles. When no one else is there to catch tears of loneliness, she is the ragged worn down plushy whose matted fur gets soaked. When a child clutches desperately to their toy, wondering why mommy hurts them, why daddy drinks, it is she who hugs them back and listens.
She grew up alone in Alfheim, invisible, without friends, protected from everything — including affection. Plied with endless gifts of toys and richly ornate dresses by royal parents too busy to give her attention, these silent companions were her only friends. Yet through her budding Alfar magic and mentoring of the Lady South Wind, she learned to bring toys to life, to make their hearts beat so they could hug her back. Hers is the magic of talking toys awakened by breath and by love.
At first she hoarded them, her only confidantes, but eventually learned to make more friends by having these toys given to other children. While her body lay as if asleep, she became the growling troll puppet, the fierce valkyrie and the friendly bear for them. Through the eyes of dolls she learned of life outside the castle, of poverty and injustice. The South Wind is the Song of Protests, the Voice of Revolutions, and she chose her pupil well. When Sjofn led her friends in defiance of these wrongs and of her parents, she received the ultimate punishment among Alfar: social death.
We have this too in Midgard. When you look away from the beggar as if he isn’t there, walking a little faster and pretending you didn’t hear him, you affirm that social order. When crossing the street to avoid the prostitute’s gaze, you make her a ghost, trying hard not to think about your discomfort. A moment later, she is forgotten and you sigh with relief. When an Alf sees another Veiled by this shroud of glamour, they know to treat them as a ghost. The “dead” are not spoken of or spoken to. To do otherwise would be to risk joining them. For one Veiled to speak to another means extending the sentence for both. You walk in crowds, totally disconnected and utterly alone. It breaks down your sanity until you yearn only to return and comply with all the rules and customs set before you.
Sjofn sat alone on a bench each day, seeing the living and the “dead” pass by, all of them ignoring her. She spoke to an imaginary friend, trying to hold onto sanity, until one day a girl came to sit with her. She returned the next day, and the one after that. Neither acknowledged each other, but the living girl listened. This girl was Lofn, the one she would one day elope with and future Goddess of forbidden loves.
Sjofn is Goddess of love and friendship, including to those whose voices are silenced for their views, for being too young or too old, for being born the wrong color, oddly sexed, differently shaped or able. She is much concerned with turning the minds of people, both men and women, to love for those who are ignored and ostracized for no other crime than being themselves. Their cries of suffering she hears, and when no one else will, she listens with compassion and whispers to those who might help.
Freya is also Goddess of love and desire, but let’s face it, she has it all: beauty, power and confidence. She is absolutely comfortable in her sexuality and needs no special trappings to indulge in it with whomever she pleases. It is not so simple with Sjofn. Traumatic events after her escape from Alfheim made it impossible to share intimacy. She had to find ways around her hangups by using toys, tools and games, or else return to being the Ice Maiden, cold and unfeeling. Thus she is sympathetic and helpful to those who struggle with their sexuality, who find ways to work around their issues — no matter how contrived these solutions may be. We all want love but sometimes it’s complicated. She holds both the desperate skin hunger and the terror of being touched. Only Lofn’s acceptance and willingness to gamble it all for love could overcome that challenge.