The word "aesir", which has come to denote the Gods, has originally a meaning of "inciters", "agitators", those who stimulate and whip up against stagnation, because there can be such a tendency towards stagnation in people, specifically in relation to home and comfort and so forth (and as much as heathenism values home and hearth, there's a reason why the word for fool is "heimsk" -- homebody. It is the viking that makes an adult out of someone, by removing them from parochial stagnation and showing them the ways of the world). The goal must be to find a way of making a home and establishing comfort in such a way that it remains dynamic, electrical, and alive, so that it is not killing the divine force of life and creativity that flows through all things. Relative to values of stagnation, they are troublemakers who stir things up in order to get the blood flowing more lustily. (No wonder Loki at first he thought he might make a home amongst them! But note his error : not troublemaking for mayhem, but for the prime spiritual good of keeping life in motion.)
Nonimperial pagan peoples, at least within the Indo-European provenance and concentric circles radiating therefrom, do not exhibit divine codification of social mores and customs, which remain the provenance of the Thing process, or in other words, the People's Assemblies. The People's Assemblies have a divine function, that of judgement, or kritik in the old sense of jury-judgement, with all the critical consciousness that involves, towards custom, and the negotiating of that into law. The negotiating of that into law : it is a dynamic process that respects custom and usage, but not in a reified sense ; a sustainable, but not a reified sense, and that is an important distinction. There are thus two terms here : custom, and judgement. Custom may tend towards law, but it is not law in a full sense until kritik, critical jury-judgement, with all its full assessment, audit-powers, and full appreciation of the good and the bad, is applied, whether that be through the legislative power of the assembly or the judgement power of a jury more specifically. The divine function is exercised in the process of kritik, but not in ever-evolving custom. But we do see such attempts to divinely codify custom in some religious traditions. We see this codification in Judaism in the Mosaic Laws. We see this codification in Islam with the laws of Allah and the Sharia law. We see this codification in the Bahai faith in its codes of morality. All this does is reify forms which are themselves social compromises or treaties from previous social developments, while not facilitating their further development, as things are always in development, and even providing for amendment processes, which is very important, if not done in a dynamic way, can still be obstructive. Usage, habit, which people fall into, is part of life. Habit and courtesy are the ways in which societies primarily regulate themselves, and only secondarily with oversight by state organizations (when they develop to the state level), but it's important not to reify this, yet codification does this in an obstructive sense. The customs of the people are not divine. They are human. They are understandable compromises made in the process of social struggle over meaningful arenas, but since everything is in motion at all times, Wyrd will not remain confined to customs, and therefore custom cannot remain so confined. This means that Gothis or priests of the Aesir must also be inciters of their people to social movement and dynamism. When we think in these terms, Socrates' service to Apollo, whose oracle of Delphi told him he was the wisest man in Athens, consisted precisely in his being, as he put it, a "gadfly", which was a kind of fly that bit horses and woke them up with a "sting" when they were sleeping. Inciters awaken, and not always pleasantly.
The observations of Caesar and Tacitus that the Germanic people as a whole were just beginning to move from a pastoral stage to an agricultural stage is very important. Even if archaeology indicates a long tenure of agriculture in the area, the classical observation suggests that there was some sort of pastoralist movement that was fairly prominent amongst the Germanic peoples of that time. What exactly caused this we don't know. There may have been various movements of people, and so forth, in which people were uprooted, that supported some movement towards pastoralism, but it would appear there was a fairly strong thrust towards it. Now if we look at what Morris Berman has provided us with in his synthetic analysis of pastoral peoples is that pastoralism, while being derivative from agriculture, is often a movement against agriculture, in the sense that it is a movement against the stagnation and settling down that is a tendency of agricultural societies, and a movement towards agitation, social mobility, and freedom. The fact that this was on the move in some of the formative periods of Germanic paganism is significant inasmuch as it has impacted upon the theology of these peoples. In fact, it has. It has a long history and rooting in the ultimate pastoral origins of the Indo-European peoples that can be seen across many Indo-European branches. The very concept of "wod" that we see incorporated into Woden indicates this storming, moving, dynamic kind of energy, which in and of itself might be anomalous to find in a fully settled, agricultural nation, and it may very well be that the notion of the pact between the Vanir and the Aesir may be a reflection in the religious realm of compromises between pastoral and agricultural modes of production, with the pastoral, mobile, nomadic element in the ascendancy, even though, as we have seen, in the war between the Aesir and the Vanir, the Vanir prevailed on the field, actually. They held the dominant forces, as might an agricultural nation that was invaded by a minority of pastoralists -- assuming that that is what happened, although it is one recurring theory -- another is that pastoralism developed as a revolutionary movement against agriculturalism, and those two theories are not mutually exclusive -- they could have happened together in various forms. Yet despite the dominance of the Vanir in terms of numbers and therefore the infantry on the battlefields of that war, ultimately Odin, after a period of exile, was accepted back in, because the people saw the value of the Aesir. There was an exile of the nomadic elements, but they were brought back in because they were seen as valuable and essential to the divine alchemy, and this is surely, in the ideal realm of virtue, a reflection of social forces. This is very significant, because it infuses Germanic-Scandinavian paganism with a dynamism that is very important, and which imparts to it an almost modern feel. We understand that the dynamism of pastoral, nomadic peoples is very different than the dynamism of an industrial system, and yet, there is a degree to which industrialism, on a higher level, stimulates and integrates to some degree a nomadic mobility , which is why it has been opposed by so many settled forces. Revolutions have built themselves upon this mobile basis, whereas fascist organizations have always tried to support the more settled modes. This may be why it was under the domination of the Vanir during Odin's exile that Ermanerich, a more imperialist, dominating king, was able to come into such power and dominance. There may be archetypally here, symbolically, impregnated a very important message, that we need to be careful about too settled a way of life, that the "peace" of the Vanir tends towards a more settled kind of peace which, taken to an extreme, can become its opposite, by becoming a compelling towards domination, which as we know, can generate war in a civilized dynamic.
The existence of a priesthood, and specifically a priesthood of poets, or songsmiths, as Ynglingasaga puts it, is the concept of rallying the people around a more inspired segment of the population, more inspired and therefore more advanced. There is a kind of dual relationship, or bicameralism, if you will, between the vanguard function of the priesthood, whose job it is to stay inspired by the dynamic, inciting forces of life, and the people, particularly as assembled in their sovereign People's Assemblies, so that the people make their decisions, but they are guided by the inspiration of the more advanced segments of the population. They are not advanced in the sense of being elitist, but just in the sense of being more forward thinking, more on the pulse of dynamic turbulence, and so forth, in which everyone can come into the movement. It is a nonexclusive kind of advanced segment. It aims at rallying, rather than excluding, other segments, and of course, debate happens over this in the People's Assemblies, and through this kind of debate, there will come to be a social and legal dynamism, as more conservative forces struggle against more advanced forces. And we need that struggle -- and not only do we need that struggle, but more specifically and critically, we need that struggle to be led by advanced elements, the songsmiths, inspired by the Inciters. This is how life is driven onwards towards progress.