The Two Clans

In Norse mythology, there were two clans of gods.

The Aesir [pronounced: ice-ir]

They lived in the golden city of Asgard [as-guard]. They were a clan of fearsome warriors and brave heroes. Within its ranks were some of the most well-known gods and goddesses of Norse mythology.

Baldur [bald-ir] was one of the most well-loved gods among the Aesir. He was gentle, cheerful, and modest. The embodiment of hope and all that is good, some say he even radiated light.

Bragi [brag-ee] was a skald (poet). He was said to be the finest poet in all of the nine worlds. His art has brought comfort to many a lost spirit, and his words have touched many hearts.

'Bragi' by Carl Wahlbom

Eir [ee-ir] was the goddess of health and medicine. Well-versed in healing rituals and ceremonies, she has healed the wounds of many a fallen warrior.

Forseti [for-set-ee] was the god of law. From his splendid halls of gold and silver, he settled the Aesir’s disputes.

'Forseti Seated in Judgment' by Carl Emil Doepler

Frigg [frig] was the chief goddess of the Aesir and wife to Odin [oh-din]. She was said to be skilled in the ways of the Seidr [say-dir]. An ancient practice which involved both the telling and shaping of fate.

'Frigg sits enthroned and facing the spear-wielding goddess Gná' by Carl Emil Doepler.

Gna [na] was a skilled horse rider. They say her horse, Hofvarpnir [ha-vorp-near], could ride on any terrain, including water and air. She was one of Frigg’s handmaidens and often ran errands for her.

Heimdall [hame-doll] was the watchman of Asgard. He sat on top of the Himinbjorg [him-in-b-yorg] (sky cliffs), listening to the winds, patiently watching the Bifrost [bye-frost]. If he saw any intruders, he blew his horn, Gjallarhorn [gallar-horn], to alert the other gods.

Hermod [hair-mode] was the messenger of the Aesir.

Hodr [ho-dir] was blind and very gullible. He was, though, of a kind nature, had a good heart, and was fiercely loyal.

Hoenir [high-nir] was a bumbling god. He spent most of his time rambling around Asgard, confused and incoherent. Hoenir was a favoured travelling companion of Odin.

Idun [ih-dune] was the goddess of youth and rejuvenation. She was the keeper of the apples of immortality, the fruit which the gods ate to preserve their eternal youth.

'Loki and Idun' by John Bauer

Loki [loak-ee] was a shape-shifter, a trickster, and a cheat. He was a cheat even in his birthright, being of giant blood. He was allowed to live among the Aesir because of an oath Odin once swore with him. He was incredibly cunning and sometimes aided the Aesir with his clever schemes. Other times, however, he annoyed them with his mischief-making. Often, he left Asgard for long periods, returning with the same sheepish look on his face. He had been having sordid love affairs with a wide array of different creatures. This is why Loki has many children, including the giantess, Hel [hell], and two of the monsters that roam the nine worlds, Fenrir [fen-rir] and Jormungand [your-mun-gand].

Mimir [mee-mir] was one of the wisest gods. After the Aesir-Vanir war, he left Asgard behind and ventured to the far edge of Jotunheim [yo-tun-hame]. There, he sat by a well that granted eternal wisdom to all who drink from it.

Odin [oh-din] was the leader of the Aesir. Wearing many faces, he often visited the realm of Midgard [mid-guard] to meddle in the affairs of the mortals. Odin wielded the mighty spear, Gungnir [gung-near], and rode an eight-legged steed called Sleipnir [slay-p-near]. He was often accompanied by Huginn [hoo-gin] and Muninn [moo-nin], two ravens which he sometimes tasked with spying on Midgard. He was also guarded by two wolves called Geri [jer-ee] and Freki [frek-ee]. In Asgard, he oversaw Valhalla [val-hal-uh], a majestic hall in which half of those who fell in battle dwelt.

'Odin, der Göttervater' by Carl Emil Doepler

Thor [four] was the wielder of the legendary hammer, Mjolnir [mi-ol-near]. He was the defender of Asgard, the slayer of giants, the protector of humanity, and the god of thunder. He was often seen riding across the nine worlds in a chariot pulled by his two goats, Tanngrisnir [tan-gris-near] (snarl tooth) and Tanngnjostr [tan-nost-ir] (tooth-gnasher). Thor was a ferocious sight in battle with his fiery red hair and intense brown eyes.

Thor and the Midgard Serpent by Emil Doepler

Tyr [tier] was a ferocious war god. He lived by a strict code of honour and was quick to take justice on those who broke it. He was also a very noble god, allowing the monstrous wolf, Fenrir [fen-rear], to bite off his arm so that the other Aesir could bind the beast.

Ullr [ull-er] was a master archer. He had a keen eye and was a skilled tracker. Amongst the Aesir, Ullr was the greatest hunter, raining down destruction from afar with his bow.

Var [voor] heard all oaths. She made sure none were spoken in vain, and if they happened to be broken, Var exacted vengeance.

Vidar [vih-dar] was the god of silence and stealth. If he willed it, none could hear his footsteps. He was also a formidable fighter, second only to Thor in strength.

'Víðarr stabbing Fenrir' by W. G. Collingwood

The Vanir [van-ir]

The second clan was the Vanir. They mostly lived in the grassy lands of Vanaheim [vana-hame]. Their clan was associated with cultivation, prosperity, sea-fairing, and magic rather than glorious battle and heroic deeds like the Aesir.

Freya [frey-a] was the high goddess of the Vanir. She wore a cloak of falcon feathers and rode a chariot pulled by two great cats. She was also well versed in Seidr [sey-dir] magic.

Freyr [frey-ir] was the high god of the Vanir and the twin brother of Freya. He ruled over Alfheim [alf-hame], the domain of the Elves. He often sails the seas on his ship, Skidbladnir [skid-blade-near].

'Freyr sits in contemplation' by Frederic Lawrence.

Njord [nord] was the god of the sea-fairing. He could calm both wind and sea. He possessed vast amounts of wealth, and it was a saying among the ancient Norse communities that the wealthiest among them ‘were as rich as Njord’.

'Njörd's desire of the Sea' by W. G. Collingwood

Skadi [skay-dee] was a keen skier, bowhunter, and spear thrower. She lived high in the snow-covered mountains, where the air was cold and dark. A giantess by birth, she was once the wife of Njord but couldn’t accustom herself to life by the sea.

'Skadi Hunting in the Mountains' by H. L. M.

After the Aesir and Vanir war, some gods were sent as hostages to their rival clans to honour a peace treaty. You can find out more about this if you click here.