In ancient mythology, swords, axes, bows, scythes, clubs, and other deadly weapons constituted the strength and fame of the gods. The Nordic thunder god wielded a special hammer that had mystical powers to either cause great destruction or preserve the cosmos order in a single strike.
Thor’s hammer, Mjölnir, has become a historically important symbol in Norse mythology. Thor was an indefatigable god whose primary assignment was to guard Asgard, a celestial stronghold in Aesir, the original tribe of goddesses and gods in Norse.
Some forces of agony and chaos, the giants, tried to kill the tribe and destroy Asgard on different occasions. It was the duty of Thor to stop them from accomplishing their evil mission.
What is Mjölnir?
It is the Nordic name of Thor’s hammer and is pronounced as Miol-neer. It was forged by dwarfs and gave Thor extensive powers to achieve great feats. Because of its short handle, he could only hold it with a single hand. He also had to use a magical iron glove to grip the hammer’s shaft.
Some sources believe that Mjölnir means lightning in the Old Norse language. Others believe that it means white, which is a symbol of purity like the white lightening’s purity. Whenever the thunder struck, the people knew that Thor and the mystic hammer were engaged in a battle. You may want to click on https://www.britannica.com/topic/Germanic-religion-and-mythology/Mythology#ref533271 to read about Norse mythology.
The Creation of Mjölnir
One of the Nordic gods, Loki, was the driving force behind the creation of Mjölnir. He was a well-known trickster. One day, he went about his usual shenanigans when he offended Thor by cutting off his wife’s golden hair locks. Her name was Sif.
This infuriated Thor and he threatened to tear Loki’s bones into pieces. However, Loki was able to dodge the wrath of Thor with a promise that he would get Sif lovelier locks from the dwarves. Sif’s husband capitulated and allowed Loki to travel to Svartalfheim, a cave for dwarves.
Those dwarves were master craftsmen indeed and delivered beyond Loki’s expectation. Ivaldi, the son of a dwarf created a magnificent new head filled with hairs. Loki also tricked the dwarves to produce other treasured items.
They created Skidbladnir, a magical ship that one could fold and fit in a pocket. The ship also had in its sail, the best of winds. They also created Gungnir, a very deadly spear. These creations were magnificent pieces. Loki was attracted to them and desired to have more.
He later tricked two other dwarf brothers, Sindri and Brokkr, to craft more fine works. Loki was a master manipulator; he told them that they can’t create better pieces than the other dwarves did. As a result, Sindri created a boar that had golden hair, which he named Gullinbursti. But Loki turned himself into a fly to distract Sindri from completing the task.
Sindri worked on another piece, a ring made of gold that can reproduce itself up to 8 times after nine nights. He named it Draupnir. After that, he began working on a hammer named Mjölnir, but the manipulator turned himself into a fly as usual and bit Sindri’s eyelid till it started bleeding.
Sindri managed to produce Mjölnir but there was a problem. The weapon came out with a handle that was shorter than expected. However, the dwarf brothers, Sindri and Brokkr traveled to Asgard so they could claim their prize for the 3 magnificent pieces they created. Unfortunately, Loki arrived there before them.
Loki presented the new hair and Mjölnir to Thor and his wife, the spear and ring to Odin, and then he gave Freyr the boar with a golden hair and the foldable ship. However, the goddesses and gods of the tribe acknowledged that Loki must keep his deal with the dwarves.
Loki bet his head when he challenged the dwarves and since they won, he must offer it. You can now see why he kept turning into a fly to distract the dwarves. But Loki, being the chief manipulator, still found a way around the situation.
He told the dwarves that he offered his head but did not promise them the neck too. Finally, the dwarves had to sew his mouth shut and everyone was happy. You may want to watch this video to learn more about the origin of Mjölnir.
The Function of the Hammer
The hammer was a war weapon and a ceremonial item. It was used to bless weddings, funerals, and births. According to some sources, the symbol was placed on gravestones till 1300 AD. However, on a very notable occasion, the magical hammer was stolen.
Poetic Edda related the story of one giant who managed to get hold of Mjölnir. He insisted on marrying Freyja, a goddess, in exchange for it. But Thor dressed in the goddess’ clothes and succeeding in fooling the giant. When it was time to bless the marriage, Thor lifted the hammer and destroyed the giant and his people.
Some historians say that when a marriage received the blessings from the hammer, they will also receive fertility. Thor was known as a god who brought fertility to agricultural activities. The blessing will also take the married couples from realms of chaos (usually associated with giants) to realms of order, just as the Norse people regarded the cosmos.
The Symbol of the Hammer
When Christianity came to Northern Europe, the hammer received another significance. The symbol of Christianity is the cross, but those who decided to hold on to their old beliefs wore the symbol of the hammer. This was how they differentiated between Christians and non-believers.
According to Nordic mythology, those who wore the cross were making alliances with the giants. And the giants are already associated with chaos. Therefore, it is believed that they want to destroy the ancient Nordic culture. But those who wore Thor’s hammer were seen as righteous people who were struggling to restore peace and order to the cosmos like Thor and the mythical hammer.
The Hammer’s Modern Use
To date, neopagans use Thor’s hammer as a symbol of vast power. The Asatru followers, an Old Nordic religion, attach the symbol to their old traditions. Also, Marvel utilizes the hammer in their comic books and movies. You can find a replica of the Viking hammer in special stores today.
The History of Thor’s Hammer – Final Thoughts
Thor’s hammer, Mjölnir, was a very powerful tool both for destruction and blessing in the old Nordic and present-day tradition. With the Mjölnir, Thor could preserve the cosmos order (innangard) and spurn chaos. This is what many cultures try to achieve today – to preserve ancient beliefs and practices.