* Norse Mythology *
Norse Mythology : is the body of myths 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. The northernmost extension of Germanic mythology, Norse mythology consists of tales of various deities, beings, and heroes derived from numerous
sources from both before and after the pagan period, including medieval manuscripts,
archaeological representations, and folk tradition.
Numerous Gods : are mentioned in the source texts such as the hammer wielding, humanity protecting thunder god Thor, who relentlessly fights his foes ; the one-eyed, raven-flanked god Odin, who craftily pursues knowledge throughout the worlds and bestowed among humanity the runic alphabet ; the beautiful, seiðr working, feathered cloak clad goddess Freyja who rides to battle to choose among the slain ; the vengeful, skiing goddess Skaði, who prefers the wolf howls of the winter mountains to the seashore ; the powerful god Njörðr, who may calm both sea and fire and grant wealth and land ; the god Freyr, whose weather and farming associations bring peace and pleasure to humanity ; the goddess Iðunn, who keeps apples that grant eternal youthfulness ; the mysterious god Heimdallr, who is born of nine mothers, can hear grass grow, has gold teeth, and possesses a resounding horn ; the jötunn Loki, who brings tragedy to
the gods by engineering the death of the goddess Frigg's beautiful son Baldr ;
and numerous other deities.
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 or family members of the gods. The cosmos in Norse mythology consists of Nine Worlds that flank a central cosmological tree, Yggdrasil. Units of time and elements of the cosmology are personified as deities or beings. Various forms of a creation myth are recounted, where the world is created from the flesh of the primordial being Ymir, and the first two humans are Ask and Embla. These worlds are foretold to be reborn after the events of Ragnarök, when an immense battle occurs between the gods and their enemies, and the world is enveloped in flames, only to be reborn anew. There the surviving gods will meet, and the land will be fertile and green,
and two humans will repopulate the world.
Norse mythology has been the subject of scholarly discourse since the 17th century, when key texts were brought to the attention of the intellectual circles of Europe. By way of comparative mythology and historical linguistics, scholars have identified elements of Germanic mythology reaching as far back as Proto-Indo-European mythology. In the modern period, the Romanticist Viking revival re-awoke an interest in the subject matter, and references to Norse mythology
may now be found throughout modern popular culture. The myths have further been revived
in a religious context among adherents of Germanic Neopaganism.
The Viking Age is the period from 793 AD to 1066 AD in European history, especially Northern European and Scandinavian history, following the Germanic Iron Age. It is the period of history when Scandinavian Norsemen explored Europe by its seas and rivers for trade, craft labor and mercenary conquests. In this period, the Vikings also settled in Norse Greenland, Newfoundland, and present day Faroe Islands, Iceland, Normandy, Scotland, Ukraine, Ireland, Russia and Anatolia. Though Viking travelers and colonists were seen at many points in history as sea merchant mercenary raiders, some historical documents suggest that their invasion of other countries was motivated by overpopulation, trade inequities, and the lack of viable homeland farmland. The Viking society was divided into the three economic classes : Thralls where migrant labor class, Karls where peasant farm owners and Jarls where wealthy estate owners. Thralls were servants and workers in the farms and larger households of the Karls and Jarls, and they were used for constructing fortifications, ramps, canals, mounds, roads and labor work projects.
Vikings from Old Norse v’kingr, were Germanic Norse seafarers, speaking the Old Norse language, who merchant traded from their Scandinavian homelands across wide areas of northern and central Europe, as well as European Russia, during the late 8th to late 11th centuries. The term is also commonly extended in modern English and other vernaculars to the inhabitants of Viking home communities during what has become known as the Viking Age. This period of Norse military, mercantile and demographic expansion constitutes an important element in the early medieval history of Scandinavia, the British Isles, France, Kievan Rus' and Sicily.
Facilitated by advanced seafaring merchant skills, and characterized by the long ship, Viking activities at times also extended into the Mediterranean littoral, North Africa, the Middle East and Central Asia. Following extended phases of primarily sea or river borne exploration, expansion and settlement, Viking, Norse communities and polities were established in diverse areas of north-western Europe, European Russia, the North Atlantic islands and as far as the northeastern coast of North America. This period of expansion witnessed the wider dissemination of Norse culture, while simultaneously introducing strong foreign cultural influences into Scandinavia itself,
with profound developmental implications in both directions. Music was considered an art form and music proficiency as fitting for a civilized man. The Vikings are known to have
played instruments including harps, fiddles, lyres and lutes.
Viking society was based on agriculture and trade and placed great emphasis on the concept of honor both in combat and in the criminal justice system. Vikings cultivated and ate fruits, berries, nuts, apples, crab apples, plums and cherries, rose hips, raspberry, wild strawberry, blackberry, elderberry, rowan, hawthorn, various wild berries. Hazelnuts were an important part of the diet and large amounts of walnuts. The shells were used for dyeing, and the nuts were consumed.
The invention and introduction of the mouldboard plough revolutionised agriculture in Scandinavia in the early Viking Age and made it possible to farm even poor soils. In Ribe, cultivated grains of rye, barley, oat and wheat dated to the 8th century. Grains and flour were used for making porridges, also various forms of bread. Flax was a very important crop for the Vikings and it was used for oil extraction, food consumption and linen production. More than 40% of all known Viking textile was made of linen. Home grown herbs and spices included caraway, mustard, horseradish, dill, coriander, wild celery, thyme, juniper berry, sweet gale, yarrow, rue and peppercress. The Vikings established and engaged in extensive trading networks throughout the known world and had a profound influence on the economic development of Europe. Organized trade covered everything from ordinary items in bulk to exotic luxury products. The Viking ship designs, like the knarr, were an important factor in their success as merchants.
as told by : Jimmy Joe of Timeless Myths
Norse Mythology : is a strange world. It's differed from other mythology, in that their characters and world, even in Asgard, are grave and solemn. This may all be due to the fact, even though the gods are immortal, they will be destroyed
in the final battle between good and evil.
The pages devoted to Norse and Teutonic mythology, has been divided into three section :
* Asgard : contains information of Norse and Teutonic deities,
including the Aesir and Vanir, giants and monsters.
* Valhalla : contains information of Norse and German characters,
particular heroes and heroines, rulers and dwarfs.
* Norse Sagas : contains Norse and Germanic stories of the Creation
and Ragnarök, as well as the Völsunga Saga and the Nibelungenlied.
"I find no comfort in the shade
Under the branch of the Great Ash.
I remember the mist of our ancient past.
As I speak to you in the present,
My ancient eyes see the terrible future.
"Do you not see what I see ?
Do you not hear death approaching?
"The mournful cry of Giallr-horn
shall shatter the peace
And shake the foundation of heaven.
"Raise up your banner
And gather your noble company
from your great hall,
Father of the Slains.
For you shall go to your destiny.
"No knowledge can save you,
And no magic will save you.
For you will end up in Fenrir's belly,
While heaven and earth will burn
in Surt's unholy fire."
* Doom of Odin,
From the : Book of Heroes.
The Creation as seen in the Norse mythology was strange and different from
those of classical Greek mythology. Yet it nevertheless fascinating,
because of the roles played by giants and the gods
There was nothing in the beginning but seemingly almost endless chasm called the Ginnungagap. Ginnungagap was a void like the Greek Chaos. Ginnungagap was bordered by Niflheim, which is the place of darkness and ice, far to the north; and Muspelheim, a place of fire, far to the south. Out of this chaos the first being came into existence from the drop of water
when ice from Niflheim and fire from Muspelheim met.
This first being was Ymir, a primeval giant. The frost-giants called him Aurgelmir, but
everyone else called him Ymir. Ymir became father of a race of frost-giants.
Ymir was the father of six-headed son that was nourished by a cosmic cow called Audumla. Audumla fed herself by licking the salty rime-stone, until that stone was licked into a shape of man. This stone-man was named Buri and he was the first primeval god.
Buri was the father of Bor.
Bor married the giantess Bestla, the daughter of the frost-giant Boltha. And they
became the parents of the first Aesir gods Odin, Vili Hoenir, and Ve.
Ymir grew so large and so evil that the three gods killed Ymir. The blood that flowed from Ymir's wound was so great that almost all the frost giants drowned in the torrent. Only the frost giants Bergelmer and his wife escape the flood in a chest, arriving on the mountain of Jötunheim, Jotunheim, which became the home of the giants.
Yggdrasill and the Nine World
Odin and his brothers then used Ymir's body to create the universe. This universe
comprises of nine worlds. They placed the body over the void called Ginnungagap.
They used his flesh for creating the earth and his blood for the sea. His skull, held up by four dwarves (Nordri, Sudri, Austri, and Vestri), was used to create the heaven. Then using sparks from Muspelheim, the gods created the sun, moon and stars. While Ymir's eyebrows were used to create a place where the human race could live in; a place called Midgard, Middle Earth.
A great ash tree called Yggdrasill ("World Tree") supported the universe, with roots that connects the nine worlds together. One root of Yggdrasill extends to Muspelheim ("world of fire"), while another root to Niflheim (the "world of cold" or "of ice"). Niflheim was sometimes confused with Niflhel; Niflhel being known by another name – Hel, was the world of the dead. Hel was sometimes used interchangeably with Niflhel by many writers, as the world of the dead.
The name, Yggdrasill, means "Steed of Ygg". Ygg is another for Odin, which means, "Terrible One". Therefore, the great tree means in English, "Steed of the Terrible One". Odin's horse
is named Sleipnir, but I found no connection between the tree and Sleipnir.
While one root was connected to Asgard (home of the Aesir), another root to Vanaheim (home of the Vanir). The frost giants lived Jötunheim (Jotunheim). Midgard was the world for human. Alfheim was home of the light elves (ljósálfar). There was also the underground world for the black elves (svartálfar), called Svartalfheim. The dwarves inhabited the world of Nidavellir.
Besides the three roots of Yggdrasill, there were three wells.
The Norns guarded the Urdarbrunnr, which is often known as "Weird's Well", "Wyrd's Well" or "Urda's Well". The Weird's Well was considered to be very holy. The Norns were Urda or Weird
or Wyrd "Past", Verdandi "Present" and Skuld "Future". Two swans drink from this well.
The Norns cared for the root near the Weird's Well. Every day, they take water from the holy well, pouring on the root and soil, so that at least this root doesn't rot or decay likes the other roots. The mud was white in colour. This white mud caused honeydew to fall to the earth, keeping the valley around the well to be forever green.
Each day, the Aesir sit at the court at Weird's Well. Horses take the Aesir to this court. Odin rides Sleipnir. Ten other horses were given names: Glad, Gyllir, Glær, Skeidbrimir, Silfrtopp, Sinir, Gils, Falhofnir, Gulltopp belonging to Heimdall and Lettfet. Balder's horse was burned with him. Apart from Sleipnir and Gulltopp, no specific horses were assigned to a particular god.
The Aesir must ride across Bifrost, Rainbow Bridge, to reach Weird's Well.
Thor doesn't bother to ride to attend the court. Thor walked and
waded through the rivers, Kormat and Ormt and two Kerlaugs.
The second well was Mímisbrunnr (Mimisbrunnr) or the "Well of Mimir", which was also known as the "Well of Knowledge". The well was said to be guarded by the Aesir god named Mimir, a Norse god of wisdom. See the Well of Knowledge in the Search for Wisdom on how
Odin pay Mimir to drink from this well.
The third well was called Hvergelmir or the "Roaring Kettle", where a giant serpent called Nidhogg, continuously gnaws at the root of Niflheim. Eventually, Nidhogg will eat its way through the root that will cause Yggdrasill to collapse. But this won't happen until Ragnarok
finally arrived. Nidhogg also liked sucking on the bodies of the dead.
There are many other animals that dwelled around Yggdrasill. Apart from Nidhogg, there were countless snakes living with the great serpent. From above, four harts or stags feed on the foliage. The harts were given the names of Dain, Duneyr, Durathror and Dvalin. So with Nidhogg feed on one root from above, the stags feed from above, while the side of the tree rotted, Yggdrasill suffered greatly.
Perched on one of the branches was a great eagle, wise beyond its years. A hawk, called Vedrfolnir sit between the eyes of the eagle. Not only that. There was a squirrel called Ratatosk who seemed to enjoy running up and down the great ash tree, delivering malicious messages between the eagle from above and Nidhogg below.
War of Aesir and Vanir
A war broke out between the Aesir and Vanir,
when the Aesir had tortured the Vanir goddess, Gullveig.
Gullveig loved gold. It was all she talked about. Gold, gold, GOLD! The Aesir were tiring of hearing her incessant chatter about gold. They bound Gullveig in Odin's hall and pierced her with spears. Three times they burned Gullveig in a magical fire, but each time she was reborn.
The Vanir demanded reparation from the Aesir for torturing their kind, they wanted equal status to their rival instead of meet the Vanir's demand, the Aesir
waged war against the more peaceful Vanir.
The Vanir, however, were gaining the upper hand in the war. The warlike Aesir were suffering one defeat after another, before they agreed to end hostility and grant the Vanir, equal status.
The peace was followed by strange ritual where the two sides spat in a vessel.
From the combined saliva in the vessel created a new being ~ Kvasir was born.
This was followed by hostage exchange, to ensure that peace was kept on both sides. The Vanir Njörd (Njord) and his son Freyr were the Aesir's hostages accompanied by Kvasir, the wisest Van. The Vanir received Hoenir or Vili and Mimir the wisest of the Aesir, as hostages.
At first the Vanir were happy with exchange and thought that Hoenir was as wise as Mimir, until they realised that Hoenir was not very smart at all. Mimir had been secretly giving Hoenir advice. The Vanir felt cheated. They had Mimir decapitated before returning the head to the Aesir. The Aesir did not retaliate in kind. Odin had the head preserved and used it to gain knowledge.
See Head of Mimir and the Mead of Poetry, in the Search for Wisdom page.
The Vanir, Njörd and his son and daughter, Freyr and Freyja, were greatly honoured by the Aesir, by giving them places among them as Aesir. However, the mother of Freyr and Freyja was Njörd's own sister (who was unnamed). Incest and marriage between siblings were allowed in Vanheim, but not so in Asgard. So when Njörd went to Asgard with his children,
he had to give up his sister-wife.
Njörd would return home to Vanaheim when the Aesir gods fight the frost-giants at Ragnarok, according to the short passage in Vafthrudnismal, Lay of Vafthrudnir.
Home of the Gods
Asgard was the home of the tribe of Norse gods and goddesses known as the Aesir.
Twelve palaces or halls were built for each of the more prominent Aesir.
Here the Greek and Roman mythology had exerted some influences in the Norse myths. Snorri Sturluson, the Icelandic author who wrote the Prose Edda and the Ynglinga Saga, compared Asgard with that of Troy, from the Greek myths. Snorri said that Asgard was a city in Asaland
or Asaheim, in Asia, Asia Minor, or modern Anatolian Turkey.
Snorri also compared the Fall of Troy with that of Ragnarök. Snorri also compared some of the Aesir with either Greek or Trojan heroes ~ Thor / Hector, Vidar / Aeneas,
Vali / Helenus and Loki / Ulysses.
In the Ynglinga Saga, Snorri also portrayed them as human, not gods. They were seen as humans with special powers or magic. The gods were rulers, heroes and heroines, priests and priestesses. Odin was said to be the first king of Norway. The Ynglinga Saga also had
a slightly different version of the war between the Aesir and the Vanir.
Asgard was only of Nine Worlds in the Norse universe. Between Asgard and the Giantland,
there was a large dense forest, called Mirkwood or Myrkwood.
The only entrance to Asgard was through the "Rainbow Bridge" called Bifrost (Bilrost). Another name for Bifrost was Ásabrú or As-bridge. The red arc in the rainbow is actually burning fire, so to make the bridge impassable for mountain-giants and frost-giants. The responsibility of guarding the entrance was entrusted to Heimdall. Heimdall's home
was called Himinbiorg, and it was built near Bifrost.
Thor dwelled in the domain, known as Thrudvangar. Thrudvangar has 540 apartments and his main hall was called Bilskirnir. While Balder lived in Breidablik and Forseti has a hall called Glitnir, where he acted as judge for the world of gods and men.
Freyja lived in a grand palace, called Fólkvangar (Folkvangar). She has several halls within her home, but she mainly lived in her hall Sessrumnir, though she was often seen in Folkvang ("Field of Folk"). Her father was the sea god Njord, who preferred to live at the coastal residence, Nóatún, while Freyja's brother, Freyr, was the Lord of the Elves,
so his home was called Alfheim, the world of the elves.
Frigg, Odin's wife, often confused with Freyja; had her own hall called Fensalir. No one could enter her hall and see Frigg without the permission of Fulla, an Asynia and attendant of Frigg.
Odin dwelled in the great hall was called Valaskjalf, where he has a great throne called Hlidskjalf. It seemed that the roof of Valaskjalf was made out of silver.
However, the best-known hall was that of Odin's known as Valhalla or Valhall. Valhalla was the hall where the slain warriors reside after falling in battles. While he was seated in the hall of Valhalla, he was known as by the name Val-father, meaning the "Father of the Slain". You will find more detail about Valhalla is given in the new, separate article below, titled Valhalla.
The centre of the city was called Idavoll. Here, the halls Gladsheim and Vingolf were constructed. Gladsheim was the biggest and best building. It was a temple with twelve thrones, and everything seemed to be made of gold. Vingolf was a very beautiful sanctuary for the goddesses.
Below is the description of how the fortified walls were built around Asgard.
Construction of Asgard
The giant named Hrimthurs built the walls around Asgard. Hrimthurs had disguised himself as a man. The giant claimed he could build walls around Asgard within a single winter; if the gods give him the sun (Sol) and moon (Mani) as payment if he complete the walls in time, as well as Freyja as his wife. Loki believing that the giant could never finish fortifying Asgard in one winter, so he persuaded the gods to accept the wager.
The reason why Hrimthurs could build the walls so quickly was that he has a gigantic, magical horse called, Svadilfari. This mighty horse helped Hrimthurs move large block of rock.
Few days before winter was over, Hrimthurs had almost completed the entire wall. The gods realised that they would likely lose the wager, threatened to punish Loki for making them accept the wagers in the first place. So they forced to Loki to ruin Hrimthurs' bet.
Loki disguised himself, by transforming into a beautiful mare, so he could distract Svadilfari. Hrimthurs lost control over Svadilfari, when the giant stallion began to pursue the mare Loki. Without Svadilfari, Hrimthurs could not complete the walls in time.
Hrimthurs was raging over losing the wager, threatened to destroy the Asgard and the gods. During his rage, Hrimthurs lost his disguise, revealing to the Aesir that he was truly a giant,
not a human. Thor killed Hrimthurs with his mighty hammer.
Some months later, Loki brought back to Asgard, an eight-legged colt, named Sleipnir, offspring of Svadilfari and Loki (mare). Sleipnir was the magical steed of Odin. Sleipnir had sired
many famous horses ; among them was Grani, the horse of the hero Sigurd.
Of Valhalla, the Icelandic Snorri Sturluson gives us the most vivid detail in his Prose Edda.
Valhalla, or "Hall of the Heroes", was the best-known hall in Asgard, which was another residency belonging to Odin, or Val-father ("Father of the Slain") as he was known in this hall. It was where the dead warriors, known as Einherjar (Einheriar), resided in a hall, and wait for
the arrival of Ragnarök. The Einherjar would fight alongside the Aesir at Ragnarok.
When the bravest warriors were killed in battle or combat, they were brought to Valhalla by group of women warriors known as the Valkyries, which was translated as "Chooser of the Slain", and they were known as "Battle-maidens" and "Shield-maidens".
The Valkyries were sometimes were known as "Swan-Maidens", because their garments were made of swan feathers, which allowed them to fly. The Valkyries served Odin, by going through battlefield, choosing slain warriors who would be suited to fight in Ragnarök (Ragnarok)
and therefore they have a place in Valhalla.
While the Valkyries are in Valhalla, they were known as Mead-Maidens, because they responsible for serving mead to Odin and the Einherjar along the long tables at Valhalla. The mead come from the goat Heidrun that feed from the foliage of branches of tree, called Lerad.
Each day, the goat's udder would fill the vat with mead.
Andhrimnir, the cook of Valhalla, prepared the meal for the Einherjar. Andhrimnir cooked the wild boar, called Sæhrimnir, in a great cooking pot, Eldhrimnir. The meat of Sæhrimnir always rejuvenated the warriors at night. Each day Sæhrimnir was cooked before it was served,
but by morning of the next day, the wild boar was whole, to be cooked again.
Odin usually dined with his warriors, but he never eats any meat placed before him. Odin would give his meat to the two wolves, Geri and Freki, that rest at his feet.
Odin only drank wine with the dead warriors.
Snorri explained that while the Einherjar wait for Ragnarok, they fought each other in a sort of mock battle during the day, but at night they enjoy a great feast, before resting in their bed. In the morning, the Einherjar woke to the crowing of a cock called Salgofnir,
which was perched on the rooftop of Valhalla.
Snorri wrote that Valhalla had overlapping shields for a roof, held up by the spear-shafts as rafters. There were 540 doors. And from each of the door, eight hundred warriors could enter or leave the hall. Instead of torch-fires, the light in the great hall were litted by the glowing blades of swords. Mail shirts were strewn on the benches. In front of the western doors, there hanged a wolf. Hovering above Valhalla was a single eagle. There was also a tree standing in front of the doors of Valhalla; the tree was called Glasir, because of the red-gold foliage.
Another hall that the fallen warriors resided in was called Vingolf, which means either "wine-hall" or "friend-hall", but this may be the hall for righteous men to live, and not just for the Einherjar. Another name for Vingolf is Gimle, and it was a Norse version of the Elysian Fields or the Blessed Isle. Snorri said Vingolf or Gimle was the fairest of place,
located on the southernmost end of heaven.
Snorri also mentioned other heavens. Also to the south, but above Vingolf was Andlang.
The third heaven, called Vidblain, was above the two previous heavens.
Only half of the slain warriors (Einherjar) in battle were given to Odin. Freyja had the honour of receiving the other half, where the Einherjar resided with her in Folkvang ("Field of Folk"), her hall within her palace Fólkvangar (Folkvangar). The other hall she resided in was called Sessrumnir. The handmaiden named Fulla attended Freyja most writers say
that Fulla was Frigg's attendant.
Midgard was the home of the human race. It was also called Manheim,
Mannheim or Manna-heim, the home of mankind.
After the three gods, Odin, Hœnir (Vili) and Lodur (Ve), created Midgard, they started to create the human race, from the tree trunks that they came upon at the beach. From these timbers, they made the first man and first woman: Askr and Embla.
Each god gave them a gift: Odin gave them breath; Hœnir gave the
understanding and spirit ; and Lodur senses and outward appearance.
According to the Rigsthula, the List of Rig, in the Poetic Edda, Heimdall or Rig wa
the creator of the human society. Heimdall divided mankind into three social classes.
Heimdall enjoy the hospitality of three old couples in three different houses. Each couple
were old and were already great-grandparents. Heimdall secretly slept with the wife
of each house. Each wife gave birth to a son.
Rig spends three nights with the first couple. Rig slept with the great grandmother, who had a child who was called Thrall, the labourer, who formed the lowest social class. When Thrall had grown into a strong young man, he met and later married a woman named Slavegirl,
and they became ancestor of all the thralls or slaves.
The next couple Rig met, he slept with great grandmother, who had bore him another son, named Farmer. Farmer had also grown into a strong, young man, who would later married a woman and have many children. Farmer had many descendants who became farmers like him.
The last couple Rig had visited, he again slept with this great grandmother, who also bore him a son who was named Lord. Lord married Erna, daughter of Chieftain, and they
became ancestors of the noble class, the highest of the Norse social class.
* Angel Hill Sanctuary *