The Aesir and Vanir


Contents
The Aesir
Odin
Frigg
Thor
Loki
Baldr
Hodor
Tyr
Heimdallr
The Vanir
Frey
Freyja


Other
Hel
Ragnarök
.


Norse Mythology is one of the old religions of the Scandinavian regions. This is the religion that many associate with Vikings; while it is true the Vikings likely practiced this religion, there are many misconceptions about both the mythology and the culture. For one, the word "Viking" does not describe a society, but rather an occupation within the Nordic tribes. Shows like Vikings and the comics and movies of Marvel Universe show some of these misconceptions. While these stories told through these shows, movies, and comics are entertaining, they do not exemplify the true stories of the Norse Gods.  This page is to provide some background into the truth of the Nodic religion.

For more information on pop-culture, check out the links on the Home Page


The Aesir:

Odin - Allfather, Lord of the Aesir

Odin rules over the Aesir, often considered the most powerful of the Gods. He is the father of many other Nordic Gods and Goddesses, hence, the epithet "Allfather." Being the ruler of warrior Gods, it is fitting that he is often depicted with his spear, Gungnir, which Loki procured from the Dwarves. Unlike the Gods of other mythologies, the Gods of Asgard are not immortal, and they can be injured or killed; additionally, the Nordic pantheon shows the Gods having human desires. Odin is a perfect example of this as he desired wisdom and knowledge, willing to sacrifice anything for it.

The giant, Mimer, posed a bargain for Odin who wished to drink from the well of wisdom to increase his knowledge. Odin was told he must leave one of his eyes at the bottom of the well, and then and only then would he be allowed to drink. Mimer believed Odin would never sacrifice his eye just for the epistemic pursuit, but he was wrong. The humanistic desire for knowledge took over and Odin agreed, plucking out his eye and throwing it into the well.

Odin is also the ruler of Valhalla. The Norse believed if they fell in battle, they would find their way in the afterlife to the mighty halls of Valhalla. The Valkyrie would bring the fallen warriors to Asgard where they could fight all day and feast all night. Even those who fell during the day would be resurected under Odin's rule to feast and fight another day. Those who did not go to Valhalla would go to Folkvangr, ruled by Freyja. Another name for Odin is Woden, which leads to the interesting fact is that Woden's Day is the equivalent of our Wednesday.
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Frigg - Wife of Odin, Goddess of Foreknowing and Wisdom


Frigg, also known as Frigga, was wife to Odin and the mother of Baldr, Hodor, and Tyr. She is also the goddess of marriage, childbirth, motherhood, and weaving and spinning. As the Goddess of weaving, she was known to weave clouds and threads of fate, known as Wyrd in the Nordic tradition. She is the Goddess of Foreknowing, as well, and so can see the future. Seeing the future, however, does not mean she can change the future, and she thus cannot save her son, Baldr, from his foreseen death. When she knew his death was nearing, she asked all beings to swear an oath to never harm Baldr - all save a young mistletoe whom she thought too young to carve an oath.

Frigg's day was one of the one days of the week in the olden days of the Nords. This has developed into our Friday.




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Thor - God of Lightening


Thor is the son of Odin and Jord - a Giant. Thor, as pictured to the left, is often depicted carrying his mighty hammer, Mjönir, made by the Dwarves of Svarthalfheim. No God but Thor is strong enough to lift Mjönir. Thor travels with Loki through many tales, often to help clean up the messes Loki has caused. Once, Thor awakens to find Mjönir missing. He asks Loki to help him and Loki finds out that the king of the Frost Giants, Thrymr, stole Thor's hammer. He demands he will returned if and only if Freyja marries him. Loki agrees and returns to Asgard with the news.

Freyja, furious, gets help from Thor and Loki who dress as women and go in her place - Thor dresses as Freyja and Loki as a handmaiden. Thor and Loki join the giants for dinner, where Thor eats and drinks unlike what the giants would have expected form the 'dainty' Freyja. Thrymr decides he wishes to kiss Freyja and though Thor looks back appalled, his disguise holds. Then, Thor is presented the wedding gift of Mjönir, which he received from the giants. Grasping this opening and lifting Mjönir, Thor attacks, killing Thrymr and his family. Thor inevitably meets his end by the hand of Jörmungandr Because of modern influences, such as the Marvel Universe, Thor is often one of the most commonly known beings of Norse Mythology.  Additionally, it is interesting to note that the current Thursday stems from the term Thor's Day.

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Loki - Trickster, Half Giant

Loki is the trickster god, full of mischief and madness. While he is not one of the Aesir, he was adopted by Odin and raised as Thor's brother. He fathered three children, Fenrir a monstrous wolf, Midgard the serpent, and Hel the goddess of Death. He was also the mother - in the sense he gave birth to - Slepnir, Odin's 8-legged horse. Loki often tricks the gods into needing his help, so at times he appears to be 'good' while really he is manipulating the course of events for his own benefit. Loki once seemed as though he was helping the Golden-Haired Goddess, Sif - Thor's wife, get back her hair of gold. However, it was because of Loki in the first place that Sif's hair had gone missing, thus, it was not truly an act of goodness on Loki's part, but rather a manipulation to appear good to the Asgardians.

Another peculiar aspect of Loki is that it is often believed that he is half Ice Giant; nevertheless, there is some speculation into whether he was indeed half Fire Giant, from Muspelheim, instead. For instance, a traveler had built a wall around Asgard to help the gods for a reward, however, Loki tricked him out of his reward. As a punishment, the traveler's brother left Loki in a cold, desolate area of Jotunheim. If Loki were truly an Ice Giant, this would not have been considered punishment, but instead simply an inconvenience. The land where he was trapped was described as a "terrible place of ice and rock." If Loki were truly a Giant of Fire, this would be a horrible punishment indeed.
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Baldr- God of Beauty


Baldr was the brother of Hodor. He was loved by all gods, goddesses, and beings of nature. He was extraordinarily handsome, gracious, and wise. He shone with light because of his own cheerfulness and so is often depicted with a halo of light, as seen to the left. Despite being greatly beloved by all, Baldr met an untimely doom, entering into the realm of Hel

Baldr had had nightmares, which he believed predicted his death, and so, his father, Odin, asked the other gods of Asgard for help. His mother, Frigg, took oaths from all living things that they would not harm Baldr, so that he may continue to live, except mistletoe. Loki, being a malevolent trickster, thought it would be amusing to orchestrate the death of Baldr using this mistletoe plant and his own brother Hodor. Loki tricked Hodor into throwing a spear of mistletoe at Baldr, which killed him where he stood. As he died, Baldr was sent to the realm Hel, which is under the rule Hel (or Hela in some stories) and there he stayed because Loki disguised as the hag Thaukt assured them Baldr would never return to Asgard.

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Hodor - God of Winter


Hodor was the blind, twin brother of Baldr, son of Odin and Frigg. He was tricked by Loki to bring death to his brother. There is a second version of this story - Baldr and Hodor were both fighting over the hand of Nanna. Hodor entered the underworld to obtain a weapon to kill Baldr. However, this supposed tale is nowhere near as well supported as the previous, so it is less likely the legend.

Unfortunately, Hodor is also slain before his time by his half-brother, Vali. Vali decided Hodor must be slain as sacrifice in honor of Baldr. Once deceased, Hodor goes to Hel, where his brother Baldr dwells.




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Tyr - God of War


Tyr is the God of War in Norse mythology. Tyr is often depicted as one handed because he lost a hand to the mighty Fenrir. Fenrir, the giant wolf, was to be restrained by metal chains. However, every chain that the Asgardians tried would break under the strength of Fenrir. The Dwarves finally developed Gleipnir, a chain that could not be broken by Fenrir, but it was not possible for the gods of Asgard to be close enough to put the chain on him without putting their hand into his mouth.

Tyr, being the bravest of the brave too it upon himself to put Gleipnir around Fenrir. He slowly approached, the chain in hand. He placed his right hand in Fenrir's mouth and tied him tightly in chains. The chain held, but Fenrir bit down, tearing off Tyr's hand.

Our day Tuesday stems from the former "Tyr's Day."


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Heimdallr - The Watcher of Asgard


The last of the Aesir portrayed here is Heimdallr. Heimdallr has nine different mothers, and his father is Odin. He is the keeper of Asgard, watching for the approach of Ragnarök. He is often shown holding Gjallarhorn, the horn of yelling. This horn is blown to warn of the coming dangers that may be approaching Asgard. It is foretold that during Ragnarök, Heimdallr will battle Loki and fall at his hand. Though he is the Watcher of Asgard, he is actually blind. He uses his mind's eye extremely accurate hearing instead to see what is going on in the world around him. His hearing is so exceedingly sharp that he is able to hear the sound grass makes as it grows. He stands upon Bifrost, the rainbow bridge, awaiting the attack of the frost giants.

Heimdallr also plays important roles throughout the legends of the gods because he is considered one of the wisest of the Gods, in part due to the power and reach of his mind's eye; he is even able to see into the other nine realms of the world. Heimdallr helps devise many plans to assist his fellow Asgardians; for instance, when Thymyr insists on Freyja's hand in marriage, it is Heimdallr who suggests Thor and Loki go in her stead. 


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The Vanir:

Frey - Lord of the Vanir

Frey is the lord of the Vanir and the brother of Freyja. Frey rules over the rain, the sun, and the fruits of the earth. He is one of the most cherished and celebrated of gods. Like Thor, Frey had a mighty weapon that he would take into battle. This sword would destroy an enemy whenever it's owner desired; however, Frey parted with this sword in order to gain his wife.

One day, Frey decided to sit upon Odin's throne. From this throne, one can see the world, and Frey spied the most beautiful maiden he had ever seen. He intended to have her to wife. However, to do so, he sent his messenger Skirnir to fetch the promise of Gerda. Skirnir agrees to in exchange for the sword.

Skirnir returns, proclaiming he obtained the maiden's promise, and Frey took Gerda to be his wife. However, Skirnir did keep the sword of destruction for himself. Frey traded power for love.

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Freyja - Goddess of Love, Healing, and Cats


Freyja, the sister of Frey, rules over Folkvangr. Like Odin's Valhalla, Folkvangr is a realm for the deceased
. Half of those who pass go to Odin's rule, while the other half travel to Folkvangr to live under the rule of Freyja.  She is known to have giant blue cats pulling her chariot and for being the wearer of the precious necklace, Brisingamen or Jewelry of Fire. When Thrymr asked for Freyja's hand, she was furious. Thor and Loki went in her place, Thor adorned with Brisingamen to pose as Freyja.

It is speculated that our day "Friday" actually stems from Freyja rather than Frigg. Some scholars have even proposed that Freyja and Frigg are actually the same goddess. This would mean that Freyja and Odin are married.



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Other:

Hel - Ruler of the Dead


Hel is the daughter of Loki.  She rules over Hel, which is a realm  residing in Niflheim - one of the nine worlds. This is yet another place in which the dead reside. It is believed that those who pass quietly into eternal darkness - passing from illness or old age - go to Hel once they die. The Nords believed that dying in battle was the best and only way that one should die. To die a peaceful death does not a warrior make.

Baldr ended up in the realm of Hel after his death because he was not in the midst of a battle when he fell. Some Asgardians tried to free him from the realm, but were not successful. After Hodor was killed by Vali, he, too, became a resident of Hel, joining his brother in death. 




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Ragnarök - The Twilight of the Gods

image from paintroi.com

Ragnarök is the end of the world and the death of the Gods. Thor is killed by Jörmungandr and Heimdallr by Loki, though he is said to be able to kill Loki. Fenrir, the fearsome wolf-son of Loki, kills both Tyr and Odin in a vicious battle.

It is believed by some that Ragnarök has already taken place. This world we live in is the aftermath of the vicious battle. Others believe it has not yet come to pass. When the mighty Odin falls to Fenrir, the world will be cast in shadow. Perhaps this world is what was meant?

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Sources:

McCoy, D. (2012, 2016). Norse Mythology for Smart People. Retrieved from http://norse-mythology.org/

Bulfinch's Mythology (Public Domain - published 1855)

Public domain images unless otherwise specified

Last Update: 12/10/2016