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Thoughts on the Aesir

By Beth Wodandis

Years ago, when my friend Nornoriel’s writings on the Vanir as a tribe were first starting to become popular (he was Svartesol at the time; make sure to give him credit if you quote his older work!), I felt a pull towards attempting to write about the Aesir as a people, as a collective, and was urged to do so by Odin (as doing PR for Asgard in general, and not just for Him personally, is supposed to be part of my Job). But I ran into a few challenges, the first one being one of an assumed entitlement: why do the Aesir need PR in the first place, when all of the myths are supposedly written from our/Their perspective, and when the most well-known modern religion established for the gods of the north (Asatru) is literally named for Them?

And yet, Asatru is not specifically about the Aesir per se, as a tribe or a culture (a culture that encompasses more than just the known Aesic deities); it is a religion that also takes in the Vanir– basically a catch-all for the worship of the northern gods in general. So clearly, the fact that Asatru exists is not a substitute for what I was being asked to do. Also, regarding the myths being from an Aesic perspective, I don’t think that’s necessarily the case either; they were written from a human perspective, and to a large extent the people who recorded them (the skalds of the Viking era) were not interested in differentiating between the tribes of the gods, so much as in telling a good story. And as much as I find Nornoriel’s explorations of the Vanir to be important, engrossing, and long-overdue, they do leave something of a gap. In celebrating the Vanir as the gods of nature, agriculture, passion, and creativity, the Aesir become relegated, in contrast, to what I personally consider the “boring” categories: civilization, laws and their enforcement, teaching—in other words, strictly human concerns. (Both tribes have an equal claim on warfare though, it seems.)

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