Heimdall: The God of Guardianship And Vigilance

Short Facts Tribe: Aesir God of: Farsight, guardianship, keen hearing, light, protection and vigilance  Son of: Odin and the Nine …

Short Facts

Tribe: Aesir

God of: Farsight, guardianship, keen hearing, light, protection and vigilance 

Son of: Odin and the Nine Mothers (Angeyja, Atla, Eistla, Eyrgjafa, Gjolp, Greip, Imth, Jarnsaxa and Ulfrun)

Brother of: Baldur, Bragi, Hodr, Thor, Tyr, Vali and Vidarr 

Other names: Heimdallr, Gullintanni, Hallinskidi, Rig or Rigr, Vindhler and Vindler

Heimdall responsibilities

Bring forth the first light of day, observing the Nine Realms, protecting and defending Asgard against intruders, social order, wisdom and watching restlessly the Bifrost Bridge

Heimdall spirit animal

A German Shepherd dog, and his golden-maned horse Gulltoppr

Heimdall weapon/domain of power

His abode Himinbjorg, his loud sounding horn Gjallarhorn, his golden-maned horse Gulltoppr, foresight, his sword Hofud, his unexhausted stamina and his acute senses – which allow him to see and hear anything in the Nine Realms

Heimdall blows Gjallarhorn.
Lorenz Frølich, via Wikimedia Commons

The Guardian of the Bridge

Heimdall is the Aesir god of vigilance and protection. He is one of the sons of Odin and a deity born from nine different giant women; jotunns of the sea. It is said that Heimdall has golden teeth and that he is the whitest of the gods. His name means ‘the one who lights up the world’. Heimdall lives in Himinbjorg (Castle in the Sky), which stands at the end of the rainbow bridge Bifrost that connects Asgard with Midgard.

Heimdall’s duty is to watch over Bifrost and guard Asgard against intruders and trespassers. His divine stamina and keenest of senses make him an excellent guardian. Heimdall needs less sleep than a bird, he can see perfectly at night as in day and his eyesight can reach great distances while his hearing is so sharp he can hear wool growing on sheep and grass growing on the earth.

Heimdall carries the Hofud sword (meaning human head) and rides Gulltoppr, a splendid horse with a golden mane. He also has a great horn, called Gjallarhorn, which he uses to alert the Aesir to anyone who tries to get into Asgard without permission. When Ragnarok comes Heimdall will blow his Gjallarhorn and the gods will assemble then to fight the final battle.

Father of mankind and Ragnarok

When he was young, Heimdall traveled a great deal in Midgard. He gave humans the gift of fire, taught them various crafts, how to read runes, and instructed them about settlement organization. Thus it was that he set the first foundations of society. Not only that, but Heimdall, mostly under the name of Rigr slept with a lot of mortal women and had many children. Furthermore, his offspring went on and populate the lands and for that Heimdall is called the ‘Father of Men’.

Later on, when the three roosters crow to mark the beginning of Ragnarok, Heimdall will take his horn and call the Aesir to gather at the gates of Asgard. He will join the fray and fight Loki, the sly god of mischief. It is destined that these two gods will fall by each other’s blade and consequently seal their fates.

In the old texts

In the Poetic Edda, in the poem Voluspa, Heimdall is mentioned with his sons, then blowing the Gjallarhorn signaling the dawn of Ragnarok, and lastly, his acute hearing is praised.

Heimdall riding a horse with the horn in his hand.
Dorothy Hardy, via Wikimedia Commons

In the poem Grimnismal, Odin speaks about Himinbjorg, Heimdall’s hall, where the warden of heaven gladly drinks good mead.

In the poem Lokasenna, Heimdall calls Loki a foolish drunk and the god of mischief tells him to be silent and that he pities his fate always serving the Aesir as their slave watchman.

In another poem, Thrymskvida, Heimdall is said to possess the gift of foresight just like the Vanir gods and goddesses.

In the poem Rigspula, Heimdall (here called Rigr) walks Midgard and spends time with humans, teaching them the wisdom of runes.

In the Prose Edda, Heimdall is attested in the books Gylfaginning, Skaldskaparmal and Hattatal.

Frequently Asked Questions

Q. Why Heimdall has golden teeth?

A. One simple explanation of this lies in the ram, which is Heimdall’s sacred animal. As rams get old their teeth turn yellow. Therefore, Heimdall has golden teeth. Either that or the guardian of Bifrost has so much wealth he even puts it in his gum.

Q. Why Heimdall never got married?

A. He lived his bachelor life in Midgard and fathered many children. Afterward, when he assumed the role of watching over Asgard and guarding Bifrost he didn’t have the time to court anyone anymore. That is why Loki calls him a slave watchman of the Aesir in Lokasenna.

Q. How acute are Heimdall’s senses?

A. Heimdall can see a fly sitting inside a thick bush from many kilometers away. He can hear the wool growing on a sheep’s back while it runs in a meadow. That is how sharp and acute are Heimdall’s senses.