Many children will have the chance to learn about the history and culture of the Vikings – a group of Norse pirates.
Norse people had a particular set of beliefs that helped them to understand themselves and the world around them – from the reasons the flowers grew to the movement of stars in the night sky.
During the time of the Vikings, the most popular god was Thor. But, there were also many Norse goddesses Vikings would have told the legend of — and held dear to them.
Freyja – Norse goddess of love, battle, and death
Freyja is the most celebrated of the Norse goddesses. Her father was Njǫrd, the god of the sea, and her twin brother was Freyr – the god of rain, sun, and peace. When Freyja isn’t traveling on a boar with bristles of gold, she is flying in a chariot pulled by cats. She had a golden necklace, crafted by dwarves, called the Brísingamen. Loki stole the necklace features in many famous Norse tales and at one point.
Idun – Norse goddess of spring, new life, and youth
In the Old Norse language, Iðunn means ‘the rejuvenating one.’ This name relates to her powers: she carries a fruit basket granting immortality. The Norse gods must eat them to renew their youth and remain immortal. Spring is a time of renewal and rebirth in nature, which leads to the connection between Idun and spring. Idun is the wife of Bragi, the god of poetry. This match makes sense even today; springtime inspires many poets, artists, and musicians. Unfortunately, there aren’t many tales that have survived that mention Idun. Her adventures remain a mystery, except for the famous story below.
Loki, a cunning God known for his shapeshifting abilities and considered a God of fire, quarreled with a great giant, Thiassi. To appease the giant, he promised to give him the Norse Goddess of spring, Idun. He lured Idun into the forest, and Thiassi kidnapped her, stealing her and her golden apples, away into the realm of the giants. Her absence, and the absence of the revitalizing magic of her fruits, caused the Gods to wilt and age. Their hair turned grey, and their backs stooped. So, they forced the trickster God, Loki, to rescue her.
Loki took the Goddess, Freyja’s, cloak, transforming himself into a falcon. Then, depending on which version you read, he swooped, turned the Norse Goddess of spring into a nut or sparrow, and flew off with her in his talons. This led to the giant transforming into an eagle in pursuit, ultimately leading to his demise.
Frigg – Norse goddess of foresight and motherhood
Friday is named after Frigg – Frigg’s Day. Frigg is the wife of Odin, the leader of all the Norse gods. Frigg’s magic meant that she could determine the course of fate and make events happen – she is often depicted with a spinning wheel and spindle, symbolic of weaving time. However, by the late Viking age – at least in written tales – Frigg and Freya’s names were somewhat interchangeable, and their traits were very similar.
Skadi – Norse goddess of winter and hunting
Skadi is a giantess who hunts in the mountains on skis. Her name is likely linked to the name Scandinavia – the land of the Nordic countries. As to which came first, no one is certain. She uses a bow to hunt in the high mountains, where it’s permanently covered by ice and snow. She was once married to Freyja’s father, Njord, the god of the sea, but the two could not agree on where to live. It was too light, noisy, and warm by the sea for Skadi. Among the giants, she is rare for her loving nature. As a representative of survival during harsh winters, she is favored in tales and was worshipped by Norse people.
Sif – Norse goddess of the earth, homes, and crops
Sif is the wife of Thor. Her golden hair represents the wheat fields that she helps to grow. She plays a vital part in the Norse myth, The Creation of Thor’s Hammer. One day, the mischievous Loki decided to cut off Sif’s long, golden hair. Angered, the god of thunder, Thor, threatened to harm Loki; but Loki persuaded Thor to spare his life if he would find even better hair for Sif. As with many of the Norse goddesses, little detail remains of Sif’s own stories and life. However, in Old Norse, we know that a common moss species is called ‘Sif’s hair.’ Along with her marriage to Thor – god of storms and rains needed to help crops grow – this suggests she was regarded as the Goddess of plants and the earth.
Hel – Norse goddess of the underworld
Hel is the daughter of Loki, and her name means ‘hidden’ in Old Norse. She watches over the dead who arrive and dwell in the underworld, a place called Niflheim. In Old Norse myths, Hel is described as half made from flesh and half blue, always looking fierce and downcast. She recurs in many books of Norse myths from the 13th century. Unfortunately, her name has such strong connections with death that, as of 2017, it is against the law to name your child Hel in Iceland.