The Hammer of Thor
Yesterday was my birthday and my husband gifted me with an iron Thor’s hammer pendant. I haven’t been wearing a lot of jewelry of late, but this feels good, a solid, comforting weight at my throat and it’s got me really thinking about what the Thor’s hammer stands for and why so many Heathens choose to wear it as a symbol of our tradition.
For those of you who may not know the story, Mjölnir (the name means ‘crusher’ or ‘grinder’) is one of the key attributes of the God Thor. It is often associated both etymologically and folklorically with the thunderbolt. Thor is the son of Odin and the earth Goddess Fjörgyn. He is a God of strength and power, thunder, lightening, and is above all else, the Protector of Midgard. Midgard is our human world. Thor, with His hammer wards the world against destruction and dissolution. He protects it from the forces of entropy and unproductive chaos. Likewise He protects the realms of the Gods against attack.
Thor received His hammer thanks to the machinations of Loki. The story is told in the Skáldskaparmál, part of the “Poetic Edda,” and involves quite a bit of back and forth between Loki and the Duergar, the best craftsmen in all the nine worlds. In many respects the hammer is the repository and symbol of Thor’s protective might and is as strongly associated with Him as Brisingamen is with Freya.
So what does all of that mean?
It is grounding power. Thor’s presence is one of a vital, fierce rootedness, massive and crackling with energy. That’s how it always seems to me at any rate. When I think on what it means to call upon the power of this God, it’s that grounded strength, the ability to remain unmoved no matter what the incoming storm. He is the God Whose presence shatters the force of an attack before it even finds its target. Not only is He fierce enough to ward off and repel harm, but His very presence wards and protects oneself and one’s space from harm, by its very nature. When He is present that which would do us harm cannot be.
The strength of Thor, for that is what the hammer symbolizes, contains the Holy. It readies the space and protects the space in which the Holy may root itself and grow. It protects the viability and integrity of our tradition. It ensures its growth just like the thunder ensures the growth of the grain*; and like that, it stands for our commitment to our tradition, to our Gods, and to the next generation. It is the emblem of perseverance regardless of difficulty or struggle. It is an emblem of vitality, the smoldering warmth of the hearth fire of devotion that, well tended, can blaze into a bonfire that nourishes us even through the most difficult of times.
Finally, it is a symbol of unity, connecting us all, regardless of our denominations and whatever infighting we may have within our tradition, to the Gods with we honor.
*thunderstorms are almost indispensible for grain to ripen—I don’t understand the alchemy but it apparently fixes the nitrogen and this is important in the growth process of grain. Yada yada yada because science. ^___^ I am not a farmer but I do think this is neat.