The story of the beginnings is told, with many variations, in three poems of the “Old Edda,” and a synthesis of these is given by Snorri Sturluson in “The Prose Edda.” Snorri adds certain details about the gods of Norse mythology which he probably took from sources now lost.

Although imperfect, the “Völuspá” account appears to be the most rational description of the cosmogony. The story is told by a clairvoyant old woman who was raised by primitive giants.

In the beginning it was nothing but Ginnungagap, a void charged with magical force. Three gods, Odin and his brothers, raised the earth, probably from the sea, into which it would eventually sink back. The sun shone on the barren rocks and the ground was covered with green grass, according to Britannica.

How many were the gods in Norse mythology?

Later, Odin and two other gods came across two lifeless tree trunks, Askr and Embla, on the shore. They endowed them with breath, reason, hair and expressions, thus creating the first human couple.

Ancient Nordic sources name a large number of deities. Evidence from place names suggests that one cult followed another.

The names, especially those in southeastern Norway and southern Sweden, suggest that there was once widespread worship of a god called Ull (Ullr). Indeed, an early poem describes an oath on Ull’s ring, suggesting that he was once one of the highest gods, at least in some areas.

Beyond that, little is known about Ull; he was the god of the bow and snowshoes, and according to Saxo Grammaticus, who calls him Ollerus, temporarily replaced Odin when the latter was driven from his throne.


The gods of Norse mythology can be roughly divided into two tribes, the Aesir and the Vanir. At one time, according to fairly reliable sources, there was a war between the Aesir and the Vanir, but when neither side could achieve a decisive victory, they made peace and exchanged hostages.

In this way the specialized fertility gods, the Vanir, Njörd (Njörðr), his son Freyr, and probably his daughter Freyja, came to dwell among the Aesir and be accepted into their hierarchy.

Where did the Norse gods live?

The place where the Norse gods lived is called Asgard. Ásgardr (Old Norse) in Norse mythology is comparable to the Greek Mount Olympus. Legend divided Asgard into 12 or more realms, including Valhalla, the home of Odin and home of heroes slain in earthly battle; Thrudheim, the realm of Thor; and Breidablik, home of Balder.

Each major god had his own palace in Asgard, and many Germanic peoples believed that these mansions were similar in design to those of their own nobility. Asgard could only be reached from earth via the Bifrost (rainbow) bridge, according to Britannica.

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