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Questions about Norse Religion

Discussion in 'Neopagan or Revival Religions' started by Wild Fox, Mar 27, 2020.

  1. Wild Fox

    Wild Fox Well-Known Member

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    It had been a long time since I had read the prose Edda and the Norse sagas and on reading them again, I was left with a few questions? Hoping to get more insight.

    1. Why there is so little attributed to the goddess in the Norse mythology we have? The Celtic stories/myths give attribute much more to the goddess’s importance. Although the Celtic culture is identified as separate, they lived in similar environments with shared borders so it is not unreasonable to have shared many features with relation to their gods and goddesses.

    2. Was the depiction of the Norse gods as a family living together a late invention of the Norse mythology constructed from multiple gods and goddesses associated with different tribes/clans of the past?

    3. Was the dominance of Odin in the late mythology product of a stratified military elite that dominated Scandinavia prior to being converted to Christianity?

    4. What did the giants, elves, dwarfs, trolls and land spirits represent in Norse mythology and what was their relationship to humans?

    Any input would be appreciated.
     
  2. The Ragin Pagan

    The Ragin Pagan A.K.A. The Kilted Heathen

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    Which goddess? There is much about many of them in Norse myth and lore.

    They've never been depicted as a "family". The gods have their own families, and they are of the Aesir tribe - formed of an alliance between the Aesir and Vanir, many of whom share blood with Jotnar.

    Odin was worshiped more by the Jarls and Kings. The common man more worshiped Thor. There was no "Warrior Elite" among the Norse.

    They are spirits of the natural world. What their relationship is to us depends greatly on how we conduct ourselves in their spaces.
     
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  3. beenherebeforeagain

    beenherebeforeagain Rogue Animist
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    The Eddas are the transcribing of a previously oral history/story into written texts, as translated by Christians with an agenda...
     
  4. Wild Fox

    Wild Fox Well-Known Member

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    Thank you for the reply. It is good to know there is more known than from what I have read. Can you give me sources to learn more?

    Interesting. So the image I have of them as a collective group is inaccurate which is good to know. I guess they have been portrayed similar to the Greek gods and goddesses living on Olympus in more popular media. Do they have less distinctions in function compared to the Greek gods and goddesses?

    This makes sense. Odin fits with the rule of Jarls and Kings that would have wanted to support their claims to be a Jarl or King by connecting themselves with Odin even claiming being descended from Odin. Thor appears much better for the common man.

    I like this answer. I suspect the played a much larger role in daily life than has been recorded.
     
  5. The Ragin Pagan

    The Ragin Pagan A.K.A. The Kilted Heathen

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    The Poetic Edda (Elder Edda) of Sæmundr Sigfússon is less prone to agenda than the Prose Edda (Younger Edda/Snorri Edda) of Snorri Sturluson. The Poetic can be verified by existing rune stones and cultural placenames, as well as other tales and myths of the area.

    I'd begin with the Eddas. Much of many goddesses, such as Freyja, Frigg, Skadi, and Idunn are told of there. There are many other goddesses mentioned, but I wouldn't expect much surviving information to be known of figures like Eir.

    Well, they are a collective group, they're just a tribe, not a family. The Greeks are all directly related in one way or another (e.g. Zeus and Hera are siblings), but Freyr is not related at all to Odin, for example. More than this, and contrary to the Greek gods, the Norse deities don't really fit well into "god of _____" archetypes. Despite people trying to Romanize them in such a way.
     
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  6. Wild Fox

    Wild Fox Well-Known Member

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    Took your advice and spent some time learning what I could but still having some problems.

    1. I am having difficulty distinguishing Freyja from Frigg. They seem to represent such similar goddesses that other than in a reported lineage they seem almost like the same goddess.

    2. Cannot find hardly anything Sif despite the reported wife of Thor.

    3. Skaldi seems to be the offspring of a giant yet presents as a goddess.

    4. Wonder how a goddess like Nerthus known it the area now called Denmark is left out of the mythology. Or at least I could not find reference to her.

    Any help would be appreciated.
     
  7. The Ragin Pagan

    The Ragin Pagan A.K.A. The Kilted Heathen

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    In which myths? They're quite different in the ones they appear as. Frigg is more matronly and "homewife", Freyja is a warrior and a witch.

    That's pretty much all there is.

    Skadi is a giantess. As Loki is a giant, and Thor is half-giant. "God" is a very poor term for the Norse pantheon, as it covers beings such as the Aesir, Vanir, Jotnar, dvergar and alfar, house and lands wights, and even ancestors.

    Nerthus is a continental or Anglo-Saxon deity. The Edda will tell the tales from an Icelandic perspective, as well as areas like Norway and Sweden.
     
  8. Saint Frankenstein

    Saint Frankenstein God is my Light
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    I have read that they may stem from the same goddess originally.
    Freya - Norse Mythology for Smart People
     
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  9. The Ragin Pagan

    The Ragin Pagan A.K.A. The Kilted Heathen

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    Not originally. It's a contemporary theory that's really based on nothing more than "these names sound familiar".
     
  10. Saint Frankenstein

    Saint Frankenstein God is my Light
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    Did you read the article? It's more than just how names sound. Obviously names can tell us much, anyway.
     
  11. The Ragin Pagan

    The Ragin Pagan A.K.A. The Kilted Heathen

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    I have before, yes. As well as discussed it at great length many times before. It really boils down to poor etymology.
     
  12. Saint Frankenstein

    Saint Frankenstein God is my Light
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    What's wrong with it? You can link me to a prior discussion of it if you like.
     
  13. The Ragin Pagan

    The Ragin Pagan A.K.A. The Kilted Heathen

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    The discussions took place at a Trothmoot, in person. But Stephen Grundy is the origin of the theory; his proposal in the '90's is compounded in that even he says there's very little evidence for it, notes that Freyja isn't known linguistically outside of Scandinavia (whereas Frigg is widely known), and it's basically left up to "well, there's not a lot of evidence so let's just make an argument and see which can be held up best."

    In the Lore, the two goddesses are seen as distinct from one another, in both person and attitude. Etymologically, Freyja is derived from the Proto-Germanic *Fraujaz, and Frigg from the Proto-Germanic*Frijjō. Other comparisons are:

    Old Saxon: Frūa (Freyja) / Frīg (Frigg)
    Old High German: Frouwa (Freyja) / Frīja (Frigg)
     
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  14. Wild Fox

    Wild Fox Well-Known Member

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    Excellent site and I like the way the information is presented in not so absolute ways. I recently read an article by Terry Gunnell that has me interested in looking at the Norse religion in different ways in hope to understand it better. Here is the site if you are interested.
    uu.diva-portal.org/smash/get/diva2:883372/FULLTEXT01.pdf
    I have been involved with Celtic religion for a long time but have become attracted to Norse religion recently.
     
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  15. Hildeburh

    Hildeburh Member

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    Good thread.

    I agree with the majority of the discussion. However there is no evidence that Nerthus was a deity worshipped by the Saxons. Nerthus is attested only in the 1st century by Tacitus as a tribal deity of the Reudigni, Aviones, Anglii, Varini, Eudoses, Saurines, and Nuitones; the Saxons are not mentioned.

    The Anglii migrated to England in the 5th century and given the evidence we have in Old English for worship of an earth goddess it is reasonable assumption that the Anglii brought with them the worship of an earth goddess.There is however no support for the either the Saxons having shared worship of a deity called Nerthus or evidence of a deity named Nerthus in the Old English corpus. So to call this deity Anglo-Saxon is misleading.

    Don't know if I agree with the depiction of Frigg as matronly and a "homewife" , I think this idea of is at odds with her mythology and is a little one dimensional. Frigg unlike Freya is attested in Old Norse, Old High German and Old English, which indicates the importance of this deity.

    In mythology Frigg is described as having the power of prophesy, she has shape shifting ability, is connected to the earth (in that she was able to extract a promise from all living things, except mistletoe), in the High German second Merseburg Charm she is called upon to assist in healing, in the myth of the Langobards she advises Wodan, she is able to sit in Hliðskjálf and survey the worlds, in Gylfaginning Frigg sends out Gna and Hlin to do carry out her business and protect those she deems worthy and in Gesta Danorum and Lokesenna Frigg is accused of adultery.

    In Skáldskaparmál Sif is also said to be the mother of Ullr, given the number of theophoric place names in Sweden and Norway Ullr seems to have been an important deity.
     
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  16. The Ragin Pagan

    The Ragin Pagan A.K.A. The Kilted Heathen

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    I did say "Anglo-Saxon". Given that worship of Nerthus spanned areas including the Angles and surrounding peoples of the Saxons, it's not really misleading to assume that they also may have worshiped her. Yet it was also more a statement on worship of today, in which Nerthus is more found among Anglo-Saxon Heathens than Norse Heathens or Asatru.

    I'm not surprised, but compared to Freyja she is. Presiding over loomcraft, hearth, healing, and marriage, Frigg is far more associated with realms of the "homewife" than a goddess of ecstatic spirit-work, lust, and war. Yes, there are many deeper aspects of the Allmother such as prophecy and noble advice, yet compared to Freyja - and indeed, many other deities - Frigg is far more Matronly.

    In the Lokasenna every female deity is accused of adultery, because the poet that wrote it was copying heavily from Lucian's Assembly of the Gods relative to Greek mythology.

    Nothing seems to conflict with this, but I will note that in the Prose Edda (from which the Skáldskaparmál is found), Thor is said to be the great-grandfather of many generations to Odin.
     
  17. Wild Fox

    Wild Fox Well-Known Member

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    I want to thank you for this post. It lead me to this site for the first time.
    www.germanicmythology.com/works/merseburgcharms.html

    The worship of Nerthus seems to be within the sphere of the people who became the Danes even with a connection within the island of Zealand. Supporting archeological including evidence of ritual wagons found in the Denmark help make this connection. The goddess Gefjon also seems to overlap with Nerthus with connections with Freyja and Frigg. As for Freyja and Frigg they seem to have more in common than differentiating them including the falcon, prophecy and can shapeshift into a falcon from what I understand is similar to Frigg. So it could be possible that Freyja the goddess in southern Sweden and Frigg a with a wider distribution be in effect the same goddess differentiated by the time the mythology took on written form. At least that is an idea.
     
  18. Hildeburh

    Hildeburh Member

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    I'm an Anglo Saxon Heathen and I don't worship Nerthus, though I am sure many do. There is a little too much ambiguity surrounding this goddess and zero evidence that this specific goddess made it to England during the migration era for me to feel comfortable invoking the Earth Mother by that name.

    We do however have sources that suggest that the veneration of an earth goddess survived among the people into Christian times. From Old English literature Еогþe was thought to be associated not only with agriculture and fertility but also with health and healing, she was refered to as Еогþe, Erce or Earþ.

    I'm surprised that Nerthus isn't included in Norse or Asatru worship as some scholarship on this goddess suggests she may have been the consort and sister of Njord. More recently Richard North suggests that Tacitus got it wrong and Nerthus was male and others suggest Nerthus was Njord or became Njord.

    There is no evidence that Frigg presided over 'loomcraft' or the hearth these are modern interpretations, designed to place Norse gods/esses into neat categories for worship. Nor is there any evidence that she presided over marriage, in fact there is more evidence to connect Thor with the consecration of events such as marriage. Just cause Frigg was the consort of Odin does not by default make her the goddess associated with marriage.

    Yes, I agree that there is classical and Christian themes in Norse literature but this aspect of Frigg's mythology is also alluded to in Chapter 3 of the Ynglinga Saga and Gesta Danorum.

    Contradiction is inherent mythology for many reasons.
     
  19. Hildeburh

    Hildeburh Member

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    Yes, I tend to agree with your ideas about Nerthus. Frigg certainly is more widely attested than Freya, who is found only in Norse mythology. I personally don't believe they were once one goddess but rather that Freya was a newer goddess and perhaps some Frigg's mythos was borrowed or merged into Freya's. Certainly wouldn't be the first time in world mythology that has happened.
     
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  20. The Ragin Pagan

    The Ragin Pagan A.K.A. The Kilted Heathen

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    As I'm sure you know, Norse Heathenry and Anglo-Saxon Heathenry are close as to be considered "cousins". I have even seen interpretation that the Saxon gods are the Vanir tribe, from whom Njord, Freyr and Freyja come from with the close of the Aesir-Vanir War. More to the point though, I did say that worship of Nerthus is seen more commonly among ASH's than Asatruar or NH's.

    Not so; actually there is just as much evidence for it as other things held to be true from historical sources.

    Frigg's association with spinning and weaving comes through that of seidr. Orion's Belt bears the Swedish name "Frigg's Spindle". Jan de Vries also notes a Norwegian belief that chains may not be cut through on a Friday ("Frigg's Day") as this will make weaving unsuccessful. Weaving and spinning also comes to bear in that Frigg "knows all ørlög, though she says it not herself." From this, Frigg is often regarded as a Norn, those who weave fate. On a bracteate from Oberweschen, Frigg is depicted with a full drop-spindle, and on bracteates from Welschingen and Gudme II, she holds a spindle-staff.

    As for the hearth, Frigg is most among the asynjur associated with motherhood. Her name "Hlin" means "protectress", and as the wife of Odin and High Lady of Asgard, by Norse cultural customs she rules over that home and hearth. With her association with spinning - covered above - this also infers home-based productivity and fruitfulness.

    Associations with marriage come from her name, which is derived from the IE word meaning "beloved" or "belonging to / protected by a loved one". Several of her Handmaidens are associated with aspects of marriage (Gefjon in the state of pre-marriage, Fulla in wedding-gifts, Sjofn in affection, Lofn in forbidden romances, and Var for oaths taken). As they are handmaidens beneath Frigg, she can be and is invoked for marriages with those handmaidens in attendance. Thor is a hallower, and would bear that role in a marriage; as I'm sure you well know the Norse deities don't have one set function, and many overlap. Even in the same instance.
     
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