| A series on
|From the Edda|
It is a subset of Germanic mythology, with which it shares, for the most part, a common pantheon.
The deities (gods and goddesses) were divided into three clans: the Æsir, the Vanir, and the Jötnar. The Æsir were primarily the major figures of Norse mythology, such as Odin and Thor, frequently to be found riding around in his chariot pulled by Tanngrisni and Tanngnost, two delightful goats, who could be killed and eaten every night and who would somehow be reconstituted the next morning, providing that the bones were not broken and — but, we digress. After an epic war after the fashion of the Titanomachy, the Æsir became non-hostile towards the Vanir, lesser-known gods (Freyr and Freyja as examples) through hostage-exchange and marriage. The Jötnar (including the notable god Loki) were classified as giants with extraordinary strength and were enemies to both Vanir and Æsir clans, even though marriages have been known between them.
 Elevation of humans
Warriors on earth who fought and died in the midst of battle on earth were resurrected as warrior-spirits. The Valkyrie descend on every battle, pick out the most valiant, and mark them for death. After they die, they are taken by the Valkyrie to Asgard, where half join with Odin in Valhalla, and the other half join Freyja. From there, they are known as einherjar, and would train for battle on the upcoming day of Ragnarok. (This training involves fighting all day, probably dying, being resurrected, and then feasting on pork and mead.) Odin himself often goes to earth to stir up trouble and create battles, because he is thought to need more warriors than he'll ever get.
 Fantasy creatures
There was widespread belief in creatures such as elves, dwarves, and artifacts. Animals in Norse mytholgy all had names, and were of such significance that their owners would resurrect them after death through various means. Of these, undoubtedly the greatest and most important was a lil' ol' squirrel named Ratatosk.
These mythic creatures are now staples of fantasy literature, thanks largely to their use by J.R.R. Tolkien, who made extensive studies of Norse mythology (even producing his own rewrite of a large part of the mythic material) and was heavily influenced by it when writing his Middle Earth legendarium. Of particular note are the names of the dwarf characters in The Hobbit, which were taken verbatim from the "Catalog of Dwarves" in the Eddaic poem Völuspá.
Norse mythology is distinctly bleak. While many mythologies, including Christianity, have a spot for eschatology, the Norse apocalypse is almost unique in its darkness. During Ragnarok, all of the gods will die, along with all of the people, the sun, moon, World Tree, everything. The whole world will be destroyed by fire and ice. (In most versions, two of the gods come back with the children of the other gods; however, some consider this a later Christian addition. Either way, there's no heaven for the currently living good to go to after this destruction--they're just dead.) It is notable that the Norse gods were not truly immortal, having to eat golden apples in order to retain their youthfulness.
 Norse mythology today
Among neopagans, the Norse pantheon has become one of the more popular. However, there is some tension between reconstructionist groups (who are usually referred to as "Asatru") and "eclectics," who do not try to adhere to any notion of "the old ways." Even the terminology is often contested; many Asatru prefer to be called that, or "heathen," instead of "pagan," and "neopagan" is often a snarl word used to refer to the eclectics.
Norse heathens are typically far more conservative than other pagans, believing strongly in tradition, military spending and some form of "family values," often more sincerely than their Christian counterparts, who seem to have an alternate definition of that term, viz., "something that will vanish if we give women or gays any rights."
The English language still retains the Saxon names of Norse gods in several days of the week:
- Tuesday is named for Tyr, or Tiw, a god of war.
- Wednesday is named for Odin, or Woden, a god of wisdom.
- Thursday is named for Thor, or Þunor, a god of thunder.
- Friday is named for Frigg, a goddess of love, sex, beauty, and witchcraft (also Odin's wife).
In the Romance languages, these days' names are usually derived from the parallel Roman gods, which were all named after celestial objects (Sun, Moon, Mars, Mercury, Jupiter, Venus, and Saturn).
But in Iceland, an archaic attempt at anti-pagan political correctness caused the weekdays to be given numbers instead. Boring!
 Norse mythology and racism
Unfortunately for more rational worshipers of the Norse pantheon, there is a long-standing connection between Norse/Germanic neopagans and racism. Many anti-Semitic Germanic groups have seen the Germanic pantheon as a good substitute for the Jewish-derived Christianity. Some notable Nazis were Germanic neopagans (although mostly adhering to a mystical variant called Armanism that was largely dreamed up by the crank Guido von List). Even many non-racist Germanic neopagans believe that non-Germanic people should not worship Germanic deities, or are unable to do it properly.
In the U.S., many Germanic neopagan cults have been formed with explicitly racist beliefs. These cults used to be referred to as "Odinist," until the white-supremacist David Lane realized that Wotan, the German name for Odin, was an acronym for "Will Of The Aryan Nation," and advocated the use of
Mormonism "Wotanism" instead.
In recent years, mainstream Asatru groups have explicitly rebuked these kinds of racist beliefs. However, many hate groups continue to use Norse symbolism and invoke Norse deities, particularly in American prisons.