The beginning of Scandinavian Mythology goes back before the Vikings, during the Scandinavian Bronze Age, which lasted from 1600 – 450 BC. Some of the mythology remains today. The stories recorded from this mythology are taken from the work of Christian writers and poets. I will begin by telling the story of the creation of the world, according to Norse mythology. The Creation- In the beginning there was no earth or heaven, no sand nor see nor cooling waves. There was only Ginnungagap, a great void. In the north there was an icy world, while in the south, a fiery realm.
The northern part of Ginnungagap became filled with the ice and. When that ice formed and was firm, a drizzling rain arose from the venomous rivers and poured over the ice where it cooled into rime, and one layer of ice formed on top of the other throughout Ginnungagap. The southern part was lit by the sparks and glowing embers, which flew out of the fiery realm. Where the heat from the south met the coolness in the north the ice was thawed and it began to drip and by the might that sent the heat, life appeared in the drops of the running fluid and this fluid formed into the likeness of a man.
He was given the name Ymir. As the frost continued to thaw another form was created. This form became a cow called Audhumbla. From her teats flowed four rivers of milk and it was upon this that Ymir was fed. While he fed, Ymir slept, and while he slept a male and female frost giant grew from his armpits and one leg fathered a six headed troll with the other leg. Audhumbla lived by licking the ice-blocks that were salty, and by the evening of the first day there appeared a man’s hair where she licked. On the second day, a man’s head appeared, and by the third day the whole man was freed from the ice.
This man was called Buri. He had a son name Bor who married Bestla, who was the daughter of the giant Bolthum. Bor and Bestla had three sons, Odin, Vili, andVe. There was great strife between the offspring of Ymir and the children of Bor and Bestla. Odin led his brothers against Ymir and they killed him. Ever since that time there has been hatred and enmity between the gods and the giants. Odin and his brothers dragged Ymir’s body into the void. His flesh became the earth, his blood the sea. His bones became the mountains, his hair the trees, and his teeth the stones.
The sons of Bor then took Ymir’s skull and fashioned from it the sky and set it over the earth. Under each corner they placed a dwarf and it is from the names of these dwarves that we get the directions, North, South, East and West. The sons of Bor then took the sparks and burning embers that were flying about and cast them into the midst of Ginnungagap to light the heavens and the earth. They gave stations to all the stars and planets. They then fashioned a world for the families of giants and this world is known as Jotunheim. Away from this land they fashioned a stronghold to surround the world, to defend it from the giants.
This land was fashioned from Ymir’s eyebrows, and it is called Midgard. They then took the brains of Ymir and cast them into the air and these became the storm-threatening clouds. One day while Odin and his brothers were walking along the sea shore they came upon two tree trunks. The gods saw great beauty in the trunks and set forth to bring them to life. Odin gave them soul, Vili gave motion and sense, and Ve gave being and blooming hue. These beings were the first humans and they were called Ask and Embla. Midgard was given to them to inhabit.
Now that the earth was made and had been filled with all manners of beings the gods created a home for themselves. The gods then built for themselves a stronghold in the middle of the world and it is known as Asgard. They built a bridge to connect Asgard and Midgard, and this bridge is Bifrost. Asgard is sheltered by the great world tree, Yggdrasil, which touches upon all of the worlds. Yggdrasil- the world tree, the ash tree that connects all of the Nine Worlds of Norse mythology. The tree survives the torment of Nithog nibbling at its roots and of stags and goats tearing leaves and bark from the tree.
The Norns sprinkle water from Urd’s Well upon the roots, which helps the tree stay fresh and green. Nine Worlds- In Norse mythology there were nine worlds all connected by Yggdrasil. They were Asgard, Alfheim, Vanaheim, Niflheim, Midgard, Muspelheim, Jotunheim, Svartalfheim, and Hel. sir- One of two races of gods in Norse mythology, the other being the Vanir. The sir reside in Asgard under the leadership of Odin. Listed among the sir are Balder, Bragi, Forseti, Frigg, Heimdall, Idunn, Sif, Thor, Ull, Vali, and Vidar.
Vanir- The Vanir are one of two races of gods in Norse mythology, the other being the sir. The Vanir are generally earth and water gods and gods of fertility. The Vanir resided in Vanaheim, one of the nine worlds, until the end of the War between the sir and the Vanir. After the war all the gods were referred to as sir. When the Vanir went to Asgard after the war, they took with them their knowledge of magic and witchcraft. Listed among the Vanir are Freya, Freyr and Njord. These were not the only Vanir and this can be shown be looking at the story of Mimir’s death.
Odin- The highest and holiest god of the Northern races. He is the god of universal wisdom and victory. According to some sources he has the Valkyries collect half of the slain following any battle, according to other sources the Valkyries only collect heroes. These warriors are then brought across Bifrost and into Valhalla. These warriors are known as the Einherjar. Odin’s symbols include the raven, the wolf, and the spear. Odin is said to have two ravens, Hugin (thought) and Munin (memory) that he sends forth into the world every day to gather information for him.
He is also said to have two wolves Gerir (greedy) and Freki (fierce). He is said to feed the wolves the meat from his plate in Valhalla, as all he needs for sustenance is Mead. Odin’s spear, Gungnir, crafted by the sons of Ilvadi, is said to have the power to determine victory in battle. Another of Odin’s symbols is the valknut, three triangles interlaced. Balder- The most beautiful of the gods. He is worshipped as the pure and radiant god of innocence and light. His snowy brow and golden locks seem to radiate beams of sunshine which glades the hearts of gods and men, by whom he is equally beloved.
The god of light is well versed in the science of runes, which are carved on his tongue. The only thing hidden from Balder’s radiant eyes is the perception of his own ultimate fate. Thor- Thor is the wielder of Mjollnir and the defender of Asgard. He is described as a massive red-bearded champion wearing iron gloves and a belt/girdle of might, Megingiardir. He is the only god forbidden to cross Bifrost, for fear that his lightning could destroy the bridge or that he would set it aflame by the heat of his presence.
Thor rides in a chariot drawn by two goats, Tanngniost (Toothgnasher) and Tanngrisnir (Toothgrinder). The rolling of the wheels of this chariot is said to create the thunder that rolls across the heavens. Loki- Loki is known as the trickster god, the mischief maker, and the father of lies and deceit. Loki is counted among the sir gods, but he is not one of them. Some say that he and Odin were blood brothers, which is why none of the gods dared to harm Loki, no matter how mischievous and malevolent he becomes. It was due to Loki that the gods received the gifts of Ilvadi’s son and of Brokk and Sindri.
It was due to Loki’s words at Aegir’s feast and his hand in the death of Balder that the gods finally set out to capture and punish Loki. Ragnarok- Ragnarok is the end of the world of the Gods and the creation of the human world. During Ragnarok, Loki escapes from his imprisonment and helps the giants fight against the Gods. The World Snake battles Thor and both are killed. There is a big battle between the legions of the giants and all the Gods, and nothing is left except for the World Tree, and within it, two human beings. After this, these two human beings left the world tree and re-populated the earth. This is how Norse Mythology ends.