Thursday, September 18, 2014



Appeal: Healing, Health-Care Workers, Medicine


Eir ('help' or 'mercy') is one of Frigg's good friends and handmaidens, as well as a Goddess of the Aesir; she knew the medicinal properties of herbs and is so skilled in the healing arts that she is at times even capable of resurrection.

eir___version_1_by_g.jpgEir is attested in the Poetic Edda, compiled in the 13th century from earlier traditional sources; the Prose Edda, written in the 13th century by Snorri Sturluson; and in skaldic poetry, including a runic inscription from Bergen, Norway from around 1300.  Scholars have theorized about whether or not these three sources refer to the same figure, and debate whether or not Eir may have been originally a healing Goddess and/or a Valkyrie.  In addition, Eir has been theorized as a form of the Goddess Frigg and has been compared to the Greek Goddess Hygieia.

Eir is the matron Goddess of healing, and health-care workers, she is called on against sickness or injury.  In ancient times, only women could learn the art of healing amongst the Germanic tribes.  She is one of the Goddesses on the mountain called Lyfia ('to heal through magic'), and gives both physical and psychic means of healing; shamanic healing, especially, falls into her realm.

As the official healer of a warrior people she would have to be skilled at healing battlefield wounds.  Eir knows how to open the body and do repair, to stanch blood, to heal massive injuries, to drag someone back from quickly approaching death due to physical trauma.  She is the equivalent of the ER surgeon who must face frightening wounds, and make on-the-spot judgments as to whether the patient can be saved.  This is a different situation from making decisions about a longer, slower death from illness; Eir’s job is to make the snap decision in the moment between life and sudden death as the body lies bleeding out from the blow.

Although men did practice battle-field medical treatment, they may not have received much in the way of training for this task other than what they acquired by doing the job.  Women were the primary medical practicioners.  They knew child birth, surgery, wound care, herbal medicine and death.  The Herbarium of Apuleius lists the various ills and the corresponding plant remedies known to the Anglo-Saxons.  The Vikings also used charms, prayers and runes to help heal the ill. 


She is not listed in Ragnorak poems but Eir is portrayed by Alice Krige in the 2013 Marvel Studios film Thor: The Dark World.  She is re-imagined as an Asgardian physician.



Physician of the Gods,

the Merciful One.

I ask you to speed medical healing,

to speed the recovery

of illness or injury.

I ask you to inspire the doctors

to do no harm,

and to do well in treating the one whom I pray for.

Inspire the doctors to have mercy,

as you have mercy.

Inspire the one whom I pray for

to be patient and hopeful.

Hail Eir,

Greatest Physician.







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