Odin is the chief of the gods and the ruler of the universe. He was the son of the frost giant Bor and the giantess Bestla. Early in his career, together with his brothers Vili and Ve, Odin overthrew the primeval giant Ymir and fashioned the world from his remains.
Odin, his wife Freya (or Frigg), and the other major Norse divinities – Thor and Tyr -live in Asgard, near which is located Valhalla, where Odin was believed to feast with the spirits of slain warriors. At Ragnarok, the “twilight of the gods”, Odin will lead his army against the giants led by Loki. Odin will be devoured by the wolf Fenrir but then be avenged by his son Vidar. Odin’s sacred bird is the raven, and his principal weapon – in addition to his powerful runes and magical spells – is the spear. He is depicted as tall, bearded, and one-eyed, having exchanged his other eye for wisdom.
In pre-Christian Scandinavia the Odin cult was apparently characterized by human sacrifice, which was usually accomplished by hanging the victim from a tree. The German form of his name is Woden, or Wotan; the name Wednesday is derived from Woden’s day, woensdag in Dutch.
Thor was the personification of thunder and the principal war god. Son of the chief god, Odin, and second only to him in importance, Thor was particularly popular among the lower classes of society. He was armed with a hammer (Mjolnir) that returned to his hand after he hurled it at enemies, a belt that doubled his strength when he wore it, and iron gloves that helped him use the Mjolnir effectively. Most of his battles were fought against giants, and he was benevolent to humankind. Thor was noted for his ability to drink vast amounts; he is generally portrayed as a crude, red-bearded, middle-aged warrior who relied on his immense strength rather than on his wits.
According to one popular legend, the giant who constructed the residence of the gods was rewarded with the Mjolnir. When it fell into the giant Thrym’s possession, Thor retrieved it by pretending to be the goddess Freya, whom Thrym demanded as his wife in exchange for the hammer.
Thor, also known as Atli, is identified with Donar, the thunder god of Teutonic mythology. His name survives in the English weekday name Thursday, its German counterpart, Donnerstag and in the Dutch donderdag.
Freya, or Freyja, was the goddess of beauty and love. A beautiful, blonde, blue-eyed young woman, she was the sister of Frey and in later traditions the wife of Odin.
Freya claimed half of the heroes slain in battle, carrying them to her realm of Folkvang in Asgard. Most of her myths concern attempts by the giants to abduct her. In Teutonic mythology, she was named Frigg. Friday is named after her, Freitag in German and vrijdag in Dutch.
The god of fertility, peace, and prosperity.
He was one of the Vanir gods, who were responsible for wealth, and the brother of Freya. Among his magical possessions was a sword that he gave to Skirnir, who in return obtained him Gerda, the most beautiful woman in the world, as his wife.
Yggdrasil (also Mimameid and Lerad) was the “World tree”, a gigantic tree, thought to hold all of the different worlds, such as Asgard, Midgard, Utgard and Hel. Another possibility is that the tree was formerly conceived of as a yew, consistent with its Eddic attribute of being evergreen.
The most beautiful mansion in Asgard, where the heroes slain in battle feasted each night with Odin on the boar Schrimnir and mead from the goat Heldrun. The heroes rode out each morning and fought one another until they were cut to pieces; they recovered from their wounds each evening.
The home and citadel of the gods, corresponding to Mount Olympus in Greek mythology. It was located in the heavens and was accessible only over the rainbow bridge, Bifrost. Asgard had many gold and silver halls or palaces, the most splendid of which was Valhalla, the residence of Odin. The Norse myths held that Asgard would be destroyed at Ragnarok (“Twilight of the Gods“), the final battle in which the giants and demons would overcome the gods.
The defensive fortress which the gods build about the middle portion of the earth allotted to men in order to protect mankind from the giants. Midgard (“middle world”) is on the same level as Nidavellir (land of the dwarfs), Svartalfheim (land of the dark elves/dwarfs) and Jotunheim (the land of the giants).