Norse Mythology Shows There Was a Different Side to Vikings than Plundering and Pillaging

Odin, The All-Father. Realm of History.

The Norse developed a cult around the All-Father Odin or Wodan, the god of death and battle as well as inspiration and magic lore. There were also cults around the other Norse gods such as Frejya and Thor, but none as big as Odin. The myths in the Prose Edda and Poetic Edda reflect certain lifestyles of the North. When Odin defeats the frost giants it is seen as a victory against the cold. Norway and Sweden, as well as Greenland, have very cold and harsh conditions that make vegetation hard to grow and their source of food is mainly fish. During the winter months the seas are frozen over and the boats are trapped leaving the Northmen no way out of their lands unless they travel through Russia and down into the Byzantine Empire. The Vikings also feared the winter because in the myths there will be three years of winter when Ragnarök starts. Ragnarök is the end of the world in Viking lore, where Odin and all the rest of the gods except two will be killed and the earth reborn. Lava will encase the earth, and all of humanity will die, leaving Asgarð and Midgarð destroyed. Loki, the trickster god, will side with his daughter Hel and aim to destroy the Æsir. In the Völuspá, Ragnarok starts around stanza 39:

She saw wading there through heavy currents

Men who forswore oaths and murderers,

And the one who seduces another’s beloved,

There Nídhögg sucked the corpses of the departed,

The wolf tore men apart—would you know more?

Yggdrasil. Norse

After these stanzas the Sun and Moon are killed. The world tree Yggdrasil shudders and the Midgarð serpent thrashes in the sea. Loki is seen steering a ship from Giantland attacking Asgarð and the Æsir. Loki is a symbol of the trickster inside every human, and the urge for competition. Odin represents knowledge, death and sacrifice. To gain ultimate knowledge he sacrificed his eye. Hel is commonly seen as the inspiration for the Christian version, hell. Hel rules over Hel, or Infierno, and is the equivalent of the Christian Lucifer or the Greek god of the Underworld, Hades.