Vili and Vé

This article is about the Norse gods Vili and Vé. For other uses, see Vili (disambiguation) and Ve (disambiguation).
A depiction of Óðinn, Vili, and Vé creating the world by Lorenz Frølich

In Norse mythology, Vili and are the brothers of the god Odin (from Old Norse Óðinn), 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 .


Vili and Vé, together with Óðinn, are the three brothers who slew Ymir — ending the primeval rule of the race of giants — and are the first of the Æsir. They are comparable to the three brothers Zeus, Poseidon, and Hades, of Greek mythology, who defeat the Titans. Of the three, Óðin is the eldest, Vili the middle, and Ve the youngest. 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.


In Proto-Norse, the three brothers' names were alliterating, *Wódin, Wili, Wé (Proto-Germanic *Wōdinaz, Wiljô, Wīhą),[1] so that they can be taken as forming a triad of *wōdaz, wiljô, wīhą, 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Wôden worhte weos "Woden wrought the sanctuaries"  where compared to the "triad" above, just the middle will etymon has been replaced by the work etymon.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. Óðinn remains at the head of a triad of the mightiest gods: Óðinn, Thórr, 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.[2] 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."[3]

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[4] (Latin: Mithothyn) fill his place,[5] and therefore Mitoðinn's position throws light on that of Vili and Vé. But Saxo represents Óðinn as once more an exile, and puts Ullr (Latin: Ollerus) in his place.[6]

See also


  1. Simek, Rudolf. Dictionary of Northern Mythology. D. S. Brewer, 2007, p. 362.
  2. Grimm, Teutonic Mythology (1835), ch. 7, ch. 19
  3. R. Keyser, The Religion Of The Northmen (Nordmændenes Religionsforfatning I hedendommen) (1847, trans. 1854), ch. 8
  4. Old Norse for Mithotyn
  5. Saxo Grammaticus, Gesta Danorum, 1.7.2 (12th century),
  6. Saxo Grammaticus, Gesta Danorum, 3.4 (12th century),


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