Germanic Gods and Goddesses: 19 Ancient Gods of Northern Europe

| | February 22, 2024

Germanic gods and goddesses are the deities that were worshiped throughout ancient Germania. The Germanic World, known more widely as Germania or Magna Germania in Latin, includes the modern countries of France, Denmark, Poland, the Netherlands, the Czech Republic, Austria, and (of course) Germany. These old gods were central to Germanic religion and were severely impacted when Rome outlawed pagan religions across its empire in 392 CE.

How Many Germanic Gods Are There?

There is an unknown number of Germanic gods and goddesses. No, really. Germanic peoples practiced polytheism, which means multiple gods were worshiped at any given time. Different gods would hold greater sway over different locations. Given the breadth of ancient Germanic territories, there would be some pantheonic overlap.

Some Germanic deities are known by one name in one culture, and a different name in another. In the end, myths would refer to the same deity under two (or more) very different names. We can thank the natural evolution of ancient languages for that!

READ MORE: Ancient Gods and Goddesses from Cultures Around the World and Pagan Gods from Across the Ancient World

Are Norse and Germanic Gods the Same? 

Yes and no – the answer isn’t an easy one. Norse and Germanic gods are often thought to be the same set of deities. Many scholars attest to such and there are no doubt similarities between the two. However, Norse mythology is primarily a subset of broader Germanic mythos, not the same.

Germanic paganism and mythology include a handful of other cultural and regional mythologies. These include Norse, Continental Germanic, and Anglo-Saxon religions, myths, and legends. When discussing Norse myths as a fragment of Germanic mythology, they are referred to as Northern or North Germanic mythology.

Throughout Antiquity (8th century BCE – 5th century CE), Germanic peoples inhabited Scandinavia, Northwestern Europe, and Central Europe. Mythology from these respective regions’ cultural spheres reflects some overlap and similar features.

The Most Important Germanic Gods and Goddesses

The most important Germanic divinities are those once worshiped around the Germanic World. This list won’t be made up of Norse gods and goddesses but primarily of other Germanic deities, such as those belonging to the Anglo-Saxons (another Germanic subgroup).

  • Baduhenna
  • Eostre
  • Hariasa
  • Hretha
  • Ing
  • Sandraudiga
  • Seaxnēat
  • Sinthgunt
  • Tanfana
  • Thunaer
  • Tiw
  • Vagdavercustis
  • Woden
  • Zisa

Most attestations of Germanic deities come from Roman and Norse sources. The Roman historian Tacitus’ Germania offers a wealth of information on the cultures of Germanic tribes – granted, from a somewhat biased Roman perspective. Otherwise, we can rely on old Skaldic poetry and the writings of Icelandic historian Snorri Sturluson for some insight into North Germanic gods. Thanks to Roman campaigns and occupation in parts of Germania, information on East and West Germanic deities is harder to come by. This is where archaeological records have become invaluable.

14 Deities From the Ancient Germanic Religion

Early Germanic tribes practiced varying degrees of polytheism. Select places worshiped only a handful of the deities found in the pan-Germanic pantheon and would leave other gods out depending on the society of the region. Lines get especially blurred when considering Roman and Celtic influences on some areas of Germania.

Eostre: The Fertility Goddess That Inspired Easter

Realms: Spring and fertility; potentially a goddess of agriculture and the dawn.

Fun Fact: Worship of Eostre is likely unrelated to the Spring Equinox. At least, not traditionally.

Eostre is one of the more familiar names on our list. Surely, her name rings a bell (or, several). As the goddess of Spring and fertility, Eostre has become synonymous with the Christian holiday, Easter. She was first recorded in the 7th century by the English monk, the Venerable Bede. Later sanctified, Bede is considered among the foremost scholars of Old English history; his work, De Temporum Ratione, maintains the only written record of Eostre.

READ MORE: The Origin of Easter Eggs: Pagan Background and Christian Traditions

Seaxnēat: The Patron God of Saxons

Realms: National god of the Saxons and divine ancestor of the Kings of Essex.

Fun Fact: Seaxnēat has been identified as a son of Woden in some sources.

Seaxnēat is a god we know a little more about, compared to some other Germanic gods. We can thank his name for that, which tells us all we need to know about him: he is the patron god of the Saxons.

The Saxons were North Germanic peoples that lived near Germania’s North Sea. The Roman Empire associated the Saxons with frequent coastal raids and piracy. Later, they settled in what is now Normandy.

Alternatively known as Saxnōt, Seaxnēat is mentioned in the 9th-century Old Saxon Baptismal Vow alongside deities like Woden and Thunaer. The individual taking the vow was required to forsake the worship of the three pagan deities. If the Baptismal Vow doesn’t tell you how important Seaxnēat was, it is worth adding that he’s the base of Old English royal genealogies, notably those of the Essex kings.

Baduhenna: A Mysterious Goddess of War

Realms: Possibly warfare, though no concrete evidence currently exists.

Fun Fact: Baduhenna had a sacred grove in ancient Frisia; a battle between the native Frisii and Romans took place there in 28 CE.

As we said when we introduced her, Baduhenna is a mystery. Scholars suspect that she is a goddess of war based on Roman records of the Battle of Baduhenna Wood, but even then there is little to go on. Honestly, if over 1,300 Roman soldiers are cut down in a Frisian goddess’ sacred grove…she may be a goddess of war. Or, the Frisii had a home-front advantage. Regardless, the battle that was staged in Baduhenna’s grove was enough to get the Romans to leave the Frisii alone.

READ MORE: Ancient War Gods and Goddesses: 8 Gods of War from Around the World

On another important (and implicating) note, Baduhenna’s name may translate to “battle mother.” Fine, the Battle of Baduhenna Wood wasn’t the only piece of evidence relating her to warfare. This translation would make her one of the Germanic Matres and Matronae and a fierce one, at that.

Woden: The Cheif God of the Germanic Religion

Realms: Wisdom, poetry, war, kingship, and the Runic alphabet.

Fun Fact: Woden was one of the most widely worshiped Germanic deities.

If you have noticed that “Woden” sounds a whole lot like “Odin,” you would be correct. They are the same deity: no secrets to be kept here. Woden was the lead god of Germanic paganism, featured in Anglo-Saxon pre-Christian religions and many Scandinavian sources under the alternative Odin.

The big takeaway is that Woden is simply the Old English variation of everyone’s favorite one-eyed god and was hot stuff in Anglo-Saxon England.

Thunaer: A God of Thunder in Norse Myth

Realms: Lightning, thunder, fertility, storms, and strength.

Fun Fact: Thunaer was the guardian of mankind.

Scholars identify Thunaer with the Norse god Thor. Yeah, they’re the same guy, with both being all about strength and thunderstorms. We know what you’re thinking: first Odin, now Thor? What is going on here?

Gods like Odin and Thor were central to Germanic paganism. While the father-son duo were all the rage in the Viking Age, they appeared to be persistent throughout early Medieval sources, as cited in Adam of Bremen’s Gesta Hammaburgensis ecclesiae pontificum (Deeds of the Bishops of Hamburg). They are mentioned elsewhere, such as in the Old Saxon Baptismal Vow and the Poetic Edda.

READ MORE: History’s Most Famous Vikings

Hariasa: The Germanic Goddess With Great Hair

Realms: Unknown, although her name implies that she could have been related to warfare.

Fun Fact: Hariasa has only been attested once on a now-lost stone found in Cologne, Germany.

So Hariasa may be a Valkyrie. There, we said it. We know that Hariasa’s name is derived from the Old Norse herja, which means “to wage war.” We also happen to know that Herja is the name of a Valkyrie attested in the “Nafnaþulur” of the Prose Edda.

The valkyries are specifically Old Norse in origin. It is indeed Norse mythology where they are most frequently referenced. However, considering that Norse myth is a subsect of broader Germanic mythos, we cannot ignore the similarities between Herja and Hariasa.

Well, we can, but why would we?

The valkyries were famous throughout the Viking Age as female spirits that would ferry away dead heroes to Odin’s afterlife of Valhalla. Now, Hariasa could also just be a goddess with fantastic hair, à la Sif. Thanks to a lack of sources, we may never know. The two may very well be wholly unrelated.

Tiw: The God of the Tiwaz Rune

Realms: The Sky, war, legislation, and treaties.

Fun Fact: Tiw is an Anglo-Saxon variation of the Norse Tyr.

Tiw is the Anglo-Saxon sky god that oversaw warfare and combat. He also dabbled in legislation and treaties of war. Like Tyr, Tiw was often thought of as having only one hand that he lost when confronting a monstrous wolf. Both deities were associated with the Tiwaz rune, whose runic inscriptions resemble an upward-pointing arrow.

Sandraudiga: The Goddess of “Red Sand”

Realms: Abundance, nourishment, and Lower Germania.

Fun Fact: Sandraudiga’s altar stone dates back to the 2nd century CE.

Sandraudiga is a goddess who is only attested on the North Brabant Stone, a 2nd-century temple stone first uncovered in 1812. Based on the region, it is evident that Sandraudiga was worshiped amongst the Germanic Batavi or Texuandri peoples. She is implied to be a goddess of abundance based on the cornucopia motifs found flanking the Stone’s inscription. The attested Stone reads “Deae Sandraudigae cultores templi,” or “To the goddess Sandraudiga and the worshipers of her temple.”

Hretha: The Germanic Goddess of Victory

Realms: Victory, glory, dawn, and the Spring Equinox.

Fun Fact: Hretha is also known by the name “Rheda;” Hretha is the goddess’ Latinized Germanic name.

Alright, folks, we’ve finally come around to the goddess of the Spring Equinox, Hretha. She is the other goddess in the previously attested De Temporum Ratione that mentioned Eostre.

From Bede’s writings, we know that Hretha gave the name to “Rhedmonth,” which is more widely known as March nowadays. This comes from her alternate name, “Rheda.” Sacrifices were made to Hretha during this month, though Bede doesn’t mention what exactly those sacrifices included. When considering that Hretha was worshiped during the Spring Equinox, it is safe to say her realms likely included victory, glory, and rebirth.

Ing: Ancestor of the Ynglings

Realms: Swedish kings, prosperity, peace, fertility, and good weather.

Fun Fact: “Ing” comes from the Proto-Germanic word for “ancestor,” *Ingwaz.

Ing, the great progenitor of Sweden’s Yngling Dynasty, was a god of prosperity and peace. He’s identified with the Norse Freyr, who is also cited as the ancestor of the Ynglings in the Ynglinga Saga by Snorri Sturluson. Thus, scholars have suggested that Ing could be the true name of Freyr since in Old Norse freyr meant “lord” or “prince.”

Sinthgunt: The Sun’s Sister and Cosmic Goddess

Realms: Perhaps a goddess of stars – her exact role in Germanic mythos is unknown.

Fun Fact: She is only attested in the Merseburg Incantations.

Despite being a sister of the Sun, little else is known regarding Sinthgunt. She manifests in the Merseburg Incantations to remedy the injured foot of Baldr’s horse alongside Odin’s wife, Frigg, and Odin himself (as Woden).

Sinthgunt isn’t the moon, per the trend of cosmic siblings in many ancient religions. In Germanic traditions, the moon is a masculine force, while the sun is feminine. Thus, Sinthgunt may be a goddess of stars or a specific star that was significant to Germanic astronomy. Alternatively, she may have been a lesser aspect of the sun goddess Sunna (Sol).

READ MORE: Sun Gods: Ancient Solar Deities From Around the World

Tanfana: A Forgotten Goddess

Realms: Possibly animal sacrifice, mercy, prosperity, temples, or groves; her realms are products of scholarly observations.

Fun Fact: The only time Tanfana is mentioned is in Tacitus’ accounts of a massacre of Germanic Marsi.

Tanfana (Tamfana) is a goddess of ancient origin who has only been attested once; by Tacitus, in his Annals. She was thought to be primarily worshiped amongst the Istvaeones (a Germanic group near the Rhine), especially throughout the Marsi, Chatti, and Cherusci tribes. In Tacitus’ account, Roman soldiers “leveled to the ground” the temple of Tanfana after slaughtering a mass of Marsi during her religious festival.

Truth be told, we can only go off of Annals and local legends when it comes to attestations of Tanfana. Even the etymology of her name brings issues, with the variation found in Germanic languages. Instead, we can look to the Big Stone in Oldenzaal and the later Dutch nursery rhyme “Anneke Tanneke Toverheks.”

Vagdavercustis: A Goddess Praised by a Roman Official

Realms: Possibly virtue, strength, and the military.

Fun Fact: Vagdavercustis may be interpreted as the “protectress of war dancers.”

Believed to be a goddess isolated to the Cologne region, Vagdavercustis is only cited in dea Vagdavercustis, a sacrificial altar dedicated to her by the Prefect of the Praetorians, Titus Flavius Constans, in the 2nd century CE. The altar depicts five men participating in a ritual, seemingly in honor of the goddess. Like Sandraudiga, she was thought to be revered by the Batavi. Vagdavercustis may share realms with the Roman god Virtus, a deity associated with military might and bravery.

READ MORE: Roman Gods and Goddesses: The Names and Stories of 29 Ancient Roman Gods

Zisa: The Speculated Isis of Germania

Realms: Tutelary goddess of ancient Cisaris (Augsburg, Germany).

Fun Fact: She may be the legendary “Isis of the Suebi.”

Zisa (Cisa) is attested in an 11th-century manuscript titled Excerptum ex Gallia Historia (Excerpt from the History of Gaul). According to the work, Zisa was a tutelary goddess of the archaic city of Cisaris, which was so named for her after she guarded Cisaris against Roman invasion. There is little other information regarding the goddess outside of Excerptum, and all references since have relied on Excerptum’s interpretation.

Speculations of just who Zisa could have been to the ancient Germanics continue to grip scholars. Some, such as Jacob Grimm, believe she is a consort of the god Tyr, whose Old High German name Ziu sounds similar to Zisa’s. Others are inclined to the thought that Zisa could be the mysterious “Isis of the Suebi” that Tacitus mentioned in his 1st century Germania.

Now, despite the bewildering phenomenon of an Egyptian goddess being worshiped among the Germanic Suebi (something even Tacitus was confused by), it would mean that Zisa’s realms were similar enough to Isis’ for Tacitus to make such a connection. After all, protection, healing, fertility, and motherhood are all appealing realms for a goddess to have under her dominion.

READ MORE: 35 Ancient Egyptian Gods and Goddesses

Who Was the Main Germanic God?

By all accounts, Woden was considered the main Germanic god. He was viewed as the head of the pantheon in many regions across Germania. This is especially true with Northern mythology and the Norse gods. Woden was notably popular in the Viking Age as his Norse form, Odin, and was a stand-out figure in Skaldic poems.

Deities Introduced By Nordic Baroque Scholars

The gods and goddesses introduced by Nordic Baroque scholars were by and large Roman by design. By that, we mean the gods made were mostly just Nordic rewrites of popular Roman deities. Germanic peoples did not necessarily worship the following gods and goddesses. They were an after-effect of Roman imperialism in Roman Germania and the Classical revival of the Baroque period (17th and 18th centuries CE).

Who Were the Matres and Matronae?

The Matres and Matronae were a collection of female deities of either Celtic or Germanic origin worshipped in Northwestern Europe. In Latin, the title of these goddesses translates to the “Mothers and Matrons.” Evidence of their veneration primarily comes after Roman presence in the region, indicating the Matres and Matronae as a post-imperial attempt to Romanize local goddesses.

READ MORE: 16 Celtic Gods and Goddesses: Ancient Celtic Pantheon

From archaeological evidence such as the Aufanian Matronae, the Matres and Matronae were almost always depicted as a group of three goddesses. Inscriptions reflect the names of Celtic and Germanic goddesses, further supporting the idea that the goddesses were not of Roman origin despite Roman occupation.

What are Idisi?

Idisi (singular, idis) are divine, feminine entities throughout West Germanic mythos. They have been argued to be either the equivalent of Valkyries or dísir in various scholarly circles. Thus, idisi tend to be interpreted as protective spirits or beings of fate. The first of the Merseburg Incantations call upon idisi to delay an army, further emphasizing their potential relation to Old Norse Valkyries.

Alternatively, “idis” could simply be a way to refer to a dignified woman who wields some authority. It is used throughout the Old English epic, Beowulf, to describe various female characters: from the Danish royals of Hildeburh and Wealhtheow to Grendel’s mother.

Christian Influence on Germanic Gods

By the 6th century CE, much of Germania had been converted to Christianity. The process likely began sometime between the 3rd and 4th centuries, beginning with those territories already within the Roman Empire. Therefore, it is no surprise that Christianity had some amount of influence over our current perspective of Germanic divinities.

READ MORE: How Did Christianity Spread: Origins, Expansion, and Impact 

Based on the Baptismal Vow, converting to Christianity largely meant forsaking traditional deities. Long-established means of worship and the names of gods were lost in this religious exchange, leaving later historians to pick up the pieces. Well, what pieces could be found, that is. Despite Roman records of there being temples throughout Germania, most Germanics had similar means of worship to the Celtics; they venerated gods in nature, at locations they deemed sacred.

Unlike the Greeks, Romans, and Egyptians, the people of Germania didn’t leave behind massive archaeological sites dedicated to their gods.

Furthermore, most of our information regarding the religious practices and beliefs of Germania comes from non-Germanic sources. These would include the Romans, Christian scholars, or those heavily entwined with the Christian church (like the would-be Saint Bede).

The Gods of Ancient Germania: The Takeaway

The deities of ancient Germania are as complex as the people who worshiped them thousands of years ago. Largely lost to the annals of history, these gods and goddesses have been rediscovered through archaeological records and generations of dedicated scholars. Thus, they live on in local legends and seemingly ancient literature that many, perhaps, see as having little impact on their lives today.

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