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).
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.
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.
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:
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
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
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.
Frigg | Norse Mythology “Frigga Spinning the Clouds” by John Charles Dollman (1909) Frigg (pronounced “FRIG;” Old Norse Frigg, “Beloved”), sometimes Anglicized as “Frigga,” is the highest-ranking of the Aesir goddesses. She’s the wife of Odin, the chief of the gods, and the mother of Baldur. Strangely for a goddess of her high position, the surviving primary sources on Norse mythology give only sparse and casual accounts of anything related to her personality, deeds, or other attributes. Frigg and Freya Like Freya, Frigg is depicted as a völva, a Viking Age practitioner of the form of Norse magic known as seidr. In the Viking Age, the völva was an itinerant seeress and sorceress who traveled from town to town performing commissioned acts of seidr in exchange for lodging, food, and often other forms of compensation as well. Thus, in the Migration Period, the goddess who later became Freya (and Frigg) was the wife of the god who later became Odin. Clearly, then, the two are ultimately the same goddess.
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
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).