Pantheon – Gods

Gods of the Germanic People

Norse: Ægir [EYE-yeer]

Together with his daughter or more likely wife, Rán, Ægir rules over the sea. Probably they are concerned with the deeps and their denizens, since we also have another sea-god, Njörðr, who helps sailors and traders. He has nine daughters, the waves; some think that these are the nine mothers of Heimdallr/Háma, in which case Ægir would be grandfather to Heimdallr/Háma.

He is also patron of brewing. There are two stories concerning a great feast or possibly sumble/symbel that he threw for the other gods in his hall beneath the waves: first, Thor/Thunor/Donar and Týr/Tiw/Tiû went to Jotunheim/Eotenham in search of a kettle or cauldron large enough for him to brew beer for all the gods; second, if the Eddic poem Lokasenna is to be believed, Loki crashed the party and insulted everyone who challenged him.

Norse: Baldr [baldrr, with short, soft “a”]
Anglo-Saxon (reconstructed): Bealdor [BEY-uhl-duhr]
Old High German: Balder and also from context Phol
Latin: Balderus

Son of Óðinn/Wóden/Wodan and Frigg/Frige/Frija, Baldr was, according to the Prose Edda, the wisest and best of the gods, with beautiful features and hair and skin so pale that light shone from him and the whitest flower was compared to the sheen on his forehead. His hall, Breiðablik [BREY-thuh-blick, with voiced “th”] (Broad-View) is the place least tainted with evil in the worlds. Snorri calls Baldr/Bealdor/Balder the most merciful of the gods and the mildest of speech, but says that his judgment is irrevocable. He and his wife, Nanna, are the parents of Forseti/Fosite, famous as a judge.

He is dead and in Hel’s realm. He had threatening dreams and came to his mother, trembling with fear; she attempted to save him by having every being and every thing swear not to harm him, and the gods celebrated his invulnerability by throwing everything them could think of at him, and watching as everything bounced harmlessly off; but Loki discovered that Frigg/Frige/Frija had judged the mistletoe not dangerous enough to exact an oath from it, fashioned a dart from it, and guided the hand of Baldr’s own brother, the blind Höðr, in throwing the dart that pierced his heart.

He was cremated on his own ship, Ringhorn (Ring-Prow). All the gods attended, riding their chariots, but the ship was so large that they were unable to push it off, and the giantess Hyrrokkin [HÜRR-oh-kin] had to be summoned to do it. She arrived riding a wolf, using poisonous snakes as reins; when she dismounted, four berserks summoned by Óðinn/Wóden/Wodan were unable to hold her mount and had to kill it. She launched the ship with one shove on the prow of such force that the wooden rollers burst into flame and the ground quaked. The body was carried onto the pyre that had been built amidships, and Nanna died of grief at the sight and was laid beside her husband. The pyre was set alight and Thor/Thunor/Donar, who had already lost his temper at Hyrrokkin and had to be restrained from hitting her, kicked a dwarf called Lit who ran in front of him as he was hallowing the fire with his hammer; he fell into the fire and was also burned. Baldr’s horse was led into the fire fully caparisoned to accompany him, and Óðinn/Wóden/Wodan laid his enchanted ring Draupnir [DRAH-üpp-neer] on the pyre as a death-gift for his son, and bent and whispered words in his dead ear. Then the ship with the burning pyre aboard was sent on its last voyage.

Meanwhile, Frigg/Frige/Frija had despatched Hermóðr, messenger of the gods, to ask Hel whether there was any way Baldr/Bealdor/Balder could be ransomed out of her realm. He found him sitting in the high seat. Hel agreed to release him if everything in the world, living and unliving, were to weep for him. Baldr/Bealdor/Balder sent Draupnir back to Óðinn/Wóden/Wodan, and Nanna sent gifts back to Frigg/Frige/Frija and Fulla/Volla. When Hel’s response was received in Asgard/Esageard, messengers went out and everyone and everything wept for the dead god—except a giantess who called herself Þökk, who refused. She is thought to have been Loki in disguise.

So Baldr/Bealdor/Balder remains dead—and so does Nanna—but he is to return after Ragnarök and rule over the new world together with his brother Höðr.

Some heathens see in Baldr’s brightness and his death a solar, seasonal myth, similar to the Greek story of Demeter and Kore/Persephone, and relate his death to the Yule holiday. But we have a sun goddess, Sól/Sunne, and there is no suggestion Baldr/Bealdor/Balder returns annually, only at the end of time, in a new age, and no suggestion the ancient heathens associated him particularly with Yule.

Several scholars have suspected Baldr/Bealdor/Balder was created as a rival to Jesus, or is even a Norse transformation of Jesus. A few heathens, particularly Anglo-Saxon heathens, share this view and do not accept him as one of our gods. Some would say his name merely means “lord”; but then so does Freyr/Fréa’s.

Norse: Bragi [BRA-yee with short “a,” sometimes anglicized as BRAGG-ee]

God of poetry, very wise. He is married to Iðunn.

Since Óðinn/Wóden/Wodan is also supremely wise and a god of poetry who traditionally inspired skalds, and since the first skald whose name we know is called Bragi inn alldri (Bragi the Old), many modern heathens think Bragi is the skald deified; some use this as evidence to argue that Baldr/Bealdor/Balder is really a deified human, too. But there is no Germanic evidence that humans can become gods.

Since poetry was usually performed to the accompaniment of a lyre, Bragi is taken to be our patron of song and of music in general.

Norse: Dágr [daugrr or daahgrr]
Anglo-Saxon (reconstructed): Dæg [die, often modernized as dagg]

Day-god. According to the Prose Edda, he is the son of the night-goddess Nótt/Niht by her third husband, Delling, one of the gods; whereas she is dark-skinned, he has light skin like his father, and the gods him and his mother, gave them each a horse and a chariot, and set them to riding across the sky marking the two sections of the day. Because the heathen day begins at sundown, he follows his mother; his horse is called Skinfaxi (Shining-Mane) and lights up all the earth and sky with his mane.

Despite Nótt/Niht’s three marriages—and Sól/Sunne’s to a man named Glen—with the moon and sun and day and night deities being opposite-sex pairs, it seems more than likely they are involved.

There is no evidence from ancient heathen times of Dágr or Nótt being worshipped, or being known as deities by their Anglo-Saxon names, but this does not mean the Prose Edda is wrong in calling them divine.

Norse: Forseti [FOR-sett-ee]
Old Frisian: Fosite [FOSS-i-teh]

A god of justice and the law who helps arbitrate disputes and reach agreements, unlike Týr/Tiw/Ziû, who cares only about what is right, not about making peace. Norse sources tell us he is Baldr/Bealdor/Balder’s and Nanna’s son and that in his hall, Glitnir (Gleaming—a fit name for the Bright One’s son’s domicile), he holds the best court known to gods and men. Accounts of Frisian heathenry paint a slightly different picture: of an island on the border between Frisian and Danish territory so sacred the plants and animals must be left undisturbed and silence be kept while drawing water from the spring, and of the twelve rulers of Frisian Zealand set adrift in a rudderless boat by Charlemagne because they could not recite the law of their people, assisted by the appearance of the god with a golden axe with which he steered the boat to shore, created a spring, and assisted them in putting their custom into the form of a code of law.

Norse: Freyr [freyyrr], Yngvi [ÜNGG-vee or INGG-vee], Yngvi-Freyr
Anglo-Saxon: Fréa [FREH-uh], Ing, Ing-Fréa, (reconstructed) Ingui
Old High German, Old Saxon: Frô
Modern German: Froh

Njörð’s son and Freyja/Fréo’s twin brother, a member of the Vanir/Wene. In fact Vanaguð, “God of the Vanir/Wene,” refers to him and not his father. He and his sister were originally married; they came to the Æsir/Ese with their father in the hostage exchange after the war between the two tribes of gods, and when the permanent peace was concluded, had to dissolve their marriage because it violated Æsic law. He is now married to Gerð, a frost-giantess with whom he fell in love when he was sitting on Óðinn/Wóden/Wodan’s throne, Hliðskjálf [HLITH-skyowlf or HLITH-skyahlf, with “h” and “l” run together or unvoiced “l,” voiced “th,” and “y” as in “yam”] (Cliffside Vantage-Point), from which one can see into all the worlds. He pined desperately for her until his shoe-swain (personal servant) Skírnir [SKEER-neer] took his horse and his sword (which has the power of striking by itself) and apples from Iðunn’s stash and when gifts and cajolery failed, induced her to come to him by threatening a dire curse. The marriage, by all reports, is happy, but the sword is gone, and so Freyr/Fréa will be weaponless at Ragnarök. He will face the fire giant Surtr [soortrr] with his great flaming sword with which he will have ignited all the worlds and the Tree, and will die at his hand.

The Vanir/Wene are all associated with fertility, and to Freyr/Fréa in particular, the ancient heathens sacrificed for peace and plenty (til árs ok friðjar [till AHHRSS ock FRITH-jahr, with voiced “th”]). In the Prose Edda, Snorri says he determines the weather and in general whether the harvest will be good; the main focus of the modern Ásatrú festival of Freyfaxi is celebrating the harvest and the earth’s fruitfulness. He is also Lord of Alfheim; the world was given to him as a “tooth gift” when he cut his first tooth. And the elves (alfar) are also associated with fertility and growing things. He is associated with forests and gardens as well as with crops—with all growing things. All the ancient likenesses of him, which include two of the three pocket- or pouch-sized images of gods that have been found, are ithyphallic; the setting of “Gunnar Helmings Þáttr” (The Tale of Gunnar Helming) is an annual procession of an image of him around the fields of Sweden in a cart, attended by a gyðja; the people were thrilled when she became pregnant, apparently by the god (in fact by the opportunistic Gunnar, masquerading as the god).

However, this does not mean he is weak, pacifistic, or exclusively concerned with procreation. He killed the giant Beli [BEH-lee] using a stag’s antler; Snorri says he could have done it with his bare hands. One of his names is Lord of Hosts. He was the war-leader of the Vanir/Wene, who by some standards were winning the war between the tribes of gods when peace was made (they had destroyed the walls of Asgard/Esageard), and now leads the forces of the united gods.

He owns the ship Skiðblaðnir [skith-BLATH-neer, with voiced “th”], which folds up so small it can be stowed in a pouch but unfolds to sufficient size to accommodate all the gods and their horses, and also gets a fair wind as soon as the sail is hoisted, and the boar Gullinbursti [GUHL-in-boor-stee, with “h” and “l” combined or the sound of Welsh “ll” and short “oo” or GOOL-lin-boor-stee with two short “oo”s] (Gold-bristle), also called Sliðrugtanni [SLITH-roog-tahn-nee with voiced “th” and short “oo”] (Razortooth), whose bristles are gold so bright that they light up the darkest night, and which can run through the air and over the sea faster than a horse. The boar is his animal and on the last night of Yule, it is traditional to swear the most solemn oaths of the year on a boar sacred to him, the sónargöltr [SOHH-nahr-göltrr] (boar of atonement or of sacrifice).

Other gods, above all Óðinn/Wóden/Wodan, are credited with siring royal dynasties or entire tribes, but the Svear, the people of Uppland and neighboring parts of modern Sweden, actually had Freyr/Fréa reigning as their king for a human lifespan, under the name Yngvi, as well as beginning their royal line, the Ynglingar [ÜNGG-lingg-uhr]. During his lifetime, there was total peace and crop yields and prosperity that have never been equaled since; when he died and was buried in a mound at Uppsala, the people continued to bring tribute to him, pouring gold, silver, and other offerings through holes in the barrow, and the peace continued; the fortunes of Sweden have since depended on how well his memory is kept. A similar story is told of King Frotho of Denmark, who may thus have also been an avatar of Freyr/Fréa. The Ing of the Anglo-Saxon Rune Poem, who “was first among the East Danes [Swedes]” and “returned over the sea with his wagon” is undoubtedly Yngvi.

The name Freyr simply means “lord”; Anglo-Saxon Fréa and Old High German/Old Saxon Frô, which may or may not be recorded in place-names, mean the same. Freyja means “lady.” Thus our usual names for both are not really names, but titles. Yngvi/Ing may or may not have been his main name; his main name may have been lost for taboo reasons.

Norse: Heimdallr [HAME-dahlrr with short “a” and “h” and “l” run together or unvoiced “l” or HAME-dahllrr with double “l” as in “mile-long”], anglicized as Heimdall or Heimdal [HIME-duhl]
Anglo-Saxon (reconstructed): Háma [HAHH-muh] or Hama [HAH-muh]

The watchman of the gods, so he is sometimes referred to as The Watcher. He stands at the Asgard/Esageard end of the Rainbow Bridge, Bifröst [BIH-fröst, or anglicized BYE-frost], looking for the onset of Ragnarök. He will blow the Gjallarhorn [GYAHL-luhr-horrn with “y” as in “yam” and short “a”] (yelling horn) to alert the other gods. Our gods are not generally credited with being omniscient or even being able to see and hear everything, but Óðinn/Wóden/Wodan has his Hliðskjálf [HLITH-skyowlf or HLITH-skyahlf, with “h” and “l” run together or unvoiced “l,” voiced “th,” and “y” as in “yam”] from which he can see into all the worlds, and Heimdallr/Háma has such good eyesight he can see a thousand miles even at night, and such good hearing he can hear the grass grow and the wool growing on sheep’s backs. He also sleeps very little—less than a bird needs to, according to Snorri in the Prose Edda.

He is called “the White God” or “the Whitest God” (hvíti áss, hinn hvítastr áss), which probably means the blondest, but Snorri also says he is “great and holy,” and his residence is called Himinbjörg [HIM-in-byörg with “y” as in “yet”] (Heaven-Cliffs). He also has gold teeth and his horse is called Gulltoppr [GUHL-toprr with “u” as in “gull” and “h” and “l” run together or unvoiced “l,” or GOOLL-toprr with short “oo” and doubled “l” as in “mile-long”] (Goldtuft)—presumably the gold gleams very brightly.

He was born of nine mothers, sisters. Since Ægir has nine daughters, the waves, these are generally assumed to be they, but in truth we do not know, and the important Eddic poem Völuspá [VÖLL-uh-spau or VÖLL-uh-spaah] mysteriously says he was reared underground. Other poems also refer to his nine mothers; the “Shorter Völuspá” (Völuspá hin skamma) gives nine giantess-names. There are other mysteries about him, too. Völuspá says that either his hearing, his voice, or his horn (depending on how one interprets the word) lies at the root of the World Tree, from the context in Mímir’s Well along with Óðinn/Wóden/Wodan’s eye. And he and Loki fought in sea-lion form over a “sea-kidney” (hafnýra [HAHFF-nüü-ruh]), which is usually identified with Freyja/Fréo’s necklace Brísingamen [bree-zing-guh-MEN]. Their enmity will extend to the end of time: they will kill each other at Ragnarök.

One Eddic poem, Rígsþula [REEGS-thool-uh, with unvoiced “th”], tells how a god called Rígr went walking along the sea-shore and visited three couples in turn for three nights each: Great-Grandmother and Great-Grandfather, Grandmother and Grandfather, and Mother and Father. Each time he sired a son on the wife; the parents and their sons exemplify the social classes, and Mother’s son, Jarl (Earl), the god claimed as his own and taught runes, and in turn the poem portrays Jarl’s youngest son Kon (Kon ungr) as the first king (konungr). Most heathens regard Rígr as Heimdallr/Háma and so he is credited with teaching us the runes that Óðinn/Wóden/Wodan won on Yggdrasill.

Norse: Hermóðr [HAIR-mohhthrr, with voiced “th”]

The messenger of the gods, particularly Óðinn/Wóden/Wodan; he is sent off to Hel’s realm on Sleipnir to see what it will take to retrieve Baldr/Bealdor/Balder from the dead. He is not usually termed a god, but his female counterpart Gná is listed as a goddess and no human can ride Sleipnir, so it is very possible he is. Also at one point Snorri refers to Baldr/Bealdor/Balder as his brother.

His name means “courage of the army.”

Norse: Höðr [höthrr, with voiced “th”], sometimes anglicized as Hodur [HOE-duhr]

Blind son of Frigg/Frige/Frija and Óðinn/Wóden/Wodan. Loki guided his hand in throwing the fatal mistletoe dart at his brother Baldr/Bealdor/Balder; he was slain in revenge by Váli, whom his father had conceived on Rind for that purpose. The Prose Edda says the gods prefer his name not be mentioned; but according to Völuspá, after almost all the gods die in the great battle of Ragnarök, he and Baldr/Bealdor/Balder will return to the newly reborn earth, reconcile, and rule jointly as chiefs of the new generation of gods.

Norse: Hœnir [HÖÖ-neer]

With Lóðurr, one of the three Sons of Bor, and a brother of Óðinn/Wóden/Wodan, in Völuspá’s version of the story of how the three brothers transformed two trees, Askr and Embla (presumably “ash” and “elm”) into the first humans. Óðinn/Wóden/Wodan gave them önd; Hœnir gave them óðr (the “spirit” or “passion” that is the first part of Óðinn/Wóden/Wodan’s name; it is wód in Anglo-Saxon); and Lóðurr gave them litu góða (good complexion, a fair appearance—i.e., human form). The version of the story in Gylfaginning uses different names for the two brothers, Vili and Vé, and has a slightly different list of gifts: the first brother (Óðinn/Wóden/Wodan) gives them önd (the breath of life) and awareness; the second (presumably Vili) gives them vit (understanding) and the power of movement; and the last (presumably Vé) gives them the faculties of speech, hearing, and sight. The two versions are so similar, it seems reasonable that Hœnir is a later name for Vili; the names beginning with “V” look older, especially since Óðinn/Wóden/Wodan’s name will have originally been *Wodanaz.

But Hœnir also occurs in another story. According to Heimskringla, in the initial stages of the truce ending the war between the two tribes of gods, the Æsir/Ese sent him and Mímir as hostages to the Vanir/Wene. But when it was discovered that Hœnir would never give an opinion without first consulting Mímir, the Vanir/Wene were insulted over having received hostages of unequal merit; they had sent three of their finest, Njörð, Freyr/Fréa, and Freyja/Fréo. They decapitated Mímir, and sent his head back. There could be confusion in the names here. But although there is no indication of it in the lore, I think Hœnir had been sent because he was Óðinn/Wóden/Wodan’s brother (also called Vili); and that the story, which focuses on Mímir, indicates he is too, that Mímir is Lóðurr and Vé.

Norse: Loki [LOCK-ee or loo-O-kee with short “o”]
Anglo-Saxon (reconstructed): Loca
Also called: Lopt [loft], Laufeyjarson [LAH-ü-fey-yahr-sun or LAU-fey-yar-sun], anglicized as Laufey’s Son (Laufeysson is bad Norse)

The wild card among the gods. He is known by his mother’s name, although the Prose Edda states that his father was a giant called Fárbauti. He causes problems; he solves problems (usually, but not always, problems he has caused). One Eddic poem (Lokasenna, “The Flyting of Loki”) largely consists of his hurling insults at one after another of his fellow gods and goddesses; he even kills one of Freyr/Fréa’s servants. Speaking of killing, he is responsible for the death of Baldr/Bealdor/Balder, an almost universally loved son of Óðinn/Wóden/Wodan and Frigg/Frige/Frija—using as his agent another son of theirs, Höðr, who was blind. Loki guided the blind brother’s hand in killing his own brother, who had been made invulnerable to everything except the mistletoe he used to make the fatal dart. Thus although Höðr was technically the killer and was killed in instant vengeance by Óðinn/Wóden/Wodan’s son Váli, Loki is the only wilful murderer among the gods, and suffers a terrible punishment: the other gods made his own sons, Vali and Nari or Narfi [NAHR-vee] echo the fratricide by turning Vali into a wolf who tore Narfi apart, then took the dead son’s entrails and used them to bind Loki across the tops of three stones set on their edges. To top this off, a poisonous snake was fixed above him so its venom would burn his face; his loyal wife, Sigyn, sits beside him catching the drops in a basin, but when she has to turn away to empty it, he writhes in agony, causing earthquakes. Thus his prison is presumably deep under the ground. At Ragnarök he will get free and will sail with the sons of Múspell in the ship Naglfar [NAGG-l-fahr] against the gods; he and Heimdall/Háma, who have an ancient enmity, will kill each other.

Heathens are extremely divided about Loki. He only appears in Norse sources (unless the “Logaþor” scratched in runes on the back of the fibula found in Nordendorf, Germany refers to him); he does not even feature in Saxo Grammaticus’ Latin version of the story of Baldr and Höðr (Balderus and Hotherus). So Anglo-Saxon heathens generally do not recognize him as a god, and some Ásatrú agree, or simply avoid saying his name. Snorri calls him the Father of Lies, and such heathens often refer to him in that way. Yet in Lokasenna he upbraids Óðinn/Wóden/Wodan by reminding him that they swore blood brotherhood and that he should not therefore drink without him; it is thus a common tenet of Ásatrú that when Óðinn is toasted in blót, Loki must be toasted immediately after or Óðinn will not drink.

There is disagreement about his current status. Some take Snorri’s account at its word and hold that he will betray all the gods and it would therefore be wrong to honor him, and that in any case he is currently imprisoned and inaccessible to worship. Others believe a god cannot be so easily circumscribed. Some point to a common scholarly theory that Loki has been literally demonized in the lore, cast in the role of a heathen devil causing the death of a Christ-like Baldr and punished in a manner reminiscent of Satan. Based on this theory some say he is not really “evil” at all, and others are among those who do not believe in him. A few see him as a jötunn who was kept among the gods as a contact and to keep an eye on him, but after his unpardonable crime was ejected from Asgard/Esageard and will fight with his own people in the end.

Loki’s machinations have had some good results. Through his manipulation of dwarves, he is responsible for giving the gods Óðinn/Wóden/Wodan’s spear Gungnir [GUN-gneer] and ring Draupnir [DRAH-üpp-neer] that drips eight rings of equal value every ninth night; Freyr/Fréa’s boar Gullinbursti [GUHL-in-boor-stee, with “h” and “l” combined or the sound of Welsh “ll” and short “oo” or GOOL-lin-boor-stee with two short “oo”s] and ship Skiðblaðnir [skith-BLATH-neer, with voiced “th”]; Sif’s replacement hair of living gold; and probably most crucially, Thor/Thunor/Donar’s hammer Mjöllnir [MYÖLL-neer, with “y” as in “yum”]. He arranged for the walls of Asgard/Esageard to be replaced after the Vanir/Wanes had destroyed them in war. He is the father of the goddess Hel and the mother of Óðinn/Wóden/Wodan’s eight-legged horse, Sleipnir [SLEYP-neer] (who is the father of Sigurð/Siegfried’s horse, Grani).

However, all these benefits had a hefty downside. The treasures and Gullinbursti all came to the gods because Loki cut off Sif’s hair, a terrible humiliation. Sleipnir was conceived because the mason Loki found to build the walls was a frost giant and the terms Loki struck would have required Freyja/Fréo, the sun, and the moon to be given in payment—the giant almost completed the task on time and Loki had to distract his draft horse, Svaðilfari [svah-thil-FAH-ree, with voiced “th”], to prevent disaster. He conceived Hel with the giantess Angrboða [angrr-BWO-thuh or angrr-BOH-thuh, with voiced “th”] (Sorrow-Boder), and the two sons of that union will both fatally harm the gods: at Ragnarök Fenrir [FEN-reer], the wolf, will devour Óðinn/Wóden/Wodan, and Jörmungandr [YÖR-mun-gandrr], the World Serpent, will kill Thunor/Thor/Donar. In addition, it was Loki who became embroiled with Þjazi [THYAT-see, with unvoiced “th” and “y” as in “yam”] and lured Iðunn out to where he could snatch her.

There is a broad streak of perversity in Loki, a “What if . . . ?” There is no known reason for him to have shorn Sif’s head. He went to great lengths to steal Freyja/Fréo’s much treasured necklace, Brísingamen [bree-zing-guh-MEN]; presumably this is what he and Heimdall/Háma battled about (in the form of sea-lions), but again, why? When the gods were pursuing him for engineering Baldr’s death, he took refuge in a building with windows on all four sides, and when he saw them coming, turned himself into a salmon and hid in the river; yet in the meantime he had invented the fishing net, and thus caused his own undoing as they figured out how to make one from the ashes left in the fire. Why did he choose such a risqué method to prevent the giant from fulfilling his contract? Why did he carry the pregnancy through? Why did he sire such dangerous children by Angrboða? Why, for that matter, did he cause the death of Óðinn/Wóden/Wodan’s much beloved son—and if he was indeed the giantess Thökk, why did he adamantly refuse to weep for him so he could return to life? When Skaði/Scæðu had to be diverted from her murderous rage so that she would accept wergild, he made her crack a smile by roping his own testicles to a goat and dancing; who in their right mind would have thought of that? This may be the only occasion on which his ingenuity and smooth talking worked completely to the gods’ advantage; but he had caused the problem in the beginning by falling into her father Þjazi’s power. Again, when Mjöllnir was stolen, he went along with the disguised Thor/Thunor/Donar to retrieve it, and his quick wits smoothed over the obvious defects in the thunder god’s imitation of a blushing bride; but it’s easy to believe he had something to do with the theft of the hammer in the first place. His lack of self control is clearly displayed in that string of insults in Lokasenna–it is hard to tell how many of them can be believed—and the slaying of the servant.

To some heathens, he is a trickster, more analogous to Native American figures such as Coyote than to other European gods. Tricksters invent things, as he did the net, and modern heathens have been influenced by many cultures and by modern technology; hence, Loki may be more honored today than among the ancient heathens, and in some quarters he is held to be the patron of the Internet.

He accompanied Thor/Thunor/Donar on some of his journeys, notably to the hall of Útgarða-Loki [OOT-gar-thuh-lock-ee, with voiced “th”], whose name appears to be a play on his. Either Red-Beard trusted him—or he wanted him where he could keep an eye on him. In any event, he was outclassed by the tricky giant; he lost the eating contest to Logi [LOG-ee or loo-O-gee with short “o”], who is fire. The resemblance between names makes many think he is a fire god; fire, like him, is capricious and dangerous but also useful. Or perhaps he is a fire giant; Múspell is the world of fire. (Scholars generally prefer to connect his name to a dialect word for “spider,” but admit they do not know what it means.)

Perhaps the one point of agreement regarding Loki is that he is a change-bringer.

Norse: Lóðurr [loo-O-therr with short “o” and voiced “th,” or LOH-therr with voiced “th”]

With Hœnir, one of the three Sons of Bor, and a brother of Óðinn/Wóden/Wodan, in Völuspá’s version of the story of how the three brothers transformed two trees, Askr and Embla (presumably “ash” and “elm”) into the first humans. Óðinn/Wóden/Wodan gave them önd; Hœnir gave them óðr (the “spirit” or “passion” that is the first part of Óðinn/Wóden/Wodan’s name; it is wód in Anglo-Saxon); and Lóðurr gave them litu góða (good complexion, a fair appearance—i.e., human form). The version of the story in Gylfaginning uses different names for the two brothers, Vili and Vé, and has a slightly different list of gifts: the first brother (Óðinn/Wóden/Wodan) gives them önd (the breath of life) and awareness; the second (presumably Vili) gives them vit (understanding) and the power of movement; and the last (presumably Vé) gives them the faculties of speech, hearing, and sight. The two versions are so similar, it seems reasonable that Lóðurr is a later name for Vé; the names beginning with “V” look older, especially since Óðinn/Wóden/Wodan’s name will have originally been *Wodanaz.

Some scholars and some heathens think Lóðurr is Loki—who is Óðinn/Wóden/Wodan’s blood-brother. There is some similarity in the name, and a mysterious inscription on the Nordendorf fibula. But according to Heimskringla, the reason Mímir, whom Óðinn/Wóden/Wodan consults in grave matters, is now a disembodied head is that in the initial stages of the truce ending the war between the two tribes of gods, the Æsir/Ese sent him and Hœnir as hostages to the Vanir/Wene, who decapitated him in their fury when they discovered that Hœnir would never give an opinion without first consulting Mímir, since they had sent three of their finest, Njörð, Freyr/Fréa, and Freyja/Fréo. Although there is no indication of it in the lore, I think Hœnir and Mímir had been sent because they were in fact Óðinn/Wóden/Wodan’s brothers, and I therefore think it possible that Lóðurr is Mímir as well as Vé.

Norse: Magni [MAG-nee]

One of Thor/Thunor/Donar’s two sons. His name is derived from megin/mægen and means “might.” Three days old (or three years old, according to the Prose Edda or one of its scribes), he shoved the dead giant Hrungnir’s leg off his father with an appropriately boastful speech, and his father gave him Hrungnir’s horse as a thankyou gift.

He is supposedly the son of his father’s mistress, the giant Járnsaxa [YA-oorn-sack-suh or YAAHRN-sack-suh] (Iron-Seax, Iron-Knife) rather than his wife, Sif.

After his father’s death at Ragnarök, he and his brother Móði will inherit his hammer, and presumably his associated roles as protector of Midgard/Middangeard, hallower, storm-bringer, and bringer of fertility.

Norse: Máni [MOW-nee or MAH-nee]
Anglo-Saxon: Mona [MONE-uh]

Our moon god is the sun-goddess Sól/Sunne’s brother. He does not embody the moon; he stands in the chariot with the actual moon and steers the two horses that draw it; he determines the moon’s course and when it will wax and wane. The Prose Edda tells a confused-sounding story that the gods were angry that the children’s father, Mundilfari, had named them “Moon” and “Sun” because they were so beautiful, and that was why they took them and forced them to drive the chariots of the moon and the sun. But the moon and sun already existed; the gods had put them in place to establish time, and in any case if they had not existed, why would Mundilfari have given his children those names? So the story is confused.

Both sun and moon will be eaten by wolves at Ragnarök; the wolf that will consume the moon is called Hati Hróðvitnisson and actually runs in front of the sun-chariot.

The Prose Edda adds that Máni/Mona is accompanied by Bil and Hjúki, the two children of Viðfinn, whom the gods also took and put in the heavens, in this case as they were returning from a spring called Byrgir, carrying a bucket called Sœg on a pole called Símul. This cannot be an explanation of a constellation, because the moon is “accompanied” by different stars at different times. So it has to be about the “man in the moon,” the markings on the face of the moon itself.

Nótt/Niht, the night-goddess, and Dágr/Dæg, the day-god, being the opposite sexes to Máni/Mona and Sól/Sunne, seem likely to be involved with them.

Norse: Mímir [MEE-meer]
Anglo-Saxon, Old Saxon, Old High German (reconstructed): Meomer
Latin: Mimingus

A very wise god; Óðinn/Wóden/Wodan, with all his own wisdom, consults with him on serious matters, in particular when Ragnarök arrives, and it was in his spring at the base of the World Tree that he sacrificed his eye to increase his own wisdom. But there are two versions of the story. In some sources, including the Prose Edda and Saxo Grammaticus’ writings, he is the owner of the spring and lives there; he drinks from Óðinn/Wóden/Wodan’s eye and may also have Heimdallr/Háma’s voice, or hearing, as a second pledge there. But according to Heimskringla, all that remains of him is his head, preserved by Óðinn/Wóden/Wodan’s skill with herbs and galdr; in the initial stages of the truce ending the war between the two tribes of gods, the Æsir/Ese sent him and Hœnir as hostages to the Vanir/Wene, who decapitated him in their fury when they discovered that Hœnir would never give an opinion without first consulting Mímir/Meomer, since they had sent three of their finest, Njörð, Freyr/Fréa, and Freyja/Fréo. Although there is no indication of it in the lore, I suspect Hœnir and Mímir had been sent because they were in fact Óðinn/Wóden/Wodan’s brothers, Vili and Vé; I think Mímir/Meomer is Lóðurr and Vé.

Norse: Móði [MOH-uh-thee or MOH-thee, with voiced “th”]

One of Thor/Thunor/Donar’s two sons. His name means “fury” or “spirit.”

After his father’s death at Ragnarök, he and his brother Magni will inherit his hammer, and presumably his associated roles as protector of Midgard/Middangeard, hallower, storm-bringer, and bringer of fertility.

Norse: Njörð or Njörðr [nyörth, nyörthrr, with “y” as in “yum” and voiced “th”]

Njörðr is the father of Freyr/Fréa and Freyja/Fréo. These are the three deities the lore identifies as members of the tribe of Vanir/Wene rather than Æsir/Ese; there was a war between the two tribes of gods and as part of the peace, these three came to the Æsir/Ese as hostages.

Njörðr is a god of the sea, or perhaps more accurately of the sea-coast and of humans who set out from it on voyages. The Prose Edda says he can calm the sea—and fire too—controls which way the wind blows, and is the god to call on regarding sea travel and fishing. It goes on to say he is so wealthy that he can give prosperity to all who call on him; presumably he especially favors business people, in particular importers and exporters, but he is our god of wealth in general, and Snorri says it is in his power to grant land.

When Skaði/Scæðu came to the gods seeking vengeance for the death of her father Þjazi [THYAT-see, with unvoiced “th” and “y” as in “yam”], she was offered a husband as wergild but required to make her choice based on his feet. She wanted Baldr/Bealdor/Balder, but the beautiful white feet she thought were his were Njörð’s. Their marriage was miserable because when they were at his hall, Nóatún [NOE-uh-toon] (“Shipyard”), she pined for the mountains and the sound of the seabirds kept her awake, but when they were at her father’s estate, Þrymheim [THRÜMM-hey-imm] (Storm-home), he missed the sea equally badly and was repulsed by the sound of wolves howling in the night. So most heathens believe that they have separated by mutual agreement and she is now married to Ullr/Wulþor.

We can safely ignore Snorri’s statement that Freyr/Fréa and Freyja/Fréo were born only after this marriage to Skaði/Scæðu, and so we do not know who their mother was, but by Vanic custom it would have been Njörð’s sister. Since Tacitus refers to a Mother Earth venerated by one Germanic tribe and called Nerthus, which is the exact same name as Njörðr, some heathens follow an old scholarly theory that Freyja/Fréo and Freyr/Fréo’s mother is the Earth, twin sister of the sea, and identically named with her brother. For clarity, though, this earth goddess is referred to as Nerthus, not Njörðr. However, the earth goddess the Old Norse lore tells us about, Jörð, is of the Æsir/Ese not the Vanir/Wene; she is Thor/Thunor/Donar’s mother. See the article on Nerthus.

One rather strange Eddic poem, Sólarljóð, says Njörðr has nine daughters who perform rune-magic. Maybe this is a confusion with the nine daughters of our other sea-god, Ægir? But he is definitely the sire of all his children—despite anything Tacitus says, he never changed sex.

Norse: Óðinn [OH-uh-thin or OHH-thin, with voiced “th”], anglicized as Odin
Anglo-Saxon: Wóden [WOH-dun]
Old Saxon, Old Low German (Northern): Wôden, Wodan [WOH-dun]
Old High German (Southern): Wûtan [WOO-tun], Wuotan [WOO-oh-tun]
Latin: Othinus, Godan
Modern German: Wode [VOH-duh], Wotan [VOH-tahn]
Modern Scandinavian: Oden
Also called: many by-names, chiefly in English-speaking heathenry Allfather, Valfather, the Old Man, Old One-Eye

Óðinn/Wóden/Wodan is deeply paradoxical.

He is married to Frigg/Frige/Frija, his son Baldr/Bealdor/Balder was beloved of all, and he is often presented in the lore, particularly in the Prose Edda as a patriarch ruling over all the gods. In addition to Valhalla/Wælheall, the hall of heroes, he is said to have two palaces of his own, Valaskjálf [VAHL-uh-skyaulf or VAHL-uh-skyahhlf, with “y” as in “yam”] (Vantage Point of the Slain) and Gladsheim [GLADZ-heym] (Dwelling of Delight). From his throne or high seat, Hliðskjálf [HLITH-skyowlf or HLITH-skyahlf, with “h” and “l” run together or unvoiced “l,” voiced “th,” and “y” as in “yam”] (Cliffside Vantage-Point), he sees into all the worlds; he presides over the councils of the gods at the Urðarbrunnr [OOR-thahr-broonrr, with voiced “th”], the Well of Wyrd.

Yet he is notorious for cheating on his wife and other shenanigans. To secure the Mead of Poetry from Suttung, he has an accomplice drill into the mountain where the mead is guarded by Suttung’s daughter Gunnlöð, slips through the hole in the guise of a snake, and spends three torrid nights with her to get her to give him access to the mead. Forewarned of his son’s death, he uses seið to force the giantess Rind to bear him the avenger Váli. Some heathens believe he is also Freyja/Fréo’s husband among the Æsir, Óðr, in which case he abandons her and she weeps bitterly for him—as Swain Wódening has said, “What a guy—cheats on his wife and has his mistress in tears.” He is known as Sire of Dynasties—many royal lines, in particular all but one of the Anglo-Saxon kings’ lines for which we have genealogies, derived their legitimacy from him. The entire tribe or nation of Gauts (the people of Gotland, Sweden) held that as Gautr [GAH-ütrr or gautrr] he was their ancestor. But what must Frigg/Frige/Frija think of these extra-marital excursions?

While famous for bedding females and siring lines (and he also made possible the start of the Völsung line, although in that case not directly but through the gift of a magic apple that enabled a woman to finally conceive), he also has a tinge of transvestism or gender adventurousness. In Lokasenna, Loki outright accuses him of effeminacy in his magical activities, and Ynglinga Saga says he was the only male to whom Freyja taught seið, because it involved too much ergi for men. Whatever these terms mean, as in the case of Rind, Óðinn/Wóden/Wodan does indeed use seið, and one account of how he got to Rind includes his taking on female form.

The use of seið and the transgression of boundaries connects to another aspect of Óðinn/Wóden/Wodan: he is a god of ecstasy, inspiration, and transported states. He was the patron of the berserks, warriors who fought in such frenzy that they were famous for fighting naked or clad only in skins and for biting their own shields. The Norse word óðr in his name means “spirit, inspiration” and is cognate with German Wut, meaning “rage,” and Adam of Bremen famously summed up his nature as well as his name: Wodan, id est furor–“Wodan, i.e., fury.” He is patron of the skalds; they, and many of his favorites, have from him a gift of extemporized composition wherein inspired words flow from them at great speed. He is said to live only on “wine” (probably mead is meant), and often inspires through drunkenness. He is traditionally the leader of the Wild Hunt, a host of gods tearing through the air on horseback, particularly at Yuletide (some heathens believe Ullr/Wulþor spells him as ruler of Asgard while he rides out with the Hunt), bringing some benefits, but mainly terror, to those who see them. Many of the multifarious names in folklore for the Hunt derive from his name; others refer to the Devil. And of his many names in Norse, one is Yggr, “the terrible one.”

Yet he is also almost single-minded in his pursuit of wisdom, a supreme tactician, a calculating thinker who almost always has a plan concealed behind a plan. To obtain the mead of poetry, he not only took the form of a snake, wriggled through an awl-hole into a mountain, and romanced Gunnlöð for three nights; before that he tricked the nine thralls of Suttung’s brother Baugi [BAH-ü-yee or BAU-gee, with hard “g”] into killing each other and served in their place all summer. To secure the runes, he hanged himself on Yggdrasill (which is why it has the name “Ygg’s steed”) for nine nights, stabbing himself with his own spear for good measure; he killed himself and returned from the dead for that knowledge. When the Vanir/Wanes killed Mímir and returned his head, he took it and pickled it with herbs to keep it alive and placed it in one of the wells at the base of the Tree so that he could continue to consult with Mímir. And he plucked out his own eye and placed it in the same well in exchange for greater wisdom. He is the patron of galdr, the most ceremonial and deliberate form of Germanic magic.

Above all, his plotting is aimed at averting Ragnarök, or winning the final battle should it prove unavoidable. He cultivates great heroes, including those whose lines he sired—and has them die in battle so that he can draft them into his army of einherjar [eyn-HARE-yur], who reside in Valhalla/Wælheall, training every day for that final battle when they will fight alongside the gods. His emissaries the valkyries (“choosers of the slain”) have as their primary purpose taking these heroes from the battlefield, and also wait on them in Valhalla. This makes him from some points of view a betrayer of those who serve him. It also makes him a god of violent death. Several sources, including Tacitus’ reference to the god of the Semnones, associate him with human sacrifice. This involved either hanging or the spear, the two methods used in his own self-sacrifice. (And his weapon is the spear Gungnir [GUN-gneer].) In ancient Scandinavia, the springtime sacrifice—at the start of the season of raiding and warfare—was to Óðinn for victory (sigrblót), and there was a tradition of hurling a spear over the head of an enemy—or the ranks of an opposing army—and dedicating them to him as sacrifice. (Til Óðins–“To Óðinn”). Traditionally, respected opponents were hanged to him after battle was over; criminals were bogged, killed by being sunk in a mire, also to him. Aging warriors who feared the “straw death” would rob them of Valhalla/Wælheall sometimes had themselves marked with a spear on their deathbeds in hopes of going to him. Modern belief is that one can go to him by dying in a fight of any kind. He is associated with dead people in general—he is known to raise a völva [VÖLL-vuh] from the dead to consult her, notably concerning his son’s death and Ragnarök—but particularly with hanged men, whom he is said to talk to as they swing on the gibbet. One of his names is Hangaguð, God of the Hanged. But there is a grim and savage side to this death-dealing alongside the glory of Valhalla/Wælheall. Many of his names indicate this, including Valföðr [VALL-fööthr, with voiced “th”] (Father of Slaughter), Grimr, and Bölverkr [BÖLL-verrkrr, with “e” as in “get”] (Tragedy-worker), the name he gave Baugi.

Despite this grimness and the betrayal of his followers implied by having lesser men cut them down in his prime, he is known for being good to his devotés. One of his names is Óski [OH-uh-skee or OHH-skee] (Wish-Granter), and the valkyries are sometimes called óskmeyjar (wish-maidens); for example, the one who dropped the Völsung apple. In fact, he is as much a god of life as of death. Not only is he known for siring dynasties; as a dispenser of apples of fertility; and for almost monomaniacally dedicating his time, effort, and body parts to the preservation of the nine worlds and the life in them through the prevention of Ragnarök; but he and his brothers Vili and Vé (or Hœnir and Lóðurr, in another version) made the trees Askr and Embla human and thus gave us all our lives. His gift was the first: önd, the breath of life. Hence one of his names is Alföðr [AL-fööthrr, with “a” as in “Alf” and voiced “th”]—Allfather. His own irrepressible life is shown by his regeneration after sacrificing himself on the Tree.

So: a god of order and leadership, but also associated with perversion and seduction. The sire of dynasties, but also known for transvestism and seiðwork. A god of frenzy, fury, inspiration, even insanity, but also of wisdom, strategy, and rational calculation. A god of death, and also a god of life. Paradoxical, and his complexity is reflected by his extraordinary number of names.

By Jörð/Eorþe (or Fjörgyn), he is Thor/Thunor/Donar’s father. Some heathens regard him as reigning over all the gods as their leader, as the most important of the gods. Some follow the late Norwegian heathen nobility in regarding him as the god of aristocrats and Thor/Thunor/Donar as a god of the common man, even of thralls. This political position is enshrined in the Eddic poem Hárbarðsljóð, in which the father, disguised as a ferryman, mocks and humiliates his son.

Of all the gods, Wóden and Thunor have left the most traces in England. There are several placenames mentioning each of them; in Wóden’s case, several ancient earthworks are called by names like “Wansdyke.” And like Thor/Thunor/Donar, he was significant enough to have a day named after him: Wednesday is the monks’ English translation of dies Mercurii. We can infer his importance elsewhere in the Germanic world from the fact his name was later effaced from the week and replaced by terms such as German Mittwoch (Midweek). But outside of Scandinavia, there is no trace of a conflict between him and his son, or their devotés. Also, in Anglo-Saxon England and in Germany, charms survive that cast him as a healer, a role he never plays in Scandinavian lore. Some heathens therefore consider Wóden/Wodan a different god from the Scandinavian Óðinn; others consider him the same god, but that the Scandinavians had forgotten he was a healer because of the preoccupation with death in the Viking Age.

His father, Bor, was the son of Buri [BOOR-ee], who was licked out of the ice by the cow Auðumbla. His mother, Bestla, was a giantess. Nonetheless, he and his two brothers killed the primordial giant Ymir [Ü-meer] and used his body parts to fashion Midgard/Middangeard, the world of men, the barrier between it and the world of giants, the sky, and the sea; a parricidal beginning to the world later populated by the humans they also created. (His brothers’ names are given in one source as Vili and Vé, which would have alliterated with his name–Óðinn, Wóden, and Wodan all go back to Proto-Germanic *Wodanaz—in another as Hœnir and Lóðurr.) Despite these ancient events, most heathens view him as a somewhat younger god than Ullr/Wulþor or Týr/Tiw; some believe he has seized responsibilities and glory within the tribe of gods that were previously theirs.

Loki caused one of his sons to kill the other, yet in Lokasenna upbraids him that they swore blood brotherhood and that he should not therefore drink without him; it is thus a common tenet of Ásatrú that when Óðinn is toasted in blót, Loki must be toasted immediately after or Óðinn will not drink.

At Ragnarök, Óðinn/Wóden/Wodan will be devoured by the wolf, Fenris, whom he had bound; yet another son, Víðarr, will avenge him by ramming his boot into the wolf’s mouth and impaling its jaws.

Óðinn/Wóden/Wodan has two wolves, Geri [GE-ree with hard “g” and “e” as in “get”] (Greedy) and Freki [FRECK-ee] (Gluttonous) and two ravens, Huginn [HUH-yin, HUG-in, or HOOG-in] (Thought or Cognition) and Muninn [MUH-nin or MOO-nin] (Memory or Awareness); the wolves accompany him, the ravens fly around observing for him. He is therefore associated with wolves and also dogs, and with ravens and also crows. He rides Sleipnir [SLEYP-neer], the eight-legged grey horse that Loki bore (and that is the sire of Sigurð/Siegfried’s horse, Grani). In addition to the spear, the valknút [VAL-knoot] is the symbol of his dedicatees; in view of his causing his heroes an early death, a valknút tattoo is said to mean “Insert spear here.”

Norse: Óðr [OH-uhthrr or ohhthrr, with voiced “th”]

Freyja/Fréo’s husband among the Æsir/Ese after she and her brother and original husband had to divorce to suit Æsic sensibilities; he disappeared after she slept with four dwarves to obtain her necklace Brísingamen [bree-zing-guh-MEN], and she wandered the worlds seeking him in vain, weeping tears of gold. Because of the similarity of names, some believe he is really Óðinn/Wóden/Wodan and that Freyja/Fréo is therefore his mistress.

Norse: Rígr [reegrr]

God with a name derived from the Old Irish for “king” who is usually identified with Heimdallr. The Eddic poem Rígsþula [REEGS-thool-uh, with unvoiced “th”] tells how he went walking along the sea-shore and visited three couples in turn for three nights each: Great-Grandmother and Great-Grandfather, Grandmother and Grandfather, and Mother and Father. Each time he sired a son on the wife; the parents and their sons exemplify the social classes, and Mother’s son, Jarl (Earl), the god claimed as his own and taught runes, and in turn the poem portrays Jarl’s youngest son Kon (Kon ungr) as the first king (konungr).

Anglo-Saxon: Séaxnet, (reconstructed) Séaxnót [SAY-aks-neyt, SAY-aks-note]
Old Saxon: Seaxnôt [SAY-aks-note]

A major tribal god of the Saxons and Anglo-Saxons. One Anglo-Saxon royal genealogy, that of Essex, traces the kings back to Séaxnet rather than Wóden, and in the oath repudiating the old gods that converted Saxons were forced to swear, Thunar, Wodan, and Saxnôt are the three named. Scholars, and some heathens, think that such an important god can’t have gone unmentioned in our Scandinavian sources, and since a séax is a shortsword and there are other sources listing Óðinn/Wóden/Wodan, Thor/Thunor/Donar, and Týr/Tiw/Ziû, they identify him with Týr/Tiw/Ziû and see Séaxnet/Seaxnôt as just a local tribal name.

On the other hand, the tribe is named for the séax, and the second part of his name may derive from geneat [yuh-NEY-utt], Anglo-Saxon for “companion,” so it’s quite possible he was simply very important to the ancient Saxons and the Anglo-Saxons and not to the Scandinavians. This is the view of many modern Anglo-Saxon and German heathens.

Norse: Þórr [thohhrr], anglicized as Thor
Anglo-Saxon: Thunor, Thunar [THOO-nuhr]
Old High German, Old Saxon: Donar [DONN-ahr or DOE-nahr]

Thor/Thunor/Donar is the son of Óðinn/Wóden/Wodan and either Jörð/Eorþe or Fjörgyn—viewed by most as names for the same earth goddess. He is married to Sif and has three children: sons named Magni [MAG-nee] (Mighty) and Móði [MOH-uh-thee or MOH-thee, with voiced “th”] (Great-Souled) and a daughter, Þrúðr [throothrr, with the first “th” unvoiced and the second voiced] (Strength). He is famously big and strong; when the gods meet in council by the Urðarbrunnr [OOR-thahr-broonrr, with voiced “th”], the Well of Wyrd, he is too heavy to ride there on horseback and must wade through rivers to get there. He is the protector of the gods and of mankind; he wields his hammer, Mjöllnir [MYÖLL-neer, with “y” as in “yum”] in battle against giants who threaten either. When he wields the hammer, his already prodigious might is augmented by a belt of strength and by iron gauntlets. He rides in a cart drawn by two goats, Tanngnjóstr [TANN-gnyohstrr, with soft “a” and “y” as in “yo”] and Tanngrisnir [TANN-grizz-neerr, with soft “a”] (Tooth-Gnasher and Tooth-Grinder), and the wheels make the thunder, and the lightning flashes as he throws his hammer, or sometimes when he pulls his spiky red beard. He can be called the Thunderer, Redbeard, Wielder of Mjöllnir, Miðgarð’s Warder, and Thor the Charioteer (Öku-Thor).

Thor/Thunor/Donar is famous for his eruptions of rage, and also for his great appetite. The lore recounts several of his adventures. Notably, he went fishing for the World Serpent, Jörmungandr [YÖR-mun-gandrr], using an ox’s head as bait; he hooked the serpent and would have killed it with a blow from his hammer, but the giant whose boat (and best ox) he was using panicked and cut the line. (He had his feet dug in so hard as he hauled on the line that they went right through the boat to the sea-bottom—a scene depicted on more than one Christian cross, it was so well remembered.) Then there was the time a giant stole his hammer using magic and demanded Freyja/Fréo’s hand in marriage plus the sun and moon as ransom for it; Thor/Thunor/Donar was forced to travel to Jotunheim/Etinhome in drag, masquerading as the desired bride, to retrieve it. On another occasion, he was hoodwinked by still another giant using magic: he put three immense clefts in a mountain endeavoring to pound the giant on the head with his hammer; challenged to drain a horn that was secretly fed by the ocean, he created the tides; mockingly told to lift the giant’s “cat,” he shifted the disguised World Serpent on the seabed; and relegated to wrestling with an old crone, he put up a creditable struggle against an opponent who was actually Old Age. There are other stories of his being tricked or embarrassed by giants—in one, the daughters of Geirröðr [GEY-röthrr, with voiced “th”] almost cause a river to sweep him away by pissing in it, and he is only saved by a rowan or mountain ash tree, so that that tree is known as the Friend of Thor. These tales make him a regular guy, and a patron to ordinary people. But those who believe they indicate he is either stupid or a god only for serfs and dullards would do well to recall the Eddic poem Alvíssmál, in which he handily outwits the dwarf who dares not only to call himself “All-Wise” but to demand the Thunderer’s daughter as his bride.

Mjöllnir is our great protective symbol, but the hammer is also used to hallow and to bless the bride at a heathen wedding and make her fruitful; hallowing inscriptions using Thor/Thunor/Donar’s name have been found in Germany and Denmark, and the custom of laying the hammer in the bride’s lap was so ancient that that is how he got it back when playing the part of Freyja/Fréo.

On one of his expeditions, he slaughtered his own goats to provide dinner at the house of the farmer who offered him and his companion hospitality; then the following morning, reanimated them by hallowing them with Mjöllnir. Only the farmer’s son, Þjálfi [THYOWL-vee or THYAHHL-vee, with unvoiced “th” and “y” as in “yam”] had disobeyed his stern instruction not to break open the long bones to consume the marrow, and one of the goats was lame. So Thor/Thunor/Donar took Þjálfi and his sister Röskva [RÖSSK-vah] with him as fosterlings and servants.

His original companion on that trip—where he encountered the giant who called himself first Skrymir [SKRÜH-meer], then Útgarða-Loki [OOT-gar-thuh-lock-ee, with voiced “th”], and sought to embarrass him and his party with illusions and magically rigged tests—was Loki. But after Loki engineered the death of Baldr/Bealdor/Balder, Thor/Thunor/Donar was in the forefront of the gods in capturing him and punishing him. It was he who grabbed the Loki-salmon out of the river, and one imagines it was he who secured Loki to the stone and buried it deep underground. At Baldr’s funeral, he also kicked a dwarf who ran under his feet as he hallowed the pyre into the flames. But before that, he either trusted Loki—or took him along to keep an eye on him. Loki was his fast-talking “attendant” on the trip to recover the stolen hammer. On one other trip we know of, though, he took Týr/Tiw/Ziû instead: the trip where one of his aims was to fish for the World Serpent was to Týr/Tiw/Ziû’s father’s house.

Thor/Thunor/Donar was one of the most popular gods among the ancient heathens. All mentions of the god-images in ancient hofs include him. In Old Norse he is often called Ása-Thor (Thor of the Æsir) as if he epitomizes his whole tribe. The halls or palaces attributed to the gods may be an invention of a courtly age, but his, Bilskirnir [bill-SKEER-neer] (Shining Flashes), is said to be the greatest; it is in Þrúðvangar [THROOTH-vangg-uhr, with unvoiced followed by voiced “th”] (Plains of Might). Norsemen spoke so often of him that the Lapps have a legendary hero called Hora Galles—a memory of “Thor the Karl.” When Christians started appearing wearing crucifixes, some heathens adopted the hammer as a countersign—one workshop was producing hammers and crosses at the same time from the same stone mould. Similarly, hammer-signs were placed on runestones to protect them from desecration and in response to the crosses on Christian memorials. Of the three pocket- or pouch-sized god-images that have been found and were presumably carried by devout heathens, one is believed to depict Thor seated on a throne, grasping his hammer. Thunor’s Oaks and a Thunor’s Pillar live on in placenames and folk traditions even in England, where heathenry was eliminated fairly early. Thursday was named after him on the basis of a slight resemblance to Jupiter (for whom the day was named in the original Latin system the Catholic Church used as the basis of the day names in Germanic languages) and presumably because he could not be left out. The heathen Icelanders especially loved him and tended to be named after him and name their children after him; there was a politically motivated conflict between Icelandic heathenry with its emphasis on Thor/Thunor/Donar and Norwegian aristocratic and Viking heathenry, both of which emphasized Óðinn/Wóden/Wodan, which is probably the reason for the Eddic poem Hárbarðsljóð, in which the father, in disguise, tricks and insults the son. Even those who came to mistrust the gods in the upheavals of the Viking Age and the conversions and “trusted only in their own might and main” were said to take him as their example, if we can believe Jarl Sigurð’s statement made as “spin” explaining a Christian king’s crossing his drink as a hammer-signing.

He is equally popular among modern heathens, but the same political rivalry between his dévotés and those of his father still rages in some quarters. This is probably best kept light-hearted. In the account of Ragnarök in Völuspá, when he perishes—from the venom of the World Serpent, after finally killing Jörmungandr and staggering back nine steps—all mankind is doomed. And there is probably exaggeration in the tales of his uncontrolled temper and intemperate bopping of giants, just as there is in his association with the stupid and the low-born.

Norse: Týr [tüürr or anglicized teer]
Anglo-Saxon: Tiw [teew] or (rarely in modern heathenry) Tig [tee]
Old High German, Old Saxon (reconstructed): Ziû [ZEE-oo or TSEE-oo]
Gothic (rune-name): Tyz [teez]

Our pre-eminent god of war; however, all our gods are warriors. The Romans identified him with Mars, their war-god, and so did the Anglo-Saxon clerics who translated the day-names; hence Tuesday (dies Martis) is named for him. The rune tiwaz is named for him and is cut on weapons to confer victory.

He is equally a god of justice. He stands for absolute rectitude. He has an unsmiling, grim reputation: as the lore says, he is “not a peacemaker.” He was called on to ensure frith at the beginning of an Icelandic þing, and this is still done at many modern gatherings. (Perhaps this is why the Icelandic Rune Poem refers to him as hofa hilmir, “Ruler of Temples.”) There is a votive inscription near Hadrian’s Wall in northern England to Mars Thingsus (Mars of the Thing), which is presumed to be from a Germanic soldier in one of the Roman legions to Týr/Tiw/Ziû. This illustrates the difference between frith—rightness—and peace—absence of conflict. Týr/Tiw/Ziû regards peace as a good outcome only if justice is served in getting there. For a less implacable judge, more associated with mediating agreements and reaching a happy outcome, we turn to Forseti/Fosite.

The one lore story about him illustrates this. When Loki’s three children by the giantess Angrboða [angrr-BWO-thuh or angrr-BOH-thuh, with voiced “th”] were brought to Asgard/Esageard, the gods tried keeping the wolf, Fenrir [FEN-reer] as a pet. Týr/Tiw/Ziû fed him. But he became too big and fearsome and the decision was made to chain him to remove the threat. After two failed attempts, the only way he could be induced to let the gods put the third—obviously magic—chain on him was with Týr/Tiw/Ziû’s hand in his mouth as a pledge. Which of course meant that when the wolf realized he could not break free, he bit off Týr/Tiw/Ziû’s sword hand. The unhesitating offering up of his hand because that was the way it must be and the uncomplaining taking of the terrible result say a lot about the god. And now he is “the One-Handed God” (Norse hinn einhendi áss) and is often called so in lore. At Ragnarök, his being unable to wield a sword will tell badly against the gods (as will Fenrir’s hatred; he will devour Óðinn/Wóden/Wodan), and he will be slain by Garmr, the hound of Hel, although he will succeed in killing the dog.

Either one or both of his parents are giants; the Eddic poem Hymiskviða tells the story of his accompanying Thor/Thunor/Donar to the house of his kinsman Hymir to borrow a kettle or cauldron for Ægir to brew enough beer for all the gods, and presumably fancifully, says his grandmother has a hundred heads. It’s generally agreed that he is one of the older gods. In fact his name, which will have been *Tiwaz in Proto-Germanic, is cognate with the Latin, Old Irish, Lithuanian, Latvian, Old Prussian, and Sanskrit words for “god” (deus, día, diévas, dièvs, deivas, and deva-), and the plural form, tívar, is one of the Norse terms for all the gods. (His name is also very common as a word for “god” in kennings, but since any name can be used that way, the frequency is simply a sign of his venerability or his popularity when skaldic style was being formed.) It is also cognate with the name of the Greek god Zeus and the Indic god Dyáus. Both of these are sky-gods, and the Old English rune poem talks of “tir” as a heavenly guide. So many believe that Týr/Tiw/Ziû was originally a sky-god, and lost these associations to Thor/Thunor/Donar; some heathens in places where thunder and lightning are very rare, such as the Pacific Northwest, see him as protecting them as Thor/Thunor/Donar does the rest of us. Since Zeus is also the patriarch of the Hellenic pantheon, some also believe he is a former leader of the gods who has been somewhat displaced by Óðinn/Wóden/Wodan. Clearly his prominence in people’s minds has varied with time and also with geography; no hall in Asgard/Esageard is ascribed to him in our surviving lore sources, and placename evidence shows him to have been much more popular among the ancient heathens of Denmark than elsewhere.

There is no record of his having a wife. If he was formerly a sky-god, the rules of traditional mythology would mean he was married to the earth-goddess–to Jörð/Fjörgyn, Thor/Thunor/Donar’s mother by Óðinn/Wóden/Wodan. Many heathens believe with Jacob Grimm he is currently married to Zisa, whose name is preserved in a German folktale.

Norse: Ullr [oollrr with “l” sounded twice or oohlrr with “hl” as in Welsh “ll”; anglicized OOLL-uhr, ULL-er] Anglo-Saxon (reconstructed): Wulþor [WOOL-thor, with unvoiced “th”] or Wuldor [WOOL-dor]

Ullr/Wulþor is an ancient god associated with hunting and with protecting the forests and wild animals. His home is Ydalir [Ü-dah-leer], Yewdales. He is an expert skier and archer and also bestows victory in duels. Based on a statement by Saxo Grammaticus, many believe he stands in for Óðinn/Wóden/Wodan when the latter is away leading the Wild Hunt at Yuletide. There is one tale of him sailing across the sea on a bone using magic; perhaps this refers to skiing or skating.

He is Sif’s son from before she married Thor/Thunor/Donar.

There is no lore support for it, but most heathens believe he is now married to Skaði/Scæðu; they have many interests in common. Both are called on for snow, or for safe travel in snow. Both are believed to like wolves and dogs.

Norse: Váli [VOW-lee or VAHH-lee] Anglo-Saxon (reconstructed): Wale [WALL-uh]

Son of Óðinn/Wóden/Wodan conceived on the giantess Rind to avenge the foretold death of his son Baldr/Bealdor/Balder; he killed the other son of Óðinn who had thrown the fatal dart, the blind Höðr, when only one night old, before his hands had been washed or his hair combed. Snorri describes him as “bold in battle and excellent in aim.”

After the battle of Ragnarök fells most of the gods, he and his brother Víðarr will live where Asgard/Esageard once stood, and Höðr and Baldr/Bealdor/Balder will both return, also.

The Prose Edda tells of a son of Loki called Vali, which is probably why it states that Váli may also be called Áli. (Or this may be part of the endeavor to link the gods to figures from other cultures that we see in the Prologue to Snorri’s work; if so, it is best ignored.)

Norse: Vé [vey]

With Vili, one of the three Sons of Bor and a brother of Óðinn/Wóden/Wodan (whose name must have originally been *Wodanaz, which would have alliterated with Vili and Ve).

The three brothers did two things together. They slew the primordial giant, Ymir [Ü-meer] and used his body parts to fashion Midgard/Middangeard, the world of men, the barrier between it and the world of giants, the sky, and the sea.

And they transformed two trees, Askr and Embla (presumed to be “ash” and “elm”) into the first human beings. In the version of this story in Gylfaginning, the first brother (Óðinn/Wóden/Wodan) gives them önd (the breath of life) and awareness; the second (presumably Vili) gives them vit (understanding) and the power of movement; and the last (presumably Vé) gives them the faculties of speech, hearing, and sight. Völuspá gives different names and a slightly different list: Óðinn gives them önd; Hœnir gives them óðr (the “spirit” or “passion” that is the first part of Óðinn/Wóden/Wodan’s name; it is wód in Anglo-Saxon); and Lóðurr gives them litu góða (good complexion, a fair appearance—i.e., human form).

So it is possible that Lóðurr is another name for Vé.

It is notable that of the three alliterating names—and the alliteration suggests they are very old names– Óðinn/Wóden/Wodan’s means “spirit”; “Vili” suggests “will”; and “Vé” is also a word that means “sacred (place).”

Norse: Víðarr [VEE-thahrr, with voiced “th”]

Son of Óðinn/Wóden/Wodan and the giantess Gríð [greeth, with voiced “th”], who assists Thor/Thunor/Donar on one of his adventures. Snorri calls him “the silent god” and says the gods rely on him in dangerous situations. But the only story told of him is the prophecy that when the wolf Fenrir [FEN-reer] kills Óðinn/Wóden/Wodan in the battle of Ragnarök, Víðarr will at once step forward and avenge him. According to Völuspá, he will thrust a sword into his heart; but although Snorri quotes this in the Prose Edda, he gives the better known version that Víðarr has been building up a massive shoe from all the “shoe-parings” generous heathens let lie and do not attempt to use in miserly fashion, and will use this to step on the wolf’s lower jaw, brace himself, and rip his head apart.

After most of the gods die in the battle, he and his brother Váli/Wale will live where Asgard/Esageard once stood, and their half-brothers Höðr and Baldr/Bealdor/Balder will both return, also.

Norse: Vili [VILL-ee]

With Vé, one of the three Sons of Bor and a brother of Óðinn/Wóden/Wodan (whose name must have originally been *Wodanaz, which would have alliterated with Vili and Ve).

The three brothers did two things together. They slew the primordial giant, Ymir [Ü-meer] and used his body parts to fashion Midgard/Middangeard, the world of men, the barrier between it and the world of giants, the sky, and the sea.

And they transformed two trees, Askr and Embla (presumed to be “ash” and “elm”) into the first human beings. In the version of this story in Gylfaginning, the first brother (Óðinn/Wóden/Wodan) gives them önd (the breath of life) and awareness; the second (presumably Vili) gives them vit (understanding) and the power of movement; and the last (presumably Vé) gives them the faculties of speech, hearing, and sight. Völuspá gives different names and a slightly different list: Óðinn gives them önd; Hœnir gives them óðr (the “spirit” or “passion” that is the first part of Óðinn/Wóden/Wodan’s name; it is wód in Anglo-Saxon); and Lóðurr gives them litu góða (good complexion, a fair appearance—i.e., human form).

So it is possible that Hœnir is another name for Vili.

It is notable that of the three alliterating names—and the alliteration suggests they are very old names– Óðinn/Wóden/Wodan’s means “spirit”; “Vili” suggests “will”; and “Vé” is also a word that means “sacred (place).”

Norse: Völundr [VÖLL-undrr or VÖLL-oondrr]
Anglo-Saxon: Wéland, modernized Weyland, Wayland

A smith and inventor said in one poem to be an elf, whom some heathens honor as a god.

Völundr/Wéland and his brothers came upon swan maidens with their magical plumage off, and married them, but eventually their wives could not resist the lure of their former life and left. His brothers went searching; Völundr/Weyland remained, forging 700 rings in his smithy, hoping his Hervor would return and take one as a signal. But instead King Níðuðr [NEETH-uthrr, with voiced “th”s]/Níðhád [NEETH-hahhd, with voiced “th”] took him captive, had his hamstrings cut so he could not escape, and set him to work forging treasures for him. His men had taken one ring from the hoard, raising Völundr/Wéland’s hopes; he gave it to his daughter, Böðvildr [BÖTH-vildrr, with voiced “th”]/Béaduhild [BEY-ah-doo-hild], and took his sword for himself. Völundr/Wéland avenged himself by beheading the king’s two young sons with the heavy lid of a chest, transforming their skulls into silver-inlaid goblets from which the king and his queen drank, their eyeballs into beads for the queen, and their teeth into brooches for Böðvild/Béaduhild; then when she came to have him mend the ring, which she had broken, he drugged and raped her. Asked to tell the whereabouts of the boys, he secured a promise of non-retaliation against his wife, then revealed the extent of his vengeance, including the daughter’s pregnancy that identified her as the wife in question. And flew away on homemade wings.

He is known as the smith of the gods and honored as the patron of smith-work, and also a patron of invention.