Most neo-pagans who practice or are fond of/linked somehow, to the Northern pagan traditions, are only concentrated in the existance of on typo of deities, one specific group of gods. It is important to understand that the Norse pantheon has more than just one group of deities, it isn’t only the Aesir, but also the Vanir, there are of course other deities and spiritual beings who belong to neither of these two groups and are often divided into many “categories”, but the main objective of this post is to talk about both the Vanir and the Aesir in a very short text, or I would have to write a book about it if I really wanted to go deep into the subject.
The divinities of order are divided into two main “families”, the Aesir and the Vanir.
In the myth, it seems that the Vanir deities came before the other gods. Pastoral deities associated with harvests, fertility matters, of both humans and animals, and also the very earth, healing, peace and also linked to magic and spiritual work. In our own world this can be explained by the fact that when we humans found that it was possible to create our own food and we stoped being hunters and gatherers and settled to become farmers and shepherds, the main deities we turned to, were the deities linked to what we needed the most, which I explained above, and before that, we lived in small communities with at least one spiritual guide (a shaman) who helped the community in spiritual matters, magic, communicate with the spirits of this world and the beyond, so it is natural that the Vanir or any other deities of other cultures linked to these matters, were he first ones to appear. However, further in history, few were those Germanic peoples who worshiped these gods by the time the Romans launch their invasions. We can see in the book “Germania” by Tacitus, that the Germanic tribes worshiped the warrior gods who came before the ones linked with the earth and magic, because it was a warrior society, and by that time, agriculture was seldom made by any one in the Germanic tribes, they were more concentrated in making war and hunting. We can see clearly that the deities linked to fertility, harvest, magic and such, were forgotten by many, put aside by those societies, and the warrior deities ruled. The warrior deities were so much worshiped, that there was the thought that the warrior deities came first, in the case of the Norse/Germanic peoples, the Aesir came first, and when things started to settle in Europe and the Roman empire started to fall, the the Norse/Germanic tribes turned to agriculture again and thus the earth deities were reborn. So it seemed that (in the case of the Norse/Germanic peoples) the Vanir gods came after the Aesir, but in truth it wasn’t such. The Vanir deities are also linked to rebirth, the rebirth of all things in nature that die and go back to the earth to reborn again, and even in History we see this rebirth in the cultures of Europe.
The most notable of all the Vanir deities, are the children of Njörd. The twins Freyr and Freyja. As I have written before, the other dynasty of deities are known as the Aesir. Headed by Odin and his wife Frigga. Among these deities we find the most famous gods, such as Thor and Tyr, who left their marks because of the reasons I have stated above, when the Germanic/Norse tribes turned to these warrior gods and spread terror all over Europe and among themselves. Thor and Tyr aren’t the only sons of Odin. The king of the gods has many sons, such as Baldr and Hodr(Hodur), representing light and dark. This myth is the reflection that many Norse/Germanic chieftains and/or Kings needed many sons to continue their father’s legacy, to replace him in many deeds, to be the head of different armies and rule over different lands. Among the Aesir, there is also Heimdall, guardian of Asgard, again one of Odin’s sons, with one of the nine daughters of the ocean god Aegir. Heimdal is the god “who stood between”, the ancestor of humankind who revealed the secrets of the runes to his mortal descendants. As might be expected, he figures largely in runic symbolism, having associations with no fewer then five runes out of the twenty-four in the rune sequance.
In the Vanir side, we have Njörd, god of the sea, to whom the Norse/Germanic peoples turned to when they started fishing and raiding, a god that was both needed before and after the coming of the Aesir in the cultures of these people. Freyr and Freyja, linked to fertility and magic, much worshiped by the shamans of the Norse/Germanic tribes (the seiðman and siðkona), much needed before the coming of the Aesir, and unfortunately put aside since then.
Many are the deities of the Norse/Germanic pantheon, but keep in mind that the Aesir are not the most important, nor were they the first to appear.
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