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Norse Mythology

The Norse (a.k.a. the Vikings) were converted to Christianity during the Middle Ages, but before then they had their own vibrant native pagan religion that was as harshly beautiful as the Nordic landscape to which it was intimately connected. The centerpiece of that religion was what we today call “Norse mythology:” the set of religious stories that gave meaning to the Vikings’ lives.

The Norse religion that contained these myths never had a true name – those who practiced it just called it “tradition”.

For the Vikings, the world as they found it was enchanted – that is, they didn’t feel the need to seek salvation from the world, but instead delighted in, and marveled at, “the way things are,” including what we today would call both “nature” and “culture.” Their religion and myths didn’t sugarcoat the sordidness, strife, and unfairness of earthly life, but instead acknowledged it and praised the attempt to master it through the accomplishment of great deeds for the benefit of oneself and one’s people. A life full of such deeds was what “the good life” was for the Vikings.

Their 12 Major Gods

1) Ymir

Like with most mythologies, the Norse pantheon had its primeval entity in the form of Ymir, the ancestor of all mythic entities that ranged from giants to other fantastical creatures (jötnar). Now as opposed to a strict categorization as one of the Norse gods, Ymir was perceived more as the ‘first being’ who was created by the ice of Niflheim combined with the heat of Muspelheim, long before the existence of the Earth. And after his own genesis, Ymir, with his hermaphroditic body, was responsible for birthing male, female, and other mythical beings, who in turn would go on to bear future generations.

And mirroring other primeval deities of ancient mythologies, the narrative of Ymir took a turn, with the entity being given a tragic ending due to his apparent evil schemes. To that end, Buri (created after Ymir), often acknowledged as the first of the Norse gods, had a son named Bor, who finally married one of Ymir’s descendants Bestla, and their union produced three sons – Ve, Vili, and Odin. But the angry Ymir confronted these ascending young Norse gods, which eventually led to his own death at the hands of the three brothers.

The three Norse gods, including Odin, then proceeded on to create the entire earth from Ymir’s fallen body, with his blood accounting for the seas and oceans, while his bones made up the rocks and mountains. Furthermore, his hair was used for the trees, his skull was transformed into the sky and heavens, and his brains were made into clouds. And finally, his eyebrows were fashioned into the Midgard – the ‘middle realm’ of mankind (a.k.a. Earth).

2) Odin

Odin (Óðinn in Old Norse), possibly the most respected yet mysterious of all Norse gods, was regarded as the king of the Æsir tribe of gods (this pantheon includes Odin, Frigg, Thor, Baldr and Týr)Historically, Odin had always been prominent in the pantheon of Germanic mythology, and given his mythical eminence over the cultural framework of the Germanic people, Odin was associated with various (and often contradictory) aspects, ranging from wisdom, healing, royalty to death, sorcery, and even frenzy.

3) Frigg

Possibly the foremost of all Norse goddesses when it came to their pantheon, Frigg was regarded as the Queen of the Æsir and the goddess of the sky. Moreover, with her special status as the spouse of Odin, the deity, with her power of foreknowledge, was also frequently associated with fertility, household, motherhood, marriage, and even domestic matters. In essence, of all the Norse gods, it was the mythic aspects of Frigg that were mostly related to the perceived bliss of family life.

4) Thor

Arguably the most famous of the Norse gods, Thor (Þórr in Old Norse), the god of thunder, with his burly might and boisterous ways, epitomized the formidable warrior who was accorded high status in the Germanic society of ancient and early medieval times. Regarded as the son of Odin and his wife Fjörgyn (not to be confused with Frigg), Thor, with his red beard and eyes, was hailed as the loyal and stalwart defender of the Æsir’s stronghold of Asgard, thus suggesting his symbolic role as the protector of the ordered cosmos.

Suffice it to say, according to Poetic Edda, Thor was considered as the strongest of all beings among both gods and men. And his strength was rather ‘amplified’ by some of his specially-crafted apparels, including his iron gloves and the belt of Megingjard (or megingjarðar in Old Norse). But the most common item associated with Thor undoubtedly pertains to the dwarf-crafted hammer Mjöllnir (roughly translated to ‘lightning’), thus alluding to how thunder was perceived as the result of  Thor striking his hammer, presumably when slaying giants and monsters while riding his chariot drawn by two giant goats – Tanngniost and Tanngrisnir.

Interestingly enough, Thor was also regarded as the god of agriculture, fertility, and hallowing. Pertaining to the former, this aspect was probably an extension of Thor’s role as a sky god who was also responsible for rain. To that end, Thor’s wife Sif and her golden hair possibly symbolized the fields of grain, and thus their union embodied the fruitfulness and verdancy of the lands.

5) Balder

Regarded as the Æsir god of light and purity, Balder, or Baldur (Baldr in Old Norse), the younger son of Odin and Frigg, and half-brother of Thor, was the epitome of the radiant summer sun itself. He was also hailed as a fair, wise, and gracious divine being whose beauty even abashed the elegant flowers before him. Matching his physical attributes, his abode Breidablik in Asgard was considered the most exquisite of all halls in the stronghold of the Norse gods, flaunting its gilded silver components and embellished pillars that only allowed the purest of hearts to enter.

Balder also possessed the greatest ship ever built, Hringhorni, which was later used as the funeral pyre after the god’s tragic death.

6) Tyr

The deity of war and heroic glory, Tyr (or Týr in Old Norse) was regarded as the bravest of the Norse gods of the Germanic people. And in spite of his association with wars – more specifically the formalities of conflict, including treaties, his origins are rather enigmatic, with the deity possibly being one the oldest and most important of the ancient Germanic pantheon, until he was supplanted by Odin (who had been described in many myths as Tyr’s father, while other stories place Tyr as the son of the giant Hymir). In any case, since some of the aspects of Tyr related to formalities, the god was also hailed as the deity of justice and oaths.

Tyr was often depicted as the one-handed god since his limb was bitten off by the monstrous wolf Fenrir when the god tried to trap the creature (and Fenrir was thus successfully bound till Ragnarok due to the sacrifice of Tyr). In spite of this episode, Tyr is foretold to be slain by Garm, the guard dog of Hel, as opposed to Fenrir (according to the prose version of Ragnarök).

7) Bragi

Bragi (which roughly translates to ‘Poet’ in Old Norse), often considered as the skaldic god of poetry in Norse mythology, pertains to a unique mythical character who possibly shared traits with the historical 9th-century bard Bragi Boddason, who himself might have served in the courts of Ragnar Lodbrok and Björn at Hauge. In any case, when it came to legends, the god Bragi was perceived as the bard of Valhalla, the magnificent hall of Odin where all the fallen heroes and warriors are gathered for the ultimate ‘showdown’ at Ragnarok. To that end, Bragi was hailed as the skillful poet-god who sang and delighted the hordes of the Einherjar (warriors who died in battles and were brought to Odin’s majestic hall by the Valkyries).

8) Loki

Represented as having qualities somewhat akin to the chaotic and mischevious aspects of ancient Egyptian god Set, Loki is regarded as the trickster among the Norse gods, who as a jötunn (being the son of giants Helblinde and Býleistr) also possesses the power to shapeshift. Essentially, he is projected as an entity who is not entirely evil in his whimsical purposes, and yet particularly scheming in his cruel actions – many of which lead to misfortunes and even tragedies (like the accidental death of Balder).

Now given his heritage as an outsider among the Æsir tribe of gods, the narrative of Loki in ancient stories might have served as a plot device that provides a soft antithesis to the other gods. His complex relationship with other gods, particularly Thor, comes to light from different sources.

9) Hel

We tend to associate hell with the realm of eternal damnation. Well, its Germanic counterpart was no walk in the park either, with inhabitants like Fenrir the Wolf, Jörmungandr the Serpent and other subjects who had died through sickness and old age. The ruler of this netherworld (also called Helheim) was the eponymous Hel, who was the daughter of Loki and the giant Angrboda. And it fell upon her to judge and decide the fate of the souls who entered her realm.

Descriptions of Hel, the being, have been found in numerous Viking sagas and poems; and most of them portray her as being partly decomposed with a face and a body of living women (albeit with a gloomy, downcast appearance), but with thighs and legs of a corpse. Still, among the Norse goddesses, she was said to be most powerful, even more than Odin himself, inside her own realm the Hel. The tragic episode of Balder’s death confirms such an association to power since it ultimately falls upon Hel to decide the fate of the soul of a god who was considered the wisest and most pure of all the Norse gods of Æsir.

10) Heimdall

Often portrayed as ever-vigilant guardian of Asgard, the stronghold of the Æsir Norse gods, Heimdall (or Heimdallr in Old Norse) was hailed as the descendant of giant Fornjót, and the grandson of sea jötunn (singular of jötnarÆgir. He is often depicted with his horn Gjallarhorn (‘Resounding Horn’), which is put to use when intruders approach the home of the Æsir tribe of gods. Pertaining to this ‘guarding’ duty, Heimdall is attested to possess keen eyesight (that stretches to hundreds of miles) and hearing (that even encompasses the sound of wool growing on the sheep), complemented by other qualities like having foreknowledge and vast sources of energy (that allows him to sleep less than a bird).

11) Freyr

One the most venerated and beloved of the Norse gods, Freyr (along with his twin sister Freya) was unique in his origins, since he belonged to the Vanir tribe of Norse gods, as opposed to the Æsir. Usually depicted as a brawny man with his flowing hair, Freyr, the son of sea-god Njord (and frost giantess, Skadi or Njord’s unnamed sister), was hailed as the foremost of deities when it came to the aspect of fertility – covering both sexual and ecological scopes. Simply put, the god embodied bountiful harvests, wealth, peace, and possibly even virility – all symbolized by Freyr’s boar Gullinborsti (‘Golden-Bristled’).

Given his association to such important avenues, Freyr was the favored entity of reverence and worship when it came to marriage rites and harvest celebrations. The preferred sacrifice in these cases often involved the boar, the animal symbolically linked to the fertility god. In that regard, in Norse mythology, Freyr was also known to travel in his chariot pulled by boars

12) Freya

Freya (Freyja in Old Norse, meaning ‘Lady’), though initially belonging to the Vanir tribe of Norse gods (like his twin brother Freyr), was also as a loyal and honorary member of the Æsir, after the conclusion of their tribal war. Epitomizing the aspects of love, beauty, and even opulent objects, the goddess was often represented as the seeker of pleasure and the unknown. Focusing on the latter, Freya embodied the völva (or anglicized vala), the female seer of the Norse religion who had the ability to tinker with the seidr – magic pertaining to destiny and its ‘weaving’.

 


Գենդերային հավասարում

Գենդերը անգլերեն «սեռ» բառից է առաջացել։ Այն կանանց և տղամարդկանց միջև հարաբերությունների սոցիալական հայեցակետ է, որն արտահայտվում է հասրակական կյանքի բոլոր ոլորներում
Ժմանակակից գիտությունը գենդերը սահմանում է որպես գաղաբարական կառույց, թե քիչ է նշանակում լինել տղամարդ կամ կին տվյալ մշակյյթում։
20-րդ դարում գենդերային ուսումնասիրությիունների ոլորդում տիրապետում էր այն տեսակեը, որ այն առաջացել է մարդու գլխուն և լեզվով ներկայացվել է հասարակությունը։ Լեզվի և գենդերների փոխգործակցության համակարգված ուսումնասիրությունը սկսվել է 1970-ական թվականներից Արևմուտքում։ Այն առաջացավ ոչ թե ֆեմինիստական շարժումնեևի զարգացման արդյունքում, այլ իր ավանդույթների համատեքստվում։
Գենդերային հետազոտություններմ գլռբալացումը ներկայացվում էվորպես համակարգային երևույթ։
Գենդերային անհավասարությունը հասարակական բարիքների և պատասխանատվության անհամաչափ բաշխումն է կնոջ և տղամարդու միջև։ Դա կապված է նաև սոցիալական անհավասարության հետ։
19-րդ դարից քայլեր են արվում գենդերային հավասրություն հաստատելու համար, որի փուլերից մեկն էլ իրավահավասարությունն է։
Կանանց շարժման բարձրակետը սկսվեց 1960-70 թթ.։
Սակայն մեր օրերում կանայք որպեսզի հասնեն որոշակի հաջողության, սոտիպված են լինում հրաժարվել իրենց գենդերաին դերից և խաղալ տղամարդկանց կանոններով։ Երբ կնոջից պահանջում են լինել բարեհամբյուր և կանանցի, բայց աշխատել տղամարդու պես։ Նման պարագայում խոսել գենդերային դերերի մասին անիմաստ է։

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