In Norse mythology, Ullr is a god associated with archery. Although literary attestations of Ullr are sparse, evidence including relatively ancient place-name evidence from Scandinavia suggests that he was a major god in earlier Germanic paganism. Proto-Germanic *wulþuz ("glory") appears to have been an important concept of which his name is a reflex; as owlþu-, the word appears on the 3rd-century Thorsberg chape, and some scholars suggest it was an epithet of a god who also had other names.
When Odin was exiled, Ollerus was chosen to take his place and ruled under the name Odin for ten years until the true Odin was called back.
Ullr is mentioned in the poem Grímnismál where the homes of individual gods are recounted. The English versions shown here are by Thorpe.
The name Ýdalir, meaning "yew dales", is not otherwise attested. The yew was an important material in the making of bows, and the word ýr, "yew", is often used metonymically to refer to bows. It seems likely that the name Ýdalir is connected with the idea of Ullr as a bow-god.
Another strophe in Grímnismál also mentions Ullr.
The strophe is obscure but may refer to some sort of religious ceremony. It seems to indicate that Ullr was an important god.
The last reference to Ullr in the Poetic Edda is found in Atlakviða:
Both Atlakviða and Grímnismál are often considered to be among the oldest extant Eddic poems. It may not be a coincidence that they are the only ones to refer to Ullr. Again Ullr appears to be associated with some sort of ceremony, this time the practice of swearing an oath on a ring; the ring was later associated with Thor in a reference to the Norse settlers in Dublin.
In chapter 31 of Gylfaginning in the Prose Edda, written in the 13th century by Snorri Sturluson, Ullr is referred to as a son of Sif (with a father unrecorded in surviving sources) and thus a stepson of Sif's husband, Thor:
In Skáldskaparmál, the second part of the Prose Edda, Snorri mentions Ullr again in a list of kennings, informing his readers that Ullr can be called ski-god, bow-god, hunting-god and shield-god. In turn a shield can be called Ullr's ship. Despite these tantalising tidbits, he relates no myths about Ullr. It seems likely that he did not know any, the god having faded from memory.
Snorri's note that a shield can be called Ullr's ship is borne out by surviving skaldic poetry with kennings such as askr Ullar, far Ullar and kjóll Ullar all meaning Ullr's ship and referring to shields. While the origin of this kenning is unknown it could be connected with the identity of Ullr as a ski-god. Early skis, or perhaps sleds, might have been reminiscent of shields. A late Icelandic composition, Laufás-Edda, offers the prosaic explanation that Ullr's ship was called Skjöldr, "Shield".
The name of Ullr is also common in warrior kennings, where it is used as other god names are.
- Ullr brands – Ullr of sword – warrior
- rand-Ullr – shield-Ullr – warrior
- Ullr almsíma – Ullr of bowstring – warrior
Ullr's name appears in several important Norwegian and Swedish place names (but not in Denmark or in Iceland). This indicates that Ullr had at some point a religious importance in Scandinavia that is greater than what is immediately apparent from the scant surviving textual references. It is also probably significant that the placenames referring to this god are often found close to placenames referring to another deity: Njörðr in Sweden and Freyr in Norway. Some of the Norwegian placenames have a variant form, Ullinn. It has been suggested that this is the remnant of a pair of divine twins and further that there may have been a female Ullin, on the model of divine pairs such as Fjörgyn and Fjörgynn. Probably Ullr’s name also can be read in the former Finnish municipality of Ullava in Central Osthrobothnia Region.
- Ullarhváll ("Ullr's hill") - name of an old farm in Oslo and of Ullevaal Stadion
- Ullestad ("Ulle's place") - name of an old farm in Voss.
- Ullarnes ("Ullr's headland") - name of an old farm in Rennesøy.
- Ullerøy ("Ullr's island") - name of four old farms in Skjeberg, Spind, Sør-Odal and Vestre Moland.
- Ullern (Ullarvin) ("Ullr's meadow") - name of old farms in Hole, Oslo, Ullensaker, Sør-Odal and Øvre Eiker.
- Ullinsakr ("Ullin's field") - name of two old farms in Hemsedal and Torpa (old church site).
- Ullinshof ("Ullin's temple") - name of three old farms in Nes, Hedmark (old church site), Nes, Akershus and Ullensaker (old church site).
- Ullensvang ("Ullr's field") - name of an old farm in Ullensvang (old church site).
- Ullinsvin ("Ullin's meadow") - name of an old farm in Vågå (old church site).
- Ullsfjorden ("Ullr's Fjord") - fjord in Troms county. Commonly believed to be named after Ullr, although there is some uncertainty.
- Ulvik ("Ullr's bay") - village and fjord in Hordaland county.
Magnus Olsen suggested in addition that the names of some Norwegian places including Ringsaker derive from a nickname *Ringir for Ullr based on his association with ring-oaths, but there is no evidence of this.
- Ulleråker ("Ullr's field") Uppland
- Ultuna ("Ullr's town") Uppland
- Ullared ("Ull's clearing?") Halland
- Ullevi ("Ullr's sanctuary") Västergötland
- Lilla Ullevi, Bro, Stockholm. In 2500/70, excavations in have yielded the remains of a cult site. The site is associated with Ullr based on the toponym Lilla Ullevi ("little shrine of Ullr"). Its most notable feature is an arrangement of rocks, dated to the Vendel Period, in two "wings" with four large post holes. A total of 65 amulet rings have been recovered in the vicinity.
- Ullvi ("Ullr's sanctuary") Västmanland
- Ullene ("Ullr's meadow") Västergötland
- Ullervad ("Ullr's place to wading") Västergötland
- Ullånger ("Ullr's bay") Ångermanland
- Ullen Värmland, Hagfors springsource lake
- Ullbro ("Ulls bridge") Uppland, Enköping
- Ullunda ("Ulls grove") Uppland, Enköping
- Ullstämma ("Ulls meeting") Uppland, Enköping
- Värmullen Värmland, Hagfors
- Ullsberg ("Ull's mountain") Värmland, Hagfors
Other derivatives of Proto-Germanic *Wulþuz
Derivatives of Proto-Germanic *wulþuz have the meaning "glory"; for example, Gothic wulþus. Anglo-Saxon, wuldor, with the same meaning, stems from another root, *wuldra-. Although not used as a proper name, in Anglo-Saxon literature wuldor occurs frequently in terms for the Christian God, such as wuldres cyning "king of glory", wuldorfæder "glory-father", and wuldor alwealda "glorious all-ruler".
owlþuþewaz / niwajmariz
The element owlþu, for wolþu-, is a derivative of *wulþuz and thus means "glory", "glorious one", or possibly the name of the god. The second element of the same word, -þewaz, means "slave, servant". The whole compound is therefore a personal name or title, "servant of the glorious one" or possibly "servant/priest of Ullr". Niwajmariz means "well-honored".
The place-name evidence and the *wulþuz cognates have led many scholars to conclude that Ullr was one of the older Norse gods, whose importance had waned by the time of settlement of northern parts of Norway, well before the medieval Old Norse texts were written down. This is reflected in the lack of literary evidence for the name Ullinn. Based on the association of Ullr and Ullinn placenames with Vanir deities, Ernst Alfred Philippson suggested that contrary to his placement in the Prose Edda among the Æsir, he was himself one of the Vanir.
Viktor Rydberg speculates in his Teutonic Mythology that Ullr was the son of Sif by Egill-Örvandill, half-brother of Svipdagr-Óðr, nephew of Völundr and a cousin of Skaði, and that Ullr followed in the footsteps of Egill, the greatest archer in the mythology, and helped Svipdagr-Eiríkr rescue Freyja from the giants. Rydberg also postulates that Ullr ruled over the Vanir when they held Ásgarðr during the war between the Vanir and the Æsir, but Rudolf Simek has stated that "this has no basis in the sources whatsoever".
Within the winter skiing community of Europe, Ullr is considered the Guardian Patron Saint of Skiers (German Schutzpatron der Skifahrer). An Ullr medallion or ski medal depicting the god on skis holding a bow and arrow, is widely worn as a talisman by both recreational and professional skiers as well as ski patrols in Europe and elsewhere.
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- In Modern Icelandic Ullr is usually referred to as Ullur. In the mainland Scandinavian languages the usual form is Ull, without the nominative case marker -r. The latter form is sometimes used as an anglicization, as is Uller.
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- MyNDIR (My Norse Digital Image Repository) Illustrations of Ullr from manuscripts and early print books. Clicking on the thumbnail will give you the full image and information concerning it.