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Words empty as the wind are best left unsaid.

~Homer

A picture is worth a thousand words.

~Napoleon Bonaparte

Saturday, 31 August 2013

Norse mythology

I have decided to keep the first version of Norse mythology rather then creating a long blog.  

Ymir ( Old Norse Ymir, “Scream”) is a hermaphroditic ,the first creature in the Norse creation narrative.
From Ymir's flesh the earth was formed,
and from his bones the hills,
the heaven from the skull of that ice-cold giant,
and from his blood the sea.
"Out of Ymir's flesh was fashioned the earth,
And the mountains were made of his bones;
The sky from the frost cold giant's skull,
And the ocean out of his blood."
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ymir
Ymir and the cow Auðhumla by Nicolai Abildgaard

 Lorenz Frølich, Ymir gets himself killed by Odin and his brothers

At the center of the Norse spiritual cosmos is an ash tree, Yggdrasil (Old Norse Askr Yggdrasils), which grows out of the Well of Urd.

A poem from Poetic Edda, The Insight of the Seeress describes:

There stands an ash called Yggdrasil,
A mighty tree showered in white hail.
From there come the dews that fall in the valleys.
It stands evergreen above Urd’s Well.

From there come maidens, very wise,
Three from the lake that stands beneath the pole.
One is called Urd, another Verdandi,
Skuld the third; they carve into the tree
The lives and destinies of children.

http://norse-mythology.org/cosmology/yggdrasil-and-the-well-of-urd/

The Norns  are female beings who who have more influence over destiny than any other beings in Cosmos and rule the destiny of gods and men, a kind of disir comparable to the Fates in Greek mythology.
There were at birth, but can also cut the golden thread of life bringing death. Norns did not belong to a separate race. They could come from both dwarfs (daughter dwarf Dwalin), giants, elves, and the same Aces. Their worship survived even the adoption of Christianity. On the wall of the church Borgund (Norway) discovered an inscription that says: "Both good and evil give Norns, brought me great pain." They could scatter nightmares.
  • Urd ( Urdhr , Los , Application ) - is responsible for the past. Arriving identified with the moon, considered a charity and blessing the people.
  • Werdandi ( Werdhandi , Becoming Up ) - responsible for the present. Identified with the moon play, also regarded as a benevolent goddess.
  • Skuld ( obligation ) - responsible for the future. The youngest of the Norn, to determine the life expectancy of children born, it was considered as ruthless and cruel, personification of declining moon.
There is no clear distinction between norns, fylgjas, hamingjas and valkyries, nor with the generic term disir.
Woman is also metaphorically called by the names of the  Asynjur or the Valkyrs or Norns or women of supernatural kind.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Norns

While there may be only three Norns with a capital “N,” there are countless norns with a lowercase “n” – norn is an Old Norse word for a generic practitioner of magic.
http://norse-mythology.org/gods-and-creatures/others/the-norns/

 Lorenz Frølich.The norns Urðr, Verðandi, and Skuld at the well Urðarbrunnr. The serpent Níðhöggr presumably gnaws at the roots of the tree Yggdrasil below

 Norns

The Nine Worlds are held in the branches and roots of the tree. The name Askr Yggdrasils  means “the ash tree of the horse of Yggr.” Yggr means “The Terrible One,” and is a byname of  Odin.
http://norse-mythology.org/cosmology/yggdrasil-and-the-well-of-urd/

 An 1847 depiction of the Norse Yggdrasil described in the Icelandic prose Edda by Oluf Olufsen Bagge

The Nine Worlds as a group are mentioned in a poem in the  Poetic Edda

Midgard, the world of humanity Asgard, the world of the Aesir tribe of gods and goddesses (Odin, Thor, Frigg, Tyr, Loki, Baldur, Heimdall, Idun, and Bragi.) Vanaheim, the world of the  Vanir tribe of gods and goddesses (Freya, Freyr, Njord) Jotunheim,  the world of the giants Niflheim, the primordial world of ice Muspelheim, the primordial world of fire Alfheim,  the world of the  elves Svartalfheim, the world of the  dwarves Hel, the world of the eponymous goddess Hel and the dead
http://norse-mythology.org/cosmology/the-nine-worlds/

In addition to the inhabitants of the Nine Worlds, several beings live in, on, or under the tree itself such as  dragons or snakes, most notably  Nidhogg, gnaw at the roots from below who is  controlled by only one person, the Norse goddess named  Hel.
http://norse-mythology.org/cosmology/yggdrasil-and-the-well-of-urd/

 The dragon Niðhöggr gnawing the roots of Yggdrasill from the 17th century Icelandic manuscript.

Bifrost  is th rainbow  bridge that connects Asgard, the world of the  Aesir tribe of gods, with Midgard,  the world of humanity. Bifrost is guarded by the ever-vigilant god Heimdall.

 An anonymous painting depicting Asgard and Bifrost, the rainbow bridge, connecting it to Midgard

Heimdallr is a  god who possesses the resounding horn Gjallarhorn, owns the golden-maned horse  Gulltoppr, has gold teeth, and is the son of  Nine Mothers. Heimdallr is attested as possessing foreknowledge, keen eyesight and hearing, is described as "the whitest of the gods", and keeps watch for the onset of Ragnarok  while drinking fine  mead in his dwelling Himinbjorg. located where the burning rainbow bridge  Bifrost meets heaven.
When gods hear the  call of Gjallarhorn, they know that giants crossed the rainbow bridge  to attack Asgard and kill the gods.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Heimdallr

 Emil Doepler, Heimdall stands by the bridge, blowing into Gjallarhorn

The spiritual or magical significance of the number 9 for Germanic peoples is not known. Philologist Rudolf Simek has noted the significance of number 9 in Norse mythology:
…[N]ine is the mythical number of the Germanic tribes. Documentation for the significance of the number nine is found in both myth and cult. In Odin'ss self-sacrifice he hung for nine nights on the windy tree (Hávamál), there are nine worlds to Niflhel (Vafþrúðnismál 43), Heimdallr  was born to nine mothers (Hyndluljóð 35), Freyr had to wait for nine nights for his marriage to Gerd (Skírnismál 41), and eight nights (= nine days?) was the time of betrothal given also in the Þrymskviða. Literary embellishments in the Eddas similarly use the number nine: Skaði and Njörðr lived alternately for nine days in Nóatún and in Þrymheimr; every ninth night eight equally heavy rings drip from the ring Draupnir; Menglöð has nine maidens to serve her (Fjólsvinnsmál 35ff.), and Ægir had as many daughters. Thor can take nine steps at the Ragnarök after his battle with the Midgard serpent before he falls down dead. Sacrificial feasts lasting nine days are mentioned for both Uppsala and Lejre and at these supposedly nine victims were sacrificed each day.
http://norse-mythology.org/cosmology/the-nine-worlds/

The Nine Worlds

Asgard,  the world of the Aesir tribe of gods and goddesses

Odin  is a major god  in Norse mythology and the ruler of Asgard.  His name is related to ōðr, meaning "fury, excitation," besides "mind," or "poetry." The eleventh-century historian Adam of Bremen confirms this when he translates “Odin” as “The Furious". His role, like that of many of the Norse gods, is complex. Odin is a principal member of the Æsir (the major group of the Norse pantheon) and is associated with war, battle, victory and death, but also wisdom, magic, poetry prophecy, and the hunt. Odin has many sons, the most famous of whom is  Thor.
Odin is also associated with trickery, cunning and deception. Most sagas have tales of Odin using his cunning to overcome adversaries and achieve his goals, such as swindling the blood of Kvasir from the dwarves He’s worshiped by those in search of prestige, honor, and nobility, yet he’s often cursed for being a fickle trickster. Odin a relentless seeker after and giver of wisdom, but he has little regard for  justice, fairness, or respect for law and convention.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Odin

  An illustration of the god  Odin on his eight-legged horse Sleipnir,  from an Icelandic 18th century manuscript.



An illustration of the god Odin with his two ravens  Huginn and Muninn, from an Icelandic 18th century manuscript.


Odin is a master of necromancy. In the 13th century, Saxo Germmaticus, in the service of  Archbishop Absalon in Denmark, presented in his Latinlanguage work  Gesta Danorum euhemerized accounts of Thor and Odin as cunning  sorcerers    that, Saxo states, had fooled the people of Norway, Sweden and Denmark into their recognition as gods:
"There were of old certain men versed in sorcery, Thor, namely, and Odin, and many others, who were cunning in contriving marvellous sleights; and they, winning the minds of the simple, began to claim the rank of gods. For, in particular, they ensnared Norway, Sweden and Denmark in the vainest credulity, and by prompting these lands to worship them, infected them with their imposture. The effects of their deceit spread so far, that all other men adored a sort of divine power in them, and, thinking them either gods or in league with gods, offered up solemn prayers to these inventors of sorceries, and gave to blasphemous error the honour due to religion. Some say that the gods, whom our countrymen worshiped, shared only the title with those honored by Greece or Latium, but that, being in a manner nearly equal to them in dignity, they borrowed from them the worship as well as the name. This must be sufficient discourse upon the deities of Danish antiquity. I have expounded this briefly for the general profit, that my readers may know clearly to what worship in its heathen superstition our country has bowed the knee." (Gesta Danorum,    Book I)
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Odin

Odin by Otto Henrik Wallgren

Carl Emil Doepler, Odin enthroned with weapons, wolves and ravens.

Völuspá means The Prophecy of the Seeress and tells the story of the creation and coming destruction of the world related by a völva or seeress.  She discloses some of Odin's own secrets and the details of his search for knowledge. It is considered a primary source for the study of Norse mythology. It is the first poem in the collection known as the Poetic Edda.
The seeress tells Odin she knows where his eye is hidden and how he gave it up in exchange for knowledge. She asks him in several refrains if he understands, or if he would like to hear more.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/V%C3%B6lusp%C3%A1
  Emil Doepler, Odin hanging on the World-Tree


Lorenz Frølich, Odin sacrifices himself to himself by hanging from the world tree Yggdrasil
 
Lorenz Frølich, Odin holds bracelets and leans on his spear while looking towards the völva in Völuspá.

Carl Emil Doepler 'The Younger', Odin and the Völva

Völuspá

28. Alone I sat | when the Old One sought me,
The terror of gods, | and gazed in mine eyes:
What hast thou to ask? | why comest thou hither?
Othin, I know | where thine eye is hidden."

29. I know where Othin's | eye is hidden,
Deep in the wide-famed | well of Mimir;
Mead from the pledge | of Othin each mom
Does Mimir drink: | would you know yet more?

30. Necklaces had I | and rings from Heerfather,
Wise was my speech | and my magic wisdom;
.    .    .    .    .        .    .    .    .    .
Widely I saw | over all the worlds.

Othin's eye, which he gave to the water-spirit Mimir (or Mim) in exchange for the latter's wisdom. It appears here and in stanza 29 as a drinking-vessel, from which Mimir drinks the magic mead, and from which he pours water on the ash Yggdrasil. Othin's sacrifice of his eye in order to gain knowledge of his final doom is one of the series of disasters leading up to the destruction of the gods.

47. Yggdrasil shakes, | and shiver on high
The ancient limbs, | and the giant is loose;
To the head of Mim | does Othin give heed,
But the kinsman of Surt | shall slay him soon.
 The head of Mim: various myths were current about Mimir. This stanza refers to the story that he was sent by the gods with Hönir as a hostage to the Wanes after their war (cf. stanza 21 and note), and that the Wanes cut off his head and returned it to the gods. Odin embalmed the head, and by magic gave it the power of speech, thus making Mimir's noted wisdom always available. of course this story does not fit with that underlying the references to Mimir in stanzas 27 and 29.
http://www.sacred-texts.com/neu/poe/poe03.htm


Odin Questions Mimir
Odin" (1901) by Johannes Gehrts. The god Odin sits enthroned, flanked by his ravens Huginn and Munnin, and the wolves Geri and Freki. 


Ludwig Pietsch, The Norse god Odin enthroned, flanked by his two wolfs, Geri and Freki, and his two ravens, Huginn and Muninn, and holding his spear Gungnir.

Scholarls  has debated  for hundreds of years over the question of magical use of the runes whether the runes were merely an alphabet like any other or that they were used for magical incantation, therefore, each rune had its own magical properties.  In Hávamál, Odin himself lays out a list of runes and their magical abilities.  He tells the listener, "The runes you must find and the meaningful letter, / a very great letter, / a very powerful letter, / which the mighty sage stained / and the powerful gods made / and the runemaster of the gods carved out."  In this and other Eddic passages, runes seem to be clearly described as magically-charged symbols activated by staining or coloring them with blood or other colored dye.  In addition, the Saga of the Volsungs,  tells the story of the dragonslayer Sigurd and the valkyrie Brynhild, the mystic warrior imparts runic wisdom to the human hero, instructing him on specific runic rituals for specific magical effects.  These stories seem to point to a definite tradition of runes for magical use. 
http://www.norsemyth.org/2010/03/odin-runes-part-three.htm 

Rúnatal or Óðins Rune Song, Rúnatáls-þáttr-Óðins (stanzas 138-146) is a section of the Hávamál where Odin reveals the origins of the runes. In stanzas 138 and 139, Odin describes his sacrifice of himself to himself:
I know that I hung on a windy tree
nine long nights,
wounded with a spear, dedicated to Odin,
myself to myself,
on that tree of which no man knows
from where its roots run.
No bread did they give me nor a drink from a horn ,
downwards I peered;
I took up the runes, screaming I took them,
then I fell back from there
Nine lays of power
I learned from the famous Bolthor, Bestla' s father:
He poured me a draught of precious mead,
Mixed with magic Odrerir.

The Havamal itself is the Runamal, which tells the story of how Odin procured the runes.
This is followed by the Ljóðatal, a listing of 18 charms Odin knows.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/H%C3%A1vam%C3%A1l

Poetic Edda/Hávamál

Runes shalt thou find, | and fateful signs,
That the king of singers colored,
And the mighty gods have made;
Full strong the signs, | full mighty the signs
That the ruler of gods doth write.
 Knowest how one shall write, | knowest how one shall rede?
Knowest how one shall tint, | knowest how one makes trial?
Knowest how one shall ask, | knowest how one shall offer?
Knowest how one shall send, | knowest how one shall sacrifice?
The Havamal itself is the Runamal, which tells the story of how Odin procured the runes.

This is followed by the Ljóðatal, a listing of 18 charms Odin knows.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/H%C3%A1vam%C3%A1l

Human sacrifices were frequently offered to him, especially especially of royalty, nobles, and enemy armies.
http://norse-mythology.org/gods-and-creatures/the-aesir-gods-and-go...
An illustration of Odin, in the shape of an eagle, stealing the  Mead of Poetry from Suttunger,  from an Icelandic 18th century manuscript.
 An illustration by Willy Pogany from a chapter from Children of Odin entitled "Odin wins for men the magic mead". No title otherwise given for the work. Odin, in the form of a serpent, with the jötunn Baugi, who is holding the drill Rati.

Odin presides over  Valhalla, the most prestigious of the dwelling-places of the dead.

In Norse mythology Valhalla (from Old Norse Valhǫll "hall of the slain") is a majestic, enormous hall located in Asgard. Chosen by Odin, half of those who die in combat travel to Valhalla upon death, led by valkyries, while the other half go to the goddess  Freyja's field Folkvangr. In Valhalla, the dead join the masses of those who have died in combat known as  Einherjar, as well as various legendary  Germanic heroes and kings, as they prepare to aid Odin during the events of  Ragnarok..http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Valhalla

Lorenz Frølich, Three valkyries bring the body of a slain warrior to Valhalla, they are met by Heimdallr.


Lorenz Frølich,Three ale-bearing valkyries (captioned as "Hild, Thrud and Hløkk") in Valhalla in an illustration for Grímnismál
 Emil Doepler, Einherjar are served by Valkyries in Valhöll while Odin sits upon his throne, flanked by one of his wolves.

Where, then, is Valhalla located? The literary sources, as well as archaeological and place-name evidence, powerfully suggest that it’s part of the underworld, and hardly distinguishable from  Helheim, the most general designation for the underworld.
http://norse-mythology.org/cosmology/valhalla/

Odin and Quetzalcoatl, sculpted bronze figures by Lee Lawrie. Door detail, east entrance, Library of Congress John Adams Building, Washington, D.C.

It is attested in primary sources that sacrifices were made to Odin during  blots. Adam of Bremen relates that every ninth year, people assembled from all over Sweden to sacrifice at the  temple at Uppsala.  Male slaves and males of each  species were sacrificed and hung from the branches of the trees. As the Swedes had the right not only to elect their king but also to depose him, the sagas relate that both King  Domalde and King  Olof Tratalia were sacrificed to Odin after years of famine.Sometimes sacrifices were made to Odin to bring about changes in circumstance. A notable example is the sacrifice of King Vikar that is detailed in Gautrek's Saga and in Saxo Germmaticus' account of the same event. Sailors in a fleet being blown off course drew lots to sacrifice to Odin that he might abate the winds. The king himself drew the lot and was hanged.Sacrifices were probably also made to Odin at the beginning of summer (mid April, actually—summer being reckoned essentially the same as did the Celt, at Beltene, Calan Mai [Welsh], which is Mayday—hence as summer's "herald"), since  Ynglinga saga states one of the great festivals of the calendar is at sumri, þat var sigrblót "in summer, for victory;" Odin is consistently referred to throughout the Norse mythos as the bringer of victory. The Ynglinga saga also details the sacrifices made by the Swedish king Aun,  to whom it was revealed that he would lengthen his life by sacrificing one of his sons every ten years; nine of his ten sons died this way. When he was about to sacrifice his last son Egil, the Swedes stopped him. 
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Odin



Robert Engels, A depiction of the god Odin drinking from the well of wisdom.
 Odin has a number of magical artifacts associated with him: the spear Gungnir, which never misses its target; a magical gold ring Draupnir, from which every ninth night eight new rings appear; and two ravens Huginn and Muninn (Thought and Memory), who fly around Earth daily and report the happenings of the world to Odin in Valhalla at night. He also owned Sleipnir, an octopedal  horse, who was given to Odin by Loki, and the severed head of Mimir, which foretold the future. He also commands a pair of wolves named Geri and Freki to whom he gives his food in Valhalla since he consumes nothing but mead or wine. From his throne, Hlidskjalf (located in Valaskjalf), Odin could see everything that occurred in the universe. The Valknut (slain warrior's knot) is a symbol associated with Odin. It consists of three interlaced triangles.http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Odin

Valknut

 The Stora Hammars I stone, where the valknut occurs in the most central and predominant position, appears alongside images interpreted as Odin with a  characteristic spear shunting another figure into a burial mound while a raven is overhead and another man is hanged.

Odin maintains particularly close affiliations with the berserkers. 
Berserkers (or berserks) were  Norse warriors who are reported in the  Old Norse literature to have fought in a nearly uncontrollable,  trance-like fury. Berserkers appear prominently in a multitude of other sagas and poems, many of which describe berserkers as ravenous men who loot, plunder, and kill indiscriminately.

This translation from the Haraldskvæði saga describes Harald's berserkers:
I'll ask of the berserks, you tasters of blood,Those intrepid heroes, how are they treated,
Those who wade out into battle?
Wolf-skinned they are called. In battle
They bear bloody shields.
Red with blood are their spears when they come to fight.
They form a closed group.
The prince in his wisdom puts trust in such menWho hack through enemy shields.
Theories about what caused berserker behaviour include ingestion of materials with  psychoactive properties, psychological  processes, and medical conditions..Some scholars believe certain examples of berserker rage to have been induced voluntarily by the consumption of drugs such as the hallucinogenic mushroom Amanita muscaria. or massive amounts of alcohol. While such practices would fit in with ritual usages, other explanations for the berserker's madness have been put forward, including self-induced  hysteria, epilepsy, mental illness or genetics.http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Berserker
 Ritually costumed “weapons dancers” on a Migration Period bronze plate from Öland, Sweden

 Many royal families claimed descent from Odin through his sons. Likewise, shamanistic warriors  claimed him as their beneficiary. 

Frigg (sometimes anglicized as Frigga) is a major goddess in Norse paganism. She is said to be the wife of  Odin, and is the "foremost among the goddesses" and the queen of Asgard. She is also described as having the power of prophecy yet she does not reveal what she knows.
Frigg is the mother of  Baldr. Her stepchildren are  Thor, Tyr, Bragi, Heimdallr.http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Frigg
  

Lorenz Frølich, The goddess Frigg and her husband, the god Odin, sit in Hliðskjálf and gaze into look into "all worlds" and make a wager as described in Grímnismál.

 "Odin and Frigg" by the German painter H. Clark.

The god Odin and his wife, the goddess Frigg, from the beginning of the poem Vafþrúðnismál (1895) by Lorenz Frølich. 

Frigg's companion is Eir, a goddess associated with medical skills. Eir has been theorized as a form of the goddessFrigg and has been compared to the  Greek goddess Hygiea.

Lorenz Frølich, Menglöð sits with the nine maidens, including Eir, on Lyfjaberg.

The Norse name for the planet Venus was Friggjarstjarna 'Frigg's star'
Like Freya ,the highest goddess of Vanir, Frigg is depicted as a völva, a Viking Age practitioner of the form of Norse  magic known as seidr.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Frigg 

Seiðr (which is sometimes anglicized as seidhr, seidh, seidr, seithr, or seith) is an Old Norse term for a type of sorcery which was practiced in Norse Society during the Late Scandinavian Iron Age. Seiðr's practitioners were of both genders, although females are more widely attested, with such sorceresses being variously known as vǫlur, seiðkonur and vísendakona.

Old English terms cognate with 'seiðr' are 'siden' and 'sidsa', both of which are attested only in contexts which suggest that they were used by elves ('ælfe'); these seem likely to have meant something similar to 'seiðr'. 
Among the  Old English words for practitioners of magic are 'wicca' (m.) or 'wicce' (f.), the etymons of Modern English 'witch'.

These female practitioners were religious leaders of the Viking community, and usually required the help of other practitioners to invoke their deities, gods, or spirits. The seidr ritual required not just the powers of a female spiritual medium, but of the spiritual participation of other women within the Norse community. It was indeed a 'communal' effort. As they are described in a number of other Scandinavian sagas, Eiriks saga rauda in particular, the female practitioners connected with the spiritual realm through chanting and prayer. Viking texts suggest that the seidr ritual was used in times of inherent crisis, as a tool used in the process of seeing into the future, and for cursing and hexing one's enemies. With that said, it could have been used for great good or destructive evil, as well as for daily guidance.As described by Snorri Sturluson in his 'Ynglinga saga', seid includes both divination and manipulative magic
.http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sei%C3%B0r
 Emil Doepler "A man stares towards the viewer as he bends over and casts lots for purposes of divination. A woman, child, and man watch for his predictions. The image is captioned as "Losungen". 

Baldr,  one of the  Aesir gods and the son of Odin and Frigg, was was one of the most beloved of all the gods

.In Gylfaginning, Baldur is described as follows:
The second son of Odin is Baldur, and good things are to be said of him. He is best, and all praise him; he is so fair of feature, and so bright, that light shines from him.http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Baldr
Baldr the Good by Jacques Reich

 Baldr 
 Baldr und Nanna by F. W. Heine 

Apart from this description Baldr is known primarily for the story of his death. His death is seen as the first in the chain of events which will ultimately lead to the destruction of the gods at  Ragnarok. Baldr will be reborn in the new world, according to Voluspa

.When Loki, the mischief-maker and the guileful trickster of the gods, heard of this, he made a magical spear from this plant (in some later versions, an arrow). He hurried to the place where the gods were indulging in their new pastime of hurling objects at Baldr, which would bounce off without harming him. Loki gave the spear to Baldr's brother, the blind god Höðr, who then inadvertently killed his brother with it (other versions suggest that Loki guided the arrow himself). For this act, Odin and the giantess Rindr gave birth to  Vali who grew to adulthood within a day and slew Höðr.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Baldr
  
"Each arrow overshot his head" by Elmer Boyd Smith. Allowing his fellow gods to test his new found invincibility, the shining god Baldr is attacked by his fellow gods who make a game of it. In the background, the god Odin and his wife, the goddess Frigg, sit enthroned. In the foreground, the disguised Loki gives Baldr's blind brother Höðr an arrow affixed with mistletoe (the one thing that can harm Baldr), which results in Baldr's death.

 Christoffer Wilhelm Eckersberg, Baldr's Death 

Baldr was ceremonially burnt upon his ship, Hringhorni,  the largest of all ships. As he was carried to the ship, Odin whispered in his ear. This was to be a key riddle asked by Odin (in disguise) of the giant Vafthrudnir (and which was, of course, unanswerable) in the poem  Vafthrudnismal.. The riddle also appears in the riddles of Gestumblindi in  Hervararsaga.

The dwarf  Lit was kicked by  Thor into the funeral fire and burnt alive. Nanna, Baldr's wife, also threw herself on the funeral fire to await Ragnarök when she would be reunited with her husband (alternatively, she died of grief). Baldr's horse with all its trappings was also burned on the pyre. The ship was set to sea by Hyrrokin, a giantess, who came riding on a wolf and gave the ship such a push that fire flashed from the rollers and all the earth shook.

Upon Frigg's entreaties, delivered through the messenger Hermod, Hel promised to release Baldr from the underworld if all objects alive and dead would weep for him. All did, except a giantess, Þökk often presumed to be the god Loki in disguise, who refused to mourn the slain god. Thus Baldr had to remain in the underworld, not to emerge until after Ragnarök, when he and his brother Höðr would be reconciled and rule the new earth together with Thor's sons.

When the gods discovered that the giantess Þökk had been Loki in disguise, they hunted him down and bound him to three rocks. Then they tied a serpent above him, the venom of which dripped onto his face. His wife  Sigyn gathered the venom in a bowl, but from time to time she had to turn away to empty it, at which point the poison would drip onto Loki, who writhed in pain, thus causing earthquakes. He would free himself, however, in time to attack the gods at Ragnarök.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Baldr

 Mårten Eskil Winge , Loki
 
"The Punishment of Loki", by Louis Huard
 
"Held a cup to catch the venomous drops" by Arthur Rackham. Sigyn and Loki.

 The Punishment of Loki". Sigyn holds a bowl to catch the venomous drops that drip over Loki 

Loki is the son of Farbauti and Laufey  By the jötunn  Angrboða, Loki is the father of Hel ,  the world serpent Jormungandr also known as the Midgard Serpent, or World Serpent, the great serpent who slays Thor during Ragnarok, and Fenrir, the wolf who bites off one of the hands of Tyr and who kills Odin during Ragnarok.

 Loki, A Norse mythology image from the 18th century Icelandic manuscript

The children of Loki by Willy Pogany

Emil Doepler, Loki's brood; Hel, Fenrir and Jörmungandr. 

 Carl Emil Doepler, Loki

Loki's relation with the gods varies by source. Loki sometimes assists the gods and sometimes causes problems for them. In separate incidents, Loki  appears in the form of a salmon, mare,seal, a fly, and possibly an elderly woman. Loki's positive relations with the gods end with his role in engineering the death of the god  Baldr. Loki is eventually bound by the gods with the entrails of one of his sons.

With the onset of  Ragnarok, Loki is foretold to slip free from his bonds and to fight against the gods among the forces of the jontar, at which time he will encounter the god Heimdallr  and the two will slay each other

The poem Lokasena (Old Norse "Loki's Quarrel") centers around Loki flyting with other gods; Loki puts forth two stanzas of insults while the receiving figure responds with a single stanza, and then another figure chimes in. 
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Loki
 Lokasenna by Lorenz Frølich 

Loki is mentioned in stanza 13 of the  Norwegian rune poem in connection with the Younger Futhark Bjarkan rune:
Birch has the greenest leaves of any shrub;
Loki was fortunate in his deceit.
The Bjarkan rune
 Loki's origins and role in Norse mythology have been much debated by scholars. In 1835,  Jacob Grimm was first to produce a major theory about Loki, in which he advanced the notion of Loki as a "god of fire". In 1889, Sophus Bugge theorized Loki to be variant of  Lucifer of, an element of Bugge's larger effort to find a basis of Christianity in Norse mythology. After  World War II, four scholarly theories dominated. The first of the four theories is that of Folke Strom, who in 1956 concluded that Loki is a hypostasis of the god  Odin. In 1959, Jan de Vries theorized that Loki is a typical example of a  trickster figure. In 1961, by way of excluding all non-Scandinavian mythological parallels in her analysis,  Anna Brigitta Rooth concluded that Loki was originally a spider. In 1962 Anne Holtsmark concluded that no conclusion could be made about Loki. 
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Loki 

Thor is a hammer-wielding god associated with thunder, lightening, storms, oak  trees,  , the protection of mankind, and also hallowing, healing and  fertility.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thor

Thor was usually portrayed as a large, powerful man with a red beard and eyes of lightning. Despite his ferocious appearance, he was very popular as the protector of both gods and humans against the forces of evil. He even surpassed his father Odin in popularity because, contrary to Odin, he did not require human sacrifices. In his temple at Uppsala he was shown standing with Odin at his right side. This temple was replaced by a Christian church in 1080. 
http://www.pantheon.org/articles/t/thor.html

 Friedrich Wilhelm Heine, In Freyers Tempel bei Upsala

The Temple at Uppsala was a religious center in Norse paganism once located at what is now Gamla Uppsala (Swedish "Old Uppsala"),  Sweden attested in Adam of Bremen's 11th century work Gesta Hammaburgensis ecclesiae pontificum and in Heimskringla, written by  Snorri Starlusen.

Adam details that the temple is "adorned with gold" and that the people there worship statues of three specific gods that sit on a triple throne.

In this temple, entirely decked out in gold, the people worship the statues of three gods in such wise that the mightiest of them, Thor, occupies a throne in the middle of the chamber; Woden (Odin) and Frikko (Freyr) have places on either side. The significance of these gods is as follows: Thor, they say, presides over the air, which governs the thunder and lightning, the winds and rains, fair weather and crops. The other, Woden—that is, the Furious—carries on war and imparts to man strength against his enemies. The third is Frikko, who bestows peace and pleasure on mortals. His likeness, too, they fashion with an immense phallus.Gesta Hammaburgensis 26, Tschan's translation 

Adam describes sacrificial practices: nine males of "every living creature" are offered up for sacrifice, and tradition dictates that their blood placates the gods. The corpses of the nine males are hung within the grove beside the temple. Adam says that the grove is considered extremely sacred to the heathens, so much so that each singular tree "is considered to be divine," due to the death of those sacrificed or their rotting corpses hanging there, and that dogs and horses hang within the grove among the corpses of men. 
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Temple_at_Uppsala
A replica of the bronze-figure of the god Freyr found at the farm Rällinge in Lunda parish, Södermanland, Sweden.
  
Jormungand, The Midgard Serpent,  is Thorn's greatest enemy.. At the day of Ragnarok, Thor will kill this serpent but will die from its poison. His sons will inherit his hammer after his death.


                                                                       Thor

 Henry Fusseli, Thor

Lorenz Frølich,  Thor, Hymir and the Midgard Serpent


Lorenz Frølich, The final battle between Thor and Jörmungandr during Ragnarök.The death of Thor and Jörmungandr

The  swastika symbol has been identified as representing the hammer or lightning of Thor. Scholar Hilda Ellis Davidson (1965) comments on the usage of the swastika as a symbol of Thor.http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thor 


Detail of swastika on the 9th century Snoldelev Stone

Freyr (sometimes anglicized Frey, from * frawjaz" "lord") is one of the most important gods of Norse paganism Freyr was associated with  sacral kingship, virility and prosperity, with sunshine and fair weather, and was pictured as a phallic fertility god. Freyr "bestows peace and pleasure on mortals". He was especially associated with Sweden and seen as an ancestor of the  Swedish royal house.

In the Gylfaginning section of his  Prose Edda, Snorri introduces Freyr as one of the major gods.Njördr in Nóatún begot afterward two children: the son was called Freyr, and the daughter  Freyja; they were fair of face and mighty. Freyr is the most renowned of the Æsir; he rules over the rain and the shining of the sun, and therewithal the fruit of the earth; and it is good to call on him for fruitful seasons and peace. He governs also the prosperity of men. Gylfaginning XXIV, 
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Freyr 

 Carl Emil Doepler, Freyer mit Skirnir. Freyr and Skírnir in a boar-drawn wagon, spreading fertility



 Freyr


During  Ragnarok, Freyr is fated to fight the fire-giant Surtr and since he does not have his sword he will be defeated. 
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Frey



 Lorenz Frølich,. Freyr and Surtr do battle at Ragnarök.


Emil Doepler, A scene from Ragnarök, the final battle between Odin and Fenrir and Freyr and Surtr. 

 Freyja ( Old Norse the " Lady") is a goddess associated with love, sexuality, beauty, fertility, gold, seiðr, war, and death. Freyja is the owner of the necklace Brisingamen, rides a chariot pulled by two cats, owns the boar Hildisvini, possesses a cloak of falcon feathers, and, by her husband Óðr, is the mother of two daughters,  Hnoss and  Gersemi. Along with her brother Freyr, her father Njörðr, and her mother (Njörðr's sister, unnamed in sources), she is a member of the  Vanir. 
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Freyja 


John Bauer, Freja

 Nils Blommér, Freja Seeking her Husband 

In Sörla þáttr, a short, late 14th century narrative from  Hálfs saga ok Hálfsrekka, and extended version of the Óláfs saga Tryggvasonar, Freyja passed by an open stone where dwarfs lived. Four dwarfs were smithying a golden necklace, and it was nearly done. Looking at the necklace, the dwarfs thought Freyja to be most fair, and she the necklace. Freyja offered to buy the collar from them with silver and gold and other items of value. The dwarfs said that they had no lack of money, and that for the necklace the only thing she could offer them would be a night with each of them. "Whether she liked it better or worse", Freyja agreed to the conditions, and so spent a night with each of the four dwarfs. The conditions were fulfilled and the necklace was hers. Freyja went home to her bower as if nothing happened. 
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Freyja 

 Foster, Mary H. 1901. Asgard Stories: Tales from Norse Mythology"Freyja in the Cave of the Dwarfs" 

According to Snorri Sturluson, the Vanir goddess Freyja first brought magic and sorcery (seid) to the Aesir "It was she who first taught the Aesir magic such as was practiced among the Vanir" (Ynglinga Saga 4). Seid is, nevertheless, a low magic, often feared and reviled, in contrast to the noble magic of Odin (but see Lokasenna 24).  
Strophe 22
Heid she was named when houses she visited, A good prophesying seeress skilled in sorcery. Spells she cast and minds she bewitched, And always she was the delight of wicked women.
 Heid: Gullveig's new name after her successive rebirths, which may have increased her magical powers. ON heidr = "bright (one)" but can also serve as an epithet for a witch. Thus "Heid she was named" could simply mean "she was (now) called Witch."http://library.flawlesslogic.com/voluspa.htm

Snorri Sturluson writes in the  Gylfaginning after describing Odin, Thor and Baldr::One is called Bragi: he is renowned for wisdom, and most of all for fluency of speech and skill with words. He knows most of skaldship, and after him skaldship is called bragr, and from his name that one is called bragr-man or -woman, who possesses eloquence surpassing others, of women or of men. His wife is Iðunn. 

A passage in the Poetic Edda poem Sigrdrífumál describes runes being graven on the sun, on the ear of one of the sun-horses and on the hoofs of the other, on Sleipnir's teeth, on bear's paw, on eagle's beak, on wolf's claw, and on several other things including on Bragi's tongue. Then the runes are shaved off and the shavings are mixed with mead and sent abroad so that Æsir have some, Elves have some, Vanir have some, and Men have some, these being beech runes and birth runes, ale runes, and magic runes. The meaning of this is obscure. 
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bragi 


Carl Wahlbom, "Bragi" 

 Lorenz Frølich, Bragi, holding a harp, sings before his wife Iðunn 

 Elmer Boyd Smith, The jötunn Þjazi, in the form of an eagle, abducts the goddess Iðunn. 


Lorenz Frølich, From left to right: Iðunn, Loki, Heimdallr and Bragi. Illustration of a scene from the poem Hrafnagaldr Óðins.

Ragnarök is a series of future events, including a great battle foretold to ultimately result in the death of a number of major figures (including the  gods Odin, Thor, Tyr, Freyer, Heimdallr, nad Loki, the occurrence of various natural disasters, and the subsequent submersion of the world in water. Afterward, the world will resurface anew and fertile, the surviving and returning gods will meet, and the world will be repopulated by two human survivors. Ragnarök is an important event in the Norse canon, and has been the subject of scholarly discourse and theory.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ragnar%C3%B6k

 Emil Doepler, The final battle between Odin and Fenrir and Freyr

 Karl Ehrenberg, The downfall of the Æsir

 Emil Doepler, A scene from the last phase of Ragnarök, after Surtr has engulfed the world with fire. The surrounding text implies that this is Ásgarðr (Asgard) burning.

Emil Doepler, After Ragnarök