[ROUGH DRAFT, Apr 2, 1995]


The Norse Pantheon

by Mike Phillips

(with apologies to Gary Gygax for adopting the title and format of his most excellent column in MMM)

Hi there, everyone! For those who are familiar with Mythic Masters Magazine (a beautiful gaming supplement to the Mythus gaming system masquerading as a magazine, regrettably no longer published), the format here is pretty straightforward and obvious, reminiscent of the Greco-Roman and Chinsungese summaries assembled by Gary Gygax. While I would be very hesitant to compare my brief notes to his apparently much more exhaustive research, this should prove a valuable supplement to those using the Norse pantheon as their background.

This is a WORK IN PROGRESS. I make no claims as to the historical accuracy of anything herein, so don't expect to pass an exam on Norse mythology after reading this. I also make no claims to be more than passingly familiar with Norse mythology, and I welcome corrections, addenda, and directions to source material (preferably title & author, so I can get them through Inter-Library Loan, our library is really sparse).If someone with a better grounding wants to assist (or take over and expand the list), feel free to contact me!

The purpose of this is a really brief overview of the personalities and places, and not the myths (although some are alluded to in the brief descriptions).

Note: In Epic of AErth, the Norse pantheon has a division (much like the Greek vs. Roman approach to Classical Mythology): Skandian and Teutonic/Germanic. I presume that this distinction mirrors the differentiation between the tales of the Eddas and the Nibelungenlied, the former Icelandic and the latter Frankish. At any rate, among the gods the similarities are remarkable, closer than in the Greco-Roman
corpus; the primary differences appear to be details of the heroic legends (names, relationships, and occasionally exact actions, although the overall literary shapes are similar). Where I happen to have seen alternate spellings for names, I have included them in the chart preceding the listing.

Odin            Wodan
Frigga          Frea
Forseti         Fosite
Freyja          Syritha?
Thor            Donar

Only the deities Odin, Thor, Frey, Njord, Frigga, and Freyja are typically listed as being sacrificed to.

Aesir, the - The Norse gods, who dwelt in Asgard and skirmished with the Giants: (properly) Odin, Thor, Balder, Tyr, Bragi, Heimdall, Hoed, Vidar, Vali, Ullr, Forseti, and Hoeni; Njord and Frey, though Vanir, are often grouped with them, as is Loki, though he is a Giant's son

Agnar -- kind son of Geirrod; gave wine to Odin; later, he is made a demigod and patron of kindness and hospitality by Odin

Asgard - Realm of the Aesir

Asynjor - The Norse goddesses: Frigga, Gefion, Freyja, Saga, Fulla, Idunn, Gerd, Sigyn, Nanna, Skadi, Sif

Balder - Sunlight (Benign, Ordered) Major God, son of Frigga, made immune to all attacks except that of mistletoe; slain by Hoed at the behest of Loki, kept by Hel when a Giantess refused to weep for him; he may rise again after Ragnarok, and he still has followers devoted to his ideals

Bifrost - rainbow bridge leading to Asgard

Bragi - Balance (Benign, Ordered) Minor God of eloquence and poetry

Brynnhild - A Valkyrie, bound in sleep and encircled in fire until Sigurd released her; tricked into marrying Gunnar, has Sigurd slain in revenge for his breaking of their vows

Dwarves - Norse Dwarves are a twisted race, living underground in bondage, where they mine and make weapons for the Aesir and the Giants.

Egil - "The Archer"; brother of Volund, once had a Valkyrie as his wife

Einherjar - "Wish-sons"; the spirits of the slain who battle and feast in Valhalla; full 800 from each of the 580 doors of Valhalla will swarm forth for Ragnarok

Fafnir - either a Giant transformed into a dragon, or a Dragon; slain by Sigurd in pursuit of the Rhinegold

Fenris - great wolf, son of Loki, terrorized Asgard until the dwarves made a chain which could hold him; bit off Tyr's hand when the chain bound him, will be freed at the time of Ragnarok to eat the sun and eat Odin; destined to be slain by Vidar

Fjorgyn - Thor's mother

Forseti - Balance (Agathocacological, Ordered) Aesir; son of Balder, Lesser God of Judgement, no being can resist a sentence that he passes

Frey - Moonlight (Benign, Intermediate) Vanir; Great God, cared for the fruits of the aerth, son of Njord, destined to fight Surtr without his sword, which was given to Geirrod for his daughter Gerd, who became Frey's wife; has many overtones of agricultural deity

Freyja - Shadowy Darkness (Benign, Intermediate) Vanir; Great Goddess of Love and Beauty; half of those slain in battle were hers (the other half were taken by the Valkyries); she wears the Brising necklace and has a hawk-dress which Loki borrows to change shape and fly

Frigga - Asynjor; Wife of Odin, mother of Balder, Hoder, Hermod; incessantly spinning golden threads for a mysterious purpose

Fulla - Asyngor; Frigga's handmaid

Gefion - Moonlight (Benign, Intermediate) Minor Goddess, patron of those who die unwedded; perhaps ancient goddess of the sea; she dragged Zealand from the waters

Gerd - Giantess, wife of Frey, who traded his sword to Gymi for her

Giants, the - enemies of the Aesir; known to be divided into the Frost Giants and the Mountain Giants

Gladsheim - Golden palace of Odin

Gripi - Sigmund's uncle, soothsayer, "The Wisest of Men", Potency

Gymi (Oegi) - Giant who gave feast to the Aesir, has Frey's sword in exchange for his daughter, Gerd

Heimdall - Balance (Benign, Ordered) Aesir, Major God, warder of Bifrost, the far-seeing, destined to blow the horn that signals Ragnarok; the father of civilization

Hel, Hela - Gloomy Darkness (Malign, Ordered) Great Goddess of Death, and ruler of Nifleheim

Helgi - son of Sigmund and Borghild, protected by the Valkyrie Sigrun, who bade him slay Hoedbrodd to whom she was plighted; slew Hoedbrod and all but one of his kinsmen, Dag, who slew him; later raised from the dead by Sigrun's tears; Potency

Hermod - Aesir; rode Sleipnir to Nifleheim to bargain with Hel for Balder to return to life

Hoed - Aesir; blind brother of Balder, Loki tricked him into throwing mistletoe at Balder, which slew him; slain by Vali

Hoeni - Aesir; destined to survive Ragnarok and usher in the new era of Norse gods

Hrym - a Fire Giant

Hugin - Raven perched on Odin's shoulders, its name means Thought

Hymi - Giant, was fishing with Thor when he caught Jormungandr

Idunn - Asynjor; wife of Bragi; the care-healer of the gods, she held the golden apples that assured their non-aging; betrayed to the Giants by Loki, later freed by Loki

Jormungandr - The World-Snake, guardian of Midgard and humanity; destined to slay and be slain by Thor at Ragnarok; once caught in Thor's fishhook, but let go because it was not yet time

Jotunheim - The city of the Giants

Loki - Shadowy Darkness (Malign, Chaotic) Great God of Fire and Trickery; giant's son, troublemaker allowed to go to and from Asgard freely, associated with fire; son of Laufey; destined to steer the Fire Giants' ship from Muspelheim to Ragnarok; his children include Nari, Narfi, and the Fenris-wolf

Midgard - battlefield for men

Mimir - Guardian of the Well of Wisdom

Munin - Raven perched on Odin's shoulders, its name means Memory

Muspelheim - Land of fire, to the south, inhabited by the Giants

Nanna - Balder's wife

Nerthus - Vanir; sister of Njord

Nidhogg - the serpent gnawing at the roots of Yggdrasil

Nifleheim - Icy land of the dead, to the north, ruled by Hel

Njord - Moonlight (Agathocacological, Ordered) Great God; Vanir, hostage of the Aesir, father of Frey and Freyja, sometimes worshipped as the god of the Sea, married to Skadi, a Giantess

Norns, the - Urda (past), Verdandi (present), Skuld (future), they allot lives, fate, and time to mortals

Odin - Balance (Benign, Ordered) Greater God, ruler of Asgard and Valhalla, he is aloof but caring towards humanity. He was crucified for nine days by the Norns in exchange for the secrets of the Runes, which knowledge was in turn passed on to humanity. He also drank from the Well of Wisdom, where he exchanged an eye for a draught from it. He is known as the All-Father, and was most certainly the father of the Valkyries. Two ravens, Hugin (Thought) and Munin (Memory), perch on his shoulders. Avatars include: Wegtam (Way-wise), Gangrad (Wanderer), Grimni (the Hooded One), Greybeard, and Brun.

Ragnarok - "Twilight (Doom) of the Gods"; the final battle between the Aesir and the Giants; Loki steers the Giants to Vigrid; Fenris swallows the sun, Thor slays and is slain by Jormungandr; Modi and Magni gain Mjollnir; Vidar, Vali, and Hoeni survive; Fenris eats Odin and is slain by Vidar; it is the blowing of Heimdall's horn which signals the coming of the battle; some legends claim that Balder will return from the dead after it is over

Ratatosk - a squirrel, scurrying up and down Yggdrasil to bring the eagles' words to Nidhogg

Saga - an Asunjor

Sibyl, the (1) - a spirit of much wisdom, she told a disguised Odin much about Creation, until she discovered his identity

Sibyl (2) - a spirit of a dead woman, sometimes sought and consulted with for advice

Sif - Giantess, wife of Thor

Sigurd - son of Sigmund; slew Fafnir, awakened Brynnhild; later enchanted so that he forgets her and wins her for Gunnar; later slain at Brynnhild's behest for his breaking of their vows to each other

Sigyn - Loki's wife; she held the cup that prevented a painful poison from dripping on Loki when he was bound, but he was in terrible pain when she had to stop and empty the cup

Skadi - Giantess, wife of Njord

Skuld - a Norn, the future

Sleipnir - Odin's horse

Svipdag - heroic mage who used magic to seek advice to cross the circle of fire encircliing Menglad, his fated bride; later becomes the demigod of magic; Balance (Agathocacological, Ordered)

Surt (Surtr) - Fire Giant, destined to be the foe of Frey at Ragnarok

Thiazi - Giant; could turn into an eagle

Thokk - Giantess; she would not weep for Balder, for she had never felt kindness from him, and so Hel kept Balder's spirit

Thor - Moonlight (Agathocacological, Intermediate) Great God of Thunder; Strongest of the Aesir, his hammer is called Mjollnir; two sons: Modi (Wrath) and Magni (Strength), one stepson: Ullr (Glory); he is fated to slay and be slain by Jormungandr at Ragnarok

Thrym - Lord of the Giants; stole Mjollnir from Thor, demanded Freyja for its return; tricked by Thor dressed up as woman, who then slew Thrym

Tyr - Balance (Agathocacological, Ordered) Great God of Honor and Oaths, lost his right hand to Fenris when the chain bound him

Ullr - Aesir, Thor's stepson, his name means Glory

Urda - a Norn, past

Vafthrudni - a wise Giant, lost his head in a question/answer game with Odin

Valhalla - Hall of the Slain; in Valhalla the spirits of mighty warriors fight by day and feast by night, the fallen upon the field rising again to feast and fight the next day

Vali - Aesir; avenged the death of Balder by slaying Hoed, destined to survive Ragnarok and usher in the new era of Norse gods

Valkyries, the - Choosers of the Slain, they escort the spirits of fallen warriors to Valhalla

Vanaheim - home of the Vanir

Vanir - another race of Gods, Njord was a hostage of theirs kept by the Aesir in exchange for a pact

Verdani - a Norn, present

Vidar - Aesir; destined to survive Ragnarok and usher in the new era of Norse gods

Vigrid - the battlefield upon which Ragnarok will be fought

Volund - one of three brothers (Slagfin and Egil are the other two) who gained Valkyries for their wives by stealing their swan-coats; the Valkyries left after seven years, and Slagfin and Egil pursued them; Volund stayed to work at his forge, where he was taken by the King of Sweden and imprisoned to make treasures; he slew the two princes, made drinking cups of their skulls, seduced the princess, then flew away on wings he had made, leaving the princess weeping for him and the King mourning his sons; Potency of Smithcraft and Artisanship

Yggdrasil - the world-tree; an ash tree which supports the universe; grows next to Urd's well, and it is a place where the gods judge; continually gnawed on by Nidhogg the serpent, four harts, and eagles

Ymir - the first Giant