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The War between the gods




The war I remember, the first in the world, When the gods with spears had smitten Gollveig,


From the Poetic Edda, translated by Henry Adams Bellows






The Vanir and Æsir War

The Vanir and Æsir War was started when humans were a young race. Little was known about the universe, even by the gods and goddesses themselves. It was the first war between the gods, and it was a significant one to the Norse tribes, and to modern historians who study the mythology. Some historians hold to the theory that the Vanir and Æsir War signified a real event in history. The myth could represent two different cultures that were at odds, coming to peace terms and melding their religions. The Norse gods were not only worshipped by Scandinavian tribes and Vikings but were also believed in Germanic tribes. Some historians believe that perhaps the Æsir represent the Germanic tribes, while the Vanir were represented by an unknown Scandinavian group. The two tribes, once at war, came together and lived alongside each other in peace. There is little proof of that being the case, so it is little more than a theory to us, although experts on such things seem to find it compelling.


The Vanir and the Æsir The Norse gods were born to fight, they were always ready for a war. But, fighting amongst themselves was rarely an issue. They would rather call a council or a trial, and come up with a compromise rather than squabble amongst each other.

The Æsir and Vanir were of the same stalk, how and why they separated when the realms were formed is unknown. The two groups, although similar in appearance and strength, had differing views of power. The Æsir were skilled fighters, maintaining that warfare and fighting were most important. While the Vanir were magic users, studying nature and witchcraft. The two groups rarely mingled, even after the war ended, and peace was made. The Vanir remained a mystery to the Æsir, but there was respect between them.


The Æsir The Æsir were well known gods and goddesses. They all lived on Asgard, and almost all the stories, myths and poems written about the Norse gods are of the Æsir. Odin was the founder of the Æsir and ruled over them, along with his wife Frigga. As stated before, Æsir gods were warriors. They applied more time and energy in training and learning every art of war than the Vanir. Odin was the first to discover how powerful knowledge was, and sought wisdom alongside war craft. While the rest of his kin preferred to find fights in the adventures they had.


Notable characters who belong to the Æsir tribe: thor, sif, Baldur, and heimdall


The Vanir The Vanir were of the same breed as the Æsir gods. Except that they did not live in Asgard. Instead, they lived in another realm called Vanaheim. Little was known about this realm, even the location of the realm, in the Norse mythology Universe, was unknown. The Vanir kept to themselves, keeping close they're knowledge as well. It was rare for them to wander off in search of adventures, as the Æsir were known to do. The Vanir focused their study on magic. They knew magical spells, sorcery, and could make all kinds of potions, speak to the dead, and use supernatural abilities. They were deemed witches and sorcerers, making those who were not magic users weary of them.


Notable characters who belong to the Vanir tribe: Freya, Frey, Gullveig, and Njord



The War The Æsir knew very little about what the Vanir were up to. No communication had come between them for a long time. It was not until the goddess Gullveig ("Gull-vague"), a Vanir witch, appeared at their gate had the Æsir heard word from their counterparts. Gullveig impressed the Æsir with her powers, showing them many new things, and blessing them with many gifts. Although the Æsir were grateful for her talents, and welcomed her as a guest. They soon became concerned of the magical powers she possessed. The concern turned to fear as they began to wonder if she would use her magic and potions against them. A council was summoned and the Æsir decided they could not allow such a powerful being to stay amongst them. As one, they decided to execute her. At the execution, the Æsir tried to spear Gullveig to death, riddling her with holes. What they did not know was that she had enchanted herself, and no weapon could pierce her skin. Their second attempt was to burn Gullveig alive. The Æsir tied her to a stake and set her aflame. She died in agony, but she did not stay dead. Instead, she was reborn in the ashes. A second, and then third attempt to burn her yielded nothing. She arose each time without a blemish. In the meantime, the Vanir received word that Odin and his Æsir were trying to put Gullveig to death. Enraged at such an act, the Vanir declared war and retrieved Gullveig back to them. The two sides met on the plain of war, which would later be used in the last battle of the gods: Ragnarök. The Æsir were more skilled in battle and should have been able to overpower the Vanir easily, except that the magical gifts the Vanir possessed evened out the playing field. The war went on, with neither side gaining ground, and no one giving in. After a stalemate, Odin called for a truce. The leaders of the Vanir and the Æsir met and broached peace. They agreed to share the sacrifices the humans offered up. In the peace talks it was decided that prisoners would be exchanged on either side. The Vanir gave over Freya, her brother Frey, and Njord, who would live in Asgard from then on. The Æsir handed over Mimir, the giant and wisest being in the universe, and Odin’s own brother Hoenir. (You can read the story of what happened to Mimir and Hoenir here: https://www.thedanishcanadianmuseum.shop/post/odin-king-of-the-norse-gods). Once everything was settled, the Vanir and Æsir went there separate ways and kept the peace from then on.







By Billie Richard


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Websites: The Aesir-Vanir War - Norse Mythology for Smart People (norse-mythology.org) War Between the Aesir and Vanir Gods: The Complete Guide (mythologysource.com) The War of the Aesir and Vanir (thenorsegods.com)


(Pictures used in the article were taken from the websites listed above).