One of the to many most confusing aspects of the Scandinavian mythology is the talk of different kins («races») of deities; the æsir and the vanir. Some of the deities are even said to be of ettin stock. Naturally the anti-European multi-culturalists use this to argue that the gods were «race mixed» and that our religion was a mix of different religions.
To understand the language of the mythology you naturally need to know the language, or at least be in possession of a Norse dictionary and also the wits to use this dictionary.
The term æsir is a plural form of âss. This Norse word derives from younger proto-Nordic *ansuR, which in turn derives from older proto-Nordic *ansuz, which in turn derives from the PIE root *and-/ans-. This proto-Indo-European root translates simply as «spirit» (also seen in Norse önd [«spirit»]). So the æsir were spirits, and more precisely the spirits defined at a later stage as deities.
The term vanir is a plural form of vanr. This Norse word derives from younger proto-Nordic *wanaR, which in turn derives from older proto-Nordic *wanaz, which in turn derives from the PIE root *wan/wen. This PIE root translates simply as «beautiful». So the vanir were spirits/deities seen as particulary beautiful. They were Freyr (*Fraujaz), Freyja (*Fraujon) and their their mother Nerþuz (a goddess who by the time of the Viking Age had turned into a god instead, Njörðr).
The Roman name for Freyja was Venus («the beautiful»), and naturally her name derives from the same PIE root *wan/wen.
To understand what this means we must first of all remember the Greek myth about Paris and him being tasked with giving an apple to the most beautiful of the goddesses. He naturally gives it to Aphrodite (=the Greek Freyja/Venus).
For an explanation to the term ettin see this post.
The myths (Völuspâ stanza 21 to 24) tell us the following;
21. «She remembers sacred folks
first (best) in the world,
they the golden horse
pierced with a spear
in the hall of the tall (i. e. Óðinn)
they burned her;
three times they burned her,
three times, she was born,
often, and not infrequently,
but she still lives.»
This is however not a verse about a «witch» being burned on a fire three times, as claimed by scholars, but a description of the slash-and-burn technique used in agriculture. The sacred folks who are best in the world are the winners of the yearly May contests, best known from Greece as the Olympic games (one of four such Greek games) and in its degenerated forms from the Middle Ages as Knights’ Tournaments. We by the way also still have these games as children’s games in the 17th of May celebrations in Norway. The female winner of these games (selected because of her beaty, by means of an apple, as described in the myth about Paris and Aphrodite) pierced the field with a sacred bough (a wand); she sowed and watered the fields, to make the crops grow. The seeds were placed in the dark soil; in the realm of death (=Ôðinn’s hall). When they burned «the golden horse» (the yellow crops) it fertilized the soil, and they could grow crops the next year in the same field. This went on, over and over again.
22. «Fair/light was her name
wherever she went,
a chosen woman good at predictions,
she performed sorcery,
she knew the customs
she played with the customs
and was always well regarded
amongst ill women.»
The beautiful May Queen, who had received the apple from the winner of the men’s contests is here described. She was skilled with sorcery (medicine) and naturally popular with the sick individuals she visited and healed. She knew the customs and mastered them better than everyone else.
23. «Then all the powers went
to the seats of the end (i. e. the grave)
the sacred gods, and agreed;
either the spirits would
or were all the gods to
own party/feast (strive).»
The people (=the gods) went to the mound and hoped that they had chosen the right queen, and had found the right king. It would be a good year if they had, or a bad one if they hadn’t.
24. «Óðinn launched
his spear into the crowd,
of sacred individuals
the best/winners of the world;
the wooden wall was broken,
the yard of the spirits,
the beautiful predicted the outcome of the battle,
they stood ready on the battlefield.»
On New Year’s Eve the sorcerers were symbolically hanged in the ash trees, wounded by spearheads. Heimdallr blew the horn so that the mound was opened up (i. e. the gate in the picket fence surrounding the burial mound was opened) and was ready to accept the “gods”. The beautiful sorceresses knew what was about to happen and prepared for the inevitable Ragnarök. This I may add is not a battle between gods, but a battle fought by the gods against the ettins. There was no war between two different «kins» of deities.
Then we have the issue with hostages being exchanged after the “battle” (=contest). Njörðr is given as hostage to the æsir, but remember that Njörðr is really a goddess, Nerþuz, and she is the mother of Freyja – the current winner of the beauty contest. Nerþuz is in other words the last year’s winner, and when she lost to a woman deemed more beautiful than her she returned to the flock of æsir, and was therefore admitted amonst the æsir again. Yes; again, because she was also one of them before she had been seen as the most beautiful.
Hønir («lure [with singing]») and Mîmir («memory», «reminiscence») is said to be given as hostages to the vanir, but Hønir is just another name for Freyr, so he is simply the new winner of the May contests (replacing last year’s winner). He becomes Freyr, so he becomes one of the most “beautiful”; the vanir. Without Mîmir (the wisdom of the past) he is a worthless leader though, as pointed out in the myths.
The last year’s male winner does (unlike the last year’s female winner) not return to the flock of æsir though, because he was killed by the new winner. In order for his “sorcerous force” to be transferred to the new Freyr he is executed by him. Yes; human sacrifice…
The May King and the May Queen; the winners of the May contests; Freyr and Freyja.
By the time of the Viking Age the May King (=Freyr) was no longer killed when he was replaced, but instead the new winner slashed an idol with his sword – to symbolically kill him. The idol was in form of a pillar, such as the famous Irminsul of the Saxons. When he did this, and took over the role of the old May King (or father of the house) he had to make a promise (known in Norway as a “Brageløfte” [“a winner’s promise”]) to embark on some heroic quest or to perform some other heroic action; he then slashed the idol as he did, and the larger the cut was, the better his power as a king would be.
A Pagan Idol from modern days.
Now, slashing a wooden idol with a sword like that quite often causes the sword to get stuck, and if the May King didn’t succeed to draw the sword form the idol (using only his sword arm when he did) he would lose his title! If he did the man who came in second place in the May contest would be allowed to attempt to draw the sword, but if he did he then had to do what the winner’s had promised to do when he slashed the idol – such as e. g. unite England under his rule… If he too failed the next one in line could try, and so forth. The one who successfully pulled the sword from the idol would be, they claimed, chosen by the spirits to be the May King.
If you haven’t figured out where I am going by now you really need to read more about our own culture. Yes, this is the true origin of the myth about Arthur Pendragon and the sword that is stuck in the “stone”…
There was no war between different kins or races of gods, there was no divine “race mixing” or anything like that. Everything in our mythology stems from our people. Everything is in accordance with our Pagan religion. Everything is European! The good forces are called æsir, and when they win the May contest the vanir, and the powers they try to stop, some times destroy and most often at least control are the ettins. All these powers are in us human beings, in men and women, boys and girls, old and young. We are them; they are us. Just make sure you cultivate the good and suppress the bad, that you open your heart and eyes to the light and close everything to the darkness – save when you need it. Alas! Yes, we need the ettin powers too, when we need our fury, our brute force, our hatred, our anger, our stubbornness, our brutality, our cruelty and our ruthlessness.
Finally, remember, and remember well, that there is no “salvation” but the Glory andRighteousness you yourself ensure for yourself. There are no “sins” or “shame”, onlyHonour! There is no “Hell” or suffering in death, only eternal rebirth for theHonourable, in the kin, the tribe, the people, the race and the species. HailaR WôðanaR!