Mjölnir (pronounced Me-yol-neer) is the depiction of Thor’s hammer. The common assumption of the etymology of this word is that it is the “lightning-maker” and this is depicted in the Marvel Universe.
However, there is also a valid argument for the connection to the Old Norse word “Mala” which means to grind and thus “the grinder”. This then offers a clear link to the Vajra, which in Indian mythology is considered the most powerful weapon in the universe, built from diamond and a thunderbolt. Vajra as a symbol and tool comes from the Hindu religion which to date is still considered the oldest religion of the world, and not the only symbol in Norse mythology that shares that link.
Many Heathens wear this symbol proudly as a representation of their faith to the Æsir. To a Heathen, this symbol is important as it represents Thor’s sacred role of protector, both to human and Gods alike. To most Heathens, this is a religious symbol and not a fashion item, which frustrates many with the increased popularity of Viking TV shows and films.
This weapon was created by the dwarves as part of a contest by Loki’s design. It was the weapon of choice for Thor, a weapon that would always return to his hand when thrown, but it is also an instrument used for blessings and protection. It was also documented as used for oaths between men, likely along the lines of “if I break this oath, let Thor’s hammer smite me down”.
A middle ages Danish historian Saxo Grammaticus makes mention that huge hammers were kept in one of Thor’s temples in Sweden, and that periodically the people would hold a ritual there that involved beating the hammers against a form of drum to make sounds much like thunder. The assumption here is that this was probably a blessing for the local community, and perhaps a protection ceremony.
The Mjölnir is mentioned in many stories but easily the most popular of these is Þrymskviða, which tells the story of how the giants stole the weapon in order to bribe Freyja into marriage. In order to avoid this, Thor dresses as a bride, and Loki joins (most likely for the laughs) and they head off to a feast in Jötunheimr (the giant’s realm). Although making a fool of himself at the feast, Loki’s quick tongue allows Thor to get his hands back on Mjölnir, and subsequently Thor used the weapon to destroy the giants.
Image: The Lolland Pendant. National Museum of Denmark