|Aegir||The meaning of his name is associated with water. He was also called Hler and Gymir [the Blinder] (the name of Gerd's father -- it is not known if they are one and the same). 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. Sailors feared Aegir, and thought he would sometimes surface to destroy ships. According to Sidonius, early Saxons made human sacrifices to a god of the sea, possibly connected with Aegir.
Aegir was one of the Vanir and a giant. His father was Mistarblindi [Mist-Blind], and his brothers, Logi [Fire] (identified by Guerber as Loki), and Kari [Air]. 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. Instead of having a fire, gold was put onto the floor of the hall to provide light. 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.
In Egil's Saga, after the death by drowning of Egil's second son Bothvar, Egil composed the poem Sonatorrek which mentions Aegir:
Sure, if sword could venge(Leach, A Pageant of Old Scandinavia, p. 321.)
|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. A more complete retelling of Snorri's account of Balder's death is available online.
Snorri and Saxo Grammaticus give very different views of Balder and his death. In Saxo's version of this story, Hod (Hother) is alone responsible for Balder's death. Balder's name rarely occurs in place names, therefore, it is thought that not many people worshipped him. It has been suggested that Balder was an ancient hero who was elevated to divinity. The poets used his name to mean warrior.
Balder is also mentioned in the Merseburg charm.
|Bil||Listed by Snorri as one of the goddesses. Snorri tells the story of two children, Bil and Hjuki, who were taken from the earth by Moon, to accompany him. Their father was Vidfinn.
Bil is also called the goddess of weaving by Gisli in Gisla saga Surssonar. After Gisli has a prophetic dream regarding his death, he speaks the verse containing the reference to Bil. The tone makes it seem that weaving refers to weaving destiny.
|Bor||Son of Buri. His wife was Bestla, daughter of the frost giant Bolthorn. Bor was the father of Odin, Vili, and Ve.|
|Bragi||God of poetry, (adopted?) son of Odin and the giantess Gunlod. He was the chief poet of Odin and said to be very wise. He was married to Idun and he had runes cut on his tounge.
In The Lay of Hakon, Bragi is in Valhalla with Odin who tells Bragi to go out and greet Hakon as he arrives. Bragi is also in Valhalla alongside Odin in The Lay of Eirik, and Odin refers to Bragi as one who "knowest everything well". During the feast in Asgard attended by Aegir, it is Bragi who relates to Aegir the tales of the gods.
There was a 9th century skald named Bragi Boddason and some believe he may have been raised to a god by later writers. Others believe Bragi was an aspect of Odin.
|Buri||The first god. The cow Audhumla, after emerging from the primordial frost, fed herself by licking great blocks of ice. Day by day, as she licked, the god emerged from the ice. He was the father of Bor.|
|Delling||Considered the god of dawn, his name means "shining one". Snorri called him a member of the family of the gods. He was the third husband of Night (Nott), with whom he had a son called Dag (Day). In some of the lays there is mention of "Delling's door", possibly meaning dawn.|
|Eir||A goddess of healing, considered the best doctor. She taught her art to women who were the only physicians in ancient Scandinavia.|
|Forseti||God of justice. He is the son of Balder and Nanna. His name means "presiding one" and in The Poetic Edda, it says he is "the god that stills all strife." His home is Glitnir [shining].|
|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 (mayhaps Ingun), 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 Vanirto 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 sex, fertility, war, and wealth. Originally one of the Vanir. She was the daughter of Njord, and the sister of Frey. Her daughters, by Od, are named Hnoss, who is so beautiful that whatever is valuable and lovely is named "treasure" after her, and Gersemi. 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 male cats (their names are never stated) 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.|
|Frigg||Goddess of marriage. She is the wife of Odin, and Friday is named for her (according to some). Her abode was called Fensalir [The Ocean Halls]. She weaved the clouds.|
|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, making her a fertility goddess.
When Hermod rode to Hell to ask Hel if Baldr could return to Asgard, Nanna gave him a gold ring to give to Fulla, among other gifts. Fulla is called a maid of Frigg in The Lay of Gimnir in the Poetic Edda, and is sent on an errand by Frigg. We also have mention of Fulla in Gisla saga Surssonar:
My Fulla, fair faced, the goddess of stones
Who gladdens me much, shall hear of her friend
Standing straight, unafraid in the rain of the spears...
|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.|
|Hel||Daughter of Loki and the giant Angurboda. She is the sister of Fenrir (Fenris-wolf) and Jormungand (Midgard serpent). She is the goddess of the underworld. Her realm was Niflheim and her hall, Elvidnir [misery]. She was described as half white and half black.|
|Hermod||Messenger of the gods. He rode to Hel's realm after the death of Balder to try and convince her to let Balder come back from the dead.|
|Hlin||Snorri lists Hlin as a goddess charged with protecting those men who Frigg wants kept safe. Called by others a goddess of consolation who was supposed to "kiss away the tears of mourners". In most sources, Hlin is just another name for Frigg.|
|Hod||Son of Odin. He is the blind god of winter, who is tricked by Loki into killing Balder. His name means "war". Vali, a son of Odin, avenged Balder's death by killing Hod.|
|Hoenir||After the war between the Aesir and the Vanir, he was sent as a hostage to the Vanir. He gave sense to the first humans. He possibly was Vili, a brother of Odin who helped create the world.|
|Huldra||A goddess who was attended by wood nymphs. They had cow tails which could be seen hanging out from beneath their white robes. They were the protectors of cattle, and sang beautifully. She is an aspect of Frigg.|
|Idun||Goddess who is married to Bragi and is the keeper of the apples which keep the gods eternally young. The storm giant Tjasse abducts her and the gods start to age until Loki kills the giant and retrieves Idun. Goddess of youth, her name means "The Rejuvenating One".|
|Earth goddess. Her mother was Night (Nott) and her father Annar. She was the mother of Thor (called her first born in The Lay of Thrym) and Frigg.|
|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.|
|Lodur||He gave appearance and speech to the first humans. He is identified with Ve by some and Loki by others.|
|Lofn||Goddess concerned with sparking passionate love. She had permission from Odin and Frigg to do so even for those who were forbidden to marry.|
|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|
|Magni||A son of Thor, he will survive the Ragnarok. His name means "strong".|
|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.|
|Modi||A son of Thor, he will survive the Ragnarok. His name means "courage".|
|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.|
|Nerthus||Possibly an older version of Njord (as the opposite sex) since scholars say their names are linguistically related, or his sister with whom he has Frey and Freya -- Leach states Ingun is their mother.
Tacitus in 98 CE describes the worship of Nerthus by the Danish. He calls her Mother Earth and relates the ritual surrounding her. According to Tacitus, Nerthus' sanctuary was in a sacred grove on an island and within the copse was a cart under a covering. When the goddess came to her sanctuary the priest was aware of it and would walk alongside her cart pulled by cows as Nerthus visited places. While the goddess was among people no war was allowed and all weapons were put away. Once the goddess was brought back to her shrine, she, her cart, and its covering, were all washed in a lake by slaves. The slaves were supposedly swallowed by the lake afterwards.
|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. Snorri associated Njord with Saturn (see Sataere below).|
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.
|Ran||The wife of Aegir, she was the sea goddess of storms. She collects drowned people in her net|
|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.|
|Sataere||Some books list Sataere as a Germanic god of agriculture and suggest that the name is another name for Loki. Guerbers' Myths of the Norsemen is one of these books, stating:
Loki was confounded with Saturn, who had also been shorn of his divine attributes, and both were considered the prototypes of Satan. The last day of the week, which was held sacred to Loki, was known in the Norse as Laugardag, or wash-day, but in English it was changed to Saturday, and was said to owe its name not to Saturn but to Sataere, the thief in ambush, and the Teutonic god of agriculture, who is supposed to be merely another personification of Loki. Of course, Guerber does not provide us with a source. If we look at the Norse sources there are no references to Sataere or Saturn. Jan De Vries lists the Old English word Sataere as being derived from the word Saturn, thus not a separate diety, and it seems that Njord not Loki is the Norse god that more closely resembles Saturn. Could an association between Njord and Saturn be the cause of Scandinavians using Laugurdag -- bath or wash day -- in place of Saturday?
Grimm in his Teutonic Mythology reasons that Saturn was originally a Germanic deity and this is probably Guerber's source. Prof. E.G. Stanley in The Search for Anglo-Saxon Paganism states that Saturn is erroneously included among the gods of the Anglo-Saxons by some scholars (Grimm included) because of his appearence in an early Old English poem Solomon and Saturn. Moreover, Stanley relates the opinion of other scholars that the Saturn appearing in the poem represents the Chaldean god Saturn and not some Germanic deity.
|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.|
|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.|