Under the Shroud: Reconstructing Niht


On the surface, the concept of personified deities seems simple and straightforward – the sun, the moon, a lake or a mountain can all represent the divine or manifest divinity within, or at them. Despite this surface simplicity, contemporary practitioners appear to have difficulty comprehending and/or articulating animistic deities. Perhaps this disinclination is due to difficulties in reconciling animistic religiosity with modern scientific thought – an impediment that many Heathens, especially those who were raised in irreligious households, have difficulty overcoming. Whatever the reason, if we are attempting to reconstruct ancient, Germanic religion(s) with even a modicum of authenticity, it behooves us to appreciate divinity in all of its complex and multifarious forms.

In the following article we will attempt to extrapolate a Fyrnsidu specific deity associated with the Night by comparing like-deities from the Indo-European sphere. In order to provide our deity with a more multifaceted character, we will not only look at other “night deities”, but also feminine divinities with overlapping associations.

Nyx/ Nox

In ancient Hellenic religion, Nyx, whose name translates to “Night,”[1] was one of the primordial deities, or Protogenoi [2].  According to Hesiod’s Theogony, Nyx was born of Chaos “emptiness, chasm, void, or abyss” alongside her brother and consort, Erebus “Darkness.” [3]

From Khaos came forth Erebos and black Nyx ; but of Nyx were born (Aether, Bright Upper Air) and Hemera (Day), whom she conceived and bore from union in love with Erebos.” [4]

While she bore two children with Erebus, Nyx was also capable of begetting Gods asexually.

“And Night bore hateful Doom and black Fate and Death, and she bore Sleep and the tribe of Dreams. And again the goddess murky Night, though she lay with none, bare Blame and painful Woe, and the Hesperides who guard the rich, golden apples and the trees bearing fruit beyond glorious Ocean. Also she bore the Destinies and ruthless avenging Fates, Clotho and Lachesis and Atropos, who give men at their birth both evil and good to have, and they pursue the transgressions of men and of gods: and these goddesses never cease from their dread anger until they punish the sinner with a sore penalty. Also deadly Night bore Nemesis to afflict mortal men, and after her, Deceit and Friendship and hateful Age and hard-hearted Strife.” [5]

Although Hesiod’s account of Nyx paints a particularly frightening picture of her as the mother of calamitous Titans, the Orphic account is slightly different. In Aristophanes’ account, Nyx is similarly portrayed as the daughter of Chaos and lover of Erebus, though here she is said to have mothered Eros, God of love and sexual attraction.

“At the beginning there was only Chaos, Night, dark Erebus, and deep Tartarus. Earth, the air and heaven had no existence. Firstly, black-winged Night laid a germless egg in the bosom of the infinite deeps of Erebus, and from this, after the revolution of long ages, sprang the graceful Eros with his glittering golden wings, swift as the whirlwinds of the tempest. He mated in deep Tartarus with dark Chaos, winged like himself, and thus hatched forth our race, which was the first to see the light.” [6]

In the Iliad, Nyx is depicted as a powerful and protective Goddess. In this narrative, Nyx’s son, Hypnos, recounts the story of when he was asked by Hera to put Zeus to sleep, so that she might cause Herakles difficulties on his voyage home from Troy. Once Zeus awakens from his involuntary slumber, he flies into a rage and beat the gods up and down his house, looking beyond all others for [Hypnos]” [7]. Zeus’s vengeance, however, goes unfulfilled, as Hypnos takes refuge with his mother – a Goddess that even mighty Zeus was hesitant to anger.

The passages above portray Nyx as a powerful, protective entity with a potentially vengeful nature. This protective aspect is further demonstrated by her apparent role as protectress of seafarers – an association which was likely the result of her connection to the night sky and celestial navigation.

“All the stars wheeled aloft by Nyx (Night).”

“The [constellation] Altar even beyond aught else hath ancient Nyx (Night), weeping the woe of men, set to be a mighty sign of storm at sea. For ships in trouble pain her heart, and other signs in other quarters she kindles in sorrow for mariners, storm-buffeted at sea. Wherefore I bid thee pray, when in the open sea, that that constellation wrapt in clouds appear not amidst the others in the heavens, herself unclouded and resplendent but banked above with billowing clouds, as often it is beset when the autumn wind drives them back For often Nyx herself reveals this sign, also, for the South Wind in her kindness to toiling sailors. If they heed her favouring signs . . . Nyx kindles like signs of storm upon the gleaming Altar.” [8]

Nyx’s Roman counterpart, Nox, was of a seemingly more peaceful character and calls to mind pastoral scenes of dusk, as evidenced by Statius’ depiction of her as a Goddess who “laid to rest the cares of men and the prowlings of wild beasts, and wrapped the heavens in her dusky shroud, coming to all with kindly influence.” and as a  “gracious refresher of the mind”[9]. In the same prayer excerpt, King Adratus provides us with some insight into an acceptable sacrifice to the Goddess when he promises to sacrifice specially selected black bulls to Nox throughout the yearly cycle.

Nox is also closely associated with witchcraft. In Ovid’s Metamorphoses, the witch, Medea, invokes Nox alongside Trivia (Hekate), Luna (Selene), Tellus (Gaia) and Di Nocti (Gods of Night) to aid her in creating a potent poison. Likewise, the Witch Circe is depicted calling on Nox, Trivia and the Di Nocti to aid in a similar activity later in the poem.

“She [the witch Kirke (Circe)] sprinkled round about her evil drugs and poisonous essences, and out of Erebos and Chaos called Nox (Night) and the Gods of Night (Di Nocti) and poured a prayer with long-drawn wailing cries to Hecate. The woods (wonder of wonders!) leapt away, a groan came from the ground, the bushes blanched, the spattered sward was soaked with gouts of blood, stones brayed and bellowed, dogs began to bark, black snakes swarmed on the soil and ghostly shapes of silent spirits floated through the air.” [10]



If Ovid’s works are suggestive of a contemporaneous and ubiquitous belief in Nox’s associations with witchcraft, it might then be wise to touch upon some of the deities listed alongside her in the aforementioned invocation.

Hekate is a multifaceted deity who is particularly difficult to place in a restrictive framework. While few temples were dedicated to Hekate, she had a prominent place in home worship, where she was regularly petitioned in the guise of Apotropaia, or “She that protects,”  to ward against malevolent spirits and sorcery [11]. Hekataion, which in Attic Greek referred to shrines or idols dedicated to Hekate, were placed at the doorway of each household or hall to protect those who dwelt within. Shrines dedicated to Hekate were also found at city gates, undeniably distinguishing her as a Goddess associated with liminality and the in-between.

“You see, the oracles are coming true; I have heard it foretold, that one day the Athenians would dispense justice in their own houses, that each citizen. would have himself a little tribunal constructed in his porch similar to the altars of Hecate, and that there would be such before every door.” [12]

This liminal quality is further illustrated by Hekate’s role as Goddess of the crossroads and borders. In this role, she is referred to as Trioditis, or “She who frequents crossroads”[13], where she acts as intermediary between the world of the living and the realm of the dead. Hekate’s connection to the dead is further corroborated via her involvement in the Deipnon, or “evening meal,” where she is “fed” once each month alongside the restless dead to satiate their hunger. Accordingly to Aeschylus, this tradition was the result of a widespread belief that Hekate led an entourage of ghosts and otherworldly hounds up from Hades each month, calling to mind later depictions of Wōden and the Wild Hunt.

Dogs played a prominent role in Hekate’s cultus due to their widespread use as property guardians – an association which hearkens back to our earlier description of the Goddess as sentinel of the threshold. Dogs regularly featured alongside the Goddess in classical iconographic representations and according to Franklin, were her preferred sacrificial animal. Dogs were also occasionally consumed by adherents of Hekate’s cult [14]. Sarah Iles Johnston suggests the dogs found in Hekate’s iconography also possessed a fertility attribute, as the dog is regularly depicted alongside Greek deities attached to midwifery, such as Eileithyia and Genetyllis [15].   

In Greek religion, Hekate was often linked to plantlife, herbalism and the creation of both medicinal and poisonous elixirs and is credited with teaching the art of medicine and poison to Medea in the Argonautica [16]. While Hekate was depicted by Sophocles as being clothed in oaken garments, it is the yew that was of particular import to the Goddess and her cultus. Black sacrificial bulls dedicated to Hekate were often draped in yew boughs to win her favour. This connection between the yew and Hekate seems rather odd on the surface, but Suffness, in his work, Taxol: Science and Applications, has suggested a etymological link between toxos, the Greek word for “yew” and toxicon “poison.” [17] Other plants associated with Hekate include: garlic [18], cypress (common among chthonic deities) [19], belladonna, mandrake, dittany and wolf’s bane [20]; all of which were used for their medicinal, poisonous or entheogenic properties.



Another Goddess referenced alongside Nyx in Ovid’s Metamorphoses is Selene/Luna, Goddess of the moon.

Selene was of Titan stock, the daughter of Hyperion and Theia, Sister of Eos and Helios and wife of the shepherd, Endymion [21]. Selene was the mother of several Goddesses. Via Zeus, She was the mother of Pandia (All-Brightness) [22] and Ersa (Dew), via Helios, Her brother, She was the mother of the Horai (Seasons) [23] and by Endymion, the Menai (Months) [24].

As was the case with many “celestial” deities, Selene was often depicted on horseback or driving a chariot pulled by winged horses. Though an equine link is obviously present, Selene was commonly associated with the bull iconographically, where her crescent moon crown was often related to the horns of a bull [25]. Nonnus makes mention of this association several times in his Dionysiaca.

“Selene (the Moon) herself, bullshaped and horned driver of cattle, may be angry to see my horned bullshaped form.”

First towards the western clime he allotted the Onkaian (Oncaean) Gate to Mene (the Moon) [Selene] brighteyes, taking the name from the honk of cattle, because Selene herself, bullshaped, horned, driver of cattle, being triform is Tritonis Athene.” [26]

Nonnus also suggests Selene’s chariot was not pulled by equine means, but instead, by bulls.

“I spy a silverfooted maiden stretched under the streams of my river! I believe Selene bathes in the Aonian [Theban] waves on her way to Endymion’s bed on Latmos (Latmus), the bed of a sleepless shepherd; but if she has prinked herself out for her sweet shepherd, what’s the use of Asopos (Asopus) after the Okeanos (Oceanus) stream? And if she has a body white as the snows of heaven, what mark of the Moon has she? A team of mules unbridled and a mule-cart with silver wheels are there on the beach, but Selene knows not how to put mules to her yokestrap–she drives a team of bulls!” [27]

“He shouted boldly to the fullfaced Moon (Mene) [Selene]–‘Give me best, Selene, horned driver of cattle! Now I am both–I have horns and I ride a bull!’ So he called out boasting to the round Moon. Selene looked with a jealous eye through the air, to see how Ampleos rode on the murderous marauding bull. She sent him a cattlechasing gadfly; and the bull, pricked continually all over by the sharp sting, galloped away like a horse through pathless tracts . . . [it then threw him then gorged him to death].” [28]

Selene was also closely associated with proliferation of both flora and fauna. As Eileithyia (Aid-In- Childbirth), she provided both women and animals quick and easy childbirth [29], a relationship which seems to have entered the Roman consciousness, as evidenced by Cicero’s depiction of Luna, Selene’s Roman counterpart.

“She [Luna-Diana, Selene-Artemis] is invoked to assist at the birth of children, because the period of gestation is either occasionally seven, or more usually nine, lunar revolutions, and these are called menses (months), because they cover measured (mensa) spaces.” [30]

Selene was also goddess of dew and was considered a “nourisher of plants” [31] because of this association. This aspect calls to mind the earlier depiction of Hekate as Goddess of herbalism, suggesting a possible link between the two roles. The similarities between Hekate and Selene is further demonstrated via their shared importance to the practice of witchcraft. Ancient Hellenes believed the lunar eclipse was the result of Thessalian witches drawing down the moon and working their terrible magics. It was common for people to make noise with cymbals during the eclipse in order to nullify this witchcraft and return Selene to Her rightful place in the heavens [32].

“She [the witch Medea] is one to strive to draw down from its course the unwilling moon (luna), and to hide in darkness the horses of the sun (sol).” [33]



Now that we’ve explored Hellenic deities associated with night and darkness, we can move onto our next deity, Ratri.

Ratri is personified night, often depicted as an ever youthful maiden, reborn and renewed with each passing cycle [34]. In keeping with the cyclical theme, Ratri is quite frequently represented alongside Her sister, Ushas, Goddess of the dawn. Interestingly, Ratri is not necessarily portrayed as a Goddess of darkness, per se, as one might expect from a deity of the night. Instead, Ratri is often thought of as the bright, moonlit night which chases away the darkness, assigning a protective Role to Her character [35].

“The Goddess Night has drawn near, looking about on many sides with her eyes. She has put on all her glories.”

“The immortal goddess has filled the wide space, the depths and the heights. She stems the tide of darkness with her light.”  [36]

According to Kinsley, Ratri is also associated with dew and the vitality it provides [37] – a quality which is reminiscent of Selene and Her role as nourisher of flora.

While Ratri is often listed as beneficent or benign, She is occasionally referenced in a negative manner. Where Ushas is seen as embodying radiance and motherly affection, Ratri is, in some depictions anyway, said to be barren and gloomy, illustrating the obvious contrast between the two Goddesses. She is also assigned a level of guardianship or responsibility for dangerous beings associated with the night, which may suggest many offerings made to Her were propitiatory in nature [38].  

Ratri, along with her sister, Ushas, is directly associated with the passage of time and are even called “the Weavers of Time” and “Mothers of Eternal Law” [39].

“Without Rātrī or Usas no concept of time would have emerged.” [40]

In his book, Hindu Goddesses: Visions of the Divine Feminine in the Hindu Religious Tradition, Kingsley says of Ushas and Ratri:

“In their alternating, cyclical, and endless appearances, they represent the stable, rhythmic patterns of the cosmos in which light and dark inevitably follow each other in an orderly, predictable manner. Together they illustrate the coherence of the created order: the ordered alternations of vigor and rest, light and dark, and the regular flow of time.”

While Ratri is considered a “minor” Goddess in terms of Her portrayal in Rig Veda, she is one of the few Goddesses who is given an entire hymn to herself.

“1.The Goddess Night has drawn near, looking about on many sides with her eyes. She has put on all her glories.
2.The immortal Goddess  has filled the wide space, the depths and the heights. She stems the ride of darkness with her light.

3.The goddess has drawn near, pushing aside her sister the twilight. Darkness, too, will give way. 

4. As you came near to us today, we turned homeward to rest, as birds go to their home in a tree.

5. People who live in villages have gone home to rest, and animals with feet, and animals with wings, even the ever-searching hawks.

6. Ward off the she-wolf and the wolf; ward off the thief. O night full of waves, be easy for us to cross over.

7.Darkness – palpable, black, and painted – has come upon me. O Dawn, banish it like a debt.

8.I have driven this hymn to you as the herdsman drives cows. Choose and accept it, O Night, daughter of the sky, like a song of praise to a conqueror.” [41]



As is often the case, in terms of a Germanic Goddess associated with the night, we are provided with little outside of Norse sources. In these sources, Nótt is personified night and is listed as a Goddess in both the Prose Edda and the Poetic Edda. Her name literally translates as “Night” and as such, there is little ambiguity in terms of her area of association and governance.

In the Eddas, Nótt is counted as the daughter of Narfi, a fairly enigmatic figure whose name may have some connection to the Old English word nearu, meaning ‘confined’, or ‘narrow’ [42][43]. According to Gylfaginning, Nótt was said to have taken three husbands, and with each, she had a single child. Her first husband was named Naglfari and with Him, Nótt bore Auðr, whose name, according to Simek, translates to ‘prosperity’. Her second marriage was said to be to a character named Annar, to whom she bore Jörð, the personified earth. Her third and final marriage was to Dellinger and it was to Him that she bore Her counterpart, the God of personified day, Dagr. Simek has indicated some scepticism as to the correctness of Gylfaginning’s list of Nótt’s kin, suggesting Snorri may well have incorporated them into his narrative as an attempt to mirror the classical mythology he was familiar with, with Narfi possibly being placed as Nótt’s sire in an attempt to emulate an Erebus-like figure[44].

Nótt is mentioned several times in the Poetic Edda and in each mention, we are provided with a tiny glimpse into Her attributes. In the 14th stanza of Vafþrúðnismál, we are presented with the name of Nótt’s horse, Hrímfaxi, or ‘Rime-Mane’, whose foam is said to produce the dew so often associated with the night.


“He is Hrímfaxi hight

which the hallowed night

Brings to the blessed gods.

As he fares, foam doth

Fall from his bit;

Thence cometh the dew in the dales.” [45]

This particular depiction of Nótt as a bringer of nourishing dew suggests a fairly consistent Indo-European motif; one shared by Greeks in antiquity and by ancient Indo-Aryan peoples.  

In stanza 25 of Vafþrúðnismál, we are provided with the name of Nótt’s father, Nǫrr (Narfi, Norvi) and are given a brief association between night, the moon and the reckoning of time.

“Is one Delling hight,

He is Day’s father;

But Night was born to Nor;

Waxing and waning moon

The wise gods made

To tell the time for men” [46]

In Alvíssmál, stanza 30, Nótt is given a list of potential epithets by the titular character, Alvíss.

“‘Tis hight ‘Night’ among men,

but ‘Murk’ among gods;

Call the might powers it ‘Mask,’

The etins, ‘Lightless,’

The alfs, ‘Sleep’s Ease,’

The dwarfs, ‘Weaver-of-Dreams.’”[47]

The stanza above would suggest that Nótt is not the chaser of darkness that Ratri appears to be, and instead, exists as the enveloping darkness that masks the skies. This description mirrors Her appearance in Gylfaginning, where She is described as being ‘black and swarthy.’ Here we are also provided with the title ‘Weaver-of-Dreams,’ or ‘Draumnjörun,’ [48] illustrating Her potential role as Goddess who creates dreams.  

The fourth time Nótt appears in the Poetic Edda, is in Sigrdrífumál/ Brynhildarljóð, where Sigrdrifa recites a prayer to Dagr and Nótt.

Heill dagr,

heilir dags synir,

heil nótt ok nipt;

óreiðum augum

lítið okkr þinig

ok gefið sitjöndum sigr.”[49]

Hail, day!

Hail, sons of day!

And night and her daughter now!

Look on us here

with loving eyes,

That waiting we victory win.”[50]


Extrapolating a Fyrnsidu-Specific Goddess of night

Now that we have explored Hellenic, Vedic and Norse Goddesses associated with the night and darkness, we can extrapolate our Fyrnsidu-specific Goddess more efficiently.

While many of the aforementioned attributes could be ascribed to either Niht (Night) or to Mōna (Moon), for simplicity’s sake, we will focus on Niht for our reconstruction [*].


Like her Indo-European counterparts, Niht could potentially be viewed as a primordial Goddess, born from the chasm at the beginning of the cosmos. She may also be seen as being both a protective force and one that is somewhat temperamental – presiding over all things that are associated with the night, both good and ill.

Niht watches over beings during their nightly rest and, as is the case with Nótt, provides us with dreams and potential portents.

As is the case with Nox, Hekate and Selene, Niht is strongly associated with witchcraft and herbalism and may be invoked to aid practitioners in both pursuits. She is also the Goddess of “nourishing dew,” which also ties into Her herbalistic leanings.  

In terms of iconography, Niht could be represented on horseback, driving a chariot pulled by horses or bulls, or as a bull-like figure adorned with crescent moon horns. She also might appear as a woman clothed in a black shroud, similar to depictions of Nyx and Nox.

Niht is a decidedly liminal deity and, like Hekate, may be petitioned at crossroads and apotropaically at the threshold of homes. She may also be called upon in a protective capacity in times of duress, especially if one is being bombarded by witchcraft or by entities of ill intent.

Appropriate offerings might include black bulls (statuettes, carvings etc.), votive dogs, yew boughs, garlic, cypress, mandrake and belladonna, as well as black seeds and foodstuffs – a colour typically associated with liminal and chthonic deities.

If we’re to look for a holy tide directly linked to Niht, we have a variety of options at our disposal. First, we might reconstruct something akin to the Deipnon, where Niht and the restless dead are given a portion of the evening meal on a monthly basis to stave off their advance. We also might celebrate Niht during a specific time in the lunar cycle, such as the new or full moon. We may also give Niht a position of importance during the shortest day of the year, or on dates specifically associated with liminality, such as Winterfylleþ.


Potential Epithets

Mirce – Murky

Nifol – Dark/ Gloomy

Grīma – Mask

Swefngamen – Sleep-Joy

Swefenwebbe – Dream-Weaver

Dēawig – Dewy

Lybbestre – Witch / Sorceress

Lēodrūne – Witch / Cunning-woman

Wyrtgælestre – Herbalist / One who uses plants for charms

Egesgrime – A Witch. Lit. “Horrible Mask”

Deorcness – Darkness / Obscurity

* Þrīweg – Three-Way. OE etymological equivalent of ‘Trivia’.



[1]Liddell, Henry George; Scott, Robert. A Greek–English Lexicon
[3] Hesiod. Theogony. Translation by Hugh G. Evelyn-White.
[4] Hesiod. Theogony. Translation by Hugh G. Evelyn-White.
[5]Hesiod. Theogony. Translation by Hugh G. Evelyn-White.
[6]Aristophanes. The Birds
[7]Homer. Iliad 14.
[8]Aratus. Phaenomena.
[9]Statius. Thebaid Book 3. TRANSLATED BY J. H. MOZLEY
[10]Ovid. Metamorphoses
[12]Aristophanes. The Wasps
[13]Liddell-Scott. A Greek-English Lexicon.
[14]Franklin, Alberta Mildred. The Lupercalia
[15]Iles Jonhston, Sarah. Restless Dead
[16]Apollonius of Rhodes. Argonautica
[17]Suffness, Matthew. Taxol: Science and Applications, CRC Press, 1995
[18]Simoons, Frederick J. Plants of Life, Plants of Death, University of Wisconsin Press, 1998
[19]Freize, Henry; Dennison, Walter. Virgil’s Aeneid
[20]Graves, Robert. The Greek Myths, Penguin Books, 1977
[22]Fairbanks, Arthur. Mythology of Greece and Rome (Special Reference to Its Influence on Literature)
[23]Quintus Smyrnaeus. Fall of Troy 10
[24]Pausanias. Description of Greece 5. 1. 4
[26]Nonnus, Dionysiaca (via Theoi.com)
[27]Nonnus, Dionysiaca (via Theoi.com)
[28]Nonnus, Dionysiaca (via Theoi.com)
[29]Chrysippus.  Old Physics
[30]Cicero. De Natura Deorum
[33]Ovid. Heroides
[36]Penguin Classics. Rig Veda
[37]Kinsley, David R. Hindu Goddesses : Visions of the Divine Feminine in the Hindu Religious Tradition
[38]Kinsley, David R. Hindu Goddesses : Visions of the Divine Feminine in the Hindu Religious Tradition
[39]Kinsley, David R. Hindu Goddesses : Visions of the Divine Feminine in the Hindu Religious Tradition
[40]Chattopadhyaya S. The female deities of Rksamhita.
[41] Penguin Books Ltd. The Rig Veda. Translated by Wendy Doniger O’Flaherty
[43]Bugge, Sophus. The Home of the Eddic poems: With Especial Reference to the Helgi-Lays, tr. William Henry Schofield
[44]Simek, Rudolf. Dictionary of Northern Mythology
[45]Hollander, Lee M. The Poetic Edda.
[46]Hollander, Lee M. The Poetic Edda.
[47]Hollander, Lee M. The Poetic Edda.
[49]Jonsson, Finnur. The Poetic Edda
[50]Bellows, Henry Adams. The Poetic Edda
[*] As always, this is largely the choice of the respective practitioner/hearth/group and they may choose to petition a different deity in this role.


5 thoughts on “Under the Shroud: Reconstructing Niht

  1. Brilliant article thankyou – I’m inclined to offer her blackberry wine, poppy seeds and some 100% cocoa chocolate (hope she likes it!) This is a Goddess I’ll be celebrating for sure – today is the new moon and beginning of Winterfylleth, a fitting time to begin to include her in my regular hearth practices I think! Will be extra sure to watch my dreams too from now on, and thank her for them.

    Liked by 1 person

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