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Sticking with an earlier Scandinavian theme, today we will examine some aspects of the Nordic pantheon and world view it brings, hoping to amuse and delight us as we travel through the frigid depths of winter. Only 70 days until spring!

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Thor, the Norse god

Young folks will know Thor as the super hero from the recent movies, and the young at heart will recall that Thor appeared as a character in comic books (graphic novels?) in the 60's.

That isn't all there is to the story however, the tales of Thor spring from an older and more thoughtful place.

Thor the Thunderer was the god of war and from his hammer Mjollnir the lightning bolts would fly.  It was his task to protect the other residents of Asgard and the humans of Midgard.  He would fight the Frost Giants who would occasionally try keep the Northlands locked in the cold darkness of winter, sending the giants farther to the north so the bringer of spring and new life, Idun, could work her magic.  She was the possesser of a magical tree, and partaking of the fruit brought eternal youth to the gods of Asgard.

The early Norse religion was different from the Christianity that followed because the gods resided in the same world as everything else, albeit in separate locations. All the parts of the world were contained in the roots and branches of a tree, Yggdrasil, which grew from the Well of Urd that went deep into the ground.  Except for Midgard, the other places in the Norse universe were invisible to humans.  

The deities were connected to the world of men by their aspects; (Loki was god of fire and mischief, for example, while Freya was the bringer of magic.)  Other parts of the world held Frost Giants, Fire, Ice, Elves, Dwarves and Hel. A different group of gods lived in Vanaheim, including Freya and her brother Freyr.  The gods we are most familiar with, Odin, Idun and Loki, also lived in Asgard with Thor.

Additionally the world-view of the Norse religion included a version of karma and a circular view of life that proposed that in death that the elements of the body would become the sustenance of new life, and that everything was connected in one spirit.  The Norse honored their ancestors, since their spirits stayed with and imparted their wisdom and skills to those who remained. Some departed ancestors are referred to as "elves" in the old stories.  

The tales describe an end to all creation when the inhabitants of the world fail to keep their promises and begin to fight each other.  An epic battle, "Ragnarok", ensues and the world ends in destruction.


Unlike the Apocalypse, however, the gods, mythical creatures and people return to a renewed world and begin again, and this cycle shall repeat forever.  Norse mythology recognized the need for endings and new beginnings at every level of the cosmos.


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