Odin and Athena
Odin the supreme ruler of the Norse gods is much like Athena the greek goddess of wisdom. Odin is the Norse god of wisdom as well as the ruler. Odin, unlike Athena was not born with his wisdom. He was willing to put himself at risk to gain knowledge, he gave his eye to drink from a well of knowledge, let his body get hurt to learn runes and stole a special drink from a giantess at risk of losing his powers. Athena on the other hand was born straight from Zeus’s head and with tactical strategies in mind. As well as being the goddesses of wisdom she was also the goddesses of crafts and battle plans.
Loki and Hermes
Loki the Norse ‘god’ of mischief is similar to the greek god of trade, thieves and travelers Hermes. They are both cunning and in many myths are tricksters, but Hermes tricks unlike Loki’s are usually less harmful. Loki is not actually a god he is a giant, though unlike his kin he is as handsome as a god, not ugly and misshapen like normal giants. Hermes is the god of many things other than trade, thieves and travelers. He is also the god of sports, athletes, and border crossings as well as the guide of dead souls to the underworld. Loki is simply the the trickster god, who annoys and insults the other gods.
Thor and Zeus
The Norse god of Thunder, Thor has powers similar to Zeus the god of the sky, thunder and the ruler of the greek gods home Olympus. The only thing really alike with them is their similar powers. Thor unlike Zeus was considered kind and generous despite his intimidating power. Zeus was more haughty and looked down upon mortals and less important gods. Also unlike Zeus, Thor was completely faithful to his wife Sif. As for Zeus, there are many stories about his half human children such as Heracles and his children with goddesses other than his wife Hera. Actually Zeus only had three children with Hera, Ares, Hebe, and Hephaestus. Hephaestus she threw from Olympus because he was ‘shriveled of foot’.
Frigg and Hera
Frigg is the Norse goddess of marriage and love is most similar to Hera the goddess of Marriage and women. The only thing particularly different about them is their attitudes. Hera is spiteful and her anger is easily sparked by Zeus and his lovers and his other children. Frigg on the other hand is calm and kind and there are no tales of her being unkind to children that are Odin’s but not her own. The only child that Frigg had with Odin as Baldur, the god of light and purity. Frigg loved him so much she asked everything in the universe not to harm him except a tiny sprig of mistletoe. Soon after that Loki tricked Baldur’s blind brother into throwing a mistletoe dart at baldur which struck him in the heart and killed him. There are few stories of Hera showing that much love for her family.
Idunn and Hebe
Idunn the Norse goddess of youth is almost exactly like Hebe the greek goddess of youth. They both control things that bring youth. Idunn guards the golden apples of youth and Hebe is known for the fountain of youth. Hebe unlike Idunn was also a cup bearer for the gods, bringing them ambrosia and nectar the food and drink of the gods. She also drew baths for Ares the god of war and helped Hera into her chariot. Hebe stopped being the cupbearer when she married Heracles. At one point in time Idunn was tricked and captured by a giant of jotun Þjazi the gods noticed she was missing as they became old and gray while she was gone. They made Loki save her and he did by turning into a hawk and flying to Þjazi’s palace, turning her into an acorn and flying her back to Asgard.
Hel and Hades
Hel is the Norse goddess of death, she controls the underworld like Hades the greek god of death. Hel is the daughter of Loki and was appointed ruler of Hel, the underworld by Odin when he threw her into. Hades on the other hand was appointed rule of the underworld because his two brothers Zeus and Poseidon had gotten the sky and the sea. When dead souls come to Hades realm he separates them into three groups heroes, ordinary people, and evil people. The heroes go to Elysium, the ordinary souls go to the Asphodel Fields to wander aimlessly for eternity and the wicked souls go to Tartarus for eternal punishment. When dead souls go to Hel’s realm, the most wicked of them are sent to a bleak region where the monstrous dragon Nidhogg lived. Sometimes she would forget to close the gates of Hel and the dead would wander off to the living world as shadowy moaning spirits before returning to Hel.
Roman name: Jupiter or Jove. The sky-god Zeus rules Mount Olympus. His weapon is the thunderbolt, and his bird is the eagle. The central figure of the myths, Zeus epitomizes their complexity. At times he is divine and represents a pure, eternal sense of justice; at other times, he is capricious and cruel.
Roman name: Juno. Zeus’s wife and sister, Hera is a very powerful goddess known mostly for her jealousy. She is often vicious and spiteful, and it is usually Zeus’s infidelity that incites her. Many unfortunate mortals endure hardships by provoking Hera’s wrath.
Roman name: Neptune. The god of the sea, Poseidon is Zeus’s brother and second only to him in power. Poseidon holds a decade-long grudge against Odysseus. The often cruel and unpredictable violence of the seas is assumed to be a result of his anger.
Roman name: Pluto. The brother of Zeus and Poseidon, Hades rules the underworld, the realm of the dead, with his wife, Persephone.
Roman name: Minerva. Usually just called Athena, this goddess emerges from Zeus’s head fully-grown and armed. Associated with war, cleverness, and wit, it is no surprise that she favors Odysseus. Athena is the goddess of Wisdom, Reason, and Purity and is chaste, like Artemis and Hestia.
Usually just called Apollo. A son of Zeus and Leto and Artemis’s twin, he is the god of Light and Truth, the master of Poetry and Music, and the god of Archery. His Oracle at Delphi is revered for her powers of prophecy and truth.
Roman name: Diana. Apollo’s twin sister, Artemis is the beautiful huntress goddess and, like Athena, is somewhat masculine. Artemis is normally good and just, but demands a human sacrifice during the Trojan War.
Roman name: Venus. Aphrodite is the sweet and delicate goddess of Love, Beauty, and Romance. Even so, she often shows formidable power, as in the story of Cupid and Psyche, and is herself a principal cause of the Trojan War. In a strange twist, lovely Aphrodite is married to the ugly and crippled Hephaestus.
Roman name: Mercury. Hermes is the son of Zeus and the Titan Atlas’s daughter Maia. The messenger of the gods, he is fast and cunning. Hermes is a master thief, the god of Commerce and the Market, and the guide who leads the dead from Earth to Hades.
Roman name: Mars. A vicious god, Ares is hated by both his father, Zeus, and mother, Hera. The god of War, he is always bloody and ruthless, yet we see in his vain bullying that he is also, paradoxically, a coward.
Roman name: Vulcan or Mulciber. Hephaestus is either the son of Zeus and Hera, or simply of Hera alone, who gives birth to him in retaliation for Zeus’s solo fathering of Athena. The only ugly Olympian, he is also partially crippled. Hephaestus is the armorer and smith of the gods, and he forges spectacular magical objects. He is kind, generous, and good-natured.
Other Gods, Deities & Supernatural Beings
Also known as Gaea or Mother Earth. She is the first being to emerge in the universe, born somehow out of the forces of Love, Light, and Day. She gives birth to Heaven, who then becomes her husband. This story is vastly different from the Christian creation myth, in which a deity exists first and then fashions the Earth.
Also known as Ouranos or Father Heaven. Born out of Earth, he becomes Earth’s husband and proceeds to father all the original creatures of the earth, including the Titans, the Cyclopes, and the Furies.
The original gods, children of Heaven and Earth, and parents of the six original Olympians. Defeated by Zeus and his siblings in a war for control of the universe, most of the Titans are imprisoned in the bowels of the earth. Prometheus, who sides with Zeus, and his two brothers, Epimetheus and Atlas, are not imprisoned. Atlas is forced to carry the weight of the world on his shoulders forever.
Roman name: Saturn. Cronus becomes the ruler of the Titans by overthrowing his father Ouranos. He swallows each of his children as his wife Rhea gives birth to them. Rhea is able to save one, Zeus, who forces Cronus to vomit up his siblings, with whom he defeats the Titans for control of the universe.
One of the most enduring figures in Greek myth, Prometheus is the only Titan to side with Zeus against Cronus. He repeatedly defies the gods by helping humans, most notably by bringing them fire from Olympus. Though Zeus devises a cruel torture for him, chaining him to a rock where every day an eagle comes to pick at his innards, Prometheus never surrenders.
Dionysus, or Bacchus, god of wine. He embodies both the good and evil effects of alcohol. At times he is a jovial partier and patron of music and art, but at other times he is the god of madness and frenzy.
Roman name: Ceres. Though a sister of Zeus, Demeter lives on earth. Demeter is the goddess of corn and harvest. She is kinder than Dionysus but also sadder, mostly because Hades has taken her daughter, Persephone, as his reluctant bride. Demeter thus lies in mourning for four months of the year, leaving the fields barren.
Roman name: Proserpine. The beautiful daughter of Demeter whom Hades kidnaps to be his wife. She is usually passive, agreeing to whatever is asked of her. Once she even places some of her beauty in a box.
Roman name: Cupid. The son of Aphrodite. Eros uses his bow to fire magic arrows that cause people to fall in love. He is a beautiful young man, though he is typically depicted as a winged cherub. Eros, who is often blindfolded, performs works of romantic mischief whenever Aphrodite asks.
Also known as the Erinyes, the Furies are three horrible sisters—Tisiphone, Megaera, and Alecto—who torment evildoers and punish them for their sins.
Three mysterious sisters who affect the paths of all in the universe. Clotho spins the thread of life, Lachesis assigns each person’s thread, and Atropos snips the thread of life at its end. Since fate is the only force to rule above both gods and men, the fates arguably have more power than anyone else in the Greek universe.
Famous Heroes & Heroines
Roman name: Ulysses. Odysseus is the protagonist of Homer's Odyssey. He is the king of Ithaca and a great warrior in the Trojan War but is best known for his decade-long trip home from the war. Odysseus survives the challenges he encounters by using his wits. A fine talker and brilliant strategist, he is perhaps the most modern and human of the classical heroes.
Another famous Greek hero, a son of Zeus who rises to Olympus at his death. Hercules is renowned for his incredible strength and bravery, but he lacks intelligence and self-control. Most of his adventures begin with a horrible mistake that he makes and then attempts to fix. His most famous feats, the Twelve Labors of Hercules, are the punishment he receives for murdering his family in a fit of madness.
The son of King Aegeus of Athens and a quintessential Athenian hero. Theseus is the model citizen: a kind leader, good to his friends and countrymen. Theseus does have his shortcomings, however: he abandons Ariadne, and later doubts his own son, which leads to his tragic demise.
One of the least impressive of the Greek heroes. Jason’s most notable feat is his assembly of a cast of heroes to travel on a long fraudulent quest—the recovery of the Golden Fleece. When Jason arrives in Colchis to retrieve the Fleece, the daughter of the king, Medea, falls in love with him. Jason abandons her and marries a princess later for political gain. In revenge, Medea kills Jason’s new wife and her own children, whom Medea had by Jason. Though he lives on, he bears the burden of this tragedy, in some ways a fate worse than death.
Zeus’s son by the beautiful princess Danaë. Danaë’s father, forewarned that Perseus will someday kill him, locks the infant and his mother in a trunk and casts it into the sea. Perseus survives, comes of age, and sets out to kill the monster Medusa and bring back her head. As prophesied, he kills his grandfather, though unwittingly, by hitting him with a stray discus.
The son of the king of Thebes. Oedipus frees Thebes from the menace of the Sphinx and marries the widowed queen, Jocasta, unaware that she is his mother. Learning the truth later, he faces fate and blinds himself as penance.
The hero of the Oresteia, Aeschylus’s trilogy of plays. Orestes’s father is the great king Agamemnon, leader of the Greeks in the Trojan War, and his sister is the sacrificed Iphigenia. When his mother, Clytemnestra, kills Agamemnon to avenge Iphigenia’s death, Orestes kills her. As a result, the horrible Furies plague him until he atones for his crime.
Characters of the Trojan War
A son of King Priam of Troy, Paris unwittingly starts the Trojan War by judging Aphrodite the fairest of all the goddesses. Aphrodite arranges for Paris to marry the beautiful Helen, but Helen is already married. Helen’s kidnapping leads the Greeks to unite against Troy and sparks the decade-long Trojan War. Paris is only a minor figure in the Trojan War battles and is usually portrayed as weak and unheroic.
The most beautiful woman who has ever lived, Helen is promised to Paris after his judgment of Aphrodite. Her kidnapping causes the Trojan War. Helen is peculiarly silent in the Iliad, living with Paris for ten years before returning home with Menelaus, her original husband. Helen is treated as more of an object than a person.
Another son of King Priam, Hector is the bravest and most famous of the Trojan warriors. Unlike his brother Paris, he faces challenges with great strength and courage. His death ends the Iliad.
The only great Trojan warrior who survives the war, Aeneas is protected by Aphrodite, his mother. He flees Troy, carrying his father on his back and leading his child by the hand. His values are more Roman than Greek, as he is first and foremost a warrior.
One the great kings who leads the Greeks in the Trojan War and whose story continues in the Oresteia. Agamemnon’s stubbornness toward Achilles almost costs the Greeks the war, and his cold-hearted sacrifice of his daughter Iphigenia ultimately costs him his life.
The most famous Greek in the Trojan War, whose strength and bravery are unrivaled. Achilles is selfless, courageous, and devoted to the gods—he is the finest Greek warrior. His mother, the sea-nymph Thetis, has made him invulnerable everywhere except his heel, and that is where he is struck and killed.
The first and most famously foolish woman of Greek myth. Married to Epimetheus, Prometheus’s simple-minded brother, she has been entrusted with a box that the gods have told her never to open. Pandora peeks inside the box, unleashing evil into the world. She manages to close the box just in time to save Hope, humankind’s only solace.
A son of one of the Muses, Orpheus is the greatest mortal musician who has ever lived. His most famous exploit is his journey to Hades to retrieve his dead wife, Eurydice. He loses her forever by ignoring Hades’ orders and turning to make sure she is behind him. Orpheus also travels on the Argo and protects Jason and the others from the Sirens. He is killed by a pack of roving Maenads, and his head floats to Lesbos, where it becomes a magical icon.
Oracle at Delphi
A priestess of Apollo and the most famous prophet in all of Greece. Humans typically consult the Oracle to ascertain the will of the gods or a person’s fate. She most often appears at the beginning of a story, as a character asks his fate, finds it unpleasant, and then tries to change it—only to become a victim of fate precisely because of his efforts to change it.
The daughter of King Minos of Crete. Ariadne falls in love with the hero Theseus and uses a golden thread to help him defeat the Labyrinth of the dreaded Minotaur.
Along with Circe, Medea is one of two famous sorceresses in Greek myth. Medea selflessly helps Jason defeat her own father and obtain the Golden Fleece. After Jason turns on her, she kills his new wife and then her own children.
The daughter whom Agamemnon offers at Aulis as the human sacrifice that Artemis demands. In one version of the myth, Artemis saves Iphigenia and makes her a priestess who conducts human sacrifices. In this version, Iphigenia is rescued by her brother, Orestes.
One of the three Gorgons. Medusa is a horrible woman-beast with snakes for hair. Her gaze turns men to stone. She is killed by Perseus.
The half-man, half-bull monster that terrorizes Minos’s Labyrinth. It is killed by Theseus.
A beast with the head of a woman and the body of a winged lion. The Sphinx blocks entry to the city of Thebes, refusing to budge until someone answers her riddle and eating anyone who fails. When Oedipus solves the riddle, the Sphinx promptly kills herself.
Fearsome one-eyed giants, of whom Polyphemus is the most famous. In some myths they are the children of Heaven and Earth; in others they are the sons of Poseidon. They forge the thunderbolts of Zeus, who favors them.
The terrible Cyclops who imprisons Odysseus and his men and eats them alive. They escape only after blinding him. In later myths, he becomes a pitiful character who recovers his sight but chases after the cruel nymph Galatea who mocks him.
A vile three-headed dog that guards the gates of Hades.
The counterpart of Zeus in Norse mythology. Odin is a quiet, brooding figure. He trades one of his eyes and suffers for nine nights to attain the insights of the Well of Wisdom, which he passes on to men along with the mystical powers of the runes and poetry. Odin rewards fallen warriors with a place in Valhalla, the Hall of the Slain. He bears the burden of delaying Ragnarok, the day of doom for both the gods and mortals, as long as possible.
A fearful goddess who presides over the realm of the dead, which is called Hel (not synonymous with our word “hell,” however). The fact that a female occupies this position is a significant and striking difference from Greek and Roman myth.
The “Choosers of the Slain,” these splendid female warriors select and carry dead warriors to Valhalla.
Signy, wronged by her husband, conceives a son with her brother Sigmund. She bides her time until the son is old enough to help Sigmund kill her husband. Signy then kills herself by walking into the fire that also consumes her husband and her other children.
Sigmund’s son, a fierce warrior who braves a ring of fire for the love of the beautiful woman-warrior Brynhild. Sigmund is always honest, brave, fierce, and giving, thus embodying the ideal Norse warrior. He is the prototype for Siegfried, popularized in Wagner’s Ring Cycle.
A Valkyrie who angers Odin and is punished with imprisonment in a ring of fire. She is a dazzling character, with strength both of soul and body. She is the prototype for Wagner's Brunnhilde, the most famous Valkyrie in opera.
Difference of norse and greek mythology
Mythology / By tommy
Both Norse mythology and Greek mythology are among the major mythologies in the world. Deities from the two mythologies even have important roles in Marvel films and TV series. The formation of the two mythologies is completely independent, but there are also some relation and differences between them.
What is Norse mythology?
The Norse mythology refers to the myths peculiar to the Scandinavia. It emerged later than the other mythologies, but its oral spreading can be dated back to the 1st century AD. At first it was popular in Norway, Denmark and Sweden, later spread northwards to Iceland by immigrants around 7th century AD. During the middle age, Christianity prevailed throughout the Europe. As a result, Norse mythology was seen as heterodoxy and most relevant literary works were burnt. The only few work survived to this days are Icelandic epics Edda, Germanic epic Nibelungenlied and others.
What is Greek mythology?
Greek mythology is the spiritual outcome of primitive clan society and the earliest literary form in Europe. Greek mythology were created around 8th century BC, and took shape after drawing on mythologies from other countries and being orally spread by ancient Greek people. They were recorded in the Homeric epics, Hesiod’s Theogony and other ancient Greek works of poetry, drama, history and philosophy. Later, people systematized them into the present Greek mythology, which falls into two categories: stories of deities and legend of heroes.
1. The creation of world
Similar to Greeks, the Nordics believed there was only the gaping abyss of Ginnungagap before the creation of cosmos. But in the view of Greeks, there was only dark and disordered Chaos without shape, light or color, where everything was mixed together. In contrast, all the elements of world were clearly separated in the Nordic version of creation myth.
It was endless icebergs flowing from the holy spring Hvergelmir on one side; while it was Muspelheim, the home to Surtr; a dark, bottomless and boundless chasm existed in between. That’s also why the world is full of ice and fire in the imagination of Nordics.
2. The world view
Greeks believed there were people living a better life somewhere to the north of Greece, but Nordics never had such beautiful visions about Elysium. Their life was difficult and tough.
They had to ceaselessly fight wind, snow and ice to survive, leading to their serious and realistic world view. Assiduous and realistic Nordics more often thought of themselves than of things which they had little to do with.
3. Natural phenomena
Both Nordics and Greeks believed the earth was created first, after that the domelike sky fell on and covered it. In addition, they both thought that the sun and moon cruising in the sky on glary carriages.
However, the second-generation god of sun in Greek mythology is Helius; its equivalent in Nordic culture is goddess Sol; while the deity of moon in Norse mythology is the god Mani.
4. Zeus and Odin
Both Zeus and Odin are the father of all gods as well as the incarnation of universe in their respective mythology. Odin sits on his throne Hlidskjalf and sees everything happening in the world, the same as Zeus who lives in the Temple of Olympus.
Odin’s spear Gungnir is a mighty and magical weapon, so is Zeus’ hammer. The two weapons kill all, even giants and deities. Norse deities drink ewe’s milk and eat wolf meat like the Nordics, but Greek deities prefer sweet wine and fragrant lanolin, the same as Greek.
In Norse mythology, twelve major gods often have meetings in Odin’ hall Valhalla and discussed about the best way to govern the world and human race; while it is said the twelve Olympian gods are doing the same thing on the top of Mount Olympus in Greece.
5. Freyja and Aphrodite
Freyja and Aphrodite are the goddesses associated with love and beauty in their respective mythology. They were both born in the ocean and both like to give fresh flowers and fruits as gifts. In Greek mythology, Aphrodite was forced to married the god of fire Hephaestus, resulting in her unfaithfulness and adultery with other deities; while in Norse mythology, the deities wanted to marry Freyja to the king of jotnar Thrym, but they gave up the idea due to Freyja’s resolute opposition.
gods and goddesses in norse mythology
Mythology / By tommy
Norse mythology is completely different from mythologies of Greece, Egypt, India and China. In Norse mythology, deities are not all-mighty, neither is the world eternal.
Lord god Odin rode through the misty forest and met the wise giant Mimir who was guarding world tree Mímameiðr. He got to drink the water in the well of wisdom Mimisbrunnr at the cost of losing one of his eyes, thus acquired great wisdom. He also obtained the spear Gungnir that Loki asked the Dwarves to fashion with the branches of world tree Yggdrasill. On Gungnir it carved a sacred covenant: anyone who possesses this spear shall rule the world. This is also the reason why Odin became the king of all gods. Compare with other mythologies, Norse mythology is closer to real life.
Norse mythology is a polytheistic system which in general falls into four sub-systems: jötnar, gods, elves and dwarves. Among them, the jötnar created the world and gave birth to all deities – the Asgardians led by lord god Odin and the Vanir ruled by the god of sea Njörðr, there were twelve major gods in total. Elves and dwarves are half-deity entities who serve the deities, this is a special creation in the Germanic region.
There are many special stories in Norse mythology. For example, regarding the creation of human, woman was first created with a log instead of mud as in most mythologies. Another outstanding characteristic is decided by the geographical location of Nordic civilization. As it is freezing cold in Scandinavia for being close to the Arctic, jötnar have a high status in Norse mythology, which is a headache for other deities. Secondly, the story about death and rebirth is highly influenced by cruel geographical conditions of Scandinavia. Different from other mythologies, Norse mythology is imperfect and there is a doomed destruction. For instance, Odin lost his left eye in order to acquire knowledge and wisdom, and obtained the spear Gungnir after being hung on the tree and suffering great pain. But on the other hand, in Norse mythology, when the world is destroyed, new life will emerge again, and everything in the world is cyclic.
12 gods and goddesses of norse mythology
Odin is the king of all deities, ruler of the world. He wears a golden helmet, with two ravens resting on his shoulders. These two ravens respectively symbolize “thought” and “memory”. Every morning, they fly all over the world and report back to Odin about what they see. Besides Odin’s feet there sit two wolves named “greed” and “desire”, serving as Odin’s guards. In order to enhance intelligence and predict the future for better ruling, Odin is eager to drink the water in Mimisbrunnr, the holy well beneath the world tree Yggdrasil. But Mimir, the giant guarding the well, asked him to offer one eye as the price. Without hesitation, Odin gouged out one of his eyes. After drinking the water in Mimisbrunnr, Odin became more erudite and intelligent. He invented ancient Nordic letters, with which the fairies record the destinies on the shields. That is Runes, the source of all the magic.
Frigg is the goddess of love in Norse mythology. As the wife of Odin, she governs marriage and family, and has dominion over both the paradise and hell. She is gorgeous, with white feathers in his blonde hair. Usually she wears a white coat with a golden belt, and there hangs a set of keys on the belt. In addition, she likes beautiful costumes and shiny jewelries. Once she stole Odin’s gold to trade for a precious necklace. Odin left home out of rage when he learned this. Jötnar, the frost giants, took the opportunity and soon took over the dominion over the world. Severe winter followed and suffocated all life. The crisis was not solved until Odin returned to Asgard seven months later.
Thor is the son of the goddess of earth Fjörgyn. Tall and strong Thor has a pair of blazing eyes and a golden beard. He wields the mountain-crushing hammer Mjölnir, wears the iron gloves Jarngreipr and the belt Megingjörd. Thor spends most of his time at eastern border to defend the home of deities from jötnar and Jörmungandr. He has a bad temper and dares to contradict Odin, but he is also of integrity and uprightness. When the Ragnarök came, Thor and Jörmungandr (the Midgard Serpent) had a fierce fight and killed one another.
Sif is the wife of Thor and goddess of earth and harvest. She has particularly enchanting long blonde hair which is shining like beautiful gold. Being proud of her hair, Sif always sits in the garden and combs her blonde hair, making Loki want to do some pranks on her. Once he shaved off Sif’s hair while she was asleep. Loki’s prank made Sif very sad. Upon knowing Loki’s prank, Thor was enraged and threatened to break every bone in Loki’s body. Loki pleaded with Thor and asked for permission to go down to Svartalfheim, the cavernous home of the dwarves, to see if these master craftspeople could fashion a new head of blonde hair for Sif. Thor’s hammer, Mjölnir, is also made by dwarf craftsmen, along with the blonde hair.
Freyr is the god of abundance, prosperity, love and peace. As one of the Vanir (a group of gods), he is also the king of Alfheimr, the realm of the Elves. One story is, he is the god of luminosity (or sun), the same as Baldr. The elves under him do good works all over the world. He often takes patrols by riding his mount Gullinbursti, a boar with golden and shining mane (the prize of a bet between Loki and dwarves). People enjoy the peace and happiness given by him. He has a shining sword and the ability of flying. He also possesses a foldable magic ship Skidbladnir, which can carry all the gods and their weapons when necessarily.
Loki is the god of fire, trick and evil. He is the son of jötunn Farbauti and half-brother of Odin. As the descendant of jötnar, Loki is handsome and eloquent. He is not of great power, but his children, such as Fenrir, Jörmungandr and Hel, are all formidable enemies to the gods. Despite looking kind and genial in appearance, he is actually a troublemaker. At first he just does pranks for fun, such as shaving off Sif’s hair. But later he became unscrupulous, even incited Höðr (god of darkness) to kill Baldr (god of brightness) just out of envy. As a result, he received the harshest punishment. He was bound by entrails of one of his sons, with venom constantly dripping down to his face, making his face even more ferocious and ghastly.
Tyr is the god of war, and the son of jötunn Hymir. In the Edda, he is called the All-father. According to the legend, he is the guarantor of contract and defender of oath. When the other deities were trying to tie up the evil wolf Fenrir, as the guarantor of credit, Tyr put his arm in Fenrir’s mouth. Fenrir bit off Tyr’s arm when it realized that it was a trap set up by deities. Tyr lost one of his arms. But his sword still made him look majestic. The ancient oath of sword originates from Norsemen’s worship of Tyr. And many traditional sword dances are choreographed in memory of Tyr.
Freyja is the goddess of fertility, desire and love, also the sister of Freyr. She is very beautiful and beloved by people, as when they are fighting the cold, they are longing for the spring. Sometimes she wears gorgeous costumes while sometimes armor, leading his fairies to sort out the sacrificed heroes. But she loves vanity so much that willing to bear the humiliation of dwarves for the golden necklace Brisingamen, therefore she was called the goddess of desire. In some stories, she and Frigg is the same goddess.
Heimdallr is the guardian of the gods. Also named Rig, he has gold teeth. His eyes are so sharp that he can see at night just as well as if it were day, and for a very long distance. Heimdallr’s hearing is also quite keen; he can hear grass as it grows on the earth. Day and night he sits on the edge of heaven to guard the Bifröst bridge from the jötnar. He rides golden-maned horse Gulltoppr and carries the resounding horn Gjallarhorn, which will be blown to call in the deities when an emergency occurs. According to the legend, he is the first line of defense of Asgard. During the Ragnarök, Heimdallr and Loki killed one another.
Baldr is the son of Odin and god of brightness. He is good-looking and talented, and always stays happy. His smile brings people great joy. Once he had a nightmare, which gave him the foreboding that someone would plot against him. Thereupon, Baldr’s mother Frigg went to all of the nine realms and gave the order that Baldr should not be hurt. However, she did not give the order to mistletoe, as she thought there was no need to worry about this fragile and weak plant. Taking this opportunity, Loki made arrows with mistletoe, incited and even assisted Höðr (god of darkness) to shoot Baldr to death.
Höðr is the god of darkness, twin brother of Baldr, but is blind in both eyes. He is by nature melancholy and withdrawn, also hostile to brightness. Under Loki’s instigation, he unwittingly killed his brother Baldr, the god of brightness.
Víðarr is the son of Odin and the jötunn Gríðr. He is the incarnation of immortal power of nature, and also called the god of forest. He and his brother Váli are destined to survive the Ragnarök and become the deities of new world.
He is tall, strong and in armor, carries a large sword, but wears only one boot. Some people think this pair of fire-proof boots is made of iron by his mother, because she knows that he will always fight the fire. While in another theory, the boots are made of leather, even wasted leather discarded by leatherworkers. During the Ragnarök, Fenrir defeated and swallowed Odin. Víðarr made the revenge for his father by stepping on Fenrir’s lower jaw, gripping its upper jaw and tearing it into two pieces. Therefore, he is also called the god of vengeance.
Mjölnir, also known as Thor’s hammer, is the weapon used by Thor in Norse mythology. The hammerhead of Mjölnir is forged with the core part of a dying planet, while the hammer handle was made of a branch from the world tree Yggdrasil.
Mjölnir is the weapon unexpectedly obtained by Loki when he is making fun of deities and dwarves. Mjölnir is later handed over to Thor with its handle shortened as a result of Loki’s prank. Despite being so, it remained the most fearsome and powerful weapon in Norse mythology.
The hammerhead of Mjölnir is said to have been made from the Uru metal in Asgard, while its handle is made from the wood from world tree Yggdrasil. It can be downsized and put in the pocket when not being used. Mjölnir can penetrate anything. Once being thrown out, it accurately hits the target and flies automatically back to its owner.
Mjölnir was once stolen by the giant Thrym, who asked for the marriage with the goddess Freyja. Thor masqueraded as her and succeeded in grabbing the hammer. Therefore, this hammer is also a sacred wedding object as best wishes to the new bride.
Besides, Thor entertained a farming family with mutton on his way to Jotunheim, and resurrected the goat on the next day. Therefore, Mjölnir also has the power of resurrection.
As Mjölnir is of great power and Thor is a highly respected god, necklaces were often made in the shape of this hammer and used as amulets in ancient Nordic region.
The symbol of Gothic people is also Mjölnir, which means “crushing all” in their language. They used the “Thor’s hammer” as their national symbol because it was the most powerful weapon in Norse mythology. Also, as Mjölnir has the power of resurrection, Gothic people hoped that their fallen warriors could come back to life and continue fight for their people.
GREEK, ROMAN, AND NORSE MYTHOLOGY
You’ve been learning about how words are made and where they come from. Well, one of the most interesting sources of words is mythology -- the study of the ancestors, gods and heroes of various cultures and people.
Ancient peoples did not worship one God, as most of us do. They worshipped a whole group of deities. These deities served to explain the forces that shaped their lives -- the elements, the weather, nature. Although these deities had super-human powers, they also had the strengths and weaknesses of ordinary people. And, best of all, they were interactive. If you honored them and made the proper sacrifices, they would help you out.
This instruction is going to be mostly about Greek, Roman and Norse mythology – because that’s where so many of our words came from. You’ll probably recognize a lot of words as you read the stories of these amazing characters.
Let’s start with the Greeks. Greek myths are all that’s left of their ancient religion. Beginning about 1200 BC, the Greeks came to share a common belief in a group of gods and goddesses called The Olympians (who lived in a place called Mount Olympus). The Olympians did not discourage the pursuit of knowledge but encouraged the pursuit of beauty, poetry, love and other creative activities. We’ll tell you more about them in a minute, but first we need to give you a little history.
These myths weren’t written down until the time of Homer (about 800 BC) but were passed down from generation to generation by gifted storytellers. Most of what we know comes from a period known as Classical Greece (about 500 BC). And most of these myths were eventually stolen by the Romans – so Greek and Roman mythologies are almost identical. We’ll mostly refer to the characters by their Greek names but we’ll tell you their Roman (Latin) names as well.
If you have trouble keeping all this straight, just pretend you’re trying to keep track of the characters and events in the Star Wars movies. The main difference is that these characters are far more violent, oversexed and bloody!
The Creation of the World (According to Greek Mythology)
In the beginning, all that existed was Chaos (the god of the void). Then Night appeared, along with the unknowable place of the dead, Erebus. Then Love was born, bringing order out of Chaos. From Love came Light and Day. Then Gaea (the goddess of the earth) appeared. Alone, Gaea gave birth to Uranus (the god of the heavens), who became her husband. But Uranus was a terrible husband and father, so Gaea and her son Cronus conspired to overthrow him. One night as Uranus slept, Cronus castrated him with a stone sickle and became ruler in his place. The dripping blood from Uranus’s wound was cast into the sea and created many beings including Aphrodite, the goddess of love, and The Furies (avenging goddesses who gave their name to the words “fury” and “furious”).
Cronus, now ruler, married his sister Rhea and conceived many children (Cronus’s name in Latin is Saturn). Having been warned that he would be overthrown by a son, he swallowed each child at birth. This, understandably, made Rhea angry -- so she hid her sixth child when he was born and sent him be raised by nymphs on the island of Crete. This child was Zeus, who eventually returned to kill his father and restore life to his previously-swallowed brothers and sisters. He and his brothers Poseidon and Hades drew lots to see which one of them would rule over which part of the universe. Zeus won and became the supreme ruler of the gods and lord of the sky and heavens. Poseidon, who ended up with the sea, and Pluto, who ended up with the underworld, got very angry – and stayed that way.
Zeus’s weapon was a thunderbolt, which he hurled at anyone who displeased him (and many did). He married many wives, including his sister Hera, had many children and numerous lovers – including some mortals (mortals are human beings who, of course, must die; the gods are immortal). From these unions came the semi-mortals Minos, Perseus, Dionysus, Pan and others. One of Zeus’s lovers was Ganymeade, a young Trojan prince noted for his beauty. To seduce him, Zeus turned himself into an eagle and carried Ganymeade off to Mount Olympus. Still with us?
Most of the important Greek myths begin with Zeus. The major players are the Olympians. We’ll give you their Greek names first, followed by their Roman (Latin) ones. We’ve put the Roman names in bold face and in parentheses. All the Olympians were related to one another – a dysfunctional family of truly epic proportions.
Each god or goddess represents a number of different things -- but scholars can’t seem to agree on exactly what. So we’ve listed the attributes that most scholars do agree on.
The Olympians (The Immortals)
Zeus (Jupiter) God of the sky and supreme ruler of Olympus, usually shown with a thunderbolt. Married to Hera (Juno) but wildly unfaithful.
Hera (Juno) Goddess of marriage and supreme goddess of Olympus. She was Zeus’s wife and sister and often sought revenge when he betrayed her with one of his many lovers.
Poseidon (Neptune) God of the sea, brother of Zeus, and the second most powerful god on Olympus. His symbols include the horse and the trident (a three-pronged pitchfork).
Hades (Pluto) God of the underworld, brother of Zeus and husband of Persephone (Demeter’s daughter), whom he had kidnapped.
Aphrodite (Venus) Goddess of love and beauty who may have been Zeus’s daughter or may have been born when the blood of Uranus was cast into the sea. One of the most famous paintings in the world, “The Birth of Venus” by Sandro Botticelli, shows this goddess rising naked from the sea on top of an open seashell.
Apollo (Apollo) God of beauty, poetry, music and healing, twin of Diana. Apollo was an archer who hunted with a silver bow and is often shown with a golden lyre (a musical instrument).
Ares (Mars) God of war, son of Zeus and Hera. He was more widely worshipped in Rome than in Greece and is considered the father of the Roman people since his sons, Romulus and Remus, supposedly founded Rome. In later mythology, he came to represent the creative energy uniting people into cities.
Artemis (Diana) Goddess of the moon and the hunt, twin sister of Apollo, Her symbol is a bow and arrow.
Athena (Minerva) Goddess of wisdom and chastity, also war. Athena sprung full-grown (and fully armed) from the forehead of Zeus and was his favorite child. The Parthenon in Athens is dedicated to her and the city of Athens is named for her.
Hephaestus (Vulcan) God of fire and the forge (a furnace where iron is heated). Although he made weapons, he loved peace. He was the son of Zeus and Hera and was married to Aphrodite.
Hestia (Vesta) Goddess of the hearth (a fireplace in the center of the home). She never married and her worshippers, the Vestal Virgins, took vows of chastity in order to serve her.
Hermes (Mercury) The messenger god, very clever, and the ruler over good fortune and sleep. He wears winged sandals and a winged hat and was the fastest god in Olympus.
Demeter (Ceres) Goddess of the harvest. The word “cereal” comes from her Roman name. Her daughter, Persephone, was abducted and forced to live underground as queen of Hades during the winter, so Demeter never let crops grow during that time of year. Persephone came back to earth after each winter and was the goddess of spring.
Dionysus (Bacchus) God of wine, which he invented. Dionysus was also the god of fertility and represents liberation from the effects of the strict control of reason. He was the son of Zeus and and a mortal, Semele. Needless to say, he was a popular god with both Greek and Roman people. The words “bacchanal” and “bacchanalia” come from his name.
Besides these heavy hitters, there were many other players in Greek and Roman mythology. At the end of this instruction, we’ll list a number of web sites where you can explore the subject at your leisure. But we’ll tell you about a few other characters now: especially those whose names have become part of our language. One of these is Eros (Cupid), the archer of love whose name (“erotic”) means “sexual.” Others include Echo, a nymph who loved the youth Narcissus so much that she faded away until only her voice remained; Nike, the goddess of victory; the Pleiades, seven sisters who were turned into a constellation; and the Muses. The Muses were nine deities who ruled over the arts and sciences. Two of the most famous were Polyhymnia, who ruled over sacred poetry, and Terpsichore, who ruled over dance. From their names we get the words “hymn” and “choreography.”
Although not all Greek and Roman deities have direct counterparts in Norse myths and legends, many do. Odin, the supreme leader of the Norse gods, has much in common with Zeus. Freya, the Norse goddess of love, is quite similar to Aphrodite, the Greek goddess of love. And both mythologies even contain giant ferocious dogs. In Norse mythology. Garm (a giant ferocious dog) guards the gate to Hel’s realm, the underworld. In Greek mythology, Cerberus (a giant ferocious dog) is given to Hades to guard the entrance to the underworld: to keep live people out and dead people in. The only difference is that Cerberus has three heads – just like Fluffy, the monstrous three-headed dog in “Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone.” Who says we don’t have anything to learn from mythology?
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