Thor's Chariot and Goat Team
by Peter Krüger


[Germanic Astronomy]

One of the surprising details we find in Gylfaginning 21 is that Thor [called Öku-Thor, "Cart-Thor" or "Driving-Thor"] owns a chariot pulled by two goats.  Wouldn't one assume that the chariot of such a mighty god would be pulled by  a pair of splendid stallions instead of goats?

I would like to discuss this in the context of the other details preserved in the description of Thor in Gylfaginning 21:

  Þórr á hafra tvá, er svá heita: Tanngnjóstr ok Tanngrisnir, ok reið þá, er hann ekr, en hafrarnir draga reiðna. Því er hann kallaðr Öku-Þórr. Hann á ok þrjá kostgripi. Einn þeira er hamarrinn Mjöllnir, er hrímþursar ok bergrisar kenna, þá er hann kemr á loft, ok er þat eigi undarligt. Hann hefir lamit margan haus á feðrum eða frændum þeira. Annan grip á hann beztan, megingjarðar, ok er hann spennir þeim um sik, þá vex honum ásmegin hálfu. Inn þriðja hlut á hann, þann er mikill gripr er í. Þat eru járnglófar. Þeira má hann eigi missa við hamarskaftit.
"Thor has two goats, by name Tangnjost and Tangrisner, and a chariot, wherein he drives. The goats draw the chariot; wherefore he is called Oku-Thor. He possesses three valuable treasures. One of them is the hammer Mjolner, which the frost-giants and mountain-giants well know when it is raised; and this is not to be wondered at, for with it he has split many a skull of their fathers or friends. The second treasure he possesses is Megingjarder (belt of strength); when he girds himself with it his strength is doubled. His third treasure that is of so great value is his iron gloves; these he cannot do without when he lays hold of the hammer's haft."

[Rasmus Anderson tr.]

Using an astronomical approach I have already associated Thor's hammer Mjölnir with the asterism of the Pleiades having indeed the shape of a hammer with a short handle. Since ancient times, the Pleiades have been  a marker for the beginning of winter and summer. Furthermore, I associated Megingjardar, Thor's Belt of Strength, with the three stars of the famous belt of Orion, and have shown that the Jarnglofar, Thor's Iron Gloves, can also be associated with a third asterism nearby, the head of Cetus, consisting of five stars and described in Arabian sources as a hand.

 Having this in mind it's very easy to find the chariot. It's the Greek constellation of Auriga, the Charioteer, which was one of the 48 constellations listed by the astronomer Ptolemy in the 2nd century. Located to the north of the celestial equator, Auriga is most prominent during winter in the Northern Hemisphere. It is one of six constellations with stars in the Winter Hexagon asterism.
   Auriga, the Charioteer

If we reach back further to Sumerian cuneiform signs, the name of the constellation is MUL.GISH.GIGIR, in Akkadian narkabtu: a 'chariot for war, hunting and ceremony'. But what about the two goats?


If we have a closer look to the stars of Auriga we find there several associations with goats. The star Capella, the third brightest star of the northern celestial hemisphere  literally means 'the small nanny goat'. Next to Capella, also in Auriga, we find two more stars called the Haedi, the  goat-kids.

Might we be so bold to assume that a nanny goat and two kids in a constellation called the chariot may have reference to Thor's goats Tanngnjóstr and Tanngrisnir?

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