Thor, God of Thunder & Lightning

Thor ~ a.k.a. “God of Thunder”, Þórr (Old Norse), Þunor, Þunraz, or Donar (German), or þonar ????? (Runic).

~ The Germanic and Norse God of Thunder, lightning, storms, strength, oak trees, protection of mankind, healing, fertility, and hallowing.

From earlier than the Ragnarok mythology onwards to the 2011 Hollywood blockbuster film of the same name, “Thor” has been a stable part of human history, folklore, and mythology. He is commonly depicted as a “God of storms, thunder, lightning, oak trees, and/or strength” in most of his history throughout proto Indo-European religions and faiths. In Academic literature, he is mentioned alot from the Roman occupation of Germania, during tribal expansions of the Migration Period, from the Viking Age, and to the incorporation of Christianity into Scandinavia as well as Ireland. The English day “Thursday” is named after him as “Thor’s Day”. He is often described as red haired (head and beard), muscular, and fierce-eyed carrying his war hammer “Mjöllnir”, wearing his iron gloves “Járngreipr”, sporting his “Megingjörð” belt, and brandishing his “Gríðarvölr” staff. He is the son of Odin and Fjörgyn (Earth). From his father Odin, he has several brothers. He was married to the Golden haired Goddess “Sif”, Lover to “jötunn Járnsaxa”, father of the God/desses Þrúðr (valkyrie through Sif), Magni (through Jarnsaxa), Móði (through an unknown mother), and stepfather of Ullr. He has two very close servants – Þjálfi and Röskva. He has two favorite goats that pulls his chariot “Tanngrisnir and Tanngnjóstr”.

Throughout Norse myth, “Thor” is mentioned in numerous tales, and is referred to as potentially upwards of 14 different names. He is often corresponded to the Gaulish God of Thunder “Toran” or “Taran” and the Irish God “Tuireann”. He has been attributed with living in three dwellings through his history which are Bilskirnir, Þrúðheimr, and Þrúðvangr. He is often depicted as “reckless” and notable for the mass slaughter of his foes. He invokes fear and terror in battle, and it is with the mythical battle with the dragon-like serprent “Jörmungandr” in Ragnarok that he is very popular. He also was written about much in Viking Age folklore as “Th?rr” and is where in written history, he is first known. This was the period of time when he was the most popular as a defiant response to Christianity trying to take hold in the lands where they fused. Many “Vikings” often wore talismans representing his war hammer to oppose Christianity. As most of German history was unwritten, much of the written lore about Thor in relation to the Germanic peoples was done by their conquerors, the Romans. Within these writings, he was often merged with the Roman God Jupiter or Jove, or Hercules as first found in the works of Tacitus. He appeared on Roman votive objects and coins dating in Germanic regions as early as the 2nd and 3rd century of the Common Era (C.E. / A.D.). The first recorded instance of his name as “Donar” was on the Nordendorf fibula jewelry in the 7th century C.E. in Bavaria. By 723 C.E., Saint Boniface felled a oak tree dedicated to “Jove” which was called the “Donar Oak” in Fritzlar, Hesse, Germany. In the 8th century, there were numerous tales about “Thunor” (Old English version of “Thor”), as well as the poem “Solomon and Saturn” and the expression þunnorad (“thunder ride”). In the 9th century, the Old Saxon Baptismal Vow In Mainz, Germany records his name in directions on how to get Germanic Pagans to renounce their native Gods as Demons. By the 11th century, Adam of Bremen describes a statue of Thor in the “Gesta Hammaburgensis Ecclesiae Pontificum” that sits in the Temple at Uppsala in Gamla Uppsala, Sweden listing “Thor” as the ruler of the sky, governor of thunder and lightning, storms, winds, fine weather, and fertility. He was also described as looking like Jupiter. It is also at this time that two notable archaeological artifacts with runic inscriptions invoking Thor were created in England (aka “The Canterbury Charm” to call Thor for healing a wound by banishing a thurs) and Sweden (aka “the Kvinneby amulet” to bring forth protection by Thor and his hammer). By the 12th century, after Christianity took hold in Norway, Thor was still found heavily worshipped and invoked by the Norse for help. Iconography at this time of King Olaf II of Norway being christianized also held Thor’s elements and depictions. The 13th century “Poetic Edda” which was compiled from traditional sources from Pagan eras, Thor is mentioned in the poems Völuspá, Grímnismál, Skírnismál, Hárbarðsljóð, Hymiskviða, Lokasenna, Þrymskviða, Alvíssmál, and Hyndluljóð. “Völuspá” tells a tale and premonition of the future talking about the Death of Thor as he would be doing battle with the great serpent during Ragnarok and dying from its venom. It is after this that the sky turns black as fire engulfs the world, the stars disappear, flames will dance in the sky, steam will rise, the world will be flooded with water, and earth will appear again green and fertile. Through this rebirth, Thor reappears wading through the rivers Körmt, Örmt, and the two Kerlaugar where he will sit as judge at the base of the Yggdrasil (cosmological world tree). He is then depicted as travelling “from the east” by means of a ferryman Hárbarðr who is Odin is disguise and is rude to him refusing him passage forcing Thor to walk.
He arrives at Ægir’s home telling Ægir he must prepare feasts for the Gods.

This annoys Ægir who tells Thor the Gods must first bring him a suitable cauldron to brew ale in. The Gods cannot achieve this feat, and sends Thor on a quest to find the cauldron that Hymir, east of Élivágar, owns. Thor goes on the quest with Týr, meeting the 900 headed grandmother of Týr as well as his gold-clad mother, becoming welcomed with a horn. He is then fed two oxen and goes to sleep, only to awaken in the morning for a fishing trip with Hymir that following evening to catch food … however he is then sent on another quest by Hymir to retrieve bait for the fishing trip which leads Thor to ripping the head of of Hymir’s best ox that is used as their fishing bait. It is here that the serpent Jörmungandr is baited, bites, and is attacked by Thor with his war hammer. Thor and Hymir feud, and later attacked by Hymir with an army of many-headed beings while Thor and Tyr roll the cauldron back to Aegir. He defeats the army, returns to Ægir, with the cauldron of plenty. In Ægir’s hall, his half-brother Loki, causes turmoil with the Gods in the Sea, while Thor is not in attendance during a particular banquet. Loki presumably sleeps with Thor’s wife Sif, and the situation meets Thor’s wraith and threats. He is challenged to fight Fenrir the wolf when it eats Odin. Thor continues to threaten Loki if he doesn’t remain quiet, and a insulting match takes place, and Loki is banished from the hall. Thor awakes to find his hammer missing, turns to help from Loki, borrows Freyja’s feather cloak, which is taken by Loki. Loki is discovered alone in Jötunheimr by the jötunn Þrymr, and tells him that Thor’s hammer is gone. He is told by Þrymr that the hammer is hidden 8 leagues beneath the earth which can only be retrieved if Freyja is brought back to him to be is wife. Loki returns with the cloak back to the court of the Gods. Thor is told the tales, and that Þrymr has the hammer, and about the bribe. They return to Freyja and tell her to put her bridal head dress on with intent to take her to Jötunheimr. She is outraged, and refuses. The God/desses have a debate, and tell Thor to dress up like Freyja, as the bride, and go in her place. He refuses, but is reminded by Loki that this is the only way to get the hammer back. They infiltrate Jötunheimr, meet with Þrymr and the assembled jötnar, eating and drinking ferociously with them, consuming entire animals and three casks of mead. This sets off Þrymr, who lifts “Freyja’s” veil to kiss her, and discovers terrifying eyes staring back at him burning with fire. Loki tells him this is because “Freyja” has not slept for eight nights in her eagerness to marry him. They are married by the “wretched sister” of the jötnar and brings out the war hammer to “sanctify the bride” laying it on her lap, Thor jumps up and laughs internally, grabs the hammer, strikes Þrymr, beats all of the jötnar, kills the “older sister”, and takes off with his hammer.

Thor is still written about in the modern historical period, especially in Scandinavia. He is written about in the “Tales of Thor” by Jacob Grimm. He is also used in Scandinavian folk beliefs to frighten away trolls. He is represented in much symbology as a lightning bolt, a war hammer, hammers, and the swastika symbol. Modern cults and revival religions are linked with worshipping Thor. He is still referenced in popular culture from art, sculpture, illustrations, poetry and stories in the 1700’s, 1800’s, and 1900’s, especially notably in F. J. Klopstock’s “ode to Thor”, Adam Gottlob Oehlenschläger’s “Thors reise til Jotunheim”, Hammeren hentes, Thors fiskeri, and Thor besøger Hymir, the Nordens Guder; Thors Trunk by Wilhelm Hertz; “Mythologierne eller Gudatvisten” by J. M. Stiernstolpe; Nordens Mythologie eller Sinnbilled-Sprog by N.F.S. Grundtvig; Harmen by Thor Thorild; Der Mythus von Thor by Ludwig Uhland; Der Hammer Thors by W. Schulte v. Brühl; Hans Friedrich Blunck’s Herr Dunnar und die Bauern; and Die Heimholung des Hammers by H. C. Artmann; and Rudyard Kipling’s: Letters of Travel: 1892-1913 and “Cold Iron” in Rewards and Fairies. Sculptures/Paintings such as Henry Fuseli’s “Thor in Hymirs Boot bekämpft die Midgardschlange”; H. E. Fruend’s statue Thor; B. E. Fogelberg’s marble statue Thor; M. E. Winge’s charcoal drawing Thors Kampf mit den Riesen; K. Ehrenberg’s drawing Odin, Thor und Magni; illustrations by E. Doepler published in W. Ranisch’s Walhall; J. C. Dollman’s drawings Thor and the Mountain and Sif and Thor; G. Poppe’s painting Thor; E. Pottner’s drawing Thors Schatten; H. Natter’s marble statue Thor; and U. Brember’s illustrations to Die Heimholung des Hammers by H. C. Artmann. He was then most notably portrayed in the American Marvel Comics as the superhero “Thor” which was taken from comic book, to book, to Movie by 2011.

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This entry was posted on Wednesday, October 19th, 2011 at 1:51 pm and is filed under God/desses, Living Myth, Movies, Mythology. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

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