The “Vanir Theory”

NOTE – This conception of Waincraft is from its very initial theoretical stage. The practitioners’ and founders’ understanding of Waincraft and its underpinnings have progressed to the point that much of the below is no longer applicable. It is still offered here for historical and informational interest.

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There is a theory concerning the Vanir that runs in the face of much of modern reconstructionist thought – namely, that the race of Gods known as the Vanir are pre-Indo-European, and evidence and/or traces of them may be found in mythologies all across northern and central Europe, from Spain to Russia and from the Sámi to the Etruscans.

The premise of this theory is two-fold: 1. That the Vanir are an earlier race of Gods than the Æsir and equivalent IE deities, part of a temporal and archeological procession reaching back to the earliest human inhabitants to be found in Europe; and 2. That the Vanir embody a system of archetypes that can be found, in almost staggeringly similar detail, throughout early European mythology.

First, to examine the primary premise. It has been suggested by some scholars that the Vanir, and correspondingly the Jötnar/Ettins, are an earlier, indigenous race of gods supplanted by the Indo-Europeans and their native gods. There is a motif throughout the reaches of IE culture and myth of the major gods supplanting or warring against one (often two!) other races of divine beings. The first enemy race is usually viewed in a highly negative and hostile light, from the Titans to the Giants to the Fomorians. The second enemy race, if there is one, is usually a supplanted and/or subsumed class of divine beings – the Fir Bolg, the Protogenoi (who are actually older than the Titans), and the Vanir. (Interestingly enough, in the early Vedic texts, it is the Vanir-like deities (the Devas) who are worshipped more, and the Æsir-like deities (the Asuras) who are eventually demonised and rejected.) In Europe itself, there are several tales of a war between the “middle” race and the conquering IE gods – the first Battle of Moytura results in the Fir Bolg capitulating to the Tuatha Dé Danann and fading from the scene; the tale of the Æsir-Vanir war in the Völuspá; the Abduction of the Sabine Women; Beowulf and Grendel/Grendel’s mother.

Furthermore, until the Migration Era, there was no clear cultural distinction between the Celtic and Germanic tribes; even the Romans often got them mixed up! And as the archeological record shows, the Neolithic cultures of Europe were very often similar in cultural and religious expression, even at great geographic and temporal distances (e.g., the similarities between the Ertebølle culture from 5500-4000 BCE and the Beaker culture between 2500-1800 BCE) Thus, it is no stretch to assume that such cultural similarity might be due to common religio-cultural heritage and experience.

The second premise relies a bit more on UPG, since there is little evidence and lore about the Vanir, and virtually no mythology left over from the height of their cultus. But those modern folk who have worked with the Powers of the Land, in whatever European form they prefer, have found that there are certain archtypal forms that the Vanir relate to, from the Pale Lady to the Lord of the Green, the King of Sea and Air, the Lord of the Wild Woods, the Lady of Passion, the Dark Mother, the Wild Father, the Witch-Queen and the Snow Queen and the Maker.

Thus the theory states the following:

1. The Vanir are the indigenous gods of Late Mesolithic and Neolithic Europe, following the introduction of horticulture and agriculture to the tribes that inhabited the continent. Previous to this, the Paleolithic and early Mesolithic cultures likely worshipped the gods known as Giants/Titans/Fomorians, focused entirely on hunting and gathering and nature over man.

2. These Vanic gods are not Indo-European, though some of them were adopted by the incoming cultures, which then separated into the cultural groups we know of today – Celtic and Germanic and Italic and Slavic. Thus, every European IE culture has remnants of the earlier worship embedded in their mythologies. This can particularly be seen in the cultures that directly neighbor the Germanic ones, the Celts and (to a lesser extent) the Slavs, leading to the nomenclature “Vanacelt” among some Vanic people.

3. The most likely way to revive the lost cultus of the Vanir is through comparative mythology and syncretism, particularly with systems of witchcraft and other “low” religio-cultural expressions. This has led to many Vanatru folks working with Druidry, Wicca, Strega and other non-Heathen influences in addition to the Germanic practices.

FromThe ‘Vanir Theory’ ” © 2010 Nicanthiel Hrafnhild