Aegir is a Jotun, one of the Jotuns that is considered by many (keep in mind not all) one of the gods. (Remember when reading this that there are different ideas on what a god is or is not, it is all up to the person, refer to the link on the bottom "What is a god" for more info on this and other ideas. Here in this post Aegir shall be referred to as a god.) So many people believe, and I am one of them, that Aegir is a god. One of the gods that is more nature oriented than the Aesir, so maybe he is more considered under the umbrella of the Vanir. But once again, that is up for you to decide. But then is he really a Jotun? Even that is debatable for it is not clearly stated anywhere that I know of, where his origins come from.
Aegir is the king of the seas, he rules over them with a water fist. His halls are found at the sea floor where he lives with his wife Ran, and their nine daughters who are the waves. He is the ruler of all the sea creatures and the murky depths that we know so little about. In his great watery halls Aegir is famous for hosting extravagant parties for the Gods, at least on one occasion, things got interesting. He is also a famous brewer of ale, and even makes some for the Thunderer, Thor.
2. The Goddess Ran
Aegir was mated with his sister, the goddess Ran, whose name means “robber,” and who was as cruel, greedy, and insatiable as her husband. Her favorite pastime was to lurk near dangerous rocks, whither she enticed mariners, and there spread her net, her most prized possession, when, having entangled the men in its meshes and broken their vessels on the jagged cliffs, she would calmly draw them down into her cheerless realm.
Ran was considered the goddess of death for all who perished at sea, and the Northern nations fancied that she entertained the drowned in her coral caves, where her couches were spread to receive them, and where the mead flowed freely as in Valhalla. The goddess was further supposed to have a great affection for gold, which was called the “flame of the sea,” and was used to illuminate her halls. This belief originated with the sailors, and sprang from the striking phosphorescent gleam of the waves. To win Ran’s good graces, the North men were careful to hide some gold about them whenever any special danger threatened them on the sea.
“In the deep sea caves
By the sounding shore,
In the dashing waves
When the wild storms roar,
In her cold green bowers
In the Northern fiords,
She lurks and she glowers,
She grasps and she hoards,
And she spreads her strong net for her prey.”
Story of Siegfried (Baldwin).
“Gold, on sweetheart ramblings,
Pow’rful is and pleasant;
Who goes empty-handed
Down to sea-blue Ran,
Cold her kisses strike, and
Fleeting her embrace is—
But we ocean’s bride be-
Troth with purest gold.”
Viking Tales of the North (R. B. Anderson).
3. The Waves
Aegir and Ran had nine beautiful daughters, the Waves, or billow-maidens, whose snowy arms and bosoms, long golden hair, deep-blue eyes, and willowy, sensuous forms were fascinating in the extreme. These maidens delighted in sporting over the surface of their father’s vast domain, clad lightly in transparent blue, white, or green veils.
They were very moody and capricious, however, varying from playful to sullen and apathetic moods, and at times exciting one another almost to madness, tearing their hair and veils, flinging themselves recklessly upon their hard beds, the rocks, chasing one another with frantic haste, and shrieking aloud with joy or despair. But they seldom came out to play unless their brother, the Wind, were abroad, and according to his mood they were gentle and playful, or rough and boisterous.
The Waves were generally supposed to go about in triplets, and were often said to play around the ships of Vikings whom they favored, smoothing away every obstacle from their course, and helping them to reach speedily their goals.
“And Æger’s daughters, in blue veils dight,
The helm leap round, and urge it on its flight.”
Viking Tales of the North (R. B. Anderson).
4. Aegir’s Brewing Kettle
To the Anglo-Saxons the sea-god Aegir was known by the name of Eagor, and whenever an unusually large wave came thundering towards the shore, the sailors were wont to cry, as the Trent boatmen still do, “Look out, Eagor is coming!” He was also known by the name of Hler (the shelterer) among the Northern nations, and of Gymir (the concealer), because he was always ready to hide things in the depths of his realm, and could be depended upon not to reveal the secrets entrusted to his care. And, because the waters of the sea were frequently said to seethe and hiss, the ocean was often called Aegir’s brewing kettle or vat.
The god’s two principal servants were Elde and Funfeng, emblems of the phosphorescence of the sea; they were noted for their quickness and they invariably waited upon the guests whom he invited to his banquets in the depths of the sea. Aegir sometimes left his realm to visit the Æsir in Asgard, where he was always royally entertained, and he delighted in Bragi’s many tales of the adventures and achievements of the gods. Excited by these narratives, as also by the sparkling mead which accompanied them, the god on one occasion ventured to invite the Æsir to celebrate the harvest feast with him in Hlesey, where he promised to entertain them in his turn.
5. Thor and Hymir
Surprised at this invitation, one of the gods ventured to remind Aegir that they were accustomed to dainty fare; whereupon the god of the sea declared that as far as eating was concerned they need be in no anxiety, as he was sure that he could cater for the most fastidious appetites; but he confessed that he was not so confident about drink, as his brewing kettle was rather small. Hearing this, Thor immediately volunteered to procure a suitable kettle, and set out with Tyr to obtain it. The two gods journeyed east of the Elivagar in Thor’s goat chariot, and leaving this at the house of the peasant Egil, Thialfi’s father, they wended their way on foot to the dwelling of the giant Hymir, who was known to own a kettle one mile deep and proportionately wide.
“There dwells eastward
The all-wise Hymir,
At heaven’s end.
My sire, fierce of mood,
A kettle owns,
A capacious cauldron,
A rast in depth.”
Sæmund’s Edda (Thorpe’s tr.).
Only the women were at home, however, and Tyr recognised in the elder—an ugly old hag with nine hundred heads—his own grandmother; while the younger, a beautiful young giantess, was, it appeared, his mother, and she received her son and his companion hospitably, and gave them to drink.
After learning their errand, Tyr’s mother bade the visitors hide under some huge kettles, which rested upon a beam at the end of the hall, for her husband Hymir was very hasty and often slew his would-be guests with a single baleful glance. The gods quickly followed her advice, and no sooner were they concealed than the old giant Hymir came in. When his wife told him that visitors had come, he frowned so portentously, and flashed such a wrathful look towards their hiding-place, that the rafter split and the kettles fell with a crash, and, except the largest, were all dashed to pieces.
“In shivers flew the pillar
At the Jötun’s glance;
The beam was first
Broken in two.
Eight kettles fell,
But only one of them,
A hard-hammered cauldron,
Whole from the column.”
Sæmund’s Edda (Thorpe’s tr.).
The giant’s wife, however, prevailed upon her husband to welcome Tyr and Thor, and he slew three oxen for their refection; but great was his dismay to see the thunder-god eat two of these for his supper. Muttering that he would have to go fishing early the next morning to secure a breakfast for so voracious a guest, the giant retired to rest, and when at dawn the next day he went down to the shore, he was joined by Thor, who said that he had come to help him. The giant bade him secure his own bait, whereupon Thor coolly slew his host’s largest ox, Himinbrioter (heaven-breaker), and cutting off its head, he embarked with it and proceeded to row far out to sea. In vain Hymir protested that his usual fishing-ground had been reached, and that they might encounter the terrible Midgard snake were they to venture any farther; Thor persistently rowed on, until he fancied they were directly above this monster.
“On the dark bottom of the great salt lake,
Imprisoned lay the giant snake,
With naught his sullen sleep to break.”
Thor’s Fishing, Oehlenschläger (Pigott’s tr.).
Baiting his powerful hook with the ox head, Thor angled for Iörmungandr, while the giant meantime drew up two whales, which seemed to him to be enough for an early morning meal. He was about to propose to return, therefore, when Thor suddenly felt a jerk, and began pulling as hard as he could, for he knew by the resistance of his prey, and the terrible storm created by its frenzied writhings, that he had hooked the Midgard snake. In his determined efforts to force the snake to rise to the surface, Thor braced his feet so strongly against the bottom of the boat that he went through it and stood on the bed of the sea.
After an indescribable struggle, the monster’s terrible venom-breathing head appeared, and Thor, seizing his hammer, was about to annihilate it when the giant, frightened by the proximity of Iörmungandr, and fearing lest the boat should sink and he should become the monster’s prey, cut the fishing-line, and thus allowed the snake to drop back like a stone to the bottom of the sea.
“The knife prevails: far down beneath the main
The serpent, spent with toil and pain,
To the bottom sank again.”
Thor’s Fishing, Oehlenschläger (Pigott’s tr.).
Angry with Hymir for his inopportune interference, Thor dealt him a blow with his hammer which knocked him overboard; but Hymir, undismayed, waded ashore, and met the god as he returned to the beach. Hymir then took both whales, his spoil of the sea, upon his back, to carry them to the house; and Thor, wishing also to show his strength, shouldered boat, oars, and fishing tackle, and followed him.
Breakfast being disposed of, Hymir challenged Thor to prove his strength by breaking his beaker; but although the thunder-god threw it with irresistible force against stone pillars and walls, it remained whole and was not even bent. In obedience to a whisper from Tyr’s mother, however, Thor suddenly hurled the vessel against the giant’s forehead, the only substance tougher than itself, when it fell shattered to the ground. Hymir, having thus tested the might of Thor, told him he could have the kettle which the two gods had come to seek, but Tyr tried to lift it in vain, and Thor could raise it from the floor only after he had drawn his belt of strength to the very last hole.
“Tyr twice assayed
To move the vessel,
Yet at each time
Stood the kettle fast.
Then Môdi’s father
By the brim grasped it,
And trod through
The dwelling’s floor.”
Lay of Hymir (Thorpe’s tr.)
“Then Vans and Æsir, mighty gods,
Of earth and air, and Asgard, lords,—
Advancing with each goddess fair,
A brilliant retinue most rare,—
Attending mighty Odin, swept
Up wave-worn aisle in radiant march.”
Valhalla (J. C. Jones).
6. Unloved Divinities
Aegir, as we have seen, ruled the sea with the help of the treacherous Ran. Both of these divinities were considered cruel by the Northern nations, who had much to suffer from the sea, which, surrounding them on all sides, ran far into the heart of their countries through the numerous fiords, and often swallowed the ships of their vikings, with all their warrior crews. (2)"
Well I think that about covers it for Aegir. I find that he is a very interesting deity indeed. One question though, that I have come up with now as I have also learned a lot today, is what is Aegir? Is he a god? Is he Jotun? Or is he something else? Something older? Well I shall let you decide that! May Aegir and Ran be kind to you on the seas!
What is a god? (