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Gods, Goddesses and Their Gear

Norse gods are depicted by their roles in the big play, what they own, their wife, and children, and their names, all of which may indicate significant, humans-helping qualities once upon a time. However, times change, and pantheons of gods and goddesses change markedly too. And text versions may differ.

First many get into conditions of dire need unless they take lots of action. Even if many of them survive for a long time, they start to dream of a better life, and place gods and heroes into some common, idealised roles and places. Then they get inspired to start a process of devising tools that helps a better life. See how far Scandinavians have succeeded.

Thor and Mjolne, his hammer. Central part of a Faroese stamp.
"If I had a hammer,
I'd hammer in the morning,
I'd hammer in the evening,
All over this land . . ."

The hammer lines are from the song "If I Had a Hammer" ("The Hammer Song)" by Pete Seeger and Lee Hays in 1949. Cover versions by Peter, Paul and Mary as well as Trini Lopez became Billboard hits.

The first verse sums up the Norse god Thor's wish for a hammer. He wished it; elves smithed one for him. If he threw it, it returned to him. Thor was also a Norse god of fertility - the god with a hammering love. Thor, "a hammer-wielding god associated with thunder, lightning, storms, oak trees, strength, the protection of mankind, and also hallowing and fertility." (WP, "Tor")

Thor could fly through the air in a chariot pulled by two goats (that he managed to eat and resurrect). There is more about him further down.

Norse Dreams and Norse Gods

Mythological writings about Norse gods are found in the Edda books. Old, mythological poems in them probably stem from Norway, it is held. (EB "Scandinavian literature")

The folklore of Norway is rife with ideas where the hero (protagonist) is helped by magical objects. Similar ideas were current among Norsemen. Their most cherished gods and goddesses had equipment and weapons to dream of. There are many other gods and goddesses equipped with special items too. It may be suggested that the features, capabilities, and wonder-gadgets of Norse gods indirectly suggest (a) cumbersome sides of being a Norseman or Viking; (b) yearnings for getting a less toilsome life; and besides, (c) many late inventions have come fairly close to such early imagery; (d) very bad neighbours are out to rob and kill and take slaves where they should not do that.

Cumbersome sides to being Norse might be:

  • Few and very bad roads for most part.
  • Depending on travel by sea, and often without a fair wind, having to row.
  • Pulling viking ships on timber logs between European rivers - trudging in marshes.
  • Lots of diseases.
  • Awful neighbours bent on plunder, arson, and taking and selling slaves.
  • Difficulties with getting good food to last through the year.
  • Etc.

We may explore just one myth segment to this end here:

Bad conditions could in time give rise to the dreams or yearnings that appear to help, at least for some time. Wishes for many kinds of magical objects may be attached to gods and notables, and if so, greatly coveted things could become "god-equipments". Some might benefit mankind. To benefit and protect humans was a part of the "role to play" for Norse gods as well. That is part of one theory; there are other theories too.

Along this line of good life the wonder-beasts that may be slaughtered and fed on only to be brought to life and served the next day again and the next and so on indefinely - suggest lack of food in a part of the world with long winters again and again.

Norse gods excel to a large extent by means of transportation and weaponry, which reflects overriding aspects of how Norsemen lived, deep needs they had of weaponry and means of transportation. Good means of transportation are still dreamed of up north. They include fast trains and a network of railroad tracks for the whole country.

Norse gods as they are described, excel in part by means of transportation and weaponry. It could reflect various sides to Norseman living: very deep yearnings for weaponry and means of transportation, as well as other issues needing to be solved. Perhaps some myths contain useful clues as to how to deal with newly developed equipment too.One myth segment:

The boar Saerimne serves as food for the increasing gang of fallen warriors in Valhalla. The cook Andrimne cooks the boar in a kettle every day, but at night the boar is as unharmed and alive as before. The fallen warriors drink mead that flows from the udder of a goat, Heidrun. (Munch 1981, 87)

Fallen warriors may not have what it takes when it comes to food and drink anyway. But even in the hall of Odin the warriors had bones to pick and did not desist from fighting all day long in the beyond. To slay one another (from being slain already) and rise again at evening was heaven to them or one of their pastimes. There is some unlogic there, not unlike "The other side has an other side too."

Beneath the masks of their myths, Norsemen were often in dire need of food and drink unless they killed and slaughtered a lot and planned well ahead for a long winter and much else. Winters were very long, roads hardly existed, ocean waves often ran high, and apart from raging storms, the weather could be icy cold and the night awfully long and icy cold - fit for freezing to death.

So, Norsemen might have wished for a wise supply of food and very warm, water-resistant clothes and placed their wishes onto gods and goddesses. By looking at the ascribed attributes of gods and goddesses we could end up with promising clues as to how conditions were, and what yearnings they might evoke, and what came out of it in time - for example in the form of geer and tools for common folks nowadays.

Things Change; Pantheons Too

All tales are not blown up in time, but some are. Philip Yampolsky writes about Zen patriarchs:

Their biographies, the stories about them, the legends which are found in later histories were, however, by no means fixed. These were first recorded, expanded, and . . . they form a part of the evolution of the Ch'an [Zen] legend. [It was later adorned] with the fanciful stories and pseudofactual detail added later to bring both emotional appeal and [an appearance of] authenticity to their characters. (Yampolsky 2012, 7)

Many legends and myths and folk tales change in time and also appear in different versions. They are in a slow flux. Some gods get new attributes added to old ones, or old attributes disappear. The status accorded to them often changes through millenniums too, and some gods and goddesses are blended with others, others are forgotten, and "new heroes" rise in the pantheons. One may be aware of this and benefit - that is, get less rigid or "set" about myth versions.

Old Norse sources name many deities. Names of persons and place names in various areas suggest which gods people there once felt connected with, and also suggest places of worship.

Norse gods are usually considered to be of two tribes, the Aesir and the Vanir. They made peace between themselves and exchanged hostages. Thus, fertility gods of the Vanir - Njord, his son Freyr and presumably his daughter Freyja - came to live among the Aesir, the story goes.

Information about the Scandinavian gods is based chiefly on poetry composed late in the pagan period and on the remarks of outside, Christian observers of heathendom.

Many gods were nearly forgotten, as is the case with Ull and Tyr (further down).

Norse Goddesses

Among the Norse goddesses are Frigg, Jord, Freyja, Saga, Eir, Gefjon, Var, Vor, Syn, Snotra, Idun, Nanna, Sif, and Rind. Much is unclear. Some of these goddesses might be Frigg by other names, for example. Further, family relationships among various gods differ among the manuscripts. It shows up that different poems bring different tales. Lots of fake relationships are rather likely, and "clarifications" that come down to us from Snorri, may not be much true either, but just his version of things, one version among others, and not reliable either.

Now for Peter Andreas Munch's descriptions of Norse goddesses. Abstracts follow:

Frigg: Munch writes: "The Frigg of the Eddas was no doubt derived from an ancient goddess of earth or of fertility." Also: "Her name . . . designates her as the beloved of the supreme divinity . . . "

Jord: "According to Snorri's Edda, Jord is the daughter of Anar, or Onar, and Night." She is the mother of the thunder god Thor and personifies earth. Fjorgyn and Hlóðyn are considered to be other names for Jord (Jörð). Some scholars refer to her as a goddess. (WP, "Jörð")

Freyja: "Horn (H°rn?) [is] according to Snorri . . . another name for Freyja . . . a goddess of fertility . . . The goddess of earth or of fertility is the only one of the feminine divinities who was the object of general, public worship. . . . / The cult of Freyja was popular [as judged by] a large number of place names. She is regarded as a mighty goddess . . . Moreover, tradition relates that Freyja was a great sorceress; she practiced a lower form of sorcery." Also: "Freyja was in the habit of driving a cart drawn by two cats; and she had in her possession the magnificent necklace called Brisingamen. . . . She had special authority in the relations of love, yet she was not the only goddess of love to whom men had recourse . . ." / Freyja had several names. She was called Vanadis because she came of the race of the Vanir.

Saga "Possibly Saga is only another name for Frigg." Saga is "she who sees - and knows - all things."

Eir: "Eir [from 'mercy'] is the goddess of healing."

Gefjon: "Gefjon, according to Snorri's Edda, was a maiden, to whom came after death all who died maids. Odin says . . . she knows the fates . . . It thus seems as if Gefjon, like Saga, corresponds to Odin's wife Frigg."

Var "hears the oaths of fidelity that men and women make to each other . . . and Var punishes those who break them."

Vor "is endowed with prudence; she searches into all things so that nothing remains hidden from her."

Syn "guards the door of the hall" and prevents the unworthy from entering; she also hinders men from bearing false witness in courts of law.

Snotra is wise and decorous of manner.

Idun, "the one who "renews," "rejuvenates" is "the wife of Bragi. [She] had in her possession the most priceless treasures of the Æsir, certain apples that restored youth to those who ate of them."

Nanna, the brave, persevering: "Nanna, daughter of Nep, was the wife of Balder, whom she so loved that her heart broke at his death."

Sif: "Sif was the wife of Thor. She had been wedded before, to whom we do not know; and she was the mother of Ull, who is called the stepson of Thor. Sif was fair and had gold hair fashioned for her by cunning Dwarfs. Her name, meaning "kindred," "relationship," indicates that she was thought of as the protector of homes."

Further, "In the Skáldskaparmál of Snorri's Edda (I, 556) there is a list of the goddesses. Here are named Frigg, Freyja, Fulla, Snotra, Gerd, Gefjon, Gna, Lofn, Skadi, Jord, Idun, Ilm, Bil, "Njorun," Lin, Nanna, Noss, Rind, Sjofn, Sun, Saga, Sigyn, Vor, Var, Syn, Thrud, and Ran. Two of the number, Ilm and Njorun, are not known otherwise except in skaldic paraphrases, which are not very enlightening. Ilm is more likely to be a Valkyrie than a goddess," informs Munch (Ibid.).

Bragi

Bragi - "by night or day his vision spans a hundred miles of space . . . he is a fit watchman for the gods," writes P. A. Munch. Bragi is the skaldic, bearded god of poetry and eloquence in Norse mythology. Bragi's mother is possibly the giantess Gunnlod. Bragi is generally associated with bragr. He is married to Idunn (above). Snorri Sturluson writes in the Gylfaginning:

Bragi . . . is renowned for wisdom, and most of all for fluency of speech and skill with words. He knows most of skaldship, and after him skaldship is called bragr, and from his name that one is called bragr-man or -woman, who possesses eloquence surpassing others, of women or of men. His wife is Iðunn.

Whether Bragi the god originally arose as a deified version of a man called Bragi Boddason was debated among scholars in the 19th century. The debate remains undecided.

Heimdall

In the Prose Edda, Heimdal (Heimdall, Heimdallr) is known "the white As", is "great and holy", and that nine maidens, all sisters, gave birth to him. He needs less sleep than a bird, can see at night just as well as if it were day, and for over a hundred leagues. Heimdallr can hear grass as it grows, wool as it grows on sheep, and anything louder. He has gold teeth, and possesses a resounding horn. He owns a golden-maned horse. Heimdallr has foreknowledge also, not only keen eyesight and hearing, and keeps watch for the gods.

Heimdallr is attested in the Poetic Edda, which was compiled in the 13th century from earlier traditional material; in the Prose Edda and Heimskringla, both written in the 13th century. Scholars have produced various theories about how the god is, including his apparent relation to rams.

The etymology of the name is obscure, but 'the one who illuminates the world' has been proposed.

"Heimdallr's attestations have proven troublesome and enigmatic to interpret for scholars. Scholar Georges DumÚzil summarises:

The god Heimdall poses one of the most difficult problems in Scandinavian mythography. As all who have dealt with him have emphasized, this is primarily because of a very fragmentary documentation; but even more because the few traits that have been saved from oblivion diverge in too many directions to be easily "thought of together," or to be grouped as members of a unitary structure. (WP, "Heimdallr")

Thor (Þórr)

Place-names, personal names, poetry, and prose show that Thor was worshipped widely. Thor's name derives from the Germanic term for thunder. He was more in vogue among Vikings than Odin.

Thor was the popular helper of the common man. Place-names in eastern Scandinavia and in England indicate that peasants adhered to Thor for rains and good crops; he was the most popular Norse god in most places. Norse warriors trusted him too. For example, when the Vikings conquered Normandy, they called on Thor to help them in their military exploits.

A god of great strength and fertility, he rode through the air. He owned remarkable tools, such as a belt that increased his strength, working gloves for protecting the hands, and a boomerang-like hammer. Thor's mastery of electrical discharges were greater than those of stun guns, as awesome as thunder and lightning may be -

Like Indra, Zeus, Jupiter and other Indo-European thunder-gods, Thor was essentially the champion of the gods, involved in struggles with jötunns (trolls) and giants. Trolls, who are they? Different kinds of trolls appear in mythology, epic poems, legends, fairy tales and further, and many of them are beastly.

In Norse mythology, jötunns (trolls), represent natural forces figuratively, tells Munch. In folktales, some trolls lurk under bridges waiting to eat goats, or appear as plastic dolls with bright, fuzzy hair. The "family" of trolls have recently come to include antagonizing and sometimes cruel people on the Internet in today's culture, cartoons and other aspects of the contemporary world, as Professor John Lindow is into in his academic look at trolls from their roots in Scandinavian folklore to mass-market troll dolls. In his book we find a history of trolls, simply.

In Old Norse, the word troll/trǫll denoted all sorts of things – giants, troublesome people, even troublesome animals. . . . [I]t is emblematic of trolls: they are shifting and changing, hard to pin down in the end, except perhaps by what they are not: human, normal, helpful. (Lindow 2014, 12) Lindow also tells that around 1200 an anonymous poet wrote:
All exaggerations seem short;
not much is worse than trolls. (Ibid. 13)

"That sentiment probably still holds, at least with respect to trolls," comments Lindow (Ibid).

Thor also went after the serpent Jormungand that coils around the world. There is a story about it.

Thor often travelled in a chariot drawn by goats. Thunder was thought of as the sound of his chariot. His main weapon is a short-handled hammer, Mjolnir. He also had iron gloves, and a belt that strengthened him.

He was known as Thunor in the Saxon and Jutish areas in England. The Saxons on the mainland venerated him as Thunaer.

Thursday is named after Thor; he was equated with Jupiter by the Romans.

Adam of Bremen recounts around 1080 that in the gold-decked temple of Uppsala, the people worship the statues of three gods. The mightiest of them, Thor, occupied a throne in the middle of the chamber; Wotan [Odin] and Frikko [Frigg] had places on either side. Status was reflected that way. Adam writes, "Thor, they say, presides over the air, which governs the thunder and lightning, the winds and rains, fair weather and crops. The other, Wotan - that is, the Furious - carries on war and imparts to man strength against his enemies."

Ull, Ullr

In some places the god Ull was one of the highest gods, and replaced Odin temporarily too. But it seems most Vikings held Thor to be the highest god. Kings and nobility, however, preferred the unreliable Odin as the highest god.

P. A. Munch (1926) says Ull is fair to look on, a mighty bowman and ski-runner; men summon him to their aid in single combat. He is the son of golden-haired Sif and the stepson of Thor. In the poem Grímnismál, his dwelling is named Ydalir, Yew-dales. [Munch on Ull]

In Skáldskaparmál, the second part of the Prose Edda, Snorri mentions Ullr in a discussion of kennings. Snorri informs that Ullr can be called ski-god, bow-god, hunting-god and shield-god.

Ullr is the same word as Gothic wulþus, "glory." . . . Place names indicate that the worship of him was general. The name of his dwelling, Ydalir (i.e., "yew-dales"), harmonizes well with the attribution to him of skill as a bowman; bows were often made of yew, and the term for yew is often found in our ancient literature as a designation for the bow, says P. A. Munch.

Tyr

As with Ull, memories faded about Tyr (Týr). Some scholars propose that Týr may have once held a more central place among the deities of early Germanic mythology. In other words, Tyr may have been a major god in early times, and the god "Odin may have risen to prominence over Tyr in prehistory, at times absorbing elements of the deity's domains. For example, according to scholar Hermann Reichert, due to the etymology of the god's name and its transparent meaning of "the god", "Odin . . . must have dislodged Týr from his pre-eminent position." (WP, "Túr")

His name, derived from Germanic Tŷwaz (Old English Tiw) and related to the Greek god Zeus, suggests that he was originally a sky-god. In Roman times, he was equated with Mars, and from this comes Tuesday (Icelandic Týs dagr).

Tyr is the one-handed god, because one of his hands had been bitten off by the monstrous wolf Fenrir. Tyr is brave and warlike. It is foretold that during Ragnarök he will face the hellhound Garm (Garmr), and they will kill each other.

Like other gods, Tyr is said to be a son of Odin (in Skáldskaparmál), but, according to one early poem, he was the son of a giant, the jötunn Hymir (in Hymiskviða). Lokasenna makes reference to an unnamed otherwise unknown consort of Tyr. Tyr's cult is remembered in place-names, particularly in Denmark.

There is more about Norse gods in P. A. Munch's Norse Mythology.

Odin

Odin (Germanic: Woden etc), was a llate-comer in the Norse pantheon. Support for thinking that Odin as a late-comer to the Scandinavian Norse pantheon is found in the sagas where, for example, at one time he is thrown out of Asgard by the other gods - a seemingly unlikely tale for a well-established "all father."

It was in quite late Scandinavian mythology as it survived on Iceland that Odin was presented as the ruler of Asgard in Norse mythology. Odin is the same as the Anglo-Saxon Woden and the Old High German Wotan. Odin was referred to by more than 200 names that suggest his different roles.

Parallels between Odin and Celtic Lugus, Lugh, Lug (identified with Mercury) have often been pointed out: both are intellectual gods, commanding magic and poetry. Both have ravens and a spear as their attributes. However, there is no one-to-one correspondence between Germanic and Celtic gods.

So Odin was equipped with a magic. He was able to change his shape and was accompanied by carrion beasts, two wolves and two ravens. The birds kept him informed. He also had an eight-legged horse for riding everywhere, the gift of poetry, along with spear and cover, and a sword. Odin worship was not widespread. He is associated with inspiration and poetic outbursts of bards.

Odin needed heroes in the otherworld. He was also a necromancer, the god of the hanged. He hung himself in a tree for nine nights, pierced with a spear, sacrificed to himself, and nearly dead [!].

Untrustworthy, Odin might break the most sacred oath. He thus got his prominent position among nobility [!], and what is more, human sacrifice was offered to him.

Wednesday (i.e., "day of Woden") is named after Odin.

The name of Odin is related to oðr, which means "fury, excitation," besides "mind," or "poetry." He is considered a principal and ambivalent member of the Aesir (gods) of the Norse Pantheon, and is associated with wisdom, war, battle, and death, and also trickery, cunning, and deception, magic, poetry, prophecy, victory, the hunt and Wednesday (Woden's-day)

Odin's "fighting bears": At times Odin used to lie down. Then he could change into bird, animal, fish or snake (a shape-shifter) and be in other countries. Odin used to carry the head of a dead man with him for wise conversation.

Berserks were warriors who were devoted to Odin: he managed to make his devoted men strong as bears and mad as dogs and wolves - he went far beyond pep talk. It was thought that some Norse warriors perhaps could change themselves into fighting bears for a couple of hours, and bringing death and ruin to an enemy thereby. Norsemen believed these things, and vital parts of the old Norse religion appears in the form of "folk beliefs" and superstitions in Scandinavia. Scandinavian folklore contains fragments of tales about Odin and Thor in particular.

Compare Samson, who led Israel for twenty years: We are told he "caught three hundred foxes and tied them tail to tail in pairs. He then fastened a torch to every pair of tails, lit the torches and let the foxes loose in the standing grain of the Philistines." (Judges 3:4-5).

A bit later "The Spirit of the Lord came powerfully upon him [as he was bound with two new ropes]. The ropes on his arms became like charred flax, and the bindings dropped from his hands. Finding a fresh jawbone of a donkey, he grabbed it and struck down a thousand men. (Judges 15:13-16)"

The Old Testament emphasises the "specialness" of those favoured by Jehovah. Are we asked to believe that berserk-like is good too? [Judges 15:4-15]

Njord

Njord lived close by the sea and ruled over sea, fire, and wind, and was a wealth-giver. Njord was associated with health, and fertility as well. He came as a hostage to the Aesir from the Vanir. He was essentially a god of the sea and its riches, much similar to Greek Poseidon. Njord married Skadi (Skaði), after having two children - Frey and Freya - with an unnamed sister.

Njord was much popular in Sweden and Norway, and one of the gods that Icelanders invoked when they took oaths.

Frey

Frey of fertility was the son of Njord, and ruled over the weather and the harvest, happiness, peace, and prosperity. He rode a wonder-boar (or hog) through the air and on water. The collapsible boat Skibladne that could sail on land and sea, and always has fair wind - could be carried in his pocket. We find some of the features of such a boat in folktales too. Frey also owned a sword that struck by itself. Many farmer activities relate to what Frey is often associated with.

Other Norse gods

There were other and lesser gods and goddesses equipped with special items. It may be suggested that the features, capabilities, and wonder-gadgets of Norse gods reflect (a) cumbersome sides of being a Norseman or Viking; (b) yearnings for getting a less toilsome life; and that (c) many late inventions have come fairly close to Viking imagery already.

Gods Changed or Were Replaced

Norse myths served for entertainment - both dramatic enactments, story-telling, and recitations by bards. The above is one interpretation of Norse myths as they now exist. Among other things they bear witness of human adaptations to difficult conditions on the planet - in part by fantasies, ideas, and a good understanding of how to cope and in part of make life better too. Also, culture heroes are rather often turned into gods by flights of fancy and culturally shared imagination after some centuries.

It also stands out from several mythologies that old gods get replaced by newer gods, who then may incorporate several of the features of the old gods. For example, Tyr, the highest god at a time, was replaced by Odin and the Viking popular Thor as the main god. Peter A. Munch's Norse Mythology furnishes much material for pondering. Understanding of remote tales rests on interpretation. People differ, also as interpreters, and their basis differs too, and that often has a part to play in the mental associations each tends to get and foster.

Worship

Sacrifice often was conducted in the open or in groves and forests. In Scandinavia, men brought sacrifice to groves and waterfalls. Temples also developed with the art of building. A detailed description of a hof is given in one of the sagas. Further, a building believed to be a temple has been excavated in northern Iceland, and its outline agrees closely with that described in the saga. The temple consisted of two compartments, perhaps analogous to the chancel and the nave of a church. The images of the gods were kept in the chancel. This implies that Icelandic temples of the 900s resembled large Icelandic farmhouses.

Temples on the mainland of Scandinavia were probably built of wood. An influence of pagan temples may be discernible in the so-called stave churches.

At the close of the pagan period, the temple at Uppsala was described by Adam of Bremen. His report is based on statements of eyewitnesses, but he may have been influenced by the biblical description of Solomon's temple too. Statues of Thor, Wodan, and Fricco (Freyr) stood together within it; the whole building was covered with gold, which could be seen glittering from afar.

There were also famous temples in Norway, but no detailed descriptions are given of them.

Sacrifice

Sacrifice took different forms. Roman authors repeatedly mention the sacrifice of prisoners of war to the gods of victory. A detailed description of a sacrificial feast is given in a saga about a king of Norway. All kinds of cattle were slaughtered, and blood was sprinkled inside and out; the meat was consumed and toasts were drunk to Odin, Njörd, and Freyr.

The most detailed description of a sacrifice is that given by Adam of Bremen. Every nine years a great festival was held at Uppsala, and sacrifice was conducted in a sacred grove that stood beside the temple. The victims, human and animal, were hung on trees. One of the trees in this grove was holier than all the others and beneath it lay a well that a living man would be plunged into.

There also were sacrifices of a more private kind. A man might sacrifice an ox to a god, for example.

A temporary end of the world

The end of the world is designated by two terms. The older is Ragnarok, meaning "Fate of the Gods"; the later form, used by Snorri and some others, is Ragnarøkkr, "Twilight of the Gods." Descriptions of that impending disaster are given chiefly in the "Völuspá" and the Poetic Edda:

Through their own work, and especially because of the strength of Thor, gods have kept demons of destruction at bay. The savage wolf Fenrir is chained, as is Loki, but they will break loose. Giants and other monsters will attack the world of gods and humans from various directions. Odin will fight the wolf and lose his life, to be avenged by his son Vidar (Víðarr), who will pierce the beast to the heart. [According to another Eddic poem, the wolf will swallow Odin and, in revenge, his son will tear the jaws of the beast asunder. Several more details are given in other sources, generally cruder than those of the "Völuspá."] — Thor will face the World Serpent, and they will kill each other. The sun will turn black, the stars vanish, and fire will play against the firmament. The earth will sink into the sea but will rise again, purified and renewed. Unsown fields will bear wheat. The god Balder and others with him will return. Worthy people will live forever in a shining hall thatched with gold.

Runic inscriptions

The runic alphabet was used throughout the Germanic world from about the first century CE. The runes had magical and sacral significance. Occasionally one god or another is named; the god Thor may be called upon to hallow a grave.

Runic writing is clearly derived from one of the alphabets of the Mediterranean area. Because of its angular letter forms, however, and because early runic inscriptions were written from right to left like the earliest alphabets, runic writing seems to belong to a more ancient system. And two inscriptions, the Negau and the Maria Saalerberg inscriptions, written in Etruscan script in a Germanic language and dating from the first two centuries CE, respectively, give credence to the theory that the runic alphabet was developed by the Goths, a Germanic people, from the Etruscan alphabet of northern Italy and was perhaps also influenced by the Latin alphabet in the first two centuries CE.

There are at least three main varieties of runic script:

  1. Early, or Common, Germanic (Teutonic), used in northern Europe before about 800 AD;
  2. Anglo-Saxon, or Anglian, used in Britain from the 5th or 6th century to about the 12th century AD;
  3. Nordic, or Scandinavian, used from the 8th to about the 12th or 13th century AD in Scandinavia and Iceland.

The users of the Nordic script started to compound the letter values of the older runic alphabet, using the same letter to stand for more than one sound, for example, one letter for k and g, one letter for a, æ, and o. This practice eventually made the Nordic rune alphabet (called futhark) dwindle to 16 letters.

More than 4,000 runic inscriptions and several runic manuscripts are extant. About 2,500 of these come from Sweden, the remainder being from Norway, Denmark and Schleswig, Britain, Iceland, various islands off the coast of Britain and Scandinavia, and other countries of Europe, including France, Germany, Ukraine, and Russia.

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Gods and Days of the Week

In Old Norse the days of the week are: sunnudagr (Sunday); mánadagr; tysdagr; ˇ­insdagr (Wednesday); ■ˇrsdagr; frjádagr (Friday); laugardagr or sunnunˇtt (Saturday, saturn-day). At the end of the Norse week people had their weekly bath. That has given rise to the name Laugardag (day of washing by dipping into water, bathing (oneself).

In ancient Greece, the names relate to the sun, moon, and many planets outwards, including Saturn - all held to be gods with different qualities, as told of in many, different variants of myths and otherwise.

The Latin names for the seven-days long week imported and fused the names of the Greek gods. In some languages the Latin is the source of the names of the days of the week, and in others Germanic is the source, and still further.

In English and Old English, what the week-days are called, is much like their Norse names.

Those who ascribe qualities to the days of the week by those names, plainly assume there is some fit start for the seven-day round of days, and that it is not just something conventional, if not arbitrary. At any rate, the names have been given.

There are more planets in the solar system; Uranus and Nepture did not get their week-days, and the week did not become nine days long either.

Also, at the end of the Norse week people had a bath. That has given rise to the name Laugerday (washing by dipping into water, bathing (oneself).

A source: WP, "Names of the days of the week")

Norse and Germanic are related, and Germanic and Indo-Aryan. This applies to languages as well as gods. Norse gods and Norse culture stem from the older Germanic mythology and culture, which was influenced by Roman gods and culture. And Roman mythology was to a large extent taken over from Greek mythology. The same applies to many other sides to Roman culture.

Both Roman, Greek, and Germanic belong to the same language, Indo-Germanic. If we study characteristics of gods and other culture elements, we may soon see similarities in the depths of their various ancient mythscapes along with language relatedness. But allow for modifications and additions and more, for that is how different cultures tend to develop their different patchworks. At any rate, there is an Indo-Aryan heritage involved.

For example, the popular Norse thunder-god, Thor, (Donner) equals the Greek Zeus (Jupiter) and the Indo-Aryan Indra, god of thunder and rain. You can read about the remnant descriptions of Norse gods in an informative book by Peter A. Munch. [Norse mythology]

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Norse myths of gods and what some of them are associated with, days of the weeks and Norse gods, Literature  

Bellows, Henry Adams. tr. 1936. The Poetic Edda. 2 vols. in one. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press. ⍽▢⍽ The Poetic Edda is a collection of Old Norse anonymous poems, and is different from the Edda written by Snorri Sturluson. Several versions exist, all are from a medieval Icelandic manuscript known as the Codex Regius - the most important extant source on Norse mythology and Germanic heroic legends. The dating of the poems in the collection is difficult. The translation by Bellows is good, but his old-fashioned English and the inverted sentence structure in tune with Norse poetics is far from modern English - but quite understandable. An example from The Second Lay of Helgi Hundingsbane, 2.7:

"Where hast thou, warrior, | battle wakened,
Or gorged the birds | of the sisters of Guth?
Why is thy byrnie | spattered with blood,
Why helmed dost feast | on food uncooked?"

Crossley-Holland, Kevin. 1980. The Penguin Book of Norse Myths: Gods of the Vikings. London: Penguin Books. ⍽▢⍽ The tales in this poet-scholar's translation are second to none. The book has three main parts. First, the introduction presents Norse beliefs, culture and historical background. Second, entertaining and - well - sophisticated myths in plain English and close to the original text. Third comes an appendix for looking further into each myth, and with cross-cultural comparisons with other mythologies. Very useful.

Daly, Kathleen N. 2010. Norse Mythology A to Z. 3rd ed. rev. by Marian Rengel. New York: Chelsea House. ⍽▢⍽ Not very long entries, fit for younger adults and adults.

Davidson, Hilda R. Ellis. 1990. Gods and Myths of Northern Europe. Reprint ed. London: Penguin Books.

Holm-Olsen, Ludvig, tr. 1985. Edda-dikt. 2nd rev. ed. Oslo: Cappelen.

Lindow, John. 2002. Norse Mythology: A Guide to the Gods, Heroes, Rituals, and Beliefs. Paperback ed. New York: Oxford University Press. ⍽▢⍽ Recommended resource for more in-depth knowledge about Norse mythology's place in history, locations and the course of time. Professor Lindow book is a well organised and readable dictionary, full of fine stories and references.

Looijenga, Tineke. 2008. Texts and Contexts of the Oldest Runic Inscriptions. Leiden: Brill.

Munch, Peter Andreas. 1926. Norse Mythology: Legends of Gods and Heroes. Rev. by Magnus Olsen. Tr. Sigurd Bernhard Hustvedt. New York: The American-Scandinavian Foundation. ⍽▢⍽ Online.

Ross, Margaret Clunies. 2005. A History of Old Norse Poetry and Poetics. Suffolk: D. S. Brewer.

Sturluson, Snorri. 2005. The Prose Edda: Norse Mythology. Tr. Jesse Byock. London: Penguin Classics. ⍽▢⍽ Here is a good translation of Old Norse stories.

Winroth, Anders. 2014. The Age of the Vikings. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.

Yampolsky, Philip, tr. 2012. The Platform Sutra of the Sixth Patriarch: The Text of the Tun-huang Manuscript. Translation, introduction, and Notes. Foreword by Morten SchlŘtter. Reprint ed. New York: Columbia University Press.

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