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Mjolnir, or Mjǫllnir, in Old Norse, is the famous hammer of the god Thor. Thor (Donar in Germanic), is most famous as the God of Thunder but was also worshipped as the deity of farmers and agriculture, as well as of the Earth’s fertility.
As such, his one-handed battle hammer was most commonly associated with thunder and lightning but amulets in the shape of Mjolnir were also used in marriage rituals, probably to bless the newlywed couples with both strength and fertility.
Today, thanks to movies and books, Thor’s Hammer is a popular and well-known symbol. Here’s a look at its origins and significance.
What Does Mjolnir Mean?
Mjolnir is written differently in the various Scandinavian and Germanic languages:
- Icelandic – Mjölnir
- Norwegian – Mjølne
- Faroese – Mjølnir
- Swedish – Mjölner
- Danish – Mjølner.
The term is believed to come from the Proto-Germanic word meldunjaz, which means “to grind”. This would mean the proper translation of Mjolnir is “the grinder” or “the crusher” – an appropriate name for a god’s battle hammer.
There could be another interpretation too, given that Mjolnir is not just a hammer but a “thunder weapon”. Both Thor and his weapon have always been identified with thunder and lightning, so it’s probably not a coincidence that in many Proto-Indo-European languages the terms for lightning and thunder seem similar and connected to Mjolnir.
Origins of the Mjolnir
As with most other Norse symbols, the origins of the Mjolnir symbol can be traced back to the 13th and 14th centuries work of Snorri Sturluson Prose Edda. These accumulations of ancient Norse myths and legends also tell the story of Mjolnir’s creation.
- The Backstory:
According to the Skáldskaparmál story in Prose Edda, Thor’s hammer was created in the dwarven realm of Svartalfheim. Funnily enough, its creation was ordered by Thor’s uncle, the god of mischief, Loki.
Earlier in the story, Loki had cut off the golden hair of Sif, Thor’s wife. Angered, Thor threatened to kill Loki in revenge, but the god of mischief promised to make things right, go into Svartalfheim, and ask the dwarves to fashion a new head of hair for Sif.
Thor let Loki go and once in Svartalfheim, Loki asked the Sons of Ivaldi dwarves to perform this task. Not only did the dwarves fashion a new head of hair for Sif, but they also created two more marvels – the deadliest spear Gungnir and the fastest ship Skidblandir.
Even though his task was completed, however, Loki didn’t leave the dwarven realm immediately. Being the god of mischief, Loki decided to play a trick on two other dwarves, Sindri and Brokkr, by mocking them that they couldn’t create three other treasures as perfect as those made by the sons of Ivaldi. The two prideful dwarves immediately accepted the bet and demanded that if they win, they’d get Loki’s head. Loki also accepted and the dwarves got to work.
First, they created the golden boar Gullinbursti which could run better than any horse, including on air and water, and could even give off light in the dark. Then, the two dwarves created Draupnir, a golden ring from which eight more golden rings of equal weight emerged every ninth night.
- Creating the Mjolnir
Lastly, the dwarves started working on Mjolnir. Loki tried to spoil the hammer’s design by disguising himself as a fly and biting Brokkr on the eyelids while the dwarf worked, as the god didn’t want the hammer to be a success.
Loki’s mischief worked to an extent, and his distractions were why the dwarf made Mjolnir’s handle so short instead of the standard long handle of two-handed battle hammers. Fortunately, Thor was more than strong enough to wield Mjolnir with one hand, so Mjolnir became the thunder god’s signature weapon.
In the end, Loki returned to Asgard with his life and with not just Sif’s new set of hair but the other five treasures as well. He gave Gungnir and Draupnir to Odin, Skidbladnir and Gullinbursti to the god Freyr, and he gave Sif’s new hair and Mjolnir to Thor.
Mjolnir and The Triquetra Rune
In many depictions of Thor’s hammer, both ancient and new, the hammer has a triquetra symbol engraved on it. This triangular figure formed by three interlaced arcs is similar to Odin’s Valknut symbol and resembles three overlapping Vesicas Piscis lens shapes that are so important in Christianity.
The triquetra was later adopted by Christianity to represent the Holy Trinity but in the Norse myths it’s said to represent three of the nine realms – Asgard, Midgard and Utgard.
The Symbolism of The Mjolnir Symbol
Mjolnir is most often represented in either pictures and paintings or as a pendant or amulet. As the thunder weapon of the god Thor, Mjolnir is often viewed as a symbol of strength and power.
Beyond that, however, it’s also a symbol of agriculture and fertility as Thor was also the patron saint of farmers. Mjolnir is commonly used in wedding ceremonies as a symbol of fertility.
Below is a list of the editor’s top picks featuring the Mjlnir symbol.
Mjolnir in the Modern Age
Like many other old Norse symbols, Mjolnir has been used by some Neo-Nazi groups as a symbol of strength and their ancient Norse heritage. For a while, Mjolnir was even listed as a “hate symbol” by the Anti-Defamation League.
Fortunately, Mjolnir has since been removed from that list as it still has lots of other uses as well. Many practitioners of Germanic Heathenry revere the symbol, most often fashioned into small pendants and amulets. The “Hammer of Thor” was also added to the list of United States Department of Veterans Affairs emblems for headstones and markers in 2013.
Thor’s hammer has also made its way into modern pop-culture through Marvel comics and the latter MCU (Marven Cinematic Universe) where the comic-book version of Thor wielded the one-handed thunder hammer.
Thor’s Hammer is also the nickname for a Hoodoo, which is a naturally formed thin pillar of rock, found in Bryce Canyon National Park, Utah. The unique formation sits high among the rocks, resembling the Mjolnir.
The Mjolnir is also a popular symbol for pendants, jewelry and fashion. Like many of the Norse symbols, this too has a masculine feel to it, but is worn by both men and women as a symbol of power, strength and fearlessness.
The Mjolnir, better known in the West as Thor’s Hammer, is an ancient symbol with its roots in Norse mythology. It continues to be highly popular in fashion, decorative items and in popular culture.