Facts and Figures: The Norse Way
|Here are some definitions that I wanted to clear up about the Norse gods.
The word “Aesir” can mean gods and goddesses who belong to the tribe of gods living in Asgard.
However, more precisely, “Aesir” is plural for the gods, where as an Aesir god may be referred to as “As”. While the Aesir goddesses were known as “Asynior” or “Asyniur”. The singular form of Asyniur is called “Asynia”.
Similarly, the “Vanir” was a tribe of gods, who lived in Vanaheim, while a single Vanir is called a “Van”.
|The Nine Worlds has already been listed in the Norse Creation. I have listed it again, so that you may find information more easily.|
|The following list, show the palace or hall of the Aesir gods and goddesses. Most of these homes are within the walls of Asgard. Freyr, as prince of the elves, has his home in Alfheim, which is the world of the elves.|
|The Wild Hunt was a popular folklore found in Scandinavian and Germanic myth, as well in later folklore in Britain and northern European countries, which had changed over the centuries.
The group of hunters were variously known as the Furious Host or Raging Host. The hunt usually takes part during winter, where a spectral host of horsemen riding through the stormy sky, with their ghostlike hounds. The chillingly sound of the hunting horn can be heard reverberating through the woods and meadows.
In the Norse myths, the original leader of the hunt was the god Odin, known in Germanic myth as Wodan. Odin rode his eight-legged horse, called Sleipnir. His company of hunters were the Valkyries and the dead warriors who resided with him in Valhalla.
The hunt begins on Winter Nights (October 31) and doesn’t end May Eve (April 30) of the following year. These two nights were special, because lights go out on all Nine Worlds and the spirits and goblins are free to roam on the earth’s surface. However the height of the Wild Ride falls on the night of midwinter festival, known as Yule (December 21), traditionally the shortest day of the year in Scandinavia and Germany.
In other legends, different names were given for the leader of the Hunt, depending on the regions in Europe and periods. Some of the lead hunters were legendary and historical rulers, such as King Arthur, Charlemagne, Herla and Frederick Barbarossa.
There is even a Welsh legend about the Wild Hunt, whose lead bunter was said to be named Gwyn ap Nudd, an otherworldly fairy ruler. Gwyn owned a pack of fairy hounds, known as cw’n annwfn. The Welsh Arthur was sometimes said to be the leader, as it is the case in the tale of Culhwch and Olwen in the Mabinogion, where they hunted the deadly wild boar, Twrch Trwyth. Gwyn was usually associated with the Welsh May Day (Calan Mai).
According to English folklore, the Wild Huntsman was Herne, who appeared in Shakespeare’s play, The Merry Wives of Winsdor. Herne was perhaps a historical figure, living at the time of Richard II of England, during the 14th century. Herne saved the king’s life from the deadly antlers and killed the white stag, but he himself was dying. A wizard saved his life, by placing the stag’s antlers on Herne’s head, and chanting a spell. Herne discovered that he would lose his skills in hunting and tracking as payment for his survival. Herne loved hunting more than anything else in his life, was distraught, fell into depression and died. His body was discovered in his forest, near the castle of Winsdor. Since then, he reappeared with other ghostly companions, doing what he loves most – hunting.
|The table below showed days of the week that we are most similar with was mostly derived from the name of Germanic gods and goddesses. I have only the names of Anglo-Saxon (Old English) days listed.
Only Sunday, Monday and Saturday retained the Roman name. For comparison purpose, I had included the Roman days in the last column.
|Below is a list of annual festivals that were celebrated by the pagan Germanic and Scandinavian people. Some of the dates matched the time of the solstices and equinoxes, and usually has to do with agriculture and fertility.
Some of these festivals were usually known by the Old Norse word as blót, which means “sacrifice”. Sacrifices doesn’t necessarily mean blood sacrifices (eg. animal, human, etc); some sacrifices as witness of the ancient Germans, where they deposited money and weapons into lakes or bogs.
Today, a pagan religion of Wicca have adopted some of Germanic festivals.
Some of the festivals are still celebrated by the modern cults, such as the Neopaganism, Wiccans, witches, etc.
|Runic alphabets provided a brief background about the mystical lettering systems used by the Germanic people in ancient and medieval times.
The runes were set of Germanic alphabets that were used by the North German tribes, from the 2nd century BC to the 13th century AD. The runic alphabets were often called “Futhark”, which is derived from the first six runic letters of the runic alphabets (F-U-TH-A-R-K).
There are three different variations of the Runic alphabets.
The Etruscan or the Latin alphabets probably influenced the runic scripts in the 2nd or 1st century BC, particularly when that some of runes match the Latin alphabets in form. The Teutonic (Early or Common Germanic) scripts consisted of 24 characters.
It was used in northern Europe, right up to the 8th century AD. The image on the right, I have shown the Early or Common runes (with the English equivalents to the sound, written in white).
The Anglian or Anglo-Saxon scripts, also known as Futhork, varied in number, from 28 to 33 characters. The additional characters in the Anglian runes were used to compensate for the Old English sounds that does not appeared in the Early Futhark runes. These scripts were used in the British Isle, from the 5th to the 12th century AD. (Click here to see the Anglian runes.)
There are two variations of the Anglo-Saxon scripts. With Frisian runes, 4 new scripts were added to the Early Futhark: ac, ae, o (os), and yr. Then another five were added to the Anglo-Saxon runes; the extra runes known as the Northumbrian runes included: q, k, st, and gar.
The third variation was the Nordic (Scandinavian) runes, is called the Younger Futhark, which was used in Scandinavia, including Iceland, between the 8th and 13th century AD. More than half of the runic inscriptions discovered, were found in Sweden.
The Nordic scripts had originally contained the same 24 characters of the Early runes, but had gradually reduced them to 16 characters.
There are two variations of the Nordic runes: Short-twig and Danish.
The illustration on the left is the Danish variation of the Nordic scripts. The following scripts have remained unchanged from the Teutonic scripts: f, u, th, r, k, n, i, t, b and l.
The Short-twig have the same number of characters as the Danish variation, yet it has simplified the Danish scripts. Simplified as in some stroke were truncated. For now, I don’t have a diagram on the list of Short-twig scripts.
Runes have magical significance, where certain arrangement of the rune letters allow the person to wield sorcery. Runes were often used as a ward or charm. Odin tried to learn the magic of the runes, hoping to find a secret that will help in Ragnarok. (See Sacrifice: Hanging and Runes about Odin’s sacrifice in order to learn the secret of runic magic.)
Runes were often used as a ward or charm, particularly on swords and spear. There are archaeological evidences of such runes on weapons with the name of Tyr (Tiwaz), the god of war – , which is similar to the English letter “t”, or that of the name of Odin (Wodan), inscribed on blades, hilts or spear shafts. The rune Tyr signified victory in battle. Brynhild or Sigrdrifa told Sigurd that the victory runes, inscribing the Tyr rune twice () on the swordhilt and twice on the centre ridge of the blade.
The another recognisable rune ward is ale-runes, which was marked with the runic inscription naud – , which sounds like the English letter “n”. This was marked on the drinking horn, and it protect a man from being guiled by another man’s wife.
Other magic runes the Valkyrie had mentioned in both works are: speech-runes, mind-runes, helping-runes (most likely the same as aid-runes), healing-runes, cure-runes (botrúnar), branch-runes, beech-runes (bokrúnar), wave-runes (used on a ship).
Runes can also be used as a warning, as it was the case, when Gudrun carved some runic scripts on her ring (Andvaranaut) to warn her brothers about the treachery of her second husband, Atli. (See Volsunga Saga.)
The runes were also used for divination. Runes could be use to foretell the future in much the same way as the methods of casting lots, numerology and the tarot cards. The Roman historian Tactius, recorded that the Germanic tribes used casting lots for divinatory purpose. The used barks or small piece of woods, which they marked symbols (possibly runes?) on. These were then cast on the white cloth. Three symbols were chosen, and the priest or shaman would interpret these three symbols.