The Norse Gods And
alphabetical listing and short stories, of the Gods/Goddess of the old
many other general Norse concepts
note this is a scholars work, not
page, in its entirety, is a gift from my friend RunicMourning.. AKA Scott
vamped by me :) May the information be of use to you :)
"Thunder," son of Odin and Earth. The most beloved god of the Viking Age,
perhaps seen as the chief god at that time, and often known now as "god
of the common man," Thor is best known for his ceaseless battle against
the giants. He is not a bloody minded reaver, however, but a warder who
protects the folk of Midgard and Asgard against the menacing beings who
would destroy the world; unlike Odin, he never involves himself in the
battles of men, but the gods often seem to rely wholly on his protection.
He is the only god that Loki seems to respect.
Thor is sometimes shown as being slow-witted in comparison with Odin or
Loki, he is a practical god whose solutions to problems are usually swift,
effective, and show the common sense the other two sometimes lack. He is
also called the "Deep Thinker," and in one Eddic poem, outwits the clever
dwarf Alviss ("All-Wise") by engaging him in a riddle contest until dawn
turns the dwarf to stone.
weapon is the Hammer Mjöllnir, images of which are worn by true folk
today as a sign of troth, as was also done towards the end of the Viking
Age when Red Thor was called on to battle the White Christ. As well as
fighting giants, Thor also uses his Hammer for hallowing both brides and
funeral pyres, and several runic inscriptions from late Viking Age Denmark
call on him to hallow the runes.
was worshiped most by the free farmers (who were also warriors at need)
and by those who "trusted in their own might and main". Today, he is also
seen as the warder of his mother Earth against those who would harm her
for their own gain. He is able to raise great rages in himself, in which
he summons up more strength than any being in the worlds can match.
appears as a big, muscular man with red hair and beard and huge fiery eyes.
He drives a wagon which is drawn by two goats, Tanngrísnir (Teeth-Barer
or Teeth-Gnasher) and Tanngnjóstr (Tooth-Gritter). When he travels
to Jotunheim, Loki often goes with him; Thor is the only god that Loki
really seems to respect. He is married to Sif, and had a daughter named
Thrud (Strength) by her; he also has a giantess-concubine, who bore him
his sons, Modi (Courage) and Magni (Main-strength). It is said that "Thor
will help you if your prayer is sincere".
Norse Ţórr, Anglo-Saxon Thunar (from which "Thursday"), Old
German Thonar, Modern German/Wagnerian Donner, Proto-Germanic *Ţunraz.
Freya is probably the best-known and best-loved of the goddesses today.
Her title simply means "Lady," her original name is not known. Freya is
the "wild woman" among the deities of the North: free with her sexual favors
(though furious when an attempt is made to marry her off against her will);
mistress of Odin and several other gods and men; skilled at the form of
ecstatic, consciousness-altering, and sometimes malicious magic called
seidhr; and chooser of half the slain on the battlefield (Odin gets the
chief attribute is the necklace called Brisingamen, which she bought from
four dwarves at the price of four nights of her love. This necklace is
sometimes seen today as embodying her power over the material world; the
necklace has been the emblem of the earth-goddess since the earliest times.
goddess drives a wagon drawn by two cats, perhaps large forest-cats such
as lynxes, and is seen today as the patron goddesses of cats and those
who keep them. As a battle-goddess, she also rides on a boar called Hildisvini
Odin, Freya is often a stirrer of strife. As Gullveig ("Gold-Drunkenness"),
she came among the Aesir to cause trouble. She was stabbed and burnt three
times, but arose from the flame each time; through this torment, she transformed
herself into Heith ("the Glorious"), mistress of magic, in a typical shamanic
initiation. This also seems to have started the war between the Aesir and
is sometimes seen as a fertility goddess, but there are no sources suggesting
that she was called on to bring fruitfulness to fields or wombs. Rather,
she is a goddess of riches, whose tears are gold and whose "daughters,"
in the riddle-poetry of the skalds, are precious objects. However, the
giants are always trying to take her away from the gods, and it is clear
that this would be a great disaster: she was obviously known to be the
embodiment of the holy life-force on some level. Perhaps because of this,
Wagner gave her some of Idunna's attributes, making her the keeper of the
golden apples without which the folk of Asgard would wither and die.
Norse Freyja, Old English Freo, Modern German Frau, Wagnerian Freia, Modern
Son of Njord, twin brother of Freya. "Frey" is a title simply meaning "Lord,"
his original name was apparently some form of Yngvi/Ing. Together with
Thor, Frey was one of the best-loved gods of the Viking Age.
was the main god of kingship among the Swedes, whose royal family, the
Ynglings, was descended from him. His holy animal was the boar, which appears
several times on richly decorated helmets from the sixth century through
was called on for protection in battle, for frith (fruitful peace) at home,
and for good weather and gentle rains. He was, and is, often thought of
as a giver of riches, whose blessing is called on for fruitfulness and
growth in all fields of endeavor. His priests at Uppsala were said to ring
bells and clap their hands with effeminate gestures, and it has been suggested
that this cryptic reference hints at a tradition involving shamanic cross-dressing.
is the lord of the elves (see below), and is especially connected with
the blessings and worship given to the ancestral spirits and possibly land-spirits.
His image was often shown with an enlarged phallus; like his twin sister,
he is sometimes seen today as a deity of love and pleasure. Frey owns a
gold boar called Gullinbursti (Gold-Bristled) on which he can ride over
air and water. He once had a horse named Bloody-Hooved (perhaps having
to do with his role as battle-god) and a sword, but these he gave to his
manservant Skírnir (the Shining One) for winning the giant-maiden
Gerd for him. At Ragnarok, he will fight Surt with a stag's antler.
Norse Freyr or Yngvi-Freyr, Ingunar-Freyr; Anglo-Saxon Ing or Frea, Old
High German Fro, Modern German (Wagnerian) Froh, Proto-Germanic *Ingwaz,
also called Fro Ing (Lord Ing).
Originally a god of death, whose range later came to encompass magic (especially
runic magic), battle (giving victory by choosing who should die), poetry,
the fury of the berserk-warrior, and, at least in part, the authority of
the ruler descended from the gods (he is the most frequent father of royal
lines - including, according to Anglo-Saxon genealogies, the current royal
house of England). In the Prose Edda (written two hundred years after the
conversion of Iceland), he is shown as the chief of the gods, but historical
accounts of Germanic religion do not necessarily support this; it is likelier
that Snorri was modeling the Norse pantheon somewhat on the Classical.
won the runes by hanging on a tree for nine days and nights, wounded with
his own spear. He gave up one of his eyes for a drink from the Well of
Mímir ("Memory"). He won the mead of poetry by seducing the giant-maid
Gunnlod who had been set to keep it, then asking for a drink and draining
all three cauldrons. To his chosen ones, he gives victory, inspiration,
magic, madness, and death when he sees fit. He is seen as especially a
god of wisdom, a patron of poets, thinkers, and singers. Of all the gods,
Odin is the one who seems to take the most active part in the affairs of
humans, and the one who appears most often in the writings of the Germanic
usually appears as a gray bearded man, tall and thin, with a blue-black
cloak and an eye patch or wide-brimmed hat tilted to hide his missing eye.
His weapon is the casting spear Gungnir, with which he dooms his chosen
ones to die in battle. He has two wolves, Geri and Freki (both names mean
"the Greedy"); two ravens, Huginn ("the Thoughtful" or "the Bold") and
Muninn ("the Mindful" or "the Desirous"); and a gray, eight-legged horse
called Sleipnir ("Slipper"). He is the husband of Frigga and the father
of many gods and human heroes. As the leader of the Wild Hunt, he also
brings fruitfulness to the fields.
is assisted by the Valkyries ("Choosers of the Slain") who work his will
on the battlefield, bringing the bravest warriors to Valhalla ("Hall of
the Slain"), where they ready their strength against the coming of Ragnarok.
It is said that "Odin will help you if he feels like it," and it is true
that he is a stern tester of his children, and often seems rather capricious.
However, even when he seems cruel, his purpose is always clear: to strengthen
the hosts of the gods for the last battle so that life and knowledge can
be preserved and the new world born after the old is destroyed. In the
late Viking Age poem Eiríksmál, Bragi asks Odin, "Why
did you take victory from him (Erik Bloodaxe), if he seemed the bravest
to you?" and Odin answers, "Because of that which no one knows (that is,
the time of Ragnarok): the Gray Wolf gapes ever at the dwellings of the
gods." Odin is a god of foresight, careful weaving of plots, and long-term
Norse Óđinn; Anglo-Saxon Woden; Old High German Wodan; Modern
German Wotan; Proto-Germanic *Wođanaz. "The Furious (or Mad) One".
Wife of Odin, Frigga is the patron goddess of the home and of the mysteries
of the married woman. She is seen as Odin's match (and sometimes his better)
in wisdom; she shares his high-seat, from which they look out over the
is especially concerned with keeping social order. She is called on for
blessings when women are giving birth and for help in matters of traditional
women's crafts (spinning, weaving, cooking, sewing) and the magics worked
thereby. Frigga can also be called on by mothers who want to protect their
children. In olden days, this was especially the case with sons going out
to battle, for whom their mothers would weave or sew special protective
items. She is also called Hlin (protectress).
is the mother of Balder, and is often thought of as still mourning for
him. She is a seeress, who knows all fates, though she seldom speaks of
them. Her hall is called Fensalir - "marsh-halls". She has a handmaiden
called Fulla and a messenger named Gna.
the likeness of names and the similar relationship to Odin, Frigga should
not be confused with Freya, who shares none of her essential traits. Her
only departure from strict social behavior is that during one of Odin's
journeys away from Asgard, she is said to have taken his brothers Vili
and Ve as husbands; however, this probably shows the queen-goddess as the
embodiment of sovereignty. Her name is also not directly related to the
English slang-word, though the two derive from the same original root ("love,
pleasure"). Old Norse Frigg, Anglo-Saxon Frige, Old High German Frija,
An etin brought among the Aesir by Odin, who swore blood-brotherhood with
him, Loki wavers between a weal-bringing culture-hero/Trickster and a woe-bringing
destroyer. He is responsible for getting the gods most of their good, but
only after he has led them to the edge of destruction. He often travels
with Thor, sometimes leading him into trouble and sometimes getting him
out of it. Loki also brings a surprising amount of humor into the Norse
tales (and into the practice of the Northern religion today). The need
for this function of his appears explicitly in the tale of how the giantess
Skadi was reconciled to accepting weregild from the gods instead of insisting
on revenge: one of her conditions is that they must make her laugh, and
it is only Loki who can accomplish this.
may have appeared in cultic dramas as a ritual Lord of Misrule: inversion
and reversal of all sorts are typical for him. As well as being the father
of the Wolf Fenrir, the Midgard Serpent, and, allegedly, Hel, he is also
the mother of Odin's eight-legged horse Sleipnir, and cross-dresses in
the typically feminine falcon-hides of Frigga and Freyja when he needs
to fly between the worlds.
nineteenth-century etymology associated Loki with Logi (fire) and, helped
along by Wagner, the image of Loki as a fire-being seems to be with us
to stay. Modern thought also associates Loki especially with computers,
for a number of reasons.
the death of Balder, the gods bound Loki in an underground cave, and Skadi
hung a venom-dripping snake over his face. The venom is caught in a cup
by his Aesir-wife Sigyn; supposedly, when she turns away to empty it, his
writhings cause earthquakes. There is much debate among true folk as to
whether Loki is really bound, or just how bound he is, however.
surprisingly, views on Loki range from those who think of him as a merry
friend to those who see him almost as a Nordic Satan. Although he plays
a key role in many of our holy tales, it is fairly safe to guess that he
was not worshiped in the sense that the other gods and goddesses were
- but whenever a drink is given to Odin, according to the terms of their
oath, Loki also gets one.
Other Gods, Goddesses
the giant who embodies the sea. Aegir brews ale for the gods and hosts
some of their feasts. His wife is Ran, a less friendly personification
of the sea; their daughters are the waves. Old Norse Ćgir.
"the gods," used specifically for the godly tribe including Odin, Thor,
and Tyr (in contrast to the Vanir, Njord, Frey, and Freya), but also used
in general for all the deities. Generally more associated with air, fire,
and the mechanical or artificial; whereas the Vanir are associated with
earth, water, and the natural or organic - though these are by no means
firmly set boundaries. The Aesir and the Vanir once held a war, which,
since their battle-might was equal, ended in a draw. The truce was settled
by the creation of the being Kvasir (see below) and the trading of hostages:
Odin's brother Hoenir and the giant Mimir went to the Vanir, and Njord
and Frey were sent among the Aesir (Freya seems to have come along of her
own choice), where, according to Ynglinga saga, they held the role
of "priests". Old Norse Ćsir, singular Áss; Modern English
Ase, plural Ases.
Loki's giant-wife, mother of the Wolf Fenrir, the Midgard Serpent, and
"Ash-Tree"; the first human male, made out of an ash-log by Odin, Hoenir,
and Lodurr. Husband of Embla, the first human female.
the primal cow, born at the same time as Ymir (see below), whose licking
brought the first god, Odin's grandfather Bor, out of the ice of Niflheim.
the four dwarves who hold up the four corners of the sky (Ymir's skull):
East, South, West, and North. Sometimes also thought to be the four who
forged Freya's necklace Brisingamen. Old Norse Austri, Suđri, Vestri,
Son of Odin and Frigga, he is shown in the Prose Edda as a rather pallid
Heathen imitation of Christ, but other sources, notably the Danish chronicler
Saxo Grammaticus, portray him as a doughty and aggressive warrior. Today
we often think of him as the shining young hero who embodies the hope of
an age. After his death was foretold, Frigga got everything in the Nine
Worlds to swear not to harm him, but neglected the mistletoe, which she
thought was too small and weak to harm him. Making a game of his invulnerability,
the gods cast weapons at him; meanwhile, Loki made an arrow of mistletoe
and put it in the hand of Balder's blind brother Hod, aiming it for him.
After Balder's death, Frigga sent a messenger to Hel to ask for him back.
Hel answered that if everything would weep for Balder, she would return
him. Only one old hag, who some think was Loki and others identify as Hel
herself, refused to shed a tear; and so Balder stays in Hel's realm yet.
After Ragnarok, he and Hod will come back to inherit Odin's seat. Balder
is seldom called on, but is remembered as the hidden seed of the new world
to come after the final battle. Old Norse Baldr, Old English Bealdor.
servant of Frey, wife of Byggvir. Her name is thought to be related to
a word for "cow," and she the protectress of dairy work; the alternate
suggestion is that "Beyla" is related to "bee," so that Beyla and Byggvir
might be the givers of mead and ale.
Husband of Idunna, sometimes identified as the best of poets or the god
of poetry. Here his function overlaps with Odin's, since Odin is the keeper
and giver of the mead of poetry. Bragi is sometimes thought to be an historical
poet of the early Viking Age who was taken up among the ranks of the gods.
"Barley"; servant of Frey, husband of Beyla. Perhaps related to the English
"John Barleycorn" of the folk-song.
ancestral female spirits who look after their descendants, worshipped especially
at the festival of Winternights (mid-October). The word "dis" can also
mean "goddess" or "kinswoman"; for instance, Freya is called "Vanadis"
(dis of the Vanir). Old Norse dísir (singular dís), Anglo-Saxon
ides, Old High German idis (pl. idisi), Modern English idis (pl. idises).
Probably the same as the Romano-Germanic Matronae, or Mothers, who were
worshipped along the Rhine in the first part of the Common Era and appear
in votive carvings as triads of women with beehive hairdresses and baskets
The great smiths of the Germanic world, the dwarves were formed from the
maggots crawling in the body of the proto-giant Ymir. They dwell beneath
the earth; they forged, among other things, most of the great treasures
of the gods. Many dwarf-names suggest that they were originally thought
of as the dead or as demons of death. Though sometimes surly, if approached
with fitting respect, they can be friendly to humankind, and several of
our heroes (such as Sigurd/Siegfried and, according to Thidreks saga,
Wayland) were fostered by dwarves. If offended or forced to work against
their will, they take nasty revenge. Old Norse Dvergar. Also called Swart
Alfs (Old Norse Svartálfar), Nibelungen (Wagner).
as a giantess, mother of Thor by Odin, she is often referred to in poetry
as "Odin's bride". The traces that have survived of the worship of the
personified Earth herself show that she was honored by the Germanic people,
though not active in tales. Old Norse Jörđ.
English name of an continental Germanic Heathen goddess of spring, whose
memory proved so enduring in Saxon England that the christian springtime
feast was eventually called by her name. The hare may have been her holy
beast. Anglo-Saxon Eostre; Old High German Ostara.
See Prose Edda, Poetic Edda.
Goddess of healing, patroness of health-care workers, called on against
sickness or injury. She is one of the goddesses on the mountain called
Lyfia ("to heal through magic"), and gives both physical and psychic means
of healing; shamanic healing, especially, falls into her realm.
usually called "alfs" in the Troth to avoid confusion with the elves of
Shakespeare or Tolkien. The Elves sometimes appear to be the ghosts of
dead ancestors still dwelling in mounds or hills; sometimes they are more
similar to land-wights (earth spirits). The Elves are worshipped together
with the Disir (see above) and often with Frey. Sometimes they are kindly,
as names like Alfred (Elf-Counsel) show; when offended, they shoot humans
or animals with elf-shot, causing stroke and other forms of sickness. They
are divided into Light Elves (often seen as wights of sun and air), Dark
Elves (the dead in the mound), and Swart Elves (see "dwarves"). Old Norse
Álfar (singular álfr), Anglo-Saxon Ćlf, Modern English
First human female. The name is often translated "elm," though it could
also refer to a sort of vine. See "Askr".
giants. "Etin-kin" is used as a general term for giants of various sorts
and trolls. Usually seen as the foes of the gods, although many of them
are quite helpful, and etins and gods often interbreed. In fact, at least
two of the goddesses, Skadi and Gerd, are etins; and there are none of
the gods who do not have quite a lot of giantish ancestry. Some true folk
today see the etin-kin as the largest of the land-wights, who now need
to be helped to restore the balance of being rather than battled against;
others stick to the traditional view of the giants as, in general, the
embodiment of destruction. Old Norse
Jötunn (plural jötnar),
great Wolf, son of Loki and his giant-wife Angrboda, who will swallow Odin
at Ragnarok. The commonly seen form "Fenris" is a grammatical error based
on a misunderstood Old Norse poetic convention of identifying things by
their type and a possessive: "the ash of Yggdrasill," askr Yggdrasils;
"the wolf of Fenrir,"
Patron god of the Frisians and giver of their laws. Silence had to be kept
while drinking from the spring on his holy island, which he had brought
forth from the rock with his ax, and beasts on the island could not be
harmed. In the Old Norse sources, he appears as the son of Balder, whose
hall Glitnir, "Glistening," is pillared with gold and thatched with silver;
he is also a settler of lawsuits and quarrels. Frisian: Fosite, Foseti.
Her name means "giver". With a plough drawn by four sons whom she bore
to a giant and changed into oxen for the purpose, she ploughed the island
Zealand (the main island of Denmark) away from the Swedish mainland, later
mothering the chief dynasty of Danish kings. She is clearly a goddess of
fruitfulness in some aspects; however, she is also the protectress of maidens
and their modesty, and unmarried women are said to go to her hall after
an altar, in early times usually made of heaped stones. Old Norse hörgr.
Watcher at the gates of Asgard, he can hear the grass growing on the ground
and the wool on a sheep's back, and needs no sleep. He is the son of nine
etin-maids, perhaps the nine waves. His hall is called Himinbjörg
(Heaven-Mountain). He owns the Gjallarhorn (the Horn Resounding) which
he shall blow at the beginning of Ragnarok to gather the hosts of the gods.
Some see this horn as a cowhorn, others as one of the sousaphone-like lurhorns
used in Bronze Age rituals. Under the name of Rig ("King"), he came to
Midgard in order to father the three tribes of humans - thralls, freemen,
and rulers - and to teach runes and lore to the last. Heimdall is described
as very fair, with golden teeth. His horse is called Gulltoppr ("Golden-Mane").
He is a great foe of Loki: according to one tale, when Loki had stolen
Freya's necklace, Heimdall changed into a seal and fought with him in that
shape, winning it back. Heimdall and Loki will slay each other at Ragnarok.
Heimdall is sometimes seen as a rather aloof god and lacking in humor;
however, he is a great teacher, and an especially good god to call on for
those who work in subjects calling for cool intellect rather than the furious
inspiration given by Odin.
Ruler of the kingdom of death, the Prose Edda describes her as half-black,
half-white (she is sometimes seen as half-rotting, half alive) and of grim
and unmistakable appearance. Her name may originally derive from the buried
slab-rock grave-chambers of the Stone Age. The Hel-word is known to all
branches of the Germanic speech, and clearly very old, but there is some
question as to whether the goddess was recognized as an independent person
before the Viking Age. The Prose Edda, probably suffering from semantic
contamination (the use of the English word Hell for the frightful Christian
after world), describes her hall as full of horrors, but older sources
make it rather pleasant, and indeed a close reflection of the idealized
god-house seen in descriptions of Valhall (Hel and Odin have much in common,
in fact). The specialization of the Germanic afterlife into the glorious
Valhall where the chosen battle-dead go and the hideous Hel where everyone
else ends up is probably a product of Christian influence on the retelling
of Norse god-lore; our earlier sources offer far more options (going to
the hall of the deity to whom one is closest, dying into a hill or rock
where the other ghosts of one's family dwell, remaining as the guardian
of a stead, being reborn in a child who bears one's name and/or lineage),
and the name Valhall does not become specialized for Odin's hall until
the middle of the tenth century, when it is probably a description rather
than a proper name. There is no evidence for the worship of the goddess
Hel in elder times, but there are several folk who work with her today.
Also called Hella.
Blind brother of Balder, who unknowingly (at Loki's direction) cast the
mistletoe to slay him. Slain in turn by Vali. According to the rather different
version of the story told by Saxo, Hod was not blind, nor related to Baldr;
he was a doughty warrior, who fought with Baldr over the woman Nanna. Old
brother of Odin, long-legged and handsome, but slow of speech. Sent to
the Vanir as a hostage after the war between Aesir and Vanir. After Ragnarok,
he will take the role of priest among the gods. Little more is known of
him, although he appears traveling beside Odin and Lodurr (or Loki) in
originally a large farmhouse, especially one at which the holy feasts were
held for a whole settlement. Used in modern times for a hallowed temple.
A goddess known through German folklore, her name means "the Gracious One".
She has much in common with Frigga, being the patroness of spinners and
the keeper of social order, especially enforcing taboos about working on
holy days. She is also said to be the keeper of the souls of un-baptized
(or sometimes simply young) children, and women who want to bear children
ask for them at her well. Holda also appears at times as the leader of
the Wild Hunt. According to one tale, it was she who taught humans how
to plant and process flax. When it snows, Holda is supposed to be shaking
out her feather-bed.
the goddess who keeps the apples of youth, by which the gods stay ever-young.
Loki arranged for the etin Thjazi to abduct her, but then was forced to
get her back, a deed which ended in Thjazi's death. Apples are one of the
oldest and holiest symbols of life and rebirth among the Germanic folk,
appearing as grave-gifts from the Bronze Age onward. The Troth's quarterly
journal is named after this goddess. Old Norse Iđunn.
Pillar"; a pillar which was a major center of worship to the Continental
Saxons, destroyed by Charlemagne at the beginning of his genocidal war
against this people in 772. Possibly a ritual representation of the World-Tree.
See "Midgard Serpent".
After the war of the Aesir and Vanir, the two godly tribes sealed peace
by spitting into a bowl and creating Kvasir from the mingled spittle. He
was said to be the wisest of all creatures. He was slain by two dwarves,
who brewed the mead of poetry (Odroerir) from his blood. The name derives
kvas (Russian), a kind of fermented
berry juice traditionally prepared by communal chewing of the berries and
spitting into a bowl.
the beings who dwell in rocks, springs, and so forth. They are shy and
easily driven away (especially by noise or strife); when they have fled,
the land will not prosper. In Heathen Iceland, it was illegal to come within
sight of the shore with a dragon-prow raised, as that frightened them.
The land-wights are friendly towards humans who treat them well. Gifts
of food and drink were often left by their dwelling places; in America,
tobacco is often added, as they have grown used to it from the practices
of the Native Americans. Old Norse landvćttir.
"Life," the human woman who survives Ragnarok by hiding beneath the bark
of the World-Tree (or one of its shoots) and, with her husband Lifthrasir
("the one striving after life"), reproduces humankind after the last battle.
Old Norse Líf, Lífţrasir.
possibly another name for the brightest aspects of Loki, though this is
not certain. The third god of the Odin-Hoenir-Lodurr trio which shaped
humankind. Old Norse Lóđurr.
One of Frigga's women, who gets permission for folk to marry when it had
been forbidden before. Especially the patroness of those whose love is
criticized by outsiders.
child of Loki and Angrboda, this great Wyrm circles Midgard, lying in the
depths of the ocean. Some think that he holds the world together while
the age last. Thor caught him once while fishing and struck him on the
head, but Thor's companion, the giant Hymir, became afraid and cut the
line. At Ragnarok, the Midgard Serpent and Thor will slay each other. The
Wyrm is also called Jörmungandr (the Great Wand or the Great Magic-Beast).
a giant, perhaps the brother of Odin's etin-mother Bestla. Keeper of the
Well of Mimir, in which all wisdom lies - the spring where Odin gave up
his eye to drink. Mimir was sent to the Vanir as a hostage with Hoenir,
but when Hoenir's slowness of speech was discovered, the Vanir became angry.
Unwilling to harm Odin's brother, they lopped off Mimir's head instead
and sent it back. Odin preserved it with herbs and spells, and gains much
wisdom from talking with the head. According to the Eddic poem Sigrdrífumál,
Odin learned the runes from Mimir's head. Old Norse Mímir.
Thor's Hammer; see "Thor". Old Norse Mjöllnir.
The Moon is always masculine in Germanic language and culture, just as
the Sun is always feminine. This is one of the most difficult things in
Northern religion for those brought up on the Greco-Roman Diana and Apollo
to get used to; but traces of our original way of thinking of these two
survive even in English (cf. "the Man in the Moon"). The Moon is the brother
of the Sun: he is seen as dressed in a gray sark (long shirt), driving
a wagon drawn by a horse called Hrimfaxi (Ice-Mane) and chased by a troll
in wolf-shape who will devour him at Ragnarok. Old Norse Máni (used
only as a personal name or poetic term, not usually applied to the simple
The meaning of the name is not certain; it may be "destruction of the world
through fire". The Muspilli are fire-giants, led by Surt, who will break
through to fight against the gods at Ragnarok. The belief in the fiery
destruction of the cosmos, and the association of it with the name "Muspilli,"
is probably very early. Other than this, we know little of them; they hardly
appear in the Norse sources.
Wife of Balder (of Hod in Saxo's version), mother of Forseti. Her name
may mean "the daring one". According to the Prose Edda version of the story,
she dies of grief and is burned on the pyre with Balder.
The "Mother Earth" worshipped by the North Sea Germans, according to the
Roman historian Tacitus (writing in the first century of the Christian
era). Her worship included the springtime procession of a wagon in which
her image was kept, which ended on a holy island. The name is an earlier
form of the Old Norse Njörđr (Njord), who is, however, clearly
masculine. Still, it is said that Njord fathered Frey and Freya on his
sister, who is not named; it is possible that the feminine and masculine
Nerthus/Njord could have been a similar pair of mixed twins.
Worlds: The Nine
Worlds of the Norse cosmos are Midgard (Miđgarđr, the Middle-Garth)
where humans dwell; Asgard (Ásgarđr, the Ases' Garth) or God-World
(Gođheimr); Light Alfheim (Ljósálfheimr, Light Elf-World);
Niflheim (Niflheimr, Nebel-Home), the "world of mists" and primal ice;
Jotunheim (Jötunheimr, Etin-World), where the giants live; Muspellheim
(Muspellheimr, Muspilli-World - perhaps "home of the destroyers of the
world"), world of primal fire where the Muspilli dwell; Vanaheim (Vanaheimr,
Wan-World), home of the Vanir), Swart Alfheim (Svartálfheimr), where
the Swart-Alfs or dwarves dwell), and Helheim, land of the dead, ruled
by the goddess Hel.
Father of Frey and Freya, he is not active in the Northern tales. However,
he was seen as god of the sea and of ships, and also thought of as a giver
of riches and good harvest. He was usually blessed together with his son.
The three Norns, Urd (Wyrd), Verdandi, and Skuld, are etin-maidens who
guard the Well of Urd from which the World-Tree springs. They reach into
the Well's waters (the past) and sprinkle the Tree to shape that which
shall happen. They are also said to do their shaping by cutting runes and/or
by spinning and weaving. They are possibly related to the three Continental
Matronae (see "disir"); Snorri, and the Eddic poem Fáfnismál,
also describe clan-disir as "norns".
said to be Freya's husband, but the name is either the same as the root-word
on which Odin's name is based, "fury," or that from which Odroerir is derived,
"inspiration". It is most often thought that Odr is the same god as Odin,
perhaps in an earlier form.
"Stirrer of inspiration"; the mead of poetry (see "Kvasir").
A collection of poems about Norse god/esses and heroes. Also called "Saemundr's
Edda," as the first version was thought (erroneously) to have been collected
by Iceland's beloved magician/priest, Saemundr the Wise.The manuscripts
in which they are written down date from the late thirteenth century onward,
but many of the poems themselves probably go back to the Heathen period
(though dating them is notoriously difficult), and some of the material
may be extremely archaic. The chief "holy text" of the Elder Troth.
Edda: A text written by Snorri Sturluson in roughly 1220, some two
hundred years after the conversion of Iceland. Also called "Snorri's Edda".
Snorri's intention was to preserve the dying art of skaldic poetry, which
was totally based on an intimate knowledge of Heathen god-lore. Although
he often over-systematized and sometimes got his materials wrong, his book
is one of our most valuable sources in learning about the deities of our
The last battle, at which the Muspilli will break through the walls of
the world, and the wolves that follow the Sun and Moon will swallow them
at last. Most of the gods will die fighting against the etin-kin: Fenrir
will swallow Odin (and be ripped open in his turn by Vidar), Thor and the
Midgard Serpent will slay each other, as will Heimdall and Loki, Tyr and
Garm. Frey will fall before Surt. However, a new world will rise from the
sea afterwards. Balder and Hod will come back from Hel's realm; Vidar and
Vali will sit in their father's stead as well, and Modi and Magni will
inherit Thor's Hammer. It is to bring the new world safely about that Odin
gathers his hosts in Valhall, and works his many other subtle plots.
The squirrel that runs up and down the World-Tree, bearing nasty messages
between the dragon at its roots and the eagle at its crown. Old Norse Ratatoskr.
The word originally probably meant "secrets" or "whispered speech"; later
it was transferred to the actual staves of the native Germanic writing,
and this is the sense in which it is normally used today. The runic "alphabet"
is called a futhark because that is the order of the first few letters:
F, U, Th, A, R, K. The original form was the 24-rune Elder Futhark; with
time and changes in speech, this later mutated to the Anglo-Frisian Futhork
(ranging from 28 to 31 or 32 letters) and, in Viking Age Scandinavia, the
Younger Futhark (16 letters). Runes were often used for magical or memorial
inscriptions, though they were also used for mundane phrases like "Katla
owns this comb" and occasionally for rather foul graffiti. Each of the
runes has a name, a numerical value, and a magical use. For more information
on their magic, see Edred Thorsson's FUTHARK and Runelore
(pub. by Samuel Weiser), Freya Aswynn's Leaves of Yggdrasil (Llewellyn),
and Kveldulf Gundarsson's Teutonic Magic (Llewellyn). Avoid any
book which claims the existence of a "blank rune," which makes exactly
as much sense as a "blank letter" would in our everyday alphabet. The runes
are a means of writing known wholly through inscriptions.
an Icelandic prose work written in the period (roughly) between 1200 and
1400. The source of many of our stories of heroes, and most of our knowledge
of Icelandic and Norwegian history.
Her name is related to the Norse word saga, though not the same.
She is mentioned in the poem Grímnismál and, passingly,
in the Prose Edda. According to the poem, her hall is called Sökkvabekk,
("Sunken Benches") and she and Odin drink out of golden cups there - probably,
if her name is any clue, retelling old stories while they do it. She, together
with Odin, cares for writers. It has also been suggested that she might
also be seen as the patron goddess of Iceland - certainly she was the only
one to bless that country for many years.
a patron god of the Saxons; since he was apparently not known to the Norse,
no tales of him have survived. However, we know that when Charlemagne was
carrying out his war of cultural destruction against the Heathen Saxons,
those forcibly converted were made to swear an oath forsaking Woden (Odin),
Thunaer (Thor), and Saxnot. In the slightly variant form Seaxnet,
he is also recorded as the father of the East Saxon dynasty in England.
The first element of his name is probably related to the word sax (a type
Wife of Thor, mother of Ull (by an unknown father), best known for her
long golden hair. She appears only in one tale: where Loki cuts her hair
off in the night and, to save himself from Thor's wrath, gets the dwarves
to forge hair of real gold for her, along with several of the other great
treasures of the gods. It has often been suggested that she is a fertility
goddess, whose rippling golden hair may be seen in the ripe grain. In the
prologue to the Prose Edda, she is also called a seeress. There are hints
that she may be associated with the rowan tree as well.
Loki's godly wife, who bore him two sons, Narfi and Nari. She sits by the
bound Loki with a cup, protecting him from the venom dripping onto his
face (see Loki).
A goddess of marriage and love; Old Norse Sjöfn.
An etin-maid, daughter of the giant Thjazi, who came among the Aesir in
full armor to take revenge for her father. As part of her weregild, she
demanded a husband; she had wanted Balder, but, being forced to choose
among the gods by their feet alone, ended up with Njord. His sea-home was
as unpleasant to her as her mountain-home was to him, and so they parted.
She later bore a son to Odin: this son fathered the line of the Jarls of
Hladhir, who were some of the greatest protectors of Heathenism in Norway
during the extremely bloody and brutal process of the conversion of that
country. Place-names show that she was especially worshipped in eastern
Sweden; in the Eddic poem Lokasenna, she speaks of her shrines and
holy fields. Skadi is a goddess of skiing, hunting, revenge, protection
of the clan, and those women who follow the path of the "Maiden Warrior".
Old Norse Skađi.
"The Shining One"; Frey's servant and messenger. Old Norse Skírnir.
Odin's gray, eight-legged horse, borne by Loki (in mare-shape) to the giant-stallion
"the wise one," a goddess of wisdom and good behavior, always ready to
let folk know what is fitting at any given time. Often called on by the
lady of the house when men are feasting too boisterously.
the Sun. The Sun is always feminine in Germanic languages and culture,
just as the Moon is masculine. There is fairly strong evidence showing
that the Sun was actually worshipped by the Norse. She is seen as driving
a fiery wagon across the sky, which is drawn by either one horse named
Skinfaxi ("Shining Mane") or two named Arvaki ("Early Awake") and Alsvidr
("All-Swift"), and chased by a troll in wolf-shape who will devour her
at Ragnarok. Old Norse Sól.
"The Black One," chief of the Muspilli, or fire-giants, who will lead the
battle against the gods and slay Frey at Ragnarok. His name appears attached
to several sources of Icelandic volcanic activities, from the Viking Age
to the modern era (the volcanic island flung up off the coast of Iceland
in 1963 is called "Surtsey," Surt's Island). The fire that burns the cosmos
at Ragnarok is called "Surt's fire". Old Norse Surtr.
"the denier": a goddess who guards gates and doorways against those who
should not enter.
Alfs: see "dwarves".
servant of Thor. When Thor stayed overnight at the house of a man (race
unclear; sources hint variously at human, giant, or elf) named Egill, there
was little to eat, so Thor slew his goats and served them up. He warned
the family not to harm any of the bones, but Thjalfi cracked one and sucked
the marrow. The next morning, Thor put the hides back over the bones and
swung his Hammer over them; the goats jumped up alive and well, but one
was lamed. To pay for the harm, Egill gave Thor his son Thjalfi and his
daughter Roskva as servants. Thjalfi was best known as a remarkably swift
runner. The name (Old Norse Ţjálfi) has been interpreted as
"serving-elf," but also appears as a personal name. His sister's name,
Old Norse Röskva, is related to the verb "to grow, to mature," and
may hint at an original role as fertility goddess, fitting to both Thor's
role as a god of fruitfulness and to the character of his wife Sif.
"Strength"; Thor's daughter. Perhaps abducted by the giant Hrungnir, whom
Thor slew; also desired by the dwarf Alviss, whom Thor outwitted. Her name
is sometimes listed among the valkyries; it is a common element in women's
names (such as Gertrude - "spear-Thrud" or "spear-strength"). Old Norse
Ţrúđr; English Trude.
another term for a giant, especially used for ill-willing giants.
originally, perhaps, simply meaning "magic," though it has also been connected
with "to roll". Today it is normally used for a being from Icelandic and
Norwegian folklore which seems to be a cross between a land-wight, a giant,
and the undead. Trolls of this sort are magical beings which kill (and
perhaps eat) travellers in the mountains and are turned to stone by daylight.
His name simply means "god"; at one time, he may have been the Germanic
equivalent of Zeus or Jupiter, the "Sky-Father" of the Indo-Europeans.
In Old Norse, Tyr appears only in the myth in which he gives up his hand
so that the gods can bind the Wolf Fenrir. However, there are hints associating
him with the Thing (the judgement-assembly of the Germanic peoples) and
suggesting strongly that he may originally have been a god of justice.
Tyr's justice, however, is not that of calm Solomonic legislation, but
that of the often lively wrangling of the Germanic legal process, which
was effectively a battle sublimated into a form where the process of working
out the problem could help, rather than harm, the community. Tyr will fight
Garm, the hound of Hel, at Ragnarok. No images or descriptions of Tyr have
survived, except that we know he is one-handed, and the Prose Edda portrays
him as a warrior. It is said that "Tyr will help you if - and only if -
your cause is just". A female deity named Cisa or Zisa (Upper German feminine
form of the name Tyr) is also recorded near Augsburg, but we know even
less of her, though it has been suggested in modern times that she may
be paired with Tyr in some way, perhaps as either a twin with similar functions
or as an Earth-Mother complementing the Sky-Father. Old Norse T˙r,
Anglo-Saxon Tiw (from whence "Tuesday"), Old High German Ziu, Proto-Germanic
God of the bow and the snowshoe, patron of hunters and single combat, little
is known of Ull from the tales of the North. His name means "Glory," and
has sometimes been thought to refer to the Northern Lights. His home is
called "Yew-Dales," fitting to the bow-god. Since his name often appears
twinned with that of Njord or Frey in place-names, it is possible that
he may have alternated with one or the other as the Winter half of a Winter
King/Summer King pair. Old Norse Ullr, Anglo-Saxon Wuldor, Primitive Norse
"the world outside the enclosure"; the world of giants, sometimes the evil
dead, and other frightful beings. A clear distinction is made between Asgard/Midgard,
which gods and humans share, and Utgard; normally the divider is seen as
a river or ocean.
Fathered by Odin on the maiden Rind to avenge Balder's death.
"Choosers of the Slain," these maidens were originally seen as frightful
battle-spirits accompanying Odin in his work of marking men for death in
war. They appear in a more pleasant aspect in Valhall, where they carry
out the traditional womanly duty of bearing drink. The idea of the valkyrie
as the hero's supernatural lover is probably a product of romanticization
by the thirteenth-century scribes who recorded the earlier poems of the
heroes Helgi and Wayland (Völundr) and filled in gaps with their own
prose; the poems themselves do not recognize these spirit-wives as valkyries.
The most famous of the valkyries, known chiefly through Wagner's Ring Cycle,
is Brunnhilde, demoted from her position for defending a hero against Odin's
will and punished by being forced to fall in love with Siegfried the Dragon-Slayer
a tribe of deities which we only know about through their relationship
with the Aesir. After a war which ended in a truce between equally matched
forces, the two tribes were reconciled, and the Vanic Njord and Frey came
to live with the Aesir. Since Frey and Njord are often called on for peace
and good harvest, the Vanir are often seen as peaceful fertility deities
and contrasted to the warlike Aesir in this respect, but since Frey is
one of the doughtiest warriors and called "leader of the hosts of the gods,"
and his twin Freya is well known as a patron goddess of warriors and stirrer
of strife, this can hardly be the wholeness of their being. The Vanir are
especially known for their wisdom and ability to see into the mists of
what shall become; the mind-altering magical technique called seidhr
is originally attributed to them. The rock carvings of the Bronze Age seem
to show a great deal of Vanic symbolism, though Aesic images (the god with
the spear, the god with the double-headed Hammer or axe) are also often
present. In modern speech, Wans or Wanes.
"Beloved" or "goddess of contracts". One of Frigga's women, a goddess of
love and marriage, especially of marriage oaths. Old Norse Vár,
"Holiness". Probably an aspect of Odin. The "three brothers" Odin, Vili,
and Ve slew the proto-giant Ymir and made the worlds out of his body. Old
Norse Vé, modern "Wih".
Called "the Silent God," Vidar was fathered by Odin on the giantess Grid.
At Ragnarok, he will tear Fenrir's jaws apart, avenging Odin and freeing
him (or at least some important part of his spirit) from the Wolf's belly.
His name may mean "the Wide-Ruling One". Old Norse Víđarr.
"Will". Probably an aspect of Odin. See Ve.
"The Friendly House," which, according to Snorri, is the special holy hall
of the goddesses in Asgard. Old Norse Vingólf.
"The Careful One," one of Frigga's women. Old Norse Vörr.
"Wald-burga" (Wood-Protection), a christian saint whose name was given
to the holy night May Eve ("Walpurgisnacht"). No Heathen name for this
feast survives. However, for the sake of custom and because nothing more
original could be found in Teutonic tradition, the Troth has taken to calling
the festival "Waluburg's Night," after the second-century Heathen Germanic
the greatest of smiths in Germanic legend. A human who was wedded to a
swan-maiden; after she left him, he was captured by the king Nidhad, hamstrung,
and forced to work at the forge, but he slew Nidhad's sons, seduced his
daughter and left her pregnant, and flew away on wings he had forged himself.
There is a megalithic tomb in England called "Weyland's Smithy". Old Norse
Völundr; also called Weyland.
the procession of the dead which rides through the night skies, especially
around Yuletime. Sometimes it is said to be led by Odin; sometimes by either
heroes (such as Gudrun, wife of Sigurd from the Volsung/Nibelung legends,
or Theoderik the Great) or local villains.
World-Tree. The name Yggdrasill means "Ygg's steed"; Ygg is one of Odin's
many names. The title probably refers to the nine nights Odin spent hanging
from it to win the runes, as a gallows is often called "the steed of the
hanged". All the Nine Worlds lie within the span of the World-Tree. It
is usually called an ash, but some think that it may be a yew, since it
is also said to be evergreen. At its roots gnaw the dragon Niddhogg and
many snakes; an eagle nests at its crown with a falcon between his eyes,
and the squirrel Ratatosk runs up and down between them. Four stags also
gnaw on the World-Tree's bark; but the Norns' sprinkling of the waters
from the Well of Wyrd heal it each day.
The first giant, born from the meeting of primal ice and primal fire (according
to the Prose Edda) or from the mists rising from the rivers that flow from
Niflheim (according to the Eddic poem Vafthrudnismal). Slain by Odin and
his brothers (or aspects) Vili and Ve. They made the sky from his skull,
the earth from his body; his blood became the sea and the waters of the
earth, his bones the rocks, and his hair trees and bushes.