9. Huginn and Muninn In Norse myth, Huginn and Muninn are the two raven of the chief god Odin. “Huginn” means “thought” and “Muninn” means “memory”. Each morning Odin sends forth these raven and they fly over the earth. At night, they return and sit on his shoulders to tell him what they heard and saw. The connection between Odin and ravens is very old and deep. Already in the sixth and seventh centuries AD – well before the beginning of the Viking Age in the late eighth century – visual depictions of Odin on helmets and jewelry frequently picture him accompanied by one or more ravens. In the poetry of the Viking Age, Odin was referred to with kennings, and vice versa. A kenning is a common Old Norse literary device that uses images from a body of traditional lore to refer to something, rather than calling it by its everyday name. Odin is called the “ravengod”, the “raventempter”, or “the priest of the raven sacrifice”. In the same way, ravens are called “the greedy hawks of Odin”. Also, the sight of ravens immediately following a sacrifice to Odin was taken as a sign that the god had accepted the offering. The ravens are an extension of Odin himself. In fact, he fears they won’t return one day, leading to him losing some of knowledge and power. 8. Ratatotskr Scurrying up and down the Norse tree of life is Ratatoskr, a mischievous squirrel who is also a messenger for the gods. In the tales, he often puts his own spin on the stories he carries up and down the tree. His most regular clients are the wise eagle who sits at the top of Yggdrasil, and the hungry serpent, Nidhoggr, who lies coiled among the tree’s roots. Ratatoskr relishes the chance to carry an insult between these two mighty beasts, and by doing so, he is continually stirring the animosity between them. Tales describe Ratatoskr as a red squirrel. Ancient artists depicted him with extremely long ears, but this could be an artifact of the art style of the time, rather than a meaningful statement about Ratotskr’s physique. In some stories, he wants to destroy the tree of life, so he antagonizes the eagle and the dragon against each other. Because the tree is all that stands between the two foes, they attack the tree to get at each other. Some scholars believe that Ratatoskr may symbolize Rati, a magical drill that the god Odin used on a quest to obtain magical mead, made from the blood of the wisest man who ever lived, out of a fortress inside a mountain. 7. Garm The monstrous hound Garm guards the entrance to Helheim, the Norse realm of the, much like Cerberus in Greek mythology. It has four eyes and a chest drenched with blood, and lives in Gnipacave. Anyone who had given bread to the poor could appease him with Hel cake. On the day of Ragnarok, Garm will join the giants in their fight against the gods. The god of war Tyr will it in this cataclysmic battle but will from the wounds inflicted by the hound. Garm is often equated with the wolf Fenrir. 6. Fafnir According to the legends, a dwarf named Fafnir slew his father, Hreithmar, to obtain a vast amount of gold. The gold had been a gift from Odin, who put a curse on it. Full of greed, Fafnir changed into a dragon to guard his treasure and was later slain by the young hero Sigurd. Sigurd was spurred on by another brother of Fafnir, the blacksmith Regin. Once Sigurd, under the advice of Odin, had Fafnir, Regin asked him to cook the dragon’s heart for him. Sigurd touched the heart as it was cooking to test if it was done and burned his thumb. He put his thumb into his mouth and was then able to understand the language of birds. In this tale, knowledge is given to one who eats the heart of a dragon. The birds told Sigurd that it was Regin’s intention to him, so instead Sigurd Regin and left with Fafnir’s treasure.
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