We all know who Thor is – he’s part of the Avengers. In the fiction superhero movie, at least.
But what do you know about him apart from his thunder-welding hammer, strong character, and um, good looks? Did I say good looks already? Well, maybe that was courtesy of Chris Hemsworth.
But you got it. Thor and the Avengers movie only showed us a glimpse of the richness of Asgard. Maybe we knew a couple of characters here and there like Loki, Odin, Fjörgyn, and Heimdall.
But there’s a lot more of the Norse gods and goddesses you don’t know about (which the movie did not show)
So now we present you the 12 major gods of Norse mythology:
You know this is coming, right? Thor would be first on the list, of course.
Thor, as you know it, is the most famous of the Norse gods then and now. He is the god of thunder and his burly might epitomized the formidable warrior of Asgard. Just look at him.
Not that! This one right here.
Behold, Thor has a red beard and eyes in the Viking mythology. He was hailed as the loyal and stalwart defender of Asgard and the protector of the ordered cosmos.
Just like what the movie shows, Thor was the strongest of all beings among both gods and men. What the movie did not focus was that his iron gloves and the belt of Megingjard (or megingjarðar in Old Norse) amplify his strength.
It is because the most common item associated with Thor is the hammer Mjöllnir. Back in the days, the pre-Christianity era Norsemen believed that lightning is the result of Thor striking his hammer when fighting against giants and monsters.
Here are other things that were not depicted in the movies – he is a chariot-riding god drawn by two giant goats – Tanngniost and Tanngrisnir. Additionally, Thor was also regarded as the god of agriculture, fertility, and hallowing.
And let me break your hearts a little, he has a wife named Sif, who has golden hair. Being the god of agriculture, Thor and Sif’s union embodied the fruitfulness and verdancy of the lands.
But don’t worry, we can always celebrate him alone. We can do it every Thursday, which literally means “Thor’s day”.
While Thor is the most famous, Odin is the most revered. Why wouldn’t he? He’s the king of the Æsir realm of gods after all.
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He is called Alfadir, Allfather, because he is considered the father of the gods. Odin has eminence over the cultural framework of the Germanic people. It’s not a wonder he was associated with wisdom, healing, royalty, death, sorcery, and even frenzy.
He was sometimes portrayed as the haggard wanderer who relentlessly seeks knowledge. In the Norse books, he lost his eye because he gouged it as a sacrifice for Mimir.
Mimir is a shadowy being who possesses unparalleled knowledge because of its consumption of the water from the Well of Urd. From Odin’s sacrifice, Mimir in return offers him a draught from the well that draws water from the roots of the Yggdrasil, the cosmic tree that binds the nine worlds of Norse mythology.
On the other hand, Odin has another side. He is also perceived as a war-god and the epitome of battle frenzy and chaos, which the warlords prefer.
Odin’s Old English name is Wōden, which is related to Wednesday since the word is derived from wodnesdæg (“Woden’s Day”).
Ymir is Norse mythology’s primeval entity. Well, he’s not perceived as a Norse god, but as the ‘first being’ who was created by the ice of Niflheim combined with the heat of Muspelheim, when Earth didn’t exist yet.
Ymir is a hermaphrodite which means the birthing of the first male, female, and other mythical beings of Asgard was attributed to him. His story was given a tragic ending due to his apparent evil machinations.
Because of his evil, Buri (created after Ymir) is now the one often acknowledged as the first of the Norse gods. Buri had a son named Bor who married one of Ymir’s descendants Bestla. They had three sons – Ve, Vili, and Odin, whom Ymir tried to kill.
The confrontation led to Ymir’s own death at the hands of the three brothers. On the other hand, the three Norse gods proceeded to create the entire earth from Ymir’s fallen body.
As the story goes, Ymir’s blood was the seas and oceans, while his bones made up the rocks and mountains. His hair was used for the trees, his brains were made into clouds, and his eyebrows were fashioned into the Midgard – the ‘middle realm’ of mankind.
Frigg is considered the foremost of all Norse goddesses when it came to their pantheon. She is known as the Queen of the Æsir and the goddess of the sky.
But among one of her best-known association is that of fertility, household, motherhood, marriage, and even domestic matters.
“There is nothing but good to be told of him. He is the best of them and everyone sings his praises. He is so fair of face and bright that a splendor radiates from him, and there is a flower so white that it is likened to Balder’s brow; it is the whitest of all flowers. From that, you can tell how beautiful his body is, and how bright his hair. He is the wisest of gods, and the sweetest-spoken, and the most merciful, but it is a characteristic of his that once he has pronounced a judgment it can never be altered.” – Snorri Sturluson
Balder is Æsir’s god of light and purity, son of Odin and half-brother of Thor. He is considered to be fair, wise, and gracious divine being whose beauty made the elegant beautiful flowers shy.
His abode also matched his physical attributes – it’s described as the most exquisite of all halls in the stronghold of the Norse gods, with silver components and embellished pillars. There’s one catch though – only the purest of hearts can enter it.
In a sad story, Balder was accidentally killed by his half-brother Höðr using a dart made by the mischievous Loki. The wise god, who was loved by all of Asgard, died on account of Loki’s cruel prank.
Tyr is the Norse god of war and heroic glory. He was also the bravest among the Nordic gods and hailed as the deity of justice and oaths.
His description is that of a one-handed god since his limb was bitten off by the monstrous wolf Fenrir when he tried to trap the creature. In honor of him, our Tuesday is an Old English variant of his name is Tiw.
Well, listen up cat lovers. Freya, the goddess of love, beauty, and even opulent objects, is the ultimate cat lady.
She is represented as the seeker of pleasure and you can see her in pictures in a cart drawn by cats. In essence, she has the ability to alter one’s fortune and became the ruler of the afterlife realm Folkvang.
Freyr, the twin brother of Freya, was one of the most beloved Norse gods. He is usually depicted as a brawny man with golden flowing hair.
The god is associated with fertility – covering both sexual and ecological scopes. Needless to say, he is the god of bountiful harvests, wealth, peace, and possibly even virility – all symbolized by Freyr’s boar Gullinborsti (‘Golden-Bristled’).
Because of his associations to important matters for humans, Freyr was the favored entity when it came to marriage rites and harvest celebrations.
Heimdall is the ever-vigilant guardian of Asgard, where the Norse gods live. He possesses keen eyesight which is known to stretch to hundreds of miles and hearing that recognizes the sound of wool growing on the sheep.
Interestingly enough, he also has other qualities like having foreknowledge and vast sources of energy which allows him to sleep less than a bird.
Do you recognize her? Yes, that’s Hel or Hela in the Thor: Ragnarok movie.
Hel is the ruler of the netherworld, which is called Helheim. While in the movie, she was the daughter of Odin, the truth is that Loki is her father and the giant Angrboda is her mother.
Among her responsibilities is judging and deciding the fate of the souls who entered her realm. She is portrayed as being partly decomposed with a face and a body of living women with a gloomy, downcast appearance. Her thighs and legs are of a corpse but don’t let her appearance fool you – she is still one of the most powerful goddesses, even more than Odin himself, inside her own realm.
Bragi is the god of poetry in Norse mythology and the bard of Valhalla where all the fallen heroes and warriors are gathered for the ultimate ‘showdown’ at Ragnarok.
He is known as the skillful poet-god who sings and delights the warriors who died in battles and were brought to Odin’s majestic hall by the Valkyries.
One is called Bragi: he is renowned for wisdom, and most of all for fluency of speech and skill with words. He knows most of skaldship, and after him skaldship is called bragr, and from his name that one is called bragr-man or -woman, who possesses eloquence surpassing others, of women or of men. His wife is Iðunn [Norse goddess associated with apples and youth. – Snorri Sturluson
Last but not least is Loki, whom we hated and loved at the same time in the movie.
As you know, he doesn’t really look like this
You can see the not-so-subtle difference. Though we don’t hold it against you, we love Tom Hiddleston anyway.
Back to Norse mythology, Loki is represented as having chaotic and mischevious qualities – he is considered the trickster among the Norse gods.
He also has the power to shapeshift to any form and person he wants. Although not entirely evil, his scheming ways lead to misfortunes and even tragedies most of the time.
Comprehensive list of Norse gods and goddesses
|Baduhenna||Goddess||war and storms|
|Baldur (Baldr, Balder) identified with the Old English bealdor = ‘lord’ or ‘prince’||God||Æsir||beauty, love, purity, peace, righteousness|
|Beyla a younger form of Old Norse Baunila = ‘little bean’||Goddess||earth|
|Borr (Bor, Bör, Bur, Burr)||God||Other|
|Bragi (Brage) connected with Old Norse Bragr = ‘poetry’||God||Æsir||knowledge, poetry, eloquence, and the patron of skalds|
|Buri (Búri, Bori, Bure)||God||Other||gods|
|Byggvir Old Norse = ‘barley’||God|
|Dellingr (Delling) Old Norse = ‘luminous’ or ‘shining one’||God||Æsir||personification of dawn|
|Eir (Eil, Eira, Eyr, Eyra) Old Norse = ‘protection’ or ‘help’||Goddess||Ásynjur||healing|
|Eostre (Eastre, Ostara)||Goddess||spring, rebirth, and protectress of fertility|
|Forseti (Forsete) Old Norse = ‘presiding one’||God||Æsir||justice|
|Freyja (Freya, Freja, Frey’a, Gefion, Horn, Mardal, Mardoll, Menglad, Menglod, Moertholl, Sessrymner, Syr, Vanadis)||Goddess||Vanir||fertility, love, beauty, magic, war, and death|
|Freyr (Frey, Fraig, Fro, Fricco, Ingun, Ingunnar-Frey, Ingvi-Frey, Sviagod, Yngri, Yngvi)||God||Vanir||agriculture, prosperity, life and fertility|
|Frigg (Frigga, Frig, Fri, Frija, Frygga, Frea, Fria, Frige, and Holda) Old Norse = ‘to love’||Goddess||Ásynjur||love, marriage, fertility, family, civilization, and a prophetess|
|Fulla (Abundantia, Abundia, Habone, Vol, Vola, Volla)||Goddess||Ásynjur|
|Gefjon (Gefjun, Gefion) Old Norse = ‘the giving one’||Goddess||knowledge|
|Gersemi (Gersimi, Gerseme) Old Norse = ‘gem’||Goddess||Ásynjur||love|
|Gerda (Gerd, Gerdhr, Gerðr)||Goddess||Vanir|
|Gna (Gná, Gnaa)||Goddess||Ásynjur|
|Gullveig (Gollveig, Gulveig, Golveig-Heid, Gulveig-Hoder, Angerboda, Angerbohda, Aurboda, East Wind Hag, Heid, Heidr, Ljod, Midgard, Orboda, The Volva)||Goddess||Vanir|
|Henir (Hoeni, Hœnir, Hone, Honer, Honir)||God||Æsir|
|Heimdall (Heimdal, Heimdallr, Heimdalr, Heimdali)||God||Æsir||guardian|
|Hel (Heimdal, Heimdallr, Heimdalr, Heimdali)||Goddess||the dead|
|Hermod (Hermóðr, Heremod) Old Norse = ‘war spirit’||God||Æsir||messenger of the gods|
|Hlin (Hlín, Hlina) Old Norse = ‘protectress’||Goddess||Ásynjur|
|Hodr (Höðr, Hod, Hothenus, Hodar, Hoder, Hodhr, Hodir, Hodur)||Goddess||Æsir|
|Idun (Iðunn, Iduna, Idunn, Idunna, Ithun, Ydun)||Goddess||Ásynjur||spring and rejuvenation|
|Irpa Old Norse = ‘brown’||Goddess||Other||earth|
|Lofn Old Norse = ‘the comforter’||Goddess||Ásynjur||love|
|Lodurr (Lóðurr, Lodur, Lóður, Lódurr, Lódur, Lóthurr, Lóthur, Lódhurr, Lódhur, Lodur, Lothurr, Lothur, Lodhurr, Loðurr, Loður, Lodhur)||God||Æsir||life|
|Loki (Fjalar, Loder, Lodur, Loke, Lokkju, Lopter, Lopti, Sagloki, Suttung, Thok, Utgard-Loki)||God||Æsir||fire, magic, shape-shifting, trickster, chaos|
|Mani (Máni, Mane)||God||Æsir||personification of the moon|
|Mimir (Mim, Mímir, Mimar, Mime, Mimer-Nidhad, Baugreginn Jotunn, Hodd-Dropnir, Hodd-Mimer, Hoddrofnir, Naddgofugr)||Goddess||Other||wisdom|
|Meili Old Norse = ‘the lovely one’||God||Æsir|
|Nanna Old Norse name deriving from Ancient Germanic nanþi = ‘daring’||Goddess||Ásynjur|
|Nerthus (Nertous)||Goddess||Vanir||lakes and springs|
|Njord (Njörðr, Njörd, Niördr Niord, Njorth, Nordur)||God||Vanir||the sea, the wind, fertility, patron saint of fishermen and sailors|
|Njorun (Njörun, Niorun)||Goddess||Ásynjur|
|Odin (Alfdaur, Alfadir, Bileygr, Glapsuidir, Othinn, Wodan, Wotan, Othin, Othinn, Othinus, Ouvin, Votan, Wode, Wodemus, Wodhen, Woden, Wodin, Wotam, Woutan, Wuotan)||Goddess||Æsir||wisdom, war, magic, poetry, prophecy, victory and death|
|Odr (Óðr, Od)||Goddess||Vanir|
|Ran Old Norse Rán = ‘theft’||Goddess||Ásynjur||the sea and death|
|Saga Old Norse Sága = ‘seeing one’||Goddess||Ásynjur||wisdom and treasure|
|Sif Old Norse = ‘wife’||Goddess||Ásynjur||harvest and land|
|Sjofn (Sjöfn, Sjofn)||Goddess||Ásynjur||relationships, love, and marriage|
|Skadi Old Norse Skaði = ‘death’||Goddess||Vanir||hunting and winter|
|Snotra Old Norse = ‘clever’||Goddess||Ásynjur||wisdom|
|Sol (Sól, Sunna)||Goddess||personification of the sun|
|Syn Old Norse = ‘refusal’||Goddess||Ásynjur||defense and truth|
|Thor (þórr, þunor, Thunaer, Donar, Thur, Tor, Tror)||God||Æsir||strength, protection, war, storms, thunder and lightning|
|Thrud (þrúðr, Thrúd, þrúðr)||Goddess|
|Thorgeror Holgabruor (þorgerðr Hölgabrüðr)||Goddess||Other|
|Tyr (Týr, Tiw, Tig, Ziu, Teu, Thingsus, Tiwaz, Ty, Tyw, Zio, Ziv, Ziw)||God||Æsir||war, justice in battle, victory and heroic glory|
|Ullr (Auler, Holler, Oller, Ollerus, Uller, Ullerus, Ullr, Wuldor)||Goddess||Æsir||justice and winter|
|Vali Old Norse Váli = ‘the slain’||Goddess||Æsir||vengeance|
|Var (Vár, Vara, Vór)||Goddess||Ásynjur|
|Vor Old Norse Vör = ‘the careful one’||Goddess||Ásynjur||wisdom|
Norse mythology is one of the most renowned mythologies from history books. But unlike Roman legends where their deities are depicted clearly, Norse myth comes with vagueness.
However, its importance in their culture is huge – it formed one of the centrepieces of the pagan Norse religion.
While we know they are epic legends of war, magic, love, betrayal, triumph, and ruin, it still speaks about issues that are timeless and universal in the human condition.
No wonder we are still entertained and in awe of the tales about the Norse gods and goddesses.