Essential Germanic Polytheism: Strength in Numbers

Written by Dyami Millarson

The idea of strength in numbers is the essence of Germanic polytheism. The plurality of the divine or numinous world is seen as a sign of strength. The fact that the Gods are many/plural is what makes them strong.

As polytheists, the Germanic peoples worshipped the Gods in groups of two, three and possibly twelve. The number 2 stands for special connection, 3 for holiness and 12 for wholeness or totality.

The “twelve” Germanic Gods, with the exception of Othin as he represents the whole anyway and his mention therefore magically invokes all the Gods, are possibly Thor, Njorth, Frey, Tyr, Ull, Heimdall, Balder, Hodur, Frigg, and Freyja.

The effect of mentioning these twelve deities is that this would be regarded as “having mentioned all the deities.” Twelve was regarded as a powerful number by the polytheists; they believed in the magic/power of numbers.

Although there are more Gods than 12, naming 12 Gods suffices as the magical property of 12 is that all the Gods are invoked. Therefore, the number 12 has maximum effect for worship in case all the Gods’ attention is required.

The Germanic peoples did, however, invoke two or three Gods at a time the most frequently; it was customary to worship dualities and trinities. These groupings are usually recognisable by the fact that the names of such deities at least alliterate or else they may even be identical or similar-sounding.

Germanic deity pairs include Frey and Freyja, Vali and Vithar, the brothers Alcis, Sól ok Mani (Sun and Moon), Æsir ok Álfar (the Æsir and Elves), husband and wife Nerthus, etc. The Vanir have a tendency to come in pairs (usually divine twins).

The Æsir, who also include Vanir, may be worshipped in groups of three: Othin, Thor and Frey. This trinity may be perceived as the leaders or the most popular deities of the Æsir, therefore they represent the Æsir as a whole and worshipping them together may be regarded as the worship of all the Æsir.

Significant Gods, particularly outlier Gods, may be worshipped individually as well: Othin, Thor, Frey, Ull, Forseti (originally a Frisian God), Njorth, etc.

It is important to remember that the Gods are numina; they are essences of the universe or cosmos in which we live, and they are Gods in the sense that they are powerful spirits which have the qualities of extraordinary living men such as wizards, smiths, kings, etc. Combining all their resources and skills is what makes the Gods an exceptionally powerful/strong community.

There were many Germanic clans/tribes in the past, and the Gods ought to be regarded as the most powerful tribe/clan in the Germanic world. The Germanic clans/tribes had different relationships of power, some tribes were stronger than others and yet all culturally agreed that the Gods were the strongest.