“Norse Gods” by Magnus Edvarsson

AESIR (old Icelandic Æsir, singular Áss)

in Germanic (Scandinavian) mythology group of the highest gods, ruled by ➚ Odin. Sometimes term Æsir was used to describe gods in general; in this category they opposed the ➚ Vanir, and outside this category the giants (see JÖTNAR), ➚ dwarves and ➚ alfar. Aesir resided in ➚ Asgard. Younger Edda mentions 14 Aesir (although primarily there were 12 of them [1]): Odin, ➚ Thor, ➚ Njörd (!), ➚ Tyr, ➚ Bragi, ➚ Heimdall, ➚ Höd, ➚ Vidar, ➚ Vali (Ali), ➚ Ull, ➚ Forseti, ➚ Loki (!), ➚ Baldr and ➚ Frey (!); this list lacks ➚ Magni and Modi as well as ➚ Hönir, known from the Elder Edda.

Along the Aesir, Asgard served as home for the Asynjur (old Icelandic Ásynjur, singular Ásynja). Younger Edda mentions 14 of them, not caring about the Aesir-Vanir division: ➚ Frigg (and/or Sága), ➚ Eir, ➚ Gefjun, ➚ Fulla, ➚Freyja, Sjöfn (directing human minds to love), Vár (associated with oaths and agreements), Vör (awareness), Lofn (love aide), Snotra (patron of the woman’s honour), Gná (fertility giver) Syn (Frigg’s chamber warden and guardian of human court trials) and Hlín (comforter, helped in realizing of human pleadings). The last five are not connected with any particular myth.

Aesir were the ➚ cultural heroes. They built the first temples, invented smith’s fireplace, constructed the first tools (including pincers), discovered the skill of gold processing [1]. Their name origins from the Indoeuropean *ansu- “lord, ruler; god” (see AHURAS, ASURAS), although medieval scholars connected the name Áss with Asia, described as Godhland “Land of Gods” or Svíthjód hinn mikla “Great Svíthjód” (i.e. Sweden identified with Scythia). It was also opposed to the area called Svíthjód hinn minni “Small Svíthjód” (“proper” Sweden) or Mannheimr “Human Homestead” (in old Icelandic text called Tocius (sic!) orbis brevissima descriptio II  and in Norwegian Stjórn).


[1] Völuspá 7.

P o l o m é, L’étymologie du terme germanique *ansuz („dieu souverain”), „Études germaniques” 8, 1953; O. B r i e m, Vanir og Aesir, Reykjavik 1963.