Jörð – Earth Goddess and Mother of Thor

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Thor’s mother in Marvel comics and movies may be Odin’s wife Frigg (or Frigga) but that’s not actually the case in Nordic mythology. In the real Norse myths, the All-Father god Odin had quite a few extra-marital relationships with various goddesses, giantesses, and other women, including Thor’s actual mother – the Earth Goddess Jörð.

Jörð is the personification of the earth and an important goddess in Norse mythology. Here’s her story.

Who is Jörð?

In Old Norse, Jörð’s name means earth or land. This aligns with who she was –  the personification of the earth. She is also called Hlóðyn or Fjörgyn in some poems although those are sometimes viewed as other ancient earth goddesses who’ve gotten combined with Jörð over the years.

A Goddess, A Giantess, Or A Jötunn?  

Like many of the other ancient Norse deities and natural personifications such as Ægir, Jörð’s exact “species” or origins is a bit unclear. In later stories and legends, she is described as a goddess from the Asgardian (Æsir) pantheon just like Odin and most others. That’s why she’s usually viewed as just that – a goddess.

Some legends describe her as the daughter of the goddess of the night, Nótt, and her second consort Annar. Jörð is also explicitly said to be Odin’s sister as well as his non-marital consort. Given that Odin is said to be the son of Bestla and Borr, Jörð’s description as his sister becomes even more confusing.

Many of her older legends, however, describe her as a giantess or a jötunn. This is logical as most forces of nature in Nordic mythology aren’t personified by gods but by the more primordial giants or jötnar (plural for jötunn). The Æsir and Vanir Nordic gods are more human in comparison and are usually viewed as the “new gods” who’ve taken control over the world from these primordial beings. This makes Jörð’s origin as a jötunn very likely, especially given that she is the personification of the Earth, in particular.

Is Jörð the Very Flesh Of Ymir?

The main creation myth of all Norse myths and legends revolves around the primordial proto-being Ymir. Neither god nor giant, Ymir was the very Cosmos long before the Earth/Midgard, and the rest of the Nine Realms were created.

In fact, the world came to be from Ymir’s dead body after the brothers Odin, Vili, and Vé slew Ymir. The jötnar were born from his flesh and ran from Odin, Vili, and Vé on the rivers formed by Ymir’s blood. Meanwhile, Ymir’s body became the Nine Realms, his bone became mountains, and his hairs – trees.

This makes Jörð’s origins very unclear as she is a goddess of the Earth who’s also described as Odin’s sister, a giantess or a jötunn but as the very earth, she’s also a part of Ymir’s flesh.

The Verdict?

The most widely accepted explanation is that Jörð was originally depicted as a jötunn just like the jötnar Ægir, Kari, and Logi personified the sea, wind, and fire respectively. And since jötnar were often confused with giants, she was also sometimes depicted as a giantess.

However, because she was ancient and born from the flesh of Ymir, she was also described as Odin’s sister, i.e. as his equal. And since the two also had a sexual relationship and even a child together, over time she was eventually recognized in later myths as legends as an Æsir goddess.

Thor’s Mother

Just like Zeus in Greek mythology, the All-Father god Odin wasn’t exactly a fan of monogamy. He was married to the Æsir goddess Frigg but that didn’t stop him from having sexual relationships with a host of other goddesses, giantess, and other women such as Jörð, Rindr, Gunnlöd, and others.

In fact, Odin’s first-born child came from Jörð and not from his wife Frigg. The god of thunder, Thor was said in almost every source to be Jörð’s son putting their relationship beyond doubt. In the Lokasenna poem, Thor is even called Jarðar burr i.e. The son of Jörð. In the Prose Edda book Gylfaginning by Icelandic author Snorri Sturluson, it’s said that:

The earth was his daughter and his wife. With her, he [Odin] made the first son, and that is Ása-Thor.

So, Jörð’s origins may be incredibly vague and unclear but Thor’s aren’t. He is definitely the child of Odin and Jörð.

Symbols and Symbolism of Jörð

As a goddess of the Earth and the land, Jörð has very traditional and clear symbolism. The Earth in most cultures across the world is almost always depicted as a female, as the earth is what gives birth to plants, animals, and life in general.

As such, the Earth goddess is also almost always benevolent, beloved, worshipped, and prayed to. Every spring, people would pray to Jörð and organize feasts and celebrations in her honor to ensure that that year’s sowing would be rich and plentiful.

Jörð’s connection to Thor is also one of the explanations why he’s not just the god of thunder but also the god of fertility and farmers.

Importance of Jörð In Modern Culture

Unfortunately, just like most other ancient Nordic deities, giants, jötnar, and other primordial beings, Jörð isn’t really represented in modern culture. Unlike the newer and more popular gods like Thor, Odin, Loki, Freya, Heimdall, and others, Jörð’s name is reserved for the history books.

If the folks at Disney had wanted to, they could have shown Jörð as Thor’s mother in the MCU movies and present her as Odin’s consort outside of his marriage with Frigg, the way it is in Nordic mythology. Instead, however, they decided to show a more “traditional” family on-screen and cut Jörð out of the story completely. As a result, Jörð isn’t as popular as some of the other Norse gods.

Wrapping Up

Jörð remains an important deity in Norse mythology, as she’s the very earth itself. As the mother of Thor and the consort of Odin, Jörð plays a significant role in the events of the myths. To learn more about the Norse gods and goddesses, check our our article which lists the major deities of the Norse myths.

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