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Sól and Máni Run Faster Than Wolves
While I’ve previously discussed astronomical knowledge of the Vikings, and revisited that a bit when discussing whether the Vikings believed Earth is flat, I’ve mostly glossed over the two most important astronomical objects in our sky: the sun and the moon. They’re part of the naming system for the days of the week (Sunday and Monday) that’s been passed down to us, so they’re clearly part of the pre-Christian Germanic mythological structure, but how do they figure in?
A depiction of Máni and Sól (1895) by Lorenz Frølich. Published in Gjellerup, Karl (1895). Den ældre Eddas Gudesange,
As you might expect, given their prominence in the sky, the sun and the moon are related to one another: the sun goddess is called Sól or in some places Sunna and is the sister of the moon god Máni. As with other gods in the pre-Christian Germanic worldview, they are the personification of…
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Thor Throws the Toe of Aurvandil to the Stars
Vincent Van Gogh’s Starry Night Over the Rhone depicts the constellation Ursa Major
Catasterism in myth is an ancient tradition, and the famous Greek Eratosthenes is believed to be associated with this practice of putting gods and heroes in the stars. It’s been more difficult to make specific attributions of stories with specific constellations in the Germanic myths. There are fewer extant stories to begin with, and the ones we do have rarely make reference to the stars. And while we know the Vikings and their forebears were great shipbuilders and navigators, no star charts or other handy guides have allowed us a window into just how much northern Europeans shared their cousins’ taste for naming the heavens after their heroes.
There are a couple of exceptions; here’s one. In Snorri Sturluson’s story of Thor’s battle with Hrungnir in the Prose Edda, Thor explains how he managed to create one…
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