Scandinavian Mythology, pre-Christian religious beliefs of the Scandinavian
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.
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.
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
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.
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
Keeping in mind that this document is written entirely from the Aesir/Sax
viewpoint, I would like to add these thoughts.
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