Roads to Vanaheim: Exploring the Vanir & Vanatru
A blog about the Vanir gods and other Vanic entities, gnosis and doxa, and thoughts on building a Vanic pagan practice.
The cultus of the Vanir
So the words "Vanir" and "Vanaheim", as appearing in historical documents, are more or less exclusive to Snorri's account of Norse mythology in the Eddas, and this has led some (most notably Rudolf Simek in his essay "The Vanir: An Obituary") to believe that the Vanir are thus an invention of Snorri, or a misunderstanding in the tales he learned and recorded.
I disagree with this, and both extensive research as well as intensive work with the Vanir over the last ten years - and talking with many, many others who know and love them - has informed my opinion.
First of all... there are commonalities with gods considered Aesir - gods of society: war, police, culture - that are quite different from the commonalities with gods considered Vanir, the Vanir having domain of the natural world. There are distinct differences in the records of worship given to Aesir gods, versus records of worship given to entities considered Vanir. As one example of this, Vanic sacrifices were typically placed in bogs; Aesir sacrifice - especially to Odin - was usually hanging or "the blood-eagle", and sometimes burned. Followers of gods like Frey tended to be buried, and mounds were associated with the elves (NB: "the gods and elves" seems to be interchangeable with "Aesir and Vanir" in the lore, and a common gnosis among modern Vanic practitioners is that the Vanir are the ur-elves, the common ancestor of other elven groups); followers of Odin tended to be cremated. Weapons were not allowed in Frey's temples. There are more examples of the differences between the Aesir and Vanir as tribes of gods, as well as differences in the practices of the Aesir cult and the practices of the Vanir cult, in my book Visions of Vanaheim (paperback available via CreateSpace and Amazon.com; PDF available at my Etsy shop) if this topic interests you; I get into a pretty extensive look at it, illustrating the many differences between the two tribes.
So even if the words "Vanir" and "Vanaheim" were never used outside of Snorri (and those are outlander's terms anyway; the name the Vanir call themselves, per corroborated gnosis, is Eshnahai [from their word "eshna" or "evergreen", used as a synonym for "eternal", "undying"]), there is still overwhelming evidence that there was a progression of religion in northern Europe from a dominant religion of entities and practices associated with those entities that fit the "Vanir" type, to gods brought westward and changing practices associated with entities that fit the "Aesir" type. There is still a distinct difference in culti, by any name.
I am not the only person to see this pattern of distinctions between the Aesir and Vanir, and their respective culti, with the older Vanir cultus being supplanted by the Aesir cultus; John Grigsby is a scholar who shares this point of view, though I do disagree with a few of his own ideas in this theory. I recommend reading Beowulf and Grendel by Grigsby if you'd like to see more of this theory from a perspective other than mine.
I also believe people ought to be consistent - if you're going to give the argument that "there's no such thing as the Vanir because Snorri is an unreliable narrator", then you can't refer to Snorri's lore as why you think Loki and Jotuns are evil. Just saying. (In case this weren't painfully obvious by me writing under the name Lokason, I'm Loki-friendly.)
History and archaeology are on the side of the Vanic cultus, by any name, being a thing. But even if that was not the case... religion is not a fossil. The gods are real, they are alive, and still very much with us. Times change, the way people relate to the gods and the way the gods work in the world necessarily changes with the times. Regardless of what history does or does not hold - and short of building a time machine and visiting the ancient past, we will never know - the Vanir are choosing to deal with people as a separate pantheon from the Aesir, now. They have distinct customs associated with their cultus - both in antiquity, and spirit-taught practices for modern devotees. There are many people who share gnosis about the Vanir and have doxa of journeying to Vanaheim and dealing with the Vanir directly - both the gods and the tribes, the citizens of Vanaheim unnamed by lore - enough people that we can't all be "doing it wrong" dealing with mental sockpuppets.
Vanatru is emphatically not a reconstructionist religion, though some individual Vanatruar may identify as reconstructionist and revive practices such as the wain procession of Frey, animal blots, and so on (that said, the overwhelming majority of Vanatruar known to this author are not reconstructionist heathens) - individual Vanatruar will practice according to the dictates of their conscience, but Vanatru is not inherently reconstructionist. Rather, Vanatru is a modern religion for a world that needs the power and presence of the Vanir now more than ever, with rampant ecological destruction, and a massive sense of disconnect and despair in the hearts of man.
If you would hear the call of the Vanir, and follow, it is a call to be here now. To be a part of this world, today. They are gods of the world, after all. We are making new history, we are making new lore, for the needs of today's world... what the Vanir themselves have expressed to many people that they want, in the here and now.
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