Norse gods and goddesses belong to two major clans; Æsir and Vanir. The Æsir are often associated with Chaos and War while the Vanir are associated with nature and fertility. Norse mythology centers on the plight of the Norse gods and goddesses or the interactions between gods, humanity and Jottun. The Norse Pantheon resided in Asgard with Odin as the Chief God. The Norse gods had a powerful role of maintaining balance in the cosmos. The Æsir and Vanir made alliances through marriage and treaties to maintain peaceful existence in Asgard. The Norse gods were also served by a host of Valkyries. The gods would occasionally travel to the material plane through the Bifrost disguised as mortal beings.
Odin is the supreme god of Asgard. He is one of the creator gods together with his two brothers Vili and Ve. Odin slayed the giant Ymir and used the body to create the world and the first two human beings Ask and Embla. He is the ruler of the Aesir tribe of the gods and the rules over Valhalla, the hall of the slain. Odin is the husband to goddess Frigg. He is the father of Thor, Baldur and other gods in Asgard.
Odin is often depicted as a solitary wanderer in the cosmos pursuing various quests. He is also known as the god of poetry and the god of wisdom. Odin’s eye socket is empty because he sacrificed his eye for wisdom. He sacrificed his eye in order to drink from the well of Urd and become the wisest being in the cosmos. Odin is known for his courageous sacrifices. In one instance Odin hanged himself from the branches of the Yggdrasil tree for nine days and nine nights in order to discover the runes.
Odin is an accomplished battlefield commander who led the Aesir against the giants. Odin does not concern himself with ordinary warriors but rather only those who have proven themselves worthy. Odin is portrayed with one eye holding a spear known as Gungnir. Odin is often accompanied by his animal companions. Geri and Freki the two wolves who follow him in battle and his two pet ravens; Huginn and Muninn. Huginn and Muninn travel around the world on a daily basis to bring him information. Odin travels around the cosmos by ridding his eight legged horse known as Sleipnir.
Baldur is the son of Odin and goddess Frigg. Baldur is also the husband to goddess Nanna and the father of goddess Forseti. Baldur is the most beloved god in the nine realms. He is known as the god of beauty because he is so handsome and gracious that he gives off light. Baldur is mentioned in Lokasennaunder the subject of Baldur’s dreams. He begins having dreams about his death which prompts Frigg to take an oath from every creature that it would not harm Baldur. When Loki discovered that that Frigg had not taken an oath from the mistotle he fashioned a spear from the mistotle which he gave to the blind god Hod. The blind god Hod, unaware that he was holding a spear fashioned from mistotle threw it at Baldur instantly killing him. The death of Baldur brought a lot of anguish in Asgard. During his funeral, Baldur’s wife Nanna threw herself to the funeral fire to await unification with him during Ragnarok. Thor was also angry about his brother’s death and as a consequence he kicked the dwarf Litr into the funeral fire which made him to burn alive. Frigg travelled to the underworld to secure the release of Baldur. Goddess Hel agreed to release him if all the all objects alive and dead wept for him. All did, with the exception of the giantess Þökk who is presumed to be Loki in disguise. Baldur remains in the underworld until Ragnarok where he would reconcile and rule a new earth together with Thor’s sons.
Bragi is the god of poetry in Norse mythology and also the patron of all poets. Bragi is a son of Odin and Frigga. The runes are carved in Bragi’s tongue and as such, he became a master of words and poetry. In Viking societies oaths were sworn from Bragi’s cup in honor of a dead king. Before a king could ascend to the throne he would drink from Bragi’s cup. Bragi is also associated with peace and he is welcome in all the nine worlds. Bragi is married to Idun who lives in Asgard. Bragi’s wife Idun has many children but their names are not mentioned. Bragi is skilled at playing the harp and his singing is so beautiful that even he is welcomed by trees and animals.
Forseti is the god of justice. He is the son of Baldur and Nanna. He rules Glitnir where legal disputes are settled. All those who come to Glitnir leave reconciled. Forseti is the ceremonial head of the Scandinavian legislative assembly. Forseti loves to spend his spare time engaging in the practice of meditation to keep his mind at peace. Forseti is mentioned only twice in Norse texts. Little is known about Foresti because of his obscure representation in the Norse mythology.
Freyr is the ruler of peace, fertility and sunshine. He is the son of the Norse god Njord. He was a member of the Vanir tribe but joined the Aesir together with his father. The gods gave him Álfheimr as part of his teething present. Freyr rode to Baldur’s funeral in a chariot pulled by Gullinbursti. Feyr is also associated with the horse cult. In one of the Norse tales, Freyr falls in love with a Jotunn named Gerðr whom he eventually marries. Before getting married he has go give up his sword and fight with Jotunn Beli. He gives up his sword to fight Jottun Beli but he defeats him using his antlers. Freyr will eventually be killed by Jottun Sutr during Ragnarok. He is said to be the ancestor of the Swedish royal family.
Heimdall is known as the shinning god and the whitest of all gods. Heimdall is the guardian of the rainbow bifrost that connects Midgard with Asgard. Heimdall is a tall handsome man with golden teeth. Heimdall is the son of Odin but because of his strange birth he has nine mothers. All Heimdall’s nine mothers are sisters who are associated with the nine waves. Heimdall does not need sleep and he has a very good eyesight. He can see during the day and night and he can also see for hundreds of kilometers. Heimdall lives next to Bifrost in a place called Himinbjörg. Heimdall stands has a golden horse and a horn known as Gjallarhorn to sound alarm. The horn is so loud that it can be heard throughout the nine realms. Heimdall uses this horn to symbolize the beginning of Ragnarok. The sounding of the horn informs the gods that the enemies of Asgard are arriving at the plains of Vigrid and it is time to get ready for battle.
7. Hod, the Blind god
Hod is the son of Odin and Frigg. He is the Norse god associated with winter and darkness. Hod is also blind. Hod is rarely mentioned in Norse literary texts except in the tale of the death of Baldur. Odin kept experiencing nightmares and he went to the land of the dead where he resurrected an old woman to seek her advice. Odin learnt that his son Hod would be the one to kill Baldur. The general rule is that deaths should be avenged, Odin tricked a giantess to bear a child for him who he named Vali. Vali grew quickly and within one day he was already an adult. He journeyed to Midgard to slay Hod for the death of Baldur. Vali kills Hod with an arrow. The death of Hod and Baldur signal the beginning of Ragnarok.
Loki is the trickster god in Norse mythology. Loki’s father was the giant Fárbauti but he is included in the Aesir tribe of gods in Asgard. Loki occupied an ambivalent role in Norse mythology and he was welcomed by the gods, the giants and other spiritual beings. Loki has the ability to change his shape and gender which gave him the title of a shape shifter. Loki is the father of the giantess Angrboða (Angrboða, “Anguish-Boding”), the goddess Hel, who is the god of the underworld, Jörmungand; the giant sea serpent and Fenrir. Loki is also the mother of Sleipnir, Odin’s horse which he gave birth to when he shape shifted to a mare. Loki is portrayed as a disconnected god who is only interested in seeking short term pleasure. Loki helps both the frost giants and the gods depending on what is more pleasurable at the time. Loki is a malevolent character who is also responsible for the death of Baldur. Baldur was a beloved god and Frigg made an oath with all living things not to harm Baldur with the exception of the mistotle. When Loki found this out, he fashioned a spear from a mistotle and placed it in the hands of the blind god Hod to throw it at Baldur. Baldur dies from the spear. After his death god Hermod goes to underworld to secure the release of Baldur, goddess Hel agrees to release Baldur if all the creatures in the world wept for him. All creatures wept except for the frost giant Tokk who is Loki in disguise. As a consequence, Baldur must remain in the underworld. During Ragnarok when the fate of the cosmos is at risk, Loki joins the side of the giants. He even captains Naglfar (a ship made entirely of nails) and takes the sons of Múspell to fight the gods.
Njord is the chief god of the Vanir tribe. He joined the Aesir tribe of gods as an honorary member after he was sent to the Aesir during the Aesir-Vanir war alongside his son and daughter. Njord was particularly associated with wealth, fertility, the sea, and seafaring in the Vikings’ religion. A saying among the Norse peoples held especially wealthy people to be “as rich as Njord.” Njord is featured in the tale of Njord and Skadi. Skadi came to the gods demanding restitution for the death of his father. The gods agreed that she should be allowed to marry anyone she wishes. Skadi chose Njord thinking that he was Baldur. The marriage between the two was very short and unpleasant because of the two locations that they inhabited. Their union did not last long as they could not agree on where to live. Njord considered Skadi’s home in the land of the giants too cold and desolate. Njord is one of the few gods who survive Ragnarok. It is suggested that he will return to Vanir during the battle where he will survive.
Thor (Old Norse: Þórr) is the Norse god of thunder. Thor is the son of Odin and the husband to Sif the goddess of fertility. Thor and Sif have two children Modi and Thrud. Thor is the defender of Asgard and Midgard and he is primarily associated with protection in Norse mythology. Thor is depicted as the warrior God which the average human being in Germanic societies inspired to be. Thor is depicted as loyal and honorable with an unshakable sense of duty. Thor protects the Aesir against the giants in numerous tales. Thor’s greatest nemesis is Jörmungand, a giant sea monster that has the ability to engulf the whole world. In Norse mythology, the roar of thunder was associated with Thor’s chariots across the sky. Thor’s chariot was drawn across the sky by Tanngnjóstr (Tooth Gnasher) and Tanngrísnir (Snarl Tooth) who could be killed, eaten and brought back to life the following day. As the god of thunder and lightning, Pagans worshiped Thor and made sacrifices to him when they were threatened by hunger and famine.
Thor possessed three magical items that allowed him to exhibit immense power. These items are; his hammer Mjölnir, Iron gloves which allowed him to wield the hammer and Megingjörð; his belt of strength which doubled his power. The Mjölnir is depicted in Norse mythology as one of the most powerful weapons in the nine realms. It had the ability to level mountains and it was also identified with lightning. Before the introduction of Christianity in Scandinavia, Mjölnir pendants were used to bless marriages and to seal contracts. During the Viking Age, Thor’s name was invoked for protection during voyages and for victory in battle.
Tyr is a Norse god that is commonly associated with the Tiwaz rune. Tyr presides matters of justice and law. Tyr is the god of war in Norse mythology. In Poetic Edda, Sigurd invokes the name of Tyr for victory in battle. In the poem, Lokasenna, Loki insults Tyr by stating that he can only incite civil rife but cannot reconcile the people. In Norse Mythology Tyr is seen as the divine jurist who is able to interpret the law. When Fenrir was posing a danger to the gods and Asgard, Tyr volunteers to bind him and in the process he loses his hand. In the process Tyr is seen as brave. In essence, Tyr had sacrificed his hand to uphold the law just the same way Odin had sacrificed his eye to gain wisdom. The fate of Tyr in Ragnarok is revealed in Gylfaginning. In the twilight of the gods, Tyr would be slay and be slain by the wolf Garmr. This happens during the final battle between the gods and the jottun.
Vili is the brother of Odin and the elder brother to Ve. He is one of the creator gods in Norse mythology. Odin, Vili and Ve were the first Aesir gods. Vili’s parents are Borr and giantesses Bestla. Vili and his brother Ve are featured in Norse tales during the expulsion of Odin from Asgard for practicing unmanly magic. Vili is depicted wielding a mighty axe on one hand and a mace on the other hand. Vili and Ve are not mentioned on a regular basis in Norse tales after Odin becomes the king of the gods.
Ve is the god of creation alongside his brother’s Vili and Odin. Ve is the youngest of the triad brothers. Vili and Odin attacked and killed Ymir who was the king of the giants beginning the reign of the gods. Odin used Ymir’s body create the world and the first two humans. Ve is responsible for giving Ask and Embla, sight, hearing and facial expressions. Ve is depicted holding a mighty axe and wearing a hat similar to Odin’s hat.
Vidar is the son of Odin with giantess Gríðr. Vidar is one of the youngest gods who survive Rangarok. Vidar plays a crucial role during Ragnarok that stops Fenrir rampage across the galaxy. He wears magic bearing shoes that allow him to navigate the battlefield and slay Fenrir. Vidar is the second strongest god after Thor in Norse universe. He is able to kick Open the mouth of Fenrir and slice his mouth with a sword. Little is known about Vidar other than his role in avenging his father.
Freya is also known as Freyja is one of the most powerful goddesses in Norse Mythology. She is from the Vanir tribe of deities but she joined the Aesir after the Aesir-Vanir War. Freya is the goddess of love, fertility, beauty and fine things in life. She gained the reputation of a party girl in Asgard because of her pleasure seeking behavior. Because of that Loki accuses her of sleeping with all the gods and elves. Freya is also a practitioner of Seir which is the most organized form of magic in the Norse cosmology. Freya is in charge of Folkvang. Half the warriors who die in battle but do not enter Valhalla end up in her realm. Freya possesses falcon plumes which allows the bearer of the plumes to transform into a falcon. Norse literary sources present Freya and Frigg as the same person with no distinct differences. There are only superficial differences between Freya and Frigg.
Frig, also known as Frigga is the wife of Odin and the Queen of Asgard. She is also the mother of Baldur. She is associated with goddesses Lofn, Hlín and Gná. The English weekday of Friday is named after goddess Frigga. Frigga is mentioned three times in poetic Edda. The first time is when she was weeping for her son Baldur after Loki had orchestrated Baldur’s demise. Frig had received oaths from everyone in Asgard that weapons and wood will not hurt Baldur. When Baldur dies, Frigg rides to Hel to secure the release of Baldur. Loki accuses goddess Frigg of sexual promiscuity. In Lokasenna and the Ynglinga Saga, Odin is exiled from Asgard his two brothers, Vili and Ve are left in charge. Loki accused Frigg of sleeping with the two brothers when Odin was in exile. The symbols that are associated with Frigg are spinning wheel, spindle and the mistotle.
Sif is the wife of Thor and the mother of Þrúðr by Thor and of Ullr with a father whose name is Urvandill. Thor is love struck by Sif from the time that they meet. She is also known as the prophetess of sibyl and she is also one of the loveliest woman alive. Sif is known for her golden hair. Sif is only mentioned in passing literature in Norse Mythology. Sif plays an instrumental role in the creation of Thor’s hammer. This began when Loki decided to cut her golden hair which infuriated Thor. Thor wanted to Kill Loki but Loki convinced him that he would find a better hair for Sif. Loki went to find Sif’s hair and in the process he convinced the dwarves to fashion the mjolnir. Sif is also the goddess of fertility, a role that is occupied by other gods in the Norse universe. Sif is associated with vegetation on earth.
Idun is the goddess of eternal youth and the wife to the Norse god Bragi. Idun belongs to Aesir tribe of Norse gods. Idun is known for keeping the apples that maintain the youthfulness of the Norse gods. Idun is featured in the Kidnapping of Idun by giant Þjazi that led to the gods to lose their youthfulness. Giant Þjazi kidnapped Idun in order to force the gods to let Idun out of Asgard with her apples. Odin calls a gods council and they assign Loki with the task of recovering Idun. Eventually, Loki saves Idun from the giant Þjazi. Idun becomes a very valuable member of Asgard because of her apples which give eternal youth.
In Viking societies, the Norse gods and goddesses were seen as a rowdy group of deities. Thor was the most popular of all the deities among Viking communities. Vikings built temples to worship the Norse gods and make sacrifices to them. The belief and the reverence to Norse gods and goddesses led to the rise of the Old Norse Religion.