Germanic religion and mythology

Germanic religion and mythology comprehensive sun cult and prevalent

The 2nd portion of the Elder Edda informs of traditional Germanic heroes, for example Sigurd (Siegfried) or Völundr (Wayland the Cruz). Most of the tales told there’s also known from continental Germany and England, however the Norse sources preserve them within an older and purer form. They’re of some interest for that study of faith since the gods frequently intervene within the lives of heroes.

The Icelandic and, to some lesser extent, the Norwegian manuscripts from the 13th and 14th centuries have a great majority of poetry of the quite different. This really is generally, if unjustifiably, known as skaldic poetry. The skaldic verse forms were possibly devised in Norwegian within the ninth century. They differ essentially in the traditional Germanic and Eddic forms for the reason that the syllables are strictly counted and also the lines must finish inside a given form. The skalds also used an elaborate system of alliteration, in addition to internal rhyme and consonance. With all of these constraints, their short, eight-line strophes, falling nicely into four-line half strophes, are frequently obscure due to the complexity from the syntax as well as an abstruse enunciation, creating a very extensive utilization of periphrastic metaphors known as kennings. These phrases, e.g., “Sif’s hair” or “the otter’s ransom” for “gold,” allude to a particular myths, as well as their testimony is most dependable to evaluate questionnable worship. Skaldic poetry is frequently composed in praise of chieftains of Norwegian along with other Scandinavian lands. Its authors are often named, as well as their approximate date is famous.

Following the Icelanders were transformed into Christianity, a lot of their ancient poetry survived this religious change, as did traditions about questionnable gods as well as their worship. Icelanders from the twelfth century traveled broadly and were one of the most lettered individuals Europe, studying and converting homilies, saints’ lives, along with other learned literature of Europe. Throughout the 13th century there is a revival from the Icelanders’ curiosity about the practices of the questionnable ancestors, plus individuals of the kinsfolk in Norwegian and, to some lesser extent, in Norway.

The name chiefly connected with this particular revival is Snorri Sturluson (1179–1241). Snorri acquired great wealth and received the very best education available. He grew to become a effective man in Icelandic politics, and political intrigue brought to his murder in 1241. The very first of Snorri’s works and probably the most memorable was his Prose Edda, written c. 1220. It’s for this book the title Edda, whatever its meaning, initially belonged.

Chances are that Snorri authored the different parts of this book within an order opposite to that particular that they are in possession of. He started having a poem exemplifying 102 variations of verse, addressed to Haakon, the youthful king of Norwegian, and the uncle Earl Skúli Baardson. Then he furnished a piece titled “Skáldskaparmál” (“Poetic Diction”), explaining and illustrating the abstruse allusions to gods and ancient heroes within the poetry from the skalds. Following this, he authored introducing the mythology from the north within the “Gylfaginning” (“Beguiling of Gylfi”), a piece describing all the major gods as well as their functions. Snorri labored partially from Eddic and skaldic poetry still extant, but partially from sources which are now lost. He presents a obvious, otherwise altogether reliable, account from the gods, the development of the planet, and Ragnarök.

Another essential work related to Snorri may be the Heimskringla (“Orb from the World”), past the nobleman of Norwegian right from the start towards the mid-twelfth century. The very first portion of this book, the “Ynglinga saga,” is of particular interest, for inside it, Snorri described the descent from the nobleman of Norwegian in the royal house of Norway, the Ynglingar, who, within their turn, were stated to descend from gods. Snorri used such written sources as were available also, he trusted skaldic poems, most of which were early. Snorri visited Norwegian two times and Norway once, and that he most likely used popular traditions he heard both in countries.

About the start of the 13th century Icelanders started to create so-known as family sagas, or Icelanders’ sagas i.e., lives of the ancestors who’d moved in Iceland within the late ninth century, and resided with the tenth and eleventh centuries. A great deal had recently been discussed these folks in conclusion form by Ari the Learned (c. 1067–1148) along with other scholars from the early twelfth century, but a lot more have been preserved in tradition handed lower in verse and prose.

The longevity of family sagas as causes of history has lengthy been debated with no simple answer could be given. Each saga needs to be studied individually, having a view not just to the author’s sources but additionally to his aims. A few of the authors were antiquarians and attempted to relate faithfully a brief history of the district, a household, or perhaps a hero others simply entertained by writing historic fiction.

Concerning the time once the first family sagas were written, the Dane Saxo Grammaticus, secretary of Absalon, archbishop of Lund, was compiling in Latin his great good reputation for the Danes (Gesta Danorum). The very first nine books of the work cope with the prehistory from the Danes and therefore are really past the traditional gods and heroes. Interpreting that old religion euhemeristically (i.e., by reduction of the gods to the stage of distinguished men), Saxo considered the questionnable gods chiefly as crafty men of old. His sources might have been Danish traditions and poetry now lost, but he derived a lot of his information from vagrant Icelanders, who he speaks with a few respect.

Material for example Saxo used seemed to be utilized by Icelanders some generations later within the so-known as heroic sagas (fornaldarsǫgur). Sagas of the kind describe the adventures of heroes who resided, or were designed to have resided, in Scandinavia or around the Continent before Iceland was peopled. The gods, especially Odin, are often stated to get familiar with the matters of males, but, since couple of from the heroic sagas were written prior to the fourteenth century and the purpose of their authors was frequently entertainment instead of instruction, these sagas can be used sources just with utmost discrimination.

Other sources

The archaeology of gortyn

The archaeological finds of Scandinavia are wealthy, and knowledge about faith might be attracted especially in the grave goods and types of funeral. It might, actually, be easy to trace continuity of belief in the Bronze Age towards the Viking age within the ninth and tenth centuries. Archaeological finds, however, take time and effort to interpret from the religious perspective. The various petroglyphs of southern Scandinavia, dating towards the second millennium bc, verify a comprehensive sun cult and prevalent fertility rites. Other early Bronze Age finds like the Trundholm chariot from the sun confirm these religious practices. Ship or boat graves were initially designed to carry the hidden or cremated remains of individuals place in these to the otherworld, but such practices could later have grown to be purely conventional.

Numerous small images in silver or bronze, dating in the Viking age, are also present in parts of Scandinavia. They reveal Thor together with his hammer or perhaps a fertility god with full erection, possibly Freyr frequently found is really a silver hammer, the indication of Thor, frequently worn being an amulet, such as the countless gold medals or bracteates, representing Germanic deities worshiped around the Continent as well as in Scandinavia within the 5th–6th century.

Runic inscriptions

The runic alphabet was utilized through the Germanic world starting in concerning the first century ad. The runes had magical and sacral significance. From time to time one god or any other is known as the god Thor might be known as upon to hallow a grave.


Theophoric place-names (produced from or compounded with the a god) are located in most Germanic lands. Such names supplement the limited information available concerning questionnable religion in Continental Germany and England. The theophoric place-names of Norwegian and Norway are more potent and also have been carefully sifted. Evidence attracted from their store must, however, be handled carefully. A reputation for example Thoŕslundr (“Thor’s Grove”) doesn’t always imply Thor was worshiped there, for names are frequently transferred by settlers in one spot to another, as from England to America and, within the Viking age, in the Scandinavian landmass to Iceland. Categories of theophoric place-names may, however, provide proof of the cult of 1 god or any other.


Nordic-Germanic Mythology