Created Wednesday 08 June 2016
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.
Giant is used in place of jötunn
Seidr is a form of pre-Christian Norse magic and shamanism concerned with discerning destiny and altering its course by re-weaving part of its web.
How to pronounce stuff
- Chief of the Aesirs
- Most powerful
- Is associated with healing, death, royalty, the gallows, knowledge, battle, sorcery, poetry, frenzy, and the runic alphabet, and is the husband of the goddess Frigg.
- Is a God of contradictions
- A War-God, but also a Poetry-God
- Divine patron of rulers, but also of outcasts
- Odin, along with Tyr, corresponds to the first tier, the rulers. The crucial difference between Tyr and Odin in this regard, however, is that Tyr has much more to do with rule by law and justice, whereas Odin has much more to do with rule by magic and cunning. Tyr is the sober and virtuous ruler; Odin is the devious, inscrutable, and inspired ruler.
- Favors those with intelligence, creativity and competence - their place in society matters less
- Is a War-God, but is more concerned with the battle-frenzy warriors feel rather than the reasons or the outcome of battle
- Is also a God of Death
- Master of necromancy
- Odin presides over Valhalla, the most prestigious of the dwelling-places of the dead. After every battle, he and his helping-spirits, the valkyries (“choosers of the fallen”), comb the field and take their pick of half of the slain warriors to carry back to Valhalla. (Freya then claims the remaining half.)
- Speaks in poems, having stolen and drunk the mead of poetry from the giants.
- Actively seeks wisdom
- Sacrificed one of his eyes for wisdom
- Practices magic
- This including seidr, which is seen as a feminine form of magic.
- One of the two greatest practitioners of shamanism amongst the gods. (The other is Freya)
- God associated with thunder, lightning, strength, protection of mankind
- Also hallowing, healing, fertility
- 2nd most powerful
- Opposite of Odin
- Has an uneasy relationship
- Odin was the foremost deity appealed to by rulers, outcasts, and “elite” persons of every sort. Odin’s primary values are quite rarefied: ecstasy, knowledge, magical power, and creative agency. They stand in stark contrast to Thor’s more homely virtues.
- "In the most telling example, Odin grants Starkaðr the favor of the nobility and rulers, while Thor declares that he will always be scorned by the commoners."
- Son of Odin (half-giant) and a giant named Jord
- Loyal, Honorable Warrior
- Extremely strong
- Had a number of posessions that enhanced his power
- Has an unnamed belt of strength that doubles his power
- Has a hammer, Mjöllnir ("Lightning"), which never leaves his side
- Thunder was the embodiment of Thor, lightning was the embodiment of his hammer slaying giants
- Is sworn enemies with the Jormungand, an enormous sea serpent which encircles Midgard, the world of human civilization
- Protects lands against giants, but he himself is 3/4 giant.
- Thor's hammer was used to hallow and destroy
- These two things were treated as one and the same, hallowing was in effect destroying certain hostile forces or elements
- As the eleventh-century German historian Adam of Bremen notes, “Thor, they say, presides over the air, which governs the thunder and lightning, the winds and rains, fair weather and crops.”
- His seldom-mentioned wife, Sif, is noted for her golden hair above all else, which is surely a symbol for fields of grain.
- Thor has the role as the principal deity of the second class or “function” of the three-tiered social hierarchy of traditional European society – the function of warriors and military strength. He is the foremost god of the common people and the viking colonies
- In deliberate contrast to the cross amulets that the Christians wore around their necks, those who continued to follow the old ways started to wear miniature Thor’s hammers around their necks. Archaeological discoveries of these hammer pendants are concentrated in precisely the areas where Christian influence was the most pronounced.
- Wily trickster god
- Father of Hel, Fenrir and Jormungand
- MOTHER of eight-legged horse Sleipnir (Odin's steed)
- Portrayed as a scheming coward
- Aids the giants or the gods, depending on his whim
- Aids the giants in Ragnarok
- Hated and isolated by the Gods
- Had a hand in the death of Baldur
- For these and many more crimes against them, the gods eventually forge a chain from the entrails of another seldom-mentioned son of Loki’s and tie him down to three rocks inside a cave. A venomous serpent sits above him, dripping poison onto him. Loki’s apparently very faithful and loving wife, Sigyn, sits at his side with a bowl to catch the venom. But when the bowl becomes full, of course, she has to leave her husband’s side to pour it out. When this happens, the drops of venom that fall onto him cause him to writhe in agony, and these convulsions create earthquakes. And in this state he lies until breaking free at Ragnarok.
- Member of the Vanir tribe
- But became an honorary Aesir after the Aesir-Vanir War
- Respresents Love, Fertility, Beauty, Fine Material Posessions
- Sleeps around
- Actively practices seidr, the most organized form of Norse magic
- In fact, brought it to the other Gods
- Can control desires, health and prosperity of others, making her extremely knowledgeable and powerful
- Presides over Folkvang, she chooses from the other half that Odin doesn't choose from
- Represents many of the values Odin represents, but in a feminine manner
- What do you think when you first think of Norse Mythology?
- Do you think of cartoon vikings like these?
- While it is true that the vikings worshipped the Norse Gods, they weren't the only ones, and there was definitely no evidence that they had 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.
- There's some debate about the social structure, but generally most sources agree that the Kings are the highest tier, followed by the freemen, some of whom were warriors, and then the slaves. This is different from the societal structure of who the Gods favour, which we will go into later.
- 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 Erikson, who found America before Christopher Columbus.
- The Norsemen built things. They would spend a month before a voyage and build a boat. It would be customized for whatever kind of sea they were sailing on.
- Here is a pendant to Thor that the Vikings wore as protest against the invading Christian forces.
- They even played games. Here is a Hnefatafl gameboard, which is a type of Tafl game, a game played by the Norsemen. It is interesting in that it mimics a viking raid.
- And of course they fought - But unlike the standard image of the Vikings, they didn't fight without a formalized system. While there is not much evidence of the kind of system they used for weapon combat, they did use an unarmed grappling style called Glima, which is effectively a combination of wrestling and judo, except it was created a thousand years before judo. As you can see in the picture, it is still taught today for sport.