Freyr

Freyr is the god of sun and rain, and the patron of bountiful harvests. He is both a god of peace and a brave warrior. He is also the ruler of the elves. Freyr is the most prominent and most beautiful of the male members of the Vanir, and is called ‘God of the World’. After the merging of the Aesir and the Vanir, Freyr was called ‘Lord of the Aesir’. Freyr was also called upon to grant a fertile marriage. He is married to the beautiful giantess Gerd, and is the son of Njord. His sister is Freya.

He rides a chariot pulled by the golden boar Gullinbursti which was made for him by the dwarves Brokk and Eitri. He owns the ship Skidbladnir (“wooden-bladed”), which always sails directly towards its target, and which can become so small that it can fit in Freyr’s pocket. He also possesses a sword that would by itself emerge from its sheath and spread a field with carnage whenever the owner desired it. Freyr’s shield bearer and servant is Skirnir, to whom he gave his sword, which Skirnir demanded as a reward for making Gerd his wife. On the day of Ragnarok he will battle without weapons (for he gave his sword away to Skirnir), and will be the first to be killed by the fire giant Surt.

The center of his cult was the city Uppsala in Sweden. In southern Sweden he was called Fricco.

Norse Mythology and Days of the Week

Although worship of the Scandinavian gods for the most part ended a thousand years ago, and the myths are now exotic and foreign to most people in the English-speaking world, we make implicit reference to the gods and myths almost every day of our lives. That is because the names of the weekdays Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday all contain the names of old Scandinavian gods (Týr, Odin, Thor, and Frigg; the Old English forms were Tiw, Wodæn, Thunor, and Friija), and the choice of the gods for each of these days was based on myths about them.

Furthermore, when we read about or travel in places like Odense, Denmark (probably best known outside Denmark as the birthplace of Hans Christian Andersen), we see a place-name that once bore the name of the god Odin. There are hundreds of these in Scandinavia, but they are seldom obvious, except in Iceland, where there are places with names like Þórsmörk (Thor’s forest), a favorite place for hiking and camping. And if you are acquainted with or have heard of anyone called Freyja, Thor, Baldur (a not uncommon name in Iceland), or any Scandinavian name beginning with Tor, you know of the persistence of the names of the gods in personal naming systems.

Sources: Norse Mythology By John Lindow

Alfheim

Alfheim (“elf home”), in Norse mythology, is one of the nine worlds. It is located on the highest level of the Norse universe. Also found on this level are the worlds of Asgard and Vanaheim. Alfheim is the palace of the god Freyr and the homeland of the elves of light. Neither the elves of light nor the elves of darkness, who live in Svartalfheim, participate in any of the events described in the Norse myths. Elves do, however, have active roles in the literature of quite a few of the other branches of Indo-European mythology.

Alfheim is never described in the sources that form the basis of our current knowledge of heathen Germanic religion, but is rather merely mentioned in passing in a few places. However, the elves are described as being luminous and “more beautiful than the sun,” so we may suppose that their homeland was a gracious realm of light and beauty. Although the realms that comprise the Nine Worlds of the Norse cosmology are never listed, it seems highly probable that, given the prominence of the elves in Germanic religion, Alfheim was one of them.

The Vanir god Freyr is said to be the ruler of Alfheim. Scholars have long puzzled over what to make of this, and no wholly satisfactory conclusions have been put forth. The relationship between the elves and the Vanir is highly ambiguous and involves considerable overlap between the two groups. Freyr’s position as lord of Alfheim, therefore, while hard to interpret with much precision, shouldn’t be entirely surprising.

Fenrir

Fenrir (or Fenris) is a gigantic and terrible monster in the shape of a wolf. He is the eldest child of Loki and the giantess Angrboda. The gods learned of a prophecy which stated that the wolf and his family would one day be responsible for the destruction of the world. They caught the wolf and locked him in a cage. Only the god of war, Tyr, dared to feed and take care of the wolf. When he was still a pup they had nothing to fear, but when the gods saw one day how he had grown, they decided to render him harmless. However, none of the gods had enough courage to face the gigantic wolf. Instead, they tried to trick him. They said the wolf was weak and could never break free when he was chained. Fenrir accepted the challenge and let the gods chain him. Unfortunately, he was so immensely strong that he managed to break the strongest fetters as if they were cobwebs.

After that, the gods saw only one alternative left: a magic chain. They ordered the dwarves to make something so strong that it could hold the wolf. The result was a soft, thin ribbon: Gleipnir. It was incredibly strong, despite what its size and appearance might suggest. The ribbon was fashioned of six strange elements: the footstep of a cat; the roots of a mountain; a woman’s beard; the breath of fishes; the sinews of a bear; and a bird’s spittle. The gods tried to trick the wolf again, only this time Fenrir was less eager to show his strength. He saw how thin the chain was, and said there was no pride in breaking such a weak chain. Eventually, though, he agreed, thinking that otherwise his strength and courage would be doubted. Suspecting treachery however, he in turn asked the gods for a token of good will: one of them had to put a hand between his jaws. The gods were not overly eager to do this, knowing what they could expect. Finally, only Tyr agreed, and the gods chained the wolf with Gleipnir. No matter how hard Fenrir struggled, he could not break free from this thin ribbon.

In revenge, he bit off Tyr’s hand.Being very pleased with themselves, the gods carried Fenrir off and chained him to a rock (called Gioll) a mile down into the earth. They put a sword between his jaws to prevent him from biting. On the day of Ragnarok, Fenrir will break his chains and join the giants in their battle against the gods. He will seek out Odin and devour him. Vidar, Odin’s son, will avenge his father by killing the wolf.

Ginnungagap

Ginnungagap (“seeming emptiness”), in the cosmology of Norse mythology, is the primordial void separating Niflheim and Muspell, the land of eternal ice and snow and the land of eternal heat and flame.In the beginning, before the world of men and gods existed, the spring Hvergelmir, deep in the frozen wastes of Niflheim, gave rise to eleven rivers known as the Elivagar. Over a long period of time, water of the Elivagar ran across Niflheim and poured into the northern part of Ginnungagap. The water froze, forming vast sheets of ice in the void. Hot air from Muspell melted some of the ice, creating a zone of meltwater amid the ice and snow. Here life began, and the first living thing was a frost giant.

The Younger Futhark

The runic alphabet that was used during the Viking Age is called Younger Futhark. These runes can be found on hundreds of runestones throughout Scandinavia. This alphabet does not consist of many runes, and that is because the Norse language evolved a lot during the Iron Age, which meant that the runic alphabet was reduced from 24 to 16 runes.

Each rune has its own name and sound. Some of the runes are used to spell the same letter, for instance, the Týr rune is used for the letters “t” and “d”, and kaun is used for “g” and “k”. 

The names on this list of the Younger Futhark runes have been taken from the website of The National Museum in Copenhagen. The names of the runes may vary slightly depending on the language and on which runologist has conducted the research.

Fólkvangr

In Norse mythology, Fólkvangr (“field of the host” or “people-field” or “army-field”) is a meadow or field ruled over by the goddess Freyja where half of those that die in combat go upon death, whilst the other half go to the god Odin in Valhalla.

Others were also brought to Fólkvangr after their death; Egils Saga, for example, has a world-weary female character declare that she’ll never taste food again until she dines with Freya. Fólkvangr is attested in the Poetic Edda, compiled in the 13th century from earlier traditional sources, and the Prose Edda, written in the 13th century by Snorri Sturluson. According to the Prose Edda, within Fólkvangr is Freyja’s hall Sessrúmnir. Scholarly theories have been proposed about the implications of the location.

After each battle, Odin and Freyja would choose the einherjar who have proven themselves to be the most courageous fighters and divide them among themselves. The fallen Viking warriors will later be brought to either Folkvangr or Valhalla. The less fortunate ones, however, had no choice and would go to Hel. In the underworld, they would live eternally, but only merely continuing their ordinary lives on earth: eating, drinking, and sleeping.

There are not many differences when it comes to practicality and routine in these two dwelling places of the Gods. In fact, life in both of them equally would be an envy of any Viking warrior. In Folkvangr, as well as in Valhalla, warriors would fight amongst each other every day, making sure they will be prepared when the Ragnarok comes. Many of them would be injured, many of them slaughtered; however, in the evening, their wounds would heal, and they would be ready to feast.

Actually, the only real difference between Valhalla and Folkvangr lies in the way of entering them. Namely, those who die honorably are chosen between Odin and Freya to enter their respective realms. The ones chosen by Odin enter Valhalla, while those who are selected by Freya enter Folkvangr.

Asgard

The word Asgard comes from the Old Norse word Ásgarðr, meaning Enclosure of the Aesir. Asgard is one of the nine worlds in Norse Mythology, along with Niflheim, Muspelheim, Midgard, Jotunheim, Vanaheim, Alfheim, Svartalfheim, and Helheim. Asgard is the home of the Aesir, deities of one of two tribes of Norse gods. The other tribe, the Vanir, used to share Asgard but the two tribes fought a long, epic war over their differences and the Vanir were forced to leave Asgard. The two tribes did reach an eventual truce as they joined forces against their common enemy, the Giants.

Snorri Sturluson, author of the Prose Edda, wrote that Asgard was created by the gods after they created Jotunheim (Giantland), Midgard (Middle Earth or home of humanity), the seas, sky, clouds and the Earth. The home of the gods is said to be a giant fortress with walls reaching up into the clouds to protect them from their enemies, particularly the frost-giants.

Asgard is situated in the sky upon the plains of Idavoll, where the gods met to discuss important matters. It was connected to Midgard by a rainbow bridge called Bifrost. The mythical place was invisible and inaccessible to mortal men.

The ruler of the gods, Odin, had his throne in Asgard, in a hall called Valaskjalf. His throne was called Hlidskjalf and it is believed that when Odin sat on Hlidskjalf, he could see the whole of heaven and Earth and everything that happened anywhere! A hall made of pure gold was also situated in the home of the gods. It was called Gladsheim and housed the thrones of Odin and the 12 highest gods. The goddesses’ hall was called the Vingolf or hall of friendship. The gods and goddesses would meet every day and discuss the fate of world at the Well of Urd (destiny), from which the Yggdrasil (the tree connecting the nine worlds) grew.

Asgard also housed Valhalla (the hall of the fallen). Odin granted access to the worthy dead, the majority of whom were esteemed warriors. Here, he feasted and celebrated with the battle heroes. Valhalla was easily recognizable by its rafters formed of spears, and use of shields as roof tiles. According to certain sources, the doors of Valhalla were so wide that 800 warriors could walk through at the same time! A vast river, the Thund, and a barred gate, Valgrind, protected the entrances of Valhalla.

Aesir Gods

They are one of two clans of Norse gods, the other being the Vanir. The Aesir and Vanir were in conflict for quite some time, leading to the Aesir-Vanir war. Later on, however, they seemed to get along just fine and the Vanir were eventually considered to be a sub-group of the Aesir.

Therefore, depending on the time in which a specific myth is set, the word Aesir may refer to all Norse gods or only to the ones that began as Aesir.

In Norse mythology, there are nine world that various beings may inhabit. These worlds are held in the branches of the World Tree, also known as Yggdrasil. We humans live in Midgard, whereas the Aesir live in Asgard. The Vanir have their own world: Vanaheim.

Although they lived in a different world to humans, they actively ruled over the lives of men. Norse people would call on the different gods who represented specific aspects of life when they needed aid or blessing. There are many stories surrounding the Aesir, such as that of Odin the Allfather coming to Midgard. They would teach people lessons or otherwise influence what happened in Midgard.

The Aesir also acted in other worlds in Yggdrasil, such as Jotunheim, where the ice giants live. One of their most important duties is to keep the ice giants at bay, protecting the worlds from them.

Interestingly, although the Aesir are the principal gods of Norse mythology, they are not the creators of the cosmos. They are, however, the creators of mankind and the worlds within the cosmos.

In the beginning, there were two worlds: Muspelheim and Niflheim. Muspelheim was the realm of fire, while Niflheim was the realm of ice. Between them lay an empty void known as the Ginnungagap. The fire and ice met and filled the gap, and from this event, the first giant, Ymir, was formed. Ymir’s sweat produced further giants, who were the first beings in the cosmos. As the frost melted, the cow Audhumbla emerged to feed Ymir. The cow lived on the saltlicks in the ice. Her licking revealed Buri, the first Aesir, who had apparently been stuck in the ice.

Buri went on to marry a giant, Bestla, so his children Odin (who is the most famous), Vili and Ve were all half-giants. These three brothers decided to end Ymir’s life and, in a rather grisly development, used the various parts of his body to make the world. For example, his blood became the oceans, and the dome of his skull became the sky.

These gods then got around to creating us, the humans of Midgard. The first humans were a male and female pair with the names Ask and Embla. When they had finished jump-starting humanity, the gods decided to give humans their own world, a fenced-off region they named Midgard.

But why did they feel the need to slay Ymir? The most likely reason is that Ymir was a being of chaos, and the Aesir’s purpose is to bring order to the cosmos. That’s also the root of their main struggle with the ice giants, who want to destroy the world during Ragnarok, restoring the primordial chaos of the Ginnungagap.

Björketorp Runestone

Runes were the alphabetic system of the Vikings in the past. However, the Vikings didn’t commonly use runes for the communicative purpose between people and people. Rather, they used runes as a tool to communicate with their gods. One of the main sources that we have the information about runes is from the runestone. Thanks for the Vikings carving their runes onto materials like stone, we have something to look back at the age of the Vikings. One of the runestones surrounded by mysteries is the Björketorp Runestone.

The Björketorp Runestone currently rests in Blekinge, Sweden. It is a part of the grave field including some standing stones that form a circle.

It is among the tallest runestones in the world, measuring 4.2 meters (~13.7ft) in height. The Björketorp Runestone is the only stone that has rune inscription on it. 

The runes were carved in Proto Norse language around 6th or 7th century. This language might have been in use from the 2nd to 8th century. Also, it might have been the foundation for the Old Norse language. There are two sides with the rune inscriptions on this stone. One side consists of a shorter line reading “I predict perdition”.

The other side with inscription evokes many controversies though. The message from the other side of the runestone reads: 

Haidz runo runu, falh’k hedra ginnarunaz. Argiu hermalausz, … weladauþe, saz þat brytz. Uþarba spa.

This can be translated into: 

I, master of the runes conceal here runes of power. Incessantly (plagued by) maleficence, (doomed to) insidious death (is) he who breaks this (monument).
I prophesy the destruction/prophecy of destruction.

While some runestones contain the names of the tribe, the Björketorp Runestone lacks the name of the creators. The scholars have been in dispute about the purpose of the runestone. But the major theory is that the runestone is erected as a grave and a kind of curse is carved onto to protect it.

Sources: bavipower.com