Thor. The Norse God of Thunder.
Thor Norse God of Thunder.
Thor was not only the Norse god of thunder and the sky but he was the Norse god of fertility too. Thor was associated with the common man and was responsible for crop fertility and the weather. Seen as a good natured god, on the whole, but with a fiery temper and a huge appetite, for food and for life. Thor married the fertility goddess Sif and also took himself a mistress named Jarnsaxa, a giantess.
Thor had two sons, Magni and Modi and a daughter Thrud. The Norse and Germanic peoples believed that Thor was the son of Odin and the earth goddess Jord, or Fjorgyn as she is sometimes called. Thor is thought of as the strongest of all of the Norse gods.
Thor surpassed even his father Odin in popularity. This was because of his reputation not only as a protector of the other gods but of man too and no doubt due in no small part to the fact that unlike Odin, Thor did not, apparently, require human sacrifices. Depicted somewhat affectionately by the Norse as a larger than life figure, Thor is pictures with flowing red hair and a bushy red beard, his eyes were said to blaze with lightening flashes.
Riding the heavens.
The Norse believed that Thor rode the heavens during thunder storms in a huge chariot pulled by two magical goats, the wonderfully named toothgnashers - Tanngnoist and Tanngrisni. The lightening flashes experienced during such storms were believed to have been brought forth whenever Thor threw his mighty hammer Mjolnir or crusher as it is sometimes referred to.
Mjolnir was also believed to have the power to restore life after death. Which was fortunate indeed, as Thor was said to consume the goats whenever he was overcome by hunger, only to use his hammer to restore them to life again, lucky goats! This mighty hammer was said to have been made for Thor by dwarfs.
Dwarfs are a common occurrence in Norse mythology, where they are often seen as having near mystical powers. Thor was believed to take the opportunity during thunder storms to fight his, and the other Norse gods, enemies the frost giants. Thor would throw Mjolnir at his enemies and it would always magically return to him like a boomerang.
The mighty serpent Jormungand.
Thor’s greatest enemy is the mighty serpent Jormungand the serpent of Midgard. The Norse believed that at the end of days, or Ragnarok as they called it, Thor would rise up and kill the serpent but pay a terrible price for his heroism. The poison from the serpents jaws will kill Thor, after his death Thor’s two sons, Magni and Modi will inherit their fathers mighty hammer, Mjolnir.
Thor seems to be a later depiction of an earlier god known as Donor or Thunor, an ancient god of the sky and of thunder. Thor was also associated by the Romans as Jupiter. This cross-pollination of cultures and gods was common in ancient times. The Romans in particular were well known for adopting gods from other cultures, they appear to have adopted all of the Greek gods and then maintained that they were Roman all along. Zeus became Jupiter, Poseidon became Neptune, Ares became Mars and so on.
The belief in the God Thor survived up until relatively recent times, and depictions of his mighty hammer can be seen alongside Christian symbols such as crosses in Scandinavian culture. Indeed, our own Thursday is an adulteration of Thor’s day. Man has always sought to find order in the world around him, to find explanations for the unexplained. During long, dark winter nights when thunder roared around them and lightening flashes split the skies, the terrified people must have found their imaginations running wild.
Even today, a thunderstorm can be a terrifying occurrence, even though we may well know the science behind the phenomenon.