Even today, hundreds of Icelanders worship the ancient Norse gods. But who exactly were these deities?
The Norse pantheon is made up of many characters and is dominated by a complex story strung together by murky, often incomplete chapters. Indeed, at times we know the names of some gods but are left only to guess at what role they played in Norse mythology.
For now, you can meet the rest right here — owning modern times with ancient flare.
Hollywood Wants This Couple on the Red Carpet
Names: Odin and Frigg
Realms: King and Queen of Asgard. Odin is also the god of magic, widom and shamanism, among other things. Frigg is the goddess of the sky, marriage, fertility and family
Family: Twin sons Balder and Hod
Fun Fact: Odin traded one of his eyes for wisdom
The glamour couple of Norse mythology is undoubtedly Odin and Frigg. He is the grand ruler of all the gods and his wife is the highest-ranking goddess; their home bests anything the wealthy could ever build in Beverly Hills.
They are the king and queen of an entire world called Asgard. But, unfortunately, fan tours are not allowed or possible. Asgard is said to be in the sky and not truly material or solid in the way that we touch things. So… space flight with the aim of shaking a Norse god’s hand is out.
Meeting Odin might not be a dream come true. He only speaks in poetry, which could irritate even the most polite of visitors. He also enjoys war, so his idea of entertainment for guests might be a graphic battlefield at teatime.
As the hostess, Frigg might use her power to see what the future holds and discover that you’ll step on a nail tomorrow — a rusty, lock-jaw inducing spike. But, instead of issuing a warning, she’ll smile and offer you another biscuit. Frigg never reveals her visions.
Odin is known to hunt wisdom relentlessly, but the hobby makes him far from chilled. He likes and supports outlaws, doesn’t care why wars are fought, and instead enjoys the frenzy of the battlefield.
His complex nature also has roots in the realms of shamanism and necromancy. Indeed, he is also the ruler of Valhalla — the great hall that he guards and shares only with the deceased he deems worthy.
Frigg is more compassionate than her husband. The nurturing of one’s family and the home is important to her, as well as the welfare of women and children back on Earth.
While Odin scares the general population and runs with the berserkers, Frigg is the one to approach when seeking a good marriage, plenty of babies, and protection for family. To be fair, though, Odin does grant certain humans the gift of words, enabling them to become great poets and writers.
Most Likely to Find in a Bar
Names: Bragi and Aegir
Realms: Bragi is the god of music and poetry. Aegir represents alcohol and banquets.
Family: Aegir is married to Ran, Bragi is Odin’s son
Fun fact: Bragi was seen as a peaceful god but sailors feared Aegir and his sea-family
Imagine frequenting your favorite watering hole and meeting two Norse gods.
If you did so, one of the gentlemen you’d encounter for sure is the god Bragi — the bard of Vahalla who loves rhyming words and wisdom. For that reason, the bar probably attracts him with their “Tuesday night is poetry reading night!” banner and because the waiter serves fortune cookies.
His habit of entertaining the dead with music might not sit well with the living, so Bragi never drags the undead into an earthly bar. As a wise god, he knows this will just freak everybody out and that’s bad for business. But, just in case a customer boost is needed, his friend can help.
The second of the two Norse gods you’d likely find enjoying a martini in the corner of a bar is Aegir, the god of alcohol and banquets. This guy can throw a feast no matter where he is. When everybody tires of Bragi singing praises to Odin’s exploits, Aegir can bolster their warmth towards the bard with snacks and wine.
He’s also the god of storms and oceans, so unless you want to get washed away by an angry tidal wave, you’d better accept that sheep’s eye on a toothpick when he offers you the plate of appetizers.
When it’s time to go home, Bragi staggers back to Valhalla while Aegir returns to his wife, Ran (whom we’ll meet her later on), and their nine daughters. They live in a grand hall under the sea and have no trouble breathing water. That seems to be a skill of the Norse gods — as the entire pantheon regularly visits the couple to participate in their delicious banquets.
Most Likely to Find in a Bar Fight
Names: Thor and Loki
Realms: Loki was the god of mischief, Thor was the god of Thunder
Family: Thor is the son of Odin, Loki fathered of Hel, Queen of the underworld
Fun fact: Most of Loki’s family were giants but he became a Norse god.
While Bragi is happy to hum tunes and watch Aegir conjure champagne for everybody, other gods are not so benevolent. Thor and Loki are likely to square off near the pool table, as the strongest god, Thor, is also the easiest to anger — especially when the giants make fun of him.
Loki, whose father was a giant, is a masterful trickster who delights in fooling people and deities alike. This already isn’t a good combination, but just wait. It gets worse.
The two are known companions, but things are quickly soured after Thor finds out that Loki killed one of his brothers — the god, Balder. A trigger if there ever was one; especially when the red-headed Thor notices that Loki is back to shooting pool as if nothing had happened.
Thor, the god of thunder, plucks out his hammer, Mjölnir. Loki sees what’s happening and knows, wisely, that nobody can beat the strength of the magical tool. So he bides his time and waits, and when Thor throws the hammer Loki — seconds before impact — changes his looks into Thor’s wife, Sif, making it look like he had killed his true love.
While he may be the strongest, Thor is not the brightest of the Norse gods. Seeing his beloved dispatched to Valhalla and wondering what his father Odin might say, he uses Mjölnir’s resurrection ability to bring her back to life. Or, rather, Loki back to life.
Who’ll win this epic duel? Thor has his strength, thunder, and lighting; while Loki — who is also a fire god — has his wits and shapeshifting ability.
This could drag on for a while.
Most Eagerly Awaiting the Outcome of the Barfight
Realms: Queen of the Norse underworld, the dead and death
Family: Her father is Loki and her brother is the terrible wolf Fenrir
Fun fact: Hel was half dead and half alive
This girl is most definitely not rooting for Thor. Hel was born when Loki took a fancy to her mother, Angerboda. With her half-giant dad and giantess mother — an ancestry that she’s described as showing by appearing half blue — she shouldn’t technically be a Norse goddess, but she aces it.
In fact, she does her father proud when it comes to being mean. Frigg may be the queen of Asgard, but Hel rules the Norse underworld as her dark counterpart. Fittingly, she’s also the goddess of death and the dead.
Famously blasé to any kind of suffering, Hel might’ve found it amusing when Thor thought he killed his own wife. Some say that she always wears a grim expression, so even if she found Thor’s confusion a treat, she wouldn’t have smiled. To make matters more interesting, she also refused to release Balder, her father’s murder victim, from the underworld.
Despite her strange looks and dangerous kingdom, the queen of death isn’t Loki’s weirdest kid. Among others, Hel has a brother called Jörmungand who coils himself around the Earth as a giant serpent.
A second brother is the wolf Fenrir, who wreaked havoc during the Norse apocalypse event called Ragnarok. But by far, the oddest of Hel’s siblings is Sleipnir — a horse with eight legs who’s ridden by Odin.
The extra legs aren’t the problem — the strange part is that Loki gave birth to Sleipnir. Cute family.
Most Likely to Break Up a Bar Fight
Names: Tyr, Syn, Ullr, and Forseti
Realms: Respectively the god of duels, goddess of defense, and gods of justice
Family: Odin is Tyr’s father and Forseti’s grandfather, Thor is Ullr’s stepfather
Fun fact: Syn loves to guard doors
Let’s say that in this part of town, it’s against the law to brawl in drinking establishments. We can then safely say that Thor and Loki broke that law.
The god of thunder cracked open Loki’s head and, during the scuffle, the trickster managed to wound Thor with a broken bottle. Mistakes were made. However, it’s pretty unlikely that any legal system run by mortals can slap these two on the wrist.
Enter Norse Gods PD.
Tyr might respect the fight in a way — after all, he’s the god of duels and war. But he’s also the deity presiding over courage, law, and justice. An undignified scrap between gods in a human bar doesn’t fit with those values.
Using his fight expertise, he’s the best one to mediate a ceasefire between Thor and Loki. Indeed, his negotiation skills once duped Loki’s wolf son, Fenrir, to wear a chain, thus making the world a safer place. (Let’s just skip the part where Fenrir chewed off Tyr’s arm, shall we?)
Syn is the goddess of truth and defense. In order to deal with this spectacle, she had to leave Frigg’s palace where she guards the door against uninvited guests. She couldn’t refuse — one of her main attributes is to defend the wrongly accused, and, for this reason, Syn’s on the team to make sure that the bruised pair gets a fair hearing. Emphasis on “fair” here — the two remaining gods of justice are Forseti and Ullr, and they aren’t exactly on Team Loki.
Despite being a justice god and also owning the realm of reconciliation, some transgressions just hit a little too close to home. Forseti lost both his parents to Loki’s mischief — Balder was killed when the trickster manipulated another god into spearing him and Forseti’s mother, Nanna, mourned herself to death. Definitely too personal.
Most Likely to Fix You Up After a Bar Fight
Names: Eir and Fulla
Realms: Eir is the goddess of metalsmiths, marriage and medicine, Fulla is another healing goddess
Fun fact: Fulla also guarded Frigg’s jewelry box
After the dust settled, the gods were reprimanded by their legal team. But medical attention is usually needed after flying bodily over a table and crashing into another. Those who are bruised and bleeding are in luck — seeing that the night’s events tipped towards violence, Norse Gods PD brought along two healers.
Meet Eir and Fulla.
Eir is a potent physician who heals the other gods with a white tanned flower. She’s strongly built as she’s also a metalsmith and forge goddess, and she also likes to protect warriors — probably because it saves her from having to patch them up later. Her fellow paramedic, Fulla, is the chief handmaiden to Frigg.
Although she’s skilled in medicine, her talents extend to the weird and wonderful. She cares for Frigg’s shoes and also once carried the queen’s casket for some reason. She’s privy to all of Frigg’s secrets. The queen better hope that Fulla doesn’t decide to write a tell-all book about her employer — although we’ll buy it if she does.
Report to These Norse Goddesses for Your Community Service (After Damaging the Bar)
Names: Var and Snotra
Realms: Var is the goddess of oaths and contracts, Snotra is the goddess of hard labour
Fun fact: Var is particularly interested in agreements between men and women
Unfortunately, that table that one of the gods crashed into was a vintage… something. Besides being worth thousands of dollars, everyone who fought that night, despite being gods, also broke the no-fighting law that got Thor and Loki in trouble.
After slapping some community service on everyone involved, the court ordered them to report to their collective caseworkers, the goddesses Var and Snotra.
Facing the guilty, Var will demand an agreement to honor the verdict of the court. Nodding to this goddess is binding, because she commands the realms of oaths and contracts. And she’s not hesitant to punish anyone who breaks an agreement.
After having agreed to do community service and not jump bail, the group turns to Snotra. This lady maintains courtesy between people who find themselves in difficult situations. You know, like those who find themselves in a chain gang.
The goddess is exceptionally graceful in the way she treats events and people, which basically makes her the rockstar of etiquette. But she’s not there to just keep the peace during the hours of community service.
Snotra also happens to be the goddess of hard labor. She’ll hand over a pick-ax, pointing at the nearest boulder, and then all of a sudden you find yourself hacking it apart for the next six weeks.
And while everyone works blisters onto their hands, she’ll indulge in her passion for reading, doing so out loud in order to keep everybody up to date with the news and to keep them from getting bored.
As it happens, Snotra also inspires the best in people, using kindness to channel them to reach their full potential. So, in other words, hacking rocks with expert precision and passion is only right around the corner.
Worst God to Be Stuck in an Emergency With
Realms: The god of indecision
Family: Odin’s brother
Fun fact: Despite his lack of intelligence, some believe that Honir gave humans wisdom
When things go to Ragnarok in a handbasket, the best thing to wish for is a decisive companion who knows how to get things done. Survival depends on good decision-making skills and cooperation. Having a Norse god to help out during bad times sounds like a great plan — but not if it’s Honir.
Honir possesses a sparkling pedigree — he’s Odin’s brother and the uncle of Thor. But every elite family has a goofball, and Honir holds that honor. Somehow, the rest of his kin were blessed with cunning, strength, and magical powers.
But not this guy.
If this god ever lands in hot water, others can’t rely on his leadership. Indeed, if he’s famous for one thing it’s his inability to make decisions, no matter the situation. He has no special skills either, so forget about Honir throwing lightning bolts or navigating a short maze.
Honir got by on his stunning good looks. Which was a good thing, because besides being decision-challenged, he also lacks intelligence. This doesn’t make him a bad guy, and the other gods like Honir for his friendliness just fine, but they kind of throw him under the bus when things go bad.
He belongs to a powerful clan of Norse gods, called the Aesir. Their rival clan was the Vanir, and the conflict between the two became so bad at one point that both sides had to agree to stop. But to keep the peace, they had to trade hostages.
The Vanit sent a valuable god — Njord, who also took his two children, Frey and Freya along. The Aesir felt sneaky, though; they had no intention of sending a glorious god over to the enemy for nothing, and instead decided to offer two gods. One they probably regretted — the wise god called Mimir. The other? The family goof.
Having been told that Honir was a superb leader, the Vanir accepted him and immediately appointed him a high position. But that fell apart quickly, and the two clans erupted into the most epic civil war in Norse mythology. Dumb luck seems to be Honir’s superpower.
He made it out of that situation just fine. Even when the cosmos ended, he was one of the rare survivors of Ragnarok and walked away from the horror show practically unscathed.
The Ultimate Game Show Winner (but He’ll Probably Get Banned)
Realms: The god of wisdom and knowledge
Family: He might be Odin’s maternal uncle
Fun fact: The word “memory” could have its roots in Mimir’s name.
But what about the other hostage, Mimir? As the god of wisdom and knowledge, he’d probably make a killing on trivia game shows. But Mimir doesn’t waste his time with raking in the millions, holiday trips, and cars. He likes to stand next to his well.
Called “Mímisbrunnr,” those who consume its water become wiser. Since Odin loves wisdom, he once visited the pit and drank his fill. Then, for some reason, Mimir demanded a price. Gruesomely, this payment turned out to be one of Odin’s eyes.
Most people would run away screaming, but Odin didn’t mind. After that day, the leader of the Norse gods was permanently one-eyed. Then again, perhaps having his eye poked out by Mimir was the reason for why Odin packed him off as a hostage to the Vanir.
Once settled inside the enemy camp, Mimir was wise enough to know that Honir could never fake being a good leader — something that placed their lives in danger.
A good option would’ve been to dunk the god inside the well and make him clever, but Mímisbrunnr didn’t reside in Vanir territory. Instead, the wise man did his best to council Honir, and for a while, this fooled their captors into thinking that he actually was an amazing leader.
However, Mimir wasn’t always around, and soon it dawned on the Vanir that whenever they sought advice from Honir and he was alone, he refused to speak coherently. Realizing that Honir was a fool playing for time so that Mimir could provide the answers, the gods fired Honir from his high position and hacked off Mimir’s head.
But this wasn’t the end for the long-suffering guardian of the well.
The Vanir mailed his head back to Odin, mafia-style. Being a god, he somehow survived the decapitation for long enough to reach his destination and for Odin to preserve his noggin with magic. We don’t know what happened to the rest of Mimir’s body, but his freakishly living head continued to act as an advisor to Odin.
The Best Henchmen You Can Hire
Names: Heimdall, Vidar and Vali
Realms: Heimdall was the guardian of Asgard, the rest were gods of vengeance
Family: Sons of Odin
Fun fact: Heimdall guarded Asgar
Heimdall, Vidar, and Vali are three half-brothers who were all fathered by Odin. They have some anger issues, sure, but that works in your favor as a client. Heimdall comes with a caveat, though — you can only hire him sometime in the past. Unfortunately, he was killed at Ragnarok while killing Loki, who arrived with the enemy.
But before those terrible times, Heimdall was dedicated to keeping the kingdom of Asgard safe from attack. While working through his emotional issues of having been born of nine mothers, the god’s skill at surveillance could track down any elusive business partner owing you money.
He peered endlessly into the distance and was capable of hearing grass grow. Which was probably how he detected the storming hordes of evil characters, including giants and wolves, when Ragnarok came to Asgard.
Vidar and Vali are your best bet for vengeance. They’ll survive fighting your enemies — they even survived Ragnarok. Vali is a bit of a mystery, but he was conceived as the assassin of the god who was tricked by Loki to kill Balder.
And he was so good at his job that he fulfilled that particular destiny when he was a day old. These days, he must be several centuries old, at least — he’s probably dangerous as heck by now.
Like Loki and Vali, Vidar also had a giantess mother. However, he didn’t turn out to be a sour apple like Loki did. Instead, Vidar was known for his honor, his silence, and his weird, giant shoe — which was made when this god collected all the leather pieces thrown away by humans and used them to fashion it. This sounds strange, but Vidar wasn’t off his rocker; there was a method to his madness.
Like all the Norse gods, he knew that their doom was foretold in legends and that Ragnarok would destroy most of them. One of the most prominent gods predicted to die on this ultimate battlefield was Odin. His destroyer was said to be Fenrir, Loki’s wolf son.
So Vidar constructed his enormous boot to step on Fenrir and crush him. As it happened, Fenrir swallowed Odin and his personal warriors before Vidar could follow through with his plan, and — although he did end up dispatching the most terrible wolf in Norse mythology — Odin was lost forever.
Cue anger issues and seeking a career in the vengeance business.
God with the Most Twitter Followers
Realms: Messenger of the Norse gods
Family: Son of Odin and Frigg, brother to twins Balder and Hod
Fun fact: Hermod could travel between worlds to deliver his messages
Hermod is the messenger of the gods. Since posting stuff is his realm, he’s probably the most followed deity on Twitter. This son of Odin is also a pretty swell guy — when his brother Balder was murdered, he agreed to go to the underworld and talk to Hel. The idea was to convince the goddess of death to release him, but, strangely, nobody bothered to include Balder’s wife Nanna in the deal. Ouch.
But off he went. For nine nights he rode Odin’s eight-legged horse to go see the dark queen. And if you remember, the strange mount, Sleipnir, and Hel are siblings (how Loki fathered wolves and horses, we’ll never know).
At some point, the sacred messenger arrived at a bridge. But everything in Norse mythology seems to have a name, and this structure was no different. Nor was it alone. The Gjöll bridge was guarded by a maiden named Móðguðr.
The dead apparently haunt their way across Gjöll to reach the underworld, because Móðguðr confirmed that Balder had indeed already crossed the bridge.
She then kindly gave Hermod directions to Hel’s front door. And despite the queen’s demeanor, which can be described as borderline narcissistic and psychotic, he found Balder in good shape, sitting in a place of honor within her hall.
We’re going to take some liberties with the actual words that were spoken, but the conversation went along these lines:
Herod clears his throat, “Can you please release our Balder?”
Hel nods and says, “Sure, why not? But I have one condition. Everything, living and dead, must weep for this guy.”
Excited, Hermod tweets the news to the gods of Asgard and everyone spreads the word. A lot of tears follow. Even the rocks cry. All except for one stubborn giantess — and although widely suspected to be Loki in disguise, this broke the “deal” and Balder was doomed to remain with Hel forever.
Invite These Norse Gods along for the Perfect Skiing Holiday
Names: Ullr, Skadi and Hod
Family: Thor is Ullr’s stepfather, Hod is Odin’s son and Skadi married Njord
Fun fact: Skadi picked her husband by accident. She was only allowed to look at the legs of several gods and she chose a pair, thinking they belonged to Balder
That was a pretty dark and depressing story. Let’s go on holiday. Do you like skiing? Postcard views of snow and winter? Great! Several Norse gods own these realms. They have a cabin somewhere in the mountains and you’re invited.
Forget about feeling like a complete stranger — you’ve already met one of them. Ullr, one of the justice gods that gave Thor and Loki the stink eye after their bar fight, he loves to strap on his skis and enjoy the outdoors.
The cabin probably belongs to Skadi, the formidable Norse goddess who is said to live amongst the highest peaks. Being the goddess of skiing, mountains, and winter, she probably loves the cold conditions and the permanent snow up there.
Also an outdoor creature, her passion for archery and hunting likely makes her good friends with Ullr. The justice god might even have counseled her during her divorce — she’s one of the few goddesses mentioned to have separated from her husband.
Skadi was once married to Njord (who you’ll recall as the guy who was given to the Vanir as a hostage). Their marriage faltered, though, because Njord shivered too much in the mountains and Skadi detested his seaside home. Hello, divorce court.
In some ways, the cabin is filled with troubled pasts. Ullr is still recovering after pulling his stepfather, Thor, from the bar and explaining to his mother why her husband was drunk and in trouble with the law. Skadi is trying to find herself after a failed marriage. But these troubles seem small in the presence of the third and final god.
Hod is the god of winter. He’s blind, which is probably why he is also the god of darkness. The tragedy of this deity is linked, of course, to none other than Loki.
One day, the gods were throwing things at their beloved Balder. This was innocent fun and everybody got the chance to bonk him with an object. Hod was happy, and then someone guided him and told him where to throw.
Unfortunately, this guide happened to be the trickster who had also just handed Hod an arrow of mistletoe wood — the only wood capable of killing Balder. Thinking he was still playing the game, Hod unintentionally threw the arrow and slew him.
Nobody cared that he was tricked — Odin wanted him dead. And the agonizing thing was that Hod had killed his own twin brother. That meant his own father was the one who sent Hod’s half-brother, Vali, to assassinate him. Perhaps feeling poetic, Vali dispatched the blind god with another arrow.
These Norse Gods Probably Followed Neil Armstrong around the Moon
Names: Mani, Bil, and Hjúki
Realms: The Moon
Family: Mani’s twin sister is Sol, Bil and Hjúki are twins
Fun fact: Monday is named after Mani
Three deities are known to traipse around on the Moon regularly. Or perhaps they traipse around Earth but just have a lunar obsession? Who knows. The point is that, maybe, those UFO sightings reported back in the 1960s by astronauts were actually Mani, Bil, and Hjúki.
Mani is ancient. Legend has it that the Moon god was born with his twin sister during the creation of the cosmos (we’ll meet her later on). The pair was confused about their destiny.
To treat this newborn angst, the gods met and decided to give the siblings jobs — probably just to stop them from getting bored and turning into delinquents. The gods went all out. They created time, years, and lunar phases to stick the two to work.
Mani was gifted with a horse-drawn chariot to drive through the sky, and the phases of the Moon likely changed, depending on where he was in his journey. A fiery object in the sky that was intelligently operated — probably easy to mistake as a UFO.
While Mani relishes in freaking out astronauts and people who own telescopes, the goddess Bil and her brother Hjúki seems content to follow him wherever he goes. Their realms are as hazy as their mode of transport, but the brother and sister could represent the lunar phases and craters.
Exclusive secret message from Neil Armstrong to NASA: “Uhh, Mission Control, there’s this weird girl here sweeping up my tracks. Just walked through a crater and she gave me a really dirty look. Please advise.”
Gods to Blame When You Have to Cancel Your Picnic
Names: Idunn, and Balder
Realms: Goddess of spring and rejuvenation, Balder is the god of summer and joy
Family: Idunn is married to Bragi (the bard), Balder is Hod’s twin
Fun fact: Balder was exceptionally handsome and a favourite among the gods
A large, checkered blanket: check. Basket: check. All the delicious bits and bobs to have a great meal: check. Since you’ve had such a blast with the gods during your skiing holiday, you decide to invite a few of them along. Turns out, this was not the best idea.
Three of those invitations went to the dudes and the dudette that reside at the cabin — after all, they’d invited you, and it’s only polite to return the favor.
However, having three winter gods at a picnic makes things a little chilly. Food is served frozen and you can no longer feel your toes.
Your next guest shows up just in time. Idunn — the goddess of spring and rejuvenation. While she helps rejuvenate your toes back to their normal color and makes flowers pop up through the snow, you exchange small talk and realize that her husband is Bragi.
She mentions he came home one night with a black eye. You pretend not to know anything about the night that he got punched during the bar fight for reciting bad poetry.
Everyone’s surprised to see your final guest, which is none other than Balder himself. Hel had approved his day pass so he could take a trip out from the underworld. However, you realize almost instantly that you didn’t think things through — on the plus side, Balder shines, but this doesn’t meld well with the frosty vibe brought by the winter gods.
But therein lies the problem. One of them is Hod, Balder’s twin and also the god who accidentally killed him.
Things go downhill from there. Balder weirds everyone out by claiming he had dreams about his own murder and how he’d love to get his hands on Loki’s aorta. Everyone nibbles on their garlic roles in awkward silence while Balder starts to cry. He mumbles about medieval torture and how Hel would give him extra chores in the underworld if he put her father on the rack.
Probably for the best when you decide to call it a day.
Gods Who’ve Really Gone Above and Beyond
Names: Odin, Vili, Ve, Lodur, and Honir
Realms: Odin was the god of wisdom, magic and poetry. Vili, Ve, and Lodur are gods of creation. Honir is the god of indecision
Family: Odin, Vili and Ve are full brothers. Honir is Odin’s brother
Fun fact: According to one legend, Odin created the universe after slaying the frost giant Ymir
Let’s accept mythology as fact for a moment. (But we’ll look past the scary wolf things, Ragnarok, and the bridge taking us to Hel one day, okay?)
Imagine the gods have humanity’s true history and origins. Presented with this situation, a smart question would be, “Where do people come from?” Mimir, the god of knowledge, gladly shares the facts.
He takes out the family album and points to a picture. It shows a seriously old-looking guy. This is Buri. Nobody knows a lot about him except that he’s Odin’s grandfather. Despite spawning an illustrious bloodline, Buri, nor his son Bor, were gods themselves.
Bor was a primordial man who started the gods-love-giantesses thing early. He married one called Bestla and they had three kids together. These were the first gods: Odin, Vili, and Ve — three brothers that created the world. And at some point, somebody thought it would be fun to make humans.
The details are blurry, but Odin was one of the creator gods along with his two brothers. With them were two other gods — one being Lodur, a murky character without a lot going for him in Norse mythology.
Apparently he gifted the first two humans, Ask and Embla, with attractive looks. Ve, one of the brothers, gave them something a little bit more useful — sight, hearing, and the ability to speak.
But who was the other god that partnered with the three creator-brothers, you ask? Mimir seems miffed, and with good reason — it’s the bumbling deity whose actions led to Mimir’s head being separated from his neck.
That’s right, there are rumors that Honir was also there that day. One would think that he gave the human race traits like indecision, owlish behavior, and zero smarts.
But if this rumor is true, he’s actually the guy that sprinkled the first couple with spiritual ecstasy, battlefield frenzy, intellectual insight, and poetic inspiration.
Gods with Pimped-Out Rides
Names: Thor, Freya, Freyr, Gna and Sol
Realms: Respectively the god of thunder, goddess of love, god of fertility, messenger goddess and the sun goddess
Family: Freya and Freyr are twins, Sol’s twin is Mani, Odin is Thor’s father
Fun fact: Gna was just as fast as Hermod, the male messenger of the gods
When Thor finally got released by his legal team, he left the bar. The tipsy god weaved his way into the parking lot, searching for his ride. Despite seeing double and his memory being drowned in a sack of wine, he had no trouble clambering into the front seat.
After all, how many chariots pulled by goats wait near a parking meter? Perhaps it’s a good thing that the chariot flies through the sky — less things for an addled driver to collide with.
All the drinking made Thor crave a snack, but at that time of night the burger shops were closed. So, he just ate the goats. It’s not a problem — the animals have been eaten countless times. They always come back to life.
The next day, Thor used his hammer’s resurrection powers to reverse the leftovers back into goats. But that’s not the weirdest part — the strange names he’s got for his horned companions, “Teeth Bearer” and “Teeth Grinder,” probably reflect the way the goats look when they realize that Thor’s rummaging for the cooking pot again.
Thor’s isn’t the only chariot in the pantheon. Freya, one of the children exchanged during the hostage swap, also rides in one — though hers is a bit different. She grew up to become the goddess of love and is said to be quite beautiful. Her other realms include things like gold, death and war, which probably involves a lot of travel.
Like Thor, her chariot also flies. But Freya’s got more style — her vehicle is pulled by two cats. Plus, journeys can be long, so Freya outfitted a few perks. There’s a sound system that allows her to listen to music for hours, something she loves doing, and the glove compartment holds poetry scrolls.
If Freya can’t find her chariot around, she can fly superhero style using a cloak of falcon feathers. And when in a pinch, or just feeling in the mood for it, she rides a boar. Like Thor’s goats, does this poor animal also have a silly name? You decide — he’s called “Battle Swine.” Freya also isn’t the only one with a boar in their stable. Her twin brother, Freyr, hops on to ride his own pig, called “Golden Bristles.”
When Odin’s wife, Frigg, wants errands done on other worlds, she delegates. Why go all the way to another dimension or planet when you can send a minion? Frigg always summons one particular goddess for this purpose. Called Gna, her ride is as odd as her name. The woman’s horse can fly, but that’s not the unusual part — for some reason, Hófvarpnir has the ability to trot across the surface of the sea.
Remember Mani, the Moon god with his UFO-like chariot? It’s time to meet his twin sister Sol. As the sun goddess, she has her own horse-drawn sky vehicle. Mani endangers no one, but a shield must be kept between Sol and Earth, otherwise the planet will go up in flames. This task is made slightly more difficult by the fact that she and her sibling are chased by wolves — whenever one takes a bite at Sol, there’s a solar eclipse. And during Ragnarok, one of the wolves caught and ate her.
READ MORE: Sun gods
The Hogwarts Squad
Names: Gefjun, Gullveig, and Saga
Realms: Gefjun is the goddess of plouging and foreknowlege, Gullveig is the goddess of magic and Saga has psychic abilities
Fun fact: Gefjun once pretended to be a homeless woman and a generous king offered her some land.
As it happens, your picnic has ticked off three goddesses. They don’t buy that their invitations were “lost in the mail.” So they decide that you’ll never have another picnic ever again. Something they’re quite capable of preventing — these girls have magic on their side.
Gefjun is the goddess of foreknowledge. She can predict every spot that you might fancy in the future to drape your blanket. And once she identifies it, she fetches her oxen and plows the picnic spot into a disaster area. In fact, she’s so good at plowing, she used her skills in the past to create the island of Zealand in Denmark.
It’s not a good idea to confront Gefjun. The oxen used to be her four sons but she turned them into beasts of burden. If she can do that to her own kids, you won’t be better off.
Her friend Gullveig is even more dangerous. When she didn’t receive an invitation, the slight tore open old wounds of being disliked. When she’d first arrived at Asgard and performed magic, things had gone south and the other gods burned her to death three times.
This was particularly hard on Gullveig. She’s the goddess of magic, and it just so happens that the gods who lit the match also have powers. Some legends claim that she brought magic to Asgard and taught it to Odin, and if that version of the story is true, what happened would make anyone bitter. Imagine getting torched by your student after they aced their final exam.
The goddess Saga told the others that your “mail” excuse was a bold lie. She would know — she has psychic abilities, so nobody can pull a fast one on her.
However, Saga is kind and regrets riling up the others. As the goddess of tradition, she knows that a gift must be given to somebody going through a bad time, so she visits you with a cup of water and fish.
The vessel, element, and creature are her symbols. As she’s also the deity of inspiration, Saga then attempts to brighten your mood by encouraging you to pursue other pleasures now that all picnics are dead.
Gods at the Back of the Line When They Were Handing Out Destinies
Names: Beyla, Gerd, Rinder, Ran, and Sigyn
Realms: Respectively the goddesses of manure, fertility, drowned sailors and possibly victory. (Exception: Rinder was a giantess without any apparant realms)
Family: Beyla’s husband is Byggvir, Gerd is married to Freyr, Sigyn is Loki’s wife, Ran has 9 daughters with Aegir, Rinder’s father was King of the Ruthenians
Fun fact: As a seafaring people, the Vikings feared Ran and Aegir, whom they believed caused storms at sea
Beyla was handed a raw deal. Both she and her husband are servants to Freya, despite being Norse gods themselves. Even more humiliating, Beyla is the personification of manure, and, bizarrely, also the goddess of bees.
While Beyla received a smelly reputation and insect venom, Gerd, another goddess, was thrown into a terrible blackmail story. It started when the god Freyr secretly sat on Odin’s throne, which allowed him to see as far as the kingdom of the giants. He saw Gerd and immediately loved her. He moped so badly that his father sent a messenger with gifts to convince her to marry his son.
Gerd, who was both a giantess and a goddess, rejected the magical rings and the apples that would keep her young. She couldn’t care less that Freyr was the god of wealth, prosperity, and fertility. So what if he was the lord of the elves? She wasn’t going to marry a Norse god no matter what.
Freyr’s servant then moved on to threats — he told Gerd that the wrath of the gods would fall on her, and that he also wanted to chop her head off. When that shockingly didn’t work, he said he was going to murder her father and take over her mind, essentially turning her into his slave. She’d only ever be able look towards Hel and never enjoy food again; she’d become mad and suffer constant harassment from others.
Suddenly, the immortality apples and handsome god seemed like a good deal. Gerd accepted.
The story of Rinder is similar, but even worse. After Balder was murdered, his father Odin wanted a special assassin for the killer. So, he decided to have another son.
For some reason, he didn’t talk to his wife. Instead, Odin chose a giantess called Rinder and courted her, disguised as a warrior. When the goddess refused, things didn’t end there. Odin made her go mad, and then made her pregnant. From this unsavory union, Vali was born — avenging Balder’s death a day later.
A dark realm was given to the goddess named Ran. She doesn’t seem to mind that she lives in the underwater version of the zombie apocalypse — she rules over drowned sailors and uses her net to drag more people to their deaths.
Finally, Sigyn’s lot in life was caused by Loki (who else?). The two were married and had a son, but after he killed Balder, the gods influenced one of Loki’s other sons to tear apart the boy he shared with Sigyn. Gruesomely, the child’s entrails were used as chains to hold Loki captive in a cave, and despite the fact that his actions were what caused the death of her only son, Sigyn remained by his side. When the gods left a snake to drip poison on Loki’s face, his wife caught the drops in a bowl. Every time the bowl was full, she had to leave to discard the venom; Loki was in agony until she returned.
This Family Runs the Day-Night Business
Names: Not, Dellingr, and Dagr
Realms: Night, dawn and day
Family: Not and Dellingr are married. Dagr is their son
Fun fact: Not’s name literally means “night”
Thor’s grandmother is Nott, the goddess of the night. When she flies in her chariot, the sky darkens. This must be one of the easiest and most boring jobs out there, but at least she found love amongst her colleagues. The god of dawn, Dellingr, didn’t care that she’d been married twice before or that she was an enormous woman. The two made a great couple and soon welcomed a son, named Dagr. Unsurprisingly, he is the god of day. To shed light upon the world, Dagr rides a horse with a freakishly bright mane.
The Best Crew to Dazzle You Up for Prom Night
Names: Hnoss and Gersemi
Realms: Everything from beauty, adoration to desire
Family: Their mother is Freya
Fun fact: The sisters are among the most beautiful goddesses.
Forget the salon. Go straight to twin sisters Hnoss and Gersemi for your prom preparations. With the love goddess Freya as their mother, these goddesses know their stuff — it doesn’t matter if you’re a guy or a gal, everyone needs a spectacular look for prom night.
The sisters use a two-pronged strategy. Gersemi, as the goddess of beauty, possessions, and personal adoration, will give you a makeover and gifts for your crush. She’ll also make you personally adorable.
The realms of Hnoss are racier — she’s the goddess of temptation and ecstatic desires. However, the sisters value their innocence and never put another person under a love spell. You’ll leave with romantic offerings, a killer outfit, and a little extra charisma
Prom should go great.
Best Shoulder to Cry on When Your Crush Rejects Your Prom Invitation
Names: Hlin, Lofn, and Sjofn
Realms: Hlin protects those who mourn, Lofn is the goddess of forbidden love, and Sjofn encourages non-romantic love between family and friends
Fun fact: Some say that Hlin is Frigg in disguise.
Alright, nevermind, that didn’t go well at all. You sob for a good thirty minutes, with your face buried in Hlin’s robes. She’s fine with your makeup and hair gel sticking to her shoulder.
As the goddess who offers solace from mourning, she knows you’ll survive and that there’s probably a handmaiden somewhere who can put the robes through the laundry later. Hlin’s protection services also extend to those in physical danger. Partial to innocent women and fugitives, she’ll don her armor and go to their rescue.
Lofn is the goddess of forbidden love. While a crush rejection doesn’t measure high on the scale of star-crossed lovers, one party is still pretty much devastated.
Lofn can help anyone to let go of the feelings of rejection, and even shame. Sjofn loves families, and can fill the void with affection and friendship, as these are her realms. She supports the non-romantic relationships between people and makes them see that these are just as powerful and satisfying.
These Gods Know How to Make an Entrance
Names: Kvasir and Buri
Realms: Kvasir was a god of wisdom. Buri was the primeval ancestor of the Norse gods
Family: Buri was Odin’s grandfather, Kvasir had no blood family
Fun fact: After his murder, Kvasir’s blood became Odin’s property.
Most gods have strange births, but two in particular deserve special mention.
Kvasir was said to be the wisest sage of them all. Remember the hostage swap? That wasn’t the only gesture made between the Aesir and the Vanir to keep the peace. Another of their treaties was downright weird — the two groups spat into the same vessel, and Kvasir sprang forth from the congealed glob of saliva.
He became famous for always having the right answer. But forget about pleading for tonight’s lotto numbers — Kvasir was murdered by dwarves who feared knowledge.
Bizarrely, they distilled his blood in a cauldron, and those who wish to have wisdom and poetry in their souls can add honey before drinking the mixture. Totally not disturbing at all.
You’ve already met Buri, Odin’s grandfather who simply popped into existence out of nowhere. It’s true that he didn’t have parents that anyone knew of; instead, he was caught inside a block of ice.
Nobody knows how, when, or why that happened but his “birth” is the moment he was released. Did the sun come up and melt the ice? Did he sense his time had come and broke free? Did the block tumble down a mountain and shatter against stone?
Nope. Buri was actually freed when the divine cow, Audhumla, ambled up to his frosty encasement and licked him to freedom.
Want Triplets (and Child Support)? Talk to This God
Realms: Fertility, wealth, the sea
Family: He was married to Skadi and he’s the grandfather of beauty gurus Hnoss and Gersemi
Fun fact: Njord was once widely worshiped by the Norse people.
Kids are great but they’re also expensive. Njord’s the guy to talk to when you want a big family and don’t want to end up feeding them only peanut butter and jelly sandwiches made from the crust.
He’s the god of both fertility and wealth. Just for some context, he’s also the father of Freyr and Freya (the ones who ride the boars). The winter goddess, Skadi, divorced him because she hated his beach house, and he was also one of the hostages sent by the Vanir to their rivals.
Njord is a sea god and protects sailors. For this reason, invite him along for a family cruise. But don’t forget to invite Gefjun, Gullveig, and Saga along this time!
The Norse Gods: Your New Best Friends
As you can see, the stories of the Norse gods are, at times, random, gruesome, funny, strange, and confusing. But together, they helped guide the Norse people through their history and have firmly established themselves in our modern minds — even more so if you’re a worshipper.
But, most importantly, now that you know more about who the many Norse gods are, it’ll be much easier for you to determine which ones to spend your time hanging out with and which ones to avoid at all costs.
READ MORE: Egyptian gods and goddesses