Wealth, honor, and prowess as a warrior determines the social structure amongst the Vanir. The Sea Lords, the most notable of the steersmen, are the highest rung of the social ladder. Below that are land owners and merchants.
“The so-called homeland of my ancestors was an easy place to live in: if one liked a new friend, one simply slapped his shoulder so hard that his face nearly would hit the table. If one did not like him, all one did was hit harder.” ~ Arvid’s Chronicle of the Northern Lands
The Vanir are direct and straightforward, they say what they think, and they do what they say. They have little patience for riddles, lies, or intrigue. Most Vanir are lousy liars, which also comes from not being good with complicated words.
The history of the Vanir is remembered in thousands of songs and sagas, many of them present in the Vanir’s mind and whenever they come across something puzzling it will be the first reference they turn to. “A green snake, like Belfarn, son of Belgarn, son of Ulfgar encountered when he sailed to the Isles of the Setting Sun…”
Good-natured as many Vanir can appear, no one knows if there is a slumbering berserker in them – ready to wake at any moment. Berserkers are a frightful sight to behold, fighting in a blind rage with little regard for their own wounds. How the Vanir managed to calm their berserkers after a fight is their secret.
Adulthood: a Vanir becomes an adult when he can wield a sword well enough to kill his first enemy or wield a spear well enough to either defeat the Grimbear (short-faced bear) or the Grimwolf (dire wolf), alone and without help. On average, Vanir adulthood is between 14 and 16.
Holmgang: If the Thing cannot settle a dispute between two men, including matters of honor, one may call the other out to the Holmgang. They meet at a designated place, usually far out of the way to prevent interference by third parties and solve their dispute in a duel to the death. If one of them does not show up at the Holmgang, he is considered to be without honor.
Women: Women are highly respected in Vanir society. They are the keepers of the home, their say inside the home is absolute. When they marry, the woman is given the keys to the home and the treasure chests. This symbolizes their rule. Nevertheless, a woman cannot speak in the Thing. If she has a matter that needs to be addressed, she must be represented by a speaker. Her speaker can be her husband, brother, or any other male relative. If for some reason, there are no male relatives that she trusts, she can ask for any free man to aid her.
Note: Women usually do not fight in battles nor join ships. If they do, (for reasons of revenge or other) they cease to be women, but take a male name, adopt male dress and role for the time they are with them.
Ships: A dragon boat is more than just a ship, it is a community, and people choose to follow a good ship leader/steersman, or they don’t. Such a community goes through danger and victory together. Often such communities only dissolve with the death of their steersman.
Their morality is based on personal accountability and family bonds. They do not have a set of codes, because they believe in a concept called “weird,” which roughly translates to luck or fate. Essentially, it all comes down to Ragnarok (destruction of the powers). How can the individual influence the ultimate well being of the people? They do not see it as something that can be effectively dictated. It is something that has to be seen and can be foreseen. But each person’s weird is “predestined” in a way, so you cannot tell someone how to behave and have it really work. You can really only deal with the consequences.
The Vanir do believe that there are consequences for bad behavior or dying without honor. There is a sense of social responsibility, and heroes are said to be well rewarded in the afterlife. The Vanir aren’t necessarily bloodthirsty, and there was is no virtue in killing for killing’s sake.
Marriage and Family
The Vanir do marry. Marriages can be arranged or agreed upon by individuals (usually second marriages after the loss of a spouse). A man desiring to marry a specific woman will send a messenger, usually an older relative or friend, to the woman’s family with gifts showing his wealth and ability to support a family. The head of the family will hear the proposal, desire proof that the match will not leave a daughter of his house in a life of poverty, and then hear the girl’s opinion on the matter. Then he’ll declare yes or no. Wives and daughters are cherished but not overly sheltered. Occasionally, a Vanir warrior will take a wife from another culture, usually as a means to seal an alliance. However, if an outlander woman winds up in Nordheim, she can likely look forward to a life of drudgery or prostitution.
Death and Death Rituals
Burial of a Sea King: The body of a Sea King will be placed on his ship and decked with his treasures. The ship is then launched onto the seas and set aflame with burning arrows and warfire.
Burials: The Vanir burn their dead, or give them back to the Sea. They are wary of burying people in the Earth.
Death for the well being of the tribe is said to allow you a place in Odin’s hall of Valhalla, which is a virtual paradise. A mundane death will send your soul to Hel. But Hel isn’t a place of punishment, it is just boring. There is a realm of exile, and it corresponds to the living practice of exile, which for the Vanir is really a death sentence. Not only will exile from the tribe end your mortal life given the harsh environment of their lands but if you suffer exile from the tribe in life, you will not be welcome in the afterlife either. There is a realm in the spirit world called Niflheim, an icy wasteland full of predators and enemies, but just like the realm of the Aesir (old gods), you cannot die there so you would just suffer.
The Vanir believe that anyone can be influenced by the spirits who dwell in Hel or Valhalla, and rebirth can happen at any time and in any way. Either to die and be reborn in Odin’s hall, or to die and be reborn again in Mannaheim (home of Man).
Biases (Against Others)
Generally speaking, the Vanir admire warriors and are suspicious of those that choose another path.