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The symbolism behind Norse mythology
The term Viking refers to the Norse men (and women) who, throughout the 8th to 11th centuries, traveled throughout Europe raiding, conquering, trading, pillaging and eventually settling. These people originated from southern Scandinavia but ended up settling all over Europe and even as far as the Middle East.
This period of time was known as the Viking Age and had a big impact on medieval history of this time.
One thing that we know about the Vikings is that they worshiped a variety of Norse gods and goddesses. Before the majority converted to Christianity during the Middle Ages, their lives revolved around the intricate stories and mythology surrounding these gods and goddesses, who were all revered and worshipped for different traits. Throughout ancient texts and archaeological findings, we are able to decipher a lot about the beliefs and rituals of the fearsome Vikings. We can examine how their mythology shaped their lives. What are the core aspects of Norse mythology?
How it began
Like many cultures and civilizations, Norse mythology looks into the creation of everything: the cosmos, the world, the origin and how we all came to be. It also looks into how all of this was destroyed and how the gods met their doom. Norse mythology states that the cosmos was created by a big bang when fire met ice. A giant, Ymir, was slain by some of the ancient gods (including the father of Odin), who used the giant's corpse to create the world using his teeth for cliffs and his blood for the oceans. Humans were created by these ancient ones from trees.
There are nine worlds with nine purposes in Norse mythology, including the land of humanity, the land of death, the land of gods and so on. These nine worlds are thought to be held within the branches of the Tree of Life, which is suspended within the cosmos.
The god tribes
In Norse mythology, it is widely believed that there were initially two tribes - the Aesir and the Vanir. All gods belong to one of these two tribes. While the Aesir tribe is thought to be skilled in the art of combat, the Vanir tribe relied more heavily on magic and spirituality when it came to war. The two battled but eventually grew weary of war and, as was customary, sent members of each tribe to live among the other. This is where the distinctions between the tribes become blurry and it is unclear who initially belonged where. Despite their hostilities, ancient texts do show the tribes eventually living peacefully with mutual respect for one another.
The most popular gods
There are undoubtedly some gods who are more widely known than others. Odin is thought to be the most revered and powerful deity in Norse mythology. With his links to the creation of the world, he was considered to be all-powerful in a range of areas including war, magic and death. Indeed, it was Odin who was believed to have ruled over the kingdom of Valhalla, where fallen soldiers went.
Odin's sons were also popular, especially Thor, God of Thunder, who is quite well-known through the Marvel series. With his trusty hammer, he was thought to be able to smash mountains and was even a contender to Odin himself as the strongest of all gods.
Frigg was Odin's wife and the most powerful goddess in Norse mythology. She represents love, marriage, fertility and protection. She is represented by a number of symbols, including mistletoe and a full moon - also things associated with romance. Because Friday is named after her, people still believe that Friday is the best day of the week to get married.
There are many other notable gods and goddesses ,all with their own stories, traits and histories, but many stem from the extended family of Odin.
The end of the world in Norse mythology is known as Ragnarok, the doom of gods and men. It is believed that giants and demons attacked and the gods faced their doom like heroes. However, some believe that this was the death of Norse gods only and that others survived and went on to create a new way of life. For Vikings, it may seem odd to worship a religion that you believe will eventually end, but they saw it as inspiring - one day the gods will exit as heroes, and so should all men.