Throughout the ancient world, night was often seen as a concept that, though dark, was not only needed for maintaining balance and passage of time, but was also very powerful. Night is not only associated with darkness and danger, but with dreams and prophecy and magik. So it is no wonder that many of the deities associated with (or personifying) night were often those primordial, primal, “pre-gods” or those who came into the picture before the “official” newer gods like the Titans and the Thurs came before Olympus and Asgard. In Egyptian mythology, the Primordial Goddess Nut is most often depicted as being arched over the earth covered in stars, and often with the sun poking out from beneath her womb. This is symbolizing the sun god Ra being born from her each day. It was said that she (the sky) would swallow Ra at night to keep him safe from the monster Apep and give birth to him again in the morning as part of the daily cycle. She was also the lover of Geb (the earth) and mother of the 5 deities that later became well known even now; Ausar (Osiris), Auset (Isis), Set, Nebt-het (Nephtys) and Heru (Horus)-the elder. She was both a cosmic mother, and night time, and protector. And she was a personification of the Milky way and cosmos itself. This made her associated with astrology and us being connected to and a part of that cosmos. Another night goddess is the Greek Titan Goddess, Asteria. Her name actually means roughly “starry one” or “of the stars”, like the night sky. At one point, Zeus tried his usual pursuit of females on her but she refused and flew into the ocean and became an island. This is the same island that her sister Leto gave birth to Apollo and Artemis on. (again, a connection to earth). She is also a goddess of dream divination, night-time magik, and is the mother of Hekate (who we know is also a goddess of deep magik). And then, in Norse myth, we have Nott.
Nott is the daughter of a giant. In Gylfaginning, we’re told “she was black and dark in accordance with her ancestry”. Snorri goes on to tell us that “Her last husband was Delling, he was of the race of the Aesir. Their son was Day. He was bright and beautiful in accordance with his father’s nature”. Though this does relate to his view of Jotun as dark and Aesir as bright to an extent, this description is not to focus on race, but is to show that she is a personification of night just as her “bright” son personified the day. This though was only one of her children. She also, in a previous marriage, gave birth to Jord who, you may recall, is also earth. In Vafthrudnir we see the passage of time aspect of night saying “night was begotten by Nor; Full moon and old by the gods were fashioned, to tell the time for men”. So we already have the passage of time and the night giving birth to day like in the others mentioned, along with a connection to the earth. But though we aren’t told much about Nott beyond this and her travel across the sky, at least in names given to her, there is reference to dreams as well as just being “night”. In Bellows translation of Alvissmal, the dwarf Alvis is asked what Nor’s daughter, the night, is called in all of the worlds. He replies that she is called Nott by men, darkness by the gods, The Hood by the high holy ones, the lightless by the Jotun, sleep’s joy by the elves, and weaver of dreams by the dwarfs. In Thorpe’s translation she is listed with older norse names we don’t have solidly verified english translation of but the dwarf name given for her is Draumniorum. Even though there isn’t an exact translation for this specific name, I can’t help but see the similarity to the word draumr which we do know means dream. Now, this is total UPG here but, I find it interesting that while the human, Jotun, and gods all refer to night in reference to lack of light or darkness, it is the races known for strong magik (elf and dwarf) that make reference to the dream aspect. We also see multiple times in the lore that dreams are associated with prophecy and destiny and foretelling the future. So, for me, I can see Nott being much like the other goddesses mentioned. And so to me she is not only the primordial night itself and the cycles involved in that, but she’s the same magik and prophecy as the others too. I feel this because of the way a lot of magik and mastering of practices often involves the inner spirit, shadow, and knowledge or wisdom that is often referred to as “secret”. Not to mention the way spells and rituals were often held at night and the fact most people feel that the best practice is not to broadcast openly what work we’re doing until it’s finished (ie: hidden). In fact, after studying a little more in preparation for writing this blog entry, I think I might try to connect with Nott more personally and maybe even ask her to help in my magikal practice and dreaming while I’m at it. Maybe even a little work with all of these night goddesses for that purpose. We shall see.
So let’s discuss. What are your thoughts on Nott? Or other night goddesses for that matter? Do you have working knowledge of any specifically male deities that represent night time? If so, how are they similar or different from these feminine deities? Have you worked with Nott personally? Please feel free to comment and share your thoughts. See you soon.