Thor (/r/; from Old Norse: órr) is a hammer-wielding deity linked with lightning, thunder, storms, holy groves and trees, power, mankind’s protection, as well as hallowing and fertility in Germanic mythology. Aside from Old Norse órr, the god is known as unor in Old English, Thuner in Old Frisian, Thunar in Old Saxon, and Donar in Old High German, all of which are derived from the Common Germanic theonym *unraz, which means ‘thunder.’
Thor is a frequently mentioned god throughout the history of the Germanic peoples, from the Roman occupation of Germania to the Germanic expansions of the Migration Period, to his high popularity during the Viking Age, when, in the face of the Christianization of Scandinavia, emblems of his hammer, Mjölnir, were worn and Norse pagan personal names containing th were given.
Because of the nature of the Germanic corpus, stories about Thor have only been found in Old Norse, where he figures in Norse mythology. Numerous stories about the deity may be found in Norse mythology, which was mostly written in Iceland from traditional Scandinavian literature. Thor is portrayed as fierce eyed, red haired, and red bearded in these sources, and is the spouse of the golden-haired goddess Sif, the lover of the jötunn Járnsaxa, and has at least fifteen names. Thor fathered the goddess (and likely valkyrie) rr with Sif; he fathered Magni with Járnsaxa; he fathered Mói with an unnamed mother; and he is the stepfather of the deity Ullr. Thor has several brothers, including Baldr, who is related to Odin. Thor has two attendants, jálfi and Röskva, and travels in a cart or chariot drawn by two goats, Tanngrisnir and Tanngnjóstr (which he consumes and resurrects), as well as three residences (Bilskirnir, rheimr, and rvangr). Thor holds the Mjölnir hammer, wears the Megingjör belt and iron gloves Járngreipr, and possesses the Grarvölr staff. Thor’s adventures, which include his merciless murder of his opponents and ferocious confrontations with the giant serpent Jörmungandr—as well as their anticipated mutual deaths at the events of Ragnarök—are detailed in Norse mythology sources.
Thor was still revered in rural mythology across Germanic-speaking Europe far into the modern era. Thor is commonly mentioned in place names, the day of the week Thursday is named after him (modern English Thursday comes from Old English unresd, ‘unor’s day’), and names from the pagan period that include his name are still used today, especially in Scandinavia. Thor has been the subject of several works of art, as well as allusions to him in current popular culture. Thor’s adoration, like that of other Germanic gods, has resurfaced in modern Heathenry.
órr (Old Norse), Donar (Old High German), unor (Old English), Thuner (Old Frisian), and Thunar (Old Saxon) are cognates—linguistic siblings from the same source. They are connected to the Latin epithet Tonans (associated to Jupiter) via the Proto-Indo-European root *(s)tenh2-, which is similar to the name of the Celtic deity Taranis (via metathesis of *Tonaros; cf. OBrit. Tanaro, Gaul. Tanarus). According to academic Peter Jackson, those theonyms may have arose from the fossilization of an original epithet (or epiclesis) of the Proto-Indo-European thunder-god *Perkwunos, because the Vedic weather-god Parjanya is also known as stanayitn- (‘Thunderer’).
Thursday is derived from the Old English word unresdg, which means ‘day of unor.’ Old Norse órsdagr and Old High German Donarestag are cognates. All of these titles are derived from Late Proto-Germanic *onaresdag (‘Day of Unraz’), which is a calque of Latin dies Iovis (‘Day of Jove’; modern Italian gioved, French jeudi, and Spanish jueves). During the Roman Empire, the Germanic peoples accepted the Roman weekly calendar and substituted the names of Roman gods with their own through a technique known as interpretatio germanica.
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