Although Hoenir was a companion to Odin and Loki, two well-publicized Norse gods, very little has survived about him, and he does not seem to have had cult places or worshippers.
Which is surprising in a way, because in Völuspá he is the one performing the old rites after the world is reborn, so you automatically think “priestly god”. Several scholars have decided that his role was in fact a priestly or vatic one, based on this.
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.
This is one of those questions with a short and a long answer. The short answer is that it is the Norse goddess Freyja’s necklace. The longer answer is that the necklace, and its owner, were intimately linked. The jewel and the goddess were linked in the same way as Thor and his hammer: an attribute that could both symbolize the deity and embody their power.
In Skáldskaparmal 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 Ragnarök, 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.)
In his fickleness and imagination he even gave pleasure to Odin, who with his well-sipping and auto-asphyxiation knew too much ever to be otherwise amused …the reason why Odin had taken the great, foredoomed step of making Loki his blood brother – for the pleasure, pure and simple, of his company. (Chabon: 53)
Odin and Loki are blood-brothers, and we have to wonder what each saw in the other that led to such an unusual partnership. After all, the two are on entirely different trajectories. Odin is trying to get as far as he can from his giant ancestry, to the extent of murdering his own grandfather to make the world. Loki, on the other hand, is constantly pulled back and forth, but usually ending up with the gods, until he chooses the giants for good.
Both giantesses and witches used wolves as their steeds; a sign of their ability to control wild and dangerous forces. The wolf-riding woman could do what others could not.
Wolves occupied a very ambiguous place in Norse myth and thought. The best of dogs is said to be Garm, but everywhere else Garm is a wolf, and a dangerous one at that. Garm is the wolf that kills Tyr at Ragnarök, (Gylf. 51) and the similarly named Mánagarm devours the moon (and presumably Máni the moon-god):
Wolves, as predatory animals and carrion-eaters, had a somewhat grim reputation among the Norse. There was the Fenris Wolf, who would devour Oðin at Ragnarok, and on a more human level, outlaws were called vargr, wolves.
At the same time, though, Oðin had two as pets, and in one Eddic poem he praises the killer wolf Garm as the “best of hounds”. Warriors gave themselves wolf-names, and in addition to the well-known berserker, Úlfhéðnar were men imbued with the ferocity of wolves.
In my next three posts, I will be taking a closer look at the ambivalent mythology surrounding wolves in Norse myth. In particular, I want to look at three aspects of the wolf-mythos:
- Mythological wolves, such as Fenrir and Garm, and their relation to Loki.
- Metaphorical wolves, such as outlaws and warriors.
- Magical wolves, associated with giantesses and witches.
The image of the wolf goes to the heart of the Eddic story of creation and eventual doom, and exposes some of the fractures at the heart of the society the Æsir created. I hope you will enjoy reading these posts. If you find them interesting, please feel free to comment or like them.
If you liked the image at the top, click here.
When you think of gender-bending in Norse myth, the trickster-god Loki springs to mind. Would you be surprised to know that Odin and Thor have also dragged up, albeit not very successfully in Thor’s case? (One of the areas they did not compete in during the flyting in Hárbarðsljóð; imagine how that would have gone.)
I realize that Loki’s mother Laufey and the goddess Iðunn are not obviously connected, but there are parallels between them. These reveal the power and gender politics of Norse myth. In some ways Laufey is an inversion of Iðunn.