This text contains only basic information about germanic native traditions. If you want to learn more – read some books, or go to links that I recommend you at the end of this article.
Sources and historical background
Christianization of germanic tribes was a very long proces. First baptized gemans are those who were living near Roman Empire, circa about IV A.D. The last christianized were swedish tribes (XII A.D.). Very often christian germanic kings were trying to send missions to other pagan germans, to take new worshippers of Christ under their reign.
The problem with germanic paganism is that we don’t have many written texts about continental germanic tribes. Even if we have, these are things like Volsunga Saga, not saying much about Gods worshipped in the pagan era. We can get information from people who neighboured with germanic tribes (Germania by Tacitus) Our main sources are also scandinavian (nordic) sagas and Eddas – Poetic Edda and Prose Edda. Also we can learn much from archeology, linguistic, comparative mythology and folklore.
Remember also that what you find in Eddas and sagas are very often just a literature, written for fun of nobleman and other people.
In this article I will focus on scandinavian beliefs, which you can find in modern Asatru’s beliefs.
Gods and Godess are divided into two kins, Aesirs and Vanirs. In the beggining there was a conflict between those kins, but it ended peacefully.
Gods of germanic people are not immortal and not perfect – they have to eat apples of Idunn to stay young. Aesirs and Frey will also die in Ragnarok – a Dawn of Gods. From the ashes of old world will arise another, better, ruled by offspring of fallen gods.
Odin (germ. Wotan, eng. Woden) – he is a main God of the whole germanic pantheon (although at the beginning the main God was Tyr), being a patron of warfare, wisdom, poetry and magic. In the past he was favourite God of nobleman and chiefs (kings). He created the world, together with His brothers Vili and Ve. He hung him up on the tree of the World, Ygddrasil, to get knowledge about secrets of the world. Hero of many myths, Odin represents a perfect, noble man. He will die during the Ragnarok, defeated by a great wolf Fenrir.
His is the ruler of Asgaard, the world of Aesirs.
His atributes are:
Thor (germ. Donar, eng. Thunor) – a son of Odin, god of thunder, storm, vitality, harvest and simple warriors, very similar to slavic god Perun and celtic Taranis. Thor’s the strongest of all Aesirs, and is known for being a protector of Asgaard (the home of gods). Due to this fact, many people wear an amulet (Thor’s hammer) to protect them from evil. Thor’s hammer is also the most popular symbol of Asatru.
He is a hero of many myths, in which he mostly gives a proof of his strenght and honor. He is also much more “human” god than his father. Thor will die during the Ragnarok, after the killing of the Serpent of the World – Jormugand.
He’s atributes are:
Tyr (germ. Tiu / Ziu, eng. Tiw) – at the begginig he was a god of sky, main deity of the pantheon of germanic tribes. But later his atributes were “stolen” by Odin. So Tyr is know mainly as a god of war, justice and oath. He lost his hand, which was warmed by the great wolf Fenrir. Known of his great courage, he will die during the Ragnarok in the fight with the dog called Garm.
His atributes are:
Baldr (germ. ?, eng. Bældæg) – a son of Odin, killed by his brother Hod after a trick of Loki. Known as a most beautiful and good of all gods. He is now in the kingdom of goddess Hel, but he will return after a Ragnarok, to rule new, better world.
He is a god of shinig and goodness, the most perfect creature of all beings.
Heimdallr – is a god of righteousness and light, defender of the rainbow bridge leading to Asgaard – Bifrost. He will play on his horn, Gjallarhorn, when the Ragnarok starts. And he will die in the duel with Loki.
Loki – is a giant of fire, adopted to Aesir’s kin by Odin. An Allfather is also his bloodbound brother.
Known as a very chaotic god of cheat. He can take a form of any kind he’d like, and also change his sex. He is a hero of many myths, in which he once help Aesirs, and once do everything against them.
He tricked Hod to kill the most beloved of all gods – Baldr. As a punishment he was chainted onto a rock, whan a giant serpent spits on him a poison from time to time. His wife, Sigyn, holds a boal under Loki, so her husband didn’t get injured by it.
He will break his change in a day of Ragnarok, and lead an army of giants and beasts against gods.
Bragi – a skaldic god, patron of poetry and singing (without magical approach).
Frigg (germ. Frijo, eng. Frige) – she’s a wife of the highest god Odin, a patron of marriage, home, family, married women and births.
Very often she is identify with a Vanir Freya. It might be that in the beginning they were a one godess.
Idunn – a wife of Bragi, a keeper of apples giving gods their eternal youthfulness.
Ostara (eng. Ēostre) – a goddes of spring, light, life fertility and a first sunrise (on the spring).
Njordr – is a god of seas and oceans, helpful to people. He lives in Asgaard, but after the Ragnarok he will return to his home-world (Vanaheim).
A father of Freyr and Freya.
Freyr – a god of fertility, vegetation, land, prosperity, and peace. He is one of the most important germanic gods, together with Odin and Thor. Even he’s a Vanir, his fate is bounded with Aesirs and he will die during the Ragnarok.
Freya – a sister of Freyr, sometimes identified with Frigg. She is a goddess of fertility, love,sex and female magic – seidhr. Mostly worshipped by a women, she’s most important goddess, together with Odin’s wife. She is also the most beautiful of all women.
Her atributes are:
Hel – she is a daughter of Loki. Odin has given her a kingdom of the dead – Helheim. It is a place where souls of those who has not fallen in battle will exist, until the day of Ragnarok.
Disir – a spirits bounded with a human kin, being defenders of specific family. They are identify as a forefathers, bounded with a goddess Freya. They help humans in everyday life.
Fylgia – a personal helping spirit of each man, often presented as a women or an animal. Similar to slavic Dola or christian guardian angel.
Valkyries – a women-spirit, servant of Odin. They are collecting a souls of fallen in battle, and guide them to Vallhala – a home of the Highest. They are sometimes associated with Fylgias.
Alfs (Elves) – they are living in a world of Alfheim, ruled by Freyr. They are a spirits of wild nature, sometims associated with a dead persons.
There are also Dark Alfs, living in the world of underground, called Dwarves.
Giants (Thurs’) – a creatures fighting with a gods, incarnation of chaos and wild forces of the universe.
Worlds of Ygdrassil
Ygdrassil, A tree of The World, is a place where lies all of the know worlds:
Asgaard – a world of Aesirs.
Alfheim – world of alfs, ruled by Freyr.
Muspelheim – southern world of fire, a home of fire giants.
Vanaheim – home of Vanirs.
Midgard – a wolrd of living humans.
Jotunheim – a world of mountain giants.
Nilfheim – a frosty home of ice giants.
Svartalfheim – underground world of dark alfs (dwarves).
Hel – underground world of dead.
1st week of Ferbuary – Disablot – a festival dedicated to Freyr, Freya and disirs.
20th / 21st of March – Ostara – a festival of spring and fertility, rebirthing of the world.
30th of April – Walpurgia’s night – festival of goddesses bounded with magic and death (Frigg, Freya, Hel).
1st of May – day of Freyr and Freya, festival of fertility.
21st of June – Midsummer – a festival of summer. In this time ritual of Sunna’s (Sun) blot must be performed.
1st of August – Lammas – a festival of harvest, bounded with Freyr and Freya,
1st of September – Day of Odin – a blot being perform to hail Odin
21st of September – Autumn Equinox – a festival ending a harvest, bounded with Freyr and Freya, but also with all gods being associated with fertility and vegetation.
12th of October – Alfarblot –festival of fylgias, disirs and alfs.
20th / 21st of December – Yule – festival of passing winter. Blot is being performed mainly for Freyr, Freya and Thor.
John Lindow – Norse Mythology: A Guide to the Gods, Heroes, Rituals, and Beliefs.
Gabriel Turville-Petre – Myth and Religion of the North: The Religion of Ancient Scandinavia.
Kevin Crossley-Holland – The Norse Myths
H.R. Ellis Davidson –Gods and Myths of Northern Europe
And of course every source-text that you will find – Germania, Sagas and Eddas.
For polish-speaking people:
G. Dumezil – Bogowie germanów. Szkice o kształtowaniu się religii skandynawskiej (it can be difficult if you know nothing about a topic).
J. Ros – Heroje Północy (best translation of main scandinavian myths)
L.P. Słupecki – Mitologia Skandynawska w epoce Wikingów
L. Auerbach – Wikingowie i Germanie. Sagi ludów północy
Vladyka, June 2013