- Numbers in Germanic paganism
numbers threeand nineare significant numbers in Germanic paganismand later Norse mythology. Both numbers (and multiplications thereof) appear throughout surviving attestations of Germanic paganism, in both Germanic mythology and religious practice itself.Simek (2007:232-233).] While the number three appears as a holy number in many cultures, for the Germanic peoples, the number nine held a special significance. Along with the number 27, both numbers also figure into the lunar calendar of the Germanic peoples.
The number three occurs with great frequency in grouping individuals and artifacts:
*There are three clans of deities: the
Æsir, the Vanir, and the Jotnar.
*There are three distinct races of giants: the mountain giants, frost giants and fire giants.
*There were three original beings: the primordial cow
Audhumla, Ymirthe first giant, and Búrithe first god and grandfather of Odin.
*For three days Audhumla licked the ice of
Ginnungagapuntil Búri was freed.
*Ymir had three direct offspring: a boy and girl who grew from beneath his arms and a six-headed son who sprang from the coupling of his feet.
*There were three generations of giants before the race as a whole was destroyed by the deluge of
Ymir's blood, after which time his grandson Bergelmirbecame the progenitor of a new line.
*The heart of the giant
Hrungnirwas triangular and made of stone.
*There are three named
*Odin had two brothers,
Vili and Vé(or Lodurand Hoeniraccording to "Völuspá"), numbering three sons of Borrwho created the world and gave life to the first human beings.
*Odin is the ruler of the third generation of gods as the son of Borr and grandson of Búri.
Yggdrasilthe World Treehas three roots, and three is the square root of the number of worlds (nine) joined by Yggdrasil. Under the three roots are three sacred wells, one for each including the Well of Urd in Asgard, the Well of Mimirlocated "among the frost giants", and Hvergelmirin Niflheim.
*Odin endured three hardships upon the World Tree in his quest for the runes: he hanged himself, wounded himself with a spear, and suffered from hunger and thirst.
*In the "
Gylfaginning" section of the " Prose Edda", King Gylfiis confronted by a triple throne at the home of the gods, one being seated and occupied atop another.
Lokihas three malign progeny by the giantess Angrboda: the wolf Fenrir, Jörmungandrthe World Serpent, and Hel.
Ragnarök, there will be three hard winters without an intervening summer, the Fimbulwinter.
*There are three main events leading up to Ragnarök itself: the birth of Loki's three monstrous children, the death of
Baldrand subsequent punishment of Loki, and the onset of Fimbulwinter.
*The wolf Fenrir was bound by three fetters: Loeding, Drómi, and
Gleipnir, of which only the last held him.
*Loki is bound with three bonds made from the entrails of his son through holes in three upright slabs of rock, the first under his shoulders, the second under his loins and the third under the backs of his knees.
*In the poem "
Völuspá" from the " Poetic Edda", the monstrous hound Garmrhowls three times at the Gnipa-cave (or at least, the description of his howling is repeated three times).
*In "Völuspá", the gods burn
Gullveigthree times and three times she is reborn.
*During the onset of Ragnarök three
cockerels will begin to crow, heralding the final conflict: Gullinkambifor the gods, Fjalarfor the giants and an unnamed third for the dead.
Bifröstthe rainbow bridge has three colours. It also has two other names, Ásbrú and Bilröst, thus having three names.
Heimdallhas three special powers in his role as guardian of the rainbow bridge. He needs less sleep than a bird, can see at night for a hundred leagues and is able to hear grass growing on the earth.
*Odin has three special possessions: His spear
Gungnir, his golden ring Draupnirand his eight-legged horse Sleipnir.
Thorhas three main weapons for use against the giants: his hammer Mjolnir, a magical belt that doubles his strength and a pair of iron gauntlets that allow him to wield the hammer.
Freyrhas three magical items including the ship Skidbladnir, his boar Gullinburstiand a sword with the ability to fight on its own which he gave to Skirnirin return for his role in the courtship of Gerd.
Freyjaalso has three special artefacts including the priceless necklace Brisingamen, a cloak that allows her to assume the form of a falcon and a chariot drawn by a pair of great cats.
*In the stronghold of the giant
Útgarda-Loki, Thor drank three mighty draughts from a horn during a drinking contest but gave up when he was unable to empty the horn of its contents. Previous to this, Thor and his companions had met the giant, who was under the assumed name Skrýmir, in the forest outside the castle. When Skrymir had gone to sleep during their journey together, Thor became annoyed by his loud snoring and struck at him three times with his hammer, but in each case the blow was misdirected through magic and illusion.
*The builder of the walls of Asgard offered to build them in three seasons in return for three prizes: the sun and moon and the hand of Freyja in marriage.
*Odin spent three nights with the giantess
Gunnlodin order to obtain the mead of poetry. She then allowed him to take three drinks of the mead, one from each of three vessels.
*The group of dwarves known only as the
sons of Ivaldifashioned three wondrous artefacts including the ship of Freyr, the spear of Odin and the golden hair of Sif. The dwarf brothers Eitriand Brokkalso created three items including the boar of Freyr, the golden ring of Odin and the hammer of Thor.
*There were three statues of Odin, Thor and Freyr in the
Temple at Uppsala.
Frigghas three handmaidens including Fulla, Gnáand Hlín.
The number nine is also a significant number:
*When Odin sacrificed himself to himself, he hung upside down as the hanged man upon the
gallowsor Yggdrasil for nine days and nights. In return, he secured from the Well of Wyrdeighteen (twice nine) charms or runes.
Norse cosmologyknows nine worlds that are supported by Yggdrasil.
*At the end of "
Skáldskaparmál" is a list of nine heavenly realms provided by Snorri including, from the nethermost to the highest, Vindblain (also Heidthornir or Hregg-Mimir), Andlang, Vidblain, Vidfedmir, Hrjod, Hlyrnir, Gimir, Vet-Mimir and Skatyrnir which "stands higher than the clouds, beyond all worlds."
*Every ninth year, people from all over
Swedenassembled at the Temple at Uppsala. There was feasting for nine days and sacrifices of both men and male animals according to Adam of Bremen.
Skírnismál", Freyr is obliged to wait nine nights to consummate his union with Gerd.
Svipdagsmál", the witch Gróagrants nine charms to her son Svipdag. In the same poem there are nine maidens who sit at the knees of Menglod.
Fjölsvinnsmál", Laegjarn's chest is fastened with nine locks.
*During Ragnarök, Thor kills Jörmungandr but staggers back nine steps before falling dead himself, poisoned by the venom that the Serpent spewed over him.
*According to the very late
Trollkyrka poem, the fire for the blótwas lit with nine kinds of wood.
*Odin's ring Draupnir releases eight golden drops every ninth night, forming rings of equal worth for a total of nine rings.
*In the guise of "Grímnir" in the poem "
Grímnismál", Odin allows himself to be held by King Geirrödfor eight days and nights and kills him on the ninth after revealing his true identity.
*There are nine
daughters of Ægir.
*There are nine
mothers of Heimdall.
Hermodrode Sleipnir for nine nights on his quest to free Baldrfrom the underworld.
Baugihad nine thralls who killed each other in their desire to possess Odin's magical sharpening stone.
Njordand his wife Skadidecided to settle their argument over where to live by agreeing to spend nine nights in Thrymheimand nine nights at Nóatún.
Thrivaldihas nine heads.
*The clay giant
Mokkurkalfimeasured nine leagues high and three broad beneath the arms.
valknutsymbol is comprised of three interlocking triangles forming nine points.
*There are nine surviving deities of Ragnarök, including Baldr and
Hödr, Magni and Modi, Vidarand Váli, Hoenir, the daughter of Sól and a ninth "powerful, mighty one, he who rules over everything". [This last being from "Völuspá", who will "come from on high", is found only in the " Hauksbók" manuscript. Some scholars including John Lindow ("Norse Mythology", 2001) consider this to be a later Christian interpolation and a reference to the Last Judgment.]
*Simek, Rudolf (2007) translated by Angela Hall. "Dictionary of Northern Mythology". D.S. Brewer ISBN 0859915131
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