Thor, God of Thunder

Thor is the Norse god of thunder, also associated with oak trees, strength, protection and fertility. ‘Thor’ comes from the Germanic word for ‘thunder’, thus he is associated with thunder, lightning and storms. He is often viewed as a fierce warrior with red hair, a red beard, and eyes like lightning. He is likened to the Greek hero Heracles through his strength and skill in battle, as well as the Roman god Jupiter and Teutonic god Donar.

Thor was the son of Odin through the jötunn (giant) Jord, however his mother was also thought to be the earth goddess Fjörgyn. He was married to fertility goddess Sif, whose long golden hair was cut by the trickster god Loki. Thor’s mistress was the giant Járnsaxa (“iron cutlass”), which whom he had sons Magni and Modi, and daughter Thrud.

Thor’s home was Bilskinir, located in the region of Asgard called Thrudheim / Thrudvangar (“place of might”).

It was thought that Thor rode through the heavens on his chariot pulled by two goats, Tanngrisnir and Tanngnjóstr, which was responsible for the sound of thunder during a storm. The lightning bolts, called Thorsviggar, were produced when Thor threw his large hammer Mjölnir. Thor also wore a belt of strength named Megingjardir, iron gloves named Járngreipr, and carried the staff Gríðarvölr.File:Mårten Eskil Winge - Tor's Fight with the Giants - Google Art Project.jpg

Thor was responsible for the protection of mankind as well as protecting the Aesir gods from the frost giants. He was involved in several fierce battles, especially with his greatest enemy, the Midgard serpent named Jörmungandr. On the day of Ragnarök, the end of the world, Thor will finally defeat his enemy, however later die from its poison.File:Thor's hammer, Skåne.svg

Thor is very popular in Germanic and Norse mythology, and his hammer was seen as a symbol of defiance of the Christianization of Scandinavia. He was worshipped especially in Uppsala, where his father Odin can be seen standing at his right side. Some suggest that Thor surpassed Odin in popularity due to the fact that worship of Thor did not require human sacrifice.

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The day Thursday bears his name (“Thor’s day”), just as Týr/Tiu was the namesake of Tuesday, Odin/Woden was the namesake of Wednesday, and Frejya (or Frigg, according to some sources) was the namesake of Friday.

© A Year And A Day (2013)

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Triple Goddess

There are many forms of triple, tripartite or threefold deities in ancient mythology.  Some are seen as a triad who always appear in a group (such as the Norse Norns, the Greek Fates, or the Roman Matres), while some are seen as a single deity having three aspects (such as Greek Hecate).

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For example, Brigid is seen as a triple goddess in Irish mythology, functioning as the patron of poetry, healing and smithcraft.  The Irish Morrígan is also seen in triplicate, as Badb, Macha, and Nemain.  Triple deities are not constrained to goddesses, as seen through the association of Celtic Lugh with Gaulish gods Esus, Toutatis and Taranis.

Many Wiccans see the Triple Goddess as Maiden, Mother and Crone.  The Maiden represents youth, new beginnings, purity, virginity, independence and innocence.  The Mother represents ripeness, fertility, sexuality, stability, protection and growth.  The Crone represents old age, wisdom, change, endings, transformation, banishing, death and rebirth.

These aspects also follow the phases of the moon, with the Maiden corresponding to the waxing phase, the Mother with the full moon, and the Crone with the waning moon.  The fourth phase, the New Moon, can be seen as the Dark or Unseen Goddess.

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This Triple Goddess concept can be associated with the Greek moon goddesses; Artemis, virgin Goddess of the Hunt, Selene, Goddess of the Moon, and Hecate, Goddess of the Underworld.

It has been disputed as to when the traditional ‘Maiden-Mother-Crone’ concept first appeared.  Robert Graves wrote about the Maiden-Mother-Crone Triple Goddess as well as their lunar associations in his book The White Goddess (1948).  However historian Ronald Hutton insists that there was no mention of a Maiden-Mother-Crone goddess figure in ancient mythology.  Robert Graves could have reinterpreted the traditional 3×3 goddesses of Greek and Roman origin, represented by three maids, three mothers or three crones.

Whatever its origin, the Triple Goddess concept in Wicca can help us relate to our different aspects and remind us we are part of a greater whole.  Each stage of a woman’s life cycle represents a way we can embody the Goddess and make the physical body sacred, which is not present in traditional patriarchal religions.

Wiki – Triple Goddess, Triple Deity
Wicca For The Rest of Us – Triple Goddess

© A Year And A Day Wicca (2013)

Persephone, The Maiden

Persephone is a Greek vegetation goddess, daughter of Zeus and the harvest goddess Demeter (Roman Ceres).  Also known as Kore or Proserpina, she was also Goddess of the Underworld.

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Demeter searched for nine days for her daughter, however was told by Helios what had really happened.  Hades had abducted Persephone, with the permission of Zeus, and brought her into his Underworld realm to be his bride.  Demeter, angry and grief-stricken, rejected the world of the Gods, and withheld her gifts of fertility so that no crops grew.

Zeus finally gave in and commanded Hades to release Persephone.  Unfortunately, Persephone had eaten some pomegranate seeds while in the Underworld, which bound her to remain in that realm.  As a compromise, Persephone was allowed to spend part of the year with her mother on earth.

Persephone

It is thought that the time Persephone spent with her mother was a time of joy, where Demeter would allow the earth to bloom with flowers and life.  However the time when Persephone was in the Underworld, the world was dark with very little growth and life, acknowledging Demeter’s pain and suffering.  This represents the seasons, the bountiful spring and summer, and the dark bleak winter.  Through this, Persephone/Kore was called ‘the Maiden’ and represented spring’s bounty.

Persephone and Demeter are central figures in the Eleusinian Mysteries, initiation rites held in the city of Eleusis based on the cycle of death and rebirth.  The Mysteries became very popular and promised life after death to initiates.

Sometimes Persephone and Demeter are thought to be two faces of the same goddess.  Also, Kore (‘the Maiden’), Demeter (‘Earth Mother’), and Persephone (‘Destroyer of Light’), can also be thought of as the classic Maiden, Mother, Crone triple goddess figure, from birth to death to rebirth.

Persephone was usually depicted as a young springtime goddess, holding a sheaf of grain and a flaming torch.

Thalia Took – Kore
Wiki – Persephone
Theoi – Persephone

© A Year And A Day (2013)

Odin, All Father

Woden / Wodan / Wotan (Anglo-Saxon)

Odin was the chief god of Norse mythology, head of the Æsir gods.  He was also called Alfodr (All Father), Yggr (terror), Sigfodr (father of victory) or Valfodr (father of the slain).  Odin is thought to be the same as Woden, Wodan or Wotan in Anglo-Saxon and Germanic mythology.

Odin lived with the rest of the Æsir in Asgard, one of the Nine Worlds of Norse mythology.

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Odin was the son of Bor and Bestla, and with Frigg fathered Balder, Hod and Hermod.  By the goddess Jord, Odin is also father to the god of thunder, Thor.

Odin is associated with war, battle, victory, death, but also poetry, wisdom, prophecy, Shamanism and magic.  He was also known as ‘father of the slain’, as it is thought that brave warriors would be chosen to go to Valhalla after death.

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From his throne Hlidskialf, Odin would gain knowledge from his two ravens, Hugin (‘thought’) and Munin (‘memory’), who would fly throughout the world every day and bring news back to Odin in Valhalla.

Odin is also associated with the spear Gungnir, which never misses its target, the ring Draupnir, which reappears every ninth night, and his eight-footed horse Sleipnir.  He also has two wolves, Freki and Geri.

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Odin was also a shapeshifting god, using the aliases Vak or Valtam amongst humans.

On the day of Ragnarök, the end of the world, Odin is killed by the wolf Fenrir, the offspring of the god Loki and the frost giantess Angrboda.

Odin is tied to the story of the Runes, as the Poetic Edda states he hung upside down from the world tree, Yggdrasil, for nine days and pierced himself with his spear in order to obtain their magical knowledge.

I know that I hung on a windy tree
nine long nights,
wounded with a spear, dedicated to Odin,
myself to myself,
on that tree of which no man knows from where its roots run.
No bread did they give me nor a drink from a horn,
downwards I peered;
I took up the runes,
screaming I took them,
then I fell back from there.

This story of sacrifice and physical tribulation in order to receive mystical wisdom is similar to a shamanic initiation, and tells how Odin became associated with shamanism.

The name Yggdrasil is thought to mean ‘Odin’s Horse’, since drasil means horse and Yggr is another name for Odin.  ‘Odin’s Horse’ is a reference to ‘gallows’, as Odin sacrificed himself by hanging from the world tree.

Odin still desired more knowledge, and later traded one of his eyes for a drink from the Well of Wisdom, gaining immense knowledge.  Also, the Vanir goddess Freya taught Odin the magic of Seidr in exchange for his knowledge of the Runes.

Sources say that every ninth year, during blóts, people made human sacrifices to Odin at the Temple at Uppsala.  It is thought that male slaves and males of each species were sacrificed and hung from the branches of the trees.

Romans equated Odin with the messenger god Mercury.  Some parallels can also be drawn between Odin and the Gaulish god Lugus, such as their association with the raven and the spear.  Some also say that Odin replaced the Proto-Germanic god Týr/Tîwaz during the Germanic migration period.

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Wednesday is named after Odin, in the form of ‘Woden’s Day’.  This is thought to come from the Latin dies Mercurii (‘Mercury’s day’), given the Romans compared Odin to their god Mercury.

Odin is often pictured as an elderly man with a long white beard, wide brim hat, and wooden staff or spear.  Tolkien based his character Gandalf from Lord of the Rings on an “Odinic wanderer”.  Odin is also thought to be an early version of Father Christmas in Scandinavian and Germanic countries.

Wiki – Odin
Wiki – Yggdrasil
Wiki – Runes
Pantheon – Odin
Ancient Mythology – Odin

© A Year And A Day (2013)

The Morrígan, Great Queen

Morrígu, Morríghan, Morrígna, Morgan, Badb, Macha, Nemain, Anand, Fea

The Morrígan is a Celtic goddess of war, death, battle, strife, sovereignty, rebirth, fate, prophecy and magic.   She is also known as The Great Queen, Phantom Queen, Specter Queen, or Supreme War Goddess.  The Morrígan is associated with the sometimes frightening aspects of female energy and is often seen as an omen of death.  She often took the shape of a raven or crow, however her other forms included an eel, wolf, cow and horse.

The Morrígan is commonly seen as a Triple Goddess.  In texts of the Celtic Mythological Cycle, they are seen as sisters, the daughters of Ernmas and granddaughters of Nuada of the Tuatha Dé Danann.  They include Badb (‘fury’, ‘crow’) and Macha (‘battle’, ‘raven’), with the third being either Nemain (‘frenzy/fury’), Anand (aka Morrígan), or Fea (‘hateful’).  It is uncertain as to whether the Morrígan represents one or each or these goddesses, or all of them collectively.  Interestingly, Ernmas’ first three daughters are thought to be Ériu, Banba, and Fódla, the patron goddesses of Ireland and wives of the last three Tuatha Dé Danann kings.

The Morrígan’s Triple Goddess aspect can also be seen as the Maiden, Mother, and Crone of modern Wicca.

The Morrígan appears in both the Ulster and Mythological Cycles of Celtic mythology, where she is found to have relations with the Ulster war hero Cú Chulainn.  She is thought to have helped the Tuatha Dé Danann defeat the Firbolg at the First Battle of Mag Tuireadh and the Fomorians at the Second Battle of Mag Tuireadh.  It is said that she mated with the Dagda before the battle with the Formorians in exchange for her battle plans, which led the Tuatha Dé Danann to victory.

Morrigan_JessicaGalbreth

Through her role as war goddess, she is often compared with the Germanic Valkyries.  Her role included being a symbol of imminent death or could influence the outcome of war.  In the form of a crow, she often appeared flying above the battle, inspiring either fear or courage in the hearts of the warriors.  Through her ability to predict the death of warriors, she is sometimes associated with the wailing banshee (bean sídhe) of folklore.

Some have attempted to link the Morrígan with the Morgan le Fay from Welsh mythology, however it is likely that the two names are not related linguistically.

Wiki – Morrigan
Pantheon – Morrigan
Celtic Deities – Morrigan
Thalia Took – Macha

© A Year And A Day (2013)

Lugh, Master of Skills

Lug, Lugus/Lugos (Gaulish), Lugh Lámhfhada (Irish), Lleu Llaw Gyffes (Welsh), Lugaid/Lugaidh, Lonnansclech

Lugh is a popular Celtic sun god known for his many skills.  Because of this, he was also called Lugh Lámhfhada (Lugh of the Long Arm), Lleu Llaw Gyffes (Lleu of the Skillful Hand), Samildánach (Skilled in All the Arts), Lonnbeimnech (fierce striker, sword-shouter) or Macnia (boy hero).

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Lugh is thought to be a form of the pan-Celtic/Gaulish god Lugus/Lugos.  The ancient Romans associated Lugh with the Roman god Mercury/Greek Hermes, as well as Apollo through his association with Lugus.  It is also possible that Lugh/Lugus was also a triple god, comprising the Gaulish gods Esus, Toutatis and Taranis.

Lugh was known as a sun god and a fierce warrior.  He is also known as a god of storms, particularly thunderstorms.  He was associated with the raven, crow, and lynx, and had a magic hound.  Lugh possessed several magical weapons, including an invincible Spear, one of the treasures of the Tuatha Dé Danann.  It is said that the Spear never missed its target and was so bloodthirsty it would often try to fight without anyone wielding it.

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Lugh’s father was Cian, son of Danu and Dian Cécht of the Tuatha Dé Danann, and his mother was Ethniu/Ethlinn, daughter of Balor of the Fomorians.  It was said that Lugh’s grandfather, Balor of the Evil Eye, learned that he would one day be murdered by a grandson.  He tried to confine his daughter Ethniu, however Cian released her and she bore him three sons.  Balor arranged for the children to be killed, however Lugh was saved.  Lugh was later given to Tailtiu, a Fir Bolg, who raised him as her foster son.

Lugh had many wives, including Buí and Nás, daughters of Ruadri, King of Britain, as well as Echtach, Englic, and Rosmerta.  Lugh’s most famous son was the Irish war hero Cú Chulainn, some say through the mortal maiden Deichtine/Dechtire.

 

One story of Lugh explains how he travelled to the Hall of Tara to join the court of King Nuada of the Tuatha Dé Danann.  The guard at the door will not grant him access unless he had a skill that was of help to the King.  Lugh said he was a smith, wright, craftsman, swordsman, harpist, poet, historian, sorcerer, physician, and champion, however the guard tells him they already have experts with those skills.  Lugh then asks if any one man has all of those skills together, which the guard could not answer, and Lugh was allowed to enter the Hall.

It is during the Second Battle of Mag Tuireadh against the Fomorians that King Nuada is killed in battle by Balor. Lugh then faces Balor, who opens his poisonous eye that kills all it looks upon.  Lugh however shoots a stone from a sling-shot that drives his eye out the back of his head, killing Balor.

Lugh later finds Bres, the half-Formorian former king of the Tuatha Dé Danann, beaten and scared.  Bres begs for his life, and Lugh agrees to spare him if he shares his secrets of the land, including when to plough, sow, and reap.  At the end of the war, Lugh becomes High King of Ireland and rules for many years.

Cermait, the son of Dagda, later seduces one of Lugh’s wives.  Lugh kills him in revenge, however Cermait had three sons MacCuill, MacCecht and MacGrené/ Gréine, who avenged their father’s death by killing Lugh at Uisnech in Loch Lugborta.

Lugh held a harvest fair in honour of his foster mother, Tailtiu, which fell around the time of the first harvest in the Northern Hemisphere, August 1.  The festival was named Lughnasadh (“Festival of Lugh”) and celebrated corn, grains, bread and other symbols of the harvest.  Lúnasa is also the Irish name for the month of August.  In Christian England, this festival is known as Lammas (after the Saxon phrase hlaf maesse or “loaf mass”) also celebrating the first harvest of the year.  Even today, many people in Ireland celebrate Lughnasadh and Lammas with dancing, song, and bonfires.

Wiki – Lugh, Lugus
PaganWiccan About.com – Lugh
Timeless Myths – Lugh

© A Year And A Day (2013)

Pantheon Genealogies

I recently attempted to construct a family tree of the Celtic deities.  This proved to be much harder than I initially thought!  Not only do you have to deal with a multitude of sources, but you have to filter out which sources are more accurate, and what information has been lost in the sands of time.

Timeless Myths has genealogies for several pantheons; Irish, Welsh, Norse, Greek and Roman.  These were constructed from various sources and are in no means complete (and in some cases, contradict each other).  But I find it helpful to see the various deities displayed in this way.  It allows me to see the bigger picture and to understand the context of their many stories and adventures.

IrishTuathaGenealogy1

WelshWelshGenealogy

NorseNorseGenealogy

GreekGreekGenealogy

RomanRomanGenealogy

Timeless Myths

© A Year And A Day (2013)