Monday, June 19, 2017

Treasures of the Norse and Old English Gods

by Richard Denning

Before the coming of Christianity to the English lands the English shared a common mythology and belief structure to the peoples that would later be called Vikings and the Germanic tribes from which they themselves sprang. They believed in the many gods and goddesses (over 40 possibly) that included Woden (Odin), Thunor (Thor), Heimdall, Freya and Loki. These god and goddess owned and used marvelous treasures.

I take a look at some of them in this article.

Megingjörð (the Old Norse words mean “power-belt”) is a belt worn by the god Thor. The Prose Edda lists this as one of Thor’s three main possessions, along with the hammer Mjölnir and the iron gloves Járngreipr. When worn, the belt doubled Thor’s already immense strength.

Mjölnir (the name derived from Old German for “grinder” or “crusher”) is one of the most fearsome weapons, capable of leveling mountains. Snorri Sturluson relates how the hammer was made by the dwarven brothers Eitri and Brokkr. Due to a mishap in its manufacturing it had a characteristically short handle. The pendants and icons of the hammer were a common symbol of the god of thunder in North European mythologies and are found in burials and other locations.

Járngreipr (Old Norse “iron grippers”) are the iron gloves of the god Thor. Thor requires the gloves to handle his powerful hammer. The reason for this may come from the forging of the hammer, when the dwarf working the bellows was bitten in his eye by a gadfly (secretly Loki in disguise) which caused the handle of the hammer to be shortened.

Gungnir (Old Norse for “Swaying;”) is the name of the mighty spear that belongs to the god Odin. Images of the god often depict Odin bearing a spear. Such images date back all the way back to Bronze Age rock carvings of a spear god. As with most of the treasures it was created by the dwarves and had runes carved on its point. The real historical Norse and other Germanic peoples did in fact carve runes into some of their spears, presumably to call upon the same powers that made this weapon so fearsome.

Gjallarhorn (Old Norse for “yelling horn”) is a horn associated with the god Heimdall. Its use is mentioned three times in the Poetic Edda. Heimdall uses the horn to drink from Mímir’s well at the root of Yggdrasil and gains much wisdom. Elsewhere it is said that Heimdall is the owner of the “trumpet” and that “its blast can be heard in all worlds”. Finally it is foretold that in Ragnarök, Heimdall will blow into Gjallarhorn and the the gods will assemble. A figure holding a large horn to his lips appears on a stone cross from the Isle of Man. Gosforth Cross in Cumbria, England depicts a figure holding a horn and a sword standing in front of two beasts. Both of these figures have been theorized as depicting Heimdall with Gjallarhorn.

Draupnir (Old Norse for “the dripper”) is a gold ring made by the dwarves for Odin. It has the ability to multiply itself so that every ninth night, eight new rings ‘drip’ from Draupnir, Odin laid the ring on the funeral pyre of his son, Baldur.

Brísingamen (It might mean Fire Necklace or Amber Necklace) is the necklace of the goddess Freya. At one point Thor borrows Brísingamen when he dresses up as Freya to infiltrate a wedding in Jotunheim. On another occasion Loki steals the necklace and is pursued by Heimdall. The necklace is also possibly mentioned in the Old English Beowulf saga: Hama bore off to the shining city the Brosings’ necklace. 

Helskór ( which means “hel-shoes”) were given to the dead so that they could walk to Valhalla. In one saga these shoes are hanging from a large and beautiful linden-tree. Only travelers that had exercised mercy during their lives were given these. The significance became apparent to the dead because after they had passed this tree they had to cross a heath two miles wide in which thorns grew. This was followed by a river full of irons with sharp edges. Whilst the just could use the shoes to avoid theses perils those deemed unjust suffered immensely.


Richard Denning is an historical fiction author whose main period of interest is the Early Anglo-Saxon Era. His Northern Crown series explores the late 6th and early 7th centuries through the eyes of a young Saxon lord. Explore the darkest years of the dark ages with Cerdic.

The Nine Worlds series is a Historical Fantasy Adventure for Ages 9+. The historical world of Anglo-Saxon England meets the mysterious world of myths and legends, gods and monsters our ancestors believed in. This is the world as it might have been had those stories been true…

The first e-book is available free on many e-book sites.

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