Religion Wiki

Vili and Vé

34,323pages on
this wiki
Add New Page
Talk0 Share

In Norse mythology, Vili and are the brothers of Óðinn (often Anglicized Odin), sons of Bestla daughter of Bölþorn and Borr son of Búri:

Hann [Borr] fekk þeirar konu er Bettla hét, dóttir Bölþorns jötuns, ok fengu þau þrjá sonu. Hét einn Óðinn, annarr Vili, þriði Vé.

Old Norse Vili means "will". Old Norse refers to a type of Germanic shrine; a vé.


The three brothers are the first generation of the Æsir who slay Ymir ending the primeval rule of the race of giants (and can be compared to the three brothers Zeus, Poseidon and Hades defeating the Titans in Greek mythology). To the first human couple, Ask and Embla, Óðinn gave soul and life; Vili gave wit (intelligence) and sense of touch; and Vé gave countenance (appearance, facial expression), speech, hearing, and sight. The names given to Óðinn's brothers in the Völuspá are Hœnir and Lóðurr.


In Proto-Norse, the three brothers' names were alliterating, *Wódin, Wili, Wé (Proto-Germanic *Wōdinaz, Wiljon, Wǣhaz), so that they can be taken as forming a triad of *wódz, wiljon, wǣhaz, approximately "inspiration (transcendent, mantic or prophetic knowledge), cognition (will, desire, internal thought that leads to action) and numen (spiritual power residing in the external world, in sacred objects)". Compare to this the alliteration in a verse found in the Exeter Book, Wôden worhte weos "Woden wrought the sanctuaries" – where compared to the "triad" above, just the middle will etymon has been replaced by the work etymon. The name of such sanctuaries to Woden Wôdenes weohas (Saxon Wôdanes wih, Norse Óðins vé) survives in toponymy as Odinsvi, Wodeneswegs.

While Vili and Vé are of little prominence in Norse mythology as attested, their brother Óðinn has a more celebrated role as the chief of the Norse pantheon. Despite his importance, Óðinn remains at the head of a triad of the mightiest gods: Óðinn, Þorr, and Freyr. Óðinn is also styled Thriði "the third", in which case he appears by the side of Hárr and Jafnhárr (the "high" and the "even-high" or co-equal), as the "Third High". At other times, he is Tveggi "the second". In relation to the Óðinn-Vili-Vé triad, Grimm compares Old High German willa, which not only expressed voluntas, but also votum, impetus, spiritus, and the personification of Will, to Wela in Old English sources.[1] Keyser interprets the triad as "Spirit, Will and Holiness", postulating a kind of Germanic Trinity in Vili and Vé to be "blended together again in the all-embracing World-spirit – in Odin. [...] he alone is Al-father, from whom all the other superior, world-directing beings, the Æsir, are descended."[2]

According to Loki, in Lokasenna, Vili and Vé had an affair with Óðinn's wife, Frigg. This is taken by Grimm as reflecting the fundamental identity of the three brothers, so that Frigg might be considered the wife of either. According to this story Óðinn was abroad for a long time, and in his absence his brothers acted for him. It is worthy of note that Saxo Grammaticus also makes Óðinn (Latin: Othinus) travel to foreign lands and Mitoðinn[3] (Latin: Mithothyn) fill his place[4], and therefore Mitoðinn's position throws light on that of Vili and Vé. Saxo represents Óðinn as once more an exile, and puts Ullr (Latin: Ollerus) in his place[5]. The distant journeys of the god are implied in the Norse by-names Gângrâðr, Gângleri, Vegtamr, and Viðförull. It is not to be overlooked that even Paulus Diaconus (1, 9) knows of Wodan's residence in Greece while Saxo removes him to Byzantium, and Snorri to Tyrkland.

See also


  1. Grimm, Teutonic Mythology (1835), ch. 7, ch. 19
  2. R. Keyser, The Religion Of The Northmen (Nordmændenes Religionsforfatning I hedendommen) (1847, trans. 1854), ch. 8
  3. Old Norse for Mithotyn
  4. Saxo Grammaticus, Gesta Danorum, 1.7.2 (12th century), [1]
  5. Saxo Grammaticus, Gesta Danorum, 3.4 (12th century), [2]


  • E. A. Philippson, Die Genealogie der Götter in Germanischer Religion, Mythologie und Theologie, Illinois studies in language and literature vol. 37, Urbana, Illinois (1953), 44-52.
  • Grimm, Teutonic Mythology (1835), ch. 7, ch. 19.
  • R. Keyser, The Religion Of The Northmen (Nordmændenes Religionsforfatning I hedendommen) (1847, trans. 1854), ch. 8
This page uses content from the English Wikipedia. The original article was at Vili and Vé. The list of authors can be seen in the page history.

Ad blocker interference detected!

Wikia is a free-to-use site that makes money from advertising. We have a modified experience for viewers using ad blockers

Wikia is not accessible if you’ve made further modifications. Remove the custom ad blocker rule(s) and the page will load as expected.