Hello, and welcome to the fourth installment of realms of the Norse. I am Sarah Bowen, and I am taking over this series for Richard. He is my mentor, as I start the journey into the Norse world. I started on the Greek path, as most pagans do. I felt called to the Celtic path next, and still hold to their ways. Odin has been calling me to him as well, so I am learning all I can. I have found ‘that the Celtic and Norse path follow well together. There are many links to the Celtic path in Norse path, and the realm of Álfheimr (or Alfheim/Ljosalfheim) is one of the best examples.
Not much is know about the mysterious Álfheimr, in the Norse context. The realm is only mentioned twice in the Eddas.
The first time is in the Edda poem Grímnismál.
“…Álfheimr the gods
to Frey once gave
As a tooth-gift in ancient times…”
This means that Freyr or Frey was given this realm when he cut his first tooth. Whether he was the main god worshiped there, or the ruler is up for debate. I think he was more the god that was worshiped, and there was another ruler of this realm. He was a Vanir and lived in Vanaheim until the war combined them with the Aesir to create the full Norse pantheon, He was one of the gods that moved to Asgard, and lived there. He may have had a palace there, but having a ruler that lived in the realm makes the most sense to me.
The second mention is in the Edda prose called Gyfaginning:
“That which is called Álfheimr is one, where dwell the peoples called ljósálfar [Light Elves]; but the dökkálfar [Dark Elves] dwell down in the earth, and they are unlike in appearance, but by far more unlike in nature. The Light-elves are fairer to look upon than the sun, but the Dark-elves are blacker than pitch.
This is just naming the people that live in the realm, and describing them. The light elves are mentioned in many sagas and another Edda(see list at the end of the article), but again not in great detail. They seem to have various magical powers, including power over giving and healing illnesses in the human race. They can mate with humans and have powerful half-elf children. Humans can become elves after their death, and are often worshiped as demigods/human ancestors.
How does these eddas realm link to the Celtic path?
John Lindow and other scholars have noted that there are two portals to Álfheimr in Midgard, the human realm. The first being on the border of Modern Sweden and Norway, between the rivers Gota and Glom. The second is over the sea west of the lands. To the west, is the Celtics. In their legends, they mention a variety of ways to get to a different realm, a realm they called the Otherworld. The aes sídhe matches the description of the ljósálfar. The Celtic aes sídhe were often worshiped as human ancestors as well and had a great number of powers that regularly affected human lives. To me, the aes sídhe and the ljósálfar are the same race. The Vanir could be the Tuatha Dé Danann, the Celtic fay-gods. This idea needs more research done by me, to see if there is more than just a surface correlation.
So that pretty much sums up the realm of Álfheimr. It’s the realm of the ljósálfar, light elves, owned by Freyr. Let me know if I did a good job of going through the realm and your views of my interpretation of the information. I would also like to know your interest in an article that explores the Celtic/Norse links in more detail. Let me know what else I can do to help your knowledge grow. Odin has called to me for a reason, I love to learn and to teach others!
List of Sagas and Eddas that have information on Alfheim and the ljósálfar.
- The Prose Edda. Gylfaginning
- The Poetic Edda. Grímnismál[
- Kormáks saga.
- Þiðreks saga.
- Hrólfs saga kraka.
- The Poetic Edda. Völundarkvíða.
- Óláfs Saga Helga