If you think that Norse mythology gods and goddesses have always been as popular as today, you would be wrong. Prior to the 19th century, not many people even heard about Norse mythology outside of Iceland and Scandinavia.
However, if it weren't for the Snorri Sturluson, the situation could have been much worse. Snorri was a historian and a scholar who lived in Iceland during the 13th century. He created what is often assumed the first, or at least the most complete written source of Norse mythology called the Prose Edda (Icelandic: Snorra Edda).
Luckily, we live in times where Vikings and Norse mythology Gods are very popular. We have to thank the internet, the literature, and of course, the Marvel movies and comics for that.
The Rise of Norse Mythology Gods
The Norse creation myth started with Ginnungagap, Niflheim, and Muspelheim. Ginnungagap was the primordial void, a place of darkness and silence, which stood between the fiery land of Muspleheim and the icy land of Niflheim.
Power of both the Nilfheim and Muslpelheim was growing, and finally, the worlds clashed in the middle of Ginnungagap. The ice started to melt and turned into water drops, and the drops created Ymir, the first living being.
Ymir, a destructive giant and a hermaphrodite, was slain by Odin and his brothers, Vé and Vili. After killing Ymir, the three of them used its bones, flesh, blood, teeth, eyelashes, hair, and skull to create the Nordic mythological universe.
Number of Norse Mythology Gods
For centuries the Norse mythology stories were verbally passed down. Therefore, it is almost impossible to tell how many Norse Gods exist.
However, what we do know is that there are two major tribes of Norse mythology Gods. Those are called Æsir and Vanir.
The most famous representatives of Æsir tribe are Odin, the All-Father, Frigg, Thor, Balder, Loki, Hod, Tyr and Heimdall. They are also known as the main Gods. On the other hand, the most notable members of the Vanir tribe are the fertility Gods and count Freyr, Freyja, and Njord.
Now that we have covered the basics, without further ado, let us take a look at some of the most powerful and worshiped Norse mythology Gods and Goddesses.
1. Odin – The King of the Æsir Gods
Even though we should probably start with Ymir, the predecessor of all Norse gods, we cannot do that. The first place in this list is reserved for Odin (Óðinn in Old Norse), the All-Father.
Apart from being the king of the realm of Gods (Asgard), Odin is also the All-Father of Norse mythology Gods. His mother was the Jötunn Bestla, and his father was the Borr. Odin is renowned for going to battle on Sleipnir, his eight-legged horse. His spear, Gungnir, was forged by the dwarves, and it is said that it can never miss its target.
Odin is associated with many different aspects, such as wisdom, healing, sorcery, and even frenzy. Odin is portrayed as a haggard and poor wanderer who is seeking knowledge, even though he is the king of the Æsir Gods. However, as a war-god, the one-eyed Odin craves for the battle.
The All-Father has five sons with four different wives. With Frigg, his wife, he had Höðr and Baldr, and Jötnar Rindr and Gríðr bore him Váli and Viðar. Jörð, the personification of the Earth, gave him his most famous son, Thor.
Nowadays, the word Odin relates to Wednesday. It's because the name Odin derives from wodnesdæg ("Woden's Day"), while Odin is referred to as Wōden in Old English.
2. Ymir – The Forefather of Giants
Even though Ymir does not belong to the group of Norse mythology Gods, we have decided to include him also.
Ymir was the primeval entity of the Norse pantheon and the forefather of all mythical creatures in the universe. These mythic entities are known as jötnar
Often perceived as the "first being," Ymir was "born" when the heat of Muspelheim and the ice of Niflheim clashed. As a hermaphrodite, he gave birth to the first male, female, and other creatures from Norse mythology. That is how everything started.
After Ymir, Buri was created. It is believed that he was the first of the Norse Gods. Buri's son, Bor, married Bestla (also Ymir's descendant), and she gave birth to three sons: Ve, Vili, and Odin. These three young Norse Gods killed Ymir in the battle that followed.
From Ymir's corpse, Odin, with his brothers, created the entire earth. They created oceans and seas from his blood and mountains from his bones. Ymir's teeth turned into rocks while his hair created trees and vegetation. The young Gods created the sky from Ymir's skull, and they used his brains to make clouds. Finally, together with his brothers, Odin used Ymir's eyebrows to create a great wall that will surround and defend Midgard, the realm of mankind.
3. Thor – The God of Thunder
Perhaps the most famous of all Norse mythology Gods nowadays (thanks to Marvel movies), Thor, the God of Thunder, is the husband of the Goddess Sif and son of Odin. As a loyal protector of Asgard, Thor was given a symbolic role as the protector of the realms.
With his red Viking beard
and eyes, Thor is thought to be the strongest being among the Gods and men alike. His immense strength is further increased by his iron gloves and his power belt, Megingjard
. However, the item most associated with Thor is unquestionably Mjöllnir
(means "lightning"), his dwarf-crafted hammer. Norse mythology describes Mjöllnir as one of the most powerful artifacts that ever existed.
For example, Old Norsemen believed that thunder is a result of Thor striking his mighty hammer while slaying monsters and giants from his chariot. Thor's chariot was drawn by Tanngrisnir and Tanngniost, two giant goats.
During the last century, archaeologists discovered many ancient pendants, shaped like a hammer, throughout Scandinavia. It is believed that these pendants are made in the image of Mjöllnir.
In modern culture, Thor also gives us a day of the week, just like Odin. 'Thursday' originates from Old English word þurresdæg. It is a contraction of þunresdæg, which to the letter means "Thor's day."
4. Frigg – The Queen of the Æsir Gods
Possibly the most important of all Norse Goddesses is Frigg, the Goddess of the sky, and the Queen of the Æsir tribe.
Frigg is perceived as the Goddess of family, marriage, and motherhood. As Odin's wife, she gave birth to two of his sons: Baldr and Höðr. As a ruler of Asgard, the realm of the Goods, Frigg is the only one allowed to sit on the throne (Hliðskjálf) other than Odin.
Like Odin and Thor, Frigg also gives us one day in the week. It is Frigg's day, or as we know it, Friday.
5. Baldur and Höðr
Baldur (Baldr in Old Norse) The Æsir God of Light, and Höðr, the God of Darkness, are twins and half-brothers of Thor.
Baldr, the younger son of Odin and Frigg, is the most loved of all Norse mythology Gods. After having a dream of his own death, Baldr's mother, Frigg, commanded that all beings in the nine realms vow not to hurt him.
Unfortunately, Loki learned that one thing did not make such a promise. It was mistletoe. Loki tricked Höðr to hurl a spear of mistletoe at his brother. The spear pierced Baldr's and sent him to the realm of the dead.
However, everything is not as bad as it might seem. It is believed that when Ragnarok comes, doors of the world of the dead will be opened, and after Odin's death, Höðr and Baldr will become the rulers of Asgard.
6. Loki – the God of Trickery and Mischief
Nowadays, when we think of Loki, we believe that he is Thor's arch-enemy and adopted brother (thanks to Marvel, once again). However, in Norse mythology, Loki is a jötunn, the son of giantess Laufey and giant Farbauti, with an ability to shapeshift.
Loki is the God of Mischief and Trickery and the Father of Monsters. He created Sleipnir, Odin's eight-legged steed, as well as the serpent Jörmungandr and the monstrous wolf Fenrir.
Because of his trickery, Loki is often not considered as one of the Æsir Gods.
Other than causing the death of Baldr, it is foretold that Loki will bring death to many Norse Gods during Ragnarok. For instance, it is believed that Fenrir the Wolf will kill Odin, and Jörmungandr the Serpent will cause Thor's death.
7. Tyr – the God of War
Tyr (Týr in Old Norse) is thought to be the bravest of all Norse Gods and the God of war and heroic glory. As Tyr was very interested in fair treaties and justice, he is also worshiped as a God of justice and oaths. Norsemen believed that Tyr is the one deciding the outcomes of battles.
His origins are unclear. Many myths describe Odin as Tyr's father, while others talk about giant Hymir.
Tyr lost one hand while trying to trap the wolf Fenrir. To distract the monster, Tyr placed his hand in the Fenrir's mouth, giving other Gods time to bind the wolf to a rock. Once Fenrir realized he had been deceived, he tore off Tyr's hand. It is foretold that Tyr will be killed by a guard dog of Hel called Garm.
Like many other Norse mythology Gods, Tyr is also significant for modern-day culture. In Old English, Tyr's name is Tiw, which is the origin of Tuesday.
8. Hel – The Goddess of the Underworld
Hel is thought to be the most powerful of all Norse Goddesses. Moreover, it is believed that she is even more powerful than Odin within the borders of her realm, the Helheim. She is so powerful that she gets to decide the fate of the Baldr's soul. The soul of the purest and wisest Æsir Gods.
Hel is the daughter of the giant Angrboda and Loki. She rules over Helheim, the realm of eternal damnation. Helheim is home to Jörmungandr the Serpent, Fenrir the Wolf, and all others who have passed away from sickness and old age. It is a place not so different from today's associations for hell.
9. Heimdall – The Guardian of the Bifröst Bridge
Another famous God in today's culture, thanks to the Thor movies, is Heimdall (Heimdallr in Old Norse).
Heimdall is a vigilant protector of the home of the Æsir Norse Gods, Asgard. He is a descendant of the giant Fornjót. Heimdall uses his great horn Gjallarhorn to warn others when intruders are approaching Asgard. It is believed that Heimdall's eyesight can stretch for hundreds of miles and that he can hear the sound of wool growing on the sheep.
Also, Heimdall's role at the start of the Ragnarok is very important. He will use the Gjallarhorn to signal the arrival of monsters and giants. Moreover, it is foretold that eventually, Heimdall will confront Loki, and they will slay one another.
10. Freyr, the God of Fertility and Freya, the Goddess of Fate and Destiny
Freyr and Norse Goddess Freya (Freyja in Old Norse) are children of frost giantess Skadi, and sea-god Njord. They were the members of the Vanir tribe of Gods who became loyal members of the Æsir clan following the end of the war between their tribes.
Freyr is the God of fertility and the ruler of the homeland of elves, the Alfheim. He enjoys showing off his ship Skíðblaðnir, which was blessed with having a favorable wind at all times.
On the other hand, the Norse Goddess Freya is the Goddess of fate and destiny. It is believed that Freya had the power to change one's fortune. She reigns over Folkvang, the afterlife realm. She was so powerful that she could choose half of the warriors slain in battle while the other half were guided to Valhalla by Valkyries.
An interesting fact is that many scholars believe that Freya and Odin's wife Frigg, are actually the same deity.
Who is Your Favorite Norse God, and Why?
As you now surely know, there are so many Norse mythology Gods
, and we have tried to mention the most important ones in this article. We hope that you were able to learn something new.
We are keen to know who is your favorite Norse God, or Goddess, and why. Feel free to let us know in the comment area below.