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Σάββατο, 31 Ιουλίου, 2021
ΑρχικήEnglish EditionCultureAn Introduction to Norse Mythology

An Introduction to Norse Mythology


By Dimitris Topalis, 

Norse mythology is considered one of the most interesting mythologies. Before the Norse were converted to Christianity in the Middle Ages, they had their own religion. Their religion revolved around stories that gave meaning to their lives. Those myths revolved around gods with fascinating and highly complex characters. The most trustworthy source we have about the Norse and their mythology comes from the book Poetic Edda. A book that contains a collection of old Norse Anonymous poems. 

The creation of the first beings

In the beginning, there were two realms: the first one was Nilfheim and the second Muspelheim and between those realms, there was an empty void. Nilfheim was the realm of ice and Muspelheim was the realm of fire, when both heat and cold met, steam was created that would be gathered in the void or as the Norse said Ginnungagap, the first two beings were created, Ymir the first giant and Audhulma, the first cow. Since they were the first two beings they would spend their time together, with Ymir drinking Audhulma’s milk and Audhulma liking a salt block, which would eventually turn into the first of the Aesir gods Bury. Bury had a son named Bor, who had three sons: Odin the All-father, Vili and Vé. The three brothers faced Ymir when she turned evil and after killing her, they used her body to create the universe. 

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The Nine realms of Norse mythology

The Norse universe consists of nine realms. Asgard which is the realm of the Aesir gods; Vanaheim, the realm of the Vanir gods; Jotunheim, the realm of the giants; Nilfheim, the realm of fog and mist; Muspelheim, the realm of fire; Midgard, the home of humans; Alfheim, the home of the light elves; Svartalfheim, the home of the dwarves and dark elves and Helheim, the home of the dishonourable dead. These nine realms are connected by the sacred tree Yggdrasil which is at the centre of the universe. An eagle lives at the top of Yggdrasil, while the dragon Nidhogg lives at the bottom and chews at its roots. Yggdrasil is also the centre of all wisdom where the Aesir gods often gather around for meetings. At the foot of the root is Urðarbrunnr which is associated with the three fates. Under one route is Mimir’s well. Mimir is an important figure in the Norse mythology as he is renounced for his knowledge. In Mimir’s well, is where Odin would give his eye as a payment for a drink that would gain him knowledge. Odin also hung himself on Yggdrasil, at the pursuit of gaining knowledge.      

Image source: mythus.fandom.com

 The Gods of the Norse Mythology

The gods of the Norse mythology are being divided into two pantheons, the Aesir gods and the Vanir gods. The Aesir are the gods of the principal pantheon. The Aesir pantheon includes Odin the all-father who is believed to be the strongest of all gods, the one who knows all and sees all. Frigg who is married to Odin, is associated with marriage, prophecy and motherhood. Höðr son of Odin who is a blind god. Thor son of Odin a god who wields the legendary mjolnir associated with thunder. Baldur son of Odin who is a invulnerable god and Tyr who is the god of war in the Norse mythology. The Vanir pantheon is associated with health, fertility, wisdom, and the ability to see the future. Eventually the two pantheons came to hate and fear each other which lead to the war of the two pantheons.The reason that caused the war was the fact that Freyja was the best practician of the most feared magic. Under the name Heiðr she came to Asgard the home of the Aesir gods. The Aesir were quite taken by her powers and zealousy sought her services. But soon they realized that their values of honor: kin, loyalty, and obedience to the law were being pushed aside by the selfish desires they sought to fulfill with the witch’s magic. Blaming Freya for their own shortcomings, the Aesir called her Gullveig and attempted to murder her. Three times they tried to burn her, and three times she was reborn from the ashes. Aesir were fighting with brute force and weapons, while the Vanir fought with the means of magic. After some time they decided to call a truce. As a bargaining chip for the peace to last, the Vanir god Njord and his two children Freyja and Freyr were taken hostage. Despite the fact they were taken as hostages Njord, Freyja and Freyr were accepted by the Aesir Gods. Odin even agreed to split with Freyja the souls of the proud dead warriors, with half going in Freyjas meadow  Folkvangr, and the other half going to Odin’s hall Valhalla, the dishonoured dead were being taken to Helheim.

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The Valkyries

The Valkyries are any group of maidens that Odin choose to sent to the battlefield, to collect the souls of the worthy slain warriors and place them in Valhalla. They stormed to the battlefield on horses, wearing helmets and shields. Some Valkyries had the power to cause death to soldiers they did not favour. They had supernatural powers and they were hidden by the eyes of mortal living men. We do not know how many Valkyries there are but in the poem Voluspa of the Poetic Edda we know the names of six. Skuld  whose name means debt  or futute,  Skogul – shaker,  Gunnr – war, Hildr –battle ,  Gondul –wand-wielder,  Geirskogul –spear bearer.

The Giants and other creatures in Norse Mythology

Apart from the gods that are the main group characters of the Norse mythology, the other group of important characters are the Giants who live in Jotunheim, despite their misleading name, they have normal size. The Aesir spent a lot of time fighting or marrying the giants. The most notable giants apart from Ymir are Skadi the wife of Njord, Skadi the wife of Freyr, Surtr one of the most feared giants and the most major figure of ragnarok as he fights Freyr. Loki is also a giant and the god of mischief. He is the father of Hel, the wolf Fenrir, and the world serpent Jormungandr. The other creatures in Norse mythology are the light elves but there are not enough sources about them. The other creatures are the dark elves who live in Svartalheim, the dark elves might just be another name for the dwarves.

Ragnarok: The Twilight of the gods

In the poem Voluspa of the book Poetic Edda, it is believed that a never-ending winter will come across the Norse universe, the beginning of Ragnarok, the end of the world. The giants with Loki as their leader will storm the gates of Asgards and what will follow is the biggest battle, where the Aesir gods and giants will fight and most of them will die. Odin will get eaten from Fenrir, who will die from Odin’s son Vidar. Thor and the world-serpent will fight and the result will be that they will kill each other. Loki and Heimdal will fight. Surtr will kill Freyr before destroying midgard with fire. But after the total distraction of the world, a new world will rise up. With the surviving  Aesir Gods from Ragnarok in charge.


TA ΤΕΛΕΥΤΑΙΑ ΑΡΘΡΑ

Dimitris Topalis
He was born in Lamia, Greece in the year 2000. He is a student at the Department of History and Archaeology in Kalamata, Greece. He also works part-time as a waiter. He speaks English and German. He loves history, especially the one regarding the medieval times, as well as, Mythologies. His hobbies include writing, DnD and sports. He is an animal lover.