The Norse tradition and Pantheon

This comprehensive guide has been complied and written by Hugi Skrifari, our resident Runist and scholar of the Norse tradition.

The Races

The Æsir – one race among the Northern Tradition. The deities of this race were associated with the sky. They appear to have roots in early Germanic myth and tradition. They are also the prime divinities of the Teutonic Tradition.

The Vanir – the other race in the Tradition. These deities were of the earth and sea. Most are obscure and they appear to originate in Scandinavia.

The Etins – a race linked to the Giants/Þurs. Many of the Goddesses and Gods seem to originate from this race.

The Dwarfs – dark and squat and of the earth. The craftsmen of the Northern Tradition.

The Deities

Oðinn (Wodanaz, Wotan, Woden) / Æsir – along with Vili and Vé (or Loðr and Hoenir, Oðinn’s brothers) created the world Miðgarðr (middle garden) out of the remains of the first Þurs (giant) Ymir, who they also slew. These three also found Askr (ash) and Embla (elm) – the first man and woman – and gave them life. Oðinn is the chief among the deities of the North, lord of the hosts and granter of victory in battle. He takes half the slain warriors who reside in ValHalla (hall of the slain/field of hills). He also hung on/rode the world tree Yggdrasill (Ygg’s horse – Ygg is a name for Oðinn) for nine nights and from there grasped the Runes. He is the wild winds and fierce storms and his name means ‘the exciter’. He is a god of poetry and often seeks sport in words and knowledge. He is one-eyed because he gave one of the eyes to Mimir – known as ‘Fjolnir’s pledge’ – so he could drink from the waters of Mimir’s Well. Slain by Fenrir the wolf at Ragnarök.

Frigga (Hlin, Sága) / Æsir – Though Oðinn had a few wives, Frigga seems to be the most prominent. She is Earth Mother and mother to Baldr the Bright and rules over marital love and is invoked at births. Her home is Fensalir (oceans halls/snow soul). Her actual presence in the myths is very small but she does appear to have full knowledge of the future, but keeps it to herself, this is seen in her alternate name Sága (seeress). She has two helpers, Fulla, Frigga’s chambermaid and Gna who performs errands for Frigga as does Fulla.

Freyja / Vanir – Her name means ‘Lady’. Goddess of fertility and of love. She is daughter to the god Njorðr. She takes half the warriors slain in battle at Volkfang (folks meadow/battle field). Freyja has the ability of flight through the use of a feather coat. The Brísingaman (shining necklace) is in her possession sleeping with four dwarves to get it. She was wed to Oð who then left her, she wanders the worlds weeping tears of red gold (amber) while looking for him. Their daughter was Hnoss who was very beautiful. Seen to help heroes find there place in the halls. Often associated to the magic art of Seiðr.

Freyr (Yng, Ingwaz) / Vanir – the Lord (exact translation) resides at Alfheimr (elf home). Brother of Freyja and son to Njorðr. God of the rain and sunshine and the bringer of peace and plenty. Possesses Skíðblaðnir (thin-planked) crafted by dwarves and a magic sword that would fight by itself if wielded correctly (name unknown). Under the name of Yng he is seen as the progenitor of the Royal Race of Sweden, the Ynglings. Skírnir was his servant and friend and its Skírnir that wooed the Etin Gerð for Freyr. Slain by Surt at Ragnarök.

Þórr (Donor) / Æsir – is the son of Oðinn by Fjorgynn/Jorþ (his sister is Frigga) and he is the God of Thunder. His hall is Bilskirnir (resplendent moment/crack) and is the great construction of all halls. He has the great hammer Mjölnir that represents lightning, it is with this hammer that Þórr defends the Æsir and Asgarðr (home of the Æsir) he also must wear a pair of iron gloves, that give him greater strength, to wield the hammer. Often seen as a dumb god, but he is more hot headed and tends to act first then ask questions. He was by far the most popular god among the Northern people and is involved in many stories. Often in Jötunheimr (giant home) slaying the giants or Þursja. He had a chariot that was drawn by two goats. Married to the goddess Sif and had two sons called Móþi and Magni. Slain by the Miðgarðr Serpent at Ragnarök.

Baldr / Æsir – another son of Oðinn and the most loved and favoured of any other. He is the most beautiful of all the gods and light shines from him. He was married to Nanna and they had a son called Forseti. His hall is called Breiðablík (spread out cover of clouds/far shining) Slain by the god Hoþ (war) who was blind and tricked by Loki. Resided in the halls of the goddess Hel after and until Ragnarök.

Loki / Æsir? – the deceiver, trickster and general bad guy. Often manages to get the Æsir in trouble but also tends to help get them out. His wife is Sigyn and they had two sons Nari and Narfi. He is a shape shifter and as such gave birth to Sleipnir (Oðinn’s horse), Fenrir (the great Wolf) and the Miðgarðr serpant. Toward the end of things the Æsir got very fed up with Loki, he was bound with the guts of his son Nari and a serpant was placed over his face that dripped poison and burnt him. Sigyn tries to stop the poison by catching it in a bowl but every time she goes to empty it, Loki is burned and then the earth quakes. Narfi fled away as a wolf. Not clear if he is actually Æsir or one of the Etins. Blood brother to Oðinn and he is often a companion with Þórr on his travels.

Týr (Teiwaz, Tiwaz) / Æsir – the one handed god and at one time was more than likely the chief among Æsir which is why we have the word Teutonic (superseded by Oðinn). One handed because he was the one that put his hand in the mouth of the great wolf Fenrir so the Æsir could bind the wolf with Gleipnir, the Æsir succeeded so Fenrir, in rage, took the hand of Týr. As such, Týr lost the ability to pledge his troth. Also a God of war and was often called upon for luck in battle.

Mimir / Æsir? – given as hostage along with Hoenir to the Vanir, who gave Freyja and Freyr in return. Considered the most knowing the Vanir were annoyed that Hoenir always whispered in Mimirs ear before Mimir would speek, so they cut Mimirs head off and sent it back to Oðinn. Oðinn was able to preserve his head and he often consults it for advice and knowledge. The Head of Mimir resides in a well which also holds the eye of Oðinn and the Gjallarhorn (loud/shouting horn).

Heimdall – guards the Bifröst bridge and warns of the coming of Ragnarök. The White God and holiest of all. Reared by nine Etin sisters. Known also as Gullintanni (golden tooth) because his teeth were gold. Will blow on the horn Gjallarhorn to announce the start of Ragnarök. A poem that was dedicated to this god has gone missing over the years and much of his mystery with it. He could see the future. I feel that this god is one of the most ancient.

Hel – goddess of the underworld Ná Strand (dead strand)/ Niflheimr (dark home). Those of treachery and murderous nature go here after death. However, it was also were Baldr went after he was slain by his brother Hoþ. Once in Ná Strand you never get out. Its roof drips with poison and coiling snakes clad the walls and the wolf Garm gaurds the door. Bitterly cold.

Urðr, Verðandi and Skuld – these are Etins that came and set the fates of both man and Gods. It is possible that Urðr was the first and the others were superimposed at a later date.

Njorðr / Vanir – God of the sea and Vanir. Possibly one of the most ancient of the traditional deities but superseded by others. His hall is Noatun (shipstead/ harbour)

Skaði / Etin – wife to Njorðr after the Æsir got her to pick her husband by looking at just their knees. She thought she had picked Baldr the fair. From her Scandinavia gets its name.

Bragi – god of wisdom and speech/poetry.

Idunn – keeper of the golden apples and wife to Bragi.

Ull – god of archery and skiing. His hall is called Ýdal (yew dale). Like Heimdall he was probably very important but much about him is lost.

Sól – drives the chariot that holds the Sun. Pulled by Arvak and Alsvinn.

Máni – drives the chariot that holds the Moon.

Nótt – goddess of the night who rides a chariot pulled by Hrimfaxi, the saliva from Hrimfaxi’s bit is the dew in the morning. Mother to the goddess Jorþ, grandmother to Þórr.

Dagr – god of the day who rides a chariot pulled by Skinfaxi.

This information has been gathered from the Poetic Edda and Prose Edda.