The war between ∆sir and Vanir
∆sir and Vanir are two clans of the same tribe between which a ferocious vendetta took place, similar to the one that led Iceland to pass under Norwegian domination in 1262.
The Vanir represent the values of the material richness and pleasure, whereas ∆sir represent the values of warlike courage and intellectual gift. The relative physical weakness of Vanir is balanced by their magic capacities that largely exceed those of the ∆sir. Thus, their forces are balanced as in all the civil wars where warriors have a common level of civilization.†
∆sir are dissatisfied with the importance given to wealth by Vanir and they seize the symbol of this wealth, a female magician Vane called Gullveig, ĎGold Intoxicationí. Her name tells that we are not speaking of a wealth necessary to tribe survival but of a kind of absurd obsession for wealth. The texts say that the ∆sir wished to root out this devotion to wealth by burning Gold Intoxication. ∆sir are nevertheless far from being themselves insensitive to the beauty of golden objects but they wish to eliminate Vanirís morbid fascination for gold. This moral purification suggests the possibility of a material purification. In this last case, would the ∆sir like to learn how to Ďpurifyí Vanirís gold? We have to remember that in the beginning of times, right after the gods regulated the course of the sun and the moon, they created a forging smithy. The myth that I am telling you can thus also describe a fight between Vanir, able to collect gold in great quantities, and ∆sir, smiths who learn how to purify gold. Gold Intoxication would then be the image of gold ore which must pass through fire to be purified. At any rate, the first two tries fail, ∆sir burn Gold Intoxication and she leaves intact the flames (alternately: †they put the ore to the flame without managing to separate gold from its slag). The third attempt seems to be a success since Gold Intoxication stays alive on her intended pyre but her nature changes, i.e. her name changes to Heid: Shiny. ∆sir release Shiny because they are dumbstricken by her resistance (alternately: they are pleased to have achieved the purification of Vanirís gold).
But the Vanir are infuriated by the treatment done to Ďtheirí Gold Intoxication and they are quite unhappy with this Shiny who replaces her. They are perhaps also frustrated because they are unable to reproduce ∆sirís technical feat. Odinn, far from seeking a conciliation, throws his lance on the Vanir (more certainly above and beyond them), which became a traditional way to declare a combat beginning. Here is then the war declared and, after two mutual destructions, they make their peace.†
This peace is twice hallowed.
†††††††††††††† first by preparing a common wort to be fermented in order to manufacture beer to be drunk together. A part of this liquid is also kept in a cauldron called Odrúrir that will appear again in several stories we will tell later on. †
†††††††††††††† second by an exchange of hostages.
†††††††††††††††††††††††††† Vanir give NjŲrd and Frey to ∆sir. But Shiny wants to remain with her brother Frey and she follows him while taking her third and last name: Freyja. We will meet them again all three in other adventures.
††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††† ∆sir, on their part, grant two significant gods, Húnir and Mimir (MŪmir). The last is a very wise and knowledgeable Giant whose qualities kept apart from the other Giants and he had been accepted by the ∆sir.Húnir, Odinnís brother, is the best leader.†
Vanir take at once Húnir as their own leader and Mimir as his adviser. Both together, they are wonderfully efficient. But when Mimir is not nearby, Húnir refuse to decide anything by himself, we do not know why. The Vanirís reaction to this situation is rather silly: they do not dare confront powerful Húnir and, caught by a blind anger, they kill Mimir and send back his head to Odinn.†
Odinn, by using magic herbs and incantations, revives this head. It will give him invaluable advice, as we will see it in the tale ďOdinnís Runic Magic.Ē
We may surmise that Húnir, under the circumstances, goes back to the ∆sirÖ To some extent, the Vanir have lost much by their impatience and their lack of judgement. Húnir will take part in the creation of humankind and when the gods will meet their fate, at RagnarŲk, he may well be the one who replaces Odinn as an all-powerful leader.