As mentioned in my post Who are the Vanir?, the Vanir are more than the Big Name Deities, such as Frey, Freya, Njord, and Nerthus. Vanaheim is an entire realm, full of people, the overwhelming majority of whom were never named by lore. This doesn’t mean they’re unimportant, as we will revisit in a moment. I also understand the Vanir to be elves (corroborated by others), and in private conversations I prefer referring to them as elves (or Eshnahai, which is their own name for their people, “Vanir” is an outlander’s term), though they are not the same entities as the Ljossalfar and Dokkalfar (who are related, but ultimately their own people).
Byggvir and Beyla. Byggvir possibly means “barley”, and Beyla means “bee”. Whether these two names translate exactly or not, They are a couple who travel with Frey, and are in charge of taking care of his household and are servants of his. Gnosis says that Byggvir is Bull tribe Vanir, and Beyla of the Bee tribe.
The Vanir are one of three groups of gods in the Germanic pantheon (the others being Aesir and Jotnar/Rokkr), originating from the world of Vanaheim, and commonly holding domain over nature, fertility, and magic.
Have you ever tried to bake a cake from scratch? Not terribly difficult, right? But what if you didn’t have a recipe? That’s pretty much what we’re doing over at Ariadne’s Tribe these days. Bear with me here and I’ll do my best not to flog the metaphor too badly.
Reconstructionist traditions like Hellenism and Ásatru rely on written texts from earlier times for a lot of their information. The Hellenists have all the works that have come down to us from the classical writers, many of whom were devoted to the Hellenic deities themselves; the Ásatru folks have the eddas, the sagas and more. Though the ancient Minoans left us their writing in the form of Linear A, we can’t read it; in fact, we don’t even know what language the script records. So, essentially, we don’t have a recipe. But we’re good cooks, at least, I’d like to think so.
Freya was the first deity I ever connected with in a meaningful way, back in 1996. Coming into Germanic paganism via Freya, I took things at face value and without a deeper look at the history and the context of archaeology until many years later when I did so out of necessity to shed some light on things I was experiencing. Most forms of Germanic paganism treat the Aesir and Vanir as a package deal with heavy emphasis on the Aesir.
So for many years, I attempted to reach out to the Aesir because I thought I "should". From the get-go, the Aesir were... not really a good fit. The gods that interested me all had ties to the nature and the land, and the Aesir... mostly didn't. Sure, Odin is connected with wind and its fury, and Thor is thunder, but... no. The macho-war energy surrounding the Aesir (while this is not all they are, obviously) did not feel like "my gods". Yet, I spent years trying to connect to the Aesir, with crickets, mostly, and occasional blips on the radar, until finally, some things happened where I was told to stop.
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.
The first six months of its existence my ritual group mostly floundered. We had a good circle of people around us and did some nice rituals, but we didn't really have any sort of structure. To find a solidity for ourselves we had to do a ritual for someone else.
When my wife and I put our ritual group together we did so with low expectations. We were basically just looking for a group to ritualize with, we weren't necessarily seeking anything formal. During those early months our rituals were continually different. We never used the same quarter calls twice or called to the same gods and goddesses for that matter! The circle was scripted but eclectic, details constantly in flux.