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Created Thursday 02 June 2016

Presentation Script

Good afternoon! Today, we would like to talk to you about Norse Mythology. Without further ado, let us begin.

I would first like to pose the question: What do you think of when you first think of Norse Mythology?

Do you think of cartoon vikings such as these?

There are many misconceptions about the vikings. While it is true they worshipped the Norse Gods, they were not the only ones, and they almost definitely did not have horns on their helmets.

Norse Mythology was, as per the name, the religion of the Norsemen, generally during the Viking age, from 8th to 11th century, though there is evidence of people worshipping it before then. However, not all Norsemen were vikings.

They had a defined social structure, and though there's some debate, most sources agree that Kings were the highest tier, followed by freemen, and then the slaves.

Viking warriors, with all their carnage and violence, are the ones that historians focus on the most. But while the vikings did pillage and rape, they were much more than that.

They were explorers. This is Lief Eriskon, who found North America before Christopher Columbus

They were builders. They would spend about a month before every voyage building a boat. It would be customized for whatever sea they were sailing on.

They were inventors. Here is a Hnefatafl gameboard, which is a type of Tafl game, which in turn was a type of board game invented by the Norsemen. It is particularly interesting because it mimics a viking raid.

And while they fought, they weren't mindless barbarians. They fought with a formalized system. They had an unarmed combat style called Glima that is still taught today, and they very probably had a formalized system for weaponry as well.

And above all, they were proud of their culture. This was found at the excavation of several viking sites - it is a pendant in the shape of Thor's hammer. And it was not without reason - as you will soon see, Norse mythology and culture is incredibly rich and exemplifies the culture it came from.

First I would like to talk about the Aesir and the Vanir. They are two tribes of Gods worshipped by the Norse, and while not much is known about the differences between the two, there was war between the two tribes that resulted in the unification of the two tribes into a single pantheon. A theory about what each tribe represented was that Aesir represented the more primal and passionate aspects of man, while the Vanir represented nature and it's more tranquil aspects, but even this is contentious at best.

Odin, known as the Master of Ecstasy - or, the Furious, depending on who you ask. Normally depicted in modern media as an upright, honorable God, this couldn’t be farther from the truth.
Odin was Chief of the Aesir, and the most powerful. The Aesir are the main pantheon of the Norse Gods, the other being the Vanir. The differences between them are highly disputed, but generally most sources agree that Aesir are associated more with the primal aspects of man, whilst the Vanir are more associated with the peaceful and the natural.
And this shows starkly in Odin - He is associated with many things. He is a War-God, as you can see, but he is also a Poetry-God. He is officially the divine patron of kings and rulers, but he is also sometimes the patron of outcasts.
Odin is shown in many of the texts to be devious and cunning - He has an insatiable thirst for knowledge, and sacrificed one of his eyes for wisdom. He practices magic, even feminine magic like Seidr, magic that can weave reality to his whims. This causes conflict within the pantheon, as many perceive him to be womanly because of it.
But despite that, he is also a God of War; However, he does not concern himself with the reason behind a conflict, or even the outcome. He places more value on the extreme, heightened battle frenzy that warriors feel, especially when they become “berserk”.
Finally, he is the God of Death, picking half of the potential candidates for eternal glory in Valhalla. His mastery over the dark art of necromancy is fitting, keeping in line with his thirst for power and knowledge.
A wise but cunning old man, who speaks only in poems and who does not care much for honor and morals - His son could not be more different.

Thor is the son of Odin.
Out of the Aesir, he is the 2nd most powerful, the most powerful one being his father.
He is the polar opposite of Odin - Honorable, and a protector of the people.
He is extremely strong, and is never without his two tools - an unnamed belt that doubles his already incredible strength, and his hammer, Mjollnr, which he uses to slay giants and other threats to mankind.
He is sworn enemies with Jormungand, the enormous sea serpent who encircles Midgard, but he mostly protects the lands against Jotunn, giants who threaten the realm. Ironically, he is ¾ giant. His father, Odin, is half giant, and his mother is fully giant.
Moreover, he is the God of Hallowing - to him, destruction and hallowing are the same thing, as he uses his hammer to banish and destroy hostile forces or elements.
Presiding over the air, he ensures that crops are plentiful and the weather is fair.
However, as he is the protector of the people, the warriors and the simple folk, his relationship with Odin is uneasy.

Also well loved by all is Baldur. He was associated with forgiveness, peace, light and purity. He was so beautiful that he actually radiated light. He was seen as passive and peaceful, in direct contrast with the masculine and warrior-centric focus of many of the male gods. Despite that, he was extremely well-loved by not only the Gods, but by many mortals. He is killed by Loki, which sparks off the series of events that leads to Ragnarok, and in the story , every living thing weeped for Baldur - all apart from none other than Loki, disguised as a giantess.

Thus, it should come as no surprise that Loki had an extremely tumultuous relationship, even amongst his own Tribe.
Loki is not associated formally with anything in the Prose Edda, other than that of trickery, but many historians believe that he was the God of Fire. Fitting, as fire can warm you one second, and burn down your house the next.
Extremely fickle and scheming, Loki aids the giants or the Gods, depending on whoever he favours at the time.
Loki is hated and isolated by the Gods, and not without good reason. He was the one who killed Baldur, one of the most beloved of the Gods.
His offspring are in keeping with his chaotic nature as well: He is the father to Fenrir, a wolf, and Jormungand, a gigantic sea serpent, but is also the mother to Sleipnir, an eight-legged horse. He is also father of....

...Hel. Part of the Aesir, she was, as said previously, the daughter of Loki. She is the Goddess of Death, presiding over Helheim, which is a realm for people who died dishonorably. Helheim will be described in more depth by Jonathan later. Hel does not appear in many of the texts, even though she is a major Goddess, presiding over one of the 4 underworlds. Being Loki's daughter, the other Gods, especially Odin, where justifiably concerned, and cast her out of Asgard. In the Prose Edda, she is often shown as uncaring for the concerns of the dead or the living, or even the Gods, only about her own personal self-interest. However, her personality is rather underdeveloped and she sometimes attempts to aid the Gods, like in the story of Baldur's death, wherein she agrees to release Baldur on the condition that all living things weep for him. The final goddess we will talk about...

… is Freya.
Associated with Love, Fertility, Beauty and Fine Material Possessions, Freya was one of the most feminine of the Gods.
Her ability to utilize Seidr, the feminine magic that can weave reality to her liking, allows her to control a multitude of things, and thus makes her extremely powerful. She is the foremost practitioner of Seidr - In fact, she brought the practice to the Gods.
Presiding over Folkvang, the field of the people, she is a Goddess of Death as well.
Interestingly, she is extremely promiscuous, but not derided because of that; she is well-loved by most of the Gods, as well as the people. And with that, I will hand it over to Hilal to talk about the heroes and their adventures.


Norse 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.

Gods and Godesses

The Vanir appear to have mainly been connected with cultivation and fertility and the Æsir were connected with power and war.

In Old Norse, ǫ́ss (or áss, ás, plural æsir; feminine ásynja, plural ásynjur) is the term denoting a member of the principal pantheon in the indigenous Germanic religion known as Norse religion. This pantheon includes Odin, Frigg, Thor, Baldr and Týr. The second pantheon comprises the Vanir. In Norse mythology, the two pantheons wage the Æsir-Vanir War, which results in a unified pantheon.

The Vanir (Old Norse Vanir, pronounced “VAN-ear”) are one of the two principal tribes of deities featured in Norse mythology. (The other tribe is the Aesir.) Among their ranks are Freya, Freyr, Njord, and arguably the early Germanic goddess Nerthus as well. Their home is Vanaheim, one of the Nine Worlds held within the branches of the world-tree Yggdrasil.


List of Æsir
Main article: List of Germanic deities and heroes

Gylfaginning (20.ff) gives a list of twelve male aesir, not including Odin their chief, nor including Loki, "whom some call the backbiter of the asas":

Then said Gangleri: Which are the Æsir in whom it is man’s duty to believe? Har answers: Twelve are the Æsir of the race of gods. Then said Jafnhar: The Asynjur are not less holy and they are not less capable. Then said Thrithi: Odin is the greatest and oldest of the Æsir. ... Frigg is his wife, and she knows the fate of men, although she tells not thereof. ...

(21.) Thor is the foremost of them. He is called Asa-Thor, or Oku-Thor. He is the strongest of all gods and men, and rules over the realm which is called Thrudvang.
(22.) Odin's second son is Baldr
(23.) the third asa is he who is called Njord.
(24.) Njord, in Noatun, afterward begat two children: a son, by name Freyr, and a daughter, by name Freyja. They were fair of face, and mighty. Freyr is arguably the most famous of the asas. He rules over rain and sunshine, and over the fruits of the earth. It is good to call on him for harvests and peace. He also sways the wealth of men. Freyja is the most famous of the goddesses. ...
(25.) There is yet an asa, whose name is Tyr. He is very daring and stout-hearted. He sways victory in war, wherefore warriors should call on him.
(26.) Bragi is the name of another of the asas. He is famous for his wisdom, eloquence and flowing speech.
(27.) Heimdall is the name of one. He is also called the white-asa. He is great and holy; born of nine maidens, all of whom were sisters. He is also called Hallinskide and Gullintanne, for his teeth were of gold.
(28.) Hoder hight one of the asas, who is blind, but exceedingly strong; and the gods would wish that this asa never needed to be named, for the work of his hand will long be kept in memory both by gods and men.
(29.) Vidar is the name of the silent asa. He has a very thick shoe, and he is the strongest next after Thor. From him the gods have much help in all hard tasks.
(30.) Ale, or Vale, is the son of Odin and Rindr. He is daring in combat, and a good shot.
(31.) Ullr is the name of one, who is a son of Sif, and a step-son of Thor. He is so good an archer, and so fast on his skis, that no one can contend with him. He is fair of face, and possesses every quality of a warrior. Men should invoke him in single combat.
(32.) Forseti is a son of Baldr and Nanna, Nep's daughter. He has in heaven the hall which hight Glitner. All who come to him with disputes go away perfectly reconciled. Just to listen to People's Future. No better tribunal is to be found among gods and men. ...

(33.) There is yet one who is numbered among the asas, but whom some call the backbiter of the asas. He is the originator of deceit, and the disgrace of all gods and men. His name is Loki, or Lopt. ... His wife hight Sigyn, and their son, Nare, or Narfe.

Corresponding to the fourteen Æsir listed above, section 36 lists fourteen asynjur:

Ganglere asked: Which are the goddesses? Har answered:

Frigg is the first; she possesses the right lordly dwelling which is called Fensaler.
The second is Saga, who dwells in Sokvabek, and this is a large dwelling.
The third is Eir, who is the best leech.
The fourth is Gefjun, who is a may, and those who die maids become her hand-maidens.
The fifth is Fulla, who is also a may, she wears her hair flowing and has a golden ribbon about her head; she carries Frigg's chest, takes care of her shoes and knows her secrets.
The sixth is Freyja, who is ranked with Frigg. She is wedded to the man whose name is Oder; their daughter's name is Hnos, and she is so fair that all things fair and precious are called, from her name, Hnos. Oder went far away. Freyja weeps for him, but her tears are red gold. Freyja has many names, and the reason therefor is that she changed her name among the various nations to which she came in search of Oder. She is called Mardol, Horn, Gefn, and Syr. She has the necklace Brising, and she is called Vanadis.
The seventh is Sjöfn, who is fond of turning men's and women's hearts to love, and it is from her name that love is called Sjafne.
The eighth is Lofn, who is kind and good to those who call upon her, and she has permission from Alfather or Frigg to bring together men and women, no matter what difficulties may stand in the way; therefore "love" is so called from her name, and also that which is much loved by men.
The ninth is Var. She hears the oaths and troths that men and women plight to each other. Hence such vows are called vars, and she takes vengeance on those who break their promises.
The tenth is Vör, who is so wise and searching that nothing can be concealed from her. It is a saying that a woman becomes vor (ware) of what she becomes wise.
The eleventh is Syn, who guards the door of the hall, and closes it against those who are not to enter. In trials she guards those suits in which anyone tries to make use of falsehood. Hence is the saying that "syn is set against it," when anyone tries to deny ought.
The twelfth is Hlin, who guards those men whom Frigg wants to protect from any danger. Hence is the saying that he hlins who is forewarned.
The thirteenth is Snotra, who is wise and courtly. After her, men and women who are wise are called Snotras.
The fourteenth is Gna, whom Frigg sends on her errands into various worlds. She rides upon a horse called Hofvarpner, that runs through the air and over the sea. Once, when she was riding, some vanir saw her faring through the air. [...]

Sol and Bil are numbered among the goddesses, but their nature has already been described.


The Germanic peoples, like other Indo-European peoples, originally had a three-tiered social/political hierarchy: the first tier consisted of rulers, the second of warriors, and the third of farmers and others occupied with production and fecundity. The gods and goddesses can be profitably mapped onto this schema, and Odin, along with Tyr, corresponds to the first tier, the rulers.

One of the greatest differences between monotheistic theologies and polytheistic theologies is that, in the former, God is generally all-knowing, all-powerful, all-loving, etc. Polytheistic gods are none of these things; like any human, tree, or hawk, they are limited by their particularity.


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