Polytheism is the belief in multiple gods. All forms of Heathenry are polytheistic, including Norse Heathenry. The pantheon of gods found in this spirituality are called the Norse deities.
Who are the Norse Deities?
The term “Norse Deities” refers to a surprisingly-large collection of divine figures venerated by the Old Norse people. They are collectively called the Æsir. The Norse pantheon was never centralized, so different figures were worshipped in different places at different times, waxing and waning in popularity and changing throughout the ages. The gods we most frequently hear about, like Odin, Loki, Thor, and Freyja, are ones we simply have the most information on.
You can view a list of Norse deities here.
How do we think of the Norse Deities?
Contrary to our understanding of the word “god,” most forms of Norse paganism don’t view the deities as the divine rulers of the world or paragons to emulate.
Instead, the Norse deities embody the natural world and human nature. They are part of this world as opposed to beyond it, manifesting in the processes of life and within society. We see Odin in the wandering old man, Thor in the rolling storm clouds, Loki in the pranks life plays on us, Skadi in the snowy wilderness, and so on. Just because we know how storm clouds form doesn’t make the experience of a storm any less formidable.
Because of the dynamic nature of the gods, no deity is considered greater than another—not even Odin, who’s chief of the Æsir. All the gods, including Odin, have different personalities, skills, interests, strengths, and weaknesses. They’re capable of extraordinary feats but also bad behavior and miscalculation. However, they aren’t less godly for their shortcomings, just like we aren’t less human for ours.
Is every Norse Deity the god of something?
To describe individual Norse deities as “gods of” certain things oversimplifies their nature. Rather than having “domain” over something, deity-associations are a product of their characteristics, personalities, interests, the roles they play in their society, and the interactions they have with human beings. Some of them, like Thor, personify a natural force (like storms), while others, like Odin, have an association with something because they have an affinity for it (like magic, madness, death, and war).
Working, Worshipping, and Venerating Deities
The decision to venerate deities at all is up to the individual. The ins and outs of working with, worshipping, and venerating deities are discussed on the veneration page.