The Vikings (seafaring warriors, raiders, and explorers from modern-day Scandinavian which includes Norway, Sweden, Denmark and Iceland) told each other religious stories about their deities who were highly complex characters that had fascinating powers. Norse mythology is polytheistic which has them worshiping multiple Gods and Goddesses. Mythologies are the expressions of a particular person or group of people that are told to explain nature or history, which can eventually evolve into the foundation of a religion and they often include a spark of something more timeless and universal which is both complex and comprehensive.
The Vikings have a creation myth where the world as we know it began with the joining of the fires from Muspell, in the south, with the frozen cold ice of Niflheim from the north. The Niflheim was a dark world where eleven poisonous rivers cut through the mist, each springing from the same well at the center of it all, the roaring maelstrom called Hvergelmir. Niflheim was colder than cold, it had a murky mist that cloaked everything, so the skies were hidden by mist and the ground was clouded by a chilly fog. Muspell was a place of fire where everything glowed and burned a land that was aflame with the roaring heat of a blacksmith’s fire. Muspell had nothing but sparks and spurting heat, molten rocks and burning embers. These two primordial forces Muspell and Niflheim were opposites, where Muspell was light and Niflheim was gray, molten lava was present instead of the mist of a frozen world. A great ash tree spread its branches throughout the whole world and they extended over heaven. Various realms spread out beneath the World Tree Yggdrasill and three great roots developed, one among the Aesir (the gods) in Asgard, a second among the Frost Giants, and the third over icy Niflheim.
Muspell and Niflheim were originally separated by the great expanse of emptiness known of the Ginnungagap (bottomless abyss a primordial void). Surt existed before the gods holding a flaming sword, the bubbling lava and the freezing mist are as one to him. Black Surt (a Norse Badass Fire Giant of pain) held his fiery sword awaiting Ragnarok (the final destiny of the gods). When the heat of the south met the cold of the north water began to melt from the ice, and these water droplets created a mighty giant, known as Ymir, the forefather of Frost Giants who was evil. Eitr is a mythical liquid substance that is the origin of all living things, the first giant Ymir made a delicate transition from a liquid to a solid when it was conceived from eitr. Although there was life, there was still no land, no sky, only the mist world, formless and shapeless, and the fire world, which was always burning and nothing existed between the fiery world of Muspell and the frozen wastes of Niflheim.
While Ymir slept, it gave birth to a male and a female giant who were born from beneath Ymir’s left arm, and a six-headed giant was born from its legs. From these, Ymir’s children, all the giants are descended. The ice from Niflheim continued to melt and from the life giving water came Audumla, an enormous hornless cow. Audumla fed off the ice, and whilst licking the salty blocks of ice, and the milk that ran from her four udders flowed like rivers and this milk nourished Ymir and as the giant drank the milk, he grew even bigger. The cow’s pink tongue licked people from the blocks of ice. The first day only a man’s hair was created, the second day his head appeared, and on the third day the body of a man began to appear. This man of ice was freed and he was called Buri, the ancestor of the gods of Asgard.
Buri took a wife from among these giants, and they had a son, whom they called Bor. Bor married Bestla, daughter of a giant, and together they had three sons named Odin, Villi, and Ve. Odin became the chief of the Aesir, and he married Frigg the Queen of Asgard. Odin and his brothers Villi and Ve did not have much love for the Giants so they killed the first of the Frost Giants. The Gods then dragged Ymir’s body out into the middle of Ginnungagap and began to form his body. They shaped the Earth from Ymir’s flesh, the mountains were formed from his unbroken bones and other rocks, boulders and stones were made from his teeth and shattered bones. The giants eyebrows were used to form Midgard and to build a barrier that separated the two groups of beings known as Night and Day. Sparks and embers from Muspell were taken and placed high in the sky, becoming the sun, moon and stars, each given their proper place. Two giants the sun and the moon were tasked with travelling around the world in their chariots through the sky every day in order to create day and night and the seasons. The brothers broke up the skull of the giant to create the four corners of the sky and placed four dwarves to hold up each section. The Dwarves who originally came to life as maggots in Ymir’s flesh were named, North, South, East and West.
The nine worlds or nine realms are known as, Asgard the world of the Aesir, a tribe of deities led by Odin who control the forces of nature, also the home of the victorious dead, Valhalla and the fortress home of the gods, Vanaheim a homeland for the lesser clan of gods, Midgard the land of humans, Alfheim a place where elves live and they can be benevolent or hostile; some can cause illness and malaise, Svartalfheim is an underground world of the dwarves, Jotunheim the home of the giants, Helheim the realm of the dead and the two the primordial worlds Muspell and Niflheim were all created from the dismembered Giant and they sit in the great world tree Yggdrasill that connects them. A sacred Rainbow Bridge connects Midgard (the realm of humankind) with Asgard (the realm of the Gods) which is called Bifrost. Bifrost was magically constructed from fire, water and air and the Gods use this Bridge to travel to and from the Earth, but it also leads to Yggdrasill, where the Gods assemble in council sometimes to soliloquize.
Odin seemed to be on a never-ending quest for wisdom, where he was willing to pay any price to understand all of life’s mysteries. One day he ventured to Mimir’s Well which was located amongst the roots of the world-tree Yggdrasill. As the water travels up the tree, nourishing it, it would then fall back into the well in the form of dew. This water cycle is associated with time and people perceived to tick by an endless and ever-changing cycle of destruction and rebirth. Mimir was a water-spirit who lived beneath the Tree of the Universe, and he guarded the well of wisdom. Mimir was a shadowy being whose knowledge of all things was practically unparalleled among the inhabitants of the cosmos. He achieved this status largely by taking his water from the well, whose waters impart this cosmic knowledge. When Odin arrived, he asked Mimir for a drink from the water. The well’s guardian, knowing the value of such a draught, refused unless the seeker offered an eye in return. Odin gouged out one of his eyes and dropped it into the well which transformed him into a limbo of irritability. When Mimir saw this sacrifice, he dipped his horn into the well and offered the now-one-eyed god a drink.
Odin married his sister Frigg and they had a son named Thor who wielded a hammer and he was associated with thunder and lightning. In Valhalla the Aesir sit down and eat and drink and there they have a giant magical pig named Saehrimnir. When the cook Andhrimnir cuts steaks from the side of the pig, it will grow back immediately. One day Thor killed a peasant’s goats and he took their son Thjalfe and daughter Roskva to become his servants and they accompanied him everywhere. Thjalfe was exceedingly fleet-footed and he carried Thor’s provision-sack, but the forest was a bad place for finding anything eatable to stow into it.
The birch tree is sacred to the goddesses Frigg because it has distinct heart-shaped veined leaves in an attractive cordate pattern. The Vikings had an unruly warrior gang called the berserkers, who were fierce warriors known for battling while being in an uncontrollable, trance-like fury. They were alleged to be able to perform seemingly impossible super-human feats of strength. The berserkers worshipped Odin, and they were commissioned to royal and noble courts as bodyguards who would strike fear into all who encountered them. Adding to their ferocity, and in order to intimidate the enemy, they would wear bear and wolf pelts when they fought, which probably made them look like they were mental.
A trickster God named Loki who was a crafty, sneaky, silly and malicious rascal who lacked accountability, but he was able to use his quick wits to wrangle his way out of many situations and confrontations caused by his misdeeds. His first escapade happened when the Gods were struggling to build Asgard, and they ran out of funds. All the basic construction had been completed, but they needed a large protective wall to keep the riff-raff out, so Loki came up with the plan of contracting a Giant to do the job. For payment, the Giant asked for the Sun and Moon and also the Goddess Freya if the work was completed to schedule. Loki agreed figuring that the giant would never manage to complete the task by the deadline, thus the deal will be off. The Giant got help from a huge stallion called Svadilfari, which could haul boulders like there was no tomorrow. With three days to go, Freya was in distress and the Gods were aghast. Loki was a shape-changer and he changed himself into a mare and seduced the Giant’s stallion by whinnying and prancing off into the woods, thus Svadilfari was led far away from the job. With his horse missing, the Giant didn’t quite make the schedule. Seething with rage, he tried to take Freya by force until Thor cracked his skull with his hammer.
Fenrir was the gigantic wolf offspring of the deity Loki and the giantess Angrboda. When he was born, it was prophesized that he would one day assist in the destruction of the cosmos. As he grew larger and increasingly fierce, the gods of the Aesir decided that he needed to be contained for their protection. The dwarves concocted a shackle made from six magical ingredients, a bear ligament, the beard of a woman, the sound of a cat’s feet, the root of a mountain, the breath of a fish, and the spit of a bird and the resulting chain was as smooth as silk, but also as strong as iron.
Written for Mindlovemisery’s Menagerie Wordle #179.