As far as naming goes, I like to use Þórr, rather than the anglicized Thor – but then no one would ever find this page! Now that you’re here, though … it’s Þórr all the way (it is, for the most part, pronounced the same way, Þ = English “th”).
Þórr is attested to in numerous textual and artifact sources, not the least of which being extensive Roman records (Oh those Romans. They loved to lump in outside deities with their own). Roman historian Tacitus lists him as Hercules in his Germania, which was preserved so that we may read all of the other skewed rubbish the Romans heaped upon the rest of the Norse pantheon.
The oldest known instance of his name, however, belongs to a fibula (a type of brooch) dated to the 7th century, called the Nordendorf Fibula and unearthed in Bavaria. The inscription in runes calls him Þonar, a Germanic form of his name. Þórr is also attested in the Gesta Hammaburgensis Ecclesiae Pontificum by Adam of Bremen, the Poetic Edda, Snorri Sturluson’s Prose Edda and Heimskringla, and the sagas.
As the son of Óðinn and the giantess Jörð, Þórr is the Æsir god of thunder and lightning, and is a protective god who reigns in the destructive jötunn race and makes Miðgarðr safe for humans, as well as for the Æsir. He is also famous for hunting down trolls, and old legends say that Scandinavia is free of trolls and giants only because Þórr is so efficient with his hammer strikes.
There are many such stories of Þórr battling with giants, and the best known are probably his duel with Hrungnir, and his encounter with Útgarða-Loki, a king of the Útgarða jötunn kingdom. His battle with Hrungnir is so fierce that a piece of whetstone is lodged in Þórr’s head, never to be freed. On his adventures to find Útgarða-Loki’s kingdom, he is repeatedly tricked by the giants’ magic, which is humiliating and frustrating for he and his adventuring companions, and in the end when the deception is revealed, King Útgarða-Loki admits the true strength of the gods will destroy the giants, and seals away his kingdom from the gods forever.
Þórr’s adventure stories are usually filled with good humour and lots of action. In another famous story, he misplaces his magical hammer, Mjölnir, and the giant Þrymr absconds with it. Þrymr decides to ransom the hammer off for the hand of Freya in marriage, and the gods’ solution to this dilemma is to dress Þórr up as a bride and send him to the wedding instead of the goddess. Loki attends as his handmaiden, shenanigans ensue, Þórr loses his temper, and the entire house and all its inhabitants are leveled in the end.
Later on, as the rest of his kin are crossing Bifrost to reach the well of the Norns, Þórr is given the option of leaving Mjölnir in Heimdallr’s care or wading across a freezing river … and he chooses to hold onto his hammer and wade. He arrives just as business is concluding and then has to wade back.
Þrúðheimr (World of Strength) is the realm of Þórr in Ásgard, where his hall Bilskírnir is located. He is the red-headed and bearded husband of Sif, the golden-haired goddess, and he has several children – Þrúðr, Móði, and Magni – and a step-son, Ullr. He is often seen travelling with Loki, and the two are a comical pair, but as Loki’s attitude towards the gods slowly changes, so too Þórr becomes increasingly more threatening towards his once steadfast friend.
At Ragnarök, he is fated to battle Loki’s son (and monster) Jörmungandr, which ends with the two of them killing each other. Not content to wait until the end of the world, Þórr bates the mighty serpent, which is lying at the bottom of the sea, with the head of a giant ox. The serpent escapes at the last minute, of course, and the thunder god only succeeds in freaking out Hymir, his giant boating companion in the story.
Thoughts on Thor
Þórr is considered the patron god of labour and the protector of workers. As the defender of Miðgarðr, Þórr is famously described as embattled with the jötunn. The jötunn are often interpreted as the elemental, hard-to-control forces of the world, which in ancient times were a constant threat to humanity. The thunder god was called on as the protector of human life and activity. Today, our relationship with nature is out of balance and the elemental forces threaten us with chaos, unless we can restore balance and keep them at bay. Modern pagans see Þórr, son of Mother Earth, and associated with trees, as a god of environmentalism.
He is described in the lore as affable and funny, as well depicted by Chris Hemsworth’s portrayal of the the MCU character of Thor Odinson. The myths would seem to agree with the derivative comics and movie franchise, that he is associated with impressive physical fitness. He represents strength, fitness, health, and vitality. In the mythology, Þórr is more than your typical jock. He stands out in the myths as a figure of practical wisdom. This is revealed in the tale of his outwitting the dwarf Alwiss by making use of the resources immediately available to him. One of his older epithets is Djuphugadr (Deep Thinker). He is seen as a god of the wisdom of simplicity and common sense.
His hammer is one of the primary symbols of Northern Tradition, historically as well as today. It represents both protection and consecration. His old English name, Thunor, and Old High German name, Donar are related to the modern English word “thunder.” Many wear his hammer today as jewelry. Although a weapon, his hammer is also represents Þórr’s power as a god of agriculture, family life, masculinity, and fertility of the earth, whose rains nurture all of life. He shares many overlapping domains with Freyr.
Scholars have associated Þórr with the Celtic deities Dagda, Taranis and Sucellos, Indra of the Rigveda, and Perun and Perkunas of Slavic myth. The Romans believed he was a manifestation of Hercules. According to scholar Mathias Nordvig, he also has associations with the Greco-Roman god Hephaestus.
Suggested Signs & Symbols
Thunder, lightning, rain, wind, and storms. Redheads and quick tempers. Goats, cattle, and other horned beasts and livestock. All trees, especially oak, and lightening rods. Ecology and environmentalism. The day Thursday. Beer and hearty food. Hammers, axes, anvils, flint and whetstones. Onions, garlic and leeks. Gauntlets, sports girdles and workout gear. Fences, gates and protective barriers. Colours: sky blue and red. The rune Þurs.
Thor, Þunor, Þonar, Donar, Ðunor, Thunar, Thunor, Thuner, Thunaer, Thonaraz, Perun, Perkunas.