The Norse Pantheon can be divided into two groups or branches of the family of gods Ė the Aesir and the Vanir.

The younger Aesir gods are mainly war gods lead by mighty Odin who live in Asgard. They are:

Odin is the chief Norse God and warring leader of the Aesir.

Balder, known as the bleeding-god, is kind and gentle and the son of Odin by Frigg.

Bragi, the son of Odin by the giantess Gunnlod, is the god of eloquence and poetry.

Forseti, the god of justice, is the son of Balder and Nanna.

Frigg, the wife of Odin, is the goddess of the earth, of the air, and of fertility. She gave her name to Friday

Heimdall is the watcher god waiting to blow his horn to announce the coming of Ragnarok.

Hodr, son of Odin and Frigg, is the blind god who unwittingly kills Balder.

Honir, the long-legged brother of Odin, is quite a useless god as he can never make up his mind.

Idun, wife of Bragi, is the goddess in charge of the magical apples of youth.

Loki, the son of giants, is the god of fire, the trickster god.

Mimir is a wise god sent to the Vanir by the Aesir.

Sif, famous for her beautiful long golden hair, is the wife of Thor.

Thor, the son of Odin by the earth goddess Fjorsyn, is the honest but hot-tempered god of thunder. He gives his name to Thursday.

Tyr is the god of war and the son of Odin and Frigg. He gives his name to Tuesday.

Vili, the brother of Odin and son of Bor, bestowed intelligence and emotions upon humans at their creation.

Ve, also the brother of Odin and son of Bor, gave the abilities to see and hear to humans.

Vidar, the son of Odin by the Frost Giantess Grid, is the silent and solitary god destined to avenge his fatherís death at Ragnarok.

The older Vanir gods, however, are gentler fertility gods renowned for their foresight who live in Vanaheim. The main gods are:

Nerthus is a mother goddess and the mother of the fertility twins.

Njord is the great sea god and the father of the fertility twins Freyr and Freyja.

Freyr, twin brother of Freyja and son of Njord, is the god of fertility in charge of sun and rain, fruitfulness and peace.

Freyja, twin sister of Freyr and daughter of Njord, is the beautiful goddess of fertility and love.

Kvasir, endowed with great wisdom, was created from the spittle of the gods.

Not long after the creation of the Norse world, these two groups of gods fought for supreme rule. Of course, the warring Aesir gods won the battle and to seal the peace both sides decided to exchange some gods.

The deal worked out wonderfully for the Aesir as they received the twins, Freyr and Freyja, their father Njord, and the wise Kvasir, but the Vanir were less thrilled with their end of the trade. They received Odinís brother Honir and wise Mimir. Honir was so indecisive that he angered the Vanir, so to show their displeasure they cut off Mimirís head and sent it back to Odin in Asgard. This worked out just fine for the Aesir though, for Odin preserved Mimirís head with special herbs and restored its power of speech. He then placed the head near a magic well under Yggdrasil where it could be consulted for its great wisdom.

The origins of both branches of gods are still debated and are largely unknown today. There even seems to be another group of gods older yet than the Aesir and the Vanir as evident in the god Aegir. Aegir is a powerful sea god bent on destroying ships and their crews. He is also the husband of the Nature Spirit Ran and is the father of the waves.

The Norse gods certainly are not immortal, as we have discovered from the Ragnarok myth where they are destroyed. But they are full of life and strong emotions. They have passions and fears. They display jealousy and anger. They are, in fact, very human in many ways. The Norse gods are very much a reflection of the struggles of the ancient Norse people themselves.

The Norse Pantheon, by Linda Casselman, www.suite101.com/article.cfm/mythology/18443