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The waters of the Ganges are called Gangaajal , meaning literally "water of the Ganges". The Puranas— ancient Hindu scriptures—say that the sight, the name, and the touch of the Ganges cleanses one of all sins and that taking a dip in the sacred river bestows heavenly blessings.

It is said that the river gave life to the people, and, in turn, people gave life to the river. The name of Ganga appears only twice in the Rig Veda , an early sacred Hindu text, and it was only later that Ganga assumed great importance as the goddess Ganga. One myth, according to the Vishnu Purana , an ancient Hindu text, illustrates how the Lord Vishnu pierced a hole in the universe with his toe, allowing goddess Ganga to flow over his feet into heaven and down to earth as the waters of the Ganges.

Another myth details how Ganga was intent on wreaking havoc on the earth with her descent as a raging river seeking revenge. In order to prevent the chaos, Lord Shiva caught Ganga in the tangles of his hair, releasing her in the streams that became the source for the River Ganges. Another version of this same story tells how it was Ganga herself who was persuaded to nurture the land and the people below the Himalayas, and she asked Lord Shiva to protect the land from the force of her fall by catching her in his hair.

Though the myths and legends of the River Ganges are numerous, the same reverence and spiritual connection is shared among the populations that live along the banks of the river. For example, on the 10th of the month of Jyestha falling between the end of May and the beginning of June on the Gregorian calendar , the Ganga Dussehra celebrates the descent of the sacred river to earth from heaven. On this day, a dip in the holy river while invoking the Goddess is said to purify sins and wipe away physical ailments.

The Kumbh Mela, another sacred ritual, is a Hindu festival during which pilgrims to the Ganges bathe themselves in the sacred waters. The festival occurs in the same place only every 12 years, though a Kumbh Mela celebration can be found annually somewhere along the river. The land over which the Ganges flows is regarded as hallowed ground, and it is believed that the holy waters of the river will purify the soul and lead to a better reincarnation or liberation of the soul from the cycle of life and death. Because of these strong beliefs, it is common for Hindus to spread cremated ashes of dead loved ones, allowing the sacred water to direct the soul of the departed.

Ghats, or flights of stairs leading to a river, along the banks of the Ganges are known for being holy Hindu funeral destinations. Though the sacred waters are linked to spiritual purity, the Ganges is one of the most polluted rivers in the world. This is in addition to the toxic waste caused by dumping of insecticides, pesticides, and metals, and industrial pollutants.

These dangerous levels of pollution do little to deter religious practice from the sacred river. Those that practice these rituals may become spiritually clean, but the pollution of the water afflicts thousand with diarrhea, cholera, dysentery, and even typhoid each year. Share Flipboard Email.

She kisses away the tears of mourners and relieves their grief. She protects people whom Frigga wishes to save from danger. Lofn: A lesser known Goddess of Indulgence. It is from her that permission may be secured for sexual indulgences and liaisons forbidden by custom and law. The Father of Lies, Trickster, Shape-changer. Son of the giant Farbauti, he is of the race of Ettins Elementals and possesses some of their daemonic qualities. He is the Trickster, and the God of Fire and Misfortune.

He is the originator of deceit, and the disgrace of all gods and men, and ultimately the Destroyer of all things.

His wife is Sigyn , and their son, Nare, or Narfe. Married to the giantess Skadi, he begat two children: a son, Freyr , and a daughter, Freyja. It is they who determine the destinies of the Gods and of Man, and who maintain the World Tree, Yggdrasill. He is both the shaper of Wyrd Fate: the past actions that continually affect and condition the future and the bender of Orlog Destiny: the future that affects the past showing the interconnected nature of all actions. He is married to Frigg and father to Baldur and Hoor. It is also he who sacrifices an eye at the well of Mimir to gain inner wisdom, and later hangs himself upon Yggdrasill to gain the knowledge and power of the Runes.

He can travel to any realm within the nine Nordic worlds. He is pictured wearing a floppy hat and a blue-grey cloak and is accompanied by two ravens, Hugginn thought and Munin memory who daily fly over the world reporting all that has happened. She is married to Aegir, is malicious and unpredictable.

She is married to Njord, the gloomy Sea God, noted for his beautiful bare feet, symbolic of fertility and attractive to Skadi. She is may be invoked in cases of justice, vengeance, and righteous anger, and is the deity who sentenced Loki to be bound underground with a serpent dripping poison upon his face in punishement for his crimes. Thor is a son of Odin, is the foremost of the Aesir, and rules over the realm called Thrudvang. He is the strongest of all gods and men, and is the protector of all Midgard. He wields the mighty hammer Mjollnir that causes lightening flashes.

His battle car is drawn by two goats. The Oak is sacred to Thor. He sacrificed his hand so that the evil Fenris wolf may be bound. He may be invoked in all manners of Justice, fair play, and Right Action. Ullr is a son of Sif, and a step-son of Thor. Fair of face, he is a great warrior to be invoked by men in combat.

He is the greatest archer, and the fastest skier. He is the strongest next after Thor and helps all the gods in the hardest tasks.

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Vali , of the Aesir: God of Vengeance, he is the avenger of Baldur. Vali is a son of Odin and Rindr. Daring in combat and a good shot, he and Vidar will survive Ragnarok. Valkries: Thirteen goddesses who choose slain warriors that will go to Valhalla. Symbol: helmets, spears crowned with flames,.

Vanir: The second race of gods, they are concerned with Nature and with the functions of eroticism, fertility, and prosperity. Those gods and goddesses most concerned with family as Njord, Freyr and Freyja. The Vanir are direct descendants of Holde by way of the mother, or are males that have married female Vans. Following the war with the Aesir, hostages were exchanged and those of the Vanir who came to the Aesir are called Vanic and have their own character.

Rulership: fertility, magical powers, witchcraft. Source: Slate, J. X OOPS!

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