The Norse/Vedic (Dis)Connection
So, if you’ve ever read from this blog you might have noticed that I am obsessed with the Indo-European interconnection of cultures. I tend to focus on the languages and religions Celtic, Germanic (Norse) and Indic branches since those are the ones which effect my studies and religious persuasion. When I say “focus” I mean more like “geek out” and constantly try to figure out why certain things are the way they are. The other day I was driving to work (for some reason this is when all my great ideas hit me) and stumbled upon an idea.
The Norse myth of the Æsir–Vanir War has been theorized to be a mythic telling of what Dumézil calls “the war of functions” referring to the three “functions” of IE society (magio-juridical, warrior, and artisan). This war of the functions is often linked with the immigration of the IE peoples into new lands and the “battle” that ensues between the IE deities and the native ones, the Æsir and Vanir respectively.
Now, it is important to note that the Vedic and Nordic mythologies are very closely related. For examples compare the Vedic tale of Yama’s death to that of the Norse Ymir. Further the Purusha sukta links well to both the Norse stories of Ymir and the Hávamál tale of Odin taking up the runes.
But if these two traditions are so closely related why did the Norse culture center on a militaristic way of life versus the Vedic (later Hindu), focus on duty and ritual?
That’s where my theory comes in. I argue that the Æsir–Vanir War was not a mythic memory of IE incursion but rather an allegory for a very real social upheaval that occurred very early on in the formation Germanic society. I believe that the “second function” (the warrior caste) of the Germaninc culture overthrew the “first function” (the magio-juridical caste). Evidence for this can be seen in the fact that the gothi (priests, an inherited position) could be chieftains but were still subject to the local warrior jarl (rulers, based on accomplishment) and the fact that seidr (magic) was considered beneath warriors (and men in general).*
*Odin was considered the god of seidr thus being the major exception but more often than not, the practice was associated with the Vanir gods
**This post is subject to editing over the next few days so keep checking back