There are many Norse Gods – some you’ll hear about more than others. Here is a little crash course in the Gods of the Norse Pantheon you’ll probably hear about the most – I’ve chosen 12 of the Gods of Asgard to introduce you to and Dan from The Northern Myths Podcast is going to tell you the tale of Baldur. We then have Sue Bavey who is going to give you a few more facts about the Gods and introduce you to some extra ones, accompanied by a bit of cuteness with some illustrated pictures from Mary Budzik.
First, you should know that although the Norse Gods eventually joined together for the greater good of them all, they belonged to two warring factions, The Æsir and the Vanir. The Gods featured here all (relatively peacefully) live alongside one another in Asgard.
What I love about the Norse Gods is that they are fallible, they are driven by lust, envy and vengeance as well as more benevolent traits – and in the end, the majority are foretold to meet their deaths in battle at Ragnarok.
Odin, the All-father, the Hanged God – in fact he has over 170 names attributed to him from various sources. Odin is the ruler of Asgard and chief of the Gods. He is not merely the God of one thing, being the God of War and death, of poetry and magic. Odin rides his eight-legged horse Sleipnir, and seeks knowledge with the ravens Hugin (thought) and Munin (memory) at his command. He is also accompanied by his two wolves, Geri and Freki. The wisest and most knowledgeable of the Gods.
The Queen of Asgard and wife of Odin, Frigg encompasses all the traits you’d expect from a strong woman in the eyes of the Norse. She is the Goddess of fertility, motherhood and the household. She is also gifted in divination – the most famous example of her using these powers is to try and protect her son Baldur on dreaming of his death.
Everybody knows Thor, right? Armed with his unbreakable, unstoppable hammer Mjöllnir (he also owns a magic belt and iron gloves), Thor is the strongest of the Gods. What he lacks in cunning he makes up for in pure strength. He is the God of Thunder. He is also the protector of mankind and is known for his healing powers and righteous bravery.
Ah, Loki. Loki has the potential to be a real asset to the Gods (and proves to be so whenever he actually helps). His trickery and crimes outweigh his plus points though and most of the times the Gods need to get out of a problem, Loki is the one who caused it in the first place. Loki has full control of any form of trickery, including shape shifting. Whilst very cunning, Loki is not a character to be trusted – his lack of moral compass ensures that eventually he goes too far and he is imprisoned by the Gods, for a time…
Tyr is the Norse God of War, Justice and Law. He is perhaps best known for his role in The Binding of Fenrir and the subsequent loss of his right hand. Some call him the bravest of the Gods. He has a penchant for doing the right thing.
Heimdall is the guardian of Asgard. He stands guard atop the Bifrost (the rainbow bridge between Midgard and Asgard) to protect the realm of the Gods. He is all-seeing and all-hearing.
Idunn is the Goddess of youth, or spring and rejuvenation. She is one of the most important Gods purely because she keeps the other Gods youthful and strong, with her golden apples. When the Gods don’t get their apples (hint – Loki is involved), it’s clear what an important role Idunn plays in the long life of the pantheon.
Njord is the God of the sea and the winds and is the leader of the Vanir. He is also the father of Freya and Freyr. He features prominently in the myth The marriage of Njord and Skadi and although there aren’t a lot of surviving stories about Njord, evidence suggests he was once very widely worshipped and esteemed amongst the Norse people.
Freya & Freyr
Freya is the Norse Goddess of love, beauty, lust, fertility and blessings – and some also say battle and death; her brother Freyr is the God of peace and fertility, rain and sunshine. Freyr is known for his magic sword that is able to fight by itself, without a wielder; his loss of such a sword will inevitably lead to his fall at Ragnarok.
Freya meanwhile is said to survive the great battle. She presides over the other heavenly afterlife that is perhaps not as well known as Valhalla and takes half of the Vikings who have done enough to achieve a heavenly ascension, to Folkvangr – her great hall.
Vidar is incredibly strong, second only to Thor. He is a son of Odin and the God of vengeance. He doesn’t play a central role in many of the myths but is an overall important figure in the wider mythology, playing an essential role at Ragnarok.
Here’s Dan from the Northern Myths Podcast, to tell you all about Baldur:
Baldur, the Shining Day by Dan Larabie
Baldur, the son of Odin and Frigg, is one of the most important gods in Norse Mythology. His name is speculated to mean brave, defiant, lord, prince, shining day and hero. Which is appropriate because he is the hero of Norse mythology. You might expect the hero of Norse mythology to be the best viking who killed the biggest dragon and found the best treasure. However, we don’t have any stories of Baldur doing any of these things. Instead we have the story of his death and resurrection in the world to come.
It started with a dream. Frigg had a dream that her son Baldur, the best and most beloved of the gods, was going to die. Frigg had always known the fates of god and human alike and she was worried. She was so worried that she travelled the realms to get an oath from each and every thing that they would not harm Baldur. Every thing was happy to swear the oath because Baldur was so beloved. After getting these oaths, Frigg was ready to return to Asgard when she noticed the humble mistletoe. She had not gotten an oath from the mistletoe. It was so tiny though, and charming. What harm could this little mistletoe do to her brave and heroic son? Frigg returned to Asgard without securing an oath but confident that Baldur was safe.
Baldur wasted no time enjoying his new found protection. His friends gathered around him and they all took turns throwing and shooting weapons at him. No blade or arrow could touch him. This was great fun! Then it was Hod’s turn. Hod was blind but that wasn’t going to stop him. Someone handed him a spear and he threw it at Baldur. It pierced Baldur’s chest and Baldur fell over dead. Everyone stood in disbelief. Nothing should have been able to kill Baldur. Well, almost nothing. The spear had been made with mistletoe and was given to Hod by none other than Loki. Loki knew that Frigg had neglected to get an oath from mistletoe. How could the Trickster resist giving a blind god the one thing that could kill the most beloved of all the gods?
The aftermath of Baldur’s death was devastating. Trips to Hel were made to rescue his soul, the gods tried to get every thing’s permission for Baldur to return from the dead. None of their attempts were successful. They held a funeral for Baldur. It was the saddest funeral any of the gods had ever witnessed. Odin, the All-father, the wise and terrible one, was wracked with grief. As they prepared to push Baldur’s funeral boat out to sea, Odin leaned over his dead son’s body and whispered something in his ear. No one but Odin know what he said to his dead son. What could a father god say to his beloved son who wasn’t supposed to die?
After Baldur’s death, things changed for the gods. It was like the spirit of the tribe had been extinguished. Responsibilities and oaths fell to wayside. Even the earth seemed to be mourning. Winter grew longer and colder until there were three winters with no spring or summer between them. Finally, the doom of the gods was upon them. It was time for Ragnarok.
Ragnarok was a catastrophic battle. Old foes battled each other to their deaths. The great wolf devoured Odin and his jaws were so wide that they could bite the earth and sky at the same time. Surt, the fire giant, came with his fiery sword and laid waste to the world. The burning land then sank beneath the waves, returning to the unknown depths of creation.
Thankfully for us, and for the gods, there is life and creation after destruction. The waters receded and uncovered a new green and lush land. A surviving tree had protected some humans from annihilation. Upon this new land there were some gods who had managed to survive Ragnarok. Thor’s mighty sons Mothi and Magni, and Odin’s silent son Vidar were among the survivors. They were going to make sure that the humans knew of the great deeds of the gods who came before them. Then, as the sun rose on that new day, a god was seen, enveloped in the morning light.
It was Baldur.
With the destruction of the Old World, Baldur had returned to rule over the New World. He was going to restore the paradise that the gods had known at the beginning of the old world. He was the best, brightest and most courageous of the gods. He was the perfect god to usher in this new age. After such sadness and destruction the world knew happiness and peace under Baldur’s benevolent care. Everyone was so happy that no one noticed the corpse-winged dragon flying in far off distance.
I love the story of Baldur. It prepares us for the trials and tribulations of the world. One way to understand this myth is that we are all Baldur. We’re also all Hod. We see ourselves as Baldur, the best version of ourselves that we could ever hope to be. We are also Hod, with our blindspots that prevent us from being all that we could be. Ultimately, our blind spots prevent us from reaching our full potential. The beauty of this myth is that it tells us how to get past our blind spots. We have to go through Ragnarok. Our present self has to die and our world has to burn in order for us to be reborn as someone better.
Dan Larabie is the co-host of the Northern Myths Podcast. He and Luke DeWolf explore the myths and legends of northern Europe through an archetypal lens. They work to try and tease out some meaning from these old stories that have withstood the test of time and still capture the hearts and imaginations of people throughout the world. You can find their podcast on your favourite podcast platform, on Facebook and at www.northernmyths.com.
Now we have Sue Bavey who has kindly contributed her fun facts about the Norse gods accompanied by some cute pictures from illustrator Mary Budzik. I’ll leave you with Sue who also has some extra gods to tell you about!
A Guest Post from Sue Bavey
#Norsevember Week 1 – Gods and Mythology – An Introduction to the gods
As an introduction to Norse Mythology I decided to have a look at one of my 12 year old’s books, which he grew out of a long time ago: “Mythology – Oh My Gods and Goddesses” By Simon Basher, Illustrated by Mary Budzik.
The book has sections on the following:
Ancient Greeks; Norse Legends; Egyptian Divinities; Roman Deities.
I am only interested in the section on Norse Legends, since it works as an Introduction to the Norse Gods and Legends for anyone taking part in the #Norsevember reading challenge.
Mary Budzik’s illustrations of these well-known fearsome gods are very cute, so I thought I would share them here:
Odin the All Father
- The chief Aesir God, the god of battle
- Depicted as elderly, bearded and one-eyed
- His spear Gungnir (Swaying One) never misses its mark
- Sleipnir, (Old Slippy) Odin’s horse had eight legs
- At Ragnarok Odin’s men will fight the giants in one final battle
- Owner of ravens Huginn (Thought) and Muninn (Memory)
- He sacrificed one of his eyes to become wise.
Yggdrasil – the World Tree
- The Assembly point for the gods and their governing court
- Described by Odin as the most noble of all trees
- Three fates known as the Norns watered Yggdrasil every day
- As Ragnarok approaches, Yggdrasil’s trunk will shudder, sway and creak
- It is an ash tree so huge, no hurricane blast can bring it down
- The entire Norse cosmos is tangled in its branches linking the worlds with one another
Bifrost – a burning bridge
- Spans the border between earthly Midgard and heavenly Asgard
- Its use is exclusively for the gods
- Guarded by Heimdall, whose hall was close by for convenience
- At Ragnarok, Bifrost will shatter into bits as the gods ride over it to battle
- Heimdal means ‘He who lights the world
- He is associated with daybreak
- He can see for nine miles, even in the dark
- He guards Bifrost
- At Ragnarok, Heimdall will blow his horn, Gjallerhorn to summon the gods to combat
- Thor is the god of thunder, lightning and storms
- His hammer, Mjolnir shatters rocks and the force of his fling makes it searingly hot
- Loki is my sidekick
- My chariot is pulled by two goats, Tanngrisnir (Snarler) and Tanngnostr (Teeth grinder)
- Thor’s wife and goddess of fertility
- Her golden hair flows in waves down her back and carries the fate of the grain harvest
- Mother of Ull, god of archery and skiing
- Her daughter, Thrud was the goddess of heath, willows and grass
- Thor’s foster brother and god of fire
- Father of three evil beings: Hel, Fenrir and Jormungandr
- A Shapeshifter
- He started as a champion of the gods, but his tricks made them turn on him
- Loki gets bored easily and then gets into trouble
- At Ragnarok, Loki will lead the giants into battle against the gods
- Daughter of Loki
- Enemy of the Aesir
- Sister of wolf, Fenrir and Jormungandr
- She owns a bowl called Hunger and a knife called Famine
- Condemned by Odin to take care of the old and sick who were sent to her
- At Ragnarok all of Hel’s people will accompany Loki to fight against the Aesir
- Odin’s son
- God of light, always spoke gently to others
- Disturbed by dreams in which he dies
- His longship, Hringhorni is the finest of all
- Thanks to Loki he was speared through the heart by a sprig of mistletoe
- Following his death, his ship becomes his funeral pyre
- The sword god and the god of justice
- The only god brave enough to feed Fenrir the wolf, son of Loki
- Fenrir snapped off his hand
- Vanir god of prosperity
- Father to Freya and Freyr
- God of seafaring and fishing, good winds and summer seas
- Skadi chose him as a husband from only seeing his feet
- A diplomat, he lived with the Aesir to cement their peace with the Vanir
- After Ragnarok, Njord survives and returns to the Vanir
- Goddess of Winter and the hunt
- A giant, her name is related to the Saxon word for shadow
- She marries Njord, father of Freya and Freyr
- Skadi’s father, Thiassi was slain as punishment for stealing Idun’s apples of youth
- Son of Odin, god of poetry
- A giant, he was born in a glittering stalactite cave
- Married to Idun, goddess of eternal youth
- Associated with oaths used to swear a promise
- His beard is very long!
- An Aesir, goddess of plowing
- Wife of Skjold, King of the danes, and son of Odin
- She is associated with good luck and virtue
- Her name translates as “giver”
- Turned her 4 sons into oxen and hitched them to a plough
- The doom of the gods, the end of the world, time for Loki’s children to have their vengeance
- Ends in the final battle between the Aesir and their enemies
- Foreseen by Odin, the god of battle
Buy the book here: https://www.amazon.com/Basher-History-Mythology-Gods-Goddesses/dp/0753471728