The Norse Gods
The list here is a fairly comprehensive record of the Norse Gods and their status. It is impossible to accurately record the Norse gods as due to regions and ideals, these do fluctuate. However we have tried to give a fairly accurate description of the Gods and other beings in Norse myths and sagas. These include the Aesir and the Vanir. The list could also include elves, dwarfs, giants, ogres, demons, trolls and the Children of Loki.
The Aesir are the highest division of ‘gods’. The more detailed descriptions of certain ‘gods’ is in keeping with their predominance in both the Poetic and Prose Eddas and their significance relating to runic lore and the runes themselves. The genealogies of these prominent gods will be included at a later date.
The Vanir and the Children of Chaos had the ability to shape shift. Two of the most famous shape shifters are Loki (who often shifts to a female form, a mare and a salmon) and Freyja who is famous for her cloak of feathers. Two of the later characters in the Eddas are transformed into werewolves.
The gods were more human than ‘godlike’ in the context of popular conceptions of ‘gods’. Their morals and ethics are not those of modern accepted ideals. Their form of sport was everything from fighting and killing to humour and flyting – the sport of gods which was used in a (usually) non violent way to insult each other.
Their morals on inter-relations between relatives, along with the seduction or mutual consent between a ‘taken’ partner do conflict to a degree with today’s notion of ethics. However the humour and colour of the gods does relate in its way to modern times and certainly paints a very different portrait of ‘gods’ as we might perceive them.
Giants and Dwarfs (Note on Giants: Giants could be as we perceive them, huge and horrible, but could as easily be beautiful and human sized. The ‘giants’ were sometimes the parents of certain gods.) Dwarfs and giants were created from the body of the primal giant, Ymir (called Aurgelmir by the frost giants). The dwarfs grew in Ymir’s flesh and were as ‘maggots’. The frost giants were created from the sweat under Ymir’s left arm, while his sons were born of his legs. The first generations of giants drowned in the blood of Ymir when the sons of Bor defeated him. From Bergelmir and his wife, the second generation of frost giants were evolved. It is said that upon Ymir’s defeat he was dismembered and his various body parts became the world and sky/universe that we know today. Clouds were known as Ymir’s brain.
(For further information suggested reading material: The Poetic Edda and The Prose Edda).
Baldr - God of beauty, innocence, truth, peace, and rebirth. Wife: Nanna
Baldr is considered the wisest of gods and the most beautifully spoken and most merciful but his fault is that none of his decisions is ever effective. Baldr’s hall is Breidablik. Baldr was killed by a sprig of mistletoe. It was proposed by his mother, Frigg, that he could never be killed, however when Frigg thought of all of the possible ways of killing her son, she overlooked the innocuous mistletoe. Loki, however, resented Baldr, for his beauty and the love he received from all beings and the feasting which he was not invited to attend. Though Loki is described as ‘beautiful’, he was mistrusted and disliked by most of the Aesir and Vanir. Having tricked Frigg in the guise of a woman, Loki uses this information in order to enter a feast and tells Baldr’s blind brother Hod, god of darkness, that he will help him shoot Baldr with the mistletoe as of course Baldr cannot die. With Loki’s alleged help Hod shoots the sprig of mistletoe and Baldr dies immediately. When Frigg appeals to all world creatures to weep for Baldr to release him from Hel, only Loki does not weep and therefore Baldr is condemned to Hel until the time of his rebirth.
Bragi - God of poetry. Wife: Idun
Bragi is renowned for his wisdom but is primarily known for his eloquence and his poetry. His poetry is called brag and from his name comes the word bragr to describe a person highly skilled in words.
Forseti - God of justice, peace and truth. Son of Baldr and Nanna.
Forseti’s hall is Glitnir. He is the god who presides over legal difficulties and all leave reconciled after his judgement.
Frigg - Goddess of marriage and motherhood. Husband: Odin, Mother of Baldr.
Said to be foremost among the Norse goddesses. Accused of infidelity. A Seeress who refused to fortell the fates.
Fulla - Frigg's handmaiden
Fulla wears a golden band about her head and is in charge of Frigg's footwear.
Gefjun - Goddess of fertility and plough
According to the Prose Edda, Gefjun plowed away what is now lake Mälaren, Sweden, and with this land formed the island of Zealand, Denmark. Not only is Gefjun a virgin herself, but all who die a virgin become her attendants.
Heimdallr (Heimdall) - Guardian of Asgard, the Aesir's realm.
Heimdall is called the White God and considered powerful and sacred. Nine sisters (all maidens) gave birth to Heimdall as their son. Heimdall is also known as Hallinskidi and as his teeth are of gold, Gullintanni (Gold Toothed). His horse is Gulltopp (Golden Forelock). Heimdall lives near the bridge Bifrost, which leads to Asgard. He is the watchman of the gods and therefore sits at heaven’s end and keeps watch over Bifrost against the Mountain Giants. Heimdall never sleeps but always has one eye open. He sees as well by night or day a distance of a hundred leagues. He hears all that is growing or makes noise. His horn is Gjallarhorn which can be heard in all worlds. He kills Loki at Ragnarok, the final battle.
Hermodr - Odin's son
Frigg's messenger. Attempts to negotiate Baldr's release from Hel.
Hodr (Hod) - God of darkness. Brother of Baldr.
Hod is blind and immensely powerful. Hod is instrumental in the death of Baldr and therefore the gods avoid mentioning his name.
Hoenir - Companion of Odin
Chosen to be a hostage to the Vanir following the Aesir/Vanir war, he is given a chieftainship, due in large part to his manly and imposing appearance. Unfortunately, Hœnir proves to be an utterly incompetent leader who relies upon Mímir to make his decisions for him. The outraged Vanir responded to this by decapitating Mimir and sending his head to the Aesir.
Idun - Goddess of youth. Husband: Bragi
Idun carries a chest of apples which restore youth to the gods and heals them.
Lofn - Goddess of love.
Lofn is gentle in nature and arranges marriages, even forbidden ones.
Loki - Trickster and god of mischief and wildfire. Consort: Sigyn
Loki is a child of Chaos. He is pleasing and even beautiful but his nature is Chaos and he is undependable and can be treacherous. His wisdom is in his cunning. His parents are the giants Farbuti and Laufey (Nal). Loki has several children with various consorts, a stallion and a demon. The demon Angrboda (Sorrow Bringer) mothers: Jormangand (the Midgard serpent who devours Thor at Ragnorok), Fenriswolf (who bites off Tyr’s hand when chained and devours Odin), and Hel. The gods find out these children are being brought up in Giantland and through prophecies know that misfortune and evil were to be expected from them. The gods attempt to seize these children knowing that harm was on the way due to their mother’s nature but more so because of their father’s nature. By Svadifari a giant’s stallion, Loki mothers Sleipnir, Odin’s eight legged horse. By Sigyn he fathers Narfi and possibly Vali, these sons are murdered. Intelligent and cunning, Loki is adopted by Odin as his blood brother and taken from the ‘giants’ to live in Asgard and aid (and sometimes usurp) the Gods. Although Loki is considered Odin’s true brother, the reason for Odin’s allying with Loki is due to Loki’s talents and skills as a child of Chaos and a charmer. Loki is responsible for the building of Asgard and the Aesir’s acquiring of the runes and magik of the Vanir. However Loki’s innate nature makes him wild and the gods fail to lease him as they had hoped. Loki is responsible for the death of Baldr (allegedly) and many other foibles of the gods. However he is used as an advisor and a pawn and when the ego of the gods misjudges and many of Loki’s acts go wrong, Loki is blamed, beaten and tortured. Prior to Ragnarok, Loki, due to the death of Baldr is chained to a rock by the Vanir (specifically Skadi, estranged wife of Njord) and the venom of a snake is dripped onto his face which makes him writhe in agony unless his ‘wife’ is able to catch the venom. He is also bound by the guts of his son who is killed by his brother who is turned into a wolf. Loki turns to the side of Chaos in the end and is defeated at Ragnarok.
Meili - Brother of Thor
Meili is mentioned in the Eddas as a brother of Thor, but all other information has been lost in the mists of time.
Mimir - Caretaker of the well of knowledge
A great counsellor who is traded by the Aesir to the Vanir for Njord and his children, Freyja and Freyr, along with Hoenir whose counsel is limited and in their anger, the Vanir decapitate Mimir and return his head to the Aesir. Odin gives the head the gift of speech and it thus becomes an oracle.
Modi & Magni - The sons of Thor
The two sons of Thor inherit their father's great hammer after Ragnarok.
Nanna - An Ásynja married to Baldr. The mother to Forseti
When Baldr is killed, Nanna dies of a broken heart. She was placed on the funeral pyre alongside her spouse on Baldr's ship Hringhorni.
Odin - God of war and widsom (also the Chief of the gods).
Known as Allfather, as the father of all Gods and One Eye, amongst other names (about 50). He carries the spear Gungnir, which will never miss its target; a magical gold ring Draupnir, from which every ninth night eight new rings appear; and his two ravens, Huginn and Muninn, Thought and Memory, who fly across the Earth and report to Odin in Valhalla at night. Odin seeks out a son of Chaos, Loki, in order to help the Aesir attain the runes and glam of the Vanir. Odin and Loki become blood brothers, and though an unpopular liaison, the adoption of Loki into the Aesir reward the Aesir with the building of the Sky Citadel, Asgard. Loki, being a son of Chaos, however, and the Trickster, also gets the gods involved in awkward situations and ultimately turns on them at Ragnarok after escaping from his chains and the serpent guard thus leading to the last war ending in the demise of the gods, including Odin. Odin has a keen wit and an interesting attitude towards women which is often hypocritical. He tries to dupe his son Thor in a match of flyting when in disguise as a Ferryman he meets Thor crossing the river. Odin has created Valhalla the place where warriors depart after they have died. These warriors are chosen by the Valkyrie and in Valhalla are feasted and provided the sacred mead. The Valkyrie are women goddesses and mortals chosen by Odin.
Odin gave his eye to Mimir (his uncle who he traded to the Vanir for Njord and his children in order to maintain their truce) for the privilege to drink from his well called Mímisbrunnr (the well of wisdom). Odin was then filled with the knowledge of all things past, present and future. The well was at the base of Yggdrasil the tree of life which is usually depicted as an ash tree though sometimes a yew.
Sif - Golden haired wife of Thor
During a possible clandestine tryst with Loki, Loki as a prank cuts off Sif’s renowned beautiful hair. He is forced to replace this with hair of pure gold, not without repercussions to himself.
Sjofn - Goddess of love
Sjofn is "concerned to direct people's minds to love, both women and men.
Snotra - Goddess of prudence.
The Prose Edda says that Snotra "is wise and courteous." In addition, it is said that, "after Snotra's name, a wise man or woman can be called snotr."
Thor - God of thunder and battle. Wife: Sif. Son of Odin.
Thor is considered to be the foremost of the Gods. He is the strongest of all gods and men. He rules at Thrudvangar (Plains of Strength) and his hall is Bilskirnir. Thor’s chariot is drawn by two male goats, Tanngniost (Tooth Gnasher) and Tanngrisnir (Snarl Tooth). Thor possesses three choice tools: Mjollnir the hammer which never misses its mark; Megingjard (the Belt of Strength) and the gloves of iron. Thor acquires his invincible hammer, Mjollnir via a bet with Loki. Although Mjollnir is established as a great working, Loki loses the bet with the result of having his lips sewn together by the dwarfs. Thor’s prowess in battle is renowned and he takes great pleasure in the slaying of giants, although twice humorously cut down to size. Once when he is unable to open a sleeping giants food bag and resorts to trying to kill the giant for his humiliation. However the giant’s skills and cleverness win over Thor’s strength, even reducing him to fear at one point when he finds he is trapped in the giant’s glove. Thor also is put in the humiliating position of masquerading as a bride in order to trick the giant Thrym who has been promised Freyja as his wife and has stolen Thor’s hammer Mjollnir. With Loki’s help (involuntarily as usual) he is able to defeat the giant and regain Mjollner. Thor will die at Ragnarok when he and the Midgard Serpent will kill each other.
Tyr - God of War and Justice.
Tyr is considered the most bold and courageous of the Gods. It is up to him who wins in battle, though Odin often intervenes in a rather unethical way. In using his daring to lure the wolf Fenrir (Fenriswolf) to be placed in the fetter Gleipnir, he loses his mighty gauntletted hand. As Tyr is one-handed men do not consider him a peace maker.
Ullr - God of skill, hunts, and duels. Son of Sif
In the Prose Edda, Ullr is said to be "so excellent a bowman, and so swift on snowshoes, that none may contend with him." Other than this not much information about him survives.
Vali - God of revenge. Son of Odin.
Vali was born purely to avenge Baldr's death and he fights and kills Hodr to accomplish this.
Var - Goddess of the sacred oath.
Var witnesses oaths and private contracts, called “varer,” especially between men and women, and punishes those who break them.
Ve - One of the three gods of creation. Brother of Odin and Vili.
Along with his brothers Odin and Vili, Ve was responsible for slaying the first giant, Ymir, and then using his remains to create the universe. The three gods also created the first humans by forming them from trees.
Vidar - Son of Odin and the giantess Gridr.
Vidar is the silent god. He wears a thick shoe and is almost as strong as Thor. He is relied upon by the gods in all difficulties.He is destined to avenge Odin's death at Ragnarok by killing the Fenriswolf.
Vili - One of the three gods of creation. Brother of Odin and Ve.
Along with his brothers Odin and Ve, Vili was responsible for slaying the first giant, Ymir, and then using his remains to create the universe. The three gods also created the first humans by forming them from trees.
Vor - Goddess of wisdom.
In the Prose Edda, it is said that "Vor is "wise and inquiring, so that nothing can be concealed from her."
Freyja - Goddess of love, sexuality, fertility and battle. Husband: Odr
Freyja’s home is Folkvangar (Warrior’s Fields). When she rides into battle, she is accorded half of the slain. Odin takes the other half. Daughter of Njord (God of the sea) who was exchanged for Mimir and Hoenir by the Vanir in order to cement their truce. In the Poetic Edda, in the prose ‘The Lokasenna, Freyja is accused by Loki of not only sleeping with her brother but of farting in bed when caught by the gods. This illustrates the humour of earlier transcribers of the myths. She is also promised in marriage by Loki to the giant Thrym and Loki is forced to find a solution after Freyja refuses the betrothal. Freyja possesses the necklace known as the “brisling” or “brisingamen” which she receives from dwarfs under rather nefarious circumstances. Cats are sacred to Freyja.
Freyr - God of fertility and the harvest. Wife: Gerðr. Brother of Freyja, son of Njord.
Frey is considered the most splendid of the gods. He controls the rain and the shining of the sun, thus through them he ensures the bounty of the earth. Like his sister, Freyja, Freyr is the son of Njord (God of the sea) who was exchanged for Mimir and Hoenir by the Vanir in order to cement their truce. Those who know invoke him for peace and abundance. He determines men’s success in prosperity and fertility. He won the prize of his wife, Gerd, a giantess of great beauty.
Gerðr - Wife of Freyr
Gerðr is a giantess. In both the Poetic Edda and the Prose Edda, Freyr sees Gerðr from a distance, becomes deeply lovesick at the sight of her shimmering beauty, and has his servant Skírnir go to Jötunheimr (where Gerðr and her father Gymir reside) to gain her love.
Gullveig - Instrumental in the Aesir/Vanir war.
Gullveig is a mysterious goddess who is said have been burned three times in Odin's hall, and to have been three times reborn. This is said to have precipitated the Aesir/Vanir war.
Kvasir - God of inspiration.
Kvasir was created from the saliva of all the gods, making him the wisest of the Vanir, but was quickly murdered by Fjalar and Galar, two dwarf brothers, in their cavern. They mixed his blood with honey and preserved it; the blood fermented into the Mead of Poetry. According to Gylfaginning, it was Kvasir who suggested to the other gods that a net be used to catch Loki who had jumped into the river in the form of a salmon in order to escape punishment for his murder of Baldr.
Lytir - A phallic fertility god.
Lytir is only described in the Flateyjarbók (an Icelandic text from the late fourteenth century). In this text a Swedish king consults the god. Lytir's ceremonial wagon was taken to a sacred place where the god entered it and then taken back to the king's hall, where it was used to answer questions.
Njord - God of sea, wind, fish, and wealth. Wife: Skadi
Njord lives in Noatum (Enclosure for Ships). He is ruler of the winds and can tame sea and fire. Njord is traded by the Vanir for Mimir and Hoenir to cement their truce. After being wed, Njord and Skadi are estranged as Skadi accidentally chooses Njord as a husband as an alternative to revenge when she sees his feet as beautiful and believes Njord to be Baldr. Njord and Skadi’s primary difference lays in their taste in homelands. Njord could not bear the mountain home of Thrymheim (Thunder Home) and Skadi could not bear Noatum near the sea, so they go their separate ways.
Skadi - Goddess of winter Njord’s wife
Skadi, of the Ice People (or Giants), travels mostly on skis and carries a bow to hunt wild animals. She is the ski god or the ski lady. Skadi seeks revenge on the death of her father the giant Thjazi which is the result of Loki’s advice and acts through the Aesir. She is given the option of marrying one of the gods. In her haste and desire to wed Baldr, Skadi mistakenly chooses Njord as her husband. They are eventually separated as neither can bear to live at the other’s hall and leave their native lands.
Other Gods, Giants, Creatures, Elves, Dwarfs and Demons
Borr - Father of Odin, Vili and Ve. Wife: Bestla
Borr was the son of Buri and the father of Odin. He is mentioned in the Prose Edda. Borr's mother is not known, but may have been a giantess.
Buri - The first god and father of Borr.
Buri is the grandfather of Odin. He was formed by the cow Auðumbla licking the salty ice of Ginnungagap. The only extant source of this myth is Snorri Sturluson's Prose Edda.
Dagr - God of Day, son of Delling and Nott.
Dagr is the son of Dellingr and his wife Nótt. Dagr is described as "as bright and beautiful as his father's people". Odin took Dagr and his mother Nótt, gave them each a chariot and a horse — Dagr receiving the horse Skinfaxi, whose mane illuminates all the sky and the earth — and placed them in the sky to ride around the earth every 24 hours
Dellingr - God of the dawn
Dellingr is the father of Dagr and husband of Nott.
Eir - Goddess of healing.
In the Prose Edda Eir is noted as being a very good physician.
Hel - Queen of Hel, the Norse underworld. Daughter of Loki and Angrboda a demon from Chaos.
Half beautiful human and half corpse. She rules the domain of the Underworld, one of the Nine Worlds. She collects the souls of the dead. Hel is thrown by the gods into Niflheim and is ruler of the Nine Worlds. Her hall is Eljudnir (Sprayed with Snowstorms), her food is Hunger, her knife Famine, her slave is named Lazy and woman servant is Slothful. Her threshold over which people cross is a pit called Fallandaforad (Falling to Peril). Her bed is named Kor (Sick Bed) and the bed curtains are Blikjandabol (Gleaming Disaster). She is considered to be cruel and gloomy.
Jord - Goddess of the Earth.
Earth it is said is a wife and daughter of Odin and mother of Thor.
Mani - God of Moon.
The Prose Edda says that Máni and his sister Sól are the children of a man by the name of Mundilfari. The children were so fair that Mundilfari named them "moon" and "sun", which was perceived as arrogance by the gods, and it so angered the gods that they placed the brother and sister in the heavens. There, Mani "guides the path of the moon and controls its waxing and waning."
Nott - Goddess of night, daughter of Narvi and mother of Auð, Jörð and Dagr.
Odin took Nott and her son Dagr, placed them into the sky with a chariot and a horse each, and they ride around the earth every 24 hours. Nott rides before Dagr, and foam from her horse Hrímfaxi's bit sprinkles the earth.
Sol - Goddess of Sun.
Sol is one of the two children of Mundilfari, and states that the children were so beautiful they were named after the sun (Sol) and the moon (Mani). The gods were "angered by this arrogance" and had the two placed in the heavens. There, the children were made to drive the horses Arvak and Alsvid that drew the chariot of the sun.
Aegir - Ruler of the sea. Wife: Ran
Ægir is a sea giant, god of sea and king of the sea creatures. He is a personification of the power of the ocean. In Lokasenna, he hosts a party for the gods where he provides the ale brewed in an enormous pot or cauldron provided by Thor.
Alfar - The Elves.
Alfar is an Old Norse word that later became "Elves" in English. They are commonly described as semi-divine beings associated with fertility and the cult of the ancestors and ancestor worship.
Andhrimir - Cook of the gods.
Every day in Valhalla, he slaughters the beast Sæhrímnir and cooks it in Eldhrímnir, his cauldron. At night, Sæhrímnir is restored to life to be eaten again the next day. He also makes the Æsir's mead from the milk of Heiðrún, a goat.
Angrboda (Sorrow Bringer) – Demon – Consort: Loki.
Mother of Fenriswolf, Jormundgand and Hel by Loki.
Elli - Personification of old age.
Elli is a personification of old age who, in the Prose Edda book Gylfaginning, defeats Thor in a wrestling match.
Norns – Oracles and Valkyrie
The Norns are Gunn, Rota and Skuld. It is said that the three witches in Macbeth are based on the Norns.
Ottar – protégé of the goddess Freyja.
Murdered in otter form by Loki, the Aesir are then required to cover a vessel with gold. This is called Ottar’s ransom.
Ran - Keeper of the drowned. Husband: Aegir
According to the Prose Edda, she had a net which she used to capture men who ventured out to sea.
The Valkyrie are the women who bring drink and food to the fallen at Valhalla. They are sent by Odin to all battles, where they choose which men will die and determine who is victorious. The three norns – Gunn, Rota and Skuld ride to battle to choose the slain and to decide what the outcome of a battle will be.