One of the questions I am often asked is "where do I start? how do I begin?" If you are new to Vanatru, you may feel overwhelmed by the very do-it-yourself approach found among much of Vanatruar. Sometimes people need a point in some direction, even if they choose later on to do things differently. In my book Visions of Vanaheim (paperback | PDF), I look at some older practices connected with the Vanic cultus - such as the wain processions of Frey and Nerthus - and how one might adapt these practices for the modern day. One of the rites of the elder Heathen that we know about is a ritual called blót. This word means "blood" (ETA: see clarification in comments re: the meaning of the word)
In historical accounts blót was a sacrificial rite, usually of a farm animal where at least some of it would be cooked and eaten by the attendants. In the 21st century, most of us do not make blood sacrifices to the gods (please note: I do not want to get into a debate here about blood sacrifice, that is not what my post is about) - it is commonplace to substitute an alcoholic beverage such as mead, or a non-alcoholic beverage such as cider or goat's milk.
While the blót sacrifice was given to the gods, we also know from historical accounts that the elves were yielded blót as well. As such, this is a sample blót outline that could be used for Vanic gods or the Vanic local guardians or a tribe of Vanaheim (for example, offering to the Ravens or Cat tribe). I do not claim that this is the only way to do the blót ritual - this is the way I was taught; the blót ritual tends to have variations from group to group, person to person, though what most people tend to think of as blót in modern Germanic Pagan practice is usually a combination of blót (making the sacrifice) and sumbel (drinking toasts). This is also a "Vanic-flavored" blót ritual.
-some sort of drink offering
-an evergreen twig
-an altar or large stone which items can be rested upon
-a drinking vessel (while modern-day Heathens often use drinking horns, in a Vanic practice it would be appropriate to use a [drink-safe] ceramic beaker-shaped vessel, connected with the Earth as well as the Beaker period in history)
If you like a more formal ritual, you may wish to cleanse and bless the space first. In a Vanic practice, it would be appropriate to do so using the elements - walking around the blót altar or stone with incense (for Air), then a candle (for Fire), then sprinkling water (for Water), then sprinkling salt or herbs (for Earth). This can be done by one person, or split amongst four people if you are doing ritual with more than one person.
If you wish to ward the space, one of the ways I used to ward ritual space was with an antler, going in the directions and visualizing/projecting protective energy forming a shield, saying "Antler of Frey, hallow and hold this holy stead." However, you may not wish to ward the space, especially if it is somewhere you regularly hold ritual.
This is where you address whatever entities you are making the offering to, be they the named gods, or local elven guardians, or one of the tribes of Vanaheim. Here are some sample invocations, as an example which can be modified as the situation needs:
"To Frey, God of the World, Lord of the Ljossalfar,
giver of bounty, of lust of life,
I have come to hail and honor you."
"To Frey and Freya, Lord and Lady,
whose love is the joy of the worlds,
I have come to hail and honor you."
"To the guardian of this place,
watcher of Vanaheim, friend of Midgard,
I have come to hail and honor you."
"To the Raven tribe of Vanaheim,
for your knowledge, your lore, your wisdom,
I have come to honor you, and seek your favor."
"To the Frog tribe of the Vanir,
I offer to you so that [Name] may be well."
Take a moment to meditate upon the entity or entities you are calling upon. If you can, reach out with your mind and try to feel their presence there with you.
Pour the drink offering into the drinking vessel, hold it into your hands, and raise it in the air, symbolically offering the drink to the entities present. Pour some of the offering into the bowl on the altar or stone. If there are other people present at the rite, pass the drinking vessel around. Each person should take a moment to hail the Power/s invoked, such as by complimenting them and/or expressing gratitude. For example, at a Freysblót one might say:
"Thank you, O Phallic One,
for prosperity, passion, and health."
"Alfar Lord, lover, warrior,
thank you for the goodness of life."
It is then customary to say "Hail" and take a sip of the drink.
If it is just you, you can take a moment to praise the Power/s invoked and thank them, and then take a sip of the drink. There should be enough in the drinking vessel to pour the rest into the bowl. Visualize the Power/s invoked partaking of the drink offering, and when it feels ready, take the evergreen sprig and dip it into the bowl. If there are other attendants, each person will get sprinkled with the evergreen sprig, which conveys the energy and blessing of the Power/s on the person. If it is just you, you can sprinkle yourself, and a little for the space around you, to bless this space (especially good for blessing one's home).
(The evergreen is particularly apt for a Vanic-oriented ritual as the word "Eshnahai", which the Vanir call themselves, means "evergreen" in their language, and evergreen trees are seen as a symbol of Vanaheim.)
At this point, it is customary to thank the Power/s for coming and sharing in the rite. If you have done the ritual indoors, you will carry the blót bowl outside. If you have done the ritual outdoors, you should pour the contents of the blót bowl on the stone used for an altar, or around the stone. Before pouring the contents of the blót bowl it is nice to say something to the effect of:
"From the Vanir to the Earth to us,
from us to the Earth to the Vanir,
a gift for a gift." (pour the bowl)
Hail the Vanir!
(image in post is mine, Southern California in 2010)
She walks in beauty, like the night
Of cloudless climes and starry skies;
And all that’s best of dark and bright
Meet in her aspect and her eyes;
Thus mellowed to that tender light
Which heaven to gaudy day denies.
While the subject of Jotun-worship still remains a controversial and polarizing issue within modern heathenry, there is some evidence of it being part of elder heathen practice. The most famous mention of Gerda is of course the account of her marriage to Frey as given in Skirnirsmal as well as the Prose Edda. I personally believe Gerda is one and the same as Thorgerdr Holgabrudr, sister of Irpa, a goddess mentioned in three different Sagas.
Earl Hakon said: "It seems to me that the battle is beginning to go against us. I had thought it a bad thing to have to fight these men, and so indeed it turns out. Now this will not do. We must bethink ourselves of some wise course. I shall go up on land, and you are to look after the fleet meanwhile, in case they attack." Thereupon the earl went up on the island of Prim signed, and away into a forest, and fell on his knees and prayed looking northward. And in his prayer he called upon his patron goddess, Thorgerd Holgabrud. But she would not hear his prayers and was wroth. He offered to make her many a sacrifice, but she refused each one, and he thought his case desperate. In the end he offered her a human sacrifice, but she would not have it. At last he offered her his own seven-year-old-son; and that she accepted.
Then the earl put the boy in the hands of his slave Skopti, and Skopti slew him. Afterwards the earl returned to his ships and urged his men on to make renewed attack; "for I know now surely that victory will be ours. Press the attack all the more vigorously, because I have invoked for victory both the sisters, Thorgerd and Irpa." Then the earl boarded his ship and prepared for the fight, and the fleet rowed to the attack, and again there was the most furious battle. And right soon the weather began to thicken in the north and the clouds covered the sky and the daylight waned. Next came the flashes of lightning and thunder, and with them a violent shower. The Jomsvikings had to fight facing into the storm, and the squall was so heavy that they could hardly stand up against it. Men had to cast off their clothes, earlier, because of the heat, and now it was cold. Nevertheless, no one needed to be urged on to do battle. But although the Jomsvikings hurled stones and other missiles and threw their spears, the wind turned all their weapons back upon them, to join the shower of missiles from their enemies.
Havard the Hewing was the first to see Thorgerd Holgabrud in the fleet of Earl Hakon, and then many a secondsighted man saw her. And when the squall abated a little they saw that an arrow flew from every finger of the ogress, and each arrow felled a man. They told Sigvaldi, and he said: "it seems we are not fighting men alone, but still it behooves us to do our best." And when the storm lessened a bit Earl Hakon again invoked Thorgerd and said that he had done his utmost. And then it grew dark again with a squall, this time even stronger and worse than before. And right at the beginning of the squall Havard the Hewing saw that two women were standing on the earl's ship, and both were doing the same thing that Thorgerd had done before. Then Sigvaldi said: "Now I am going to flee, and let all men do so. I did not vow to fight against trolls, and it is now worse than before, as there are two ogresses."
[All of Earl Hakon's enemies flee.] Then they weighed the hailstones on scales to see what power Thorgerd and Irpa had, and one hailstone weighed an ounce. -The Saga of the Jómsvíkings, Chapter 21
Earl Hakon was atttending a feast a Gudbrand's home. During the night, Hrapp the killer went to their temple. Inside it, he saw the statue of Thorgerd Holgi's-Bride enthroned, massive as a fully-grown man; there was a huge gold bracelet on her arm, and a linen hood over her head. Hrapp stripped off the hood and the bracelet. He then noticed Thor in his chariot, and took from him another gold bracelet. He took a third bracelet from Irpa. He dragged all three of the idols outside and stripped them of their vestments; then he set fire to the temple and burned it down. [...] Early that morning, Earl Hakon and Gudbrand went out to the temple and found it burned down, with the three idols lying outside stripped of all their riches. Then Gudbrand said, 'Our gods are powerful indeed. They have walked unaided from the flames.' 'The gods have nothing to do with it,' said Earl Hakon. 'A man must have fired the temple and carried the gods out. But the gods are in no haste to take vengeance; the man who did this will be driven out of Valhalla for ever.' -Njal's Saga, Chapter 88
Of Sigmund it must be now told that he fell to talk with Earl Hacon, and told him that he was minded to leave warring and hie out to the Fareys [...] And when he was fully bound, Earl Hacon said to him, "One should speed well one would fain welcome back." And he went out of doors with Sigmund. Then spake Hacon, "What sayest thou to this? In what dost thou put thy trust?" I put my trust in my own might and main," said Sigmund. "That must not be," the Earl answered," but thou shalt put thy trust where I have put all my trust, namely in Thorgerd Shinebride," said he. "And we will go and see her now and luck for thee at her hands." Sigmund bade him settle this matter as he would. They set forth along a certain path into the wood, and thence by a little bypath into the wood, till they came where a ride lay before them, and a house standing in it with a stake fence round it. Right fair was that house, and gold and silver was run into the carvings thereof. They went into the house, Hacon and Sigmund together, and a few men with them. Therein were a great many gods. There were many glass rooflights in the house, so that there was no shadow anywhere. There was a woman in the house over against the door, right fairly decked she was. The Earl cast him down at her feet, and there he lay long, and when he rose up he told Sigmund that they should bring her some offering and lay the silver thereof on the stool before her. "And we shall have it as a mark of what she thinks of this, if she will do as I wish and let the ring loose which she holds in her hand. For thou, Sigmund, shall get luck by that ring." Then the Earl took hold of the ring, and it seemed to Sigmund that she clasped her hand on it, and the earl got not the ring. The Earl cast him down a second time before her, and Sigmund saw that the earl was weeping. Then he stood up again and caught hold of the ring, and now, behold, it was loose; and he took it and gave it to Sigmund, and told him that with this ring he must never part, and Sigmund gave his word on it. With that they parted. -Færeyinga Saga, Chapter 23
Furthermore, it says in Skaldskaparsmal:
They say that a king known as Holgi, after whom Halogaland is named, was Thorgerd Holgabrud's father. Sacrifices were offered to them both, and Holgi's mound was raised with alternately a layer of gold or silver-- this was the money offered in sacrifice-- and a layer of earth and stone.
It should be mentioned that Halogaland is in northern Norway, and Halogaland is one of the lands noted by the Liljenroths where the Hel-folk likely lived (http://hem.passagen.se/helandia/index_en.htm), and it seems likely that in a drowned coastline containing extensive mountainous fjords and islands, there would indeed be a cult of mountain Jotnar. "Thor" is closely related to the word "thurse" (and indeed, often an epithet for "giant") and in this instance would mean "Thurse-Gerda" or "Giant-Gerda" and would thus point to none other than the giantess Gerda, wed by Frey. As Gerda is said to be one of the mountain-dwelling Jotnar, origins in mountainous Halogaland would be in keeping with this gnosis. Her sister, Irpa, has a name equivalent to the Old Norse word jarpr, or "brown", and from here we can see her relationship with Gerda, whose name means "yard" and is related to "garden" – they are both Jotynjar directly connected with Earth, Irpa as the soil, Gerda with its cultivation. Irpa would most likely be "elder sister". It is also said that Thorgerd was the "wife" of Earl Haakon, and H.R. Ellis Davidson mentions that Olaf I of Norway dragged out an image of Thorgerdr after Haakon's death and had it burned next to an image of Frey, which would suggest that Thorgerdr was beloved to Frey, and one and the same as Gerda. It is also telling that in heathen lore, Frey is the only god explicitly known to take a human spouse (the priestess-wife mentioned in the Saga of Gunnar Helming), and if Gerda took Haakon as mortal consort, this would indeed be an evenly matched pair.
In any case, I believe Thorgerd is evidence of Gerda's cultus in heathen times, but short of building a time machine and going back into time there is no way to know for certain. Even if it were not true, there are people giving her honor now. Too many refuse to honor Gerda at all – at least one heathen has said in my presence that Gerda is "hostile" and "tricked Frey with seiðr" – and those who do hail her often dismiss her as Frey's consort and nothing more. Yet she is much more of that.
If we see her as the same as Thorgerd, she is a powerful goddess in her own right, bringer of thunder and lightning, fierce in battle, bestower of power and authority. "Holgi" comes from the Proto-Norse hailaga meaning "holy"; Thorgerd is the holy-bride, and being called Shine-Bride relates to the mythos where Frey saw her light and fell in love with her. I think of this as being like light through the storm clouds, and tenebrescent clouds are in my opinion one of the most beautiful wonders of the natural world, and relate to Frey's role as Light-Bringer; Gerda is the strength that supports Frey in his work of bringing light and life to the land, the love that makes him feel whole, and inspires his love for all life.
In my personal gnosis, the light that Frey saw in his vision on Hlidskjalf, Odin's high seat, was of the light within Gerda's soul, her essence being almost blinding in its brightness, and Frey knowing that he had to have it, that she would complete him -- and their entire exchange of love is based on an exchange of light and darkness. Frey is a Light-Bringer, and filled with light of his own. But he needs a continual source, and Gerda is his light (rather like Sigyn is the innocent joy to Loki that inspires his humor and playfulness), her support of him in her quiet dignity, with meaningful words and even more meaningful touch, is what keeps Frey going. On those rare instances that her calm cool exterior is broken to flash a smile or break out in wild laughter, Frey feels most alive, and is able to take the love between them and give it to the committed lovers of Midgard. Gerda also sees the moments that very few humans are ever able to see: Frey filled with pain, weeping, seeing the struggles of people in Midgard, and the senseless wars between the Jotnar and Aesir. Frey wants so very badly for everyone to have a good quality of life, and he takes it personally if there is suffering. Gerda's embrace gives him solace, and gives him the darkness he needs for his light to rest and regenerate. And indeed, Frey would not have pledged himself to someone unworthy; to dismiss Gerda is to dismiss Frey's choice.
Those who have dealings with Gerda have remarked amongst themselves that Gerda is quiet. It is not something to take personally. Gerda's quiet is not so much based in shyness as it is in dignity: She feels that only fools talk to hear themselves talk, and that words should be reserved for something of meaning. Much more can be conveyed in body language, or a touch, or just noticing something, than actually speaking. Gerda's quiet also extends to attire - she is not glamorous like Freya, or stunning like Sif, but has her own understated class. Gerda's modesty in attire is also based in her attitude that there is more to her than her body, there is a mind full of wisdom that should be known and explored... and then only for those who she deems fit. There is a corroborated gnosis that Gerda can teach about working with plant spirits, and the act of working the soil to be a grounding experience, and noticing the subtle growth of herbs and other garden plants as a mindfulness exercise. To notice the small details is to notice the health and well-being of a person or situation, when so many are focused on the bigger picture and their castles may fall apart due to the weakness of a few bricks. Gerda tends to the plants as lovingly as she would children – in fact, it could be rightly said that the greenwights are Gerda's children, the only children she will ever have. I have had visions of Gerda being something akin to the archetypal hedgewitch, working in her enclosed garden, communing with the plant spirits, singing to them, and being rather solitary -- and fond of being solitary -- but open to those who could earn her trust with these secrets. Gerda's solitary and wise connection to the Green World compliments Frey's role as God of the World, giver of prosperity and fertility to land and people – Frey directs it outwardly from land to people, and Gerda directs it in reverse, from her own self (or her laying with Frey) to the land. Frey is generous and gregarious, but needs a quiet space to recharge in order to keep giving of himself, and Gerda is his quiet space, his refuge – and moreover, the love that she gives to Frey, holds the power of her role to the Green World, allowing Frey to carry it with him when his wain goes forth.
I feel that it is impossible to honor Frey without understanding the goddess who owns his heart, who compelled him to "sell out" the fate of the Aesir by giving up the most powerful sword in the Nine Worlds. When Frey gave his sword to Gerda's family, both were aware of the costs involved: that if it should come to Ragnarok, the lines are already drawn and Frey will not survive. However, they also understand Ragnarok to be just a prophecy, and the course can change. Frey giving up his sword was the manifestation of the desire to, on his part, end the fighting and hostilities between the Jotnar and Aesir, and try to weave frith between the two tribes, rather than continue the fighting. And so Frey tries to teach the people of Midgard about tolerance and acceptance, and Gerda does as well, in her own quiet, understanding way.
I have included Gerda here among the Vanir because even though she is Jotun-born, she was accepted among Frey's people – to marry a citizen of Vanaheim is to become a citizen yourself – and her sphere of influence with the Green World is very Vanic, as is the way she quietly works to promote peace and understanding alongside of her husband. She is worthy of honor and respect, and while she is not easy to approach or get to know, with time, effort, and patience, she may let you in to her secret garden, and prove herself to be a loyal friend, even one who will be a lethal foe to protect what she holds within the walls of her heart.
-from my book, Visions of Vanaheim (paperback | PDF)
On the Vanic side of my spiritual life, one of the most meaningful and nourishing things I do is also one of the most simple, something that may not look outwardly like a spiritual practice: going for walks.
Going for a walk, for me, is not just going for a walk. It is mindfully engaging with the world around me. I live in a fairly urban area, but there are parks, and even through the city streets there is still nature here. There is still trees, grass, birds. There is still sky. I still feel the air, the wind. There is plenty to look at, to take in. The land still sings, even if it is more quietly... you just have to slow down and really listen for it.
When I commune with the land, it takes me outside of my own headspace, and helps put things in perspective - there is a bigger world around me... a beautiful world. There are little wonders if you look carefully, if you pay attention, if you notice, observe. I am not just connecting with nature, but I am connecting with the force of life itself. I am honoring the dance of life, the balance of the local ecosystem, the weather and seasons. The world is alive, regardless of whatever else is happening elsewhere... life goes on.
When I walk, I feel alive. And it is good to be alive. The world may be in turmoil, and life may have its challenges and struggles, but there is beauty also. And in that beauty, I think of Nerthus, Mother Earth. I think of Frey, God of the World - he who gives the little blessings and joys of life. I think of the Vanir as a people, their presence in the land, their vitality flowing so fully through the world that there is wildness even in "tamed" places. I am grateful for the gift of life, for little moments of magic, everyday sacredness. And that gratitude nourishes me - it inspires me to live in a way that expresses that gratitude and honors that gift, as best as I can. If the presence and the magic of the Vanir can be found even in the streets, there is no part of my soul that is too barren for their love, and I will keep striving, like a flower through concrete.
In my last post, I described Neo-Paganism as a modern-day mystery religion. Historically, initiates into the mystery religions experienced a ritual death and rebirth. Some Neo-Pagan rituals follow this format. The idea is that we die to our old selves and awaken to a new, more expansive Self. In Jungian terms, the Self is the wholeness of our many disparate selves, conscious and unconscious. But to encounter the Self, we must let our old selves, our egos, die. This is a psychological death, but no less significant than physical death from the perspective of the ego. For the ego, the experience can be as painful as dying physically, and some people would prefer physical death.
The first stage of the death of the ego is the encounter with the Shadow. Jung wrote, "When sacrifice is demanded it frequently implies the acceptance of our shadow-side."
In its most basic terms, the Shadow is any aspect of our personality that we are unaware of. More specifically, it is those aspects of our personality that we are unwilling to consciously accept. This is different than the parts of ourselves that we are ashamed of. To be ashamed of something, one must be conscious of it. It is also different than parts of us that other people are ashamed of. We may be proud of our sexuality, while others tell us we should be ashamed. In such cases, sexuality is their Shadow, not ours. Our Shadow resides in the unconscious, which means we are not conscious of it. And it exercises power over our lives precisely because we are unconscious of it.
Our shadow may actually include positive or constructive attributes, but ones which we are for some reason unconsciously unwilling to acknowledge. It is to this part of our shadow, the "Bright Shadow", that Marianne Williams referred in this quote (often misattributed to Nelson Mandella):
"Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, and fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people will not feel insecure around you. ..."
How then are we to become conscious of our Shadow? Other people can help us with this, including therapists and trusted friends. While Shadow work can be done without help, it cannot be done alone. This is because Shadow work is all about the withdrawal of projections. The Shadow, while unconscious, manifests in our lives through projections. We project our Shadow onto people who we do not like and events that seem ill fated. In this sense, it is our enemies, more than our friends, who help us bring the Shadow into the light. Jung explains:
"If you imagine someone who is brave enough to withdraw all his projections, then you get an individual who is conscious of a pretty thick shadow. Such a man has saddled himself with new problems and conflicts. He has become a serious problem to himself, as he is now unable to say that they do this or that, they are wrong, and they must be fought against. … Such a man knows that whatever is wrong in the world is in himself ..." (CW 11: Psychology and Religion: West and East, P. 140)
Let me give you an example from my own life. I was raised my a mother who cultivated a victim-hero relationship with me. I later played out the hero role in relationships with multiple women who I (more or less) unconsciously perceived as victims. At the same time, I despised people who I perceived as cultivating victimhood. When I left the church of my childhood, I was very angry and eager to enumerate the crimes I felt had been perpetrated against me by the church. One day, my wife read me an article that said that sometimes people are mean because they feel they are victims. She didn't indicate in any way that she thought the article was describing me. But I remember responding to the article saying, "I am not a victim." And though I had said it casually, it was as if I could hear those words ringing in my ears, and I knew instantly that the words were hollow. I realized then that I had been cultivating a victim mentality with regard to the church. And I began to see and accept the role I had played in creating my life circumstances.
That was an example of bringing my Shadow into the light by withdrawing a projection -- the projection of victimhood. That particular realization came due to the goodwill of my wife and the grace of the Universe. As I have described it above, it seems like an easy realization, but in fact, it was one that took me about four years to come to, and it is one that I still have to work on sometimes.
Shadow work can be done more deliberately by meditating on the people who we do not like, especially people for whom we have a dislike which seems out of proportion to the real negative attributes of the person. We can also engage in active imagination and dreamwork to help us withdraw our projections. In addition to projecting our Shadow onto people, it should be noted that we can also project it onto negative events, events which we experience as ill fated, but which we have in fact brought upon ourselves.
We when successfully withdraw a projection in this way, we can memorialize it through ritual, like the rituals of the ancient mystery religions. In doing so, we honor the death of a part of our ego and our rebirth as someone new. We can also use ritual to make us more receptive to the process of Shadow work, and in my next post, I'll share one such ritual which we did as a family. This is not a one time event, but a process that should engage our whole lives. We must experience many "little deaths" as we come closer and closer to the wholeness which is the Self. As Montaigne wrote, "You life's continual task is to build your death."
As with Passion, we live in a world where emotions are not OK, expressing emotions are not OK, everything has to be sterilized and diluted, or conform to some Hollywood ideal of what that should look like. In a Vanic practice, we become more natural, more organic, as we connect with the Powers of the Land - love is messy, love is complicated, love can be painful, it can make us vulnerable. And it is necessary. It is necessary in part because it is so complicated and messy, like so much of the human experience. Love makes us Real.
Just like flowers in a garden aren't hidden under a lampshade, but are there to be seen, so we shouldn't hide our love, but let it flourish in the open, let it grow. In this way Love leads back to Beauty - if each of us knew we were loved by somebody in some way, and could see that love, it would create more love in the world, and all of the beautiful things that come from it. When we are loved for ourselves, we can truly be ourselves, and there is great beauty in that, great power in that - and in that power, we reflect the Powers of the Land.
Make a list of the people who you love. Note that this does not have to be romantic/intimate love. This can be family members, friends. For each person, list at least five things that you love about them, reflect on these things. Allow yourself to feel love, how it comes, even if it makes you cry (especially if it makes you cry).
Then think of ways you can express love to them. Telling people that you love them can be difficult, especially if you come from a background where you were discouraged with outward expressions of emotion, but all too often when people pass away, their loved ones will express regret for not telling the person they loved them - so treat each encounter like you might never see a person again (because you never know), and let them know you love them. Love is also a verb, a doing word, an action. Love can be shown through deeds, including doing nice things for people, not necessarily buying them things (though it can include this) - just spending quality time with someone can demonstrate love and caring.
(Nicanthiel Hrafnhild from my book Visions of Vanaheim)
If beauty is the foundation of the Vanic way and passion the road, naturalism the territory, serenity the compass, openness is the walk down the path, wildness the wanderlust... love is the destination, the journey home. Love is the culmination of all of the virtues combined - each of the virtues a petal of the flower of love, which pollinates hearts and minds, its sweet nectar feeding the world. The flower of love will look and smell different to each person who holds it, and indeed, there are many types of love, creating a beautiful bouquet for each of us - romantic love, love of friends and family, different love for each person. For all that people might be individuals, no two exactly alike, each of us a unique mosaic of experiences, fitting a different place in the world... we all love in some way, shape, or form, we all love somebody, somehow. Love is one of the most core elements of the human condition, and is an ability we share with the Powers - it is the fire of Their Divine spark.
As caretakers, guardians of the world, artists of the land, the Vanir act from a place of love, and it is in the act of loving - love is a verb, love is a deed - that we can most connect with Them, know Them, and be known.