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Norse Mythology

Norse Mythology
“Heimdall on the Rainbow Bridge” by Emil Doepler (1905) Heimdall (pronounced “HAME-doll;” Old Norse Heimdallr, whose meaning/etymology is unknown[1]) 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. 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.[3][4] Heimdall himself is, like so many of the Norse deities, a son of Odin. References: [1] Turville-Petre, E.O.G. 1964. [2] Snorri Sturluson. Related:  Norse mythology

Valhalla In Norse mythology, Valhalla (from Old Norse Valhöll "hall of the slain"[1]) is a majestic, enormous hall located in Asgard, ruled over by the god Odin. Chosen by Odin, half of those who die in combat travel to Valhalla upon death, led by valkyries, while the other half go to the goddess Freyja's field Fólkvangr. In Valhalla, the dead join the masses of those who have died in combat known as Einherjar, as well as various legendary Germanic heroes and kings, as they prepare to aid Odin during the events of Ragnarök. Valhalla is attested in the Poetic Edda, compiled in the 13th century from earlier traditional sources, the Prose Edda, written in the 13th century by Snorri Sturluson, Heimskringla, also written in the 13th century by Snorri Sturluson, and in stanzas of an anonymous 10th century poem commemorating the death of Eric Bloodaxe known as Eiríksmál as compiled in Fagrskinna. Attestations[edit] Poetic Edda[edit] Grímnismál[edit] Helgakviða Hundingsbana II[edit] Prose Edda[edit]

Frigg | Norse Mythology “Frigga Spinning the Clouds” by John Charles Dollman (1909) Frigg (pronounced “FRIG;” Old Norse Frigg, “Beloved”[1]), 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. The specifics they do discuss, however, are not unique to Frigg, but are instead shared by both her and Freya, a goddess who belongs to both the Aesir and the Vanir tribes of deities. 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.

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”[1]) 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. He’s the indefatigable defender of the Aesir gods and their fortress, Asgard, from the encroachments of the giants, who are usually (although far from invariably) the enemies of the gods. 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. Hallowing Fertility and Agriculture References:

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:

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. 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 anguished gods then ordained that one of them should go to the underworld to see if there was any way Baldur could be retrieved from the clutches of the death goddess, Hel. References: [1] Snorri Sturluson.

Loki | Norse Mythology Loki (pronounced “LOAK-ee;” Old Norse Loki, whose meaning/etymology is unknown[1]) 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 often runs afoul not only of societal expectations, but also of what we today might call “the laws of nature.” In the tales, Loki is portrayed as a scheming coward who cares only for shallow pleasures and self-preservation. Loki is perhaps best known for his malevolent role in The Death of Baldur. References:

Njord | Norse Mythology “Njord’s Desire of the Sea” by W.G. Collingwood (1908) Njord (pronounced “NYORD;” Old Norse Njörðr, whose meaning/etymology is unknown) is one of the principal gods of the Vanir tribe of deities. He’s also an honorary member of the Aesir gods, having been sent to them during the Aesir-Vanir War along with his son, Freyr, and his daughter, Freya. Freyr and Freya’s mother is Njord’s unnamed sister, who, based on linguistic evidence, is probably Nerthus. Njord was particularly associated with wealth, fertility, the sea, and seafaring in historical Germanic religion.[1][2] A saying among the Norse peoples held especially wealthy people to be “as rich as Njord.”[3] The tale in which Njord features most prominently is The Marriage of Njord and Skadi. Unfortunately, that’s about all that the surviving sources tell us about Njord. If you enjoyed this article, check out my book on the worldview at the heart of Norse mythology, The Love of Destiny: The Sacred and the Profane in Germanic Polytheism.

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”[1][2]) 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. 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.[5] 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: [1] de Vries, Jan. 2000. [2] Orel, Vladimir. 2003. [5] Ibid.

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