The Asgardian Religion
The people of Asgard have, historically, worshiped a group of powerful beings as gods. Under the leadership of Odin the Allfather, these individuals, like many polytheistic deities, tended to represent aspects of the human condition. In the case of the Asgardian gods and goddesses, however, there was often significant overlap. In truth, these figures were simply High Blooded Cornelians whose power was augmented by the strength of the Great Rune through the use of Mantles that aligned to their accepted portfolios. As time passed, these mantles were sometimes traded or modified to properly reflect the deity’s new status.
The Mantles of Divinity
The Mantles provided by the Great Rune are simply augmentations of the bearer’s natural powers. Each Mantle grant abilities aligned to the appropriate god or goddess’ portfolio, and the strength of the abilities granted depend upon a number of factors, including:
- Accepted Role in the Pantheon: Some gods and goddesses were assumed to be more or less powerful.
- Number of Worshipers: Gods and goddesses with greater numbers of worshipers often demonstrated greater levels of augmentation.
- Environmental Conditions: Mantles being exercised within environments that support the role demonstrated greater strength.
- Distance from Asgard: The Mantles are powered by the Great Rune of Asgard, and the further the bearers travel from the center of the realm, the weaker the Mantles become.
A number of figures have been known to bear these Mantles, including:
- Aesir – One of the two tribes of gods within the Asgardian pantheon. The Aesir were known to be the more warlike and aggressive.
- Vanir – One of the two tribes of gods within the Asgardian pantheon. The Vanir were known to be more artistic, and many represented the forces of nature.
- Vaettir – Vaettir are animistic spirits of Asgard, many tied to specific locations or conditions. Many of the strongest of these beings grew to sufficient status to be granted Mantles representing their role (i.e., the Winter’s Queen, the Hunter, Surtr, etc.).
- Valkyrie – Known as the Choosers of the Slain, the Valkyrie are lesser deity figures who have limited magical abilities pursuant to their roles.
Priests and priestesses of the gods are known as Goði. These religious figures once focused upon individual deities, but, over the last three centuries, their orders have consolidated, resulting in a single family of priests and priestesses. These individuals represent all of the Aesir and Vanir as needed. They are spread throughout the land although their order is centered in the town of Gislaved in the Horn lands.
The Asgardian soul
The Asgardian concept of the soul held that it was composed of several separate parts:
- The Hamr
Hamr (pronounced like the English word “hammer”) literally translates to “shape” or “skin.” The hamr is one’s form or appearance, that which others perceive through sensory observation. Unlike in our modern worldview, however, that which is perceived by the senses is not absolutely and unalterably static and fixed. In fact, hamr is the most crucial word in the Asgardian lexicon of shapeshifting. The Asgardian phrase that denotes the process of shapeshifting is skipta hömum, “changing hamr,” and the quality of being able to perform this feat is called hamramr, “of strong hamr.”
- The Hugr
Hugr can be most satisfactorily translated as “thought” or “mind.” It corresponds to someone’s personality and conscious cognitive processes, and therefore overlaps considerably with what we today would call someone’s “inner self.”
The hugr generally stays within its “owner,” but can at times create effects in faraway people just by thinking about them in a certain way. This is particularly possible for people who are described as having an exceptionally strong hugr.
- The Fylgja
Remember the cats, ravens, and other familiar spirits who are often the companions of witches in European folktales? These are fylgjur in the plural and fylgja in the singular. The fylgja is generally perceived in an animal form by those with second sight, although human fylgjur aren’t unheard-of. It’s an attendant spirit whose well-being is intimately tied to that of its owner – for example, if the fylgja dies, its owner dies, too. Its character and form are closely connected to the character of its owner; a person of noble birth might have a bear fylgja, a savage and violent person, a wolf, or a gluttonous person, a pig.
Fylgja literally translates as “follower,” but, as often as not, it’s depicted as traveling ahead of its owner, arriving at the intended destination before its owner or appearing in the dreams of someone who will meet the owner the following day.
- The Hamingja
The fourth and final part of the Asgardian is the hamingja. The word is often used in an abstract sense to signify “luck,” but the Asgardian understanding of luck is very different from our own. “Luck was a quality inherent in the man and his lineage, a part of his personality similar to his strength, intelligence, or skill with weapons, at once both the cause and the expression of the success, wealth, and power of a family.”
Luck, the hamingja, is a personal entity in its own right, is part of the self, and can be split off from the other components of the self in certain circumstances. When a person dies, his or her hamingja is often reincarnated in one of his or her descendants, particularly if the child is given the name of the original owner of the hamingja. Sometimes the hamingja bequeaths itself of its own accord to a relative of its original owner, without any special naming having to take place. The hamingja can also be lent to others during life to assist them in particularly perilous missions where luck is needed especially badly.
Spirits of the Dead
All souls or spirits of all creatures that die within the Asgardian realm go to the Great Rune upon their passing, although some avoid the trip due to godly interference or fate.
Souls of the greatest warriors who die in battle (and are chosen by the Valkyrie) are reborn as Einherjar, the undead warriors who are doomed to fight during the final battle of Ragnarok.
Draugr / haugbui
Some individuals, through the strength of their hugr, are able to refuse the journey to their final rest. These creatures live beyond the grave, often guarding specific treasures or attempting to revenge old wrongs. They are animated corpses with a corporeal body, unlike ghosts, with similar physical abilities as in life. Haugbui are a specific type of Draugr that is tied to their burial mounds and unable to wander the lands.
A trio of Jotun women, the Norns are simultaneously godlike and not. These beings represent the concept of Fate within Asgard, and they know the fate of all beings.
The nine great Wyrms of Asgard wield immense powers in support of their roles as the embodiments of Chaos, easily matching to the greatest of the Aesir and Vanir. As such, they are the greatest accepted enemies of the Asgardian lands and peoples. Dragons, and their associated kin, are viewed as beasts to be slain at every opportunity, although it is understood that the balance enforced in the Eternal Realm will never allow for these beings to be destroyed.