Among the religions of the Germanic peoples, the most well-known is that of the Vikings , who converted to Christianity late, about a thousand years ago.
A religion of warriors
Due to this proximity in time, complete books were kept in which their myths and their religion are told : they are eddas and sagas .
War is a very important occupation among Germans in general and among Vikings in particular. To die in combat was for them the greatest honor, because they believed that they would go to a better future than other people.
According to mythology, the warriors would be taken by geniuses in the form of women, the so-called Valkyries , to Walhalla , Odin’s residence, a huge palace with a thousand doors. There they should wait, between battles and parties, for Ragnarok to arrive. This moment was the moment of the final combat, in which they would fight with their god against the forces of evil, commanded by Loki, who would try to destroy the world.
For the Vikings, this doomsday fight could not be stopped, as it thus determines the destiny, from which not even the gods, despite all their power, can escape. Fate is the greatest supernatural force in this religion.
The Yggdrasill tree
For Vikings, the three levels of the cosmos were connected by a tree called Yggdrasill . From it sprouted three sources: that of knowledge, that of destiny and that from which all the rivers of the Earth were born.
Under their shadow, the gods celebrated their assembly. But, since its birth, this tree was condemned to death, since its roots were gnawed by a snake and four deer ate its leaves.
The universe was divided into three worlds that were situated around that tree. In Midgardr , Middle Earth, men lived. The gods lived in Asgardr , while the monstrous beings were in Utgardr , a great desert of ice. The Viking belief said that when Yggdrasill fell, the end of the world would come.
The inhabitants of Utgandr are preparing for Ragnarok , the great battle at the end of the world, which will take place after a winter that will last three years, after which the Sun and Moon will be swallowed up by wolves. Utgandr’s passwords will then attack Midgardr and Asgardr. The only survivors of Ragnarok will be fire and a couple of humans, Líf and Lifthrasir, who are expected to hide in Yggdrasill. They will be in charge of repopulating the world.
The cult of trees, or dendrolatry, is a very common aspect in different cultures. They can be considered trees of life or axes of the world.
The Vikings Gods
The chief of the Viking gods was Odin , sovereign of all of them, lord of magic, power, poetry and runes, the writing of the Germans. He is one-eyed and is accompanied by two crows. Rides Sleipnir, an eight-legged horse. His wife is Frigg , goddess of love.
Tyr is the god of pacts and war.
Thor is the most popular of the gods. He presides over the war, and his weapon is Mjolnir, a supernatural hammer.
Freyr is also a good warrior and god of prosperity, wealth and fertility.
Freyja is the goddess of magic.
Njord is the god of the sea, navigation, commerce and wealth.
Balder is the smallest of the gods: beautiful, good, just, wise, forgiving and great warrior. He dies in a deception planned by Loki, but will resume after the end of time.
Loki is a contradictory god. He hands his hammer to Thor and his horse to Odin, and gets Balder to die. In addition, you will be the head of the destruction forces at Ragnarok.
Finally, Iduna is the goddess of eternal youth, possessing the apples of life.
In addition to the individual gods, there was a group of supernatural beings to whom the Vikings worshiped, and who were important in myths.
The giants ( jotnar ) were dangerous beings for men and gods, but they were also wise. In Ragnarok, the forces of destruction will be headed by them.
The dwarves ( dvergar ) lived under the earth and their main occupations were mining and metallurgy. According to Viking mythology, dwarves possessed a hidden and sacred wisdom, which allowed them to forge magical weapons for heroes and very powerful objects for gods.
The elves had an ambiguous relationship with the men, since they could cause illnesses and, in certain occasions, they could also favor them.
The norns fixed their destiny, and their decisions were considered irrevocable. There were three goddesses: Urd, the past; Verdandi, the present; and Skuld, the future. They resided in the roots of Yggdrasill and linked the fate of men and, in particular, that of heroes, for which they used gold threads.
The disas were also target of deities, fundamental at birth and in the protection of families and individuals.