Norse gods: Here is the list of the main ones.

Þór, Óðinn and Freykja are probably the best-known Norse gods, but do you know the other gods? Get an overview of the main pagan gods.

Þór, Óðinn and Freykja are probably the best-known Norse gods, but do you know the other gods? Get an overview of the main pagan gods.

The ancients worshiped many gods. Historians’ knowledge of the Norse gods can be found, among other things, in the Íslendinga sagas, Dróttkvæð and Eddukvæðun. In Sæmundar-Edda you can find poems about the pagan Norse gods, while in Snorri-Edda you can find stories about the Norse gods.


Gifts to the gods

Written sources state that Vikings swore at horses and cattle during special festivals held in a hall under the guidance of the most important men of the region.


According to the Ynglingasagura written by Snorri Sturlusyn, the Vikings swore at the beginning of winter and in the middle of it to ensure fertility and then again in late spring to ensure victory in wars.


In the story of Hákonar goði, it is told about a Christmas feast where the participants ate horse meat and toasted Óðinn, Nirði and Frey. Offerings to the gods could also be left in certain places in the wild.


Overview: The main Norse gods



One-eyed and omniscient ace:

The king of the Norse gods, Óðinn, is described in Eddukvæð and Dróttvæð as an old, wise and one-eyed man. He is supposed to have acquired his unique wisdom by sacrificing one of his eyes to the well of the wise giant Mimis.


Odin lived in a palace alone on the highest peak of Asgard, and from his throne, Hlidskjálf, he could see everything that happened in the world.


From there he also welcomed the warriors who had fallen in battle. In Valhöll, those who lost their lives in battle and were called single soldiers could fight all day, but in the evening they would get up and sit down to drink.


Odin rode the eight-legged Sleipni and two wolves followed him, Geri and Freki. He also had two ravens, Hugin and Munin, who brought him news . It is said that people have sometimes spotted Odin.


In Hávamál it is said that Óðinn himself was the first to receive the runes.


He learned the runes when he hung and starved himself for nine nights in the Ash of Yggdrasil , pierced by a page wound, until the runes appeared to him. He picked them up and then fell down from the tree.


The ancients had over 200 nicknames for the god Odin, and Valfaðir was one of them. The name is believed to indicate that he was primarily a god of war.


Before the battle, it was customary to make sacrifices to Odin. It was common for the commander to ride forward and throw Odin’s weapon, the spear, into the ranks of the enemy, while shouting:


“Odin owns you all!”


Despite Óðinn’s enormous power, historians believe that he was more popular among nobles and earls than that the peasants held Þór in high esteem.


Odin had many cobblers

Since Odin played the role of being the chief of the pagan gods, many things rested on his shoulders and he needed many shoemakers. All kinds of creatures paid attention to this supreme god on his travels, as well as those who sought information and guaranteed Odin respect among the humans who lived in Midgard.


  • Huginn and Muninn: The ravens told Odin every night what they had seen out in the world.


  • Sleipnir: Odin’s horse was called Sleipnir and had eight legs. Odin rode him through the air at breakneck speed.


  • Mimi’s head: Odin got his greatest knowledge from Mimi’s severed head.


  • Geri and Freki: Óðinn’s wolves, Geri and Freki, caused consternation wherever they went, but they always followed him when he traveled on foot.


Hanged people were considered to be sacrifices made to Óðinn, but it can be noted that the old Icelandic weekday Óðindagur was named in honor of Óðinn.


The creator of thunderstorms was very popular

When a thunderstorm broke out, the ancients believed that there was Thor traveling across the sky in a chariot driven by two goats, in order to fight the giants with his hammer, Mjölnir.


Thor was more popular among farmers and seafarers than his father Odin, who worshiped him because of his ability to control the wind and weather. The old Icelandic weekday Þórsdagur is named in his honor and the town of Þórshöfn is also named after him.


Hammer against bride

In Thrymskvida, Þór learns that the giant Thrymur had stolen his hammer. Þór goes with Loki to the giant, who vows not to return the hammer except in return for the fertility goddess Freyja. When she refuses to accompany Thor to the giants, he is forced to wear a disguise and pretend to be Freyja. When the bride is manfully handed the hammer, Thrym is out.


Goats fed and revived

According to the Eddukvæð, Þór and Loki were once sheltered by a human family. That evening, Þór slaughtered his goats, which were called Tanngnjóstur and Tanngrisnir, and invited the family to eat goat meat with him if they promised not to break the goats’ bones. When Þór thought about bringing the goats to life the next morning, the other goat limped. Þór was very angry, but the couple begged for peace and he agreed to take their children, Tjálf and Röskva , into his service.


The Midgard Snake took the bait

Once, Þór went out to sea with the giant Hymi in order to deal with the Midgard Serpent, Þór’s arch-enemy. Thor threw an oxhead into the sea that had been anchored.


The snake bit him, but when Þór thought of pulling the monster out of the sea and killing it, Hymir was filled with terror and cut the anchor rope. Þór became so angry that he threw Hymi into the sea and that was the end of him.


Þór’s strength was not only innate
  • His belt , the main earths, gave him enormous strength.


  • Thor’s iron gloves also contributed to increasing his strength.


  • The hammer Mjölnir never flinched when the god threw it against his opponents.

The ancients wore a small Þórshamar around their necks to seek protection from the god of thunder Þór.


The idol ensured fertility

When the ancients wanted to ensure a good harvest or pregnancy, they often offered sacrifices to the god Frey. Like his sister Freyja, Freyr was a fertility god and he is sometimes shown with an erect limb.

Freyr was one of the most important gods, along with Odin and Thor. The monk Adam from Bremen described that the Swedes worshiped statues of the aforementioned three gods in a temple somewhere in Uppsala around the year 1050.

In the Eddukvæðin Skírnismál, it is told when Freyr goes to the shores with the troll woman Gerði, who after both promises and threats agrees to marry him. He also had a magical ship called Skiðblaðnir, but the ship could be folded so that it was practically destroyed.

If the Eddukvæðin is to be believed, he used the boar Gullinbrush to pull his chariot.


The woman ruled the household

Of all the Norse goddesses, Frigg was the most important. She was married to Óðinn, and the old Icelandic day name Frjádagur was precisely in her honor.

Since women made all the decisions in Viking households, Frigg seems to have been extremely important to women in the Viking Age. Contrary to what was true of real women, Frigg could, for example, if the duties of a housewife proved too much for her, fly off into the world in her vals mode.

Frigg possessed the ability to foresee everyone’s fate, but she mostly kept quiet about what she knew. According to Ynglingasögur, she was briefly married to her master’s brothers, Vilja and Vé, because she feared that Óðinn would never return from his travels.

In Snorra-Edda, Frigg is said to be the daughter of the earth goddess Fjörgyn.


Goddess received jewelry for sex

Freyja was the goddess of love and fertility and was especially important in the life of the Vikings. In the Eddukvæðin Oddrúnargrátur, the women on the farm called Freyja and asked her to protect their mother after the difficult birth of twins.

In Snorra-Edda, Freyja is said to be married to the god Óðr, and her main symbol is the necklace Brísingarmen, which four dwarves were supposed to have brought to her as a gift for being allowed to sleep with her.

Many desired this lustful goddess, and in the Eddic poem called Lokasenna, Loki accuses her of having sex with all the gods.

When Thrymur, the king of thurs, demands to receive her as payment for delivering Thor’s stolen hammer, she rejects Thor’s request with a roar, according to Thrymskvida:

You know me

the kindest

if i with you

in Jötunheima.

Thor then regained his hammer by wearing a disguise and pretending to be Freyja.

According to some sources, the warriors who did not end up with Odin in Valhöll were able to enjoy the afterlife in her home, Fólkvangi, and because of this, the goddess was often associated with death.

Freyja was the daughter of the god Njarðar and the sister of the fertility god Frey.


The Vikings sacrificed swords and spears

Wars had an important place in the lives of the ancients, and scholars believe that Týr had become a god of war in the early Viking Age. In Lake Tissø (Týsvatn), archaeologists have found swords and spears that appear to have been offerings to the god of war.

In the Eddic poems, Týr was said to be the son of Óðinn, and many of the latter’s qualities are also dedicated to Tý, for example men were sacrificed to both of them by being hanged.

When the pagan gods thought of chaining the Fenriswolf, Týr won the wolf’s trust by placing his hand in his groin. When the wolf realized that he couldn’t free himself from the chains, he bit Ty’s hand off, and for fun the idol is usually shown with one hand.

Tuesday used to be called Týsdagur after Tý.


Peaceful and smart but constantly in trouble

Loki gained a place as a troublemaker and troublemaker in Norse mythology. Scholars are still debating whether Loki was also the god of fire, wind or something else. There are pictures of Loki on a stone and a cross from the Viking Age, which indicate that it was an important idol.


Loki’s father was Fárbauti the giant, and Loki therefore connected the giants to the gods. With the troll woman Angurboða he had the Fenriswolf, the Midgard Serpent and the goddess Hel who ruled over the realm of death Hel.


Later, he is said to have married the goddess Sigyn and fathered with her the sons Narfa and Vála.


In the Eddukväður he is described as a selfish cock of the wind:


“Loki is beautiful in appearance but ill-tempered and never at peace with himself”.


Although he was often a follower of Thor and his adviser, he was always faithful to betray and slander other gods if it suited his interests; for example, he cut Sif’s hair, stole Freyja’s necklace, Brísingameni and helped the giant Þjassa to take away Iða and her magic apple.


Loki was the master of disguise
  • Loki pretended to be a mare who had foals fill her. Merar-Loki then threw Sleipni, Odin’s horse


  • To prevent the two dwarven builders, Sindri and Brokkur, from winning a bet, Loki had himself transformed into a stinging fly


  • When Loki fled from the other gods for the last time, he turned into a salmon, but Thor actually managed to catch him with his bare hands in the river.

As the world moves, that is. when Ragnaraka came, Loki would lead the army of the dead from Hel.


A perfect sentinel with alert senses

According to Snorri-Edda, it was believed in the Viking Age that Heimdallur guarded the rainbow bridge Bifrastar that ran from Asgard to other worlds.

Heimdall had gold teeth and his senses were so alert that he could hear the grass growing and see what was a hundred miles away.

The god rode his horse Gulltoppi and had a slag horn with him, which was simply called the Slag Horn, and it resounded around the world. When Ragnarok approached, Heimdallur was able to call all the gods together for battle with Gjallarhorn. There he and Loki were both going to die in a duel.

In the ancient poem “Heimdallargaldir” it is said that the god who was the son of Odin, was conceived by nine virgins who were all sisters.

In Rígsthúl, which is one of the Eddic poems, tells the story of Heimdall when he travels under the name Rígur and becomes the ancestor of three main classes, earls, farmers and slaves. The poem describes the class division of society and tells about the different ways of life and the division of labor of the classes.

Heimdallur guarded Bifrastar’s rainbow bridge with his alert senses.


The sea god survived the Viking Age

The sea god of the ancients had power over the natural forces, according to Snorri-Edda. He was said to rule over sea, wind and fire.

In Snorra-Edda it is said that Njarðar’s sea-washed feet brought him into the arms of the troll woman Skaða. Her father, Þjassi, had been burned to death at the stake in Asgard, and as compensation for her injuries, she was allowed to choose one of the gods as her husband.

The gods lined up behind a hanging so that only their feet were visible. When Skaði saw Njarðar’s clean feet, she thought they must belong to the beautiful god Baldri and therefore chose the sea god.

The marriage was extremely short-lived: in the mountains of Skaða, Njörður missed the sea, but Skaða, on the other hand, did not get sleepy by the sea because of the laughter of the seagulls.

Scholars point out that Njörður was so important to the sailing nations in the north that he survived the conversion to Christianity. Until the 18th century, fishermen in Western Norway, for example, thanked Nird for a good catch.

The sea god Njörður was the father of the fertility gods Frey and Freyja.


The sick and elderly ended up in a place of punishment

The goddess Hel was the daughter of Loki and Angurboða, and she ruled the kingdom of death, Hel, which bore the same name as her. According to the Eddukvæð, the death goddess Hel was the daughter of Loki and the troll woman Angurboða, and for her taste was the sister of the monsters Fenrisulf and the Midgard Serpent.

Half of Heljar’s body was blue in color, like a rotting corpse. When Hel was born, Odin threw her down into the underworld and it can be said that she and Odin brought a certain division of labor with them :

He and Freyja welcomed the fallen warriors, but she, on the other hand, was given authority over all those who died in other ways, for example from diseases or due to old age.

The description of Hel in Snorri’s Edda as a dreary and dreary “place of punishment” may have its roots in Christian influences.

The ancients’ belief in the underworld is still seen in terms such as “hell”, “starving in hell” and “between the world and hell”.

The ancients who died of diseases went to Heljar.

The busyness

Apples bring you eternal youth

The wife of Braga, the poet of the gods, is said to have been worshiped as a fertility goddess. In the Sæmundar-Edda she is described as the goddess of eternal youth. She also kept the other gods young by giving them apples that prevented old age from befalling them.

In one of the Eddic verses, Loki the giant helps Thjasa to take the goddess away. Without the apples of youth, the other gods grow up until Odin is said to have forced Loki to look for Iða in the Jötunheims.

There, Loki turns her into a nut that he brought back to Asgard in vals mode. The giant Þjassi wears an eagle costume and chases them, but is eventually burned at the stake.

Without Iðuna’s apples, the gods would grow old and die


Jealousy led to killing

Baldur was the son of Odin and Frigga and was said to be the most beautiful and wisest of all the pagan gods. He had a son Forseta, the god of justice, with his wife Nanna.

Although it is not known for sure what his role was among the gods, he is considered to have been the god of light. Some scholars also associate it with the solstices and the seasons.

The Edda poems say that Baldur was tormented by nightmares. When an arch predicts the death of this son of Odin, Frigg makes everything and everyone swear that they will spare Baldri, with the exception of a small mistletoe.

This forgetfulness causes Baldur to be beaten with mistletoe, but Loki had tricked Baldur’s brother, Höð, into the deed.

Baldur’s other brother, Hermóður, next rode to Heljar to tempt him to save his brother. Hel agreed with him that if all the things in the world wept Baldur could be allowed to return to life.

Loki then took the form of the troll woman Thankar and refused to cry for Baldur.

In Völuspá, it is described that Baldur will be reborn on new earth after rain


A blind god tricked into murder

Scholars differ on what meaning the blind Höður had for the Vikings, but if the sources are anything to go by, Höður is best known for having become Baldri , who was called the white ace, to kill.

According to the Eddukvæð, Loki tricked Höður the blind into shooting mistletoe at Baldr, but that was the only thing known to stop him.

Odin then had a son, Vála, who killed his brother Höð to avenge Baldur. It was not believed to be fratricide because Váli was only a day old when he committed the act.

The name Höður probably means fighter.


Golden locks tempted

The goddess is known for her long, golden hair. Some scholars believe that Sif was the goddess of the harvest. If true, her hair is a symbol of the important harvest of the fields that provided the ancients with bread and ale.

According to Snorri-Edda, Loki cut the golden locks from her head while she slept. In order to appease her angry husband, Thor, the god of thunder, Loki had several dwarves prepare a golden wig for Sif.

As soon as she put the wig on her head, it miraculously transformed into real golden hair.

Sif had a son Ull from a previous relationship, but on the other hand had a daughter Thrúði with Þór.

All drawings of the Norse gods in this article are borrowed from Peter Madsen’s cartoon books, “Valhöll”, which deal with the pagan gods.

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