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Before the creation of the Norse Mythological universe there was said to be an empty abyss, known as Ginungagap. This separated Muspelheim and Niflheim the primordial worlds of Fire and Ice. According to legend the fire of Muspelheim and the ice from Niflheim met in Ginungagap and created the first living being, a frost giant named Ymir.
Whilst Ymir was sleeping he was said to have grown two more giants from his armpits, who became the first family of Jotun. These giants eventually gave birth to the first of the Norse gods and leader of the Aesir, Odin.
There are two main clans in Norse mythology which separate most of thee gods, these being; the Aesir and the Vanir. The Aesir includes gods such as Odin, Frigg, Thor, Balder and Loki. The Vanir includes gods such as Njord, Freya and Freyr.
The family tree of Norse Gods is extremely complicated and vast, including many cases of incest which only complicates things further. In this post we will be focusing on the Aesir gods, however there are many other gods which are not covered in this article. This is meant to be an introduction to some of the most prominent characters for those who aren't familiar with norse mythology.
Often reffered to as the 'Allfather' Odin was the greatest of the Norse Gods, and is probably the best known diety from Norse Mythology in modern times. He is well known for his pursuit of knowledge and quest to unluck the many mysteries of the cosmos.
There are many stories about Odin throwing off his kingly duties and wandering the earth as a weary traveller, he was also willing to make sacrafices for his pursuit of knowledge and power. He is said to have given his eye in order to gain a better vision of the cosmos at the life tree, Yggdrasil. Odin is also said to have hung himself from the tree for nine days in order to be blessed with knowledge of the runic alphabet, which he later gifted to mankind.
From his throne in asgard Odin could observe what was happening in each of the nine realms. He used his ravens, Huginn and Muninn to fly over the earth and relay information back to him. The raven is often a symbol associated with the Allfather.
There are many contradictory aspects to Odins complex character, being the god of War, Poetry, Magic and Knowledge. He is described as a feirce warlord who lusted for battle and victory, however he was also said to once have been expelled from Asgard for engaging in feminine magic.
Frigg was the Queen of Asgard and Odins wife, in ancient Norse her name means 'beloved'. She was said to be the goddess of the sky, fertility, love and fate. A goddess who was shrouded in secrecy, Frigg was said to have known the destiny of everyone, but never revealed it to them.
A loving and protective mother, Frigg is known to have extracted oaths from all living creatures, objects and forces of nature to ensure that they would not do any harm to her beloved son, Balder. However she was betrayed by the infamous god of mischief, Loki.
The son of Frigg and Odin, Balder was the most beloved of all the gods by both gods and men. He was the Norse God of light and purity, often depicted as being wise, elegant and fair. His name in Old Norse translates to 'Brave'.
Balder is most famous for his tragic death. Due to his mothers protective spell he was thought to be immortal. His fellow gods would often use balder for target practice for arrows and throwing knives, which would simply bounce off him. However when casting the spell Frigg forgot about one small plant; mistletoe. Loki found out about this weakness and decided to exploit it. Motivated by jealousy, he crafted a dagger made from the plant and gave it to Balder's blind brother, Hodr. When this was thrown at Balder it killed him.
Odin attempted to resurrect Balder by making a pact with Hel, the Norse Goddess of the udnerworld. She agreed to return Balder to the land of the living, if every single living creature would weep for him at the same time. Every being in the nine realms wept at the same time, apart from one giant, therefore Balder never returned and Hodr was executed for his part in the death of his brother. This giant was thought to be Loki in disguise.
Loki was an infamously mischievous and deceitful god, he could shape shift and take many animalistic forms. The son of frost giants, Loki was said to have been adopted by Odin as a child.
He is said to have fathered many children the most famous of them being the three that he had with his giantess mistress, Angroboda. These were Fenrir, the giant wolf, Jormungandr, The giant serpent of midgard and Hel, the Goddess of the underworld.
As punishment for his role in Balders death Loki was chained to three boulders and had a poisonous snake placed above his head, which dripped venom onto his face.
Thor is another famous Norse god, who was the protector of humanity and God of thunder. He was known for his bravery, strength, and short temper. He was the wielder of the great hammer, Mjolnir, which was recognised to be the most powerful weapon in existence. There are many cases of norse burial sites including Mjolnir pendants with over 50 of them being found throughout Scandinavia and the British isles.
He was part of the prominent Aesir tribe of Norse gods and was conceived as a result of an extramarital affair between Odin and a mysterious woman named Jord. Thor had a number of half-brothers including lesser known gods such as Ullr, Hodr and Bragi. He was also a half brother of the aforementioned Baldur and of course his infamous adopted brother was the trickster, Loki.
During his missions in service of Asgard Thor managed to acquire many enemies, including the great serpent of Midgard, Jormungandr. The two of them are mentioned together numerous times in the Norse Sagas and it was prophesied that they would eventually fight each other to the death during the battle of Ragnarok.
It is thought by historians of Norse Mythology that in the early days preceding the viking age Tyr was amongst the most important of the Norse Gods. He was mentioned in various historical texts along side Thor and Odin as one of the primary Gods, and although his importance in Norse culture declined towards the late viking age we feel like Tyr is still worth a mention.
One of the only surviving stories of Tyr in the Norse sagas is in the binding of Fenrir when he sacrifices his hand in order to trick the wolf into being bound with a magical chain. Try was the only one of the gods brave enough to agree to thee sacrifice. He was also said to fight another wolf named 'Garm' to the death during Ragnarok, which many suspect may also be a reference to Fenrir by another name.
Freya was one of the Norse Goddesses from the Vanir tribe, the other main tribe of Norse Gods. She did however live amongst the Aesir as part of the treaty between the two tribes after the war between them had ended. She was accepted and lived peacefully amongst the Aesir, eventually being accepted as one of their own.
Amongst the qualities often associated with Freya were Beauty, Passion, Fertility and Love. She was famous for her promiscuity and was noted as having relations with many of the other Gods in Asgard.
Heimdallr had an important roles amongst the Norse gods, he was the watcher who would warn the other about the onset of Ragnarok, the guardian of the Bifrost and the owner of the great horn 'Gjallahorn'.
He was said to have been born to nine mothers and was known for his great depth of knowledge, his keen eyesight and good hearing.
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