Gnosis Diary: Life as a Heathen

My personal experiences, including religious and spiritual experiences, community interaction, general heathenry, and modern life on my heathen path, which is Asatru.

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The 5 Kinds of Gods in Asgard

The heathen gods set an example of an inclusive society. Asgard has former enemies from the First War living together in friendship. The Aesir and Vanir made peace ages ago and now the Vanir in Asgard are treated as full citizens of Asgard; for example, Freyr is expected to fight on the side of Asgard at Ragnarok.

There are 5 kinds of beings counted among the Aesir in Asgard, including those born Aesir and 4 other kinds. These kinds of beings are interchangeably called races, tribes, nations, and species. The 5 kinds are the Aesir, Vanir, Jotnar, Thursar, and even an ascended human.

Jotnar and Thursar are both translated into English as "giant," which means that the distinction between Jotnar and Thursar is not apparent to those reading the lore in English translation. Jotnar are generally considered to be the beings who originate in Jotunheim, and they can be either well disposed or ill disposed towards humankind and  toward the gods of Asgard. The oldest gods among the Aesir are descended from both the first Asa and the first Jotun, and many Aesir intermarry with Jotnar. Thursar are generally assumed to be ill disposed toward humankind, but there is at least one goddess in Asgard of Thurs origin: Skadi, who is now, as a citizen of Asgard, considered well disposed toward humankind, and is the patroness of her namesake land, Scandinavia. Thursar are "giants" from either Muspelheim (fire giants) or Niflheim (frost giants.) Skadi's father Thiazzi was a hrimthurs (frost giant.) If one wished, one could call the frost and fire giants two different tribes, which would bring the total kinds of gods in Asgard to 6. There is some speculation that Idunna could be part dwarf (from Svartalfheim) which would bring it to 7. Dead humans exist in Asgard as well but they aren't counted among the gods. I chose to number the Thursar together, and not to count the dwarves (Svartalfar) because Idunna is usually considered to be an Asynja (a goddess of the Aesir), so that's how I arrived at the number 5. 

Why call these different groups races? Many of the most popular translations of the lore into English were made in the 19th century or before. These are popular because they are in the public domain and widely available. These translations often use the word race to describe the different kinds of gods and powers in heathenry, so the word has become part of how we see these beings, even though race did not necessarily mean then what we mean by race today. The modern concept of race didn't exist in the ancient world-- they would have meant something closer to what we call tribe, nation, clan, or ethnicity-- but we can still learn about inclusiveness from the example set by the heathen gods.

In my essay Asgard as Multiracial Society ( ) I set forth what I think we can learn from the heathen gods living together in Asgard. In short, the gods respect and love each other regardless of racial or tribal origin. They freely intermarry, and citizenship in Asgard is based on shared loyalty (to the king), culture (caring about Midgard and humanity and staving off Ragnarok) and ritual (eating Idunna's apples) not on racial or ethnic origin. (That essay was probably some readers' first introduction to my writing, since the Witches and Pagans Magazine Facepage page shared a link to it before I started writing this blog for the magazine's website.) 

In my essay, I gave some examples of the ancestry of various of our gods. It was not an attempt at making an complete list. Since then, as I've been working on expanding my book Asatru For Beginners for a planned new edition, I've been researching the tribal origins and family trees of the various gods, in order to add that information to the list of gods. The list in my book is an attempt at a complete list of gods of whom more is known than just the name. This blog post does not contain a complete list of, just the major gods who are most popular among American Asatuars. Although a popular goddess, I'm not including Hel in this list because she does not reside in Asgard, but stays in her own queendom. 

Aegir: Jotun

Bragi: ascended human

Freya: Vana (daughter of Njord)

Freyr: Vana (son of Njord)

Frigga: Asa (of Jotun ancestry, the daughter of Fjorgynn who is the male twin of Fjorgyn)

Heimdall: Asa (of Jotun ancestry, the "son of nine mothers" who are the waves / mermaids/ daughters of Aegir, which makes him the grandson of Aegir, as well as being a son of Odin)

Idunna: Asa (some say part Dwarf)

Jord (also called Fjorgyn): Jotun

Loki: Asa by blood-brotherhood with Odin (Jotun born)

Njord: Vana

Odin (and brothers Honir and Lodhur): Asa (of Jotun ancestry, as sons of Bestla)

Ostara: Jotun (possibly the same goddess as the titan Eos)

Ran: Jotun

Sif: Asa

Sigyn: Asa

Skadi: Thurs (daughter of the hrimthurs Thiazzi)

Thor: Asa (of Jotun ancestry, "son of the Earth" = son of Jord, and of Odin)

Tyr: Asa (of Jotun ancestry, son of the giant Hymir)

Ullr: Asa (son of Sif) 



Image: the Feast of Aegir by Hansen, public domain via Wikimedia Commons

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Erin Lale is the author of Asatru For Beginners, and the updated, longer version of her book, Asatru: A Beginner's Guide to the Heathen Path. Erin has been a gythia since 1989. She was the editor and publisher of Berserkrgangr Magazine, and is admin/ owner of the Asatru Facebook Forum. She also writes science fiction and poetry, ran for public office, is a dyer and fiber artist, was acquisitions editor at a small press, and founded the Heathen Visibility Project.


  • Kayly
    Kayly Sunday, 20 August 2017

    Hi, I recently joined the site but have been reading your articles here for a long time. I just came to say I really enjoy your writing.
    It's nice to see someone addressing this issue. When I see Heathen websites specify that Europeans are welcome, I want to ask them who gave them the authority to say who's welcome and who's not to follow the Norse gods. If Giants can live with the gods, surely someone who's only non-European is welcome in their eyes.

  • Erin Lale
    Erin Lale Sunday, 20 August 2017

    Thanks, Kayly!

  • Thesseli
    Thesseli Monday, 21 August 2017

    I will never understand why some Heathens embrace racism, when the stories of their gods are full of intermarriages between beings of multiple tribes/races/species.

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