magic-of-asgard

Imagine being born on a planet within the nine realms where everyone has a unique superpower suited to them. You however, were not and are often bullied and teased by your kind. When the Royal family of Asgard come to visit your planet’s King, Loki becomes intrigued by you when he can’t sense any magical aura around you. During there stay you often bump into Loki, since your one of the palace staff, and both of you become really close. One day after seriously being bullied by some of the other staff, Loki finds you crying in the corners of a library. When he ask what is wrong you tell him how mistreated you are because you were never born with a superpower. Loki comforts you by telling you that you do have a superpower, and that’s the power to make him fall in love with you.

Bifrost is an extremely awesome creation. It does give rise to some fridge logic - if the Bifrost is the only known way in and out of the realm, why are the jotnar even a threat? - but it is awesome, and heart-stoppingly beautiful. (I get art envy every time I watch the film. I can’t draw architecture or light - only people - but damn do I want to.)

How does it work? Well.

  • Spinning is evidently important in interdimensional travel, since we see the Tesseract’s light doing the exact same thing in the SHIELD facility.
  • It appears to only be able to reach the realms in the branches of Yggdrasill, since they are referred to as the ‘nine realms of the cosmos’ implying totality of Asgardian knowledge.
  • It lies at the end of a long bridge, which has light flickering down it as though it is fibreoptics. This indicates that it draws its energy from the endemic energy of Asgard, with the whole construction of it being designed to suck it in and gather enough for interdimensional travel. With the mechanics for that gone, it is hard to summon the dark energy.
  • It also appears to be somewhat outdated technology. If you compare it to the Tesseract, the Tesseract is superior in almost every way - but the Tesseract is on Earth. The only way it’s not superior is that the Tesseract can be opened from either side, and it doesn’t appear that the Bifrost can. Perhaps the Tesseract is on Earth, in a little box, to prevent that eventuality? Or perhaps it was lost. Either way, the Tesseract appears to have intrinsic dark energy while the Bifrost must gather its in from the magic of Asgard.

Speaking of Heimdall, I am now going to return to the puzzle of how his sight works.

The facts first. He is seen chilling in the holes at the sides of the Bifrost chamber that empty out into the cosmos. He looks down upon Thor as Thor is being escorted out of the centre of the crater. A person can shroud themselves from him so that they can be neither heard nor seen, but he can tell that this is happening. He may or may not have a degree of foresight.

I connect him looking out onto the abyss with Thor’s remark to Jane, ‘Now you see it every day without realising, in the images glimpsed through this - what do you call it? - this Hooble telescope.’ In other words, if you know what you’re looking for, you can see Yggdrasill in the starry sky. What Heimdall presumably has the ability not only to see that Yggdrasill is there, but to look along it, look down on planets from 'above’ - likely any direction. It is possible that he can actually see anything on Yggdrasill, and perhaps some things outside it (if we compare Yggdrasill to a valley, he would be able to see the things on the valley walls, for example. Very flawed analogy alas.) He may have a limited degree of foresight if he looks all the way around Yggdrasill, depending on the curve of spacetime.

However, if he looks down from above, presumably he cannot see what happens 'under cover.’ This theory is not contradicted by his intent gazing upon Thor. As for the incident with the Warriors Three, he didn’t need to see them - he needed to hear them, and the room (as with most Asgardian rooms) was open at the side. The hitch in this theory (the jotunn throne room is open to sound) is the jotnar in the vault - to get around this, we can say that he is used to being able to hear basically everything in Asgard.

How can he do this? I would say it’s likely to be associated with his rather startling eyes. It could therefore be an innate trait (further contributing to my Heimdall-has-eldjotunn-heritage theory), or it could be a modification. Since all we know about medical technology is that they have healing stones that can’t grow back festered eye sockets, I can’t theorise how the latter would work - something to do with dark energy and the detection of the shape of spacetime probably - so I’m going to run with the former. I’d say it’s quite possible that Heimdall can see beyond our visible spectrum (ours, plus more) and that he just has eyes that are that damn good (don’t ask me how).

(Odin’s ability to sense the jotnar in the Vault probably works differently, and is probably associated with security systems.)

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Okay, magic. The only Asgardians we see use magic in the first film are Odin, Loki, Thor and Heimdall, and Hogun if you count healing stones.* What these people all have in common is that they are all men, and that they all belong to the warrior section of society. Already we have the intersection coming in.

It is therefore unlikely that magic is seen as a feminine thing, or as a thing that is unfit for men of the warrior aristocracy; I’m just imagining someone saying something of the like and Odin just coughing at them. I have speculated in the past that Odin tries to keep it confined to his own family and most trusted people, which would restrict it to the most elite of the warrior elite. Certainly the servant, probably one who is not associated with the warriors normally, is freaked out by it (or snakes) in the deleted scene. However, there is also Thor’s line from the deleted scene, ‘some just do tricks,’ or whatever it was.

The issue here may be the relationship between magic and battle. The warrior aristocracy are very battle-focussed, quick to quarrel with each other even, and seem to value honesty. Therefore, it may be that magic divorced of its battle function is seen as just tricks, just child’s play, or possibly even cowardly and dishonest. These latter ideas resemble the stuff I was talking about yesterday, about the possibility of suspicion towards the civil elite. (Oh, and for those who want more of a Loki focussed analysis, here’s a post from the archives.)

*Thor uses Mjollnir as a focus and aid, and seems to focus more on the electromagnetism business than the dark energy and gravity manipulation business. Heimdall is the operator of Bifrost, the interface of which is not visible and thus it is probable that he manipulates the magics through himself. (See this post, which is slightly outdated but does give a bit of background to this.) Odin has a variety of different capabilities; he can use Mjollnir, he is probably connected in some way to the magics flowing through the Bifrost, can access the Destroyer, can use the Bifrost, can incompletely switch people’s biology to that of a different realm (he does it to Thor, Asgardian to human, and to Loki, jotunn to Asgardian), stands Gungnir on nothing, can do extremely fast armour-summoning and what is probably teleportation (happens offscreen but it’s the only way he could get from bed to the end of the Bifrost in time at the end of Thor), can enchant Mjollnir, and summoned enough dark energy to send Thor to Midgard. Loki does illusions, limited forcefields, what may or may not be teleportation, walks the paths between the realms, does that thing with the daggers, can become selectively invisible and ‘conjures’ the Casket/his armour and so on.

I had a brainwave about how the Bifrost is controlled while watching Thor the other day.

When the sword is placed in the stone pedestal, lightning shoots out and lands in the small circles on the walls at the centres of the bigger, overlapping circles that vary in size. However, not all of these circles are lit up.

I theorise that different configurations of lightning land the Bifrost in different realms. It is possible to change the placement of where the Bifrost lands - for example, we see it land in both Tonsberg and New Mexico on Midgard. This may be done by varying the intensity of certain streaks of lightning to minutely alter the direction the Bifrost shoots (over those distances, the alteration will be miniscule, and this is probably possible because Asgard seems happy to use big heavy component parts that take a lot of movement).

The lightning therefore may have several functions; drawing dark energy in from the bridge by making the sphere spin, thus giving the dark energy the direction and momentum needed to become a spacetime drill, and directing it.

The jotunn ability to manipulate ice is apparently magically-mediated/to do with dark energy, since light and a sprinkling of sound are in evidence when they use it. They are able to create hand-blades, normal icicles as daggers, pillars, spikes, spiked balls, and a coating of ice on a large critter; they also cause frost to form. Most of this takes place on Jotunheim, although some is seen on Midgard and Asgard.

All of what they use are created in contact with their skin, except when they’re using the Casket of Ancient Winters. When pillars are created or ice monsters freed, the light shimmers across the ground-ice that the jotnar are standing on; things are created directly from the hand; Asgard ices when they touch its walls. It is possible that they need a greater cold to be able to pull off any major ice shenanigans, and Jotunheim itself provides this, as did the Casket when they had it. Thus, depriving them of the Casket means that they can only manage small and rudimentary weapons offworld; even if they got off Jotunheim in numbers, they would be much less of a threat.

Jotnar are obviously not incapable of Asgardian magic, but it seems to me that the two peoples conceive of it very differently. In Asgard, dark energy is used to manipulate light in the form of illusions (as well as the dimension stuff) whereas in Jotunheim light is only a side-product of the manipulation of ice. If the jotnar started using it in connection to the Casket of Ancient Winters, the fact they use ice makes sense; that is the history of jotnar dark energy manipulation, and it has shaped heavily the present. Their environment will also have made them think of using ice more quickly; it may have led to them working out how to manipulate it before the Casket was made/revealed. In contrast, Asgard doesn’t seem to do much in the way of solid manipulation, but if they started either by having an object like the Tesseract revealed to them or by having to deal with the strange matter and gravity and so on of Asgard, they would think first of the light or the dimensions.

Okay then, so I’ve speculated that the Allspeak is what the Asgardians are using, and that this is a language of pure meaning, because it seems the only way to reconcile the fact that Asgardians can talk to the peoples of two separate worlds.

However, in my archive crawl (I’m trying to back up the archives in a word document. There are eighty pages of this blog, and a substantial amount of reblogs. It’s not fun) I am finding discussion of the runes we see used.

And I’ve been thinking; if the Allspeak is a language of pure meaning, then it does not easily lend itself to phonemes, to runes, to written language. (If I’m right with my language-magic connection, then the true written language of Asgard could in fact be the interlace designs that recur in situations where dark energy is being channelled.) It’s annoying that the filmmakers used crude futhark runes and transliterated modern English. I’m going to dismiss the transliterated modern English as bollocks - the first time in this blog’s history I have done so, and I don’t like it, but.

There are some problems with the futhark as well; it’s ridiculous to claim that the Norse people got those runes from space aliens, in a late form, which mysteriously retrospectively developed itself. However, it is possible that the cultural interchange might be the other way; that Asgard, casting around for an alphabet, borrowed futhark.

It makes a sort of sense. They wouldn’t want to borrow the written language of any of the other interrealm powers, since that would affect the power balance. However, a small culture on Midgard that shares some vague similarities with Asgard and has a religion that’s got entangled with them? (Not going into how here, I’ve done that) One that will never know, most likely, that the Asgardians are doing this? That’s doable.

(This post is a wild theory, but it was worth making)

The great hall in Asgard is absolutely huge, and it is not structured simply as a hall. There are two galleries, arranged in roughly ship shape looking down into the hall. There is a huge open space, with huge (ship shaped) pillars supporting the gallery, a walkway leading straight down the middle, and several water features. In the centre is a tiny (leaf-shaped) area, partitioned off by columns that do not support anything and enclosed by steps downwards (probably upwards as well, but on the outside). At the head of that is the throne. Behind the throne are massive water features and two huge statues with armour and cloaks in the Asgardian style, plus axes. They are identical. Banners are either always present, or have not been taken down after the coronation. At the other end of the inner area is a structure shaped like the prow of a ship; it does not appear to have any people in it, and may actually be an enclosed area; perhaps the site of the deleted scene.

The inner throne area is relatively small, and may be designed for acoustics, but the rest of the room emphatically is not. In terms of Midgardian ways of communication, most people in that room would have no idea what was going on. There are a lot of them, most are far too far away to hear what’s going on, and the throne area is actually closed off from many. This is why I speculated that if foreign diplomats are present, they are likely in the galleries; here at least, they could see. However, they evidently do know what’s going on, since everyone quietens down when Odin bangs Gungnir on the ground and starts talking.

There are two main possibilities here. Firstly, that the banging of Gungnir on the ground is the main thing that can be heard, that due to its association with kingship it has been made so that doing that reverberates through the floor. In this model, the citizenry of Asgard would not be expected to be able to hear; the coronation would be more like a festival than a specific political occasion. Secondly, if my externalised telepathy/pure meaning model of the Allspeak is correct, then it would imply that it is possible for Odin to ‘broadcast’ what he is saying. Even if not, he may be able to do that.

On a recent rewatch of the Avengers, I took a close look at the tech that Thor uses to bring Loki back. It is unmistakeably Asgardian. There are interlace designs on the coppery-coloured metal bits, and the metal parts are in the same chunky, angular style that characterises Asgardian three-dimensional design.

Unusually, though, it utilises a clear substance. Now, we don’t know what that substance is, but it seems highly anomalous; most Asgardian stuff utilises metal. However. It is, on some reflection, not unprecedented.

We do not know the MCU origins of the various artefacts of power, unfortunately, which means they are bad evidence. However, I might as well make the observations - the Warlock’s Eye has bits that seem to be glass-like in, and the Tesseract’s physical structure is made of something transparent.

More significant is the Bifrost bridge. I have given plenty of thought to its actual usage, but little to its composition, being content to say, ‘it seems to work like fibre optics.’ That interpretation is, I believe, correct; my evidence for this is the way that light escapes through the cracks when Thor begins to hammer at it. Fibre optics, on Midgard, utilise glass. Now, whether it really is glass that’s being used or not,* it would appear that it is used for magical/dark energy purposes.

Thus, utilitising it in the Tesseract’s controlling unit/storage unit makes perfect sense; that is what transmits the energy along. (I think that unit makes very sophisticated portals that transport people in physical contact with it).

*There is a case for it; I have been searching for a means of explaining the little balls of glowy blueness that power Zola’s designs and that Howard Stark explodes. It would make sense that these would be made of a material accessible on 1940s Earth - I doubt they are either chips of Tesseract or solidified dark energy. Glass, in the light of this discussion, would make sense.

(This post is also slightly influenced by the discussion between me and helshades - here and here - about a spoilery development, although I have not used those spoilers in the post and said spoilers will not be discussed on this blog.)

EDIT - it has been pointed out by fostertheory that the Bifrost was meant to evoke quartz. Quartz and fused glass are both silica, though.

I talk a lot about dark energy as magic, as essential tool to getting between the realms, as that blue (and other colours) shiny stuff we see in the film. The problem with this is that dark energy is what makes the universe expand outwards - it really exists, and it is dark rather than shiny and blue.

There is a solution! I believe I have come up with solutions before, but I can’t remember what those were and I can’t find the posts, so we will pretend that the page on this is blank.

It seems likely that the blue shininess is how dark energy manifests in atmosphere. It is a thing of outer space, pushing galaxies apart, and presumably then in the void it really is dark. However, once it interacts with atmospheric particles it manifests as blue and shiny. (I would speculate that the fact that Asgardians get it in rainbow colours may be something to do with the fact that they use electromagnetism alongside it as part of their magic.)

Of course, the conundrum with regards to dark energy as magic is, as always, ‘but how do they get it in not-empty-space?’ Well, I have been wondering if little joints like that that the Tesseract is built around occur spontaneously and relatively often, and Asgardian sorcerers detect when they open and pull through dark energy (I like this because it helps when accounting for jotunn magic as well.) It is also possible that when there is a source of dark energy, its passage to the Asgardian sorcerer’s work is masked by electromagnetic wormholes. There are probably other possibilities, and I’m not 100% satisfied with either, but they’re better than studiously ignoring the problem, which is what I have been doing until now.

See, posts like this are the advantages of explaining previous posts to imaginary people with loads of patience.

When Odin banishes Thor, he refers to his ‘power’ even though Thor is emphatically not portrayed as a master of magic. That power seems to be bound up with his ancestry (going off Norse lore - Odin <- Borr/Bestla <- Buri who is no-one’s son), and takes two forms - physical strength, and control of the storm.

Asgardians such as Sif and the Warriors Three display the strength, but have no evident 'special’ powers (someday get me talking about the powersets of Thor and Sif in my own version of Norse!Asgard). Loki also displays much of the strength (holding his own against hordes of jotnar), but the only extra power he shows is magic, which comes over as a discipline akin to physics in our verse. He is also not Odin’s biological son.

With my speculations about Odin being of a power level where he can essentially do what he wants, I can then imagine that the 'special’ powers are mostly conferred by his bloodline, since no others except Heimdall - who is also said to have great power, and may even be Odin’s equal - show any 'special’ powers beyond the Asgard norm/the limits of their understanding.

It also gives rise to the idea that the study of magic may have been pushed on Loki, in order to disguise the fact that he wasn’t developing an elemental affinity. It could well be that he was encouraged to model his magic use after Thor’s storm powers; Thor’s armour comes to him in the storm, while Loki’s comes in magic.

In a previous post I listed as many different uses of magic as I could remember from Thor and the Avengers. Most of them fell into one of three categories; illusions, dimensions, or Odin does what he wants.

I think the assumption that magic is somewhat different for Odin as opposed to other users can be worked with. He has millenia of experience and perhaps built the realm from the ground up; he was the only one to be able to send Thor to Midgard. His counterpart in Norse lore, moreover, was a well-known practitioner of seith; our image of a wizard comes from the way Odinn is traditionally depicted. Therefore, I am going to assume that he is something of a reality warper within Asgard, with the magic that permeates it responding to his any word.

That leaves illusions, dimensions and the healing stones. The healing stones are such an isolated case that they can quite possibly be laid at Odin’s feet, as his gift to his realm. I’m not 100% satisfied with that, but it will suffice.

Thus, we are left with the impression that magic is a thing of dimensions and illusions and the thing that enables travel between the verses. It is also evidently a thing that emits or is associated with light, since Loki’s magic is green-gold, we see flashes of blue beneath Odin’s words and the Bifrost is a thing of light. The Tesseract also glows, as does the weaponry made from it.

It appears to also be apparent that it is a discipline, as indicated by Thor’s statement that science and magic are one and the same, that they produce magitek (TV Tropes is useful for terms for things) and that Midgardmenni were able to harness the Tesseract’s output. This is actually a refreshing change from the idea of magic-as-inborn-ability which is so common in fantasy! In this imagining, it appears that the main limit on who can use magic is only like the limits on the scientific understanding of the general populace of Earth.

Having now seen the Soul Forge, we can probably conclude that Odin’s shimmering bubble of gold light almost certainly has a precise function. That function could be medical, though I will say that the Soul Forge is slightly more orange-gold than yellow-gold. If that colour represents the Asgardian conception of life and life force and restorative properties though, it is probably helping to strengthen him. It also implies that Odin is subject to more taxing forces than your average Asgardian.

There is also the possibility that it is a seeing field; he is said to be able to see and hear what transpires around him, and we know that he sees Thor die because he sheds a tear. In terms of colour connections, there is a very tenuous one to Heimdall’s golden eyes. So it is possible that as well as near-literally recharging his batteries, it gives him the best view in the Nine as well.

A further option is that it is protective, that it prevents disruptive energies around him from affecting him, that it dampens the feedback from the Bifrost (a reminder that I’m fairly sure that the Bifrost and Asgard’s initial defences are linked and that the link is partly maintained by Odin’s mind) and so on. This would be consistent with the colour echo of the palace and cell defences in Thor 2, both of which are yellow-gold.

(I use the colour connections because Asgardian magic, colour, light and illusion are quite heavily associated.)

Besides the ‘apparent mind control’ or 'latter aided by weapon,’ we have now seen a few more user interfaces on Asgardian technology. Asgardian flying jetskis have tillers that glow orange, the same colour as the weaponry but not the same colour as the glow that is visible under the seats (blue). It appears that artillery has hand-held controls as well.

We also see glowing gold visual interfaces; there are a couple of gold light-structures hanging around the city and the palace. There is the gold simulacra of the palace utilised as Fandral’s Asgardian powerpoint, which Odin banishes by waving a hand through it. This is also the way the Soul Forge interfaces; the controls work a lot like Tony Stark’s holographic furniture in the Iron Man films, and are manipulable by the hands. However, still, waving a hand through it banishes it.

Now, it could be that the act of waving a hand through it disrupts the energy channels and stops the thing, but given the fact that a) we know that some Asgardian illusions can remain after touch, as demonstrated ably by Loki in Thor 1, and b) that both times, it is Odin who does it. I would say that, just as he and Loki use gestures and props to accompany their mental casting, he is using it here. There are probably power cutoffs elsewhere for people who can’t do such things.

We’ve also been given a glimpse of a legit Asgardian tablet! Or at least that’s what it looks like. One of the healers - I believe one of those who speaks to Thor - is carrying a glowing green square that looks solid rather than illusory, supported on a scroll-shaped dark red backing. She holds it as though it is a tablet.