Gná, The Goddess of Fullness & Frigg’s Handmaiden

gna norse mythology
Gná, the 13th Ásynjur goddess listed in Snorri Sturluson's Prose Edda, is the goddess of fullness. Her duties as a handmaiden include running errands and delivering messages and prayers to Frigg on her trusty horse Hófvarpnir.

Snorri Sturluson describes the handmaidens just as powerful as the Æsir gods, yet there are few references to them in surviving Nordic texts. These Norse goddesses show up very little within the Poetic Edda and Prose Edda but sometimes appear on protection runes.

Frigg’s Handmaidens

Frigg’s handmaidens are also referred to as Ásynjur goddesses. In Old Norse myths and sagas, they are goddesses with powers that rival the Æsir gods of Asgard and Valhalla.

As attested in the Prose Edda, Frigg’s handmaidens include:

The Æsir gods have multiple books describing their origins and eventual fate at Ragnarök, but the same cannot be said for the Ásynjur goddesses. It doesn’t mean the Vikings didn’t hold them in high regard because historical records prove they did.

It simply suggests that modern interpretations (often through a male-dominated Christian lens) omit these Norse goddesses in Germanic texts.

Frigg sends Gná, riding on Hófvarpnir, on an errand in Frigg and her Maidens (1902).
Frigg sends Gná, riding on Hófvarpnir, on an errand in Frigg and her Maidens (1902)

Gná, the Goddess of Fullness

Scholars translate Gná as the goddess of fullness, and she serves as Frigg’s messenger. Her name is often translated to mean to tower or soar, referencing how she flies over the air and sea with her horse. Some scholars suggest that her name is also a literal translation of the noise that her horse makes.

Those that pray to Frigg have their prayers collected by Gná, who then takes those messages back to Frigg. She is a traveling handmaiden who doesn’t like staying in one place too long and travels all over the nine realms from Asgard, Hel, and Midgard.

Gná is an essential goddess in Frigg’s court, but in the surviving Nordic texts, her horse Hófvarpnir plays just as an important role in Icelandic myths.

Gná is flanked by the horse Hófvarpnir, while standing before the enthroned Frigg in an illustration (1882) by Carl Emil Doepler
Gná is flanked by the horse Hófvarpnir, while standing before the enthroned Frigg in an illustration (1882) by Carl Emil Doepler

Hófvarpnir, Gná’s Horse

Hófvarpnir translates to hoof-thrower or hoof-kicker. He is the child of Hamskerpir and Garðrofa and has impressive abilities to fly over the air and water. Just like Odin’s steed Sleipnir, Hófvarpnir can travel to places often forbidden by the Æsir and Vanir gods, like Hel.

Her horse Hófvarpnir makes Gná stand apart from other goddesses because, with her horse, she can travel not only through the air but in other realms as well.

Scholars draw very clear lines between the abilities of Hófvarpnir and the Roman Pegasus, which could also fly through the air.

Gná’s Attestations

Gná’s attestations are fleeting, and she only appears in Snorri Sturluson’s Prose Edda. In the 35th chapter of the Gylfaginning, an unnamed Vanir god notices something flying through the air. Gná corrects them by stating that it wasn’t her that flies, but her horse Hófvarpnir, and also describes Hófvarpnir parents as Hamskerpir and Garðrofa (for whom we know very little about).

Further along in the Prose Edda, Snorri Sturluson lists Gná as the 13th goddess in a list of 27 Ásynjur goddesses in the Skáldskaparmál. 

Tara Summerville

Tara is a freelance writer deeply involved with history in general, old mythology and Vikings in particular. She enjoys sitting on her deck with a cup of coffee reading books on Norse myths, deities and the fantastic stories behind each and every Norse god. Her fascination with mythology began as a child; spending afternoons at her grandma’s house going through the library in search of history and mythological books. She has since carried her love of mythological stories into adulthood also studying diverse aspects of the Viking culture in general.

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