The Gods of Norse History

All images contained within this historical collection of Norse ancestors, as well as much of the content text has been consolidated from several different sources, for ownership and copyright information, feel free to drop us a line. Again, these images are used without permission. A little bit of Loki coming out here.

The first is Ymir. Ymir was the first name we hear about when discussing how the universe came to be. It is Ymir that existed when the cosmos was still nothing but a natural void. With colder temperatures in the North, and fire and heat in the South. Where these two came together there begat a Giant who was nursed to his enormous size by a sacred cow who licked the ice sheets back and produced milk to make him the size that he was. Ymir is slain by Ódinn and his two brothers, his flesh was used to create the earth, his bones were used to create the mountains, and his teeth and jaw were used to create the rocks, boulders, and stones.

With Ymir’s blood, the gods created the lakes and sea. From Ymir’s skull, the sky was made. The gods set a dwarf in each corner of the earth and named them North, South, East, and West. From there, the gods took embers from Muspell and created the Sun, Moon, and Stars. They were used to light heaven. Ódinn, Vili, and Ve gave the frost giants Jotunheim, so they could still exist but far away from the gods. They then took Ymir’s eyebrows and created a mighty wall around Miðgarðr. Finally, they used Ymir’s brains to create clouds.

Next up, is Ódinn who was the one who (with the help of his brothers) slay Ymir to create life as we know it. There are many traits of Ódinn, as well as stories that have been told. One is that he voluntarily gave an eye to have a drink from the Well of Urd (Well of Wisdom). It speaks volumes about what he was willing to surrender to obtain wisdom beyond what the eye could have provided. In another story, he is pierced with his own spear and hung from a branch of Yggdrasil for nine (9) days to receive the wisdom to see the nine worlds. He is the primary legend of Ásgarðr and married to another legend, Frigg.

Ódinn was a god of many things, including wisdom, death, runes, healing, gallows executions, royalty, battle, sorcery, disguise, knowledge, and much, much more.

He was a competitive ancestor and often challenged others to battles of wit and skill. He was not always known to fight fairly or alone. He once challenged the jotunn (giant) Hrungnir to a horse race all the way from Jotunheim to Ásgarðr. Hrungnir rode the golden steed Gullfaxi while Ódinn was astride Sleipnir. Ódinn bet his life on the win. He did win and invited Hrungnir to drink, but when Hrungnir rebelled, Ódinn’s son Thor challenged and killed him.

Ódinn’s eight-legged horse Sleipnir is actually the son of Loki by a stallion named Svadilfari. The Æsir wanted to revenge on a deal with a jotunn builder and so sent Loki in the form of a mare to seduce the builder’s horse. The builder was furious, and Ódinn sent Thor to kill him. Loki birthed Sleipnir as a result of the mating.

Sleipnir is not the only child of Loki’s whom Ódinn interfered with either! Hel, Jorgamund, and Fenrir were three monsters birthed by Loki’s lover Angrboda. Ódinn gifted Hel a realm of the dead where he locked her away, banished Jorgamund to circle Miðgarðr, and bound Fenrir in chains. The last, at least, was justified: Ódinn was fated to die by Fenrir’s hand at Ragnarök.

Next is Ódinn’s beautiful bride, based on Konungsbók (Elder Edda), Frigg and Freyja (and even Jǫrð and Fulla) are different personas of the same individual. Yet, Frigg is typically seen as the mother of Baldur and Höðr, and the stepmother of Þórr (Thor). She is married to Óðinn and her father is Fjorgyn (interestingly, the male version of Jǫrð, Þórr’s mother). Her mother is unknown. Freyja is the mother of Hnoss and Gersemi, and the daughter of Njörðr. She is married to Óðr.

She had the title Earth Mother and was the highest-ranking feminine ancestor of the Æsir. She is most associated with love and marriage. Some would say Frigg was also a sorceress and could see into the future. She is often related to the goddess Freya.

When Frigg finds out that her son Balder is doomed to die, she goes into a frenzy. She told her messengers to go to each corner of the earth and get promises from everyone to not harm her son. The messengers return with promises from every creature on the planet that they will not harm Balder.

There was one mistletoe the messengers neglected. They thought it looked too pitiful to actually cause Balder any harm. The ancestors knew Balder couldn’t be injured, so they took to throwing weapons at him and trying to injure him for fun. Nothing would work. Loki didn’t partake in this fun. Instead, he disguised himself as a woman and went to Frigg.

He told her how horrible it was the gods and goddesses were playing with Balder. Loki then got Frigg to reveal the one vulnerability Balder had – the mistletoe. Loki ended up retrieving the mistletoe and giving it to Balder’s half-blind brother, Höðr. Höðr had no idea what the mistletoe was for, but when he threw a weapon at Balder, Balder dropped dead.

Frigg is important not only because she was Ódinn’s wife and possessed power, but she was also (very likely) responsible for Balder’s fate. Even though she most likely had the power to see the future, not even that ability could save her son from his ultimate death.

She is a future seeing god who couldn’t prevent her son from dying. It shows the gods have weaknesses just like humans, making them more relatable.

Baldur is either Týr’s son, or Óðinn’s second son and thus Þórr’s brother. Baldur has a twin brother, Höðr, the blind Áss of winter and darkness. Both Höðr and Baldur are also referred to as exceptional war leaders. Baldur is married to Nanna (joy and peace). Their son is Forseti, the Áss of justice and reconciliation.

Balder was known to be the son of Ódinn and Frigg. He was very well-loved by the other Æsir gods and goddesses.

The myths around Balder all center on his untimely death. Balder started to have nightmares as a young man. These nightmares told of his impending death. He was so unhappy, his unhappiness transferred to everyone who lived in Ásgarðr.

His father, Ódinn, wanted to help his son. He set out with his horse, Sleipnir, and traveled to the underworld, Niflheim. He spoke with a seeress, asking her why the halls of Hel were decorated as if there was to be a feast.

She told him it was a feast for Balder and that he would be killed by his brother, Höðr. Thor (under a false name), asked the seeress who would avenge Balder. She told him Ódinn’s son, Vali, would avenge his brother. Eventually, the seeress figured out she was talking to Ódinn and wouldn’t give him any more answers.

Balder is important because he represents fate. Knowing the truth of his death could have caused it to happen. His mother had made him invincible, but it wasn’t invincibility that lasted forever. His death shows things are connected and fate exists. It raises the question of how much control do we actually have over our destinies.

Þórr is the son of Óðinn , and Jǫrð (a giantess, who may be the same person as Frigg and Freya). He is married to Sif (Ásynja of harvest and jötunn), with whom he has a daughter, Þrúðr. He also has two sons, Móði (angry) and Magni (strong), from an affair with Járnsaxa.

He was also known as the killer of giants and the god of thunder. He was rather hot-tempered but was respected by the gods, the giants, and the humans. His weapon was a hammer that would return to him once it was thrown.

Like his father, Þórr is involved in many of the Norse myths. Here is one of the best myths involving Þórr. One day, Þórr’s hammer disappeared. Loki heard Þórr in a rage and decided he would help him. He went to the goddess, Freya, and borrowed a suit made of falcon feathers.

He then flew to the home of the giants. Thrym, the king of Hrimmturssar greeted Loki. Loki asked if he had stoled Þórr’s hammer and the king said he had. He went on to say he had hidden it so well that the only way anyone would ever see it again was if Freya was given to him as his bride. Loki flew back to Þórr’s and told him what had happened. Freya was furious.

The gods all met to discuss what to do. They were left pretty defenseless without Þórr and his hammer. Þórr ended up going dressed as Freya to the king, and Loki was dressed as his bridesmaid. They both fooled the king until the hammer was brought to “Freya.” Once he had the hammer, Þórr dropped his disguise and started to kill the giants around him.

Þórr is important because he is one of the major gods. He was known as the god of thunder and storms. He was also the defender of the Æsir and Ásgarðr., protecting them both from giants.

During Ragnarök, Þórr will kill, and be killed, by his archenemy Jǫrmungandr, a sea serpent large enough to surround all of the earth and even grab his own tail, who is also the middle child of Angrboða and Loki.

Because of the strife caused, and enjoyed, next on the list is Loki. Loki is the son of Fárbauti (a jötunn), and Nál (also known as Laufey). He fathers Hel, Fenrir, and Jǫrmungandr with Angrboða (a jötunn). With Sigyn, he fathers Narfi (also known as Nari). He is the father of Váli as well. Loki also mothers Sleipnir with the stallion Svaðilfari after changing himself into a mare.

Loki’s title was the trickster god. He liked to cause problems and was well versed in lying and deceit. Loki was not one of the official Æsir gods, but he was considered to be one of them. There were stories that Loki might be Þórr’s blood brother. Loki was also known to be capable of turning himself into any creature at will.

One night Loki decided to cut off Þórr’s wife’s beautiful hair. Þórr was enraged by this. Loki pretended he was very sorry and told Þórr he would go and bring back hair made of real gold for Þórr’s wife, Sif, as well as treasures for the other gods. Þórr let Loki go. Loki went to the dark elve’s homeland which was also home to the dwarfs. He went to the sons of the dwarf Ivaldi and asked them to make golden hair for Sif. They also made treasures Loki could take back with him.

The brothers created wonderful treasures like a ship that could be folded and fit in your pocket, and eventually even Þórr’s hammer. Loki played a trick on the maker of the hammer, Brokk. It resulted in the hammer having a very short handle. Loki eventually returned to Þórr and the other gods and gave them the gifts.

Loki has a mixed relationship with the Æsir, sometimes assisting them, sometimes working against them. Following the death of Baldur, the Æsir binds Loki with the entrails of one of his sons. Skaði places a serpent above him that drips venom. Sigyn collects the venom into a bowl that she must empty every time it is full, with every drip from the bowl causing in the meantime Loki unbearable pain, and resulting in earthquakes.

During Ragnarøkr, Loki frees himself from his bonds and joins forces with the jötnar against the Æsir. He then faces Heimdallr in a duel during which they slay each other.