One of the questions I received awhile back was:
Are the Vanir elves? Is there a realm for Ljosalfar and one for Dokkalfar? I’ve seen mentioned both a realm called Ljosalfheim and Alfheim. Does the Dokkalfar, who live underground, share a realm with the dwarves?
The following is corroborated gnosis – information that I have received from my contacts in the Otherworlds as well as in my observances and experiences, and that has also been corroborated by others who have dealt with these beings.
From my book Visions of Vanaheim:
I was told by my Vanic spirit companions and other Vanic contacts that initially, elves and giants used to be the same species, and there was a split, mainly disagreeing over how to deal with humanity – those who became “Jotnar” saw the humans as prey, those who became “Vanir” saw the humans as kin and felt compelled to help them. Following the split, energy modifications were made in both species, which is why (as one example) elves tend to be allergic to iron/steel (with exceptions) and giants regard it as a power source (i.e. the Iron Wood). There are a few elven tribes which have counterparts in the giants’ Otherworld, such as the Wolf, Raven, Eagle and Serpent tribes, and serve as a reminder of when they were one people, even if the tribes have differing customs (and perspectives) now. A couple of the Vanic tribes, such as the Serpents and Ravens, have cordial relations and an exchange with their Iron Wood counterparts.
There have been two civil wars in Vanaheim: the first was approximately 10,000-9000 years ago, following the split from the Jotnar and when the Boars took control from the Serpents following the split, wherein a large number of Vanic elves exiled, and the entire Squirrel tribe was slaughtered. The biggest group of exiles came to be known in mythology as Ljossalfar; they made some modifications to their culture, biology, and so on (they did away with the animal tribes, and replaced the animal tribal system with seasonal courts – the Summer Court, the Spring Court, etc). The Vanir and Ljossalfar are on friendly terms and allies to an extent, but nobody wants a reunification, they are content with being separate realms and separate ways of doing things.
The Dokkalfar or drow are a notable group of exiles, who were approximately 90% Ravens (with some other tribes, most notably the Spiders), then bred with dragons, and once exiled, got a very bad reputation as baby-thieves and sexual predators, however this reputation is undeserved and is only true of a small segment of their population (and there is an undesirable criminal element among any species); the same rumors were told of the Eshnahai among the Dokkalfar for a long time! Currently both groups are working on improving relations and possibly forming an alliance. The Dokkalfar are certainly a bit more “warlike” than the Eshnahai and those who choose to work with them should proceed with caution, but are not evil as rumor has it.
My book Voices of Vanaheim opens up with the chapter “Blood and Thunder”, which is told by the King of the Dokkalfar, regarding his exile from Vanaheim during the Vanir-Jotnar split, and the foundation of Yfensul, aka the realm of the Dokkalfar, which is not underground (however there are dwarves that dwell in caves and subterranean dwellings); the realm of the Dokkalfar is however eternally twilight. The Dokkalfar did away with the Vanic tribal system (though it is acknowledged that the King was a Raven, and the seven Queens of the Dokkalfar all originated as Spider tribe, and ravens and spiders are considered especially sacred to the Dokkalfar – Star Mother, who is also revered by the Vanir, is seen as a spider goddess by the Dokkalfar), but they have a rather complicated caste system in its place. The Dokkalfar made some notable biological and cultural changes (they are immune to most things that the Vanir have an adverse reaction to, like iron) but there are also some Vanic customs they kept, such as a gender-neutral default pronoun and honorific, and a tendency towards bisexuality and kinkiness, as well as androgyny in appearance. (It is virtually impossible to tell Dokkalfar apart by gender presentation, and that applies to much of the Vanir as well.)
As a final note on the Dokkalfar, it is worth mentioning that the consort of the current Queen of Vanaheim is half-Dokkalfar (his story is the last chapter in Voices, “Rivers of the Heart”), and he was the first outlander to ever be knighted by the realm, so public opinion in Vanaheim towards the Dokkalfar has slowly been changing for the better.
Ljossalfheim and Alfheim are, from what I understand, the same realm. In the follow-up to Voices of Vanaheim, there will be at least one story about the Ljossalfar. (I am taking a few contributions and one of them is from someone with a connection to that realm.) Frey is Vanaheim’s ambassador to Ljossalfheim and has important political duties there in addition to that. He has remarked that the Ljossalfar are “a bit odd”, but has not elaborated to me on why.
It is also worth noting that the Vanir, Ljossalfar, and Dokkalfar are not the only groups of elves out there. I know there are other elven realms, some of which are from groups that exiled from Vanaheim and made smaller settlements, some of which do not originate from the Vanir at all. I don’t know all of the elves ever, and elven culture varies wildly from realm to realm. The way you deal with the Vanir is not the way you deal with Ljossalfar is not the way you deal with Dokkalfar is not the way you deal with Elves From Elsewhere. As an example of this, the Dokkalfar keep slaves, while slavery is illegal in Vanaheim, and both realms have justifications for why they do things this way which is pretty deep-seated in the culture. (There are servants in Vanaheim, but this is different from slavery.) Indeed, Vanic culture itself differs wildly from tribe to tribe (I wrote more about the tribes in Visions of Vanaheim and encourage people to read it if it’s a subject that interests you) – as an example of this, the Hare tribe of Vanaheim is very culturally similar to Tolkien’s hobbits (right down to living in hobbit houses), and the Serpent tribe (for the most part, with a couple exceptions) lives in a series of underground caves, and the Owl tribe lives in a gigantic tree. Some tribes specialize in warfare, some in healing, some in magick, some in lore, some combinations of the above, some other things entirely. The way you can expect to be received by the Serpents (short answer: you don’t, unless you have an appointment) is not the way you will be received by the Cats or by the Wolves or the Hares or the Cranes, etc.
The Vanir also do not really fit the “high elven” stereotype – a significant portion of the population is farmer or hunter-gatherer, they frown on prissy “can’t dirty your hands” attitudes, and the society is very egalitarian as a rule, though there is some deference towards tribal chieftains. The role of Vanic royalty is ceremonial rather than political in nature (though they carry some political influence), and the current leading Vanic royalty tends to be pretty down-to-earth and not much for taking themselves seriously (the Queen and his consort wore shutter shades to last year’s Beltaine festivities; the King is well-known for getting drunk and singing bawdy drinking songs at events). The Vanir are great lovers of beauty – even practical items like weaponry and farm tools tend to be a bit ornate, and the Vanir are very fond of jewelry and other adornments (and gods, Vanir are vain of their hair; Frey and Freyja once had an argument in front of me about which one of them had better hair; Clarence and Jarod spend more time on their hair than anyone I know) – and many of them are very kind and generous and hospitable, but they are also a bit “coarse” for what some might expect elves to be – swearing is pretty universal, and a very common cultural trait is brutal honesty to the point of what some might perceive as rude. (When I’ve been asked about the Vanir, a common question is “How do I know they actually like me and aren’t just pretending to like me?” Oh believe me, they won’t pretend to like you if they don’t, it’ll be pretty obvious.)
So while the Vanir are elves, the Vanir do not fit the type of what a lot of people expect elves to be like – some of it, certainly, but not all of it.