Vanir is the name of one of the two groups of gods in Norse mythology, the other and more well known being the Æsir.
The three clearly identified Vanir include:
- Njord the father of the gods of Vanir and god of the sea
- Freyr the god of fertility
- Freyja a goddess of fertility, love, beauty, and war
These are identified only as the Vanir who lived among the Æsir, because of a hostage exchange described in the Poetic Edda; there may have been others. Since Freyr is elsewhere listed as having residence Álfheimr (Elf-home), it is possible that the Elves were also considered Vanir.The identification as Vanir of Skaði, Lýtir, Gerðr and Óðr is debated. Óðr is mentioned in the Eddas very briefly as a husband of Freyja, but nothing more is actually known about him, although Óðr is often listed as one of Odin's alternate names. There is a possible connection between Heimdall and the Vanir, noted by H.R. Ellis Davidson The gods Njörd and Freyr appear in Snorri's Ynglinga saga as human Kings of Sweden. Their human descendants on the Swedish throne may be called Vanir, such as:
- Fjölnir who was the son of Frey and the giantess Gerðr.
- Sveigder who married Vana of Vanaheimr and had the son Vanlade.
- Vanlade whose name connects him to the Vanir, and who married a daughter of the Jotun Snær.
Since other figures in the Ynglinga saga have the same names and traits as Norse gods, it possible that these also were the names of gods in other stories.
Vanir and Elves
The Eddas possibly identify the Vanir with the elves (Álfar), frequently interchanging "Æsir and Vanir" and "Æsir and Álfar" to mean "all the gods". As both the Vanir and the Álfar appear to be fertility powers, the interchangeability suggest that the Vanir may have been synonymous with the elves. It may also be that the two names reflected a difference in status where the elves were minor fertility gods whereas the Vanir were major fertility gods. Freyr would thus be a natural Vanir ruler of the elves in Álfheim. Contemporary reconstruction of Norse religion focusing on the Vanir is sometimes called Vanatrú.