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Thread: The Warrior Tradition in Vanatru

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    The Warrior Tradition in Vanatru

    ‘..the Vanir are the gods of the farming population, and the Æsir those of their warlike lords and their followers.’1

    Yet when you take a look at the actual evidence you will wonder how this scholarly author could make such a simplistic and sweeping categorisation of the Vanir in the first place.

    The Vanir may indeed have been especially valued by the farming communities, for their bestowal of fertility, (and by craftspeople, musicians and entertainers)2 but I would suggest the Ynglingar, the ancient ruling house of the Swedes, would have been surprised by this concept. A number of Icelandic chiefs, who were also Freysgoðis, might too.

    Freyr and Njörðr were also recorded as being blótgoðar (sacrificial priests) and díar to the Æsir, according to Snorri.3 Whilst scholars have even surmised that this word might be derived from the Irish dia (god) it is generally agreed that it was used to indicate priests of a very exalted kind. A very odd image for gods of farmers ! Priestly and Sovereign functions being declared ‘the first function’ in the tri-partite theories of society.

    However, is there any evidence for warriors following the Vanir too ? I believe the answer to that is “yes”.

    The mythological imagery of the Vanir is not incongruous for those who follow a warrior way. You might say that the Vanir first appear mythologically in the first war ever recorded.. This was provoked when the Æsir attacked Gullveig. So did the “farming” gods struggle against the warlike Æsir ? Well no, the war ended in a truce: if you look at the Voluspá it says

    “...should the Æsir a truce with tribute buy,
    or should all gods share in the feast.”4

    On a more specific level Freyr is referred to as the ‘battle-skilled’ in traditional poetry listed in the Edda5. He slew Beli (though the complete myth itself is lost) with an antlers horn but it was noted that He could have done it with his bare fist. Originally He had a wondrous sword that could fight by itself though he gave it away for love. A late Icelandic tale has Freyja creating war between two parties on behalf of Odin (who has stolen her necklace to use as a lever for this).

    Another indicator of martial folk likely to have been dedicated to the Vanir is the boar. Both Freyr and Freyja have boars but they are the only Norse deities to have these as a sacred animal. Freyr owns the dwarf crafted boar, Gullinbursti/Slidrugtanni which means “Golden Bristles/Cutting Tusks”, who pulls his chariot. Freyja rides her devotee Ottar as Hildsvinn or the “battle-boar” and she has a by-name of Sýr or sow. The boar emblem has been found in a number of ways on the battle helmet i.e. used by professional warriors as significant in battle. It can be seen in the artwork of warriors wearing helmets with a boar figure on top from Sweden. Also both the helmet at Benty Grange and the one in the gravel quarry in Northamptonshire (found late ‘90s) in England were topped with boar figures. The Anglo-Saxon poem Beowulf gives the imagery of warriors wearing the boar figure:

    “..Boar figures shone
    above cheek protectors, adorned with gold,
    colourful and fire-hardened, [each] watched over life
    for the battle-brave man” 6

    Another indicator warriors were welcomed is that Freyja herself was said to have the pick of the dead warriors from battle ground: “She has a dwelling in heaven called Folkvangar, and wherever she rides to battle she gets half the slain, and the other half Odin...” 7

    One kenning I believed I had read (though I just couldn’t find it when searching and would love it if any reader could quote the source or put me straight) is something like “battle is the play or sport of Freyr”.

    Freyr’s frith, or peace, requires active maintenance and a martial outlook can be necessary to stop those in society not inclined to keep the peace or who wish to abuse folk.

    Those who have a warrior ethos are aware of the realities in nature - natural Vanatru.


    1. Rudolf Simek, Dictionary of Northern Mythology, (DS Brewer 1996), p. 351
    2. Edred, Witchdom of the True, (Runa Raven Press 1999), p. 2
    3. As quoted in E.O.G. Turville-Petre, Myth and Religion of the North, (Weidenfeld & Nicolson 1964), p. 163
    4. Lee M. Hollander (trans.), The Poetic Edda, (University of Texas Press 1994), p. 4
    5. Snorri Sturluson (Anthony Faulkes (trans.), Edda, (Everyman 1987), p.75
    6. As quoted in Stephen Pollington, The English Warrior, (Anglo-Saxon Books 1996), p.50
    7. Snorri Sturluson, ibid., p.24

    Source: The Wain, Issue No. 15
    Lík börn leika best.

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    The Aesir, bearing IE culture into the North, with its clearly defined tripartite social roles, might find it difficult to reconcile warrior with craftsman/farmer, whilst the Vanir, being the pre-IE inhabitants of the North, might not.

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