Numbers in Norse mythology (Part 1 of 2)

Numbers have always been important in any society of any times. Nonetheless, the power of numbers have stretched beyond our daily and practical use. In Norse mythology, number three and number nine appeared so many times that it opened a question as to whether they had anything to do with Gods. In this blog post, we are to discuss the appearance of numbers in Norse myth, starting with number three. 

Number Three in Norse myth

Number three appeared with great frequency in Norse mythology:

  • Three primary traces of the giants: the mountain giants, the fire giants, and the frost giants.
  • Three primeval beings in the cosmos: Ymir the first giant, Buri the first god and the  grandfather of Odin, and Audhumla the Cow
  • Three Norns who created the fates of all beings in the cosmos
  • Three gods fashioned the cosmos with Ymir’s body: Odin, Vili, and Ve.
  • Yggdrasil the Tree of Life had three roots. Under three roots lay three holy wells.
  • Odin had to experience three challenges before having the ability to decipher runes: he hung himself, he wounded himself with his spear, and he suffered thirst and hunger.
  • Loki had three notorious children: Fenrir Wolf, Jormungand Midgard Serpent, and Hel Queen of Death.
  • Three winters (Fimbulwinter) came in a row in Midgard before Ragnarok took place.
  • Three signs leading to Ragnarok: birth of Loki’s children, Odin’s son Baldur’s death, and the Fimbulwinter.
  • It was not until the third attempt that Gods managed to bind Fenrir with magical chain.
  • Gods burnt Gullveig the witch for three times but three times she walked out out from the fire intact.
  • Bifrost the Rainbow bridge connecting Asgard and Midgard had three colors
  • Heimdall the Guardsman of Asgard had three powers: he need nearly no sleep, his eyesight was sharp, and his hearing was acute.
  • Odin had three possessions: Gungnir the Spear, Draupnir the Ring, and Sleipnir the Horse.
  • Odin had three kinds of animals that became his constant companions: ravens, wolves, and horse

Among numbers in Norse myth, Number Three occupied a very important role.

Image of Norns numbers in norse mythology
Three Norns who created the fates of all beings
  • Thor had a set of three weapons that doubled his power: Mjolnir hammer, a magical belt, and a pair of iron gloves.
  • Freyr had three main magical items: Skidbladnir the Ship, Gullinbursti the Boar, and a magical sword that could fight on its own.
  • There were three things that reminded us of Freya: Brisingamen necklace, a cloak allow her to shapeshift into a falcon, and a cats-pulled chariot
  • The giant builder demanded to have three things after building Asgard’s wall. He wanted the Sun, the Moon, and goddess Freya as his bride.
  • Odin entertained Gunlod who guarded the Mead of Poetry for three nights. Then Gunlod allowed Odin to drink the Mead three times.
  • Three sons of Odin survived Ragnarok: Vidar, Hodr, and Baldur.

The Significance of number Three

With such great frequency of appearance, number three’s importance in Norse myth was needless to say. We can assume that there was no coincidence. It might have been the intentional acts. Number three always presented something relating to the holiness and something phenomenal.

In Christian faith, number 3 symbolized the Holy Trinity: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. From Buddhist tradition, number 3 presented the Triple Gem: Buddha (the enlightened one), Dhamma (the teachings), and Sangha (the followers). Or in Taoist, there existed the Great Triad Heaven, Human, and Earth. That is to say the number three also appeared in other beliefs.

This might have been because there are many phases of life with number three. We experience the birth, growth, and death; child, adult, and senior; past, present, and future. Or number three is related with the similar concepts: mind/body/spirit of ours. 

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