Norse mythology


Norse mythology, or Scandinavian mythology, is the body of mythology 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.
Norse mythology is primarily attested in dialects of Old Norse, a North Germanic language spoken by the Scandinavian peoples during the European Middle Ages, and the ancestor of modern Scandinavian languages. The majority of these Old Norse texts were created in Iceland, where the oral tradition stemming from the pre-Christian inhabitants of the island was collected and recorded in manuscripts. This occurred primarily in the 13th century. These texts include the Prose Edda, composed in the 13th century by Snorri Sturluson, and the Poetic Edda, a collection of poems from earlier traditional material anonymously compiled in the 13th century. Numerous further texts, such as the sagas, provide further information.
Numerous gods are mentioned in the source texts such as the hammer-wielding, humanity-protecting god Thor, who relentlessly pursues 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.
The cosmos in Norse mythology consist of Nine Worlds that flank a central cosmological tree, Yggdrasil.
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. (Wikipedia)

Ques. Describe Asgard. Ans. It contained gold and silver palaces, the dwellings of the gods, but the most famous and beautiful of these was Valhalla, the residence of Odin. This god is represented as seated on a throne which overlooks all heaven and earth. On his shoulders sit the ravens, Hugin and Munin, who fly every day over the whole world, and on their return report to him all that they have seen. At Odin’s feet lie two wolves, to whom he gives all the meat that is set before him, as he himself stands in no need of food. Mead is for him both food and drink. Ques. What were the delights of Valhalla, and who were permitted to enjoy them? Ans. None were admitted to Valhalla but heroes who had fallen in battle. Women, children, and all who had died a peaceful death, were excluded as unworthy. The joys of Valhalla consisted in eating, drinking and fighting. They feasted on the flesh of the boar Schrimnir, which was cooked every day, and became whole again every night. The goat Heidrun supplied them with never-failing draughts of mead, which they drank from the skulls of their slaughtered enemies. For pastime, they fought, and cut one another to pieces. When the hour of feasting came, they recovered from their wounds, and were whole as before.

 

Supernatural beings

Major Deities in Norse Mythology
Major Deities in Norse Mythology
Image sources: www.mythencyclopedia.com Norse Mythology

The Mythology of the Teutonic or Germanic race is neither so picturesque nor so well defined as that of Scandinavia. Odin and other Scandinavian divinities were worshipped by the tribes who dwelt along the borders of the Northern Ocean; in other parts of Germany, Druidism prevailed. The Germans had, however, their own deities and their own superstitions. Tuisco (sometimes written Tuesco or Tuisto) was worshipped by the Saxons as the god of war. Tuesday takes its name from this divinity Odin’s name is sometimes written as Woden; and from this comes the name of the fourth day of the week, Woden’s day, changed to Wednesday. From Thor’s name is derived the word Thursday. Frey was one of the greatest of the gods. He presided over rain, sunshine, and the fruits of the earth. From his name comes our word Friday.

Norse cosmology postulates three separate "clans" of deities: the Aesir, the Vanir, and the Jotun. The distinction between Aesir and Vanir is relative, for the two are said to have made peace, exchanged hostages, intermarried and reigned together after a prolonged war. In fact, the most major divergence between the two groups is in their respective areas of influence, with the Aesir representing war and conquest, and the Vanir representing exploration, fertility and wealth. Some of the most important of these deities include Odin, the father god who rules the pantheon; Frigg, Odin's wife and queen of the gods; Thor, a storm god and warrior/hero; Freya, the goddess of beauty and sexual attraction; Heimdall, the far-seeing sentry of Asgard; Tyr, the god of combat; Balder, the god of spring and renewal; and, Loki, the devious trickster deity.

The relative peace between the Aesir and the Vanir presents a profound contrast to their permanently stormy relations with the Jotun (Old English: Eotenas or Entas). This group, whose name is often translated as "giants" (although "trolls" and "demons" have been suggested as suitable alternatives), are generally depicted as foul, monstrous beings, comparable to the Titans and Gigantes of Greek mythology. Despite these negative associations, the gods were still seen to be relatively closely related to the Jotun, as both Æsir and Vanir continued to intermarry with the Giants (not to mention the fact that many of the gods were descendants of them). For example, Loki was the child of two giants, and Hel was half-giantess. Some of the giants are mentioned by name in the Eddas and they seem to be representations of natural forces.

In addition, there are many other supernatural beings, including elves, dwarves, and monsters (including Fenrir, the gigantic wolf, and Jörmungandr, the sea-serpent (or "worm") that is coiled around Midgard). These two creatures are described as the progeny of Loki, the trickster-god, and a giantess.

Along with many other polytheistic religions, this mythology lacks the predominant good-evil dualism of the monotheistic Middle Eastern traditions. Thus, Odin and Hel are not seen as pure opposites, Loki is not primarily an adversary of the gods, though he is seen to delight in causing Thor's plans to go awry. Likewise, the giants are not so much fundamentally evil, as they are rude, boisterous, and uncivilized. Thus, the dualism that exists is not an opposition of good versus evil, but order versus chaos.
(New World Enclopedia)

Odin

OdinOdin
Left: Odin the Wanderer (1896) by Georg von Rosen.
Right: The Norse god Odin enthroned, flanked by his two wolfs, Geri and Freki, and his two ravens, Huginn and Muninn, and holding his spear Gungnir. Published in 1865 - Source: Murray, Alexander (1874). Manual of Mythology.
Image sources: commons.wikimedia.org   commons.wikimedia.org

Odin is associated with war, healing, death, knowledge, and poetry. He is the husband of the goddess Frigg.
In Old Norse texts, Odin is depicted as one-eyed and long-bearded, frequently wielding a spear, Gungnir, and wearing a black or blue cloak and a broad hat. He is often accompanied by his animal companions— the wolves Geri and Freki and the ravens Huginn and Muninn, who bring him information from all over Midgard—and Odin rides the flying, eight-legged steed Sleipnir across the sky and into the underworld.
Odin is attested as having many sons, most famously the god Baldr with Frigg, and is known by hundreds of names.
Odin frequently seeks knowledge throughout the worlds frequently in disguise (most famously the Mead of Poetry), at times makes wagers with his wife Frigg over the outcome of exploits. Odin takes part in both the creation of the world by way of the slaying of the primordial being Ymir and the gift of life to the first two humans, Ask and Embla. Odin has a particular association with Yule, and mankind's knowledge of both the runic alphabet and poetry is also attributed to Odin.
In Old Norse texts, Odin is given primacy over female beings associated with the battlefield—the valkyries—and himself oversees the afterlife location Valhalla, where he receives as einherjar, or chosen warriors, half of those who die in battle, while the other half are chosen by the goddess Freyja for her afterlife location, Fólkvangr. Odin consults the disembodied, herb-embalmed head of the wise being Mímir for advice, and during the foretold events of Ragnarök, will lead the einherjar into battle before being consumed by the monstrous wolf Fenrir.
Odin has a strong association with death; Odin is portrayed as the ruler of Valhalla, where valkyries carry half of those slain in battle.

Sir Ian McKellen portrayed Gandalf in The Lord of the Rings film seriesPromotional image of Anthony Hopkins as Odin in the Marvel Studios film, Thor.
In modern times, Odin is sometimes depicted or referenced in modern popular culture.
Left: Sir Ian McKellen portrayed Gandalf in The Lord of the Rings film series. Some commentators have compared Gandalf to the Norse god Odin.
Right: Promotional image of Anthony Hopkins as Odin in the Marvel Studios film, Thor.
Image sources: commons.wikimedia.org   commons.wikimedia.org

 

Frigg


The goddess Frigg and her husband, the god Odin, sit in Hliðskjálf and gaze into "all worlds" and make a wager as described in Grímnismál in an illustration by Lorenz Frølich, 1895.
Image source: commons.wikimedia.org

Frigg is a powerful goddess and the wife of the chief god Odin and together they have a beloved son, Baldr. The English weekday name Friday (etymologically Old English "Frīge's day") bears her name.
Frigg is described as a goddess associated with foreknowledge and wisdom. Frigg can see the future but tells no one. Odin frequently seeks knowledge throughout the worlds frequently in disguise, at times makes wagers with his wife Frigg over the outcome of exploits. When it comes to betting, Frigg usually wins.

In Ynglinga saga, the first book of Heimskringla, an Euhemerized account of the origin of the gods is provided. Frigg is mentioned once. According to the saga, while Odin was away, Odin's brothers Vili and Vé oversaw Odin's holdings. Once, while Odin was gone for an extended period, the Æsir concluded that he was not coming back. His brothers started to divvy up Odin's inheritance, "but his wife Frigg they shared between them. However, a short while afterwards, [Odin] returned and took possession of his wife again."


Baldr being held by a female, presumably his mother Frigg, after he has died from a wound sustained from mistletoe. Illustration appears within the Völuspá hin skamma section. 1895.
Image source: commons.wikimedia.org

Baldr

Loki tricks the blind Höðr, Baldr's brother, into shooting Baldr with a mistletoe.
Loki tricks the blind Höðr, Baldr's brother, into shooting Baldr with a mistletoe.
Image source: commons.wikimedia.org

In section 49 of Gylfaginning, a narrative about the fate of Frigg's son Baldr is told. According to High, Baldr once started to have dreams indicating that his life was in danger. When Baldr told his fellow Æsir about his dreams, the gods met together at the thing and decided that they should "request immunity for Baldr from all kinds of danger". Frigg subsequently receives promises from the elements, the environment, diseases, animals, and stones, amongst other things. The Æsir make sport of Baldr's newfound invincibility; shot or struck Baldr who would remain unharmed.
However, Loki discovers this and is not pleased by this turn of events, so, in the form of a woman, he goes to Frigg in Fensalir. There, Frigg asks this female visitor what the Æsir are up to assembled at a thing. The woman says that all of the Æsir are shooting at Baldr and yet he remains unharmed. Frigg explains that "Weapons and wood will not hurt Baldr. I have received oaths from them all." The woman asks Frigg if all things have sworn not to hurt Baldr, to which Frigg notes one exception; "there grows a shoot of a tree to the west of Val-hall. It is called mistletoe. It seemed young to me to demand the oath from." Loki immediately disappears.
Now armed with mistletoe, Loki arrives at the thing where the Æsir are assembled and tricks the blind Höðr, Baldr's brother, into shooting Baldr with a mistletoe projectile. To the horror of the assembled gods, the mistletoe goes directly through Baldr, killing him. Standing in horror and shock, the gods are initially only able to weep due to their grief. Frigg speaks up and asks "who there was among the Æsir who wished to earn all her love and favour and was willing to ride the road to Hel and try if he could find Baldr, and offer Hel a ransom if she would let Baldr go back to Asgard".
Hermóðr, Baldr's brother, accepts Freyja's request and rides to Hel. Meanwhile, Baldr is given a grand funeral attended by many beings—foremost mentioned of which are his mother and father, Frigg and Odin. During the funeral, Nanna dies of grief and is placed in the funeral pyre with Baldr, her dead husband. Hermóðr locates Baldr and Nanna in Hel. Hermodr secures an agreement for the return of Baldr and with Hermóðr Nanna sends gifts to Frigg (a linen robe) and Fulla (a finger-ring). Hermóðr rides back to the Æsir and tells them what has happened. However, the agreement fails due to the sabotage of a jötunn in a cave named Þökk (Old Norse 'thanks'), described perhaps Loki in disguise.

Odin's son Hermod on his father's eight-legged horse at the gates of Hel.
This illustration shows Odin's son Hermod on his father's eight-legged horse at the gates of Hel. Hermod has come to ask for the return of his brother Balder.
Image source: norse-mythology.org: HERMOD

 

Creation and Cosmology

Nine Worlds of Norse Religion
Nine Worlds of Norse Religion
Image source: en.wikipedia.org

Creation
In the beginning, there were two regions: Muspellsheimr in the south, full of fire, light and heat; and Niflheimr in the north, full of arctic waters, mists, and cold. Between them stretched the yawning emptiness of Ginnungagap, and into it poured sparks and smoke from the south and layers of rime-ice and glacial rivers from the north. As heat and cold met in Ginnungagap, a living Jötunn, Ymir, appeared in the melting ice. From his left armpit, the first man and woman were born. From his legs, the frost jötnar were born, making Ymir the progenitor of the jötnar. Most sources identify Ymir's oldest son as Thrudgelmir, who bore Ymir's grandson, Bergelmir. The other jötnar are usually unnamed. Ymir fed on the milk of the cow Auðhumla. She licked the blocks of salty ice, releasing Búri. Búri's son Borr had three sons, the gods Odin, Vili and Vé. The three slew Ymir, and all of the jötnar (giants) except for Bergelmir and his wife, who were drowned in the blood of the others. From Ymir's body, they made the world of humans: his blood the seas and lakes, his flesh the earth, his bones the mountains and his teeth the rocks. From his skull they made the dome of the sky, setting a dwarf at each of the four corners to hold it high above the earth. They protected it from the jötnar with a wall made from Ymir's eyebrows. Next they caused time to exist, and placed the orbs of the sun and moon in chariots which were to circle around the sky.
Odin, passing through the world of the jötnar, found two beautiful young giants named Sól and Máni, sun and moon. They were brother and sister, and their father had named them after the beautiful lights in the sky. Odin decreed that Sól and Mani should drive the chariots of the sun and the moon across the sky, and to ensure that their journey was always constant and never slowed, he created two great wolves. These wolves were called Hati and Sköll, and they were placed in the sky to pursue the chariots and devour them if they caught them. (Wikipedia: Norse cosmology)

According to the Prose Edda, Odin, the first and most powerful of the Aesir, was a son of a giant (Bor) and a giantess (Bestla), who, along with his brothers Ve and Vili, cast down the terrible frost giant Ymir. From his corpse, the three created the cosmos, transmuting his various body parts into sky, seas, and land: From Ymir's flesh, the brothers made the earth, and from his shattered bones and teeth they made the rocks and stones. From Ymir's blood, they made the rivers and lakes. Ymir's skull was made into the sky, secured at four points by four dwarfs named Nordi, Sudri, Austri, and Westri (North, South, East, and West). And from Ymir's brains, they shaped the clouds and Ymir's eyebrows became Midgard, the place where men now dwell.
In this account, Odin and his brothers are also attributed with creating mankind from hollow logs. In doing so, Odin first gave them breath and life; Vili gave them brains and feelings; and Ve gave them hearing and sight. The first man was named Ask and the first woman was Embla, and from them all families of mankind are descended.
Furthering this understanding of Odin as "All-Father," he also had several wives with whom he fathered many children. With his first wife, Frigg, he had two sons: Balder, who stood for happiness, goodness, wisdom and beauty, and the blind god Hod, who was representative of darkness (and presented a perfect contrast to Balder's light). By the Earth Goddess Jord, Odin sired his most famous son, Thor the Thunderer. In addition to these offspring, he is also described as the father of lesser deities (including Vidar and Vali) and of many royal lineages among humans.
(Wikipedia)

Cosmology
The cosmos in Norse mythology consist of Nine Worlds, in which all beings inhabit, around a cosmological tree, Yggdrasil.
Of primary importance was the threefold separation of the universe into the realms of the gods (Asgard and Vanaheim, homes of the Aesir and Vanir, respectively), the realm of mortals (Midgard) and the frigid underworld (Niflheim), which housed Hel (queen of the underworld). These three realms were supported by an enormous tree (Yggdrasil), with the realm of the gods ensconced among the upper branches, the realm of mortals approximately halfway up the tree (and surrounded by an impassable sea), and the underworld nestled among its roots. (New World Enclopedia)

Travel between the worlds is frequently recounted in the myths, where the gods and other beings may interact directly with humanity. Numerous creatures live on Yggdrasil, such as the insulting messenger squirrel Ratatoskr and the perching hawk Veðrfölnir. The tree itself has three major roots, and at the base of one of these roots live a trio of norns. Elements of the cosmos are personified, such as the Sun (Sól, a goddess), the Moon (Máni, a god), and Earth (Jörð, a goddess), as well as units of time, such as day (Dagr, a god) and night (Nótt, a jötunn).

The realm of the Norse gods, the Æsir, is called Ásgarðr or the "Court of the Ás". It contains many halls. Odin's hall, Válaskjálf, is roofed in silver. He can sit within it and view all the worlds at once. Gimli, a hall roofed in gold, to which righteous men are said to go after death, also lies somewhere in Ásgarðr. Valhalla, the hall of the slain, is the feast hall of Odin. Those who died in battle are then raised in the evening to feast in Valhalla.(Wikipedia)

Asgard could be reached by traversing Bifrost, a magical rainbow bridge guarded by Heimdall, the mute god of vigilance who could see and hear a thousand miles. Valhalla, Odin's hall (which is located within Asgard), can be seen as the Norse Heaven, as it is the final resting place for the souls of the greatest human warriors. To earn one's place among them, it was required that one's bravery be observed by the Valkyries, Odin's mounted female messengers whose sparkling armor supposedly created the famed Aurora Borealis (northern lights). (New World Enclopedia)

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.

The afterlife is a complex matter in Norse mythology. The dead may go to the murky realm of Hel—a realm ruled over by a female being of the same name, may be ferried away by valkyries to Odin's martial hall Valhalla, or may be chosen by the goddess Freyja to dwell in her field Fólkvangr. The goddess Rán may claim those that die at sea, and the goddess Gefjon is said to be attended by virgins upon their death. References to reincarnation are also made.

Time itself is presented between cyclic and linear, and some scholars have argued that cyclic time was the original format for the mythology. References to a future destruction and rebirth of the world—Ragnarok—are frequently mentioned in some texts. (Wikipedia)



Humanity
According Poetic Edda poem Völuspá and the Prose Edda, the first human couple consisted of Ask and Embla; driftwood found by a trio of gods and imbued with life in the form of three gifts. After the cataclysm of Ragnarok, this process is mirrored in the survival of two humans from a wood; Líf and Lífþrasir. From these two humankind are foretold to repopulate the new, green earth.
(Wikipedia)



The World
Cosmic tree Yggdrasil
"The Ash Yggdrasil" (1886) by Friedrich Wilhelm Heine - The world tree Yggdrasil and some of its inhabitants.
At the top of the tree is an eagle (likely Veðrfölnir), on the left branch of the tree is a squirrel (likely Ratatoskr), and at the roots of the tree gnaws what appears to be a dragon (likely Níðhöggr).
Image source: commons.wikimedia.org

din sacrifices himself to himself by hanging from the world tree Yggdrasil.Promotional image of Anthony Hopkins as Odin in the Marvel Studios film, Thor.
Left: Odin sacrificing himself upon Yggdrasil (1895) by Lorenz Frølich.
Odin sacrifices himself to himself by hanging from the world tree Yggdrasil. Image appears as an illustration for Hávamál of the Poetic Edda.
Right: In HBO TV show "Game of Thrones", the Three-Eyed Raven is a seer who appears in Bran Stark’s dreams as a raven. At the ending of season 4, the Three-Eyed Raven appears as an old man in a cave whose body is fused to the roots of the giant weirwood tree. He said that he has been many things. "I have been watching you. All of you. All of your lives, with a thousand eyes and one." There are many similarities between this old man and Odin.

Image sources: commons.wikimedia.org and from HBO TV show "Game of Thrones", season 4.



In stanza 137 of the poem Hávamál of the Poetic Edda, Odin describes how he once sacrificed himself to himself by hanging on a tree for nine days. The stanza reads:

I know that I hung on a windy tree
nine long nights,
wounded with a spear, dedicated to Odin,
myself to myself,
on that tree of which no man knows
from where its roots run.

In the stanza that follows, Odin describes how he had no food nor drink there, that he peered downward, and that "I took up the runes, screaming I took them, then I fell back from there." While Yggdrasil is not mentioned by name in the poem and other trees exist in Norse mythology, the tree is near universally accepted as Yggdrasil.

Some other important myths surrounding Odin include the sacrifice of his eye for a vision of the future.
In stanza 31 of the poem Grímnismál of the Poetic Edda,, Odin says that the ash Yggdrasil has three roots that grow in three directions. He details that beneath the first lives Hel, under the second live frost jötnar, and beneath the third lives mankind.
Stanza 32 details that a squirrel named Ratatoskr must run across Yggdrasil and bring "the eagle's word" from above to Níðhöggr below. Stanza 33 describes that four harts named Dáinn, Dvalinn, Duneyrr and Duraþrór consume "the highest boughs" of Yggdrasil.
In stanza 34, Odin says that more serpents lie beneath Yggdrasil "than any fool can imagine" and lists them as Góinn and Móinn (possibly meaning Old Norse "land animal").

In his eschatological vision (of Ragnarok), Odin sees that the Aesir will eventually be killed in their final battle with the giants (Jotun), and that he himself will die in the clutches of Fenrir—a demonic wolf spawned by Loki. Also important is the tale of his theft of the "mead of poetic inspiration" from the giants who had been guarding it - an account that revels in the god's quick-witted improvisation, shape-changing abilities and outright manipulation of the unwitting. Finally, Odin is featured in many of the heroic sagas, often granting temporary victory to the human warriors, though frequently depicted as requiring them to agree to sacrifice themselves (or their loved ones) in order to achieve their ends.
(Wikipedia)

Cosmic tree Yggdrasil

The giant weirwood tree (Cosmic tree Yggdrasil)
Close-up view of Cosmic tree Yggdrasil
The giant weirwood tree (in reference to Cosmic tree Yggdrasil) and the Close-up view.
In modern times, Yggdrasil is sometimes depicted or referenced in modern popular culture.
Image source: HBO movie "Game of Thrones", season 4.

In Norse mythology, Yggdrasil is the world tree lies at the center of the Norse cosmos, in connection to which the nine worlds exist.
Yggdrasil is attested in the Poetic Edda and the Prose Edda. In both sources, Yggdrasil is an immense ash tree that is considered very holy. The Æsir go to Yggdrasil daily to hold their courts.
The branches of Yggdrasil extend far into the heavens, and the tree is supported by three roots that extend far away into other locations; one to the well Urðarbrunnr in the heavens, one to the spring Hvergelmir, and another to the well Mímisbrunnr. (Wikipedia)

Yggdrasill, Old Norse Mimameidr, in Norse mythology, the world tree, a giant ash supporting the universe. One of its roots extended into Niflheim, the underworld; another into Jötunheim, land of the giants; and the third into Asgard, home of the gods. At its base were three wells: Urdarbrunnr (Well of Fate), from which the tree was watered by the Norns (the Fates); Hvergelmir (Roaring Kettle), in which dwelt Nidhogg, the monster that gnawed at the tree’s roots; and Mímisbrunnr (Mimir’s Well), source of wisdom, for the waters of which Odin sacrificed an eye. After Ragnarök (Doomsday), the world tree, though badly shaken, was to be the source of new life. (Encyclopedia Britannica)

The well Urðarbrunnr taps the sacred wellspring of fate. The tree is tended by the Norns, who live near it. Each day, they water it with pure water and whiten it with clay from the spring to preserve it. The water falls down to the earth as dew. The well Urðarbrunnr taps the spring of Mimir, whose waters contain wisdom and understanding. In the Grímnismál of the Prose Edda, as part of the events of Ragnarök, High describes that Odin will ride to the well Mímisbrunnr and consult Mímir on behalf of himself and his people. After this, "the ash Yggdrasil will shake and nothing will be unafraid in heaven or on earth", and then the Æsir and Einherjar will don their war gear and advance to the field of Vígríðr. (Wikipedia)

Creatures live within Yggdrasil, including the squirrel Ratatoskr, the wyrm (dragon) Níðhöggr, the giant in eagle-shape Hraesvelgr, and the stags( harts) Dáinn, Dvalinn, Duneyrr and Duraþrór, .
Animals continually feed on the tree, threatening it, but its vitality persists evergreen as it heals and nourishes the vibrant aggression of life. On the topmost branch of the tree sits an eagle. The beating of its wings cause the winds in the world of men. At the root of the tree lies a great dragon, Niðhǫggr, gnawing at it continuously, together with other unnamed serpents. The squirrel Ratatoskr carries insults from one to the other. Harts and goats devour the branches and tender shoots. (Wikipedia)

The generally accepted meaning of Old Norse Yggdrasil is "Odin's horse", meaning "gallows". This interpretation comes about because drasill means "horse" and Ygg(r) is one of Odin's many names. The Poetic Edda poem Hávamál describes how Odin sacrificed himself by hanging from a tree, making this tree Odin's gallows. This tree may have been Yggdrasil. Gallows can be called "the horse of the hanged" and therefore Odin's gallows may have developed into the expression "Odin's horse", which then became the name of the tree.
Nevertheless, scholarly opinions regarding the precise meaning of the name Yggdrasill vary, particularly on the issue of whether Yggdrasill is the name of the tree itself or if only the full term askr Yggdrasil (where Old Norse askr means "ash tree") refers specifically to the tree. According to this interpretation, askr Yggdrasils would mean the world tree upon which "the horse [Odin's horse] of the highest god [Odin] is bound". Both of these etymologies rely on a presumed but unattested *Yggsdrasill.
A third interpretation, presented by F. Detter, is that the name Yggdrasill refers to the word yggr ("terror"), yet not in reference to the Odinic name, and so Yggdrasill would then mean "tree of terror, gallows". F. R. Schröder has proposed a fourth etymology according to which yggdrasill means "yew pillar", deriving yggia from *igwja (meaning "yew-tree"), and drasill from *dher- (meaning "support").
Theories have also been proposed about the possibility that the tree is of another species than ash, the relation to tree lore and to Eurasian shamanic lore, the possible relation to the trees Mímameiðr and Læraðr, Hoddmímis holt, the sacred tree at Uppsala, and the fate of Yggdrasil during the events of Ragnarök.(Wikipedia)

In Norse mythology, a mighty axis, or pole, ran through the universe in which the gods, giants, and heroes enacted their stormy dramas. That axis, around which all life revolved, was the World Tree, a giant ash tree called Yggdrasill.
The myths paint a complex picture of how the universe was structured around Yggdrasill. Sometimes the World Tree is described as running through nine realms, from the shadowy depths of the underworld up to the heavenly abode of the gods. At other times, the trunk of Yggdrasill is said to anchor Midgard, the world of humans, while the tree's three great roots reach down into Jotunheim, the land of the frost giants; Niflheim, the land of mist; and Asgard, the home of the gods.
Although the World Tree offered an avenue of passage from one realm to the next, the distances and dangers involved in such travel were great. The only creature that could run up and down Yggdrasill easily was a squirrel, which carried insulting messages between a fierce eagle perched in the tree's topmost branch and a dragon that gnawed at its root. Yggdrasill existed in a state of delicate balance, being endlessly destroyed and renewed.
The World Tree was closely linked to sources of hidden or magical knowledge. Its name, which means "Odin's horse," refers to Odin hanging himself from the tree for nine days and nights to learn secret mysteries. Near one root rose a spring whose waters provided wisdom. Odin was said to have traded an eye to drink this water. Another root sheltered a spring tended by the Norns, three women who determined the fate of all humans. (Myths Encyclopedia)

The norns Urðr, Verðandi, and Skuld beneath the world tree Yggdrasil (1882) by Ludwig Burger.
The norns Urðr, Verðandi, and Skuld beneath the world tree Yggdrasil (1882) by Ludwig Burger, Captioned as "Die Nornen Urd, Werdanda, Skuld, unter der Welteiche Yggdrasil".
At the bottom left of the image is the well Urðarbrunnr.
Image source: commons.wikimedia.org

Norns
"Norns" (1832) from Die Helden und Götter des Nordens, oder das Buch der Sagen.
The norns that live by the holy well Urðarbrunnr each day take water from the well and mud from around it and pour it over Yggdrasil so that the branches of the ash do not rot away or decay.
Image source: commons.wikimedia.org

In the poem Grímnismál, Odin (disguised as Grímnir) provides the young Agnar with cosmological lore. Yggdrasil is first mentioned in the poem in stanza 29, where Odin says that, because the "bridge of the Æsir burns" and the "sacred waters boil," Thor must wade through the rivers Körmt and Örmt and two rivers named Kerlaugar to go "sit as judge at the ash of Yggdrasill." In the stanza that follows, a list of names of horses are given that the Æsir ride to "sit as judges" at Yggdrasil.
In stanza 31, Odin says that the ash Yggdrasil has three roots that grow in three directions. He details that beneath the first lives Hel, under the second live frost jötnar, and beneath the third lives mankind. Stanza 32 details that a squirrel named Ratatoskr must run across Yggdrasil and bring "the eagle's word" from above to Níðhöggr below. Stanza 33 describes that four harts named Dáinn, Dvalinn, Duneyrr and Duraþrór consume "the highest boughs" of Yggdrasil.
In stanza 34, Odin says that more serpents lie beneath Yggdrasil "than any fool can imagine" and lists them as Góinn and Móinn (possibly meaning Old Norse "land animal"), which he describes as sons of Grafvitnir (Old Norse, possibly "ditch wolf"), Grábakr (Old Norse "Greyback"), Grafvölluðr (Old Norse, possibly "the one digging under the plain" or possibly amended as "the one ruling in the ditch"), Ófnir (Old Norse "the winding one, the twisting one"), and Sváfnir (Old Norse, possibly "the one who puts to sleep = death"), who Odin adds that he thinks will forever gnaw on the tree's branches.
In stanza 35, Odin says that Yggdrasil "suffers agony more than men know", as a hart bites it from above, it decays on its sides, and Níðhöggr bites it from beneath. In stanza 44, Odin provides a list of things that are what he refers to as the "noblest" of their kind. Within the list, Odin mentions Yggdrasil first, and states that it is the "noblest of trees". (Wikipedia)

Yggdrasil is mentioned in two books in the Prose Edda; Gylfaginning and Skáldskaparmál. In Gylfaginning, Yggdrasil is introduced in chapter 15. In chapter 15, Gangleri (described as king Gylfi in disguise) asks where is the chief or holiest place of the gods. High replies "It is the ash Yggdrasil. There the gods must hold their courts each day". Gangleri asks what there is to tell about Yggdrasil. Just-As-High says that Yggdrasil is the biggest and best of all trees, that its branches extend out over all of the world and reach out over the sky. Three of the roots of the tree support it, and these three roots also extend extremely far: one "is among the Æsir, the second among the frost jötnar, and the third over Niflheim. The root over Niflheim is gnawed at by the wyrm Níðhöggr, and beneath this root is the spring Hvergelmir. Beneath the root that reaches the frost jötnar is the well Mímisbrunnr, "which has wisdom and intelligence contained in it, and the master of the well is called Mimir". Just-As-High provides details regarding Mímisbrunnr and then describes that the third root of the well "extends to heaven" and that beneath the root is the "very holy" well Urðarbrunnr. At Urðarbrunnr the gods hold their court, and every day the Æsir ride to Urðarbrunnr up over the bridge Bifröst. Later in the chapter, a stanza from Grímnismál mentioning Yggdrasil is quoted in support.
In chapter 16, Gangleri asks "what other particularly notable things are there to tell about the ash?" High says there is quite a lot to tell about. High continues that an eagle sits on the branches of Yggdrasil and that it has much knowledge. Between the eyes of the eagle sits a hawk called Veðrfölnir. A squirrel called Ratatoskr scurries up and down the ash Yggdrasil carrying "malicious messages" between the eagle and Níðhöggr. Four stags named Dáinn, Dvalinn, Duneyrr, and Duraþrór run between the branches of Yggdrasil and consume its foliage. In the spring Hvergelmir are so many snakes along with Níðhöggr "that no tongue can enumerate them". Two stanzas from Grímnismál are then cited in support. High continues that the norns that live by the holy well Urðarbrunnr each day take water from the well and mud from around it and pour it over Yggdrasil so that the branches of the ash do not rot away or decay. High provides more information about Urðarbrunnr, cites a stanza from Völuspá in support, and adds that dew falls from Yggdrasil to the earth, explaining that "this is what people call honeydew, and from it bees feed".
In chapter 41, the stanza from Grímnismál is quoted that mentions that Yggdrasil is the foremost of trees. In chapter 54, as part of the events of Ragnarök, High describes that Odin will ride to the well Mímisbrunnr and consult Mímir on behalf of himself and his people. After this, "the ash Yggdrasil will shake and nothing will be unafraid in heaven or on earth", and then the Æsir and Einherjar will don their war gear and advance to the field of Vígríðr. Further into the chapter, the stanza in Völuspá that details this sequence is cited. (Wikipedia)

 

Ques. Who are the Valkyrior? Ans. According to the Scandinavian tradition, they are warlike virgins, the messengers of Odin, and their name signifies “Choosers of the slain.” Odin is desirous of collecting a great many heroes in Valhalla, that he may be able to meet the giants in the final contest at the end of the world. He sends the Valkyrior, therefore, to every battle field to make choice of those who shall be slain. When they ride forth on their errand, mounted upon war steeds and in full armor, their shields and helmets shed a strange flickering light, which flashes up over the northern skies, and is called by men, “Aurora Borealis,” or “Northern Lights.”

Valkyries

Valkyrie
Three valkyries bring the body of a slain warrior to Valhalla, they are met by Heimdallr (1906) by Lorenz Frølich.
the Image source: commons.wikimedia.org

In Norse mythology, a valkyrie (from Old Norse valkyrja "chooser of the slain") is one of a host of female figures who choose those who may die in battle and those who may live. Selecting among half of those who die in battle, the valkyries bring their chosen to the afterlife hall of the slain, Valhalla, ruled over by the god Odin. There, the deceased warriors become einherjar (Old Norse "single (or once) fighters"). When the einherjar are not preparing for the events of Ragnarök, the valkyries bear them mead. Valkyries also appear as lovers of heroes and other mortals, where they are sometimes described as the daughters of royalty, sometimes accompanied by ravens, and sometimes connected to swans or horses. (Wikipedia)

In the Prose Edda, valkyries are first mentioned in chapter 36 of the book Gylfaginning, where the enthroned figure of High informs Gangleri (King Gylfi in disguise) of the activities of the valkyries and mentions a few goddesses. High says "there are still others whose duty it is to serve in Valhalla. They bring drink and see to the table and the ale cups." Following this, High gives a stanza from the poem Grímnismál that contains a list of valkyries. High says "these women are called valkyries, and they are sent by Odin to every battle, where they choose which men are to die and they determine who has victory". High adds that Gunnr ("war"), Róta, and Skuld—the latter of the three he refers to as "the youngest norn"—"always ride to choose the slain and decide the outcome of battle". In chapter 49, High describes that when Odin and his wife Frigg arrived at the funeral of their slain son Baldr, with them came the valkyries and also Odin's ravens.(Wikipedia)

In Norse mythology, the Valkyries are female warrior deities who serve Odin (the chief god in Norse pantheon). According to the Prose Edda, “Odin sends [the Valkyries] to every battle. They allot death to men and govern victory.” The primary purpose of the Valkyrie was to select the most heroic of the warriors who had died in battle and to carry them off to Valhalla (Odin's "Hall of the slain"), where they became the deathless einherjar ("lone fighters") who were to fight at Odin's side during the eschaton (Ragnarök).(New World Encyclopedia)


Valkyrie
The valkyrie Sigrdrífa says a pagan Norse prayer in poem Sigrdrífumál. Illustration (1911) by Arthur Rackham.
the Image source: commons.wikimedia.org

In the prose introduction to the poem Sigrdrífumál, the hero Sigurd rides up to Hindarfell and heads south towards "the land of the Franks". On the mountain Sigurd sees a great light, "as if fire were burning, which blazed up to the sky". Sigurd approaches it, and there he sees a skjaldborg with a banner flying overhead. Sigurd enters the skjaldborg, and sees a warrior lying there—asleep and fully armed. Sigurd removes the helmet of the warrior, and sees the face of a woman. The woman's corslet is so tight that it seems to have grown into the woman's body. Sigurd uses his sword Gram to cut the corslet, starting from the neck of the corslet downwards, he continues cutting down her sleeves, and takes the corslet off of her.

The woman wakes, sits up, looks at Sigurd, and the two converse in two stanzas of verse. In the second stanza, the woman explains that Odin placed a sleeping spell on her she could not break, and due to that spell she has been asleep a long time. Sigurd asks for her name, and the woman gives Sigurd a horn of mead to help him retain her words in his memory. The woman recites a heathen prayer in two stanzas. A prose narrative explains that the woman is named Sigrdrífa and that she is a valkyrie.

A narrative relates that Sigrdrífa explains to Sigurd that there were two kings fighting one another. Odin had promised one of these—Hjalmgunnar—victory in battle, yet she had "brought down" Hjalmgunnar in battle. Odin pricked her with a sleeping-thorn in consequence, told her she would never again "fight victoriously in battle", and condemned her to marriage. In response, Sigrdrífa told Odin she had sworn a great oath that she would never wed a man who knew fear. Sigurd asks Sigrdrífa to share with him her wisdom of all worlds. The poem continues in verse, where Sigrdrífa provides Sigurd with knowledge in inscribing runes, mystic wisdom, and prophecy. (Wikipedia)

Völva

The Völva speaks her prophecy
The seeress speaks her prophecy in this illustration to a 19th-century Swedish translation of the Poetic Edda.
Image source: commons.wikimedia.org

A vǫlva or völva (Old Norse and Icelandic respectively) is a shamanic seeress in Norse paganism, and a recurring motif in Norse mythology.

Historical and mythological depictions of völur show that they were held in high esteem and believed to possess such powers that even the father of the gods, Odin himself, consulted a völva to learn what the future had in store for the gods. Such an account is preserved in the Völuspá which roughly translates to "Prophecy of the Völva".

The völur were not considered to be harmless. The goddess who was most skilled in magic was Freyja, and what Freyja performed in Asgard, the world of the gods, the völur tried to perform in Midgard, the world of men. The weapon of the völva was not the spear, the axe or the sword but instead they were held to influence battles with different means, and one of them was the wand, (Wikipedia: Völva)

Völuspá
Völuspá (Old Norse Vǫluspá, Prophecy of the Völva (Seeress)) is the first and best known poem of the Poetic Edda. It tells the story of the creation of the world and its coming end, related to the audience by a völva addressing Odin. It is one of the most important primary sources for the study of Norse mythology.

Odin and the Völva (1895) by Lorenz Frølich.
"Odin and the Völva" (1895) by Lorenz Frølich.
Image source: commons.wikimedia.org
The poem starts with the völva requesting silence from "the sons of Heimdallr" (human beings) and asking Odin whether he wants her to recite ancient lore. She says she remembers giants born in antiquity who reared her.
She then goes on to relate a creation myth and mentions Ymir; the world was empty until the sons of Burr lifted the earth out of the sea. The Æsir then established order in the cosmos by finding places for the sun, the moon and the stars, thereby starting the cycle of day and night. A golden age ensued where the Æsir had plenty of gold and happily constructed temples and made tools. But then three mighty giant maidens came from Jötunheimr and the golden age came to an end. The Æsir then created the dwarves, of whom Mótsognir and Durinn are the mightiest.
At this point ten of the poem's stanzas are over and six stanzas ensue which contain names of dwarves. This section, sometimes called "Dvergatal" ("Catalogue of Dwarves"), is usually considered an interpolation and sometimes omitted by editors and translators.
After the "Dvergatal", the creation of the first man and woman are recounted and Yggdrasill, the world-tree, is described. The seer recalls the burning of Gullveig that led to the first "folk" war, and what occurred in the struggle between the Æsir and Vanir. She then recalls the time Freyja was given to the giants, which is commonly interpreted as a reference to the myth of the giant builder, as told in Gylfaginning 42.
The seeress then reveals to Odin that she knows some of his own secrets, and that he sacrificed an eye in pursuit of knowledge. She tells him she knows where his eye is hidden and how he gave it up in exchange for knowledge. She asks him in several refrains if he understands, or if he would like to hear more.
In the Codex Regius version, the seeress goes on to describe the slaying of Baldr, best and fairest of the gods and the enmity of Loki, and of others. Then she prophesies the destruction of the gods where fire and flood overwhelm heaven and earth as the gods fight their final battles with their enemies. This is the "fate of the gods" - Ragnarök. She describes the summons to battle, the deaths of many of the gods and how Odin, himself, is slain by Fenrir, the great wolf. Thor, the god of thunder and sworn protector of the earth, faces Jörmungandr, the world serpent, and wins but Thor is only able to take nine steps afterward before collapsing. Víðarr faces Fenrir and kicks his jaw open before stabbing the wolf in the heart with his spear. The god Freyr fights the giant Surtr, who wields a fiery sword that shines brighter than the sun, and Freyr falls.
Finally a beautiful reborn world will rise from the ashes of death and destruction where Baldr and Höðr will live again in a new world where the earth sprouts abundance without sowing seed. The surviving Æsir reunite with Hœnir and meet together at the field of Iðavöllr, discussing Jörmungandr, great events of the past, and the runic alphabet. A final stanza describes the sudden appearance of Nidhogg the dragon, bearing corpses in his wings, before the seeress emerges from her trance. (Wikipedia: Völuspá)

 

 

Freyja

In Norse mythology, Freyja (Old Norse for "(the) Lady") is a goddess associated with love, sexuality, beauty, fertility, war, and death.
Among the gods, Freyja and Odin's wife, Frigg, are the most popular.The were called on to assist in childbirth and healing of equine ailments.
Freyja rules over her Fólkvangr. Within Fólkvangr is her hall, Sessrúmnir, where she receives half of those that die in battle, whereas the other half go to the god Odin's hall, Valhalla. Thus, Freyja is also associated with death and the afterlife.
Freyja is the owner of the necklace Brísingamen, rides a chariot pulled by two cats, keeps the boar Hildisvíni by her side and possesses a cloak of falcon feathers. Freyja, her brother Freyr (Old Norse the "Lord"), her father Njörðr (God of the sea), and her mother (Njörðr's sister) are originally members of the Vanir, a tribe of gods of wealth and fertility. They live with the Aesir, the war deities, when the war ended between the Vanir and the Aesir.
seiðr, Freyja assists other deities by allowing them to use her feathered cloak. She is frequently sought after by powerful jötnar who wish to make her their wife.
Freyja's husband, the god Óðr, is frequently absent. She cries tears of red gold for him, and searches for him under assumed names. Freyja has numerous names, including Gefn, Hörn, Mardöll, Sýr, Valfreyja, and Vanadís. (Wikipedia)

Freja by John Bauer
Freja by John Bauer (1882–1918).
Image source: commons.wikimedia.org

Frejais frequently sought after by powerful jötnar who wish to make her their wife.
"Once on a time, when the gods were contructing their abodes and had already finished Midgard and Valhalla, a certain artificer came and offered to build them a residence so fortified that they should be perfectly safe from the incursions of the Frost giants and the giants of the mountains. But he demanded for his reward the goddess Freya, together with the sun and the moon." —Bulfinch, 1897
Soon after the gods built the hall Valhalla, a builder came to them and offered to build for them in three seasons a fortification so solid that no jötunn would be able to come in over from Midgard. In exchange, the builder wants Freyja for his bride, and the sun and the moon. After some debate the gods agree, but with added conditions. In time, just as he is about to complete his work, it is revealed that the builder is, in fact, himself a jötunn, and he is killed by Thor. (Wikipedia)


Freyja rides a chariot pulled by two cats

Freyja
Freyja rides a chariot pulled by two cats
Image source: etc.usf.edu -->Freya clip-art

Freyja is beautiful, sensual, wears a feathered cloak, and practices seiðr. She rides a chariot pulled by two cats

Freyja and Óttar

The goddess Freyja with her boar Hildisvíni go to see Hyndla
The goddess Freyja with her boar Hildisvíni go to see Hyndla, as attested in Hyndluljóð.
Image source: commons.wikimedia.org

Freyja is a main character in the poem Hyndluljóð, where she assists her faithful servant Óttar in finding information about his ancestry so that he may claim his inheritance. In doing so, Freyja turns Óttar into her boar, Hildisvíni, and, by means of flattery and threats of death by fire, Freyja successfully pries the information that Óttar needs from the jötunn Hyndla.

Freyja speaks throughout the poem, and at one point praises Óttar for constructing a hörgr (an altar of stones) and frequently making blót (sacrifices) to her:
Benjamin Thorpe translation: An offer-stead to me he raised, | with stones constructed; | now is the stone | as glass become. | With the blood of oxen | he newly sprinkled it. | Ottar ever trusted the Asyniur.
Henry Adams Bellows translation: For me a shrine of stones he made, | And now to glass the rock has grown; | Oft with the blood of beasts was it red; | In the goddesses ever did Ottar trust.

 

Freyja, a member of the Vanir

The Heimskringla book Ynglinga saga provides an euhemerized account of the origin of the gods, including Freyja. In chapter 4, Freyja is introduced as a member of the Vanir, the sister of Freyr, and the daughter of Njörðr and his sister (whose name is not provided). After the Æsir–Vanir War ends in a stalemate, Odin appoints Freyr and Njörðr as priests over sacrifices. Freyja becomes the priestess of sacrificial offerings and it was she who introduced the practice of seiðr to the Æsir, previously only practiced by the Vanir.
In chapter 10, Freyja's brother Freyr dies, and Freyja is the last survivor among the Æsir and Vanir. Freyja keeps up the sacrifices and becomes famous. The saga explains that, due to Freyja's fame, all women of rank become known by her name—frúvor ("ladies"), a woman who is the mistress of her property is referred to as freyja, and húsfreyja ("lady of the house") for a woman who owns an estate.
The chapter adds that not only was Freyja very clever, but that she and her husband Óðr had two immensely beautiful daughters, Gersemi and Hnoss, "who gave their names to our most precious possessions." (Wikipedia)

Freyja, the goddess

In the first chapter of the 14th century legendary saga Hálfs saga ok Hálfsrekka, King Alrek has two wives, Geirhild and Signy, and cannot keep them both. He tells the two women that he would keep whichever of them that brews the better ale for him by the time he has returned home in the summer. The two compete and during the brewing process Signy prays to Freyja and Geirhild to Hött ("hood"), a man she had met earlier (earlier in the saga revealed to be Odin in disguise). Hött answers her prayer and spits on her yeast. Signy's brew wins the contest. (Wikipedia)

 

Freyja's family

Freyja appears in the Prose Edda books Gylfaginning and Skáldskaparmál. In chapter 24 of Gylfaginning, the enthroned figure of High says that after the god Njörðr split with the goddess Skaði, he had two beautiful and mighty children (no partner is mentioned); a son, Freyr, and a daughter, Freyja. Freyr is "the most glorious" of the gods, and Freyja "the most glorious" of the goddesses. Freyja has a dwelling in the heavens, Fólkvangr, and that whenever Freyja "rides into battle she gets half the slain, and the other half to Odin." In support, High quotes the Grímnismál stanza mentioned in the Poetic Edda section above.
High adds that Freyja has a large, beautiful hall called Sessrúmnir, and that when Freyja travels she sits in a chariot and drives two cats, and that Freyja is "the most approachable one for people to pray to, and from her name is derived the honorific title whereby noble ladies are called fruvor [noble ladies]." High adds that Freyja has a particular fondness for love songs, and that "it is good to pray to her concerning love affairs."
In chapter 29, High recounts the names and features of various goddesses, including Freyja. Regarding Freyja, High says that, next to Frigg, Freyja is highest in rank among them and that she owns the necklace Brísingamen. Freyja is married to Óðr, who goes on long travels, and the two have a very fair daughter by the name of Hnoss. While Óðr is absent, Freyja stays behind and in her sorrow she weeps tears of red gold. High notes that Freyja has many names, and explains that this is because Freyja adopted them when looking for Óðr and traveling "among strange peoples." These names include Gefn, Hörn, Mardöll, Sýr, and Vanadís. (Wikipedia)

 

Freyja and her golden necklace Brísingamen

Freyja in the dwarfs' cave
Freyja in the dwarfs' cave.
Image source: commons.wikimedia.org>

In Sörla þáttr, a short, late 14th century narrative from a later and extended version of the Óláfs saga Tryggvasonar found in the Flateyjarbók manuscript, an euhmerized account of the gods is provided. In the account, Freyja is described as having been a concubine of Odin, who bartered sex to four dwarfs for a golden necklace. In the work, the Æsir once lived in a city called Asgard, located in a region called "Asialand or Asiahome". Odin was the king of the realm, and made Njörðr and Freyr temple priests. Freyja was the daughter of Njörðr, and was Odin's concubine. Odin deeply loved Freyja, and she was "the fairest of woman of that day." Freyja had a beautiful bower, and when the door was shut no one could enter without Freyja's permission.
Chapter 1 records that one day Freyja passed by an open stone where dwarfs lived. Four dwarfs were smithying a golden necklace, and it was nearly done. Looking at the necklace, the dwarfs thought Freyja to be most fair, and she the necklace. Freyja offered to buy the collar from them with silver and gold and other items of value. The dwarfs said that they had no lack of money, and that for the necklace the only thing she could offer them would be a night with each of them. "Whether she liked it better or worse", Freyja agreed to the conditions, and so spent a night with each of the four dwarfs. The conditions were fulfilled and the necklace was hers. Freyja went home to her bower as if nothing happened.
As related in chapter 2, Loki, under the service of Odin, found out about Freyja's actions and told Odin. Odin told Loki to get the necklace and bring it to him. Loki said that since no one could enter Freyja's bower against her will, this wouldn't be an easy task, yet Odin told him not to come back until he had found a way to get the necklace. Howling, Loki turned away and went to Freyja's bower but found it locked, and that he couldn't enter. So Loki transformed himself into a fly, and after having trouble finding even the tiniest of entrances, he managed to find a tiny hole at the gable-top, yet even here he had to squeeze through to enter.
Having made his way into Freyja's chambers, Loki looked around to be sure that no one was awake, and found that Freyja was asleep. He landed on her bed and noticed that she was wearing the necklace, the clasp turned downward. Loki turned into a flea and jumped onto Freyja's cheek and there bit her. Freyja stirred, turning about, and then fell asleep again. Loki removed his flea's shape and undid her collar, opened the bower, and returned to Odin.
The next morning Freyja woke and saw that the doors to her bower were open, yet unbroken, and that her precious necklace was gone. Freyja had an idea of who was responsible. She got dressed and went to Odin. She told Odin of the malice he had allowed against her and of the theft of her necklace, and that he should give her back her jewelry.
Odin said that, given how she obtained it, she would never get it back. That is, with one exception: she could have it back if she could make two kings, themselves ruling twenty kings each, battle one another, and cast a spell so that each time one of their numbers falls in battle, they will again spring up and fight again. And that this must go on eternally, unless a Christian man of a particular stature goes into the battle and smites them, only then will they stay dead. Freyja agreed. (Wikipedia: Freyja)

When Freyja found her necklace missing, she came to ask king Odin. In exchange for it, Odin ordered her to make two kings, each served by twenty kings, fight forever unless some christened men so brave would dare to enter the battle and slay them. She said yes, and got that necklace back. Under the spell, king Högni and king Heðinn battled for one hundred and forty-three years, as soon as they fell down they had to stand up again and fight on. But in the end, the Christian lord Olaf Tryggvason, who has a great fate and luck, arrived with his christened men, and whoever slain by a Christian would stay dead. Thus the pagan curse was finally dissolved by the arrival of Christianity. After that, the noble man, king Olaf, went back to his realm. (Wikipedia: Brísingamen)

Húsdrápa, a skaldic poem partially preserved in the Prose Edda, relates the story of the theft of Brísingamen by Loki. One day when Freyja wakes up and finds Brísingamen missing, she enlists the help of Heimdall to help her search for it. Eventually they find the thief, who turns out to be Loki who has transformed himself into a seal. Heimdall turns into a seal as well and fights Loki. After a lengthy battle at Singasteinn, Heimdall wins and returns Brísingamen to Freyja.
Snorri Sturluson quoted this old poem in Skáldskaparmál, saying that because of this legend Heimdall is called "Seeker of Freyja's Necklace" and Loki is called "Thief of Brísingamen". (Wikipedia: Brísingamen)

Heimdall returns the necklace Bryfing to Freya>
Heimdall returns the necklace Bryfing to Freya by Nils Blommér 1846.
Image source: commons.wikimedia.org>

Freyja and Thor

The god Thor is dressed to appear as the goddess Freyja
"Ah, what a ugly maid it is!" by Elmer Boyd Smith (1902). While Freyja's cats look on, the god Thor is unhappily dressed as Freyja by two maidens, while the god Loki laughs.
Image source: commons.wikimedia.org
in Ah, what a lovely maid it is! (1902) by Elmer Boyd Smith

The poem Þrymskviða features Loki borrowing Freyja's cloak of feathers and Thor dressing up as Freyja to fool the lusty jötunn Þrymr. In the poem, Thor wakes up to find that his powerful hammer, Mjöllnir, is missing. Thor tells Loki of his missing hammer, and the two go to the beautiful court of Freyja. Thor asks Freyja if she will lend him her cloak of feathers, so that he may try to find his hammer. Freyja agrees :

Benjamin Thorpe translation: "That I would give thee, although of gold it were, and trust it to thee, though it were of silver."

Henry Adams Bellows translation: "Thine should it be though it of silver bright, And I would give it though 'twere of gold."

Loki flies away in the whirring feather cloak, arriving in the land of Jötunheimr. He spies Þrymr sitting on top of a mound. Þrymr reveals that he has hidden Thor's hammer deep within the earth and that no one will ever know where the hammer is unless Freyja is brought to him as his wife. Loki flies back, the cloak whistling, and returns to the courts of the gods. Loki tells Thor of Þrymr's conditions.
The two go to see the beautiful Freyja. The first thing that Thor says to Freyja is that she should dress herself and put on a bride's head-dress, for they shall drive to Jötunheimr. At that, Freyja is furious—the halls of the gods shake, she snorts in anger, and from the goddess the necklace Brísingamen falls. Indignant, Freyja responds:

Benjamin Thorpe translation: "Know of me to be of women the lewdest, if we thee I drive to Jötunheim."

Henry Adams Bellows translation: "Most lustful indeed should I look to all If I journeyed with thee to the giants' home."

The gods and goddesses assemble at a thing and debate how to solve the problem. The god Heimdallr proposes to dress Thor up as a bride, complete with bridal dress, head-dress, jingling keys, jewelry, and the famous Brísingamen. Thor objects but is hushed by Loki, reminding him that the new owners of the hammer will soon be settling in the land of the gods if the hammer isn't returned. Thor is dressed as planned and Loki is dressed as his maid. Thor and Loki go to Jötunheimr.
In the meantime, Thrym tells his servants to prepare for the arrival of the daughter of Njörðr. When "Freyja" arrives in the morning, Thrym is taken aback by her behavior; her immense appetite for food and mead is far more than what he expected, and when Thrym goes in for a kiss beneath "Freyja's" veil, he finds "her" eyes to be terrifying, and he jumps down the hall. The disguised Loki makes excuses for the bride's odd behavior, claiming that she simply has not eaten or slept for eight days. In the end, the disguises successfully fool the jötnar and, upon sight of it, Thor regains his hammer by force. (Wikipedia)

Loki's flight to Jötunheim (1908) by W. G. Collingwood
Loki's flight to Jötunheim (1908) by W. G. Collingwood.
Image source: commons.wikimedia.org
In the poem Þrymskviða, Thor wakes and finds that his powerful hammer, Mjöllnir, is missing. Thor turns to Loki first, and tells him that nobody knows that the hammer has been stolen. The two then go to the court of the goddess Freyja, and Thor asks her if he may borrow her feather cloak so that he may attempt to find Mjöllnir. Freyja agrees, saying she'd lend it even if it were made of silver and gold, and Loki flies off, the feather cloak whistling.
In Jötunheimr, the jötunn Þrymr sits on a burial mound, plaiting golden collars for his female dogs, and trimming the manes of his horses. Þrymr sees Loki, and asks what could be amiss among the Æsir and the Elves; why is Loki alone in the Jötunheimr? Loki responds that he has bad news for both the elves and the Æsir - that Thor's hammer, Mjöllnir, is gone. Þrymr says that he has hidden Mjöllnir eight leagues beneath the earth, from which it will be retrieved, if Freyja is brought to him as his wife. Loki flies off, the feather cloak whistling, away from Jötunheimr and back to the court of the gods.
Thor asks Loki if his efforts were successful, and that Loki should tell him while he's still in the air as "tales often escape a sitting man, and the man lying down often barks out lies." Loki states that it was indeed an effort, and also a success, for he has discovered that Þrymr has the hammer, but that it cannot be retrieved unless Freyja is brought to Þrymr as his wife. The two return to Freyja, and tell her to dress herself in a bridal head dress, as they will drive her to Jötunheimr. Freyja, indignant and angry, goes into a rage, causing all of the halls of the Æsir to tremble in her anger, and her necklace, the famed Brísingamen, falls from her. Freyja pointedly refuses.
As a result, the gods and goddesses meet and hold a thing to discuss and debate the matter. At the thing, the god Heimdallr puts forth the suggestion that, in place of Freyja, Thor should be dressed as the bride, complete with jewels, women's clothing down to his knees, a bridal head-dress, and the necklace Brísingamen. Thor rejects the idea, and Loki (here described as "son of Laufey") interjects that this will be the only way to get back Mjöllnir, and points out that without Mjöllnir, the jötnar will be able to invade and settle in Asgard. The gods dress Thor as a bride, and Loki states that he will go with Thor as his maid, and that the two shall drive to Jötunheimr together.
After riding together in Thor's goat-driven chariot, the two, disguised, arrive in Jötunheimr. Þrymr commands the jötnar in his hall to spread straw on the benches, for Freyja has arrived to be his wife. Þrymr recounts his treasured animals and objects, stating that Freyja was all that he was missing in his wealth.
Early in the evening, the disguised Loki and Thor meet with Þrymr and the assembled jötnar. Thor eats and drinks ferociously, consuming entire animals and three casks of mead. Þrymr finds the behaviour at odds with his impression of Freyja, and Loki, sitting before Þrymr and appearing as a "very shrewd maid", makes the excuse that "Freyja's" behaviour is due to her having not consumed anything for eight entire days before arriving due to her eagerness to arrive. Þrymr then lifts "Freyja's" veil and wants to kiss "her" until catching the terrifying eyes staring back at him, seemingly burning with fire. Loki states that this is because "Freyja" had not slept for eight nights in her eagerness.
The "wretched sister" of the jötnar appears, asks for a bridal gift from "Freyja", and the jötnar bring out Mjöllnir to "sanctify the bride", to lay it on her lap, and marry the two by "the hand" of the goddess Vár. Thor laughs internally when he sees the hammer, takes hold of it, strikes Þrymr, beats all of the jötnar, and kills the "older sister" of the jötnar. (Wikipedia)

 

 

Loki

Loki (sometimes referred to by his full name, Loki Laufeyjarson) is the god of mischief, lies, and trickery in Norse mythology. He is the son of Fárbauti and Laufey (two giants), and is a blood-brother of Odin. He is described as the "contriver of all fraud" and bears many names that reflect his character as a deceiver: "Lie-Smith," "Sly-God," "Shape-Changer," "Sly-One," and "Wizard of Lies" (among others).
Loki's role as a deceiver made him the prototypical "con man" in Norse mythology. In many Eddic accounts, he is depicted helping the gods resolve issues that he was often the cause of in the first place. Some illustrations of this include the myth in which Loki shears Sif's hair and then replaces it, or the kidnapping and then rescue of Idunn, which he orchestrated and accomplished. In carrying out his assorted schemes, Loki is aided by his ability to change his sex and form at will. For example, he was able to become a salmon, a mare (which eventually gave birth to a monstrous colt), a bird, and a flea, just to name a few.[6] His generally coarse disposition, as well as his hostility toward the other Norse Gods, is well attested in Lokasenna ("The Flyting of Loki"), an intriguing skaldic poem that describes one of Loki's fateful visits to the hall of the Aesir, where he proceeds to insult, mock, and defame all of the deities in attendance with unrestrained bile.
Despite the relatively close ties between Loki and the gods of Asgard, he was still destined to play the "evil" role in the apocalypse (Ragnarök), where he would lead the giants in their final conflict with the Aesir and would be killed in a duel with Heimdall.(New World Enclopedia)

In Norse mythology, Loki is a god or jötunn (or both). Loki's relation with the gods varies by source. Loki sometimes assists the gods and sometimes causes problems for them. Loki is a shape shifter and in separate incidents he appears in the form of a salmon, mare, seal, a fly, and possibly an elderly woman. Loki's positive relations with the gods end with his role in engineering the death of the god Baldr. (Wikipedia)

Loki has been depicted in or is referenced in a variety of media in modern popular culture. He is frequently featured in comic books, novels, video games and movies. In these sources, the characterizations vary wildly, from villainous and malicious trickster to benevolent yet mischievous hero.

Loki as a trickster god

Loki
Loki's origins and role in Norse mythology, which some scholars have described as that of a trickster god, have been much debated by scholars.
Image source: commons.wikimedia.org

Describing the Sly God, the Icelandic writer Snorri Sturluson (1178-1241 C.E.) states:

Call him Son of Fárbauti and Laufey…Father of the Monster of Ván (that is, Fenris-Wolf), and of the Vast Monster (that is, the Midgard Serpent [Jormungandr]), and of Hel…Kinsman and Uncle, Evil Companion and Benchmate of Odin and the Aesir…Thief of the Giants, of the Goat, of Brisinga-men, and of Idunn's apples, Kinsman of Sleipnir (Odin's eight-legged horse which Loki was the mother of), Husband of Sigyn, Foe of the Gods, Harmer of Sif's Hair, Forger of Evil, the Sly God, Slanderer and Cheat of the Gods, Contriver of Balder's death, the Bound God, Wrangling Foe of Heimdall and of Skadi.

These varied titles make reference to Loki's numerous thefts, deceptions and his pre-meditated murder of Odin's son Balder.(New World Enclopedia)


Freyja and Loki flyte

A depiction of Norse gods assembled as in the Poetic Edda poem Lokasenna (1895) by Lorenz Frølich.
A depiction of Norse gods assembled as in the Poetic Edda poem Lokasenna (1895) by Lorenz Frølich.
Image source: commons.wikimedia.org

In the poem Lokasenna, where Loki accuses nearly every female in attendance of promiscuity and/or unfaithfulness, an aggressive exchange occurs between Loki and Freyja. The introduction to the poem notes that among other gods and goddesses, Freyja attends a celebration held by Ægir. In verse, after Loki has flyted with the goddess Frigg, Freyja interjects, telling Loki that he is insane for dredging up his terrible deeds, and that Frigg knows the fate of everyone, though she does not tell it. Loki tells her to be silent, and says that he knows all about her—that Freyja is not lacking in blame, for each of the gods and elves in the hall have been her lover. Freyja objects. She says that Loki is lying, that he is just looking to blather about misdeeds, and since the gods and goddesses are furious at him, he can expect to go home defeated. Loki tells Freyja to be silent, calls her a malicious witch, and conjures a scenario where Freyja was once astride her brother when all of the gods, laughing, surprised the two. (Freyja has the tendency to fart when she is caught in compromising situation.) Njörðr interjects—he says that a woman having a lover other than her husband is harmless, and he points out that Loki has borne children, and calls Loki a pervert. (Wikipedia)


The Punishment of Loki

The most famous tale of Loki's trickery, and also the point where he becomes truly malevolent, can be seen in the murder of Balder (the Norse god of warmth, goodness and spring). In the story, Loki, whether motivated by envy or simple malice, decides to end the beloved Balder's life. However, Balder's mother Frigg, having had premonitions of this dire event, had already spoken to every animate and inanimate object in the world and convinced them not to harm her son.
Unfortunately for Balder, Loki was able to discover the single item that had escaped the concerned mother's notice, mistletoe, by virtue of his cunning. So he proceeded to take the small plant and fashion it, using his magical abilities, into a potentially deadly arrow. Next, he convinced Hod (Balder's blind brother) to fire the missile, which embedded itself in the joyful god's heart and killed him instantly. When Hod discovered the evil that he had been involved with, he fled into the woods and was never seen again. Loki, on the other hand, was captured and sentenced to a torturous fate.
The murder of Balder was not left unpunished, and eventually the gods tracked down Loki, who was hiding in a pool at the base of Franang's Falls in the shape of a salmon. They also hunted down Loki's two children, Narfi and Váli. His accusers transformed young Váli into a wolf, who immediately turned upon his brother and tore out his throat. The unforgiving Aesir then took the innards of Loki's son and used them to bind Loki to three slabs of stone on the underside of the world. Skaði then suspended an enormous snake over the trickster god's head, so that its venom would drip down upon his prone body. Though Sigyn, his long-suffering wife, sat beside him and collected the venom in a wooden bowl, she still had to empty the bowl whenever it filled up. During those times, the searing venom would drip into the Sly God's face and eyes, causing a pain so terrible that his writhing would shake the entire world. He was sentenced to endure this torment until the coming of Ragnarök.
At the end of time, Loki will be freed by the trembling earth, and will sail to Vigridr (the field where the final conflict will take place) from the north on a ship that will also bear Hel and all the forsaken souls from her realm. Once on the battlefield, he will meet Heimdall, and neither of the two will survive the encounter. (New World Enclopedia)

The Punishment of Loki
"The Punishment of Loki" by Louis Huard (1813-1874)..
Image source: Image source: commons.wikimedia.org

Loki is eventually bound by the gods. In both the Poetic Edda and the Prose Edda, the goddess Skaði is responsible for placing a serpent above him while he is bound. The serpent drips venom from above him that Sigyn collects into a bowl; however, she must empty the bowl when it is full, and the venom that drips in the meantime causes Loki to writhe in pain, thereby causing earthquakes. With the onset of Ragnarök, Loki is foretold to slip free from his bonds and to fight against the gods among the forces of the jötnar, at which time he will encounter the god Heimdallr and the two will slay each other. (Wikipedia)

Loki flytes with other gods

The poem Lokasenna (Old Norse "Loki's Quarrel") centers around Loki flyting with other gods. The poem begins with a prose introduction detailing that Ægir, a figure associated with the sea, is hosting a feast in his hall for a number of the gods and elves. There, the gods praise Ægir's servers Fimafeng and Eldir. Loki "could not bear to hear that," and kills the servant Fimafeng. In response, the gods grab their shields, shrieking at Loki, and chase him out of the hall and to the woods. The gods then return to the hall, and continue drinking.

Loki comes out of the woods, and meets Eldir outside of the hall. Loki greets Eldir (and the poem itself begins) with a demand that Eldir tell him what the gods are discussing over their ale inside the hall. Eldir responds that they discuss their "weapons and their prowess in war" and yet no one there has anything friendly to say about Loki. Loki says that he will go into the feast, and that, before the end of the feast, he will induce quarrelling among the gods, and "mix their mead with malice." Eldir responds that "if shouting and fighting you pour out on" to the gods, "they'll wipe it off on you." Loki then enters the hall, and everyone there falls silent upon noticing him.

Breaking the silence, Loki says that, thirsty, he had come to these halls from a long way away to ask the gods for a drink of "the famous mead." Calling the gods arrogant, Loki asks why they are unable to speak, and demands that they assign him a seat and a place for him at the feast, or tell him to leave. The skaldic god Bragi is the first to respond to Loki by telling him that Loki will not have a seat and place assigned to him by the gods at the feast, for the gods know what men they should invite. Loki does not respond to Bragi directly, but instead directs his attention to Odin, and states:

Do you remember, Odin, when in bygone days
we mixed our blood together?
You said you would never drink ale
unless it were brought to both of us.

Odin then asks his silent son Víðarr to sit up, so that Loki (here referred to as the "wolf's father") may sit at the feast, and so that he may not speak words of blame to the gods in Ægir's hall. Víðarr stands and pours a drink for Loki. Prior to drinking, Loki declaims a toast to the gods, with a specific exception for Bragi. Bragi responds that he will give a horse, sword, and ring from his possessions so that he does not repay the gods "with hatred." Loki responds that Bragi will always be short of all of these things, accusing him of being "wary of war" and "shy of shooting." Bragi responds that, were they outside of Ægir's hall, Bragi would be holding Loki's head as a reward for his lies. Loki replies that Bragi is brave when seated, calling him a "bench-ornament," and that Bragi would run away when troubled by an angry, spirited man.

The goddess Iðunn interrupts, asking Bragi, as a service to his relatives and adopted relatives, not to say words of blame to Loki in Ægir's hall. Loki tells Iðunn to be silent, calling her the most "man-crazed" of all women, and saying that she placed her washed, bright arms around her brother's slayer. Iðunn says that she won't say words of blame in Ægir's hall, and affirms that she quietened Bragi, who was made talkative by beer, and that she doesn't want the two of them to fight. The goddess Gefjun asks why the two gods must fight, saying that Loki knows that he is joking, and that "all living things love him." Loki responds to Gefjun by stating that Gefjun's heart was once seduced by a "white boy" who gave her a jewel, and who Gefjun laid her thigh over.

Odin says that Loki must be insane to make Gefjun his enemy, as her wisdom about the fates of men may equal Odin's own. Loki says that Odin does a poor job in handing out honor in war to men, and that he's often given victory to the faint-hearted. Odin responds that even if this is true, Loki (in a story otherwise unattested) once spent eight winters beneath the earth as a woman milking cows, and during this time bore children. Odin declares this perverse. Loki counters that Odin once practiced seiðr on the island of Samsey (now Samsø, Denmark), and, appearing as a wizard, traveled among mankind, which Loki condemns as perverse.

Frigg, a major goddess and Odin's wife, says that what Loki and Odin did in the ancient past should not be spoken of in front of others, and that ancient matters should always remain hidden. Loki brings up that Frigg is the daughter of Fjörgyn, a personification of the earth, and that she had once taken Odin's brothers Vili and Vé into her embrace. Frigg responds that if there was a boy like her now-deceased son Baldr in the hall, Loki would not be able to escape from the wrath of the gods. Loki reminds Frigg that he is responsible for the death of her son Baldr.

The goddess Freyja declares that Loki must be mad, stating that Frigg knows all fate, yet she does not speak it. Loki claims each of the gods and elves that are present have been Freyja's lover. Freyja replies that Loki is lying, that he just wants to "yelp about wicked things" that gods and goddesses are furious with him, and that he will go home thwarted. In response, Loki calls Freyja a malicious witch, and claims that Freyja was once astride her brother Freyr, when all of the other laughing gods surprised her, Freyja then farted. This scenario is otherwise unattested. Njörðr (Freyja and Freyr's father) says that it is harmless for a woman to have a lover or "someone else" beside her husband, and that what is surprising is a "pervert god coming here who has borne children."

Loki tells Njörðr to be silent, recalling Njörðr's status as once having been a hostage from the Vanir to the Æsir during the Æsir-Vanir War, that the "daughters of Hymir" once used Njörðr "as a pisspot," urinating in his mouth (an otherwise unattested comment). Njörðr responds that this was his reward when he was sent as a hostage to the Æsir, and that he fathered his son (Freyr), whom no one hates, and is considered a prince of the Æsir. Loki tells Njörðr to maintain his moderation, and that he won't keep it secret any longer that Njörðr fathered this son with his sister (unnamed), although one would expect him to be worse than he turned out.

The god Tyr defends Freyr, to which Loki replies that Tyr should be silent, for Tyr cannot "deal straight with people," and points out that it was Loki's son, the wolf Fenrir, who tore Tyr's hand off. (According to the prose introduction to the poem Tyr is now one-handed from having his arm bitten off by Loki's son Fenrir while Fenrir was bound.) Tyr responds that while he may have lost a hand, Loki has lost the wolf, and trouble has come to them both. Further, that Fenrir must now wait in shackles until the onset of Ragnarök. Loki tells Tyr to be silent a second time, and states that Tyr's wife (otherwise unattested) had a son by Loki, and that Tyr never received any compensation for this "injury," further calling him a "wretch."

Freyr himself interrupts at this point, and says that he sees a wolf lying before a river mouth, and that, unless Loki is immediately silent, like the wolf, Loki shall also be bound until Ragnarök. Loki retorts that Freyr purchased his consort Gerðr with gold, having given away his sword, which he will lack at Ragnarök. Byggvir (referred to in the prose introduction to the poem as a servant of Freyr) says that if he had as noble a lineage and as an honorable a seat as Freyr, he would grind down Loki, and make all of his limbs lame. Loki refers to Byggvir in terms of a dog, and says that Byggvir is always found at Freyr's ears, or twittering beneath a grindstone. Byggvir says that he's proud to be here by all the gods and men, and that he's said to be speedy. Loki tells him to be silent, that Byggvir does not know how to apportion food among men, and that he hides among the straw and dais when men go to battle.

The god Heimdallr says that Loki is drunk and witless, and asks Loki why he won't stop speaking. Loki tells Heimdallr to be silent, that he was fated a "hateful life," that Heimdallr must always have a muddy back, and serve as watchman of the gods. The goddess Skaði says that while Loki now appears light-hearted and "playing" with his "tail-wagging," he will soon be bound with his ice-cold son's guts on a sharp rock by the gods. Loki says that, even if this is his fate, that he was "first and foremost" with the other gods at the killing of Skaði's father, Þjazi. Skaði says that, with these events in mind, "baneful advice" will always come from her "sanctuaries and plains" to Loki. Loki says that Skaði was once gentler in speech to him (referring to himself as the "son of Laufey") when Skaði once invited him to her bed (an event that is unattested elsewhere), and that such events must be mentioned if they are to recall "shameful deeds."

Sif, wife of Thor, goes forth and pours Loki a glass of mead into a crystal cup in a prose narrative. Continuing the poem, Sif welcomes Loki and invites him to take a crystal cup filled with ancient mead, and says that among the children of the Æsir, she is singularly blameless. Loki "takes the horn," drinks it, and says that she would be, if it were so, and states that Sif had a lover beside Thor, namely, Loki himself (an event that is otherwise unattested). Beyla (referred to in the prose introduction to the poem as a servant of Freyr) says that all of the mountains are shaking, that she thinks Thor must be on his way home, and when Thor arrives he will bring peace to those that quarrel there. Loki tells Beyla to be silent, that she is "much imbued with malice," that no worse female has ever been among the "Æsir's children," and calling her a bad "serving-wench."

The arrival of Thor
Thor arrives, and tells Loki to be silent, referring to him as an "evil creature," stating that with his hammer Mjöllnir he will silence Loki by hammering his head from his shoulders. Acknowledging that Thor has arrived, Loki asks Thor why he is raging, and says that Thor won't be so bold to fight against the wolf when he swallows Odin at Ragnarök. Thor again tells Loki to be silent, and threatens him with Mjöllnir, adding that he will throw Loki "up on the roads to the east," and thereafter no one will be able to see Loki. Loki states that Thor should never brag of his journeys to the east, claiming that there Thor crouched cowering in the thumb of a glove, mockingly referring to him as a "hero," and adding that such behaviour was unlike Thor. Thor responds by telling Loki to be silent, threatening him with Mjöllnir, and adding that every one of Loki's bones will be broken with it. Loki says he intends to live for a long while yet despite Thor's threats, and taunts Thor about an encounter Thor once had with the Skrýmir (Útgarða-Loki in disguise). Thor again commands Loki to be silent, threatens Loki with Mjöllnir, and says he will send Loki to Hel, below the gates of Nágrind.

In response to Thor, Loki says that he "spoke before the Æsir," and "before the sons of the Æsir" what his "spirit urged" him to say, yet before Thor alone he will leave, as he knows that Thor does strike. Loki ends the poetic verses of Lokasenna with a final stanza that threatens the Æsir with fire:

Ale you brewed, Ægir, and you will never again hold a feast;
all your possessions which are here inside—
may flame play over them,
and may your back be burnt!
(Wikipedia: Loki)br>

Loki threatens the Æsir with fire (1895) by Lorenz Frølich (1920) by Willy Pogany
"Loki threatens the Æsir with fire" (1895) by Lorenz Frølich. Thor raises his hammer as Loki leaves Ægir's hall.
Image source: commons.wikimedia.org

 

Loki and his family

The children of Loki (1920) by Willy Pogany
"The children of Loki" (1920) by Willy Pogany
Image source: commons.wikimedia.org

Loki was the father (and in one instance the mother) of many beasts, humans and monsters.
Together with Angrboda (a giantess), Loki is said to have had three children:
•Jörmungandr, the sea serpent (destined to slay Thor at Ragnarök);
•Fenrir the giant wolf (preordained to slay Odin at Ragnarök);
•Hel, ruler of the realm of the dead.
In addition to his alliance with the giantess, Loki is said to have married a goddess named Sigyn who bore him two sons: Narfi and Vali. This Vali is not to be confused with Odin's son with the giantess Rind. Finally, while Loki was in the form of a mare, he had congress with a stallion and gave birth to Sleipnir, the eight-legged steed of Odin. (New World Enclopedia)

The Prose Edda book Gylfaginning tells various myths featuring Loki, including Loki's role in the birth of the horse Sleipnir and Loki's contest with Logi, fire personified.
Loki is more formally introduced by High in chapter 34, where he is "reckoned among the Æsir", and High states that Loki is called by some "the Æsir's calumniator", "originator of deceits", and "the disgrace of all gods and men". High says that Loki's alternative name is Lopt, that he is the son of the male jötunn Farbauti, his mother is "Laufey or Nál", and his brothers are Helblindi and Býleistr.
High describes Loki as "pleasing and handsome" in appearance, malicious in character, "very capricious in behaviour", and as possessing "to a greater degree than others" learned cunning, and "tricks for every purpose", often getting the Æsir into trouble, and then getting them out of it with his trickery.
Loki's wife is named Sigyn, and they have a son named "Nari or Narfi". Otherwise, Loki had three children with the female jötunn Angrboða from Jötunheimr; the wolf Fenrir, the serpent Jörmungandr, and the female being Hel. The gods realized that these three children were being raised in Jötunheimr, and expected trouble from them partially due to the nature of Angrboða, but worse yet Loki. In chapter 35, Gangleri comments that Loki produced a "pretty terrible"—yet important—family. (Wikipedia)

As is often the case with trickster figures, Loki is not always a liability to the Aesir, in that he occasionally uses his trickery to aid them in their pursuits. For example, he once tricked an unnamed Jotun, who built the walls around Asgard, out of being paid for his work by disguising himself as a mare and leading his horse away from the city. In another myth, he pits the dwarves against each other in a gifting contest, leading them to construct some of the most precious treasures of the Aesir (including Odin's spear, Freyr's airship and Sif's golden wig). Finally, in Þrymskviða, Loki manages, with Thor at his side, to retrieve Mjolnir (the thunder god's hammer) after the giant Þrymr secretly steals it. In all of these cases, Loki's ambiguous status is maintained; although he is Jotun-born and destined to turn against the other gods, he is also an efficient and fundamentally useful ally. (New World Enclopedia)

Loki, Svaðilfari, and Sleipnir

Loki once tricked an unnamed Jotun, who built the walls around Asgard, out of being paid for his work by disguising himself as a mare and leading his horse away from the city.

Loki and Svaðilfari (1909) by Dorothy Hardy
Loki and Svaðilfari (1909) by Dorothy Hardy
Image source: commons.wikimedia.org
In chapter 42 of the Prose Edda book Gylfaginning, High tells a story set "right at the beginning of the gods' settlement, when the gods at established Midgard and built Val-Hall." The story is about an unnamed builder who has offered to build a fortification for the gods that will keep out invaders in exchange for the goddess Freyja, the sun, and the moon. After some debate, the gods agree to these conditions, but place a number of restrictions on the builder, including that he must complete the work within three seasons without the help of any man.

The builder makes a single request; that he may have help from his stallion Svaðilfari, and due to Loki's influence, this is allowed. The stallion Svaðilfari performs twice the deeds of strength as the builder, and hauls enormous rocks—to the surprise of the gods. The builder, with Svaðilfari, makes fast progress on the wall, and three days before the deadline of summer, the builder is nearly at the entrance to the fortification. The gods convene, and figure out who is responsible, resulting in a unanimous agreement that, along with most trouble, Loki is to blame (here referred to as Loki Laufeyjarson—his surname derived from his mother's name, Laufey).

The gods declare that Loki deserves a horrible death if he cannot find a scheme that will cause the builder to forfeit his payment, and threaten to attack him. Loki, afraid, swears oaths that he will devise a scheme to cause the builder to forfeit the payment, whatever it may cost himself. That night, the builder drives out to fetch stone with his stallion Svaðilfari, and out from a wood runs a mare. The mare neighs at Svaðilfari, and "realizing what kind of horse it was," Svaðilfari becomes frantic, neighs, tears apart his tackle, and runs towards the mare. The mare runs to the wood, Svaðilfari follows, and the builder chases after. The two horses run around all night, causing the building to be halted and the builder is then unable to regain the previous momentum of his work.

The builder goes into a rage, and when the Æsir realize that the builder is a hrimthurs, they disregard their previous oaths with the builder, and call for Thor. Thor arrives, and subsequently kills the builder by smashing the builder's skull into shards with the hammer Mjöllnir. However, Loki "had such dealings" with Svaðilfari that "somewhat later" Loki gives birth to a gray foal with eight legs; the horse Sleipnir—"the best horse among gods and men." (Wikipedia)


 

 

Freyr

Freyr or Frey is one of the most important gods of Norse religion. The name is conjectured to derive from the Proto-Norse *frawjaz, "lord". Freyr is associated with weather, prosperity, agriculture and pictured as a phallic virility / fertility god who "bestows peace and pleasure on mortals". Freyr, sometimes referred to as Yngvi-Freyr, was especially associated with Sweden and seen as an ancestor of the Swedish royal house.

In the Gylfaginning section of his Prose Edda, Snorri introduces Freyr as one of the major gods - Njördr in Nóatún begot afterward two children: the son was called Freyr, and the daughter Freyja; they were fair of face and mighty. Freyr is the most renowned of the Æsir; he rules over the rain and the shining of the sun, and therewithal the fruit of the earth; and it is good to call on him for fruitful seasons and peace. He governs also the prosperity of men. Gylfaginning 24, Brodeur's translation. (Wikipedia)

Freyr and his magic possessions

Freyr (1901) by Johannes Gehrts.
"Freyr" (1901) by Johannes Gehrts. The sun shining behind them, the Vanir god Freyr stands with his boar Gullinbursti and holds his magic sword.
Image source: commons.wikimedia.org

In the Icelandic books the Poetic Edda and the Prose Edda, Freyr is presented as one of the Vanir, the son of the sea god Njörðr, and the twin brother of the goddess Freyja. The gods gave him the entire realm of the Elves, the Álfheimr, as a teething present. He has the servants Skírnir, Byggvir, and Beyla. Byggvir and Beyla have been associated with the making of bread.

Freyr used many magical items during his adventures. These included a horse named Blodughofi and three dwarf-made artifacts: a magnificent boar, Gullinbursti, which pulled his chariot and whose mane glows to illuminate the way for his owner, a ship Skíðblaðnir, which will have favoring breeze wherever its owner wants to go and can also be folded together like a napkin and carried in a pouch, and a magic sword that fights on its own.

The most extensive surviving Freyr myth relates Freyr's falling in love with the female jötunn Gerðr. Eventually, she becomes his wife but first Freyr has to give away his magic sword, which fights on its own "if wise be he who wields it", to his servant Skírnir. Although deprived of this weapon, Freyr defeats the jötunn Beli with an antler. However, lacking his sword, Freyr will be killed by the fire jötunn Surtr during the events of Ragnarök. (Wikipedia)



Freyr and his family

Njörðr and Skaði on the way to Nóatún (1882) by Friedrich Wilhelm Heine
Njörðr and Skaði on the way to Nóatún (1882) by Friedrich Wilhelm Heine.
Image source: commons.wikimedia.org

Freyr is the twin brother of the goddess Freyja. Their father is the powerful god Njörðr. Njörðr is strongly associated with ships and seafaring, and so also wealth and prosperity. Freyja and Freyr's mother is Njörðr's sister (her name is unprovided in the source material). However, there is more information about his pairing with the skiing and hunting goddess Skaði. Their relationship is ill-fated, as Skaði cannot stand to be away from her beloved mountains, nor Njörðr from the seashore. Together, Freyja, Freyr, and Njörðr form a portion of gods known as the Vanir. While the Aesir and the Vanir retain distinct identification, they came together as the result of the Æsir–Vanir War.

In the poem Lokasenna, Loki accuses the gods of various misdeeds. He criticizes the Vanir for incest, saying that Njörðr had Freyr with his sister. He also states that the gods discovered Freyr and Freyja having sex together. The god Týr speaks up in Freyr's defense.

Frey is best | of all the exalted gods | in the Æsir's courts: | no maid he makes to weep, | no wife of man, | and from bonds looses all. (Lokasenna 37, Thorpe's translation)



The death of Freyr

The final battle between Freyr and Surtr
The final battle between Freyr and Surtr, illustration by Lorenz Frølich
Image source: commons.wikimedia.org

Völuspá, the best known of the Eddic poems, describes the final confrontation between Freyr and Surtr during Ragnarök.

Surtr moves from the south | with the scathe of branches: | there shines from his sword | the sun of Gods of the Slain. | Stone peaks clash, | and troll wives take to the road. | Warriors tread the path from Hel, | and heaven breaks apart. | Then is fulfilled Hlín's | second sorrow, | when Óðinn goes | to fight with the wolf, | and Beli's slayer, | bright, against Surtr. | Then shall Frigg's | sweet friend fall.
- Völuspá 50–51, Dronke's translation.

Some scholars have preferred a slightly different translation, in which the sun shines "from the sword of the gods". The idea is that the sword which Surtr slays Freyr with is the "sword of the gods" which Freyr had earlier bargained away for Gerðr. This would add a further layer of tragedy to the myth. (Wikipedia)



Cult of Freyr


"In Freyr's Temple near Uppsala" (1882) by Friedrich Wilhelm Heine.
Image source: commons.wikimedia.org

Written around 1080, one of the oldest written sources on pre-Christian Scandinavian religious practices is Adam of Bremen's Gesta Hammaburgensis ecclesiae pontificum. Adam claimed to have access to first-hand accounts on pagan practices in Sweden. He refers to Freyr with the Latinized name Fricco and mentions that an image of him at Skara was destroyed by the Christian missionary, Bishop Egino. His description of the Temple at Uppsala gives some details on the god.

In this temple, entirely decked out in gold, the people worship the statues of three gods in such wise that the mightiest of them, Thor, occupies a throne in the middle of the chamber; Woden and Frikko have places on either side. The significance of these gods is as follows: Thor, they say, presides over the air, which governs the thunder and lightning, the winds and rains, fair weather and crops. The other, Woden—that is, the Furious—carries on war and imparts to man strength against his enemies. The third is Frikko, who bestows peace and pleasure on mortals. His likeness, too, they fashion with an immense phallus. (Gesta Hammaburgensis 26, Tschan's translation)

Later in the account Adam states that when a marriage is performed a libation is made to the image of Fricco.

Historians are divided on the reliability of Adam's account. While he is close in time to the events he describes he has a clear agenda to emphasize the role of the Archbishopric of Hamburg-Bremen in the Christianization of Scandinavia. His timeframe for the Christianization of Sweden conflicts with other sources, such as runic inscriptions, and archaeological evidence does not confirm the presence of a large temple at Uppsala. On the other hand, the existence of phallic idols was confirmed in 1904 with a find at Rällinge in Södermanland. (Wikipedia)

A phallic Viking Age statuette believed to depict FreyrA phallic Viking Age statuette believed to depict Freyr
Left: A phallic Viking Age statuette believed to depict Freyr. A statue of the Norse god Freyr, dated to the 11th century. Found in 1904 on the grounds of the farm Rällinge in Lunda parish, Södermanland, Sweden.
Right: A Bronze figurine from Rällinge, probably depicted god Frey.
Image source: Left: commons.wikimedia.org  
Right: Sörmlands museum in Nyköping, Sweden   (English translation)   → mis.historiska.se  
Another description of the cult of Freyr (written from a similar pro-Christian/anti-"pagan" slant) can be found in the fourteenth century Icelandic text, Ögmundar þáttr dytts:

Great heathen sacrifices were held [in Sweden] at that time, and for a long while Frey had been the god who was worshipped most there—and so much power had been gained by Frey’s statue that the devil used to speak to people out of the mouth of the idol, and a young and beautiful woman had been obtained to serve Frey. It was the faith of the local people that Frey was alive, as seemed to some extent to be the case, and they thought he would need to have a sexual relationship with his wife; along with Frey she was to have complete control over the temple settlement and all that belonged to it.

In this particular account, the cult assumes a sexual dimension, which would certainly be in keeping with Freyr's status as a fertility god.

A particularly notable source for descriptions of the cult of Freyr is the Gesta Danorum of Saxo Grammaticus, who specifically addresses some of the historical and practical features of the god's worship. Though he is also guilty of the pro-Christian bias mentioned above, Saxo's tome, nonetheless, provides an in-depth account of various features of this cult that would otherwise have been lost:

There was also a viceroy of the gods, Frø [Freyr], who took up residence not far from Uppsala and altered the ancient system of sacrifice practised for centuries among many peoples to a morbid and unspeakable form of expiation. He delivered abominable offerings to the powers above by instituting the slaughter of human victims.

The reference to the change in sacrificial ritual may also reflect some historical memory. There is archaeological evidence for an increase in human sacrifice in the late Viking Age,[24] though among the Norse gods this practice was more often linked to the worship of Odin.

Another reference to Frø and sacrifices is found earlier in the work, which provides an etiological description for the origins of the annual blót (sacrificial festival) dedicated to the god. More specifically, the author describes how King Hadingus becomes cursed after killing a divine being and atones for his crime with a sacrifice:

[I]n order to mollify the divinities he did indeed make a holy sacrifice of dark-coloured victims to the god Frø. He repeated this mode of propitiation at an annual festival and left it to be imitated by his descendants. The Swedes call it Frøblot.

The sacrifice of dark-coloured victims to Freyr has a parallel in Ancient Greek religion where the Chthonic fertility deities preferred dark-coloured victims to white ones. (New World Enclopedia)



Freyr's relationship with the Swedish royal family

Yngvi-Freyr constructs the Temple at Uppsala in this early 19th century artwork by Hugo Hamilton.
Yngvi-Freyr constructs the Temple at Uppsala in this early 19th century artwork by Hugo Hamilton.
Image source: commons.wikimedia.org

While many of the gods in the Norse pantheon were seen to have an active relationship with human individuals and societies (often as bestowers of favors), Freyr is somewhat unique for his relationship with the Swedish royal family. This euhemeristic attribution is evidenced in numerous sources, including the Íslendingabók, the Danish History of Saxo Grammaticus, and Snorri Sturluson's Ynglinga Saga.

In the most straightforward case, that of the Íslendingabók, Freyr is simply included in a genealogy of Swedish kings. This unquestioning historicism is echoed in Saxo's Gesta Danorum, which identifies Frø [a transliteration of Freyr] as the "king of Sweden" (rex Suetiae):

About this time the Swedish ruler Frø, after killing Sivard, king of the Norwegians, removed the wives of Sivard's relatives to a brothel and exposed them to public prostitution. (Gesta Danorum 9, Fisher's translation.) - (New World Enclopedia)

Snorri Sturluson starts his epic history of the kings of Norway with Ynglinga saga, a euhemerized account of the Norse gods. Here Odin and the Æsir are men from Asia who gain power through their prowess in war and Odin's skills. But when Odin attacks the Vanir he bites off more than he can chew and peace is negotiated after the destructive and indecisive Æsir-Vanir War. Hostages are exchanged to seal the peace deal and the Vanir send Freyr and Njörðr to live with the Æsir. At this point the saga, like Lokasenna, mentions that incest was practised among the Vanir.

While Njord was with the Vanaland people he had taken his own sister in marriage, for that was allowed by their law; and their children were Frey and Freya. But among the Asaland people it was forbidden to intermarry with such near relations. (Ynglinga saga 4, Laing's translation)

Odin makes Njörðr and Freyr priests of sacrifices and they become influential leaders. Odin goes on to conquer the North and settles in Sweden where he rules as king, collects taxes, and maintains sacrifices. After Odin's death, Njörðr takes the throne. During his rule there is peace and good harvest and the Swedes come to believe that Njörðr controls these things. Eventually Njörðr falls ill and dies.

Frey took the kingdom after Njord, and was called drot by the Swedes, and they paid taxes to him. He was, like his father, fortunate in friends and in good seasons. Frey built a great temple at Upsal, made it his chief seat, and gave it all his taxes, his land, and goods. Then began the Upsal domains, which have remained ever since. Then began in his days the Frode-peace; and then there were good seasons, in all the land, which the Swedes ascribed to Frey, so that he was more worshipped than the other gods, as the people became much richer in his days by reason of the peace and good seasons. His wife was called Gerd, daughter of Gymis, and their son was called Fjolne. Frey was called by another name, Yngve; and this name Yngve was considered long after in his race as a name of honour, so that his descendants have since been called Ynglinger. Frey fell into a sickness; and as his illness took the upper hand, his men took the plan of letting few approach him. In the meantime they raised a great mound, in which they placed a door with three holes in it. Now when Frey died they bore him secretly into the mound, but told the Swedes he was alive; and they kept watch over him for three years. They brought all the taxes into the mound, and through the one hole they put in the gold, through the other the silver, and through the third the copper money that was paid. Peace and good seasons continued. (Ynglinga saga 12, Laing's translation)

When it became known to the Swedes that Frey was dead, and yet peace and good seasons continued, they believed that it must be so as long as Frey remained in Sweden; and therefore they would not burn his remains, but called him the god of this world, and afterwards offered continually blood-sacrifices to him, principally for peace and good seasons. (Ynglinga saga 13, Laing's translation)

Freyr had a son named Fjölnir, who succeeds him as king and rules during the continuing period of peace and good seasons. Fjölnir's descendants are enumerated in Ynglingatal which describes the mythological kings of Sweden. (Wikipedia)

Freyr and Gerðr

One of the best-known legends about Freyr explains how he fell in love with a female giant named Gerðr ((Old Norse "fenced-in") from the moment he saw her. Freyr decided to make her his bride. He sent his servant Skirnir to try to convince Gerðr to marry him. She refused at first but later agreed. Freyr gave his magic sword to Skirnir in return for winning Gerda for him at the price of his future doom.

The courtship of Freyr and Gerðr is dealt with extensively in both the Poetic Edda and the Prose Edda. Freyr sees Gerðr from a distance, becomes deeply lovesick at the sight of her shimmering beauty. Njörðr and Skaði ask Skírnir to go and talk with him. Freyr reveals the cause of his grief and asks Skírnir to go to Jötunheimr to woo Gerðr for him. Freyr gives Skírnir a steed and his magical sword for the journey.

In the Poetic Edda Gerðr initially refuses, yet after a series of threats by Skírnir she finally agrees. In the Prose Edda, no mention of threats are made. In both sources, Gerðr agrees to meet Freyr at a fixed time at the location of Barri and, after Skírnir returns with Gerðr's response, Freyr laments that the meeting could not occur sooner. In both the Poetic Edda and the Prose Edda, Gerðr is described as the daughter of Gymir and the mountain jötunn Aurboða. (Wikipedia)

Skirnir's Message to Gerd (1908) by W. G. CollingwoodSeated on Odin's throne Hliðskjálf, the god Freyr sits in contemplation
Left: A section of Skirnir's Message to Gerd (1908) by W. G. Collingwood. Light was shed from her arms over both sky and sea.
Right: "Frey had himself seated on the throne of Odin" Ernest Edwin (1903). Seated on Odin's throne Hliðskjálf, the god Freyr sits in contemplation. In his hand he holds a sickle and next to the throne sits a sheaf. 1920.
Image sources: commons.wikimedia.org (Crop) commons.wikimedia.org

Gerðr (sometimes modernly anglicized as Gerd or Gerth) is attested in two poems in the Poetic Edda, in two books of the Prose Edda, and in two books in Heimskringla.

In chapter 37 of the Prose Edda book Gylfaginning, Gerðr is introduced by the enthroned figure of High as the daughter of Gymir and the mountain jötunn Aurboða, and is described as "the most beautiful of all women". High reports that Freyr went into Hlidskjalf and looked over all worlds. When Freyr looked to the north he saw a distant homestead with a large and magnificent building. A woman went to the building, and when she lifted her arms and opened the door to the building "light was shed from her arms over both sky and sea, and all worlds were made bright by her". In punishment for "his great presumption" in having sat in the holy seat, Freyr went away filled with grief.

Freyr arrives home and neither sleeps nor drinks, remaining in silence. No one dares speak to him. The god Njörðr sends Freyr's servant Skírnir to speak to Freyr. Freyr tells Skírnir that he saw a beautiful woman, so beautiful that he was filled with grief and that he would soon die if he could not have her. Freyr tells Skírnir that he must go gain her hand on his behalf—whether the woman's father agrees or not—and he will be rewarded. Skírnir replies that he accepts the mission but only in exchange for Freyr's sword, which can fight on its own. Freyr gives him the sword and Skírnir sets off. Skírnir asks for the woman's hand for Freyr and receives her promise. Nine nights later she is to meet with Freyr at a location called Barey. Skírnir delivers the news to Freyr and Freyr responds with the final stanza from the Poetic Edda poem Skírnismál, lamenting that he must wait.

Skyrnir and Gerda by Harry George Theaker 1920
Skyrnir and Gerda by Harry George Theaker 1920.- Illustration for Children's Stories from the Northern Legends by M. Dorothy Belgrave and Hilda Hart, 1920
Image source: commons.wikimedia.org

In the Poetic Edda poem Skírnismál, the god Freyr sat on the high seat Hlidskjalf and looked into all worlds. Freyr saw a beautiful girl walking from the hall of her father to a storehouse. Freyr became heartsick for the girl. Freyr has a page named Skírnir. Freyr's father Njörðr and, in verse, the goddess Skaði tells Skírnir to find out what troubles Freyr. An exchange occurs between Freyr and Skírnir in verse, where Freyr tells Skírnir that he has seen a wondrous girl with shining arms at the home of (her father) Gymir, yet that the gods and elves do not wish for the two to be together:

Benjamin Thorpe translation:
In Gýmir's courts I saw walking
a maid for whom I long.
Her arms gave forth light wherewith shone
all air and water.
Is more desirable to me that maid
than to any youth in early days;
yet will no one, Æsir or Alfar,
that we together live.

Henry Adams Bellows translation:
"From Gymir's house I behold forth
A maiden dear to me;
Her arms glittered, and from their gleam
Shone all the sea and sky."
"To me more dear than in days of old
Was ever maiden to man;
But no one of gods or elves will grant
That we be together should be."

 

Skírnir requests that Freyr give him a horse and Freyr's sword; a sword which fights jötnar by itself. Under the cover of darkness, Skírnir rides the horse over nations and dew-covered mountains until he reaches Jötunheimr, the home of the jötnar, and proceeds to Gymir's courts. Ferocious dogs are tied before the wooden fence that surrounds Gerðr's hall. Skírnir rides out to a herdsman (unnamed) sitting on a mound, greets him, and asks the herdsman how he may speak to the maiden beyond Gymir's dogs. An exchange occurs between the herdsman and Skírnir, during which the herdsman tells Skírnir that he will never speak to the girl.

Hearing a terrible noise in her dwellings, Gerðr asks where it is coming from, noting that the earth trembles and that all of Gymir's courts shake. A serving maid (unnamed) notes that outside a man has dismounted his horse and has let it graze. Gerðr tells the serving maid to invite the man to come into their hall and to partake of some of their "famous mead," yet Gerðr expresses fear that the man outside may be her "brother's slayer".

Gerðr asks the stranger if he is of the elves, Æsir, or the Vanir, and why he comes alone "over the wild fire" to seek their company. Skírnir responds that he is of none of these groups, yet that he has indeed sought her out. Skírnir offers Gerðr 11 golden apples (or apples of eternal life, in a common emendation) to gain her favor. Gerðr rejects the apples—no matter who offers them—and adds that neither will she and Freyr be together as long as they live. Skírnir offers Gerðr a ring that produces eight more gold rings every ninth night and "was burned with Odin's young son". Gerðr responds that she is not interested in the ring, for she shares her father's property, and Gymir has no lack of gold.

Gerðr refuses Skírnir's offer of eleven golden apples and the ring gift as illustrated (1895) by Lorenz Frølich.
Gerðr refuses Skírnir's offer of eleven golden apples and the ring gift as illustrated (1895) by Lorenz Frølich.
Image source: commons.wikimedia.org
Skírnir turns to threats; he points out to Gerðr that he holds a sword in his hand and he threatens to cut her head from her neck unless she agrees. Gerðr refuses; she says that she will not endure the coercion of any man, and says that if Gymir encounters Skírnir then a battle can be expected. Skírnir again reminds Gerðr of his blade and predicts that Gerðr's jötunn father will meet his doom with it. Skírnir warns Gerðr that he will strike her with his Gambanteinn, a wand, that it will tame her to his desires, and says that she will never again be seen by "the sons of men". From early morning, Gerðr will sit on an eagle's mound, looking outward to the world, facing Hel, and that "food shall be more hateful to you than to every man is the shining serpent among men".

Skírnir declares that when Gerðr comes out she will be a spectacle; Hrímgrímnir will "glare" at her, "everything" will stare at her, she will become more famous than the watchman of the gods, and that she will "gape through the bars". Gerðr will experience "madness and howling, tearing affliction and unbearable desire" and that, in grief, tears will flow from her. Skírnir tells Gerðr to sit down, for her fate will be even worse yet. She will be harassed by fiends all her weary days. From the court of jötnar to the halls of the hrimthurs, Gerðr shall everyday crawl without choice, nor hope of choice. Gerðr will weep rather than feel joy, suffering tearfully. She will live the rest of her life in misery with a three-headed thurs or otherwise be without a man altogether. Skírnir commands for Gerðr's mind to be seized, that she may waste away with pining, and that she be as the thistle at the end of the harvest; crushed.

Skírnir says that he has been to a wood to get a "potent branch", which he found. He declares that the gods Odin and Thor are angry with Gerðr, and that Freyr will hate her; she has "brought down the potent wrath of the gods". Skírnir declares to the hrimthursar, thursar, the sons of Suttungr, and the "troops of the Æsir" that he has denied both pleasure and benefit from men to Gerðr. Skírnir details that the thurs's name who will own her below the gates of Nágrind is Hrímgrímnir and that there, at the roots of the world, the finest thing Gerðr will be given to drink is the urine of goats. He carves "thurs" (the runic character *thurisaz) on Gerðr and three runes (unnamed) symbolizing lewdness, frenzy, and unbearable desire, and comments that he can rub them off just as he has carved them—if he wishes.
Skírnir has turned to threats, describing Gerðr's fate as illustrated (1895) by Lorenz Frølich.
Skírnir has turned to threats, describing Gerðr's fate at her refusal, as illustrated (1895) by Lorenz Frølich.
Image source: commons.wikimedia.org
Freyr's messenger Skírnir threating Gerðr as illustrated (1895) by Lorenz Frølich.
The third of three Skírnismál images by Frølich depicting Freyr's messenger Skírnir threating Gerðr.
Image source: commons.wikimedia.org
Gerðr responds with a welcome to Skírnir and tells him to take a crystal cup containing ancient mead, noting that she thought she would never love one of the Vanir. Skírnir asks her when she will meet with Freyr. Gerðr says that they shall meet at a tranquil location called Barri, and that after nine nights she will there grant Freyr her love:


Benjamin Thorpe translation:
Barri is the grove named, which we both know,
the grove of tranquil paths.
Nine nights hence, there to Niörd's son
Gerd will grant delight.

Henry Adams Bellows translation:
Barri there is, which we both know well,.
A forest fair and still;
And nine nights hence to the son of Njorth
Will Gerth grant delight.

 

Skírnir rides home. Standing outside, Freyr immediately greets Skírnir and asks for news. Skírnir tells him that Gerðr says she will meet with him at Barri. Freyr, impatient, comments that one night is long, as is two nights, and questions how he will bear three, noting that frequently a month seemed shorter than half a night before being with Gerðr.
One night is long enough, yet longer still are two; | How then shall I contend with three? | For months have passed more quickly | Than half a bridal eve. (Wikipedia: Gerðr)

the small gold pieces of foil that may depict Gerðr and Freyr
"Couple". Gold leaf from the burial Ecker (Oppland), probably depicted God Frey and his wife, the giantess Gerd, Stockholm Historical Museum.
Image source: www.medievalmuseum.ru   (English translation)   → www.medievalmuseum.ru  

Archaeological record: Small pieces of gold foil featuring engravings dating from the Migration Period into the early Viking Age (known as gullgubber) have been discovered in various locations in Scandinavia, almost 2,500 at one location. The foil pieces have been found largely at sites of buildings, only rarely in graves. The figures are sometimes single, occasionally an animal, sometimes a man and a woman with a leafy bough between them, facing or embracing one another. The human figures are almost always clothed and are sometimes depicted with their knees bent. Scholar Hilda Ellis Davidson says that it has been suggested that the figures are partaking in a dance, and that they may have been connected with weddings, as well as linked to the Vanir group of gods, representing the notion of a divine marriage, such as in the Poetic Edda poem Skírnismál; the coming together of Gerðr and Freyr. (Wikipedia: Gerðr)


In Heimskringla, Gerðr is recorded as the wife of Freyr, euhemerized as having been a beloved king of Sweden. In the same source, the couple are the founders of the Yngling dynasty and produced a son, Fjölnir, who rose to kinghood after Freyr's passing and continued their line. Gerðr is commonly theorized to be a goddess associated with the earth. Gerðr inspired works of art and literature. (Wikipedia)



The loss of Freyr's sword has consequences. According to the Prose Edda, Freyr had to fight Beli without his sword and slew him with an antler. But the result at Ragnarök, the end of the world, will be much more serious. Freyr is fated to fight the fire-giant Surtr and since he does not have his sword he will be defeated. (Wikipedia)

 

 

Heimdall

Heimdallr brings forth the gifts of the gods to the humans
Heimdallr brings forth the gifts of the gods to the humans.
Image sources: commons.wikimedia.org  

HEIMDALL. Ques. Who was Heimdall? Ans. He was the watchman of the gods, and was stationed at the extreme verge of heaven to guard the bridge Bifrost. The gods continually feared that the giants might force their way over the shining arch, and invade Valhalla. Heimdall required less sleep than a bird, and his sight was so keen that he could distinguish the smallest object, for a thousand leagues around, even in the darkest night. His quickness of hearing was equally wonderful; he could hear the [246] wool growing on the sheep’s backs, and the grain sprouting in the fields. He possessed a horn of such construction that when he blew upon it, the sound spread in widening circles until it reached the uttermost confines of the world. Heimdall was not permitted to marry, lest any care for wife or children might interrupt his unceasing watchfulness.

BRAGI and Iduna

Idun and the Apples (1890) by J. Doyle Penrose
Idun and the Apples (1890) by J. Doyle Penrose. The Norse gods were mortal, and only through Iðunn's apples could they hope to live until Ragnarök.
Image source: commons.wikimedia.org

BRAGI. Ques. Who was Bragi? Ans. He was god of poetry, but he scorned all lighter strains, and was the patron of those only who sung the praises of the gods and the deeds of warriors. Iduna, his wife, kept in a casket certain apples which the gods, when they felt age approaching, had only to taste to renew the vigor and bloom of youth. On the approach of the Great Twilight, and the end of time, this fruit was to lose its magic power.

 

Thor

THOR. Ques. Who was Thor? Ans. He was Odin’s eldest son, and was god of thunder. His mighty strength depended upon three things—his hammer, his belt of strength, and his iron gloves. The giants at one time obtained his hammer, and he was obliged to use a very singular stratagem to recover it. Ques. What was this? Ans. Thor was most anxious to recover his hammer, but the giant Thrym had buried it eight [243] fathoms deep under the rocks of Jotunheim. Loki undertook to negotiate with Thrym; but the giant demanded the hand of the goddess Freya, and refused to restore the hammer on any other terms. Thor was much troubled, as he knew how vain it was to expect that the bright goddess of love and song would consent to dwell in the dismal regions of Jotunheim. The artful Loki proposed that Thor should array himself in the garments of Freya, and accompany him to the abode of the Frost Giants. Thor consented, and Thrym welcomed his veiled bride with great joy, attributing her silence to a modest reserve. He was much surprised, however, to see her eat for supper eight salmons, besides a full grown ox and other delicacies, washing down the repast with proportionate draughts of mead. Loki bade him not to wonder at this, as her thoughts had been so much occupied by her approaching nuptials that she had not eaten for many days. When Thrym was startled by the fiery eyes he saw gleaming from beneath the bridal veil, Loki again made an excuse which satisfied him, so he brought the hammer, and laid it on the lap of the supposed bride. Thor seized the weapon, and finding his wonted strength restored, he threw off his disguise, and rushed upon Thrym, whom he slew with all his followers. Loki had served Thor in this adventure; on another occasion he incurred his wrath by an injury offered to Sif or Sifa, his wife. The hair of this [244] goddess flowed around her in sunny waves that shone like gold. She was proud of this adornment; and Loki, willing to punish her vanity, and always ready for mischief, found means to cut off her hair while she slept. The goddess was inconsolable, and Thor sought the insolent offender, intending to crush him with his redoubtable hammer. Loki was terrified, and sought the dwelling of the Gnomes. These skillful workmen gave him a head of hair which they had spun from the purest gold, and which was so wonderfully wrought that it would attach itself to the head of the wearer, and increase in length like ordinary hair. Sifa was enchanted with the golden locks, and the cunning Loki escaped the threatened punishment. From Thor’s name is derived the word Thursday.
Thor's Battle Against the Jötnar (1872) by Mårten Eskil WingeThor's Battle Against the Jötnar (1872) by Mårten Eskil Winge
Left: Thor's Battle Against the Jötnar (1872) by Mårten Eskil Wing.
Right: Thor’s name was the Germanic word for thunder, and it was the thunderbolt that was represented by his hammer, the attribute most commonly associated with him. The hammer, Mjollnir, had many marvelous qualities, including that of returning to the thrower like a boomerang;
Image sources: commons.wikimedia.org   www.norsemyth.org

Thor was one of the most important and famous gods in Norse mythology. He was the son of Odin and Fyorgyn, the earth goddess. Thor was considered the storm-weather god of sky and thunder and also a fertility god. His wife was Sif, a goddess also linked to fertility. He had a red beard and eyes, he was huge in size, he had an insatiable appetite and not much wit. Thor was the strongest of all gods and men according to The Prose Edda.

Thor was very talented at slaying giants; many of his stories revolve around violent episodes between him and his enemies. In order to perform his duties, Thor had a hammer, Mjollnir, a deadly weapon also associated with lightning and thunder, which was built by the dwarves. He also had iron gloves and a belt named Megingjard that doubled Thor’s strength once buckled on. There were also some other less destructive aspects of Thor. As a weather god he was associated with the fertility of the earth. He was also regarded as a guide for those travelling over the sea because of his power over storms and wind.

Thor had a chariot to travel across the sky, which was drawn by two giant goats: Tanngniost and Tanngrisnir. These powerful animals had a very convenient magical property: they could be killed and eaten at any time, and as long as their bones were undamaged and returned into their skins, they would regenerate overnight and the following day would be alive, just like new. (Ancient History Encyclopedia)

In Norse mythology, Thor (/θɔr/; from Old Norse Þórr) is a hammer-wielding god associated with thunder, lightning, storms, oak trees, strength, the protection of mankind, and also hallowing, healing and fertility. The cognate deity in wider Germanic mythology and paganism was known in Old English as Þunor and in Old High German as Donar (runic þonar ᚦᛟᚾᚨᚱ), stemming from a Common Germanic *Þunraz (meaning "thunder").
The name of the god is the origin of the weekday name Thursday. By employing a practice known as interpretatio germanica during the Roman Empire period, the Germanic peoples adopted the Roman weekly calendar, and replaced the names of Roman gods with their own. Latin dies Iovis ('day of Jupiter') was converted into Proto-Germanic *Þonares dagaz ("Thor's day"), from which stems modern English "Thursday" and all other Germanic weekday cognates.

Thor bears at least fourteen names, is the son of Odin and the giantess Jörd (Jord, the Earth). is the husband of the golden-haired goddess Sif, is the lover of the jötunn Járnsaxa, and is generally described as fierce-eyed, red-haired and red-bearded. With Sif, Thor fathered the goddess (and possible valkyrie) Þrúðr; with Járnsaxa, he fathered Magni; with a mother whose name is not recorded, he fathered Móði, and he is the stepfather of the god Ullr. The same sources list Thor as the son of the god Odin and the personified earth, Fjörgyn, and by way of Odin, Thor has numerous brothers. Thor has two servants, Þjálfi and Röskva, rides in a cart or chariot pulled by two goats, Tanngrisnir and Tanngnjóstr (that he eats and resurrects), and is ascribed three dwellings (Bilskirnir, Þrúðheimr, and Þrúðvangr). Thor wields the mountain-crushing hammer, Mjölnir, wears the belt Megingjörð and the iron gloves Járngreipr, and owns the staff Gríðarvölr. Thor's exploits, including his relentless slaughter of his foes and fierce battles with the monstrous serpent Jörmungandr—and their foretold mutual deaths during the events of Ragnarök—are recorded throughout sources for Norse mythology.(Wikipedia)

Thor and the magic Goats

According to the Prose Edda, when Thor is hungry he can roast the goats for a meal, and when he wants to continue his travels, he needs only to touch the remains of the goats ("hallowing" them with his divine hammer) and they will be instantly restored to full health to resume their duties. (New World enclopedia)
Týr looks on as Thor discovers that one of his goats is lame, by Frølich (1895)
Týr looks on as Thor discovers that one of his goats is lame, by Frølich (1895)
Image source: commons.wikimedia.org

In chapter 44 of the Prose Edda book Gylfaginning, Third reluctantly relates a tale where Thor and Loki are riding in Thor's chariot, which is pulled by his two goats. Loki and Thor stop at the house of a peasant farmer, and there they are given lodging for a night. Thor slaughters his goats, prepares them, puts them in a pot, and Loki and Thor sit down for their evening meal. Thor invites the peasant family who own the farm to share with him the meal he has prepared, but warns them not to break the bones. Afterward, at the suggestion of Loki, the peasant child Þjálfi sucks the bone marrow from one of the goat bones, and when Thor goes to resurrect the goats, he finds one of the goats to be lame. In their terror, the family atones to Thor by giving Thor their son Þjálfi and their daughter Röskva.

Thor and Skrymir, the Giant

I am the giant Skrymir by Elmer Boyd Smith
"I am the giant Skrymir" by Elmer Boyd Smith
Image source: commons.wikimedia.org

Thor, Loki, and the two children continue east until they arrive at a vast forest in Jötunheimr. They continue through the woods until dark. The four seek shelter for the night. They encounter an immense building. Finding shelter in a side room, they experience earthquakes through the night. The earthquakes cause all four but Thor, who grips his hammer in preparation of defense, to be fearful. The building turns out to be the huge glove of Skrymir, who has been snoring throughout the night, causing what seemed to be earthquakes. All four sleep beneath an oak tree near Skrymir in fear.

Thor wakes up in the middle of the night, and a series of events occur where Thor twice attempts to kill the sleeping Skrýmir with his hammer. Skrýmir awakes after each attempt, only to say that he detected an acorn falling on his head or that he wonders if bits of tree from the branches above have fallen on top of him. The second attempt awakes Skrýmir. Skrýmir gives them advice; if they are going to be cocky at the keep of Útgarðr it would be better for them to turn back now, for Útgarða-Loki's men there won't put up with it. Skrýmir throws his knapsack onto his back and abruptly goes into the forest. High comments that "there is no report that the Æsir expressed hope for a happy reunion".

Thor and Útgarða-Loki, the King

The four travelers continue their journey until midday. They find themselves facing a massive castle in an open area. The castle is so tall that they must bend their heads back to their spines to see above it. At the entrance to the castle is a shut gate, and Thor finds that he cannot open it. Struggling, all four squeeze through the bars of the gate, and continue to a large hall. Inside the great hall are two benches, where many generally large people sit on two benches. The four see Útgarða-Loki, the king of the castle, sitting.

Útgarða-Loki says that no visitors are allowed to stay unless they can perform a feat. Loki, standing in the rear of the party, is the first to speak, claiming that he can eat faster than anyone. Útgarða-Loki comments that this would be a feat indeed, and calls for a being by the name of Logi to come from the benches. A trencher is fetched, placed on the floor of the hall, and filled with meat. Loki and Logi sit down on opposing sides. The two eat as quickly as they can and meet at the midpoint of the trencher. Loki consumed all of the meat off of the bones on his side, yet Logi had not only consumed his meat, but also the bones and the trencher itself. It was evident to all that Loki had lost. In turn, Þjálfi races against a figure by the name of Hugi three times and thrice loses.

Thor agrees to compete in a drinking contest but after three immense gulps fails. Thor agrees to lift a large, gray cat in the hall but finds that it arches his back no matter what he does, and that he can only raise a single paw. Thor demands to fight someone in the hall, but the inhabitants say doing so would be demeaning, considering Thor's weakness. Útgarða-Loki then calls for his nurse Elli, an old woman. The two wrestle but the harder Thor struggles the more difficult the battle becomes. Thor is finally brought down to a single knee. Útgarða-Loki says to Thor that fighting anyone else would be pointless. Now late at night, Útgarða-Loki shows the group to their rooms and they are treated with hospitality.

The next morning the group gets dressed and prepares to leave the keep. Útgarða-Loki appears, has his servants prepare a table, and they all merrily eat and drink. As they leave, Útgarða-Loki asks Thor how he thought he fared in the contests. Thor says that he is unable to say he did well, noting that he is particularly annoyed that Útgarða-Loki will now speak negatively about him. Útgarða-Loki points out that the group has left his keep and says that he hopes that they never return to it, for if he had an inkling of what he was dealing with he would never have allowed the group to enter in the first place. Útgarða-Loki reveals that all was not what it seemed to the group. Útgarða-Loki was in fact the immense Skrýmir, and that if the three blows Thor attempted to land had hit their mark, the first would have killed Skrýmir. In reality, Thor's blows were so powerful that they had resulted in three square valleys.

The contests, too, were an illusion. Útgarða-Loki reveals that Loki had actually competed against wildfire itself (Logi, Old Norse "flame"), Þjálfi had raced against thought (Hugi, Old Norse "thought"), Thor's drinking horn had actually reached to the ocean and with his drinks he lowered the ocean level (resulting in tides). The cat that Thor attempted to lift was in actuality the world serpent, Jörmungandr, and everyone was terrified when Thor was able to lift the paw of this "cat", for Thor had actually held the great serpent up to the sky. The old woman Thor wrestled was in fact old age (Elli, Old Norse "old age"), and there is no one that old age cannot bring down. Útgarða-Loki tells Thor that it would be better for "both sides" if they did not meet again. Upon hearing this, Thor takes hold of his hammer and swings it at Útgarða-Loki but he is gone and so is his castle. Only a wide landscape remains. (Wikipedia: Loki)

Thor tricks Alvíss, a dwarf

Sun Shines in the Hall (1908) by W.G. Collingwood: Thor clasps his daughter's hand and chuckles at the
"Sun Shines in the Hall" (1908) by W.G. Collingwood: Thor clasps his daughter's hand and chuckles at the "all-wise" dwarf, whom he has outwitted. The dwarf Alvíss has turned to stone.
Image source: commons.wikimedia.org

In the poem Alvíssmál, Thor tricks a dwarf, Alvíss, to his doom upon finding that he seeks to wed his daughter (unnamed, possibly Þrúðr). As the poem starts, Thor meets a dwarf who talks about getting married. Thor finds the dwarf repulsive and, apparently, realizes that the bride is his daughter. Thor comments that the wedding agreement was made among the gods while Thor was gone, and that the dwarf must seek his consent. To do so, Thor says, Alvíss must tell him what he wants to know about all of the worlds that the dwarf has visited. In a long question and answer session, Alvíss does exactly that; he describes natural features as they are known in the languages of various races of beings in the world, and gives an amount of cosmological lore.

However, the question and answer session turns out to be a ploy by Thor, as, although Thor comments that he has truly never seen anyone with more wisdom in their breast, Thor has managed to delay the dwarf enough for the Sun to turn him to stone; "day dawns on you now, dwarf, now sun shines on the hall". (Wikipedia)

Thor goes fishing and encounters Jörmungandr

The Altuna stone from Sweden, one of four stones depicting Thor's fishing tripThe Gosforth depiction, one of four stones depicting Thor's fishing trip
Left: The Altuna stone from Sweden, one of four stones depicting Thor's fishing trip
Right: The Gosforth depiction, one of four stones depicting Thor's fishing trip
Image sources: commons.wikimedia.org   commons.wikimedia.org

Thor is again the main character in the poem Hymiskviða, where, after the gods have been hunting and have eaten their prey, they have an urge to drink. They "sh[ake] the twigs" and interpret what they say. The gods decide that they would find suitable cauldrons at Ægir's home. Thor arrives at Ægir's home and finds him to be cheerful, looks into his eyes, and tells him that he must prepare feasts for the gods. Annoyed, Ægir tells Thor that the gods must first bring to him a suitable cauldron to brew ale in. The gods search but find no such cauldron anywhere. However, Týr tells Thor that he may have a solution; east of Élivágar lives Hymir, and he owns such a deep kettle.

So, after Thor secures his goats at Egil's home, Thor and Týr go to Hymir's hall in search of a cauldron large enough to brew ale for them all. They arrive, and Týr sees his nine-hundred-headed grandmother and his gold-clad mother, the latter of which welcomes them with a horn. After Hymir—who is not happy to see Thor—comes in from the cold outdoors, Týr's mother helps them find a properly strong cauldron. Thor eats a big meal of two oxen (all the rest eat but one), and then goes to sleep. In the morning, he awakes and informs Hymir that he wants to go fishing the following evening, and that he will catch plenty of food, but that he needs bait. Hymir tells him to go get some bait from his pasture, which he expects should not be a problem for Thor. Thor goes out, finds Hymir's best ox, and rips its head off.

After a lacuna in the manuscript of the poem, Hymiskviða abruptly picks up again with Thor and Hymir in a boat, out at sea. Hymir catches a few whales at once, and Thor baits his line with the head of the ox. Thor casts his line and the monstrous serpent Jörmungandr bites. Thor pulls the serpent on board, and violently slams him in the head with his hammer. Jörmungandr shrieks, and a noisy commotion is heard from underwater before another lacuna appears in the manuscript.

After the second lacuna, Hymir is sitting in the boat, unhappy and totally silent, as they row back to shore. On shore, Hymir suggests that Thor should help him carry a whale back to his farm. Thor picks both the boat and the whales up, and carries it all back to Hymir's farm. After Thor successfully smashes a crystal goblet by throwing it at Hymir's head on Týr's mother's suggestion, Thor and Týr are given the cauldron. Týr cannot lift it, but Thor manages to roll it, and so with it they leave. Some distance from Hymir's home, an army of many-headed beings led by Hymir attacks the two, but are killed by the hammer of Thor. Although one of his goats is lame in the leg, the two manage to bring the cauldron back, have plenty of ale, and so, from then on, return to Ægir's for more every winter. (Wikipedia)

Thor fighting Jörmungandr
Thor fighting the mighty giant serpent Jörmungandr during a fishing trip with Hymir the giant. Painting by Henry Fuseli. (1788). Royal Academy of Arts, London.
Image source: commons.wikimedia.org

The death of Thor

In the poem Völuspá of Poetic Edda, a dead völva recounts the history of the universe and foretells the future to the disguised god Odin, including the death of Thor. Thor, she foretells, will do battle with the great serpent during the immense mythical war waged at Ragnarök, and there he will slay the monstrous snake, yet after he will only be able to take nine steps before succumbing to the venom of the beast:

Benjamin Thorpe translation:
Then comes the mighty son of Hlôdyn:
(Odin's son goes with the monster to fight);
Midgârd's Veor in his rage will slay the worm.
Nine feet will go Fiörgyn's son,
bowed by the serpent, who feared no foe.
All men will their homes forsake.

Henry Adams Bellows translation:
Hither there comes the son of Hlothyn,
The bright snake gapes to heaven above;
. . . . . . . .
Against the serpent goes Othin's son.
In anger smites the warder of earth,—
Forth from their homes must all men flee;—
Nine paces fares the son of Fjorgyn,
And, slain by the serpent, fearless he sinks.

 

Afterwards, says the völva, the sky will turn black before fire engulfs the world, the stars will disappear, flames will dance before the sky, steam will rise, the world will be covered in water and then it will be raised again, green and fertile (see Prose Edda section below for the survival of the sons of Thor, who return after these events with Thor's hammer).

Thor fighting Jörmungandr
Thor und die Midgardsschlange. A scene from Ragnarök, the final battle between Thor and Jörmungandr.====Thor and the Midgard Serpent (by Emil Doepler, 1905)
Image source: commons.wikimedia.org
The foretold death of Thor as depicted by Lorenz Frølich (1895)
The foretold death of Thor as depicted by Lorenz Frølich (1895)
Image source: commons.wikimedia.org

 

 

Ragnarök

Völuspá (Old Norse Vǫluspá, Prophecy of the Völva (Seeress)) is the first and best known poem of the Poetic Edda. It tells the story of the creation of the world and its coming end, related to the audience by a völva addressing Odin. The Völva prophesies the destruction of the gods where fire and flood overwhelm heaven and earth as the gods fight their final battles with their enemies. This is the "fate of the gods" - Ragnarök. She describes the summons to battle, the deaths of many of the gods and how Odin, himself, is slain by Fenrir, the great wolf. Víðarr faces Fenrir and kicks his jaw open before stabbing the wolf in the heart with his spear. Thor, the god of thunder and sworn protector of the earth, faces Jörmungandr, the world serpent, and wins but Thor is only able to take nine steps afterward before collapsing. The god Freyr fights the giant Surtr, who wields a fiery sword that shines brighter than the sun, and Freyr falls. Finally a beautiful reborn world will rise from the ashes of death and destruction where Baldr and Höðr will live again in a new world where the earth sprouts abundance without sowing seed. The surviving Æsir reunite with Hœnir and meet together at the field of Iðavöllr, discussing Jörmungandr, great events of the past, and the runic alphabet. A final stanza describes the sudden appearance of Nidhogg the dragon, bearing corpses in his wings, before the seeress emerges from her trance. Völuspá is one of the most important primary sources for the study of Norse mythology. Henry Adam Bellows proposed a 10th-century dating and authorship by a pagan Icelander with knowledge of Christianity. (Wikipedia: Völva )

Ragnarök - the end of the world

Battle of the Doomed Gods (by Friedrich Wilhelm Heine, 1882)
Battle of the Doomed Gods (by Friedrich Wilhelm Heine, 1882)
Image source: commons.wikimedia.org

In Norse mythology, Ragnarök is a series of future events, including a great battle foretold to ultimately result in the death of a number of major figures (including the gods Odin, Thor, Týr, Freyr, Heimdallr, and Loki), the occurrence of various natural disasters, and the subsequent submersion of the world in water. Afterward, the world will resurface anew and fertile, the surviving and returning gods will meet, and the world will be repopulated by two human survivors. Ragnarök is an important event in the Norse canon, and has been the subject of scholarly discourse and theory. (Wikipedia)
The event is attested primarily in Völuspá of the Poetic Edda, and the Prose Edda. The event is referred to as Ragnarök or Ragnarøkkr (Old Norse "Fate of the Gods" and "Twilight of the Gods" respectively), a usage popularized by 19th-century composer Richard Wagner. Götterdämmerung, the title of Richard Wagner’s Der Ring des Nibelungen opera (1876), is a German equivalent of Ragnarøkkr meaning “twilight of the gods.” (Wikipedia)

Synopsis
The Ragnarök will be preceded by the arrival of Fimbulvetr (Fimbulwinter - the "terrible winter"), three in succession - Heavy snows from all quarters, greater frosts and sharper winds ; there shall be no virtue in the sun and no summer between.

Chapter 51 of Gylfaginning provides a detailed account of Ragnarök interspersed with various quotes from Völuspá. High states the first sign of Ragnarök will be Fimbulvetr, during which time three winters will arrive without a summer, and the sun will be useless. High details that, prior to these winters, three earlier winters will have occurred, marked with great battles throughout the world. During this time, greed will cause brothers to kill brothers, and fathers and sons will suffer from the collapse of kinship bonds. High then quotes stanza 45 of Völuspá: Brothers will fight and kill each other, sisters' children will defile kinship. It is harsh in the world, whoredom rife —an axe age, a sword age —shields are riven— a wind age, a wolf age— before the world goes headlong. No man will have mercy on another. Next, High describes that the sun and the moon will be swallowed by the wolfs Sköll and Hati, and mankind will consider the occurrence as a great disaster resulting in much ruin. The stars will disappear. The earth and mountains will shake so violently that the trees will come loose from the soil, the mountains will topple, and all restraints will break, causing Fenrir to break free from his bond. In chapter 34, High describes the binding of the wolf Fenrir by the gods, causing the god Týr to lose his right hand, and that Fenrir remains there until Ragnarök. Gangleri asks High why, since the gods could only expect destruction from Fenrir, they did not simply kill Fenrir once he was bound. High responds that "the gods hold their sacred places and sanctuaries in such respect that they chose not to defile them with the wolf's blood, even though the prophecies foretold that he would be the death of Odin."

As a consequence of his role in the death of the god Baldr, Loki (described as father of Fenrir) is bound on top of three stones with the internal organs of his son Narfi (which are turned into iron) in three places. There, venom drops onto his face periodically from a snake placed by the jötunn Skaði, and when his wife Sigyn empties the bucket she is using to collect the dripping venom, the pain he experiences causes convulsions, resulting in earthquakes. Loki is further described as being bound this way until the onset of Ragnarök. The Prose Edda notes that, after Loki is bound under the surface of the earth, he shall lay "in bonds till the [fate] of the Gods [i.e. Ragnarök]." - "For no one of men | shall seek me more Till Loki wanders | loose from his bonds, And to the last strife | the destroyers come."

The völva also describes the signs that the end is near: three roosters crow - the crimson rooster Fjalar (Old Norse "hider, deceiver") crows in the forest Gálgviðr. The golden rooster Gullinkambi crows to the Æsir in Valhalla, and the third, unnamed soot-red rooster crows in the halls of the underworld location of Hel. The hound Garmr produces deep howls, breaks loose, and runs free: Now Garmr howls loud | before Gnipahellir, | The fetters will burst, | and the wolf run free; | Much do I know, | and more can see | Of the fate of the gods, | the mighty in fight.” - Völuspá 58 – Bellows translation. Then shall the dog Garmr be loosed, which is bound before Gnipa’s Cave: he is the greatest monster; he shall do battle with Týr, and each become the other’s slayer.” - Gylfaginning 51, Prose Edda – Thorpe translation.

When the end is imminent, Heimdall raises the Gjallarhorn into the air and blows deeply into it, sounding a blast that will be heard throughout the nine worlds, and Odin converses with Mím's head. The world tree Yggdrasil shudders and groans. The jötunn Hrym comes from the east, his shield before him. The Midgard serpent Jörmungandr furiously writhes, causing waves to crash. "The eagle shrieks, pale-beaked he tears the corpse," and the ship Naglfar breaks free thanks to the waves made by Jormungandr and sets sail from the east. The fire jötnar inhabitants of Muspelheim come forth. The massive earthquake looses all bonds, thus freeing Loki and the Fenris, the wolf.

The völva continues that Jötunheimr, the land of the jötnar, is aroar, and that the Æsir are in council. The dwarves groan by their stone doors. Surtr advances from the south, his sword brighter than the sun. Rocky cliffs open and the jötnar women sink. People walk the road to Hel and the heavens split apart. (Wikipedia)

In Gylfaginning, High relates that the great serpent Jörmungandr, also described as a child of Loki, will breach land as the sea violently swells onto it. The ship Naglfar, described in the Prose Edda as being made from the human nails of the dead, is released from its mooring, and sets sail on the surging sea, steered by a jötunn named Hrym. At the same time, Fenrir, eyes and nostrils spraying flames, charges forward with his mouth wide open, his upper jaw reaching to the heavens, his lower jaw touching the earth. At Fenrir's side, Jörmungandr sprays venom throughout the air and the sea.

During all of this, the sky splits into two. From the split, the "sons of Muspell" ride forth. Surtr rides first, surrounded by flames, his sword brighter than the sun. High says that "Muspell's sons" will ride across Bifröst, described in Gylfaginning as a rainbow bridge, and that the bridge will then break. The sons of Muspell (and their shining battle troop) advance to the field of Vígríðr, described as an expanse that reaches "a hundred leagues in each direction," where Fenrir, Jörmungandr, Loki (followed by "Hel's own"), and Hrym (accompanied by all frost jötnar) join them. While this occurs, Heimdallr stands and blows the Gjallarhorn with all his might. The gods awaken at the sound, and they meet. Odin rides to Mímir's Well in search of counsel from Mímir. Yggdrasil shakes, and everything, everywhere fears.

High relates that the Æsir and the Einherjar dress for war and head to the field. Odin, wearing a gold helmet and an intricate coat of mail, carries his spear Gungnir and rides before them. Odin advances against Fenrir, while Thor moves at his side, though Thor is unable to assist Odin because he has engaged Jörmungandr in combat. According to High, Freyr fiercely fights with Surtr, but Freyr falls because he lacks the sword he once gave to his messenger, Skirnir. The hound Garmr (described here as the "worst of monsters") breaks free from his bonds in front of Gnipahellir, and fights the god Týr, resulting in both of their deaths. Thor kills Jörmungandr, yet is poisoned by the serpent, and manages to walk nine steps before falling to the earth dead. Fenrir swallows Odin, though immediately afterward his son Víðarr kicks his foot into Fenrir's lower jaw, grips Fenrir's upper jaw, and rips apart Fenrir's mouth, killing Fenrir. Loki fights Heimdallr, and the two kill one another. Surtr covers the earth in fire, causing the entire world to burn. (Wikipedia)

After this, people flee their homes, and the sun becomes black while the earth sinks into the sea, the stars vanish, steam rises, and flames touch the heavens. (Wikipedia)

The Final Battle
Once the army of gods reach the charnel fields, the battle begins at once.

Each of the gods immediately squares off with his respective nemesis: Odin faces off with Fenrir; Thor with Jörmungandr; Freyr with the lord of the fire giants, Surtr; Tyr with the dread-wolf Garm; and Heimdall with the malevolent Loki. Freyr is the first to fall, having lent his magical sword to his servant Skírnir. Soon after, Tyr and Garm slay each other.

Though Thor succeeds in killing Jörmungandr with his hammer (Mjollnir), he then succumbs to the serpent's venom and falls dead himself. Odin defends himself valiantly against Fenrir, but is final devoured by his opponent. To avenge his father, Vidar immediately comes forward, places one foot on the wolf's lower jaw and one hand on the wolf's upper jaw, and tears its throat asunder, killing it at last. Finally, Heimdall and Loki both perish as a result of their evenly matched encounter.

Then, brandishing his terrible sword, Surtr burns all Nine worlds with fire, destroying himself in the conflagration. Death will come to all manner of things. Fumes will reek and flames will burst, scorching the sky with fire. The earth will sink into the sea. The sun turns black, | earth sinks in the sea, The hot stars down | from heaven are whirled; Fierce grows the steam | and the life-feeding flame, Till fire leaps high | about heaven itself. (New World Enclopedia)


Odin und Fenriswolf Freyr und Surt. A scene from Ragnarök, the final battle between Odin and Fenrir and Freyr and Surtr.
Odin und Fenriswolf Freyr und Surt (depiction by Emil Doepler, 1905). A scene from Ragnarök, the final battle between Odin and Fenrir and Freyr and Surtr.
Image source: commons.wikimedia.org

After Ragnarök

Battle of the Doomed Gods (by Friedrich Wilhelm Heine, 1882)
An eagle and a waterfall - The world after Ragnarök
Image source: commons.wikimedia.org

The völva sees the earth reappearing from the water, and an eagle over a waterfall hunting fish on a mountain. The surviving Æsir meet together at the field of Iðavöllr. They discuss Jörmungandr, great events of the past, and the runic alphabet. In stanza 61, in the grass, they find the golden game pieces that the gods are described as having once happily enjoyed playing games with long ago (attested earlier in the same poem). The reemerged fields grow without needing to be sown. The gods Höðr and Baldr return from Hel and live happily together.

The völva says that the god Hœnir chooses wooden slips for divination, and that the sons of two brothers will widely inhabit the windy world. She sees a hall thatched with gold in Gimlé, where nobility will live and spend their lives pleasurably. Stanzas 65, found in the Hauksbók version of the poem, refers to a "powerful, mighty one" that "rules over everything" and who will arrive from above at the court of the gods (Old Norse regindómr), which has been interpreted as a Christian addition to the poem. In stanza 66, the völva ends her account with a description of the dragon Níðhöggr, corpses in his jaws, flying through the air. The völva then "sinks down." It is unclear if stanza 66 indicates that the völva is referring to the present time or if this is an element of the post-Ragnarök world. (Wikipedia)

A depiction of Líf and Lífthrasir (by Lorenz Frølich, 1895)
A depiction of Líf and Lífthrasir (by Lorenz Frølich, 1895). Líf and Lífþrasir, the only surviving woman and man (respectively) of Ragnarök, stand side by side. Water falls between them, while an eagle nests above it, and greenery intertwines with the entire composition.
Image source: commons.wikimedia.org

The World Tree Yggdrasill will survive, and two humans, Lif and Lifthrasir (“Life” and “Vitality”), will be sheltered among its branches. The world will be repopulated by them.


The Vanir god Njörðr is mentioned in relation to Ragnarök in stanza 39 of the poem Vafþrúðnismál. In the poem, Odin, disguised as "Gagnráðr" faces off with the wise jötunn Vafþrúðnir in a battle of wits. Vafþrúðnismál references Njörðr's status as a hostage during the earlier Æsir-Vanir War, and that he will "come back home among the wise Vanir" at "the doom of men."

In stanza 44, Odin poses the question to Vafþrúðnir as to who of mankind will survive the "famous" Fimbulvetr ("Mighty Winter"). Vafþrúðnir responds in stanza 45 that those survivors will be Líf and Lífþrasir, and that they will hide in the forest of Hoddmímis holt, that they will consume the morning dew, and will produce generations of offspring. In stanza 46, Odin asks what sun will come into the sky after Fenrir has consumed the sun that exists. Vafþrúðnir responds that Sól will bear a daughter before Fenrir assails her, and that after Ragnarök this daughter will continue her mother's path.

In stanza 51, Vafþrúðnir states that, after Surtr's flames have been sated, Odin's sons Víðarr and Váli will live in the temples of the gods, and that Thor's sons Móði and Magni will possess the hammer Mjolnir. In stanza 52, the disguised Odin asks the jötunn about Odin's own fate. Vafþrúðnir responds that "the wolf" will consume Odin, and that Víðarr will avenge him by sundering its cold jaws in battle. Odin ends the duel with one final question: what did Odin say to his son before preparing his funeral pyre? With this, Vafþrúðnir realizes that he is dealing with none other than Odin, whom he refers to as "the wisest of beings," adding that Odin alone could know this. Odin's message has been interpreted as a promise of resurrection to Baldr after Ragnarök. (Wikipedia)


At the beginning of chapter 52 of Gylfaginning, Gangleri asks "what will be after heaven and earth and the whole world are burned? All the gods will be dead, together with the Einherjar and the whole of mankind. Didn't you say earlier that each person will live in some world throughout all ages?"

The figure of Third, seated on the highest throne in the hall, responds that there will be many good places to live, but also many bad ones. Third states that the best place to be is Gimlé in the heavens, where a place exists called Okolnir that houses a hall called Brimir—where one can find plenty to drink. Third describes a hall made of red gold located in Niðafjöll called Sindri, where "good and virtuous men will live." Third further relates an unnamed hall in Náströnd, the beaches of the dead, that he describes as a large repugnant hall facing north that is built from the spines of snakes, and resembles "a house with walls woven from branches;" the heads of the snakes face the inside of the house and spew so much venom that rivers of it flow throughout the hall, in which oath breakers and murderers must wade. Third here quotes Völuspá stanzas 38 to 39, with the insertion of original prose stating that the worst place of all to be is in Hvergelmir, followed by a quote from Völuspá to highlight that the dragon Níðhöggr harasses the corpses of the dead there.

Chapter 53 begins with Gangleri asking if any of the gods will survive, and if there will be anything left of the earth or the sky. High responds that the earth will appear once more from the sea, beautiful and green, where self-sown crops grow. The field Iðavöllr exists where Asgard once was, and, there, untouched by Surtr's flames, Víðarr and Váli reside. Now possessing their father's hammer Mjolnir, Thor's sons Móði and Magni will meet them there, and, coming from Hel, Baldr, and Höðr also arrive. Together, they all sit and recount memories, later finding the gold game pieces the Æsir once owned. Völuspá stanza 51 is then quoted.

High reveals that two humans, Líf and Lífþrasir, will have also survived the destruction by hiding in the wood Hoddmímis holt. These two survivors consume the morning dew for sustenance, and from their descendants the world will be repopulated. Vafþrúðnismál stanza 45 is then quoted. The personified sun, Sól, will have a daughter at least as beautiful as she, and this daughter will follow the same path as her mother. Vafþrúðnismál stanza 47 is quoted, and so ends the foretelling of Ragnarök in Gylfaginning. (Wikipedia)




This is the end .... Feel the earth move .... Let the skyfall .... When it crumbles.
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