AEGIR "Alebrewer." So called because Aegir loves to give feasts for the gods. God of the sea. Saxon pirates gave to Aegir a tenth of their captives, who were thrown into the sea. ANGRBODA The giantess who mated with Loki to create Hel, Fenrir and the Midgard Serpent. BALDER A hero god, the god who dies and rises again. Fair skinned, fair haired, wise and merciful, beloved of all. Loke tricked Hoder into killing Balder, who had to be rescued from the underworld. According to the epic poem VOLUSKA, Balder will come to rule again after Ragnarok. BRAGI God of poetry and eloquence, husband of Iduun. It is Bragi's duty to prepare Valhalla for new arrivals. DONAR German god of thunder, forerunner of Thor. His symbol is the swastika. Oak trees are sacred to Donar, as they are to Jove. FENRIR Also FENRIS WOLF A monstrous wolf conceived by Loki. Fenrir was raised in Asgard, the home of the gods, until he became so immense and feroucious that only the god Tyr was brave enough to feed him. Tyr bound Fenrir until the day of Ragnarok, when Fenrir will break loose to slay Odin. FORSETI God of justice, the great arbiter, the god who "stills all strife." Forseti dwells in a hall of gold and silver called Giltnir. FREYR "The god of the world," son of Njord, husband of Freyja. God of fertility, sunlight and rain, peace, joy and contentment. Freyr was worshipped with human sacrifices and a kind of religious play in which men dressed as women mimed and danced to the sound of chimes and bells. Freyr had some association with the horse cult as well, and horses sacred to his service were kpet near his shrines. Freyr and his sister/wife FREYJA were of the Vanir, a family or race of gods which originally competed with the Aesir and later became allies. The Vanir may have been the gods of an earlier Scandinavian race who were adopted into the pantheon of later conquerors. FREYJA Goddess of magic and death, goddess of sex, daughter of Njord, a shape-shifter who often took the form of a falcon. When her husband Od disappeared, Freyja wept golden tears. Donning a magical garment, Freyja could fly long distances. Patroness of seithr, a practice in which a sorceress would enter a trance to foretell the future. The women who practiced siethr, who were know as Volva, wandered freely about the country casting spells and foretelling the future. Freyja's worshippers involved orgiastic rites which horrified and outraged the Christians. Half of all those slain in battle belonged to Freyja, the other half belonging to Odin. FRIGG Wife of Odin, mother of Balder, queen of Asgard. A fertility goddess. HEIMDALL The god who guards the Bifrost Bridge which is the entrance to Asgard. Heimdall can see for immense distances, and his ear is so sensitive that he can hear the grass grow. On the day of Ragnarok, Heimdall will blow the great horn Gjallarhorn, and in the ensuing battle he will slay Loki. HEL Goddess of death. Daughter of Loki. Ruler of Niflheim, the land of mists. Heroic souls go to Valhalla. Those who die of disease or old age come to Niflheim. Surrounded by high walls and strong gates, Niflheim is impregnable; not even Balder could return from there without Hel's permission. HERMOD A hero god. Hermod rode through the gates of Niflheim to rescue Balder and found Balder seated on the right hand of Hel. Hel agreed to release Balder on condition that all living things weep for him. HODER Little is known about Hoder, other than that he is blind. Loki tricked Hoder into killing Balder with a sprig of mistletoe. Hoder will join Balder in the new world which will come into being when the present one is destroyed. IDUNN Wife of Bragi, keeper of the golden apples of eternal youth. The giant Thiazzi kidnapped her with the aid of Loki. LOKI A trickster. Sly, deceitful, a master thief, not to be trusted. Nevertheless, Loki is charming, witty, quite capable, and possessed of a sardonic sense of humor which he aims at himself no less often than at others. A shape shifter who can change into almost any animal form. Loki was involved in many of the gods' adventures, usually because one of his tricks had made some kind of a mess. MIDGARD SERPENT The great snake which lies in the ocean and encircles the world, its tail in its mouth. On the day of Ragnarok, the world will disappear under the ocean's waters when the Midgard Serpent rises from the sea. Thor will kill the Midgard Serpent but will be killed by the Serpent's poision. MIMIR The guardian of a spring of wisdom at the root of Yggdrasill, the world tree which connects the lower and higher worlds and is the source of all life. Odin gave an eye to drink from that spring. NERTHUS An earth mother worshipped by the German tribe of the Suebi. Her sacred grove stood on an island in the North Sea. NJORD The chief of the Vanir, who warred with the Aesir. Lord of the winds and of the sea, giver of wealth. Particularly revered on the west coast of Sweden. In pagan days, oaths in law courts were sworn in his name. Njord may be a masculine form of Nerthus ODIN Also OTHINN; WODEN; WOTAN A god of strife and war, magic and death. The chief of the Aesir who lives in his hall Valaskjal in Sagard from which he can look out over all the worlds. In his hall Valhalla, valkyries (female war spirits) serve heros who have fallen in battle and will aid the god in the great battle of Ragnarok. On Odin's shoulders perch two ravens, Hugin ("Thought") and Munin ("Memory") who can fly about all the worlds to bring Odin knowledge. Odin often aids great heros but is quite fickle and can turn against a man for any reason or none. Tales of Odin's treachery are not merely Christian propaganda. Odin's worshippers themselves could be quite sharp-tongued about Odin's unfaithfulness. Odin's worship involved human sacrifices, who were generally hung from trees or gallows. RAGNAROK "Destruction of the powerful ones." The Twilight of the Gods. The time of fire and ice. The great battle at the end of time between the gods and the Frost Giants in which the world will be destroyed and made anew. Ragnarok will be preceded by three winters of bitter wars followed by the Fimbulvetr, a winter so cold that the usn will give no heat. Then the forces of evil will gather and make war on the gods. THOR God of thunder. Huge, red-bearded, red-eyed, powerful. His weapon is the magic hammer Mjollnir, which is augmented by a magic belt which doubles Thor's strength, and iron gloves with which Thor grips Mjollnir. In some ways Odin's rival, Thor is the god of law and order, the champion of the people. Unlike Odin, Thor will keep faith. Oaths were sworn in Thor's name, which no sane man would ever do with Odin. When Christianity came to Iceland, the other gods surrendered meekly, but Thor fought to the bitter end. The Hammer is Thor's sacred sign and is the most common image in Nordic art. The worship of Thor survived well into the Christian age; little silver hammers were often made in the smith's shop along with crosses and crucifixes. TIWAZ The one-handed sky god and war god of the early Germanic peoples. Tiwaz was worshipped with human sacrifices conducted in the deep forest. Tiwaz is god of law and justice, and oaths were sworn in his name. His functions were later taken over by Odin and Thor, though unlike Odin Tiwaz is completely without deceit and guile. Tiwaz is also known as Irmin, and his sacred pillar Irminsul symbollically held the universe together. TYR God of battle, the only god with the strength and courage to bind Fenris. Warriors marked their swords with a T to gain the god's protection. Tyr was originally was Tiwaz, retained in a later pantheon but overshadowed by Odin and Thor. WELAND Also VOLUNDR; WIELAND; WAYLAND God of smiths and metal workers. Son of the giant Wade. Weland has much in common with smith gods such as Govannon and Hephaistos, which comes as no surprise. Technology and metalworking spread slowly in the ancient world, usually on a person to person basis, and highly skilled metalsmiths and other technical workers formed a virtual international brotherhood similar to the Masons.