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Norse Heathenry (aka Asatru, Odinism, Theodism, Forn Sed...)

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  • Darth Executor
    replied
    Originally posted by Adrift View Post
    Doesn't that seem rather high for such a small religion? Why do you think so many Heathens are atheists?
    It's fairly low for an implicitly ethnocentric religion. Just look at Judaism.

    Leave a comment:


  • Adrift
    replied
    Originally posted by London View Post
    sure my sources and citations in that post were poorly chosen although there's nothing wrong with those sources perse, read them and see Yep I googled them, I wanted to start with mainstream and easy because I was being lazy and because I wanted to see how serious you were in your quest for information regarding this topic, apologies for testing No hard feelings I hope.





    Any good book on the history of the church will give you ample sources , if they are a) good b) truthful.

    Two books I can personally recommend are James Russell's Germanization of Early Medieval Christianity, it covers the conversion topic pretty succinctly, Can't remember if he gives citations regarding the slaughters but what he does do well is look at what conversion actually meant back then. There is also Medieval Scandinavia: From Conversion to Reformation, circa 800-1500 (The Nordic Series) by Birgit Sawyer which gives some information, I'm not 100% sold on either but they might whet your appetite. How substantial and scholarly would you like?

    Anyhow as I actually like to be persnickety I will concede that some of these forced conversions were done by the Gauls, of whom Charles Martel was the leader. Admittedly he used mainly Muslim invaders to procure the lands. But where the church gets its fingers in the pie is that, through no fault of his own, he was born out of wedlock. His father being a high ranking duke, and his mother also a noble, as they were not married when he was conceived this hindered him to fully claim his father's title, or pass himself as noble.

    So of course the Bishop of Rome offered him a workaround. Well he actually offered it to Martel's grandson Charlemagne. As the Bishop of Rome was considered at that time leader of the church the buck stops there, Vis a Vis the church did it! The deal was that the bishop of Rome would ordain him (chalemagne) in the name of "god" as king of all of Europe if he would embrace Christianity and impose it upon all of his subjects. He could then claim by "divine right" that which he could not claim by blood. And thereby Charlemagne found himself in a symbiotic relationship with the church. Everywhere he conquered, he had to force everyone to convert or he couldn't establish his rule effectively.

    article web doc here

    If you read Ch 5 it specifically talks about this and yes the author cites all his sources. Is that better?




    you might find this helpful then, as I'm not sure that snorri is necessarily the best source for heathen traditions

    https://notendur.hi.is//~eybjorn/ugm...dskaparmal.pdf


    Cheers
    On most message boards I visit (and especially here on Theologyweb), its typically considered bad form to cite material without providing the source you referenced. It strikes of plagiarism and (as you admit) laziness. Generally speaking, Wikipedia is not considered a reliable source, especially when someone specifically asks for "scholarly resources". The random book review citation was probably the oddest of the bunch. Might be understandable if it were a blog post. But it was literally a paragraph long book review.

    But yeah, I know how to google, so none of that was really that helpful, and didn't show me anything I didn't already know for the most part. What I meant by my question: "do you have any scholarly resources that specify exactly when and where the church was doing these mass killings?" was, can you provide books or peer reviewed papers, that you have read or are familiar with, by reputable historians who's qualifications and primary field of research covers the period and people under discussion? Preferably work that doesn't stray too far outside the mainstream scholarly consensus.

    Per the two books you recommend here, have you actually read these books, and do they directly support your claim that: "the church was still doing mass killings as late as 1200's because some refused to convert. They executed those that would not convert, most notabley in Sweden and Norway"?

    As for Snorri, again, I'm aware of the issues with his work, but you do agree that he's an important resource for historians, right? At any rate, when I said that I've been studying the sagas this year, I wasn't referring only to Snorri's works.
    Last edited by Adrift; 02-26-2015, 03:45 PM.

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  • London
    replied
    The Saga of Olaf the Holy

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  • Carrikature
    replied
    Originally posted by Adrift View Post
    Hmm. I don't know. I had an unorthodox upbringing, and was raised to not accept pat answers to tough theological questions. Many of my Christian friends and acquaintances also have a more nuanced and intellectual view of faith. Blind faith is structurally weak, and its surprising to me that anyone could maintain that structure for very long without asking some big questions.
    At the risk of derailing this thread further, I don't disagree with you about blind faith. I have seen people ask some big questions (and often this happens at an early age). The responses tend to shut down those sorts of questions, though. We're told (and I can say we since this includes my background) that we don't need all the answers, and that we shouldn't be doubting. We're told that the Bible answers the important questions, and anything else we can just ask God someday. We're told to pray that God will help us trust him more instead of doubting. I've even heard it said that such questions are tools of the devil meant to make us stumble, but that they're tests to help us trust more completely.

    I've known people who literally believe that fossils are things God put in the ground because he knew that humans are curious, effectively turning fossils into some sort of neat toy for us to play with. I've led a bible study (when I was still a Christian) addressing how Christians spend money in terms of how the early church used their assets, watched people follow their own logical conclusions to a social welfare state then stop dead when they realize it contradicts their own worldview regarding money. They don't know how to resolve the problem, so they decide their logical conclusion must be mistaken somehow and carry on as they were before. It's a pretty simple problem to solve even from within the Bible itself, but not one of them could figure it out. "I must have been mistaken" was all the answer they needed.

    Suffice to say that it's not necessarily that big questions won't be raised, but that they are swiftly and summarily dismissed without requiring any sort of serious treatment, let alone a real answer.
    Last edited by Carrikature; 02-25-2015, 07:06 PM.

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  • Adrift
    replied
    Originally posted by Carrikature View Post
    I find it more odd that you find this odd. The vast majority of Christians I have known did not start by asking philosophical questions, even if unknowingly. Instead, those converts I have known most often match BP's description. The rest have predominantly been raised within the tenets of Christianity and may or may not ever reach a point where they can move past presuppositionalism. It's far rarer, in my experience, for a person to pursue philosophy and end up in Christianity. Most follow something close to my own story, where investigation of science, history and philosophy pushes them out of Christianity and into non-theism or some unique flavor of supernaturalism.
    Hmm. I don't know. I had an unorthodox upbringing, and was raised to not accept pat answers to tough theological questions. Many of my Christian friends and acquaintances also have a more nuanced and intellectual view of faith. Blind faith is structurally weak, and its surprising to me that anyone could maintain that structure for very long without asking some big questions.

    Leave a comment:


  • Carrikature
    replied
    Originally posted by Adrift View Post
    Odd. I'm not sure how else one would come to find their faith. Surely they asked philosophical questions, even if unknowingly, when they accepted Christianity.
    I find it more odd that you find this odd. The vast majority of Christians I have known did not start by asking philosophical questions, even if unknowingly. Instead, those converts I have known most often match BP's description. The rest have predominantly been raised within the tenets of Christianity and may or may not ever reach a point where they can move past presuppositionalism. It's far rarer, in my experience, for a person to pursue philosophy and end up in Christianity. Most follow something close to my own story, where investigation of science, history and philosophy pushes them out of Christianity and into non-theism or some unique flavor of supernaturalism.

    Leave a comment:


  • London
    replied
    Originally posted by Adrift View Post


    I was really hoping you had something more substantial than Wikipedia quotes to back your claim.
    sure my sources and citations in that post were poorly chosen although there's nothing wrong with those sources perse, read them and see Yep I googled them, I wanted to start with mainstream and easy because I was being lazy and because I wanted to see how serious you were in your quest for information regarding this topic, apologies for testing No hard feelings I hope.



    Do you have anything substantial. Preferably something not based on Wikipedia articles? Something directly sanctioned by the church? If this is the best you have, I can see now why you felt the distinction between government sanctioned and Church sanctioned "pernickety".
    Any good book on the history of the church will give you ample sources , if they are a) good b) truthful.

    Two books I can personally recommend are James Russell's Germanization of Early Medieval Christianity, it covers the conversion topic pretty succinctly, Can't remember if he gives citations regarding the slaughters but what he does do well is look at what conversion actually meant back then. There is also Medieval Scandinavia: From Conversion to Reformation, circa 800-1500 (The Nordic Series) by Birgit Sawyer which gives some information, I'm not 100% sold on either but they might whet your appetite. How substantial and scholarly would you like?

    Anyhow as I actually like to be persnickety I will concede that some of these forced conversions were done by the Gauls, of whom Charles Martel was the leader. Admittedly he used mainly Muslim invaders to procure the lands. But where the church gets its fingers in the pie is that, through no fault of his own, he was born out of wedlock. His father being a high ranking duke, and his mother also a noble, as they were not married when he was conceived this hindered him to fully claim his father's title, or pass himself as noble.

    So of course the Bishop of Rome offered him a workaround. Well he actually offered it to Martel's grandson Charlemagne. As the Bishop of Rome was considered at that time leader of the church the buck stops there, Vis a Vis the church did it! The deal was that the bishop of Rome would ordain him (chalemagne) in the name of "god" as king of all of Europe if he would embrace Christianity and impose it upon all of his subjects. He could then claim by "divine right" that which he could not claim by blood. And thereby Charlemagne found himself in a symbiotic relationship with the church. Everywhere he conquered, he had to force everyone to convert or he couldn't establish his rule effectively.

    article web doc here

    If you read Ch 5 it specifically talks about this and yes the author cites all his sources. Is that better?


    Yes. I'm relatively familiar with Nordic history. I've been studying the sagas a bit this year.
    you might find this helpful then, as I'm not sure that snorri is necessarily the best source for heathen traditions

    https://notendur.hi.is//~eybjorn/ugm...dskaparmal.pdf


    Cheers
    Last edited by London; 02-25-2015, 05:26 PM. Reason: correcting links

    Leave a comment:


  • Adrift
    replied
    Originally posted by London View Post
    I know of Technomage and his discussions.


    Not sure how pernickety we want to be about whether we attribute the killings to "The Church" or an individual who performs the atrocities in the name of Christ but here are a couple of references for starters
    I think its a pretty important distinction. There were plenty of people killing in the name of Christ who had little formal knowledge about Christ or his teachings. Most of the times these murders were done for political or financial gain.

    Ramsay MacMullen notes that in 681 a council of bishops at Toledo called on civil authorities to "seize and behead all those guilty of non-Christian practices of whatever sort."
    What's the context here? Do you have the source? How many were eventually killed?

    Bernard Walter Scholz Carolingian Chronicles: Royal Frankish Annals and Nithard's Histories. Charlmagne Massacre of Verden
    Ah, yes. This is an example of what I was talking about above. This wasn't church sanctioned (as far as I know). It was a revenge killing due to a revolt. What does Scholz say about the subject? Can you quote him?

    Wilhelm Teudt mentions the site of the massacre in his 1929 book Germanische Heiligtümer ('Germanic Shrines')
    Ah. I see you've copied that right from the Wikipedia article. Have you read his work in the subject?

    Landscape architect Wilhelm Hübotter designed a memorial that was built at a possible site for the massacre.

    Alessandro Barbero says that, regarding Charlemagne and the Massacre of Verden. The massacre "produced perhaps the greatest stain on his reputation".
    I see that these are both from the same wikipedia article as the previous one. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Massacre_of_Verden

    I was really hoping you had something more substantial than Wikipedia quotes to back your claim.

    Capitulatio de partibus Saxoniae (Latin "Ordinances concerning Saxony") is the Legal Code issued by Charlemagne and imposed upon the Saxon during the Saxon Wars in 785. The laws of the Capitulatio de partibus Saxoniae prescribe death for various Saxon infringements, including refusing to convert from their native Germanic Elder Ways to Christianity, and fines for actions deemed lesser violations. Despite the laws, the Saxons continued to reject Charlemagne's rule and attempts at Christianization, continuing to rebel even after Charlemagne's death (such as the Stellinga uprising).
    I see you've cited word-for-word this Wikipedia article for that bit of knowledge: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Capitul...tibus_Saxoniae

    Do you have anything substantial. Preferably something not based on Wikipedia articles? Something directly sanctioned by the church? If this is the best you have, I can see now why you felt the distinction between government sanctioned and Church sanctioned "pernickety".

    the conversion of the Vikings took place over centuries. Even when a Danish or Swedish king became Christian and proclaimed his people were Christian, many still practiced their pagan ways and held to the old gods. If you look at the respective countries Histories (Norway, Denmark, Sweeden, Iceland) you will find accounts of different kings and their conversions and how it filtered down to the people or not as the case may be.
    Yes. I'm relatively familiar with Nordic history. I've been studying the sagas a bit this year.

    Nordic Religions in the Viking Age by Thomas A. DuBois points out the conflict between pagan and christian religions in the Nordic regions which include the Baltic states and Finland. It is noted in this work that archaeological evidence as well as other written records bring into question the literal accuracy of portions of the sagas. In essence, parts of the sagas could be read as religious and/or political propaganda.
    I have no doubt that the sagas have been exaggerated. I'll hopefully receive a copy of his book by the end of this week. Now that I see that you have a habit of googling and then copying your sources without citation, I notice that the above quote is a direct lift from a review by a guy named Bruce from this website http://www.indiabookstore.net/isbn/9780812217148. So I take it you haven't actually read the book yourself.

    Birgit and Peter Sawyer "Why Trust the White Christ?" are considered experts on the Viking world, especially when it comes to its encounter with Christianity.
    Richard Fletcher's The Barbarian Conversion ,"Converting by the Sword" is being hailed as a landmark book on the subject
    James Marchand "Althings Work to the Good" is a well-respected translator of primary source material, like the Islendingabók
    Michael Scott Rohan and Allan Scott "Dead Man Converting", have written the only book for a popular audience completely about Scandinavia's conversion.
    James Reston, Jr. "'Be Christian or Die'"

    https://www.christianhistoryinstitut...avia-timeline/
    Have you read any of these works?

    you're welcome

    I'll chirp in on the other posts when I get some time ...

    thanks to you both for this discussion always good to refine and throw out assumptions. Good Job the pair of you
    Thank you.
    Last edited by Adrift; 02-23-2015, 07:59 PM.

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  • London
    replied
    Originally posted by Adrift View Post
    Not that I doubt that killings happened in the name of Christ (I've read of a few in the sagas), but do you have any scholarly resources that specify exactly when and where the church was doing these mass killings? Again, not that I doubt the claim, necessarily, but I've often heard claims like these, that, when you actually investigate them, aren't exactly accurate. For instance, we had a great board member here, a Wiccan named Technomage, who did his best to dispel a lot the burning times mythology that crept into his faith thanks to inaccurate research, mostly done by non-academics at the turn of the 20th century. Most of the current scholarly work on the subject suggested that the numbers were far far fewer than had previously been suggested, that it happened over a very great expanse of time, with certain periods of increased persecution, and that it almost always involved local governments and not the church, and in fact, the church often went to great pains to stop the persecution.
    I know of Technomage and his discussions.

    Not sure how pernickety we want to be about whether we attribute the killings to "The Church" or an individual who performs the atrocities in the name of Christ but here are a couple of references for starters

    Ramsay MacMullen notes that in 681 a council of bishops at Toledo called on civil authorities to "seize and behead all those guilty of non-Christian practices of whatever sort."

    Bernard Walter Scholz Carolingian Chronicles: Royal Frankish Annals and Nithard's Histories. Charlmagne Massacre of Verden

    Wilhelm Teudt mentions the site of the massacre in his 1929 book Germanische Heiligtümer ('Germanic Shrines')

    Landscape architect Wilhelm Hübotter designed a memorial that was built at a possible site for the massacre.

    Alessandro Barbero says that, regarding Charlemagne and the Massacre of Verden. The massacre "produced perhaps the greatest stain on his reputation".

    Capitulatio de partibus Saxoniae (Latin "Ordinances concerning Saxony") is the Legal Code issued by Charlemagne and imposed upon the Saxon during the Saxon Wars in 785. The laws of the Capitulatio de partibus Saxoniae prescribe death for various Saxon infringements, including refusing to convert from their native Germanic Elder Ways to Christianity, and fines for actions deemed lesser violations. Despite the laws, the Saxons continued to reject Charlemagne's rule and attempts at Christianization, continuing to rebel even after Charlemagne's death (such as the Stellinga uprising).


    the conversion of the Vikings took place over centuries. Even when a Danish or Swedish king became Christian and proclaimed his people were Christian, many still practiced their pagan ways and held to the old gods. If you look at the respective countries Histories (Norway, Denmark, Sweeden, Iceland) you will find accounts of different kings and their conversions and how it filtered down to the people or not as the case may be.

    Nordic Religions in the Viking Age by Thomas A. DuBois points out the conflict between pagan and christian religions in the Nordic regions which include the Baltic states and Finland. It is noted in this work that archaeological evidence as well as other written records bring into question the literal accuracy of portions of the sagas. In essence, parts of the sagas could be read as religious and/or political propaganda.


    Birgit and Peter Sawyer "Why Trust the White Christ?" are considered experts on the Viking world, especially when it comes to its encounter with Christianity.
    Richard Fletcher's The Barbarian Conversion ,"Converting by the Sword" is being hailed as a landmark book on the subject
    James Marchand "Althings Work to the Good" is a well-respected translator of primary source material, like the Islendingabók
    Michael Scott Rohan and Allan Scott "Dead Man Converting", have written the only book for a popular audience completely about Scandinavia's conversion.
    James Reston, Jr. "'Be Christian or Die'"

    https://www.christianhistoryinstitut...avia-timeline/

    Thanks for the breakdown.
    you're welcome

    I'll chirp in on the other posts when I get some time ...

    thanks to you both for this discussion always good to refine and throw out assumptions. Good Job the pair of you

    Leave a comment:


  • Boxing Pythagoras
    replied
    Originally posted by Adrift View Post
    In my study of ancient Mediterranean religions, sacrifice, ritual, and worship were tied into duty and honor as part of the patron-client model. Was that not true of the Heathen tribes? Duty and honor were entirely distinct from sacrifice and worship?
    Sacrifice and worship were largely considered personal matters. So, using your Mediterranean model for a moment, if you visited Alexandria around 250 BCE, it was quite likely that you would be expected to pay due obeisance at the temple of Serapis, since that god was the patron deity of the city. It was considered to be a duty, since that god's favor could direct the fortunes of the entire city.

    The Norse gods were not viewed in such a manner. If a man chose not to honor some certain god, it was expected that he would deal with the consequences. Individuals had different relationships with different gods, and those relationships were their business.

    The only counter-example of which I am aware, depicting a scenario more closely aligned with what one might expect from the Mediterranean religions, is from Adam of Bremen's discussion of the Temple at Uppsala. He reports that, every nine years, all the provinces of Sweden gather at Uppsala during the vernal equinox for a ritual festival. According to Adam, those who have already converted to Christianity have to pay some sort of fee in order to be excused from the ceremony. Of course, it should be noted that many scholars find Adam of Bremen's account to be dubious, citing lack of archaeological support and his rather obvious religious bias (the book containing the account was largely written to encourage missionary work in Scandinavia). It's not entirely beyond the pale to think that there may have been some civic aspect to worship and sacrifice; I just don't see much evidence for it.

    Leave a comment:


  • Adrift
    replied
    Originally posted by Boxing Pythagoras View Post
    That said, if I lived amongst a community, did my duty, and acted with honor and hospitality, that community would likely have considered me Innangarth (an "insider"), regardless of whether I personally prayed or offered sacrifices. On the other hand, if I shirked my duties or isolated myself or acted contentiously against others in the community, I would likely have been viewed as Utangarth (an "outsider"), regardless of whether I had performed appropriate rituals. That's about as close to answering your question as I can get, unfortunately.
    In my study of ancient Mediterranean religions, sacrifice, ritual, and worship were tied into duty and honor as part of the patron-client model. Was that not true of the Heathen tribes? Duty and honor were entirely distinct from sacrifice and worship?

    Leave a comment:


  • Boxing Pythagoras
    replied
    Originally posted by Adrift View Post
    Odd. I'm not sure how else one would come to find their faith. Surely they asked philosophical questions, even if unknowingly, when they accepted Christianity.
    In my experience, the testimonies of Christians like these have nothing to do with studying philosophy, nor even with asking the "big questions." Rather, the most common testimony for those who converted into Christianity amongst these types of people falls along the lines of "I was a bad person, and not truly happy, then I came to a crossroads and asked God to reveal himself to me, then I got saved." No pondering of "why are we here?" or "what happens when I die?" or other such big-questions. It wasn't until after they became Christians that they really started trying to understand what philosophy was therefore implied.

    I was curious about this claim when I came upon a website by an amateur mythologist named Dan McCoy called Norse Mythology for Smart People. On the website he has an article called Polytheistic Theology and Ethics. Most of it isn't based on any sort of substantial historical methodology. He spends large chunks of the article comparing pagan morality to his rather unique take on monotheistic concepts of morality (forgetting that at least some of those concepts derive from pagan Hellenistic philosophy), and instead of citing historians, he's partial to Nietzsche and other modern philosophers. Not very academic stuff really, but at one point he does cite an honest to goodness historian named Thomas Dubois who is a professor of the department of Scandinavian Studies and Comparative Literature at the University of Wisconsin. The following is what McCoy pulls from Dubois' book Nordic Religions in the Viking Age (1999).

    Source: http://norse-mythology.org/concepts/polytheistic-theology-and-ethics/

    It was customary for pre-Christian Germanic men and women to have a fulltruí, a patron god or goddess, literally “one to whom one is fully true,” from among the vast array of divine figures who populate Germanic mythology, and to adhere to the values associated with that god or goddess...

    In traditional Germanic society, a person who occupied a particular social role and was a devotee of that role’s corresponding god or goddess could rightly be held to the standard of conduct appropriate for that role and its divinity.

    To give a few examples, many Viking Age men looked to the gods Tyr, Thor, Freyr, or Odin as their fulltruí. Devotees of Tyr were ruling-class men who ordered their lives according to upholding and administering the law and societal standards of justice. Those of Thor were predominantly warriors (the second of the three Indo-European classes or “functions”) whose codes of conduct emphasized strength and bravery in the defense of one’s people and way of life, and a meticulous adherence to standards of honor and manliness (which, as the sagas demonstrate, often ran afoul of the law and justice). Freyr’s men were mostly farmers (the third class or function) whose lives were much more hedonistic and centered around fertility, fecundity, and production. Those who held Odin in especially high regard were, like Tyr’s favorites, of the first function, but followed a path of ecstatic and creative self-actualization that often seemed fickle, ruthless, irresponsible, and even shameful by the standards of a man of Thor, arbitrary by the standards of a man of Tyr, and unnecessarily harsh and demanding by a man of Freyr. And this is to say nothing of women’s roles and values, which were just as diverse.

    © Copyright Original Source



    I'll be ordering the book later this week, but what are your thoughts? It would seem that there is at least some transcendental concepts of morality and ethics in pre-Christian Heathenism, and that they were not entirely social constructs (at least from the point of view of the practitioner of the faith).
    I'll have to look more into the DuBois piece-- I'm aware of the concept of fulltrui relationships between men and gods, but I've never seen them considered quite as commonplace as that excerpt would make them seem. Insofar as I am aware, the norm was for people to worship all of the gods, while fulltrui relationships were only employed by those especially dedicated to a single god.

    Even so, the fact that a god also exemplifies a particular set of traits does not imply that those traits emanate from deity. Odin was wise and clever, but wisdom and cleverness did not exist because of Odin. Balder was faithful and loyal, but faith and loyalty would have existed even if Balder had not. Tyr was courageous and just, but he was not the source of all courage and justice.

    Hmm. This seems like maybe a bit of semantics. Though the view you're talking about here is probably a sort of panentheism, the concept of supernaturalism is more of a modern view, I think, than an ancient scriptural one. Defining the supernatural allows us moderns to distinguish between events found in the expected laws of physics from those that are directly enacted upon by the divine. I doubt the ancient Hebrews, and probably the early Christians had any concept of the "supernatural" either. God worked within nature, though he was separate from it. Heathens probably differed in that they didn't think the gods were separate from nature, but they did believe that the gods enacted upon it when called upon.
    I can largely agree with all of this.

    Based on what, exactly, though? Personal preference, or inference or...what? Would a pre-Christian Heathen consider you a Heathen even though you did not believe in or worship the gods? I guess that's what I'm trying to find out.
    The question "would a pre-Christian Heathen consider you a Heathen?" is a bit anachronistic. Pre-Christian peoples would likely have found the concept of "a religion" to be strange and confusing. The idea that religion could be an exclusive thing was likely introduced to them by Christians. The pre-Christian Germanic peoples would not have likely made delineations about who was a "true believer" and who was not, as occurred in Christianity. They did not have fights over orthodoxy and heresy, "right religion" and "wrong religion." The Danes worshiped the gods in one way, while the Norwegians worshiped in another way, and the Icelanders were still different from both. No one had given their religion a name or a label, let alone arguing over who was truly Heathen and who was not.

    That said, if I lived amongst a community, did my duty, and acted with honor and hospitality, that community would likely have considered me Innangarth (an "insider"), regardless of whether I personally prayed or offered sacrifices. On the other hand, if I shirked my duties or isolated myself or acted contentiously against others in the community, I would likely have been viewed as Utangarth (an "outsider"), regardless of whether I had performed appropriate rituals. That's about as close to answering your question as I can get, unfortunately.

    Leave a comment:


  • Adrift
    replied
    Originally posted by Boxing Pythagoras View Post
    The first one that comes to mind would be an article by Dr. Terry Gunnell, a folklorist at the University of Iceland, on the fluidity and variety of belief in the pre-Christian Norse, entitled "Viking religion: Old Norse mythology."
    https://www.academia.edu/5864888/Vik...orse_Mythology

    I'll try to pull up some more, though.
    Okay, thank you.

    Yep, they're accusing me of picking and choosing truth. For them, religion defines that which is true; so for me to choose my religion based on my explorations of philosophy seems like I am arbitrarily determining the truth, in their eyes.
    Odd. I'm not sure how else one would come to find their faith. Surely they asked philosophical questions, even if unknowingly, when they accepted Christianity.

    In the Abrahamic faiths, God interceded in the lives of Man to provide human beings with moral laws to explicitly delineate that which is right and that which is wrong.
    I'm not sure that's quite accurate. In the Christian tradition, moral law is written upon humanity's heart because we are made in God's spiritual image. The moral commandments, then, confirm and clarify (and at times, enforce) what is already found in the spirit of man. I suppose either way though morality finds its source in God.

    Nothing similar exists in the sources for pre-Christian Germanic peoples. There are no divine commandments or proscriptions in the Eddas or the Sagas, nor is it ever suggested that there exists some transcendental source of morality. It would seem that morality was a very much a social construct based around the priority of kindred, community, and tribe, in that order.
    I was curious about this claim when I came upon a website by an amateur mythologist named Dan McCoy called Norse Mythology for Smart People. On the website he has an article called Polytheistic Theology and Ethics. Most of it isn't based on any sort of substantial historical methodology. He spends large chunks of the article comparing pagan morality to his rather unique take on monotheistic concepts of morality (forgetting that at least some of those concepts derive from pagan Hellenistic philosophy), and instead of citing historians, he's partial to Nietzsche and other modern philosophers. Not very academic stuff really, but at one point he does cite an honest to goodness historian named Thomas Dubois who is a professor of the department of Scandinavian Studies and Comparative Literature at the University of Wisconsin. The following is what McCoy pulls from Dubois' book Nordic Religions in the Viking Age (1999).

    Source: http://norse-mythology.org/concepts/polytheistic-theology-and-ethics/

    It was customary for pre-Christian Germanic men and women to have a fulltruí, a patron god or goddess, literally “one to whom one is fully true,” from among the vast array of divine figures who populate Germanic mythology, and to adhere to the values associated with that god or goddess...

    In traditional Germanic society, a person who occupied a particular social role and was a devotee of that role’s corresponding god or goddess could rightly be held to the standard of conduct appropriate for that role and its divinity.

    To give a few examples, many Viking Age men looked to the gods Tyr, Thor, Freyr, or Odin as their fulltruí. Devotees of Tyr were ruling-class men who ordered their lives according to upholding and administering the law and societal standards of justice. Those of Thor were predominantly warriors (the second of the three Indo-European classes or “functions”) whose codes of conduct emphasized strength and bravery in the defense of one’s people and way of life, and a meticulous adherence to standards of honor and manliness (which, as the sagas demonstrate, often ran afoul of the law and justice). Freyr’s men were mostly farmers (the third class or function) whose lives were much more hedonistic and centered around fertility, fecundity, and production. Those who held Odin in especially high regard were, like Tyr’s favorites, of the first function, but followed a path of ecstatic and creative self-actualization that often seemed fickle, ruthless, irresponsible, and even shameful by the standards of a man of Thor, arbitrary by the standards of a man of Tyr, and unnecessarily harsh and demanding by a man of Freyr. And this is to say nothing of women’s roles and values, which were just as diverse.

    © Copyright Original Source



    I'll be ordering the book later this week, but what are your thoughts? It would seem that there is at least some transcendental concepts of morality and ethics in pre-Christian Heathenism, and that they were not entirely social constructs (at least from the point of view of the practitioner of the faith).

    This is a more nuanced question than you might think. While the average pre-Christian Heathen likely believed in the gods and elves and afterlives, the concept of the "supernatural" would have been somewhat alien to them. For these people, the gods did not transcend nature, but were just as much a part of the natural cosmos as human beings.
    Hmm. This seems like maybe a bit of semantics. Though the view you're talking about here is probably a sort of panentheism, the concept of supernaturalism is more of a modern view, I think, than an ancient scriptural one. Defining the supernatural allows us moderns to distinguish between events found in the expected laws of physics from those that are directly enacted upon by the divine. I doubt the ancient Hebrews, and probably the early Christians had any concept of the "supernatural" either. God worked within nature, though he was separate from it. Heathens probably differed in that they didn't think the gods were separate from nature, but they did believe that the gods enacted upon it when called upon.

    It is also unclear just how literally the average Heathen would have understood the mythology. The language of the Scandinavian peoples is replete with poetic metaphor and skaldic imagery. For example, in the mythology, the rivers and seas of the Earth are the result of the giant Ymir's blood flowing across the world after he was slain. That does not imply that the average person truly believed that river and sea-water was physically blood.

    So, I would speculate that the average pre-Christian Heathen did believe in personal gods, and did practice superstitious rituals such as sacrifices and prayer. I cannot say for certain that all Heathens practiced in this manner, and I do acknowledge that my personal expression of Heathenry is certainly a departure from the pre-Christian expression.
    Ok.

    However, I maintain that these practices and beliefs are non-essential to the religion despite their traditional acceptance.
    Based on what, exactly, though? Personal preference, or inference or...what? Would a pre-Christian Heathen consider you a Heathen even though you did not believe in or worship the gods? I guess that's what I'm trying to find out.

    Leave a comment:


  • Boxing Pythagoras
    replied
    Originally posted by Adrift View Post
    Do you happen to have any scholarly resources in mind that I could check out on this?
    The first one that comes to mind would be an article by Dr. Terry Gunnell, a folklorist at the University of Iceland, on the fluidity and variety of belief in the pre-Christian Norse, entitled "Viking religion: Old Norse mythology."
    https://www.academia.edu/5864888/Vik...orse_Mythology

    I'll try to pull up some more, though.

    I don't see where they're getting the post-modernism thing from. Not unless they're suggesting that you pick and choose your own truths, which, as far as I can tell, doesn't appear to be the case. Seeing as you're an atheist and not an agnostic, it would seem that you've committed to the idea (to a greater degree than not) that there is only one truth, and that truth is found in non-theism.
    Yep, they're accusing me of picking and choosing truth. For them, religion defines that which is true; so for me to choose my religion based on my explorations of philosophy seems like I am arbitrarily determining the truth, in their eyes.

    Where did pre-Christian Heathens suggest the source and standard of morality and ethics come from then?
    In the Abrahamic faiths, God interceded in the lives of Man to provide human beings with moral laws to explicitly delineate that which is right and that which is wrong. Nothing similar exists in the sources for pre-Christian Germanic peoples. There are no divine commandments or proscriptions in the Eddas or the Sagas, nor is it ever suggested that there exists some transcendental source of morality. It would seem that morality was a very much a social construct based around the priority of kindred, community, and tribe, in that order.

    Interesting. Is there any evidence to suggest (as far you're aware) that pre-Christian Heathens accepted Christianity because it expressed a belief in a divinity that was greater than the gods that they believed in?
    Not so far as I am aware, though it would not surprise me if that had been the case in some instances. However, the Heimskringla, a notoriously Christianised account, suggests that politics, legal coercion, and violence were the major driving forces behind the Christianisation of Norway.

    Where would supernaturalism rank for the average pre-Christian Heathen do you think? Were they not overly superstitious? We know that they sacrificed to their gods, and that on at least some occasions these sacrifices were human. They also believed in the existence of elves, giants, dwarfs, giant sea serpents, monster wolves, an afterlife, an apocalypse, magical weapons, trees, and the like.
    This is a more nuanced question than you might think. While the average pre-Christian Heathen likely believed in the gods and elves and afterlives, the concept of the "supernatural" would have been somewhat alien to them. For these people, the gods did not transcend nature, but were just as much a part of the natural cosmos as human beings.

    It is also unclear just how literally the average Heathen would have understood the mythology. The language of the Scandinavian peoples is replete with poetic metaphor and skaldic imagery. For example, in the mythology, the rivers and seas of the Earth are the result of the giant Ymir's blood flowing across the world after he was slain. That does not imply that the average person truly believed that river and sea-water was physically blood.

    So, I would speculate that the average pre-Christian Heathen did believe in personal gods, and did practice superstitious rituals such as sacrifices and prayer. I cannot say for certain that all Heathens practiced in this manner, and I do acknowledge that my personal expression of Heathenry is certainly a departure from the pre-Christian expression. However, I maintain that these practices and beliefs are non-essential to the religion despite their traditional acceptance. Again, unlike Christianity, deity does not provide the foundation for the morality, metaphysics, and philosophy of Heathenry, and it is those things which I would consider essential to the religion.

    Leave a comment:


  • Adrift
    replied
    Originally posted by Boxing Pythagoras View Post
    There is certainly evidence that it has always been the case that behavior was more important than belief for Heathens.
    Do you happen to have any scholarly resources in mind that I could check out on this?

    To me, as well! However, there are quite a number of Christians who have never investigated philosophy, metaphysics, or natural theology. They were Christians, first, and they adopted philosophy based on their Christianity. I've known far more Christians like this than Christians who only adopted their faith after a dispassionate study of philosophy. It is these Christians who have had a difficult time understanding how I could identify with a religion based upon my philosophy. For them, philosophy should be subservient to religion, and I am accused of Post-Modernism for adopting a religion which fits my beliefs rather than adopting beliefs which fit my religion.
    I don't see where they're getting the post-modernism thing from. Not unless they're suggesting that you pick and choose your own truths, which, as far as I can tell, doesn't appear to be the case. Seeing as you're an atheist and not an agnostic, it would seem that you've committed to the idea (to a greater degree than not) that there is only one truth, and that truth is found in non-theism.

    This is another major difference between Heathenry and the Abrahamic faiths. The gods are not the source and standard of morality and ethics, not even for theistic Heathens. The gods can act morally or immorally, just as humans do. The Moral Argument for the Existence of God is just one of the usual Christian arguments which does not carry over for Heathenry.
    Where did pre-Christian Heathens suggest the source and standard of morality and ethics come from then?

    Also, I should point out that when I say that in foundational faiths like Christianity, one's faith is not segmented, but is a continuation, I mean that in all respects, and not just to do with morality.

    Deity does not carry the same implications in Heathenry as in Christianity. The Norse gods are not omnipotent, omniscient, omnibenevolent, changeless, eternal, or perfect beings. They are not the source of all that exists, nor are they they standard which defines objective morality. This is why belief in their literal existence is far less essential to the religion than theism is to Christianity.
    Interesting. Is there any evidence to suggest (as far you're aware) that pre-Christian Heathens accepted Christianity because it expressed a belief in a divinity that was greater than the gods that they believed in?

    Again, theism and supernaturalism really aren't primary aspects of Heathenry. Unlike the Abrahamic faiths, deity is not the basis upon which the rest of the religion is built.
    Where would supernaturalism rank for the average pre-Christian Heathen do you think? Were they not overly superstitious? We know that they sacrificed to their gods, and that on at least some occasions these sacrifices were human. They also believed in the existence of elves, giants, dwarfs, giant sea serpents, monster wolves, an afterlife, an apocalypse, magical weapons, trees, and the like.

    Leave a comment:

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