The Aesir Gods of Norse Mythology

| , |

The Aesir (Old Norse Æsir or Old High German Ansleh) are the principal race of gods in Norse mythology. The Aesir live in Asgard: a realm gilded with gold and bathing in light. The Norse gods and the implications of the world tree Yggdrasil are integral to understanding the religion of northern European peoples.

Norse mythology – alternatively known as Germanic or Scandinavian mythology – is descended from the Indo-European religion of the late Neolithic period. There, one will discover marked interconnectivity between celestial, earthen, and aquatic divinities. It can be argued that the unity of the Aesir with the Vanir reflects this unique relationship. 

Below is an introduction to the Aesir gods and goddesses as they are addressed in Snorri Sturluson’s Prose Edda

Who are the Aesir Gods?

The Aesir gods were one of two pantheons in Norse mythology. They were descendants of Buri, a man born from rime-covered stones in the shape of a person. He was the first of the Aesir.

As gods, the Aesir relied on golden apples for their immortality. Without these apples, they would age as all people do. Furthermore, unlike the gods of other religions, the Aesir could be killed. It would be pretty difficult – they still have supernatural powers – but possible.

Most of the Aesir gods embody power, might, and war. They are beings noted for their physical prowess and tact. They are often seen as warlike invaders when compared to the Vanir.

Are the Aesir Sky Gods?

The Aesir are sky gods. On the map of Yggdrasil and the nine worlds that surround it, Asgard is at the tippy top. A rainbow bridge, the Bilröst (Bifrost), is what connects Asgard to the other worlds. Aside from residing in the heavens, the Aesir also have several celestial bodies in its ranks.

What is the Difference between the Aesir and the Vanir?

The Old Norse gods and goddesses are divided into two groups: the Aesir, which we’ll be discussing today, and the Vanir. The primary difference between the Aesir and the Vanir is that they have opposing values. These values are reflected in the realms the individual gods dictate. 

The Aesir value strength, power, society, and war. They hit hard and they hit fast. If something goes wrong, they have their community as a fallback. Most Aesir gods and goddesses have realms involving battle, strength, and relationships. On the flip side of things, the Vanir are…well, the opposite of that. 

The Vanir value nature, mysticism, wealth, and harmony. They’re spell slingers and use magic to their advantage. Also, while they value familial relationships, they prefer to be far out in nature than in a crowd. Most Vanir represent realms involving fertility, material success, and the wilderness. 

The Aesir-Vanir War was a mythical war that took place between these opposing tribes. Their volatile interactions have been theorized to be reflections of differing social classes of Norse society throughout early history. It would explain the formalities of the war and the characterizations of each respective tribe.

Do People Still Worship the Aesir?

Several Norse deities are still worshiped, including members of the Aesir. The religion is known as Asatru. Old Norse ás- is used to denote something relating to the gods, particularly the Norse Æsir. Hence, a word like Asgard translates to “god’s enclosure.” 

Asatru is no different, pretty much meaning “Æsir Faith.” It is a modern religion founded on polytheistic worship from northern European religions dating back to 2000 BCE. Asatru is a part of the Heathenry movement and was established in 1972 by Sveinbjörn Beinteinsson.

30 Aesir Gods and Goddesses

The Aesir gods and goddesses lived away from the mortal realm of Midgard, though their presence wasn’t any less felt. Reverence was a part of daily life; through sacrifices, the gods were obligated to listen to the devout. To Scandinavian societies during the Viking Age (793-1066 AD), the following gods were very much alive. 

Odin

Odin is the head of the Aesir gods. His position is equatable to that of Zeus in the Greek pantheon. He is known for his wisdom and life-long pursuit of knowledge. After all, no average scholar would sacrifice their eye, impale, and then hang themselves for nine days and nights for enlightenment.

(Alright, maybe a desperate college student, but that’s beside the point!)

As a god, Odin is attested as the patron of kings, poets, and slain warriors. He oversees the afterlife of Valhalla (Valhöll), a grand hall roofed with shields. In Valhalla, fallen warriors feast nightly and await the day that they will be summoned to help in Ragnarok.

Frigg

Amongst the Norse gods, Frigg was the queen. She is the goddess of motherhood and, to some extent, marriage. By divine law Frigg was Odin’s wife, but the “highest of the goddesses” had her moments of weakness. Luckily, she and Odin were cut of the same cloth – so to speak – and no bad blood ever lasted between them.

Frigg was clever, attentive, and by all definitions regal. She dwelled in the marshlands of Fensalir (“Fen Halls”) and may have received sacrifices in the form of bog bodies. In addition to being the honorary wifey of Odin, Frigg was the devoted mother of Baldr, Hod, and Hermod.

Loki

Loki is so high on this list because of his rampant notoriety. He is the definition of a trickster god. As the son of Jötnar, Loki (also called Loptr) made mischief throughout Asgard whenever he felt like it. 

This penchant for chaos passed onto the children by Loki’s second wife, the jötunn Angrboda (Angrboða): Hel, Jörmungandr, and Fenrir. All would play some significant role in Ragnarok, fighting against the Aesir. 

It is speculated that the only reason everyone put up with Loki’s shenanigans is because of his relationship with Odin. Unlike what Marvel would lead one to believe, the Loki of Norse myth was more like Odin’s foster brother. The two at some point made a blood oath to one another, solidifying their bond. In short, everyone just sort of tolerated the guy. 

Thor

Thor was a guardian of Asgard and a divine hero of Midgard. He was the son of Odin, the husband of Sif, and the father of three kids (stepfather to one). However, as many folks are already aware, this thunder god was more than a family man. Thor was a rough ‘n tumble protector against the reckless Jötnar and whatever other threat loomed on the horizon.

Also known by the names Ása-Thór, Tor, and Donar (in Old High German), Thor was famous for his hammer, Mjölnir. Or…it is his hammer that made him famous. Outside of being a signature weapon, Mjölnir also acted as Thor’s universal symbol. 

An example of Mjölnir as a symbol of Thor is a recently discovered Torshammer from the late Viking Age (900-1000 AD). The small, lead charm was likely worn as an amulet.

Baldr

Moving on, we get to Baldr. He’s perfect. Or, was perfect. Baldr was the god of light, joy, beauty, and just about all good things until his sudden death. 

The thing that made Baldr special was that nothing could hurt him. Maybe he was born with it; or, maybe it’s that his mom went around forcing everyone to make an oath never to harm him. Who knows. However, this unique invulnerability had other Aesir hurling the most random things at him just to see it harmlessly bounce off.

It was funny. It was innocent. It was good-natured. That is until Loki came into the picture. 

Baldr died after coming too close for comfort to some sprigs of mistletoe – gosh, we wonder how! His death plunged the world into Fimbulvetr (Fimbulwinter) and kicked off the long-awaited Ragnarok.

Tyr

Tyr is the Aesir god of justice and war treaties. He became known as a one-handed god after the other deities bound Fenrir. Since the Aesir went back on their word, Fenrir was entitled to financial compensation in the form of Tyr’s hand.

Being the son of Odin, Tyr – by default – is significant to Old Norse and Germanic mythologies. He was respected by all for his honor-bound approach and inherent valiance. Romans equated Tyr with their war god, Mars.

Var

Continuing down our list, we come to the goddess Var. She is the keeper of oaths, promises, and agreements between parties. Her realm is far broader than that of Tyr, who specializes in the more technical side of things. Along with being the goddess of vows, Var also was in charge of punishing oath breakers (look out, Jaime Lannister). 

In ancient Germanic societies, oaths were sworn on items like rings, weapons, and shields. Warriors and men alike were expected to uphold their oaths to the gods and to their community. Christianity in ancient Scandinavia encouraged this tradition, except the oath was made upon a bible and to a single god.

Gefjun

Gefjun is the goddess of plenty, agriculture, virginity, and prosperity in Norse mythology. She’s the one that keeps storehouses and hearts full. Per her associations with abundance, Gefjun’s name is derived from the Old Norse verb gefa (“to give”). Therefore, Gefjun means “The Giver” or “Generous One.” 

Like many agricultural deities, Gefjun played an integral role during harvests, particularly in the act of plowing. In her most famous myth, she plowed out Lake Mälaren in Sweden alongside her oxen offspring. 

Vor

Vor (Vör) is a truth, wisdom, and prophecy goddess. It is no surprise then that her name is related to the Old Norse word for “careful,” vörr. She is ancient, having served as a handmaiden of Frigg since the end of the Aesir-Vanir War. Before that, Vor had known and advised Odin several times. 

According to legend, Vor was originally from the land of the giants, Jötunheim. Only after she pledged her services to Frigg did Asgard become her second home.  

Syn

Syn is the goddess of defensive refusal, rejection, and boundaries. No one is getting through this deity. She makes it her business to slam doors shut in people’s faces. 

Many Asynjur (female goddesses) on this list are members of Frigg’s entourage, including Syn. She guards the doors to Fensalir. If you don’t have an appointment with Frigg, you’ll get an apathetic stare and be asked to leave. At Fensalir, no haggling, loitering, or soliciting is allowed. Thankfully Syn is there to enforce such rules.

Bragi

Jumping back to male Aesir, we have Bragi. He’s the god of poetry and eloquence. After hearing Bragi’s skill with words himself, Odin assigned the skaldic god to be the bard of Valhalla. His wife Idunn is also a big fan of his work (so is everyone else).

Following in the footsteps of most other bards and legendary minstrels, Bragi wasn’t a physical guy. Unlike Thor, he isn’t about to be a frontliner in any battles anytime soon. He preferred to offer support, inspiration, and sling vicious mockeries from the back. 

Heimdall

Another son of Odin, Heimdall was the divine sentry at Bilröst. His position in Asgard was attributed to Heimdall’s identity as the god of vigilance and foresight. 

Heimdall was born of nine mothers, presumably the nine daughters of the sea Jötnar Aegir and Ran. These daughters represented the waves which mean that Heimdall was born of the sea. We don’t get much detail besides that (maybe that’s for the best). 

On another note, this god of vigilance was known as the “Shining God.” His skin was unusually white and he also happened to have golden teeth. Oh, and he could hear grass grow.

Njord

Njord is a stand-out god because, while he is an Aesir, he was originally a member of the Vanir. He was the patriarch of the Vanir tribe. During the Aesir-Vanir War, the two parties exchanged hostages. 

The Vanir traded Njord and his twins, Freyja and Freyr, while the Aesir traded Honir and Mimir. The hostage exchange led to the eventual integration of Njord and his children into the Aesir tribe. During his time with the Aesir, Njord became known as the god of the sea and seafaring. 

Njord also had the most beautiful feet of all the Aesir. Perhaps Daphne’s mom from What A Girl Wants (2003) was onto something: “if you can walk on a beach, and you have a steady hand with nail polish, there’s no reason to ever pay for a pedicure.” Unfortunately for Njord, his pretty toes weren’t enough to keep his second wife, Skadi, satisfied with their marriage.

Fulla

Fulla is an Asynjur and a goddess of secrets and plenty. She is in charge of maintaining Frigg’s jewelry and footwear. Furthermore, she acts as Frigg’s confidante. That is to say, if Frigg has secrets, Fulla knows them.

The name Fulla in Old High German means “plentitude,” which has led scholars to speculate her exact realms. Nowhere is Fulla’s role as a goddess outrightly stated. She’s undoubtedly an Aesir, but what power she holds is only inferred from her position in Asgard and her name.

Hod

Hod is the god of darkness. He is the only blind god in the pantheon, which has gotten him into some rather unfortunate situations. Well, only one. 

Do you recall how Baldr was killed by some mistletoe? Hod was the one that loosened the arrow that would kill his brother. It wasn’t intentional. As far as Hod was aware, everyone else did the same (that is, throwing or shooting objects at Baldr). 

Both brothers, two children of Odin and Frigg, paid the price of Loki’s mischief. While Baldr died and went to Helheim, Hod was murdered by his half-brother Vali for vengeance.

Eir

Eir is all about healing and medicine. If you stubbed your toe or scraped your knee, she’ll be able to make you feel better in a jiffy. In the case of more severe injury, Eir can help you out there as well. She shares her name with a Valkyrie – minor deities that select who lives and dies on the battlefield. Grievously injured warriors could be saved by Eir herself.

On top of being the go-to healer of Asgard, Eir was also believed to be the patron deity of childbirth. She lived on a mound, called Lyfjaberg, with other maiden healers where their services could be bought through blót (sacrifices, particularly that of blood).

Vidar

Did you miss hearing about more of Odin’s sons? Luckily, here comes Vidar! 

Vidar is the silent god of revenge and retribution. He was born out of Odin’s union with the Jötun Gridr and was more or less his father’s personal avenger. This tidbit of information comes into play during the events of Ragnarok.

Eddic poems describe Vidar as being “nearly as strong as Thor,” making his strength only second to his half-brother. If allowed to, Vidar would prove to be a force to be reckoned with in battle.

Saga

So, this next deity may or may not be Frigg. Scholars aren’t too sure, really. 

Whoever Saga truly is, she is a goddess of wisdom and prophecy. Whether by shared hobbies or Saga being Frigg, Odin would crack open a cold one with her now and again. Their favorite drinking spot was Sökkvabekkr, a “sunken bank.” Similarities between Sökkvabekkr and Fensalir further encouraged speculation of a relationship between Saga and Frigg. 

Freyja

Up next is Njord’s daughter, the goddess Freyja. Like her father, Freyja is both Vanir and Aesir. She was integrated into the Old Norse Æsir tribe near the end of the conflict between the two clans.

Freyja was the mother of goddesses Hnoss and Gersemi through her husband, Odr (likely the god-king Odin in his dark era). As the goddess of love, fertility, beauty, seidr, and battle, Freyja is a bit of a femme fatale figure. Her realms are generally positive, save for battle. That one sticks out like a sore thumb.

Freyja’s connections to war is reflected in Fólkvangr, a bountiful expanse where half of those who died in battle went. Myths cite that Freyja ruled this afterlife, while Odin ruled the other heroic afterlife of Valhalla. As such, Freyja is one of few specialized gods that lorded over an afterlife in Scandinavian mythology.

Freyr

We’re going to follow up one twin with the other. Freyr was Freyja’s male counterpart. He was the god of sunshine, peace, good weather, and virility. 

Snorri Sturluson suggests that Freyr was once a Swedish king of the Yngling dynasty (between 500 and 700 AD). He certainly has the makings of an Arthurian legend, with an enchanted sword and all. However, to marry his wife, the gorgeous giantess Gerd, he gave his signature weapon to her father, Gymir. He still had Skíðblaðnir, though. 

Not as useful in melee conflict, but still pretty cool!

Vali

Vali – the god conceived specifically to kill Hod – is the second deity of vengeance. He aged to adulthood a single day after his birth. Hod was executed not too long after Vali learned to walk. 

The murder of Hod was one of Vali’s most famous acts. He also was polymorphed into a wolf at some point, during which he tore Loki’s kid apart. 

Was that an act of vengeance as well? Oh yeah. Was it because this kid did something really bad? Nope! 

Forseti

Forseti is the child of Baldr and his wife, Nanna. His realms are justice, mediation, and reconciliation. He can fix most issues with his level-headed insight. 

It is described that Forseti has his own decadent courthouse, Glitnir, from which he settles disputes. His ax, which was golden and radiant, was a symbol of peaceful negotiations. 

Sjofn

Sjofn – traditionally Sjöfn – is an Asynjur associated with love and bore the responsibility of Freyja’s messenger. She is thought to be connected to various levels of affection. Meanwhile, Freyja dealt with the more mushy stuff. 

Continuing, Sjofn was the guardian of betrothals. Not whole marriages (she was no wedding planner), but engagements. 

Lofn

Lofn was a sister of Sjofn and was associated with forbidden romances. Unlikely, unsupported, and star-crossed lovers were vehemently supported by Lofn. She would even go as far as to bless their marriages. 

Both Odin and Frigg gave Lofn their permission in her endeavors. This meant that banned marriages were still – to a degree – valid before the gods. 

Snotra

Snotra is the third sister of Lofn and Sjofn. Given her associations with wisdom, she might as well have been the eldest, too.

As the goddess of wit, wisdom, and cleverness, Snotra has been attested to be the mother of legendary sea-king Gautrek. Such is listed in the Gautreks Saga, of which only later versions exist.  

Hlin

Hlín: protectress and guardian of mourners. She’s a member of Frigg’s entourage, working directly with the Aesir queen. Since Frigg had the gift of prophecy, she could see (or sense) if someone was about to befall an ill fate. She would give word to Hlín, who – according to myth – would intervene. 

Ullr

Ullr is the son of Sif, Thor’s wife, but not a son of Thor himself. He was an ancient god; even arguably popular, based on how many locations throughout Scandinavia bear his namesake. He would be a shoo-in at the Winter Olympics, thanks to his mastery over skiing, snow sports, and (surprise) winter.

Outside of this immediate information regarding what his general associations were, Ullr is sort of enigmatic. No written record attests to what he was specifically the god of. 

We know Ullr was handsome and multi-talented, residing in a location known as Ýdalir (“Yew Dales”). He was called “Glorious One” by his followers. Also, his biological father isn’t known. This is particularly unusual, considering one’s paternity is generally of great importance in Germanic religion.

Gna

Gna is a goddess of wind and swiftness. She was also the messenger and errand runner for Frigg. Fast and efficient, Gna rode on a horse that could both fly and walk on water. The steed was so impressive, some Vanir made note of it during its travels. 

The name of Gna’s horse was Hófvarpnir, which means “hoof kicker.” It was one of many legendary steeds in Old Germanic religions.

Sol

Sol (also called Sunna) is the sun personified. She is the sister of the personified moon, Mani. These Norse deities had some of the worst luck, being chased by some hungry, supernatural wolves. 

The only solace (pun intentional, please laugh) is that after Ragnarok, the sun does return. When it does, it doesn’t have to worry about some monster offspring of Fenrir biting their ankles.

Bil

Technically, Bil comes as a pair. She is the sister of another semi-divine child, Hjúki. Together, these sibs represent the phases of the moon. For some reason or another, Mani had taken them up as his attendants. 

The story of Hjúki and Bil resonates with the broader European tale of Jack and Jill. Although not necessarily major members of the Aesir, the pair were likely worshiped alongside Mani.

How to Cite this Article

There are three different ways you can cite this article.

1. To cite this article in an academic-style article or paper, use:

Cierra Tolentino, "The Aesir Gods of Norse Mythology", History Cooperative, November 9, 2022, https://historycooperative.org/aesir-gods/. Accessed December 7, 2022

2. To link to this article in the text of an online publication, please use this URL:

https://historycooperative.org/aesir-gods/

3. If your web page requires an HTML link, please insert this code:

<a href="https://historycooperative.org/aesir-gods/">The Aesir Gods of Norse Mythology</a>

Leave a Comment

Share
Tweet
Reddit
Pin
Email