Heathens of Yorkshire
-by Dan Coultas, March 2018
Thor is one of the Gods most referred to by Snorri, and one for whom we have a large body of literary and archaeological evidence for the worship of. The thunder God is a feature of many ancient pantheons, and the worship of Thor (or similarly named Gods such as Thunor) seem to have been prevalent throughout the pagan period in Germanic and northern Europe.
Throughout the literary sources we have about Thor he is portrayed as the protector of the Gods and of Asgard, often using his strength and his hammer Mjolnir to fight of those who would do them ill. He is the archetypal hero of eddic poetry, and tales of his deeds can be found throughout many of the surviving literary sources.
Unlike many of the other deities who's stories are only concerned with affairs between Gods and giants, Thor is seen to have a direct interest in mankind. He is seen as the guardian of Midgard, and his mortal enemy is the Midgard Serpent. He is said to be the son of Odin and Jord, the Goddess who embodies earth itself.
It may be because of this link with humans that we see a lot more evidence for the worship of Thor than of many of the other Gods. Even today, the most recognisable heathen symbol, and that most often worn as a pendant is that of Thor's hammer. There is evidence that in Norway and Iceland, it was Thor who's image often sat in the place of honour in shrines and temples, and even after the end of the heathen period, Thor's cult endured through folklore and custom. There is even one documented source from the end of the heathen period that states that an elderly follower of the old Gods believed that Thor had challenged Christ to single combat!
As well as the use of Thor's hammer, there are other aspects associated with the worship of Thor. There is evidence of the use of fire in his early worship, and the use of goats or goat meat as an offering, due to his two goats, which could be eaten and then revived using the power of Mjolnir. Oath rings seem also to have had a special connection with Thor, and oaths sworn on them are witnessed by the God. Thor is also said to be able to hear whenever his name is spoken on Midgard, and the oak tree is said to be particularly sacred to him.
Davidson, H.R, Gods and Myths of Northern Europe (Pelican, 1964) Wodening, Swain, Hammer of the Gods (Wednesbury Shire, 2008) Sturluson, Snorri, The Prose Edda