The Vikings had their own belief system about where the world came from and what the world was. Today, we refer to that system as Norse Mythology, or the legends that the Vikings believed in! When learning about what the Vikings believed in, it is important to know that the Vikings read and wrote differently than we do today. The Vikings had a letter system called runes. Each rune meant a different letter or sound. These runes are how they were able to write their stories down and share information with one another, just like what we call the alphabet! Each letter makes a different sound, and those different sounds compose different words! One way to see how runes worked is to spell your name! Using the key below, can you spell out your name in Viking runes? and perhaps then you can go over to O Family Learning Together and make a necklace with your rune name!
Now, the Vikings would have used these runes for more than just to spell their names. These runes are what allowed them to tell the stories of their beliefs and their gods. These stories are what made up the legends and myths of the Vikings! There were many characters that existed in the Norse belief system, and we will talk about some of the most important! Odin was believed by the Vikings to be the king of the gods. His son is someone you may have heard of before, his name was Thor, god of thunder! Odin, Thor, and the other gods lived in a separate realm, a kingdom that is separate from this world. (I’ll give you a hint: you learn the name of their realm in the following activity!) So now that you know the very core of the Viking belief system, use the rune guide above to decipher some facts about Odin and Thor! This great activity and decipher is thanks to James Foley!
The Vikings believed that there were 9 different realms of existence. These 9 realms were home to different things, but they all stemmed from three common things: life, destiny, and wisdom. Because of that, the Vikings often thought of the 9 realms in the shape of a tree. You learned in your activity above that Asgard was the realm of the gods. But what about the other 8 realms? Well, the Vikings themselves believed that they lived in a realm called Midgard, or the kingdom of us human beings! Vanaheim was another realm of gods, and Alfheim and Svartalfheim were the realms of elves. Jotunheim was the realm of ice giants and Muspellheim was the realm of fire giants. That leaves only two to go! Niflheim was the realm of ice and mist, and Helheim was the realm of the dead. As you can see, the Vikings had a realm for each group that they thought was importatn! Below is a picture of the 9 realms represented as a tree. Can you color each realm so that it represents what lives there? And be sure to leave a comment to show me how you did it!
The Vikings held a very high respect for those who dwelt in the Asgard realm. The most prominent god who lived there was Odin, the king. He was thought of as incredibly wise and was often associated with things related to healing, knowledge, war, and death. The Vikings felt that Odin was the one who helped them to win the wars and invasions that we talked about last lesson. He is often pictured as an older man with a long beard and one eye. The myth states that Odin sacrificed his eye in order to gain more wisdom, and that is why he is thought to be such a wise god and king.
Odin’s son was named Thor, and he was the god of thunder. He was often associated with thunder, lightning, and strength. This meant that the Vikings thought of thunderstorms as a sign from Thor. He also had a very important role to the Vikings, because Thor was considered the protector of mankind living in Midgard. Thor was always seen with his weapon of protection, a war hammer (which you learned earlier was named Mjolnir). Thor was considered the only being worthy to wield his hammer. Thor was also commonly pictured wearing a winged helmet. Do you think you have what it takes to wield the power of the god of thunder? Well, lets find out! Thanks to C’mon, Get Crafty, you can make your own Mjolnir with a tissue box and duct tape! And because of Crafts of Sea, you can make Thor’s helmet with just a paper plate! So let’s see you become Thor!
The belief system of the Vikings was incredibly detailed and important to them, and I hope you enjoyed learning about where Thor came from! Now that you know, why don’t you grab mom or dad and make a Thor inspired snack! All you need is some cubed cheese and pretzel sticks to make Mjolnir snacks as seen here!
I hope you enjoyed learning about the Vikings! Be sure to come back tomorrow so we can start learning together about the Ancient Greeks!