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They also usually wanted to get something in particular from the gods.

In human interactions, if you want to get something from someone — at least in a way that maintains a healthy relationship between the two of you — you have to give that person something in return. Since the gods were so much like humans, when humans wanted something from the gods, they had to give them something of value, too. This was the logic of sacrifice: by piously offering the gods a gift, their human worshipers hoped to receive gifts from them. This reciprocity between the gifts of the gods and humans mirrored the more strictly human reciprocity between a Viking warrior and his chieftain.

The warrior who fought bravely and loyally for his chieftain would be rewarded with his share of whatever spoils were taken in the battle or raid. Despite the unequal status between the warrior and his chieftain, and the unequal status between humans and gods, both parties in these transactions had obligations to the other that they were expected to fulfill. The warrior had obligations to his chieftain, who in turn had obligations to him; and humans had obligations to the gods, but the gods in turn had obligations to them.

But this was largely subsumed by the sense of mutual obligation; a Viking warrior could choose to whom he offered his mortal loyalty, and leave one chieftain for another if he thought that another would treat him with more generosity. As chieftains became kings and Christianity triumphed in the later part of the Viking Age, the emphasis was reversed. The relationship between the king and his fighters — which had necessarily become much more impersonal with the great increase in the number of fighters each king commanded — was spoken of in terms borrowed from Christian language.

No longer did humans and gods have reciprocal obligations to one another, in which both parties participated more or less voluntarily and held a dignified position despite their immense inequality. Looking for more great information on Norse mythology and religion?

While this site provides the ultimate online introduction to the topic, my book The Viking Spirit provides the ultimate introduction to Norse mythology and religion period. Dictionary of Northern Mythology. Translated by Angela Hall. See, for example:. Eliade, Mircea. Translated by Willard R.

The Relationship Between the Gods and Humans By this point, it should go without saying that the Norse thought of their gods as highly anthropomorphic beings — that is, they were very much like humans, just writ large. In my paper, I will discuss the borders between and the overlapping of the categories mentioned in the title. The relationship between these categories, which are defined by modern scholarship, may differ from one culture to another and it may also vary considerably how well the sources, written or oral, from different cultures fit into these categories.

Just to mention one example: In Old Norse culture mythology and heroic legends are two relatively clearly defined categories, even though there are some overlaps, while in other cultures, as for instance in Finnish and Irish, the two categories show a strong tendency to melt into one.


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The fact that there is overlap between the categories makes it reasonable to think that they can shed light on each other. A much-discussed problem, which I will address, is whether, or to what degree, folklore from more recent time can be used to shed light on Old Norse myths and religion.

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The major problem is the long distance in time between the Old Norse period and the time when folklore was written down, but there are also other factors that could influence and change the traditions, such as great cultural changes, for example a change of religion, change of genre, and influences from neighbouring cultures. The find in of an early 11 th -century rune-inscribed lead spindle whorl by a detectorist in Lincolnshire, England LIN-D92A22 , has—as interpreted by John Hines —suggested an important new parallel to the formulation known from the famous Ribe skull fragment inscription DR EM85; B.

McKinnell et al. Samnordisk Runtextdatabas. Frankfurter, David Marvin Meyer and Paul Mirecki. Leiden: E. Hines, John. Eric Cambridge and Jane Hawkes. Oxford: Oxbow Books. Runes, Magic and Religion: A Sourcebook. Vienna: Fassbaender. Skalds as Ritual Specialists? In the corpus of Old Norse skaldic poetry, three poems stand out.


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  • This seemingly suggests that these three early praise poems form a group that bridges the realms of mythology and religion on the one hand and courtly politics on the other. In this paper, I will explore whether these skaldic poems could possibly represent pre-Christian, oral religious rituals and subsequently which functions the performance of such rituals might have had to both performer and audience.

    In order to pry open the medieval written text and examine the possible pre-Christian, oral ritual framework behind it, I will utilise and present an interdisciplinary theoretical approach to the sources based on Memory Studies, Performance Studies and Ritual Studies.

    This is done in the hope of bettering our understanding of the poems, their function, and their context. Aspects of the plot of the poem suggest an orally-transmitted tradition at odds, to some degree, with the main patterns of Old Norse mythology as they have been identified through the lens of structuralism.

    The ethical world-conception of the Norse people..

    This too sheds light on the dynamism of the oral traditions behind the poetry preserved in the Codex Regius collection of poetry. A possible continuity from the pre-Christian religion of the Nordic countries to popular belief of later centuries has for long been a contested area as much as how to identify the changes in a long-term perspective. The focus of such discussions has mainly been on motifs and narrative patterns, less on religious content.

    Undeniably, there are lacunas in the material when trying to argue in any of these directions. One of the few genres that connect the medieval period with the early modern is the ballad tradition. The first volume of the text critical edition of the Swedish ballad tradition is devoted to texts dealing with the supernatural in a broad understanding of the term. The supernatural ballads constitute a rich, even if complicated from a source critical perspective, corpus of texts that has far too rarely caught the attention of the academic study of religion.

    Here we encounter supernatural beings like the elves and the nix, intentional shape-shifters who transform themselves in order to perform evil or good to their fellow human beings, returning dead and various kinds of spirits. But more than narratives that can be recognized from texts from other periods, the ballads are also characterized by the moral messages they are transmitting by means of visualizing emotions of fear, appropriate behaviour and trust in the local community.

    The Vikings! - Crash Course World History 224

    In other words: the excitement of testing the social borders and the dangers of transgressing them. The paper will discuss the very notion of religion in pre-Christian religion in its relation to folklore. I believe this recognition is of utmost importance, and must necessarily influence the way we reconstruct the pagan religion of the North.

    In this paper, then, I will apply these ideas concerning methodology to the god Freyr. In ON. Literature, troll-women crop up in a variety of shapes and functions, and the terminology is rich, with a large number of personal names of usually quite telling names in top. Their varied functions have been studied in the past, from those as seeresses Motz , , , Quinn , , Schulz to helpers McKinnell , foster-mothers McKinnell , Lozzi Gallo to caring lovers as well as dangerous antagonists.


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    But why, in quite a number of saga instances, do they turn against their own kin — their giant fathers, their troll sisters — and side with the hero? And what about their offspring with human heroes?

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    In an investigation of Viking period Gotland picture stones 8thth c. The same stencils had been repeated, mirrored and in some cases used on different stones. Sometimes attributes had been exchanged. The main aim was to study workshops and craft traditions, but the use of stencils have further implications. The use of stencils can be related to a much wider discussion, not only chronology, design and manufacturing, but also to concepts in Oral-Formulaic Theory. This perspective may shed light upon some peculiar features of the picture stones.

    Docent Frog, University of Helsinki. Is God Knowable by James Iverach.

    Nine Noble Virtues of Ásatrú

    Religion of Science by Paul Carus. The Study of Religion by Morris Jastrow. Tie Vol. Du Chaillu Vol. Tylor Vol.