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Know Your Gods: The Æsir & the Vanir

I write urban fantasy and romance novels frequently inspired by mythology, mostly Norse, which you can check out by clicking here.

In this occasional Know Your Gods series, I’m presenting gods, myths, and legendary figures both as they are depicted in the original source material and as they appear in my Gods and Lovers books.

Also, while I talk about Norse gods as historical and literary figures, it’s important to note modern pagans still revere these figures. I’m not discussing them as devotional figures, but I also mean no disrespect to modern pagan traditions.

Who are the Æsir and the Vanir?

If your only exposure to Norse mythology comes from Marvel movies, hey, that’s awesome. I’m a huge fan of the Marvel universe.

giphy

But you may be surprised to learn there’s a lot more going on in mythological Asgard than the movies suggest. For example, Asgard is a multicultural place.

This is just one of several reasons why Nazi appropriations of Norse mythology really ticks me off (click here to read the full list of reasons).

The Eddas refer to an ancient war between the Æsir and the Vanir without giving a plethora of details.

Asen_gegen_die_Wanen_by_Karl_Ehrenberg
The Æsir against the Vanir (1882) by Karl Ehrenberg

The Æsir/Vanir war concluded in a peace treaty where both sides feasted together all night and sealed their pact by spitting into a bowl, then forming a man out of their combined saliva.

Gods do things like this.

After the war, several Vanir came to live on Asgard among the Æsir, including Njörðr and his children Frey and Freyja. Many Norse myths involve Njörðr, Frey, and Freyja; the Vanir were considered members of the Norse pantheon and fully accepted as part of Asgard.

In other words, in the Norse myths Odin resolved a conflict with a peace treaty and then brought members of the opposing army into his realm to live as equals.

Gods do things like this, too.

Who are the Æsir and the Vanir in the Gods and Lovers Universe?

While the Eddas denote certain characters as Æsir (like Odin) or Vanir (like Frey), the myths don’t include any identifying characteristics one way or the other.

So, I added a characteristic.

In the Gods and Lovers universe, the Vanir have dark skin.

Freyja
Tessa Thompson is my dream casting for Freyja

So, in my fantasy romance novels, Odin, Thor, and the rest of them live in a society where people with different skin colors are treated as equals in every way.

In fact, skin color is such a non-issue in my vision of Asgard that it was hard for me, as a writer, to pull it into Winning Freyja’s Cloak or The Trickster’s Song. (Look closely. It’s there.)

Yes, yet another instance where I’ve written myself into a corner…

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