The immortal Bil is a goddess like no other; Bil is a human girl. Viðfinn had two beautiful children, a son Hjuki and a daughter Bil. Every day he sent them to fetch crystal clear water from the Byrgir, old Norse for “Hider of Something .”Bil and Hjuki didn’t mind going to the well as they could watch the moon dancing through the night sky. The children loved seeing the moon’s reflection in the well where they fetched the water.
Bil and Hjuki would watch the moon cross the night sky and always tried to see the horse named Hrinfaxi that drew Mani’s chariot. Hrimfaxi means frost mane, like the silvery color of the moon. While flying through the sky at night, the moon god Mani loved to play with these beautiful children and didn’t like to see how cruel their father was to them.
Mani didn’t have children of his own, so one night, as Bil and Hjuki were playing in the moonlight, Mani asked them if they would like to come and live with him. Of course, the children said yes! What an exciting thing to live in the night sky with Mani, their hero. Instead of watching Mani and wondering where he is, they would be able to cross the night sky with him.
Although the children were excited to live in the night sky, they told Mani they would come to him the following night to tell their father, Viðfinn, where they were going to be. Viöfinn was a very cruel father; this made Mani even more proud to become their father as this showed that they were kind and responsible children.
When Bil and Hjuki told Viðfinn that they would live in the night sky, Viðfinn said that they should do as they please as he didn’t care for them anyway.
The next night Bil and Hjuki went to live with Mani in the night sky. Bil means to lessen or to decrease, and Hjuki means to increase. This symbolically aligns with filling up or pouring water out of the bucket, and thus Bil became the waning moon and Hjuki the waxing moon. These symbolic names are also related to water and its connection to the ocean tides, the coming in of the wave, and the going out of the tide.
Bil became the goddess of the waning moon and was allowed to dance in the sky with her friends, the planets, and the stars. Bil became immortal by eating Idunns apples, which granted her longevity, and she continued her life amongst the gods and goddesses as their equal. Idunn is the goddess of youth; therefore, Bil became forever youthful.
According to the “Twilight of the Gods” or “Ragnarök,” Bil is destined to die at Ragnarök with all the other gods according to mythology.
Ragnarök is the fate of the gods and when all the gods will die. All mankind will be destroyed due to a series of catastrophic events. Everything will be submerged underwater, and only a few gods will return or survive, and there will be only two human survivors. The earth will be renewed, fertile, and invigorated, the two surviving humans will repopulate the world, and all will be as it should be.
Hati, the wolf, chases Mani across the sky every night and makes sure he stays on his path and on time as Mani likes to play around. Whenever the wolf Hati catches Mani, a Lunar eclipse occurs, but Mani is too strong for Hati and always breaks free.
One of Mani’s great duties is to “keep time,” so Hati ensures that Mani is punctual. At Ragnarök, Hati finally catches Mani, and the world is plunged into darkness.
Across the world, the moon is associated with female energies because of the monthly lunar cycle. Cultures from ancient times to the present believe in the significance of the moon and connect it to a goddess as the lunar deity. In Norse mythology, the main moon god is male. The assumed reason for this is the origin of the spoken language of the Norse and Germanic populations.
Mani is a proper noun but is male in gender. When language developed over time, nouns with no endings became masculine in gender, and nouns with a definite end, such as “Sol” for sun, became feminine. In this way, the moon, usually a feminine deity, became a god or male deity. This is why Mani is the moon god instead of the other cultures that we have looked at until now.
NORSE GODS: MÁNI – Ýdalir (ydalir.ca)
The Northern Sky: Working With Mani (northernpaganism.org)
Máni – Wikipedia
Hjúki and Bil – Wikipedia
Hjúki and Bil | Myths and Folklore Wiki | Fandom
Bil – Goddess of Norse Mythology – History Lists
Prose Edda | Viking Archaeology (archeurope.com)
The tale of Hjuki and Bil is the origin of the nursery rhyme Jack and Jill.
In Norse mythology, Hjúki (Old Norse: [ˈhiu̯ːke], possibly meaning “the one returning to health”) and Bil (O.N.: [ˈbil], literally “instant”) are a brother and sister pair of children who follow the personified moon, Máni, across the heavens. Both Hjúki and Bil are solely attested in the Prose Edda, written in the 13th century by Snorri Sturluson. Scholarly theories surrounding the two concern their nature, their role as potential personifications of the craters on the moon or its phases, and their relation to later folklore in Germanic Europe. Bil has been identified with the Bilwis, an agriculture-associated figure frequently attested in the lore of German-speaking areas of Europe.
Máni is the personification of the Moon in Norse mythology. Máni, personified, is attested in the Poetic Edda, compiled in the 13th century from earlier traditional sources, and the Prose Edda, written in the 13th century by Snorri Sturluson. Both sources state that he is the brother of the personified sun, Sól, and the son of Mundilfari, while the Prose Edda adds that he is followed by the children Hjúki and Bil through the heavens.
Hjúki is otherwise unmentioned, but Bil receives recognition. In chapter 35 of Gylfaginning, at the end of a listing of numerous other goddesses in Norse mythology, both Sól (the personified sun) and Bil are listed as goddesses “whose nature has already been described.” Bil appears twice more in the Prose Edda book Skáldskaparmál. In chapter 75, Bil appears within another list of goddesses, and her name appears in chapter 47 in a kenning for “woman.”
A 19th-century drawing of The Man in the moon from folklore in areas of Germanic Europe
Identification and representation
As the two are otherwise unattested outside of Snorri’s Prose Edda, suggestions have been made that Hjúki and Bil may have been of minor mythic significance or were made up outright by Snorri. At the same time, Anne Holtsmark (1945) posits that Snorri may have known or had access to a lost verse source wherein Hjúki and Bil personified the waxing and waning moon. Holtsmark further theorizes that Bil may have been a dís (a type of female deity).
Scholars have theorized that Hjúki and Bil may represent lunar activity, including that they may represent the moon’s phases or may represent the moon’s craters. 19th-century scholar Jacob Grimm rejects the suggestion that Hjúki and Bil represent the moon’s phases and states that Hjúki and Bil rather represent the craters on the moon seen from the earth. Grimm says that the evidence for this “is plain from the figure itself. No moon change could suggest the image of two children with a pail slung over their shoulders. Moreover, to this day, the Swedish people see two persons carrying a big bucket on a pole in the spots of the moon.” Grimm adds that:
What is most important for us, out of the heathen fancy of a kidnapping man of the moon, which, apart from Scandinavia, was doubtless in vogue all over Teutondom, if not farther, there has evolved itself since a Christian adaptation. They say the man on the moon is a wood-stealer who, during church time on the holy sabbath, committed a trespass in the wood and was then transported to the moon as punishment; there, he may be seen with the ax on his back and the bundle of brushwood (Cornwell) in his hand. Plainly enough, the water-pole of the heathen story has been transformed into the ax’s shaft, and the carried pail into the thornbush; the general idea of theft was retained, but special stress laid on the keeping of the Christian holiday; the man suffers punishment not so much for cutting firewood, as because he did it on Sunday.
Grimm gives further examples from Germanic folklore until the time of his writing (the 19th century) and notes a potential connection between the German word wadel (meaning the full moon) and the dialectal employment of the word for “brushwood, twigs tied up in a bundle, esp[ecially] fir-twigs, wadeln to tie up brushwood,” and the practice of cutting wood out in the full moon. Benjamin Thorpe agrees with the theory of Hjúki and Bil as the personified shapes of moon craters.
Rudolf Simek states that the obscurity of the names of the objects in the tale of Hjúki and Bil may indicate that Snorri derived them from a folktale and that the form of the story of the man in the moon (featuring a man with a pole and a woman with a bushel) is also found in modern folklore in Scandinavia, England, and Northern Germany.
Jack and Jill proposed as connected to Hjúki and Bil.
In both stories, Hjúki and Bil are found in the Icelandic Prose Edda, and in the English nursery rhyme “Jack and Jill,” two children, one male, and one female, fetch a pail of water. The pairs have names that have been perceived as phonetically similar. These elements have resulted in theories connecting the two, and the notion has had some influence, appearing in school books for children from the 19th century to the 20th century. A traditional form of the rhyme reads:
Jack and Jill went up the hill
to fetch a pail of water
Jack fell down and broke his crown
and Jill came tumbling after.
Up Jack got, and home did trot
as fast as he could caper.
He went to bed to mind his head
with vinegar and brown paper.
A figure named Bilwis is attested in various parts of German-speaking Europe starting in the 13th century. Scholar Leander Petzoldt writes that the figure seems to stem from the goddess and, overtime saw many changes, later developing “an elfin, dwarfish aspect and the ability to cripple people or cattle with the shot of an arrow” (such as in Wolfram von Eschenbach’s 13th-century poem “Willehalm”). Petzoldt further surveys the development of the figure:
During the thirteenth century, the Bilwis is less and less frequently treated as the personification of supernatural power but becomes increasingly identified as a malevolent human being, a witch. Still later, with the rise of the witch persecution at the end of the Middle Ages, the Bilwis was demonized; she became an incarnation of the devil for the witch and sorcerer. A final development has taken place since the sixteenth century, especially in northeast Germany; the Bilwis has been conceived of as a grain spirit bringing wealth; yet this latest manifestation of the Bilwis has its harmful side, the Bilwis-cutter, who is blamed for the unexplained patterns that are formed among the rows of standing grain. The cutter is a sorcerer or witch who cuts down the corn with sickles fastened to its feet. He is classified as an essentially malevolent Corn Spirit. Thus, the Bilwis is exceedingly polymorphous, taking on many appearances and meanings in all German-speaking areas throughout the Middle Ages. The Bilwis is one of the strangest and most mysterious beings in all folklore; its varying forms reflect the concerns of farm culture, and it serves to explain the eerie appearance of turned-down rows of plants in cornfields.
The village of Bilsby in Lincolnshire, England (from which the English surname Billing derives) has been proposed as having been named after Bil.