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Gods and Goddesses of Aesir

aesir

The collective name for the the principal race of Norse gods; they who lived in Asgard, and with the All-Father Odin, ruled the lives of mortal men, the other was the Vanir. The Aesir gods under the leadership of Odin, included Balder (god of beauty), Bragi (god of eloquence), Forseti (god of mediation), Freyr (god of fertility, who originally was from the Vanir), Heimdall (guardian of the bridge), Hod (the blind god), Loki (god of fire and ally of the frost giants), Njord (the sea god, and another ex-Vanir), Thor (god of thunder), Tyr (god of war), Vili (brother to Odin), Ve (brother to Odin), and Vidar (Odin's son). The goddesses included Freya (the fertility goddess), Frigg (Odin's wife), Sif (Thor's wife), and Idun (keeper of the apples of youth).

Aesir might be derived from the old-Teutonic word Ase, the common word for "god".

The Gods

Odin

The chief divinity of the Norse pantheon, the foremost of the Aesir. Odin is a son of Bor and Bestla. He is called Alfadir, Allfather, for he is indeed father of the gods. With Frigg he is the father of Balder, Hod, and Hermod. He fathered Thor on the goddess Jord; and the giantess Grid became the mother of Vidar.

Odin is a god of war and death, but also the god of poetry and wisdom. He hung for nine days, pierced by his own spear, on the world tree. Here he learned nine powerful songs, and eighteen runes. Odin can make the dead speak to question the wisest amongst them. His hall in Asgard is Valaskjalf ("shelf of the slain") where his throne Hlidskjalf is located. From this throne he observes all that happens in the nine worlds. The tidings are brought to him by his two raven Huginn and Muninn. He also resides in Valhalla, where the slain warriors are taken.

Odin's attributes are the spear Gungnir, which never misses its target, the ring Draupnir, from which every ninth night eight new rings appear, and his eight-footed steed Sleipnir. He is accompanied by the wolves Freki and Geri, to whom he gives his food for he himself consumes nothing but wine. Odin has only one eye, which blazes like the sun. His other eye he traded for a drink from the Well of Wisdom, and gained immense knowledge. On the day of the final battle, Odin will be killed by the wolf Fenrir.

He is also called Othinn, Wodan and Wotan. Some of the aliases he uses to travel icognito among mortals are Vak and Valtam. Wednesday is named after him (Wodan).

Old Norse: Odínn

Balder

The god of light, joy, purity, beauty, innocence, and reconciliation. Son of Odin and Frigg, he was loved by both gods and men and was considered to be the best of the gods. He had a good character, was friendly, wise and eloquent, although he had little power. His wife was Nanna daughter of Nep, and their son was Forseti, the god of justice. Balder's hall was Breidablik ("broad splendor").

Most of the stories about Balder concern his death. He had been dreaming about his death, so Frigg extracted an oath from every creature, object and force in nature (snakes, metals, diseases, poisons, fire, etc.) that they would never harm Balder. All agreed that none of their kind would ever hurt or assist in hurting Balder. Thinking him invincible, the gods enjoyed themselves thereafter by using Balder as a target for knife-throwing and archery.

The malicious trickster, Loki, was jealous of Balder. He changed his appearance and asked Frigg if there was absolutely nothing that could harm the god of light. Frigg, suspecting nothing, answered that there was just one thing: a small tree in the west that was called mistletoe. She had thought it was too small to ask for an oath. Loki immediately left for the west and returned with the mistletoe. He tricked Balder's blind twin brother Hod into throwing a mistletoe fig (dart) at Balder. Not knowing what he did, Hod threw the fig, guided by Loki's aim. Pierced through the heart, Balder fell dead.

While the gods were lamenting Balder's death, Odin sent his other son Hermod to Hel, the goddess of death, to plead for Balder's return. Hel agreed to send Balder back to the land of the living on one condition: everything in the world, dead or alive, must weep for him. And everything wept, except for Loki, who had disguised himself as the witch Thokk. And so Balder had to remain in the underworld.

The others took the dead god, dressed him in crimson cloth, and placed him on a funeral pyre aboard his ship Ringhorn, which passed for the largest in the world. Beside him they lay the body of his wife Nanna, who had died of a broken heart. Balder's horse and his treasures were also placed on the ship. The pyre was set on fire and the ship was sent to sea by the giantess Hyrrokin.

Loki did not escape punishment for his crime and Hod was put to death by Vali, son of Odin and Rind. Vali had been born for just that purpose. After the final conflict (Ragnarok), when a new world arises from its ashes, both Balder and Hod will be reborn.

In some versions it was his mother who had these disturbing dreams about his death.

Old Norse: Baldr

Bragi

The god of eloquence and poetry, and the patron of skalds (poets) in Norse mythology. He is regarded as a son of Odin and Frigg. Runes were carved on his tongue and he inspired poetry in humans by letting them drink from the mead of poetry. Bragi is married to Idun, the goddess of eternal youth. Oaths were sworn over the Bragarfull ("Cup of Bragi"), and drinks were taken from it in honor of a dead king. Before a king ascended the throne, he drank from such a cup.

Originally, Bragi did not belong the pantheon of gods. He was a poet from the 9th century, Bragi Boddason. Poets from later centuries made him a god.

Forseti

In Norse mythology, Forseti is the god of justice. He is the son of the god Balder and his mother is Nanna. Forseti rules in the beautiful palace Glitnir, which serves as a court of justice and where all legal disputes are settled. Glitnir has a roof of silver that is supported by pillars of red gold.

Forseti can be compared with the Teutonic god Fosite, who was worshipped on Helgoland.

Freyr

Freyr is the god of sun and rain, and the patron of bountiful harvests. He is both a god of peace and a brave warrior. He is also the ruler of the elves. Freyr is the most prominent and most beautiful of the male members of the Vanir, and is called 'God of the World'. After the merging of the Aesir and the Vanir, Freyr was called 'Lord of the Aesir'. Freyr was also called upon to grant a fertile marriage.

He is married to the beautiful giantess Gerd, and is the son of Njord. His sister is Freya. He rides a chariot pulled by the golden boar Gullinbursti which was made for him by the dwarves Brokk and Eitri. He owns the ship Skidbladnir ("wooden-bladed"), which always sails directly towards its target, and which can become so small that it can fit in Freyr's pocket. He also possesses a sword that would by itself emerge from its sheath and spread a field with carnage whenever the owner desired it.

Freyr's shield bearer and servant is Skirnir, to whom he gave his sword, which Skirnir demanded as a reward for making Gerd his wife. On the day of Ragnarok he will battle without weapons (for he gave his sword away to Skirnir), and will be the first to be killed by the fire giant Surt. The center of his cult was the city Uppsala in Sweden. In southern Sweden he was called Fricco.

Heimdall

Heimdall is the god of light, the son of nine mothers (variously given as the daughters of Geirrendour the Giant or of Aegir). He was born at the end of the world and raised by the force of the earth, seawater and the blood of a boar. Because of his shining, golden teeth he is also called Gullintani ("gold tooth"). His hall is Himinbjorg, The Cliffs of Heaven, and his horse is Gulltop. Heimdall carries the horn Gjallar.

He is the watchman of the gods and guards Bifrost, the only entrance to Asgard, the realm of the gods. It is Heimdall's duty to prevent the giants from forcing their way into Asgard. He requires less sleep than a bird and can see a hundred miles around him, by night as well as by day. His hearing is so accurate that no sound escapes him: he can even hear the grass grow or the wool on a sheep's back. At the final conflict of Ragnarok he will kill his age-old enemy, the evil god Loki, but will die himself from his wounds.

As the god Rig ("ruler"), Heimdall created the three races of mankind: the serfs, the peasants, and the warriors. It is interesting to note why Heimdall fathered them, and not Odin as might be expected. Furthermore, Heimdall is in many attributes identical with Tyr.

Old Norse: Heimdallr

Loki

Loki is one of the major deities in the Norse pantheon. He is a son of the giant Farbauti ("cruel striker") and the giantess Laufey. He is regarded as one of Aesir, but is on occasion their enemy. He is connected with fire and magic, and can assume many different shapes (horse, falcon, fly). He is crafty and malicious, but is also heroic: in that aspect he can be compared with the trickster from North American myths. The ambivalent god grows progressively more unpleasent, and is directly responsible for the death of Balder, the god of light.

Loki's mistress is the giantess Angrboda, and with her he is the father of three monsters. His wife is Sigyn, who stayed loyal to him, even when the gods punished him for the death of Balder. He was chained to three large boulders; one under his shoulders, one under his loins and one under his knees. A poisonous snake was placed above his head. The dripping venom that lands on him is caught by Sigyn in a bowl. But every now and then, when the bowl is filled to the brim, she has to leave him to empty it. Then the poison that falls on Loki's face makes him twist in pain, causing earthquakes.

On the day of Ragnarok, Loki's chains will break and he will lead the giants into battle against the gods. Loki is often called the Sly One, the Trickster, the Shape Changer, and the Sky Traveler.

According to Georges Dumézil, Loki shows a great resemblance with Syrdon, a demonic creature from Caucasian legends.

Hod

The blind god of darkness and winter, the son of Odin and Frigg. When the gods enjoyed themselves by using his brother Balder as a target, Hod unintentionally killed him by throwing a fig made of mistletoe, the only object that could harm Balder. Hod was put to death for this deed by Vali, Odin's youngest son who was born for revenge. However, after the destruction of the cosmos when a new world is build, Hod will be reborn.

Njord

The Norse god of winds, sea and fire. He brings good fortune at sea and in the hunt. He is married to the giantess Skadi. His children are Freya and Freyr, whom he fathered on his own sister.

Originally, Njord was one of the Vanir but when they made peace with the Aesir, he and his children were given to them as hostages. The Aesir appointed both Njord and Freyr as high priests to preside over sacrifices. Freya was consecrated as sacrificial priestess. She taught the Aesir witchcraft, an art that was common knowledge among the Vanir.

Old Norse: Njöror

Thor

Thor is the Norse god of thunder. He is a son of Odin and Jord, and one of the most powerful gods. He is married to Sif, a fertility goddess. His mistress is the giantess Jarnsaxa ("iron cutlass"), and their sons are Magni and Modi and his daughter is Thrud. Thor is helped by Thialfi, his servant and the messenger of the gods.

Thor was usually portrayed as a large, powerful man with a red beard and eyes of lightning. Despite his ferocious appearance, he was very popular as the protector of both gods and humans against the forces of evil. He even surpassed his father Odin in popularity because, contrary to Odin, he did not require human sacrifices. In his temple at Uppsala he was shown standing with Odin at his right side. This temple was replaced by a Christian church in 1080.

The Norse believed that during a thunderstorm, Thor rode through the heavens on his chariot pulled by the goats Tanngrisni ("gap-tooth") and Tanngnost ("tooth grinder"). Lightning flashed whenever he threw his hammer Mjollnir. Thor wears the belt Megingjard which doubles his already considerable strength. His hall is Bilskirnir, which is located in the region Thrudheim ("place of might"). His greatest enemy is Jormungand, the Midgard Serpent. At the day of Ragnarok, Thor will kill this serpent but will die from its poison. His sons will inherit his hammer after his death.

Donar is his Teutonic equivalent, while the Romans see in him their god Jupiter. Thursday is named after him.

Tyr

The original Germanic god of war and the patron god of justice, the precursor of Odin. At the time of the Vikings, Tyr had to make way for Odin, who became the god of war himself. Tyr was by then regarded as Odin's son (or possibly of the giant Hymir). He is the boldest of the gods, who inspires courage and heroism in battle. Tyr is represented as a man with one hand, because his right hand was bitten off by the gigantic wolf Fenrir (in old-Norse, the wrist was called 'wolf-joint'). His attribute is a spear; the symbol of justice, as well as a weapon.

At the day of Ragnarok, Tyr will kill the hound Garm, the guardian of the hell, but will die from the wounds inflicted by the animal. In later mythology, "Tyr" became to mean "god". He is also known as Tîwaz, Tiw and Ziu.

Old Norse: Týr; Old English: Tiw

Vili

In Scandinavian myth, one of the primordial gods, brother of Odin and Ve. The three of them were responsible for the creation of the cosmos, as well as the first humans.

Ve

Ve is one of ancient Scandinavian gods and, together with Odin and Vili, the son of the primordial pair of giants Bor and Bestla. The three brothers created heaven and earth from the slain body of the primeval being Ymir and built the twelve realms. They also created Ask and Embla, the first pair of humans.

Vidar

In Norse myth, Vidar is the son of Odin and the giantess Grid (Gridr). He is the god of silence and revenge, the second strongest of the gods. At the destruction of the world, Odin will be killed by the wolf Fenrir, and Vidar will avenge his father by killing the wolf with his bare hands. He will press one foot on Fenrir's bottom jaw, and will take hold of his other jaw and tear the wolf apart. He is one of the gods that will rule the new world when it is created. His hall in Asgard is Vidi.

The Goddesses

Freya

In Norse mythology, Freya is a goddess of love and fertility, and the most beautiful and propitious of the goddesses. She is the patron goddess of crops and birth, the symbol of sensuality and was called upon in matters of love. She loves music, spring and flowers, and is particularly fond of the elves (fairies). Freya is one of the foremost goddesses of the Vanir.

She is the daughter of the god Njord, and the sister of Freyr. Later she married the mysterious god Od (probably another form of Odin), who disappeared. When she mourned for her lost husband, her tears changed into gold.

Her attributes are the precious necklace of the Brisings, which she obtained by sleeping with four dwarfs, a cloak (or skin) of bird feathers, which allows its wearer to change into a falcon, and a chariot pulled by two cats. She owns Hildesvini ("battle boar") which is actually her human lover Ottar in disguise. Her chambermaid is Fulla. Freya lives in the beautiful palace Folkvang ("field of folk"), a place where love songs are always played, and her hall is Sessrumnir. She divides the slain warriors with Odin: one half goes to her palace, while the other half goes to Valhalla. Women also go to her hall.

Old Norse: Freyja, Friia

Frigg

As the wife of Odin, Frigg is one of the foremost goddesses of Norse mythology. She is the patron of marriage and motherhood, and the goddess of love and fertility. In that aspect she shows many similarities with Freya, of whom she possibly is a different form.

She has a reputation of knowing every person's destiny, but never unveils it. As the mother of Balder, she tried to prevent his death by extracting oaths from every object in nature, but forgot the mistletoe. And by a fig made from mistletoe Balder died. Her hall in Asgard is Fensalir ("water halls"). Frigg's messenger is Gna, who rides through the sky on the horse Hofvarpnir. In some myths she was rumored to have had love affairs with Odin's brothers Ve and Vili.

Sif

The golden-haired wife of the god Thor. There is not much known about her, except that she could originally have been a fertility goddess. Neither does she appear often in the myths.

The best know myth, however, is when Loki the Trickster sneaked into Sif's bedroom and lopped off her hair. Furious, Thor threatened to smash him unless Loki managed to replace the hair. He went to a great cave, the home of the sons of Ivaldi, and told them the reason of his journey. He then asked the dwarfs to spin gold as fine as Sif's hair and imbue it with magic that it will grow on her head. The dwarfs agreed and made a long wave of fine golden strands, which Loki gave to Sif.

Idun

The goddess of eternal youth, married to Bragi, the god of poetry. Idun is the custodian of the golden apples of youth. When the gods feel old age approaching, they only have to eat of the apples to become young again. As a goddess of fertility, youth and death, it is possible that she was originally one of the Vanir.

Idun was once abducted by the storm giant Thiazi and in this interval the gods began to age rapidly. She was eventually rescued by Loki who changed her into a nut and brought her back to her hall. The gods were restored to youth soon after.

"Aegir." Encyclopedia Mythica. 2010. Encyclopedia Mythica Online. 03 Dec. 2010 .

by Micha F. Lindemans

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