The Northern Way


The Vanir

  According to Old Norse Mythology, the Vanir; (singular Vanr), pronounced vana are a group of gods associated with fertility, wisdom, nature, magic, and the ability to see the future. The Vanir are one of two groups of gods (the other being the Æsir) and are the namesake of the location Vanaheimr (Old Norse "Home of the Vanir"). After the  Æsir - Vanir War, the Vanir became a subgroup of the Æsir. Subsequently, members of the Vanir are sometimes also referred to as members of the Æsir.The Vanir are attested in the Poetic Edda, compiled in the 13th century from earlier traditional sources; the Prose Edda and Heimskringla, both written in the 13th century by Snorri Sturlusson; and in the poetry of skalds. The Vanir are only attested in these Old Norse sources. Vanir is sometimes anglicized to Wanes (singular Wane). All sources describe the deities Njörðr',  Freyr and Freyja as members of the Vanir. A euhemerised prose account in Heimskringla adds that Njörðr's sister—whose name is not provided—and Kvasir were Vanir. In addition, Heimskringla reports a tale involving king Sveigðir's visit to Vanaheimr, where he meets a woman by the name of Vana and the two produce a child named Vanlandi (whose name means "Man from the Land of the Vanir").While not attested as Vanir, the gods Heimdallr and Ullr have been theorized as potential members of the group. In the Prose Edda, a name listed for boars is "Van-child". Scholars have theorized that the Vanir may be connected to small pieces of gold foil found in Scandinavia at some building sites from the Migration Period to the Viking Age and occasionally in graves. They have speculated whether the Vanir originally represented pre-Indo-European or  Indo-European  fertility gods, and have theorized a form of the gods as venerated by the pagan Anglo-Saxons.The term vanir is found in in skaldic verse The singular vanr is preserved in a stanza of skaldic verse attributed to Þórðr Særeksson. The stanza is in the runhent meter and quoted by Snorri specifically for the use of vanr as a means of referring to the god Njǫrðr (Faulkes 1998: 18):

Varð sjálf sunar– nama snotr una– Kjalarr of tamði– kváðut Hamði–
–Goðrún bani, –goðbrúðr vani, –heldr vel mara, –hjǫrleik spara.
Each helming of the stanza is formally comprised of two couplets united by both alliteration and end-rhyme. Rather than fulfilling alliteration, vanr is employed in the dative case to accomplish end-rhyme. Semantically, each line of the first helming is paired with the corresponding line of the second, forming four syntactic statements (a, b, c, d), as seen in the following translation:
a. Became herself of her son– b. Could not come to love, the wise– c. Kjalarr (indeed) broke– d. It is said that Hamðir–
a. –Guðrún the slayer, b. –[wise] god-bride the vanr, c. –horses rather well, d. –did not hold back in sword-play.

  The term vanir appears exclusively in the plural in eddic verse, where it always participates in alliteration. In the ljóðaháttr meter, it is found exclusively at the end of a Vollzeile, with the exception of vanaheimr. Outside of Alvíssmál, it always alliterates with vísr as a collocative pair, which seems to be the basis of its collocation with the verb visa in one of its two uses in fornyrðislag. Unlike uses of æsir, regin and tívar, which appear to have been primarily poetic terms but maintained flexibility in their range of employment, vanir exhibits almost no flexibility or productive use. Similarly, the term seems to have held almost no role in the register of skaldic verse (which was employed compositionally for the generation of new poems by named poets, whose compositions were socially circulated).

The war of the Æsir and the Vanir has been the subject of abundant attention ever since the myth became known. Already in the nineteenth century the myth’s background and meaning was discussed by Wilhelm Mannhardt, Karl Weinhold and others, and over the years scholarly interest only increased. In spite of this, no interpretation seems to have won general acceptance. This lack of consensus is due, partly to the paucity of our sources, partly to the preoccupation of earlier generations of scholars, who saw the myth primarily as a memory of primeval history preserved in the garb of myth. The great variety of scholarly views is best illustrated by discussing the interpretations proposed by Eugen Mogk (1924), Georges Dumézil (1947) and Ursula Dronke (1997). The selection is not nearly exhaustive, but suffices to give an idea of some of the interpretations articulated in the past, the echoes of which still resound in present-day discussions. Mogk’s views may be outdated now, but his contribution had a lasting impact in that it forced scholars to reassess Snorri’s report with a critical eye. As regards Dumézil, his ideas seem to have lost none of their appeal ever since they were published, even though his premisses have been called into question time and again. Dronke’s interpretation, finally, is the latest in the field, eloquently written and bound to influence future generations of students.
Ref: The War of the Æsir and the Vanir A note on sources  by Kees Samplonius

Freyja Seeking her Husband (1852) by Nils Blommér

  Like the Vanr (singular) pronounced Vana goddess Freyja, the Vanir (plural) as a group are not attested outside Scandinavia. Traditionally, following Völuspá and Snorri Sturluson's account in the Prose Edda, scholarship on the Vanir has focused on the Æsir–Vanir War, its possible basis in a war between tribes, and whether the Vanir originated as the deities of a distinct people. Some scholars have doubted that they were known outside Scandinavia; however, there is evidence that the god Freyr is the same god as the Germanic deity pre-Germanic heritage of Germanic religion and embody the third of the three "functions" in his trifunctional hypothesis: chthonic and fertility deities. Hilda Ellis Davidson theorizes that all of the wives of the gods may have originally been members of the Vanir, noting that many of them appear to have originally been children of Ole Crumlin-Pedersen and others, link the Vanir to ship burial customs among the North Germanic peoples, proposing an early Germanic model of a ship in a "field of the dead" that may be represented both by Freyja's afterlife field Fólkvangr and by the Old English Neorxnawang (the mysterious first element of which may be linked to the name of Freyja's father, Njörðr). In 2010 Rudolf Simek, building on an analysis by Lotte Motz, argued that vanir was originally nothing more than a general term for deities like æsir, and that its employment as a distinct group of deities was Snorri's invention, and the Vanir are therefore "a figment of imagination from the 13th to 20th centuries. Simek's argument is supported by a statistical analysis in the same academic newsletter of the small corpus of poetic usages, which suggests that the term Vanir was a "suspended archaism" used as a metrical alternative to Æsir. In contrast, in a concurrently published response, Clive Tolley argues that the term must have originated in historical usage, and as such "it is something of a misrepresentation of the evidence to suggest that Snorri is the main source for the Vanir." Tolley he argues that the Vanir strengthen the Æsir by contributing their relationality, their ability to absorb the other and their receptivity to sacrifice. Leszek P. Słupecki argues that the Vanir remained distinct from the Æsir—except for Freyja and Freyr, whom he follows Snorri in seeing as having been born after Njörðr became a hostage among the Æsir, and thus regards as Æsic—and therefore that Ragnarok has] no importance for their world. The Vanir are featured in the poem Om vanerne in Nordens Guder (1819) by Adam Gottlob Oehlenschläger. Some Germanic Neopagans refer to their beliefs as Vanatrú (meaning "those who honour the Vanir"