Who were the Norse gods?
Welcome to Quatr.us Study Guides!

Who were the Norse gods?

man sacrificing another man on an altar
A Viking religious sacrifice (ca. 900 AD, Sweden)

From their first appearance in historical literature around 100 BC, the Germans were polytheistic (believed in many gods), like the Greeks and the Romans and the Persians and the Indians and other Indo-European people. The most important German gods are closely related to the Greek and Roman gods, and all three sets of gods are descended from an original Indo-European religion.

Like the Greeks, the Germans believed that the world started with nothingness, and that one god formed out of the nothingness and was the parent of the other gods. The Germans called this first god Twisto, or Ymir (depending on the region). Ymir was fed by a cow, and this cow made a man by licking a salty block of ice. From this man came the god Odin and his two brothers. As in the Greek story, Odin and his brothers killed Ymir. They created the world from his body. His flesh became the earth, his bones became the mountains, and his blood became the oceans (the Greek Kronos also had his blood in the ocean). Odin and his brothers also made the first man and woman from two pieces of driftwood. The man was named Ash and the woman was named Vine (probably).

The most powerful of the German gods was Odin (or Wotan) the oldest and the chief of the gods. He was tricky, hard to pin down, and magical. Tyr and Freya and Thor were the other main gods.

The Germans called the main part of the world, where people lived, Middle-earth, and they believed it was surrounded by a big ocean (as Germany indeed has the Atlantic Ocean to the west, the Baltic Sea to the North, and the Mediterranean to the south). Somewhere within Middle-earth, they said, was Asgard, where the gods lived. You got there by crossing the rainbow like a bridge. The world of the dead, Hel, was in the cold north somewhere, and sometimes associated with a world of giants, who attack fertility goddesses and carry them off just as Hades does to Persephone.

Learn by doing: Draw a map of Middle-Earth, Asgard, etc.
More about Odin

Bibliography and further reading about the Norse gods:

Odin
Freya
Thor
Tyr
Loki

Quatr.us home


Celebrating Black History Month with the pharaoh Hatshepsut, the queen Shanakdakhete, the poet Phillis Wheatley, the medical consultant Onesimus, the freedom fighters Toussaint L'Ouverture, Denmark Vesey, Yaa Asantewaa, and Samora Moises Machel, and the civil rights leader Martin Luther King, Jr.
Please help other teachers and students find us: link to this page from your class page.
Karen Carr is Associate Professor Emerita, Department of History, Portland State University. She holds a doctorate in Classical Art and Archaeology from the University of Michigan. Follow her on Instagram or Twitter.
Cite this page
  • Author: K.E. Carr
  • Title:
  • Site Name: Quatr.us Study Guides
  • Publisher: Quatr.us
  • Date Published:
Proud of your class page, homework page, or resource page? Send it in and win a Quatr.us "Great Page!" award!
Sign up for more free articles and special offers in Quatr.us' weekly newsletter:
We will never share your e-mail address unless you allow us to do so. View our privacy policy. Easy unsubscribe links are provided in every email.
Comment on This Article

Cool stuff we've been enjoying: Looking for birthday gifts? Check out these new Chromebooks - all the computer you need for only $229.00!. Then study in peace with these Beats wireless headphones - for the exact same price! When you're done, show off your presentation or watch a movie with this excellent smartphone projector for only $39.99!


Does your class page honor diversity, celebrate feminism, and support people of color, LBGTQ people, and people with disabilities? Let us know, and we'll send you a Diversity Banner you can proudly display!
Looking for more?
ADVERTISEMENT
Quatr.us is loading comments...
(Comments will appear after moderation, if they are kind and helpful. Feel free to ask questions, and we'll try to answer them.)
Cite this page
  • Carr, K.E. . Quatr.us Study Guides, . Web. 26 February, 2017
ADVERTISEMENT