Norse Gods and Goddesses
Two races of gods make up the Norse pantheon—the Aesir (AY-seer) and the Vanir (VAH-near). The Aesir live in Asgard, which many of us know from the Marvel movies. The following lists the Aesir gods with the exception of Frey and his sister Freya who are Vanir. The reason Frey and Freya are listed with the Vanir is there was a battle between the Aesir and the Vanir, which lasted for ages. They eventually settled the battle with the Aesir sending two of their gods to the Vanir and the Vanir sending three of their gods to the Aesir. Njord (nee-yord) and his children, Frey and Freya, were the three Vanir gods sent to live with the Aesir. The two Aesir gods who went to live with the Vanir were Hoenir (HIGH-neer), the god of silence, and Mimir (MEE-mir), the god of wisdom.
Aesir Gods and Goddesses
Odin (Woden, Woten)—Odin is the chief Norse god.
- Master of wisdom, magic, and poetry.
- God of war, battle, and death.
- He rides an eight-legged horse named Sleipnir, a gift from Loki.
- On Odin’s shoulders perch two ravens, Huginn and Muninn (Thought and Memory) who fly throughout the world and report back to him every night.
- Two wolves, Geri and Freki (Greedy and Ravenous), sit on either side of him. Odin does not need to eat food, so he gives his portion to the wolves.
- Men who fought and died bravely in battle are rewarded by being taken to Odin’s palace in Asgard, Valhalla. There they fight, hunt, eat and drink. Odin’s maidens, the Valkyries, wait on them.
- He frequently shape-shifts, most often into an eagle.
- He sacrificed one of his eyes to obtain wisdom.
- He wears a golden breastplate and helmet and carries a magic spear.
- Odin is always depicted as blind in one eye. He dresses as a beggar with a tattered cloak, carries a staff, and wears a floppy hat that covers the blind eye.
- The day Wednesday (Wodens-day) is named after him.
- Frigga is a wife and mother and is considered a goddess of marriage and women.
- Frigga is a goddess of childbirth and women call upon her when giving birth.
- She has the gift of prophecy but will not reveal what she knows.
Thor—God of thunder.
- Thor is the god of lightning. When he throws his hammer, Mjolnir, it creates lightning.
- He is the god of the winds and weather and fertility.
Mythology Connection! The Celtic god Taranos was also a god of storms and weather and known as the “thunderer.”
- Thor has a hearty appetite for food and ale.
- Thor rides in a chariot pulled by two goats, Tanngrisnir (Teeth-barer) and Tanngnjóstr (Teeth grinder).
- He is married to Sif, a fertility goddess.
- Thor is fearsome to his enemies (he hated giants), but he is protective of humans. The average person in the Norse world loved Thor, because he was a fierce enemy of evil and fought it whenever it appeared.
Mythology Connection! Thor and the goddess Rhianna from Celtic mythology were both popular with the common people of their times. Archaeologists have found many amulets of both deities.
- Thor is the father of Magni who will survive the end of the world to become one of the fathers of the new world.
- Thor is depicted as a huge, red-faced man with a red beard.
- He wears a belt that doubles his already considerable strength, and iron gloves. He wields a magic hammer, Mjolnir, which always strikes its target and returns to Thor’s hand.
- The day Thursday (Thor’s day) is named after him.
- A goddess of fertility.
- She is depicted with long golden hair.
- Loki tricked her and shaved off her hair. Thor made him replace it with hair created by the dwarfs.
Frey—god of vegetation and fertility. One of the Vanir gods.
- Frey is the god of agriculture and determines the outcome of harvests. People prayed to Frey for a good harvest.
- After Odin and Thor, Frey is the most important god in the pantheon due to his association with agriculture and fertility.
- He is a god of human fertility. People prayed to him for healthy children.
- He has a golden boar, Gullinbursti, a gift from the dwarfs. Gullinbursti is fast and shines like the sun when traveling. Warriors put images of Gullinbursti on their shields and helmets.
- Frey has a magic ship, Skidbladnir, which can sail on land, sea, or air, and will never veer off course. It is big enough that all the gods and their animals can fit in it, but can become so small that it can fold up and fit in a pouch.
- Frey fell in love with a giant maiden and gave his sword away as a symbol of his love. When the end of the world happens, he will be without a weapon.
- Frey is very handsome.
Freya—A goddess of fertility. Frey’s sister and one of the Vanir.
- Goddess of love and beauty.
- Freya is also the goddess of battle. Along with Odin she claims the dead who died heroically in battle and takes them to her hall, Folkvangr. Women go to Freya’s hall when they die.
- She is an expert in the Seid (seyth), which is magic, and is the leader of the Volvas (wise women). She is the leader of the Light Elves.
- Freya is loved, especially by women. She loves music and flowers.
- She rides a chariot pulled by two cats.
- She owns Hildisvini (Battle Boar).
- She owns a cloak that will turn the wearer into a falcon and this allows her to fly.
- She is very beautiful and wears a necklace, Brisingamen.
- The day Friday (Freya’s Day) is named after her.
Loki—Even though Loki is not technically a god, he is incredibly important in the Norse pantheon. There are many stories of Loki.
- He is beautiful and charming. He helped the gods build the wall that stands between Asgard and Midgard.
- He is mischievous, although they end up getting burned by him in the end. Odin loves him.
- Loki is a shape shifter.
- The gods and goddesses put up with him until he did one malicious trick too many. Then they bound him in a cavern with a venomous serpent to torment him.
- With the giant Angrboda, Loki fathered Fenris the wolf, the Midgard Serpent, and Hel, Queen of the underworld.
- He was the “mother” (when he was in the form of a horse) of the eight legged horse Sleipnir. Loki gave Sleipnir to Odin as a gift.
- Loki caused the beginning of the end of the world when he killed Balder.
Balder—son of Odin and Frigga.
- Balder is the god of truth, light, love, joy, innocence, and happiness.
- He is beloved by the gods and men. No dishonesty or treachery can enter his hall.
- He is the first god to die, killed by Loki’s treachery.
- Balder is depicted as beautiful and radiant.
Tyr (teer)—god of battle and martial honor.
- He is the god of honorable battle, strategy, and cunning.
- Warriors would mark their swords with the rune of Tyr before going into battle.
- He is depicted as a one-handed god. His hand was bitten off by Fenrir the wolf, an enemy of the gods.
- The day Tuesday (Tyr’s day) is named after him.
Heimdall (HAIM-dall)—he is the watchman of the gods.
- Heimdall is stationed on the rainbow bridge Bifrost that connects Asgard (the home of the gods) and Midgard (the home of humans).
- He can see to the ends of the earth and hear the slightest sound, even the grass grow!
- Heimdall visited Midgard and created the classes of humans, like peasants and kings.
- He watches for enemies of the gods, like giants.
- He holds a horn, Gjallarhorn (Resounding Horn) to warn the Aesir of any intruders. He will use this horn to announce the end of the world, Ragnarok.
Hermod (Hair-mode)—messenger of the gods.
- Hermod stands at the gates of Odin’s hall Valhalla and welcomes fallen heroes.
- He traveled into the underworld after Balder’s death to bring him back.
Hoder—Balder’s blind brother.
- He was tricked by Loki into killing Balder.
Forseti—god of justice.
- He settles disputes in his hall, Glitnir, and everyone leaves reconciled.
Bragi—god of poetry.
- Runes were carved onto his tongue and then shaved off and put in mead. The gods, elves, and men then drank the rune-infused mead.
- He meets fallen heroes at Valhalla and sings of their deeds.
- This is where our word “brag” comes from.
- His wife is Idun.
- Bragi is depicted playing a harp. When he sang nothing could resist, not even the trees.
Mythology Connection! Orpheus, the mortal man from Greek mythology, could play the lyre so beautifully that everyone and everything, even the trees, would stop to listen.
Idun (ee-DOON)—She is the goddess of eternal youth and Bragi’s wife.
- She keeps the magical apples that prevent the gods and goddesses from growing old. The Norse gods are not immortal and have to eat the magic apples to stay alive.
Harry Potter Connection! In order to stay alive, Nicholas Flamel has to keep drinking the Elixir of Life, for as Dumbledore tells Harry, “while the Elixir of Life does extend life, it must be drunk regularly, for all eternity, if the drinker is to maintain their immortality” (HBP, 502).
Aegir (AY-ear)—god of the sea and all the sea creatures.
- He is the embodiment of the ocean. Aegir is older than the Aesir and Vanir.
- He is known for throwing great parties where he brews ale in a giant cauldron. He regularly has guests, especially Thor.
- Aegir is responsible for both the good and bad things that happen at sea.
- Portrayed as an old man with long white hair.
Mythology Connection! The Celtic god Dagda has a cauldron that never runs out of food.
Ran—goddess of the sea.
- Wife of Aegir. Together they had nine daughters.
- She has a net that catches men who go out to sea. She receives men who drowned at sea into her hall.
Hel—goddess of the netherworld.
- She is the offspring of Loki and a giantess.
- Half her face has human features and the other is a skull.
- She rules the dead in her hall, Helheim.
Skadi—she is a giantess and a goddess of winter.
- She lives high in the mountains.
- She is a huntress and carries a spear.
- Travels on skis or snowshoes.
- He drives the chariot that pulls the moon across the sky.
- She drives the chariot that pulls the sun across the sky.
Children of the Aesir Gods
Vali—son of Odin. He was born solely to take vengeance on Hoder for killing Balder. He will survive the end of the world.
Vidar—son of Odin. He will kill Fenrir after Fenrir kills Odin. He too, will survive the end of the world.
Modi (Strong)—Thor’s son. Modi’s followers were the berserkers, men who go crazy in battle.
Magni (Angry)—Thor’s son. Magni is the only being in the world stronger than Thor. He will survive the end of the world.
Norn—the Norn are like the Greek Fates. They spin a thread of fate for every living being, including the gods.
- Once the Norns weave your fate it cannot be undone. Not even the gods can change their fate.
- The Norns control time.
- The Norns guard the fountain that nourishes Yggdrasil, the World Tree and they also water the tree.
- The gods meet in council at the Well of Urd which is where the Norns live.
- The three Norns are depicted as facing in three different directions and each one has a different face.
- Urd (past)—she is old and ugly and looks backward.
- Verdande (ver-dahn-deh) (present)—she is young and beautiful and looks straight ahead.
- Skuld (future)—she is veiled and cannot be seen and looks in the opposite direction as Urd.
The name means “chooser of the slain”: they are women who choose men who die in battle and bring them to Odin’s hall Valhalla. In Valhalla the fallen heroes feast and drink and fight until the end of the world when they will be summoned by Odin to fight on the side of good. In Valhalla the food and mead never run out and if the men get hurt in a fight their injuries heal by the end of the day. The Valkyries serve them mead.
The Valkyries go down to a battlefield dressed in full armor. When a worthy man dies she takes him to Valhalla on horseback. In some stories the goddess Freya is the leader of the Valkyries. She chooses half of the slain warriors for herself and takes them to her hall in Asgard.
The Valkyries are the daughters of Odin. They can transform into white swans when in Midgard. However, if anyone ever sees a Valkyrie in her natural form, outside of the battlefield, she’ll no longer be a Valkyrie or allowed in Asgard.