WHAT IS NORSE MYTHOLOGY
Norse mythology is a religion of the North Germanic people, which existed before the people were converted to Christianity, but in some places, it even existed after that. These myths revolve around Norse gods and goddesses and the Nine worlds, it consists of tales of various heroes and beings.
Sources of Norse Mythology are primarily written in Old Norse, an old North Germanic language spoken by the Scandinavian people during the European Middle Ages. It is also an ancestor of the modern Scandinavian languages. Most of the old Norse texts were created in Iceland. The Prose and PoeticEdda (written by Snorri Sturluson), which are one of the biggest sources for discovering Norse mythology, were also written there in the 13th century.
A lot of information was also discovered from texts such as Heimskringla, written by Snorri Sturluson and GestaDanorum, composed in Latin by Saxo Grammaticus.
Further texts, for example Sagas of Icelanders, Legendary sagas, or those on monuments such as the Rök rune stone and the Kvinneby, brought us new tales and details about the Norse mythology.
GODS, GODESSES AND CREATURES OF THE NORSE MYTHOLOGY
Nordic gods, goddesses and other beings are one of the most unique of any mythology. The gods are very human-like and are often complex. The phrases like »god of war« for instance more often than not fail to describe them as a whole.
ODIN is one of the most complex characters in Norse mythology. He’s the ruler of the Aesir tribe and he often goes on self-interested trips. He is very wise, but at the same time, he has little remorse for fairness, justice, or respect for law. He is seen as the god of war. He is often described as a trickster but is being praised by those who seek honour and nobility.
THOR, the god of thunder, is one of the most known figures in Norse mythology. He’s physical strength is unmatched, and he has a belt of strength that doubles his power. However, he is most known for his hammer called Mjöllnir. Thor is the ideal towards which all human warriors aspire.
LOKI is in Norse mythology known as a great trickster, who has the ability to change his sex and shape. He was living with the Aesir tribe; his father was a giant. He has three kids: Hel, the ruler of the underground, Fenrir, the giant wolf and Jormungand, a giant snake surrounding Midgard. Sleipnir, Odin’s eight-legged horse, was also one of Loki’s children.
HEL is the ruler of the underground and it’s said that she is very cruel and greedy.
Snorri Sturluson wrote that a giant YMIR was born when the fire from Muspelheim and ice from Nilfheim met in Ginnungagab. A giant cow suckled him and when he was sleeping, several other giants were conceived asexually from Ymir’s body. This is written in the PoeticEdda:
From Ymir’s flesh the earth was created, and from his sweat [or, in some versions, blood] the sea, mountains from bone, trees from hair, and from his skull the sky. And from his eyebrows the blithe gods made Midgard, home of the sons of men and from his brains they sculpted the grim clouds.
THE COSMOS OF NORSE MYTHOLOGY
The cosmos of Norse mythology is based on a mighty tree Yggdrasil, which is standing in the middle of the spiritual cosmos. Its roots and branches hold the Nine worlds and other parts of the universe together. It’s said that when Yggdrasil will start to tremble, that means the arrival of Ragnarok – the destruction of the universe.
Homeland of various creatures and beings of the world is called the Nine world.
- Midgard is the home to human civilization and it’s the only one of the Nine worlds that is visible in our world. The others may come in touch with it, but are in the most part, invisible.
- Asgard, the home and fortress of the Aesir gods and goddesses, is located in the sky. It’s connected to Midgard with the rainbow bridge Bifrost.
- Vanaheim is home to the Vanir gods and goddesses, which lies somewhere west of Asgard.
- Jotunheim is the homeland of giants. It’s sometimes also called Utgard (meaning »Beyond the fence«).
- Nilfheim is the realm of darkness, cold, mist, and ice. That means it’s the opposite of Muspelheim, the world of fire and heat.
- Muspelheim, the realm of heat and fire.
- The home of elves is called Alfheim. Although it’s barely mentioned in the sources, the elves are described as »more beautiful than the sun«, so we can assume that Alfheim is also gracious and full of light and charm.
- The homeland of dwarfs can be called either Nidavellir, meaning »Low fields« or Svartalfheim, meaning »Homeland of the black elves«.
- Hel (meaning »Hidden«) is also known as The Underworld. It’s ruled by the cruel goddess Hel and it’s supposedly hidden under the ground like a grave. Some sources also say that it’s on the North, which is seen as cold and dark.
Ginnungagab is an abyss that was there prior to the cosmos and in which the cosmos will collapse in the time of Ragnarok. The time before the cosmos was described in a poem Völsupa:
That was the age when nothing was; there was no sand, nor sea, nor cool waves, no earth nor sky nor grass there, only Ginnungagap.
Hliđskjálf is a high point from which the mighty god Odin can see everything that happens in the cosmos.
Valhalla, meaning »The hall of the fallen« is the hall where the god Odin is keeping all the dead who he finds worthy.
NORSE MYTHOLOGY IN THE MODERN DAYS
Although the Norse Mythology can hardly be found amongst Scandinavians anymore it is often used in literature and movie productions. Norse gods, goddesses and creatures spread in the European literature (mostly in Scandinavia, Germany, and Britain), and later in the 20th century Norse mythology was also used in many science- fiction and fantasy movies, comic books and animations (Attack on Titan, movies produced by Marvel Studios, …).