Germanic paganism

Germanic paganism refers to the indigenous religion of the Germanic people from the Iron Age until Christianisation during the Middle Ages. Rooted in Proto-Indo-European religion, Proto-Germanic religion expanded during the Migration Period, yielding extensions such as Old Norse religion among the North Germanic peoples, Continental Germanic paganism among the continental Germanic peoples, and Anglo-Saxon paganism among the West Germanic people. Among the East Germanic peoples, traces of Gothic paganism may be discerned from scant artifacts and attestations. According to John Thor Ewing, as a religion it consisted of "individual worshippers, family traditions and regional cults within a broadly consistent framework".[1]

Wodan heilt Balders Pferd by Emil Doepler
Emil Doepler's depiction of the Second Merseburg Charm, 1905. In the charm, gods from continental Germanic mythology heal a horse.

Variations of Germanic paganism

See also

References

  1. ^ Ewing, Thor (2008). Gods and Worshippers in the Viking and Germanic World. Tempus. p. 9.

Further reading

  • Grimm, Jacob (2004), Teutonic Mythology, translated by Stallybrass, James S., Dover Publications
  • Buchholz, Peter (1968), "Perspectives for Historical Research in Germanic Religion", History of Religions, University of Chicago Press, 8 (2): 111–138
  • North, Richard (1991), Pagan words and Christian meanings, Rodopi, ISBN 978-90-5183-305-8
Gothi

A goði or gothi (plural goðar) is an Old Norse term for a chieftain-priest. Gyðja is the female form. The title is primarily known from medieval Iceland where it lived on as a secular political title after Christianization.

Gothic paganism

Gothic paganism was the original religion of the Goths.

Heathenry (new religious movement)

Heathenry, also termed Heathenism, contemporary Germanic Paganism, or Germanic Neopaganism, is a modern Pagan religion. Scholars of religious studies classify Heathenry as a new religious movement. Its practitioners model it on the pre-Christian belief systems adhered to by the Germanic peoples of Iron Age and Early Medieval Europe. To reconstruct these past belief systems, Heathenry uses surviving historical, archaeological, and folkloric evidence as a basis, although approaches to this material vary considerably.

Heathenry does not have a unified theology but is typically polytheistic, centering on a pantheon of deities from pre-Christian Germanic Europe. It adopts cosmological views from these past societies, including an animistic view of the cosmos in which the natural world is imbued with spirits. The religion's deities and spirits are honored in sacrificial rites known as blóts in which food and libations are offered to them. These are often accompanied by symbel, the act of ceremonially toasting the gods with an alcoholic beverage. Some practitioners also engage in rituals designed to induce an altered state of consciousness and visions, most notably seiðr and galdr, with the intent of gaining wisdom and advice from the deities. Although many solitary practitioners follow the religion by themselves, members of the Heathen community often assemble in small groups, usually known as kindreds or hearths, to perform their rites outdoors or in specially constructed buildings. Heathen ethical systems emphasize honor, personal integrity, and loyalty, while beliefs about an afterlife vary and are rarely emphasized.

A central division within the Heathen movement concerns the issue of race. Some groups adopt a "universalist" perspective which holds that the religion is open to all, irrespective of ethnic or racial identity. Others adopt a racialist attitude—often termed "folkish" within the community—by viewing Heathenry as an ethnic or racial religion with inherent links to a Germanic race that should be reserved explicitly for people of Northern European descent or white people in general. Some folkish Heathens further combine the religion with explicitly racist, white supremacist, and far right-wing perspectives, although these approaches are repudiated by many Heathens. Although the term Heathenry is used widely to describe the religion as a whole, many groups prefer different designations, influenced by their regional focus and ideological preferences. Heathens focusing on Scandinavian sources sometimes use Ásatrú, Vanatrú, or Forn Sed; practitioners focusing on Anglo-Saxon traditions use Fyrnsidu or Theodism; those emphasising German traditions use Irminism; and those Heathens who espouse folkish and far-right perspectives tend to favor the terms Odinism, Wotanism, Wodenism, or Odalism.

The religion's origins lie in the 19th- and early 20th-century Romanticist movement which glorified the pre-Christian beliefs of Germanic societies. In this period, organised groups venerating the Germanic gods developed in Germany and Austria; these were part of the Völkisch movement and typically exhibited a racialist interpretation of the religion, resulting in the movement largely dissolving following the defeat of Nazi Germany in World War II. In the 1970s, new Heathen groups emerged in Europe and North America, developing into formalized organizations in order to promote their faith. In recent decades, the Heathen movement has been the subject of academic study by scholars active in the field of Pagan studies. Scholarly estimates put the number of Heathens at no more than 20,000 worldwide, with communities of practitioners active in Europe, the Americas, and Australasia.

Horse worship

Horse worship is a spiritual practice with archaeological evidence of its existence during the Iron Age and, in some places, as far back as the Bronze Age. The horse was seen as divine, as a sacred animal associated with a particular deity, or as a totem animal impersonating the king or warrior. Horse cults and horse sacrifice were originally a feature of Eurasian nomad cultures. While horse worship has been almost exclusively associated with Indo-European culture, by the Early Middle Ages it was also adopted by Turkic peoples.

Horse worship still exists today in various regions of South Asia.

Hörgr

A hörgr (Old Norse, plural hörgar) or hearg (Old English) was a type of altar or cult site, possibly consisting of a heap of stones, used in Norse religion, as opposed to a roofed hall used as a hof (temple).

The Old Norse term is attested in both the Poetic Edda and the Prose Edda, in the sagas of Icelanders, skaldic poetry, and with its Old English cognate in Beowulf. The word is also reflected in various place names (in English placenames as harrow), often in connection with Germanic deities.

List of Germanic deities

In Germanic paganism, the indigenous religion of the ancient Germanic peoples who inhabited Germanic Europe, there were a number of different gods and goddesses. Germanic deities are attested from numerous sources, including works of literature, various chronicles, runic inscriptions, personal names, place names, and other sources. This article contains a comprehensive list of Germanic deities outside the numerous Germanic Matres and Matronae inscriptions from the 1st to 5th century CE.

List of jötnar in Norse mythology

The Prose and Poetic Eddas, which form the foundation of what we know today concerning Norse mythology, contain many names of Jotnar (giants and giantesses). While many of them are featured in extant myths of their own, many others have come down to us today only as names in various lists provided for the benefit of skalds or poets of the medieval period and are included here for the purpose of completeness.

List of people, items and places in Norse mythology

Norse mythology includes a diverse array of people, places, creatures, and other mythical elements.

Mímameiðr

In Norse mythology, Mímameiðr (Old Norse "Mimi's tree") is a tree whose branches stretch over every land, is unharmed by fire or metal, bears fruit that assists pregnant women, and upon whose highest bough roosts the cock Víðópnir. Mímameiðr is solely attested in the Old Norse poem Fjölsvinnsmál. Due to parallels between descriptions of the two, scholars theorize that Mímameiðr may be another name for the world tree Yggdrasil, and also Hoddmímis holt, a wood within which Líf and Lífthrasir are foretold to take refuge during the events of Ragnarök. Mímameiðr is sometimes modernly anglicized as Mimameid or Mimameith.

Numbers in Norse mythology

The numbers three and nine are significant numbers in Norse mythology and paganism. Both numbers (and multiplications thereof) appear throughout surviving attestations of Norse paganism, in both mythology and cultic practice.While the number three appears significant in many cultures, Norse mythology appears to put special emphasis on the number nine. Along with the number 27, both numbers also figure into the lunar Germanic calendar.

Sacred trees and groves in Germanic paganism and mythology

Trees hold a particular role in Germanic paganism and Germanic mythology, both as individuals (sacred trees) and in groups (sacred groves). The central role of trees in Germanic religion is noted in the earliest written reports about the Germanic peoples, with the Roman historian Tacitus stating that Germanic cult practices took place exclusively in groves rather than temples. Scholars consider that reverence for and rites performed at individual trees are derived from the mythological role of the world tree, Yggdrasil; onomastic and some historical evidence also connects individual deities to both groves and individual trees. After Christianization, trees continue to play a significant role in the folk beliefs of the Germanic peoples.

Shield-maiden

A shield-maiden (Old Norse: skjaldmær), in Scandinavian folklore and mythology was a female warrior. They are often mentioned in sagas such as Hervarar saga ok Heiðreks and in Gesta Danorum. Shield-maidens also appear in stories of other Germanic peoples: Goths, Cimbri, and Marcomanni. The mythical valkyries may have been based on the shield-maidens.

Suebian knot

The Suebian knot (German: Suebenknoten) is a historical male hairstyle ascribed to the tribe of the Germanic Suebi. The knot is attested by Tacitus in his 1st century AD work Germania, found on art by and depictions of the Germanic peoples, and worn by bog bodies.

Tuisto

According to Tacitus's Germania (AD 98), Tuisto (or Tuisco) is the legendary divine ancestor of the Germanic peoples. The figure remains the subject of some scholarly discussion, largely focused upon etymological connections and comparisons to figures in later (particularly Norse) Germanic mythology.

Valknut

The valknut (coined from Old Norse valr, "slain warriors" and knut, "knot") is a symbol consisting of three interlocked triangles. It appears on a variety of objects from the archaeological record of the ancient Germanic peoples. The compound noun valknut is from the modern era. The term used for the symbol during its historical employment is unknown.

Scholars have proposed a variety of explanations for the symbol, sometimes associating it with the god Odin, and it has been compared to the three-horned symbol found on the 9th-century Snoldelev Stone, to which it may be related. The valknut receives sporadic use in modern popular culture and is again associated with Germanic paganism by way of its modern-day revival, Heathenry.

Veleda

Veleda was a priestess and prophet of the Germanic tribe of the Bructeri who achieved some prominence during the Batavian rebellion of AD 69–70, headed by the Romanized Batavian chieftain Gaius Julius Civilis, when she correctly predicted the initial successes of the rebels against Roman legions.

Vé (shrine)

In Germanic paganism, a vé (Old Norse) or wēoh (Old English) is a type of shrine or sacred enclosure. The term appears in skaldic poetry and in place names in Scandinavia (with the exception of Iceland), often in connection with a Norse pagan deity or a geographic feature. The name of the Norse god Vé refers to the practice. Andy Orchard says that a vé may have surrounded a temple or have been simply a marked, open place where worship occurred. Orchard points out that Tacitus, in his 1st century CE work Germania, says that the Germanic peoples, unlike the Romans, "did not seek to contain their deities within temple walls."

Wyrd

Wyrd is a concept in Anglo-Saxon culture roughly corresponding to fate or personal destiny. The word is ancestral to Modern English weird, which retains its original meaning only dialectically.

The cognate term in Old Norse is urðr, with a similar meaning, but also personalized as one of the Norns, Urðr (anglicized as Urd) and appearing in the name of the holy well Urðarbrunnr in Norse mythology.

Yule

Yule or Yuletide ("Yule time" or "Yule season") is a festival historically observed by the Germanic peoples. Scholars have connected the original celebrations of Yule to the Wild Hunt, the god Odin, and the pagan Anglo-Saxon Mōdraniht.

Later departing from its pagan roots, Yule underwent Christianised reformulation resulting in the term Christmastide. Many present-day Christmas customs and traditions such as the Yule log, Yule goat, Yule boar, Yule singing, and others stem from pagan Yule traditions. Terms with an etymological equivalent to Yule are still used in Nordic countries to describe Christmas and other festivals occurring during the winter holiday season. Today, Yule is celebrated in Heathenry and other forms of Neopaganism, as well as in LaVeyan Satanism.

Anglo-Saxon paganism and mythology
Gods and divine figures
Heroic figures
Other beings
Locations
Sources
Origins
Society and culture
Neopagan revival
Deities and
other figures
Locations
Events
Sources
Society
See also
History of the Germanic peoples
General
Languages
development
Pre-Christian
Pagan society
(until about
Early Middle Ages)
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Historical polytheism
Myth and ritual
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