The Gods & Goddesses of the North

There are two races of gods according to the Norse conception. Odin is the King and All-Father of the gods and goddesses of Northern Europe, called the Aesir (See H. R. Ellis Davidson: 28-29). The Aesir are the gods and goddesses of humankind(See Sirona Knight: 49).They promote social order and consciousness among humankind (See Edred Thorsson: 30-31). That is, opposed to the Vanir gods and goddesses of nature(Knight: 33), of well-being, of provision and protection, who link the “intuitive with physical sensations—but which in either case strives toward the direct experience of reality” (Thorsson: 8). The Aesir gods include some Vanir among their god-folk, but the Aesir and Vanir represent different races of gods who have joined their forces together under Odin’s rule.

In the Prose Edda, Snorri Sturluson recorded the tales of the Norse describing twelve gods and eight goddesses who sit on the high seats of judgment who are made up of both Aesir and Vanir (See Jean Young: 97).[1] The names he gives of these judging gods and goddesses do not include the three brothers: Odin, Villi and Ve, because they are seen as over rulers (Ibid: 34). The goddess Saga is also not listed among the judges, because she is the recorder of the gods (Ibid: 59). Yet they all function together as collective for common good as James proposed.

A simple way to look at the difference between the Aesir and Vanir is the Aesir are inside gods concerned with the soul and its well-being in life. They rule over the “inward” man, or the souls of men and women. The Vanir rule over the “outward” man, or the body and its survival and well-being in nature.

The Norse gods and goddesses are often described as traveling down to earth to interact and affect the affairs of the world and mankind.  Some examples of this are Odin, Villi and Ve traveling along the sea shore finding the first man and woman of the Northern folk, Ask and Embla, giving them spirit, understanding and senses ( See Prose Edda: 37 & “Poetic Edda”—Lee M. Hollander: 3).[2] Another would be that of the Aesir god Heimdall-Rig, who, according to the Poetic Edda, travels “unwearied in middle ways” on earth visiting various households open to him, and upon such visits, siring the three races of swarthy Thralls, ruddy Carls, and fair Earls (Poetic Edda: 120-128). Of the goddesses, the Lay of Hyndla presents the Vanir goddess, Freya, as giving aid to her human lover Óttar (Poetic Edda: 129-136). Here we have “access” and “cooperation” between human and superhuman beings, and very personal levels of “intimacy” indeed.[3]

The Norse gods and goddesses live together in the realm called Asgard (Prose Edda: 37). They live in separate “halls” (Poetic Edda: 55-57), but the gods and goddesses meet for judgment and counsel in the hall called “Gladsheim” (Prose Edda: 40).

We will discuss further the significance of this place of judgment and counsel as it compares to other cultures and religions. For now, we just want to introduce the gods and goddesses of the North.

-Gothi Andrew Webb

[1] The “Prose Edda” written by Snorri Sturluson translated by Jean Young will be cited as “Prose Edda” though out.
[2] The “Poetic Edda” written by Saemundr Sigfusson translated by Hollander will be cited as “Poetic Edda” though out.
[3] Even the “sons of god” in the Bible came down, took wives, and sired offspring from them (Genesis 6:1-4).

References Cited

1. Davidson, H. R. Ellis. Gods and Myths of Northern Europe. Penguin Books: London, 1990.
2. Hollander, Lee M., translator of Sæmundr Sigfússon (1056-1133). The Poetic Edda. 2nded. University of Texas Press: Austin, 2003.
3. Knight, Sirona. The Little Giant Encyclopedia of Runes. Sterling Publishing: New York, 1955.
4. Thorsson, Edred. Northern Magic: Rune Mysteries and Shamanism. Llewellyn Publications: St. Paul, Minnesota, 2002.
5. Young, Jean I., translator, Snorri Sturluson (1178-1241). The Prose Edda: Tales from Norse Mythology. University of California Press: Berkeley, 1992.

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