Thor Hammer Pendant
Talisman Of The Gods
Both warriors and regular people wore Mjölnir pendants in the Viking Age. And while Thor’s place as protector of humanity goes some way towards explaining the prevalence of these talismans, many believe humanity’s relationship with Thor (like much of Viking culture) was more complex than has traditionally been presented. Thor was the god of storms to a seafaring people, the god of fertility in a land that could be hostile to human life, and the son of Odin, the all-father. When we break it down in a D&D way for fun, a charm imbuing the wearer with this many pluses would be valuable indeed.
There are several references to Mjölnir in a 13th Century Norse textbook called Poetica Edda. This was a collection of Norse prose and verse that had, until that time, been passed down by oral tradition. There are also over 1000 archaeological finds of Thor Hammer pendants in iron and silver across countries once occupied by Vikings. We can assume then that wearing a Thor hammer pendant like this example was common and may have fulfilled some ritual, superstitious, or warding purpose.
Thor – Protector Of Realms
Thor (which means “thunder” in its proto-Germanic roots) was the god of storms, and it was believed thunder was created by his hammer, Mjölnir, crashing down on his enemies. Thor is most often referred to as the God of Thunder, which whilst correct, overshadows the fact that he was also charged with the protection of mankind and their sacred groves and trees. This is more likely to be the reason for his prevalence amongst the gods and his continued fame today. He was charged with protecting Asgard and the other realms from cold, hunger, and the giants. His powers were augmented by his magical hammer, Mjolnir, and belt and iron gloves.
The nature of Viking gods and goddesses were different from what we see in most major, contemporary religions. They looked like regular humans, were very long-lived but not immortal, could make mistakes and have flaws, but also wield superhuman powers. Two types of Norse gods existed – the Aesir and the Vanir. The former primarily concerned with victory and battle – the latter connected to prosperity, fishing, farming, and a bountiful harvest. Thor is most famous among them. His fate was connected directly to that of humanity in Norse mythology.
The God Behind The Mighty Thor Hammer Pendant
Thor is perhaps the most conspicuous figures in Norse folklore. He was the child of Odin and Fyorgyn, the earth goddess. Thor was the god of the sky, thunder, and fertility. His wife was Sif, a female goddess linked to fertility.
Thor is most often referred to as the God of Thunder, which whilst correct, overshadows the fact that he was also charged with the protection of mankind and their sacred groves and trees. This is more likely to be the reason for his prevalence amongst the gods and his continued fame today. He was charged with protecting Asgard and the other realms from cold, hunger, and the giants. His powers were augmented by his magical hammer, Mjolnir, and belt and iron gloves.
Thor Tricks The Giants
Thor was depicted as fighting a constant war with the giants, who once managed to steal his magic hammer. Fearing for the safety of Asgard, Freya lent Loki a feather coat which allowed him to fly to the land of the giants to retrieve Mjolnir. The giant, Thrym, told Loki he would return the weapon if they gave him Freya as his bride. Freya, of course, refused, telling Thor he should marry the giant as he had lost the hammer in the first place. Heimdall liked this idea and sent Thor back to the land of the giants, disguised as a bride. When he got close enough to Thrym to sense his hammer, Thor killed the giant and returned home.
The Thor Hammer Pendant – No Ordinary Hammer
Some of the properties that endure in popular culture depictions of Mjölnir have their roots in the Norse sagas and myths. Whenever Thor cast it at an enemy, it would strike true and return to his hand like a boomerang. The word “mjölnir” has been suggested by some to have a proto-Slavic or Russian root meaning “lightning”. Vikings watching a storm likely believed they were witnessing the track of Thor’s hammer streak across the sky as he defended the realms of gods and humans from the giants.
Mjölnir – More Than A Weapon
The exact etymology of Mjölnir is uncertain but there is some consensus that the existence of similar-sounding words in other Indo-European languages attested “lightning”, is evidence of its meaning. There is also some similarity to the Icelandic word for “snow” and “white” and it may be that all three of these words share a similar root. The sagas tell us that Thor’s hammer was Asgard’s best weapon, that he used it to defend the realms of humans and gods. But there is evidence that Thor (and Mjölnir) played a more complex role in the spiritual life of Scandinavians than simply protector or overlord. The wearing of a Thor Hammer Pendant such as this might have been thought to imbue the wearer with several types of protection.
Mjölnir’s role in ceremonies like marriages, births and funerals may have been a result of how the hammer was presented in the oral tradition of the Vikings. The 13th Century Prose Edda refers to an incident where Thor slaughtered and ate his goats using Mjölnir. He then late brought the animals back to life by hallowing their bones with his hammer. The Thor Hammer Pendant probably won’t bring animals back to life but it does celebrate one of mythology’s most enduring characters.
Historian Hilda Roderick Ellis Davidson offers this explanation of the role the hammer may have played in Viking ceremony. He tells us that the well-being of the entire community. Birth, marriage, death, cremation, feasts, weapon-craft were all areas in which a blessing from Thor was required. Objects like the Thor Hammer Pendant may have played a role in these ceremonies for everyday people. Viking society didn’t have a priest class, so presumably, a blessing from Thor could be invoked by regular people in certain circumstances.
The Origin Of The Hammer
Loki, Thor’s brother and known trickster incurred Thor’s wrath by cutting off Sif’s (wife of Thor) beautiful golden hair. Thor was the stronger of the two and threatened Loki with his hammer. Loki pleaded with his brother, begging Thor to allow him to travel to Svartalfheim to bring back locks even more beautiful than those he’d cut from Sif.
Thor, realising the merits of his brother’s plan, allowed him to travel through caves to the land of the dwarves. There, Loki met a dwarf master craftsman named Ivaldi. Ivaldi and his sons crafted the golden hair that Thor requested, and convinced by Loki’s trickery, they crafted more magic items – a ship that could fold to pocket-size, and a spear called Gungnir.
Loki, ever wanting more, found another set of dwarf brothers named Brokkr and Sindri. Playing on their insecurities and jealousies, Loki convinced these brothers to produce more magical items to prove they were superior craftsmen to Ivaldi’s sons. Sindri began work on a boar with glowing golden hide named Gullinbursti. Loki, restless as usual, turned into a fly and tried to bite the dwarf for sport.
The Poetica Edda tells us this – Loki, in the form of a fly stings the hand of the dwarven smith. Sindri finishes making his golden boar with bristles of gold to give to Freyr. The animal, according to Sindri, could run through air and water better than a horse, would never grow dim, and could light the way in even the darkest situation.
Sindri, unbothered by the fly, also finished a golden ring called Draupnir (“Dripper” in Old English). Every ninth night, eight new, identical rings would “drip” from the original. The ring appears later in the poem, Skírnismál.
After the ring and boar were completed, Sindri began working on Mjölnir. Loki grew restless again, turned into a fly, and bit Sindri on the eyelid, causing the dwarf to forge the handle of the hammer shorter than he intended – Mjölnir’s only known weakness.
After they’d finished working, the dwarf brothers, knowing Loki’s identity, went to Asgard to claim payment from the gods. But immortal Loki had arrived back before them and distributed the gifts amongst his family and friends. Thor received the hair for his wife and the hammer that would become synonymous with him. Loki gave their father, Odin, the spear and the magic ring, while Freyr received the golden boar.
The gods and goddesses were grateful for the gifts but told Loki he was honour-bound to the terms he’d made with the dwarves. Unfortunately, these terms required Loki to offer his head should he fail to pay in the agreed way. Loki hoped to convince the dwarves that whilst he’d promised his head, they’d have to remove his head to get at it which was never part of their terms. The dwarves, tiring of Loki, satisfied themselves with sewing his mouth shut and sending him on his way.
Popular culture, though it can seem vapid and shallow at times, fuels interest in the myths and legends that endure throughout history. Just like the 18th and 19th Century revival of interest in Norse mythology was inspired by the popular culture of its time, and the Celtic revival by its 19th Century romantic roots, the presentation of ancient stories today takes on a distinctly contemporary sheen. But strip away the witty one-liners, carefully-groomed hair, and over-dependence on CGI, and we can see how deep some of these ancient roots have sunk.
Pop Culture Odin
Thor’s father, Odin first appears in the same 1962 issue of Marvel Comics that features his son’s first appearance. It is his disagreements with his father that first leads to Thor’s banishment to earth and interaction with the Avengers. In both the comic books and in the cinematic universe, the moral complexities of Odin have been largely swapped out for archetypal “good” character traits. The Norse gods and goddesses as portrayed in the sagas are typically nuanced characters – not the “lawful good” presented in comics and films.
Odin Of The Sagas
Odin (or all-father) was the creator of life and the oldest of the gods according to Norse mythology. Having traded one eye for wisdom, he depended upon his two ravens Huginn and Muninn to travel the earth and report back all that they saw. He ruled from Asgard, and as the god of war, Odin welcomed those who had died fiercely in battle to Valhalla. The picture of Odin we see from the sagas is not evil, but he delights in bloodshed and battle.
Popular Culture Thor
The ancient Norse gods and goddesses were complex and morally-ambiguous. Marvel’s Thor, however, though he has some complexity, ultimately has a lighter, more morally good character. And though pop culture Thor marries a mortal to appease the need for romance in a Hollywood production, in the ancient sagas he’s married to a goddess, Sif. She, like her husband, is linked to fertility and is referred to in Poetica Edda as “the loveliest of women.” Like his marriage, Thor’s relationship with his brother, Loki is altered to fit the modern movie format. Although their interactions in movies and comic books are complicated concerning their mother and hint at the more morally grey nature of Norse gods, it’s one-sided, with Loki only ever suggesting some level of decency under his scheming exterior.
Art Imitates Life
When Christianity was first introduced to the Viking people, wearing a hammer pendant may have been a way of showing your allegiance to the old gods and rejection of the new way. Some believe many Viking Age people who kept faith with the old Norse gods believed the Christians had aligned with the giants and chaos and were trying to destroy the cosmos. Only those who kept faith with Odin and Thor could help to fight back against this new force threatening to destroy the universe. Hmm. Sounds a lot like the plot of a popular movie series
Marvel’s Mjölnir And Astrophysics
The Norse sagas, Marvel Comics, and the Marvel cinematic universe all tell us that Thor’s hammer was forged of Uru metal by the smith, Etri in the heart of a dying star. Astrophysicist, Neil deGrasse Tyson has speculated that if the hammer were made of neutron star matter, it could weigh as much as twelve thousand trillion pounds. This would certainly explain why only the god-like Thor can lift it, but not how Tony Stark’s coffee table can support the hammer while Thor fetches a drink.
The Third Law
“Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.” – Arthur C Clarke
We are introduced to the Norse gods in Marvel’s cinematic universe using terms that sound very like what Mr Clarke was alluding to with this quote. The Norse gods are in, in fact, advanced alien creatures who, we might assume, were misinterpreted by historical Vikings (in the Marvel universe) as gods. But the Viking’s view of gods and goddesses differed enough from our own that many of these idiosyncrasies could hold. We could speculate that Thor’s hammer, which to the Vikings seemed to be enchanted by his father, was in fact protected by an expensive nanotechnology solution. Comparing representations in the sagas with action movies is a fun but ultimately pointless activity.
Material: Thor Hammer Pendant is made from Sterling Silver .925