Investigations into Germanic Mythology:
Toward the Origin of the
Vanir and the Alfar
The Sons of Borr Slay Ymir
Giovanni Caselli (1978)
The following is a series of musings
culled from the writings of several authors,
both published and private. No claim of authorship is made for this work.*
Whence came the Vanir and the Elves?
Germanic Mythology knows three divine races: the Aesir, the Vanir and the Alfar (or elves). The origins of the Vanir and Alfar are shrouded in mystery. The surviving sources offer us few clues. Thus nothing can be firmly established in this regard. All is speculation. But we do find some solid pieces of information preserved in ancient poetry to guide us.
"It should not have escaped notice that the Germanic theogony, as far as it is known, mentions only two progenitors of all the mythological races — Ymir and Buri. From Ymir develop two very different races of giants, the offspring of his arms and that of his feet — in other words, the noble race to which the Norns, Mimir and Bestla belong, and the ignoble line of thurses, which begins with the six-headed Thrudgelmir.
The primal cow, the first animal, licks a man from the ice. Considered divine, his name is Buri, which means "son". Buri's breath gave birth to his son Borr, who in turn begets three sons with the giantess Bestla— they are Óðinn, and his brothers Vili and Vé (Vé) according to Gylfaginning 6. These names of Odin's brothers are most likely based on Lokasenna , which calls the same trio Vidrir, Vili and Ve. a poem known to Snorri Sturluson. Lokasenna Unless Buri had more sons, the Vanir and Elf-clans have no other theogonic source than that of the Aesir, namely, Burr.
"That the hierologists of the Germanic mythology did not leave the origin of these clans unexplained we are assured by the very existence of a Germanic theogony, together with the circumstance that the more thoroughly our mythology is studied the more clearly we see that this mythology has desired to answer every question which could reasonably be asked of it, and in the course of ages it developed into a systematic and epic whole with clear outlines sharply drawn in all details.
To this must be added the important observation that Ve and Vili, though brothers of Odin, are never counted among the Aesir proper, and had no abodes in Asgard. It is manifest that Odin himself with his sons founded the Aesir-race, that, in other words, he is a clan-founder and chieftain, and that his brothers, for this very reason, could not be included in his clan. There is every reason to assume that they, like him, were also clan-founders; Beside the Aesir we find two other races of gods. This of itself makes it probable that Odin's two brothers were their progenitors and clan-chieftains.
"Odin's brothers, like himself, had many names. When Völuspá says that Odin, in the creation of man, was assisted by Hoenir and Lodur, and when the Prose Edda (Gylfaginning 9) says that, on this occasion, he was attended by his brothers, who just before (Gylfaginning 6) are called Ve and Vili, then these are only different names of the same powers. Hoenir and Lodur are Ve and Vili. It is a mistake to believe that Odin's brothers were mythical ghosts without characteristic qualities, and without prominent parts in the mythological events after the creation of the world and of man, in which we know they took an active part (Völuspá 4, 17, 18). The assumption that this was the case depends simply upon the fact that they have not been found mentioned among the Aesir, and that our records, when not investigated with proper thoroughness, and when the mythological synonymies have not been carefully examined, seem to have so little to say concerning them.
"Danish genealogies, Saxo's included, which desire to go further back in the genealogy of the Skjoldungs than to Skjold, the eponym of the race, mention before him a King Lotherus. There is no doubt that Lotherus, like his descendants, Skjold, Halfdan, and Hadding, is taken from the mythology. But in our mythic records there is only one name of which Lotherus can be a Latinized form, and this name is, as Müller (Notæ ulterior ad Saxonis Hist.) has already pointed out, Lóðurr.
We hear an echo of this same genealogy in Hyndluljóð 12-13. Here
Hyndla is speaking to Freyja's lover Óttar, who is none other than
In Icelandic, it is quite natural to interpret the line "móður
átti faðir þinn" (your father had a mother) as "your mother", not as
"your father's mother". This is 12 describes Ottar's lineage through his
father, verse 12 through his mother.
Something similar can be detected in the meaning of the personal
names used here:
Now, if we merge the two genealogies in question:
Fróði is =Sigtryggr. Rydberg identifies him as Ívaldi's brother.
Álfr (Finnálfr) is Ívaldi, Svanhildur is = Hildigunnur/Sunna.
This would establish the origin of Elves from Lóðurr via
Based on what little evidence we have available, it can be speculated:
1.From his feet was born a son, named Hrímgrímnir, or Þrúðgelmir. He was a monstrous multi-headed creature, and like his father White and Cold as Ice. From him all the Rime-Giants are descended. His son, likewise created through the act of masturbation, was named Bergelmir, or Hrímnir. Next, in Ymir’s his left armpit were born of three sisters of giant kind: Urður, Verðandi, and Skuld, the three Norns of Fate. From under his right armpit, twin giants were born, named Mímir and Bestla. Mímir's first act of procreation resulted in the birth of a daughter, who was called NOTT (Night). His second act resulted in the birth of seven sons, who are known as DVERGAR (Dwarves).
1.b Audhumla licked the salty rocks of the primordial Matter, and a human shape gradually came into being. This giant was name Buri, and was of divine nature. He sucked the milk from Auðumla's udder, and was filled with the creative force contained therein. A son, named Bor, was born to him, as a result.
2. Bor and Bestla were the first living creatures who were able to mate. They had three sons: Hoenir (Ve), Lodurr (Vili), and Odin, who were destined to become the ancestors of a new type of being. Odinn was the ancestor of the Aesir, Hoenir and Lodurr were ancestors of the Vanir. The three brothers may be represented as the Setting Sun (Hoenir), the Rising Sun (Lodurr), and the Sun in the Zenith (Odin).
3.a. Hoenir (Fjorgynr) was the eldest of the three brothers. He may be represented as the WHITE STORK of the WEST. His nature is that of WATER mixed with EARTH, and as such he is known as "Mud-King". Hoenir mated with Nott, who bore him twins: NJORD and FRIGG (Nerthus, Jord). Njord and Frigg mated as well, and again twins were born: FREYR and FREYJA. This family is that of the TERRESTRIAL VANIR. They are concerned with things "below", i.e. the earth and the ocean, all living creatures, vegetation, sex, and birth. Their home is in Vanaheim in the West.
3.b Lodurr may be represented as the RED SWAN of the EAST. His nature is that of FIRE. He also mated with Nott, who bore him three children: SOL (Sun), MANI (Moon), and DAG (Day, also known as HEIMDALL). SOL and MANI mated, and their offspring were two daughters: SUNNA (the sun-maiden) and NANNA (the moon-maiden). DAG (Heimdall) and SOL also mated. Their descendants were a new clan of divine creatures, known as ALFAR (Elves). They represent the STARS of the heavens, and are the fairest of all creatures. This family is that of the CELESTIAL VANIR. They are concerned with things "above", the revolution of the heavens and the counting of hours, months, seasons, and years. The Elves reside in Alfheim in the East.
3.c Odin was destined to be the ancestor of the AESIR, the clan of guardian gods, residing at the apex of the heavens. He may be represented as a the GREY EAGLE of the CENTER. He married Njord's sister, Frigg (Jörd), who bore him three sons: BALDUR, HODUR, THOR. He also fathered various other sons with giant maidens.
VÖLUSPÁ 10: WHENCE CAME THE DWARVES?
see also: Dainn and Dvalinn
*The editor of this composite work wishes to remain
The writing presented above freely incorporates the work of others, including Viktor Rydberg.
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