Tag Archives: goats

Thor: ride the lightning

We’re always taught that Odin was head of the Norse gods, and father of most of them. But when the Christians in Scandinavia began to press the pagans to give up their religion, the sign of resistance was Thor’s hammer, not Odin’s spear or valknut.

This may come as a surprise to us, who mostly think of Thor as big and strong and a bit dim, out of his depth when it comes to anything more complicated than smashing giants. But Thor was a very popular deity in the Viking Age, as place-names and personal names show, perhaps because of his closeness to the humans he defended.

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Sheep and Goats in Norse Myth and Life

Sheep and goats were both common food animals during the Iron Age, although oddly enough there are no images of sheep from the pre-Christian period. There aren’t a lot of goats, either, but there are a few among the rock carvings on the west coast of Sweden and the east central part. The same holds true for the myths: few goats, but no sheep.

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Heimdall v. Loki

In Sk√°ldskaparmal Snorri gives a list of names for Loki. The last is “the wrangler with Heimdall and Skadi.” He also tells us that Loki and Heimdall will fight at Ragnar√∂k, and kill each other.

As you can see from the picture above, Heimdall and Loki are enemies, opposed forces, order and chaos. I can see how Loki fits into this, but why Heimdall in particular? (Although considering what Loki gets up to in the Thor and Avengers movies, “mischief” seems a very mild description of his activities.)

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Honey from an Ash

When I was young, I imagined the manna that fell from heaven as being some sort of bread, possibly akin to communion wafers. It made sense to my young, Catholic, self.

Much later in life, I had to rethink the nature of manna, because of two books. One was the Poetic Edda, and the other was The Hive by Bee Wilson (a very appropriate name). Wilson’s book talks mainly about honey from the hive, but she does mention manna or meli, as the ancient Greeks called it, which falls from ash trees.

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Capella: the little goat

In the next few months I plan to have an occasional series on the 20 brightest stars in the sky. Originally I was planning to start at 1 and work down, but I thought it made more sense to deal with them when they were most visible. So this month I’ll be writing about Capella, Sirius, Procyon, and Rigel.

Capella is the sixth brightest star in the sky, and third brightest in the northern hemisphere. It belongs to the constellation of Auriga, the Charioteer. As the title of this post indicates, the Charioteer is often shown cradling a goat in his arm, with the kids (or a whip). He also seems to have lost his chariot, which isn’t part of the constellation.

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