Norse Mythology

In the beginning there were only native forests and wasteland. In Norse mythology, the Aesirs, one main group of Norse gods, cleared places to stay, both for themselves and the humans. They named the human’s home Midgard – because it is placed in the middle of the world. And in the middle of Midgard – so that the humans should not feel lonely and abandoned – the gods built a place for themselves: Asgard.

There are two tribes of gods in Norse mythology: the Æsir and the Vanir. The Æsir are the main gods in Norse mythology and live in Asgard. Notable Æsir include Odin, Þórr (Thor), Frigg, Heimdall, Týr, Bragi, Iðunn (Idunn), Baldr, and Loki (though not always). Not much is known about the Vanir other than that they live in Vanaheim. Notable Vanir include Njörðr (Njord) and his two children, Freyr and Freyja, who came to live in Asgard as hostages to ensure peace following the Æsir-Vanir war.

The Norse universe consists of nine worlds. These worlds are only referenced a few times throughout the myths and are not specified, but are thought to be (in no particular order) Asgard, Vanaheimr (Vanaheim), Jötunheimr (Jotunheim), Niflheim, Muspelheim, Álfheimr (Alfheim), Svartálfaheimr (Svartalfheim), Niðavellir (Nidavellir), and Miðgarðr (Midgard) – which is our world.  


Yggdrasil, Norse mythology

These worlds are connected by a great ash tree named Yggdrasil, which runs through the center of the universe. An eagle lives at the top of Yggdrasil, while the dragon Niðhöggr (Nidhogg) lives at the bottom and chews on its roots. The squirrel Ratatosk runs up and down Yggdrasil’s trunk, carrying messages between these two creatures – and they’re not particularly nice messages either.

In addition to holding everything together, Yggdrasil is also a source of wisdom and is where the Æsir often gather for meetings. At the foot of the tree is Urðarbrunnr (Urd’s well), which is associated with the three Norns or “fates”.

Under another root is Mímisbrunnr (Mímir’s well), which is where Odin gave up his eye as payment for a drink in order to gain the well’s knowledge. It is also thought that Yggdrasil is the tree that Odin hung himself on, again in the pursuit of knowledge.


The supreme deity of Norse mythology and the greatest among the Norse gods was Odin, the Allfather of the Aesir. He was the awe-inspiring ruler of Asgard, and most revered immortal, who was on an unrelenting quest for knowledge with his two ravens, two wolves and the Valkyries. Odin is the god of war and, being delightfully paradoxical, the god of poetry and magic. He is famous for sacrificing one of his eyes in order to be able to see the cosmos more clearly and his thirst for wisdom saw him hang from the World Tree, Yggdrasil, for nine days and nine nights until he was blessed with the knowledge of the runic alphabet. His unyielding nature granted him the opportunity to unlock numerous mysteries of the universe.


Odin’s wife, Frigg, was a paragon of beauty, love, fertility and fate. She was the mighty queen of Asgard, a venerable Norse goddess, who was gifted with the power of divination, and yet, was surrounded by an air of secrecy. She was the only goddess allowed to sit next to her husband. Frigg was a very protective mother, so she took an oath from the elements, beasts, weapons and poisons, that they would not injure her brilliant and loving son, Balder. Her trust was betrayed by Loki, a most deceitful god.


Speaking of the god of thunder, Thor is one of the most well-known Norse gods, which is largely due to the popularity of his character in the Marvel movies. Thor was tasked with guarding Asgard, the stronghold of the gods and goddesses. He also wielded one of the most powerful weapons in the universe, Mjölnir his unique hammer, which was capable of leveling mountains and slaying giants.


Frigg and Odin are the parents of Balder, who was described as living between heaven and earth. Balder was the epitome of radiance, beauty, kindness and fairness. He was believed to be immortal, but he was killed with mistletoe – the golden bough that contained both his life and his death.


This famous trickster deity might not be viewed as traditionally powerful but was nonetheless powerful in many other ways. While he was not especially strong, he was directly or indirectly responsible for the death of numerous Norse gods and goddesses, including providing the deadly mistletoe that killed Balder, making him a very powerful force.


Freya was one of the most sensual and passionate goddesses in Norse mythology. She was associated with much of the same qualities as Frigg: love, fertility and beauty. She was the sister of Freyr.


Freyr was the god of fertility and one of the most respected gods for the Vanir clan. She was a symbol of prosperity and pleasant weather conditions. He was frequently portrayed with a large phallus.


Heimdall, known as the ‘shiniest’ of all gods due to him having the ‘whitest skin’, was a son of Odin who sat atop the Bifrost (the rainbow bridge that connects Asgard, the world of the Aesir tribe of gods, with Midgard, the world of humanity) and remained forever on alert; guarding Asgard against attack.


Hel was the goddess and ruler of the Norse underworld of the same name (also known as Helheim). She has pale skin and appears to be death-like. She nurtures and houses any who enter her realm.


Vidar was another son of the supreme god and Grid (a giantess), and his powers were matched only by that of Thor.


Vale was the son of Odin who avenged Balder’s death by killing Hod, the god who pierced Balder with mistletoe.


Being the god of war requires you to be very powerful. Luckily, Tyr was widely known as an extremely powerful being. He managed to win countless battles, many of which occurred while he had only one arm. He lost the other one while trying to fight a giant wolf named Fenrir, who also happened to be the son of Loki.

Related: Egyptian Pantheon


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