Hermod, whose name is pronounced HAIR-mode as is derived from the Old Norse name Hermó?r, is one of the minor mythological figures in Norse Mythology. Etymologically, the meaning of the name Hermod is unclear, but it seems that the name could be the most likely variant of the name herma?r or warrior, which is translated to mean ‘Fury of War,’ a derivative of the root words herr meaning army and mó?r that means excitement, passion, or wrath.
Hermod is well known for accounts recorded in the medieval Icelander Snorri Sturluson Edda Prose. In one of the recorded episodes, it’s said that Hermod traveled to the underworld on Odin’s horse, the Sleipnir. In the underworld, Hermod would go on to plead with Hel, the goddess of death, albeit unsuccessfully. This happened after the once cheery and loved Baldur started getting dreams about his death and gloom, and everyone was out ravaging for solutions to eventually keep Baldur alive since the dreams were believed to be a premonition of Baldur’s death. Eventually, Loki deceived Hodr to kill Baldur, which was a sign of Ragnarok. Hermod’s trip to the underworld was one of the failed attempts at bringing Baldur back to life.
Snorri’s account of Hermod isn't corroborated by the outside sources, which leads to skepticism, unfortunately. But this tale of Hermod going to the underworld goddess Hel seems to be the truth. This ride to the underworld matches many instances of travel to the underworld as recorded in Old Norse Literature. Then you have the Old English genealogies that occasionally list Heremod as Odin’s (Wodan’s) descendant. Another Old English poem has Beowulf mentioning a king known as Heremod who would go on a long, arduous journey in exile - this is related to Hermod’s ride to the underworld.
Hermod has also received several other mentions, albeit in passing, and in Germanic Literature. In Poetic Edda, one of the poems named Hyndluljó? has a section that praises Odin while he recounted how the gods had given Hermod along with Sigmund armor and weapons. In this account, Hermod is turned into a human hero. This account differs from Snorri’s.
And in Hákonarmál, a Skaldic poem, ‘Bragi’ and Hermod are greeted as the great fallen warriors as they make entry to Valhalla. But it’s not clear if the Bragi mentioned here is Bragi the god or Bragi Boddason, the poet (human). So it’s not quite clear whether Hermod was a human hero or a god.
What is hermod the god of?
Hermod’s status is still up for debate, but Hermod is Odin’s son and also the swift & sure messenger of the gods. His role is similar to that of the Greek god Hermes. To fulfill his role, Hermod carries a magical staff known as the Gambantein. Throughout history, Hermod is lauded for his determination and courage, two traits that allowed him to act rather boldly and without any hesitation as he carried out his allocated duties. He always acted with resolute firmness, even when faced with great danger, harm, or imminent death.
In Gylfaginning of the Prose Edda book (section 49), there is a grave description of the gods that demonstrates the devastation, heartbreak, and profundity of the death of Odin’s son, Baldur. This numbness among the gods was halted when Frigg asked who among the Aesir would ride to the road to the underworld, to Hel, in exchange for love and great favor. Hemdor agrees to her call, and he sets off to Hel with Odin’s Sleipnir. Once in Hel, Hermod begged the goddess to release Baldur and bring him back to life. Hermod argued that Baldur meant and no one would miss him, but Hel counteroffered - Baldur would only leave the realm of the dead if all things, dead or alive, would weep for Baldur. Hermod went back to the gods, relayed the message, and unfortunately, not everything or everyone wept, which meant that Baldur would remain in the world of the dead.
Hermod Powers and Abilities
A deity in Norse Pantheon, Hermod is the messenger of all the Norse gods. He is the son of Frigga and Odin.
Like other Norse gods, he is immortal, and normal human effects like a disease wouldn’t harm him. He was also safe from transmutation effects, old age, normal poison, disintegration, etc. However, Hermod would still be imprisoned or banished.
In battle, Hermod boasted supernatural quickness and also the divine power of luck. Unlike other warriors, Hermod is quite fast on his feet, and he’s quite skilled at wielding a rapier.
Some of the magical abilities that Hermod has been cast for include breaking enchantments, turning spells, pristine teleportation, misleading the enemies, and expeditious retreat. He can also create magic through movements, communication, travel, and even overcoming obstacles. Hermod also has great sense and sees far-off distances over 3 miles from wherever his titles or name is mentioned.
Notably, Hermod is the only other god or individual that rides Sleipner, Odin’s horse, besides Odin himself.
Besides being the well-known messenger of the gods, Hermod is also known to be the god whose other role is to transport dead souls into the underworld, a function that equates Hermod with Hermes, the Greed god.
As mentioned above, however, Hermod is well known for riding to the underworld, where he begged the goddess Hel to return Odin’s son Baldur from death. He was to make a ransom exchange that would bring to life Odin’s son and, in exchange, give him everything he desired. Hel’s only request in exchange for bringing Baldur back to life was for all things, dead and/or alive, to weep for Baldur. Unfortunately, not everything/ everyone wept, with Loki notably being very happy about the death of Loki. So, Baldur was not released, and Hermod didn’t get what he desired.