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  • Hey there, I'm Mike Rugnetta and this is Crashcourse Mythology.

  • Today we're going to try to do justice to the Norse pantheon--a very scary wolf, an

  • amazing tree, a rainbow bridge, some frost giants, and way more than what I learned from reading Thor comics.

  • No, not you, Thoth. Your th is a plosive.

  • We're talking voiceless dental fricative here. THOR.

  • You know, this joke might work better in print.

  • [Theme Music]

  • We met some of the Norse gods when we looked at one of their creation stories.

  • The source for that myth, and many other stories from Norse mythology, is the Prose Edda, an

  • Icelandic compendium written by the amazingly-named Snorri Sturluson around 1220 CE.

  • This means that one of our main sources for the tales of Germanic and Scandinavian gods

  • and goddesses comes from the far edge of their world.

  • It's also important because the Prose Edda is relatively NEW.

  • So one rainbow bridge we're going to have to cross here is the way that later Christian

  • ideas influence the existing version of these myths.

  • Partly because of Snorri, there's a tendency to think of Norse mythology as belonging to

  • Scandinavia, but that's not quite right.

  • The Norse Pantheon has roots in the religion and mythology of Germanic people who migrated

  • into Europe.

  • The Romans, especially our pal Tacitus, recorded what they understood of the Germanic tribes'

  • beliefs, but they translated Germanic gods into their own terms.

  • So Wotan, or Wodan, who we're calling Odin, became associated with Mercury.

  • Tyr, or Tiwaz, a warrior god, became associated with the Roman god of war, Mars.

  • And Thor was Jupiter or Jove.

  • In their own terms, there are two sets of Norse deities: first, the Vanir, associated

  • with the earth and fertility.

  • They're the older set of gods.

  • And second, the Aesir, associated with the sky.

  • The Vanir were led by Freyr and Freya, brother and sister and also king and queen.

  • They were the children of Njord.

  • Who also has a terrific name.

  • According to Sturluson: “Freyr is an exceedingly famous god; he decides when the sun shall

  • shine and when the rain come down, and along with that the fruitfulness of the earth,

  • and he is good to invoke for peace and plenty.

  • He also brings about the prosperity of men.”

  • So he is definitely the god you want to honor if you're having a picnic.

  • (Well, him and Amateratsu, Japanese sun goddess.

  • And while we're at it, why not also Aphrodite, because EVERYONE HAS A THING FOR.. ok you

  • get it) The Vanir and the Aesir warred, but eventually

  • reconciled and the Vanir came to live in Asgard, one of the nine mythical Norse worlds.

  • Although they also have their own realm, Vanaheim.

  • Not to be confused with Anaheim, the realm of Walt Disney, Oranges, and Online Video

  • conferences.

  • If you want the Euhumerist opinion, or, where we take mythology as an explanation of historical

  • fact, this war may reflect a time where there were two competing religions among the tribal

  • people of the north, which eventually teamed up.

  • Vanir and Aesir, stronger together!

  • Like Voltron!

  • But GODS.

  • Another Norse god is Heimdall, also called the White God.

  • He's associated with the sea because nine waves birthed him... must have been a chaotic

  • day in the maternity ward.

  • Heimdall was the sentry of the gods and the archenemy of Loki, who you might know from

  • his role as Tom Hiddleston.

  • According to Sturluson, “[Heimdall] needs less sleep than a bird and can see a hundred

  • leagues in front of him as well by night as by day.

  • He can hear the grass growing on the earth and the wool on the sheep and everything that

  • makes noise.”

  • Boy, poor Heimdall.

  • Imagine going to a dinner party and listening to everyone chew.

  • Some traditions place Heimdall in the Aesir, some in the Vanir.

  • The Vanir are also associated with a golden boar said to travel above and below the earth

  • like the sun.

  • Gullinbursti, as it was called, appeared on warriors' crests and helmets, especially

  • in Uppsala.

  • Just like in Greece and Egypt, different gods in the Norse pantheon were worshipped in different

  • regions.

  • Thor is probably the most famous of the Aesir.

  • Probably the second most famous is Odin, Thor's dad.

  • Odin is the father god, who was associated with war, especially with the raw, almost

  • ecstatic warrior rage of berserkers.

  • He was also a wizard who swayed battles through magic.

  • Imagine, like, Gandalf, but with one eye, lots of muscles, an unhealthy desire for arcane

  • wisdom and a bit of a mean streak.

  • Odin inherited his warrior-god nature from his Germanic predecessors, Wodan and Tiwaz.

  • As Kevin Crossley-Holland remarked: “A culture finds the gods it needs and the Norse world

  • needed a god to justify the violence that [was] one of its hallmarks.”

  • Basically, if you're a warlike society, a war god is pretty convenient.

  • Odin inspired victory and foresaw defeat with his shamanistic precognition . He was also

  • the god of poetry who travelled to the land of the Giants, Jotunheim, to drink the mead

  • of poetry and bring it back to the Aesir and Vanir.

  • MMMMpoetry mead.

  • Another part of Odin's story is his sacrifice and re-birth as a wiser god.

  • According to one version he hung himself from the world tree so he could drink the mead

  • of wisdom.

  • Guess Odin couldn't stop at just one mead, huh?

  • This was when he sacrificed his eye, too.

  • Odin was married to Frigg, a goddess who could also see the future.

  • Odin's children were Thor, whose mother was the Earth itself, Baldr, the most beautiful

  • of the gods who was killed by Hodr his blind brother, and Tyr, although one source has

  • Tyr's father as the giant Hymir.

  • In some stories Baldr is a human warrior favored by Odin.

  • Baldr isthe wisest of the gods, and the sweetest-spoken, and the most merciful, but

  • it is a characteristic of his that once he has pronounced a judgment it can never be

  • altered.”

  • Odin has another son, Hermod the bold, who was sent to retrieve Baldr from a city in

  • the underworld, Nifelheim, ruled by the goddess Hel, yup, that's Hel with a single hockey

  • stick.

  • And she was said to be a daughter of Loki, who also helped kill Baldr.

  • Loki is confusing.

  • It's never clear whether he's a god or a giant, or even whether he's good or evil.

  • He has been called the son of two giants, but also the foster-brother of Odin.

  • He's a trickster, so maybe his uncertain pedigree makes some sense?

  • He's also a thief, but also also sometimes helps the Aesir.

  • He's the father of several monsters including the World Serpent, Jormungand, the wolf, Fenrir,

  • and Hel.

  • Not to put too fine a point on it, but Loki is.

  • the.

  • worst.

  • as we'll see in our episode onRagnarok!

  • The mythical event.

  • Not the comic book event.

  • Not the movie event.

  • Not even the Gwar record.

  • Just the literal end of the world.

  • Tyr is identified with war and justice.

  • In some traditions, he's also a son of Odin, but as you've probably noticed, it's not

  • exactly easy to pin down parentage in the Norse world.

  • Blame those nine waves.

  • Tyr's position as a god of both war and justice is interesting, given what we learned

  • about Vikings in Crashcourse World History.

  • While known for their fearsome raiding, Vikings also had a strict legal code with certain

  • elements of democratic governance.

  • And they were really into skiing.

  • There are other gods in the Norse pantheon, but they don't really feature much.

  • Bragi, a son of Odin, was another god of poetry, while Ull was concerned mainly with archery

  • and hitting the slopes, brah.

  • Yup.

  • There's a god of skiing.

  • There's Vali, Odin's son who avenged Baldr's death.

  • And Vidar, son of Odin and the giantess Grid, avenged Odin's death.

  • I need an infographic.

  • Oh, great.

  • The Norse goddesses are relatively minor figures in the myths.

  • Freya is the only one who seems to have personality.

  • She's a goddess of love.

  • Faithfulness to her husband, Freyr, is not her strong suit.

  • Her strong suit is definitely her amazing feather jacket.

  • She also has A CAT DRAWN CHARIOT.

  • That is not a joke.

  • And like Freya, goddess Geifon is one of the Vanir and she is associated with ploughing

  • and fertility.

  • Eir is a goddess of healing, Sjofn and Lofn are also goddesses of love.

  • Var punishes those who betray their marriage oaths and nothing can be hidden from her.

  • Syn, with a Y, is a goddess associated with justice.

  • And who couldn't love a goddess named Snotra, who is associated with wisdom and self-discipline.

  • And also head colds.

  • THANKS I'LL BE HERE ALL WEEK!

  • Snortra stands in contrast with Saga, goddess of poetry, whose main role seems to be Odin's

  • drinking companion.

  • Skål!

  • Frigg is Odin's wife and the mother of multiple gods, but we don't know much about her.

  • She is a maternal goddess who mourns the loss of her son Baldr, and was invoked by women

  • in labor.

  • Like Odin, she seemed to be able to know the future.

  • Now!

  • On to a myth.

  • I'm going to be honest: Norse myths are like the frat party of mythology.

  • There's a lot of fighting and drinking and laughing, though no beer pong.

  • First, some quick backstory.

  • Odin championed warriors, picking his favorites and sending Valkyries to bring them to Valhalla,

  • which seems like a nifty way to travel.

  • Thor was the god of farmers, and there were a lot of farmers in Scandinavia.

  • But he was also a mighty warrior, huge with a giant red beard.

  • Not so bright, but who needs smarts when you're the god of thunder and lightning?

  • He protected the Aesir and Vanir from the giants, and in a stunning bit of surely coincidental

  • wordplay...