Scandinavia, including Denmark, Norway, Sweden, Iceland, Finland and the Faroe Islands, has been inhabited since ancient times by Germanic tribes, whose members were called Norsemen or Vikings. In the 10th century, Irish monks relocated to Iceland came into contact with the Vikings and wrote down the poems of the Nordic people. Almost all existing material today about Scandinavian mythology comes from that era in Iceland. That material is divided in two groups: Edda and skaldic poems. The Edda consists of two manuscripts that contain myths, stories about ancient heroes and advices for everyday life. The first one, called the Codex Regius, is made up of 29 poems and the second one of 7. Two such poems are the Voluspa („The Prophecy of the Sibyl”) and Havamal („The Words of the High One”). Skaldic poems, such as The Sailor, collected by Snorri Sturluson in the 13th century, contain historical events, battles, accounts of daily life, the succession of kings and so on. In addition to these there are also prose accounts, the so-called sagas, most of which being assigned to the same Icelandic poet, Snorri Sturluson. In his sagas, Sturluson included clarifications and explanations of the Edda poems, which are a real help in understanding the religion of the Norse.
The main gods of the Scandinavians were called Aesir („As” or „Ass” singular, translated as „god”). They lived in Asgard („The Garden of the Gods”), a place similar to the Garden of Eden, where the biblical deity spent his time, and to the garden of the gods in the Epic of Gilgamesh. In the biblical Genesis, the Garden of Eden was guarded by „Cherubims and a flaming sword„; in the Scandinavian myths, Asgard was guarded by Heimdall (Heimdallr in Old Norse), „the whitest of gods„, depicted with a sword in one hand and the Gjallarhorn horn in the other one. The nine worlds of the Universe were hold up by the giant tree Yggdrasil, in the middle of which there was the world of humans, Midgard. Around it were Vanaheim (the land of the Vanir gods), Niflheim (the realm of ice and cold), Jotunheim (the world of stone and ice giants) and Muspelheim (the realm of fire and fire giants). Above Midgard were Asgard, the world of the Aesir gods, and Alfheim or Ljustalfheim, the realm of the elves. Below it were Svartalfheim, the land of dwarves, and Helheim, where the spirits of the deceased spent eternity. The Aesir gods waged a long war against another family of deities, the Vanir. After the victory of the Aesir clan, peace was established between the two sides. They even exchanged hostages, Freyr and Freyja being the most famous Vanir adopted by the Aesir. The enemies of the gods were the Jötnar giants (with the singular form Jötunn), called Eotenas or Entas in Old English, and the final war between these sides was called Ragnarok.
The two divine families, Aesir and Vanir, are identical to those of the Indians (Asura and Deva), Persians (Ahura and Daeva), Greeks (Olympians and Titans) or Mesopotamians (Enki’s and Enlil’s sides). The name „Aesir” comes from the Akkadian epithet of Enki, „Asar” („Prince of the Waters”), kept in this form in Egypt and Babylon, turned into „Ashur” in Assyria, „Asura” in India, „Ahura” in Persia, „Aisar” by the Etruscans and „Aris” by the Greeks. The battle between the two families of gods and the passage of some of the old ones to the side of the younger ones, who won the war, is a copy of the Greek myth in which the Olympian gods defeated the Titans but adopted some in their group, such as Themis, Helios or Selene. The second war of the Aesir gods was against the giants, just as in Greek myths. The name of the Scandinavian god Borr is similar to that of the north wind god for the Greeks, Boreas (who represents the north, namely the land of the Vikings). Sol, the Norse goddess of the Sun, is named after the personification of the Sun in Latin mythology. The name of the god Thor comes from the West Semitic word „toru” („bull”) and was adopted in the form found in the name of the Egyptian goddess Hathor. The god of light, Baldur, contains in his name the West Semitic epithet „baal” („Lord”), which comes from the Akkadian „bel„. Baldur’s wife, the goddess Nanna, bears the name of the Sumerian god who patronized the cities of Ur and Harran. Tyr, the god of war and justice, has the name of the great Phoenician city of Tyre. The Norse goddess of the Earth, Gerd, has a name similar to the Greek goddess Gaia, the Egyptian god Geb and the Sumerian goddess Gi, all three being personifications of the Earth. Endill, the Scandinavian god of the sea, took his name from the Sumerian Enlil. The names of Odin or Wodan (as he was called by the Germans) and Loki, the leaders of the two sides in the second war of the gods, contain the Sumerian words „an” and „ki„, meaning „sky” and „Earth„. There is no doubt that the gods of the Scandinavians are the same as those encountered in the world religions, which is already evident from the myths of the Vikings. The great gods, those of the Aesir family, came from a place called Asaland, which can only be Asia. This explains the similarities between Norse and Asian religions, especially those of the Middle East.
The leader of the Aesir clan was Odin, Odinn in Old Norse, Woden in Old English and Wuotan or Wodan in Old High German. Supreme god of the Scandinavian pantheon, he was associated with healing, death, royalty, knowledge, war, witchcraft, poetry, hanging and madness. In Norse texts he is described as having one eye and a long beard, holding a spear in his hand and wearing a black or blue cloak and a large hat. His animals were two wolves, Geri and Freki, two ravens, Huginn and Muninn, and a flying horse with eight legs, Sleipnir. Along with his brothers, Vili and Ve, Odin killed the primordial giant Ymir, from whose body he made the world. In Valhalla, his palace in Asgard (the world of the Aesir gods), he received the souls of warriors who died in battle. His wife was called Frigg. Odin had many children, the most important being Thor (his right hand) and Baldur (who inherited his throne after Ragnarok). Although the Romans matched him with their god Mercury (Enki), Odin is actually the Norse version of Enlil, the king of the gods and the leader of the winning side in the first war of the gods. This equivalence is best seen in Greek mythology, where Zeus is almost identical to Odin.
The greatest hero of the Scandinavians was Thor (called Thorr in Old Norse, Thunor in Old English, Thunar in Old Saxon and Donar in Old High German), the god of thunder, power, healing and fertility. Armed with the hammer Mjollnir and the staff Gridarvolr, wearing the iron gloves Jarngreipr and traveling in a chariot drawn by two goats, Thor spent his time fighting giants. His greatest enemy was Jormungandr, the giant snake that surrounded Midgard, the world of men. His wife was the goddess Sif and his mistress was the giant Jarnsaxa. Red-haired with a fearsome look, Thor was considered the greatest defender of humanity. The identity of this divine hero is not too difficult to find, given that the son of Enlil and the great hero in Mesopotamia was Ninurta, called Ares by the Greeks. Like Ninurta and Ares, Thor was the right hand of his father, Enlil / Zeus / Odin. We can see that the Scandinavians reversed the attributes of these two deities; if Enlil and Zeus were the gods of thunder and Ninurta and Ares were the gods of war, for the Vikings Odin became the god of war and his son, Thor, the god of thunder. Absolutely natural, in fact. Given that the Vikings were a warrior people, their supreme deity could only be a god of war.
The rebel god of the Norse was Loki, a giant accepted in the Aesir family after the peace with the Vanir clan. Some sources consider him to be Odin’s brother. Loki was always up to mischief, causing the other gods only trouble, and even managed to cause Baldur’s death. In the second war of the gods, Ragnarok, Loki was the leader of the giants who opposed the gods. His children were the underworld goddess Hel, the wolf Fenrir and the serpent Jormungandr. To this day, researchers have not been able to find a translation of his name. It has been suggested that Loki comes from the Norse word „luka” („near”), but this interpretation makes no sense. The names of the gods were epithets that emphasized their attributes, and „near” does not fit Loki in any way. The real meaning of his name is more than obvious. English is a Germanic language that has undergone Norse influences caused by the Viking invasions of the 8th and 9th centuries. Therefore, the Norse word „lo” can mean the same as the English „low” and „ki” is the Sumerian word for „Earth”. Loki can be translated as „The Lower Earth” or „The Underworld”, a reference to the underground place where Enki lived. As the Babylonian Ea means „House of water” and the god lived in the subterranean house of waters, Abzu, so Loki refers to the Underworld where he lived, which matches these two rebel gods. Loki was said to have been bound underground, like the titan Prometheus, and his children were also sent to the depths: the wolf Fenrir was bound to a rock one and a half kilometers underground, the snake Jormungandr was thrown into the ocean that surrounds the Earth and the goddess Hel became the ruler of the underworld Niflheim. Hel, whose name comes from the Canaanite El, resembles Ereshkigal of the Sumerians, Persephone of the Greeks and Proserpina of the Romans, none other than Ishtar. Marduk, Ishtar’s brother, was called „serpent” in many cultures, being the son of „the Great Serpent” Enki, which matches him with Jormungandr. Marduk’s rival for the throne was Ninurta, son of Enlil; in Scandinavian myths his great enemy was Thor, son of Odin. Marduk also seems to be the wolf Fenrir, considered a dog in some religions due to his loyalty. As Anubis for the Egyptians, Marduk was a wolf deity; one of the epithets of the Greeks for Apollo was „Lykegenes„, meaning „Born of a Wolf”. Dacians combined these two attributes of the god, their banner being a serpent with a wolf head. Ragnarok, the battle between the gods and giants, started after Loki and his children were freed, just like in Greek myths, where the Gigantomachy began after the release of Prometheus. The Norsemen believed that Loki could change his form, often into a fish or hawk, which reminds us of Oannes of Babylon, Dagon of Canaan and Horus the Elder of Egypt. If we also consider the phonetic similarity between Loki and Enki, we can conclude that both represent the same character.
Another son of Odin / Enlil was Tyr, the god of war associated with law and heroic glory, who only had one hand in Norse iconography. He was called Tiwaz in Proto-Germanic language, Ziu or Cyo in Old High German, Teiws in Gothic, Tiw in Old English and Tius or Tio in Latin. He was matched by the Romans with their god Mars (Ninurta of the Sumerians). The phonetic similarity between his name and Thor’s indicates two different aspects of the same deity. Both were warrior sons of Odin, associated with heroic glory. Tyr’s main enemy was the wolf Fenrir, namely Marduk. If Marduk was represented as Loki’s son in two roles, as Jormungandr and as Fenrir, the same thing happened with Ninurta, who became Thor and Tyr. The millennial rivalry between Marduk and Ninurta was doubled for the Scandinavians, where Jormungandr was Thor’s biggest enemy and Fenrir was Tyr’s. The name of this alter-ego of Ninurta comes from the Phoenician city of Tyr, whose supreme god was Melqart, also matched with Enlil’s son.
After Ragnarok, which led to the death of many gods, the ruler of Earth became Baldr, Baldur or Balder („Lord”), the son of Odin and Frigg. In the Anglo-Saxon tradition he was called Baeldaeg or Beldeg. The sun god Baldr was killed because of his uncle, Loki. At Ragnarok he was released from the Underworld to fight alongside the gods against the giants. This sun god, whose name is derived from the West-Semitic „baal” and Akkadian „bel„, similar to Utu / Shamash of Mesopotamia or the Greek Apollo, who was killed like Baal in Canaan or Illuyanka of the Hittites, eventually becoming the ruler of the world, can only be the Babylonian Marduk or the Egyptian Horus. Although he was Enki’s son, he was initially considered Enlil’s son, which is why in Greek mythology Apollo was the son of Zeus. The same happened in Scandinavia, where Baldur was considered Odin’s son.
In Scandinavia, Freya, called Freyja („Lady”) in Old Norse, was the goddess of love, beauty, fertility, gold and war, just like Ishtar in Babylon or Hathor in Egypt. Because her husband, Odr, was absent most of the time, Freya sought for him through the world crying (just as Anat sought Baal in Ugaritic myths and Isis sought Osiris in Egypt) and hiding her identity under nine other names: Gefn, Horn, Mardoll, Skjalf, Syr, Throng, Thrungva, Valfreyja and Vanadis. In the Prose Edda, Freya is the highest ranking goddess among the goddesses, along with Frigg, Odin’s wife. In Sorla Tattr, a 14th century text, Freya became Odin’s concubine, who loved her madly. Once, the goddess had sex with four dwarves to get a golden necklace. Finding out about her deed, Odin took her necklace and returned it to her only when she agreed to cast a spell on two kings who would fight endlessly. Freya was part of the Vanir gods, being adopted by the Aesir gods, along with her brother and parents, after the war between the two divine families ended. Just like Aphrodite of the Greeks, who joined the group of Olympians after they defeated the Titans. Freya led a chariot pulled by two cats, often wearing a cloak covered in hawk feathers. In Asgard she ruled over the Folkvangr field, where she received half of the souls of those who died in battle, the other half reaching Odin’s palace, Valhalla. Although she was married to Odr, with whom she had two daughters (Hnoss and Gersemi), the goddess had several lovers, including her twin brother, Freyr („Lord”). This sexual freedom matches her with the Akkadian Ishtar, who also had many lovers, including her twin brother, Shamash / Utu (Marduk).
Like in most ancient cultures where Ishtar was mistaken for her mother, Ninhursag (both called Inanna in Sumer), the Germanic peoples also preserved a trace of this tradition. Frigg, Odin’s wife and the queen of the gods, similar in many ways to Hera of the Greeks, was called Frig in Old Norse and Old English, Frija in Old High German, Fria in Old Frisian and Frea in Langobardic. The phonetic similarity between Freya and Frea or Fria is obvious. Researchers have even suggested that these two goddesses are either different aspects of one or originated from a common source. Frigg was the goddess of the atmosphere and clouds and her husband, Odin, was also her father. When she was the personification of Earth, the Norse called her Jord and considered her a jotun, meaning a giantess. Odin’s wife can only be the Sumerian Ninhursag, also considered the personification of Earth (called Ki or Gi by the Sumerians and Gaia by the Greeks), who later became the wife of Enlil, whom we have already identified as Odin. As Enlil’s wife she was called Ninlil („Lady of the air”) in Sumer, while in Scandinavia she was considered the goddess of the atmosphere. Frigg continued to exist in Scandinavian folklore even after the Christianization of the North, which highlights her importance in the Viking pantheon.
As the French philologist Georges Dumézil observed, one of the biggest problems in Scandinavian mythology is the god Heimdall, due to the fragmentary information about him. Owning a golden tooth and a horse with a golden mane, Heimdall was the guardian of the world of the gods. He lived in Himinbjorg („Heavenly Castle”), located at the end of the Bifrost rainbow, which connected Asgard and Midgard or the world of the gods and that of men. Heimdall was called „the whitest of gods” and was said to have been born of nine mothers. He was also called Rig, Hallinskidi, Gullintanni and Vindler or Vindhler. He possessed exceptional wisdom, hearing and vision. He was the one who announced the arrival of Ragnarok by blowing his horn, Gjallarhorn. Although Norse myths reports that he and Loki killed each other in the last great battle of the gods, it looks like both of them depict the same character. Like Enki, Heimdallr was considered the father of humanity and the one who brought the gifts of the gods to mortals (like the Greek titan Prometheus in their legends). His epithet „the whitest of gods” symbolizes his old age, referring to the color of his hair. In other words, Heimdall was the oldest of the gods, just like Enki, the first son of Anu. His role as the guardian of the world of gods is also found in Sumer, where Enki, as Dumuzi or Ningishzida, guarded the celestial palace gate of the supreme god. The superior wisdom is another common attribute of the two, with Enki being considered the god of wisdom in many ancient world cultures. Although researchers have not been able to establish either his origin or nature, they have discovered a connection between Heimdall and rams. And the ram was one of Enki’s symbols for the ancients. One of the names of the Asgard guardian, Vindler or Vindhler, was translated as „The One Who Protects Against the Wind”. We are not surprised that distinguished researchers have not found any connection between the god and this epithet. However, the connection exists, considering that in world myths Enki was the one who protected humanity from the attacks of Enlil, the god of wind, lightning and storms.
Besides gods and giants there are many fantastic beings in Norse folklore, such as Valkyries, Berserkers, Orcs, Elves, Dwarves, Trolls and Dragons. Although the Christianization of the North led to their disappearance, the ancient gods were revived with the rise of Neopaganism. Furthermore, in 2015 began in Iceland the construction of a temple dedicated to the gods Odin, Thor and Frigg. Thus, the restoration of the cults of the ancient Viking deities or the return of the old gods can help us decipher their long-hidden secrets.