On Sif, Seasons, and Family

My alopecia is acting up again.

The day I returned from my honeymoon, and the day hurricane Sandy made landfall along the coast of the Northeast, I noticed quite a few of my newly four-inch hairs above my ears falling out in my fingers. I ran to the bathroom mirror, and, sure enough, it looks exactly like it did last December above my left ear–a small bald spot. And then I noticed another one, right on top where it’s always been the worst. Where I had only finally gotten rid of the bald spot three months earlier.

This time, however, I didn’t despair. My feelings were not even remotely as strong as they were a year ago when I was first experiencing alopecia, and there are good reasons for that. For one thing, I know what it is this time, so I’m not constantly thinking I’m disgusting for having some infection like I did last time when I was misdiagnosed with ringworm. For another thing, I have dealt emotionally with this loss. Last time, the concept of losing my hair was such an impossible concept that I had never even considered it might happen to me. But this time, I know that it’s something that happens to me, and so life goes on. But perhaps the biggest reason why I’m not as upset this time is that I no longer have to worry that I will be bald at my wedding. My baldness waned in time for me to have a full head of hair for my wedding and honeymoon, and now that it’s over, I have the comfort of that perfect memory, and life goes on.

It’s been two weeks since my baldness came back, and so far it’s not even really noticeable. A slight change in how I’ve been wearing my bangs, and even I can’t tell looking at myself in the mirror. Hopefully it stays like that. It won’t.

Last time, my hair fell out during Hurricane Irene’s Northeastern tour, and this time, it was just in the middle of Sandy. So I’m joking to everyone that hurricanes make my hair fall out.

But there’s something else to it, something that has me thinking a lot about Sif, wife of Thor, and that’s the seasonality of it. It is apparently not unheard of for those with alopecia to experience a worsening of their symptoms in the fall, with regrowth tending to appear in the spring. Of course, as with everything about alopecia, there’s very little research, so all of this is sort of speculative.

Many people liken Sif’s hair to the golden fields of wheat, and Loki cutting her hair off as a representation of the wheat harvest, which occurs in late summer. So at the end of each summer, Sif loses and then mourns her long hair, and is given a new head of golden hair by the dwarves.

This is the second autumn in a row that my hair has fallen. Which gives a whole new meaning to the season of “fall.” I feel like a tree, like my leaves fall out in the autumn and I am bare all winter, only for new growth to come once more in the summer. And today, while musing about Sif, I feel like my hairs are the golden fields of wheat that she grows until they are long and she is proud of them, then are torn away, leaving her bereft for the winter, only for new golden stalks to return with the strengthening sun.

There’s another aspect to my thinking about Sif and my hair loss today. With the gods, what thoughts aren’t multi-faceted? So for one, I am thinking of Sif and the seasons of loss and gain, but I am also thinking of how she is the wife of Thor, and how her name means familial or in-law relationships. How she turns the mind to love.* How she lost her hair, and in the process, Loki got her new gold hair from the dwarves, and the gods got the best of their treasures–Sif’s husband’s hammer, Odin’s spear and self-replicating ring, and Frey’s ship and golden boar. These allow the gods much more strength in their position among the worlds, particularly thanks to Thor’s hammer. I am struck that her loss leads to the gain of all in her family, not just herself.

It is so common in Norse mythology for a deity to be missing just the thing that gives them their power–Freyja is missing her husband, but has passionate love as her domain. Odin is missing an eye, and so gains vision. And so on. Sif loses her hair, and also her femininity, and so gives the gods those things that make them the most powerful. Her loss was powerful enough to transform the Aesir. And so I have have been thinking of her and my new marriage, and how we’re in it together now and that sacrifices I make and losses I sustain can have a positive effect on me and Gent and our whole family. And how, like Sif, I am an in-law, and how I am his wife, and he is now, for real, my family. How families are a whole web of connectedness, and how marriages tie a knot to combine two whole wyrd webs into one so that they always and forever affect each other.

*This is something that is actually said of Sjofn, but I believe that Sif and Sjofn are the same goddess. Sjofn is solely attested to in Snorri’s list of goddesses, in which Sif is not listed. Sjofn’s name means “relation” and so does Sif’s. 
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One thought on “On Sif, Seasons, and Family

  1. So sad to hear about your hair again :(, but you’re taking it amazingly. I think you’ve found a really good connection as well with it, and I’m impressed that you can turn it around into meaning you need to make sacrifices for your new family. I hope it doesn’t turn into a big problem, but it’s wonderful to see that you such a strong person now!

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