In Norse mythology, there are two main groups of beings which are portrayed as gods and were revered as a pantheon. These two groups are known as the Aesir and Vanir, and they represent different forces in the cosmos. The Aesir are the gods of morality and idealism, the gods of manhood, motherhood and valour. The Vanir represent the forces of Nature and they are responsible for fertility and growth, as well as sensuality and pleasure. While the abode of the gods is designated in the Eddas as Asgard, home of the Aesir, the Vanir also have their own world, known as Vanaheim. Both are heavenly realms, and can be reached through man’s higher state of consciousness. The Aesir are the gods of space and time, and represent the principle of divine masculinity in the cosmos, and so are the patrons of animals and pastoralism, warfare and civil society. As Nature gods, the Vanir embody divine femininity and govern plants and agriculture, as well as sex and celebration.
Both groups have affinities with different types of people, which largely depends on their environment, livelihood or personality. As they are both necessary to divine order, it is interesting that they were said to have engaged in warfare with each other. However, neither could defeat the other, and so they agreed that both groups would receive worship from mankind equally. Another group that exist as characters in mythology are known as the Jötnar, who are not gods but rather destructive and largely malevolent forces that represent the dangerous and chaotic aspects of the cosmos. Their name means ‘eaters’ and they embody decay, disease and suffering, as it is in their nature to consume as much as possible. They usually act as antagonists to the gods, although they frequently interact with the gods in the Eddas, even through intermarrying.
Though Norse mythology contains many characters, there are really only a limited number of actual deities represented in the Teutonic pantheon, as each character represents different forms and expressions of each of the gods. Likewise, the Jötnar are presented as individual characters, however, when taken together they actually represent a singular force. Here I will give a brief summary of the seven gods of the Teutonic pantheon (as well as some of the Jötnar):
Also known as ‘Odin’ (Old Norse) or ‘Woden’ (Old English), he is the ‘Allfather’, chief of the Aesir and the Teutonic pantheon as a whole. He is said to be the oldest god and also the most powerful, as he has attained his power through wisdom and galdr (Teutonic high magic learned by studying the runes). He is the patron of learning, philosophy, diplomacy, kingship, strategy and esoterica (and whom I consider my personal patron god). He represents the archetype of the magician and acts as a leadership figure in Teutonic society. He has two ravens named Hugin and Muninn (‘thought’ and ‘memory’) and two wolves named Geri and Freki (meaning ‘greedy’ and ‘ravenous’ who represent man’s lower nature, over which Wotan has dominion). His corresponding planet and Roman counterpart is Mercury and his day is Wednesday.
Frigg is the wife of Wotan and goddess of motherhood and family. She represents the mother archetype and is the patron of marriage, childbirth, the household and generosity. While in Teutonic society the husband was the head of the family, the wife was the head of the household and Frigg embodies the woman who is capable of managing and organizing others for the sake of running things smoothly and efficiently to maintain order in her family. She is also concerned with aesthetics and arranging events and celebrations. She is also a friend to pastoralists and her sacred animal is the cow. Her corresponding planet is the Moon and her Roman counterpart is Minerva. Her day is Monday.
Also known as ‘Thunor’ (Old English) or ‘Donar‘ (Old High German), Thor is the thunder god of Teutonic lore. He is the son of Wotan and represents strength, power, protection and defence of the innocent. He represents the hero archetype and is the patron of the common man, encouraging our menfolk to provide for their families and protect them from invaders. Thor is known as a slayer of Jötnar and in ritual he provides the magical protection of inangard (‘inside’) from the forces of ütgard (‘outside’). He is not a patron of martial arts so much as the willingness of men to take action to do what is necessary to serve their folk and use their strength to keep the forces of chaos and destruction at bay. He is said to ride a chariot drawn by two goats that carries the sun into the sky every morning. His corresponding planet and Roman counterpart is Jupiter and his day is Thursday.
Also known as ‘Tiw’ (Old English) or ‘Ziu’ (Old High German), Tyr represents the warrior archetype and is the patron of bravery, justice, valour and martial arts. He is also known as a protector of forests and fields, and is the lord of animals. Tyr represents the sky in Teutonic lore and is embodied in bold generals and decisive leaders who are willing to sacrifice themselves for the good of their folk. Tyr lost his hand after it was bitten off by the jötun ‘Fenrir’, as he was the only god brave enough to place his hand in the wolf’s mouth. Tyr encourages warriors to have no fear of death and that glory is more important than simple self-preservation. His corresponding planet and Roman counterpart is Mars and his day is Tuesday.
Freya is the goddess of sensuality and love, of joy and happiness. She represents the maiden archetype and, as the goddess of Spring, she is known as Ostara or Eostre (‘Easter’). She is also a patron of seith or folk magic, as opposed to Wotan’s galdr. Seith consists of what can be considered ‘witchcraft’ and includes astral projection, herbalism, mesmerism and good luck charms. Freya can see into the future and has the gift of prophecy, a skill which was highly valued among women in Teutonic society. Her influence is felt most strongly in young women looking for a man. She rides a chariot drawn by two cats and her corresponding planet and Roman counterpart is Venus. Her day is Friday.
Also known as ‘Ing’ (Old English) or ‘Ingvi’ (Old Norse), Frey is the twin brother of Freya and represents the archetype of the healer. Frey is the god of sunshine, fertility, performance and abundance. He is also the patron of young men who long for the love of a woman. He can also be seen as a god of music, especially the kind to woo potential lovers, but also of sex and the fertility of plants and animals. Frey is also the lord of Alfheim, which is the abode of the light elves (also known as ‘angels’). The animal most associated with Frey is the boar, a beast which represents fertility and protection. His corresponding planet is the Sun and his Roman counterpart is Apollo. His day is Sunday
Also known as ‘Njörth’ (Old Norse), Nerthuz is an interesting deity because he/she seems to be a hermaphroditic god (as Njörth is portrayed as a male deity in the Eddas). Therefore, despite being and earth goddess, he/she is also known as a god of the sea. The gender does, however, seem to depend on which attributes of the deity are being addressed. Therefore, since I live inland and closer to the earth than the sea, I consider her to be a goddess. Nerthuz is the mother (and father) of Frey and Freya and is the leader of the Vanir. She represents the archetype of the crone and is a patron of the wind and of Natural forces in general. Njörth was popular with sailors and was prayed to by those wishing for wealth and prosperity, as he/she has the ability to calm the more violent forces of Nature. This deity’s corresponding planet and Roman counterpart is Saturn. His/her day is Saturday.
‘Loki’ means ‘fire’ or ‘lightning’ and he represents illusion. He also represents the trickster archetype and is known for his cleverness, deceitfulness and powers of persuasion. He is the liar who uses others to get his way and cheat others out of their wealth. Though a companion of the Aesir in the Eddas, he frequently causes mischief and ends up having to clean up the mess that he made. Though he aids the Aesir in their encounters with other Jötnar (indeed, Thor chose him most often as travelling companion when venturing to ‘Jötunheim’), he eventually loses their trust after causing the murder of Wotan’s son, Balder, and leads the forces of chaos against the gods in Ragnarök (the period of time which we live in now). He is equivalent to the Greek titan, Prometheus or the Judeo-Christian Lucifer, who stole fire from the gods and gave it to humans, and was punished in a similar way. Instead of an eagle, Loki was tormented by a poisonous snake, but his wife, Sigyn, caught the poison for him. Though a necessary figure in man’s history, he is a wretched force that must be overcome by seeing beyond illusion to discover the truth.
Hel represents death and the accompanying suffering that comes with attachment to the material world. She is the daughter of Loki and was cast down from Asgard by Wotan and given her own realm to rule, Helheim, the Underworld and abode of the dead. The top half of her body is fresh flesh, while her bottom half is blue and rotten, representing sterility and infertility. Unlike the Judeo-Christian ‘Hell’, ‘Helheim’ is a dark and misty place, where dead souls would constantly suffer from hunger and coldness. Since reincarnation is at the centre of Aryan beliefs in the Afterlife, it is not clear whether dead souls spent their time in Helheim between lives or whether they existed as a shadow of one’s memory that is still attached to the material world. Naströnd is a part of Helheim that is similar to the Judeo-Christian Hell or Greek Tartarus; it is known as, and is a state of being in which especially wicked souls suffer in torment and agony for committing murder, adultery, rape or oath-breaking. The more one’s attachment to the material world and causing suffering to others, the more the suffering both during and after life.
Jörmungand is also known as the ‘Midgard Serpent’, who is a son of Loki and represents the material world itself. He is best described as a dragon or sea-monster and is the man who will stop at nothing to gain power for himself and he protects his wealth like a hoard. He is the arch enemy of Thor and his battle with the hero archetype is a motif in many mythological tales of dragon-slaying, which represent the overthrow of tyranny. The two are destined to kill each other at Ragnarök , but Thor lives on through his sons Mothi and Magni (‘brave’ and ‘strong’). Jörmungand is also known as Nidhögg, and is the source of suffering for those in Naströnd at the root of the world-tree; Yggdrasil.
Fenrir is portrayed as a wolf and is the other son of Loki. He represents man’s lower nature and greed. The gods tried to bound Fenrir in fetters, and he ended up biting off Tyr’s hand once they had succeeded in tricking him. To bind Fenrir is to have self-control and curb one’s desires, and so it is only at Ragnarök that he is freed from his chains to wreak havoc on the world. He is the person who binges on food, drugs, sex or whatever addiction afflicts an individual that is caused by unhealthy attachment to pleasure. At Ragnarök, he swallows Wotan, which represents the consumption of man’s higher nature by his lower. Wotan is then avenged by his son, Widar (‘the silent one’), who stomps between Fenrir’s jaws with his iron boot and kills him. Through Widar, Wotan is reborn and represents the ‘twice-born’, a term used for people who have experienced spiritual awakening as a result of a near death experience or a Shamanic recovery from sickness. Man’s lower nature must be tamed in order not to interfere with spiritual development.
In Zoroastrianism, the positive and negative forces of the cosmos are known as Ahura Mazda and Angra Mainyu or Ahriman respectively, and their struggle can be equated to that between the gods and the Jötnar. It should be emphasized that each group of beings is meant to exist in balance with each other. The Vanir propagate growth and generation, the Aesir maintain order and sustenance, while the Jötnar act as the forces of decay and degeneracy, all of which are necessary for life to exist in this world. In Hinduism, the three main properties of energy of the cosmos are known as gunas, and which are called rajas, sattva and tamas. ‘Rajas’ means ‘passion’ and inspires drive, work, physical activity, propagation and movement. ‘Sattva‘ means ‘goodness’, which promotes peacefulness, calmness, level-headedness and balance.’Tamas‘ means ‘darkness’ and causes imbalance, anxiety, stress, negativity, delusion and violence.
Each of the three groups of beings embody these characteristics respectively, and so they must all act in harmony in order to sustain life. If one becomes too dominant, it throws the rest out of alignment, which usually results in an over-abundance of tamas as in the Modern world. It is worth noting that Jötnar are not necessarily evil. The Jötun Mimir (meaning ‘memory’) guards the well of knowledge from which Wotan gained a draught in exchange for his eye (a metaphor for the opening of the Third Eye which enables one to see the spirit world). Mimir is the remains of our ancestors in the form of their bones, but also in their tombs, stones and other buildings. Though these things are important, they are also part of the material world and pass away under the influence of the Jötnar.
The worship of the Aesir is known as ‘Asatru’, while the worship of the Vanir is known as ‘Vanatru’. Together, they constitute the practice known as ‘Troth’ (meaning ‘truth’ or ‘way’), which is the religious aspect of Wotanism. In Germanic Neopaganism, some have invented ‘Rökkatru’ as a way of including the Jötnar in religious practices. While the existence of the Jötnar is something of a necessary evil, they are forces of destruction which are not to be trusted. The reverence of the Jötnar can be seen as a form of demon-worship and should be avoided by those who wish to not become deluded or cause harm to others, though such people will always exist. Thankfully, most who actually embark on a spiritual path manage to avoid the influence of the Jötnar, as it is mostly those who do not acknowledge spirituality that are likely to be under their influence. Both the lust for power and the want to do nothing are what cause imbalance. We encourage the activities of the Aesir and the Vanir by cultivating the god within ourselves, and this includes recognising and resisting the influence of the Jötnar in our daily lives.
One mistake that many mainstream religions have made is in attributing the influence of either the Aesir or the Vanir to the Jötnar. So for example, a religion which preaches against man’s carnal desires in a way that suppresses his natural and healthy urges, as in Abrahamic religions, comes as a result of an overemphasis on the virtues of the Aesir over the Vanir, which resulted in these religions coming under the control of the Jötnar. Likewise, many Modern Satanic and hedonistic philosophies promote a complete indulgence in our carnal desires at the expense of morals, which again is a way for the Jötnar to gain control by emphasizing the opposite from mainstream religion. In the end, the result is the same.
To either return to our peoples’ roots through folkish religions such as Wotanism or pursue a personal spiritual path based on esoterica (a path known as ‘Armanism’ in the Teutonic tradition, but which forms the basis of all spiritual teachings) is a way to engage with the divine and discover who we truly are. Mankind has been slipping into the jaws of Jörmungand for the past 5,000 years, and the resulting chaos has turned our world upside-down. To restore the balance between God and Nature, we must restore the balance within ourselves and resist the temptations to take more than we really need in life. The story of Ragnarök ends with the world being reborn and the return of Balder, who represents the enlightened man. New life springs forth and the world is made anew. In times like these, it seems clear to me that this world is worth pursuing, and that life has given us this chance at this vital point in time. To journey inward is the way to be at peace with the outside world.