Norse culture and language, basics of Norse mythology
Norse mythology refers to the pre-Christian beliefs of the Scandinavian people. It is the most well known version of the older mythology common to the germanic tribes, including the closely related anglo-saxon mythology. The language spoken during the period that the norse gods were worshipped, was Old Norse. By the time this language split up into different languages (not including dialects), Christianity had taken root in much of Northern Europe.
Originally, much of Norse mythology consisted of spoken legends, told from the elders and parents to the children, and that way passed on. However, some of it is written, like the Eddas and the first part of Heimskringla (written by Snorri Sturlason between 1220 and 1230 on Iceland), which is also known as The Norwegian King Sagas, as it tells about the Norwegian kings, and their supposed relation to the Gods. The original title of this work is not known, as the oldest version lacks the title page, and starts with "Kringla Heimsis". Other than this, there are also runestones, which for practical reasons cannot contain very much information, and the surviving myths and folklore.
The universe as seen by the believers of norse mythology
The universe was believed to be a collection of flat, circular discs, known as the nine worlds. The worlds were:
Alfheim World of the Light Elves Asgard World of the Aesir Jotunheim World of the Giants. Midgard Home of mankind. Muspelheim World of fire and the fire-giants, home of the giant Surt. Nidavellir Home of the Dwarves Niflheim World of the ice and that of the dead, which is also known as Hell. Svartalfheim World of the Dark Elves Vanaheim Home of the Vanir
All the nine worlds were connected by the World Tree, or Yggdrasill, the roots and branches connecting the different worlds.
In Niflheim, the dead resided. However, unlike the stories known today of Hell (notice Hel versus hell), Niflheim was a material place located in connection with the other worlds. Surrounding Midgard it was believed a Giant worm lived near the edge of the plate, Midgardsormrinn. In the beginning, there was nothing but an endless void, called the Ginnungagap, and Muspelheim and Niflheim, terrible worlds of pain. Out of this void came Ymir, the first living creature. He was a giant, and became the father of the race of frost giants. Ymir was the father of a six-headed son that was nourished by a cosmic cow called Audumla. Audumla fed herself by licking the salty rime-stone, until that stone was licked into a shape of man. This stone-man was named Buri and he was the first primeval god. Buri was the father of Bor. Bor married the giantess Bestla, and became father of Odin, Ve and Vili. After a time, Ymir grew so evil and large that the three gods slew him, and used him to create the universe. Midgard was created by Ymir's eyebrow as a place for the humans to dwell. The first humans were Ask (ash) and Embla (elm). Sol is the goddess of the Sun, riding the heavens. Her brother Mani, is the moon. It's easy to trace the present day Norwegian words Sol (sun) and måne (moon) to these norse gods.
War of the Aesir and Vanir
The war between the Aesir and Vanir started when the Aesir, tired of her endless talk about gold and wealth, tortured the Vanir goddess Gullveig. When the Vanir demanded equal status as the Aesir, the war broke out. [not finished]