The pantheons of the Germanic deities from Germany to Vinland are large. It encompasses centuries, hundreds if not thousands of tribes and cultures on numerous continents. Many of these gods share names with their tribal cousins. Odin is also Wodan; Thor is Donar; Tyr is Tiwaz. There’s even discussion about how different gods are actually the same god but by another name (Frigga is Freyja; Tyr is Odin; every god is Odin; Vili and Ve are Hoenir and Loki).

The differences are tribal and cultural. Odinists place emphasis on Odin and Frigga as the keystone of all Germanic cosmology. Many modern Asatruars focus on Thor or Tyr. A large amount of female Heathens are devoted to Freyja as the chief female deity of the pantheon(s). Below are listed a large amount of the gods and goddesses we know of. There are many (dozens; hundreds?) and listing them all is an impossibility. The below list uses the anglicized names for easier reference if someone wishes to do an internet search. Being as I am Asatru and follow the Icelandic path, much of the information below is Icelandic in flavor. Also explained are the Nine Realms, halls of the gods and the creation belief. I will also attempt to explain our most basic rituals, and how to be Asatru day-to-day. It is not difficult, and not so alien we cannot do it, just many haven’t and it’s hard to adjust.

Creation:

The Asatru creation belief is rather complex, I will briefly sum up the belief, and follow it with my own interpretation.

In the beginning…
There was the Ginnungagap, the space between; the yawning void. In this gap grew a seed – an Ash seed. When it split open, sprang forth Yggdrasil, The World Tree, which would bind the realms.

To the north was the frozen realm of Niflheim. To the south was the fire realm of Muspelheim. As they drew closer, the heat of Muspelheim cause the ice of Niflheim to melt, and then refreeze on the rocks on the outskirts of Niflheim, creating Rime ice. This ice melted and created the first giant – Ymir. At the same time, an extra-cosmic being called Audumbla (who is described as a cow) fed Ymir from her udders. And from these udders ran the rivers of Niflheim and Helheim. On Ymir’s body grew giants, who populated his body.

As Ymir was sustained by the milk from Audumbla’s udder, Audumbla was sustained licking the salty ice of Niflheim. In doing this, she freed in a matter of days, the first of a man called Buri. Buri, when freed, begot Borr. Borr wed Bestla, daughter of one of the giants living on Ymir. And by Bestla came Odin, Vili and Ve (some say Odin, Hoenir and Lothur; aka Loki). Odin, Vili and Ve saw Ymir as evil and slew him. And from his corpse, created the Nine Realms. Ymir’s blood flooding the land drowned the giant tribes save one Bergilmir and his wife. The land in which their raft settled was then called Jotunheim.

Creating Midgard, embers from Muspelheim became stars and the sun. And four dwarves were created to hold up the corners of Midgard – Nordri, Sudri, Austri and Vestri. A wall was build of Ymir’s bones to safeguard the middle realm from Jotun invasion. A giant named Mundilfari, had two children and believed they as beautiful as the gods. In this hubris, the gods took his children and set them in the sky to guide the Sun and Moon. They were Sunna and Mani.

audhumlaYmir et Audhumla, par Abilgaard, 1790, Musée de Copenhague

Interpretation:

This is very simply way of describing the formation of the plant with water being a key chemical combination. The giants tribes forming on Ymir are the tribes that would populate Ymir before the Aesir tribe formed. Also the Vanir.

Yggdrasil is known by many names across many cultures. The oldest known is an Irminsul tower. The pilar that holds up the world. Tyr’s symbol is the Irminsul, as he is considered the first Sky God. He (called Tiwaz) and Odin (Wodanaz) held equal power. Yggdrasil is not a tree, but a metaphor binding the universes together. Ours and those neighboring us – Muspelheim being an example. It is believed there are infinite numbers of universes, and when the strong/weak forces of two pull them together – where they touch, a Big Bang happens. This causes the universes to be filled with energy. I believe the older universe of Niflheim came into contact with the younger universe of Muspelheim, causing The Big Bang and beginning our creation. Ginnungagap is the space between these universes and we have no idea what is between these..

Audumbla is a metaphor for the creation of everything, especially life. Ymir is not a large giant, but either a large land mass, or Midgard itself. Audumbla/life began to evolve on Ymir/the land and the first race where the giants. And of the giants eventually came Buri, or the name of the Aesir tribe in ancient times. The giants came first, and then the tribe that would be called the Aesir. When the tribes clashed, the Aesir drove the giant tribes from Ymir. The giant tribes would settle in a new land called Jotunheim. The Aesir would rename the new land(s) – Midgard.

Audumbla is a metaphor for creation.
Ymir formed of the expanding universe and collection of elements and gases in the universe.
Ymir is not a giant, but the landmass which we, and everything resides.
On Ymir, came the first beings – giants.
Buri is the name of the tribe that would become the Aesir.
The Aesir are a tribe of giants who conquered other tribes and drove them from Ymir.
Ymir was renamed Midgard.
The giant tribes settled in a new land, called Jotunheim.


Walking the shoreline of Midgard, the Aesir came across two branches; one of elm and one of ash. They were given intelligence, breath and color by Odin, Vili and Ve. They were named Askr and Embla. These were called Mankind and left to live in Midgard, behind the bone-wall. In Ymir’s corpse grew a colony of maggots. The Aesir saw promise in this rude creatures and formed them into the dwarves and settled them in the land of Svartlehim.

Another tribe, called the Vanir, also lived on Ymir. Their land was called Vanaheim. The Aesir and Vanir went to war over the mistreatment of the witch Gulveig, by the Aesir. She was burned thwice and returned each time. Her lust for gold and foul talk angered the Aesir. As the war took a heavy toll, the Aesir and Vanir came to peace by an exchange of “hostages”. The Aesir sent Mimir (Odin’s uncle, and Jotun) and Hoenir (Odin’s brother; Vili?) to Vanaheim. The Vanir sent Njordr (their king?) and his son – Freyr. Njordr’s daughter (and theorized Freyr’s lover) Freyja came with them. Njordr and Freyr were made priests of sacrifice in the Aesir camp. Freyja given command of the Valkyries. Mimir was wise, and so was Hoenir. Though Hoenir was soft spoken and when asked for advice, was always shy. The Vanir felt betrayed in their trade, so they slew Mimir and send his head to Odin. Odin used magics taught to him by Freyja (oils and herbs) to reanimate Mimir’s head; as Mimir was full of wisdom. Mimir’s head resides in Mimur’s Well in Jotunheim. Odin travels there often for advice.

gullveigGullveig being speared and burned in an 1895 illustration by Lorenz Frølich

The gods were active in the affairs of man. Heimdallr, under the guide if “Rig”, traveled down to Midgard and followed a river. On the first night be came across a mud hut with a man and woman inside. They were ugly and foul, named Great-Grandmother and Great-Grandfather. Rig was able to talk his way into being an invited guest and given what food they had and the best place to sleep; between the couple. Shortly after, Great-Grandmother had children, all of them as ugly, rude or unkempt as she. It is said the race of Thralls came from these children. Later, Heimdallr traveled further down the river and came across a hut or cabin made of wood and pitch with a fire inside. A couple lived inside, called Grandmother and Grandfather. They were more appealing to the eye, with better quality tools and home. Their food was more refined, as was their speak and manners. Heimdallr again was about to become and invited guest and served a meal, which was of bread and gathered fruits and tubers. He was given the best place to sleep; between the couple. Shortly after, Grandmother had children. It is said the race of Karls came from these children.

Finally, Heimdallr traveled to a larger home, made of the strongest pilars, with many rooms and adornments. It was beautiful to see. The couple inside were beautiful themselves. Strong, handsome man; beautiful woman. Both dressed well with jewelery and refined weapons and clothing. Heimdallr was again a quest and served a meal of spiced foods, spirits, perfectly cooked bread and meats. He was given the best place to sleep; betwen the couple. Shortly after, Mother had children.It is said the race of Earls came from these children. And the last child would lead a great empire of man.

Interpretation:

Some see this tale as made up to segregate race. Even further some see this as a caste system based on race. On the flipside, some see it as a caste system, but that everyone no matter their station has the divinity of the gods in them. I choose to see this as evolution. The story was reworded to suit those in power, absolutely. The words of the races – Thrall of slave, Karl for merchant/peasant and Earl for leader – show this. But the heart of the story is still true. Like the Abrahamic lore saying the Earth was created in 6 days when it was billions of years; Heimdallr did not travel for a few days down the river, but over thousands of years. The seed of Heimdallr enriched us as beings to become more than an ancient hominid and into the Homo sapiens we are today. Other the millennium, we can see how Heimdallr’s seed from Great-Grandmother to Father made us what we are and over time our own evolution gave us tool-working, agriculture and refinement in everything from food to music to government.

The pantheons of the Germanic deities from Germany to Vinland are large. It encompasses centuries, hundreds if not thousands of tribes and cultures on numerous continents. Many of these gods share names with their tribal cousins. Odin is also Wodan; Thor is Donar; Tyr is Tiwaz. There’s even discussion about how different gods are actually the same god but by another name (Frigga is Freyja; Tyr is Odin; every god is Odin; Vili and Ve are Hoenir and Loki).

rig_in_great-grandfathers_cottage

“Rig in Great-grandfather’s Cottage” (1908) by W. G. Collingwood


The Aesir would teach man laws, how to build kingdoms, magics of Seidr and Galdr and travel Midgard and Jotunheim. Odin would travel more than any and set those men and women he sought worthy upon paths to suit his own purpose. Thor would travel Midgard and Jotunheim and keep the chaos beings called Etins from Midgard.

All this was the wyrd of everything, all leading to Ragnarok – the Twilight of the Gods – where everything to be burned and born fresh and new. The children of the gods would return to us and we would survive.

There are many other stories – about how the gods came about their weapons and gear, battles with Jotuns and travels. But these stories tell us of how the gods, tribes and even we, came to be.

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