History

5 fascinating facts about Norse mythology

Norse mythology has been gaining attention in the past decade because of everyone’s favorite Norse superhero, Thor, but the mythology goes much, much deeper than the Marvel movies portray. Here are five fascinating facts about Norse mythology that weren’t covered in the Avengers movies.

Ymir and the creation of Earth

Fire on black background
Credit: bluephoto7/ Unsplash

Ymir, also called Aurgelmir, was the first being that ever existed. When an ice world and a fire world collided, Ymir the giant was formed by the melting ice. He then produced a six headed cow from his legs, as most people do, and drank its milk for nourishment. The cow survived by licking salt stones. Eventually, the cow licked the stones enough that they formed the shape of a man, who came to life. The man’s name was Buri, and he was the grandfather of Odin and great-grandfather of Thor.

Despite all Ymir did, Odin and his brothers later killed him and used his body to make the Earth. His flesh became the land, his blood became the oceans, the mountains were made from his bones, stone came from his teeth, the sky from his skull, the clouds from his brains, and his eyebrows, of all things, were made into a fence that held everything together.

Instead of Adam and Eve

Driftwood on rocky beach at sunset
Credit: pixelcrook/ Unsplash

Like Adam and Eve from Abrahamic religions, Norse mythology claims that humans started with just two people as well. One day, Odin and two other gods were walking along the beach of the newly created Midguard (the world made from Ymir’s remains) and saw two pieces of driftwood in the sand that were shaped like people. Seeing their figures, Odin decided to give them life. He and the gods worked together to give the pieces of wood life, mental activity, complexion, and the ability to speak, hear, and see.

The man, Ask, was made from ash wood while the woman, Embla, was made from an elm. The gods clothed the two new beings and gave them the world as their home.

The gods ate the same meal every night

A lone boar standing in a grassy field
Credit: Neil Burton/ Shutterstock

Norse heaven is called Valhalla, and it’s a pretty big place. Not only do most of the primary gods live there, but so do all the fallen warriors who’ve died valorous deaths in battle. Every night, a single boar provides all the meat for everyone’s dinner. What makes it extra interesting is that it’s the same boar night after night.

Sæhrímnir is a, presumably, giant boar that lives in Valhalla. When it comes close to dinner time, the godly cook Andhrímnir butchers the boar and makes him into a delicious meal for all the battle-weary residents. The next day, the gods bring Sæhrímnir back to life, and they do it all over again! The afterlife might not be so good for poor Sæhrímnir, but it’s quite delicious for everyone else.

The days of the week are named after Norse gods

Bronze fountain depicting Norse goddess Gefion plowing the sea
Credit: Tonygers/ Shutterstock

The seven-day week was established by the Romans, and the days were named after their gods. As the Roman calendar became more widely accepted, different cultures needed new names for the days in their own native languages. When the seven-day week was accepted by the Anglo-Saxons (early English speakers), they used the Norse gods as inspiration.

  • Tuesday – named after Tyr, the god of war and the bravest of all.
  • Wednesday – named after Odin (also called Wodin).
  • Thursday – Thor’s day.
  • Friday – named after Frigg, Odin’s wife.

Saturday, Sunday, and Monday all retained their planetary Roman names based on Saturn, the Sun, and the Moon, respectively.

People still practice Odinism

Viking helmets in a row
Credit: Ryszard Filipowicz/ Shutterstock

After almost 1,000 years of extinction, the religion practiced by the Vikings is starting to resurrect itself. Just up a hill from the Icelandic capital of Reykjavik is a brand-new temple in which people can worship Odin, Thor, and Frigg. Followers of Ásatrúarfélagið, as it’s known, don’t necessarily believe that the stories about the gods are true but that they serve as metaphors for life. Today, it’s the fastest growing religion in Iceland.

The religion has gained so much attention over the past few years that the United States Veterans Administration has allowed Thor’s hammer to be an officially accepted religious symbol that can be added to military gravestones the same as the Cross or Star of David.