Norse Mythology for Smart People provides reliable, well-documented information on the enthralling mythology and religion of the Norse and other Germanic peoples.
Norse Mythology Family Tree
Before the Norse a. These myths revolved around gods and goddesses with fascinating and highly complex characters, such as Odin , Thor , Freya , and Loki.
Religions are attempts by mankind to reach the numinous, and the Norse religion was of course no exception. Even though some aspects of it may strike the modern reader as bizarre, if we approach it with the open mind it deserves, we can recognize within it the common human quest to live life in the presence of the transcendent majesty and joy of the sacred.
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The Vikings were seafaring raiders , conquerors , explorers , settlers , and traders from modern-day Norway, Sweden, Denmark, and Iceland who ventured throughout much of the world during the Viking Age roughly CE. They traveled as far east as Baghdad and as far west as North America, which they discovered some five hundred years before Christopher Columbus.
They spoke the Old Norse language, wrote in runes , and practiced their ancestral religion. The Vikings were motivated to sail from their homelands by timeless, universal human desires: wealth, prestige, and power.
As in most human societies, those aims were intertwined for the Vikings; those who had more wealth typically had more prestige and power, and vice versa. The Vikings sought wealth in both its portable form — gold, silver, gemstones, and the like — and in the form of land.
We have the Vikings to thank for our present understanding not only of their own pre-Christian religion and mythology, but of that of the other Germanic peoples as well.
But from the little that we do know about those religions directly, they seem to have been variations on common themes that were also shared by the Norse, so we can use the Norse sources to help us reconstruct those hoary religions, too.
The Germanic peoples are one of the indigenous peoples of northern Europe, along with the Celts, Sami, Finns, and others. Their best-known representatives are the Vikings, the Anglo-Saxons, and the continental Germanic tribes, but they included many other groups as well.
In the modern era, they — we — are spread out across the world. While there were certainly regional and temporal variations in the pre-Christian religion of the Germanic peoples, there was nevertheless a common core worldview , cosmology , and, to a large extent, a common pantheon as well. What Is Norse mythology? Who Are the Germanic peoples?