is the name of one of the two groups of gods in Norse mythology
, the other and more well known being the Æsir
. The two groups are described as having waged war against one another in the Æsir-Vanir War
, resulting in the unification of the two into a single tribe of gods.
The name is perhaps from the Proto-Indo-European
-, "to strive, win", cognate to Venus
), archaic Greek Wanax
. The name could also be from an alternate meaning of the same PIE
The three clearly identified Vanir
- Njord the father of the gods of Vanir and god of the sea
- Freyr the god of fertility
- Freyja a goddess of fertility, love, beauty, and war
These are identified only as the Vanir who lived among the Æsir, because of a hostage exchange described in the Poetic Edda; there may have been others.
Since Freyr is elsewhere listed as having residence Álfheimr (Elf-home), it is possible that the Elves were also considered Vanir.
The identification as Vanir of Skaði
is debated. Óðr is mentioned in the Eddas very briefly as a husband of Freyja
, but nothing more is actually known about him, although Óðr
is often listed as one of Odin
's alternate names.
There is a possible connection between Heimdall and the Vanir, noted by the scholar H.R. Ellis Davidson.
The gods Njörd and Freyr appear in Snorri's Ynglinga saga as human Kings of Sweden. Their human descendants on the Swedish throne may be called Vanir, such as:
Since other figures in the Ynglinga saga have the same names and traits as Norse gods, it possible that these also were the names of gods in other stories.
Because of the connection between the names of Njord and Nerthus, and since she is referred to by Tacitus as equivalent to Terra Mater, it is likely that Nerthus could also be considered Vanir.
The Vanir live in Vanaheimr
, also called Vanaland; Snorri Sturluson
calls their land Tanakvísl
(Tanakvísl eða Vanakvísl
) etymologizing Vanir
as the "Don
-people". Vanaheimr, along with Asgard
, is the home of the gods in the tree of life Yggdrasil
In the Poetic Edda
, to end the war between the gods, the two sides exchanged hostages. The Vanir were, however, tricked. Outraged, they cut off the head of one of the hostages, Mímir
, and sent it to the Æsir. Odin accepted the head and placed it under the tree of life, where, in order to divine knowledge of the future, he had to relinquish one of his eyes.
The poem Skírnismál
, from the Poetic Edda
, tells the story of Freyr finding love. Freyr, sitting on Hliðskjálf
spied the Jotun-giantess Gerðr
, with whom he fell in love. He asked Skirnir
, his companion, if he would go to Gerðr and express Freyr's love for her. Skirnir did so and after threatening Gerðr with curses, she agreed to marry Freyr. One of the objects traded in the bargain was Freyr's enchanted sword and because of this incident, Freyr will have no sword at Ragnarok
Relation to Elves
The Eddas possibly identify the Vanir with the elves (Álfar
), frequently interchanging "Æsir
and Vanir" and "Æsir
" to mean "all the gods". As both the Vanir and the Álfar
appear to be fertility powers, the interchangeability suggest that the Vanir may have been synonymous with the elves
It may also be that the two names reflected a difference in status where the elves were minor fertility gods whereas the Vanir were major fertility gods. Freyr would thus be a natural Vanir ruler of the elves in Álfheim.
Contemporary reconstruction of Norse religion focusing on the Vanir is sometimes called Vanatrú.
The war between the Vanir and the Æsir, together with their status as gods of agriculture and fertility, have led some scholars to identify them as an earlier pantheon supplanted by the Æsir. This mirrors theories about the Titans
and the Greek and Roman gods, similarly primal gods replaced by newcomers who resided in the sky (or in the latter case Mount Olympus
); earth-gods and fertility worship being replaced by sky-gods and martial worship. Similar to the way the Babylonian
primeval beings were replaced by the gods in Enûma Eliš
. Other myths of wars between primordial entities and newcoming sky-gods are the fights between Yam
, and of Vritra
Another comparison may be made to the Tuatha Dé Danann (People of the Goddess Danu/Dana) who invaded Ireland and subsequently defeated the Formorians who are often likened to the Greek Titans.
The Vanir are also associated with the Sámi (Old Norse finnar).