Chapter 8.2: What Animals Did Norse Gods Have and Why Them?
In the previous chapter of Norse Myth Explained, we have discovered why Odin had the eight-legged horse Sleipnir and Freyr the golden boar Gullinbursti. Norse mythology always had reasons for every single detail. Other famous Norse gods - Thor and Freya - had their constant companions that carried them along the Nine Worlds. And below are the reasons why they owned such companions.
THOR, TANNGRISNIR, AND TANNGNJOSTR
Unlike what the modern media is depicting Thor, Thor in Norse mythology did not fly. Rather, he had a chariot pulled by two goats. His goats were Tanngrisnir and Tanngnjóstr. Their names meant the teeth grinder. Names of Thor's goats are pretty much in debate because some scholars think they were the inventions of Snorri Sturluson - the author of Prose Edda.
In Norse mythology, Thor would travel with his chariot and had it pulled by his goats. Every time Thor's goats crossed the sky, it made the sound of thunder in Midgard.
Besides being the chariot pullers of Thor, Tanngrisnir and Tanngnjóstr provided Thor and Norse gods with sustenance. According to the myth, Thor would kill his goats and take its flesh for food. The day after, Thor would use his Mjolnir hammer to resurrect his goats back to life.
But why goats? The symbolism of goats varies from myth to myth. Like the wolf, goats also suffer waves of controversies for some myth might lead the readers to believe that goats are evil signs. But such a thing did not happen in Norse myth.
Assistance to humanity
Goats are the symbol of assistance to humanity. Back to million years ago, goats were among the earliest animals that people raised inside their houses. Goats then became not only the livestock but also the friends of the human. They provided us with labor in agriculture, food, drink, warmth, etc.
Interestingly, Thor in Norse mythology was also a generous god that he always helped humanity. According to surviving materials, Thor defended not only the gods but also humanity. In some important ceremonies like birthdays or weddings, Thor would appear holding his Mjolnir hammer in hand and give blessings to the innocent humans.
Goat Head Thor's Hammer Ring is inspired by the generosity of Thor. The ring presents not only Thor's presence but also his blessings to humanity
Goats also symbolise the burning desire to get what they want. A common sight of a goat that we might see is goats climbing the mountain. They are the mountain goats that are muscular and physically strong enough to reach the peak of the mountain. They are industrious and have a strong working discipline as well.
Somewhat we cannot link Tanngrisnir and Tanngnjóstr with the milk goat at homes. Rather, the common depiction of Tanngrisnir and Tanngnjóstr is the muscular goats like the mountain goats.
If we ponder about Thor and his tales. We can see how much Thor wanted to unleash his hidden potentials and prove himself. For example, he tried his best to win the competition with Utgard-Loki the giant who played a trick on Thor. Though Thor was defeated, he expressed how much he wanted to prove himself and realize his full potential.
FREYA AND CATS
Freya was the twin sister of Freyr who had the golden boar Gullinbursti we discuss in the previous chapter. They were the Vanir gods coming to Asgard to end the war between two god tribes.
Norse mythology described Freya often rode on her chariot pulled by two dark cats. We don't know exactly what type of cats they were. In the modern depiction, they appear to be quite small. But this can be a symbol of femininity.
Cats are among the most mysterious creatures in any mythology. Commonly, if a dark cat appears out of the blue, it means something bad is about to happen.
Cats always seem to appear at night when everything is silent. Cats can see what human eyes cannot see. Maybe because they often appear at night in reality, they are associated with darkness and mystery. Largely, they become the symbol of witchcraft and dark magic art.
In Norse mythology, Freya was considered to be a volva who practised magic art and wandered around the world. A volva was a female figure who could see what was about to happen. seiðr was the sorcery - a type of Scandinavian magic - that the volva practised.
Wisdom and intelligence
Indeed, cats are wise. The wisdom of cats lies in their ability to remain quiet, calm to observe and to take action in the right moment. This is a good tactic to reserve energy for the following attack.
Freya in Norse mythology was also a wise goddess. Her wisdom made her the goddess of war who could almost rival with Odin the Allfather, god of war. Odin welcomed the fallen human warriors in his Valhalla Hall of the Slain and so did Freya. She shared half of the human warriors with Odin and host a feast for them in Folkvangr the Holy Field of the Slain. And of course, only those who were wise enough could befriend Odin and share the human warriors with him
The balance of independence and social connections.
Cats are the type of animals that can work both independently and together with the mates. They are representative of the lifestyle combining the fierce independence and the moments surrounded by others.
This somewhat resembles the image of Freya in Norse mythology. There was a time that Freya was so alone and independent. For example, when Od the beloved husband of Freyr suddenly disappeared, Freya alone travelled around the Nine Worlds to find her husband. But there were moments she got surrounded by her community: in the War of Gods, in Folkvangr, and in Ragnarok.