Nordic mythology is an incredibly rich and profound centuries-old tradition, full of fantastic stories and poems from the Nordic culture of Scandinavia and Germanic countries. Nordic mythology, also known as Germanic mythology, is not only a myth, it is a religion and was practiced by the Vikings who lived in the Scandinavian countries during the Viking era, but it was also practiced by Germans. In the last decades, the sagas of Nordic mythology and Viking culture have spread throughout the world very quickly and many people have been inspired by it by the end of the 20th century, references to Nordic mythology have become more common in literature and films such as Lord of the Ring, The 13th Warrior and in series such as The Vikings.
What is Nordic mythology?
Germanic, Scandinavian or Nordic mythology encompasses a series of beliefs regarding religion and legends that originated and developed in the Scandinavian Germanic peoples, which was transmitted orally as poetry.
History of Nordic mythology
The main sources of information about Nordic mythology are the Edda’s, the Edda major and the Edda minor. The Edda major, the oldest of all, is a collection of important poems without an author. The poems are written in Icelandic and can be divided into two important groups: the mythical poems referring to creation and the end of the world, and the poems of heroes, which speak of Odin and Thor. The Edda minor is also known as Snorre Sturluson, who wrote it and is a poetic manual for the skalds. It is formed by three different parts that are: Gylfaginning which is a description of mythology, of the gods and their lives. The purpose of telling the myths was to give the scalds the basis of his poetry. Skáldskaparmál is a presentation of the language of scalds, with poems of scalds called and anonymous. The Hattal or meters had a poem of 102 stanzas, each with its own peculiarity metric or linguistic, thus showing the rules of poetic language.
Symbols of Nordic mythology
Some of its main symbols are:
- The Vegvísir: magical symbol that guided people during a day of bad weather. It is related to the compass.
- The aegishjalmur: symbol of protection used by the Nordics also known as the mask of terror. Of Icelandic origin, it was a spell of terror. They were used by the Viking warriors as a protective sign painted on the forehead before the battle.
- The troll cross: amulet made of a circle of iron crossed at the bottom. It was a charm used by the first Scandinavian peoples to protect themselves against trolls and elves.
- The Hraethigaldur and the Ottastafur: they were used to instill fear in the enemy.
- Ygrgugnir: represents the Gungnir spear of the god Odin, it used to be marked on the tip of the spears to make them infallible to their target.
Gods of Nordic mythology
- Odin: he was the supreme god, father of all men and of many of the gods. He was the god of both wisdom and war. When he sat on his throne, he saw everything that was happening in the world. His horse Sleipner had eight legs and was fast. He was also the god of warriors’ death.
- Thor: he was the god of war and wild fighting. Son of Odin, and the strongest of all gods. He always carried his Mjølner hammer, which he could hit and then return to its owner. When he threw it, lightning could be seen in the sky and thunder sounded as he rode in his chariot carried by two goats named Tandgnojst and Tandgrisner. He had a strong belt that doubled his strength and iron gloves.
- Freya: Goddess of love and fertility, the most beautiful. She taught the gods the art of magic. He had a magical feathered blanket with which he transformed herself into a hawk, and a necklace called Brisingegamen. He traveled in a cart carried by two cats.
- Loke: a giant of frost. He was the god of deception, lies and chaos, an evil spirit, provocateur of tumults and thief. He had the capacity to transform himself into any animal.
- Arvak and Alsvid
- Sköll and Hati
- Dark elf
- Legendary Viking Kings
- Fenrir: he was a wolf of gigantic proportions.
- Beli: son of the giants Gymir and Aurdoba.
- Ratatösk: a squirrel carrying messages.
- Bergelmir: was the first frost giant.
- Sköll: wolf that chased the horses Arvak and Alsvid to devour the goddess they were carrying.
- Hati: it was a wolf chasing Máni, the moon.
- Bestla: wife of Bor and mother of Odin, Vili and Ve.
- Gulinbursti: it was a golden pig forged by Brokkr.
Featured Stories and Legends
Thor against the Midgard snake
Thor went to Elivagar River to look for a cauldron advised by Tyr. Together, they traveled to Hymers’s palace, where Tyr met his grandmother and his mother who offered them drinks and hid them while Hymers returned. When Hymers found out, he prepared a meal for them. The next day he enlisted a boat to go fishing and Thor wanted to go with him. After a while of rowing, Thor managed to deceive the enormous snake in an epic fight.
Gleipnir, the unbreakable ligature
Tell the story of Fenrir, Loki’s son, captured in Aesir. Through a commission from the god Thor, the dwarves created the Gleipnir rope, which was unbreakable.
It is an anonymous Anglo-Saxon epic inspired by a Danish legend. It is related to many of the mythological songs and sagas. It narrates the adventures of the hero named Beowulf, as well as the poem, and his battles against several demonic beasts. It is divided into three main parts, according to the monsters that Beowulf fights: Grendel, Grendel’s mother in the lake, and the dragon.
Films about Nordic mythology
Some films that have been made about Nordic mythology are the following
- The ring of the Nibelungs
- The Thirteenth Warrior
Written by Gabriela Briceño V.