by Edred Wodanson
Of ancient gods and goddesses, the descendants of the early Germans and Celts have a plenty! Although known by many and various names throughout history and throughout Europe, we have chosen to call them by their more popular names, i.e. the Æsir and Vanir.
What follows is a mere sampling of deities and their attributes. This list should by no means be considered complete. Thorough research will be required if one wishes to learn more.
Great and Powerful god of the peoples of Northern Europe! Odin has many names and appears in many different disguises. Also known as Othinn, Wodan, Woden, Wotan, Wutan, Wuotan, AllFather, Valfather, Hrafnaguth, SigFather, Hangaguth, etc., etc. In actuality Odin has hundreds of names, all referring to different attributes, aspects and activities. The day of the week, Wednesday ("Wodanesdag"), is named after him. He is the Father of the gods and of mankind. The god of poetry, the god of the dead and war. He is the god of magic, runes and of ecstasy. He lives in Asgard in Hlithskjalf from where he can look over the whole world. He has two Ravens, Huginn and Muninn, who fly out over the world each day and return with the news of the dealings of men. He also has two pet wolves, an eight legged horse, and is the father of Thor. His wife is Frigga, a goddess and mother of Balder. Odin wanders in Midgard (this world) during the winter months, and has contact with his people, i.e. us. Traditional sacrifice to Odin is by hanging. He is known as the hanged god because he hung from the World Tree for nine nights to discover the Runes. Odin's personal Rune is usually thought of as being "Ansuz," however some say it is "Othala." Both are powerful Runes, one dealing with the gods, the other with heritage. Odin sometimes appears as a very wrinkled old man. Sometimes as a hooded wanderer all dressed in black or "woad", and sometimes as a bearded, middle aged warrior. He can always be identified by his one missing eye, which he sacrificed for wisdom. Some have seen him with his left eye missing, while others have seen the right one gone. Odin is easily approached by those who know him but beware, Odin accepts no nonsense! You must be serious If not, simply walk away.
Great and powerful goddess of ancient Europe, Frigga (a Vanir by birth), is second to no other goddess, except for possibly Freya. She is the wife of Odin and mother of Thor and Baldr. The day of the week, Friday, is named after her. She is the goddess of women, relationships, marriage, child birth, and love. In ancient times, there were cults devoted to her throughout Europe. She is not afraid to challenge her husband's wishes, and sides with the Langobards (longbeards) against Odin's siding with their enemies, the Vandals. In the end, the Langobards are victorious. It is said that she knows the fate of all men, but will not speak of it. She is also called the Keeper of the Keys, indicating her role as the householder, from which she banishes Odin every Winter. Frigga can be called upon to protect the family and household from unseen enemies, and she is often sacrificed to, for that purpose, in this modern age. Frigga is very tall, extremely beautiful, usually dressed in a low cut white gown, and wears an ancient gold crown that resembles age-worn cliffs and mountains, low on her brow. She has very long honey colored hair which cascades down over her shoulders and body like golden waterfalls. She sits, when in attendance at Blots, on a pure white throne of stone. Frigga's personal Rune is usually given as "Berkanaz," although some will say this is Freya's Rune. It is a powerful Rune and is usually used for healing. Frigga is exceptionally beautiful, very kind, protective, and approachable.
Mighty and powerful god of Thunder, Thor is the god of the common man. The day of the week, Thursday, is named after him. He is the protector of the gods and of man and the destroyer of giants. He is the god of physical strength and might. Son of Odin, he takes great pleasure in smashing giants with his sacred Hammer, Mjollnir. His mother is Jorth ("earth" - Frigga) and he is the brother of Baldr. His children are Modi ('angry'), Magni ('strong') and Prudr ('powerful'). His wife is the goddess Sif. He often travels with Loki, the god(?) of mischief and trickery. He drives a chariot pulled by his two goats. For this reason he is also called "Chariot God," and "Lord of the goats." He wears a strength giving belt and owns an iron gauntlet, which he uses to hurl Mjollnir. Thor's Hammer, as a pendant, is the most common symbol worn around the necks of ancient and modern Ásatrúar and Odinists. He is a mighty drinker and eater with a voracious appetite. He is traditionally pictured as being large in stature, with a flaming red flock of hair and beard. Thor's greatest enemy is the Midgard Serpent, whom he will eventually kill at Ragnarok (end of the world). His personal Rune is "Thuraz," which is often used in magical revenge or for aggressive protection. Thor himself, or just is mighty Hammer, is sometimes seen in the clouds on stormy days.
A very ancient god of the Germans, Tyr is often called "Sky God." He is also known as an ancient god of war and battle. The day of the week, Tuesday ("Tyrsday"), is named after him. He is most famous for his act of deliberate sacrifice, which he does to protect the gods and mankind. As the story goes, the gods of Asgard are attempting to bind the Fenris Wolf, who is one of the major players in the destruction of our world at Ragnarok. They have tricked the Wolf into allowing them to test different fetters bound around its jaws. The Wolf succeeds in breaking every one. Finally the gods present a fairly innocent looking cord, which they have gotten from the dwarves and which is magically powerful, to the Wolf and suggest that he should have no problems breaking this one, having already broken much thicker ones! The Wolf becomes suspicious of the weak looking cord, and only agrees to the binding if someone will place their hand in his mouth first, as a pledge that there is no trickery involved. All the gods refuse except Tyr, who willing places his hand in this monster's mouth. The cord is applied and when the Wolf discovers that he cannot break the fetter, he snaps off Tyr's hand and swallows it. Thus Tyr's pledge or oath, rightly kept and given, saves mankind, the gods, and the cosmos, from early destruction. This is why Tyr is the god of the AlThing, where oaths that are sworn must be upheld. In ancient times, the breaking of an oath sworn at the Thing, often resulted in someone's death. He is also called the god of justice, for this same reason. The "Tyr" Rune is his personal Rune, and it was often carved into sword blades just before battle, in ancient Europe. Tyr is usually seen as a tall, one handed god, who carries himself with a quiet assurance. He is very kind and approachable.
Great god of the family of gods called the Vanir. Frey is the brother of Freya and is a god of fertility. Possibly the most important god of the Vanir Family of gods. His father is Njord, god of the Sea. His famous boar, Gullinborsti ("the golden bristled"), pulls his chariot or is ridden by him. He owns a marvellous ship called Skidbladnir, which is so flexible that it can hold all the gods and yet be folded so small as to fit into a pocket. Frey lives at a place called Alfheimr (home of the light elves), which was given to him by his father, Njord. Frey watches over the prosperity of mankind, so it is good to call on him in these matters. He is a god of good plantings and good harvests, a Nature god. Frey will fall at Ragnarok, killed by the fire giant Sutr. Having given his sword to his servant Skinir, in an attempt to woo a beautiful giantess, Gerthr, he will be weaponless in this battle. Frey is usually depicted, in statue form, with a large erection, indicating his position as god of fertility. There were widespread cults devoted to him in ancient Europe, and he is quite popular today amongst Ásatrúar and Odinists. Sacrifice is often made to him to bring a good and bountiful harvest... even today in Europe. His name literally means "Lord," and he is the "Lord of Midgard." The Rune normally associated with Frey is "Ingwaz," as this is the Rune of the potential contained in the seed, the potential of the coming harvest. An ancient, alternate name for Frey was "Ing." Frey is normally seen as being tall and handsome, to the point of being called "beautiful." He is often naked, or with light battle gear, and accompanied by his boar Gullinborsti. He is easy going and approachable.
Great and beautiful goddess of our people, Freya is probably the most prominent goddess of the Ęsir and Vanir. She is the goddess of lovers and of sensual/sexual love. We know little of her husband whose name is listed as Od. Some have suggested that this might be none other than Odin himself. In some ancient European cultures, Freya and Frigga are considered one and the same goddess, but most do not accept this merging of the two, unique personalities. Freya is not just a goddess of sensuality, but is also a goddess of might and power. She takes half of the fallen warriors in battle, the other half going to Odin, in Valhalla, and she is often referred to in this respect as the Queen of the Valkeries. Freya lives at a place called Folkvangr, in a hall called Sessrumnir, which was given to her by the Ęsir gods. She travels by the use of a chariot pulled by two large cats, and these animals are associated directly with the goddess. She has an amazing Falcon garment which gives her the power of flight, when needed. Not unlike her brother, Frey, she has a boar named Hildisvini, who she rides on occasion. But most importantly is Freya's beautiful Amber necklace called Brisingamen, which she won by sleeping with the four Dwarves who hold up the corners of the sky. Freya is the goddess who is most often sought after by both gods and giants, as her beauty is hypnotic and overpowering. Being a member of the Vanir, Freya is certainly a fertility goddess. She is also the one who teaches magic to the Ęsir gods when she comes to live with them in Asgard. She is known by many names including Mardell, Horn, Gefn, Syr and Vanadis. These names indicate that Freya was and is a guardian goddess. There were widespread public cults devoted to her in ancient times, and she is held in high regard by the Ásatrúar and Odinists of today. Her name literally means "Lady," or "Mistress," just as her brother's name means "Lord," and she is the "Lady of Midgard." The Rune associated with her is either "Berkanaz" or "Kenaz," depending on the aspect of Freya that is being focused on. Some believe that the day of the week, Friday, is named in her honor, but others claim that it is named for Frigga. Whichever the case, she is extremely beautiful, with blue eyes and blond hair, and being of large stature (in human terms). Freya is a sensual goddess who is easily approached in matters of the heart, but especially those involving sensual love.
The gods and goddesses of Ásatrú / Odinism are as old as our particular branch of humankind. How old is that? No one really knows, but archeologists say at least 42,000 years as an "unorganized" effort. As a moderately "organized" religious practice, probably around 8,000 years. Unlike other, more recent religions, Ásatrú (in its primal form) is literally "as old as the hills." Like our race, these ancient gods developed and evolved over eons of time. They continue to evolve today, and will continue, as long as this Universe exists, to evolve in the future. One thing is certain, their continuing evolution has never broken the canons of Nature. In other words, they can only exist within the laws of Natural Order. They cannot, for instance, be everywhere at once, be all powerful, or know all things. Just as a sparrow cannot arbitrarily decide to become a trout, they, the gods, are tightly bound to the Germanic, Teutonic, Celtic, peoples and to the Multiverse and its Natural, organic, laws.
The above information is available in printed form in our book Asatru - the Hidden Fortress. See our online Catalog (click here).