Nordic Religions in the Viking Ageby Thomas DuBois
Pub. Date: 08/28/1999
Publisher: University of Pennsylvania Press, Inc.
The popular image of the Viking as a horn-helmeted berserker plying the ocean in a dragon-headed long boat is firmly fixed in history. Imagining Viking "conquerors" as much more numerous, technologically superior, and somehow inherently more warlike than their neighbors has overshadowed the cooperation and cultural exchange which characterized much of the Viking
The popular image of the Viking as a horn-helmeted berserker plying the ocean in a dragon-headed long boat is firmly fixed in history. Imagining Viking "conquerors" as much more numerous, technologically superior, and somehow inherently more warlike than their neighbors has overshadowed the cooperation and cultural exchange which characterized much of the Viking Age. In actuality, the Norse explorers and traders were players in a complex exchange of technology, customs, and religious beliefs between the ancient pre-Christian societies of northern Europe and the Christian-dominated nations surrounding the Mediterranean.
DuBois examines Anglo-Saxon, Celtic, and Mediterranean traditions to locate significant Nordic parallels in conceptions of supernatural beings, cults of the dead, beliefs in ghosts, and magical practices. These beliefs were actively held alongside Christianity for many years, and were finally incorporated into the vernacular religious practice. The Icelandic sagas reflect this complex process in their inclusion of both Christian and pagan details.
This work differs from previous examinations in its inclusion of the Christian thirteenth century as part of the evolution of Nordic religions from localized pagan cults to adherents of a larger Roman faith.
Thomas DuBois unravels for the first time the history of the Nordic religions in the Viking Age and shows how these ancient beliefs and their oral traditions incorporated both a myriad of local beliefs and aspects of foreign religions, most notably Christianity.
Table of Contents
|Introduction: Communities of Belief||1|
|Chapter 1||The Cultures and History of the Viking-Age North||9|
|Chapter 2||Religions in the Viking Age: Contexts and Concepts for Analysis||29|
|Chapter 3||Gods, Guides, and Guardians: Spiritual Aids||45|
|Chapter 4||Visitors from Beyond: Death, Afterlife, and the Problem of Ghosts||69|
|Chapter 5||Concepts of Health and Healing||93|
|Chapter 6||The Intercultural Dimensions of the Seior Ritual||121|
|Chapter 7||The Coming of the Cross: Religious and Artistic Effects||139|
|Chapter 8||Achieving Faith: Christian Themes and Pagan Functions||173|
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While the subject matter is facinating, and there is some useful information, the author is another that believes that all roads in religion lead to Christianity. While the Nordic people at the end of the Viking Age did convert, for the most part it was not for religious reasons as the author seems to think. His writing also betrays a bias that Christianity is the end all and be all of religion and that the Heathen people of Norden were incomplete until its coming. In my opinion this book is better borrowed from the library than purchased.