Scandinavian Mythology, pre-Christian religious beliefs of the Scandinavian people.

The Scandinavian legends and myths about ancient heroes, gods, and the creation and destruction of the universe developed out of the original common mythology of the Germanic peoples (Ed. note: This is a common theory among Germanic scholars, who tend to believe that the Sax invented everything. The truth is that the Nordic, both Wanr & Aesr, and the Saxon (Germanic) mythology originated in, and developed from, India and the Vedas) and constitute the primary source of knowledge about ancient German mythology. Because Scandinavian mythology was transmitted and altered by medieval Christian historians, the original pagan religious beliefs, attitudes, and practices cannot be determined with certainty. Clearly, however, Scandinavian mythology developed slowly, and the relative importance of different gods and heroes varied at different times and places. Thus, the cult of Odin, chief of the gods, may have spread from western Germany to Scandinavia not long before the myths were recorded; minor gods including Ull, the fertility god Njord1, and Heimdall may represent older deities2 who lost strength and popularity as Odin became more important. Odin, a god of war, was also associated with learning, wisdom, poetry, and magic. (ed. note: Odin associated himself with anything that made him look good.)
Most information about Scandinavian mythology is preserved in the Old Norse literature (Icelandic, Swedish, and Norwegian Literature), in the Eddas and later sagas; other material appears in commentaries by the Danish historian Saxo Grammaticus and the German writer Adam of Bremen (flourished about 1075). Fragments of legends are sometimes preserved in old inscriptions and in later folklore.
Gods and Heroes
Besides Odin, the major deities of Scandinavian mythology were his wife, Frigg, goddess of the home; Valhalla. There the warriors would spend their days fighting and nights feasting until Ragnarok, the day of the final world battle, in which the old gods would perish and a new reign of peace and love would be instituted. Ordinary individuals were received after death by the goddess Hel in a cheerless underground world.

Scandinavian mythology included dwarves; elves; and the Norns, who distributed fates to mortals. The ancient Scandinavians also believed in personal spirits, such as the fylgja and the hamingja, which in some respects resembled the Christian idea of the soul. The gods were originally conceived as a confederation of two formerly warring divine tribes, the Aesir and the Vanir. Odin was originally the leader of the Aesir, which consisted of at least 12 gods. Together all the gods lived in Asgard.
Creation belief
The Eddic poem Völuspá (Prophecy of the Seeress) portrays a period of primeval chaos, followed by the creation of giants and gods and, finally, of humankind. Ginnungagap was the yawning void, Jotunheim the home of the giants, Niflheim the region of cold, and Muspellsheim the realm of heat. The great world-tree, Yggdrasil, reached through all time and space, but it was perpetually under attack from Nidhogg, the evil serpent. The fountain of Mimir, source of hidden wisdom, lay under one of the roots of the tree.

Religious Ritual
The Scandinavian gods were served by a class of priest-chieftains called godar. Worship was originally conducted outdoors, under guardian trees, near sacred wells, or within sacred arrangements of stones. Later, wooden temples were used, with altars and with carved representations of the gods. The most important temple was at Old Uppsala, Sweden, where animals and even human beings were sacrificed.

A Partial Aesir Pantheon:
king of the gods. His two black ravens, Huginn (Thought) and Muninn (Memory), flew forth daily to gather tidings of events all over the world. As god of war, Odin held court in Valhalla, where all brave warriors went after death in battle. His greatest treasures were his eight-footed steed, Sleipner, his spear, Gungnir, and his ring, Draupner. Odin was also the god of wisdom, poetry, and magic, and he sacrificed an eye for the privilege of drinking from Mimir, the fountain of wisdom. Odin's three wives were earth goddesses, and his eldest son was Thor, the god of Thunder. Odin was worshipped under different names, throughout northern Europe. The Germans called him Wotan, and the English Woden.
the god of thunder, eldest son of Odin and Jord, the earth goddess. Thor was the strongest of the Aesir, whom he helped protect from their enemies, the giants. Thunder was believed to be the sound of his rolling chariot. Also, thursday is named for Thor (Thor's day). Named after the Germanic word for thunder, Thor wielded a hammer, called Mjollnir, which represented a powerful thunderbolt. If thrown, the hammer would return to him like a boomerang.
the handsome giant who represented evil and was possessed of great knowledge and cunning. He was indirectly responsible for the death of Balder, god of light and joy. According to the Poetic Edda, a collection of Scandinavian myths, Loki and Hel, goddess of the underworld, will lead the forces of evil against the Aesir, or gods, in the titanic struggle of Ragnarok, the end of the world.
the goddess of the dead. She dwelt beneath one of the three roots of the sacred ash tree Yggdrasil and was the daughter of Loki, the spirit of mischief or evil, and the giantess Angerbotha (Angerboda). Odin, the All-Father, hurled Hel into Niflheim, the realm of cold and darkness, itself also known as Hel, over which he gave her sovereign authority.
The Valkyries,
were warrior maidens who attended Odin, ruler of the gods. The Valkyries rode through the air in brilliant armor, directed battles, distributed death lots among the warriors, and conducted the souls of slain heroes to Valhalla, the great hall of Odin. Their leader was Brunhild.
Abodes of the Aesir Gods:
the abode of the gods. Access to Asgard was possible only by crossing the bridge Bifrost (the rainbow). Asgard was divided into 12 or more realms in which each principal god had his own luxurious mansion of gold or silver. The most important palace was Valhalla, the home of Odin, the chief of the gods.
the hall of slain heroes, ruled by the king of the gods, Odin, in the realm of the gods, Asgard. The hall had 540 doors, through each of which 800 heroes could walk abreast, and the roof was made of shields. The souls of heroic soldiers killed in battle were brought to Valhalla by warrior maidens called Valkyries. The heroes fought during the day, but their wounds healed before night, when they banqueted with Odin.

Editor's Notes:
Keeping in mind that this document is written entirely from the Aesir/Sax viewpoint, I would like to add these thoughts.
1. Njordur, the father of Frej and Freja, the pre-eminant God of the Vanr; absorbed and dismissed by the Aesr, along with Ull, Heimdal & other Vanir deities.
2. The Older Gods referred to here are the gods of the Vanr and the Sami. The Sami inhabited this area of the world before the Vanir arrived and the Vanir pre-dated the Aesir by hundreds of years.