Monday, June 08, 2009

The Norse gods

Aegir or Hler: He is usually depicted as an old man with a long white beard.The meaning of his name is associated with water. Aegir was the god of the seashore or ocean, and called the ruler of the sea. He was a personification of the ocean, and caused storms with his anger. Sailors feared Aegir, and thought he would sometimes surface to destroy ships. Because he was sometimes accused of sinking merchant vessels for the gold and other valuables they carried, he became known for his greed.

Baldur: 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 (intelligent), light shined from him. Balder's wife was Nanna and they had a son named Forseti. 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. 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 then 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. Nanna died of heartache after Balder's death and was 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. 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, so he remained dead and was cremated on his funeral boat, hringhorni. He is supposed to come back to life after the Ragnarok.

Loki: Was a giant, but he became a member of the gods 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.

Odin: Is the leader of the gods. He also had many functions including being a god of war, poetry, wisdom, and death. It was from his throne that he could see over all the world. 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.
Odin sacrificed himself for knowledge by hanging on the world tree, Yggdrasil, thereby learning 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 upon him. 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. He was the god of warriors and kings, not the common man.

Frigg: She is the goddess of marriage and the wife of Odin. Another name for Frigg was Saga. Some people call Saga a goddess of history or a goddess of poetry, because the word Saga is connected to the word for history, and also refer to her as a daughter of Odin.

Tyr: He was the god of war, and the only god brave enough to put his hand in the Fenris-Wolf's mouth so the gods could bind it. When the wolf was bound, it bit off his right hand. 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.

Thor: Quite possibly the best-known Norse god. He was the son of Odin and a member of the Aesir, and the god of thunder. He would smash the giants' 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 wife was Sif, but not very much is known about her.
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.

Freya: Goddess of fertility and war. She was the daughter of Njord, and the sister of Frey. Her daughters, by Od (no, not Odin, Od.), are named Hnoss, who is so beautiful that whatever is valuable and lovely is named "treasure" after her, and Gersemi.

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. 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, but it 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 through the sky. It was made by dwarves for Loki to give to Frey. 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.

Heimdall: He watches the rainbow bridge, Bifrost , for the coming of the frost giants at the Ragnarok, when 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.
Fenrir-Wolf: Fenrir is a gigantic and terrible monster in the shape of a wolf. He is the eldest child of Loki and the giantess Angrboda. The gods learned of a prophecy which stated that the wolf and his family would one day be responsible for the destruction of the world. They caught the wolf and locked him in a cage. Only the god of war, Tyr, dared to feed and take care of the wolf