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the dictionary of norse mythology


WAR BETWEEN THE AESIR AND THE VANIR The aesir were the warrior gods who lived in asgard. The vanir gods existed long before the first Aesir gods appeared. They were beau-tiful beings of light and wisdom who lived in their realm called vanaheim, sending forth gentle sun-shine and rain and fertility. They never set foot in Asgard, nor did they seem to know of the existence of the Aesir.One day, according to some tellings of this story, a beautiful witch named gullweig or heid appeared in Asgard, and the seeds were sown for a battle between the Aesir and the Vanir, the very first war. Gullweig had a great hunger for gold. She could never have enough. She talked about it constantly, disturbing the gods. Wickedness had come to Asgard. The great god, odin, was very angry and decided that the witch must die.Three times the Aesir cast Gullweig into the fire, and three times she rose up, more beautiful than ever. She went into every hall in Asgard, casting spells and teaching magic.Then Gullweig went to the Vanir and told them how cruelly she had been treated by the Aesir. Soon an army of Vanir, perhaps led by brave niord, appeared at the walls of Asgard, ready to avenge Gullweig. Odin cast his spear, gungnir, and the bat-tle raged until both armies grew tired of the slaughter. It seemed that neither side could win—or lose.The leaders of the Aesir and the Vanir got together to discuss terms. In the end they agreed that there should be eternal peace between them and that together they would stand fast against the common enemy, the giants.To seal the peace treaty, the Aesir and the Vanir spat into a jar, as was the custom of the Northmen when making treaties. From the spittle formed kvasir, the wisest of the wise see The Mead of Poetry, under odin.As a sign of good faith, the sides exchanged gods. Odin sent his brother hoenir and the wise god mimir to live among the Vanir. And Niord and his son and daughter, frey and freya, settled in Asgard.At first the Vanir were delighted with the hand-some Hoenir. They made him one of their leaders, but they soon noticed that Hoenir could make no decisions unless he consulted Mimir. They felt that the Aesir had cheated them. They did not dare harm Odin's brother, however, so they cut off Mimir's head and sent it back to Odin. Odin immediately used his magic to restore the head to life. He placed it in a spring, known as mimir's well, at the foot of the sacred tree, yggdrasil, and he regularly went to seek its wisdom.According to some scholars, this myth may repre-sent folk memory of the conflict between the adher-ents of two different cults, which were then brought together. After the conflict, the Aesir win control of the embodiment of wisdom and inspiration— Kvasir—in one myth, and the head of Mimir in another, they learn the magic of the Vanir, and all the gods are now referred to as Aesir.

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