Thursday, January 5, 2012

Neighborhood of the Gods, Part Two

Click here for Part One.

In 1920, Þórsgata (Thor's Street) was named for the Norse god of thunder. Thor appears in several versions in the poems, myths, sagas and folklore of Denmark, Germany, Iceland and other northern lands. In some ways, he can be seen as the idealized self-image of the rugged, honest and hardworking common man of ancient times, always ready to stand against evil and tyranny.

Þórsgata (Thor's Street)

A little over a kilometer from the Neighborhood of the Gods, you can find the street called Mjölnisholt (Mjölnir's Hill), named for the dwarf-forged mystic hammer of Thor. According to Snorri, the hammer would never fail, however hard Thor hit; it would never miss its target; it would return to Thor's hand after being thrown; and it could be shrunk down and carried in the thunder god's shirt. Very handy!

Mjölnisholt (Mjölnir's Hill)

The northernmost street in the Neighborhood of the Gods is Týsgata (Týr's Street), named for the one-handed Norse god in 1919. The name Týr literally means "god," and has cognates in several other languages (Deus, Deva, Zeus, etc.). Týr may once have been a major Germanic god, but his role had been greatly reduced by the time that the myths were codified at the end of the Viking Age.

Týsgata (Týr's Street)

Freyjugata (Freya's Street) was named in 1920 for the most complex and fascinating goddess of the Norse pantheon. Freya is associated with death, fertility, gold, love, magic and much more. Of all the goddesses, she plays the most active role in the surviving poetry and prose that documents Norse mythology and religion. Her character is arguably as complex as that of Odin, patriarch of the Norse gods.

Freyjugata (Freya's Street)

Dedicated in 1919, Urðarstígur (Urð's Lane) is another street named for a powerful female figure from Norse myth. Urð is one of the three norns who determine the fate of both human beings and gods. Along with Verðandi and Skuld, she sits at Urðarbrunn ("Well of Urð") beneath the roots of Yggdrasil (the World Tree of Norse cosmology), weaving the web of each individual's doom.

Urðarstígur (Urð's Lane)

Ten years after Urð was given her street, Sjafnargata (Sjöfn's Street) was named for a minor goddess from Norse mythology. According to Snorri Sturluson, Sjöfn "endeavors to turn the minds of people to love, both those of women and men, and from her name a lover is called sjafni." That's really all we know of her; she is simply one of several sketchily-characterized ásynjur (Norse goddesses).

Sjafnargata (Sjöfn's Street)

Bragagata (Bragi's Street) was named in 1919. Snorri writes that the god Bragi "is renowned for wisdom, and most of all for fluency of speech and skill with words. He knows most of skaldship [the art of poetry], and after him skaldship is called bragr, and from his name that one is called bragr-man or -woman, who possesses eloquence surpassing others." While Bragi is the poet of the gods, Odin is the god who brings inspiration to human poets.

Bragagata (Bragi's Street)

Click here for Part Three.

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