Magical Creatures



Norse Mythology: pre-Christian religious beliefs of the Norse people. The Norse legends and myths about ancient heroes, gods, and the creation and destruction of the universe developed out of the original common mythology of the Germanic peoples and constitute the primary source of knowledge about ancient German mythology. Because Norse mythology was transmitted and altered by medieval Christian historians, the original pagan religious beliefs, attitudes, and practices cannot be determined with certainty. Clearly, however, Norse mythology developed slowly, and the relative importance of different gods and heroes varied at different times and places. Thus, the cult of Odin, chief of the gods, may have spread from western Germany to Scandinavia not long before the myths were recorded; minor gods including Ull, the fertility god Njord, and Heimdallmay represent older deities who lost strength and popularity as Odin became more important. Odin, a god of war, was also associated with learning, wisdom, poetry, and magic.

Most information about Norse mythology is preserved in the Old Norse literature, in the Eddas and later sagas; other material appears in commentaries by the Danish historian Saxo Grammaticus and the German writer Adam of Bremen (fl. about 1075). Fragments of legends are sometimes preserved in old inscriptions and in later folklore.Gods and Heroes. Besides Odin, the major deities of Norse mythology were his wife, Frigg, goddess of the home; Thor, god of thunder, who protected humans and the other gods from the giants and who was especially popular among the Norse peasantry; Frey, a god of prosperity; and Freya, sister of Frey, a fertility goddess. Other, lesser gods were Balder, Hermod, Tyr, Bragi, and Forseti; Idun, Nanna, and Siv were among the goddesses. The principle of evil among the gods was represented by the trickster Loki. Many of these deities do not seem to have had special functions; they merely appear as characters in legendary tales.

Many ancient mythological heroes, some of whom may have been derived from real persons, were believed to be descendants of the gods; among them were Sigurd the Dragon-slayer; Helgi Thrice-Born, Harald Wartooth, Hadding, Starkad, and the Valkyries. The Valkyries, a band of warrior-maidens that included Svava and Brunhild, served Odin as choosers of slain warriors, who were taken to reside in Valhalla. There the warriors would spend their days fighting and nights feasting until Ragnarok, the day of the final world battle, in which the old gods would perish and a new reign of peace and love would be instituted. Ordinary individuals were received after death by the goddess Hel in a cheerless underground world.





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