The story of the war between the two divine tribes of Aesir and Vanir forms a very basic part of Old Norse cosmogenesis. According to Snorri, the Vanir were a native tribe in Scandinavia when the Aesir arrived from “Asia”, more spesifically from Turkey. The Aesir (“Asians”) descended from Thonar the Thunder God and his wife Sibylla, who was clairvoyant, were now led by Wodan and his clairvoyant wife Frija. The Asians conquered all the lands of North-Western Europe, married the women and soon everybody spoke their language. Only when they arrived in Scandinavia did they meet considerable resistance from the Vanir, who with their sorcery conquered the conquerors. Wodan (Odin) was smart and managed a beneficial truce.
The story is curiously reminiscent of actual prehistoric facts. Towards the end of the Stone Age in Northern Europe, “The Battle Axe People” started to move from Southeast-Europe towards the North-West. Many have claimed that these were the Indo-Europeans, and that they are the reason why almost all the European languages are closely related. The Battle-Axe people was different from the native, communal and matriarchal Megalith-builders, concerned with individual power, war and hierarchy. There was no way Snorri in 1225 AD could have known what archaeology has shown and so many people have assumed that the legend about the Aesir immigration is based on actual events.
I find it possible that such an event, the complete social upheaval and cultural change in a world where nothing before had really changed for millennia, may have been remembered in oral transmission, even over thousands of years. But Old Norse myths have more layers. It is important to notice what the Aesir and the Vanir represent – the Vanir obviously rule the universal laws of nature while the Aesir rule matters of the conscious mind.
In the Voluspá (poetic Edda) we find an older version of the myth that includes the burning of Gullveig the Witch.These lines form the prelude to the war and all scholars agree that the witch that was burned was Freya, the Great Goddess of the Vanir tribe. But WHY did the Aesir burned Freya and pierce her with spears? Most believe it was some sort of punishment because the Goddess was “greedy for gold”, and that she “corrupted the women”, and so they burned her and then her people, the Vanir, came to take revenge. This interpretation is pure fantasy as there is nothing in the sources that would even hint to such a reason for burning the witch. First of all, the idea that Gullveig means “Greedy for Gold” an interpretation that has stuck since it was proposed in the 1930s, is simply wrong. Gullveig means Gold-Brew or else Gold-Strength and refers to the magical golden drink of mead that the Goddess offers. Gold is a metaphor for wisdom, divine light and poetry, as is clearly explained by Snorri. Also, the Vanir did not attack the Aesir to avenge the murder, on the contrary it was Odin who started the war by throwing his spear towards his opponent at a sacred counsel.
I believe the burning of the witch in this case is a story of initiation. Just as Odin later let himself be pierced by spears and hung in order to achieve knowledge of the runes and spell-songs, the Goddess shows through a trial of fire that she can conquer death, and afterwards starts her journey as an operating witch under a new name – a typical structure of initiation. Odin observes her death-defying feat and wants her power for himself, which is why he attacks the Vanir and obtains exactly what he wants: Freya comes to the Aesir and teaches them her art of Seidr. The union leads to great wisdom and a golden age, but this age ends as greedy priests want to monopolize divine wisdom and keep it away from others. When divine wisdom is no longer available to everyobody, there is a need to create a path of initiation for those who still want to seek it.
The translations of names: WITCHES WITHIN WOOD= “Ividiar”, literally meanin “in-wood” but was the title of sorceresses or giantesses and are identified as nine previous worlds.Wood refer to world trees. GOLD-BREW=Gullveig. BRIGHT ONE=Heidr. WICKED WOMEN=illrar brúdar (naughty, unconventional).PEACE OF WISDOM=Fródafrídr. KING WISDOM= Fródi Konungr. BROAD VISION=Breidablik.
Music by Ehwaz: Embla Maria Franz (voice, violin, flutes and percussions), Gustav Holberg (Voice, violin, flutes and percussions), Thomas Kvilhaug (voice, bass, guitar and percussions), John Gunnar Brynjulvsrud (voice, jews harp, kantele, Lótar and percussions), Kjell Øyvind Braaten (voice, ballafon, gambri, bass, guitar and percussions).