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:  Snorri Sturluson.
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. 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.  Snorri Sturluson.
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. 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. Norse mythology has been a discussion of scholarly interpretation and debate since the 17th century, when key texts were brought to the attention of the intellectual circles of Europe. Sources Numerous further texts, such as the sagas, provide further information. Mythology
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. 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:
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. 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.
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. 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 Seidr is a form of pre-Christian Norse magic and shamanism concerned with discerning destiny and altering its course by re-weaving part of its web. This power could potentially be put to any use imaginable, and examples that cover virtually the entire range of the human condition can be found in Old Norse literature. Freya and Frigg References:  The Poetic Edda.
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 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:
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. He’s the divine patron of rulers, and also of outcasts. He’s a war-god, but also a poetry-god, and he has prominent transgender qualities that would bring unspeakable shame to any traditional Norse/Germanic warrior. He’s worshiped by those in search of prestige, honor, and nobility, yet he’s often cursed for being a fickle trickster. What’s in a Name? War Sovereignty Poetry
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. A saying among the Norse peoples held especially wealthy people to be “as rich as Njord.” 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.
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. 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). Freyr’s residence is Alfheim, the homeland of the elves. This could mean that Freyr is the ruler of the elves, but since this is never stated explicitly in the surviving sources, it must remain a fascinating conjecture. During Ragnarok, Freyr and the giant Surt destroy each other. References:  Ibid.
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:
Valhalla In Norse mythology, Valhalla (from Old Norse Valhöll "hall of the slain") 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 Poetic Edda Grímnismál Helgakviða Hundingsbana II Prose Edda