The Nature of Gods
Some view them as material, others as spiritual; some see the Gods as inter-dimensional, while others may regard them as archetypal, meteorological, etc. Because there is no 'one true path' to the Gods, any of these beliefs can be seen as valid and any way we wish to connect to them is acceptable. One thing we can be almost positive of—no matter who may be 'right' in this equation, the Gods surely do not care. Because Odinists/Asatruar do not feel that we must spend every waking hour trying to 'prove' that our religion is the correct one, we typically do not bother with petty squabbles over who is right and who is wrong. We simply live our faith, in the best way that we can, and help others to do the same.
Because of this difference of opinion, however, we will not focus our discussion on what Gods are made of or whether or not they exist, but on our relationship with them and how we forge a bond with them as members of our families. And this is the key: family. For so long scholars viewed our faith as a community of isolated cults, divided in ancient times to serve individual deities while still recognizing the overall pantheon. Only recently have they started to see what was right in front of their eyes the entire time—that the Gods are family. Temples often displayed several images of deities, while the lore abounds with examples of a filial connection between each God and Goddess, as well as between Gods and men. Odin is married to Frigga, together they have the sons Thor, Baldur, and Hodur. This is a family. Thor and Sif are married and have the son Modi and the daughter Thrud together. This is a family. Freya and Odur have Hnoss, Gersemi, and Asmund; Frigga is mother of Frey, Freya, and eight other daughters with Njord, etc. We could develop an entire genealogy of the Gods and Goddesses, which would then relate to those of the early Teutonic kings who traced their family line straight to Asgard. In any case, the idea that family lies at the epicenter of all of this demonstrates how strongly this idea is associated with our faith. This also ties in with what Tacitus tells us of the ancient Germanic people: "There is nothing to be gained by childlessness in Germany."
Because our Gods are family, they love us as such, and therefore their love is authentic and true. It is a false love when we are told to love a stranger simply for being. We may tolerate them, show compassion to them, accept them, even become friends with them; but it takes time and a great deal of relationship development for us to 'love' the, at least in the way we would show a family member. Even then it would not be the same, for family is forever no matter what and even the best of friendships may be fleeting.
Nowhere in our sources is this notion of the divine family more exemplified than in the Edda when Loki insulted the Gods at Aegir's feast. It began with the Gods enjoying the holy sumbel (drinking- feast) with one another, when Loki entered to sow discord among them. Loki was an adopted member of their family at the time and was thus allowed to enter into its sanctuary, but this would be their last time in doing so. In fact, a case can be made to show how this incident played out like a trial, in which Loki was ensnared to admit his wrongdoings so that he could be punished for them. In this way the episode becomes similar to an actual Thing, like the Helthing of the dead.
In the altercation with him Idun defended her husband Bragi from Loki's terrible accusations; Frigga defended her husband Odin, Freya defended her mother Frigga, Njord defended his daughter Freya, and so on. Loki wished to isolate them, one-by-one, as he had in the past (as a force of entropy) in order to manipulate and continue his schemes, but here the Gods stood together (as forces of convergence), united as a family, to rid themselves of Loki once and for all. This was one of the great actions they performed to prepare themselves for Ragnarok and the subsequent renewal, when they will rule the worlds undefiled.
The symbolism shows how a family can overcome any sort of strife or division if they simply work together in love and devotion for one another, as does our God-family.
In order to fully examine the Odinic perspective of divinity, we must look at each individual family or clan of deities. Each of these has their part to play in the great cosmic order and thus each of them are equally significant to us. Beyond this, we must purview the spiritual lessons and gifts each deity has to offer us, so I here give a list of several of our principal Gods and Goddesses and how they speak to us in a spiritual context.