Among the colorful mythologies of Europe, Norse mythology has been attracting a lot of attention in the world of fiction, more than similar systems from Ancient Greece and Rome. In Norse mythology, the 30 or so true deities are called Æsir, and in this article, we have decided to rank the 15 most powerful Æsir in Norse mythology.
Now, while we were pondering how to write up this article – the main issue was how to rank the Norse gods and goddesses properly – we actually found an “official” list of gods and goddesses based on their primacy and importance in the Norse hierarchy. Namely, the Prose Edda provides us with a ranking of the Æsir, and we are going to use that to classify the Æsir based on their power and primacy.
In Norse mythology, Víðarr is a god associated with revenge and silence, mentioned in the Poetic Edda, compiled in the 13th century from older sources, and the Edda of Snorri, written in the thirteenth century. He is the son of Odin and the giantess Gríðr. Víðarr is one of the strongest gods, after Thor.
Although he is discreet in the myths, he plays a vital role on the day of the prophetic battle of Ragnarök when he avenges the death of his father Odin by piercing the heart of the wolf Fenrir with his sword or by tearing his jaw using his magic shoe. He survives this end of the world and, with a reduced number of other gods who have survived the catastrophe, he participates in the renewal of the universe.
Víðarr has been the subject of several studies relating to his symbolism and his role. Specialists have linked his silence to ritual abstinence known in various societies, especially abstinence linked to acts of revenge, which also find an echo in another Norse god, Vali, to whom he is linked. Some scholars lend it a cosmic or spatial role, which has prompted comparisons with other Indo-European mythologies.
According to the Eddas, in Norse mythology, Höðr is a blind god, the son of Odin. He is the unwitting assassin of his brother Baldr due to a trick by the evil god Loki. Vali is then sired by Odin and Rind to kill Höðr in order to avenge Baldr. After the eschatological battle of Ragnarök, the brothers return from the kingdom of the dead and then become sovereigns.
In the Gesta Danorum, a twelfth-century work, he is presented in a completely different form as a warrior hero who bears the name of Høtherus, the rival of Baldr, for the hand of Princess Nanna. The myth of the murder of Baldr by Höðr is one of the most famous and essential in Norse mythology. All ancient sources mention Höðras Baldr’s assassin, after being bewitched by Loki, then killed by Baldr’s brother (Vali) in revenge.
This role of Höðr is undisputed, but sources differ in the execution of the murder, encouraging scholarly debate. Additionally, Höðr has been compared to other Indo-European mythological deities or heroes, suggesting that his legend originated from a Proto-Indo-European myth.
Eir, in Norse mythology, is a Goddess but also a Valkyrie. She is the goddess of healing, health, and euphoria. Eir knew the medicinal properties of herbs and was capable of resurrection. She was good friends with Frigg. She was one of the goddesses guarded on the Lyfjaberg mountain. She can be related to the Vanir by knowing the healing properties of plants and herbs.
Eira appears in the Poetic Edda, compiled in the 13th century from traditional sources; the Prose Edda, written in the 13th century by Snorri Sturluson; and in skaldic poetry, including the runic inscription from Bergen, Norway dated to the 1300s and in some kenningar. In his Norse Mythology: A Guide to the Gods, Heroes, Rituals, and Beliefs, actor John Lindow notes that Snorri places Eir third in Gylfaginning, his catalog of goddesses. Likewise, she figures in Fjölsvinnsmál as one of the maidens who attend Menglöd.
On the other hand, she is listed as a valkyrie, but not as a goddess. Historians have theorized as to whether all three sources refer to the same figure, and debate whether Eir was originally a goddess of health or a Valkyrie. On the other hand, Eir is also theorized to be another form of the goddess Frigg and is compared to the Greek deity Hygieia.
Heimdallr is a god in Norse mythology. He is the guardian of the Bifröst bridge (the rainbow that separates Ásgard from the lower worlds) and is responsible for blowing into Gjallarhorn when Ragnarök comes. During Ragnarök, Heimdall is destined to kill Loki and be killed by him. He is also the god of light and the moon, the son of the nine mothers called the virgins or daughters of Geirrendour or Ægir.
It is he who, under the name of Ríg, organizes human society by participating in the procreation of the first representatives of the three classes that compose it. The Heimdallargaldr, a poem attributed to Snorri Sturluson, has been lost.
Bragi is the god of poetry in Norse mythology. Bragi figures in the presentation of the Ases by Snorri Sturluson in the Gylfaginning. “He is renowned for his wisdom and above all for his eloquence and his verve,” he writes, adding that he is “particularly gifted for poetry.” As an “inventor of poetry,” he is the interlocutor of Ægir during the banquet, which serves as the setting for the Skáldskaparmál.
Snorri also indicates that it is from Bragi that the word “bragr” is derived, which in Old Norse means “poetry” and “leader.” He is the husband of Idunn, the guardian of the apples of youth (idem), and he can be referred to as the “God with the long beard.” The existence of Bragi is, however, little attested apart from Snorri.
He appears mainly in the Lokasenna, where he is one of the Ases present at the banquet given by Ægir. Loki taunts his cowardice, which is not confirmed elsewhere. Bragi is presented in this poem as the husband of Idun, but not as the god of poetry.
In Norse mythology, Sága is a goddess associated with a location called Sökkvabekkr. At Sökkvabekkr, Sága and the god Odin drink merrily as the cold waves flow. Sága and Sökkvabekkr are attested in Poetic Edda, compiled in the 13th century from earlier traditional sources, and in Prose Edda, written in the 13th century by Snorri Sturluson.
Scholars have proposed theories about the implications of the goddess and her associated location, including that the location may be connected to the goddess Frigg and her residence Fensalir and that Sága may be another name for Frigg. In the Poetic Edda, in the poem Helgakviða Hundingsbana I, the hero Sinfjötli refers to Sága in the name of a place in a stanza where Sinfjötli fights Guðmundr.
In Norse mythology, Týr is the god of the sky, just war, justice, victory, and strategy. Tyr is a major god, common to all Germanic peoples, and we know several regional variants of his name. He is initially a sovereign god who embodies, in particular, the legal aspect of sovereignty. Associated with the legislative assembly of the thing, he is also a god of oaths, procedures, and law.
Týr is undoubtedly a very ancient god, with origins at the head of the Germanic pantheon. His role and his worship would have lost importance in favor of Odin and Thor from the barbarian invasions. The preserved Scandinavian myths evoking it are few, but its importance is confirmed by the fact that its name gave that of the day of the week Tuesday in the Germanic languages.
According to Scandinavian texts, Týr is either the son of Odin or that of the giant Hymir. Týr showed his heroic worth by sacrificing his hand in the mouth of the wolf Fenrir to gain his trust and chain him. He is then known as the one-armed god. During the prophetic battle of Ragnarök, Týr and Garm, the guardian dog of the world of the dead, will kill each other.
Freyja is a major goddess in Germanic and Norse mythology who is mentioned or depicted in many tales. Nevertheless, the best-documented sources of this religious tradition, Nordic mythology, should be taken with caution because they may have been influenced by Christian or classical representations. Indeed, they have been transmitted to us, in large part, through medieval Icelandic historians, when the island had been converted to Christianity for more than two centuries.
From the Scandinavian oral tradition, most of these texts were written down in Iceland in the twelfth and thirteenth centuries by Snorri Sturluson under Christian influence. The cult and ritual practices associated with this goddess are therefore poorly known. In pre-Christian beliefs, Freyja would represent one of the three faces of the Great Mother Goddess, with the goddesses Frigg and Skadi.
In Norse mythology, Freyja is from the Vanes family of gods, and she is the daughter of Njörðr, the god of oceans, fishing, and fish. Freyja is also the twin sister of Freyr, the agricultural god, with whom she shares fertility attributes related to life. His daughters are called Hnoss and Gersimi.
Freyr is one of the main gods of Norse mythology (belonging to the Vanir group). He is associated with prosperity, and according to several sources, he commands the rain and the rays of the Sun, making him a god of fertility – especially since he is sometimes represented in ancient art with his erect penis.
His myth is known thanks to the Eddas, texts of Norse mythology written in the 13th century from older sources, which make Freyr a Vanes god, brother of Freyja, the goddess of love, and the son of Njörðr. In his most famous myth, he watches the worlds from Odin’s throne and sees the giantess Gerd, with whom he falls hopelessly in love.
He then sends his squire to the land of the giants to convince her to marry him. Surt will eventually kill Freyr during the prophetic battle of Ragnarök.
He is married to the giantess Skadi, but his children were conceived with his own sister. They were also Vair and were exchanged during the truce with the Æsir. The latter designated Njörðr and Freyr, his son, as high priests to preside over the sacrifices. Freyja, his daughter, was consecrated as a sacrificial priestess. She taught Vanirian sorcery, a common art among the Vanir gods.
His sister and the mother of his children would have been Nerthus, who did not accompany them to the Gods, who disapproved of unions between brother and sister. Skadi could only choose him by looking at the feet of his suitors. She chose the one with the most beautiful feet and very quickly regretted her choice, as Njörðr’s residence, Noatun (in Asgard), was too noisy because of the many boats being built around it.
Either way, Njörðr didn’t like Skadi’s home in Jötunheim either, so they had to conclude that they would live half the year with one and the other half with the other. The couple’s ambivalence is glaring, Njörðr being a symbol of fertility, good fishing, and luck. At the same time, Skadi came from a range of icy, rocky, and arid mountains that were permanently hidden from the Sun by low clouds. No man could have lived in this wild and unforgiving country, where nothing could hope to grow.
Baldr is a god in the pantheon of Norse mythology. He is the god of light, beauty, youth, and love. He is the son of Odin and Frigg. His wife is Nanna, and their son Forseti. His domain is Breidablik, which is in heaven (or in Sweden, according to the Ynglinga Saga), in a land from which evil is banished. Out of jealousy, the god Loki causes his death.
Baldr is then sent to the world of the dead, and Loki is punished for his misdeeds, as he prevents Baldr from returning from Hel, hastening the arrival of the prophetic battle of Ragnarök, where the majority of the gods will perish. Nevertheless, Baldr will be spared, and he will take part in the revival with some other survivors.
Frigg is the main goddess in the pantheon of Norse mythology. Goddess of love, marriage, motherhood, and being able to predict everyone’s future, she is the wife of Odin (and therefore the queen of the God) and the mother of Baldr and Höðr. She is the only woman allowed to sit on Hlidskjalf, from where she advised her husband on important matters.
In her home in Asgard, named Fensalir, she spends her days spinning the clouds (she is often represented with a spinning wheel). She is the patroness of sibyls, soothsayers, and fairies. Long after the Christianization of Northern Europe, Frigg remains a popular figure in Scandinavian folklore and culture.
Thor is the God of Thunder in Norse mythology. He is one of the main gods of the Nordic pantheon and was worshiped throughout the Germanic world. His cult in the ancient Germanic world is first reported by outside chroniclers, notably by Tacitus. However, its myths are mainly found in the Eddas, much later Scandinavian texts written and compiled around the 13th century, a few centuries after the official Christianization of the last Viking kingdoms and Völuspá.
According to these Scandinavian texts, Thor is the most powerful of the warrior gods. Symbolizing strength, bravery, agility, and victory, it uses lightning and calms or excites storms. His powers are thus linked to the sky. He has a chariot drawn by two goats which allows him to cross the worlds.
His most famous attribute is his hammer Mjöllnir, with which he creates lightning and, above all, allows him to be the protector of gods and men against the forces of chaos, such as giants, which he regularly knocks down and from which he is the worst enemy. As a storm god, he brings rain, which also makes him a fertility deity. He is the son of Odin and Jörd and is married to the golden-haired goddess Sif.
Loki is one of the main gods in the pantheon of Norse mythology. Loki is the god of mischief, discord, and illusions. He is the son of the giant Farbauti and Laufey and the father of several monsters: the serpent Jörmungand, the wolf Fenrir, and the underworld goddess Hel. He is also the mother of Odin’s eight-legged horse Sleipnir. Despite his origins, he is welcomed into the divine pantheon of the Ases by Odin.
Loki is capable of shapeshifting; he is as impulsive and irresponsible as he is clever and cunning. The Gods often turn to him to solve problems that he himself is often the cause of. Fundamentally negative and treacherous in nature, her jealousy leads her to cause the death of the god Baldr.
Furious, the Gods punish him by tying him with the entrails of one of his sons under a snake whose venom drips on his face. It will be so until the prophetic end of the world, Ragnarök, where Loki will free himself and lead the giants to attack gods and men. Loki and his opposite god, Heimdallr, will kill each other during the battle.
Loki’s changeable and ambiguous nature is the subject of debate among scholars as to his role in the divine pantheon, and he has been compared to various characters from other mythologies. Loki is a recurring and famous god who has survived in modern Northern European folklore; his character is referenced and a source of inspiration in many works of modern culture.
Odin is the main god in the pantheon of Norse mythology. His role, like most Nordic gods, is complex, given that his functions are multiple: he is the god of the dead, of victory, and of knowledge. To a lesser extent, he is also considered the patron of magic, poetry, prophecy, warfare, and hunting. He is considered to be the main member of the Aesir.
Odin shares the festival of Yule, which is celebrated on December 21, with the god Ull. Odin’s place of residence is the palace of Valaskjálf, located in Ásgard, where his throne is also located, called Hlidskjalf, from where he can observe the nine worlds of Norse cosmology. He owns several fabulous objects, his spear Gungnir and ring Draupnir, and rides his eight-legged horse named Sleipnir.
His domain is not accessible to mortals and is connected to the earth by a rainbow that only the gods and a few creatures who serve them can see. Son of Bor and the giantess Bestla, his brothers are Vili and Vé. His wife is Frigg; he has many children, including the gods Thor, Baldr, Bragi, Höðr, and Hermöd.