Viking gods



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VIKING GODS

Aegir  His name is connected with the word for water. He is also called Hler. Aegir was the god of the seashore or ocean, and called the ruler of the sea by Snorri. He was a personification of the ocean, be it good or evil. He caused storms with his anger and the skalds said a ship went into "Aegir's wide jaws" when it wrecked. Guerber states that Aegir was crowned with seaweed and always surrounded by nixies and mermaids while in his hall. He was one of the Vanir and a giant. His father was Mistarblindi [Mist-Blind], and his brother, Logi [Fire]. Aegir's wife (and sister) was Ran and they lived under the sea by the island Hlesey. Ran and Aegir had nine daughters who were the waves -- all of their names are poetic names for waves. Aegir brewed ale for the gods after Thor brought him a big enough kettle. Every winter the gods would drink beer at Aegir's home. He was, therefore, famed for his hospitality. Gold was put onto the floor of the hall to provide light, instead of having a fire. Gold is therefore called Aegir's fire. The cups in Aegir's hall were always full, magically refilling themselves. Aegir had two servants in his hall, Fimafeng [Handy] and Eldir [Fire-Kindler]. According to Lee Hollander, Aegir's function as the gods' ale brewer was suggested by the ocean's foam. After the death of Balder, the gods gathered for a feast in Aegir's hall. Loki showed up and insulted everyone (this is told in Lokasenna in the Poetic Edda). The gods couldn't do Loki harm in the hall since it was a sanctuary where no violence could be committed. Aegir was also referred to by the name of Gymir [the Blinder] (the name of Gerd's father -- it is not known if they are one and the same). Sailors feared Aegir, and thought he would sometimes surface to destroy ships. Early Saxons made human sacrifices to a god of the sea, possibly connected with Aegir.

Balder  One of the Aesir, his name means "The Glorious". He was also called the "god of tears" and the "white as". Balder, the son of Odin and Frigg, was described as a very handsome and wise god. Some consider him to be a god of light since he was so bright, light shined from him. Balder's wife was Nanna and they had a son named Forseti. Balder and Nanna lived in Breidablik [The Broad-Gleaming], where nothing unclean could be and there were "fewest baneful runes". Breidablik had a silver roof on golden pillars. At one point Balder had a foreboding dream. Odin rode to Hel's realm to wake a volva from the dead to find out the meaning of Balder's dream. She foretold Balder's death by Hod (Hodur), his fraternal twin. Frigg asked all things to swear not to hurt Balder but didn't ask the mistletoe because it was so young. Loki, diguised as an old woman, visited Frigg and found out Balder was invunerable to everything but mistletoe. Loki made a dart out    of mistletoe and tricked the blind god Hod into throwing it at Balder -- all the other gods were playing games by throwing various items at Balder --, thus killing him. Hermod rode to Hel's realm and got her to agree to let Balder return to the living if all things would weep for him. One giantess named Thokk, Loki in disguise, refused to weep for Balder, so he remained dead and was cremated on his funeral boat, hringhorni. He is supposed to come back to life after the Ragnarok. Snorri and Saxo Grammaticus give very different views of Balder and his death. In Saxo's version of this story, Hod is alone responsible for Balder's death. Snorri's account is available online. Saxo gave a very different picture of Balder: he was a vicious god who fought with Hod to marry Nanna. Balder's name rarely occurs in place names, therefore, it is thought that not many people worshipped him. The poets used his name to mean warrior.

Frey   God of weather and fertility. He ruled over the land of the light elves, Alfheim. He was the son of Njord and Njord's sister, and the brother of Freya. His step-mother was Skadi. To make peace, the Aesir and Vanir exchanged hostages. He, along with Njord and Freya, were sent by the Vanir to dwell with the Aesir. He owned the ship Skidbladnir which was made for him by dwarves. It could sail on the land, sea, or through the air. It was large enough to hold all the gods, yet could be folded up and fit into a pocket. He also owned a chariot drawn by two boars, Gullinbursti and Slidrugtanni. He could ride Gullinbursti [golden-bristled] through the sky. It was made by dwarfs for Loki to give to Frey. His name means "Lord" and it is thought that he was at one time the consort of his sister Freya [Lady]. His wife was Gerd, a beautiful giantess who he fell in love with when he espied her from Odin's throne. He sent his servant, Skirnir, to win her for him. For this task, Frey lent Skirnir his sword which "swings itself if wise he who wields it" and his horse. After Skirnir's threatening of her, Gerd agreed to give herself to Frey in nine nights at the forest Barri. At the Ragnarok, Frey will be killed by the fire giant Surt. Also known as Yng, Frey is named as the progenitor of the swedish royal family. There was a statue of Frey in the temple at Uppsala in Sweden, the center of his cult.

Freya    Goddess of love, fertility, war, and wealth. Originally one of the Vanir. She was the daughter of Njord, and the sister of Frey. Her daughter, by Od, is named Hnoss who is so beautiful that whatever is valuable and lovely is named "treasure", after her. She lived in Folkvang [battlefield] and each day chose half of the slain warriors to split with Odin. She had a husband named Od, whom she somehow lost and cried golden tears for. Many believe Od is Odin. Her chariot was drawn by cats and she owned the precious Brisings' necklace, which she slept with four dwarves to acquire. She also owned a feather coat which she could use to fly between the worlds. After she went to live with the Aesir as a hostage, she taught them -- including Odin -- seidr. Some sources say Friday is named after her.

Fulla    Listed by Snorri as one of the twelve divine goddesses, she appears mainly to function as Frigg's maid, taking care of the goddess's shoes. She also, sometimes, functions as Frigg's messenger. Some believe she is Frigg's sister. Snorri stated she was a virgin with long golden hair who wore a gold band around her head. It has been suggested that this band represents the binding around a sheaf of grain.

Gefjon   A prophetic virgin goddess and a member of the Aesir and Vanir. All women who die virgins go to her hall. She was also a fertility goddess. In one myth, Gylfi, king of Sweden, tells Gefjon, who was disguised as a beggar, that she could have as much of Sweden as she could plough with four oxen in one day. She traveled to Jotunheim and found her four oxen sons whom she had by a giant (she isn't a virgin in this myth!). She returned to Sweden in Midgard with her sons and ploughed all of the land now known as Zealand so it became part of Denmark, thereby tricking Gylfi. Her name means "Giver". Gna Listed by Snorri as one of the divine goddesses but appears only to be a handmaiden of Frigg who sends her on errands. She has a swift horse named Hoof-flourisher which can run in the air and over water.

Gullveig    A Vanir goddess. The Aesir's attempt to kill her brought about the first war in the world (the Vanir against the Aesir) which the Vanir won. The two tribes exchanged gods and then ruled together. Gullveig [Power of Gold] has been identified by some as the Triple Goddess, which was prevalent throughout the old world. Also called Heid [witch]. According to some she is Freya.

Heimdall    Watches the rainbow bridge, Bifrost , for the coming of the frost giants at the Ragnarok, at which time he will sound his horn Gjallar. In the Ragnarok, he and Loki will kill each other. He never sleeps, can see in the dark, and can hear sheep wool growing. His dwelling place is Himinbjorg [heavenly mountains]. Nine sisters, signifying the waves, gave birth to him. As Rig, he begets Thrall, Carl, and Earl, representing the three classes of man; slave, freeman, and noble.

Kvasir    His function depends on which source you read, like many of the Norse god/goddesses. In one myth, he is the wisest of the Vanir and sent to the Aesir as a hostage in a peace making process. In another tradition, he is created when the Aesir and Vanir mix together their spit in a peace making ritual. He is the wisest being. Later on, he is killed by dwarves who make his blood into mead, the mead of poetry.

Loki    A giant. He became a member of the Aesir when Odin made Loki his blood brother. He is the god of mischief, a trickster, and very cunning. After causing the death of Balder, he was bound by the gods until the Ragnarok, at which time, he will be freed. There are quite a few sites dealing with Loki including a wonderful on-line essay by Johannes Persson, an article by Eric A. Anderson regarding Loki's offspring, and the Loki Cult Web Page.

Mimir    A wise being. Possibly the son of Bolthorn. In some myths a god and in others a giant. He was sent as a hostage by the aesir to the vanir. The vanir became mad and cut his head off. Odin preserved his head so he could seek wisdom from it and placed it next to Mimir's well.

Nanna    Moon goddess according to Bulfinch. Wife of Balder and mother of Forseti. She dies of heartache after Balder's death and is burned with him on his funeral boat -- along with his chopped up horse and an unfortunate dwarf who Thor kicked in at the last minute.

Njord    God of the wind and sea, father of Frey and Freya.He is a member of the vanir and his home is Noatun. His wife was the giantess Skadi. As compensation for the death of her father Thjatsi, the gods decided to let her pick a husband from among them -- one catch, she had to pick her new husband based only on the appearance of his feet. She picked Njord by mistake, assuming his feet belonged to Balder. Njord and Skadi could not agree on where to live. She didn't like his home, and he didn't like her's, so they split up. She was associated with skiing and hunting.

Odin      Leader of the Aesir. Odin had a myriad of names including Allfather, Ygg, Bolverk [evil doer], and Grimnir. He also had many functions including being a god of war, poetry, wisdom, and death. His halls were called Gladsheim Valaskjalf and Valhalla. Odin's high seat, Hlidskialf, was in Valaskjalf. It was from this throne that he could see over all the world. Valhalla is where he gathered his portion of the slain warriors, Einheriar, whom the valkyries had chosen. The valkyries would serve mead which forever flowed from the udder of Odin's goat, Heidrun. They also served the warriors meat that came from the boar Saehrimnir, which the cook Andhrimnir would prepare for eating by boiling it in the cauldron Eldhrimnir. The boar magically came back to life before the next meal. After eating, the warriors would go outside the hall and fight each other to the death. They were, of course, brought back to life before the next feast. All of this fighting was practice for when Odin would lead the Einheriar in the final battle, Ragnarok. Odin had a spear named Grungir which never missed its mark and a bow which unleashed ten arrows with every pull. He also owned a magic ring called Draupnir which created nine of itself every night. It was this ring that Odin laid on his son Balder's funeral pyre and which Balder returned to Odin from the underworld. Another one of Odin's prized possesions was his wonderful steed named Sleipnir which had eight legs. The horse was the offspring of Loki, who in mare form seduced a giant's horse named Svadilfari. Sleipnir could travel to the underworld and through the air. Odin also had two wolves, Geri and Freki, and two ravens, Hugin [thought] and Munin [memory]. He sent his ravens out every day to gather knowledge for him. Odin sacrificed himself for knowledge by hanging on the world tree, Yggdrasil, which means Ygg's horse. Ygg is a name for Odin and horse is a metaphor for the gallows. He thereby learns the runes. Another sacrifice he made for wisdom was his eye. He gave it up in order to drink from the Well of Mimir which bestowed great knowledge. Because of this, he is typically depicted as having one eye. He is also depicted as wearing a cloak, being old, having a long grey beard, and wearing a wide brimmed hat down low over his face to conceal his one-eyed visage. Odin was destined to die at Ragnarok; Fenris-Wolf swallowed him. Knowing his fate, he still chose to embrace it and do battle. Showing the true warrior ethic. He was the god of warriors and kings, not the common man. Many heroes genealogies start with Odin, including Sigurd. His name is not found in many place names and therefore it is believed that not many people worshipped him. He was thought to be a traitorous god, as shown in the sagas, who would strike down a warrior at his whim.

Saga   Goddess who drinks with Odin in her hall Sokkvabekk. Her name means "seeress" and is connected with the norse word for history -- thus, some call her the goddess of history. Some consider her just an aspect of Frigg.

Sif      Goddess of crops and fertility, married to Thor. At one point, Loki stole her hair and had to replace it. He went to the dwarves and had them make her a new set of hair out of gold. An interesting thing to note is that short hair was a sign of a whore or a slave.

Sjofn   Goddess concerned with causing men and women to think of love. It was her duty to stop fights between married couples.

Snotra    Wise and gentle goddess. Guerber calls her the goddess of virtue and master of all knowledge. She knew the value of self-discipline.

Syn    Goddess who was invoked by defendents at a trial. She was another attendant of Frigg and guarded the door of Frigg's palace.

Thor     The son of Odin and a member of the Aesir, he was the god of thunder and the main enemy of the giants. He would smash their heads with his mighty hammer Mjollnir. To wield this awesome weapon he needed iron gloves and a belt of strength. Mjollnir would return to Thor's hand after being thrown and was symbolic of lightning. Thor would ride around middle-earth in his wagon drawn by two goats, His abode was Thruthheim [Land of Strength] and his hall, Bilskinir. His wife was Sif. He was foremost of the gods to the common man, who would call on him to ensure fertility, and widely worshiped. Hammer shaped amulets, a symbol of Thor because it was his weapon, were worn about the neck well into the christianization of Scandinavia. There are molds from that time which contain both cross and hammer shapes, side by side. His name occurs in numerous place names, and it was his statue which was central in the great temple at Uppsala. Thursday is named for him and he was associated by the Romans with Jupiter. Donar was an early version of Thor among the early Germans. The anglo-saxons worshiped a thunder god named Thunor.

Thrud   Daughter of Thor. The dwarf Alvis wanted to marry her but Thor tricked him into being above ground when the sun came up, turning him into stone.

Tyr    God of war. He was the only god brave enough to put his hand in the Fenris- wolf's mouth so the gods could bind it. The wolf bit off his right hand. There is much debate about his lefthandedness. In the norse culture the right hand was given for a pledge, which could be why the right hand was placed in the wolf's mouth. It has also been noted, however, that the offering of the right hand is to show that it is free of weapons. A left handed person was sometimes considered evil because he could use a weapon with his left hand even though he shook with his right hand. Tuesday is named for Tyr who was known as Tiw, or Tiu, by the Anglo-Saxons.

Ull     God of archery and the hunt, according to some he was a god of skiers and the snowshoe. His weapon was a longbow made out of Yew and he lived in Ydal [Yew Dales]. He was called upon for help in duels. He was the son (or step-son) of Thor and Sif (or Ovandrill, depending on the source). His name, which means glorious, is a part of many place names, therefore, he is considered to be an ancient god who was widely worshipped. It is believed that at one time he was one of the highest gods.

Vali      In some sources, the twin brother of Vidar. In other sources, he is the youngest of Odin's sons. His mother is the giantess Rind and he was born for the express purpose of avenging Balder's death since the gods could not kill one of their own. When he was only one night old, he killed Hod. He will be one of the seven Aesir to survive the ragnarok.

Var    Goddess who punishes those who do not keep their marriage vows. Probably the same as Vor, and just a part of Frigg.

Ve    Son of Bor and Bestla, brother of Vili and Odin. He is identified with Lodur by some. Killed the giant Ymir and created the world out of its carcass along with his brothers. He gave the first humans feeling, appearance, and speech. His name means "Holiness".

Vidar    He was a son of Odin and Grid (a giantess), and had a twin brother named Vali. He dwelled in Vidi. He was one of the strongest of the gods and can be considered a god of vengance. In the ragnarok he will avenge his father by killing Fenris. He is one of the Aesir who will survive the final battle.

Vili    Son of Bor and Bestla, brother of Odin and Ve. Along with Odin and Ve, he killed the giant Ymir and created the cosmos out of Ymir's carcass. He made the first man and woman, along with Odin and Ve. He gave the humans thought and motion. He is identified with Hoenir by some and only as a part of Odin by others. His name means "Will".


Vor     A godess whose name means "vow". Nothing can be hidden from her because she is so wise. She is considered by some to be a goddess of marriage and contracts. She is probably an aspect of Frigg.


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