Norse Mythology

Norse Mythology

Norse mythology takes you on a spectacular journey, as tales from the two main groups that form the mythology of northern and eastern Europe unfold. The gods and frost giants are destined to face each other on the battlefield at Ragnarok, the doom of the Germanic gods, the catastrophic fight to the death that is to take place on the Vigrid Plain. The world will end to “rise again out of the water, fair and green,” as it is reborn.

Doing battle alongside powerful Odin and the gods, were the Einherjar (“the heroic dead”), men killed in battle and taken to Valhalla. Once there they were restored to life, in order to form Odin’s army against the enemy, the frost giants. Ready to lead and fight at Ragnarok was the fire god Loki, along with the frost giants, and the “unworthy dead”, warriors taken from Hel (the Germanic netherworld). Loki’s daughter ruled over Hel, and she was named Hel. Loki’s other children, Fenrir the ferocious wolf, and Jormungand the monstrous sea serpent, also fought alongside Loki and the frost giants at Ragnarok.

Yggdrasil (“dreadful mount”) is the cosmic ash tree in Germanic mythology, the largest tree to ever have grown, its branches overhung the nine worlds and spread out above the heavens. Yggdrasil had three huge roots, one leading to Jotunheim, the land of the giants, where the wise Mimir’s well stood. The second leads to Niflheim, near the spring of Hvergelmir, where the dragon Nidhogg, when he tired of eating corpses chewed on the root of Yggdrasil from below. The last root ended in Asgard, the stronghold of the gods beneath Urd’s well where the god’s daily assembly was held.  The cosmic tree is common in many mythological tales, and there is always an otherworldly element associated with the sacred tree.

Norse mythology is rich with fantastic tales of gods and goddesses, nature spirits, treasures, talismans and Norse heroes, spells and sorcerers, tragic lovers, monsters, dwarfs and treasures of power. The dark angels of death The Valkyries, like birds of prey gathered up the chosen dead from the battlefield and took them to Valhalla, to become the resurrected warriors forming Thor’s army. The stronghold, Valhalla in Asgard, was the vast hall of the Einherjar (“the heroic dead”), the fortress of Asgard was presided over by the chief god of Germanic mythology, the one eyed Odin. Inspired by Odin who had the power to bring men to the brink of madness, were the berserkers, men who would rush into battle like maniacs, feeling neither fear nor pain. Odin was revered by warriors, for his love of battle and was known as the “father of the slain.” He was destined to be killed at Ragnarok, the doom of the gods, by the monstrous child of the malicious fire god Loki, and his wife Angrboda, the terrifying wolf Fenrir.

AEGIR, was a Germanic sea god, husband of Ran and father of nine daughters called the waves. He lived under the ocean and rose only to cause the destruction of ships and their crew. To ensure a safe voyage, prisoners were sacrificed to Aegir.

The very proud Aegir hated being told what to do, so when Thor ordered him to brew ale for the gods he pretended that he would not be able to perform the task because he didn’t have a large enough cauldron. Undaunted, Thor procured an enormous cauldron from the frost giant Hymir, so humiliated was Aegir he had no choice but to accept the task and supply the home of the gods, Asgard, with the ale that was demanded.

At the subsequent gathering of the gods during their celebration, the sinister Loki stabbed Fimafeng, Aegir’s servant.

THE AESIR, were one branch of the family of the gods, the other branch was the Vanir, at one point a war between Aesir and Vanir which ended peacefully showed Aesir to be the dominant one. They were both glad to end the war, to ensure peace some of the leading Aesir went to live among the Vanir and some important Vanir went to live among the Aesir in Asgard.

The differences were resolved by the god Odin and his sons they were,  Balder, “the bleeding god,” and the god of eloquence Bragi. There was the justice god Forseti who had the ability to resolve quarrels. The fertility god Freyr once a Vanir, Heimdall who was tasked to summon every living creature to Ragnarok, the day of doom, with his horn. Also Balder’s killer Hodr, Loki the trickster, god of fire and friend of the frost giants, one of the gods exchanged with the Vanir, another of Odin’s sons.  The only weapon the frost giants feared was Thor’s hammer. There was the god of war Tyr a son of Hymir, the brothers of Odin, and Vidar son of Odin who was destined to avenge his father’s death at Ragnarok. All this was done in an elaborate hall with pillars of gold, under a roof inlaid with silver.

The fertility goddesses Freyja and twin sister Freyr, Odin’s wife, Sif wife of Thor and Odun keeper of the apples of youth were the goddesses of Aesir. During Ragnarok (the doom of the gods) almost all the Aesir were destined to be killed during a battle that was to take place between those led by Loki and the forces led by Odin.

ALVIS (“All Wise”), was a dwarf in Germanic mythology, outwitted by Odin’s son Thor who possessed a magic hammer of great force. As payment for weapons forged by Alvis the gods promised marriage to Thor’s daughter Thrud. Thor did not want this marriage to take place, so to stop the dwarf marrying Thrud, he questioned Alvis all night long because he knew dwarfs were turned to stone when in sunlight.

ANDVARI, or (Alberich) as he was known later was a German dwarf, a craftsman who lost his precious treasure to Loki. Loki killed a sleeping otter with a stone, on his way to Midgard (the land of men). Loki, Odin and Honir came upon a farm and offered to share the otter’s meat with the Hreidmar the farmer and his family, however the dead animal was the son of the farmer, Otter.  Hreidmar cast a spell to weaken his unwelcome guests, they were bound by Fafnir and Regin, his sons. Odin protested their innocence and convinced Hreidmar they did not know the otter was his son, a price of enough gold to cover Otter’s skin was to be accepted by Hreidmar. What they did not know was that the skin was magic and able to stretch to such as size that no ordinary amount of gold could compensate.

It was agreed Odin and Honir would remain at the farm as hostages, while the fire god Loki (without his sky shoes) would be allowed to seek the great treasure required by Hreidmar. Loki used the borrowed drowning net from Ran, wife of the sea god Aegir. Loki used the net to catch a large pike in an underground lake, the fish was more than it first seemed, it was the dwarf Andvari, the richest being who dwelt underground. Under terrifying threats from Loki Andvari relinquished his hoard of gold and the dwarf’s gold making ring. Andvari placed a curse of death upon the wearer of the ring. Odin and Honir were released upon Lokis return to the farm with the gold, he told Odin and Honir about Advari’s curse and decided to give Hreidmar the ring. Hreidmar was then killed by Fafnir, his son who ran away with the treasure.

Fafnir who became a dragon, was pursued by Sigurd foster son of Regin, he searched and found Fafnir and slew him. Sigurd realised that Regin was going to slay him to acquire the gold, therefore he slew him first. The curse remained on the dwarf’s gold, and anyone who attempted to posses it was destined to die.

AUDHUMLA, in Germanic mythology was the primeval cow, the first animal to emerge at the start of creation, Ginnungagap (“the yawning emptiness”). From the teats of Audhumla “flowed four rivers of milk”, providing enough sustenance for the first frost giant Ymir, and the first living thing of all. The frost giants descended from Ymir and were the enemies of the gods. The cow survived on the goodness from an icy salt lick, her lick produced Buri a man who in time bore a son Bor, Bor married the daughter of a frost giant. They produced the first gods, Odin, Vili and Ve, who in time battled against the frost giants eventually slaying Ymir. As Ymir fell the flow of blood across the land drowned all his frost children, except Bergelmir and his wife who somehow escaped to safety.

BABA YAGA, the female demon of Slavic tradition known as the hideous man eating Jezi Baba. It was said she had a mouth that stretched from earth to the gates of hell and lived in a strange house, with legs like a chicken’s at each corner, it was surrounded by a fence made of human bones. And she journeyed by flying in an enchanted kettle made of iron.

BALDER, at times Baldur or Baldr, he was the son of Odin, and the “bleeding god” of Germanic mythology, his wife was Nanna, there son was Forseti, the god of justice. Balder had recurring nightmares indicating he would die. The gods in Asgard were troubled by Badler’s nightmares and attempted to divine the meaning, they were confused as to why a kind and benign god such as Balder should be plagued by such foreboding. Odin rode Sleipnir, his eight legged horse to the land of the dead, while there he was told by a prophet using magic, that Balder would be killed by Hodr, the blind god. On his return to Asgard his wife Frigg formed a plan to save Balder, she travelled through the nine worlds compelling every single being and thing, to swear an oath promising no harm would befall Balder. The gods tested Balder’s new invulnerability by throwing spears and stones at him, and to Odin and Frigg’s relief he remained unharmed. Mischievous and malicious Loki then transformed himself into an old woman, in this guise he visited Frigg and learned from the goddess that the promise of no harm from all things was not given by the mistletoe which was considered harmless.

Loki joined the gods as they assembled together to throw things at Balder, the only one not partaking was blind Hodr, cunning Loki offered Hodr a branch of mistletoe so he could take part in the festivities. He then directed the blind god’s throw, causing the branch of mistletoe to pass  through Balder, killing him instantly, his wife Nanna died of grief. Frigg then sent Balder’s brother to Hell, and when there to offer Hel a ransom in return for Balder, Hermod rode the eight legged Sleipnir to the land of the dead. While Hermond was gone, Nanna was placed on a pyre next to the body of Balder, the longship drifted out to sea burning. Hermod found his brother in a high position in the netherworld, Hel agreed to release Balder with the provision that everything dead and alive, in the nine worlds, must weep for him. Messengers were sent out, and everything including the stones began weeping. Only Thokk a frost giantess refused saying, “Hel must hold what she has.” In their distress the gods failed to realise that the frost giant was Loki in disguise, Hel was then able to keep Balder with her.

The Germanic people believed that Balder would return in the new world, a green land to rise from the sea after Ragnarok, the doom of the gods. After a world cleansed by catastrophe Balder was expected to return and rule over the new world.

BEOWULF, was the Germanic nephew of the king of Geats, the Jutes, he was the hero who slew two water monsters. Grendel, a hideous creature, came to the hall of King Hrothgar one night and ate one of the warriors while he slept. Grendel was invulnerable to weapons but the powerful Beowulf was able to hold the monster in a in a vice grip. To break away the monster  broke off its arm, mortally wounded the creature fled to its home deep in a lake where it bled to death.

Beowulf was overwhelmed by gifts from the king of Geats, thankful that the monster was now gone, never to return. Neither Beowulf nor the king knew of Grendel’s mother an even more terrifying creature, and like her child she ate a sleeping warrior inside the hall of Hrothgar the king’s home. Beowulf pursued the creature, diving into a lake following her to her lair, in their struggle Beowulf lost his magic sword yet somehow managed to find another magic weapon in the water, with this the mother of Grendel was slain.

After this second courageous feat in which he protected the kingdom of Hrothgar, Beowulf returned to his home in Sweden where his father ruled. After a long and successful rein his father’s land was attacked by a ferocious dragon. Along with twelve followers Beowulf set off to slay the dragon, in fear all but one of the followers fled, Beowulf slew the beast but lost his own life.

BERGELMIR, in Germanic mythology, was the son of Thrudgelmir and grandson of Ymir, and when Odin, Vili and Ve killed Ymir, throwing his body into the middle of Ginnungagap, all the frost giants drowned in the giant’s blood. The only survivors were Bergelmir and his wife, they escaped in a hollowed out tree trunk used as a boat, they were then safe to continue the race of giants. The giants continued to hate the gods, and to settle the final account for Ymir’s dismemberment the frost giants and the dead of Hel came together at Ragnarok.

BIFROST, was the flaming three strand rainbow bridge in Germanic mythology, between Asgard and Midgard, (between heaven and earth). It was guarded by the watchman god Heimdall and built by the gods, out of red fire, green water and blue air. To hold meetings at the well of Urd the gods rode across the bridge each day.

BILLING, the father of Rind in Germanic mythology and king of Rutherians, or Russians, Rind was so determined and strong willed that she would not succumb to the wooing of Odin, even with her father’s blessing. She eventually relented and bore Odin’s son, the son went on to kill Hodr with his bow and arrow.

BOR, the son of Buri, husband of Bestla the giantess, father of Odin, Vili and Ve. Bor was an ancient god born before the beginning of the world, in a time of no earth, sky, sea, with only ice, mist, fire and the yawning pit of Ginnungagap. The giant Bolthur, Bor’s father in law had a son who shared his wisdom with his nephew Odin.

BRAGI, the Germanic god of Eloquence and poetry, son of Odin and Gunnlod, a giantess, his wife was the keeper of the magic apples of youth, Idun. After his hand in the death of Balder, Loki was told by Bragi that he was not welcome at Bragi’s feast. Loki called Bragi, “the bragger,” and Bragi threatened to twist off Loki’s head which was the only way to stop his lies. After this altercation Odin attempted to calm the situation, Loki was so enraged he prophesied the destruction of the gods, who immediately left Asgard.

In Germanic courts poets were only second in regard to kings and when oaths were sworn they were done so over the Cup of Bragi, Bragi was always seen as an old bearded man carrying a harp he held an elevated position.

THE BRISINGS, (the Bristlings) owners of the golden necklace the Brisingamen, something the fertility goddess Freyja coveted. In her want to acquire this treasure Freyja slept with the four dwarfs, Alfrigg, Dvalin, Berling and Grer on four successive nights, Odin was horrified by her adulterous act. When she returned to Asgard, she was accused by Odin of besmirching her divinity by behaving in such a manner. Freyja was forced by Odin to stir up war in Midgard, the world of men, Freyja and Odin shared the men slayed on the battlefield. The necklace of Brisingamen was synonymous with Freyja, to the point that when Thor wanted to disguise himself as the goddess to reacquire his hammer from Thrym, the fertility goddess lent it to him to assure his costume was authentic.

BRYNHILD, was a Valkyrie banished to earth and imprisoned within a ring of fire, this was done by Odin after Brynhild defied him. Sigurd braved the fire breaking her charmed sleep and they fell deeply in love, Sigurd gave Brynhild, Andvarinaut his ring, unknown to him the ring was cursed. During his travels Sigurd was bewitched by Grimhild into betraying Brynhild, he married Gudrun, then helped Gunner win Brynhild. Upon learning of Sigurd’s betrayal the distraught Brynhild planned his death, in utter despair she killed herself.

BURI, the ancestor of the gods in Germanic mythology, released from the ice by the primeval cow Audhumla, where Audhumla licked Buri’s hair appeared, the second day his head, on the third day his entire body was free of the ice. He fathered a son Bor, Bor went on to marry a  frost giantess, together they produced Odin, Vili and Ve, their three sons.

DAZHBOG, Dazbog to the Poles, Dabog to the Serbs, was the Slavic sun god, son of the sky god  Svarog, and brother of Svarazic, god of fire. Dazhbog was reborn each morning to then ride across the sky on his diamond chariot until night when he became an old man. Some believe that he is married to Myesyats, the Moon and that earthquakes are caused by their quarrels.

THE EINHERJAR, in Germanic mythology were the “heroic dead,” gathered from the battlefields by the Valkyries, to then form Odin’s private army in Valhalla, raised by Odin to fight at Ragnarok, the doom of the gods. This battle was the final one between the gods and the frost giants on the  Vigrid Plain. Until this battle the dead warriors fought every day and then with magically healed wounds feasted every night.

FAFNIR, son of Hreidmar, the magician, and corrupted by the cursed ring of Andvarinaut, with the help of his brother Regin he killed his father, to acquire the ring hoard. Greed turned Fafnir into a monster, he became a dragon to guard and ensure the safety of his treasure. His actions were legendary and many would be heroes came seeking Fafnir’s fortune, most met a fiery death at the entrance to his lair. But armed with his father’s knife, the wiley Sigurd guided by Regin, procured the cursed treasure by outwitting the dragon.

FARBAUTI, (“Cruel Striker”), a giant and father of Loki the fire god, Laufey (“Tree island”) his mother, was a giantess, she was struck by a bolt of lightning unleashed by Farbauti as she gave birth to Loki.

FENRIR, or Fenris, in Germanic mythology was the son of the frost giantess Angrboda and the trickster Loki. Fenrir the devouring wolf, the beast of Ragnarok, the doom of the gods. Before the demise of the world, his was “an axe-age, a sword-age, a wind-age, a wolf-age. Odin was fated to become his victim. The gods kidnapped Fenrir bringing him to Asgard, because of his savagery Tyr the war god was the only one who dared venture near enough to Fenrir to feed him. Odin was warned about his fate by the goddesses of destiny, the Norns, he decided it would be wise to keep the wolf chained up. Because of Fenrir’s strength no normal chain could hold him, the dwarfs made a magical chord with which to bind him, it was made from the roots of a mountain, bird’s spittle and other strange materials and called Gleipnir. It appeared to be no more than a fragile length of ribbon. Before the wolf would allow the Gleipnir to be placed around his neck, one of the gods had to put their hand between Fenrir’s jaws as a test of faith, this to be accepted as a pledge that the chord was harmless. The brave Tyr was the only one daring enough to take the risk, and much to the amusement of the other gods, his hand was bitten off when the wolf realised the chain could not be broken. Fenrir remained secured to a rock, with his mouth held open by a sword to stop him from biting.

At Ragnarok where he was released he proved to be a fearsome spectacle, with a gaping mouth so wide the lower jaw touch the ground and the upper jaw touched the sky, Odin then met his predicted fate as he was swallowed by the wolf.

FJALAR, along with his brother Galar, were wicked dwarfs in Germanic mythology, who in order to gain the magic powers of Kvasir, killed him. In a cauldron they mixed honey with his blood, making a potion that would imbue them with wisdom, the magical potion was stolen by the frost giant Suttung, whose parents the dwarfs had killed. Due to Suttung’s boastfulness about the potion, the gods heard about it and Odin decided he’d travel to Jotunheim, the land of the frost giants to acquire the mixture. He journey to Jotunheim disguised as evil Bolverk, there persuaded the frost giant Baugi to dig a tunnel through the mountains to where Gunnlod, Suttungs daughter was keeping the magic potion safe. Odin changed himself into a snake once the tunnel was ready, slithering down easily to reach the hidden mixture. Upon reaching the secret cave he then changed himself into a one-eyed giant to appeal to Gunnlod, thus becoming her lover for three days and three nights. In this time the enamoured Gunlod allowed Odin to drink the entire magic potion, he then turned himself into an eagle and flew back to the home of the gods Asgard. Once there he spat the potion into the waiting empty jars, Suttung who also changed into an eagle tried to no avail to pursue Odin.

FORSETI, the Germanic god of justice was known to the Frisians as Forsite, he was the son of Balder and Nanna, both of his parents were killed, his father stabbed by a piece of mistletoe thrown inadvertently by Hodr. Forseti sat in judgement and resolved tensions, this done in his hall of Glitnir, it had pillars of red gold and a roof inlaid with silver.

FREYJA (Lady), sometimes Freya or Frea, a fertility goddess and the daughter of the sea god Jnord in Germanic mythology, the sister of Freyr. The Germanic gods were divided into two branches and Freyja was a member of the Vanir, the younger branch the Aesir led by Odin, supplanted the Vanir after a war. Once peace returned Njord accompanied Freyr and Freyja to Asgard, where as a token of peace they lived with the Aesir.

Freyja was the proud owner of the Brising’s necklace, which she acquired by sleeping with it’s makers four dwarfs, with her great beauty she won the heart of Ottar then changed him into a boar. Freyja had the ability to fly in a falcon’s skin, and with her gifts as a sorceress she taught the gods the spells and charms of the Vanir, after she arrived in the home of the gods, Asgard. Due to their interest in the dead, Freyja and Odin divided the heroic dead between them after each battle. Freyja’s share lived in her hall, Sessrumnir, Odin’s share lived in Valhalla. It is thought that Freyja’s lost husband was the god Odin, not much is known about her husband other than his name, Odur, or Od. Odin was the father of battles, lover of destruction and Freyja the goddess of lust and love, perfect partners with their particular proclivities.

FREYR, (Lord), also Frey, twin brother of the Germanic fertility goddess Freyja, son of the god associated with the wind and the sea, Njord. Freyr, along with Odin and Thor, was one of the principal gods, he was associated with fertility, the control of sunlight, rain, peace and fruitfulness. Skirr, his title means “shining”, his wife the frost giantess was named Gerda, which comes from “field.”

The most notable thing about Freyr’s statue was the size of his penis, the statue was in his temple at Uppsala, Sweden. He was likened to Priapus, the virile son of Dionysus and Aphrodite, by the Romans. He was a member of the Vanir, he then moved to Asgard with his father Jnord and his sister Freyja, to live with the Aesir, who were led by Odin and were the younger branch of the gods. At the end of the war between the Vanir and the Aesir, this gesture of goodwill was agreed upon.

After falling in love with Gerda, the daughter of the frost giant Gymir, Freyr was at loss as to how he would win her affection and became ill. Njord was very worried about his son and tasked the faithful servant Skirmir to find out what was wrong with him. Upon hearing of Freyr’s great love for Gerda, Skirmir immediately left for Jotunheim, the land of the giants, he took with him two of Freyr’s greatest treasures, his magic horse and his sword. Skirmir was told to return with Gerda, with or without her father’s permission. This journey seemed doomed from the start as no amount of coercion would elicit from Gerda a declaration of love for Freyr, even the offer of “eleven of the apples of youth.” This gift, and a second gift offered, one of Odin’s arm rings, were both rejected by Gerda. Skirmir then threatened to decapitate her with Freyr’s sword, finally he said he was going to impose an unbreakable spell on her making her a permanent outcast. This last threat produced a promise from Gerda to pledge herself to the fertility god, she agreed to meet Freyr in nine days time in a forest. The cost to have his desire fulfilled was his magic horse and sword which he gave to Skirmir. The sword which could fight giants on its own was greatly missed by Freyr at Ragnarok, the doom of the gods.

FRIGG, in Germanic mythology known also as Frigga, Frija and Fricka, was the daughter of Fjorgyn, goddess of the earth and atmosphere and wife of the chief of the gods, Odin, and mother of Balder. Her name was given to Friday. She knew the fates but the fertility goddess would tell no fortunes. After Balder’s nightmares of impending doom Frigg assisted him by eliciting a promise from every living thing and being, except the mistletoe which was deemed to be no threat, that no harm would come to Balder. Angered by Balder’s invulnerability, Loki the malevolent fire god, placed a spell on the mistletoe and tricked the blind god Hodr to throw a branch at Balder, under his direction. The mistletoe went through Balder and he fell dead to the floor. Frigg tried to redeem Balder from the land of the dead after requesting that every living thing and being weep for him, only Loki refused to mourn thwarting Frigg’s attempt to have Balder released. Frigg, like Freyja, also possesses a falcon skin and has a passion for gold.

GEFION, a German goddess of fertility, known also as Gefinn and Gefjon, as a goddess of agriculture Gefions name is associated with “giving,” she was thought to be the protector of virgins. Loki however attempted to besmirch her name by accusing her of selling herself for a precious necklace. Disguised as a beggar Gefion tricked King Gylfi of Sweden out of a large piece of land. In return for her hospitality the king offered Gelion as much of his kingdom as she was able to plough with four oxen over one day and one night. Her four giant sons aided her in this task after transforming into oxen, the island of Zealand, now Denmark was cut from the mainland by Gefion.

GEIRROD, a father of two daughters, Gjalp and Greip, and one of Thor’s most formidable enemies. Loki a constant companion of Thor, was captured by Geirrod while in the form of a hawk. To avoid being killed by Geirrod, Loki agreed to bring Thor to Geirrod’s hall without his protection against frost giants, his magic belt and hammer. Trusting his friend Loki, Thor accompanied him to Geirrod’s hall and while they rested on the way at the home of a friendly giantess Grid. She warned Thor about the plan while Loki slept, Grid lent him three magic items belonging to her, her belt of strength, iron gloves and her staff. Odin and Loki reached Geirrod’s hall and he was not home, they were instead greeted by the giant’s servants. The giant’s daughters attempted to kill Thor by lifting the chair in which he dozed, then banging his head against the ceiling. Using Grid’s staff, Thor was able to move the chair downwards crashing it on the giantesses heads killing both of them. Geirrod then entered the hall and picked up a red hot iron ball with the aid of a pair of tongs, this he hurled at Thor who was able to catch it easily while wearing the iron gloves belonging to Grid. In anger Thor then threw the hot iron ball at Geirrod, it went through an iron pillar before hitting him and penetrating deeply into his stomach. Thor used the frost giantesses magic staff to attack Geirrod’s servants.

GERDA, was a beautiful frost giantess, the daughter of the giant Gymir who was persuaded to marry Freyr by Skirnir, Freyr’s devoted servant, who threatened her with an irreversible spell that would make her an outcast. After nine nights Gerda met Freyr in a forest and made her pledge to him. Many believed that The Aurora Borealis was the radiance of Gerda.

GINNUNGAGAP, (“yawning emptiness”) in Germanic mythology, at the time of creation it was the “yawning emptiness” that lay between the realms of fire and cold. The chill of the north was met by the warm air from the south, melting the ice of Ginnungagap, Ymir the frost giant was formed from the melted ice and Audhumla, the primeval cow. Buri, ancestor of the gods, was uncovered by Audhumla while the primeval cow licked the ice. Ymir was killed by Buri’s three grandsons, Odin, Vili and Ve, he was then taken to the center of Ginnungagap and from his body, Midgard the world of men was made from his body. Ymir’s flesh then became the earth, his bones the mountains, his teeth rocks, his blood turned into lakes and seas. With the assistance of four dwarfs, Nordi, Sudri, Austri and Western holding up the corners, Odin, Vili and Ve used Ymir’s skull to form the sky.

GJALP, (“Howler”) daughter of Geirrod, with the assistance of her sister Greip she attempted to kill the Germanic thunder god, Thor. Loki, the fire god and friend of Thor, tricked Thor into accompanying him to the hall of Geirrod. While Thor slumbered in a chair, Gjalp and her sister lifted his chair in an attempt to crush his skull against the ceiling. A frost giantess warned Thor of the impending danger and let him borrow some magical items to protect himself from Geirrod’s plan to kill him. Thor was able with the aid of the frost giantesses magic staff,  make the chair the giantesses lifted crash down upon Gjalp and Greip, killing them.

GRENDEL, (“grim and greedy brutally cruel”, was a water monster who was invulnerable to weapons and terrorised the kingdom of King Hrothgar. Grendel entered the royal kingdom and ate a warrior as he slept, but Beowulf, a visiting warrior was powerful enough to hold the arm’s of the dragon. As the monster struggled to set himself free his arm was torn off and he bled to death in his lair deep under the water. Brave Beowulf killed a second dragon, the mother of Grendel, in the same lair, he brought back the enormous head.  Four men helped Beowulf carry this trophy which he presented to King Hrothgar.

GRID, a benevolent frost giantess helped the Germanic thunder god Thor, after he was lured by Loki, to Geirrod’s hall, were Geirrod planned to kill him. Loki conspired to ensure that Thor travelled without his magic belt and magic hammer. After warning Thor, Grid let him borrow her magic belt, her magic iron gloves and her magic staff in preparation for his encounter with Geirrod. Some traditions say the giantess bore to Thor, a son the silent god Vidar, and to have made a magic shoe which protected him from the jaws of the vicious wolf, Fenrir.

GROA, in Germanic mythology was a seeress and the wife of Aurvandil, whose frozen toe was turned into a star when it was thrown up into the sky by Thor. After Thor’s fight with the frost giant Hrungnir, Groa tried with a magic spell to remove whetstone fragments from the god’s head. The fragments had come from the collision of Hrungnir’s sharp edged, three cornered stone and Thor’s hammer. Groa failed to complete the spell she was so overcome with Thor’s news about the star and the return of her husband Aurvandil, or Aurvandill. Several whetstone fragments remained embedded in Thor’s head. In order to win the love of the maiden Menglad, Svipdrag, Groa’s son called his mother from her grave so she could assist him with her wise guidance, to ensure he would claim the heart of Menglad.

GUNGNIR, this was the magic spear belonging to the leader of the Germanic gods, Odin, forged by the son’s of Ivaldi, who were dwarfs. A wig made of spun gold was being made at the same time. It was a replacement for the golden hair of Sif, Thor’s wife, ordered by the fire god Loki after he cut her beautiful hair off as a joke. The dwarfs decided after making the wig, they wanted to do something to please the gods, using the furnace they made a ship for Freyr and for Odin, a spear that would always hit it’s mark, was slender and strong. In Viking mythology, before a battle began the custom was for a spear to be thrown over the heads of an enemy. Odin hung himself on the cosmic tree Yggdrasil, for nine nights to obtain wisdom, after which time he was stabbed with a spear.

HARBARD, (“grey beard”) was a boatman in Germanic mythology who was summoned by Thor, to ferry the god across a deep river. The surly boatman hurled insults at Thor, his response to the boatman was anger, the god did not notice that Harbard was Odin, his father. Odin was deceitful and a troublemaker, while Thor was honest and quick tempered, revealing he vastly different characters of the two gods during this encounter.

HEIMDALL, or Heimdalr, was the watchman for the Germanic gods and the son of nine mothers. He had the ability to see for a hundred miles and could hear the sound of wool and grass growing, it was thought he may have been an omniscient sky god. He stood upon the three stranded bridge, Bifrost, the link between Asgard and Midgard (heaven and earth). He was ever ready to his Gjall (horn) at the start of Ragnarok, the doom of the Germanic gods. Heimdall slew the fire god Loki in single combat.

HEL, was the daughter of Angrboda, the frost giantess and her father was the malevolent trickster, Loki the fire god. Odin the chief god, banished her to be the ruler of the Germanic netherworld (also called Hel). While in the netherworld Hel’s powers increased until she became more powerful than Odin. When Balder, Odin’s son was killed, Hel refused to return him to his grieving father and mother. Fenrir the wolf and Jormungand the serpent, were her terrifying brothers. The subjects who inhabited Hel’s ghastly realm all, “were all who died through sickness and old age,” tasked to serve their queen who was partly decomposed. She had the face and body of a living woman, the thighs and legs of a corpse. Hel’s hideous realm was in stark contrast to the pleasurable afterlife that the heroic dead enjoyed in   Valhalla, Odin’s glorious hall.

HERMOD, was the son of Odin and the brother of Balder, in Germanic mythology, he was a divine messenger like the Greek god Hermes, and mercury the Roman god. It was the god Hermod, was sent as the messenger to Hel, he rode Sleipnir, Odin’s eight legged horse and tried to secure the release of his brother Balder, after his death. Hel agreed to release Balder providing everything and every being wept for him, Loki the god of fire, thwarted this by refusing to mourn for Balder. Odin had fastened an arm ring to Balder’s body, Hel permitted Hermod to take this back to Asgard, the home of the gods.

Odin sent Hermod on a mission to Midgard, the land of men, to consult Rossthiof, a Finn, about his concerns for the future. Hermod nearly died during this mission but was saved by magic, returning safely and offering Odin reassurances.

HIMINRJOT, or Himinbrioter, (“Sky Bellower”) was the head of an enormous black ox. Hymir, whom Thor went fishing for the sea serpent, Jormungand, owned the ox. Thor broke the neck of Himinrjot, using it’s head to bait his hook, as Jormungand attempted to swallow the gigantic head it stuck in his throat. Had Hymir not been so terrified of Jormungand, Thor would have succeeded in landing his catch, Hymir cut the huge sea monster free in the frey that ensued.

HODR, Hodur or Hod, was the blind god of Germanic mythology, and the son of the god Odin and Frigg, he unintentionally killed Balder his brother. In order to protect her son who had been plagued by nightmares of his death, his mother Frigg elicited a promise from everything and every being to do him no harm. The mistletoe was the only exception, as it was considered harmless. The fire god Loki, angered after learning about Balder’s invulnerability, somehow managed to find out about the mistletoe and a spell was placed on it. During a gathering of the gods, Loki placed the magic branch in blind Hodr’s hand and guided him to throw it at Balder, the mistletoe went straight through Balder killing him instantly.

HOGNI, along with his brother, Gunner, became friends with the hero Sigurd, owner of a cursed treasure, Sigurd, affected by the cursed ring, unintentionally betrayed Brynhild, the Valkyrie. Also bewitched by the curse, Hogni and Gunner, killed Sigurd, after the Valkyrie asked them for assistance. The brothers claimed the cursed treasure after Sigurd’s demise and became victims of the Alti, who coveted the fortune.

HONIR, or in Germanic mythology Hoenir, was a member of the group of gods, the Aesir, and brother of Odin, the chief god. Honir had difficulty making a decision, he was also known for his exceptionally long legs. After peace was agreed between the two branches of the gods, Honir was sent to live among the Vanir, as a goodwill gesture. He angered the gods with his inability to make up his mind, always deferring to the wise Mimir, Aesir to make any decisions. The Vanir killed Mimir, and returned his head to the Aesir.

HREIDMAR, or Reidmar, he was a magician/farmer in Germanic mythology, father of Regin, Fafnir and Otter. Otter was a shape shifter and accidentally killed by the fire god Loki. His father demanded that Loki give him enough gold to cover Otter’s skin inside and out, the fire god stole the gold from the dwarf Andvari. Andvari then placed a curse upon his treasure, when Loki gave the gold to Hreidmar, he dismissed the curse so pleased was he with his fortune. Hreidmar was killed by his second son Fafnir, who desired the dwarf’s gold, Fafnir changed into a dragon in order to guard the gold and was slain by Sigurd who became the owner of the cursed fortune.

HRUNGNIR, the strongest of the frost giants in Germanic mythology, he own Gullfaxi or Gold Mane, a very powerful stallion. During one of his journeys, the god Odin, seated atop his eight legged horse, Sleipnir, he was challenged to a horse race by, Hrungnir, who rode Gullfaxi. Odin, had a narrow win, their race bringing them to Asgard, the divine stronghold of the Vanir, Odin invited Hrungnir to rest before returning to the land of the giants, Jotunheim. After becoming drunk, Hrungnir threatened to kill all the gods except Freyja and Sif, and carry Valhalla, the hall in which the honoured dead lived with Odin, to Jotunheim, on his back. Thor returned at this time and waved his magic hammer at Hrungnir, knowing he would be killed if he didn’t have his own weapons, Hrungnir challenged Thor to a dual on the border between Asgard and Jotunheim. Hrungnir’s head, heart and shield were made of stone making him a formidable enemy, the frost giants were concerned they would lose their most powerful warrior if Thor slayed Hrungnir, they were at the same time proud of Hrungnir’s bravery. In order to strike fear into Odin, the frost giants constructed a huge clay man which they animated with the heart of a dead mare they named, Mist Calf. Hrungnir stood alongside Mist Calf, knowing he must avoid Thor’s hammer, Hrungnir held his whetstone aloft ready for the duel. As soon as Thor caught sight of Hrungnir, he threw his magic hammer at him, at the same time, Hrungnir launched his three cornered, sharp edged stone, the weapons collided in midair. The whetstone was crushed by Thor’s axe, scattering stone fragments which lodged in Thor’s skull, Hrungnir died as Thor’s magic hammer crushed his skull. Thor was often referred to as, “Hrungnir’s” skull splitter after winning this challenge.

HUGI, (“Thought”), a young Germanic frost giant who won a race against, Thor’s human servant, Thialfi. Thor journeyed to Utgard, a place of magic and the land of the giants he was constantly reminded by Loki, the god of fire, that at times intellect was necessary rather than brawn. During this journey in which, Thor was accompanied by Loki, Thialfi and his sister Roskva, the four travellers slept in what they thought was a vast hall, it turned out to be the thumb of an empty glove belonging to Skrymir, the frost giant. He warned them that giants more powerful than he resided at Utgard, unless they pressed the crowns of their heads on the nape of their necks, it was impossible for them to see the top of Utgard’s battlements. Due to the strength of the giants, Thor, along with Loki, Thalfi and Roska, failed many of the tests they attempted. A very old woman wrestled the thunder god, Thor to one knee, in another test, Thor tried to empty a drinking horn not realising the other end of the horn was in the sea. Thor eventually discovered that Utgard and Skrymir, were magic creations sent by the frost giants, who were in fear for their lives.

HUGINN, (“Thought”), and Muninn (“Memory”) the ravens of the chief Germanic god, Odin, the ravens were sent out each day to gather information concerning events in the nine worlds. Thor was told about all they had seen when the ravens returned and perched on his shoulders.

HYMIR, (“Dark One”) he was a frost giant and father of the war god Tyr, he owned a huge cauldron deep enough to brew ale for all the gods. The sea god Aegir was unable to entertain Odin and his companions without the Hymir’s cauldron. Tyr and Thor, were sent by to Hymir’s hall by Odin, to get the vessel. Upon their arrival they were advised by Tyr’s mother to hide while their presence was explained, although Hymir felt uncomfortable after finding them, he graciously offered them a meal. During the meal Thor astounded the other diners by consuming two entire oxen by himself. The following day Hymir suggested a fishing expedition if his guests wanted to eat again, and while at sea in Hymir’s boat, Thor bated his enormous hook with the head of Himinrjot, the giant’s black ox. Jormungand took the bait and the head of the ox became stuck in his throat, this frightened Hymir and in the furor the serpents head was severed. When they returned to Hmir’s hall and a skirmish took place, Thor then took the cauldron and left, in an attempt to reclaim his cauldron, Hymir and other frost giants followed Thor. They were all killed when Thor wielded his mighty hammer.

IDUN, Idunnor or Iduna, was the goddess who guarded the apples of youth in Germanic mythology and the wife of the god of poetry, Bragi. When the frost giant Thiassi captured the fire god Loki, to ensure his release Loki had to promise to steal the apples of youth from Idun. He lured Idun to a place nearby where he told her the apples growing there were of superior quality, the trusting goddess followed him into the forest, where Thiassi waited in the shape of an eagle. Thiassi pounced, grasping Idun and her magic apples, flying them to the land of the frost giants, Jotunheim.

The loss of the apples had a devastating affect on the gods, they became old and weak with loose skin and bleary eyes, and as their minds were overwhelmed  by the fear of death a gloom settled over Asgard. With the last of his strength Odin found Loki and threatened him with magic. Loki then changed into a falcon and flew to Jotunheim where he changed Idun into a nut, Thiassi, the frost giant gave chase but was burned to death by the fires placed along the walls of Asgard. Loki returned Idun to her home and restored her form, she then gave the magic apples to the weakened and fragile gods, restoring them to good health.

JORMUNGAND, was the serpent son of Loki, the god of fire, and the frost giantess Angrboda, and the brother of Fenrir and Hel. On Odin’s orders these dangerous children were kidnapped and brought to Asgard, Jormungand was thrown into the ocean where he encircled the earth, he grew so long. He was then known as the Midgard Serpent, Thor was to slay Jormungand when he came to earth at Ragnarok.

JOTUNHEIM, was the land given to the frost giants at the Creation by Odin and his brothers, with it’s stronghold of Utgard,  it was one of the nine worlds sheltered by the cosmic tree Yggdrasil. Asgard was the home of the Aesir, one branch of the gods, another branch of the gods were the Vanir, at Vanaheim. The land of the light elves was, Alfheim, the land of the dwarfs was Nidavellir. The home of humankind, Midgard and Svartalfheim the land of the dark elves. The realm of the unworthy dead, Hel. Beneath Yggdrasil’s roots, the very cold Niflheim. Jotunheim was freezing cold it was described as being over the sea, or inside Mitgard, the land of mortals.

JUMALA, was the supreme deity, and creator god of Finnish mythology, the oak tree was sacred to him. Ukko, another supreme god, a deity of the sky and air who allowed the rain to fall, replaced Jumala. Ukko was married to Akka, linked to the creator goddess of the Lapps, Madder.Akka.

KIED KIE JUBMEL, a stone god the northernmost people of Europe, the Lapps worshipped. To ensure Kied Kie Jubmel’s hunting success, Reindeer were sacrificed to him well into the seventeenth century. He was known as Storjunka, or “Great Lord”, among the Swedes and as “Lord of the herds”, among the Lapps.

KVASIR, known as (spittle), created when the gods spat into a jar, this done to mark the end of conflict between the two branches of the divine family, the Aesir and the Vanir, he was seen as a wise man in Germanic mythology. After the Aesir took the jar, from the spittle Kvasir was made. He travelled the world spreading his wisdom, hoping to gain Kvasir’s wisdom, two dwarfs, Fjalar and Galar, killed him. They made a wonderful potion by mixing his blood with honey, the gift of poetry was given to all those who drank this magical potion.

LEIB-OLMAI (“Alder man”) was a Lapp bear god. Hunters sprinkled their faces with an extract of alder bark when they were at bear festivals. Leib-Olmai the protector of bears, would not allow any man to kill a bear until he had recited certain prayers.

LEMINKAINEN, (“Lover”) a Finnish hero, to ensure he would have a beautiful singing voice and become a wise adult, he was bathed by his mother as a child, three times in one summer night, and nine times in one autumn night. He enjoyed many adventures in the pursuit of women, he journeyed to the land of Pohja with Vainamoinen, to search for wives. He attempted to kill the god of the dead, the swan of Tuoni, he neglected to protect himself with magic and Leminkainen was torn apart by Tuoni’s son. His magician mother put his body back together and restored him to life after gathering his remains which had been scattered into the river.

THE LESHY, also known as Lesovik and Lesiye, he was a Slavonic spirit of the forest he led hunters and travellers astray in the woods. He was quite a sight with his long green beard and cast no shadow, he was human in form. The Leshy had the ability to change his size at will, if he chose he could make himself as tall as a tree, or as tiny as a grasshopper. He left his home in the woods each October, hibernating until early spring, he would then emerge more raucous, wild, and louder than ever.

LIF and Lifthrasir (“Life” and “Eager for Life”) the man and woman who survived Ragnarok, the doom of the gods, by hiding in Yggdrasil, the cosmic ash tree. Fated to survive the catastrophic event in order to repopulate the new world which was destined to rise like a volcanic island, from the sea. “The bellowing fire will not scorch them. It will not even touch them and their food will be the morning dew. Through the branches they will see a new sun burn as the world ends and starts again.” This was the prophesy for Lif and Lifthrasir.

LODDFAFNIR, was the man in German mythology who learned the wisdom of the gods. He visited the “Well of Urd, the place where the gods held their daily assembly, and stayed at Odin’s Hall, in Valhalla. The knowledge he gained then shared which was an awareness of witchcraft and avoidance of it, behaviour and dignified conduct, and common sense.

LOKI, occasionally Lopt, the Germanic fire god, son of the giant Farbauti and the giantess Laufey. He was a disruptive god, a trickster, shape changer and mischief maker, who grew progressively worse over time. The gods were intolerant of his behaviour and bound him in a cave until the end of the world, the coming of Ragnarok. This was a difficult situation for Loki, contained and unable to wreak the havoc he so enjoyed.

Being a compulsive mischief maker, Loki constantly managed to endanger the life of the gods, then paradoxically saved them. Loki was responsible for luring Idun the keeper of the apples of youth into the forest, where he knew she along with her apples would be kidnapped by Thiassi. Without the magic apples the gods would succumb to ageing, mental weakness and ill health, the same as mortals. On another occasion Loki lured the god Thor, without his magic hammer and belt to the hall of the frost giant Geirrod. Thor was saved by the frost giantess Grid, when she loaned her weapons to him. Loki was willing to surrender his friend Thor the thunder god into Geirrod’s power in order to secure his own release.

Loki did help Thor get back his magic hammer by devising a cunning plan. The hammer was stolen by drawfs and given to Thrym the frost giant. In payment for the return of the hammer Thrym wanted the hand of the fertility goddess Freyja. Loki persuaded Thor to disguise himself as Freyja, by wearing the clothes of the fertility goddess and to go to Thrym. When Thrym took out the magic hammer, Thor grasped it and slew all the frost giants. Loki’s first marriage was to the giantess Angrvboda, with her he fathered three monstrous children, Fenrir the wolf, Jormungand the serpent, and Hel, ruler of the underworld, all inherited Loki’s dark nature. His second marriage was to Sigyn, with her he fathered two sons, Vali and Narvi. The gods were exceptionally patient with Loki, and even after he manipulated blind Hodr to inadvertently kill Balder, Odin’s son. They tolerated his presence in Asgard, until the time he arrived at Aegir’s feast and began to torment everybody present and hurled insults at them. This was the final straw for the gods, and fearing for his life Loki then turned himself into a salmon. Odin led an expedition and located the salmon and the gods placed him in a cave. Vali his son, was changed into a wolf he then killed his brother Narvi. Beneath the dripping mouth of a venomous snake, Narvi’s intestines were used to blind Loki. In his lonely prison the tortured god awaited Ragnarok. At the time of Ragnarok the army of evil was led by Loki where he died at the hands of Heimdall.

LUONNOTAR, meaning (“Daughter of Nature”), the creator goddess of the Finns. Luonnotar was alone at the beginning “all alone in a vast emptiness.” She was an isolated being fated to float alone for centuries on the cosmic ocean. One day a bird made a magic nest on her knees and began to hatch some eggs, the happy and excited goddess accidentally upset the nest, breaking many of the eggs. From the broken shells the heavens and the earth were created, the Sun was born from the yolks, the Moon formed from the whites, the stars formed from the scattered fragments of the eggs. Luonnotar created the continents and seas, the goddess then gave birth to the Finnish hero Vainamoinen.

MADDER-AKKA and her partner Madder-Atcha, and according to the Lapps were the divine couple who were the creators of humankind. Madder-Atcha created the soul, Madder-Akka, the body. The child made by them was placed in the womb of its earthly mother. The three daughters of Madder-Akka and Madder-Atcha, had their individual roles involved in procreation. Women were supported during childbirth by Sarakkaf. If a male child was to be born, it was Juksakka’s task to ensure the babies original female gender was changed to male. New born babies were taken care of by Uksakka in her underground home.

MAGNI (“Mighty”) son of the powerful Germanic thunder god Thor, and the giantess Jarnsaxa, brother of Modi. Thor was wounded by whetstone fragments that were lodged in his head, after his duel with Hrungnir the strongest of the frost giants. The enormous legs of the frost giant pinned Thor to the ground, the other gods were unable to lift the giants heavy legs. Thor’s very young son Magni showed his strength by freeing his father. To show his gratitude, Thor gave Magni, Golden Mane, the spectacular horse of Hrungnir the frost giant. Thor’s magic hammer, Mjollnir, was inherited by Magni and Modi, after Ragnarok, the doom of the gods.

MATI SYRA ZEMLYA (“Moist Earth Mother”) the Slavonic earth goddess. She had the gift of foresight, predicting what was to happen in the future, her wisdom helped to settle disagreements. The worship of this goddess is thought to have begun approximately 30,000 years ago. In the early part of the twentieth century to protect them from disease, Russian peasant women conducted elaborate ceremonies in order to invoke Mati Syra Zemlya’s presence.

MENU, or Menulis, was the Baltic Moon god. The Sun was imagined as the goddess Saule, the patroness of green snakes. The Letts believed, Menu and Saule to be the parents of the stars. It was said that Saule’s love affair with the thunder god Perkuno, produced a child, The Morning Star. The Moon god shamed and angered by Saule’s behaviour, would only appear at night in order to avoid being in the presence of the goddess. Throughout the day the Sun goddess appeared for all to see.

MIMIR, the wise god in Germanic mythology. To seal the peace after the two branches of the divine family, the Aesir and the Vanir, tired of war, Mimir was sent by the Aesir, to seal the peace. Thinking they had been cheated, the Vanir cut off the head of Mimir and sent it back to the Aesir. Odin smeared the severed head with herbs to stop it from decaying, and restored the power of speech by reciting a charm over it. Under the root of Yggdrasil the cosmic tree, there was a magic well, Mimir’s head was placed there to guard the well. Mimir learned “many truths unknown to any other person,” Odin gave one of his eyes to drink at the well in order to gain Mimir’s wisdom.

MJOLLNIR, the magic hammer belonging to Thor the Germanic thunder god. The hammer was an instrument of destruction, fertility and resurrection, it was made by Brokk and Eitri two dwarfs. Mjollnir offered the gods certain protection against their enemies, the frost giants, when it was wielded by Thor. The gods were feared for their lives after the magic hammer was stolen by Thrym the frost giant. The hand of the fertility goddess Freyja was the ransom for its return. Loki the trickster fire god, devised a cunning plan for Thor to disguise himself as Freyja, and wearing her clothes enter the palace. When Thrym requested the goddess Freyja show him the hammer, Thor dropped his disguise and killed him with his magic hammer.

With its exceptional powers of healing, Mjollinir was used by Thor to reconstitute from skin and bone, two goats that had been consumed the night before. This was done at Utgard when Thor journeyed to the frost giant’s stronghold. Thor chanted special magic words to consecrate the ceremony during the funeral of Balder and Nanna, after the fire around the pyre on which they lay was lit.

MOKKURALFI, or Mist Calf was an enormous giant made of clay, the frost giants made Mokkuralfi in order to terrify the thunder god Thor, who had been challenged to a duel by Hrungnir, the strongest of the frost giants. To animate Mist Calf the heart of a dead mare was used. Hrungnir stood next to Mist Calf, holding his magic weapon in readiness. As soon as Thor caught sight of his opponent he hurled his magic hammer at him, Hrungnir’s magic weapon of was thrown at Thor, this was a sharp edged, thee cornered stone. Thor’s hammer shattered the Hrungnir’s whetstone, then crushed Hrungnir’s skull. Thor’s human servant Thialfi, swung his axe at the legs of Modduralfi, the most vulnerable part of the clay giant.

MUNDILFARI, offended Odin and his brothers Vili and Ve. Mundilfari had a son so handsome and a daughter of such beauty, he name his son Moon and his daughter Sun. Odin, Vili and Ve, carved the world out of the original frost giant, Ymir, they used sparks and glowing embers from the Sun, Moon and stars, to illuminate it. To guide the real heavenly bodies across the sky, Odin snatched Mundilfari’s son and daughter from Midgard, he then turned them into constellations.

MYESYATS, was the mythological Slavonic Moon deity, beautiful consort of Dazbog and mother by him of the stars. The divine pair remarry every spring, Dazbog leaves Myesyats in the autumn, after the cold winter months pass, Dazbog and Myesyats are reunited.

NERTHUS, was a Germanic goddess, the Roman writer Tacitus described the goddesses cult in the first century Ad. Nerthus was a mother goddess with a sacred grove on Frisian island, she travelled inland regularly choosing the same taking the same route each time. Her image was placed in an ox cart attended by a priest. Peace was expected during these sacred journeys because “all iron was put away.” The goddess always bathed in a particular lake, in honour of Nerthus, all the slaves involved in the ritual were drowned. The ancient Slavs in eastern Europe also practiced sacrifice through drowning.

NIDHOGG, was the dragon in Germanic mythology who lived in one of the three roots of Yggdrasil the cosmic tree. Niflheim was the lowest of the nine worlds, freezing, dark and covered in mist. Nidhogg the dragon lived here, tearing corpses apart and eating them. He regularly sent Ratatosk a squirrel up to the top of Yggdrasil in order to insult an eagle and a hawk, each bird perched comfortably at the top of the cosmic tree. At times when the dragon became tired of eating flesh, he chewed on the root of Yggdrasil.

The destiny of Yggdrasil and Nidhogg was to survive the final catastrophe at Ragnarok, the doom of the gods, and the end of the world. The dragon’s ceaseless feasting on the never ending supply of the dead could be deterred by neither fire nor flood.

NJORD, father of the fertility gods Freyr and Freyja, he was the Germanic sea god who was a member of the Vanir, the divine race. Njord, Freyr and Freyja, came to live with the Aesir in Asgard, when peace was agreed between the two branches of the divine family, the Aesir and the Vanir. this was done as a sign of goodwill. Njord’s sister Nerthus was the mother of Freyr and Freyja, Njord was forbidden to accompany his wife and children to live with the Aesir in Aagard, as they frowned upon marriage between brother and sister.

Njord’s second wife was the frost giantess Skadi, who fell in love with Njord’s beautiful feet, however Njord found the frost giant’s home in Jotunheim, the land of the frost giants, too cold and barren to live. The noise and activity of shipbuilding around Jnord’s hall of Noatun in Asgard, was most unpleasant for the frost giantess. Skadi returned to hunting on the skis, her favourite activity and Njord returned to life at sea. Njord and Skadi had entirely different roles. The god of fertility, provided safe voyages at sea to those who worshipped him, also wealth and good fortune in the form of land and sons.

Skadi the frost giantess came from an area of frozen mountains, where the Sun was masked by heavy clouds and harsh rocks made the ground completely barren. Humankind did not stand a chance in this wild and inhospitable land where nothing could grow or prosper.

THE NORNS, or Nomir, were the Germanic fates, the goddesses of destiny, the original Norn was Urd (“Fate”). The Well of Urd was situated under one of the roots of the cosmic tree Yggdrasil, and it was the site where the gods held their daily assembly. Verdandi (“Present”) and Skuld (“Future”), were the other Norns. The role of the Norns was to decide the destinies of humankind, the giants, dwarfs and the gods. The Anglo-Saxons referred to Urd by the name Wyrd, in England there was a deep belief in the powers of the three sisters, this continued long after the arrival of Christianity.

ODIN, also known as Woden or Wotan, he was the chief god of Germanic mythology, the son of Bor and the grandson of Buri. Odin, the one eyed god, presided over the Einherjar (“Glorious dead”) in Valhalla, the immense hall in the divine fortress of Asgard. Odin inspired his warriors into a state of beserk rage. In this state men feared nothing and felt no pain, the beserkers ran naked into battle biting the edges of their shields in a frenzy. Odin’s name means, “madness”, possession in battle frenzy, “fury”.

In Germanic tradition warfare was important, and Odin was every ready to insight trouble. He once commanded Freyja the fertility goddess, to find two kings to fight with each other, this was done so that on the battlefield their vassals would wade through torrents of blood. In order to be granted many victories, the Danish King Harald was meant to have been instructed in tactics by the god, and granted many victories. Odin took the place of the king’s charioteer, in the final battle, and drove King Harald to his death. When Odin was asked about the lack of luck he replied, “the grey wolf watches the halls of the gods.” The only policy Odin could adopt under the constant threat of Ragnarok, the doom of the gods, was to gather the heroic warriors slain in battle, to Valhalla. For the final battle on the Vigrid Plain, between the gods and the frost giants where nearly all the gods would fall, the Einherjar were needed desperately. The ferocious wolf Fenrir, the hideous offspring of the fire god Loki and Angrboda the frost giantess.

Being the oldest of the gods, Odin son of Bor, was treated by the other gods as their father. Odin was a god of magic and wisdom as well as having authority over the battlefield and the glorious dead. He was the most intelligent god with a love of wisdom so profound that he was willing to sacrifice himself to plumb its depths. Odin cast his eye into Mimir’s well in return for a drink of its “immense wisdom”, he also hung upside down from the cosmic tree, Yggdrasil in order to gain insight. This was a voluntary death that led to resurrection by magic, giving Odin greater wisdom than anyone else. The Vikings viewed hanging as an important part of the worship of Odin and thought of as a shortcut to Valhalla.

Odin had many wives in addition to his wife in Asgard, Frigg, he fathered many children, his sons were Thor, Balder, Hodr, and Vali. Odin’s two birds, his faithful ravens, Huginn “thought”   and Muninn “memory” flew off each day in search of information about the affairs of the nine worlds. Upon their return they “whispered into his ears every scrap of news which they saw or heard tell of”. The cycle of Germanic mythology began with the cosmos awash with the blood of the original frost giant Ymir, when Odin and his brothers Vili and Ve carved the world of men out of the frost giant’s dead body. Odin worried about Ragnarok, the doom of the gods, because of his wisdom and knowledge of events, was aware that the final act was to be a battlefield where the blood of the gods was to gush. Ending in blood just as it began in blood.

Ragnarok began with the death of Odin’s son Balder and there was nothing that Odin could do to prevent this, he comforted himself with the knowledge that his resurrected son Balder would be worshipped in his place, in a new land that was to rise from the sea, heralding a new age.

OTTAR, was a distant descendant of Sigurd the hero, and the human lover of Freyja, the Germanic fertility goddess. Ottar offered the goddess grand sacrifices in order to gain her attention, he used a bloody offering to build a stone altar, and turned it into glass with the constant heat of the fire he used. To enable the goddess to keep Ottar with her in Asgard, the home of the gods, Freyja turned him into a boar. She also used the disguised Ottar as a mount, Ottar was a pleasing lover to Freyja, and leader of a warrior band. It is thought that Ottar is related to the berserkers, the maniacal warriors who rushed naked into battle in a frenzy, feeling neither fear nor pain. Over land and sea the berserkers left a bloody trail of terror.

OTTER, in Germanic mythology was the son of Hreidmar, the magician/farmer, Otter, who had taken the shape of an Otter, was mistakenly killed by the fire god Loki. In compensation, Otter’s father Hreidmar demanded enough gold to cover Otter’s flayed skin inside and out. Loki stole the hoard of gold belonging to the dwarf Andvari, and insisted on Andvari also given him a ring he attempted to conceal. Andvari placed a curse upon the ring and the gold, saying that the owner of the stolen treasure would also be destroyed by it. Loki then returned to the farmer with the ring upon his finger and enough gold to cover Otter inside and out except for one whisker, compelling Loki to hand over the ring to the farmer, thus Hreidmar had the curse passed to him. Hreidmar was destined to be killed by his second son, Fafnir, who coveted the gold and inherited the curse.

PATOLLO, was the Baltic war god, depicted as an old man with a long green beard and deathly pallor and wearing a turban. The skulls of a man, horse and cow, were his sacred objects. The chief god of the Baltic region not only bestowed good fortune, but when he desired the taste of human blood, took it away. Patollo was associated with the dead and was identified with the Devil, by the Christian missionaries.

PERKUNO, meaning (“striker”) was the Baltic thunder god, in Lithuania he was known as Perkunas, in Latvia Perkons or Perkonis. Perkuno was the European god of the storm, depicted as an angry looking, middle aged man with a curly black beard and had a fiery face. As part of Pekuno’s worship, an order of priests maintained a perpetual fire. The three main gods of Baltic mythology worshipped were, Patollo, Perkuno and Potrimpo. The young, beardless god Potrimpo, was the Baltic equivalent to the Germanic god Freyr. Grim Patollo was the Baltic equivalent to Odin, the chief of the gods in Germanic mythology. The quick tempered Perkuno, was the Baltic equivalent to the Germanic thunder god Thor. Perkuno had a love affair with Saule the Sun goddess, their love child was the Morning Star. Angry and humiliated by Saule,  Menu the Moon god avoided the Sun goddess by refusing to show himself at the same time as the Sun goddess. Menu was visible at night only, while the Sun goddess happily showed herself to all during the day.

PERUNU, the Slavic thunder god, was known as Pyerun in Russia, Piorun in Poland and on some occasions he was Perun. He was the chief god and a creator god. Until the tenth century, he had a temple of some note at Kiev in Russia. Vladimir, the ruler of Kiev, who was later raised to sainthood, ended the supremacy of Perunu. Vladimir lived the life of a Slavic prince, surrounding himself with many wives and mistresses until he “tired of the desire for women.” Seeking a new way of life, Vladimir sent out ambassadors to witness the religious ceremonies of the Catholic and Orthodox churches, the Jewish people and the Moslems. He then decided upon the Byzantine form of Christianity, and from this point on shared the same form of Christian worship as the Greeks. Perunu’s workshops were involved with rain making ceremonies that involved a naked, chaste girl covered in flowers, who danced in a magic circle.

According to the secretary to the Greek general, Belisarius in the sixth century, the Slavs, above all, worshipped the god of lightening, offering sacrifices of animals to him. Russian folklore offers many stories of Perunu’s skill with thunderbolts, supernatural deeds and dragon slaying.

POTRIMPO, the Baltic god of fertility and depicted beardless, crowned with ears of grain and full of joy. He was considered the equivalent of the Germanic fertility god Freyr, he was also associated with rivers.

RAGNAROK, the doom of the Germanic gods. After a dreadful three year winter, it was foretold a final battle between the frost giants and the gods would be fought upon the Vigrid Plain. Fighting  on the side of Odin were the gods, along with the “glorious dead” who had fought in battle and were taken to live in Valhalla. Fighting on the side of the fire god Loki and the frost giants were the “unworthy dead” from Hel (The Germanic Netherworld), also the sea monster Jormungand, and the diabolical wolf Fenrir. Odin the chief god, had the foreknowledge of the looming catastrophe, he also knew that the battle at Ragnarok would not be the end of the cosmos. After Odin had been killed by the wolf Fenrir, Thor killed by Jormungand, and most of the other gods had died during the catastrophic encounter with the frost giants, led by Loki. It was fated that a new world was destined to “rise again out of the water, fair and green.”

Lif and Lifthasir two humans, sheltered in the cosmic tree, Yggdrasil, before the battle and emerged safely after the devastation. The gods to survive were Odin’s sons, Vidar and Vali, along with his brother Honir. Balder who came back from the dead and Thor’s sons Modi and Magni, they also inherited Thor’s magic hammer.

REGIN, and his brother Fafnir killed their father, the magician Hreidmar, while under the spell of a cursed ring, Andvarinaut, making them covet their father’s gold. To protect the gold Fafnir turned into a dragon. Regin became a smith and tutored Sigurd the young hero, in the Danish royal household. Regin persuaded Sigurd into killing Fafnir, which he did, Fafnir then planned to murder Sigurd. The insightful Sigurd was warned by the god’s of Fafnir’s plot, and was able to kill Regin before the attempt on his life.

RIG, was the name taken by Heimdall, the Germanic god, at the time he created the three categories of men. They were, the slave/thrall, the free peasant/karl, and the noble chieftan/jarl. Heimdall was the watchmen of the gods who scanned the horizon in readiness for the final attack from the frost giants, at Ragnarok, the doom of the gods. Rig, or “king” once requested hospitality from an old couple, Al and Edda (“great grandfather” and “great grandmother”) after telling them he was a lone traveller. They were most gracious, sharing their  food and a bed to share, sleeping between them for three nights offering them wise guidance. Thrall a son, was born to Edda nine months later, he was ugly, had black hair, rough skin, hands with thick stubby fingers, short square nails, enlarged knuckles, overly long heels and a bent back. His one redeeming quality was his strength. Thrall eventually married a drudge with crooked legs, his wife was as unpleasant to look at and as ungainly as he was, her feet were dirty, she had a huge nose and skin burned by the Sun. They produced three boys, Noisy, Roughneck and Horsefly, and three girls, Lazybones, Fatty and Beanpole. The thralls descended from this strange family, fated to become the enslaved labourers of the oppressed class. Thrall, Eddar’s son epitomised the ill-fated thralls, carrying the burden of generations of hard labour.

The second house visited by Rig, he met a hardworking couple named Afi and Amma (“grandfather and grandmother”), they were well dressed spinners and weavers. They worked in perfect harmony with Afi preparing the loom, and Amma spinning the thread. On this occasion, Rig also shared their food, offered the couple guidance, and shared their bed for three nights, just as he had with Afi and Amma. Amma bore a happy, healthy son with beautiful eyes, and named him Karl, the wife Karl took was named Snor (“daughter in law”), Karl and Snor had six children, three boys, Strongbeard, Husbandman and Smith, and three girls named, Prettyface, Maiden and Capable, they were an independent, freedom loving family who ran farms.

The third couple Rig visited lived in an equisite hall, it belonged to a couple named Fadir and Modir (“father and mother”). They were perfectly suited, the vain Modir would attend to her clothes and her looks, while Fadir fastidiously maintained his bow and arrows. Rig enjoyed a sumptuous meal and fine wine with his gracious hosts, when it was time to retire, Rig slept in between his wealthy hosts. He offered them wise counsel and stayed for three nights. Modir bore a very handsome, fair haired son nine months later, an eye as piercing as a serpents, and beautiful rosy cheeks, he glowed with good health. He was named Jarl, he grew into a strong and accomplished man, an expert swimmer and hunter, spectacularly adept with bow, spear, sword and shield.

Rig returned one day and greeted him telling him he was his special son, Rig shared his wisdom and knowledge with Jarl and told him how to claim lands that were his. Jarl honoured his father the god, and was obedient to him, by riding through the world, fighting and slaying, seizing valuable goods. His free followers were the beneficiaries of the treasure generously distributed them amongst them. He married a beautiful and wise, noble woman, Erna (“lively”), they produced twelve sons. One son studied magic, he learned so well he was able to used magic to prevent forest fires, control storms, he also had the ability to heal the sick. Jarl surpassed Rig in wisdom and understanding, almost becoming a god himself, he was able to combine the roles of king and priest. Rig’s myth gives some insight into the structure of Viking society.

RIND, was the daughter of King Billing, in Germanic mythology, she was also the mistress of Odin, he donned various guises in his pursuit of Rind. The lovers produced a son, Vali, who was destined to avenge the death of Balder.

ROSKVA, a farmer’s daughter who became a servant of Thor, the Germanic thunder god. Thor sought food and shelter at her father’s house, they were too poor to provide meat for the god. Thor offered the family his own goats, providing there were no bones broken. By accident Roskova’s brother Thialfi broke one of the thigh bones, when Thor resurrected the goats the one with the broken bone had a limp. The only way the anger of the fiery god could be quelled, was for Roskva and Thialfi, to promise service to Thor and everafter travel with him.

THE RUSALKI, were water nymphs, they are found in Slavonic and Russian mythology, they were the spirits of drowned girls. During the winter months the nymphs took on different forms in different regions, while living in the great rivers of eastern Europe. They were seen as beautiful sirens in the Rivers Dnieper and Danube, located in south eastern Europe. There these exquisite creatures, attempted to lure hapless passersby into the water with their magical song. In the northern regions the water nymphs were the polar opposites to their siren’s guise. The nymphs were considered malevolent, unattractive and unkempt, water creatures who grabbed unsuspecting travellers from the river banks. The travellers would then be drowned by the creatures as they dragged them down into the depths of the river.

SAULE, was the Baltic Sun goddess and mistress of the thunder god Perkuno, worshipped by Lithuanians, Prussians and Letts, before they converted to Christianity. She was worshipped in the form of taking care of a non-poisonous green snake. Every house kept one, they were kept under the bed, in a corner, under the table. Kindness to the snake ensured Saule’s benevolence and a household’s wealth and fertility. It was considered sacrilege if a snake was killed, the Sun goddess was reduced to tears by the sight of one. The Lithuanians converted to Christianity in the fifteenth century, they were the last people to be Christianized on the continent, and the peasants continued to revere green snakes. If one was seen in the countryside it foretold that there was to be a marriage or a birth. Saule was depicted as a benign goddess who poured golden light from a jug, the precious liquid given generously to the world and was seen as the basis of life itself. After a freezing, north eastern European winter, after the unrelenting cold the warmth was welcome and necessary. The Greek Discouri, were the divine twins Castor and Polydeuces. The equivalent were the unnamed Baltic twins, who built a barn in which the goddess may rest, after they had rescued Saule from the sea.

SIF, was the wife of the Germanic thunder god Thor, and from her previous marriage, mother of Uu, god of archery and skiing. Her myth tells of the malicious trickster god Loki, somehow managing to cut off her beautiful, long golden hair one night. When Thor awakened the following morning and saw the distress of his beautiful wife, he was livid. In Loki’s eye’s this incident was a joke, Thor demanded Loki do something. Loki promised to get the dwarfs to weave a wig to replace Sif’s golden locks. As requested by Loki, the sons of Ivaldi made a wig from spun gold, the completed wig was magnificent. So real it grew on Sif’s head like magic, and so light it took but a breath of air to move its skeins. The sons of Ivaldi used the remaining heat in their furnace to build a collapsible ship named Skidbladnir for the fertility god Freyr, and for Odin a spear called Gungnir. By doing this they thought they would make the gods even more indebted to them.

Loki met the dwarf brothers Brokk and Eiti, as he crossed the underground caverns, while on his way back to Asgard, the stronghold of the gods. So jealous were the brothers when the fire god told them about the magic wig, the ship Skidbladnir and the magic spear, Gungnir. Loki had no difficulty persuade the brothers to make something better, staking his own head on their inability to exceed the excellence of the sons of Ivaldi. Inspired by their jealousy Brokk and Eiti, produced the scourge of the frost giants, the magic hammer, Mjollnir. Loki and Brokk brought treasures that pleased the gods, and in return, Brokk demanded Loki’s head. The gods however, would agree to Brokk sewing up Loki’s lips with a thong, he was able to do this when Thor captured the fleeing Loki and forcibly brought him home. From this moment on Loki plotted his revenge.

SIGNY, was the daughter in Germanic mythology, of a descendent of Odin, Volsung. Signy was forced to marry the Gothing king Siggeir. Signy’s ten brothers and her father, would not listen to her dire warning about Siggeir’s plot against them. After being ambushed in the forest, they were bound to a fallen tree. Each night a wolf came and devoured one of the men until nine brothers and her father were gone, leaving only Sigmund, Signy’s youngest brother alive. To save her brother, Signy devised a plan for one of her servants to spread honey on Sigmund’s face, so that the wolf would lick him instead of biting him. As the beast was licking the honey off Sigmund’s face, he overcame the wolf by catching its tongue in his teeth. Signy pledged to help Sigmund plot revenge, she slept with him in disguise and bore him a son, named Sinfiotli. When he grew to manhood, Signy placed him in Sigmund’s care, unfortunately the devious Siggeir captured them. A magic sword then freed them and killed Siggeir and his sons, Signy chose to die in the burning Gothic palace. Sigmund had the truth revealed to him about Sinfiotli’s parentage, it was told to him by Signy before she died.

SIGURD, in German he was known as Siegfried, he was a hero equivalent to the Celtic King Arthur, Sigurd was a northern Germanic hero. The foster son of the smith Regin, at the court of King Hjalprek in Jutland, his foster father sent him to recover a magnificent hoard of gold. Hreidmar the magician farmer, and father of Regin, was the first to acquire the gold which had been stolen by Loki, the fire god, from the dwarf Andvari. Unaware that Andvari had placed a curse on the gold and on a ring stolen with it, Regin and Fafnir his brother, killed their father Hreidmar. Fafnir then turned into a dragon so he could guard the precious treasure, Regin  sent Sigurd to retrieve the gold for him, Sigurd overcome Fafnir the monster, slaying him with his knife. Sigurd inherited Fafnir’s understanding of the language of birds along with the treasure. Upon realising Regin’s plan to slay him, Sigurd killed him first, retaining the cursed treasure.

SIGYN, in Germanic mythology, as Sigunn or Sigryn, was the devoted wife of the fire god Loki, mother of his sons, Narvi and Vali. The gods bound Loki in a cave once they realised they had let the growth of evil take place in their midst. After taking three slabs of rock and standing them on end, then boring a hole through each of them. The gods used the entrails of Loki’s son Narvi as a rope which they used to bind Loki to the stones. The entrails became as hard as stone once the gods had tied the last knot. The frost giantess Skadi, Njord’s wife, fastened a snake above Loki’s head to ensure added discomfort, Loki was to remain there until Ragnarok, the doom of the gods. Loki’s faithful wife Sigyn tried of offer the god comfort, by holding a wooden bowl under the snake to catch the dripping venom. Each time she walked away to empty the bowl, some of the poison fell on Loki’s head, causing violent twitching. The Vikings believed that earthquakes were the result of the god’s violent movements whenever he twitched.

SKADI, or Skade (“destruction”) in northern Germanic mythology, was the wife of the sea god Njord and daughter of the frost giantess Thiassi. Njord was killed by the gods after he stole the apples of youth from the guardian, Idun. Armed and fearless, Skadi went to the stronghold of the gods in order to ask for compensation for the death of her father, gold was offered, this she refused. Instead Skadi demanded a husband and a bellyful of laughter, the gods agreed to this on one condition, she could choose her husband by his feet only. She chose the feet she found the most beautiful and picked Njord, Loki provided the laughter by tying his testicles to a goat. Neither Skadi nor Njord, found the condition of each other’s home livable, and decided to live apart. After meeting Skadi’s demands, Odin took Thiassi’s eyes from his cloak and threw them into the sky to become stars. He said, “Thiassi will look down on all of us for as long as the world lasts.” Skadi remained on good terms with the gods and was the one to enter the cave in which the gods imprisoned the meddlesome fire god Loki, there she placed the venomous snake above his head as part of his punishment.

SKIRNIR (“Shining”) was a loyal servant of the Germanic god of fertility, Freyr, when Freyr wished to marry the frost giantess, Gerder, Skirnir was promised Freyr’s horse and sword and sent to the land of the frost giants, Jotunheim. Upon reaching Jotunheim, Skirnir found that he had difficulty persuading the frost giantess to accept the gods marriage proposal, the magic apples of youth, that kept the gods young did not tempt her. Odin’s arm rings were of no interest to her, when Skirnir threatened to behead her she was fearless. She did however have some fear of magic, and when Skirnir began to recite a powerful spell that was more like a curse, she was terrified. The spell would transform the beautiful frost giantess into a loveless outcast, with neither joy nor passion in her life, she would be condemned to be a companion of the “unworthy dead.” This was enough of a threat for the panic stricken giantess to agree to a meeting with Freyr, the god made good his promise to Skirnir, giving him his horse and Sword. In his role as messenger Skirnir visited the dwarfs on behalf of Odin. To enable Odin to restrain the monstrous wolf Fenrir, Skirnir ordered a magical fetter, the only rope that would be strong enough to bind the wolf, to be made by the dwarfs. Skirnir completed this task successfully.

SKOLL, was a wolf in Germanic mythology that pursued the Sun as she flew across the sky. Skoll was fated to seize the Sun between his jaws and swallow her at Ragnarok, the doom of the gods. The moment before this took place the Sun was to give birth to a daughter just as beautiful as her. The new earth risen from the sea “fresh and green”, after the catastrophe, would be illuminated by the new Sun. The Moon was chased by another wolf named Hati, bothe creatures were the sons of a giantess who lived in the Iron Wood. In the myths of northern parts of Europe and Asia, ravenous dogs often threatened and pursued the heavenly bodies. During a lunar eclipse Chinese families still bang cooking utensils to frighten “the dog of heaven.”

SKRYMIR (“Vast”) in Germanic mythology was an exceptionally large frost giant. He was so large that Thor, Loki and their servants Thialfi and Roskva, inadvertently slept in the thumb of the frost giants empty glove, thinking it was a large empty hall. They were journeying through the land of giants on their way to Utgard when this incident took place. Realising what had happened, Thor began to hammer the skull of Skrymir while he slept, the frost giant awoke thinking a leaf or acorn had dropped on his brow during the night. Thor, Loki and Thialfi, failed at a series of games devised by the leader of the frost giants, and the thunder god admitted on leaving Asgard that he had come off second best. The leader of the frost giants revealed that he had used spells in order to win. Thor later realised that Skrymir was no more than an illusion. An illusion magically created by the fearful frost giants in order to prevent the gods and their servants from reaching the giants citadel, Utgard.

SLEIPNIR (“Glider”) was the fabulous eight legged horse ridden by the chief of the Germanic gods, Odin. Sleipnir was a unique creature born from the union of a stallion of  strength, and the fire god Loki who transformed himself into a mare with the use of his shape shifting magic. Sleipnir was the magic horse that carried the god Odin into battle, this wonderous creature had the ability to travel over sea and through the air, and in a race he would beat any other horse.

SURT (“Black”), in Germanic mythology, was a fire giant, fated to carry his flaming blade and set the cosmos alight at Ragnarok, the doom of the gods. He was identified with the trickster fire god Loki. At Ragnarok Surt would be the one to rise from the land of flame, Muspell, to then fling fire in all directions. As the nine worlds blazed out of control, the catastrophe was to reduce everything in its wake to ashes, the gods, frost giants, the dead, the living, dwarfs, elves, fairies, monsters. The earth would then sink into the sea to then rise again, transformed, healed, green and fresh.

SVANTOVIT, known as Svantevit, was the war god of the Slavic people of central Europe. In 1169, King Valdemar of Denmark, along with Absalon his Christian adviser, destroyed Svantovit’s temple at Arcona on the Baltic island of Rugen. Svantovit was worshipped as a supreme deity and thought of as father to other gods, within his temple was a four headed statue of the god thirty feet high. The Slavic pantheon featured multiple heads. In the Christian era, before the temple was destroyed by the Danish. Svantovit worshippers at Arcona believed that the god rode out at night against those who denied his divinity, seated upon a sacred white horse. In the morning the horse would be found to be covered in sweat. Before great undertakings, human sacrifices were made to Svantovit, these were an accepted custom throughout the Germanic and Slavic people. Omens for success in war were read from the behaviour of the sacred horse.

SVARAZIC, Svarozic or Svarogich (“hot” or “torrid”), was the Slavic fire god, and god of the fire that dried grain, the son of Svaroz, or Svarog (identified with the Greek smith god Hephaistos), brother of Dazhbog. Svarazic was depicted wearing a helmet, carrying a sword, and on his breast there was a black bison’s head. Human sacrifices were made to the fire god, before his capture in 1066, this continued after his capture with the sacrifice of the German bishop of Mecklenburg.

TANNGNOST (“Tooth-gnasher”), in Germanic mythology, was the name of one of the two billy goats which pulled Thor’s chariot, Tanngrisnir (“Tooth-grinder”) was the other. People on earth heard the sound of thunder when Thor’s chariot rumbled. An endless supply of meat was supplied by Thor’s goats, providing that after cooking the bones remained intact. Thor’s goats were like the magic boar of Valhalla, the boar could be eaten one day and reappear alive the next. To resurrect his goats, Thor waved his magic hammer over the skin and bones of his precious animals.

TAPIO, was the Finnish forest god who ensured that the woodland game remained in plentiful supply, this he did along with his wife Meilikki and his son Nyrikki. Tapio had a particularly deadly sense of humour, he enjoyed tickling or smothering people to death. Tuulikki the god’s daughter was a spirit of the wind. Tapio is portrayed wearing a cloak of moss and a crown of fire.

THIALFI and Roskva his sister were the children of a farmer, and servants of Thor the Germanic god of thunder. The brother and sister met Thor when he and Loki were travelling through Midgard, on their way to Utgard, the stronghold of the frost giants, the gods stopped at the farmhouse of the siblings to share a meal with them. They welcomed Thor and Loki into their home but did not have any meat to share with them. They gladly accepted Thor’s generous offer of using his goats for the meal with the provision that all the bones remain intact. Due to the fact he had not had a hearty meal for so long, in a moment of weakness, Thialfi ignored Thor’s instruction and split a thigh bone to get at the marrow. Using his magic hammer the following morning to restore his goats, Thor found that one of them had a limp. The enraged god terrified Thialfi and Roskva with his anger as he threatened destruction of their farm and demanded they compensate him in some way. Thor’s anger could not be quelled until the promised service of Thialfi and Roskva. Thialfi assisted Thor after his battle with a frost giant. Standing alongside Hrungnir, the strongest of the frost giants was an enormous clay giant named Mist Calf. Created by the frost giants in order to strike fear into the heart of Thor before battle. After Thor slew Hrungnir, loyal Thialfi reinforced his loyalty towards the god by attacking the legs of Mist Calf, the weakest part of the giant with an axe, toppling him.

THIASSI, or Thiazi, had a daughter the frost giantess Skadi (“destruction”) and was the frost giant in Germanic mythology who stole the apples of youth from the goddess Idun, this took place due to the mischief making antics of the fire god Loki. Disguised as an eagle the frost giant Thiassi captured Loki, and to secure his release from the frost giant, the fire god promised to deliver Idun and her magic apples into the hands of Thiassi. Without the magic apples the effect on the gods was devastating, they began to suffer the ravages of age in the same way mortals do. Becoming old, stooped, and experiencing decreased mental capacity. Odin was the only god with enough mental and physical capacity to find Loki and force him to rescue the goddess and her magic apples. He forced Loki to become a falcon and fly to Thiassi’s hall to then bring back Idun and her magic apples. Not trusting Loki, Thiassi again transformed himself into an eagle and flew after the fire god, almost catching up with him. As Thiassi was  flying over Asgard, he was burned as his wings caught alight as he flew too close to the fires the gods had put on top of the high walls of the stronghold. He plummeted to the ground as he burned to death.

Skadi visited Asgard and asked for compensation for the death of her father Thiassi, the gods agreed and allowed Skadi to choose a husband by looking at his feet only, the frost giantess fell in love with Njord’s feet. The conditions in each other’s homes were not suitable to the married couple and they made the decision to live apart. After the god’s had compensated Skadi for the death of her father, Odin took Thiassi’s eyes and threw them into the sky where they became stars. Odin said, “Thiassi will look down on all of us for as long as the world lasts.”

THOKK, was the frost giantess of Germanic myth. After the death of the hero Balder, Odin Balder’s father asked Hel, the queen of the “unworthy dead” if she would return him. She agreed, saying as long as “everything in the nine worlds, dead and alive, weeps for him.” Messengers were sent out by Balder’s parents, the goddess Frigg and the god Odin, requesting everything to weep for Balder. The only one who would not agree was the frost giantess Thokk who said that she had no use for Balder, then said “Let Hel keep what she Holds.” In their distress over the death of Balder, it took some time for the gods to realise that the frost giantess Thokk, was actually the trickster fire god Loki, in disguise. And for the second time, with his malicious behaviour, condemning Balder.

THOR, (“hammer”) the Germanic thunder god, son of the chief god Odin and the goddess of earth Fjorgyn. Thor had three magic weapons, a hammer, iron gauntlets and a belt. His magic hammer Mjollnir (“thunderbolt”), made by two dwarfs, the sons of Ivaldi, always hit its target, it had a huge head and short handle. His Iron gauntlets were used to handle the red hot hammer shaft, and his belt increased his strength. The fifth day, Thursday, was named after Thor when the Anglo Saxons adopted the Roman calendar. Thor was exceptionally strong and very large and imbued with an abundance of energy, his huge appetite allowing him to eat a whole ox at one sitting. Thor relished and sought, opportunities to test his strength in contest. Tooth-gringer and Tooth-gnasher, were the two goats who drew Thor’s magnificent chariot across the sky.

Thor was the mightiest of the Germanic gods and protected them against the frost giants, he was fated to be killed at Ragnarok, the doom of the gods, by the poisonous venom of the sea monster Jormungand, Loki’s son.

Thor’s constant companion was the mischievous fire god, Loki, whom he shared many adventures and misadventures, as time and again Loki led his trusting friend into danger. While in the shape of a hawk, Loki was captured by the frost giant Geirrod, and could only secure his freedom by promising to deliver an unarmed Thor to the frost giant. Thor was unconcerned when, without his magic hammer, iron gauntlets or belt, he accompanied his friend Loki to Geirrod’s hall. When the gods reached the edge of Jotunheim, the land of the frost giants, a friendly frost giantess Grid, invited Thor and Loki to spend the night. Grid warned Thor about Geirrod’s plan to avenge the death of Hrungnir, the strongest of the frost giant’s, who Thor had killed in a duel. In order for Thor to protect himself from the angry frost giant, Grid lent the god her magic weapons, her unbreakable staff, iron gloves, along with her belt of strength.

In order to cross a torrent of water and blood, as the gods neared the frost giant’s hall, the thunder god hurled a stone to block the source of the flow. The stone struck Geirrod’s daughter Gjap, her menstrual blood caused the river to swell. Thor misstepped and the two gods were swept away, Loki clung to the magic belt belonging to Grid, that Thor was wearing. As Thor and Loki were swept along, the thunder god grabbed the branch of an overhanging tree enabling him to pull himself and Loki up onto the opposite bank.

When Thor and Loki arrived at Geirrod’s hall, they were begrudgingly received by the servants of the frost giant. The giant was not there so Thor sat down in a chair to wait for Geirrod to return, he fell asleep and began dreaming he was floating in the air. As the god opened his eyes he could see his head was about to be smashed into the ceiling. Using Grid’s magic staff Thor was able to push against the ceiling and bring the chair crashing down onto the heads of the frost giants two daughters, Gjalp and Greip, killing them instantly. Geirrod’s two daughter’s had been holding the chair that Thor was sitting in, thrusting up to the ceiling in order to kill him. When Geirrod returned he threw a red hot iron ball at Thor, the god caught it in the iron gloves that the frost giantess Grid had loaned him. Thor threw the red hot ball back at Geirrod, it passed through an iron pillar then tore a hole in the frost giant’s belly. Thor then killed the giant’s servants.

The reason the powerful frost giant Hrungnir and Thor fought in single combat was due to Hrungnir challenging the god of thunder to a horse race. Hrungnir, as a guest of the god’s at their stronghold Asgard, insulted the gods when he became drunk and challenged Thor to a duel. The frost giants created an enormous clay giant named Mist Calf, in order for the clay giant to stand next to the frost giant Hrungnir when he faced Thor and strike fear into Thor’s heart. Mist Calf was animated with the heart of a dead mare. On the day of the duel as Thor came towards him, Hrungnir held his whetstone high above his head ready to launch it at the god. As Hrungnir hurled his whetstone, Thor threw his magic hammer, the hammer smashed the whetstone into pieces and it fell upon Hungnir’s head killing him, some of the fragments of the stone lodged in Thor’s skull. As the frost giant fell to his death he landed on Thor, pinning him to the ground with one of his legs. The god’s loyal charioteer, with one blow of his axe, toppled the clay giant by swinging his axe at the giant’s legs, Mist Calf’s vulnerability. The gods were unable to free Thor, it was his exceptionally strong three year old frost giant son Magni, son of the frost giantess Jarnaxa, a mistress of Thor. Magni told his father that he could have dealt with the strongest of the frost giants with his bare fists. So pleased was Thor with his son’s exceptional strength, he rewarded him with Golden Mane, the dead frost giant’s horse. The angry Odin said to Thor “You should not give a horse to the son of a giantess instead of your own father.”

Another incident with the frost giants took place when on their way to Utgard, the stronghold of the frost giants, Thor and Loki passed through the land of people, Midgard. The thunder god and Loki had dinner at the home of a farmer and his family. The two precious goats who pulled Thor’s chariot across the sky, were offered to the family as they had no meat for the meal. Thor told the family they must be especially careful not to damage any of the bones so that he would be able to resurrect the goats afterwards. A sumptuous meal was made using the goat meat, the very hungry Thialfi completely disregarded Thor’s warning and broke the thigh bone of one of the god’s goats, in order to get to the marrow, tossing the bone into the corner where it landed on top of the goat skins. The following morning Thor brought the goats back to life using his magic hammer, he then noticed that one of the goats had a limp and his fury erupted. Thialfi and Roskva offered themselves as servants to the livid god as compensation, thus preventing him from slaying the household.

As the thunder god and his servants neared the frost giants stronghold, Utgard, they came upon what they thought was a large hall, so big in fact it could easily contain several of the halls in the home of the god’s, Asgard.  Thor, Loki, Thialfi and Roskva slept in the hall which turned out to be the thumb of a frost giants empty glove. It was the glove of the enormous frost giant Skrymir (“Vast”), when Thor realised what had happed he began to hammer the skull of Skrymir while the giant slept, the frost giant awoke thinking a leaf or acorn had dropped on his brow during the night. The travellers were amazed at the size of the stronghold’s dimension upon their arrival at Asgard, an unimpressed Thor said that size was of no importance “the bigger they are the heavier they fall.” Huge frost giants looked down at their guests, the leader of the frost giants first ignored them, he then acknowledge “little” Thor. A series of games were then devised by the leader of the frost giants, for Thor, Loki and Thialfi to take part in, neither the gods nor the servant faired well. The first event was an eating contest which the god Loki lost. Thialfi took part in the second event, a foot race in which he was easily outpaced. In the following events, Thor lost a drinking contest, was able to only lift one paw of a cat, and much to the thunder god’s embarrassment, lost a wrestling match as an old woman wrestled Thor down on to one knee. As Thor and his companions were leaving Asgard, the god admitted they had not shone in the games and had come off second best. Once Thor said this to the leader of the frost giants, the giant revealed to Thor  that unfair advantage had been taken and to ensure their failure he had used spells. He told them that Loki had been pitted against wildfire and Thialfi against his own thought. And that Thor had attempted to swallow the ocean, lift the gigantic sea serpent Jormungand and wrestle with old age. Upon the frost giant’s delivery of this revealing message, Utgard vanished into thin air. Only then did Thor realise that the vast creations, the giant Skrymir and Utgard, the frost giants stronghold, were illusions. And brain winning over brawn was very pleasing to the irrepressible fire god Loki.

Once Thor’s magic hammer Mjollnir fell into the hands of the frost giants, after drawfs had stolen it. As a ransom for the return of the magic hammer, the frost giant Thrym it’s new owner, wanted the hand of the fertility goddess Freyja. Loki devised a clever plan, telling Thor to go to Thrym’s hall dressed in Freyja’s clothes in place of the fertility goddess. Thor  was passed off by his “bridesmaid” Loki as a bride, and the pleased bridegroom to be, Thrym, readily handed over Mjollnir. Thor restored his tarnished reputation as a fearsome god after the humiliation of dressing as a bride, by slaying all the frost giants he could see.

The magic hammer Mjollnir was very important to Thor, the gods sole protection against the frost giants. The hammer had the ability to destroy and to heal, it had magic powers over fertility and death. Before Ragnarok, the doom of the gods, Mjollnir was the thunderbolt that terrified the giants before the battle began. Mjollnir hallowed marriage, which was why Thrym placed it between Thor’s knees when he was disguised as the fertility goddess Freyja. It was also capable of magically resurrecting animals. Mjollnir also had destructive power without limit, used by the thunder god in battle, it was Thor’s destiny to defend the gods against their enemies. Thor was devastated when his longtime friend, the fire god Loki, who  enjoyed the thunder gods friendship also, chose to side with the enemy, the frost giants, in Germanic mythology Thor was considered evil.

THRUD, was the daughter of the thunder god Thor, in Germanic mythology, and his wife Sif, Thrud had been promised to the dwarf Alvis, as payment for work he had done for Thor. Alvin avoided the sunlight as it would turn him to stone. Thor prevented Alvin from marrying Thrud by keeping him talking all night until morning, when the sunlight turned the dwarf into stone.

THRYM, in Germanic mythology, was the frost giant who obtained Thor’s magic hammer, leaving all the god’s vulnerable, as this was the only weapon that was powerful enough to protect them against the frost giants. Thrym agreed to return the hammer in exchange for the hand of Freyja, the fertility goddess. In or to recover his hammer and to save Freyja, Loki the fire god Loki suggested Thor dress as Freyja, and so disguised, go to the frost giant’s stronghold in bridal attire. Loki accompanied Thor disguised as a bridesmaid and Thrym happy to receive his bride Freyja, placed the hammer on her knee. Thor picked his hammer Mjollnir, and every giant in his sight was slayed.

TRIGLAV, was a three headed dragon who lived in Poland central Europe. Ten percent of war booty was paid to the god at the end of a campaign, and with his spoils of war, Triglav maintained four separate temples. For Triglav’s use, a  black horse was housed at Stettin, the gods most prestigious temple, in present day Poland. Triglav’s statues were broken and their multiple heads sent to the pope in Rome, where they were kept as curiosities. The destruction of Triglav’s treasures took place after the arrival of Christianity in the twelfth century.

TUONI, was the Finnish god of the dead, he lived in Tuonela which was known as the dark land from which very few travellers ever return. The children born to Tuoni and his wife Tuonetar, were all deities of suffering, Kipu-Tytto was the goddess of illness. The hero Vainamoinen, was one of the few escapees from Tuonela. He defied the odds by crossing the river that bordered Tuonela, there he was greeted by Tuonetar who graciously offered him beer to drink. While Vainamoinen slept, Tuonetar’s son created an iron mesh which he placed across the river in order to stop Vainamoinen returning that way, and trapping him forever. Vainamoinen had the ability to shape shift, and upon waking he was able to swim through the net easily after changing himself into an otter.

TYR, also known as Tiv and Tiwaz was the Germanic god of war, son of Odin and Frigg his wife. He was called Tiw was the Anglo Saxons and his name was given to the second day of the week Tuesday ( which in old English was, Tiwesdaeg). Like Odin Tyr received sacrifices of hanged men. It is thought that the powers of this early sky god, were passed on to Thor and Odin at some point. And that Odin’s magic spear, Gungnir, had once belonged to Tyr. The custom was for Vikings to cast a spear over the heads of their enemy before a battle. Spears dedicated to Tyr have been unearthed by archaeologists.

Tyr was the god who had his hand bitten off by the wolf Fenrir. To restrain this fearful beast the gods needed to have a special chain made by the dwarfs. The dwarf’s produced the magic fetter Gleipnir, they used strange materials such as bird’s spittle and the roots of a mountain. As a pledge to Fenrir that the magic chain would do him no harm, one of the gods had to put his hand into the wolf’s mouth as a gesture of goodwill. Tyr was the chosen god and when he put his hand in Fenrir’s mouth, the angry wolf found he was unable to break the chain and bit the god’s hand off. The other gods only response to this was to laugh at the god as he cried out in agony. With only one hand, Tyr was still able to fight at Ragnarok, the doom of the gods, and fight to the death as he battled with Garm, the hound who stood at the gates of Hell as watchdog to the land of the dead. Garm leap at Tyr’s throat and they killed each other just as they were destined to do.

URD, or Wyrd (meaning “Fate” or “Past”), was one of three sisters were the Germanic fates, known as the Norns. Urd’s two sisters were, Verdandi (“Being” or “Present”), and Skuld (“Necessity” or “Future”). Urd gave her name to the well situated under one of the roots of the cosmic tree, Yggdrasil, the daily meeting of the gods would always be held here. Odin, the chief of the Germanic gods was warned by Urd, that at Ragnarok, the doom of the gods, he was fated to be killed by the monstrous wolf Fenrir.

UTGARD, (“Outer Place”) in Germanic mythology, was the stronghold of the frost giants, in Jotunheim. When they visited Utgard, Thor, Thialfi his servant, and Loki, had to take part in a series of games created by the frost giants, the three visitors did not win any of the contests. Loki was unable to consume more food than wildfire. Thialfi was pitted as a runner against thought and could not keep up. Thor was unable to swallow the ocean, pick up Jormungand the sea serpent or wrestle with old age. After Thor and his companions left Utgard, Thor admitted they had come off second best, once the god had spoken the leader of the frost giants revealed that he had used spells to outwit them. Utgard then vanished and Thor realised that it was an illusion created by the fearful frost giants.

VAFTHRUDNIR, in Germanic mythology, was a wise frost giant believed to have gained his wisdom by consulting with the dead. The god Odin hanged himself for nine nights from the cosmic tree, Yggdrasil, in order to gain wisdom. Like Odin, Vafthrudnir temporarily died. Thor journeyed to Vafthrudnir’s land in disguise, in order to test his knowledge against the giants. Once there Thor challenged the frost giant to a knowledge test of the past, present and the future. Both contestants performed admirably until Thor defeated Vafthrudnir by asking an unanswerable question. Vafthrudnir was asked what Thor whispered to his dead son Balder, before lighting the funeral pyre on which he lay. Having knowledge of the future, Thor was able to reassure his son that after Ragnarok, the doom of the gods, there would be resurrection and worship on the new earth, “risen out of the water, fresh and green.”

VAINAMOINEN, a hero of Finnish myth and son of a primal goddess, Luonnotar. Depicted always as a sensitive and vigorous old man who spent thirty years in his mother’s womb, and from birth possessed the wisdom of the ages. Vainamoinen was the champion of the Kalevala (“the fatherland of heroes”), and was naturally gifted with extraordinary magical powers. His love life was not as straightforward as his natural gifts of magic and wisdom. Among the women of Pohja he was promised one of Louhi’s daughters provided he made the magic talisman, the Sampo. Vainamoinen gave the task to his friend Ilmarinen and Louhi’s daughter was married to Ilmarinen, instead of the wise Vainamoinen. The bride was tragically killed and the talisman stolen, Vainamoinen, Ilmarinen and Leminkainen, joined forces to find the Sampo. They embarked upon many adventures in their quest, eventually recovering the magic talisman. Louhi raised a great storm in the form of a Griffin, which descended onto their ship. Vainamoinen saved them all but during the storm the Sampo was lost. Vainamoinen gathered all the scattered pieces of the talisman after they had passed, and he was able to restore some of the magic power to the Sampo. Having succeeded in his mission to retrieve the magic talisman, Vainamoinen embarked on a never ending voyage after building himself a beautiful ship.

VALHALLA, or Valholl, in Germanic mythology, was the hall of the Einherjar (“the heroic dead”), these were the warriors chosen by Odin as his followers, after they had been slain on the battlefield. Valhalla was enormous, Odin had built it in Asgard, it boasted five hundred doors, each so wide eight hundred men abreast were able to march through. The doors were designed to allow the chosen warriors to move through at the first sign of Ragnarok, the doom of the gods. And in a catastrophic battle on the Vigrid Plain, they were destined to fall alongside the gods.

The chosen warriors new to Valhalla always entered by a door called Valgrind (“the sacred barred gate of the slain”), and before they reached this entrance several obstacles had to be passed. One of the obstacles was a fast running river of air. Once they were in Valhalla “the men killed in war”, were cured miraculously and with their wounds healed they were able to indulge in feasting and fighting. They had an endless supply of stew made from the meat of a magic boar, and served in an inexhaustible cauldron. Through a magic process of resurrection, the same boar was eaten every day, and the teats of a goat provided the mead. Each day the Einherjar donned their armor, and on the practice ground fought with each other, if killed they were restored to life, and at midday returned to Valhalla to begin drinking.

Odin was known as the father of the slain and presided over Valhalla as the host, each day He sent out the Valkyries to add to his humber of the dead. When in Valhalla, the Valkyries carried the food and drinks for the Einherjar. Ragnarok, the doom of the gods, was the reason Valhalla was created, and when Odin was asked why he gave luck to a warrior in battle and then took it away. “The grey wolf watches the halls of the gods”, was his answer. His meaning being, the gods were under constant threat of Ragnarok, the doom of the gods, the catastrophe where they were all destined to die, along with the forces of evil, and the frost giants. Even though the gods knew their fate, the gathering of the “heroic dead” in Valhalla, empowered the gods to prepare for their destiny, no matter how futile the attempt would ultimately be. Odin’s men would die bravely caught up in a berserk fury, releasing their fury fighting in what they knew was to be their final battle.

VALI, was the son of Odin and Rind, and it was his destiny to kill the blind Hodr, who accidentally killed Balder. Vali fulfilled a prophecy by growing from baby to manhood in one day and immediately set out to kill Hodr. Vali survived Ragnarok, the doom of the gods, along with his half-brother Vidar.

THE VALKYRIES, (“female choosers of the slain”), were Odin’s shield maidens, they rode over the battlefields selecting the Einherjar (“the heroic dead”), the warriors who would then go to Valhalla. The Valkyries were said to have originally been the goddesses of slaughter itself, wild creatures Amazon like, who delighted in the severed limbs and hideous wounds of battle. A soldier in the Norwegian army who was involved in the battle of Stamford Bridge, dreamed of a Valkyrie before the battle. In his dream he was on the king of Norway’s ship, he then saw a great witch on an island, the witch held a fork in one hand to rake up the dead, and in the other hand in order to catch the blood, a trough.

THE VANIR, were fertility deities, and the older of the two branches of the Germanic family of gods. They lived at Vanaheim, which was far from Asgard, the fortified residence of the younger branch of the gods, the war gods the Aesir. Not long after creation the two branches fought for supremacy, the war gods the Aesir, were the winners. In order to seal peace after the Aesir had won, each branch agreed to exchange gods and goddesses as a sign of good faith. The sea god Njord, and his twin son and daughter Freyr and Freyja, and Kvasir, who in wisdom was considered to have no equal, were sent to Asgard by the Vanir.  Wise Mimir and long legged Honir, were sent to Vanaheim, by the Aesir.

Mimir and Honir were accepted and welcomed by the Aesir, but in time Honir was found to have a problem, his indecisiveness, which worsened embarrassingly whenever Mimir was away. Concluding they had not done well in the exchange with the Aesir, the Vanir cut off the head of wise Mimir, concluding that she was the voice and the brain of Honir. Mimir’s head was then sent back to Asgard. No conflict took place after the Vanir’s actions but it did create a rift between the Aesir and the Vanir, lessening the mythological significance of the Vanir, causing them to fade into the background and to never regain their standing.

VE, was one of the sons of Bor and brother of Odin and Vill. The primeval cow Audhumla, at the beginning of creation, sustained herself by licking the ice and from the milk that flowed from her teats, the evil frost giant Ymir the first living creature, was fed. Buri, the grandfather of Ve, was uncovered by Audhumla’s licking. All the frost giants descended from Buri, his son Bor married the frost giantess Bestala, their three sons were Odin, Vili and Ve. The blood of the frost giants intermingled, this did not however lessen the enmity between them, as it went back to the killing of Ymir. Odin, Vili and Ve disliked Ymir and his ever growing band of frost giants. Their hatred of the frost giant grew and spilled over leading to the death of Ymir, making the world in Ginnungagap (the “yawning emptiness”), from the body of the giant.

From the wood of two fallen trees the brothers found on the seashore, an ash and an elm. They made first man, then woman, Odin then breathen into them the spirit of life, intelligence and emotion was given by Vili, while Ve gave the ability to see and hear.

VELES, or Volos, was the Russian god with authority over flocks and herds. It was the custom to swear oaths in the names of Veles and the thunder god, Perunu. Ruler of Kiev, Vladimir, was baptized into the Orthodox faith in 988, and a statue of Veles was thrown into the River Dniepner. The god of flocks survives in Russian myth and at harvest time the ears of the last sheaf of corn are still woven into a plait known as “Veles’ beard”. In Russian Orthodox tradition, Veles was absorbed into the Christian faith, he was identified with a shepherd and martyr from Cappadocia, St Blasius. Protection and increase of flocks, sheep and goats, is expected when prayers are offered to Veles.

VIDAR, was the solitary and silent god of Germanic mythology, he was the son of Odin and Grid, the frost giantess, he lived in a very quiet and peaceful place called Vidi. Vidar was fated to avenge the death of his father at Ragnarok, the doom of the gods, the catastrphe destined to bring about the end of the world. During the bloody battle between Odin and the monstrous wolf Fenrir, Odin was swallowed by Fenrir as the god fought to the death. Vidar avenged his father’s death by smashing his foot into the wolf’s lower jaw, with both hands he then forced the monster’s upper jaw open until Fenrir’s throat was torn apart. The ripping apart of evil is equated with Vidar’s name.

VIGRID, was the name of the plain in Germanic mythology, destined to be where the final battle, Ragnarok, the doom of the gods, was fought between the gods and the frost giants. Gods and frost giants would embark upon mutual destruction, along with their respective allies. Vigrid stretched 120 leagues in every direction, the prediction was that it would be covered completely by the assembled hosts.

VILL, in Germanic mythology, he was the son of Bor, brother of Odin and Ve. He helped his brothers slay the frost giant Ymir at the beginning of creation. The brothers later created the first man and woman from wood found upon the seashore. Vill gave the creation intelligence and emotion, Odin offered the breath of life, and Ve gave the powers of sight and hearing.

VLKODLAK, was the Slavic wolfman. In northern and eastern Europe the ravenous wolf was the most feared animal. In Germanic mythology Odin, the chief god was fated to be killed by the monstrous wolf Fenrir, at Ragnarok, the doom of the gods. The catastrophe were the end of the world would take place.

VOLSUNG, in Germanic myth, was said to be a descendent of the god Odin. Volsung’s only daughter Signy, was married against her will to the Gothic King Siggeir. A one eyed stranger appeared among the wedding guests, it was Odin, the chief of the Germanic gods in disguise. Odin stuck a sword deep into an oak, he then told those gathered that the man who pulled the weapon out would own it. Whoever wielded the sword could never be defeated, Volsung invited Siggeir, his son in law to be the first to try. Neither the Gothic king, nor anyone else succeeded in pulling the sword out. The only one who was able to succeed was Volsung’s youngest son, Sigmund, King Siggeir offered to buy the magic weapon from Sigmund, but he would not agree to part with it at any price.

Sigmund’s refusal angered the king, and despite being warned by Signy, Volsung and his ten sons accepted an invitation to Seggeir’s court and walked into the Gothic king’s court. On their way to the court they were ambushed and left in the forest bound to a fallen tree. Each night a wolf came and ate one of them, until the only one left alive was Sigmund. Signy managed to rescue Sigmund, while Siggeir was sure that on one could have escaped the jaws of the night stalking wolf. Siggeir relaxed his guard, allowing Signy the time to bury her family and help Sigmund. Signy had to be very patient and it took a long time to prepare her revenge, she had her own sons trained by Sigmund, only to find they lacked courage. A second attempt to assist her brother involved incest, without his knowledge Signy slept with Sigmund and bore Sinfiotli, a warrior with double Volsung blood. Signy sent Sininfiotli to his uncle Sigmund one he reached manhood, to be trained as a warrior.

Siggeir captured Sigmund and Sinfiotli, they were able to secure their release by using the magic sword, enabling to take revenge on King Siggeir and his sons. When Sigmund returned home he had another son, known as Siegfried in Germanic legend.

WAYLAND, was the son of a sailor and a mermaid, and the smith god of the Anglo Saxons. In Scandinavia he was known as Volund, or Volundr, and as Wielund in Germany. Wayland’s leg sinews were cut by King Nidud of Sweden, Wayland, along with his forge, was then placed on a remote island. The smith god was able to take revenge, by killing Nidud’s two sons when they came to see his treasures. Their heads were sent, studded with precious jewels and mounted on silver, to King Nidud. It is suggested that he may also have raped Nidud’s daughter. Like the Greek inventor Daedalus, Wayland flew to Valhalla with wings he had made for himself. In Wiltshire, near a place called Uffington, a long barrow has ancient associations with Wayland, “his smithy” is how the locals refer to the barrow. The master craftsmen were mainly dwarfs in Germanic mythology.

YGGDRASIL, or Yggdrasill (“dreadful Mount”), was the cosmic ash tree in Germanic mythology. Sacrificial hangings were a form of worship for the Vikings. And Oding hanged himself upside down from Yggdrasill, the cosmic tree for nine nights, in order to acquire wisdom. Yggdrasill is the most stately, and the largest tree ever to have grown, with its branches overhanding the nine worlds, and spread out above the heavens. Supported by three gigantic roots, on descended to the land of the giants, Jotunheim, which is where Mimir’s well stood. The second ended in misty Niflheim, close to the spring of Hvergelmir, which is where the root of the tree was gnawed by Nidhogg the dragon, when he tired of chewing on the never ending supply of discarded corpses. The last root was embedded near the stronghold of the gods, Asgard, beneath Urd’s well, which is where the god’s daily assembly was held. Each day Urd, Skuld and Verdandi, the Norns, took water from the well, this they mixed with earth to prevent Yggdrasil’s bark from rotting. Ratatosk the squirrel, harassed the eagle sitting on the very top of the cosmic tree every day, by bringing the most unpleasant taunts and comments up from Nidhogg, the dragon. “Vodofnir the tree snake” was a cock, another bird who sat upon the branches of Yggdrasill.

Yggdrasill, the cosmic tree, was thought of as the backbone of the universe, and the structural support of the nine worlds. The sacred tree took on an entirely different role in Irish mythology, it was considered a cure for sickness and despair, and it was said that magic branches of silver and gold were brought by messengers from other lands.

YMIR, in Germanic mythology, was the frost giant who emerged from the ice in Ginnungagap (“the yawning emptiness”) to become the first living creature. He was the evil father and mother of all the frost giants, who first came from the sweat of his armpit. Audhumla, the primeval cow, fed Ymir with the milk that flowed from her teats. Ymir was killed by the grandsons of Buri, Audhumia had licked Buri free of the ice.

The brutality of Ymir and his ever expanding band of frost giants, led to his being slayed by Odin, Vili and Ve. After Ymir was slain, the gods drowned all the frost giants in his blood, the only survivors were Bergelmir and his wife, they escaped in a hollowed tree trunk which they sailed. Ymir’s carcass was thrown into Ginnungagap, by Odin, Vili and Ve, the frost giant’s flesh became the earth, his unbroken bones mountains, his teeth and jaw, rocks and boulders. His blood rivers, lakes and the sea, his skull the sky, held up at its four corners by dwarfs. The Sun, the Moon and the stars, were made using Sparks.

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