Written by Dyami Millarson
I recently used the esoteric/arcane adjectives (non-)Vanic, (non-)Asic, Tyric, and Alfish in my recent article on Heimdallr, these adjectives are definitely jargon confined to scientific literature regarding Germanic religion, and so I was asked what Vanic, Asic, Tyric, and Alfish mean.
I may give the definitions of these adjectives as follows:
- Vanic means ‘of the Vanir, relating to the Vanir.’
- Asic means ‘of the Æsir, relating to the Æsir.’
- Tyric means ‘of the Tívar, relating to the Tívar.’
- Alfish means ‘of the Álfar, relating to the Álfar.’ It is a Norse-based counterpart to Elfish.
I coined Tyric without removing the Old Norse nominative -r, since this -r is generally not treated as a suffix in English literature, which is why the name is not Ty but Tyr although the former would be closer to Tue as in Tues-day and which is why the adjective is not Tyic but Tyric.
Since I was also asked about the Vanir, Æsir, Tívar and Álfar, I will give a basic definition here as follows:
- The Vanir live in Nature, as exemplified in my article on the Vanir of the Sea and Earth, hence they are Nature Deities.
- The Æsir live along with or similar to humans in villages, they are Village Deities. Germanic people traditionally have Pole Gods (Dutch: Paalgoden), presumably the Æsir, standing at the entrance of their villages.
- The Tívar live in the Heavens, they are the Heavenly Deities or Sky Deities.
- The Álfar are White Gods, they are Beings of Light, and may be brought up in close association with the Æsir.
Since they are all Goð ‘Gods, Holy Beings’ as well as Vættir ‘Wights, Numinous Beings,’ there is overlap between Vanir, Æsir and Tívar. Furthermore, the Vanir-Æsir merger may also be interpreted as a Tívar-Æsir merger. Although it may be tempting to think there was a primordial distinction between the Vanir, Æsir and Tívar, the Germanic polytheistic norm is overlap and therefore the original situation must be overlap; basically, Germanic polytheists do traditionally not make clear distinctions, and the Germanic religion thrives in this situation of vagueness.
This may also be seen in the fact that Germanic polytheists would have had no problem taking part in different local worship traditions and adopting worship traditions from neighbouring and related communities; such is the destiny of those who worship a multitude of Gods. Distinctions in Germanic polytheism may be situational, and the boundaries of those distinctions will be broken down in other situations; this situational thinking, which is very flexible and might look like opportunism to the modern observer, is what underlying non-dualism looks like, and this underlying non-dualism is a property of fate; the universe or natural world always corrects itself to a state of equilibrium, of balance, of order.
This is why the Gods and Jötnar are equally matched in Ragnarök and equally destroy each other; they exist in the world together and perish together. Such is fate and therefore such is their fate; for what generally applies, applies to Jötnar and Gods specifically as well. The tensions between the Æsir and Vanir resulted in the break-down of distinctions, the end of a status quo ante; the merger of the Æsir and Vanir as suggested by the Germanic lore handed down to us practically meant that the Æsir and Vanir became closely related, and hence Æsir became Vanir and vice versa.
The Vanir are a family group, and They are conceptually a glorious primordial lineage that is to be remembered; and so may the Tívar be understood. This may already in ancient pagan times have been later explanations based on a desire to trace Divine Lineages and honour the Gods by commemorating Their Lineages during sacrificial rituals; after all, this is understandable since the Germanic pagans may also have made attempts to understand the Divine family relationships as they were in the earliest of times or one might say in the primordial times (Dutch: in de oertijd). Another very real possibility, which I do not rule out, is that the invoked memories of Divine Lineages genuinely harken back to ancient traditions where different Divine Families merged, which is not unthinkable; because as tribes and families merge, so do their Gods. Tribal and familial mergers were a common thing in the past.
All this is not to say that Germanic polytheists did not observe ethnic or local distinctions. These were and are very real; awareness of bloodlines, culture, ethnicity is traditional. For instance, it is a Germanic tradition to recount lineages; the Wights/Vættir can all boast about Their lineages. The act of recounting lineages, which makes the Wights proud and may therefore be considered positively boastful, is an integral part of Germanic prayer; the Germanic polytheists of yore know the lineages of their Deities, and may use this for invoking Them. So, returning to the topic of family mergers, it is not like mergers do not happen to people of the same tribe, culture, religion; before such mergers, people often already feel some kind of relatedness or kinship, they usually have something ethnically, religiously, culturally in common, there is a common basis for the merger to work. The Æsir-Vanir merger worked within a common cultural framework; both sides understood the codes, the implicit and explicitir cultural expectations, which brought about the merger. There is a common understanding between Æsir and Vanir, this can clearly be seen in the lore.
So the conceptual overlap inherent in Germanic religion does neither invalidate nor negate the variety of cultural, religious, familial, tribal, local, ethnic, linguistic and legal realities, but rather embraces it; the Gods are proud of Their different origins and so are the people who worship Them — knowledge of these intricate details regarding lineages strengthens the bond with the Deities in question; the Germanic polytheists live in a world where they know where they and their Gods come from. The Gods are likewise firmly rooted, They know who They are, and obviously Their devout followers know who They are. After all, ancestor veneration is as much an integral part of Germanic culture as it is an integral part of the Confucian cultures of the East; the Germanic polytheists traditionally worship their ancestors at burial mounds like for example the Koreans do, as depicted in many K-dramas. Germanic polytheism is traditionally a philosophical embrace of the circles of life; it is about embracing social hierarchy and societal order; it is about embracing what is cultural, religious, familial, tribal, local, ethnic, linguistic, legal; ultimately, it is about embracing totality or wholeness, which is the embrace of holiness. One is not merely an individual according to this ancestral philosophy; for one is part of a whole in so many ways: cultural, religious, familial, tribal, local, ethnic, linguistic, legal.