ZEUS -- ODIN

ZEUS Zeus is the ruler of the Greek gods. He is the son of Cronos and Rhea, in fact the only son of these two to survive to adulthood. Zeus had been hidden by Rhea so that Cronos would not swallow him like he had all of his other offspring; he had been warned that one of his children would eventually overthrow him. Rhea sent Zeus to the island of Crete where he was raised. Zeus eventually killed his father. After he killed Cronos, he restored life to his brothers and sisters. He then drew lots with his brothers Poseidon and Hades to see who would become ruler of the various parts of the universe. Zeus won the draw and became the supreme ruler of the gods. He is lord of the sky, the rain god. His weapon is a thunderbolt, made for him by the Cyclopes under the direction of Hephaestus, which he hurls at those who displease him. He married a succession of spouses with whom he had many children including: Athena, The Fates, Ares, Apollo, Artemis, and Hermes. His last, and most well-known wife is Hera but he is famous for his many affairs.

ODIN Odin is the leader of the Norse gods and has a myriad of names including Allfather, Ygg, Bolverk (evil doer), and Grimnir. He also has many functions within the myths including being a god of war, poetry, wisdom, and death. However, he is not considered the "main" god of each of these functions. Odin's symbol is his magical spear named Grungir which never misses its mark. He also owns a magic ring called Draupnir which can create nine of itself every night. It was this ring that Odin laid on his son Balder's funeral pyre and which Balder returned to Odin from the underworld. Odin also has two wolves, Geri and Freki, and two ravens, Hugin (thought) and Munin (memory). He sends his ravens out every day to gather knowledge for him. Odin was destined to die at Ragnarok; Fenris-Wolf swallowed him. Knowing his fate, he still chose to embrace it and do battle, showing the true warrior ethic. He is the god of warriors and kings, not the common man. Among his children are:Thor, Hermod, and Balder. He is married to Frigg, the goddess of marriage.

DIRECT COMPARISON The first obvious similarity between Zeus and Odin is in their appearance. Both are very large men, but they are not depicted as fat men. Both look very powerful and foreboding. They also are both shown as having beards. A beard represents manliness, in a very basic way as facial hair is something that every man can have. In this sense the beard as a signature feature of these gods brings in a sense of attachment to the people within the societies that worshipped them. If they had a different signature feature, for example wings, this would remove the gods from the common man. The beard is something ordinary people can relate to. It may also be of note that the stereotypical view of Vikings and Norsemen almost always includes beards on the men. Maybe they were trying to emulate their head god or maybe the god was "created" in the image of the ordinary man. Zeus and Odin were respective rulers over the gods in their mythologies. Zeus was known for upholding the law and social order. In fact, one of his titles was Zeus Horkios which literally means "the Guarantor of Oaths." This is quite similar ot Odin's recording of all the laws, contracts and agreements onto his spear which he

was bound to uphold. They both had their palaces in the sky to some extent. Mt. Olympus was very high (in the mythologies; the real Mt. Olympus is a mountain, but not very high.) It is also important to note that when the three brothers (Zeus, Poseidon, and Hades) were deciding which part of the world each would get, Zeus chose the sky. There are many stories of Zeus looking down from Mt. Olympus into the lives of other men. This is also the case with Odin. He could watch other people, gods and mortals alike, from his throne Hlidskialf in Asgard, Asgard being the palace in the sky where the gods met. So there are distinct similarities between Asgard and Mt. Olympus: both were in the sky, both allowed for the observation of the rest of the world, both were the meeting place for the gods in their respective mythologies. The actions of the two gods are very important to look at as well. Zeus is wellknown for going off into the world of mortals and trying to have "relations" with the mortals. Often times he would change shape in order to accomplish this. He took such forms as a bull, swan, golden shower, and a quail, for example. This shape-shifting was also a typical action of Odin. He changed himself into animals occasionally, such as a snake or an eagle. (Interestingly, Zeus is often depicted as an eagle!) But, more often than not, Odin changed himself into "The Wanderer." In this form he was known to wear a long grey cloak and a wide brimmed hat that covered or cast shadows over his missing eye. In this form he attempted, on many occasions, to have "relations," often spawning offspring. There is one story of Odin and Rind where Odin must change his shape multiple times to meet the needs of Rind who he is wooing. He transforms from captain of her father's army to a smith to a warrior and finally is accepted into her arms only after taking his natural form as a god. This raises one important difference between the two: the attitudes of the two respective wives of the gods, Hera and Frigg. Hera is well-known for her jealous and vengeful reactions to Zeus actions. However, Frigg does not have the same reaction. To see the development of this thought, see the wives' page. Another commonality of the two gods is their interaction with mortals. In both their visiting and aiding of these mortals Zeus and Odin identified certain people that they considered great and offered them their assistance. This supports the theory that these mythologies, because they were serving generally less-advanced societies (industrially, socially and intellectually), created gods who would come down and physically interact with mortals, gave the gods a sense of tangibility to the society. At this point could a society have been able to accept a flawless, omnipotent being, especially one on a cosmic level, rather than a physical level? If a god could come to a man and physically aid him, that would be an incentive to believe and worship. Both of these gods have a specific symbol of power. Zeus has his lighting bolt, and Odin has his spear. Both of these items have a somewhat negative interpretation. Lighting is a destructive force and a spear is a weapon used to kill. In our society, gods are usually displayed to have a very positive light surrounding them and a weapon may seem strange to us as a symbol of a god. We must also see that the gods both used their respective weapons by throwing them. Maybe this is the beginning of the thoughts of a cosmic entity -- the gods did not have to be physically there, but could project their intentions from afar. The fact that both of these symbols were destructive in one form or another raises a few questions: Were these cultures looking for a destructive god? Were they still at a state that a primitive personification of man was desired as a god? Were these societies looking at chaos and destruction as being more important in the society than order? It may be that the fear that they invoke will have people thinking that they can be punished, and if they are punished it will not be a simple slap on the wrist, but rather a spear or lightning bolt hurled at them. So I believe that this fear was used when the myths were being originally fashioned so that one would be intimidated to believe and worship. One last thing to be considered about these two gods, and their manliness, is that both of them were very fertile. They were both fathers to many offspring, thus

spreading their wonderful qualities around to other beings. What I think these societies needed was a powerful man, one who was warlike, strong, large, intimidating and prolific. This was they type of god that one in those times could fear and respect, and therefore worship fairly easily. THOR

Thor is the son of Odin and a member of the Aesir, the name for the collection of Norse gods. He is the god of thunder and the main enemy of the giants. He would smash their heads with his mighty axe-hammer, Mjolnir. To wield this awesome weapon he needed iron gloves and a belt of strength. Mjolnir would return to Thor's hand after being thrown and is symbolic of lightning. . Thor rode around middle-earth in his wagon drawn by two goats. His abode is Thruthheim [Land of Strength] and his hall, Bilskinir. His wife is Sif. Thor was very well-known for his quick and hot temper. This was often vented on the giants, the main enemies of the gods. He was foremost of the gods to the common man, who would call on him to ensure fertility, and was widely worshiped. Hammer-shaped amulets were popular, the hammer being a symbol of Thor because it was his weapon, and were worn about the neck well into the Christianization of Scandinavia. There are molds from that time which contain both cross and hammer shapes, side by side. His name is found in numerous place names, and it was his statue which was central in the great temple at Uppsala. Our day of the week, Thursday, is named for him. Donar was an early version of Thor among the early Germans. The Anglo-Saxons worshiped a thunder god named Thunor.

COMPARISON There doesn't seem to be a direct counterpart to this Norse god of thunder. However, some aspects of Thor can be found in some of the Greek gods. The first one is the parallel with Zeus. Zeus is the god of lightning and thunder. Thor is also the god of thunder but he is not the ruler of the gods. In some ways, though, he was the most important god to the Norse, in the sense that Thor was the most worshipped and liked god. Thor, in this context, could be compared to Athena. Athena was the most beloved goddess of the Greeks. This is quite interesting as Thor and Athena are very different. Thor is basically a brute while Athena is a wise, strategic goddess. She is reasonable and usually thinks her actions through. Thor usually acts on impulse. So, what does this say about the cultures which chose these two for their favourites? Were the Norse brutes themselves while the Greeks were more civilized? Were the Norse looking for a simplistic and impulsive god, who acted much like they did, while the Greeks were more strategic? ATHENA

Athena is the daughter of Zeus and Metis. There was a prophecy that Metis would bear a child equal to Zeus in wisdom, so he ate his pregnant wife, Metis, and unborn daughter. The story goes that, one day Zeus claimed that he had the worst headache in history, and ordered Hephaestos, the craftsman god, to split his head

open with an axe. He did so and Athena sprang -- full grown and in armour -- from his forehead. She is fierce and brave in battle but only fights to protect the state and home from outside enemies. She is the goddess of the city, handicrafts, and agriculture. She invented the bridle, which permitted man to tame horses, the trumpet, the flute, the pot, the rake, the plow, the yoke, the ship, and the chariot. She is the embodiment of wisdom, reason, and purity. She was Zeus' favourite child and was allowed to use his weapons including his thunderbolt. Her favorite city is Athens. Her tree is the olive. The owl is her bird. She is a virgin goddess.

COMPARISON Athena does not have a direct counterpart in Norse mythology. However, she is a major figure in Greek mythology and cannot be ignored. Athena was the most worshipped of the Greek gods and goddesses, and in this respect can be compared to Thor. As Thor had amulets of his hammer made for him, Athena had her likeness put on the staters (coins) of Alexander the Great. Because of her great wisdom, a comparison can be drawn between her and Odin. Odin also had great wisdom. However, it seems that Athena was held in higher esteem than Odin, as Odin was not born with this great wisdom, but had to go through many tasks and tricks to gain the knowledge. Another similarity between Odin and Athena is the fact that both are known for helping mortals. Athena helped Odysseus, Perseus, Jason and Herakles. In this same light, Odin is the protector of Sigmund, for example. Athena was a warrior goddess, as Odin was a warrior god, although Athena was a strategic figure, and most of the Norse figures, including Odin, were not known for being strategists. An interesting difference between Norse and Greek mythology is exemplified in the popularity and importance of Athena, because she is female. Although a line in the Poetic Edda states that the goddesses were no less important than the gods, in fact no Norse goddess approached the stature or popularity that Athena had with the Greeks. In the various stories of Norse mythology, the goddesses, while being mentioned, have no major impact, yet Athena is a prime mover in many Greek legends. LOKI

Loki is one of the giants, the enemies of the Norse gods. He became a member of the Aesir (the gods) when Odin made Loki his blood brother. He is the god of fire, mischief, a trickster, and very cunning. After causing the death of Balder, he was bound by the gods until the Ragnarok (the final battle or the twilight of the gods), at which time, he will be freed. Loki fathered Fenris, the wolf that is prophesied to kill Odin during Ragnorok; the Midgard Serpent, prophesied to kill Thor in the same battle; and Hel. This is a picture of Loki with two of his three "creature" sons: The MidgardSerpent and Fenris the Wolf. COMPARISON Loki does not have an obvious counterpart in Greek mythology, although many other cultures -- such as North American aboriginals, Oceanic, West African and Chinese -- have myths which feature tricksters. There is one Greek god, however, that is

considered somewhat of a trickster, although certainly not to the same extent as Loki -- Hermes. As soon as Hermes was born, he displayed this trait by stealing Apollo's cows. He was taken for judgement to Zeus after this crime, but he used his cunning, offering the lyre he invented, to escape punishment. In many ways this is much like Loki's behaviour, in that Loki often was able to talk his way out of predicaments. He was also somewhat like Zeus, known for his shape-changing. This was one of Loki's favourite "tricks." As god of fire, Loki could be compared to Hephaestus, the Greek god of fire. One of the major stories about Loki is his exile from Asgard for being indirectly responsible for the death of Balder. This punishment was meted out by Odin. Similarly, Hephaestus was ejected from Mt. Olympus by Zeus over an argument about one of Zeus' favourites, Heracles. However, these two gods cannot be considered direct counterparts because Loki is a major figure in Norse mythology, while Hephaestus is a much more incidental figure in the myths of the Greeks. There are many symbols present in Norse myths. The giants represent the powerful forces of nature for example. One major symbol applies to Loki specifically. This is fire, both in its good and bad sense. Loki often helps out the gods (fire in the good sense). Loki also sets the gods very far back -- even to death (the bad sense of fire). This would sum up Loki's character perfectly, as Loki was both good and bad, just like the fire he was the god of. This is a stone carving of Loki found on an old stone stove. PROMETHEUS Before I go into the comparison of Loki and Prometheus, I must acknowledge Bob Fisher (webmaster@showgate.com) -- as he was the one to point out this comparison to me. Thanks! The first obvious commonality between the two would be the association with fire: Loki being the god of fire, and Prometheus being the bringer of fire to the humans. Above I mentioned both the "good" and "bad" aspects of fire. This can be applied to Prometheus' steakling of the fire from the gods of Olympus. Although the giving of fire to man aided humankind, and led to technological advance, the stealing of fire had reprecussions: It taught men to cheat and steal, and of course Odin's blood-brother. Prometheus was a Titan, but was admitted to Olympus for remaining neutral in the revolt of the Olympians against the Titans. Both of these gods were adopted into the respective races almost as to reward them, but both would be regretted. Prometheus knew who would be responsible for the death of Zeus. This can be looked at in the same light as Loki's both knowledge and responsibilty of Odin's death, as he fathered the beast Fenris who would kill him. Another reason why the adoption of these two would be regretted was the role they would play in the harm and destruction of humanity. Loki is a major palyer and provokes Ragnorok, the final battle that will destroy everything including the gods. Prometheus caused the creation of Pandora therefore daming mankind. However this was not enough punishment in the eyes of Zeus, so he caused a flood that destroyed mankind. However it is equally important to notice that in both myths, humanity renews itself. Fire also plays a very large role in the destruction of the world in the Norse myths, as Surtur engulfs the world in flame after the battle of Ragnarok. Some would say that Prometheus' association of fire destroyed mankind. In Norse myths too, fire destroyed mankind. Prometheus was also a trickster, as he stole cheated and lied. His name means "forethought", and in a lot of ways this is muck like Loki. As mentioned above one of Loki's strong qualities was his ability to out-wit the gods. This too was a characteristic of Prometheus. Neither acted capriciously, which set both of them apart from the other gods in their respective mythologies. For indirectly causing the death of Balder, Loki was bound in chains with a seprent above him dripping poison to harm Loki. Prometheus was likewise bound by

the gods for his actions. He was chained to a rock in the Caucasian mountains, with a vulture to tear away at his liver all day long -- an endless torture, as his liver would grow back every night. Very similar as both were chained to stone, with an endless torture. Loki was not freed until the twilight of the gods, or Ragnorok. Prometheus was also released by Herakles, and immediatly had the interaction with Zeus, when he told him what would cause his death. So both were freed, and immediatly became associated with the death of the gods. TYR -- ARES

TYR Tyr is the Norse god of war. He is also known as being the bravest of the gods. This was exemplified when he put his right hand into Fenris the wolf's mouth when the gods were binding him with chains. Fenris then bit off Tyr's right hand, which is why Tyr is always depicted with one hand. There is much debate about his lefthandedness. In the Norse culture the right hand was given for a pledge, which could be why the right hand was placed in the wolf's mouth. It has also been noted, however, that the offering of the right hand is to show that it is free of weapons. A left- handed person was sometimes considered evil because he could use a weapon with his left hand even though he shook with his right hand. He was thought to be either the son of Odin, or of a giant. Tyr had no myths all to himself, but he often accompanied Thor on many journeys. This may be why he was considered such a brave person. Tyr was known by the Anglo-Saxons as Tiw or Tiu, and had Tuesday named for him. Another image of Tyr. Notice his handless arm holding the shield.

ARES Ares is one of the few sons that Zeus and Hera had. It is important to note that Ares was disliked by both parents. He is the Greek god of war. Ares is considered murderous and bloodstained but, also a coward. He was never very popular in myth, and he was constantly outwitted by Athena. He was sent to trial for raping a daughter of Poseidon. He seemed to love the brutal aspects and the carnage of war. Ares, except for when he is on the battlefield, is usually displayed in myths as being Aphrodite's lover. He seemed hot-tempered and fell quickly to jealousy. It is thought that the golden boar that killed Adonis was actually Ares in disguise, acting on his jealousy. His bird is the vulture. His animal is the dog. DIRECT COMPARISON The main similarity between Tyr and Ares is their specific area: war. Both are gods of war, and the same kind of war: battle and impulsive attack. Barely any strategy comes into play with these two gods. However, while these two seem like the logical parallel for each other, in fact it seems that they are almost opposites. The main distinction is that Tyr is very well-known for his bravery (the story of the loss of his hand). In this light, Ares is the opposite. He is known for being cowardly and unliked. Tyr was very well-liked by the Norse even to the point of having Tuesday named for him. This goes back to the point that it seems that the Norse were fighters, but not in the strategic sense, and liked this type of god. The Greeks, on the other hand, really liked the strategic gods, and disliked the impulsive ones. It seems that Ares would fit in perfectly with the Norse gods. He has many of the typical characteristics of the Norse gods. Ares could be one of the best examples

to show the differences that must have been present between the two societies. Ares is basically a Norse-style god in Greek myths. And not only is he displayed as being unliked and not a "good" god, as Athena was, he was barely worshipped. This shows what the Greeks were looking for in the gods they liked and worshipped. However, had Ares appeared in the Norse myths, he would have been brave, valiant and great. This is seen in the acclaim both Tyr and Thor received from the society that worshipped them. So it would prove that the Norsemen wanted this type of god.

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