Yggdrasil - and Nordic Mythology


"For a tree to reach Heaven with its branches, it must first touch Hell with its roots."

Hitler was ambivalent towards Germanic Mythology.
On the one had he condemned Völkisch groups for their obsession with Nordic folklore and mythology, on the other hand his whole concept of National Socialism had sprung from his obsession with the Germanic mythology  to be found in many of Wagner's music-dramas.
However, much of the culture of the Third Reich, and in particular that of the SS has its origins in the myths and religion of the early Germanic peoples.


In Germanic mythology, Yggdrasil is an immense tree; the world tree, and around the tree exist nine worlds.
Yggdrasil is attested in the Poetic Edda, compiled in the 13th century from earlier traditional sources, and the Prose Edda, written in the 13th century by Snorri Sturluson.
In both sources, Yggdrasil is an immense ash tree that is central and considered very holy.
The gods go to Yggdrasil daily to hold their courts.
The branches of Yggdrasil extend far into the heavens, and the tree is supported by three roots that extend far away into other locations; one to the well Urðarbrunnr in the heavens, one to the spring Hvergelmir, and another to the well Mímisbrunnr.
Creatures live within Yggdrasil, including the wyrm (dragon) Níðhöggr, an unnamed eagle, and the stags Dáinn, Dvalinn, Duneyrr and Duraþrór.
Conflicting scholarly theories have been proposed about the etymology of the name Yggdrasill, the possibility that the tree is of another species than ash, the relation to tree lore and to Eurasian shamanic lore, the possible relation to the trees Mímameiðr and Læraðr, Hoddmímis holt, the sacred tree at Uppsala, and the fate of Yggdrasil during the events of Ragnarök.
In the second stanza of the Poetic Edda poem Völuspá, the völva (a shamanic seeress) reciting the poem to the god Odin says that she remembers far back to "early times", being raised by jötnar, recalls nine worlds and "nine wood-ogresses" (Old Norse nío ídiðiur), and when Yggdrasil was a seed ("glorious tree of good measure, under the ground").
In stanza 19, the völva says:
'An ash I know there stands,
Yggdrasill is its name,
a tall tree, showered
with shining loam.
From there come the dews
that drop in the valleys.
It stands forever green over
Urðr's well.'

In stanza 20, the völva says that from the lake under the tree come three "maidens deep in knowledge" named Urðr, Verðandi, and Skuld.

The maidens "incised the slip of wood," "laid down laws" and "chose lives" for the children of mankind and the destinies (ørlog) of men.
In stanza 27, the völva details that she is aware that "Heimdallr's hearing is couched beneath the bright-nurtured holy tree."
In stanza 45, Yggdrasil receives a final mention in the poem.
The völva describes, as a part of the onset of Ragnarök, that Heimdallr blows Gjallarhorn, that Odin speaks with Mímir's head, and then:

'Yggdrasill shivers,
the ash, as it stands.
The old tree groans,
and the giant slips free.'

In stanza 34 of the poem Hávamál, Odin describes how he once sacrificed himself to himself by hanging on a tree. The stanza reads:

'I know that I hung on a windy tree
nine long nights,
wounded with a spear, dedicated to Odin,
myself to myself,
on that tree of which no man knows
from where its roots run.'

In the stanza that follows, Odin describes how he had no food nor drink there, that he peered downward, and that "I took up the runes, screaming I took them, then I fell back from there."
While Yggdrasil is not mentioned by name in the poem and other trees exist in Norse mythology, the tree is near universally accepted as Yggdrasil, and if the tree is Yggdrasil, then the name Yggdrasil directly relates to this story.
In the poem 'Grímnismál', Odin (disguised as Grímnir) provides the young Agnar with cosmological lore.
Yggdrasil is first mentioned in the poem in stanza 29, where Odin says that, because the "bridge of the Æsir burns" and the "sacred waters boil," Thor must wade through the rivers Körmt and Örmt and two rivers named Kerlaugar to go "sit as judge at the ash of Yggdrasill."
In the stanza that follows, a list of names of horses are given that the Æsir ride to "sit as judges" at Yggdrasil.

In Old Norse, áss (plural æsir) is the term denoting a member of the principal groups of gods of the pantheon of Norse paganism. They include many of the major figures, such as Odin, Frigg, Thor, Baldr and Tyr. They are one of the two groups of gods, the other being the Vanir. In Norse mythology, the two are described as having waged war against one another in the Æsir-Vanir War, resulting in the unification of the two into a single tribe of gods.

In stanza 31, Odin says that the ash Yggdrasil has three roots that grow in three directions.
He details that beneath the first lives Hel, under the second live frost jötnar, and beneath the third lives mankind.
Stanza 32 details that a squirrel named Ratatoskr must run across Yggdrasil and bring "the eagle's word" from above to Níðhöggr below.
Stanza 33 describes that four harts named Dáinn, Dvalinn, Duneyrr and Duraþrór consume "the highest boughs" of Yggdrasil.
In stanza 34, Odin says that more serpents lie beneath Yggdrasil "than any fool can imagine" and lists them as Góinn and Móinn which he describes as sons of Grafvitnir, Grábakr, Grafvölluðr, Ófnir, and Sváfnir, who Odin adds that he thinks will forever gnaw on the tree's branches.
In stanza 35, Odin says that Yggdrasil "suffers agony more than men know", as a hart bites it from above, it decays on its sides, and Níðhöggr bites it from beneath.
In stanza 44, Odin provides a list of things that are what he refers to as the "noblest" of their kind. Within the list, Odin mentions Yggdrasil first, and states that it is the "noblest of trees".

Yggdrasil is mentioned in two books in the 'Prose Edda', in Gylfaginning and Skáldskaparmál.
In Gylfaginning, Yggdrasil is introduced in chapter 15.
In chapter 15, Gangleri (described as king Gylfi in disguise) asks where is the chief or holiest place of the gods. High replies "It is the ash Yggdrasil. There the gods must hold their courts each day".
Gangleri asks what there is to tell about Yggdrasil.
Just-As-High says that Yggdrasil is the biggest and best of all trees, that its branches extend out over all of the world and reach out over the sky.
Three of the roots of the tree support it, and these three roots also extend extremely far: one "is among the Æsir, the second among the frost jötnar, and the third over Niflheim.
The root over Niflheim is gnawed at by the wyrm Níðhöggr, and beneath this root is the spring Hvergelmir. Beneath the root that reaches the frost jötnar is the well Mímisbrunnr, "which has wisdom and intelligence contained in it, and the master of the well is called Mimir".
Just-As-High provides details regarding Mímisbrunnr and then describes that the third root of the well "extends to heaven" and that beneath the root is the "very holy" well Urðarbrunnr.
At Urðarbrunnr the gods hold their court, and every day the Æsir ride to Urðarbrunnr up over the bridge Bifröst.
In chapter 16, Gangleri asks "what other particularly notable things are there to tell about the ash ?"
High says there is quite a lot to tell about. High continues that an eagle sits on the branches of Yggdrasil and that it has much knowledge. Between the eyes of the eagle sits a hawk called Veðrfölnir.
A squirrel called Ratatoskr scurries up and down the ash Yggdrasil carrying "malicious messages" between the eagle and Níðhöggr.
Four stags named Dáinn, Dvalinn, Duneyrr, and Duraþrór run between the branches of Yggdrasil and consume its foilage.
In the spring Hvergelmir are so many snakes along with Níðhöggr "that no tongue can enumerate them".
High continues that the Norns that live by the holy well Urðarbrunnr each day take water from the well and mud from around it and pour it over Yggdrasil so that the branches of the ash do not rot away or decay.
High provides more information about Urðarbrunnr, cites a stanza from Völuspá in support, and adds that dew falls from Yggdrasil to the earth, explaining that "this is what people call honeydew, and from it bees feed".
In chapter 41, the stanza from Grímnismál is quoted that mentions that Yggdrasil is the foremost of trees.

In chapter 54, as part of the events of Ragnarök, High describes that Odin will ride to the well Mímisbrunnr and consult Mímir on behalf of himself and his people.
After this, "the ash Yggdrasil will shake and nothing will be unafraid in heaven or on earth", and then the Æsir and Einherjar will don their war gear and advance to the field of Vígríðr.

In Norse mythology, Ragnarök (Old Norse "final destiny of the gods") is a series of future events, including a great battle foretold to ultimately result in the death of a number of major figures (including the gods Odin, Thor, Týr, Freyr, Heimdall, and Loki), the occurrence of various natural disasters, and the subsequent submersion of the world in water. Afterward, the world will resurface anew and fertile, the surviving and reborn gods will meet, and the world will be repopulated by two human survivors

Modern Influence

In modern times, Yggdrasil is sometimes depicted or referenced in modern popular culture. Modern works of art depicting Yggdrasil include Die Nornen (painting, 1888) by K. Ehrenberg; Yggdrasil (fresco, 1933) by Axel Revold, located in the University of Oslo library auditorium in Oslo, Norway; Hjortene beiter i løvet på Yggdrasil asken (wood relief carving, 1938) on the Oslo City Hall by Dagfin Werenskjold; and the bronze relief on the doors of the Swedish Museum of National Antiquities (around 1950) by B. Marklund in Stockholm, Sweden.
Poems mentioning Yggdrasil include Vårdträdet by Viktor Rydberg and Yggdrasill by J. Linke.
The significance of Yggdrasil for the Occult Reich is in its connection with the origin of the Runes (see 'ARIOSOPHY AND THE RUNES' , its appearance in Wagner's 'Der Ring des Nibelungen' in 'Das Rheinegold' (see 'THE THIRD REICH AND RICHARD WAGNER'), and as the source of Wotan's spear, on which the 'world treaties' are engraved in sacred runes.


In Norse mythology, Mímameiðr (Old Norse "Mimi's tree") is a tree whose branches stretch over every land, is unharmed by fire or metal, bears fruit that assists pregnant women, and upon whose highest bough roosts the cock Víðópnir.
Mímameiðr is solely attested in the Old Norse poem Fjölsvinnsmál.
Due to parallels between descriptions of the two, scholars theorize that Mímameiðr may be another name for the world tree Yggdrasil (see above), and also Hoddmímis holt, a wood in within which Líf and Lífthrasir are foretold to take refuge during the events of Ragnarök. Mímameiðr is sometimes modernly anglicized as Mimameid or Mimameith.
Mímameiðr is mentioned in stanzas of the eddic-meter poem Fjölsvinnsmál, where the tree is described as having limbs that stretch over every land, bearing helpful fruit, and as harboring the cock Víðópnir.
The first mention occurs when Svipdagr asks Fjölsviðr to tell him what the name of the tree whose branches reach over every land. Fjolsvith responds that:

"Mimameith its name, and no man knows
What root beneath it runs;
And few can guess what shall fell the tree,
For fire nor iron shall fell it."

This stanza is followed by another where Svipdagr asks Fjölsviðr what grows from the seed of the tree. Fjölsviðr responds that fruit grows from the tree:

"Women, sick with child shall seek
Its fruit to the flames to bear;
Then out shall come what within was hid,
And so is it mighty with men."

In the notes to his translation of this stanza, Bellows comments this stanza is to be understood as explaining that, when cooked, the fruit of Mímameiðr—which he identifies as Yggdrasil—will assure safe childbirth.
A third mention occurs when Svipdagr tells Fjölsviðr to tell him what the name of the glittering, golden cock is that sits "on the highest bough". Fjölsviðr complies, revealing that the cock is named Víðópnir:
"Vidofnir he is called; in the clear air he stands,
in the boughs of Mima's tree:
affliction only brings, together indissoluble,
the swart bird at his lonely meal."

The scholar Rudolf Simek connects Mímameiðr with Mímisbrunnr ("Mímir's well"), which is located beneath one of the three roots of the cosmological tree Yggdrasil.
Simek concludes that due to the location of the well, Mímameiðr is potentially another name for Yggdrasil. In addition, Simek says that Hoddmímis holt ("Hoard-Mímir's" holt)—a wood whose name refers to the same figure and wherein Líf and Lífþrasir survive Ragnarök—may also be another name for Yggdrasil, and therefore is likely the same location as Mímameiðr.
N O R D I C   M Y T H O L O G Y
'Wotan is the god of storm and frenzy, the unleasher of passions and the lust of battle; moreover he is a superlative magician and artist in illusion who is versed in all secrets of the occult.'
Carl Jung 1936

In the beginning was Muspell, the realm of fire.
It is a place of dreadful light and heat.
Only its natives, the Fire Giants, can tolerate its flames. Surt, a Fire Giant, guards Muspell's border, armed with a flaming sword.
At the end of the era, at Ragnarok, Surt and his companions will destroy all the Gods and and their world with fire.
Outside of Muspell lies the void called Ginnungagap, and north of Ginnungagap is Niflheim, the world of awesome dark and cold. In this world are eleven rivers flowing from a great well.
The rivers are frozen and occupy Ginnungagap.
When the wind, rain, ice, and cold meet the heat and fire of Muspell in the center of Ginnungagap, a place of light, air, and warmth is born.
Where fire and ice first met, thawing drops appeared.
Beneath the melting ice lay a Frost Giant named Ymir.
Ymir slept, falling into a sweat. Under his left arm there grew a couple, male and female Giants. One of his legs begot a son with the other.
The melting frost became a cow called Audhumla from whose udders ran four rivers of milk that fed Ymir.
After one day of licking salty ice blocks, she freed a man's hair from the ice. After two days, his head appeared. On the third day the whole man was released from the ice. The man's name was Buri.
Buri had a son named Bor. Bor married Bestla, the daughter of a Giant, with whom he had three sons.
Odin was the first, Vili the second, and Vé the third. Odin, in association with his brothers, is the ruler of heaven and earth. He is the greatest and most famous of all Gods.
Odin and his brothers killed the Giant Ymir. They carried Ymir to the middle of Ginnungagap and created the world, called Midgard, from his body.
Ymir's blood became the sea and and lakes. His skull became the cover of the sky which was set over the earth. Ymir's brains were tossed into the air, and became clouds. Then sparks and burning embers from Muspell were placed in the middle of Ginnungagap to give light to Midgard.
They named the stars and set their paths. Ymir's skeleton became the mountains of Midgard. His teeth and jaws became rocks and pebbles. His flesh was ground into dirt in the great mill Grottekvarnen.
Ymir's hair became trees. Maggots appeared in Ymir's flesh became Dwarves, who had human understanding and the appearance of men, but lived in the earth. Under each corner of the sky the suns of Buri put a Dwarf.
The four Dwarves are called Austri (East), Vestri (West), Nordri (North), and Sudri (South).


Midgard was surrounded by an enormous ocean.
Odin, Vili and Vé gave lands along the coasts to the friendlier Giants, the Etin, for their settlements.
From two trees they created a human man and woman.
Odin gave the man and the woman spirit and life.
Vili gave them understanding and the power of movement.
Vé gave them clothing and names.
The man was named Ask [Ash] and the woman Embla [Elm]. Ask and Embla are the ancestors of all humans in Midgard.


Next they built Åsgard, the home of the Gods.
In a hall named Hlidskjálf, Odin sits on a high seat from which he can look out over the whole world.
Odin married Frigga, the daughter of the Giant Fjörgvin.


Yggdrasil, the World-Tree, the tree of fate, arises in the center of the Midgard. Its branches reach up over Asgard.
The entire universe is dependent on the World-Tree.
The tree has three three roots.
One reaches into the underworld Hel, another to the world of the Frost-Giants, and the last one to the world of human beings.
Beneath the tree is the Urda well, guarded by the Norns, the three Goddesses of Fate.
Two other wells also feed Yggdrasil.
One is called Hvergelmer, and the other is Mimer's well.
The dragon Nidhog lies in Hvergelmer and gnaws on the roots of the tree. Mimer's well is the well of wisdom, guarded by the wisest of all beings, Mimer.
Odin once gave his right eye for a drink of the water from this well.


The Gods built a bridge called Bifröst from Asgard (heaven) to Midgard (earth).
They ride daily over the great rainbow bridge.
Bifröst is guarded by the God Heimdall.
Heimdall sleeps lighter than a bird, sees one hundred travel-days in each direction, and has such sharp ears that he can hear the grass and the wool grow.
But as strong as Bifröst is, it will collapse when the when the Frost Giants ride out over it at Ragnarok.
There is nothing that can be relied on when the sons of Muspell are on the warpath.

The Norse deities are divided into two major groups, the Aesir and the Vanir.
The Vanir, the "Earth Gods", symbolize riches, fertility, and fecundity.
They are associated with the earth and the sea.
The most important Gods of the Vanir are Njord, Freyr, Aegir and Freya.
The Aesir, the "Sky Gods", symbolize power, wisdom, and war.

They are long lived, but not immortal.
Odin is the leader of the Gods, with magical skills.
Thor, with his magic hammer, is the God of Thunder who presides over working men.
Loki is a Giant who is an Aesir by adoption.
He and Odin made a vow of friendship and became blood-brothers.
Loki is a trickster, a shapeshifter, and a troublemaker.
In the distant past a fierce war was fought between the Aesir and the Vanir.

The conflict between the Gods began when Odin and Thor refused to recognize the full status of Godhood to the Vanir.
The Vanir sent a beautiful woman, Gullveig (gold-drink), to the Aesir, who tried to destroy her. She came back to life three times, and led to their corruption.
War then broke out.
After both sides were exhausted, each side exchanged members of its group with the other; the Vanir sent Njord and his son and daughter Freyr and Freya, the Aesir sent Mimir and Hoenir. The truce was celebrated by a meeting at which all the Gods spit into a bowl, creating a Giant called Kvasir, who is the sign of peace and harmony among the deities. Kvasir was later sacrificed and from his blood became a potent drink which inebriates deities and gives inspiration to poets.
Balder, one of the sons of Odin, appeared as the essence of intelligence, piety, and wisdom. Both Gods and men came to him to settle legal disputes, and his judgments were reconciling and fair.

Balder had a dream in which his life was threatened.
Upon reporting this dream to his mother, Frigga, she exacted an oath from fire, water, metals, earth, stones, and all birds and animals.
They swore they would not harm Balder.
Because of his immunity, the Aesir used Balder as a target in games, throwing darts and stones at him.
When Loki saw this, he disguised himself as a woman and asked Frigga why Balder suffered no harm.
Frigga told him of the oath. Loki tricked her into telling him that mistletoe was the only being that did not agree to the oath.
Loki immediately took mistletoe and created arrows.
He took the arrows to the Blind God Hoder, brother of Balder, and volunteered to direct his aim so that he would participate in the game.
When the mistletoe struck Balder, Balder fell dead.
Because Balder was not a warrior and did not die in battle, he did not go to Valhalla, the hall of slain heroes, but into the domain of Hel, Keeper of the Dead.

When Odin begged his release, Hel (Loki's daughter) responded that if everything in the world both dead and alive wept for Balder, then he could return to the Aesir.
If not, he would remain with Hel.
The Aesir sent messengers throughout the world asking all to weep for Balder.
All responded except a Giantess, Thokk (Loki in disguise), whose refusal to weep forced Balder to remain in Hel's domain.
The Aesir succeeded in capturing Loki.
To punish him for his many crimes, they chained him beneath a serpent, which dripped venom onto him, causing terrible pain.


The Ragnarok, or end of the world, has been prophesied.
When Mirmir no longer guards his well, Yggdrasil's root will begin to rot.
The Nidhog dragon will finally succeed in knawing through the root that ends at Hvergelmer well.
The Norns will be alarmed at the pollution of the Urdh well and the yellowing of the leaves of the world tree.
Odin's sacrificed eye lies in Mirmir's well and sees what is to come.
He knows that nothing can stop Fibulwinter, three years with endless winter, which will be followed by Ragnarok.
The days will grow colder until even Urda well freezes solid.
Storm and sleet will pound the World-Tree.
One of Yggdrasil's branches will break and fall, striking Jormungand, the world serpent, which immediately will let go of its tail.
The Hel ship Naglfar will become visible in the mist.
The wolves Skoll and Manegarm will get closer and closer to Sun and Moon, which they have chased for eons.
Fenrir wolf and and the Hel-wolf Garm will break their chains.
Giants will release Loki from his fetters on the mountain.
Nidhoggr will leave the roots of Yggdrasil and head toward Asgard. Behind him will march all the Giants. Heimdall will see all this, and will take up the Gjallarhorn to blow the warning.
Loki will lead monsters and Giants to attack the Gods in the great battle of Ragnarok on Vigrid plain.
The leader of the Fire Giants, Surt, will attack Freyr, who will be armed only with a deer's antler. Freyr will stick his deer horn through Surt's eye, but then Surt will kill him with his flaming sword. Thor's son Magni will send a killing arrow toward Nidhoggr's head. Side by side, Odin and Thor will fight Fenrir and Jormungand.
Odin will put his spear, Gungnir, in Fenrir's chest, but the wolf will crush Odin to the ground.
Thor will kill Jormungand with his hammer, Mjollnir, but then will take nine steps backwards and fall down, poisoned by the serpent's venom.
Tyr will kill the wolf dog Garm. Vidar will take revenge for Odin.
The enemies Loki and Heimdall will their spears at each other at the same time and both will die. Modi will be surrounded by Giants, but Magni and Vidar will rescue him.
The winds will increase and blow Yggdrasil from every direction until the great World-Tree falls. The Dark Elves forge will tip and the World-Tree will burn.
The Bifrost Rainbow Bridge will collapse and one by one each of the Worlds will fall.
The remaining Aesir will escape in Freyr's ship, Skidbladnir.
It will be almost taken by the Hel-ship Naglfar.
Midgard will then be destroyed by fire, and will sink back into the sea.
This final destruction will be followed by a rebirth, the Earth reemerging from the sea.
Seven sons of the dead Aesir will return to Asgard and rule the universe.

Die Walküren

The Battle Maidens

Odin’s special attendants, die Walküren,  or battle maidens, were either his daughters, like Brunhild, or the offspring of mortal kings, maidens who were privileged to remain immortal and invulnerable as long as they implicitly obeyed the god and remained virgins.
They, and their steeds, were the personification of the clouds, their glittering weapons being the lightning flashes.
The ancients imagined that they swept down to earth at Valfather’s command, to choose among the slain in battle heroes worthy to taste the joys of Valhalla, and brave enough to lend aid to the gods when the great battle should be fought.

“There through some battlefield, where men fall fast,
Their horses fetlock-deep in blood, they ride,
And pick the bravest warriors out for death,
Whom they bring back with them at night to Heaven
To glad the gods and feast in Odin’s hall.”

These maidens were pictured as young and beautiful, with dazzling white arms and flowing golden hair.
They wore helmets of silver or gold, and blood-red corselets, and with spears and shields glittering, they boldly charged through the fray on their mettlesome white steeds.
These horses galloped through the realms of air, and over the quivering Bifröst, bearing not only their fair riders, but the heroes slain, who after having received the Valkyrs’ kiss of death, were thus immediately transported to Valhalla.

The Cloud Steeds

As the Walküren steeds were personifications of the clouds, it was natural to fancy that the hoar frost and dew dropped down upon earth from their glittering manes as they rapidly dashed to and fro through the air. They were therefore held in high honour and regard, for the people ascribed to their beneficent influence much of the fruitfulness of the earth, the sweetness of dale and mountain-slope, the glory of the pines, and the nourishment of the meadow-land.

Choosers of the Slain

The mission of the Walküren was not only to battlefields upon earth, but they often rode over the sea, snatching the dying Vikings from their sinking dragon-ships.
Sometimes they stood upon the strand to beckon them thither, an infallible warning that the coming struggle would be their last, and one which every Northland hero received with joy.

“Slowly they moved to the billow side;
And the forms, as they grew more clear,
Seem’d each on a tall pale steed to ride,
And a shadowy crest to rear,
And to beckon with faint hand
From the dark and rocky strand,
And to point a gleaming spear.
“Then a stillness on his spirit fell,
Before th’ unearthly train;
For he knew Valhalla’s daughters well,
The chooser of the slain!”

Their Numbers and Duties

The numbers of the Walküren differ greatly according to various mythologists, ranging from three to sixteen, most authorities, however, naming only nine.
The Walküren were considered as divinities of the air. It was said that Freya and Skuld led them on to the fray.

“She saw Valkyries
Come from afar,
Ready to ride
To the tribes of god;
Skuld held the shield,
Skaugul came next,
Gunnr, Hildr, Gaundul,
And Geir-skaugul.
Thus now are told
The Warrior’s Norns.”

The Walküren, as we have seen, had important duties in Valhalla, when, their bloody weapons laid aside, they poured out the heavenly mead for the Einheriar.
This beverage delighted the souls of the new-comers, and they welcomed the fair maidens as warmly as when they had first seen them on the battlefield and realised that they had come to transport them where they fain would be.

“In the shade now tall forms are advancing,
And their wan hands like snowflakes in the moonlight are gleaming;
They beckon, they whisper, ‘Oh! strong Armed in Valour,
The pale guests await thee—mead foams in Valhalla.’”.


Brunhilde and Siegfried
Brunhilde was the chief of the Walküren, and daughter of Odin himself.
Though the cycle of four operas is titled 'Der Ring des Nibelungen', Richard Wagner in fact took Brünnhilde's role from the Norse sagas rather than from the 'Nibelungenlied'.
Brünnhilde appears in the latter three operas ('Die Walküre', 'Siegfried', and 'Götterdämmerung'), playing a central role in the overall story of Wotan's downfall.
In Wagner's tale, Brünnhilde is one of the valkyries, who are born out of a union between Wotan and Erda, the personification of the earth.
In 'Die Walküre' Wotan initially commissions her to protect Siegmund, his son by a mortal mother.
When Fricka protests and forces Wotan to have Siegmund die, Brünnhilde disobeys her father's change of orders and takes away Siegmund's wife (and sister) Sieglinde and the shards of Siegmund's sword, 'Nothung' (Needful).
She manages to hide them, but must then face the wrath of her father who is determined to make her mortal and put her into an enchanted sleep to be claimed by any man who happens across her.
Brünnhilde argues that what she did was in obeyance of the god's 'true will' and does not deserve such a fate.
He is eventually persuaded to protect her sleep with magical fire, sentencing her to await awakening by a hero who does not know fear.
Brünnhilde does not appear again until near the end of the third act of 'Siegfried'.

Siegfried Bathes in the Dragon's Blood
The title character is the son of Siegmund and Sieglinde, born after Siegmund's death and raised by the dwarf Mime, the brother of Alberich who stole the gold and fashioned the ring around which the operas are centered.
Having killed the giant-turned-dragon Fafner, Siegfried takes the ring and is guided to Brünnhilde's rock, Wotan tries to stop him but he breaks the God's spear.
He then awakens Brünnhilde.
Siegfried and Brünnhilde appear again at the beginning of 'Götterdämmerung', at which point he gives her the ring and they are separated.
Here again Wagner chooses to follow the Norse story.
Siegfried does go to Gunther's hall, where he is given a potion to cause him to forget Brünnhilde so that Gunther may marry her.
All this occurs at the instigation of Hagen, Alberich's son and Gunther's half-brother.
The plan is successful, and Siegfried leads Gunther to Brünnhilde's rock.
In the meantime she has been visited by her sister valkyrie Waltraute, who warns her of Wotan's plans for self-immolation and urges her to give up the ring.

Death of Siegfried
Brünnhilde refuses, only to be overpowered by Siegfried who, disguised as Gunther, takes the ring from her by force.
As Siegfried goes to marry Gutrune, Gunther's sister, Brünnhilde sees that he has the ring and denounces him for his treachery.
Still rejected, she joins Gunther and Hagen in a plot to murder Siegfried, telling Hagen that Siegfried can only be attacked from the back.
So Gunther and Hagen take Siegfried on a hunting trip, in the course of which Hagen stabs Siegfried in the back with a spear.
Upon their return, Brünnhilde takes charge, and has a pyre built in which she is to perish, cleansing the ring of its curse, and returning it to the Rhinemaidens.
Her pyre becomes the signal by which Valhalla and all the gods also perish in flames.


Myth is the foundation of life; it is the timeless pattern, the religious formula to which life shapes itself…Whereas in the life of mankind the mythical represents an early and primitive stage, in the life of an individual it represents a late and mature one. 
- Thomas Mann
Aegir ("AY-ear"): the Norse sea god, master brewer of storms, and husband to Ran, with whom he had nine daughters who personify as waves. Similar to the Greek Poseidon.

Aesir (Icelandic "AY-seer," Swedish "ASS-seer"; singular "Asa"): the chief Norse gods. Similar to the Olympians of Greek myth. More associated with the skyward spirit than the earthy Vanir. The word means "pillars."

Alfar ("OWL-var") : male ancestors. See Disir.

Alfheim: world of the elves.

Alvis ("All-Knowing"): clever dwarf outsmarted by Thor in a verbal contest for the hand of Thor's daughter Thruth ("Might"). The contest lasted so long that the sun came up and turned the would-be groom to stone.

Andhrimnir: the cook for the warriors in Valhalla. His name means "soot in the face." The pot he uses is named Eldhrimnir.

Andvaranaut: a magic ring named after the shape-shifting dwarf Andvari ("Andvari's Gift") and forged by Volund. When Loki stole it to pay a ransom, Andvari cursed it to bring trouble on whomever possessed it. This ring played a key role in Wagner's work and in Tolkein's. It was thought lost in the Rhine, but it resurfaces wherever greed trumps reason or peace.

Angurboda: giant lover of Loki. Her name means "Herald of Sorrow." Their children were the wolf Fenris, the serpent Jormungand, and Hel. The gods took them away from her.

Ari: an underworld giant eagle who scares the dead in Niflheim.

Asgard: the stronghold-world of the gods. It includes Alfheim, where the light elves live, and Vanaheim, where the Vanir live. Asgard is surrounded by a wall built by a giant mason tricked by Loki, who changed into a mare to lure away his stallion so he couldn't finish by winter's end. The Aesir breaking of oaths with the giant--he had asked for Freya, the sun, and the moon, and Loki had agreed for them--paved the way for Ragnarok.

Audhumla (Icelandic "oy-THIM-lah," Swedish "audth-HUM-blah"): a cow formed by the convergence of the ten primal rivers in Niflheim. Her milk fed the giant Ymir. From these two ramified all of existence.

BaldurThe god of light, joy, purity, beauty, innocence, and reconciliation. Son of Odin and Frigg, he was loved by both gods and men and was considered to be the best of the gods. He had a good character, was friendly, wise and eloquent, although he had little power.His wife was Nanna daughter of Nep, and their son was Forseti, the god of justice. Balder's hall was Breidablik ("broad splendor"). Nanna is linked with the Sumerian goddess Inanna.
Most of the stories about Balder concern his death. He had been dreaming about his death, so Frigg extracted an oath from every creature, object and force in nature (snakes, metals, diseases, poisons, fire, etc.) that they would never harm Balder. All agreed that none of their kind would ever hurt or assist in hurting Balder. Thinking him invincible, the gods enjoyed themselves thereafter by using Balder as a target for knife-throwing and archery.
The malicious trickster, Loki, was jealous of Balder. He changed his appearance and asked Frigg if there was absolutely nothing that could harm the god of light. Frigg, suspecting nothing, answered that there was just one thing: a small tree in the west that was called mistletoe. She had thought it was too small to ask for an oath.
Loki immediately left for the west and returned with the mistletoe. He tricked Balder's blind twin brother Hod into throwing a mistletoe fig (dart) at Balder. Not knowing what he did, Hod threw the fig, guided by Loki's aim. Pierced through the heart, Balder fell dead.
While the gods were lamenting Balder's death, Odin sent his other son Hermod to Hel, the goddess of death, to plead for Balder's return. Hel agreed to send Balder back to the land of the living on one condition: everything in the world, dead or alive, must weep for him. And everything wept, except for Loki, who had disguised himself as the witch Thokk. And so Balder had to remain in the underworld.
The others took the dead god, dressed him in crimson cloth, and placed him on a funeral pyre aboard his ship Ringhorn, which passed for the largest in the world. Beside him they lay the body of his wife Nanna, who had died of a broken heart.
Balder's horse and his treasures were also placed on the ship. The pyre was set on fire and the ship was sent to sea by the giantess Hyrrokin.Loki did not escape punishment for his crime and Hod was put to death by Vali, son of Odin and Rind. Vali had been born for just that purpose.
After the final conflict (Ragnarok), when a new world arises from its ashes, both Balder and Hod will be reborn. Rising from the ashes goes to Egyptian mythos about the Phonnix she who rises from the ashes - resurrection and rebirth.
Bergelmir: the father of all the giants.

Berserkers ("bearshirts"): warriors who in some stories could turn themselves into dangerous bears. (The bear was so highly prized in Finnish lore that it could not be named.) Chieftains often surrounded themselves with such warriors, some of whom went without mail and others who painted themselves and their weapons black before night fighting. Their battle frenzy was thought to come from Odin, whose name refers to ecstacy or frenzy.

Bestla: frost giant mother of Odin and his brothers. Her mate was Bor, son of Buri.

Bifrost ("BAY-vrurst": "Trembling Roadway") : the flaming, three-strand rainbow bridge that joins Asgard to Midgard and keeps away giants until it breaks under Surt's legions at Ragnarok.

Blot ("bloat"): an animal sacrifice ritual to honor ("To Strengthen") the gods.

Bragi ("BRAH-yee"): eloquent god of poetry ("bragr") and husband of Idunna. Unlike clean-shaven Apollo, Bragi wears a long beard. Often shown with a harp. Patron of minstrels. Loki began with him in an incident where the trickster hurled insults at the assembled Aesir during a lengthy bout of self-congratulating.

Brunhild ("Mailed Warrior"): a shape-shifting Valkarie who fell in love with the hero Sigurd and burned herself to death when he died of treachery.

Buri ("BOO-ree"): son of Audhumla, the primal cow who licked him into life from salty rocks. Grandfather of Odin and father of Bor.

Disir ("DEE-seer"; singular "dis"): female ancestors. See Alfar.

Draugr (plural "draugar"): a powerful undead zombie. Runes were sometimes inscribed on tombstones to keep the undead from rising. The haugbui was a draugr who stayed put but attacked anyone who trespassed near the grave site.

Draupnir: "Dropper," the magic gold bracelet of Odin that creates eight new rings of gold every ninth night.

Dwarves: underground beings associated with craftsmanship. They sprung like maggots from Ymir's body, and many live in Nidavellir ("Dark Fields") below ground. The cardinal directions were sky-supporting dwarves named Austri (East), Sudri (South), Vestri (West), and Nordri (North). Dwarves supplied the magical instruments and weapons of the gods.

Eddas: the collections of stories and poems that constitute the primary early record of Norse and Icelandic mythology. They were penned in the 13th century, the Prose Edda by the Icelandic scholar and poet Snorri Sturluson, who used the thirty-four-poem brew of the Poetic Edda as a source, but they belong to a much more ancient oral tradition. Some of their images go back to the Bronze Age. The original calf-skin vellum on which they were written was lost long ago. "Edda" has been thought to mean "poem" but could refer to Oddi, a settlement in southwestern Iceland, home of Sturluson and the legendary scholar Saemund the Wise. From 1100 on lore collected in Iceland like congealing flows of lava.

Einherjar ("EIN-her-yar"): collective name for the dead warriors gathered in Valhalla. They go out into the couryard and battle by day, recover, and feast in the hall at night.

Eir: a goddess of healing. Compare with the Greek Hygeia.

Elivagar ("Stormy Waves"): the eleven rivers whose dripping venom gave the first giants their fierceness through Ymir. Snorri links them to the Milky Way.

Elves: youthful beings living in forests and near springs. They look like humans and sometimes crossbred. Dark elves were thought to cause diseases. They live in Svartalfheim ("Land of Dark Elves"), whereas bright elves live in Alfheim and Vidblain in heaven. In parts of Sweden the custom is to pour a cup of milk for them and leave it near a tomb.

Eostre, Ostara ("East Shining"): Saxon goddess of springtime and rabbits. Celebrated at the spring equinox, her name gave itself to April. Compare with the Roman goddess Aurora and the Greek Eos.

Etins: giants friendly to the gods, unlike the Jotuns, who aren't.

Fafnir: a gold-hoarding dragon killed by the hero Sigurd.

Faining: a god-honoring ritual that does not involve animal sacrifice.

Fensalir: the "Sea Halls" of Frigga in Asgard.

Fenris, Fenrir: the wolf son of Loki bound by the gods with Tyr's help and sacrifice. He will eat Odin at Ragnarok and be slain by Odin's son Vidar. His slaver forms the river Van ("Hope" or "Expectation").

Folde: Anglo-Saxon goddess of Earth. Also called Fira Modor ("Mother of Men").

Forseti: god of law and justice and overseer of civic assemblies. A son of Baldur, he lives in the silver and golden hall Glitnir ("Shining"). An old story tells that he brought a spring from the earth while giving law to the Frisians.

Freya: golden-haired "Lady" and goddess of love and beauty. Compare with Aphrodite and Venus. Freya's chariot, drawn by cats, bears comparison with Aphrodite's (called Pothos, the fantasy component of love), and she sometimes takes the form of a dove. Both goddesses are connected to sea swells. Freya's fire-jewel necklace Brisingamen ("Fiery Belt") was forged by four dwarves after she spent one night with each. She has eight sisters and a coat that turns the wearer into a falcon. Her hall is Sessrumnir ("Rich in Seats") at Folkvang, the Field of Warriors, where half the slain in battle go. Her disguised lover Hildisvini's name means "Battle Boar"; his human name is Ottar. She taught magic (divinatory witchcraft: see "Seidr" below) to other goddesses and gods. When she cries her tears make red gold. Her daughter with lost Od is Hnoss ("Treasure"). She was one of the Vanir sent to the Aesir to bring peace to both. She can be thought of as the archetypal principle that attracts every opposite, from the cohesion of matter to the gravity between galaxies. Through her intercourse became sacred and healing and ceremonial.

Freyr (Icelandic: pronounce the final "r"): Vanir "Lord" of the elves, husband of the giant Gerd ("Enclosure" or "Field"), and brother of Freya. A god of peace and lusty pleasure and good crops. He sails in the foldable portable ship Skidbladnir ("Wooden-Bladed") and rides the luminously golden boar Gullinbursti ("Golden Bristles"). His magic sword wielded itself until he gave it away to marry Gerd, so he killed the giant Beli with an antler. Brings happiness and is kind to women but is prone to depression. He resembles a mixture of Saturn and Dionysus, with Gerd an echo of Arachne. The legendary Danish king Frodi might be a byform of Freyr. The Anglo-Saxons called him Ing. His messenger is Skirnir ("Bright One").

Frigga ("FREE-yuh"): the Allmother of the Norse and wife of Odin. Goddess of peacemaking, weaving the threads of cosmic order, and holding and keeping political and domestic power. She knows everyone's fate but does not speak it. Her name means "Spinner." Compare with Hera or Juno or the Celtic Morrigan. Her handmaids were Fulla, Gna, and Lin. Friday was considered a good day to get married because it was named after her (for the Germanics, Frija's Day).

Frith: peaceful accord. Arranging a peace is "frith-weaving."

Fulla, Volla: long-haired virgin sister of Frigga and guardian of her treasure. Her name means "Bounty."

Fylgja ("FEEL-gyah"; plural "Fylgjur"): a part of the soul that sometimes shows up as an animal and can live outside the body. The form it takes depends on the inner character of the person it visits. The word means "she who follows."

Garm: the underworld hound of Hel. He is chained in Gnipahellir, the cave entrance of Niflheim, and will die with Tyr at Ragnarok. Similar to Cerberus.

Gefion ("GEF-yon": "She Who Gives"): Vanir crop and field goddess. Compare Demeter/Ceres. When King Gylfi of Sweden mocked the apparently homeless woman before him by giving her all of Zealand she could plow, she turned her giant-sired sons into oxen and plowed the entire expanse. She overlooks agriculture, acquisition, and material wealth. Women who die as virgins accompany her.

Geirröth: the king who unwittingly bound Odin between two fires (he had thought him a common wanderer whom his dogs refused to attack) to torture him for eight nights. His ten-year-old son Agnar was kind to the disguised god and gave him a horn to drink from. When the king realizes his mistake he falls on his sword. Odin teaches his son sacred lore.

Gimli: the gold-roofed hall where the new gods will live after Ragnarok.

Ginungagap: the creative void or chasm from which all things emanated. Within it lie a realm of fire (Muspelheim) and a world of ice (Niflheim) that contained Hvergelmir, the well from which flowed the primal rivers. When the worlds collided into a big bang, the giant Ymir came to be.

Gladsheim ("Place of Joy"): a pleasant dwelling on the plain of Ida and largest building in existence. The twelve gods had seats of honor there.

Gna: messenger of Frigga whose name means "rise high," which she does on the backof Hofvarpnir ("hoof-thrower"). Her name shares roots with "looming."

Grid: the female giant who who loans Thor her staff, iron gloves,and belt of strength so he can kill the giant Geirrod and his two daughters.

Gullinkambi ("Golden Comb"): the cock that awakens the Einherjar warriors of Valhalla to Ragnarok. The cock Fjalar awakens the Giants.

Gullveig ("Gold Might"): the Vanic goddess and seeress whose triple burning by the Aesir offended the Vanir; Odin's casting a spear over their ranks precipitated the war. Gullveig's name might indicate a reason for the burning, but the Aesir might also have feared her powerful magic. She was banished to Ironwood until Ragnarok. Some think her a byform of Freya.

Hamingja: luck, partly inherited from the ancestors and partly modifiable through one's actions.

Heimdal ("HAME-dall," meaning, "One Who Illuminates the World"): the watchful gold-toothed guardian of the rainbow bridge Bifrost. His hall is Himinbjorg ("Heaven's Cliffs") at the end of the bridge Bifrost; his horse is Golltopp ("Gold-Topped"). It is said he gave an ear to Mimir's well to obtain his otherworldly powers of hearing. He successfully fought Loki to regain Freya's necklace after both of them had shapeshifted into seals. His horn Gjall ("Ringing Horn") will announce the final war of Ragnarok, where he and Loki will kill each other. Heimdall's counterpart watchman among the giants is Eggther. Cf. the Greek Argus, who also tangled with a trickster, and shapeshifting Proteus, foreteller of events and guardian of seals.

Hel: the giant goddess of the underworld. She is half black and half white and lives in the hall Eliudnir ("Sprayed with Snowstorms") in Helheim, where she is served by male Ganglati ("Tardy") and female Ganglot ("Tardy"). According to Snorri "her dish is Hunger, her knife is Famine, her slave is Lazy, and Slothful is her woman servant." Her bed is named Sick Bed, and her bed curtains Gleaming Disaster. Compare Persephone.

Helheim: the world of the dead.

Hermod: Asa messenger of the gods. His name means "Fast." It was he who rode Sleipnir to the underworld--leaping over its gate Helgrind--to unsuccessfully plead Hel for Baldur's return. Only the giant Thokk ("Gratitude": Loki in disguise) would not weep for him. Compare Hermes.

Hlin ("Protectress"): she defends and looks after humans liked by Frigga.

Howe: a burial mound. Gateway to the underworld. In Norse and Germanic myth the dead go to one of several places, including the hall of the deity they revered while alive. Kings and poets sometimes sat on the mounds of their dead ancestors for inspiration or dreams.

Hrede: "The Glorious" or "The Victorious" Anglo-Saxon goddess of the chill that falls before spring.

Hreidmar: the farmer whose son Otter was killed by Loki. He trapped Loki, Odin, and Hoenir with magic and demanded a ransom of red gold, which they paid with wealth tricked out of the dwarf Andvari by Loki.

Hrimfaxi ("Frost-Maned"): the horse of Night (Not), which she rides around the world. The horse of Day (Dag, son of Not and Dogling ("Son of the Dew") is Skinfaxi ("Shining-Maned").

Hrungnir: a mountain-sized giant who lost a horse race to Odin and got drunk in Valhalla afterward. He was armed with a magical whetstone that splintered into chunks that buried themselves all over the world for later use by those who seek sharp blades (or sharp minds). Thor cured him of taking Freya for a serving wench by smashing his head.

Huginn ("HYUG-in"): the raven Thought who scouts things out for Odin.

Hugr: soul. The soul was seen as a polycentered, deathless core of selfhood.

Humans: fashioned from an ash and an elm standing on a shoreline into a man (Askr) and woman (Embla) by Odin, who gave breath and soul, silent Hoenir, who gave intelligence, and Lodur, who bestowed senses and form.

Hymir: a giant foolish enough to go fishing with Thor, who was eager for a look at the World Serpent, and still more foolish enough not to share any fishing bait. Thor found his own by ripping the head off Hymir's ox Himinhrjot.

Hyrrokkin: the giant who freed Baldur's stuck boat to carry his dead body out to sea. Four berserkers could not budge it, so the Aesir called for her and she came riding a wolf with a poisonous snake for reins.

Icelandic Sagas: seven hundred prose narratives written down during the thirteenth century by various anonymous authors. Iceland represented a remarkable nexus for Norse and Germanic myth and skaldic poetry from 1000 AD onward.

Innangaro: a sacred social enclosure guarding against the forces of utgaro (destruction). A cultural temenos.

Idunn ("ee-DOO-nuh"): goddess of youth and health, which she bestows on the gods with her apples of immortality kept in a wooden box. Her name means "The Renewer." Loki delivered her to the giant Thjiazi but rescued her again. She is the wife of Bragi. Her Greek counterpart is Hebe the youth goddess.

Iku-turso: an evil Finnish sea monster.

Illmarinen: the Finnish god-smith who forged the dome of heaven and the mysterious Sampo, a kind of horn of plenty. Similar to the Greek Hephaestos and the Roman Vulcan.

Iving: a river that never ices over and marks a boundary between Asgard and the realm of the giants.

Jarnvid: "Ironwood," a land east of Midgard where trolls live.

Jord: Earth, daughter of Night, and mother of Thor. The Norse version of Gaia or Terra. Invoked by women in labor.

Jormungand ("YOR-mun-gand"): the enormous, tail-biting serpent of Midgard. Odin imprisoned it in the sea to get rid of it, but it grew until it embraced all of earth. At Ragnarok it will poison Thor and pollute the sky.

Jötnar ("yötnar"; singular "jötunn): giants. Also called risar (singular "risi"). Those inhabiting icy Niflheim were known as frost giants. Fire giants inhabit Muspelheim.

Jötunheim ("YUR-tun-hame"): the world of the giants. It contains their citadel Utgard and lies somewhere near Midgard, the world of humans.

Kvasir: a wise Vanir formed from the divine spit of the Aesir and Vanir. After two dwarves killed him the mead of poetry was decanted from his blood into the cauldron Odrorir ("Heart-Stirrer") and later stolen by Odin.

Kennings: the naming of people and things with poetic metaphors like "Freya's tears" (gold) and "horse of sea" (ship). Kennings avoided the dull and literal, demonstrated poetic skill, drew on a shared cultural history, exercised the imagination, and kept the images fresh through renewing them with words.

Kobold: a troublesome German sprite or goblin. Some haunt mines or caves.

Lightalfheim: the world of light elves.

Lintukoto: the edge of the world in Finnish mythology. The name means "Home of the Birds."

Lofn ("Comforter"): a giver of hope, she also helps people marry. She and Sjöfn and Snotra bear comparison with the Graces.

Loki: the Trickster god, mother of Odin's horse Sleipnir, and blood brother of Odin. Loki's persuasion after cutting off Sif's hair (to imply promiscuity) resulted in new hair woven of gold, the hammer Mjollnir given to Thor, Odin's deep-piercing spear Gungnir, and Loki's shoes of flight. A trick of his resulted in Baldur's death and resulting survival after Ragnarok. Compare Hermes, Mercury, Prometheus. Loki means "fire." For insulting the Aesir he is bound to three stones by the entrails of his dead son Narfi until Ragnarok. He is disorder personified and shows up whenever things get too ponderous or routine.

Maegen ("MAYG-in"): the vitality aspect of soul. Similar to the Asian "chi" or "ki."

Magni ("Might"): strong son of Thor who with his brother Modi ("Wrath") will receive Thor's hammer after their father dies at Ragnarok.

Mani: the moon god whose chariot is driven by the horse Alsvid ("Very Strong"). A girl (Bil) and boy (Hjuki) go with him.

Merkstave: when a rune drawn for a reading comes up reversed, resulting in a reversal of its meaning. Literally means "dark stick."

Midgard: the world of humans. "Middle Earth."

Mimir ("Remembrer"): god whose head guards the well of wisdom at the base of Yggrasil the World Tree. Possibly uncle to Odin, who gave an eye for a drink. Displeased with Hoenir's silence, the Vanir beheaded Mimir and sent him back to the Aesir, but the peace worked out anyway.

Mjölnir ("MULE-near"): the hammer of Thor, which he needs a metal glove to wield. The dwarves Brokk and Eitri made it. When he throws it the hammer hits its target and comes back into his hand. The word means "masher" and is linked to "milling." The tendency of this flying grindstone to give off lightning also makes it a sort of portable thunderbolt. Lapp shamans struck their drums with hammers that resembled Thor's.

Mundilferi: father of the sun and moon. His name might mean "The Turner."

Muninn: Odin's raven Memory. Given the distortions and gaps of Norse mythology, Odin may have been right to fear losing Memory more than Thought (symbolized by the raven Huginn).

Nanna: wife of Baldur, who threw herself on his funeral pyre in grief as he burned on his ship Ringhorn.

Nehellenia: Dutch goddess comparable to Isis and Demeter; her name might mean "Helpful Coming Close."

Nerthus: Danish goddess of Earth. Similar to the Greek Gaia and the Roman Terra.

Nidhogg: the old dragon who chews on the root of the World Tree. His name means "Dread Biter."

Niflheim ("Misty Hel"): a realm of darkness under one root of the World Tree. At Nastrond ("Shore of Corpses"), the dragon Nidhogg chews on those who were evil in life.

Nine: a key number in Norse myth. Nine worlds, Odin's three triangles and nine magic songs, Heimdall's nine mothers, Hermod's nine-day journey to the underworld, etc. In alchemy the Third referred to a unifying or synthesizing substance derived by combining two others (a duality). In many mythologies nine (three threes) represents the culmination of a cycle.

Njord ("NEEORD"): father of Freya and Freyr and god of ships and trade who lives in Noatun ("Ship's Haven") and calms the seas and winds. His marriage to the giant Skadi failed because she belongs at her father Thjiazi's home Thrymheim ("Home of Thunder") in the mountains and he by the sea.

Nornir: the three wise goddesses, also called the Norns, who sit at the foot of Yggdrasil and weave the web of fate. Urd oversees past actions, Verdandi the present, and Skuld the future. Even the gods must bow to their decisions. Compare with the Greek Fates ("Moira").

Od: lost husband of Freya. When she could not find him she shed tears of gold that turned trees into amber.

Odin ("OHDTH-in"; called Wotan or Woden in Germanic lore): Allfather and shape-shifting husband of Frigga. Lusty god of ecstacy, storm, hunting, poetry, berserk fury, and incantations. His authority is similar to that of Zeus (Greek) and Jupiter (Roman). He sits on the throne Hildskfalf ("hlid-skyalf": "Watch Tower") and likes to go about on Earth disguised as a gray-bearded wanderer in a tall hat and dark blue cloak. It was he whose breath animated the first humans and he who leads the dead on the shamanic Wild Hunt of wandering souls. He subsists on wine and loves knowledge from the depths and will make sacrifices to obtain it, as when he exchanged an eye for a drink from Mimir's well. 

Odin is a god of war and death, but also the god of poetry and wisdom.
He hung for nine days, pierced by his own spear, on the world tree.
Here he learned nine powerful songs, and eighteen runes.
Odin can make the dead speak to question the wisest amongst them.
His hall in Asgard is Valaskjalf ("shelf of the slain") where his throne Hlidskjalf is located.
From this throne he observes all that happens in the nine worlds.
The tidings are brought to him by his two raven Huginn and Muninn.
He also resides in Valhalla, where the slain warriors are taken.
Odin's attributes are the spear Gungnir, which never misses its target, the ring Draupnir, from which every ninth night eight new rings appear, and his eight-footed steed Sleipnir.
He is accompanied by the wolves Freki and Geri, to whom he gives his food for he himself consumes nothing but wine.
Odin has only one eye, which blazes like the sun.
His other eye he traded for a drink from the Well of Wisdom, and gained immense knowledge. On the day of the final battle, Odin will be killed by the wolf Fenrir.
He is also called Othinn, Wodan and Wotan.
Some of the aliases he uses to travel icognito among mortals are Vak and Valtam. Wednesday is named after him (Wodan).
Amongst his gifts to us, his children, was the greatest of all: the gift of writing. To accomplish this Odin hung himself upside down upon the World Tree, [Tree of Life] the gigantic ash Yggdrasil (a compound meaning "terrible horse").
After nine days of fasting and agony, in which "he made of himself a sacrifice to himself", he "fell screaming" from the tree, having had revealed to him in a flash of insight the secret of the runes. Their initial manifestation took the form of eighteen powerful charms for protection, increase, success in battle and love-making, healing, and mastery over natural causes.
This story illustrates an important dynamic of the Northern pantheon, which did not allow for omnipotence - even Odin must pay his due.
At Mimir's well, which lay deep under the roots of Yggdrasil, the World Tree, the god had earlier chosen to undergo an important forfeit.
Odin paid with one eye for a single drink of the enchanted water. His mouthful granted him wisdom and fore-sight.
It is due to this sacrifice that Odin's face is depicted with a straight line indicating an empty eye, or alternately, in a wide-brimmed hat pulled down low over the missing orb.
His quest for knowledge was never-ending. Upon his shoulders perched two ravens, Hugin ("Thought"), and Munin ("Memory").
These circled the Earth each day, seeing all, and then at night reported to Odin what they had learnt.
He cherished them both, but particularly Munin, which seems to underscore the importance he placed on rune writing, record keeping, and honouring the heroic deeds of the past.
There is another bird associated with Odin, the eagle.
The god often transformed himself into this raptor, both to view the workings of the world and to intervene when an avian form was better suited to his ends.
Odin's fabulous grey horse Sleipnir was like no other.
This is the eight-legged horse depicted so beautifully on the painted stones of Gotland, a now-Swedish island in the Baltic.
Sleipnir was the offspring of a giant's magical stallion and the "trickster" god, Loki, who disguised himself as an alluring mare to distract the stallion from the task of building a wall around Asgard, home of the Gods.
If the wall had been completed by a certain date, Freyja, the goddess of beauty, war and sexuality would have been forfeit to the giant as payment for his labors. (The gods also stood to lose the Sun and the Moon, but did not seem particularly concerned about their impending loss!)
Loki was successful, but vanished for a few seasons as he had to bear the fruit of his trickery.
He returned to Odin leading his equine offspring, which he presented as a gift.
With his eight legs, Sleipnir could run twice as fast as ordinary steeds, and it is he who carries the valiant dead from the battle field to Valhalla.
Odin's imagery marks him as a Shaman of shamans.
He is unusual in another way: a god actively seeking wisdom and making sacrifices to open pathways to self-development.
On memorial stones and urns his emblem appears: the valknut, three interlocked triangles.

Okolnir ("Not Cold"): the warm ground where the hall Brimir will stand after Ragnarok.

Örlög ("UR-lurg") : a person's own strand of fate (wyrd). One's actions can influence its shape.

Ragnarök: often mistranslated as "twilight (rather than "fate") of the gods": an apocalypse in which the old gods and their opposites destroy each other, resulting in heavenly renewal and a new race of human beings. C. G. Jung referred to this mythological dynamic as the transformation of the God-image(s). It begins with a three-year winter (fimbulvetr) and giants storming Asgard by land under Surt and riding in on Naglfar, a ship made of the nails of the dead steered by Hrym and captained by Loki. Odin will be eaten by the wolf Fenris, his wolvish offspring Skoll and Hati will devour the sun and moon, Surt will kill Freyr, the world serpent Jormungand will kill Thor with its breath, the hellhound Garm and Tyr will kill each other, and so will Heimdall and Loki. The World Serpent will turn out the seas onto land and Surt will cast flame over the world that ends, like it began, in a union of fire and water. Afterwards Earth will rise again from the sea and the sun and moon's children Lif and Lifthrasir (Life and Will-to-Live) will repopulate it. Vidar, Vali, Modi, Magni, Baldur, and Hod will come to Idavoll, former site of Asgard, and find the gold playing pieces of the former Aesir.

Axe-time, sword-time, shields are sundered, 
Wind-time, wolf-time, ere the world falls;
Nor ever shall men each other spare....
Now do I see the earth anew
Rise all green from the waves again...

Ran ("Robber"): net-wielding wife of Aegir and personification of the sea's danger. The drowned go to her after death.

Rune: a character in a pictographic alphabet held to be of divine origin. The 24-letter Germanic Elder Futhark of the second to the eighth centuries (sometimes simplified into the Younger Futhark of Scandinavia) is often used in rune readings. Runes were often carved into pieces of wood and stained red.

Saga: goddess of history, ancestry, and storytelling (her name means "to tell" or "to speak"). She lives in the hall Sokkvabekk ("Sunken Bank") and often drank there with Odin.

Saehrimnir: the boar eaten by the warriors in Valhalla. They drink mead from the udders of Heithrun, the she-goat who nibbles the leaves of the World Tree.

Seaxnéat/Saxnot: "Sword Friend," a little-known Anglo-Saxon god, possibly a counterpart to Tyr. A seax was a long, single-edged knife.

Seidur ("say-dthur"): magic involving an ecstatic state of divination achieved by a wise woman. A form of witchcraft taught by Freya. This talent, later known as witchcraft, involved ceremony and sometimes erotic practice or imagery.

Sif: seeress wife of Thor and mother of his daughter Thruo ("Strength") and his sons Magni ("Strong") and Modi ("Angry").

Sigyn: wife of Loki; "Woman of Victory." She holds a bowl to catch venom dripped by a poisonous serpent into Loki's face after the giant Skadi and the gods bound him as punishment (compare the story of Prometheus) for arranging Baldur's death. His writhings when she turns away to empty the bowl cause earthquakes.

Sjöfn ("SYUR-fn"): her name means "affection." See Lofn.

Skadi ("Shadow"): the skiing mountain giant who hunted with a bow and could not work things out with Njord, whom she married as compensation for the death of her father Thjiazi. Compare Artemis.

Sleipnir ("SLAYP-near"): the fast steed of Odin, eight-legged and fathered by the stallion Svadilfri, who mated with shapeshifted Loki its mother.

Snotra ("Wise"): the goddess of custom and courtesy. See Lofn.

Sol: the sun goddess whose chariot is pulled by the horses Allsvinn ("Very Fast") and Arvak ("Early Walker").

Surt: "Black" lord giant of fiery Muspelheim, bearer of a flaming sword, and future leader of the forces opposing Odin's at Ragnarok, where he will set the world on fire. Compare Hades/Pluto. His wife may have been Sinmora.

Suttung: the giant from whom Odin tricked the mead of poetry. Suttung pursued Odin back to Asgard as an eagle and almost caught him, but Odin spat the mead into vats. Some of it shot out of his rear as well, and it reappears to stain the air whenever one hears bad poetry.

Svalin: "The Cooling" is a shield that stands in front of the sun. Without its ozone-like protection the world would burn.

Swartalfheim: the world of dark elves.

Syn: gatekeeper of Frigga's hall Fensalir; her name means "Refusal" or "Denial." She is invoked by defendants during trials. Compare Hecate.

Thew: tribal law or custom.

Thor: Thor is the Norse god of thunder. He is generally depicted as red-headed and bearded.
He is a son of Odin and Jord, and one of the most powerful gods. He is married to Sif, a fertility goddess. His mistress is the giantess Jarnsaxa ("iron cutlass"), and their sons are Magni and Modi and his daughter is Thrud.
Thor is helped by Thialfi, his servant and the messenger of the gods. who is Hermes in Greek Mythology and Mercury in Roman Mythology.
Thor was usually portrayed as a large, powerful man with a red beard and eyes of lighting. Despite his ferocious appearance, he was very popular as the protector of both gods and humans against the forces of evil. He even surpassed his father Odin in popularity because, contrary to Odin, he did not require human sacrifices.
In his temple at Uppsala he was shown standing with Odin at his right side. This temple was replaced by a Christian church in 1080.
The Norse believed that during a thunderstorm, Thor rode through the heavens on his chariot pulled by the goats Tanngrisni ("gap-tooth") and Tanngnost ("tooth grinder"). Lightning flashed whenever he threw his hammer Mjollnir.
Thor wears the belt Megingjard which doubles his already considerable strength.
His hall is Bilskirnir, which is located in the region Thrudheim ("place of might").
His greatest enemy is Jormungand, the Midgard Serpent.
At the day of Ragnarok, Thor will kill this serpent but will die from its poison. His sons will inherit his hammer after his death.
Donar is his Teutonic equivalent, while the Romans see in him their god Jupiter. 
Thursday is named after him.

Thrym: the giant who stole Mjollnir and wouldn't give it back unless the Aesir offered him Freya. Thor showed up for the wedding dressed as her and accompanied by Loki in the guise of a bridesmaid. The disguise wore thin when Thor consumed an ox and eight salmon, but Thrym placed the hammer in "Freya's" lap anyway as a Norse sign of conjugal affection. Mjollnir responded.

Trolls: large, ugly creatures who live in dark or hidden places. Norwegian term for the giant of Sweden or Denmark. Pretty female ones sometimes seduced wayfarers and left them drowned or lost. In stories where Thor is absent sometimes appears a short statement like, "...and Thor was out hammering trolls."

Tuoni: Finnish god of the underworld (called Tuonela).

Tyr ("teer"), Tiwaz: the binder of the wolf Fenris with the deceptively thin dwarf-crafted rope Gleipnir ("Open One"). He bound the wolf (and lost his sword hand to it) because a seeress foretold that the wolf would kill Odin at Ragnarok. He is a god of honorable conduct and direct action and and linked to the arrow-shaped rune Tiewaz. He is sometimes compared to Ares and Mars. His consort may have been Zisa.

Ukko: the Finnish Odin or Zeus; also called the Overgod. His wife was Akka. His weapon was a stone ax.

Ull: archer god of hunting and skiing and duels; his name means "Glory." A son of Sif but not Thor, he lives in Ydalir ("Yew Dale"). A kenning for shields was "ships of Ull."

Urda's ("Urth-ahs") Well: the well of fate at the foot of Yggdrasil. Urda is one of the Norns.

Utgard-Loki: the giant who called himself Skrymir ("Big Fellow") and fooled Thor and his companions Thialfi and Loki by testing them against Elli (Old Age), Logi (Fire), and Hugi (Thought). He and his mansion vanished just before meeting Mjollnir. Such optical tricks are called sjónhverfing ("sight-altering"). Thor having unknowingly drunk up part of the ocean, there are now tides.

Vaettir ("VAY-tear"; singular Vaet): spirits of land and place. Genii loci.

Vafthruthnir: the giant who lost a wisdom contest and his life to Odin.

Valhalla: Odin's great "Hall of the Slain" within Asgard. There he feeds and trains slain heroes for use in the final battle of Ragnarok. The hall is surrounded by the river Thund ("The Roaring"), raftered with spears, roofed with shields, lit by swords, and fitted with benches strewn with breastplates. A wolf and an eagle are carved above the door. A grove of red gold called Glasir stands in front of the doors.

Vali: son of Odin and Rind. He was born to avenge Baldur's death by killing blind Hodor.

Valkaries: the implacable "Choosers of the Slain": warrior women who select who will be slain in battle and transport dead heroes to Valhalla. Descriptions of them often match those of the Furies.

Vanaheim: the world of the Vanir.

Vanir ("VAH-near"; also called the Wanes): an older race of gods similar to the Greek Titans but who continue to interact with the Aesir, with whom they exchanged peace hostages. The earthy Vanir in Norse myth reach far back into pre-Indo-European and indigenous shamanic origins.

Var: goddess of oath-keeping and punisher of those who break promises. Her name means an oath or pledge.

Vidar: Odin's son and avenger of his death at Ragnarok. He wears a shoe assembled from the scraps of all shoes that have ever been, and he uses it to prop open the mouth of Fenriswolf while tearing the beast apart.

Vigrid ("Battle-Shaker"): the 120-league-square Asgard plain where the gods and the giants will destroy each other at time's end.

Vikings: seagoing merchant raiders who sailed and fought between the eighth and eleventh centuries. The name "Rus," or the Swedish Vikings described by Ibn Fadlan, appears in "Russia"; Vikings also founded Dublin, Iceland, Greenland. One of them, Leif the Lucky, not only sighted North America (near Newfoundland) around the year 1001 but stayed there for a few years and might have ventured as far south as New England or Long Island. Their shallow-draft longships allowed them to strike deep inland and made them a terror throughout Europe to as far away as the Mideast. Having witnessed the bloody Christianization of Scandinavia, the Vikings particularly favored attacks on wealthy coastal monasteries. Unlike their enemies they bathed and kept groomed. Their leather and iron battle helmets did not carry horns or wings. An old legend says that goblins originating in France caught a ride with the Vikings to arrive in England.

Vingolf: the goddess' lovely sanctuary in Asgard. "Friendly Quarters."

Vor: a wise, watchful, careful goddess about whom little is known. She investigates things deeply, and nothing can remain hidden from her.

Volsung: the king who gave his name to the saga written down by an unknown author in the thirteenth century. The saga includes Sigmund, the Arthurlike son of Volsung who pulls Odin's sword from the tree Branstock, the sword's breaking and its remaking into sharp Gram, and the story of the dragon-slaying hero Sigurd and his tragic love Brunhild. In the treasure of Fafnir waits the cursed ring of Andvari: "But hearken, for that same gold which I have owned shall be thy bane too." And so it is, dooming him, Brunhild, Sigurd's wife Gudrun, who suffers loss after terrible loss, down to the death of Atli and his clan, when Odin reappears to give their enemies advice. With the theft of the ring Andvaranaut, Loki (and Odin) had set in motion a kind of intergenerational nightmare to bring down a line of proud and once-vital kings who greedily took whatever they wanted by butchery.

Volund: a smith god similar to Hephaestos/Vulcan and the Anglo-Saxon Weyland.

Völuspá: the first of the poems of the Edda as related by a volva to Odin. It includes the creation and destruction of the world.

Völva: a wise woman, seer, healer, or witch highly respected in pre-Christian times. (Note: the English word "heal" reaches back through German and Icelandic to words for "holy" and "whole.") Males who held an analogous role were known as vitkar (singular vikti).

Vördr ("verd"): a "warden" or "watcher" spirit that guides the soul throughout life. One's angel.

Weonde ("WAY-on-day"): Anglo-Saxon ceremony for blessing a space by circling it clockwise while holding torches.

Willa: the will component of the soul.

Wod: the soul's capacity for passion or creative inspiration.

Wyrd ("whirred"): fate or consequence; similar to karma. Partly personal and partly ancestral. See Örlög.

Yggdrasil ("IG-drah-sill," with the "i" sound between a long E and a long U) : the great World Tree or axis mundi that supports existence and binds it together. Its name means "Steed of Ygg" (of the Terrible); Odin wounded himself with a spear and hung himself from the Tree for nine days to acquire the sacred runes of transformation bubbling forth from the waters below. The Tree has three roots, to the gods, the giants, and the dead: one in Asgard at the Well of Urda, where the Norn goddesses weave the strings of fate; one under Jötunheim at the Spring of Mimir; and one at Niflheim at the Spring of Hvergelmir ("Caldron-Roaring"), headwaters of dew fallen from the horns of the stag Eikthyrnir ("Oak Antlers"), source of eleven rivers (the Elivagar, "Stormy Waves") and site of the dragon Nidhogg and other Tree-gnawing serpents. The squirrel Ratatok ("Swift Teeth") runs up and down the trunk ferrying a contest of insults between Nidhogg and the giant eagle Hraesvelg ("Corpse-Gulper") in the topmost branches, its wings creating the winds as a hawk sits between its eyes. Bees feed on Yggdrasil's dew, unborn souls hang from it like leaves, and Christmas trees symbolize it, each ornament a tiny world. It trembled at Ragnarok, and again when the missionaries arrived to hack down the sacred groves, but it abides as the worlds come and go in one cyclical "Big Bounce" after another.

Ymir, Aurgelmir: the primordial giant from whose armpit sweat the gods and humans eventually sprang and from whose feet rose the giants. His name might indicate his hermaphroditic nature. Odin, Hoenir, and Lodur carved him up to make the nine worlds. His skull formed the heavens, his flesh the ground, and his blood the oceans and rivers.

Yule: when the old year gives way to the new at the winter solstice, celebrations ensue, the ancestors are close, and Odin rides through the sky on the Wild Hunt. Children would greet him by leaving food for Sleipnir in their boots near the chimney and wake up rewarded with gifts or candy. Slaughtering the boar has given way to eating Christmas ham, but Father Christmas continues to look a lot like generous Freyr gathering and dispensing the harvest.


'I am the God Thor, 
I am the War God, 
I am the Thunderer! 
Here in my Northland, 
My fastness and fortress, 
Reign I forever! 

Here amid icebergs 
Rule I the nations; 
This is my hammer,...
Giants and sorcerers 
Cannot withstand it! 

These are the gauntlets 
Wherewith I wield it, 
And hurl it afar off; 
This is my girdle; 
Whenever I brace it, 
Strength is redoubled! 

The light thou beholdest 
Stream through the heavens, 
In flashes of crimson, 
Is but my red beard 
Blown by the night-wind,
Affrighting the nations! 

Jove is my brother; 
Mine eyes are the lightning;
The wheels of my chariot 
Roll in the thunder, 
The blows of my hammer 
Ring in the earthquake! 

Force rules the world still, 
Has ruled it, shall rule it; 
Meekness is weakness, 
Strength is triumphant, 
Over the whole earth 
Still is it Thor's-Day !'

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Aryan Nordic Mythology

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