- General info
Associated Names; Iaer, Aer, Eira, Eria, Eyra, and Eil.
Eir is one of the nine handmaidens of Menglöð (Mengloth), the Norse goddess of Healing . She is not only Mengloths handmaiden, but also a very powerful colleague, helping Mengloth in Jotunheim, as Mengloth might also be called by Eir to assist her in Asgard.
The other handmaidens of Mengloth ;
In Norse mythology, Eir (Old Norse “protection, clemency , help, mercy”) is a Æsir goddess or valkyrie associated with medical skill. She is named as a goddess who oversees childbirth.
Her distinction as a servant of both Frigga and Óðin, as well as her sphere of influence, have earned her a place of veneration among modern Heathens. There are several other deities who are sometimes called upon for help with healing.
Eir, however is the leading and principal healer in Northern tradition.
As a Valkyrie, Eir accompanied her battle-sisters. While the other Valkyries chose the slain, Eir would choose who would live and recover, and return to health. As a chooser of life and death, she is sometimes associated with the Norns. Although Snorri does not explicitly name her as one of the asunjar, he also does not name every goddess counted in this number. He does, however go on to say that Eir is among the most important of all goddesses.
Her name is a commonly used kenning for “woman” and “women”, which is intriguing when one considers that in proto-Heathen times, the realm of healing was by and large the realm of women. Folk tradition holds that Eir was invoked in healing rituals using a white flower known as Eirflower.
She is associated with copper, which was used in healing ceremonies.
Eir’s color is the red of fresh blood (although some have seen her to like green as well), and a magic charm pouch should be made of red cloth with blood-stanching herbs such as Yarrow or Bistort. Comfrey is traditionally one of Eir’s herbs, and it is a famous wound healer that speeds tissue repair. Red stones are also appropriate – she seems to be fond of garnets.
Eir 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 these three sources refer to the same figure, and debate whether Eir may have been originally a healing goddess 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. She may be related to the Indo-European Swiss goddess, Erecura, known to the Celts as Aerucura.
Healing methods among proto-Heathens included: healing through prayers, magic, midwifery practices (which were more advanced than those that followed after), surgery, herbalism, home remedies, healing methods using copper bracelets, and detoxes using saunas.
Before the rise of the male dominated medical institutions of Europe, the healing and medical care of the community in Norse and Germanic countries was largely the sphere of women. Although the Sagas record several male healers, during the pagan period, the role of doctor was women’s work, while men were usually nurses or helpers.