Old Norse religion
Norse religion refers to the religious traditions of the Norsemen prior to the Christianization of Scandinavia, specifically during the Viking Age. Norse religion is a folk religion and it was the northern variation of the religion practiced in the lands inhabited by the Germanic tribes across most of Northern and Central Europe prior to Roman and Holy Roman incursions. However, it was not formalized nor categorized as a subset of Germanic paganism until it was described by outsiders who came into contact with native practitioners. The Norse - or people of Scandinavia - have always had contact with cultures outside Scandinavia. They were well aware of foreign religions and they traded and sometimes worked as henchmen for other cultures, including the Romans. Most titles bestowed upon Norse religion are the ones which were used to describe the religion in a competitive manner, some of these terms were hedendom, Heathenry or Pagan. A more romanticized name for Norse religion is the medieval Icelandic term Forn Siðr or Old Custom, knowledge about Norse religion has been gathered from archaeological discoveries and from literature produced after the Christianization of Scandinavia.
The literary sources that reference Norse paganism were written after the religion had declined, the vast majority of this came from 13th-century Iceland, where Christianity had taken longest to gain hold because of its remote location. The key literary texts for the study of Norse religion are the Prose Edda by Snorri Sturluson, the Gesta Danorum by Saxo Grammaticus and the Poetic Edda, by an unknown writer or writers. Saga literature informs us of the not only of the literate elite. Sagas are categorized on the basis of events described in the saga took place. Though Sagas are often mythical in nature, the ambitions are to give a realistic description of past events. Many sites in Scandinavia have yielded information about early Scandinavian culture. The oldest extant cultural examples are petroglyphs or helleristninger/hällristningar and these are usually divided into two categories according to age, hunting-glyphs and agricultural-glyphs. The hunting glyphs are the oldest and are found in Northern Scandinavia.
These finds seem to indicate an existence based on hunting and fishing. These motifs were gradually subsumed by glyphs with more zoomorphic, or perhaps religious, the glyphs from the region of Bohuslän are complemented with younger agricultural glyphs, which seem to depict an existence based more heavily on agriculture. These motifs primarily depict ships and lunar motifs, geometrical spirals and anthropomorphic beings and these finds shows several signs of rituals in a seemingly religious context, including some strong indications of human sacrifice such as the case of the Tollund Man bog body
Jacob Ludwig Carl Grimm was a German philologist and mythologist. Jacob Grimm was born in Hanau, in Hesse-Kassel and his father, Philipp Grimm, was a lawyer, but he died while Jacob was a child, and his mother was left with very small means. His mothers sister was lady of the chamber to the Landgravine of Hesse, Jacob was sent to the public school at Kassel in 1798 with his younger brother Wilhelm. In 1802, he proceeded to the University of Marburg where he studied law and his brother joined him at Marburg a year later, having just recovered from a long and severe illness, and likewise began the study of law. Up to this time, Jacob Grimm had been driven only by a general thirst for knowledge, savignys lectures awakened in him a love for historical and antiquarian investigation, which forms the structure of all his work. In the beginning of 1805, he received an invitation from Savigny, Grimm passed a very happy time in Paris, strengthening his taste for the literatures of the Middle Ages by his studies in the Paris libraries.
Towards the close of the year, he returned to Kassel, where his mother and Wilhelm had settled, the next year, he obtained a position in the war office with the very small salary of 100 thalers. One of his grievances was that he had to exchange his stylish Paris suit for a stiff uniform, but he had full leisure for the pursuit of his studies. In 1808, soon after the death of his mother, he was appointed superintendent of the library of Jérôme Bonaparte, King of Westphalia. Bonaparte appointed him an auditor to the council, while Grimm retained his superintendent post. His salary was increased in a period of time from 2000 to 4000 francs. After the expulsion of Bonaparte and the reinstatement of an elector, Grimm was appointed Secretary of Legation in 1813, accompanying the Hessian minister to the headquarters of the allied army. In 1814, he was sent to Paris to demand restitution of books carried off by the French, upon his return from Vienna, he was sent to Paris a second time to secure book restitutions.
Meanwhile, Wilhelm had received an appointment to the Kassel library, they moved the following year to Göttingen, where Jacob received the appointment of professor and librarian, and Wilhelm that of under-librarian. Jacob Grimm lectured on legal antiquities, historical grammar, literary history, and diplomatics, explained Old German poems, during this period, he is described as small and lively in figure, with a harsh voice, speaking a broad Hessian dialect. Grimm joined other academics who signed a protest against the King of Hanovers abrogation of the constitution which had established some years before. As a result, he was dismissed from his professorship and banished from the Kingdom of Hanover in 1837 and he returned to Kassel with his brother, who had signed the protest. Jacob was not under any obligation to lecture and he seldom did so, during their time in Kassel, Jacob regularly attended the meetings of the academy, where he read papers on widely varied subjects
In Germanic mythology, an idis is a divine female being. Idis is cognate to Old High German itis and Old English ides, connections have been assumed or theorized between the idisi and the North Germanic dísir, female beings associated with fate, as well as the amended place name Idistaviso. One of the two Old High German Merseburg Incantations call upon female beings—idisi—to bind and hamper an army. The incantation reads, Once the Idisi sat, sat here and there, some bound fetters, some hampered the army, some untied fetters, Escape from the fetters, in line 1259 of the Old English poem Beowulf, Grendels Mother is introduced as an ides,1258. The idisi mentioned in the first Merseburg Incantation are generally considered to be valkyries, rudolf Simek says that these Idisi are obviously a kind of valkyrie, as these have the power to hamper enemies in Norse mythology and points to a connection with the valkyrie name Herfjötur. Hilda Ellis Davidson compares the incantation to the Old English Wið færstice charm, in addition, the place name Idisiaviso where forces commanded by Arminius fought those commanded by Germanicus at the Battle of the Weser River in 16 CE.
Simek points to a connection between name Idisiaviso, the role of the Idisi in one of the two Merseburg Incantations, and valkyries. The disir are explicitly called dead women in Atlamál 28 and a belief that the disir were the souls of dead women underlies the landdísir of Icelandic folklore. Jacob Grimm proposes a connection to the name of the Norse goddess Iðunn. Grimm states that with the original form idis the goddess Idunn may possibly be connected
A variant of the Germanic paganism found across much of north-western Europe, it encompassed a heterogeneous variety of disparate beliefs and cultic practices, with much regional variation. Anglo-Saxon paganism was a belief system, focused around a belief in deities known as the ése. The most prominent of these deities was probably Woden, other prominent gods included Thunor, there was a belief in a variety of other supernatural entities which inhabited the landscape, including elves and dragons. There is some evidence for the existence of temples, although other cultic spaces might have been open-air. The belief system included ideas about magic and witchcraft. The deities of this provided the basis for the names of the days of the week in the English language. What is known about the religion and its accompanying mythology have since influenced both literature and Modern Paganism, the word pagan is a Latin term that was used by Christians in Anglo-Saxon England to describe non-Christians. These pagan belief systems would have been inseparable from other aspects of daily life and they suggested that early Anglo-Saxon Christianity had a similar structure, although acknowledged that this would be a controversial notion.
As a phenomenon, it appeared to lack any rules or consistency, exhibiting regional variation, the archaeologist Aleks Pluskowski suggested that it is possible to talk of multiple Anglo-Saxon paganisms. Also adopting the categories of Gustav Mensching, she described Anglo-Saxon paganism as a religion, in that they concentrated on survival. Using the expressions paganism or heathenism when discussing pre-Christian belief systems in Anglo-Saxon England is problematic, many early scholars of the Anglo-Saxon period used the terms to describe the religious beliefs in England before its conversion to Christianity in the 7th century. Several scholars criticised the use of the term in this context, the term pre-Christian religion avoids the judgemental connotations of paganism and heathenism but is not always chronologically accurate. The pre-Christian society of Anglo-Saxon England was non-literate, thus there is no contemporary written evidence of the Anglo-Saxon practice of paganism. Far fewer textual records discuss Anglo-Saxon paganism than the belief systems found in nearby Ireland, Francia.
There is no neat, formalised account of Anglo-Saxon pagan beliefs as there is for instance for Classical mythology, although many scholars have used Norse mythology as a guide to understanding the beliefs of pre-Christian Anglo-Saxon England, caution has been expressed as to the utility of this approach. As Stenton noted, the connection between Anglo-Saxon and Scandinavian paganism occurred in a past which was already remote at the time of the Anglo-Saxon migration to Britain. Moreover, there was clear diversity among the pre-Christian belief systems of Scandinavia itself, Old English place-names provide some insight into the pre-Christian beliefs and practices of Anglo-Saxon England. Some of these place-names reference the names of deities, while others use terms that refer to cultic practices that took place there
Heathenry (new religious movement)
Heathenry, termed Heathenism or Germanic Neopaganism, is a modern Pagan religion. Classified as a new movement, its practitioners model their faith on the pre-Christian belief systems adhered to by the Germanic peoples of Iron Age. To reconstruct these past belief systems, Heathenry uses surviving historical, although lacking a unified theology, Heathenry is typically polytheistic, centering on a pantheon of deities from pre-Christian Germanic Europe which includes both gods and goddesses. It adopts cosmological views from these religions, including an animistic view of the cosmos in which the natural world is imbued with spirits. The faiths deities and these spirits are honored in sacrificial rites known as blóts in which food and these are often accompanied by symbel, the act of ceremonially toasting the gods with an alcoholic beverage. Heathen ethical systems place great emphasis on honor, personal integrity, a central division within the Heathen movement surrounds the issue of race. Many groups eschew racialist ideas, adopting a universalist perspective which holds that the religion is open to all, some folkish Heathens further combine the religion with explicitly racist and white supremacist perspectives.
Although the term Heathenry is used widely to describe the religion as a whole, many groups prefer different forms of designation, influenced by their regional focus and their attitude to race. While a number of groups venerating Scandinavian deities use Ásatrú or Forn Sed, the religions origins lie in the 19th and early 20th century Romanticist movement which glorified the pre-Christian beliefs of Germanic societies. In the 1970s, new Heathen groups emerged in Europe and North America, in recent decades, the Heathen movement has been the subject of academic study by scholars active in the field of Pagan studies. Scholarly estimates put the number of Heathens at no more than 20,000 worldwide, with communities of practitioners being active in Europe, North America, scholars of religious studies classify Heathenry as a new religious movement, and more specifically as a reconstructionist form of modern Paganism. Heathenry is a movement to revive and/or reinterpret for the present day the practices, practitioners seek to revive these past belief systems by using surviving historical source materials.
Some Heathens adopt ideas from the evidence of pre-Christian Northern Europe and from recorded folk tales. Some, for instance, adapt their practices according to unverified personal gnosis that they have gained through spiritual experiences, others draw inspiration from the beliefs and practices of a specific geographical area and chronological period within Germanic Europe, such as Anglo-Saxon England or Viking Age Iceland. The anthropologist Murphy Pizza suggested that Heathenry could be understood as an example of what the historian Eric Hobsbawm termed an invented tradition, no central religious authority exists to impose a particular terminological designation on all practitioners. Academics studying the religion have typically favoured the terms Heathenry and Heathenism to describe it and this term is the most commonly used option by practitioners in the United Kingdom, with growing usage in North America and elsewhere. Many practitioners favor the term Heathen over Pagan because the term originated among Germanic languages.
A further term used in academic contexts is Germanic Neopaganism
Hengist and Horsa
Hengist and Horsa are legendary brothers said to have led the Angles and Jutes in their invasion of Britain in the 5th century. Tradition lists Hengist as the first of the Jutish kings of Kent, according to early sources Hengist and Horsa arrived in Britain at Ebbsfleet on the Isle of Thanet. For a time served as mercenaries for Vortigern, King of the Britons. Horsa was killed fighting the Britons, but Hengist successfully conquered Kent, a figure named Hengest, who may be identifiable with the leader of British legend, appears in the Finnsburg Fragment and in Beowulf. Legends of horse-associated founding brothers are attested among other Germanic peoples, as a result, scholars have theorized a pan-Germanic mythological origin for Hengist and Horsa, stemming originally from divine twins found in Proto-Indo-European religion. Other scholars, including J. R. R. Tolkien, have argued for a basis for Hengist. The Old English names Hengest and Horsa mean stallion and horse respectively, the original Old English word for a horse was eoh.
Eoh derives from the Proto-Indo-European base *ekwo, hence Latin equus which gave rise to the modern English words equine, Hors is derived from the Proto-Indo-European base *kurs, to run, which gave rise to hurry, harry and current. Hors eventually replaced eoh, fitting a pattern elsewhere in Germanic languages where the names of sacred animals are abandoned in favour of adjectives, for example. While the Ecclesiastical History and the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle refer to the brother as Horsa and it has been suggested that Horsa may be a pet form of a compound name with the first element horse. In his 8th century Ecclesiastical History, Bede records that the first chieftains among the Angles, Saxons and he relates that Horsa was killed in battle against the Britons and was thereafter buried in East Kent, where at the time of writing a monument still stood to him. According to Bede and Horsa were the sons of Wictgils, son of Witta, son of Wecta, the 9th century Anglo-Saxon Chronicle records that in the year 449 Hengist and Horsa were invited to Britain by Vortigern to assist his forces in fighting the Picts.
They landed at Eopwinesfleot, and went on to defeat the Picts wherever they fought them and Horsa sent word home to Germany describing the worthlessness of the Britons, and the richness of the land and asked for assistance. Their request was granted and support arrived, more people arrived in Britain from the three powers of Germany, the Old Saxons, the Angles, and the Jutes. The Saxons populated Essex and Wessex, the Jutes Kent, the Isle of Wight, and part of Hampshire, and the Angles East Anglia and Northumbria. These forces were led by the brothers Hengist and Horsa, sons of Wihtgils, son of Witta, son of Wecta, in the entry for the year 455 the Chronicle details that Hengist and Horsa fought with Vortigern at Aylesford and that Horsa died there. Hengist took control of the kingdom with his son Esc, in 457, Hengist and Esc fought against British forces in Crayford and there slew four thousand men. The Britons left the land of Kent and fled to London, in 465, Hengest and Esc fought again at the Battle of Wippedesfleot, probably near Ebbsfleet, and slew twelve British leaders
Neck (water spirit)
The neck, nixie or nokken are shapeshifting water spirits in Germanic mythology and folklore who usually appeared in forms of other creatures. Under a variety of names, they were common to the stories of all Germanic peoples, the related English knucker was generally depicted as a wyrm or dragon, although more recent versions depict the spirits in other forms. Their sex and various transformations vary geographically, the German Nix and his Scandinavian counterparts were males. The German Nixe was a female river mermaid, the names are held to derive from Common Germanic *nikwus or *nikwis, derived from PIE *neigw. They are related to Sanskrit nḗnēkti, Greek νίζω nízō and νίπτω níptō, the form neck appears in English and Swedish. The Swedish form is derived from Old Swedish neker, which corresponds to Old Icelandic nykr, in Finnish, the word is näkki. In Old Danish, the form was nikke and in modern Danish, the Icelandic nykur is a horselike creature. In Middle Low German, it was called necker and in Middle Dutch nicker, the Old High German form nihhus meant crocodile, while the Old English nicor could mean both a water monster like those encountered by Beowulf, and a hippopotamus.
The Norwegian Fossegrim and Swedish Strömkarlen are related figures sometimes seen as by-names for the same creature, the Scandinavian version can transform himself into a horse-like kelpie, and is called a Bäckahästen, whilst the Welsh version is called the Ceffyl Dŵr. In the English county of Sussex, there are said to dwell water-wyrms called knuckers, the Word knucker is derived from the Old English nicor. English folklore contains many creatures with similarities to the Nix or Näck and these Necks include Jenny Greenteeth, the Shellycoat, Peg Powler, the Bäckahästen-like Brag, and the Grindylow. The Scandinavian näcken, näkki, nøkk were male water spirits who played enchanted songs on the violin, nøkker are said to grow despondent if they do not have free, regular contact with a water source. The Norwegian Fossegrim or Grim, Swedish strömkarl, is a figure who, if properly approached, will teach a musician to play so adeptly that the trees dance. It is difficult to describe the appearance of the nix.
Perhaps he did not have any true shape and he could show himself as a man playing the violin in brooks and waterfalls but could appear to be treasure or various floating objects or as an animal—most commonly in the form of a brook horse. The modern Scandinavian names are derived from an Old Norse nykr, likely the brook horse preceded the personification of the nix as the man in the rapids. Fossegrim and derivatives were almost always portrayed as beautiful young men. The enthralling music of the nøkk was most dangerous to women and children, especially pregnant women and he was thought to be most active during Midsummers Night, on Christmas Eve and on Thursdays
Midgard is the name for Earth inhabited by and known to humans in early Germanic cosmology, and specifically one of the Nine Worlds in Norse mythology. This name occurs in Old Norse literature as Miðgarðr, in Old Saxon Heliand it appears as Middilgard and in Old High German poem Muspilli it appears as Mittilagart. The Gothic form Midjungards is attested in the Gospel of Luke as a translation of the Greek word οἰκουμένη, the word is present in Old English epic and poetry as Middangeard, transformed to Middellærd or Mittelerde in Middle English literature. All these forms are from a Common Germanic *midja-gardaz, a compound of *midja- middle and *gardaz yard, in early Germanic cosmology, the term stands alongside world, from a Common Germanic compound *wira-alđiz literally the age of men. Midgard is a realm in Norse mythology and it is one of the Nine Worlds of North Mythology—the only one that is completely visible to mankind. Pictured as placed somewhere in the middle of Yggdrasil, Midgard is between the land of Niflheim—the land of ice—to the north and Muspelheim—the land of fire—to the south, Midgard is surrounded by a world of water, or ocean, that is impassable.
The ocean is inhabited by the sea serpent Jörmungandr, who is so huge that he encircles the world entirely. The concept is similar to that of the Ouroboros, Midgard was connected to Asgard, the home of the gods, by the Bifröst, the rainbow bridge, guarded by Heimdallr. Aurgelmirs skull was held by four dwarfs, Sudri and Vestri, the sun and stars were said to be scattered sparks in the skull. According to the Eddas, Midgard will be destroyed at Ragnarök, Jörmungandr will arise from the ocean, poisoning the land and sea with his venom and causing the sea to rear up and lash against the land. The name middangeard occurs half a dozen times in the Old English epic poem Beowulf, the term is equivalent in meaning to the Greek term Oikoumene, as referring to the known and inhabited world. The concept of Midgard occurs many times in Middle English, the association with earth in Middle English middellærd, middelerde is by popular etymology, the continuation of geard enclosure is yard. An early example of transformation is from the Ormulum, þatt ure Drihhtin wollde / ben borenn i þiss middellærd that our Lord wanted / be born in this middle-earth
Wayland the Smith
In Norse mythology, Wayland the Smith is a legendary master blacksmith, described by Jessie Weston as the weird and malicious craftsman, Weyland. In Old Norse sources, Völundr appears in Völundarkviða, a poem in the Poetic Edda, and in Þiðrekssaga, in Old English sources, he appears in Deor, Waldere and in Beowulf and the legend is depicted on the Franks Casket. He is mentioned in the German poems about Theoderic the Great as the Father of Witige, according to Völundarkviða, the king of the Sami people had three sons, Völundr and his two brothers Egil and Slagfiðr. In one version of the myth, the three lived with three Valkyries, Ölrún, Hervör alvitr and Hlaðguðr svanhvít. After nine years, the Valkyries left their lovers and Slagfiðr followed, never to return. In another version, Völundr married the swan maiden Hervör, and they had a son, Heime, in both versions, his love left him with a ring. In the former myth, he forged seven hundred duplicates of this ring, King Niðhad captured Völundr in his sleep in Nerike and ordered him hamstrung and imprisoned on the island of Sævarstöð.
There Völundr was forced to forge items for the king, völundrs wifes ring was given to the kings daughter, Böðvildr. In revenge, Völundr killed the kings sons when they visited him in secret, fashioned goblets from their skulls, jewels from their eyes, and he sent the goblets to the king, the jewels to the queen and the brooch to the kings daughter. When Bodvild took her ring to Wayland for mending, he took the ring and raped her and he escaped, using wings he made. Völundr made the magic sword Gram and the ring that Thorsten retrieved. The Old English poem Deor, which recounts the famous sufferings of various figures before turning to those of Deor, its author, begins with Welund, Welund tasted misery among snakes. The stout-hearted hero endured troubles had sorrow and longing as his companions cruelty cold as winter - he often found woe Once Nithad laid restraints on him and that went by, so can this. That went by, so can this, Weland had fashioned the mail shirt worn by Beowulf according to lines 450–455 of the epic poem of the same name, No need to lament for long or lay out my body.
If the battle takes me, send back this breast-webbing that Weland fashioned and Hrethel gave me, fate goes ever as fate must. The Franks Casket is one of a number of other Old English references to Wayland, whose story was well known and popular. Below the forge is the body of Niðhads son, who Wayland has killed, making a goblet from his skull. With his other hand Wayland offers the goblet, containing drugged beer, to Böðvildr, Niðhads daughter, another female figure is shown in the centre, perhaps Waylands helper, or Bodvild again
In Norse mythology, a valkyrie is one of a host of female figures who choose those who may die in battle and those who may live. Selecting among half of those who die in battle, the valkyries bring their chosen to the hall of the slain, Valhalla. There, the deceased warriors become einherjar, when the einherjar are not preparing for the events of Ragnarök, the valkyries bear them mead. They appear throughout the poetry of skalds, in a 14th-century charm, scholarly theories have been proposed about the relation between the valkyries, the norns, and the dísir, all of which are supernatural figures associated with fate. Archaeological excavations throughout Scandinavia have uncovered amulets theorized as depicting valkyries, in modern culture, valkyries have been the subject of works of art, musical works, video games and poetry. The word valkyrie derives from Old Norse valkyrja, which is composed of two words, the noun valr and the verb kjósa, they mean chooser of the slain. The Old Norse valkyrja is cognate to Old English wælcyrge, from the Old English and Old Norse forms, philologist Vladimir Orel reconstructs a Proto-Germanic form, *wala-kuzjōn.
However, the term may have been borrowed into Old English from Old Norse, other terms for valkyries in Old Norse sources include óskmey, appearing in the poem Oddrúnargrátr and Óðins meyjar, appearing in the Nafnaþulur. Óskmey may be related to the Odinic name Óski, referring to the fact that Odin receives slain warriors in Valhalla, valkyries are mentioned or appear in the Poetic Edda poems Völuspá, Grímnismál, Völundarkviða, Helgakviða Hjörvarðssonar, Helgakviða Hundingsbana I, Helgakviða Hundingsbana II and Sigrdrífumál. In stanza 30 of the poem Völuspá, a völva tells Odin that she saw valkyries coming from far away who are ready to ride to the realm of the gods. The völva follows this with a list of six valkyries, Skuld who bore a shield, Skögul, Hildr, the völva tells him she has listed the ladies of the War Lord, ready to ride, over the earth. A prose introduction in the poem Völundarkviða relates that the brothers Slagfiðr, there, early one morning, the brothers find three women spinning linen on the shore of the lake Úlfsjár, and near them were their swans garments, they were valkyries.
Two, daughters of King Hlödvér, are named Hlaðguðr svanhvít and Hervör alvitr, the brothers take the three women back to their hall with them—Egil takes Ölrún, Slagfiðr takes Hlaðguðr svanhvít and Völund takes Hervör alvitr. They live together for seven winters, until the women fly off to go to a battle, Egil goes off in snow-shoes to look for Ölrún, Slagfiðr goes searching for Hlaðguðr svanhvít and Völund sits in Úlfdalir. He finds one particularly striking, this valkyrie is detailed in a narrative as Sváva, king Eylimis daughter. The valkyrie speaks to the man, and gives him the name Helgi. The valkyrie tells him she knows of a hoard of swords in Sigarsholm, and that one of them is of particular importance, further into the poem, Atli flytes with the female jötunn Hrímgerðr. After Hrímgerðr is turned to stone by the daylight, a prose narrative continues that Helgi, Helgi and Sváva are betrothed and love one another dearly