The Whita


The monstrous part of the Germanic world - the giants of Germanic myth, Grendel and his Mother in Beowulf, the dead who walk among men - all have a role to play in the central concerns of Germanic perception. The powers they embody represent something of an explanatory force that natural or 'scientific' law expresses for us.

- Paul C. Bauschatz, The Well and The Tree



The Whita or Wights (Old Norse; Vættr, Proto-Germanic *wihtiz meaning thing, creature) are divine beings, they are 'nature spirits' and are the 'magical' or 'supernatural' beings that inhabit the Anglo-Saxon landscape through place names, literature, art and the landscape itself. They may be venerated and appropriated, both feared and revered for their power to both curse and cure; they can be bringers of great woe and happiness.




(Niceras, Nicras, Neck, Knucker, Nokken,  Niker, Nix. Nixe, Nixie)



Gesawon ða æfter wætere wyrmcynnes fela,

sellice sædracan, sund cunnian,

swylce on næshleoðum nicras licgean.


Then they saw through the water many kinds of wyrm -

wondrous sea-dragons - exploring the sound

likewise on the headland slope nicors lying down

- Beowulf


Related to the eotenas the nicoras are shapeshifting water beings who may appear as beautiful maidens, hags or monstrous wyrms. Mischievous and murderous they are known to tempt people to the waters edge where they pull them into the water and drown them.


As 'Jenny Greenteeth' she grabs at the ankles of children or the elderly pulling them into the water and drowning them. The River Tees is haunted by 'Peg Prowler' described as green-skinned, with long hair and sharp teeth. The Grindylow of northern England inhabits pools, marshes and ponds grabbing little children with her long sinewy arms; drowning them if they come too close to the water's edge.


Not all nicoras were quite as malevolent as 'Peg Prowler' and her sisters. Tales tell of nicoras who agreed to live with men whom they had fallen in love with, though the union was a melancholic one as the nicoras grow despondent when separated from their life in the water. If bought gifts or you found their favour they may warn or save you from drowning, supply your nets with a bountiful catch of fish or teach their songs.


The nicoras are associated with the Wæn Njord.



Swan Maidens

"It is hard to imagine a more visually beautiful image in folk tales than the one presented by the figures of the swan maiden and her sisters. With a flurry of wings, they swoop down from the sky to glide elegantly across a clear pond. Then, throwing off their feathered gowns, they bathe and frolic in the water as women. They are always lovely, sensual, a combination of exotic sexuality and innocent charm."

- Midori Snyder: 'The Swan Maiden's Feathered Robe'


As seen in the passage above Swan Maidens are elegant and beautiful shapeshifters, able to move from human form to swan through a swan skin garment to which are attached feathers. Edith Swannesha (Old English: Ealdgȳð Swann hnesce, "Edith [the] Gentle Swan"; c. 1025 – c. 1086), also known as Edith Swanneschals or Edith the Fair,  was the first wife or mistress of King Harold II of England. As a royal bird the British Monarch retains the right to ownership of all unmarked mute swans in open water, it is a tradition said to date from the 12th century and formalised with a Royal Charter of Edward IV passed in 1482 and maintained in the custom of 'Swan Upping' on the River Thames.


The tales of Welund describe how he fell in love with the Swan Maiden Swanhilde after rescuing her when she fell to the earth wounded by a hunters spear. The master-craftsman and the Swan Maiden are married and she puts away her magical cloak to become a dutiful wife. When Welund's enemies attack they destroy his hall they kidnap Swanhilde and though he finds beautiful Swanhilde his enemies entrap and cripple him. However he is able to fashion a pair of wings for himself and escapes with Swanhilde as the hall of his enemies crumbles to ruin.



  • Swanhilde (Hervör alvitr) - The 'all-wise', sister of Swanwhit and wife of Welund
  • Aliruna (Ölrún, Ailrun, Alruna) - Wife of Ægil
  • Swanwhit (Hlaðguðr svanhvít) - 'Swan-white'; sister of Swanhilde and wife of Slegðyrse