Norse Religions – Pantheon

Norse Pantheon

By Hayleigh Stephens

Introduction

When we think of the Norse gods often the first things to our mind are Thor, Odin, and Loki. Although extremely popular and very important, they are far from the only gods of the Norse people. The Vikings had many gods. The exact number of gods in the Norse Pantheon is a number that varies and is truly unknown. Some gods and goddesses have many names and for some of these alternative names it is unclear if they truly are alternative names or if they are separate gods. It is also important to note that spellings of the names also vary greatly from resource to resource. The two best resources on the pantheon of the Vikings were Snorri Sturluson (an Icelandic historian) and Saxo Grammaticus (a Dutch historian) both lived around during the 12th century. (Leeming, 2005). According to Snorri there were twelve gods and thirteen goddesses under Odin (Leeming, 2005). That being said, the gods and goddesses of Norse people were extremely diverse, interesting, and enchanting.

The Pantheon

In Norse Mythology there originally were two pantheons. The first was the Æsir, who were warrior gods led by Odin. The other set of gods were the Vanir, which were the fertility gods. The two fought a war at the beginning of time and eventually joined to become one. The Æsir far outnumber the Vanir and it was the Vanir that were forced to integrate into the Æsir.

 Asen gegen die Wanen by Karl Ehrenberg 1882, via Wikimedia Commons PD-1923.

Asen gegen die Wanen by Karl Ehrenberg 1882.

Greater Gods

Odin is considered the All-Father of the gods, all the gods are supposed to be under him, although he is not as widely respected as his son Thor due to his unpredictability. Odin is the god of battle and extremely wise. He has a throne which looks over all the worlds and traded one of his eyes to see the future. Odin dines with the chosen warriors in Valhalla.

Thor, Loki, and Another God by Lucy Fitch Perkins 1896, via Wikimedia Commons PD-1923.

Thor, Loki, and Another God by Lucy Fitch Perkins 1896

Thor is the son of Odin. He is the god of thunder and acts as the preserver of law. The other gods see Thor as honorable and dependable. Thor has a powerful hammer known as Mjollnir.

Loki is a trickster god who can shape-shift. Although not exactly evil he is a sort of anti-hero throughout the myths. He has three offspring with his giantess mate Angrboda. The spawn of these two are all monsters, Jörmungand (the Fenrir wolf), the Middgard serpent, and Hel. He arguably plays the largest role in the mythology.

Baldr was the second son of Odin and was a much beloved god, but was killed by his blind half brother Höd, however the death was truly Loki’s fault. There is an attempt made to revive Baldr, however it is unsuccessful. The pursuit of vengeance for his death plays a large role in Norse myth.

Tyr is a god who loses his hand binding Jörmungand. Tyr plays a large role in the vengeance against Loki.

Heimdall is a god who is considered to be the guardian of the gods. His teeth were made of god and he needs very little sleep. He is the enemy of Loki and extremely important in the stories of the gods.

Frigg is the wife of Odin and mother of Baldr and plays a large roll in the story of Baldr.

Freyja is the daughter of Njörd and sister to Frey. Like her brother she is a fertility goddess. She is connected to magic and sexuality. She ends up being the sexual interest of giants and involved in much of the major myths.

The god Freyr, riding his boar, Gullinbursti by Ludwig Pietsch 1865, via Wikimedia Commons PD-1923.

The god Freyr, riding his boar, Gullinbursti by Ludwig Pietsch 1865.

Frey is the son of Njörd and brother of Freyja. He is a fertility god and according to Lindow (2001) he is ruler of rain and sunshine as well as the prosperity of men. He joins the Æsir after the war as part of a hostage trade between the two groups.

Lesser Gods

Bragi is the god of poetry.

Gefjon is a virgin goddess who is served by women who die unmarried.

Gná is a goddess who Frigg sends into other worlds for errands.

Forseti was the son of Baldr.

Fulla is a virgin goddess who is friend and confidant to Frigg.

Hermód is the son of Odin and is also Odin’s servant, Hermód plays a minor role in some stories.

Höd is the blind son of Odin who kills Bladr because of the mischievousness of Loki.

Hœnir is a god who is associated to some major moments and sent to the Vanir as part of an exchange of gods for peace.

Kvasir is a god whos blood is used to ensure peace between the Æsir and Vanir he was the wisest of the Vanir.

A photograph of "Mímir and Baldr Consulting the Norns" (1821-1822) by H. E. Freund by Wikimedia Commons User Bloodofox 2008, via Wikimedia Commons PD-self and PD-1923.

A photograph of “Mímir and Baldr Consulting the Norns” (1821-1822) by H. E. Freund by Wikimedia Commons User Bloodofox 2008.

Mimir is a god who is wise and was sent to the Vanir as a exchange of gods to keep peace.

Magni, Módi, Thrúd are children of Thor and plays a small role in the myths.

Nari and Narfi are sons of Loki used in the gods vengeance against Loki.

Njörd is father of Frey and Freyja and rules over the motions of wind, sea, and fire.

Rán is goddess of the sea.

Sif is Thor’s wife who is a fertility goddess.

Snotra a wise and gentle goddess.

Syn goddess who manages doors of a hall and denies entry to those not allowed in.

Váli: There are two Vális one is Odins son and the other is Loki’s son. Both play a role in the story of vengeance for Baldr’s death.

Vili and Vé were the brothers of Odin.

Vídar is a god of vengeance.

Conclusion

In conclusion the Norse gods and goddesses constitute an extremely interesting and diverse pantheon. With the possible number of gods and goddesses varying so much, it should be known this is by no means an exhaustive list of the Norse pantheon. These gods and the myths associated with them both reflected and helped to shape the culture of the Vikings. Not only did these gods influence Viking culture, but they also influence current popular culture via movies, comics, television shows, toys, and more. 

Next – Myth

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