A look into the History and Culture of the Viking Age look into the History and Culture of the Viking Age ... An example written by Arnor Thordarson ... resources and land, ...
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Bronze statuette possibly representing the god Thor. National Museum of Iceland, Reykjavk Who Were the Vikings? A look into the History and Culture of the Viking Age Week 5: May 22nd, 2015 This Week Catching Up on Viking Art Mythology and religion The basics of Nordic mythology Pagan religious practice? Christianisation in a nutshell Mythology Religion Viking Art Oseberg Style Viking Ship Museum, Oslo, Norway Oseberg Style Viking Ship Museum, Oslo, Norway Borre Style Cultural History Museum, Oslo, Norway Jellinge Style National Museum of Denmark, Copenhagen Moesgrd Museum, Denmark Moesgrd Museum, Denmark Moesgrd Museum, Denmark Mammen Style National Museum of Denmark, Copenhagen National Museum of Denmark, Copenhagen National Museum of Denmark, Copenhagen National Museum of Denmark, Copenhagen Ringerike Style Historical Museum, Stockholm, Sweden Kulturen Museum, Lund, Sweden National Museum of Denmark, Copenhagen Urnes Style Urnes, Norway Ribes Vikinger museum, Ribe, Denmark Ribes Vikinger museum, Ribe, Denmark National Museum of Denmark, Copenhagen Gotlands Fornsal Museum, Visby, Gotland, Sweden Viking Art Interlace, but not geometric or symmetrical. Animal motifs, not plants. Human figures. Both narrative and decorative. Viking Ship Museum, Oslo, Norway Moesgrd Museum, Denmark University Museum, Bergen, Norway University Museum, Bergen, Norway The Great Beast Jelling Museum, Denmark The Gripping Beast University Museum, Bergen, Norway Trial pieces Viking Ship Museum, Roskilde, Denmark Trial pieces Viking Ship Museum, Roskilde, Denmark Kulturen Museum, Lund, Sweden Bunge Museum, Gotland, Sweden Gotlands Fornsal Museum, Visby, Gotland, Sweden Gotland, Sweden National Museum of Denmark, Copenhagen Mythology and Religion in Popular Culture Terrible weak beer, Sweden Marvel Studios Chris Hemsworths gratuitous shirtlessness, courtesy of Marvel Studios Thor? Stargate SG-1, MGM Marvel Studios Mythology and Religion: Sources Snorri Sturluson (1179 1241) Prose Edda or Younger Edda (also Snorra Edda) Preserving and explaining poetic and literary techniques, cultural heritage. In explaining kennings, delves into quite a lot of mythology. How to reconcile the Pagan past with Christianity? Euhemerism Saga Museum, Reykjavk, Iceland Mythology and Religion: Sources Kennings in Skaldic poetry. An example written by Earl Rgnvaldr of Orkney (12th century), in praise of the Viscountess Ermengard of Narbonne: Its a fact, wise woman, that your hair is prettier than that of the ladies with locks like Frodis meal. The prop of the hawk-field lets hair like golden silk fall onto her shoulders; I redden the eagles claws. (Frodis meal = gold; hawk-field = arm, resting place of the hawk, its prop = woman; redden the eagles claws = provide the eagle with food in the form of corpses = be a victorious warrior and kill many enemies) Translation: Judith Jesch Mythology and Religion: Sources Kennings in Skaldic poetry. An example written by Arnor Thordarson (11th century), in praise of Thorfinn, earl of Orkney: Bright sun will become black, earth will sink into dark sea, Austris burden will break, waves will cover mountains before a better chieftain than Thorfinn will be raised in these isles; may God help that liege of his hall-troop. (Austris burden = the sky; these isles = Orkney and Shetland) Translation: Judith Jesch Mythology and Religion: Sources The Poetic Edda contains mythological poems. With Snorra Edda, one of our most important sources. References to Norse gods and goddesses scattered throughout Old Norse literature. Scandinavian writings: Saxo Grammaticus. External references, such as Adam of Bremen, Ibdn Fadlan Place names and personal names: Tor-/Thor-; Odin-/Oden-; Frey-/Fr- etc. (Odense, Denmark; Thorsteinn/Torsten; Torslunda, Sweden; Trshavn, Faroe Islands, etc.) Mythology and Religion: Sources Cognates and linguistic artefacts, such as the days of the week: Tuesday = the day of Tiw = Tiwaz = Tyr (a god) Wednesday = the day of Wodan = Odin (a god) Thursday = the day of Thor (a god) Friday = the day of Frigg (a goddess) Archaeology Statuettes and amulets/pendants Sacrifices Temples????? Iconography Carvings English hybrid carvings (Cumbria) Gotlandic picture stones Basic Cosmology Nine worlds linked by the World Tree From Kevin Crossley-Hollands The Penguin Book of Norse Myths: Gods of the Vikings Mythology: a Few Basics Creation myths: the world created out of fire and ice; the physical world from the body of the giant Ymir. Two main races of gods: the Vanir (fertility gods), the sir (war gods). They come together in a truce after a bitter struggle and stalemate. The main enemies of the Gods (and of people) are the Giants, forces of primal chaos. The end of the world is foretold as a battle between the Gods and Giants called Ragnark. A new world will be reborn afterwards. Lokis role Mythology: a Few Basics Other inhabitants of the worlds: The Giants: enemies of the Gods, but Norns: goddesses of fate Dwarves: dwellers of the underground, unsurpassed craftsmen Elves: sort of all-purpose spirits more folkloric than properly mythological. Dsir: female guardian spirits Mythology: a Few Basics Valkyries: Choosers of the Slain. Female warrior spirits who work for Odin, and select the worthy dead on battlefields and escort them to Valhalla, welcome them, tend to them. Some shape-shifting powers? (Swan maidens) The role of the Valkyrie evolves in literature, sometimes just mortal women warriors. Silver Valkyrie statuette from Hrby, Denmark (9th c.) The Main Gods: Odin, the Allfather One-eyed, wears a broad-brimmed hat, carries a spear. Shape-shifter who can change gender. God of magic, war and death, wisdom, poetry, leadership. The Mead of Poetry, Mimirs Head Master of seir. Does this statuette represent Odin?... The Main Gods: Odin, the Allfather Accompanied by two ravens, Huginn (Thought) and Muninn (Memory). Also accompanied by wolves. Ravens & wolves: beasts of battle. Rides Sleipnir, the 8-legged horse. Serves Fate and the Bigger Picture: can be deceitful. Odin, from an 18th c. Icelandic manuscript. Odin, the Allfather Sends Valkyries to choose the souls of the slain in battle to come to Valhalla Valhll in preparation for Ragnark. Self-sacrifice on the World Tree To gain wisdom and the knowledge of Runes. Christian overtones? Illustration from 1832 Silver statuette found at Lejre, Denmark (only in 2009!) Does this statuette represent Odin dressed as a woman?... The Main Gods: Thor, the Protector Son of Odin. Big, strong, re-bearded. Not the sharpest tool in the shed. Quick to anger, but quick to laugh. Defender of humans and gods against the giants. Wields the hammer Mjllnir, a treasure made by Dwarfs. It always returns to his hand. Many tales of his strength. Does this statuette represent Thor? National Museum of Iceland, Reykjavk The Main Gods: Thor, the Protector Rides across the sky in a chariot pulled by goats. The rumbling of his chariot is heard as thunder. When his hammer strikes, the sparks it causes are seen as lightning. Thor, from an 18th c. Icelandic manuscript. The Main Gods: Freyr, the Bountiful One of the Vanir: a fertility god. Particularly associated with human fertility and good harvests: he is represented with an erect phallus (usually oversized), and associated with the sickle (harvest). Rides a golden boar called Gullinbursti, made by the Dwarfs. Has a ship, Siblanir, which can be folded up and tucked into a pocket. Brother of Freyja. Does this statuette represent Freyr? Statuette from Rllinge, Sweden. Historical Museum, Stockholm. Odin, Thor and Freyr? Gotlandic picture stone, Historical Museum, Stockholm, Sweden The Main Gods: Loki, the Trickster Son of two giants, god of mischief and cunning. Shape-shifter who can change gender. He is the father of the wolf Fenrir, the Midgard Serpent, and the goddess Hel. He is the mother of the horse Sleipnir. Loki, from an 18th c. Icelandic manuscript. The Main Gods: Loki, the Trickster Goes from being an entertaining trickster figure to the consummate traitor. He sets in motion a series of events that brings about Ragnark, the End of the World. At Ragnark, he fights alongside the giants against the gods. Loki, guiding the blind Hr to kill Baldr, from an 18th c. Icelandic manuscript. Does this stone represent Loki? Moesgrd Museum, Denmark Moesgrd Museum, Denmark The Main Goddesses: Frigg, the mother Wife of Odin. Mother Goddess, associated with many domestic occupations (especially textile work, notably spinning) and childbirth. She is the chief goddess. Illustration from 1895 The Main Goddesses: Freyja One of the Vanir, a fertility goddess. Goddess of love and passion, sensuality, sex, fertility, but also death and magic. After Odin, probably has the most de facto power in the Norse pantheon. Gets a share of the souls of the dead. Does this figurine represent Freyja? Figurine from Hgebyhga, Sweden. The Main Goddesses: Freyja Rides across the sky in a chariot drawn by cats. Of unparalleled beauty: the giants are always trying to get a hold of her. Her most prized treasure is the necklace Brisingamen, another treasure of the Dwarfs. Associated with gold, amber and the Milky Way. Illustration from 1901 The Main Goddesses: Idunn Goddess of youth and life. Innocent and trusting, the maiden goddess. She guards the Golden Apples that give the gods immortality and youth. Statue from 1858 The Main Goddesses: Hel Daughter of Loki. Goddess of the Underworld, whence we get our word Hell. Her realm is a cold, dark place, for those who die than in battle. She is represented as half beautiful young woman, half decaying corpse. Illustration from 1881 Gotlandic picture stone, Historical Museum, Stockholm, Sweden Sleipnir, Odins eight-legged horse. Gotlandic picture stone, Historical Museum, Stockholm, Sweden Gotlandic picture stone, Historical Museum, Stockholm, Sweden Sleipnir, Odins eight-legged horse. Gotlandic picture stone, Historical Museum, Stockholm, Sweden The Fishing Stone, Gosforth church, Cumbria, England The Fishing Stone, Gosforth church, Cumbria, England Gosforth Cross Loki bound, Gosforth Cross, Cumbria, England Varr forcing open the mouth of the wolf Fenrir, Gosforth Cross, Cumbria, England The Differences between Mythology and Religion We know of mythological narratives and characters, and certain beliefs. BUT we know very little, if anything at all, about actual religious practice (temples?). Allusions in Christian sources (e.g. sacrifices, sculpted idols, magic/shamanism, eating horseflesh) but are they trustworthy accounts? They might reflect Christian attitudes rather than Pagan ones The Differences between Mythology and Religion What evidence do we actually have of religion/ritual? Pre-Viking Age: sacrifices in bogs/wetlands Conspicuous practices on high-status sites? Guldgubbar, conspicuous bone deposits, figural representations... Cult houses (Borg, Sanda, Uppkra in Sweden...) Not built like regular houses. Animal sacrifices? Yes. Good evidence. Human sacrifice? Yes, especially in burial context (slaves accompany their masters in death?). But NOT on a large scale. Possible reconstruction of the cult house at Uppkra (Skne, Sweden) Hofstair, near lake Mvatn, northern Iceland Hofstair, near lake Mvatn, northern Iceland The Differences between Mythology and Religion Popular folklore and mythology and mythological narrative do not equate with religious practice. For example: knowing a Christian parable, or a narrative element of the Old or New testament (e.g. the Flood, the Nativity) does not give any information about Christian religious service, mass, dogmatic points like the Eucharist, denominational differences, etc. The Differences between Mythology and Religion Beware the hasty use of the word worship About popular mythology: Imagine the following The Differences between Mythology and Religion Imagine the following A Sky God: male, bearded, fatherly Represented riding in a sky chariot drawn by beasts Associated with the consumption of a special beverage 1872 Neil Oliver (clip from BBC documentary Vikings (2012), part 1) Paganism vs. Christianity How much conflict was there? Early Christian victims of raids (monastic sites): bad press. The Anglo-Saxon view: Vikings as the Scourge of God. Monotheism vs. Polytheism: dogmatic exclusivity vs. pluralism. Early raids are for treasure, resources and land, NOT religiously motivated. What about Thors Hammer pendants? An inspiration, rather than an antagonistic reaction Moesgrd Museu, Denmark National Museum of Denmark, Copenhagen Historical Museum, Stockholm, Sweden Historical Museum, Stockholm, Sweden Hedeby Viking Museum (Wikinger Museum Haithabu), Haithabu, Germany Hedeby Viking Museum (Wikinger Museum Haithabu), Haithabu, Germany National Museum of Denmark, Copenhagen University Museum, Bergen, Norway National Museum of Iceland, Reykjavk Christian Conversion In all cases, religious conversion is above all a POLITICAL phenomenon (& military and economic factors) In Denmark, Sweden and Norway, conversion is a top-down phenomenon starting with the highest lites (kings). In Iceland, it is a legal decision, nonetheless dominated by and oligarchy of powerful land-owning lites. Christianisation brings political, economic and cultural changes. Centralization of power, state-building Everything gets closer to the European model: the end of the Viking Age. Ribe cathedral, Denmark early 12th c. English influence. Lund cathedral, Sweden (formerly Denmark) early 12th c. Urnes stave church, Norway, late 11th / early 12th c. Interlace decoration in the eponymous Urnes-style carved in wood on the portal of the Urnes stave church (late 11th/early 12th c.), Norway Heddal stave church, Norway, 13th c. Borgund stave church, Norway, late 12th c. Borgund stave church, Norway, late 12th c. Interior Borgund stave church, Norway, late 12th c. Interior
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