Based on Norse mythology, there are tales about the existence of supernatural beings or deities known as Norse gods (and goddesses). The Norse gods were believed to live in Asgard and were from either one of the two primary races or pantheon. Of the two, one race was known as the Aesir.
The name Aesir is believed to have been derived from either one of two Proto-Germanic words. These words are “ansaz” to mean pole, beam, rafter, or “ansuz” to mean life, vitality. The name Aesir, however, was considered to mean the masculine plural of “gods” despite the racial distinction of the Norse gods. A male god of Aesir in the singular was referred to as “As” or “Ass”, a female god was referred to as “Asynja” (plural: Asynjur). The female terms of Aesir goddesses aren’t attested outside of the Old Norse unlike the terms “Ass”, “As”, or “Aesir”.
The Aesir were believed to be natives of Asgard, one of the nine realms, and are thought to be the principal tribe of gods who had the power to hold the cosmos together. They are associated with power and war and were symbolized with violent aspects of nature. The Aesir were also known to value strength above everything and despised unpredictable or uncontrollable situations. They also despised the use of magic in combat. They were believed to use the power of the elements to enhance their weapons and physical abilities.
Unlike other mythical deities like Zeus, the Aesir were not completely immortal. According to Norse mythology, they were believed to maintain their youth and supernatural abilities by eating golden apples from Idunn’s tree. That means they could be killed and were destined to perish in the disastrous battle against the giant, known as Ragnarok.
The Icelandic writer Snorri Sturluson who wrote the Prose Edda compares the Aesir to an Asian royal family Trojan. He also compares Ragnarok to the Fall of Troy, suggesting that Asgard was Troy and that the Aesir were from Asia. In his writings, he depicts several of the gods as heroes. Thor, for example, was considered to have once been Hector. Loki was compared to the trickster Odysseus (Ulysses), while Vidar was Aeneas and Vali (Ali) was Helenus.
The following were the main(chief) gods and goddesses of Aesir:
- Odin – The Allfather, chief god
- Vili – Odin’s brother who gave men feeling and thought
- Ve – Odin’s brother who gave men speech.
- Tyr – god of law and justice
- Thor – god of thunder and battle
- Loki – trickster, Thor’s foster brother
- Heimdall – Guardian
- Frigg – chief goddess
- Idunn – goddess of fertility, youth, and death
- Sif – golden-haired wife of Thor
- Jord – Thor’s mother
- Gefjon – goddess of agriculture and fertility
- Thrud – daughter of Thor and Sif, the symbol of strength
- Fulla – goddess of abundance
Of all the Aesir gods and goddesses there are only four who are common in other Germanic tribes. Those four are Odin, Frigg, Thor, and Tyr. Other minor gods and goddesses in Aesir are as follows:
Aesir God of War
Based on the God of War Series, the first Aesir was believed to be Buri, a descendant of the Primordial Jotunn, Ymir, the first sentient of the world tree. Buri had a son, Borr who later had three sons Odin, Ve, and Vili. Odin later became the Allfather and chief god and leader of the Aesir. It was under Odin’s leadership that Aesir gained control over all the realms. This was after Odin and his three brothers slew their progenitor Ymir, following Aesir believed that they were the most superior race, hence deserved control over the entire creation.
For a long time, the Aesir and the Jotnar(giant) race of Jotunheim were bitter rivals. The Jotnar had a feud with the Aesir because of Odin’s ancient actions against them. Odin on the other hand was envious of them, because of their inborn foresight abilities. He was also paranoid by the strange connection their death had to his death. For these reasons, the Allfather became obsessed and kept looking for ways to eliminate the entire Jotnar race. Odin first tried to use Tyr to organize a peace treaty with the Jotnar and unknowingly steal secrets from Jotunheim. The peace attempt was botched, and the Aesir were expelled from Jotunheim.
After the failed peace attempt, the chief god decided to perform genocide against the Giants. He used the strength of Thor to carry out the massive slaughter across all of Midgard, although it is believed that Thor was not the only god involved. Tyr, however, was not like his kind, he instead wanted peace and unity. Eventually, he managed to seal off all gateways to Jotunheim. In anger and for his betrayal, Odin is said to have either slain or imprisoned Tyr.
Among the giants killed by Thor, one of them was a great Stoneman named Thamur. Thamur was killed in a fight with Thor, while he was out in such of his son Hrimthur. When he learned of his father’s death, Hrimthur wanted revenge but knew better than to face Thor. Instead, he disguised himself and made a bargain with Odin, that if he could complete the wall around Aesir in 2 years, Odin should allow him an audience with his wife Freya. Odin agreed to this out of curiosity and because he knew it was impossible. Hrimthur was, however, able to complete the task, and keeping to his word, Odin allowed Freya to meet with Hrimthur.
During their meeting, Hrimthur simply whispered in Freya’s ears that he had added weakness to the wall of Aesir. This weakness was to aid the giant Surtr who was destined to burn Asgard to ashes, during Ragnarok.
Odin’s obsession with finding and killing every giant only grew. Ashamed by his obsession, Freya tried to plead with him to let the giants be. His obsession and paranoia are what led to his separation from Freya. Using the Seidr magic he learned from her, Odin snatched Freya’s powers, that is her Valkyrie wings and her spirit of a warrior. He then locked her in the realm of Midgard among the humans. Freya only hoped that someone brave enough would be able to bring peace back to the nine realms.
Aesir and Vanir
The Jotnar were not the only race the Aesir had a feud with. There was also a lot of tension between the Aesir and Vanir. Unlike the war-loving Aesir, the Vanir were a more pacifist race that represented fertility, wealth, and exploration. Freyr, one of the leaders of Vanir, tried a diplomatic act of teaching the Aesir the way of harvest. Unfortunately, the spells were complex and had a great downside, so when things went wrong, the Aesir blamed Freyr. They tortured him and tried to burn him.
Freyr wasn’t the only one whom the Aesir tried to kill. Freya, a goddess from Vanir was the best practitioner of the most powerful kind of magic, Seidr. The Aesir were mesmerized by her powers at first but soon realized that it was leading them away from their values of honor, loyalty, and kin. They blamed Freya for their shortcomings and tried burning her three times. To their dismay, she rose from the ashes each time.
As a result, the Aesir and Vanir hated and feared one another, and after Freyr’s failed attempt at peace, the two races broke into war. While the Aesir were considered a powerful group, they met their equal match with Vanir. The Aesir fought with brute force, weapons, and by the rules of plain combat. The Vanir on the other hand used subtle magic. In the end, each race had turns gaining an upper hand over the other.
Their war went on for centuries until both sides no longer saw the point in their senseless conflict. For the sake of peace, they each decided to compromise and end the war. Mimir served as the ambassador for two races, where he proposed that Odin should marry Freya as a sign of peace. The two races also exchanged hostages. Freya, Freyr, and Njord lived in Aesir, and Hoenir and Mimir lived in Vanir. The Vanir however, felt duped when they failed to understand that Hoenir was a simpleton who was unable to give wise advice in the absence of Mimir. Due to this misunderstanding, they beheaded Mimir and sent his head back to Odin. Hurt, Odin used magic to preserve Mimir’s head and continued to seek advice from him when he needed it.
Instead of renewing their feud over the misunderstanding, each Aesir and Vanir came together to spit into a cauldron. This was done as a way of pledging sustained harmony between the two races. Their spit was used to create the wisest being Kyasir, who roamed the different realms helping people with their problems. Ever since then, the Vanir and Aesir intermarried, until there was very little distinction between the two.
Due to the war-like nature of the Aesir, they are considered a barbaric, cruel, war-loving group of gods. They caused war and chaos in the realms for their amusement and to establish their power. They eliminated anyone who threatened their reign and authority. There were, however, certain gods among them who were different. Tyr, for example, believed in unity instead and was against Odin’s methods. This, unfortunately, was what lead to his presumed death.