“The Wild Hunt: Åsgårdsreien” by Peter Nicolai Arbo

Then a clear Companie came soon after closs,
Nicneven with her Nymphs, in number anew,
With Charms from Caitness and Chanrie in Ross,
Whose Cunning consists in casting a Clew…

Nicnevin is the Queen of Elphame, the queen of the fairies, spirits, and strange creatures, queen of the Unseelie Court of Alba.  She reigns with a male consort at her side, but his name is never given, it is my guess he changes with her moods.  She is the Gyre Carline and appears sometimes in the Scottish tales as Habetrot, a crone-like spirit known for her magical powers of spinning, weaving and clothmaking. It is said she wears a long grey mantle and carries a white wand and can appear as an old crone or a beautiful young woman. White geese are sacred to her and their cackling may herald her arrival. In this we see she is linked with the Germanic goddess Holda… Hel, queen of the Underworld, the leader of the Wild Hunt in Norse legend. She is Mother Nicnevin, queen of witches, the Mother of Witches, the “great muckle Wallowa”. “This was the name given to the grand Mother Witch, the very Hecate of Scottish popular superstition. Her name was bestowed, in one or two instances, upon sorceresses, who were held to resemble her by their superior skill in Hell’s black grammar'” (Source).

Samhuinn Eve is the night of Nicnevin. Some say her sacred days are November 9th and 11th, but it is truley Samhuin when she rides the skies with her Unseelie host, and between the hours of 9 and 10pm she allows herself and her host to be visible to mortal eyes… It is said on this night at dusk she rises from the underworld, passing through Shoni’s realm beneath the sea to rise into the world of mortals and open the gate to the Otherworld so the spirits of the dead may cross to our world.  Her Unseelie host of spirits and dark creatures fly with her into the skies, and woe any man who crosses their path. Yule, or Midwinter is also said to be one of her sacred days. The women of our ancestors would always ensure to finish any spinning before Yule and empty their distaffs as Nicnevin would punish any woman found working on her sacred day by stealing the valuable fibre left on their distaffs…

Contrary to what some folklorists say, Nicnevin is not really the Cailleach – the Scots Beira. Instead, Nicnevin is a part of the Cailleach; her darker half, the hag-crone, one piece of the whole.  Cailleach is a primordial creation goddess, a giantess, the stones and bones of Alba – an ancient Earth Goddess. Nicnevin is the daughter of the Cailleach as “nic” means “daughter of” and Nevin refers to Ben Nevis, the Cailleach’s seat of power, the tallest mountain in Alba. The Cailleach is said to embody the mountains and Ben Nevis is her favourite for she can see all her creation and her kingdom from its heights.

Nicnevin is a goddess of witches, magic, crossroads, and is linked to the dark moon – invoke her for any ritual, rite or spell for your witchcraft as a Wiccan would invoke the god and goddess at every rite. She must be invoked to travel to the Otherworld or underworld and it is still best to ask for her protection when travelling after dark. Her domain and associations are much the same as Hekate and Hel’s, but with Scottish cultural differences of course. She can grant the ability to talk to spirits of all realms and to travel between worlds. She can also grant specific magical powers if you spend the night on one of her hills, a crossroads, or by the sea in a place where land, sea and sky are all represented.  You can ask for  a witch’s power, for divinatory skills, plant knowledge, skills with certain spells and witchcraft practices…  To do this you must bring offerings for her, arrive at dusk, invoke Nicneven and wait for her. If she does not arrive, come the next night and the next… nine at the most. If she does not arrive by the ninth time, that power is not meant for you. If she does arrive – or sends a spirit in her place, state out loud what you wish and leave your offering right away. Do not scream, do not run away in fear or you will forfeit your gift. As a Scots goddess she prefers libations – your best bet is whiskey, mead, cider or a good ale. Do not cheap out, give her the good stuff or home brew if you make it.

To Invoke Nicnevin for Ritual or Rites

To invoke the Queen of Elphame, recite this call: “O Micol, Micol regina Pigmeorum veni” and first there will be a gentle wind, then a whirlwind, and then a storm in which she will appear in all her glory (Darker Superstitions of Scotland, p. 537)

To invoke her for a rite, hold a cup of libations to the sky and shout:

“Nicenevin! Nicnevin! Queen of Witches! I call to thee!
I ask in your grace that you part the veil of night,
And open the gate to the Otherworld.
As we give honor to our ancestors,
We give honor to you who guides them here!
Drink with us and aid our rite,
In the name of the grand Mother Witch!”

To invoke her during ritual sing The Witches’ Reel from 1591, to hear how it is to be sung listen to Green Crown’s version:

Cummer gae ye afore, cummer gae ye,
Gin ye winna gae, cummer let me,
Linkin lithely widdershins,
Cummers carlin cron and queyn
Roun gae we.

Cummer go ye before, cummer go ye
If ye willna go before, cummer let me
Loupin’ lightly widdershins
Kilted coats and fleein’ hair
Three times three

Cummer go ye before, cummer go ye
If ye willna go before, cummer let me
Whirlin’ skirlin’ widdershins
De’il tak the hindmost
Wha’er she be

The Witches’ Charm ~ To Dedicate Yourself to Nicnevin

Documented in the Orkeys by folklorist Walter Traill Dennison in the 1880s, the witches’ charm is a dedication ritual to the witch gods from whom the witch wishes to attain magical powers. During the full moon, go to a solitary beach on the sea. Turn yourself around three times witherlins and lay down on the beach at the ebb — the area between high and low tide. Place a stone at each of your outstretched hands and feet, one at the head, one at the chest cavity, and one over the heart totalling seven stones. Speak aloud:

O Mistress Queen of all that’s ill,
Come fill me with the Witches’ Skill,
And I shall serve with all my will.
Trow take me if I sin!
Trow take me if I fly!
Trow take me when I cannot!
Come take me now, and take me all,
Take lungs and liver, organs and feet,
Take me, take me, now I say!
From the brow of the head, to the tip of the toe.
Take all that’s out and in of me.
Take hair and hide and all to thee.
Take heart and brains, flesh, blood and bones,
Take all between the seven stones!
In the name of the Great Dark Witch!

Lay quiet and meditate for a few moments, then open your eyes, turn on your left side, rise and throw each stone individually into the sea crying: “Trow take me with each throw!”.

Join the discussion 12 Comments

  • Wow that was so interesting! I don’t know much about Scottish folk traditions and this was a delight to read – and of course this is my kind of Goddess – double delight.

  • RedAutumn says:

    Would this Lady be the one you had people guess about for your altar pic on WW? She is certainly interesting!

  • Sarah says:

    Nice to know you like the darker goddesses too Carolina – I like a woman you don’t mess with!

    Close, but no banana D! The antlers on my altar are for the Cailleach Bheur, priestess of the deer… In my practice, Nicnevin is represented by my distaff, my hawthorn stang 😉

  • Cakepants says:

    (Wait, WHAT? Why do all comments seem to hate me?)

  • Cakepants says:

    IF YOU REPEAT THE CAILLEACH’S NAME FIVE TIMES IN A DARK ROOM IN FRONT OF A MIRROR SHE’LL APPEAR AND MAKE YOU DRINK WHISKEY WITH HER. (Okay, fine, that’s SORT’VE true; FEAR HER AND HER PRESCRIPTION OF “WHISKEY!” FOR EVERYTHING! Toothache? WHISKEY. Broken foot? WHISKEY. Influenza? WHISKEY. <- I don't even what to know her medical qualifications, I'm sure if I asked the answer would be "WHISKEY!".)

    I'm more chthonic orientated so I instinctively get pulled DOWN instead of up. My great pilgrimage to THE OLD WOMAN will eventually lead me to the Corryvrecken instead of Ben Nevis. Although I've been desperate to scale the very local Bennachie for years now to roll around Mither Tap. (<- LITERALLY. ME + ENTHEOGENS = DEVOLUTION.)

    That, and, despite already being granted with a snow bringing ritual I really, really, really want to make a neolithic stone axe from materials gathered on Mither Tap to make my WINTER HAMMER. (VARIATION IS THE SPICE OF LIFE, ESPECIALLY IF IT INVOLVES A HAMMER THAT YOU BEAT INTO THE GROUND. <- Hey, it worked for Cyndi Lauper; that show was //awesome// and I'm only slightly embarrassed to admit that I cried during "ALL THROUGH THE NIGHT".)

  • Sarah says:

    Did wordpress eat your comment hun?

    • Cakepants says:

      TWICE. (I think maybe there’s a character limit? I decided to be a pest and email you the comment instead! <- LUCKY YOU! *winks*)

  • Cory says:

    What a brilliant post! I really like the lore you collected here. Do you know if she has a preference for what kind of crossroads one should seek her at? I have a three-way crossroads near my home I use for much of my conjure/hoodoo work (there’s also a “ghost road” running off of the main three roads), but a genuine four-way crossroad is harder to find in my area.

  • Sarah says:

    Thank you Cory!

    A three-way crossroad is perfect, as is a meeting of three streams or rivers, or a place with land, sea and sky all represented 😉

  • zell says:

    hmm… if necnevin is the queen of unseelie court then what is the name of seelie court? thanks

    and i like your informations about Queen Nicnevin.. it helps alot. thank you!

  • Sarah says:

    Brighid is Nicnevin’s seelie counterpart. From Lady Gregory on Brighid: “the one side of her face was ugly, but the other side was very comely.”

    They are both the Cailleach’s daughters and the Cailleach herself. The Earth is split asunder, one half bright in the light of the sun during the seasons of spring and summer, and one half dark blocked from the sun during fall and winter – these are the two faces of the Goddess and the queens of the fairy courts.

  • chelseareed says:

    You’ve sparked a hungering for Scottish lore with this! I particularly like that she is so similar (with cultural differences obviously) to Hekate. Research mode to commence shortly! :)