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"The Dises" (1909) by Dorothy Hardy.
The dying Viking hero Ragnar Lodbrok exclaimed in Krákumál: "the dísir invite me home (to Valhalla)". This is an illustration of a lady welcoming Odin back to Valhalla on the Tjängvide image stone, Gotland.

In Norse mythology, a dís ("lady", plural dísir) is a ghost, spirit or deity associated with fate who can be both benevolent and antagonistic towards mortal people. Dísir may act as protective spirits of Norse clans. Their original function was possibly that of fertility goddesses who were the object of both private and official worship called dísablót,[1] and their veneration may derive from the worship of the spirits of the dead.[2] A particular trait of the dísir is the fact that they appear as collective beings.[1] Scholarly theories hold that the North Germanic dísir and West Germanic Idisi are directly related, and that valkyries and norns may be types of dísir, and that the Fylgjur may also be connected to the concept.[2]



The annual Disting fair still carries the name of the dísir. A scene from the Disting of 2008.

Many have pointed out that dísir seems to be the original term for the valkyries (lit. "choosers of the slain"), which in turn would be a kenning for dís.[3] As opposed to valkyrja and norn, the term dís never appears in the Prose Edda by Snorri Sturluson. The name dís is the Old Norse cognate of Old High German itis, Old Saxon idis and the Anglo-Saxon ides, all meaning "lady",[2] and idisi appears as the name of the valkyries in the only surviving pagan source from Germany, the Merseburg Incantations (see below).[4] Dís also had the meaning "lady" in Old Norse poetry[2] as in the case of Freyja whose name itself means "lady" (frawjō) and who is called Vanadís ("lady of the vanir"). Adding to the ambiguous meaning of dís is the fact that just like supernatural women were called dísir in the sense "ladies", mortal women were frequently called by names for supernatural women, as noted by Snorri Sturluson in Skáldskaparmál:

Woman is also metaphorically called by the names of the Asynjur or the Valkyrs or Norns or women of supernatural kind.[5]

The Eddic dîs Skiöldûnga has an exact parallel in Beowulf's ides Scildinga "Scylding queen" (v. 1168).

The name dís appears in several place names in Norway and Sweden.[1] Moreover, it was a common element in girls' names as evidenced on runestones,[6] and it still is in Iceland. The word appears as a first element in Old High German female given names such as Itispuruc and Itislant. More frequent are Old Norse given names such as Thórdís, Hjördís, Ásdís, Vigdís, Halldís, Freydís. The initial i- was lost early in Old or Proto-Norse, but Grimm compares Idunn as a possible reflex of the original form of the name.


The dísablót by August Malmström.
Main article dísablót.

The dísir were important deities and the dísablót was a sacrificial holiday (blót) in honor of them. This holiday is mentioned in Hervarar saga, Víga-Glúms saga, Egils saga and the Heimskringla. Its purpose was to enhance the coming harvest.[7 ] In a part of the Heimskringla called the Ynglinga saga, Aðils, the king of Sweden, died when he administered the dísablót and rode around the shrine at the temple at Uppsala. According to another part of Heimskringla called St.Olav's Saga, the dísablót was celebrated at Uppsala during pagan times in late February or early March, and the sacrifices to the Dísir were followed by a popular assembly known as the Thing of all Swedes, or Dísaþing, and a yearly fair. When Christianity arrived, the market was moved to early February and renamed kyndelsting.[8] The name Disting remained in use, however, and the fair is still held every year in Uppsala – the first Tuesday in February.[9] It may be one of the oldest fair traditions in Sweden.[9]

The shrine where the dísir were worshiped was called dísarsalr and this building is mentioned in the Ynglinga saga concerning king Aðils' death. In addition, it also appears Hervarar saga, where a woman becomes so infuriated over the death of her father by the hands of Heiðrekr, her husband, that she hangs herself in the shrine.

Old Norse sources

The Norns spin the threads of fate at the foot of Yggdrasil, the tree of the world.

The generic dísir appears instead of the more specific labels norns, fylgjas and valkyries in a couple of Eddic and skaldic poems, and in various kennings.

The eddic poem Hamðismál deals with how Hamðir and Sörli go to the Gothic king Ermanaric to exact vengeance for the cruel death of their half-sister Svanhild. On the way, they kill their reluctant brother Erpr. Knowing that he is about to die at the hands of the Goths, Sörli talks of the cruelty of the dísir who incited him to kill Erpr, who would have cut off the head of Ermanaric and made their expedition successful. In this poem, dísir appears as a synonym of norn and the translator Henry Adams Bellows simply translates dísir as norns:

Hamðir kvað:
28. "Af væri nú höfuð,
ef Erpr lifði,
bróðir okkarr inn böðfrækni,
er vit á braut vágum,
verr inn vígfrækni,
- hvöttumk at dísir, -
gumi inn gunnhelgi,
- gerðumk at vígi -."
Sörli kvað:
29. "Ekki hygg ek okkr
vera ulfa dæmi,
at vit mynim sjalfir of sakask
sem grey norna,
þá er gráðug eru
í auðn of alin.[10]
Hamther spake:
28. "His head were now off
if Erp were living,
The brother so keen
whom we killed on our road,
The warrior noble,--
'twas the Norns [dísir] that drove me
The hero to slay
who in fight should be holy.
29. "In fashion of wolves
it befits us not
Amongst ourselves to strive,
Like the hounds of the Norns,
that nourished were
In greed mid wastes so grim.[11]

In Grímnismál, the wise Grímnir (Odin) predicts king Geirröðr's death, which he attributes to the wrath of the dísir. Again, dísir is used as a synonym for the norns[12]:

Eggmóðan val
nú mun Yggr hafa,
þitt veit ek líf of liðit;
úfar ro dísir,
nú knáttu Óðin sjá,
nálgastu mik ef þú megir.[13]
The fallen by the sword
Ygg shall now have;
thy life is now run out:
Wroth with thee are the dísir:
Odin thou now shalt see:
draw near to me if thou canst.[14]

In Reginsmál, the unmarried girl Lyngheiðr is called dís ulfhuguð (dís/lady with the soul of a wolf) as an insult. Later in the same poem, there is a stanza, where the dísir appear as female spirits accompanying a warrior in order to see him dead in battle, a role where they are synonymous with valkyries:

Þat er fár mikit
ef þú fœti drepr,
þars þú at vígi veðr,
tálar dísir,
standa þér á tvær hliðar
ok vilja þik sáran sjá.[15]
Foul is the sign
if thy foot shall stumble
As thou goest forth to fight;
Goddesses [dísir] baneful
at both thy sides
Will that wounds thou shalt get.[16]

An additional instance where dís is synonymous with valkyrie is the skaldic poem Krákumál – composed by Ragnarr Loðbrók while awaiting his death in a snake pit. It features the line: Heim bjóða mér dísir (the dísir invite me home), as one of several poetic circumscriptions for what awaits him.

An ambiguous reference to dís as "valkyrie" or "lady" appears in Helgakviða Hundingsbana I, where the hero Helgi Hundingsbane meets the valkyrie Sigrún for the first time. In his translation, Bellows simply translates it as "maiden":

16. Frá árliga
ór úlfíði
döglingr at því
dísir suðrænar,
ef þær vildi heim
með hildingum
þá nótt fara;
þrymr var alma.[17]
Early then
in wolf-wood asked
The mighty king
of the southern maid,
If with the hero
home would she
Come that night;
the weapons clashed.[18]

An instance of where dísir is shown to include the protective goddesses called fylgias is found in Hálfs saga ok Hálfsrekka. The warrior Útsteinn has arrived in Denmark where he is staying with an otherwise unknown Danish king named Eysteinn. One of the king's warriors whose name is Úlfr considers Útsteinn as a thorn in his side and so they begin to quarrel.

Útsteinn kvað, er Úlfr jafnaði sér við hann ok eggjaði hann:
"Upp skulum rísa,
út skulum ganga
ok rammligar
randir knýja.
Hygg við hjálmum
hingat komnar
til Danmerkr
dísir várar."
Úlfr kvað:
"Yðr munu dauðar
dísir allar,
heill kveð ek horfna
frá Hálfs rekkum.
Dreymdi mik í morgin,
at megir várir
öfri yrði,
hvars ér mættizt."[19]
When Ulf declared himself a match for Utstein and egged him on, Utstein said:
“Up we'll get
and out we'll go then,
shield on shield,
it shan't take long.
Something tells me
to trust to luck,
helmed here in Denmark
our disir stand near.”
Ulf said:
“All your disir
are dead I think,
your luck's run dry,
doughty Heroes.
I dreamt this dawn
our daring boys,
triumphed, topped you,
try as you might.”[20]

One source seems to describe the Dísir as the ghosts or spirits of dead women. In Atlamál, believed to have been written in Greenland in the 12th century, the character Glaumvör warns her husband Gunnar that she had a dream about the Dísir. Some of the surrounding text has been lost and it's not known what Gunnar may have said prior to this, and there is disagreement on which stanza number this should be given. A possible translation of the material is given as follows by John Lindow in his 2001 book Norse Mythology:

"I thought dead women
came hither into the hall,
not poorly decked out.
They wished to choose you,
would've invited you quickly
to their benches;
I declare of no value
these dísir to you."


"Idise" (1905) by Emil Doepler.

According to Rudolf Simek,Old Norse dís appears commonly as simply a term for 'woman,' just as Old High German itis, Old Saxon idis, and Anglo-Saxon ides, and may have also been used to denote a type of goddess. According to Simek, "several of the Eddic sources might lead us to conclude that the disir were valkyrie-like guardians of the dead, and indeed in Guðrúnarkviða I 19 the valkyries are even called Herjans disir 'Odin's disir'. The disir are explicitly called dead women in Atlamál 28 and a secondary belief that the disir were the souls of dead women (see fylgjur) also underlies the landdísir of Icelandic folklore."[21] Simek says that "as the function of the matrons was also extremely varied – fertility goddess, personal guardians, but also warrior-goddesses – the belief in the dísir, like the belief in the valkyries, norns, and matrons, may be considered to be different manifestations of a belief in a number of female (half-?) goddesses."[21]


  1. ^ a b c The article Diser in Nationalencyklopedin (1991).
  2. ^ a b c d The article Dis in Nordisk familjebok (1907).
  3. ^ Including: Ström, Folke (1954) Diser, nornor, valkyrjor: Fruktberhetskult och sakralt kungadöme i Norden; Näsström, Britt-Mari (1995) Freyja: The Great Goddess of the North; and Hall, Alaric (2004) The Meanings of Elf, and Elves, in Medieval England.
  4. ^ Calvin, Thomas. 'An Anthology of German Literature', D. C. Heath & co. ASIN: B0008BTK3E,B00089RS3K. P5.
  5. ^ Skáldskaparmál in translation by Arthur Gilchrist Brodeur (1916), at Northvegr.
  6. ^ Rundata
  7. ^ "Disablot", Nationalencyklopedin.
  8. ^ The article Disatinget, in the encyclopedia Nordisk familjebok.
  9. ^ a b The article Distingen, in the encyclopedia Nationalencyklopedin.
  10. ^ Hamðismál Guðni Jónsson's edition of the text with normalized spelling.
  11. ^ The Ballad of Hamther in translation by Henry Adams Bellows (1936), at Sacred Texts.
  12. ^ See Bellows' commentary
  13. ^ Grímnismál at Northvegr.
  14. ^ Thorpe's translation at Northvegr.
  15. ^ Reginsmál at Northvegr.
  16. ^ Bellows' translation at Northvegr.
  17. ^ Helgakviða Hundingsbana I Guðni Jónsson's edition of the text with normalized spelling.
  18. ^ The First Lay of Helgi Hundingsbane in translation by Henry Adams Bellows (1936), at Sacred Texts.
  19. ^ Hálfs saga ok Hálfsrekka Guðni Jónsson's edition of the text with normalized spelling.
  20. ^ The Saga of Half & His Heroes, translated by Peter Tunstall (2005), at Northvegr.
  21. ^ a b Simek (2007:61–62).


  • Simek, Rudolf (2007) translated by Angela Hall. Dictionary of Northern Mythology. D.S. Brewer ISBN 0859915131

See also

Dis may refer to:



  • Fríða Dís Guðmundsdóttir (born 1987), Icelandic vocalist, bassist, and flautist
  • Leendert van Dis (born 1944), Dutch rower who competed in the 1968 Summer Olympics
  • Vladislav Petković Dis, Serbian poet, part of the impressionism movement in European poetry


  • Abu Dis, Palestinian town in the Jerusalem Governorate, bordering Jerusalem

Academic institutions

Religion, mythology, and fiction

  • Dis (Divine Comedy), the fictional city in The Divine Comedy that contains the lower circles of hell & alternate name for Lucifer
  • Dis Pater, predecessor of Pluto in Roman Mythology and ancestor of the Gauls according to Roman thought
  • Dís, singular of dísir, a group of minor goddesses in Norse mythology
  • Pluto (god), as the alternative name "Dīs"
  • Dís (Middle-earth), a female Dwarf from J. R. R. Tolkien's universe
  • Dis, fictional planet where most of the action of Harry Harrison's novel Planet of the Damned takes place
  • Dis is a city in The Dark Tower (series) by Stephen King

Music and film

  • Abu-Dis, a CD album of remixes by Muslimgauze of other artists' material
  • "City of Dis", a song by Brazilian thrash metal band Sepultura from their 2006 release Dante XXI
  • "dis–", the opening theme song of the anime series Infinite Ryvius, performed by Mika Arisaka
  • Drowned In Sound, a webzine concentrating on new music
  • Dís, a soundtrack album by Icelandic composer Johann Johannsson
  • "Chambers of Dis", a song by Florida death metal band Morbid Angel from their 1998 release Formulas Fatal to the Flesh
  • The musical note D, in German nomenclature
  • Dis, an album by Norwegian jazz musician Jan Garbarek
  • "DIS", a song by Japanese visual band the GazettE.
  • Dis Oui ("Say yes"), Belgian entry in the Eurovision Song Contest 1998
  • Dis Rien ("Say nothing"), Monegasque entry in the Eurovision Song Contest 1962
  • Dis-le Quand Même, song featured in Sébastien Izambard's first and solo album Libre
  • Dis-moi qui tuer ("Tell Me Whom to Kill"), a 1965 French drama film directed by Etienne Périer

Computer topics


  • "Dis", the name of the final boss level, in mission eight of episode three (Inferno) in the original Doom video game.
  • "Dis" (see Baator), the second of the Nine Hells in the Dungeons & Dragons roleplaying game universe
  • "Dis," a fictional city in the Altered Beast video game
  • "Dis", an ally in the RPG Shin Megami Tensei: Nocturne.


Acronyms and slang

See also

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