Giants “The Nøkk Screams” by Theodor Kittelsen (c. 1900) The giants of the pre-Christian mythology and religion of the Norse and other Germanic peoples are a tribe of spiritual beings whose power equals that of the two tribes of gods, the Aesir and the Vanir. Their character, however, is very different from that of the gods – and, in fact, the giants and the gods correspond to opposing, but intertwined, cosmological principles. The Devourers “Giants” is a misleading Anglicization of the name of these beings. In modern English, of course, a “giant” is first and foremost something of enormous size. Speakers of Old Norse called them jötnar (singular jötunn, pronounced roughly “YO-tun”) or þursar (singular þurs, pronounced “THURS” like the first element in “Thursday” but with a soft “s” at the end). How, then, did these “devourers” come to be called “giants?” Utangard Spirits The world of the devourers is Jotunheim, “the world of the jötnar,” which is also called Utgard (Old Norse Útgarðr).
Nerthus | Norse Mythology The “Venus of Willendorf” (c. 23,000 BCE, found in modern-day Austria) Nerthus (Proto-Germanic *Nerþus) is a pre-Christian goddess venerated by some of the continental Germanic tribes described by the Roman historian Tacitus in his Germania (authored about 100 CE). Tacitus provides us with the following haunting description of her veneration: [The Reudigni, Aviones, Anglii, Varini, Eudoses, Saurines, and Nuitones] share a common worship of Nerthus, or Mother Earth. Tacitus’s account has been corroborated by archaeology, as a number of finds have demonstrated that practices such as the one he describes here did indeed take place during the period in question, and, in fact, even farther back in the history of the Germanic peoples. Nerthus’s name also suggests a connection with the Vanir deities. Given Tacitus’s identification of Nerthus with Terra Mater (“Mother Earth”), it’s also tempting to identify Nerthus with Jörð (Old Norse “Earth”), the obscure mother of Thor. References:
Odin | Norse Mythology Odin (pronounced “OH-din”; Old Norse Óðinn, Old English and Old Saxon Woden, Old High German Wuotan, Wotan, or Wodan, Proto-Germanic *Woðanaz, “Master of Ecstasy”) is one of the most complex and enigmatic characters in Norse mythology, and perhaps in all of world literature. He’s the chief of the Aesir tribe of deities, yet he often ventures far from their kingdom, Asgard, on long, solitary wanderings throughout the cosmos on purely self-interested quests. He’s a relentless seeker after and giver of wisdom, but he has little regard for communal values such as justice, fairness, or respect for law and convention. What’s in a Name? As mentioned above, Odin’s name can be translated as “Master of Ecstasy.” This ecstasy that Odin embodies and imparts is the unifying factor behind the myriad areas of life with which he is especially associated: war, sovereignty, wisdom, magic, shamanism, poetry, and the dead. War Sovereignty Odin’s preference for the elite extends to all realms of society.
Gods of Asgard Dimension of Origin: Unrevealed, possibly AsgardHabitat: TemperateGravity: Earth-likeAtmosphere: Earth-likePopulation: 500-800 (estimated)Other Associated Dimensions: The Asgardian dimension is a cosmology of inter-connected worlds of which inhabit the other known races of the Asgardian gods. Among these are Asgard (home of the gods), Vanaheim (former home of the Vanir), Alfheim (home of elves), Nidavellir (home of dwarves), Jotunheim (home of the Jotuns or giants), Svartlheim (home of the dark elves), Hel (the land of the dead) and Niffleheim (the frozen land reserved for the dishonored dead). Among these realms is Midgard, the Norse name for Earth. The Gods of Asgard are a race of superhumanly powerful humanoid beings who were once worshipped by the ancient Norse and German tribes of Western and Northern Europe between 1100 BC to 1200 AD. The precise origin of the Asgardian gods, like that of all of Earth's pantheons of gods, is shrouded in legend. ==Characteristics== ==Powers==
Loki | Norse Mythology Loki (pronounced “LOAK-ee;” Old Norse Loki, whose meaning/etymology is unknown) is the wily trickster god of Norse mythology. While treated as a nominal member of the Aesir tribe of gods in the Eddas and sagas, Loki occupies a highly ambivalent and ultimately solitary position amongst the gods, giants, and the other classes of invisible beings that populate the traditional spirituality of the Norse and other Germanic peoples. His familial relations attest to this. His father is the giant Fárbauti (“Cruel Striker”), and his mother, Laufey (possibly “Tree”), could be a goddess, a giantess, or something else entirely – the surviving sources are silent on this point. Loki is the father, by the giantess Angrboða (“Anguish-Boding”) of Hel, the goddess of the grave, Jormungand, the great serpent who slays Thor during Ragnarok, and Fenrir, the wolf who bites off one of the hands of Tyr and who kills Odin during Ragnarok – hardly a reputable brood, to say the least. References:
Heimdall | Norse Mythology “Heimdall on the Rainbow Bridge” by Emil Doepler (1905) Heimdall (pronounced “HAME-doll;” Old Norse Heimdallr, whose meaning/etymology is unknown) is one of the Aesir gods and the ever-vigilant guardian of the gods’ stronghold, Asgard. His dwelling is called Himinbjörg (“Sky Cliffs,” connoting a high place ideal for a fortress), which sits at the top of Bifrost, the rainbow bridge that leads to Asgard. He requires less sleep than a bird. During Ragnarok, the gods know that their doom is at hand when they hear the dire call of Gjallarhorn signaling the imminent arrival of the giants, who cross the rainbow bridge to storm Asgard and kill the gods. Taken together, certain verses in Old Norse poetry seem to indicate that Heimdall was once considered to be the father of humankind, and possibly to have established the hierarchical structure of Norse society as well. Heimdall himself is, like so many of the Norse deities, a son of Odin. References:  Turville-Petre, E.O.G. 1964.
Thor | Norse Mythology “Thor’s Battle with the Giants” by Mårten Eskil Winge (1872) Thor (Old Norse Þórr, Old English Đunor, Old High German Donar, Proto-Germanic *Þunraz, “Thunder”) is one of the most prominent figures in Norse mythology. He was a major god of all branches of the Germanic peoples before their conversion to Christianity, although he reached the height of his popularity among the Scandinavians of the late Viking Age. The Warrior God Par Excellence Thor, the brawny thunder god, is the archetype of a loyal and honorable warrior, the ideal toward which the average human warrior aspired. No one is better suited for this task than Thor. Thor’s particular enemy is Jormungand, the enormous sea serpent who encircles Midgard, the world of human civilization. Given his ever-vigilant protection of the ordered cosmos of pre-Christian northern Europe against the forces of chaos, destruction, and entropy represented by the giants, it’s somewhat ironic that Thor is himself three-quarters giant. Hallowing
Baldur | Norse Mythology “Each Arrow Overshot His Head” by Elmer Boyd Smith (1902) Baldur (pronounced “BALD-er;” Old Norse Baldr, Old English and Old High German Balder) is one of the Aesir gods. He’s the son of Odin and Frigg, the wife of the obscure goddess Nanna, and the father of the god Forseti. He’s loved by all the gods, goddesses, and beings of a more physical nature. So handsome, gracious, and cheerful is he that he actually gives off light. The meaning and etymology of his name are uncertain and have been the topic of intense scholarly debate. This literary source is the Prose Edda of the medieval Icelandic scholar Snorri Sturluson. When Baldur began to have dreams of his death, Frigg went around to everything in the world and secured from each of them an oath to not harm her son. Loki, the guileful trickster of the gods, sensed an opportunity for mischief. The whole world did indeed weep for the generous son of Odin – all, that is, save one creature. References:  Snorri Sturluson.
Tyr | Norse Mythology “Tyr and Fenrir” by John Bauer (1911) Tyr (pronounced like the English word “tear”; Old Norse Týr, Old English Tiw, Old High German *Ziu, Gothic Tyz, Proto-Germanic *Tiwaz, “god”) is a relatively minor Aesir god in Viking Age Norse mythology. However, his name and attributes along with evidence from the study of comparative religion divulge to us that his Viking Age form is a severely diminished version of a divine figure who, in earlier ages, was the highest god of the Norse and other Germanic peoples. (By the Viking Age, this role had been usurped by Odin.) Tyr in the Viking Age While mentions of Tyr in Old Norse literature are few, he certainly seems to have been regarded as one of the principal war gods of the Norse, along with Odin and Thor. The Lokasenna also mentions that Tyr lost one of his hands to the wolf Fenrir. Indeed, Tyr’s one-handed-ness seems to be one of his defining attributes. Tyr Before the Viking Age Such is certainly the case with Tyr. References:  Ibid.
Freyr | Norse Mythology “Freyr” by Johannes Gehrts (1901) Freyr (pronounced “FREY-ur;” Old Norse Freyr, “Lord”) is a god who belongs to the Vanir tribe of deities. He’s also an honorary member of the other tribe of Norse gods, the Aesir, having arrived in their fortress, Asgard, as a hostage at the closing of the Aesir-Vanir War. Freyr was one of the most widely and passionately venerated divinities amongst the heathen Norse and other Germanic peoples. One Old Norse poem calls him “the foremost of the gods” and “hated by none.” The reasons for this aren’t hard to understand; their well-being and prosperity depended on his benevolence, which particularly manifested itself in sexual and ecological fertility, bountiful harvests, wealth, and peace. It shouldn’t be surprising, then, that Freyr was a frequent recipient of sacrifices at various occasions, such as the blessing of a wedding or the celebration of a harvest. His father is Njord, and his mother is Njord’s unnamed sister (presumably Nerthus).
Freya | Norse Mythology Freya (Old Norse Freyja, “Lady”) is one of the preeminent goddesses in Norse mythology. She’s a member of the Vanir tribe of deities, but became an honorary member of the Aesir gods after the Aesir-Vanir War. Her father is Njord. Her mother is unknown, but could be Nerthus. Freyr is her brother. Her husband, named Odr in late Old Norse literature, is certainly none other than Odin, and, accordingly, Freya is ultimately identical with Odin’s wife Frigg (see below for a discussion of this). Freya is famous for her fondness of love, fertility, beauty, and fine material possessions – and, because of these predilections, she’s considered to be something of the “party girl” of the Aesir. Freya presides over the afterlife realm Folkvang, whose inhabitants she selects from among the warriors slain in battle. Freya the Völva Freya’s occupying this role amongst the gods is stated directly in the Ynglinga Saga, and indirect hints are dropped elsewhere in the Eddas and sagas. Freya and Frigg
Norse mythology An undead völva, a Scandinavian seeress, tells the spear-wielding god Odin of what has been and what will be in Odin and the Völva by Lorenz Frølich (1895) For the practices and social institutions of the Norse pagans, see Norse paganism Norse mythology, or Scandinavian mythology, is the body of mythology of the North Germanic people stemming from Norse paganism and continuing after the Christianization of Scandinavia and into the Scandinavian folklore of the modern period. The northernmost extension of Germanic mythology, Norse mythology consists of tales of various deities, beings, and heroes derived from numerous sources from both before and after the pagan period, including medieval manuscripts, archaeological representations, and folk tradition. Most of the surviving mythology centers on the plights of the gods and their interaction with various other beings, such as humanity and the jötnar, beings who may be friends, lovers, foes and/or family members of the gods. Sources