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Exploring the Gods of the Norse Tradition: Part Two

Updated on May 14, 2019
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ASP52 has written on HubPages for many years and covers a wide range of subjects. These include History, the Natural World and Paganism.

The Gods of the Norse Tradition

Following on from 'Exploring the Gods of the Norse Tradition: Part One, we will continue to look at some of the Norse gods and goddesses who are not as familiar to people as those that are part of modern culture.

Again, much of the history of these gods was lost due to the persecution of worshippers and the vicious suppression of its teaching by the great powers that dwelt in the Catholic Church. They had no need for the gods of an ancient time and soon these gods were labelled as demons in disguise or the work of Satan.

Of these gods, a few of them are controversial and at times have garnered conflicting opinions over their authenticity The god Bragi is often believed to be unworthy of his title as a son of Odin, as his naming as a true god is believed to be an error from an earlier point in time.

Likewise, some would argue that Loki should not be classed as a god, as he has no direct blood link to the sky( Aesir ) or nature( Vanir) gods. Also his deeds throughout the recorded legends of the Norse tradition, tend to make Loki a character who some followers love and some followers despise to the point of refusing to say his name.

The Belief in the Norse Gods

The Valknut is a symbol for those who follow the old ways of the Norse gods
The Valknut is a symbol for those who follow the old ways of the Norse gods | Source

Hel, the Goddess of Death

Hel,Hela or Hella is an unfortunate power within the belief structure of the Old Norse. This goddess of the dead has a half decayed body that insults her former beauty. She is also stuck in the underworld of creation in the lands of Helheim. Helheim is a cold grey place that is said to have been broken off from the primordial realm of Nifleheim. To make things worse for Hel, she is the daughter of Loki and her two full brothers are the great wolf Fenrir and the serpent Jormagundra.

Hel is destined to lead her army of the dead against both Midgard and Asgard at Ragnorak. Hel is believed to have taken a male mortal as her consort but he has no real power in the land of the dead as Hella/Hel prefers to rule supreme.

It is believed by a few followers of the old ways that she is in love or infatuated with the god of light, Baldur. Part of the reason why she refuses to hand him back to the elder gods is so she can keep him close and woe him. This would cement the union of light and dark in the natural world and Old Norse mythology is keen on seeing contrasts at remain at odds.

The Goddess of Death

Hella, the haunted goddess with equal measure of beauty and decay.
Hella, the haunted goddess with equal measure of beauty and decay.

Loki, the Trickster

The lord of chaos,mischief and misrule is a figure in Norse mythology who is either revered or reviled. Loki is nothing like the Devil or Satan in the Christian Bible, Loki is a morally ambiguous creature that hates to fall into any category, let alone that of wicked or evil. Loki is a cosmic being who breaks down barriers and keeps the universe from suffering with a staleness that leads to a widespread state of atrophy.

Loki is not a true born god, he is only marginally accepted as one by the Norse gods due to his sharing of blood with Odin. Odin tied his order to Loki's chaos to ensure harmony within his nine realms. By doing such an act, he readily accepted that the truce between order and chaos would eventually break.

Loki is the son of the fire giant Farbauti and his mother is the giantess known as Laufey. He has two brothers Helbindi and Býleistr, of whom little knowledge survives. Loki was married to Angrboða, mother of the three monsters of Norse mythology( Hel, Jormagundra and Fenrir). Loki was also married to the beautiful goddess Sigyn, who bore him two sons. One was called Narfyn, who resided with the Vanic gods of nature. Whilst his other son is killed by the other gods and his entrails are used to bind Loki to a rock until Ragnorak as a punishment for his part in killing Baldur. Loki is also a mother to Odin's eight legged steed Sleipnir, his pregnancy came about as he helped to keep Asgard safe and Freya away from the unwanted attention of a giant suitor.

Loki is pivotal to the demise of Odin's order, but they do not battle each other at the end of the gods. It is Heimdal that he fights and both lose their lives.

Loki is a different breed to the other gods in Asgard and he is not the outright villain that is often seen in modern versions of his legend.

Baldur and Hodur, Odin's Twins.

The twin sons of Odin and Frigga are the personification of lightness and darkness. Baldur is the glowing and radiant god of light, whilst his blind brother Hodur encapsulates the darkness of his lost sight. Both brothers are sent to the underworld of Helheim upon their deaths.

Baldur dies due to the trickery of Loki who may have felt jealous of the god of light. Loki discovers that mistletoe is the only plant that can harm him and then Loki proceeds to turn the plant into an arrow. Baldur was so dearly loved that the gods asked all plants to swear that they could not harm the shinning god of Asgard. Mistletoe was not asked as it was deemed to young a plant to understand what was expected of it.

Whilst attending a feast in Baldur's honour, Loki convinces his blind brother Hodur to fire the arrow at his brother Baldur. The arrow strikes true and Baldur dies instantly, he is then sent to Helheim where he will stay until the time of Ragnorak. Hodur for killing his brother is killed by a brother who is grown to adulthood in a day. Vidar, is revenge personified and the vengeful brother dispatches Hodur to join his brother in Hela's land of the dead.

Hermond the Swift is sent to Helheim to ask for Baldur's return but Hella wants every creature to consent to this. All but one living creature agree to Baldur's return, the one living creature who refuses is Loki in disguise. Because of this, Loki is punished for his part in the crime, whilst both brothers are imprisoned in the lands of the dead.

Baldur's wife Nanna, kills herself at Baldur's funeral. This leaves their son Forseti an orphan in the care of his Asgardian family. Hodur is left in the darkness of Hel's realm whilst Baldur remains in Helheim in his own hall with his wife.

Journey to the Underworld

Hermond the Swift visits Helheim to request the release of his brother Baldur.
Hermond the Swift visits Helheim to request the release of his brother Baldur.

Freya, the Goddess of Love.

Freya is a goddess with great power and beauty, she is lusted over but is not an objectified goddess. Freya has a will that allowed her to gain concessions from the Allfather, she is allowed the pick of the fallen warriors destined for Valhalla and she takes them into her own hall. In some circles, the goddess Freya is often confused with the wife of Odin, Frigga. But they are separate entities within the hierarchy of the gods even though their roles sometimes overlap.

We know that Freya has a brother known as Frey, he is commonly associated with male fertility. Whereas Freya is associated with female sexuality and childbirth. Freya is also closely linked to magic and many legends of witchcraft can be traced back to her. The stories that survive, also tell of a running animosity between her and the goddess of death, Hel. Hella is jealous of Freya's beauty and status among the gods.

Freya is the daughter of the ancient god Njord and the earth goddess Nerthus. She has a wayward and often absent husband named Os/Od. Many scholars have attempted to tie him to Odin, but given the lack of source material- it is impossible to state that with absolute certainty.

We also know that Freya had two children and they were called Hnoss and Gersemi. Freya is also believed to command Valkyries in a similar way to that of the Allfather, Odin.

Bragi, the Poetic son of Odin

Bragi is a god who personifies inspiration. He is a god who is benevolent to the creative and whose love for his wife, ensures that the Norse gods and their allies remain immortal. Bragi's history cannot be certain as much of his lore has been lost to the annuals of time. Some believe that Bragi is the son of Odin and Frigga, whilst others believe that he is the product of a union with another giantess. One story tells of Odin laying with a female giant and as a reward he was gifted the mead of inspiration. Another byproduct of that union was the god Bragi.

Another theory states that he was a human poet who upon death was made the chief bard in Valhalla. Bragi is not as well known as his other brothers but his role in rallying the Norse gods is often understated. Bragi as a god is not as confrontational as his other brothers, but he can be relied upon to rally others to action.

What do you Think?

Which of the listed gods do you feel an affection or affinity for?

See results

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2019 Andrew Stewart


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