Nordic Religions in the Viking Age

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Overview

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.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

"This is a sophisticated, well-written, and convincing reconception of the nature of religious change in the early medieval world."—Journal of Ecclesiastical History

"A seminal study of Nordic religions that future scholars will not be able to avoid."—Church History

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780812217148
  • Publisher: University of Pennsylvania Press, Inc.
  • Publication date: 8/28/1999
  • Series: The Middle Ages Series
  • Pages: 256
  • Sales rank: 359,108
  • Product dimensions: 6.08 (w) x 9.08 (h) x 0.06 (d)

Meet the Author

Thomas A. DuBois is Associate Professor in the Department of Scandinavian Studies and Comparative Literature at the University of Wisconsin. He is the author of Finnish Folk Poetry and the Kalevala.
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Table of Contents

Preface
Introduction: Communities of Belief 1
Ch. 1 The Cultures and History of the Viking-Age North 9
Ch. 2 Religions in the Viking Age: Contexts and Concepts for Analysis 29
Ch. 3 Gods, Guides, and Guardians: Spiritual Aids 45
Ch. 4 Visitors from Beyond: Death, Afterlife, and the Problem of Ghosts 69
Ch. 5 Concepts of Health and Healing 93
Ch. 6 The Intercultural Dimensions of the Seior Ritual 121
Ch. 7 The Coming of the Cross: Religious and Artistic Effects 139
Ch. 8 Achieving Faith: Christian Themes and Pagan Functions 173
Epilogue 205
Glossary 207
Notes 211
Bibliography 233
Index 259
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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 11, 2003

    Biased

    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.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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