Much of the information about Norse mythology is gleaned from the historical texts called the Eddas. As recounted in the Eddas, two separate hosts of deities initially existed, the Vanir and Aesir. These two hosts waged several unsuccessful wars against each other until they united as a single host, combining their strength against the giants. The union of the Vanir and Aesir was then strengthened through marriage alliances. The deities of the Vanir were introduced in an earlier post, while this post discusses the Aesir.
A host of Norse deities that are very different to the Vanir and, considered by many scholars, to be the more recent in Norse mythology. The primary deities in the Aesir are almost exclusively male and associated with warfare and aspects of community and family life. Lesser gods in the Aesir are associated with craftsmanship but all have specific personality traits that would be invoked during prayer.
The principal leader of the Aesir. Odin was also the eldest of the gods and the father of many lesser deities. Odin was the embodiment of a leader protecting his dependants through wisdom and seeking knowledge. Odin was also often invoked by leaders before battle as Odin was associated with victory in battle. Odin’s quest for further wisdom to improve his leadership and maintain it, led to many sacrifices including the offering of his eye to gain the foresight he required. Odin was the real leader of the Norse deities and was an exemplar of how rulers should sacrifice themselves for the furthering of their dependant community and family.
Goddess among the Aesir and wife to Odin, who in Odin’s absence from Asgard, became the leader of the Aesir. As the only principal goddess among the Aesir, there is curiously little written specifically about Frigg in the Eddas. Frigg was the embodiment of a virtuous Nordic wife, associated with the household and invoked by married couples for her embodiment of love and marriage. Frigg was commonly depicted as wife, mother and leader but her elaborate clothing revealed a darker aspect to her. Frigg’s powers were like those of Odin, associated with the air. Frigg was responsible for the discovery of flax and her spinning distaff was capable of enacting her fickle mood where she would spin the clouds into her clothing, all as changeable as the weather.
A god among the Aesir, the embodiment of thunderstorms and the personification of physical strength. Thor was the son of Odin and often associated with warfare and, like Odin and the god Tyr, these three gods formed a triad of gods often invoked during battle. Where Odin’s powers in warfare are related to qualities aspired for strong leadership, Tyr was invoked for strategic planning and swordsmanship. Thor, on the other hand, was admired for the brute strength and fury he possessed, a battle-rage and lust that could sustain armies and inspire victory. Thor is rarely described or praised for intelligence but his powerful strength and warhammer were often used to save the Aesir and Vanir from attacks by the giants, their common enemy.